I Write That?
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
“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
awards during the 1970s and was awarded a BAFTA
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
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
The Two Ronnies
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