Ronnie Corbett: "Well it's hello from me..."
Ronnie Barker: "...and it's hello from him!"
Another famous British comic double act, but these two did other pretty famous stuff separately. Their show on the BBC (The Two Ronnies
) ran from 1971 to 1987.Consisted of:
- Ronnie Barker. Also did Porridge (as the lead prisoner) and Open All Hours (as Arkwright, the stammering shop owner - the series also features a young David Jason)
- Ronnie Corbett. A short guy (who would make jokes about it), who also appeared in Sorry! and has presented Have I Got News for You.
Most of the humour is based on wordplay, with sketches built around the Spoonerism
, homophones, mondegreens
and similar. The show had many writers: in a fairly famous background story, one of the more celebrated writers was the mysterious Gerald Wiley, who was eventually revealed to the production team to be Ronnie Barker himself submitting material under an assumed name.Once an Episode
, Corbett would always give one of his famous "chair monologues", which consisted of him telling a long rambling story to the audience from an armchair, always taking jabs at the producer and/or his wife. Often these were based around a joke which, if told straight, would not be very funny - the hilarity came from the roundabout and tangential way he got to the punchline.
The most famous Two Ronnies sketches have to be:
- "Four Candles". A shopkeeper serially misunderstands his customer reading out a shopping list. "No, I said fork 'andles! 'Andles for forks!"
- "Mastermind". A close impersonation of the quiz show Mastermind, with Corbett as a contestant who specializes in "Answering the question before last." His misaligned answers get funnier and funnier as the sketch proceeds.
Each series included a serial, in full costume and with drama-series quality props (not that that was very
high quality on the BBC in those days). The most (in)famous was The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town
, written by Spike Milligan
("and a Gentleman").
Barker died in 2005. Corbett is still alive and acting.
For a list of subjective tropes, click HERE
This double act includes examples of:
- Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption:
- Although not using interruptions per se, the "Mastermind" sketch is perhaps the ultimate in cleverly using this trope.
- "Crossed Lines" is a more literal version of the gag, with two people at payphones, whose halves of their conversations are "unintentionally" funny together.
- Bedsheet Ghost: One turns up in the serial "Stop! You're killing me!", haunting the graveyard at dead of night. Charlie's response is to build a device to blow the bedsheet off it from below. The first person to trigger it is a young woman in a short skirt, the second is the local vicar, and the third is their landlord in a nightshirt.
- Bogus News (the start of each show)
- Cannot Tell a Joke: The basis of Ronnie Corbett's 'chair' act was that of a man attempting to tell a straightforward joke but getting caught up in digressions; the twist being that these were funnier than the actual joke.
- Can't You Read the Sign?
- Catch Phrase
Corbett: So it's "Goodnight" from me.
Barker: And it's "Goodnight" from him.
- Cluster F-Bomb (The "Swearbox" sketch)
- Disorganized Outline Speech: Ronnie Corbett's chair monologues often take this form, basically turning every sentence of a short joke into a Disorganized Outline Speech that wanders off onto tangents before eventually coming back to the plot of the joke.
- Dueling Shows (With Morecambe and Wise)
- Feghoot: A common gag in the 'news stories' intro and outro.
- Finishing Each Other's Sentences: One recurring sketch was Barker's character trying to do this to Corbett's character (as he paused a lot trying to think of the right word) but getting it inappropriately wrong.
- For Inconvenience, Press "1": A variant: Ronnie Corbett finds his doctor has been replaced by a computer.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: So very much.
- Hurricane of Euphemisms. One sketch featured Ronnie Corbett attempting to find out where the toilet is without saying the word toilet and using every conceivable euphemism.
- I Thought It Meant: The basis of the Four Candles sketch.
- Lady Land: One of their drama segments is set in a dystopic fascist England ruled by female supremacists. They have to escape over the border to Wales ("Where men are men, and women are glad of it"), aided by—of course—Eek, a Mouse!!.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: From the 'Taxidermist' sketch: "You have stuffed and mounted thirty-four perfectly healthy people with a perfect right to live, and a double-glazing salesman."
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Norman Barrel" for Barry Norman.
