‘Our Eli’ – Comedian and Actor Eli Woods

Stockton born comedian and actor Eli Woods was a star of music hall alongside Jimmy James.

Eli Woods was born John (Jack) Casey in Portrack, Stockton-on-Tees to John and Florence Casey on 11 January 1923. He attended St Bede’s school and with early theatrical ambitions a career on stage soon beckoned. From an early age, Jack as he was known then suffered from a stammer and from the ages of 11 until 14 attended a speech therapy school. The stammer was to become his trademark and it would endear him to millions of people.

One of the most distinctive figures in British comedy, ‘Eli’ came from a performing family. His uncle Jimmy James, a well-known music hall and television comedian developed his famous comedy sketches, but from the first it required two stooges. One night in 1948 when the regular stooge couldn’t make it to Jimmy’s show at the Preston Hippodrome – tall and quiet Jack Casey was drafted in. He originally appeared as ‘Bretton Woods’ (named after the site of the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference) but was later re-dubbed ‘Eli’ or ‘Our Eli’. The other stooge, ‘Hutton Conyers’ would either be played by members of the Casey family or (from 1956 – 1959) by Roy Castle.

Despite his stutter, Eli forged an enviable career in showbusiness due to his impeccable comic timing.

A month after his Preston debut, Eli was again appearing alongside his uncle – this time at the famous London Palladium where they performed the much-loved ‘Animals in the Box’ sketch.

He went on to perform with the likes of Max Miller, Des O’Connor and Les Dawson; he played 13 Sunday nights at the London Palladium and two Royal Command Peformances in 1953 and 1982. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he starred in BBC  Radio comedy shows The Show With Ten Legs and The Show with No Name. He also appeared in a number of TV comedies and played small parts in a variety of films, including ‘A Private Function.’

Eli Woods always known offstage as Jack or Jackie died 1 May 2014 in Elm Tree, Stockton. He was 91 years old.