'He's nothing to me but a dollar sign': 15 comedy duos who secretly hated each other

Obscenities were hurled: Matt Lucas and David Walliams 
Obscenities were hurled: Matt Lucas and David Walliams 

Matt Lucas and David Walliams will perform together for the first time in 10 years tonight, bringing a new Little Britain sketch to BBC One's Big Night In. But will it be an affectionate reunion? In his 2017 memoir, Matt Lucas recalls “hurling obscenities” at his co-star during an Australian live tour. The odd blazing row notwithstanding, the pair's relationship has been rosy compared to the bitter feuds that consumed earlier double acts. Here we look back at some of history's most troubled comedy partnerships.

Martin and Lewis
Martin and Lewis Credit: Silver Screen Collection

Rat Pack singer Dean Martin and rubberfaced funnyman Jerry Lewis stuck it out for a solid 10 years together from 1946, during which time they became the highest-paid act in showbusiness. But their act, in which Martin grew mock-angry about Lewis's slapstick upstaging his songs, had more truth in it than their fans realised. Martin was fed up with Lewis's ego, declaring that the comedian was "Nothing to me but a f---ing dollar sign." When they posed together for the cover of Look – only for the magazine to crop out Martin's face – the frustrated singer quit for good.

C-P3O and R2-D2 
C-3PO and R2-D2 

Onscreen, Star Wars's bickering droids were a much-loved dose of comic relief. But the two men inside the suits couldn't stand each other. R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker nicknamed his co-star Anthony Daniels “the one with the golden balls”, and has repeatedly complained about Daniels' supercilious attitude: “He looked down his nose at me like I was a piece of s---”, Baker said in 2009. In the following years Daniels avoided speaking about their fraught relationship: “He’s been saying unpleasant things about me. I just don’t comment,” he said in 2015. But when Baker died in August 2016 he tweeted the following tribute: “Sad to hear of Kenny’s passing. 1 of the truly original cast, so famed for his iconic role as R2. He'll always be remembered by so many fans.”

Abbott and Costello
Abbott and Costello Credit: Bettmann

Even at the height of their success, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello struggled with problems in their personal lives. Abbott was a heavy-drinking epileptic, and Costello suffered from frequent, near-lethal bouts of rheumatic fever.

This might explain why, in 1945, they fell out over a petty row about Abbott's decision to hire a maid who had previously worked for Costello. Costello called Abbott a drunk in the press, and Abbott responded by publicly threatening to thrash him for it. Their film contract with Universal Pictures meant they had to stick together, but for a long while they weren't on speaking terms.

Errol Flynn claimed he caused their final break-up in 1957, after a practical joke in which the swashbuckling movie star “accidentally” played a tape of hard-core pornography in front of them and their families; while Flynn pretended to be innocent, Abbott and Costello blamed each other for the prank.

Will and Aunt Vivian
Will Smith as William "Will" Smith and Janet Hubert as Vivian Banks Credit: Ron Tom 

Janet Hubert sparred onscreen with Will Smith as his character's Aunt Vivian in the first three series of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but their relationship was far more bitter behind the scenes of the hit Nineties sitcom. 

In 1993, Smith claimed that “Janet Hubert wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel Air Show”, and that she had a personal vendetta against him (“To her I'm just the Antichrist”). By the fourth series, Hubert had been replaced by another actress. 

That same year, she hit back: Will Smith and Alfonso [Ribiero] destroyed a 20-year-career with untruths. I got slammed.” Since then, Hubert has continued to criticise him. “There will never be a reunion,” she said in 2011. “As I will never do anything with an a--hole like Will Smith. He is still an egomaniac and has not grown up.”

Steptoe and Son
Steptoe And Son

Ambitious, womanising Mancunian method-actor Harry Corbett and prickly, alcoholic old-school thesp Wilfrid Brambell had little in common to start with. As the years rolled by, Corbett, like his character Harold (the titular "son"), came to see himself as trapped in risible dead-end partnership. He felt typecasting had ruined his dreams of being taken seriously as a Shakespearean actor. By the time of a disastrous 1976 Australian tour, the resentment was mutual. When asked how he would describe the duo's relationship, their tour manager Kevin O'Neil said: “Hate, that's the only word I can think of.”

Bill Murray and Harold Ramis
Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in the original Ghostbusters (1983) Credit: Columbia Pictures

Harold Ramis may be best remembered for playing bespectacled scientist Egon in Ghostbusters, but as a writer and director he formed a wildly successful partnership with Bill Murray: the pair made six films together, from Meatballs (1979) to Groundhog Day (1993). But this last project would tear them apart: Murray turned up late, threw tantrums on set, and criticised Ramis's direction. They refused to speak to each other for the next 21 years, but eventually reconciled their differences and were back on good terms by the time of Ramis's death in 2014.

Bill Murray and Chevy Chase
Murray and Chevy

Bill Murray wasn't the only member of the Saturday Night Live cast to have beef with Chevy Chase. Murray was hired to replaced Chase when he abruptly quit the show in 1976.

When Chase returned to host an episode two years later, he found himself confronted by his angry former colleagues - and damned as a “medium talent” by up-and-comer Murray. The row resulted in a fistfight, which Murray described in a 2012 interview with Empire magazine:

“It was really a Hollywood fight, a ‘Don’t touch my face!’ kind of thing... Chevy is a big man, I’m not a small guy, and we were separated by my brother Brian [Doyle-Murray], who comes up to my chest. So it was kind of a non-event. It was just the significance of it. It was an Oedipal thing, a rupture. Because we all felt mad he had left us, and somehow I was the anointed avenging angel, who had to speak for everyone. But Chevy and I are friends now. It’s all fine.”

