To get a job where the only thing you have to do in your career is to make people laugh – well, it's the best job in the world.
One half of one of TVs most beloved double-acts, and immortalised with the catchphrase “It's goodnight from me – and it's goodnight from him”, Ronnie Barker and his partner Ronnie Corbett lit up the nation’s television sets for years on their show The Two Ronnies. Barker also found recognition as a comedic actor and writer in his sitcom Porridge, which is often cited as his most accomplished work.
During a happy childhood in Oxford Ronnie developed a love of the theatre, and he would often dress up and perform for his family, and trips to the theater became a staple part of his life. When he grew up, he worked as a stage manager and actor at the same time as a full-time job as a bank clerk.
By the time he broke into the West End, he estimated that he had done 350 different plays! His life during this time wasn’t always uneventful – during a performance tour in Lands End, the company he was part of revealed that they had booked one fewer ticket back to London than they should have, and straws had to be drawn. Ronnie ended up taking three days to walk and hitchhike back to London.
After working in the West End for a few years, Ronnie moved into radio, voicing put-upon Able Seaman ‘Fatso’ Johnson and Lieutenant-Commander Stanton in The Navy Lark, a sitcom that ran for 300 episodes between 1959 and 1977. THis led to a TV spin-off and a string of other TV work soon followed. His big break came with The Frost Report – a sketch show that starred Robert Frost and John Cleese, as well as Ronnie’s future partner-in-comedy, Ronnie Corbett.
Over the next 35 years their work together would come to define an era of comedy, while Barker also had huge success in long-running sitcoms Porridge and Open All Hours. Over the next 35 years their work together would come to define an era of comedy. Some of their best-loved comedy sketches, including the famous Four Candles sketch, were written by a contributor called Gerald Wiley, who Barker only later revealed to have been himself.