Ronnie Barker: The Life and Legacy of a British Comedy Legend

Ronnie Barker

Ronnie Barker was one of the most beloved and respected comedians in British history. He was renowned for his versatility, impeccable timing, and comic genius. From his early days as a stage performer to his legendary TV shows, Barker left an indelible mark on the world of comedy. In this article, we will take a closer look at the life and legacy of Ronnie Barker.

Open All Hours

Early Life and Career

Ronnie Barker was born on September 25, 1929, in Bedford, England. He was the youngest of five children, and his parents owned a grocery store. As a child, Barker was known for his mischievous sense of humor, and he loved to make people laugh. After leaving school, he worked as a bank clerk and then joined the Royal Air Force.

Barker’s first taste of show business came when he performed in amateur dramatics in his hometown. He eventually left the RAF to pursue a career in entertainment. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and began his professional acting career in repertory theater.

Barker’s breakthrough came in 1958 when he appeared in the satirical TV show “The Frost Report.” He became famous for his catchphrase “I know my place” and his deadpan delivery. The show also featured future comedy legends such as John Cleese and David Frost.

Ronnie Barker Two Ronnies

Television Career

Barker’s success on “The Frost Report” led to a string of successful TV shows. In 1965, he teamed up with Ronnie Corbett for “The Two Ronnies,” which became one of the most popular shows in British TV history. The show featured a mix of sketches, musical numbers, and comic monologues, all delivered with Barker and Corbett’s impeccable timing and chemistry.

Barker was also a writer and producer, and he contributed to many of the sketches on “The Two Ronnies.” He was known for his attention to detail and his meticulous preparation. He also wrote and starred in his own sitcom, “Porridge,” which aired from 1974 to 1977. The show was a critical and commercial success, and it is still regarded as one of the best British sitcoms of all time.

Barker’s other TV credits include “Open All Hours,” “Going Straight,” and “Clarence.” He also appeared in a number of TV specials and made guest appearances on shows such as “The Muppet Show” and “Doctor Who.”

Open All Hours

Personal Life

Despite his success, Barker was famously private about his personal life. He was married to Joy Tubb from 1957 until his death in 2005. The couple had three children together. Barker was also known for his love of animals and was a supporter of various animal welfare organizations.



Barker’s legacy is one of great significance in the world of comedy. He helped to shape the landscape of British television comedy, and his work has inspired countless performers and writers. He was known for his meticulous attention to detail, both in his writing and in his performances, and his dedication to his craft is still admired by many today.

Beyond his contributions to comedy, Barker was also a philanthropist and a supporter of various charities. He was honored with a CBE in 1978 for his services to entertainment, and his influence on the world of comedy is still felt today, nearly two decades after his passing.


Ronnie Barker’s 3 Best Shows


“Porridge” was a British sitcom television series that ran from 1974 to 1977. It starred Ronnie Barker as Norman Stanley Fletcher, a long-term inmate at the fictional Slade Prison. The show was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and was produced by Sydney Lotterby.

The show followed Fletcher’s life as an inmate at Slade Prison, where he was serving a five-year sentence for burglary. The series was known for its witty writing and the excellent performances by Barker and the supporting cast.

One of the main themes of the show was Fletcher’s constant attempts to find ways to make his prison stay more bearable. He had a reputation as a “fixer” and was always trying to come up with ways to improve the quality of life for himself and his fellow inmates.

Fletcher’s cellmate was Lennie Godber, played by Richard Beckinsale, who was a young first-time offender. The relationship between the two characters was one of the key dynamics of the show, with Fletcher acting as a mentor to Godber and often getting him involved in his schemes.

The show was set in the 1970s, and as such, it provided a snapshot of life in a British prison during that time. It tackled a variety of social issues, including racism, poverty, and the impact of institutionalization on inmates.

One of the most memorable episodes of the show was “A Night In,” which saw Fletcher and Godber trying to make the most of a night locked in their cell. The episode was a masterclass in character-driven comedy and showcased the incredible chemistry between Barker and Beckinsale.

The show was a critical and commercial success, and it remains a beloved classic of British television. In 1979, a sequel series called “Going Straight” was made, which followed Fletcher’s life after his release from prison.

Ronnie Barker’s performance as Norman Stanley Fletcher is widely regarded as one of the best in British television history. His comedic timing and delivery were unmatched, and his portrayal of Fletcher helped to make the character a cultural icon.

