The Two Ronnies

From Academic Kids

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The Two Ronnies famous spectacles logo

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Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett

The Two Ronnies was a British sketch show that aired on BBC One from 1971 to 1987. It featured the double act Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, the two Ronnies of the title.

The pairing had originally worked as a threesome with John Cleese on the David Frost sketch show, and were subsequently given their own show by the BBC. The programme quickly became one of the most successful and long running television comedy shows ever on British Television.

The show was based on the complementary personalities of Barker and Corbett, who never became a formal pairing, but continued to work independently in television outside of the seven, one-hour-long editions of the Two Ronnies produced annually between 1971 and 1987.

The show revolved around comic sketches in which Barker and Corbett appeared together and separately. The sketches often revolved around complex word-play, much of it written by Barker, and seldom equalled. Barker also liked to parody officialdom and establishment figures, as well as eccentrics. Corbett appeared quieter, more often acting as a foil for Barker, but remained an important part of the "chemistry". Corbett always had a solo monologue in each show, where he sat in a chair, facing camera, attempting to tell a simple joke, but constantly distracting himself onto other humorous incidents.

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Piggy Malone and Charley Farley

It soon became a tradition of the shows to have a continuing "serial" story which progressed through the main six episodes of a season. These were often fairly bawdy tales with special guest-stars, occasionally featuring comic detective characters' Piggy Malone, (Barker), and Charley Farley, (Corbett). Probably the best-remembered of these serials, however; The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town, written by Spike Milligan "and a Gentleman", did not feature either Farley or Malone. Another important serial was The Worm That Turned, where women ruled Britain, and men are housekeepers and wear women's clothes. One of the most popular sketches was "Four Candles" where Barker walks into a DIY shop and asks for "four candles" and Corbett gives him the candles. What Barker wanted, however, was "Fork Handles - handles for forks."

Other regular features of the shows included an elaborate Musical Segment in which Barker, Corbett, (often in drag) and company would sing a medley of songs in character, perhaps in Barbershop, Music Hall, or other styles, with the original words altered to suit whatever comic situation they were portraying, and the opening and closing newsdesk, which featured the two as po-faced newsreaders, reading spoof news items.

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The Two Ronnies at the 'newsdesk'

Following the departure of Morecambe and Wise from the BBC in 1978, the Two Ronnies became the BBC's flagship comedy programme, regularly gaining the top viewing figures for the critical Christmas Day audience battle.

The pairing made no new shows after Christmas 1987, following Barker's sudden decision to retire from showbusiness. However, in 2004 Barker announced that he and Corbett would return to make new episodes of 'The Two Ronnies', entitled 'The Two Ronnies Sketchbook'. This involved the two sat at the newsdesk, introducing some of their classic sketches.

It had many outside writers, including Ray Alan, John Cleese, Spike Milligan, and Michael Palin.

Catch phrase (At the end of each show, from the "newsdesk":)

  • Corbett: That's the end of the News. Now it's "Goodnight" from me.
  • Barker: And it's "Goodnight" from him. Goodnight.

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