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British comedy writer and Laurel & Hardy fan Barry Cryer

 
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Ross
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 8:10 am    Post subject: British comedy writer and Laurel & Hardy fan Barry Cryer Reply with quote


    Profile of British comedy writer and Laurel & Hardy fan Barry Cryer



    Barry Cryer, 70, is one of Britain's foremost comedy writers and has written for stars such as Frankie Howerd, the Two Ronnies, Bruce Forsyth, Tommy Cooper, Russ Abbot, Des O'Connor, Jim Davidson and Rory Bremner. A regular team member of the BBC's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, he published his autobiography You Won't Believe This But... last year.

    I have always loved comics. When I was a teenager I used to go to Leeds Empire and see people like Max Miller, who was an idol of mine. He was also on the radio a lot. Everybody in those days went to the variety theatres and listened to radio. It wasn't until years later that people began to get worried and said that television would kill variety. Radio ran parallel with variety. It was said that radio, at its peak, was bigger than television would ever be. A radio comic like Tommy Handley was as big a national figure as Winston Churchill. When he died they were five deep on the pavement. It was like royalty dying.

    What really killed off variety was the strip shows. The family audience stopped going to variety theatres because they were doing nude shows with people like Phyllis Dixey. People stopped taking their children, the man didn't take his wife and so on. It all changed. I first started as a comic touring in strip shows before I became a scriptwriter. There was a slight resurgence in variety in the early fifties when the Americans started coming to Britain. People like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye played the Palladium. Bob Hope and Laurel and Hardy toured the country. The Americans were huge box office. But then television came along and everything changed completely.

    Not everyone could afford to buy a set at first but there was always someone in your street who had one. I remember going round to the neighbours to watch the Coronation in 1953. The curtains were always drawn because in those days you always watched television in the dark. The tube was a funny blue colour and there were sliding doors on the front of the set. The BBC used to show a lot of Western series like Wagon Train and I used to watch early black and white Jack Benny shows. He was another idol of mine and I later worked with him a couple of times. ITV started in 1955 and the impact of commercials was amazing. I couldn't believe that programmes could be interrupted in the middle with an advert.

    I started as a TV comedy scriptwriter for the Jimmy Logan Show and got signed up by the BBC. Then I wrote for people like Danny La Rue, who was doing a nightclub act, and that led me to writing for David Frost on the Frost Report in 1966. In the seventies I co-wrote, with Ray Cameron, The Kenny Everett Video Show for Thames TV and that was a joy because although it is quite primitive now, we used all the early technology. We had a thing called Quantel where you spun the picture and you could morph Kenny into a tall, thin man or something. No comedy show was doing that sort of thing at the time.

    The clean up TV campaigner Mary Whitehouse gave the Everett show enormous publicity, mainly because of the raunchy dancers Hot Gossip. She had a knack of publicising what she deplored, which was wonderful for us. We had huge audiences.

    When I first started writing TV comedy there was the 'Green Book'. I never saw it but it did exist. It listed the subjects you couldn't make jokes about. The obvious ones were royalty, disability and homosexuality. Then in the seventies it loosened up but there were grotesque stereotypes like the obligatory limp-wristed screaming queen in a sitcom. It was only acceptable if it was grotesque. One of the worst racist shows was Love Thy Neighbour, which was ITV's half-hearted attempt to do a Till Death Us Do Part. There were people calling each other 'sambo' and things like that. It was awful painful to watch.

    Alternative comedy, as it was then termed, was alternative to racist and sexist. It didn't mean a whole new form of humour. Funny people were still funny. Some alternative comics went mainstream and some disappeared because they were of that time. Ben Elton had his time and it went. All that shouting the odds, it's dated now. He is now the man who goes to Buckingham Palace and writes overblown musicals.

    I think that the idea of political correctness is a semi-myth. The sea change was that the bottom line sexist and racist jokes started going and the comics who still did them were unpopular. There was a sort of inevitability about it anyway the changing community, the multicultural society we live in and audiences of every culture and creed. It was a practical business. It wasn't even moral. It was like 'we are alienating people, so we had better change'. These decisions come down to money.

