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The Good Stuff
Did I Write That?
by B. A. Llewellyn
Length: 408 words

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Did I Write That?

Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett were “The Two Ronnies” on the extremely popular BBC comedy show, which ran from 1971 to 1987.  They had started working together on “The Frost Report” in 1966, and discovered they shared a very similar sense of humour.

They used that shared humour to great advantage when they broke into an adlib performance to entertain the audience at an annual BAFTA awards after technical equipment broke down. Unbeknown to either Ronnie, BBC bigwigs Bill Cotton and Paul Fox were sitting next to each other in the audience, discussing the impromptu comedy routine.  They were so impressed with the act and the audience’s appreciation that Cotton whispered to Fox: “What about a series with those two?” 

“The Two Ronnies” had an open-door policy for writers, with many unknowns getting their big break with the show.  It also had a regular stable of writers whose work was consistently shown.  Some of those writers included Spike Milligan, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Jones and a mystery man – Gerald Wiley.

Gerald Wiley had begun his writing career sending sketches to “Frost on Sunday”.  His work was admired and regularly used, but no-one had ever actually met the man.  Finally the BBC held a Christmas party for all the talent associated with “The Two Ronnies”, including Gerald Wiley.  A place was set at the big table of food and drink, with Gerald Wiley’s name tag sitting on his plate, but Gerald Wiley did not arrive.

Gerald’s absence was noted and became the topic of the night.  Where was he?  Who was he?  Ronnie Barker finally cracked under the pressure of constant curiosity and talk, admitting that he was the elusive Gerald Wiley.  He had wanted to write the scripts for his own show but was too frightened to show his work, so he had decided to present his work through a pseudonym.  He also wanted his work to be scrutinized for its own worth, not for his stardom.

Gerald Wiley’s name can still be seen on the credits for “The Two Ronnies”, but Ronnie Barker’s name and talent was also acknowledged and awarded.  He won four
BAFTA TV awards during the 1970s and was awarded a BAFTA lifetime achievement award in 2004.  He was also voted, by fellow comedians and comedy insiders, to be amongst the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever in a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian.

Ronnie Barker died of heart troubles on the 3rd October 2005.  He left behind a loving wife and their three children, Charlotte, Adam and Larry, as well as a legion of loyal fans and some very dear friends.  His other comedic half, Ronnie Corbett remembered him with these words, “We worked together since 1965 and we never had a cross word.  It was 40 years of harmonious joy, nothing but an absolute pleasure. Ronnie was pure gold in triplicate: as a performer, a writer and a friend".

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 The Two Ronnies
The Two Ronnies
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