A journey through the career of Ronnie Corbett that looks beyond his starring role in The Two Ronnies to his strong stage career and first big television break at the age of 36.
Browse content similar to Ronnie Corbett. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
-Well, hello, everyone!
-He's been on our screen for over 60 years.
Sometimes in the most unexpected places.
Unforgettable, as Ronnie in The Two Ronnies.
One of the funniest things that has ever been on television.
Yes, absolutely correct.
They had a fantastic formula.
He mastered the art of stand up, sitting down.
I know what you're thinking. I know what you're thinking.
That's the first time I've seen a garden mole wearing glasses.
He spent an awful lot of his career in dresses.
I mean, who wasn't a fan of The Two Ronnies?
He could shuffle a bit. Didn't mind a little dance,
which was great.
You just want to stroke him, put him in a little pouch and take him home.
He won the adoration of a new comedy generation.
One of the true greats.
People genuinely love him.
Ronnie Corbett unquestionably is a national treasure.
The man is a born, brilliant reactor.
All-singing, all-dancing. He's Britain's smallest big star.
A bit of confetti hit me in the back of the head...
An icon of British TV and comedy.
I was rushed to hospital with concussion.
These are the many faces of Ronnie Corbett.
"How did you start in the business?" they say.
"What made you decide to become a comedian?"
Which is what I am.
I always mention that. Always mention that very early, you know.
Just in case!
You know, there might be some foreigners in the audience
who think I'm a glove puppet.
Ronnie was born in Edinburgh in 1930.
The family were keen churchgoers and it was on a pantomime
stage in the local church hall that Ronnie first got the acting bug.
I was in this youth club, this church youth club,
cos our life was built very much round the church.
Church of Scotland.
And I did this youth club pantomime and I played the wicked aunt.
I was in drag straightaway.
And it was just a revelation to me cos I hadn't been any
good at anything and suddenly, I just felt this immediate comfort.
But the comforting applause was soon a memory.
After the Second World War,
young men were obliged to enter National Service.
At only 5ft 1 inch, Ronnie was reputedly the shortest
commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force.
Back in Civvy Street after his regulation 18 months,
his diminutive stature opened the door to small parts in films.
He found a niche, playing boys and young men.
You're Only Young Twice!
was a 1952 British film shot mainly around the University of Glasgow.
Are you staying here long?
-I don't know. Yes, perhaps.
-Oh, good! I think you'll like it here.
It's a bit cold at first, of course,
but I always find that after a week or two, I never notice the cold.
Come on, we'll be late.
Being awkward around women would become
something of a trademark in years ahead.
-Au revoir then.
-Au revoir. I have enjoyed our little chat.
Have to raise my voice.
Ronnie was big on ambition, but in the '50s,
his boyish looks kept dragging him back to the classroom.
'Ere, Titch. What you going to do in the school concert tomorrow night?
-Nothing? I thought you were going to be a comic.
Yes, you know, a wit.
I don't know a wit. I know a couple of halfwits though.
-You and who else?
-Get out of it!
He does a lot of schoolboy parts.
He's in a film called Fun At St Fanny's,
which is set in one of those schools where everybody looks
a bit...rather older than they should be.
All of these middle aged men in short trousers.
This is going to hurt me far more than it's going to hurt you.
-Think of it, 16 years at St Fanny's
and you don't know anything about William the Conqueror.
Fun At St Fanny's was a bizarre 1956 concoction with all
the ingredients to be a totally forgettable moment in British film.
We think we've found an improvement on the hydrogen bomb.
Never mind that. Will someone get me out of here?
Ronnie had had enough.
Ronnie was also getting regular television work
on account of his height, or lack of it.
Crackerjack was a children's show, hosted by Eamonn Andrews
and performed before a live audience of excitable youngsters.
Yes, it's Crackerjack!
THEY CHEER EXCITEDLY
-Have you ever made a record?
-No? Would you like to?
-I'd love to, yes!
One of the things that I suffered from a bit in my early days
was that being small, people thought I was sort of more constructed
to do the knockabout stuff, hit on the head, little comedian.
So they would say - now we're going to cover you with flour
and water and then hit you in the head,
but really, I wasn't that kind of performer at all.
-Do you want to record?
-Well, stand up. Oh, you are standing up.
'Although I was little, I worked tall.'
I didn't go on working in television.'
It was a little spat of... And then nothing happened afterwards.
It didn't lead to anything because I wasn't really truly right for it.
After almost ten years on the fringe of an acting career,
Ronnie Corbett was struggling and he was being typecast.
Being short meant being the butt of the wrong kind of jokes.
Terry Thomas promised another film part, but Operation Snatch
cast Ronnie as a diminutive soldier impersonating a monkey.
Something had to change.
It was now the '60s and London was in full swing.
Ronnie did television by day, worked in a bar in the evening,
and performed cabaret late into the night.
But he struggled to be more than a support act for newer stars.
The younger comedians of the day, Jimmy Tarbuck for example,
had come up with the kind of Liverpool, Beatles,
people couldn't get enough of the Scousers.