    Of course, the pendulum swings both ways. You can go and see The Producers, which is joyfully politically incorrect. Nazis are funny, Hitler is funny, gays are funny, old ladies are hilarious. Stereotypes all of them.

    Young comics make it very quickly now. Yesterday's white hope has now probably got their own TV series. Ross Noble is a superb comic. He's a follow on from the Eddie Izzard tradition. You can trace the lineage back all the time, the stream of consciousness way of talking. Billy Connolly was pre-Izzard. Les Dawson was surreal and before him Max Wall. Further back there was a radio show called Much Binding in the Marsh with Kenneth Horne and Richard Murdoch, which had a strange and wonderful sense of humour. Spike Milligan was the precursor of the Monty Python show and Lee Evans is Norman Wisdom on speed. There's a lineage in comedy all the time. Me, I do stand-up every year at the Edinburgh Fringe and, compared to the young comics, I'm clean. But I'm not an old mother-in-law sexist comic. All the young comics know me and call me 'Uncle Baz'. It's wonderful.

    "I think that the idea of political correctness is a semi-myth. The sea change was that the bottom-line sexist and racist jokes started going and the comics who still did them were unpopular."

    - Barry Cryer

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Last edited by Ross on Wed Mar 30, 2005 11:00 am; edited 6 times in total
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Always nice to read about a Leeds lad who's done good. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2005 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hats Off wrote:
Always nice to read about a Leeds lad who's done good. Very Happy


yes ma'am, blood's thicker than water!
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2005 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Ross Noble is a superb comic. He's a follow on from the Eddie Izzard tradition.


I can second this, I saw the man live and he was bloody amazing. the best thing is the way he updates the act continuously.

When I went to see him he akknowledged the fact that he had been honoured by the local library at the place of his birth for no apparent reason to him. He also wondered what the next day's cerimony would entail and discussed the possibility of recieving a giant library card instead of a key to the city.

The next day my mam caught him on the mid day local news and what was he doing? Recieving a giant Library card from the mayor! Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A brilliant writer and a seriously FUNNY talent. His quiz-show appearances demonstrate his instant comic wit. Members will probably remember him compering the radio show Funny That Way, which started with a profile of The Boys, with clips from their films....er sound clips, that is, silent films don't come over too well on radio. The programme was slated by many Sons because it was disjointed and the clips were not credited to particular films, but at least it was half an hour of The Boys on national radio, with a real admirer of their work as compere.
BS Anyone interested in the "strip shows" he refers to should watch the film "Mrs. Henderson Presents". It's about the Windmill Theatre, and it's a cracking film with an entrancing performance by Dame Judy.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phew....when I saw this topic had been ressurrected I feared the worse and thought he might've died.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats what i thought too Al.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 17, 2007 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neither did I.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2007 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I picked this book up in a charity shop yesterday, but didn't buy it - I only glanced through it.

Think I might have to go back and purchase it - if it's still there! Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

STOP PRESS!

Went back into town and bought it. Only a quid = RESULT!

Something for me to read as I fly to Prague tomorrow!
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now then ... this photograph of the 'Frost Over England' team ...



I recognise ...

On the back row, left to right, ... BC, Terry Jones and Michael Palin
Middle row ... Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle
Front row ... Marty Feldman, Sheila Steafel, Frost and Ronnie Barker.

How'd I do? Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Midnight Patrol wrote:
Members will probably remember him compering the radio show Funny That Way, which started with a profile of The Boys, with clips from their films....er sound clips, that is, silent films don't come over too well on radio. The programme was slated by many Sons because it was disjointed and the clips were not credited to particular films, but at least it was half an hour of The Boys on national radio, with a real admirer of their work as compere.

Blatant plug here, but I have this programme on CD and can 'burn' one for you if you would like it.

Just pm me ...
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why isn't Ronnie Corbett in this photo? He was definitely in the programme, and his double act with Ronnie Barker was starting to take place by this time.
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