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I'm so pleased that the BBC have decided to institute
an annual lecture on the art of comedy,
and I think it's very fitting that they have decided
to name it in honour of my old friend and mentor,
the lovely, clever Ronnie Barker.
Not only was he a great comedy actor and performer,
but he was also a very skilful writer.
He would be absolutely pleased and delighted to know
that this lecture is being hosted
by a favourite of his and a favourite of mine -
Thank you very much.
Ladies, gentlemen, fellow turns, welcome to...
..BBC Broadcasting House -
the epicentre of British popular culture since 1932.
And I'd like to make a very special welcome to Charlie Barker,
Ronnie's daughter, who's here with us tonight representing
Ronnie's family. And also,
I'm so pleased to say that there are quite a few members of
Ronnie Corbett's family here with us tonight as well, which is lovely.
So it's good evening to you and it's good evening to you.
It is obviously a huge honour to have been asked to give
this inaugural Ronnie Barker BBC comedy lecture
and tonight I'm going to use the opportunity
to offer some reflections on specific aspects of the sitcom,
a subject I'm certain would have been
of great interest to the great man himself.
I was lucky enough to get to know Ronnie quite well
towards the end of his life,
we became quite friendly, but I will admit
that our first meeting wasn't quite such a happy occasion.
I was at my favourite event of the whole year -
the BBC Light Entertainment Christmas party.
You can imagine how I felt.
I was young, it was Christmas and I was at the BBC,
and not just any part of the BBC, but the bit that WAS Christmas.
It was a black tie event.
Oh, yes, they did things properly in BBC Comedy in those days.
They insisted on dinner jackets,
even though the party was held in an office -
the famed sixth-floor Entertainment Suite at BBC Television Centre,
which was the same as all the other offices at Television Centre,
but with the partition walls taken out.
Same nylon carpet tiles, same low-flying ceiling,
same strip fluoro-lighting at a Christmas party.
It even made Bob Monkhouse look pasty.
There was no DJs, no chill-out room,
no scatter cushions,
no musk-scented indoor yurt.
Just a Woolies cassette of Christmas carols
and a sofa for the cast of Last Of The Summer Wine.
Some of my generation revolted against the black tie.
They didn't like it. They weren't going to wear dinner jackets to order.
They weren't going to kowtow to a hierarchical, autocratic BBC,
but I loved it. I loved it.
I thought it looked great. I was proud to wear it.
Probably where I started to get my reputation for political hypocrisy.
"Votes Labour, but prepared to wear a bow tie to a Christmas party.
"What a sell-out!"
But the Rons were there,
undisputedly the biggest stars in the room.
Everybody wanted to talk to the Ronnies.
It was marvellous, people used to cluster round.
There'd kind of be two Ronnie circles.
They didn't entertain together.
I mean, they were friends, but they weren't joined at the hip.
There'd be a Ronnie C circle and a Ronnie B circle.
Ronnie C's circle was very friendly,
very inclusive, he was always laughing.
I can remember him still stood there.
He always wore a velvet dinner jacket and tartan trews.
Never saw him in those any other time of the year.
He was a Scottish Nationalist once a year, and only from the waist down.
Ronnie B's circle - little bit more formal.
He sort of held court a little bit.
They used to call him The Governor and I think he liked that.
And always, you know, the sort of,
what they call the suits these days would gravitate towards Ronnie B.
The channel controllers would be listening earnestly to what Ronnie B
had to say and of course I was gravitating towards him, too,
because this was Ronnie Barker and he wasn't on the telly,
he was actually there. And I was with Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson.
We were all young back then and we were sort of hovering on the edge
of Ronnie Barker's little group and he must've sensed we were there.
He didn't see us, but we were kind of at his shoulder,
and eventually he turned round and he looks us up and down
and finally he points at Rowan and he says,
"I like you."
And he points at Stephen and he says, "I quite like you."
Then he points at me...
"But I don't like you."
And then he turned, turned his back.
It was quite a moment.
Stephen tried to take him on a little bit,
but, I mean, it was very chilly. I felt ridiculous.
I was a fan and stood there in me rented tuxedo, but...
Now, I only tell this story because it's kind of relevant to the theme
of this evening. Something about me had made Ronnie angry.
Angry enough to be quite rude to me,
and I think that's true about comedy, isn't it?
It seems to make people angry.
If people don't like comedy, they get annoyed by it.
I mean, much more annoyed than you would get if you don't like
a picture or a poem or a nice serious play.
