Comedy legend Ronnie Corbett is Dead

Tributes have been paid to British comedy icon Ronnie Corbett - who died aged 85 in hospital today - with fans hailing him 'the small man with the huge talent'.

The comedian - who is best known for his appearances alongside Ronnie Barker in The Two Ronnies in the 1970s and 80s - has been praised by friends and fellow stars for his comic timing, his storytelling and his ability to laugh at himself.

It is understood the entertainer, who had previously recovered from two bouts of ill health, had been unwell in recent months.

Corbett is survived by his wife, Anne Hart, with whom he celebrated his golden wedding anniversary last year, and the couple's two daughters, actresses Emma and Sophie Corbett. They were at his side when he died.

A statement from his publicist this morning said: 'Ronnie Corbett CBE, one of the nation's best-loved entertainers, passed away this morning, surrounded by his loving family. They have asked that their privacy is respected at this very sad time.'

Friend and long-time colleague Sir Bruce Forsyth said in a statement: 'I am so very sad to hear the news about Ronnie.

'I have lost a close and very dear friend and we have all lost one of the greatest comedians and entertainers this country has known. My thoughts are with Anne and his family.'

Speaking to BBC News, Sir Bruce said Corbett was 'very adaptable', adding: 'He could work with anybody, even me. He was a one of a kind and a half.

'We loved rehearsing together. We had a sense of humour around each other - he took me for what I was and I took him for what he was.'

Talking about their golfing trips together, Sir Bruce said: 'We had some lovely times... we would laugh at each other. He was just funny. I wish I could always laugh at golf the way I did with him. I loved that he would self-deprecate... Oh, I will miss him, what a lovely man.'

Sir Michael Parkinson, another close friend of Corbett's, said of the star: 'He was a very easy man to love. He was a perfect companion. He was bright. He could tell good stories. He was funny. He was very rarely depressed.

'Anne, his wife, she'll be distraught. I mean, it was a great marriage. They've been together for many, many years, and it was a very loving partnership. We were just mates and I shall miss him terribly.'

Comedian Michael Palin told BBC Radio 4's World at One: 'Ronnie had a great sense of silliness, which I responded to greatly. He could do the serious stuff as well but there was a lovely sort of mischief, his eyes twinkled.


'He was absolutely delightful to play with and against, and do material with and, also, just a good friend too.'

And Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: 'Ronnie Corbett had the rare talent of making all generations laugh. He'll be remembered as one of the all-time great comedians.'

Corbett spent his life on TV and radio, appearing in programmes including sketch show The Frost Report, the sitcom Sorry! and the game show Small Talk. He most recently starred in the Radio 4 sitcom When The Dog Dies.

Corbett collapsed at a dinner to celebrate him being awarded a CBE in 2012 and was rushed to hospital, from where he was discharged two days later.
His wife later said her husband had been taking a 'considerable amount of medication' following a knee operation and she believed the drugs contributed to his collapse.

He was also hospitalised with gall bladder problems in 2014 but was back on his feet a week later and was said to be 'enjoying work and life'.

In March 2014 his wife spoke out following reports he was considering retiring follow the health scare. She said 'contracts and commercials that he is working on', including doing a TV pilot with comedian Rob Brydon at the time.

The 5ft 1in entertainer has divided his time in recent years between his homes in Croydon, south London and Gullane, East Lothian, which is not far from his birthplace of Edinburgh.

The Scottish home is also close to a number of seaside golf courses, which Corbett - who was famous for his love of the game - enjoyed in his later years.

Fans and figures from the world of entertainment have also flooded Twitter with tributes to the entertainer.

TV star David Walliams tweeted: 'Goodbye my friend and comedy idol #RonnieCorbett Thank you for all the laughs. It was the greatest honour to know and work with you.'

John Cleese, who appeared with Corbett and Barker in a famous Frost Report sketch about social class in 1966 ,said on Twitter: 'Just heard about Ronnie C. So sad. He had the best timing I've ever watched. He was a great, kind mentor and a wonderfully witty companion.'

Ricky Gervais tweeted: 'RIP the lovely, funny legend Ronnie Corbett. It was an absolute honour & joy to have known him.'

Rob Brydon said: 'So saddened that Ronnie Corbett has passed away. A truly great comedian, a great man and a great friend. He was one of the special ones.'

Stand-up comedian Nick Harris added: 'RIP Ronnie Corbett. Small man. Big chair. Huge Talent. Massive loss.'

Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC, said: 'Ronnie Corbett was a wonderful comic and entertainer. A man of great charm and warmth who brought laughter and joy to millions. He was quite simply one of the true greats of British comedy. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.'

Corbett will be best remembered for his role in classic sketches in the Two Ronnies, as well as his monologues delivered from a large armchair. Barker died of heart failure in 2005.