Ronnie didn't fit any particular...
Any particular box that you could put him in and it...
I think that held him back quite a bit.
But eventually, talent will out.
Ronnie's cabaret comedy talent was being noticed.
He made regular appearances supporting Jimmy Tarbuck in the '60s.
-I recognise you, don't I?
-You can't prove a thing.
Just a moment, that little chin, that same little nose,
that hint of mascara around the eyes...
I know you. Conrad from Carnaby Street.
Call me Connie.
And even in those days, he had class.
I thought - he does well, this fella, and he's funny
and did sketches and all that and did what we call quickies.
He's away changing,
time for a quick rhyme from Mr Fuller of Rickmansworth.
There was a young girl called Cilla...
..who looked as if nothing could fill her
To make her look plumper
She stuffed up her jumper
-Two melons wrapped in a pillar.
-And he was a joy to work with.
Solid as a rock when he was working, cos he'd worked with lots of people.
Ronnie was busy, if not big time.
He had been in films, he'd been in cabaret and on television.
He even had a growing career on stage.
In 1963, he appeared with Bob Monkhouse in The Boys From Syracuse.
that led to a part in a much anticipated new musical - Twang.
Maybe this would be his big break.
If you saw the running order
and the credits of Twang, you'd go,
"Well, this has got to be a huge success."
The hand of fate was hovering.
But while the West End beckoned, Ronnie still felt most comfortable
doing comedy in clubs, particularly the cabaret stage at Danny La Rue's.
My earliest memory of Ronnie was seeing him
stooging at Danny La Rue's club in the West End, in Hannover Square.
And he was on and off all night long.
And what a funny man.
The 17th edition of our cabaret, devised
and produced by Danny La Rue, written by Barry Cryer,
starring Jenny Logan, Ronnie Corbett, Tony Farmer,
and Danny, who says - keep it moving!
Come to me, my little sugar plum.
-Sugar plum's a fairy!
'The fun was that there was this glamorous, statuesque lady,'
who was Dan, and this busy bee of a little soul with short
legs like me, buzzing about, playing all heroes to his heroines.
It worked very well because you see on stage, in all the gear,
I can be anything from 6ft 2 to 7ft.
# Happy feet, we've got those happy feet... #
Danny was sophisticated, glamorous,
rather than a sort of pantomime dame type, which we'd been used to.
And he had this little company of players,
who he fed off and who did gags. And it was the place in London.
Everybody went to Danny La Rue's club.
It was the place to go, the place to be seen,
and the place to have a bloody good laugh.
-I leapt over the fence, I was caught by the Cossacks.
-Oh, my goodness!
He had a wonderful crew around him, feeding him
and that and he, Corbett, the little guy, and the difference with Danny
with the huge knockers on and the little fella who came up to them...
I mean, it was funny for a start.
# Up on point, we're always up on point
# And straight in... #
I can't make it! I can't make it!
That's where Ronnie, along with the other clubs,
served his apprenticeship.
I mean, you could go in and be sat in the dark
and you'd look who was sat there, it might be Princess Margaret or
Laurence Olivier, or people of that ilk, you know...
The grandees of this life. They'd be in there, roaring laughing at Danny.
And certainly at the little guy. Yeah.
The people who came, and Ron was in it and a whole gang of us,
and I was in it and wrote the shows,
and Danny was a great mentor.
The gang. We were the gang.
He really looked after us and we all united against opposition.
It was hard not to be discovered there, if you were any good,
because everybody in the business went there, every TV boss,
every theatre boss, booker... Everybody went there.
And Ronnie was absolutely a standout.
David Frost came in one night and had a drink with me and Ronnie.
David Frost was a rising star, but his cult television satire,
That Was The Week That Was, had come and gone.
# That was the week that was
# It's over, let it go... #
David Frost had said -
if Twang runs, you won't be able to do this, but in
six weeks, I am starting recording a series called The Frost Report.
Twang was the biggest flop in West End history.
It sank Ronnie's hopes of a future in musical theatre after
only 43 performances.
In life, there's a thing, isn't there?
One door closes and another door opens
and that might have been the case in the Twang thing cos it
came off and Ronnie was available to do other things.
That was a major, major turning point in my life really.
David Frost's topical weekly show took the edgy
atmosphere of late night revue and put it on television.
Thank you very much indeed.
He had recruited university talent who wanted everything to be
something completely different
and stage talent who had the discipline to pull it together.
The stage talent was Ronnie Corbett
and a newcomer from repertory theatre, Ronnie Barker.
The chemistry between the two Ronnies happened very early on.
There's a classic police station sketch, written by Mike Palin
and Terry Jones and they only use the first two lines.
-Good morning, Super.
And that's all it was. And you sensed at the time...
We got the impression - we've got something here.
A nine second exchange brought Ronnie Corbett
and Ronnie Barker together for the very first time.
Although it would be another five years before the two Ronnies
starred in their own show, their unique comedy chemistry is
there in The Frost Report from day one.
