- Category : Comedian
- Type : GE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Small (6,55)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Consciousness 4
Ronald Balfour "Ronnie" Corbett, OBE (born 4 December 1930) is a Scottish actor and comedian best known for his association with Ronnie Barker in the long-running British television comedy sketch series The Two Ronnies.
He first achieved prominence in David Frost's 1960s satirical comedy programme, The Frost Report and later played starring roles in the sitcoms Sorry! and No - That's Me Over Here!
Early life and career
Corbett was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of London-born Annie Elizabeth (Main) and William Balfour Corbett, master baker in 1930. He has a brother about six years younger, and a sister about ten years younger than himself. Corbett was educated at the Royal High School Edinburgh in the city, but did not attend university. After leaving school, he then decided he wanted to be an actor (while performing in amateur theatricals at a church youth club). However, his first job was with the Ministry of Agriculture. He then did his National Service with the RAF during which he was the shortest commissioned officer in the British Forces. After National Service he moved to London to pursue his acting ambition. Starting in 1952 his first foray into professional showbiz was playing schoolboy roles in films. At 5 ft 1½ in (1.562 m) tall, Corbett was ideally suited to playing younger than his years. References to his height - or lack thereof - frequently crop up in his self-deprecating humour.
He has worked in film, television and on stage since the 1950s. In his first stage co-starring appearance he was billed as Ronald Corbett, appearing at Cromer, North Norfolk in the show "Take it easy" in 1956 co-starring with Graham Stark. He appeared in Crackerjack as a regular in its early days, one episode with Winifred Atwell. He had a walk-on role in an early episode of the 1960s series The Saint (credited as 'Ronald Corbett') and made appearances in several 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).
In the 1960s he was appearing in cabaret at Winston's, Danny La Rue's Mayfair nightclub. This was very much the 'in' place and was patronised by the show business glitterati. It was here that Corbett was first seen by David Frost who asked him to appear in The Frost Report. Corbett's appearance was made possible by a career low point. In 1965 he was in the West End playing Will Scarlett in Lionel Bart's Robin Hood musical Twang!, which was expected to be a big hit, but it was a dismal failure, and its closure meant that Corbett was free to do The Frost Report.
Rise to fame
It was in The Frost Report (1966–1967) that Corbett first worked with Ronnie Barker. The writers and cast were mostly Oxbridge graduates who had come out of the Footlights tradition. Corbett has said that he and Barker were naturally drawn together as two Grammar school boys who had not gone to university in among a crowd of privately-educated graduates. The show was a mixture of satirical monologues, sketches and music and each show had a theme. It seems that even at this time - considerably before the idea of their own show was mooted - Corbett and Barker were beginning to be thought of as a pair.
Corbett and Barker appeared with John Cleese in one of the most famous and regularly repeated comedy sketches in British television history, the Class sketch, in which Corbett got the pay-off line: "I get a pain in the back of my neck."
Continuing under the auspices of Frost, Corbett next starred in No - That's Me Over Here!, a sitcom written by Frost Report writers Barry Cryer, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle (ITV 1967-1970). Cryer and Chapman then wrote two follow-up series: Now Look Here (BBC 1971-1973) and The Prince of Denmark (BBC 1974). Corbett also appeared in Frost on Sunday (ITV 1968) and hosted The Corbett Follies (ITV 1969).
The Two Ronnies
His BBC television comedy sketch show with Ronnie Barker, The Two Ronnies, lasted from 1971 to 1987. This show saw both Barker and Corbett performing various comedy sketches and musical numbers. Additionally, in the middle of the show, Corbett would present a lengthy monologue. Sitting in a large leather chair (emphasising his small size), and usually wearing a Lyle & Scott golfing V-neck sweater, he would tell a simple joke over the space of several minutes, often deliberately allowing himself to lose his train of thought. Although seemingly improvised, these were tightly scripted affairs.
His best known role away from The Two Ronnies is as Timothy Lumsden in the sitcom Sorry!.
In 1997, Corbett played the role of Reggie Sea Lions in the film Fierce Creatures, which also starred his former comedy teammate John Cleese.
He also hosted the game show Small Talk and has continued to play minor parts occasionally since the end of this – notably playing Griselda in a television production of Cinderella in 2000, and reviving his armchair monologue routines for a weekly guest appearance in a stand-up show hosted by Ben Elton, a lifelong fan.
In 2003 he appeared in a series of advertisements for the Sky+ digital television service alongside Alice Cooper. The premise was a running gag about them being blissfully happy housemates.
In December 2004, Corbett made an appearance as guest host on the popular BBC news quiz, Have I Got News For You.
In 2005 Corbett teamed up again with Ronnie Barker for a series of shows called The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, comprising selections of classic comedy sketches from their original series with original linking material. Also in 2005 Corbett appeared with comedian Peter Kay, another huge fan, in the spoof music video for the number 1 single Is This the Way to Amarillo?, mimed to the song by Tony Christie. Corbett is well remembered for falling over in the video.
He recently performed in Children's Party at the Palace as Mr. Tibbs, the Queen's butler.
In 2006, he played a hyper-realised version of himself in Extras, caught taking drugs at the BAFTA Awards. He also starred as himself in Little Britain Abroad, in which Bubbles DeVere tries (successfully) to seduce him.
He opened the Henry Blogg "the greatest lifeboatman of all time" centre in Cromer, North Norfolk. He has an affinity with Cromer and has returned previously in the 1970s to open the high school swimming pool.
Corbett was the "castaway" in the BBC Radio 4 show, Desert Island Discs, which was broadcast on 21 October 2007.
He featured as a Slitheen in a special Sarah Jane Adventures episode for Red Nose Day 2009.
He did a television interview about his life, broadcast on 7 November 2009 for Piers Morgan's Life Stories.
On 14 November 2009 he co-hosted Strictly Come Dancing alongside Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman. Regular host Bruce Forsyth was suffering from flu.
In February 2010 he was cast in a major role in the John Landis thriller comedy film Burke and Hare.
Corbett married actress and dancer Anne Hart in 1965, and they have two daughters, the actresses Emma Corbett and Sophie Corbett. Their first child, Andrew, had a heart problem and died, only 6 weeks old at St Thomas' Hospital.
He lives in Shirley, Croydon, London, where he has resided for many years. He also maintains a home in Gullane, East Lothian, in his native Scotland. He is a keen beekeeper and keeps hives at his East Lothian property.
Corbett is known as a keen golfer and regularly appears in celebrity and pro-am golfing events; in 2009 he made a documentary with Colin Montgomerie about the game in which they played a round at Gleneagles. He is also a past president of the Lord's Taverners (1982 and 1987).
He is a supporter of the Conservative Party.