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Two Ronnies, The

FLOATY YELLOW glasses in the sky and bah-baaahhh! (der-der-der-dooo-dooo) theme tune? Time for another appointment with, in the words of the BBC continuity announcer, “Messrs Barker and Corbett.” Cue the usual, bankable, unbeatable format: opening sat at desks routine “Well, it’s great to be back with you once again, isn’t it, Ronnie?” “Yes, indeed it is. And in a packed programme tonight…” then comedy “headlines”, “And now a sketch in which I play a trombonist who’s down on his luck -” “- and I play a fiddler with his hands full.” Then some Ronnie Barker “mispronunciation of worms” business, followed by “Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Elaine Paige/Barbara Dickson.” “Like a circle in a spiral…” Then Corbett in limbo, on a variety of modernist chairs doing rambling gag. “So the produuuuucer said to me…” Then the variable “serial” (eg. Piggy Malone/The Worm That Turned etc: “Have a Pa’s bar” and of course, the legendary Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town – “‘Ere! I want a word with you!”), topping off with the big circus/brass band musical number to well-known appropriate tunes (“Camden Town, my Camden Town!”), before finishing up with “Some late items of news,” “On the show next week…” and then “It’s goodnight from me -” “- and it’s goodnight from him.” Goodnight.



  1. Mr Grimsdale

    August 2, 2009 at 11:30 am

    I’m a big fan and they were wonderful. The highlights for me were the various sketches which involved wordplay and manoeuvring the english language. (answers before the questions, spoonerisms, four candles, tongue-twisters etc etc)

    But…….was Ronnie Corbett ever funny when he wasn’t with the other one? They were perfect as a duo, and Barker could be successful as a solo artist, but would we ever have heard of Ronnie Corbett if he hadn’t met Barker?

  2. Arthur Nibble

    August 3, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Little Ron had his moments – not just in comedy, he was a decent footballer and had trials with Hearts – and he also recorded a pop song called “Fanny” (!!!) back in the early 70’s (available to listen to on YouTube).

    By the way, wasn’t it ‘pisspronunciation of worms’? 🙂

  3. Matthew Rudd

    August 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    It is both fashionable and untrue to suggest R.Corbett was the untalented one. He was a consummate comedian.

  4. Applemask

    August 3, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Still is, he’s not the dead one. Little Ronnie’s monologues from the chair were completely brilliant.

  5. David Pascoe

    August 5, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Don’t forget that it’s Ronnie C who is doing most of the legwork in “Fork Handles” as well. While his sense of timing in “Mastermind” is every bit as immaculate as Ronnie B’s.

  6. Mr Grimsdale

    August 5, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Maybe it’s been slightly missed, but in my original post I said that Ronnie C was great when he was on the 2Rs programme. I never said he was in any way untalented. He fitted perfectly and his skills were there for all to see. What I questioned (and I still question) is whether he did anything of note when he was not part of the 2 Ronnies programme

  7. David Pascoe

    August 5, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Fair enough. Well he was superb in “Sorry” of course, managing to be both funny and full of pathos. A friend of mine felt that he was the only good thing about “Fierce Creatures”, and that’s no bad achievement when you’re outshining John Cleese, Michael Palin and Kevin Kline. I also enjoyed him on “Small Talk”, which was pretty undemanding stuff but the way he would interact and respond to the children’s answers was quite entertaining. And to finish with, he was very good in “No Sex Please, We’re British”.

  8. Applemask

    August 5, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    He was one of the apes in 2001.

  9. Glenn Aylett

    August 29, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Also helped new singers get their big break. Lynsey de Paul was the first beneficiary on the 1972 series, and no doubt Barbara Dickson has much to thank the Rons for, but the biggest beneficiaries of a stint on the show were the Nolan Sisters who went on to become big stars in the early 80s. However, mid eighties and dull old Phil Collins became the guest act. Also did Pan’s People appear when Lynsey de Paul and the like were unavailable?

  10. Lee James Turnock

    May 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    You naughty person, Applemask! Ronnie Corbett did indeed play an ape, but not in 2001. His apeman moment came in the 1962 film ‘Operation Snatch’.

  11. Glenn A

    October 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Ronnie Barker’s career really hit the stratosphere when The Two Ronnies started and he was 42. Maybe there’s hope for me then.

  12. IanW1968

    November 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    A lot of people didn’t like Corbett in the chair but it was often a highlight for me. ‘I had an argument with my kids about staying up late to watch Daddy on television…they wanted to go to bed’.

  13. Richard16378

    November 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    While Ronnie B was the more talented of the 2 Ronnies, Ronnie C certainly could hold his own comedywise.

  14. Scott McPhee

    June 18, 2020 at 4:45 am

    Not forgetting,

    “Ladies and gentlemen,Melissa Manchester/ The Manhattan Transfer.”