I'd never worked with Ron before that, but I'd met him
because I used to work in a bar called The Buxton Club,
which is an actors' club off Haymarket.
And Ron always reckoned the first time I served him
behind the bar, I was standing on a beer crate.
No, that was wrong.
Both he and Ronnie Barker,
having done all these last minute jobs
and last minute line learning, running from place to place,
doing a bit of cabaret, filling in for people,
Ronnie Barker had had a long career in rep,
they knew about learning lines right at the last minute,
but some of those other people, those Cambridge people, they didn't
have a clue about that,
so if we look back at footage of those shows, I think if you look
carefully, you can see that the two Ronnies are rather at ease with this
kind of stuff, but I think you can see the fear in John Cleese's eyes.
Now, what exactly were you doing on the night of the 14th of October?
Well, we pulled some birds, slapped them back to the Drum,
you know, bit of a giggle, all down to Larkin, and all that carry on...
Now, look here!
It was a ground-breaking show and won the coveted
Golden Rose at the Montreaux Television festival in 1967.
Ronnie was at the cutting edge of the comedy of the day.
I think people forget that he was effectively an alternative
comedian in his day. I mean, he was... He was at some...
Involved in what was definitely cutting edge comedy...
The Frost Report, was connected with That Was The Week That Was,
that had come before it, and the very famous three class sketch.
I look down on him because I am upper class.
I look 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.
It's clever that the short man
is playing, you know,
the working class man
because you might think that being working class,
he'd be a manual labourer and so therefore big, or whatever,
but they work the height thing really brilliantly.
I look up to them both, but I don't look up to him
as much as I look up to him.
I think it's a sketch that pervades the British consciousness, that one.
We're still obsessed with class.
I have got innate breeding, but I have not got any money.
So sometimes, I look up...to him.
It was seen as a template of the development of satire
and I think it's quite interesting to think that Ronnie, who is...
Because he's at the heart of mainstream light entertainment and
it's interesting that he played his role in what was
seen as a more edgy part of the industry as well.
David Frost moved to ITV in 1968 and took his A Team of stars
and writers with him.
He packaged shows, he put performers under contract,
he was a real entrepreneur, year ahead of his time.
And for Ronnie Corbett, it was great for him
to be part of that cos David had a lot of clout.
Frost was more than a frontman.
He was a producer who kept his talent busy.
He had faith in both Ronnies and created new TV shows for them
The sitcom No That's Me Over Here was Ronnie Corbett's first
starring role. It ran from 1967 to 1970.
David Frost, a practising catalyst, had put me
and Graham Chapman together and we wrote Ronnie Corbett's first sitcom.
The first series, I think it was me and Graham and Eric Idle.
Taking his real name for the lead character,
the action is split between Ronnie's home life and office politics.
It's fast-moving and often unexpected.
Yes, we had some surreal moments.
Ronnie would be discovered IN a filing cabinet.
If you examine that, there's no logic in that at all.
How did he get in there?!
Ronnie would get even smaller and his boss, played by Ivor Dean,
would become a giant looming over him.
-I was on my way to see if you were in.
-Well, I'm out here now.
-What did you want to see me about?
-But we had a great time doing that.
It's a prolific time for both Ronnies, as producers
and broadcasters test their appeal in different formats.
Corbett went on to another sitcom, Now Look Here.
Barker made the Ronnie Barker Playhouse, Hark At Barker
and Six Dates With Barker.
While Corbett got his own named shows - The Corbett Follies
and Ronnie Corbett In Bed.
All of this and another two series of sketches in Frost On Sunday.
In just five years, Ronnie had become a very familiar face.
-Ronnie Corbett, this is your life.
-Oh, my God!
By 1970, Ronnie Corbett was so well known,
he was big enough to feature in the star tribute show This Is Your Life.
Both Ronnies had served their time, but at 40 years of age,
Ronnie's television career was only just beginning.
In 1971, the BBC created The Two Ronnies.
The Two Ronnies became required family entertainment for 16 years.
I just remember certain things that were on telly
and that you watched and The Two Ronnies was one of them.
Good evening. It's nice to be with you again, isn't it, Ronnie?
Yes, it is. Very nice indeed.
You would have the audience all
watching at the same time, which
they don't do now,
and watching in great numbers, so it became a shared experience.
So the next day, there was
a fair chance you could talk to your friend and they'd seen it.
THEY PLAY TUNE
You just knew it was a guaranteed time of the weekend where
you were going to have a bloody good laugh with the whole family.
-Hello, George. Nice to see you.
-Have a sausage roll.
Oh, I'm sorry. A cheese straw?
-Oh, bless you.
-I'm awfully sorry. Awfully sorry.
Just that whenever anyone mentions food, I sneeze, you see?
-Oh, dear. I am sorry about that.
-Have a little drink.
-Thanks very much.
-Drink to your better health.
-A little toast.
The Two Ronnies were a double act created for television.
Both Ronnies were equal comedy partners.
Classic double acts,
generally tend to have something physical going on between them.
Obviously, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello as well,
Morecambe and Wise as well...
