RIP Barry Cryer – A Comic Gem

 Barry Cryer – A Celebration

This is a personal appreciation written by comedy writer, producer, performer and novelist Dave Cohen.

Barry Cryer spent more than six decades as one of the most sought-after joke writers in the business. He began his career working in the comedy shows that took place between the acts at London’s striptease theatres, but found his way into writing for TV when a number of his Soho colleagues, including Bruce Forsyth and Ronnie Corbett, became big stars.

But Barry wasn’t just old school. I first met Barry in 1985, when he’d been brought in to write with us on Rory Bremner’s TV show. Like Rory, we were all young and alternative, and were initially wary of a man whom we associated with the old world of northern clubs and frilly-shirted comedians. We needn’t have worried. Barry’s ridiculous jokes, hilarious anecdotes and cigarette laugh set the tone for the series, one of the most enjoyable I ever worked on.

I saw him frequently in the 1980s and 1990s. He always came to the Edinburgh fringe, came to all our shows, was generous with praise and silently smiling if he had none to give.

When he died, there were a lot of tributes from younger writers and comics who said ‘I was lucky enough to work with Barry’: because he never stopped working, never stopped being curious about new work. Barry was a constant inspiration to new writers and performers, a treasure trove of comic history, with stories stretching back to the years he spent working with such legends as Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise, Reggie Perrin writer David Nobbs and Tony Hancock’s writers Galton and Simpson. Post-war, Python, alternative comedy – Barry was at home writing in all of these worlds.

I only ever made one show as a BBC radio producer . It was with Barry and top music comedians Ronnie Golden and John Dowie. One of Barry’s jokes in the show was “I’m 66. Someone called me middle-aged. That must mean I’m going to live to be 132.” I was beginning to think he would.

[Editor’s note: Barry’s contribution to British film comedy is a bit unclear. He was a modest man and a silent fixer of duff scripts, who may have done a little bit in the background. Wikipedia provides this anecdote: ‘Cryer joined the cast of Expresso Bongo (1957) with Susan HampshireMillicent Martin and Paul Scofield, during which he recorded the song “The Purple People Eater“, best known in the version by Sheb Wooley. For contractual reasons, Wooley’s version was never released in Scandinavia, Cryer’s was, and reached number one in Finland.’

You can find more about Barry at

Rest In Peace Barry Cryer, your humour and jokes live on and the fun and laughter you brought will always linger in the air and archives.

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