The One Ronnie: The numbers behind diminutive comedy giant Corbett

We look back on the Scots entertainer's career in numbers following his death aged 85.

195 Piccadilly: BAFTAs photography archive, part of the Lumiere London light festival. <strong>Yui Mok/PA Archive/Press Association Images</strong>
195 Piccadilly: BAFTAs photography archive, part of the Lumiere London light festival. Yui Mok/PA Archive/Press Association Images

He was one half of The Two Ronnies with his diminutive 4ft 9in height standing next to his 5ft 6in comedy partner.

Despite their gap in height, Corbett and Barker could not be closer to the same wavelength with their humour, which reached people far and wide across the country.

The passing of Edinburgh-born Ronnie Corbett on Thursday, March 31, comes over a decade after the nation mourned the loss of Ronnie Barker after he suffered heart failure at the age of 76.

Corbett and Barker met on The Frost Report in 1966 but the dynamic duo earned their comedy credentials together on their self-titled show that began five years later and ran for 12 series with countless sketches, guests and laughs over the years.

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Of course they worked on their individual sketches and separate ventures but it is hard to imagine one without the other, even in the years after Barker’s death.

Here we look at the history Corbett created both on and off the screen and add up just how one Ronnie made a difference to so many people through their television sets.

85 – Corbett passed away on March 31 at the age of 85. He was born in Edinburgh on December 4, 1930, to baker William and his London-born wife Annie. Ronnie was the middle child between a brother and a sister.

2446972 – Ronnie’s service number when he was on national service with the Royal Air Force in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

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26 – The age Ronnie made his stage debut as Ronald in Take It Easy at Cromer in Norfolk, in 1956. Around the same time he was making his television debut, appearing in a film called You’re Only Young Twice and as a regular in Crackerjack.

28 – Episodes of The Frost Report broadcast on BBC1 between March 10, 1966 and December 26, 1967. Corbett appeared in every episode along with Barker and John Cleese among others with their class sketch being one of the most prominent. Unfortunately 13 of the episodes have been lost in the BBC archives.

Frost Report: The Two Ronnies and John Cleese were among its stars. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

5 – Corbett appeared as the Storyteller in five Jackanory episodes under the Hullabaloo title in 1970. Of course, his next project would be the biggest breakthrough.

2 – The Two Ronnies. It deserves its own sub group with 12 series being made and a total of 93 episodes over a 16 year period. At its peak, the show was viewed by 22 million people in the prime-time Saturday night slot of 8pm.

4 – Candles. What else would it be?

42 – As well as his time on The Two Ronnies, Corbett was also known for comedy sitcom Sorry, in which he played a librarian for 42 episodes. His character longs for love and to leave home where he still stays with his parents. There were 18 episodes in 1981 and 1982 before the remaining 24 were shown between 1985 and 1988.

52 – Away from comedy Corbett also hosted 52 episodes of a game show called Small Talk, in which contestants had to second guess the minds of children to answer questions correctly. BBC One screened four series of the show between 1994 and 1996.

Comedy partners: Corbett and Barker, The Two Ronnies. Steve Parsons/PA Archive/Press Association Images
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Seven – In 2005, the comedy partnership returned with seven episodes of The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, which saw Corbett and Barker return behind the newsdesk to remember classic sketches and add in some new routines. After being recorded in March and April Barker took ill but was determined to record one final Christmas special, which they did, and it aired two months after his death.

One – It’s easy to forget the number one hit, Peter Kay’s re-release of the Tony Christie hit Amarillo in 2006 for Comic Relief. And it’s just as easy to forget some of the famous faces who contributed to the wonderful video. Corbett was among those to get in on the act and had a bit of an accident – which he saw the funny side of – that you can catch just after the three minute mark of the video.

8 – In 2007, Corbett was invited to pick eight selected songs for Desert Island Discs, which you can still have the pleasure of listening to on the BBC website. As well as his selected tracks he took Untold Stories by Alan Bennett as his book and a hammock as his luxury.

3 – Corbett had three children: Emma and Sophie, who both went on to become actresses, and Andrew who had a heart defect and died just six weeks after his birth.

Heathrow: Corbett with his wife Anne and daughters 11-year-old Emma and Sophie, aged ten. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

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