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Credit:  American Stock Archive 

Despite their close friendship in the “Road” movies, Crosby is said to have been aloof between takes, and less sociable than the gregarious Hope. As a result, it seems the pair rubbed each other up the wrong way.

“The warm relationship in their movies could not have been further from the truth,” according to hope's biographer Richard Zoglin. “They were not close friends and hardly ever socialised. Bob told a friend he simply didn’t like Bing and, at times, detested him.”

The Golden Girls
Betty White and Beatrice Arthur

Betty White and Beatrice Arthur played two of the four titular retirees sharing a Florida house in NBC's long-running sitcom, but the quiet (and mostly one-sided) feud between the two had repercussions for the whole cast. Ultimately, it was Arthur 's decision to quit that brought the show to an end.

According to Arthur's son Matthew Saks, “Betty became her nemesis”, although he later backtracked, telling Fox News last year that “my mom had some problems with her, but she liked her.” It has been suggested that Arthur envied White's crowdpleasing gift for improv, but Arthur was bewildered by her dislike. 

“I don’t know what I ever did, but she was not that thrilled with me,” she said. “She found me a pain in the neck sometimes. It was my positive attitude — and that made Bea mad. Sometimes if I was happy, she’d be furious.”

Pete and Dud
Dud And Pete

Peter Cook and Dudley Moore burned brightly in the Sixties, and their comedy was a key inspiration for Monty Python, but Cook's severe alcoholism – and Moore's film ambitions – drove a wedge between them. Despite sporadic reunions, their friendship cooled. 

Speaking to the Telegraph four months after Cook's death in 1995, Moore said he had felt completely “emotionless” about Cook's passing, and compared his former costar – who had put on weight in his later years – to “a beached whale”.

Matt Lucas and David Walliams
Matt Lucas and David Walliams

“Throughout our relationship David and I would often find ourselves at loggerheads during rehearsals and shooting”, Matt Lucas has admitted, referring to his Little Britain and Come Fly With Me co-star. To say they hated each other would be an exaggeration, but the pair's working relationship certainly had its difficult moments.

Lucas's memoir Little Me met with sensational press coverage due to the comedian's snipes at his former partner ("Walliams has now sold so many children's books he can probably buy his own private jet, all decked out in pink, with a river inside it for him to swim up") and description of two heated rows during an Australian live tour (“we were suddenly hurling obscenities at each other”). but it seems these fiery outbursts actually brought them closer together. “On both occasions we sorted it out within an hour, hugged and did the show,” Lucas recalled.

The pair appeared to reconcile at the funeral of their friend Dale Winton in May, 2018. The following year they created a one-off special episode of Little Britain called Little Brexit which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, where the show started in 2000. Let's hope their fiery chemistry will be on full display in tonight's Little Britain special.

Wayne and Garth
Mike Myers as Wayne and Dana Carvey as Garth Credit:  Film Stills

Mike Myers was widely rumoured to have fallen out with both his co-star Dana Carvey and director Penelope Spheeris on the set of Wayne's World (1992). Though both actors have given interviews denying there was any animosity between them at the time, Carvey has admitted to later being annoyed with Myers about the success of his Dr Evil character, whom Carvey claimed was based on his own impression of Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.

Their differing career paths post-Wayne's World might also have been a bone of contention: Carvey's critically panned attempt at a film comeback, The Master of Disguise, had the ill luck to be released the same week as another much more successful spy spoof: Myers' Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Spheeris brought the pair back together for a “cathartic” panel event in 2013, telling reporters: “We're all getting too old to be pissed.”

Newman and Baddiel
Rob Newman and David Baddiel

In 1993, Rob Newman and David Baddiel became the first comedians ever to sell out Wembley Arena. It would be their final performance: by that stage, the sketch duo simply couldn't stand each other.

“It was incredibly acrimonious,” Baddiel said in 2014, recalling the “toxic” effect fame had on their relationship. “I remember people saying at the time that it was a publicity stunt, but it really wasn't. We weren't speaking at times, except on stage.”

They wouldn't even be photographed together again until 2017, after Newman tentatively got in touch with his former partner over Twitter (in order to ask him for tickets to his latest stand-up show).

Mr & Mrs Mertz
William Frawley and Vivian Vance as Mr & Mrs Mertz

If I Love Lucy was a comic portrait of the ideal American couple (as played by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz), the sitcom's id was represented by Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance).

Their ceaseless onscreen squabbling was matched by an equally unhappy professional relationship off-screen. When Frawley arrived on the show, the 64-year-old already had a reputation for being difficult to work with. He particularly disliked Vance, who referred to him as “that stubborn-headed little Irishman”. They refused to speak to each other outside the show.

The feud is said to have begun when Frawley overheard 42-year-old Vance complaining about being given an on-screen husband nearly a quarter of a century her senior. 

Cannon and Ball
Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball

“Deep down, you really hate me, don't yer?” Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball's catchphrase had a grain of truth to it. The Lancashire duo became close friends while working as welders in the early Sixties, before earning a fortune in the Eighties as ITV's leading comedy act.

But from 1983-86, the pair never spoke to each other outside of performances and rehearsals (Ball later blamed it on their “gossiping” assistants who “wanted to divide and conquer”).

When later faced with adversity – in the form of two flopped TV sitcoms and an unpaid tax bill that forced them to take on a gruelling tour schedule – the pair set their differences aside. Both are now born again Christians, and on good terms once more. In 2005, they appeared together on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. They even recently hinted that they will re-release their theme song Together We’ll Be OK to raise money for charity during the coronavirus lockdown.