As our tribute to the late Ronnie Barker, we have decided to share what Ronnie thought of Laurel and Hardy, published during 2004 in our printed Laurel and Hardy Magazine. Ronnie will be sadly missed.
PICK A STAR
In the year 2004, there is one comedy actor who stands head and shoulders above all others on pedestals bearing the plaque "Comedy Great." Although he retired in 1987 his classic series of sit-coms continue to be shown weekly, and he features almost as frequently on award shows and retrospective documentary tributes. To say he is a great comedy actor would be like saying the purest diamond has a beautiful facet, for he is the creator of not one, but numerous, and varied, comedy characters. These include the scores of characters he played in "The Two Ronnies", plus the full-blown creations of "Lord Rustless", "Clarence", "Arkwright", and "Norman Stanley Fletcher"
Although a talented mimic - witness, among others, his wickedly funny impersonation of astronomer Patrick Moore - his characters are drawn from within, and are created by him and him alone. Question is now, has the man behind them ever drawn upon comic influences from other quarters? Dear readers, I give you TV's greatest comedy actor, Mr. Ronnie Barker:
Ronnie Barker and the late Roy Castle paying their own personal tribute in the sketch "Another Fine Mess"
(Signed "To readers of the Helpmates' Magazine Ronnie Barker)
FROM RONNIE BARKER
The first Laurel and Hardy film I ever saw was, I think, "Helpmates", or maybe "Towed in a Hole". It was around 1938, in which case I would have been nine years old. I remember laughing a lot at their films, but I don't know how developed my sense of humour was at the time. After seeing the first one I tried to see as many more as I could. These days I collect them on VHS. All my family enjoy watching them, but not to the extent that I do, with the possible exception of my youngest son, Adam.
My favourite "short" is "The Music Box" and my favourite feature is "Way Out West", but don't ask me my favourite moment from their films, as I think it is impossible for me to pick one out of so many!
Yes, I'm sure that, indirectly, Laurel and Hardy did influence my own work. That is indisputable in one episode of a sit-come I did entitled "Another Fine Mess," which is an out-and-out tribute to their style of comedy. I also lifted one of their best visual gags, the one in "Dirty Work" where Ollie lies in the fireplace while bricks rain down on his head with perfectly choreographed timing. I re-did this in the "Piggy Malone" series of playlets from our series "The Two Ronnies" but, instead of bricks, I had oranges rolling off a shelf onto my head.
In summing up the "magic" of Laurel and Hardy I would say that, although very violent, they nevertheless remain a gentle, simple couple, whom no-one could ever dislike.
Ronnie Barker (6/3/04)
The good news is that Ronnie Barkers very funny tribute to 'Laurel and Hardy', Another Fine Mess is out on DVD, you can buy it from the link below:
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