The Two Ronnies Christmas Sketchbook (TV Recording): BBC TV Centre, London, 2005
I saw Ronnie Barker perform towards the end of his life. With a glittering career behind him, Britain’s greatest television comedy actor was persuaded out of retirement (having received a special tribute from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2004) to appear with his comedy partner Ronnie Corbett for four ‘best of’ BBC specials of the show that made him a house-hold name: the new series was called The Two Ronnies Sketchbook. As I sat in the packed audience buzzing with excitement waiting for the Christmas Sketchbook recording to begin, the two comedy greats appeared on stage. Barker looked frail but still had a twinkle in his eye and Corbett was alert and assured. Before the recording began, they were given a ten-minute standing ovation and in my forty odd-years of watching comedy, I have never witnessed such warmth from an audience. Scattered with famous people including June Whitfield who had worked with all the comic greats including the two stars and was sitting in front of me with her daughter, everybody in the audience was hoping that Barker and Corbett could create the old magic one last time. They took their seats behind the famous news desk and started the legendary news items which began every show and they were away. The two of them were effortlessly funny that night introducing clips from the shows. All the great sketches were included: Four Candles, Mastermind and the like. As I watched the sketches at the recording, through the laughter I was reminded of the great versatility Barker had as a performer.
As the recording of The Two Ronnies Christmas Sketchbook came to an end, the lights went up on the audience who again were giving Barker and Corbett a standing ovation. Barker appeared to be overwhelmed by the cheers and applause of the audience and was reduced to tears perhaps knowing that this would be his final television appearance. He died in 2005 shortly after the recording was made and it was an honour and privilege for me to have been so lucky to sit in the audience that night to watch one of the all-time comedy greats.