Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by John from The Sound Of One Hand Typing.
Sunday nights at the Holton house in Chicago would see Mary and I in front of the TV at 10 PM, watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Dave Allen At Large (which it doesn’t look like anyone choe for this; maybe I’ll write it up later), The Two Ronnies, and Doctor Who.
The Two Ronnies was a comedy and variety show that ran on the BBC from April 1971 to December 1987. It starred British comedians and actors Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker. They met in 1963 when Corbett was a bartender at The Buckstone Club in Haymarket, London, and Barker was making a name for himself in the West End and on radio. They first appeared on The Frost Report with John Cleese, but their big break came when they improvised through an eleven minute technical issue at the BAFTA Awards in 1970. In the audience was Bill Cotton, head of Light Entertainment for the BBC, who signed them to a contract.
Personality- and appearance-wise, the two looked completely different: Barker was big, heavy, and spoke with a blue-collar accent, while Corbett was short, slight, and spoke with more of an upper-class accent. They didn’t become a comedy team like Morecambe & Wise and continued to work on separate projects while they were doing the show. They had some of the best comedy writers working with them, including most of the cast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus (John Cleese, Eric Idele, Michael Palin, and Terry Jones), and Spike Milligan, and Corbett wrote some sketches using the pseudonym “Gerald Wiley.” The humor was, for its time, off-color, relied on double-entendres and what would now be considered not politically correct and sometimes downright offensive. Kind of a higher-class The Benny Hill Show.
The show started and ended with a “news broadcast,” where the two would take turns reading humorous fake news items, such as “Someone broke into the local police station and stole all the toilet seats. Police have nothing to go on.” During the rest of the show, they would do comedy sketches together and separately. For example, “Swedish Made Simple.”
Another with the two: “The Inventor’s Convention.”
An example of Barker working alone is “TV Symbols.”
During each show, Corbett would sit in a chair and tell a joke, getting sidetracked as he was telling it.
The last sketch of the show was usually a musical one, in the grand tradition of the British musical theater. Some of the earlier shows had a continuing story instead of the musical number; I don’t recall seeing any of them when they were broadcast on WTTW in Chicago. I have a couple of examples. This is “Yeomen of the Guard.”
Another: “The Sultan’s Harem.”
The show would end as it began, with Corbett and Barker reading some late “news items,” and with a running gag, where Corbett would say, “that’s all we have time for, so it’s good night from me,” and Barker would say “And it’s good night from him.”
All the shows have been released on DVD. Many of them are available from eBay. Britbox or Acorn might have them available as well. Many of their sketches and musical numbers can be found on YouTube as well.