Ernie's real name was Ernest Wiseman, but he changed his name (as did his partner) to go into show business -- which he did at an early age, appearing as an actor and singer in music hall. His father, Harry, a railway porter, was also a semi-professional singer, and they appeared together under the name "Bert Carson and his Little Wonder". In 1939, while still a teenager, he appeared with top British comedian Arthur Askey in his famous Bandwagon show.
Ernie joined forces with Eric Morecambe in 1941, and they became one of the greatest comedy double acts of all time. They made their name in radio, transferring to television in 1955. Over a period of nearly twenty years, they had regular series with both ITV and BBC. Their hallmark was the way they invited celebrities onto the show only to make them look ridiculous. It was considered a sign of having "arrived" if a person was invited to appear. In 1976, they were both awarded the OBE.
Although Ernie was, strictly speaking, the "straight man" of the partnership, his role gradually and subtly changed over the years. The climax of each weekly show was a play "written" by Ernie, which generally demonstrated pretentiousness combined with bad grammar. (For example, Glenda Jackson, at the height of her career, was made to speak the line: All men are fools, and what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got.) Others who appeared in his "plays" included Peter Cushing and Frank Finlay.