Comedy tends to wind people up.
And, look, I know we live in an age of anger where the internet has made
splenetic fury the new tolerance, but even in our age of outrage,
I'd say comedy is reserved for a special type of bile
and there's a certain type of comedy, interestingly,
which provokes the greatest level of fury of all.
The real venom is generally reserved for a certain style of comedy
which seems to make quite a large proportion of comedy critics
and commentators and some consumers very angry indeed.
I'm talking about the studio-based sitcom
recorded in front of a live audience.
Here's a clip from the BBC's
currently far-and-away most popular sitcom.
Oh, Winnie, I remember one night me and Reg were walking along the beach
He started chasing me into the sand dunes, so I was there, you know,
pretending to run and he caught me and he threw me in the sand.
So I was lying there, I said, "What do you want?"
And he said, "I want your knickers round your ankles."
I had to get them out of me fecking handbag and put them on.
That's Mrs Brown's Boys, a huge hit.
It regularly gets 11 million viewers
in an age when three or four is considered a triumph.
It was recently voted by the Radio Times readers, no less,
favourite sitcom of the 21st century.
And here is a little selection of the sort of criticism
that is regularly thrown at it.
Now, I don't know what you think of Mrs Brown's Boys,
but I hope you'd agree that by commissioning it,
the BBC is doing its job.
Recognising that the whole country pays the licence fee
and quality comedy comes in many guises
because Mrs Brown's Boys is quality comedy.
It's not to everybody's taste, but then what work of art of any value
could possibly be to everybody's taste?
Mrs Brown's Boys is self-evidently an exuberant, superbly executed
celebration of what, for want of a better word,
we might call "big" comedy.
The comedy of the perfect theatrical double-take.
I have a huge penis.
The shameless pratfall.
Cathy, for God's sake.
I'm fine, I'm fine.
Really, I'm OK.
# You can't touch this... #
And, of course, the outrageous double-entendre.
What's the name of that count?
A highly talented cast led by an inspired comic star,
giving an adoring audience a weekly object lesson
in big, broad, farcical nonsense.
What's not to respect?
And yet, as we have seen, it's afforded very, very little.
Studio sitcom rarely is.
So here's a couple of clips now from two other current or very recent
hugely-loved BBC comedy sitcoms.
No. I'm stuck.
Stinky's on the floor.
My necklace! I'm stuck!
Actually, sorry. Sorry.
Just undo it at the back.
If you must know, yes, I have been for a quick work-out.
Nothing major today. Just a few ab-dabs, resits, diddly squats,
some bi-curious and a triceratops.
I wish the ground could've swallowed me up.
That was, of course, the marvellous Miranda and the endlessly likeable,
wonderful Lee Mack in Not Going Out.
Here's again a fair representation of what was said about Miranda.
That was Miranda. Let's take a look at the sort of criticism
Not Going Out gets.
Nothing seems to wind a certain type of commentator up
like a studio sitcom,
and before we go any further,
I have to put my hand up and say I've been guilty of it myself.
Here's a clip from The Young Ones.
No, no, no, no!
We're not watching the bloody Good Life.
Bloody, bloody, bloody!
I hate it!
It's so bloody nice!
Felicity "Treacle" Kendal
and Richard "Sugar-flavoured Snob" Briers.
What do they do now?
Chocolate bloody button ads, that's what.
They're nothing but a couple of reactionary stereotypes
confirming the myth that everyone in Britain is a lovable,
middle-class eccentric and I hate them!
To be fair, I did hedge my bets on this one.
Well, you can just shut up, Vyvyan.
You can just about blooming well shut up
because if you've got anything horrid to say
about Felicity Kendal...
you can just about blooming well say it to me first, all right!
Rick, Rick, I just did.
Oh. Oh, you did, did you?
Well, I've got a good mind to give you a ruddy good punch on the bottom
for what you just said! You're talking about the woman I love!
If I'm honest, looking back on that, I sort of regret that riff.
I didn't hate The Good Life, I quite liked it,
but I suppose we were young, you know,
we were a bit punky and The Good Life was head and shoulders
the most successful sitcom of its day.
But as you get older,
you begin to realise that casual dismissal and sometimes anger
can be quite harmful, damage a lot of good work
and also very hurtful to the people whose work you're having a go at.
So at this point I have to declare a personal interest.
I'm not an independent witness.
This is a subjective talk.
It is not object, it is subject.
