Series / The Two Ronnies

Ronnie Corbett: Well it's hello from me...
Ronnie Barker: ...and it's hello from him!

A pair of British comedians (by their own insistence not a double act), whose work involved both solo and pair sketches, often feeling like a comedy troupe that just to happened to only have two people in it. Their show on the BBC (The Two Ronnies) while most famous for their sketches was a variety show that also featured music, dancing and the occasional other comedian, 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, puns, 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 to avoid it getting preferential treatment (he once even rejected one of his own scripts).

Once per 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. Barker appeared as a "mad spokesman" or played people making an appeal for the most ridiculous causes.

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 specialises in "Answering the question before last." His misaligned answers get funnier and funnier as the sketch proceeds.

Most 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"). A close second would be The Worm That Turned, featuring a women-ruled England. Also popular were the stories of the down-and-out sleuths Piggy Malone and Charley Farley, a mix between Sherlock Holmes and the typical cop shows of the 70s.

The title of another serial was Getting Crap Past the Radar all by itself, i.e. "Hampton Wick". Think about it.

Barker retired in 1987, but made on-and-off appearances with his short buddy. They also reunited in 2005 to do The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, a compilation of their best-known skits. Unfortunately, Barker died in October of that year at 76 (the Christmas edition was taped a few months before, being a literal example of Christmas In July); instead of two candles being present at the church for his funeral, there were naturally four. Corbett died in 2016 at the age of 85.


Tropes:

  • Acceptable Targets: Invoked with the sketches about yokels, on the assumption that nobody wants to admit that they are a yokel.
  • Answer Cut: Subverted in their parody of The Onedin Line. Onedin realises he doesn't know the name of the fleet's newest ship. Cut to Onedin and Baines on the quayside. Baines answers "Saucy Sue," and the two have a conversation about her characteristics and handling. At the end of the conversation, it's finally revealed that they've been talking about a scantily-clad young woman by the name of Sue, and the ship's name is actually Dependable.
  • 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 Piggy/Charley 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.
    Both: Goodnight.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The "Swearbox" sketch.
  • Corpsing: Happened constantly between the two, specially in the news items.
  • Dinner Order Flub: Levelled up as the basis for the "Mongolian Restaurant" sketch. Typical comment / response: Ronnie C.: "That's disgusting", Ronnie B. holding up two hands: "That's a lot of gusting".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gag Boobs: frequently, but perhaps never more literally than in the "Round of Drinks" sketch, where an order for (amongst other things) a White Lady for the "girl with the boobs" and a pink gin drunkenly mutates into an order for a sack of coke, two rocks, an enormous lemon, a pair of (plastic) pink boobs and a large bare lady on the house. The barman just happens to have all of these items to hand.
  • Gallows Humor: In the Christmas episode of 'Sketchbook', Ronnie Barker joked that his dressing room was still full of young women — only they were now cardiac nurses rather than groupies. He died of heart failure before the episode aired.
  • 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.
  • Non-Human Head: One sketch showed a man seeing a doctor, who has been replaced by a video system, and has trouble with the silly instructions and system failures until he starts banging on the door demanding to see a real doctor... who may be this trope, as he enters the room speaking in the same manner as the video doctor, with the hollowed-out shell of a TV over his head.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Played for laughs in one retraux film where Ronnie Barker plays "Arthur Halliday, the Vagabond Lover" — a 1930s music-hall performer. Halliday is shown in closeup while all he's doing is singing, but each time he performs a physical stunt the camera cuts to a much wider shot.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Played for laughs in their parody of Colditz: while in Hauptmann Ulrich's office, Carter is able to hide in the wardrobe, and then the filing cabinet, as long as the camera isn't on him.
  • 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: Barker's "Anti-Shoddy Goods Committee" speech.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • Incessant gags about Corbett's height or lack thereof.
    • Similarly, there are plenty of gags about Barker's weight.
    • 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.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Is Piggy Malone's colleague called Charlie or Charley? "Stop! You're Killing Me" uses 'Charlie'; the other serials use "Charley".
  • 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:
    Inspector: Do you know what you can get for stuffing Mr. Norman Tebbit?
    Taxidermist: The Queen's Award for Industry, I should thinknote .
  • Tempting Fate: At the end of "The Bogle of Bog Fell", the narrator addresses the camera:
    Narrator: 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.
  • Tongue Twister: Barker's "Anti-Shoddy Goods Committee" monologue.
  • 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.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: In the second episode of "Hampton Wick", Madeline Smith's low-cut dress slips a bit too low and exposes more than it ought. It seems no-one noticed it before the show was broadcast.
  • Who's on First?: the Yokels are called Arthur Watt and Leonard Right. Hilarity Ensues.
  • With Lyrics: They did this to the jazz number "In the Mood".
  • Word Schmord: In a few sketches, such as "Magnus, Schmagnus" (said Magnus being portrayed by John Cleese).


The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town

Tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Queen Victoria seems to think the fiend terrorising London is the "Phantom Gooseberry Sucker".
  • 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.
  • A Bloody Mess: Raspberry juice, in the graveyard scene.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: The Phantom's raspberries are treated as a lethal threat. Perhaps the supreme example is when 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.
  • Couch Gag: The Parody Names in the opening credits are different each week.
  • 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.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The closing narration: "The Phantom was dead... or was he?" Another raspberry indicates that no, he wasn't.
  • Expy: The Raspberry Blower is essentially a comedic version of Bela Lugosi's Dracula, by way of Jack the Ripper.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom
  • Gag Boobs:
    • Miss Maureen Murray, the Prime Minister's 'assistant'. (The Raspberry Blower's attack causes her boobs to pop.)
    • From the opening credits: "and introducing NORMA STITZ as the girl"
  • Girls with Moustaches: The newspaper boy in episode 1 is played by a woman in a false moustache.
  • In the Name of the Moon: Policemen appear contractually obliged to shout "'Ere! I want a word with you!" before chasing anybody. By the time they've shouted it, the Phantom has invariably made his escape.
  • Long Speech Tea Time: While an old lady who claims to be the Phantom's mother is telling her story, Inspector Corner leaves her in his office, walks to the pub and buys himself a drink — though he still manages to ask her questions while doing this.
  • 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: Inspector Corner and Sergeant Bowles both end up in an asylum, dressed as Napoleon.
  • Phrase Catcher: When Queen Victoria gets mentioned, the caption 'GOD BLESS HER' tends to appear on screen.
  • Smith of the Yard: Ronnie Corbett as Inspector Corner of the Yard.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Verbal Tic: The Home Secretary, whose voice has a built-in echo.
  • Victorian London


The Worm That Turned

Tropes:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/TheTwoRonnies?from=Main.TheTwoRonnies