Friday, 1 April 2016

Remembering Ronnie Corbett

Watching UK television growing up in the 70s was a very different affair than today. There was no Sky TV or unlimited hours of stuff to trawl through, no Sky boxes, YouTube, DVD or indeed Video recorders. There were three channels, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. Anyone born after 1985 probably can't imagine what that was like, and before you stop reading, it wasn't a bad thing!

Children's TV was usually slotted on for half an hour in the afternoon for pre-schools and a further hour and a half from around 4pm. As these programmes were aimed at various ages you soon found yourself watching a cross variety of programming from cartoons to Blue Peter. It didn't stop there however, I seem to recall sitting in front of the TV on dark evenings watching many light entertainment shows with my family. That mean't TV viewing was more of a family event something we all shared enjoyed and laughed together at.

Comedy series were always a favourite, Dad's Army, Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies up there at the top. Even after my parents divorced and we went to live with my Grandfather, The Two Ronnies continued to be a favourite which broke the gaps of several generations.
On learning of Ronnie Corbett's death yesterday I tweeted: "RIP ‪#‎ronniecorbett‬ ‪#‎thetworonnies‬ last of the true comic legends"
I remember how sad I felt when I learned of Ronnie Barker's death 11 years ago, and how quickly that sadness evaporated into laughter as I remembered all the classic sketches he did with Ronnie Corbett as well as his appearances in Porridge and Open All Hours.

Similarly Ronnie Corbett's legacy has done the same, travelling to and from the theatre last night, my wife had Radio 5 Live on. The presenters were playing clips from classic Two Ronnies sketches and marveling at how well they transferred to audio and how they could play those but certainly couldn't do the same with Little Britain and Mrs Browns Boys.

Too right! Four Candles or Fork Handles is a masterclass on wordplay, delivery and timing with Ronnie Barker as the customer unsuspectingly winding up Ronnie Corbett's hardware shop proprietor.Visually its funny to see Corbett's exasperation with Barker as he misreads another item on his shopping list. Take the visuals away and that exasperation is still there.

Similarly with Mastermind, Ronnie Corbett takes the Mastermind chair and is subjected to Barker's Magnus Magnusson to answer the question before last.
BARKER: What is Bernard Manning famous for?
CORBETT: That is the question.
BARKER: Correct. Who is the current Archbishop of Canterbury?
CORBETT: He is a fat man who tells blue jokes.
Of course, that's only a snippet of dialogue, you can YouTube the sketch to see it all, in fact I challenge you to watch more of them, get the DVD's you'll laugh and laugh. The truth is The Two Ronnies are still funny 40 years on from their original broadcast. The alternative comedians of the early 80s were quick to dismiss The Two Ronnies humour as old hat and politically incorrect. Sadly it was those comedians (as good as many of us thought they were at the time), who didn't stay the course. That humour has evolved into something that can be no longer regarded as family entertainment.

Yes we'll miss Ronnie Corbett, as we miss Ronnie Barker, Eric and Ernie and all those others who made us laugh, but in the true spirit of genuine comedy, a comedy that can be aimed at the whole family (with the occasional joke aimed at the grown ups while the kids have something visual to laugh at is far from dead). Ronnie Corbett's work will continue to entertain longer than we'll ever imagine.

More posts on Ronnie Corbett:
Retro Books: The Two Ronnies - But First The News
Those Radio Times: The Ronnie Corbett Thing
Book Collection: Ronnie In The Chair
Those Radio Times: April 1971

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