04 October 2005

Brief Tribute to Ronnie Barker

I was sad to note the death of Ronnie Barker this morning (Ronnie was a very popular UK comedian to anyone reading outside the UK).

Just like Richie Benaud (still in this world, but gone from our screens) who I wrote about earlier, Ronnie is one of those characters who's been around my whole life. I'm not a mad fan of any of his series, but whenever I watch them it is quite clear that he had a mastery of timing. He also had the common touch - you felt he was one of you (even if the prison he inhabited in Porridge was a Daily Mail-sanitised version of reality).

I was also thinking though about what a difference a generation makes. Ronnie was one of our most successful comedians (and actors even). He worked hard - even into retirement; he was famous and well-loved throughout the country. But he wasn't a celebrity. We knew little or nothing of his private life. We didn't care, and I'm sure he preferred it that way. Did he make a lot less money than he might have done because that's the way it was? Did he have less fame? He was a normal person with a life that just happened to be a very good comedian and on our tv sets in the homes of half the population.

Our lives have been enriched because of him, and I'm sure he's had a great life too (and a somewhat private one). While I relish change and like to encourage it, our society has gone backwards in needing to create celebrities, pump them, exploit them, and then trash them. To me, Ronnie Barker epitomises one aspect of British life that I wish we could return to.

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