You know, the tall one and the short one.
And that's happening too with The Two Ronnies.
What's interesting about The Two Ronnies,
from that point of view, is it's not straight man and funny man.
Ah, thank you, Groucho.
Oh, that's good! Oh, that's very, very good!
Yes, I don't think we've got a Sooty.
I beg your pardon! I haven't come as Sooty!
-Oh, haven't you?
-It's just as well, isn't it, really?
You don't want to spend the rest of the party with someone's hand
up your jumper all night, do you?
For me, The Two Ronnies were deeply formative. Um...
I don't think Ronnie's going to mind
when I say that my personal all-time personal heroes of comedy
were Morecambe and Wise, but then Morecambe and Wise were much more
specific than talents like Ronnie and Ronnie because Ronnie and Ronnie
did sitcoms, they worked apart, they worked together,
The Two Ronnies was part of their lives,
but they weren't a double act in the way that Morecambe and Wise were.
Ronnie always went along with Ronnie Barker's opinions on shape
and form and whatever. And it did evolve a format.
They've got the news items at the beginning and then there'd be
a sketch where they're both at a party or dinner or in a bar.
And there would always be a song medley at the end.
It was a solid formula that hardly ever changed.
We knew that we couldn't do an opening thing in front of an
audience with Ron and I talking to each other and to the audience.
So we knew that there had to be a device whereby we could both talk to
the audience separately and have a little passing glance between us,
so what developed out of that was the news items.
And we'll be demonstrating the very latest brassiere.
It's called the Sheepdog.
It rounds them up and points them in the right direction.
Towards the end of every show, Ronnie Corbett takes to
a chair for a rambling monologue, leading to a simple joke.
I was doing some decorating.
I fell off a ladder while painting the skirting board.
He's kind of the first stand up comedian my generation ever
saw, even though he was sitting down.
Because people then didn't
really come on telly
and do a comic monologue.
Tonight, I would like,
if I may, to relate a very funny story that I heard when I...
Sorry, what's that? I think the producer's just shot himself.
Plenty of time for that when we get to the joke.
I remember standing watching him rehearsing one afternoon
and Ronnie Barker was standing next to me.
And Ronnie Barker was watching his friend in the chair
and he turned to me and said, "How does he do that?"
Cos Ronnie was ostensibly playing himself
and Ronnie Barker was always a character.
He said, "I want to smell the spirit gum on my upper lip,
"part my hair, I'll wear a wig." But it was mutual admiration society.
I mean, Ronnie admired Ronnie Barker very much,
but always remember Ronnie Barker saying that, "How's he do that?"
Sitting in that chair, waffling away,
written by the great Spike Mullins.
Ronnie's chair monologues grew out of his natural improvising skills,
but they became a wholly scripted routine.
When Spike's scripts used to come at the beginning of the week, for that
week's show, I always knew they'd arrived because he'd have his cup of
tea in bed and he'd start laughing and I could hear him laughing.
The words were just there, you know.
Sheer... You know, affection. Sounding like me.
The fact is that it's a popular
fallacy that men of my diminutive stature don't make great lovers.
As I pointed out in my recent book on the subject -
How To Make A Little Go A Long Way.
Over the 16 year run, there were many great sketches,
and one particular classic moment.
If you look at that sketch carefully with
a sort of semi-professional eye, what makes that sketch
work in three dimensions is Ronnie Corbett's acting in that sketch.
Got any plugs?
-What kind of plugs?
A rubber one, bathroom.
Who is the straight man in Fork Handles? Because it's...
Well, it is Ronnie Corbett, isn't it? It's Ronnie Corbett
because Ronnie Corbett is playing the shopkeeper who is getting angry.
You just watch the way the man is reacting.
Every nuance, every touch, brilliant.
-Got an 'ose?
It's beautiful. It's just beautiful. And it never ages.
You can watch it again and again. Even though you know what's coming.
And I suppose a lot of that is just to do with the rhythm.
And it's two masters, you know, playing it just perfectly.
-Many do you want?
Got any Ps?
Gawd's sake, why didn't you bleedin' tell me
that when I'm up there, then?
I'm up and down the shop already,
it's up and down the shop all the time.
Honestly, I've got all this shop, up and down here...
That background activity
of him going to get stuff and Ronnie Barker waiting for it,
and then you just know it's going to be still wrong,
it's still going to be a pun, gets funnier and funnier.
How many do you want?
No, tins of peas!
Three tins of peas.
Of course, the words are brilliant.
But, to bring that sketch to life,
Ronnie Corbett's performance in that sketch
is a masterclass in comic...comic genius.
Through the 16 years of Two Ronnies,
there were mini form series, parodies that ran from week to week.
One of the great landmarks in Ronnie Corbett's career,
The Worm That Turned.
It's a brilliant insight into the gender politics of that period,
because you've got this picture of this England, turned upside down...
The dateline is 2012.
England is in the grip of a new and terrifying regime.
The country is being run by women.
The secret police are everywhere.
Ruled by women. Terrifying idea!
