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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Parkinson remembers friend Ronnie
By Michael Parkinson
Chat show host and broadcaster

Ronnie Barker in 2004
Ronnie Barker wrote a large share of the Two Ronnies' material
Veteran chat show host Michael Parkinson remembers his friend, the comedian Ronnie Barker, who has died aged 76.

Ronnie Barker had a wonderful career. He was one of our very greatest comedy actors.

He wasn't a comedian, not by instinct at all. He was an actor with a writer's fastidious ear for a good script.

He was a writer and was proud of his writing. He wrote very well indeed.

If you look at his career, what's interesting about it was that he didn't do too much bad work.

There was a very seamless series of very good parts through the years.

With the Two Ronnies, he had one of the great television partnerships.

Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett
Ronnie didn't try to be a star - he was a star
Ronnie was a very shy man, uneasy with the fame that came with the job. He was a man who liked to observe.

He reminds me of Alec Guinness in that sense, that kind of shadowy figure who sort of circled around.

You never were quite aware of him in a social occasion. He didn't like such occasions but, my word, when he took centre stage you had to watch him.

He had that quality that you had to watch him. He was such a wonderful performer.

The people who worked with him felt fortunate to work with him. He didn't have too many flops in his life, he chose well.

He was a wonderful actor to work with. You can see that in the work he did with Ronnie Corbett.

They had a wonderful combination. He was a generous performer.

Ronnie didn't try to be a star. He was a star. He didn't step centre stage and say: "I demand you look at me."

You looked at him because he was very good at what he did.

Michael Parkinson with Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker in the BBC Night of 1000 Shows in 2000
He was just doing a job to the best of his ability so he couldn't understand why people made such a fuss of him

He was impossible to interview. He didn't like it. I tried twice and we were friends for a long time.

It was not because he was indifferent but he genuinely did not like talking about himself.

He couldn't think why there was all that fuss. He was just doing a job to the best of his ability so he couldn't understand why people made such a fuss of him.

Of course, he loved going back to Bafta last year and getting that big award because it was due recognition of his talent and the years he put into the business.

Generally speaking, he was an object lesson to a lot of people who seek the limelight with half his talent.

He lasted not because he was gentle but because he was hugely talented.

Ronnie had a regard for the written word and a good judgement about what worked and what didn't work.

He had years of experience to draw upon. He wasn't invented by television.

What you saw on television was the result of years and years of hard work in writing and performing comedy.

Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in 2004
My favourite character was Fletch in Porridge

He was the finished article when he appeared on television.

Earlier this year, he and Ronnie Corbett showed they still had it which is a lesson for programme makers, who've gone very far down the road of looking for the 16-30 audience.

They miss out on a larger audience, including myself, who sit there and relish the thought of two people as talented as those two coming back and doing another series.

They'd have to be very, very good at their jobs to do better or equal what those two did.

My favourite character was Fletch in Porridge. I thought it was a magnificent, rounded performance.

It was a wonderful comic creation, yet a fully fleshed out character.

You laughed at him but there was also something about him that was much deeper and profound.

That was Ronnie's talent. That was his genius.

Michael Parkinson was speaking to BBC News 24


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