The Two Ronnies are often only remembered these days for dressing in drag and singing old music-hall numbers. The truth of the matter is that their sketches were some of the most thoughtful and intelligent sketches ever to appear on television.
Some of the best writers that ever lived contributed to the show. Such luminaries as John Cleese, Barry Cryer, Spike Milligan, David Nobbs,David Renwick, John Sullivan, Michael Palin and Terry Jones as well as Ronnie Barker himself (submitting his writing under the alias Gerald Wiley, so it could be treated a degree of neutrality) had writing credits at some stage or other. It is no wonder that the material was so good.
The tragedy is that the sketches are more often than n0t dismissed as old fashioned and pedestrian. If you compare any of the below sketches to any modern comedy you will certainly find that the deficit lies in the modern day, rather than the delicate and expert sketches that appeared in the classic show.
Something that is also forgotten is how adept at sketch comedy Corbett and Barker were as performers. All in all, a real dream team.
Below is a list of some of the best Two Ronnies sketches ever seen:
One of the finest examples of wordplay ever put on screen. Although it is written by Ronnie Barker, the credit of this sketch’s success should lie at both Ronnnie’s doors as Corbett plays the disgruntled tradesman with an angry flourish.
Your Nuts My Lord
A stunningly simple, silly and very memorable sketch. Short and to the point. Always rewarding when noticing how often Corbett is on the verge of laughing.
The Swear Box
A brilliantly written and performed sketch, with a superb punchline. Traditional sketch writing at its best that must have seemed fairly risky at the time.
Swedish Made Simple
A clever-yet-silly sketch that became a trademark of The Two Ronnies, brilliant word play and a highly satisfying punchline. A classic.
One of the most intelligently written sketches you will ever find in a sketch show. Written by David Renwick (One Foot in the Grave, Jonathan Creek) and perfectly performed by Ronnie Corbett.
The Hieroglyphics Sketch
Barker in full flow. He delivers this jumped up monologue like a machine gun of silliness. Brilliantly silly and hilariously funny.
Deaf in the Trenches
A classic music-hall style riff in which one of the performers has a hearing problem and mis-hears each line for comedic effect. The difference on this occasion is that the feedlines are so wonderfully awkward that they can only be mis-heard for something hilariously funny (get up a tree and risk it = a cup of tea and a biscuit).
Harry and Bert
There weren’t many regular characters within The Two Ronnies’ world, but their Harry and Bert sketches were ever present. Each week the format is the same, one talks and loses his way mid-sentence, the other attempts to fill the gaps with silly sugestions. A cracking comedy format.
Something that The Two Ronnies became synonymous with would be word play, which Python also had a taste for. The Two Ronnies were masters at it and there wasn’t an episode that went by without an example of a word play sketch. This was one of the finest.
A stupid man struggles out-loud with a simple crossword on a train next to a clever man who is trying to complete his intellectual crossword. Classic stuff.
Bonus: It’s a duck
RIP Ronnie Corbett