Ronnie Corbett, Iconic British TV Entertainer, Dies at 85

Ronnie Corbett

The comedian rose to fame in the 1970s alongside long-term collaborator Ronnie Barker and became one of the U.K.'s most loved personalities.

Ronnie Corbett, one of the U.K.'s best loved TV personalities, has died. He was 85.

The comedian and entertainer, famed for a double act with the late Ronnie Barker in long-running series The Two Ronnies, died surrounded by his family, his publicist confirmed Thursday.

Born in Scotland in 1930, Corbett had his first taste of success in the 1960s on David Frost's satirical show The Frost Report, where he would start working with Barker and go on to form a long friendship and creative collaboration. Among the most famed moments from the series saw Corbett line up against Barker and John Cleese in the "Class Sketch" in which he played the working-class character and, with his diminutive 5-foot stature, deliver the payoff line "I get a pain in the back of my neck."

Corbett's size was a constant source of comedy throughout his career, something he once said meant that he felt he had "something to prove." Among his many jokes was one in which he claimed he was so small as a child he could "only have one measle at a time."

The Two Ronnies — which ran on the BBC from 1971 to 1987 and was a mixture of sketches and musical numbers — cemented his name among the icons of British TV, drawing at its peak some 17 million viewers. In one of the show's regular sketches, Corbett would sit in an enormous armchair — something that emphasized his size — and tell a long, rambling joke that appeared to go off on various tangents and suggest he had lost his train of thought before finding the punchline.

Another famed sketch, one that highlighted the innocent play on words that underlined much of Corbett's work, was called "Four Candles" and had the comedian play a hardware shopkeeper confused by a request from a customer. Hearing what sounded like "four candles," he brought out the candles only to be told by the customer — played by Barker — that he wanted "fork 'andles, 'andles for forks."

Each episode of The Two Ronnies would famously end with Corbett saying "So it's good night from me," to which Barker would respond, "And it's goodnight from him," which quickly became one of their catchphrases.

One of his most celebrated later appearances on TV was in a 2006 episode of Ricky Gervais' BBC series Extras in which Corbett played himself in a scene where he is caught taking cocaine at the BAFTA Awards.

Corbett was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and later appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012 for his services to entertainment and charity.

BBC chairman Tony Hall was among the many industry figures to offer their tributes to Corbett, describing him as a "man of great charm and warmth who brought laughter and joy to millions," and "one of the true greats of British comedy."

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