- Offer Void In Nebraska: One episode of the serial "Death Can Be Fatal" opened with a recap of the previous episode, then added "Except for viewers in Scotland, where the story goes like this:" and repeated the recap with everybody wearing traditional Highland dress.
- This was a reference to BBC Scotland's annoying habit of pre-empting network programmes with (usually inferior) local content.
- One Scene, Two Monologues: One of their best known sketches, Crossed Lines, is a variation on this trope—Corbett and Barker play two very different characters both talking on pay phones in a supermarket. They are having totally unconnected conversations with different (unseen) people on the other end, but they take turns to speak and they seem to be having a surreal conversation with each other.
- Rhymes on a Dime / Tongue Twister: Barker's "Anti-Shoddy Goods Committee" speech.
- Self-Deprecation and Acceptable Targets (incessant gags about Corbett's height or lack thereof)
- A huge part of Corbett's 'chair' monologues - "I get so little fan-mail that my letter box has healed up"
- Signing Off Catch Phrase: see Catchphrase
- Stealth Insult: The "Nuts M'lord" sketch is about a butler who, while seeming to just pass food items to the lord and lady of the manor, manages to do so in a way that turns them into Stealth Insults for the lord and Stealth Compliments for the lady.
Butler: (hands him a bowl of walnuts) Your nuts, m'lord.
Lord: You fool, how am I supposed to open these?
Butler: (hands him a set of nutcrackers) Your crackers, m'lord.
- Swear Jar: The Swearbox Sketch.
- Take That:
Do you know what you can get for stuffing Mr Norman Tebbit
The Queen's Award for Industry, I should think.
- Tempting Fate: At the end of "The Bogle of Bog Fell", the narrator addresses the camera:
One last thing I'll say to ye: The tale I've told ye may seem strange, and almost impossible to believe — but if it's not true, may I be blown to smithereens and the various parts of my body be distributed and scattered throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, including the Trossachs.
- He is.
- Unbuilt Trope: They did a parody of Star Trek in 1973, only a few years after the original series ended, and a parody of Star Wars soon after the first film came out. Because of this, these parodies lack most of the 'cliché' jokes that have built up in stock parodies of these franchises over the years.
- Unusual Euphemism - too many to list, calling body parts by physical characteristics were commonplace, ie wobblers, bouncers and danglers among others.
- With Lyrics: They did this to the jazz number "In the Mood".
The serial The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town
uses or parodies the following tropes:
- A Bloody Mess: Raspberry juice, in the graveyard scene.
- Adaptation Expansion: From a half-hour programme in the series "Six Dates with Barker". Here's a clip from the original.
- Body Double: For Queen Victoria — six large, moustached policemen are put in dresses and told to pose as her.
- Blowing a Raspberry: In the serial The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Commonwealth are meeting to discuss the threat of the Phantom. Who drops in uninvited, and blows a raspberry at them that's powerful enough to make the Queen's portrait blush and bring the chandelier down.
- Driving a Desk: The backdrop while the policemen are in their carriage starts off as Stock Footage of a Victorian street, and then becomes Stock Footage of monkeys.
- Falling Chandelier of Doom
- Gag Boobs: Miss Maureen Murray, the Prime Minister's 'assistant'.
- My Card: The Phantom's cards have no writing, only a picture of a raspberry, (no name since "modesty forbids", and no address, because he is "never at home").
- Napoleon Delusion
- Smith of the Yard: Ronnie Corbett as Inspector Corner of the Yard.
- Shout-Out; the serial was written by Spike Milligan, and was heavy on Goon Show references and humour.
- The End... Or Is It?: The closing narration: "The Phantom was dead... or was he?" Another raspberry indicates that no, he wasn't.
- The Other Darrin: Sergeant Bowles is usually played by Ronnie Barker. Halfway through one scene, Spike Milligan takes over the role; halfway through the next scene, Ronnie Barker takes over again.
- Verbal Tic: The Home Secretary, whose voice has a built-in echo.
- Victorian London
The title of another serial was Getting Crap Past the Radar
all by itself, i.e. "Hampton Wick". Think about it.