Eh Joe, like Embers before it, was written for the actor Jack MacGowran, whom Beckett had met when the BBC Third Programme broadcast All That Fall in 1957. Over the years Beckett had become very fond of MacGowran. He worked closely with him in the preparation of “End of Day,” MacGowran’s one-man show consisting of readings from Beckett’s work, which he assembled for a Dublin opening in October 1962, and then took to London. That idea later developed into another one-man performance which MacGowran called “Beginning to End,” with which he had a measure of success in the United States. With Beckett’s help, “Beginning to End” reached the Berlin Festival at the Schiller-Theater in 1971, where it was a hit.
Flexing himself in the direction of what was to become Eh Joe, Beckett wrote to MacGowran on 4 July 1963 that he did not yet have any clear idea of a new work for MacGowran but trusted that MacGowran would not press him. By May 1965 Beckett was able to send MacGowran a revised script, saying he hoped he would “take it on” but would understand completely if MacGowran chose not to. MacGowran accepted the script, and Eh Joe was televised by the BBC on 4 July 1966. The action consists of “an accusing voice moving in on Joe in ever harsher close-ups” (Christopher Ricks in the Listener, 3 August 1967).