Ronnie leads tributes to comedy giant Ronnie

THE entertainment world yesterday paid tribute to comedy giant Ronnie Barker following his death at the age of 76.

Barker, most famous for the hugely successful show The Two Ronnies, died at 12.15pm on Monday following a long illness.

Ronnie Corbett yesterday led the tributes of the entertainment world to Barker.

The diminutive comedian described Mr Barker as "pure gold in triplicate".

The pair worked together for four decades and enjoyed huge success with The Two Ronnies.

Mr Barker will be remembered as one of the most successful TV comedians of all time.

As well as the long-running partnership with the diminutive Ronnie Corbett, he struck gold with the sitcoms Porridge and Open All Hours.

To the delight of audiences, the star, who retired from the small screen in 1987, was back on TV only recently in The Two Ronnies Sketchbook.

The Two Ronnies ran for 98 episodes over 12 series between 1971 and 1987.

In its heyday, the show attracted up to 18 million viewers and the pair remains an inspiration for many of today's comedians, including Peter Kay.

The Mastermind sketch, the two constantly bickering tramps, and the Four Candles sketch in which Barker attempts to buy "fork handles" at a hardware store still gets laughs today.

John Cleese, who began his comedy career with Mr Barker in the 1960s comedy series The Frost Report, today described him as "a warm, friendly and encouraging presence to have when I started in television" and "a great comic actor to learn from."

Peter Kay said: "He made me laugh so much and I'm just so lucky to have been able to get to know my hero and the person that I aspire to be."

Former Monty Python star Michael Palin said: "I can't think of anyone who knew how to play comedy better than Ronnie Barker.

"Ronnie was a straightforward, down-to-earth man who had this extraordinary ability to make the nation laugh, probably more often than anyone else I know."

David Jason, who rose to fame playing Granville alongside Mr Barker in Open All Hours, was said to be "absolutely shocked and distressed" by the news, according to his agent.

Comedian Ben Elton said: "Britain has lost one of its greatest comic artists, but he lives on in an incomparable body of work which will continue to bring joy to millions."

Mr Barker was honoured by Bafta in Ronnie Barker: A Bafta Tribute in 2004.

He announced his retirement from TV comedy in 1987 at the height of his success after more than a decade of acclaimed shows.

He set up an antique business with a shop in the Oxfordshire village of Chipping Norton.

Today his role as a shopkeeper Arkwright in Open all Hours and as rebellious prisoner Fletcher in Porridge remain enduring comedy favourites.

Since retiring, Mr Barker has only been on screen a few times, including a special tribute to The Two Ronnies in 1999, and in the BBC drama The Gathering Storm in 2002, in which he played Churchill's butler.

But when The Two Ronnies looked back at some of the best sketches they recorded in The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, it showed the duo's long-lasting appeal.

Barker's agent, Rosalind Chatto, said that Mr Barker's wife Joy Tubb they married in 1957 was with him when he died.

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