Men, downtrodden and subjugated,
are forced to wear dresses
and to have only feminine lives.
Ruled, in fact, by Diana Dors in a kind of commandant's uniform,
which, I dare say, excited an awful lot of people.
What the hell do you think you're doing?
I'm dusting the desk.
Dusting the chair.
It's a new directive from the Efficiency Department.
There's something rather gripping about this.
Just a minute.
It's utterly bizarre,
but I can remember being totally beguiled by this world.
And almost seeing what they were doing in it as a version of,
you know, I used to watch Secret Army.
My great-grandmother was very, very famous in showbusiness.
Yes. Eamonn Andrews.
You will report to this office nine o'clock on Monday
when you will be disciplined.
And, actually, I think The Worm That Turned
in its own way, was as gripping as Secret Army.
And, as the programme's success soared, so did the budgets,
with ever more elaborate sets and high production values.
It was a golden age for television entertainment.
-# I'm the Hare
-# He's the Hare
# He's the Hatter
# And the former is as loony as the latter
# Your hat is on fire
# I'm smouldering with desire for Alice in her winter underwear... #
-Didn't I say that?
-You said underwear.
No, no, no, underwear, ladies' lingerie, peek-a-boo bras,
garters and bodices.
-Did I say all that?
-Well, you had that in mind.
Well, I'm not as mad as I look! Ha-ha!
I think it was a golden age of television.
Money was plentiful, the BBC had lots of money,
ITV had a monopoly, had lots of money.
# There's the duke.
# And there's the duchess
# Praying hard to fall into some fella's clutches
# I don't fancy yours
# No, I'd sooner be indoors
# With Alice in her winter underwear
# With Alice in a winter wonderland. #
Say goodbye, Angelique.
The Two Ronnies are remembered as a family-friendly show,
but the comedy often has a more adult appeal.
Cheeky innuendo was popular at the time.
Have you seen my pair of spectacles?
Yes, they're very, very nice indeed.
By the way, you know you left your glasses, Professor?
The Two Ronnies were offered to us as family entertainment.
That's what they were. I used to watch it with my mum and dad.
At Ascot, the water will only be turned on on Ladies' Day
but we hope the ladies will be turned on every day.
A lot of it is quite dirty.
My big end's blown.
A lot of it is quietly filthy, I think.
We've got two bottles of elixir.
Why don't we wake her up and give her one?
What, at a time like this?
There were what you might call adult jokes slipped in there,
that went over their heads of the children watching, and that's fine.
That's like if you go to see a really good pantomime, there
are adult jokes in there, but they don't get in the way of the show.
The children aren't aware of them.
It's, you know, testament to the skill of writers.
Allow me to introduce you to Snivelling and Gragg's
Extract of Rhinosahaurus.
Puts lead back in your quill pen, as they say.
-I can't wait!
-Don't worry, you won't have time.
But by the early '80s, a new generation of television viewers
was beginning to find that style of comedy past its sell-by date.
The Two Ronnies continue, but gradually,
they lose the mantle of being entertainment for the whole family.
Younger audiences are drifting off to new channels and new faces.
What happens at the end of the '70s, beginning of the '80s,
you get a generation of comedians
who were influenced by things other than the cabaret,
the satire boom and that broader end-of-the-pier,
Palladium kind of light entertainment.
You get comedians who are university comedians,
but they've been influenced by things like punk
and they want to kind of shake things up, rather.
"Alternative". I think the word was coined by journalist.
It's sort of meaningless, really.
And you had Ben Elton sounding off about Margaret Thatcher,
and there was a political flavour creeping in.
But the old pillars,
the Frankie Howerds and Two Ronnies, sort of survived that.
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones
did a very funny parody of the Two Ronnies.
# We like birds, we're ornithologists
# 'Orny, porno-thologists
# I've got a nice pair of binaculocul-ars
# You can stick them up...on the tripod... #
The main object of the attack was the fact that, in those songs,
there would always be a rhyme, and the rhyme would always be rude,
and at the last minute, that rude word would be avoided,
and they made much of that on the Not The Nine O'clock News
sketch, and that is funny, to parody that.
And I think, you know, I see that sketch now, maybe you wouldn't be
able to see it at the time, but I see it now as essentially homage.
What was called alternative comedy,
which I suppose was effectively The Young Ones, Saturday Live,
the show I hosted, which gave a platform to new variety performers,
and the Comic Strip series, was somehow,
was being presented by us
as some kind of attack on traditional stand-up
and this really is a heinous lie.
# We're marching up and down on the spot, spot, spot
# Cos the sodding choreographer's a twot, twot, twot
# Couldn't care a jot if we've never been there or not
-# With a bum
-# How's your father
-Tiddly aye-doh!... #
Every single person I've ever met in what you might call
"my" generation of performers has nothing
but admiration for the previous generation.
We don't love 'em all, but, mainly, they were brilliant.
And Ronnie Corbett, correct me if I'm wrong, he's,
"What is this, what is this?" and then he started laughing.