It is as subjective as a Donald Trump press conference
It may surprise you to know, I, too,
have had one or two bad reviews in my time.
Here's a clip from a sitcom I did three years ago,
starring the incomparable David Haig as a hapless,
overzealous local council health and safety officer.
Ours is a proud record.
This is the department that introduced the static seesaw.
The horizontal slide.
Babies must wear helmets when breast-feeding near the swings...
..because of us.
That was The Wright Way,
and here is a very small selection of the universal phalanx
of furious abuse that hit it immediately after
and indeed during its first broadcast.
Believe me, that was one of the better ones.
I'm not kidding you, it was furious and it was nasty.
Well, you know, maybe it was deserved,
but just to show you that a massive slagging doesn't necessarily mean
a show has no popular appeal,
I'd like to show you a clip from another show I did with David Haig
from the '90s. That one did very well indeed
and still shows on Gold to this day and even won a few awards.
The Thin Blue Line.
I'll have you know, Grim, that we in the uniform division
are also at the cutting edge of modern policing.
Well, have you tried putting a saucer of milk at the bottom of the tree?
I haven't got time, Raymond, I am involved in serious police work.
If you get in the way, I'm responsible.
Your cock-up, my arse.
And here is a small, but I promise you,
representative selection of the absolutely universal slagging
it got the following morning.
I've got to say, if you do only write one line in a sitcom,
"My cock-up, your arse" isn't a bad one!
I'm really not complaining. We're all in the business,
you put your head up, you know you're going to get a kicking.
Everybody gets bad reviews.
Shakespeare got bad reviews. Well, the only...
only contemporary review of Shakespeare that comes down to us
from his own day was an absolute kicking.
They called him a plagiarist, they called him an "upstart crow".
Here's me imagining how he felt the morning he got that.
And getting a bad review is much worse than getting the plague,
because at least with the plague, the person that gave it to you died.
Obviously I am a subjective witness,
but I'm making an objective point,
a point that I feel very strongly about,
because I contend that through a kind of lazy contempt,
we're in danger of losing something of real value in our culture,
and once the studio infrastructure and the talent base that supports it
are gone, they won't come again.
So what is it that defines this thing I'm so anxious to defend?
What is it that connects The Goodies to Terry And June,
The Young Ones to On The Buses?
Well, as I say, they're all recorded live in front of a studio audience,
an exercise in which laughter is clearly the desired aim.
Real vocalised laughter, recorded and broadcast along with the show.
So is that the problem?
Is it the laughter which offends in comedy?
Strangely, I think it is,
because laughter is evidence of making an effort.
The terrible British sin of going for laughs,
laughs which, incidentally, are routinely dismissed
as cheap and easy.
Laughs which are clear evidence of the greatest comic crime of all -
trying to be funny.
Can you imagine a more withering sneer or put-down to throw at a comedian?
"Oh, he was trying to be funny."
But is that really such a terrible crime?
Trying and failing, that's a shame,
but trying at all, is that so terrible?
Surely not, because without people trying to be funny,
we'd have had to get along without memories like these.
Who's this then?
HE SHOUTS IN GERMAN
I'll do the funny walk.
You see those flasks over there? I want you to fill one for me.
What, from 'ere?
Brace yourself, Rodney.
Even now, across the years, you can feel the joy,
the immediacy of those live studio comedies -
a single performance, one of a kind, captured in time.
And consider the extraordinary complexities involved
in producing those shows,
and the awe-inspiring collection of craft and skills that it required.
Each episode is recorded over the course of a single evening,
two and half hours in front of a large audience.
Five or six cameras all moving and recording simultaneously
capture the flow, the feel, the timing of a theatrical comedy event.
While, in a darkened vision suite,
all those six camera feeds are projected onto television screens
and the show is cut and mixed and edited live - in real time -
as the show is being performed.
And hovering above every scurrying actor is a microphone,
whizzing through the air, as players move about the set,
deftly controlled by boom operators,
sitting high above the throng on wheeled chariots,
extending and contracting their four metre-long booms,
like dinosaurs going fishing for gags, using microphones for bait.
And meanwhile, their colleagues also are hidden in a darkened room,
mixing the sound, balancing the four or five dialogue feeds,
the audience laughter, which could swell and dip at any moment,
and also, of course, they have to mix in the comedy sound effects,
which have to be dropped in with precision timing.
