Tuesday, October 04, 2005
"...and it's goodnight from him"
We've lost yet another comedy legend. I've just heard that Ronnie Barker has died, and I'm absolutely gutted. I loved The Two Ronnies, and Porridge is one of the greatest comedies ever made - watching the cuddly sketch shows, and Open All Hours, it's difficult to believe that the hard-bitten, tough, streetwise lag Fletcher is played by the same actor. Like Leonard Rossiter, Barker's greatest skill was in delivering impossible tongue-twisting scripts, usually doing them perfectly on the first take. There's a great Ronnies sketch where he's introduced to a man who he should have "a lot in common with" - the two Ronnies are introduced to each other, both dressed identically, and then they both launch into *exactly the same* speech, a huge, complex beast, saying it at exactly the same time, with the same tone, inflections, pauses, the lot. It's funny to watch, until about halfway through when you realise just how incredibly difficult it must have been to do. And I defy anyone to watch the "four candles" sketch, and not be reduced to a helpless, giggling fool, even if it's the hundredth time you've seen it. Barry Cryer says that Barker is on the same level as Alex Guinness and Peter Sellers, and I couldn't agree more. He's irreplaceable.