Tonight, you'll be reassured to know we'll be using exactly the same sort of material...
As we've used for the last 20 years.
I shall be, I shall be talking incredibly quickly,
making spousands of thoonerisms and dressing up in women's clothing.
And I shan't be getting any laughs, because he writes
most of the scripts and makes sure I get all the crappy bits.
Ronnie Barker was furious!
"These two are not the Two Ronnies for their age, we are
"the Two Ronnies of this age. We're still here."
Ronnie Barker was not amused. It was very funny, actually.
The Two Ronnies had been together for nearly 20 years, but Ronnie Barker
had health concerns, and worried his writing was past its best.
In 1985, he decided it was time to retire.
Unending cries, crushing your will.
Breaking your soul!
# Chick, chick, chick, chicken
# Lay a little egg for me
# Chick, chicky chick, chicky chicken... #
We were aware at the time that,
well, probably had to be, but this is sad. It's an end of an era,
because it had come through the whole Frost background then
it was The two Ronnies in their own right and, yeah, it's a bit sad.
And we were losing work, of course, so that was even sadder.
# Let's face the music and dance... #
ORCHESTRA TAKES UP TUNE
The Two Ronnies' epic journey ended in the UK in 1986.
But, as the final series was aired,
the pair did make six more programmes on the other side of the world.
You still got two wishes left?
Better wish for a bucket and spade!
The Two Ronnies had been a successful export for the BBC
and was especially popular in Australia.
The Two Ronnies was cult viewing.
Everybody would come to our place
because we would be the only ones locally who had a TV.
So all the kids would pile in, the neighbourhood kids, the parents.
They would drink the home-brew that dad had made in the garage.
Mum passed round the lemon teas.
And we'd all hang onto every single word,
and even though, as kids, we didn't get all of the references,
it was just, being part of that comic camaraderie was so important,
and it was a definite lifeline to us.
the Two Ronnies recorded sketches which had not yet been
seen down under for the Channel 9 network.
# I knew a girl called Jennifer Goafer
# She had hips like a well-stuffed sofa
# If she sat on you, she'd squash you flat
# Boy, I sure kept outta that... #
Australians took Ronnie Corbett to our hearts because he's
so irrepressibly buoyant and optimistic.
You know, a lot of British people think optimism is our disease, and
then Ronnie Corbett, he's so bouncy he could almost be a marsupial.
You know, he could be in a kangaroo family.
And that's what we love about him, this little bonsai comic genius.
And he only stayed on and did his own show for a year
and he became an honorary Aussie.
We definitely wanted to put him on a postage stamp.
I don't think they'd been to Australia very much.
They just kind of threw in the odd "G'Day"
and a couple of local references to a few comedians,
but it was still pretty much their standard British fare with
a couple boomerangs and kangaroos chucked in for good measure.
We will also be talking to Angus McTavish
of the Sydney Caledonian Society
who, when asked to do something Glaswegian on Burns Night,
was sick in a phone box.
So it's goodnight from me...
-And it's g'day from him.
Back in Britain, The Two Ronnies were parting company,
but Ronnie Corbett had no intention of following Barker into retirement.
When Ronnie Barker retired, it wasn't
a problem for Ronnie Corbett, because he had a career
as a solo performer before he teamed up with Ronnie Barker.
It wasn't like Morecambe and Wise, when Eric died,
Ernie was left really bereft.
Ronnie had a fabulous career.
He was a stand-up comedian. He was in demand. He packed theatres.
It wasn't a problem for him.
It wasn't a problem for him at all.
In his solo acting career,
Ronnie Corbett was best playing variations of the same character -
a man trapped by his boyish appearance,
struggling to assert his maturity.
In 1973, he had starred in a film, No Sex Please, We're British,
where his stuttering, red-faced embarrassment over sex
perfectly matched the social attitudes of the '70s.
No Sex Please, We're British, is a landmark in the landscape.
There he is in the film version of this as this rather odd
character who suddenly finds himself inundated with porn.
-A parcel for you, Penny.
It's about a mix-up of addresses.
A bundle of pornographic literature arrives at a flat above a bank
where Ron, of course, Ronnie Corbett works.
Oh, this knot's so tight.
Oh, I've got my penknife with me With me. Be prepared. Ha-ha-ha!
It's a farce.
It's a good old traditional, quintessential British farce
with, you know, postcard humour, end-of-the-pier humour.
By God, it's a dirty picture!
Corbett's rather interesting in this area, because, in a way,
what he does is the comedy embarrassment and blushing
and confusion and hesitation.
Well, you couldn't look at this. As for this, well, I mean, I daren't look myself!
Somehow fumbling around being embarrassed is what
he seems to do best, is what we love him for.
Oh, how embarrassing!
So, it was risque but acceptable.
I think that's the kind of humour.
I think it's in the same genre as the Carry Ons,
although the story is very solid with No Sex Please, We're British.
Then, of course, there's the typical Ronnie Corbett moment.
Awkward about women, trying to escape
the attitudes of his parents' generation.
He's a little guy, having a hard time.
That was always his great speciality.
