Saturday, 18 October 2008

Saturday Silliness Cinema: The Two Ronnies

Today I'm dipping into my well of memories, which lies just to the left of the snake-pit of my mind, to dig up a show that I used to watch with my parents as a wee shaver, and later on wondering why my parents would allow me to watch it.

I'm talking about
The Two Ronnies, a British sketch comedy show that starred the husky Ronnie Barker, and the diminutive Ronnie Corbett. They were never a formal "team" working solo on everything else but this show, which had been built around what producers considered their complementary personalities and styles. And while they were, often unfairly, criticized by the hipper "alternative comedians" of the 1980s as "old fashioned," their use of uniquely British wordplay, surrealism, and serialised sketches, stretching to all 6 episodes of the season, and their run from 1971 to 1987 as Britain's top comedy show means they deserve their place in the comedy pantheon.

They always opened with a fake news intro, like this one...

The show had a top team of writers, combining new faces with experienced hands, and many of them had great success outside of the Two Ronnies, like John Cleese, Spike Milligan, David Renwick, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and the mysterious Gerald Wiley.

Wiley was a mystery throughout the entire run of the show. Sketches would arrive by mail, cheques for the ones that made it air sent out by mail. He never came to the office, and no one ever met him. He also wrote for other shows as well, causing quite a stir in the British writing community. Even playwright Tom Stoppard was accused of being Wiley, though he was innocent in this case. One of Wiley's most famous pieces was this sketch:

The mystery of Gerald Wiley continued until a goodbye dinner at a Chinese restaurant held for the writers on the event of Ronnie Barker's retirement. Barker stood up and revealed that he had been Wiley all along. As a "star" of the show he was concerned that his material wasn't being judged on merit alone, so he created the Gerald Wiley persona. At first many didn't believe him, because he had even passed on Wiley material, but it was true all along.

The show was known for its wordplay, using British slang, names, and other linguistic oddities for laughs, probably best shown in this last sketch.

Hope you liked this little dip into comedy history, so....

1 comment:

  1. Ok, Those were funny. That last one especially. I love humor that requires one pay attention.

    Why has no one ever told me of this?