And while the cameras prowl and the camera assistants wrangle,
the great rubber spaghetti of hundreds of metres of cable
which covers the floor and can't be allowed for an instant
to impede the movement of a camera or a boom platform,
a techie spaghetti constantly in danger
of overwhelming the gag bolognese.
The art department dress the set and place the props, and all live,
as the lighting department tweak and the costume departments
dab and dip and stitch, and in the midst of it all,
the actors struggle to maintain their characters' timing and commitment,
deprived of the glorious freedom of the stage,
but required nonetheless to conform to its disciplines -
live dialogue, live effects, live and collaborative timing.
And whatever is captured in those few short hours
is what gets broadcast,
which produces an atmosphere very different from the type of feel
produced when comedy is created filmically using a single camera.
Most people tend to think that the difference between
a single-camera sitcom and a multi-camera one
is just the absence of the audience.
But I would suggest that of equal importance
is that, in a single-camera shoot,
the dialogue, the scene, is recorded in pieces -
one character, then another.
The characters in a multi-camera shoot are all recorded at once.
Now I'm not making a value judgment here -
I love single-camera comedy, but there is a difference,
because when you see a multi-camera shoot sitcom,
what you're watching is the actors' real timing.
When you watch a single-camera shoot,
often on location but with single camera,
what you're seeing is the editor's interpretation of that timing.
It's just different, and it produces a different atmosphere.
And, oh, what a vast array of craft and skill and talent is required
to capture those fleeting moments.
Edgy and obscure can be done on-the-fly.
Ironic minimalism and wry mockumentary can be recorded
on an iPhone with a single person,
but it takes a village for Rik to destroy
The Young Ones staircase using his bollocks as a battering ram.
And, of course, all that makes these shows very expensive,
an expense that frankly is easier to duck
if you're just going to get slagged off for doing it anyway.
And so a great and original television art form is dying,
it really is.
And while there's nothing we can do
about shrinking budgets, fractured audiences
and TV companies turning their fabulous studio facilities
into prime real estate,
empty flats to be rented out as investment blocks,
it might help if commentator, critic and columnist alike
stop treating studio sitcom with such thoughtless contempt,
as if the only comic art of any real value
is the comedy that pretends it isn't trying to be funny.
Now, I think we all know the sea change occurred in the mid '90s.
That was when it suddenly became fashionable
to record sitcoms without an audience,
and some fantastic work was done and has been done ever since.
It sort of began with the sublime The Royle Family,
which was kind of a hybrid.
It was a crossover, because they still recorded that
in a studio on multi-camera, but they didn't have an audience.
The real watershed moment occurred with the wonderful,
ground-breaking The Office,
a brilliant piece of work, and that and many, many, many shows
in similar styles that have followed deserved every plaudit
they ever got. But, strangely,
what began as a fantastic and innovative and refreshing style,
quickly became a kind of comic orthodoxy,
and the inexplicable side-effect was that the studio sitcom
became overnight a byword for critical contempt,
and it was the laughter that was hugely irritating.
Apparently, people don't need canned laughter,
telling them if something's funny.
Well, I am here to lance the boil of probably the most corrosive myth
in television comedy, because that laughter is not blooming canned,
it's just recorded - live.
Studio nights are not cynical -
they're fun, they're exciting community events.
Is it a coincidence that they fell from grace
in the aftermath of the 1980s,
the decade in which the individual so firmly replaced the community
as the social and political focus of the nation?
Yes, I'm blaming Thatch.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
I'm mainly joking, but I am...
I am making the point that audiences' laughter is
a group activity, a collective act.
The shared joy that occurs in the recording of a live comedy is real,
and that joy somehow manages to make its way across the airwaves
and into people's living rooms.
The country's biggest popular hits
have always been accompanied by laughter.
They form an abiding and affectionate collective memory.
The part of what it means to be British, and yet, as I've shown,
the form is routinely dismissed and often despised.
It's a sort of snobbery, it really is, and I say that reluctantly,
fully aware that such a charge is unlikely to make me any friends
amongst media commentators. But I make the charge nonetheless,
because I think what we are discussing here is nothing less than
a prejudice against joy.
Corrosive, destructive and coloured, I'm afraid,
by that ancient British cultural cancer - class.
I look down on him because I am upper-class.
I looked up to him because he is upper-class,
but I look down on him because he is lower-class.
I am middle-class.
I know my place.
The British establishment has always been suspicious of popular success,
particularly success that comes from below,
through conspicuous effort and obvious ambition.
This prejudice has deep roots.
The founding fathers of the American economy created their wealth.