In conclusion, “Porridge” was a groundbreaking British sitcom that tackled social issues in a humorous and insightful way. It featured excellent writing and performances, with Ronnie Barker’s portrayal of Norman Stanley Fletcher being a standout. The show remains a classic of British television and is well worth watching for anyone who enjoys witty, character-driven comedy.


Open All Hours

“Open All Hours” is a British television sitcom that originally aired on BBC One from 1973 to 1985, and starred Ronnie Barker as Albert E. Arkwright, the proprietor of a small corner shop in the fictional town of Balby in Yorkshire. The show was created and written by Barker, along with Roy Clarke, who also created the popular sitcom “Last of the Summer Wine”.

The show is set in Arkwright’s cluttered and poorly lit shop, which is packed with an eclectic mix of goods, from canned food and cleaning products to knick-knacks and bric-a-brac. Arkwright is a miserly and cunning shopkeeper who is always looking for ways to save money and increase his profits, often at the expense of his loyal but hapless assistant, Granville, played by David Jason.

Granville is a young man who dreams of escaping the drudgery of working in the shop and finding love and adventure, but is constantly thwarted by Arkwright’s tight-fisted ways and his own lack of confidence. Despite this, he remains loyal to his boss and often tries to help him with his schemes, such as selling out-of-date stock or exploiting the local community.

The show’s humor comes from the interactions between Arkwright and Granville, as well as the eccentric characters who frequent the shop, including the gossiping locals and Arkwright’s old flame, Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, played by Lynda Baron. The show also features a number of running gags, such as Arkwright’s stutter, his constant haggling over prices, and his reliance on his “till”, a cash register that he treats as a living creature.

Throughout the show’s run, there were several notable storylines and recurring themes, including Granville’s attempts to woo the local girls, Arkwright’s efforts to modernize the shop and attract new customers, and the various mishaps and misunderstandings that occurred within the shop and the wider community.

One of the most memorable episodes of the show is “The Errand Boy Executive”, in which Arkwright takes on a new employee, Mr. Teesdale, who he hopes will help him expand the business. However, Teesdale turns out to be a disaster, and after a series of mishaps, including accidentally driving the shop’s delivery van into a ditch, he is fired.

“Open All Hours” was a huge success during its original run, and continues to be popular with audiences today. It has been credited with influencing a number of other British sitcoms, such as “Only Fools and Horses” and “The Royle Family”, and has been parodied and referenced in a variety of other media.

In 2013, a sequel to the show, “Still Open All Hours”, was created by Roy Clarke, and starred David Jason as an older and wiser Granville, who has taken over the running of the shop from Arkwright, who has passed away. The show has also been adapted for the stage and radio, and remains a beloved part of British comedy history.


The Two Ronnies

The Two Ronnies was a British television comedy sketch show that aired from 1971 to 1987. It starred Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, who were both well-known comedians in their own right before they began working together.

The show was made up of a series of comedy sketches, musical performances, and satirical songs. The sketches often featured wordplay, puns, and misunderstandings, and were known for their clever writing and performances. The show also included regular segments, such as the “News Desk” and the “Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town,” which became fan favorites.

One of the most popular aspects of the show was the “Four Candles” sketch, which has become one of the most famous comedy sketches in British television history. In the sketch, Barker plays a hardware store owner who is trying to serve Corbett, who has come in to buy some “fork ‘andles.” The sketch is famous for its wordplay and misunderstanding, as Barker continues to bring out the wrong items until Corbett finally clarifies that he wants “four candles” rather than “fork ‘andles.”

Another famous sketch from the show was the “Mastermind” sketch, in which Corbett plays a contestant on a quiz show who is asked questions about his own life. The sketch is famous for its rapid-fire dialogue and Corbett’s deadpan delivery.

In addition to the sketches, the show also featured musical performances by well-known artists of the time, such as Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, and Tom Jones. The musical performances were usually tied in with the theme of the episode or with one of the sketches.

The show was incredibly popular during its run, regularly drawing in millions of viewers each week. It won several awards over the years, including BAFTAs and National Television Awards, and has been hailed as one of the best British comedy shows of all time.

Sadly, Barker passed away in 2005, but his work on The Two Ronnies has continued to be celebrated and remembered. Corbett continued to work in comedy until his death in 2016, and the legacy of The Two Ronnies has continued to influence British comedy to this day.



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