And It's Goodbye To Ronnie Barker
British comedian Ronnie Barker died yesterday, after a long illness, aged 76. During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s there was scarcely a Ronnie Barker-free week on New Zealand television. Mr Barker's large and jolly presence first filled New Zealand's screens in flickering black and white with the prison comedy Porridge. No studies have yet been done to show if the crime rate increased in New Zealand following the portrayal of life inside as a series of jolly escapades.
It was in the later, full colour comedy skit show The Two Ronnies that Mr Barker really cemented a place in the New Zealand psyche. There would be precious few Salvation Army thrift stores that don't have a dusty Two Ronnies comedy album lurking near the Wilbur Smith books.
However, probably the highlight of Mr Barker's career was portraying a stuttering, tight-fisted shopkeeper Arkwright in the perennial British comedy favourite Open All Hours.
According to Tairawhiti District Health, stuttering is common, affecting around 1% of the population. Evidently early intervention by a speech-language therapist for children is crucial to prevent stuttering from developing further.
With the onset of the 1980s the social fabric of British society began to change. As well as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) personified by Iron Maiden there was also to be a revolution in comedy. A new style of British comedy emerged – one less rooted in the nudge,nudge wink,wink tradition of the Carry On films and Music Hall traditions - on which Ronnie Barker had based many of his characters.
Programs such the Young Ones and Blackadder moved British comedy into the late twentieth century. Thankfully, in more recent times there has been a swing back to the style of comedy made famous by comedians like Ronnie Barker. Shooting Stars hosts, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimers' style of buddy, buddy comedy reflected in many ways a return to the past work of the Ronnies - (Barker and Corbett).
Mr Barker's comedic partner Ronnie Corbett led the tributes to his friend - assuring the grieving fans worldwide of classic comedy that Mr Barker was "pure gold in triplicate".