Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Two Ronnies, a pair of fun-loving characters

When you think of famous British humorists, the names coming to your mind will probably be 'Monty Python', 'Fry and Laurie' or 'Benny Hill', but the most prominent of them are certainly 'The Two Ronnies', which featured Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. Their sketches aired on BBC 1 for 17 years, which made them one of the most long-running comedy shows ever made in the British Broadcasting Corporation. Nevertheless, the two Ronnies are also certainly one of the most successful programmes, reaching at its peak an average of 17 million viewers a show.

When the two Ronnies met for the first time at the Buckstone Club in The Haymarket, they were certainly unaware of their prospective success as a comic pair. Their first breakthrough as humorists came by chance when they were performing sketches during a technical hitch at an awards ceremony. People were impressed by their talent which gave rise to their own show on the BBC.

Their show is a series of comic sketches in which Barker and Corbett appeared either separately or together. Often they added on other programmes such as sketches from other comics and the well-known monologue of Ronnie Corbett. Moreover, the sketches were written by Barker, sometimes under the pseudonym of Gerard Wiley, which always revolved around wordplay, parodies of official figures along with eccentric ones and sometimes sexual jokes.

The success of The Two Ronnies is due to several features, which soon became a tradition. First, there is the established serial story progressing through six main stories in which the two Ronnies sometimes played the comic detective characters « Piggy Malone » (Barker) and « Charley Farley » (Corbett). Among the best-known tales, we have The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town, and The Worm That Turned which is a dystopia featuring women ruling England and men being housekeepers as well as The Two Ronnies Present.
Second, the traditional elaborate musical fragment in which the Two Ronnies sang songs in a special style like a barbershop or the music hall while the original words of the songs were modified to give a comic situation.
Finally, the show always opened and closed at a news desk where the Two Ronnies played newsreaders introducing their own sketches. The end of the show was characterized by the famous catchphrase:

Corbett: So it's "Goodnight" from me.
Barker: And it's "Goodnight" from him.
Both: Goodnight!

The most popular sketches of The Two Ronnies include « Four Candles », based on the confusion between four candles and fork handles, « Mastermind », where Barker answered the question before it was asked by Corbett and last but not least, the optician sketch where both the optician and his customer have glasses which are not suited to them.

Two other popular sketches are 'The Swear Box' where both Barker and Corbett only say swear words and insults and 'Hieroglyphics' in which they are interpreted in a rather weird way.

Benjamin Briot & Ana-Alicia Lamontagne

1 comment:

Arkansas Red said...

Can you tell me the name of the song sung in the Two Ronnies barber shop sketch? It has the line, "The billowing waves have washed my dear loved one back to me". Thank you for your time.