The original elite in Britain inherited theirs
and deeply resented those who tried to share in it,
establishing an underlying cultural resentment of hard-earned success
that, astonishingly, still seems to play its part
in shaping our national character today.
Because what is a laugh if it's not evidence of success?
If you go for a laugh, and you get it, you've succeeded.
In the US and most places in the world,
that's something to celebrate.
In America, if you do an interview on a chat show
and they ask you what you're up to, you tell them and people applaud.
In Britain, you have to pretend you don't want to say, you have to go,
"Ooh, shameless plug, sorry.
"I've written a book, but it's probably awful, don't buy it, please!"
It simply is not the done thing to be seen to want to succeed,
and studio sitcom cannot hide that ambition - it's needy.
It's saying, "Please like me!" And, as such, it must be despised.
Perhaps you think all I'm suggesting
is that simpler, less complex, less cerebral forms of comedy
deserve to be given a little more respect.
Well, it would be nice, but actually I'm also saying the opposite,
because, in fact, I suggest there's nothing simple
or lacking in complexity about the shows I'm discussing at all.
In fact, I humbly suggest that behind all that mindless laughter
often lies human truths as real and revelatory
as those explored in any acclaimed drama.
That's why they're so funny.
Consider the strange and unexplained fictional home life
of Eric and Ernie, which was a sort of mini-sitcom
set within their variety shows.
Here are Eric and Ernie passing the time together,
measuring out their lives not in TS Eliot's coffee spoons,
but in mugs of cocoa,
and wistful reflections on the hopes and dreams of lost youth.
For me, their circular efforts
to pass the time and to get along together
were every bit as inconsequentially bleak and deeply absurd
as Vladimir and Estragon's famous inertia in Waiting For Godot.
I honestly don't think that that wonderful writer Eddie Braben,
who wrote all the Morecambe and Wise scripts throughout the golden age
of the 1970s will ever be the subject of an A-level text.
My point is that big, apparently silly comedy does not preclude
big ideas or philosophical revelation -
you just don't notice them, which is why they can be funny.
Consider the forensic clarity of Johnny Speight's character
Alf Garnett, a searingly illuminating comic exploration
of the mind of the confused, ignorant, ill-informed bigot.
They've got nothing of their own, they ain't, them Labourites.
They ain't got no private fortunes, not like us Tories have.
'Ere, I've never seen any of it.
If Galton and Simpson's sublime Steptoe And Son hadn't been
such high comedy, it would have been recognised as high tragedy,
for was there ever a more perfect evocation of a mutually destructive,
than the relationship between Harold and Albert Steptoe?
Ugh, you dirty old man!
What are you doing?!
Richie and Eddie, in Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall's '90s sitcom Bottom,
negotiate the pointless nihilism of life with every bit as much
seedy detail and dark purpose as the characters in any Pinter play.
But with laughs.
Let's do it properly or not at all.
All right, then! Not at all!
God, I hate crosswords.
We can't go on like this.
Why did they take the telly away?
And consider the depth of perception that Jennifer Saunders brought
to the generational battles in which baby boomers struggle to hang on
to an eternal adolescence while their children,
born into much less generous times, fear for their future as adults.
This isn't a rave, it's a happening!
Don't force me to take it, Pat. I promised Saffy I wouldn't die.
But she'll never find out. Anyway, she doesn't scare me.
Keep the noise down!
In real comedy, proper funny comedy, of any style, truth is a given.
You don't notice it, which is why it's funny.
The depth of human understanding lies behind and within the comedy.
The intellectual value of the work is rightly and properly masked
by the primal, organic, gut-driven instinct to laugh.
Yet, as we've established,
it's laughter which so offends those who seek to analyse comedy,
be they amateur or professional.
Because laughter leaves the critic out of the loop.
Laughter defies argument.
The conclusion has already been drawn, the horse bolted.
You may hate Mrs Brown's Boys,
but the presence of genuine spontaneous laughter means
your hatred is not an objective truth,
something which we all secretly believe
our own personal prejudices to be.
No, it's a subjective opinion.
And what critic, be they professional or amateur,
wants to acknowledge that?
And so, they dismiss laughter as cheap and easy.
What madness. If art is about exposing and exploring our souls,
the essential pettiness, vanity, snobbery, desperation, selfishness,
generosity, occasional greatness and quiet heroism,
inherent in every human heart,
then we may find it brilliantly and sympathetically betrayed
in a single look from Captain Mainwaring.
