Ronald Balfour Corbett was born on 4 December 1930 in Edinburgh. The name was shortened to Ronnie Corbett when it became clear that he would never grow into it. At 5' 0" tall, Ronnie Corbett is almost as famous for his brief stature as he is for his outlandishly lengthy monologues. These days he's remarkably unfashionable, being one of the old crowd of comedians who relied on tight scripts and "ha ha" punchlines, rather than the often mad, wild ramblings of today's comedy glitterati. But speak to any British comedian who's anyone today, and they'll site Ronald Balfour Corbett, OBE, as one of their heroes. After all, he might not be big, but he's awfully clever.
Momma's little boy
Though Corbett has appeared on TV thousands of times as himself, he's well remembered for playing Timothy Lumsden, the 40-something librarian that just could not get shot of his maternal home. His harpy-esque mother, played by Barbara Lott (Coronation Street, 2point4 Children), sunk her talons in and held on, like an Osprey seizing a particularly succulent mouse. It was hard to sympathise with a man who would stay loyal to such a beastly woman, but it was easy to laugh at him. Sitting alongside Timothy in mutual miserable oppression was his downtrodden father, played by William Moore (Coronation Street, Emmerdale). The series lasted for seven years, from 1981 to 1988, until the writers finally took pity on Timothy, and let him make a break for it.
A small technicality
Despite his success in sitcom land, it was while playing himself that Corbett became big news. Throughout their burgeoning careers, Corbett and Ronnie Barker had been thrown together. It all finally gelled in the early 70s when Ronnie and Ronnie were asked to host the BAFTA Awards. A major technical cock-up meant that they were left hanging for several minutes, and had to fill the time with ad-lib. They did such a great job that the heads of BBC Light Entertainment offered them their own show. So it was that in 1971, The Two Ronnies were born. The show lasted for 12 series and numerous one-off specials, and was beloved around the world. One of the most fruitful British comedy partnerships of all time, The Two Ronnies sadly came to an end with the death of Ronnie Barker in 2005. A brief history
Corbett is more than just the diminutive half of a two-man team. Here are a few of his more notable TV roles. Crackerjack! (1950), alongside Leslie Crowther, Michael Aspel, Eamonn Andrews It's Tarbuck! (1966), Jimmy Tarbuck's first own-show No, That's Me Over Here (1967), written by, among others, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle The Frost Report (1968), starring David Frost, and the historic writing team of Michael Palin, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle Ronnie Corbett in Bed (1971), written by Spike Mullins, Barry Cryer and Eric Idle The Ronnie Corbett Show (1987), again with writers Mullins and Cryer The Ben Elton Show (1998), featuring Corbett's rambling Ronnie in the Chair.
Short sound bytes
Of the 60s: "One knew villains at that time... I did know a few of the Great Train Robbers quite well, Bruce Reynolds in particular. Those kind of people looked after you a bit when you were out and about." Of modern comedy: "It's a dazzling new style. I love it all. They're the most off-the-wall people, whereas I am very firmly on the wall. I look at them and think, 'if only I could do that'."
Of his height: "I'm so short, I'm the only citizen in the UK with a full length photo in their passport!"