I knew Barry Cryer, ‘Baz’, for over forty years, while writing on various comedy shows, bumping into him in TV Studio’s, events and the after dinner speaking circuit. We became close friends. The trips to his favourite pub (The Moon & Sixpence), the chat, stories and banter were simply wonderful. I will miss him tremendously. Jack Dee describing him as ‘An honorary uncle to countless comics’
Barry wrote material for an amazing list of comedians, starting with; Danny La Rue, Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Les Dawson, David Frost, The Two Ronnies, Mike Yarwood, Jim Davidson, Rory Bremner, Jasper Carrott, Russ Abbot and many more. During a long association with ATV, he also wrote for; Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Phil Silvers, Richard Pryor and dozens of other stars. Barry has also co-scripted sitcoms, including ‘Doctor In The House’ (1971-74) and ‘Langley Bottom’ (1986) with Bernard Cribbins.
Starting Stand Up
As a performer, Barry brought his quick wit and infectious giggle to practically every classic TV panel show. Including: ‘Jokers Wild’, ‘Blankety Blank’, ‘Give us a Clue’, ‘That’s Showbusiness’ and ‘Just a Minute’. He has also acted in many TV comedy shows and as a champion of emerging talent; host of the BBC’s ‘Stand Up Show’, featuring up and coming talent from the comedy clubs.
Born in Leeds in 1935, Barry Cryer attended Leeds University, reading English Literature; but was more interested in performing. After appearing in the university revue, Barry was offered a week’s work at the Leeds City Varieties theatre. The future home of BBC’s ‘The Good Old Days’; in which Barry was to make several comedy appearances, over many years.
After viewing his first year results, Barry Cryer left university and travelled to London. Successfully auditioning for Vivian Van Damm, who booked him as the lowest billing act at the Windmill Theatre in London’s West End. This venue showed comedy acts in between nude tableau shows. Giving experience to new comics, several going on to make a name for themselves, such as: Tony Hancock, Tommy Cooper, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dick Emery and Bruce Forsyth.
Barry Cryer Comedy Writer
Barry’s first writing credits were four sketches for ‘The Jimmy Logan Show’. He went on to become head writer (with the odd stage role now and again) for Danny La Rue’s London nightclub; working with a young Ronnie Corbett. There he and Ronnie were spotted by TV Executive David Frost. This led to a writing role on the variety special ‘A Degree of Frost’, which in turn led to him joining the writing team on ‘The Frost Report’ (1966–67). The team also included: John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman. Frost used Barry Cryer on a number of subsequent shows, which established himself as a star comedy writer in the 1970’s.
Barry Cryer says he prefers to write with a partner, and in the 1970’s he teamed up with John Junkin. The pair wrote some of The Morecambe and Wise Show in its heyday (1972 and 1976 Christmas shows); when regular writer Eddie Braben was unavailable. The pair became the regular writers, when the famous comedy duo (M&W) moved on to Thames ITV in 1978.
Not Just Writing
Known mainly as a comedy writer, Barry Cryer still enjoys performing and often combining both. Appearing with Tim Brooke Taylor and John Junkin, in the BBC radio series ‘Hello, Cheeky’ (BBC Radio 1976). He also appeared in the comedy TV series ‘The Steam Video Company’ Barry hosted the ITV comedy panel show ‘Jokers Wild’ (ITV 1969–74), ‘What’s on Next’ (ITV 1976-78), ‘Who do you do’ (ITV 1972) and had a role in ‘All You Need Is Cash’; a spoof documentary about the Beatles parody band the Rutles. As well as a cameo as a police inspector, in Kenny Everett’s 1984 horror spoof film ‘Bloodbath at the House of Death’, which Barry wrote with Ray Cameron.
Cryer joined the stage cast of Expresso Bongo (1957) with Susan Hampshire, Millicent Martin and Paul Scofield, during which he recorded the song “Purple People Eater”, made famous by Sheb Wooley. For contractual reasons, Wooley’s version was never released in Scandinavia, but Cryer’s was, and reached number one in Finland. The song was later recorded by Russ Abbot (1981)
Barry was also chairman at the Players Theatre in London. Where Music Hall lives on, with footage of him ‘in the act’, shown in the film ‘A Little of What you Fancy’ a doc on Music Hall. In 1972 Barry was one of the panellists on the BBC radio comedy show ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’; which is still going strong today and seen as a radio classic.
With changes in TV comedy during the 90’s, Barry refocused his career to include more performance. Touring with Willie Rushton in ‘Two Old Farts in the Night’; and after Rushton’s death, a solo show ‘That Reminds Me’, which was later released as a recording.
Barry Cryer Writing The Writer
Barry has written his autobiography called ‘You Won’t Believe This But’, as well as a book of miscellaneous anecdotes ‘Pigs Can Fly’ (2005). He toured the UK with ‘The First Farewell Tour’, and has worked with the comedian Ronnie Golden; in various Edinburgh Festival shows and tours.
He was the subject of BBC’s ‘This Is Your Life’ in 1995, and was awarded an OBE in 2001. Barry is a member of the Lords Taverners, as well as the charity Grand Order of Water Rats. In 2017, Barry received an Honorary Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) from the University of Leeds.
Barry Cryer remains a very popular after dinner speaker and TV & Radio personality. Delighting audiences up and down the country, with stories of the many people he has worked with and written for.
Barry has been married to wife Theresa, known as Terry since 1962. She was a singer. On the day they met he was also introduced to Ronnie Corbett (lifetime friend & colleague). Barry and Terry set up home in Maida Vale before moving out to Hatch End in 1967. The area was recommended to him by friend Ronnie Barker who drove Barry around the area looking at houses. Barker himself living nearby. Barry has four children, three sons – Tony, Dave and Bob (also a performer / writer), and a daughter Jackie. They also have seven grandchildren and as of 2018 one great-grandchild.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He’s lectured at University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences. He has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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