You stupid boy.
A long morning with Victor Meldrew.
I don't believe it!
And as for quiet heroism,
pretty much any moment spent in the company of
the sublime Frank and Betty Spencer.
It's all right, Frank.
Oh, what did I do?!
Oh, where are you?
It's all right, Betty!
I might need a bit of help though!
So what conclusions can be drawn as I come to the end
of this first BBC Ronnie Barker Lecture?
Well, I certainly... I'd like to make the plea
that when we write about comedy, be it in a newspaper or in a tweet,
we shouldn't leap to judgment.
I don't think any comedy should be judged on its first outing,
particularly a sitcom which, by its very nature,
needs to establish its credentials and then bed in for the long haul.
I honestly don't think The Young Ones would survive
in today's critical environment. It was big and it was brash,
and confrontative and very rough around the edges with,
I have to tell you, as many or more misses than hits in its gag count.
Had Rick, Vyvyan, Neil and Mike arrived in a world
of instant opinions, formed and tweeted
while a show is still on air,
I don't think they'd have been given the grace to grow
as they were back in the day.
Imagine if they'd had Twitter on the first night of Hamlet.
Act one, scene one, "bored already".
"Get over yourself, you grumpy Danish bastard."
"Oh, there's a ghost! Marlowe did ghosts in The Jew Of Malta.
"Get your own ideas, Shakespeare!"
So let's not be so hard on people trying to be funny.
Even if we think they've failed.
Because if nobody's allowed to fail,
then no-one will think it's worth trying,
and the BBC and other companies won't feel it's worth commissioning.
And without people trying to be funny, really, really trying,
we would never have had this.
I've just taken a sample to test.
A sample? How much do you want then?
-Well, a pint of course.
-A pint?! Have you gone raving mad?
That's very nearly an armful.
I think we're on a winner here, Trig.
All right? Play it nice and cool, son.
Nice and cool, you know what I mean?
Your name will also go on the list!
-What is it?
-Don't tell him, Pike!
Pike, thank you.
I have a cunning plan, sir.
Oh, it looks great!
Funny has nothing to do with fashion.
Funny is just funny.
Self-conscious minimalism and underplayed naturalism can be hilarious,
and I love so much of what is going on in modern comedy.
But it's not the only way to be funny,
and no comedy practitioner would ever claim it was.
And that's why, tonight, I'm doing a big shout out
for live, studio-based, laughter-filled sitcom.
I certainly think Ronnie Barker would have approved
that the first lecture in his name makes that point.
Because it's not a tired and cheesy format at all.
It's a great, popular art form.
An original television art form.
A form which I suggest has created a community of audience,
a collective affection and a store of shared memories,
which is unparalleled in our culture.
Well, that's my piece and I've said it.
The Ronnie B story I started with, it's got a happy ending.
As I say, I got to know him quite well towards the end,
and we were quite friendly.
My wife and I got to know Ronnie and Anne Corbett quite well
when Ronnie amazingly agreed to revive
his wonderful chair monologues for a stand-up show I did in the '90s.
Then, I guess, Ronnie C must have told Ronnie B that I was all right,
because Ronnie B and his wonderful wife Joy started inviting me
to their annual parties at the Mill.
They were wonderful, wonderful occasions - magical summer events,
held at the Barkers' country millhouse,
with lots of food and wine,
an old-style jazz band that was always there
with striped waistcoats and straw boater hats.
Proper old showbiz parties.
I got to talk to David Jason all afternoon,
so you could imagine how thrilled I was.
And I got to know Ronnie and we talked quite a bit.
And, you know, he did mention our first meeting,
and he laughed about it and I laughed about it.
I didn't care, I was just basking in the company of the great man.
Still a fan.
Well, Ronnie B's gone now, as has Joy.
So there's going to be no more parties at the Mill.
But I'll leave you with a moment
from one of Ronnie B's own studio sitcoms, recorded over 40 years ago.
So, most of the people you'll hear laughing are,
like Ronnie B, long gone.
But the genuine happy laughter that they gave us is caught in time,
and it still rings down to us, across the years.
So here's Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais' incomparable Porridge.
What became of the soil that was excavated from the tunnel?
You want to know how they disposed of the soil?
-Simple as that.
-I'll tell you.
-I thought you might.
They dug another tunnel and put the earth down there.
Thank you, Ronnie Barker,
and thank you to the BBC.
My name's Ben Elton. Goodnight.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE