Ronnie Corbett, the comedian best known as one half of The Two Ronnies, has died aged 85, his publicist has confirmed.
“Ronnie Corbett CBE, one of the nation’s best-loved entertainers, passed away this morning, surrounded by his loving family,” read a statement. “They have asked that their privacy is respected at this very sad time.”
Corbett made a number of television and film appearances during the late 1950s and early 60s but it was meeting with Ronnie Barker on satirical show The Frost Report in 1966 that was to launch the careers that would make them both household names.
Corbett said the two were drawn to one another as the only non-university graduates in a show that was largely populated with Oxbridge Footlights alumni, such as John Cleese with whom the pair starred in the programme’s famous Class Sketch.
Corbett fronted his own sketch show, The Corbett Follies, in 1969 but it was his partnership with Barker in The Two Ronnies that cemented his position as a fixture on British TV screens.
The series ran on BBC1 every year from 1971 until 1987 and featured the pair’s trademark blend of sketches, musical comedy and wordplay, along with celebrity guests who added to its variety feel.
Perhaps their most celebrated sketch is the Fork Handles skit set in a hardware store.
After the Two Ronnies, Corbett continued to make regular TV appearances, including in the BBC sitcom Sorry!, in which he played a middle-aged man living at home with his domineering mother, and in a stand-up show hosted by Ben Elton which saw him revive his famous “shaggy-dog tales”, the armchair monologues with which he had often signed off The Two Ronnies. In 2006, he made a memorable appearance as a larger than life version of himself, attending the Baftas, in Ricky Gervais’s comedy series Extras.
Corbett is survived by his wife Anne, with whom he recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, and their two daughters, actors Emma and Sophie Corbett.