Scottish obituaries: Barry Cryer, British writer and comedian

Barry Cryer was a familiar face on British television for over 50 years (Photo: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Barry Cryer started cracking jokes professionally as a teenager and he was still cracking jokes on his deathbed in a London hospital nearly 70 years later.

In the meantime, he has provided material for legendary figures such as Morecambe & Wise and Scottish artists Ronnie Corbett, Stanley Baxter and Jimmy Logan, as well as a panelist on the radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for half. a century.

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A statement released by his family said: “It will come as no surprise to those who knew him and worked with him that he told a joke from the Archbishop of Canterbury to a nurse shortly before his death. It was one of his gifts, making strangers feel welcome.

Although Cryer was born in Yorkshire, he regularly adopted the persona of a stereotypical Scotsman called Hamish on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, with Graeme Garden as his equally stereotypical friend Dougal. The characters even got their own show called Hamish and Dougal: You’ll Have Had Your Tea. It ran for three series on Radio 4 between 2002 and 2007.

Cryer was also a frequent visitor to the Edinburgh Fringe – despite a petition to have him stopped, according to his marketing for his 2010 show at Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Although he claims to have been born outside the village of Wedlock, he was in fact born Barry Charles Cryer in the city of Leeds in 1935, the son of an accountant, who died when Cryer was only five years old. He went to Leeds Grammar School and then the University of Leeds, but dropped out after his first year, later calling himself Barry Cryer BA Eng. Alight. Lack.

An appearance in a student revue led to an engagement at City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds. Encouraged by this first success, he heads to London and is hired by the Windmill Theatre, where the comic strip fills the bill between the famous nude numbers.

He also had unlikely pop success with the new song The Purple People Eater. Although American singer Sheb Wooley had great success with the tune in the UK and US, Cryer’s version topped the charts in Finland.

He suffered from severe eczema, aggravated by stage makeup. It was so bad that he was hospitalized 12 times in eight years, and Cryer decided to focus on his writing.

He met his future wife, Terry Donovan, a singer and dancer, and Ronnie Corbett while they were all working on Danny La Rue’s nightclub show.

David Frost was in the audience one night, and in the 1960s Cryer became one of the regular writers for Frost’s television shows. He was part of a team that included Graham Chapman and they established a regular working partnership, writing for Ronnie Corbett and for the sitcom Doctor in the House.

Cryer generally enjoyed being part of a writing staff, a “sitter” and a “walker”, so there was always someone to bounce ideas off of.

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Although Cryer stepped away from performing and concentrated on writing, he can be seen as the waiter in the original version of the legendary Four Yorkshiremen sketch in 1967 on At Last the 1948 Show, starring Chapman, John Cleese, Marty Feldman and Tim Brooke-Taylor trying to outdo each other with nostalgic reminiscences of the good old days and the bad old days.

The list of comics and comic actors Cryer has written for reads like a Who’s Who of British comedy and includes Rory Bremner, Jasper Carrott, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawsons, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Frankie Howerd, Spike Milligan, Mike Yarwood and Bruce Forsyth. , who was his contemporary at the Windmill Theatre.

He provided material to Bob Hope when Hope was in England and he was part of The Two Ronnies crew. He adapted the jokes a lot to the style of each performer. And he considered himself old school. “I tell jokes and stories, not young performers. Their comedy is observational, they talk about life and themselves,” he said.

And he clearly enjoyed telling these jokes and stories and seemed happy within himself. Denis Norden once said that Cryer “defied the conventional wisdom that you have to be neurotic to be a comedian”.

Cryer began his long association with I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue when it started in 1972. He was briefly the show’s president before becoming one of the regular panelists. It bills itself as “the antidote to board games” and much of the comedy depends on a sharp wit and clever wordplay.

With more comics writing their own material, Cryer began to perform more himself. He and fellow actor Willie Rushton started a two-man show in Edinburgh in 1991 and toured together until Rushton’s death in 1996. Cryer then toured solo and would challenge audiences to give him a subject and he would respond with a joke or anecdote.

Cryer has written several books, including an autobiography, You Won’t Believe This But…. anecdotes.

They include this joke he told the nurse about a couple walking around when they saw a man across the road who they thought was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The woman said, “It looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury over there. Go see if that’s the case.

The husband crosses the road and asks the man if he is the Archbishop of Canterbury. “F**k off,” the man said.

The husband comes back to his wife who asks “What did he say? Is he the Archbishop of Canterbury?

He told me to fuck off, the husband said.

“Oh no,” said the woman, “Now we’ll never know.”

If you would like to submit an obituary (800-1000 words preferably, with jpeg image), or have a topic suggestion, contact [email protected]

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