Among the most famous of his sketches was the Four Candles sketch, which is named on nearly every list of the nation's favourite TV moments.

The small screen aside, Corbett's talents also extended to the theatre and big screen. He starred in a host of theatre productions such as The Seven Year Itch and Out Of Order.

In 1996, Corbett appeared in John Cleese's follow-up to A Fish Called Wanda, Fierce Creatures. He played a sealion-keeper at a zoo, but he said his worst experience on the film was when he had to carry 'a very smelly baby ostrich'.

He also had roles in big-name titles such as Top Of The Form, You're Only Young Once, Casino Royale, and No Sex Please, We're British.

Corbett said of his iconic status in 2013: 'I do find the national treasure thing very touching. Actually, it brings a tear to my eye when people call me that.'

Ronnie Corbett quickly became a much-loved actor, comedian, broadcaster and writer.

He was most famous for his roles in the sketch comedy series The Two Ronnies. But he also managed to make a name for himself in the sitcom Sorry, which ran for seven years.

Corbett was born in Edinburgh in 1930 to his baker father William Balfour and mother Annie Elizabeth.

He was the eldest member of his family, with a brother six years younger and sister 10 years younger.

After leaving the Royal High School in the Scottish capital, Corbett decided not to go to university and instead pursued his dream career in acting - a love which formed while he attended a church youth club.

But his dreams were put on hold when he had to do compulsory national service in the RAF - during which he became the shortest officer in the British Forces at the time at 5ft 1ins.

After his National Service ended in the 1950s he moved to London to finally pursue his career as an actor.

He started off by playing roles as a schoolboy roles in films due to his height.

He rose to fame shortly after working with Ronnie Barker in The Frost Report between 1966 and 1967, which featured a mixture of satirical monologues, sketches and music.

Corbett said he became close with Barker as they were two former grammar school pupils and both did not go to university, when most of the cast and writers in the show were Oxbridge graduates.

They appeared together with John Cleese in one of the most repeated comedy sketches on British TV, Class, in which Corbett got the punchline: 'I get a pain in the back of my neck.'

Producers recognised the chemistry between the two Ronnies and it sparked talks of giving the pair their own TV series, but Corbett went on to do the enjoyable Corbett Frollies and No that's me Over Here.

It was in 1971 when Barker asked him to feature in the comedy sketch series The Ronnie Barker Yearbook and it then became noticeable that the pair were meant to be.

Later that year The Two Ronnies show was formed and remained incredibly popular on the BBC right up until the late 1980s when Barker announced his retirement.

At the end of The Two Ronnies, they would always close with Ronnie Corbett saying 'Well, it's goodnight from me', to which Barker would reply 'And it's goodnight from him'.

But Corbett had already established himself on his own by then and was able to branch off with ease.

After Barker's retirement, Corbett had many starring roles in the theatre, including The Seven Year Itch, Out of Order, The Dressmaker, and on TV, the sitcom, Sorry - starring as the 40-something Timothy Lumsden, dominated by his mother, in the sitcom Sorry! which ran from 1981 until 1988.

In 1996, Corbett appeared in John Cleese's follow-up to A Fish Called Wanda, Fierce Creatures. He played a sealion-keeper at a zoo, but he said his worst experience on the film was when he had to carry 'a very smelly baby ostrich'.

The following year he recorded An Audience With... for ITV. In 1998 he returned to his famous armchair in a new Ben Elton series for BBC1, as well as starring in a Pizza Hut commercial campaign.

Films he appeared in included Top of the Form, You're Only Young Once, Casino Royale, No Sex Please, We're British and Fierce Creatures.

His publications included: Ronnie Corbett's Armchair Golf, The Small Man's Guide To Life and his autobiography High Hopes. He was a keen and proficient golfer, and a member of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

Corbett was awarded a CBE in the 2012 New Year Honours for his services to charity and the entertainment industry. At a celebration to mark the award, Corbett collapsed in a restaurant in January, but recovered.

He was presented with the award by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in February that year.

Afterwards he admired his medal - which matched his blue and pink striped tie - saying: 'It's very pretty. It's a very lovely honour. I shall treasure it.'

The sketch show veteran has been involved with many charities, including the RNLI and the Variety Club.

In March 2014, Corbett was among the speakers at a memorial service at Westminster Abbey for Sir David Frost, who died the previous September, aged 74, while on the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship where he was giving a speech.

Corbett was also among more than 200 celebrities and public figures who urged Scotland to stay part of the UK ahead of the country's historic vote on independence in September 2014.

He joined figures including Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Dame Judi Dench, Simon Cowell and Professor Stephen Hawking in signing an open letter to 'voters of Scotland' calling on them not to leave the UK.

Corbett, who died today, will be remembered as an excellent entertainer who was one half of one of the most successful comedy duos. He is survived by his wife Anne and two daughters - Emma and Sophie.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.