The name Ronnie Barker provokes great affection amongst people in the UK of a certain age and yet, it means nothing to readers elsewhere.
Ronnie was a rare breed; a man equally blessed at writing and performing peerless comedy. And rare also for his modesty. Unusual to see someone so talented and loved and in such little need of attention.
Heading up to the Edinburgh Festival with my new show, I am reminded of Ronnie Barker, having just taken a phone call from a journalist who asked me for my proudest comedy moment…
It came not on stage, but at a party at the BBC, a story I recount in Eclipsed, but it bears repeating.
Ronnie Barker was present and I wondered what I might say to a man I admired so much.
Do I call him, Mr Barker? I should introduce myself? I was very nervous being introduced and then bowled over when he looked me in the eye, smiled and said…
“Ah, Dominic, hello. I really do like your comedy material…’
I should explain. This was the year 2000 – ‘my glory year’ as things turned out – with my Radio 4 show airing for the first time, of which the the great Ronnie Barker was a fan.
An accolade to trump any newspaper quote and any number of stars – and explains why at a charity auction recently, I saw this piece of signed memorabilia and I happily brought it home. Four Candles, voted the funniest UK comedy sketch of all time – and now in my loo!
I grew up with The Two Ronnies – and was lucky enough to meet them both. Careers like theirs are probably a thing of the past – but countless comics will keep trying to prove this maxim wrong – which is why the Edinburgh Festival is the greatest arts festival of them all.
The Voodoo Rooms – everyday from 4th Aug (not 14th) at 6.15pm – see you there and you can judge for yourself whether Mr Barker was right or not?