Desperately thrashing about, to get out of the situation he was in.
And that's what we wrote to, that quality he had.
He continued the frustrated mummy's boy theme
in his biggest sitcom success, Sorry!
Fantastic, even though
it was incredibly painful to watch at times.
1980s BBC sitcom from Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent.
-Is that you, Timothy?
Sorry is the story of Timothy Lumsden,
a librarian in his 40s who still lives at home
with his domineering mother, Phyllis, and henpecked father, Sidney.
That was obviously a huge hit.
Ran for seven series throughout the 1980s.
It's this great sitcom with a slightly weird edge to it.
Look at you! Anyone would think you hadn't got a mother.
I think they know.
Who else would comb my hair and give me a lick wash in public?
It could be,
Hitchcock could have filmed that story
and given it a rather different vibe.
There's something I've never told you, Timothy.
I don't think you're my son!
Very vague in that nursing home.
They were always mixing up the babies.
And the woman in the bed next to me was tiny.
What are you saying, Mother?
And she wore glasses.
I loved Sorry. I used to love watching Sorry.
And just like the sketches in the Two Ronnies had become a thing that
you'd do at home, so did Sorry, you know, "Language, Timothy!"
We used to say that round the house.
Timothy dreams of finding love and leaving home,
but his mother always finds a way to bring him back under her wings.
-Ah, right, right.
That's the end of the party, then.
No, Frank, no. Different these days. Just listen.
Mother? Be quiet, please, be quiet.
No, Mother, I'm staying here for my supper.
Yes, I'm not coming home for my supper.
No... Anyway, I don't like the brawn, Mother, so I'm staying here.
Yes, goodbye, Mother, goodbye.
My God, Tim, you did it!
Yes, but I think I better go.
I vault into the saddle!
Sorry ran until 1988, clocking up 42 episodes before,
in an enigmatic ending, Timothy was finally allowed to fly the nest.
I'm flying! Flying at last!
Hang on, Timothy!
Ronnie Corbett was 58 years old.
I hope there's a grown-up in charge!
Yes, there is.
It's me, Mother!
Goodbye. Good luck.
Sorry closed a chapter on Ronnie's career.
The Two Ronnies were a memory,
and this was his last starring sitcom role.
But Ronnie wasn't up for retirement quite yet.
Small Talk! And here's the man in charge...
This time, his size made him an ideal candidate
for a new game show challenge.
First of all, let's meet the children this week.
-Hello, boys and girls.
So, Sue, you have managed to match with Tammy and Caroline
but of course you've failed
to match with Anthony, Rachel and Grant.
Ah, that's not too bad.
When everything was totted up,
there were more than 50 episodes of Small Talk and four series,
taking Ronnie Corbett's run in television
into its fourth decade.
Let's see what the children have won for you this evening, Sue.
The good news is that you win a night on the town
with theatre tickets and a slap-up meal for you and your family,
and the sad news is,
of course, that the town is Wilmsley.
It was 1994. Ronnie had spent a lifetime in entertainment.
Never mind the game shows,
he'd been in cutting-edge satire,
he'd been in family entertainment
with more than 20 million viewers on Saturday night,
and he'd been a sitcom star.
Surely now it was time to put his feet up,
and see out years of retirement on the golf course.
But invitations to stay on our screens have kept coming
from some unexpected directions.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very special treat for you now.
This is special.
It's a man, I'm so happy to be working with him,
because he's so talented, he's brilliant,
he's a horizontally-challenged farty-four-eyes like myself.
When I invited Ronnie to grace,
you know, to be our guest star,
but obviously a wonderful, iconic figure,
on my show in the '90s, there was a lot of,
"Oh, is this some kind of play on the idea that, you know,
"Ben Elton is supposed to be
"a little bit edgy and Ronnie is supposed to be mainstream?"
That was not remotely in my mind. It really, really wasn't.
I just wanted one of my heroes,
a very, very funny man,
to appear on my show.
There was nothing more complicated about it than that.
I went along on the first recording, and of course, you know Ben, hammer, hammer...
-Motor on, motor on...
And being the usual sort of Ben,
you know, area, rather raunchy but very funny material.
Copy of Fulsome Funbags, please!
And I was standing behind the flap with my chair side down
and I thought, "How can I go on and sit down and say,
"Good evening, this happened at the golf club, and...
And our twee, twee jokes.
Please will you welcome the wonderful, oh,
big respect for Ronnie Corbett!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Sorry, am I getting a signal?
Is that the middle finger? Oh!
I think it means, "one minute to go".
Funny, it used to be two minutes in the old days!
If you were a young comedian today, if you knew
anything about the business at all,
you'd be honoured to be working with some of the greats
that are still with us. No question about it.
And Ronnie's one of those.
To celebrate his birthday,
a new generation of comics came together
to create The One Ronnie in 2010.
Ronnie's career had been resurrected at the age of 80.
It was just a sort of delight from start to finish because,
doing a sketch with Ronnie Corbett.
Sorry I'm late. Asda was heaving.