  15. richardpd

    June 18, 2020 at 11:47 am

    I did like that the 2006 compilations kept of the tradition of a guest singer with the likes of Katie Melua filling a few minutes with a song.

  16. Glenn Aylett

    August 27, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    Ronnie Corbett might never have scaled the sitcom heights like Ronnie Barker, but people forget Sorry was very popular and well liked in the eighties, and the chair monologue where Corbett spun out a joke for five minutes was clever. Also he could do as many accents as Barker.

  17. Richardpd

    August 27, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    I also liked the chair monologues. While most people around in the 1980s remember Sorry, Ronnie C did a few other sitcoms like The Prince Of Denmark in the 1970s that are almost forgotten these days.

  18. Glenn Aylett

    August 28, 2022 at 4:40 pm

    @ Richardpd, the chair was one of my favourite features. Ronnie Corbett would start a short joke and then spin it out with amusing asides and anecdotes that kept the audience laughing before delivering the punchline. It was just as clever as Barker’s one man sketches and Corbett was asked to revive the chair for a Ben Elton series, when Ben had stopped being the angry young man of comedy.
    Not so hot for me were some of the musical features that could go on a bit too long.

  19. Droogie

    August 29, 2022 at 5:21 pm

    I had a book of the Corbett monologues which were written by David Renwick of One Foot In The Grave fame. The quality of the jokes were superb with a mix of wordplay and surrealism that were a different league from Corbett’s contemporaries like Tarbuck etc. My favourite ( apart from the Shakin’ Stevens classic) was “ I went to the doctor and asked What have you got for a creaky old hip joint? He gave me 2 tickets for Ronnie Scott’s. “

  20. Richardpd

    August 31, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    The news parts could be hit or miss, with the usual clever wordplay mixed with some jokes every other stand-up were telling in the 1970s about Mother in Laws & British Leyland. My Dad used to have a book of them, with some cartoons to illustrate some of the better ones.

    I remember Ben Elton’s shows in the 1990s were hit & miss, The Man From AUNTIE was an awkward mix of his 1980s comedy with some 1990s laddism thrown into the mix. The later ones were a bit more polished & presume had Ronnie C’s chair monologues in them.

  21. Tom Ronson

    March 7, 2023 at 2:16 am

    As highly regarded as The Two Ronnies are, I bought the DVD box set (every episode of every series plus the Christmas specials and the silent comedies) and once you get past the obvious greatest hits – The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town, ‘Fork handles?’, the crosswords sketch, ‘Your nuts, m’lord’ and so on – there is an awful lot of by-the-numbers hackwork (by which I mean the kind of thing Little & Large and Cannon & Ball got absolutely savaged for) and a surprising amount of decade-specific casual racism and sexism. The ‘Perkins Simpkins’ sketch about a boring office worker ends with a rape gag, which really took me by surprise, and the central theme of The Worm That Turned seems to be ‘wasn’t it all much better in the old days when women knew their place, cuh, all these feminists and women’s libbers need a ruddy good seeing-to by a REAL MAN, that’d stop them moaning.’ I’ve mentioned elsewhere how unsettling the blackface and brownface is in Spike Milligan’s TV work – especially when he’s spinning brilliantly bizarre material and merrily deconstructing form and content, but then he goes and throws in an awful dad joke about ‘wogs’ – but it’s somehow worse in The Two Ronnies, because this was family entertainment in a primetime viewing spot, yet there they are playing Indian waiters and doing the Peter Sellers ‘oh dearly me, thank you please’ voice. There’s another awful sketch where Ronnie Barker is in drag AND blackface singing a blues song with lyrics like ‘I’m your big black momma, and I’m blacker than a black-eyed pea.’ It makes The Black and White Minstrel Show seem aggressively woke by comparison.

  22. Droogie

    March 7, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    @TomRonson Well said. The sketch where Ronnie C plays an Arab sheikh in a corner shop is equally awkward, despite the clever wordplay of mispronunciations. If you watch it in YouTube now, they’ve removed the unpleasant reference to the Robertsons jam golly.

  23. Glenn Aylett

    March 7, 2023 at 6:17 pm

    I suppose blackface was of its time and these sketches can always be edited out or skipped if you’re offended, and Ronnie Barker grew up in an era when this was considered acceptable, so we can’t really judge him by today’s standards. I think as a comedian and writer he was very good, but he could have his dud moments like The Magnificient Evans, and some of the Two Ronnies later shows had overlong musical sketches that weren’t very funny.

  24. Richardpd

    March 7, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    I remember the 20-21-22 Years Of The Two Ronnies usually had the better & less dated sketches, but some were included which must have seen dubious even in the late 1980 like the above mentioned Fat & Thin Minstrel and the sheikh sketch.

    The Perkins Simpkins sketch is on one of the Best Of DVDs, & didn’t strike me as particularly iffy until I saw it being mentioned in an online article.

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