Ronnie Corbett, one of Britain’s most popular entertainers, has died aged 85.
My father raised me on this gentleman and his cohort, Ronnie Barker. So let’s get a look at his marvelous career, that brought light to so many.
Born in Edinburgh in 1930 Corbett began his acting career at the age of 15, when he starred in a pantomime at his local church youth club. He worked with the Ministry of Agriculture for a few years until he served his compulsory national service with the Royal Air Force. During which he was the shortest ever commissioned officer in the British Forces, at four foot, ten inches.
Then his breakthrough. David Frost spotted him in cabaret at Danny La Rue’s nightclub, Winston’s. He was then invited to appear in The Frost Report (1966) alongside Frost, Barker and John Cleese and soon went on to enjoy a string of other TV successes including Corbett’s Follies and No, That’s Me Over Here.
Corbett was a staple of British television for more than 50 years and will be particularly remembered for his rambling, convoluted monologues which went off at wild tangents on The Two Ronnies – often at the expense of the show’s producer – before reaching its punchline.
The Two Ronnies ran from 1971 to 1987 and always began with the pair reading mock news headlines, along the lines of: “A cement mixer collided with a prison van on the Kingston by-pass. Motorists are asked to be on the look-out for 16 hardened criminals.”
He appeared in some of the most fondly remembered comedy sketches, not least as an increasingly exasperated hardware store owner not knowing if Barker wanted four candles or fork handles.
Another was the Mastermind sketch where he chose his subject as “answering the question before last” so what’s the difference between a donkey and an ass was answered: “One’s a trade union leader, the other is a member of the cabinet.”
He became something of a national treasure and was not afraid to make fun of it – memorably appearing in Ricky Gervais’s sitcom Extras in which he was caught sniffing cocaine in the gents’ toilet.
He kept on working and made, aged 80, a two-part series called Ronnie Corbett’s Comedy Britain in which he met comedians he admired including David Mitchell, Michael McIntyre and Miranda Hart, who all appeared in genuine awe.
Ronnie, I will miss you so much. His timing, heart, and glasses, will never leave my mindset. A national treasure has left us today.