Scottish stand-up comedian, actor, writer and broadcaster, Ronnie Corbett, CBE tragically died 31 March 2016. Corbett was born 4 December 1930 in Edinburgh, and was educated at James Gillespie’s High School and the Royal High School in the city, but did not attend university. After leaving school, he decided he wanted to be an actor while performing in amateur theatricals at a church youth club. His first job, however, was with the Ministry of Agriculture. Corbett served his compulsory national service with the Royal Air Force, during which he was the shortest in height commissioned officer in the British Forces. A former aircraftman 2nd class, he was commissioned into the secretarial branch of the RAF as a pilot officer (national service) on 25 May 1950. He received the service number 2446942. He transferred to the reserve (national service list) on 28 October 1951, thereby ending his period of active service. He was promoted to flying officer on 6 September 1952.
Following National Service, Corbett moved to London to start his acting career. In one of his earliest stage appearances, he was billed as “Ronald Corbett” at Cromer, Norfolk, in Take it Easy in 1956, with Graham Stark. He appeared in Crackerjack as a regular in its early days, one episode with Winifred Atwell. He had a walk-on in an early episode of the 1960s series The Saint (as “Ronald Corbett”) and appeared in films including Rockets Galore! (1957), Casino Royale (1967), Some Will, Some Won’t (1970) and the film version of the farce No Sex Please, We’re British (1973).He achieved prominence in David Frost’s 1960s satirical comedy programme The Frost Report (with Barker) and subsequently starred in sitcoms such as No – That’s Me Over Here!, Now Look Here and Sorry!
Corbett starred in the first London production of the musical The Boys from Syracuse (as Dromio of Syracuse) in 1963 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, alongside Bob Monkhouse. In 1965 he was in cabaret at Winston’s, Danny La Rue’s Mayfair nightclub. David Frost saw him and asked him to appear in The Frost Report. Corbett was in the West End, playing Will Scarlett in Lionel Bart’s Robin Hood musical Twang!!. It failed, leaving Corbett free to accept. It was whilst working at Danny La Rue’s nightclub that Corbett met Anne Hart, who he was to marry that year. The marriage lasted 51 years, until he died.
Corbett first worked with Ronnie Barker in The Frost Report (1966–67). The writers and cast were mostly Oxbridge graduates from Footlights. The show was a mixture of satirical monologues, sketches and music. Corbett and Barker were beginning to be thought of as a pair.They appeared with John Cleese in one of the most repeated comedy sketches in British television: the Class sketch. Corbett also starred in No – That’s Me Over Here!, a sitcom written by Frost Report writers Barry Cryer, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle (ITV 1967–70). Cryer and Chapman wrote two follow-ups: Now Look Here (BBC 1971–73) and The Prince of Denmark (BBC 1974). Corbett also appeared in Frost on Sunday (ITV 1968) and hosted The Corbett Follies (ITV 1969). From 1971 until 1987 Corbett’s appeared in the BBC television comedy show The Two Ronnies with Ronnie Barker, In which Barker and Corbett performed sketches and musical numbers, Corbett also presented a humorous monologue.
Corbett’s best-known role away from The Two Ronnies was as the 40-something Timothy Lumsden, dominated by his mother, in the sitcom Sorry! (1981–88). In 1996, he appeared on the première of the short-lived BBC game show Full Swing, hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck. Corbett played Reggie Sea Lions in the film Fierce Creatures, written by his former Frost Report colleague John Cleese. Corbett also hosted the game show Small Talk and portrayed Griselda in a television production of Cinderella in 2000. In 2004, Corbett appeared on the BBC news quiz Have I Got News for You and In 2005, Corbett reunited with Ronnie Barker for The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, comedy sketches from their original series with newly recorded material, Corbett also appeared with comedian Peter Kay in the music video for the Comic Relief single, a cover version of Tony Christie’s “Is This the Way to Amarillo?”
He performed in the Children’s Party at the Palace as Mr Tibbs, the Queen’s butler.In 2006, Corbett played a hyper-realised version of himself in Extras, caught taking drugs at the BAFTA Awards, He also starred as himself in Little Britain AbroadHe opened the centre in Cromer, Norfolk, named after Henry Blogg and was a guest in the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs in 2007. He featured as a Slitheen in a Sarah Jane Adventures episode for Red Nose Day 2009. Corbett also appeared in the John Landis thriller comedy Burke & Hare and was a panellist in the BBC 1 comedy show Would I Lie to You? And starred of the Good Food HD programme Ronnie Corbett’s Supper Club with Rob Brydon and Steve Speirs. he also starred in a one-off special, The One Ronnie. From 2010, Corbett starred in the BBC Radio 4 sitcom When The Dog Dies, with Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent, who also wrote Sorry!
During his distinguished career Corbett garnered many awards and accolades, Already an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Corbett was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to entertainment and charity. Sadly On 31 March 2016, Corbett died at the age of 85, at Shirley Oaks Hospital in Shirley near Croydon, shortly after having been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He is survived by his wife and two daughters