Got some fancy fondants for tea.
By the time I did that with him, I'd got to know him.
We've become friends, and he's someone I think of as a friend.
He's someone, we will phone each other up, just to chat.
So, there wasn't perhaps the trepidation that
I might have had if I didn't know him as well as I do.
Lionel Blair was in it as well, wasn't he?
He popped up at the end, doesn't he?
Behold! Pure evil!
Oh, I love those curtains.
Do you? I made them myself!
You know what this place is crying out for?
-Don't think I haven't told them.
-Can you do this?
Ye Gods! What have I done?!
We should get on Strictly! Ha-ha!
The best sketch on that show was the one that Harry Enfield did.
That sketch is up there, I think, with the Two Ronnies,
because of course, they were, it was a sort of homage to Four Candles.
It better be good, and it was.
I bought something from you last week, and I'm very disappointed.
Oh, yeah? What's the problem?
Well, my blackberry is not working.
SHOPKEEPER CLEARS THROAT
What's the matter, it run out of juice?
No, no, it's completely frozen.
Oh, yeah, I can see that.
That was wonderfully written and fantastically performed.
It was kind of perfect.
I tell you what, let's try it on Orange.
That's got a few blackspots.
Oh, dear, yeah, sorry about that. Yeah.
I think the reason he's so popular now is
because people genuinely love him,
and the people that have him on their shows genuinely love him
and know that he remains sharp and talented
and intrinsically funny, and so, he's going
to grace their show in his 80s, just as he would have done in his 20s.
That's why he still works.
In 2005, Corbett and Barker made one last appearance together,
hosting a celebration of their best sketches.
It would be their last ever recording together.
I was at the final Two Ronnies recording that they ever did
together, Two Ronnies Christmas Sketchbook in summer, 2005.
Went along to TV Centre.
It was quite an amazing night.
Thank you. Good evening.
It's wonderful to be back with you
for this special Christmas Sketchbook, isn't it, Ronnie?
Indeed it is. And remember, we are still The Two Ronnies.
We have been on your screens now for nearly 40 years.
To be in the presence of two, two absolute legends, masters of
the art of comedy, and to see just a glimmer of them working together...
Having to compete against various comic double acts.
Little and Large in the saucy '70s.
Smith and Jones in the elegant '80s.
Ant and Dec in the nifty '90s.
And now Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
The atmosphere for both Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker
amongst the audience was palpable.
So, once again, it only remains for me
to say a Merry Christmas from me...
-And a happy New Year from him.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
It was... Yeah, it was incredibly emotional.
It was quite clear...
Although it was unspoken, it was clear that Ronnie Barker
was very frail by that point and that would be quite probably
the last time they ever worked together,
and indeed it proved to be the case.
Ronnie Corbett has been on our screens for more than 60 years...
An absolute icon.
He's one of the last of the great days of British variety.
Eric and Ernie and Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper. He's up there.
Look down, he's there with them all.
He's like a sort of Dead Sea Scrolls. Everything is in there.
By Jove, you've done well for yourself.
You haven't done too badly, eh?
People of my generation and generations that have come after me
have really taken him to their hearts.
Number one, just because he's so good.
I mean, that's the bottom line of it.
..but he will always be best remembered as one of The Two Ronnies.
I was a wee baby.
I spent the first two years of my life on a charm bracelet.
There is a sort of naughtiness about him which we all love and admire.
We know a little smirk is coming.
We know that if he says anything then that naughty laugh will just
break out in the middle of a sentence and he'll push his
glasses back on his nose and, you know, look at us slightly beadily.
-Well, we've known each other for, what,
20 years. 20 years, man and boy.
I've known him since he was that high.
Sometimes things that are very, very popular do not get ranked
as culturally or artistically important,
and The Two Ronnies is like that.
It's like, well, it was watched by 20 million people and obviously
it can't be artistically or comically important, but it is.
The funeral took place today of Mr Spencer P Dobson,
the famous compiler of crossword puzzles.
After a short service,
he was buried six down and three across.
And it stuck out a mile he was going to be a star
because of one word - class.
He had total class.
"Christmas time is here again
"And joy, this day be yours
"With mistletoe upon the tree
"And holly on the doors
"I wish you all you wish yourself
"And may your day be jolly."
The other side of the card.
"I swear to
"tell the truth, the whole truth
"and nothing but the truth.
"Love, Dennis and Mabel."
Ronnie Corbett is an icon of television entertainment. His starring role in The Two Ronnies has earned him a chapter in the book of all-time comedy greats. But who knew of his first screen role in You're Only Young Twice, or that six episodes of Two Ronnies were made in Australia?
Like many of his generation, Ronnie had a strong career on stage and was 36 before his first big television break. That was on the groundbreaking Frost Report - a live tinder box of comedy talent that also introduced John Cleese and Ronnie Barker. Ronnie's comedy is still vibrant. Show business has refused to let him stop working. The list of his modern-day collaborators is both lengthy and impressive. Expect to see favourite moments and many surprises in The Many Faces of Ronnie Corbett.