Ronnie Barker

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Ronald William George Barker OBE (b. September 25 1929), more popularly known as Ronnie Barker is a British comic actor. His best-known appearances were as Ronnie Corbett's partner in the long-running TV variety show The Two Ronnies, and as Fletch in the sitcom Porridge. His skills as a character actor, his love for and facility with the English language, and his gift for comedy have made him a well-loved performer.

Barker was born in Bedford, England. His began his show business career when he left his safe job in an Oxford bank to join the city's Playhouse Theatre, then under the actor-management of Frank Shelley. The two appeared together there, in Ben Travers's A Cuckoo in the Nest and, subsequently, in a number of other venues and roles. In 1993 Barker dedicated his autobiography to Shelley, whom he called one of the "three wise men who directed my career; without men like these, there would be no theatre."

He then worked as an actor and assistant stage manager with the Manchester Repertory Company, but was soon spotted by Sir Peter Hall who gave him a West End role. His first radio appearance was in 1956; he went on to play a variety of minor characters in The Navy Lark, a navy based sit-com on the BBC Light Programme (still available on tape and frequently rerun on BBC 7). On television, he wrote and performed many satirical skits in The Frost Report, notably a series of trios which he performed with Ronnie Corbett and John Cleese. He starred with David Jason as a bumbling aristocrat in the sit-com Hark at Barker. Both he and Jason are widely recognised as having an excellent sense of comic timing and delivery, which accounts for their enduring popularity. Jason appeared in several episodes of Porridge, and co-starred as the assistant to Barker's stuttering shopkeeper in the sitcom Open All Hours, written by Roy Clarke (who also wrote Last of the Summer Wine). Both Porridge and Open All Hours originated as part of the Seven of One series.

He is also an accomplished comedy writer. He provided a good deal of the sketches and songs for The Two Ronnies, and contributed material to many other radio and TV shows - often under a variety of assumed names (most famously 'Gerald Wiley'), so that his work would be considered on merit. His other credits include the (almost) silent films Futtock's End, The Picnic and By The Sea, the sit-coms His Lordship Entertains and Clarence, the plays Rub A Dub Dub and Mum, and the LP A Pint of Old and Filthy.

Barker has made occasional TV appearances since his 1988 retirement, most notably to play Winston Churchill's butler - a 'straight' role, but with opportunities for comic asides - in the BBC drama The Gathering Storm in 2002. This was followed up by a role in the film My House in Umbria 2003. In 2004, he was given a special BAFTA award and announced his return to television – in early 2005 he reunited with Ronnie Corbett to present The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, a clip show of their sketches along with newly recorded introductions.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted amongst the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Further Reading

Barker, Ronnie (2001). All I Ever Wrote: The Complete Works of Ronnie Barker. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0283073349

Barker, Ronnie (1994). Dancing in the Moonlight: My Early Years. Trafalgar Square Publishing. ISBN 0340591048

McCabe, Bob (1998). Ronnie Barker: The Authorised Biography. Andre Deutsch Ltd. ISBN 0233993827

External Links


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