Barry Cryer, comedian and writer who was the cornerstone of the hit radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue for half a century – obituary

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Barry Cryer, comedian and writer who was the cornerstone of the hit radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for half a century – obituary
© ITV/Shutterstock Barry Cryer in 1971 – ITV/Shutterstock

Barry Cryer, who has died aged 86, was one of Britain’s most talented comedy scriptwriters, a calling he successfully matched with appearances on television and radio panel games, most notably Radio 4’s anarchic weekly show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Starting as a stand-up comedian at the Windmill Theatre in the 1950s, he suffered so badly from a disfiguring form of eczema that he turned to writing instead. With his trademark shock of white hair, bulbous nose and ferocious eyebrows, Cryer later returned to the microphone, and as well as his radio dates had become a popular after-dinner speaker and regular pundit on the business of being funny.

Acclaimed as the grand old man of British comedy, he rather relished his hybrid status. Frank Muir called him a “good old workhorse”, while the younger generation of British comics regarded him as a folk memory incarnate or, as one of them put it, the “boilerman” of the business.

Global Tech News Daily

“I don’t know what rung of the ladder you’re on, but you’ve got it right,” Ronnie Corbett once told him. “Stay there.” Yet although he remained a comedy fixture for more than 30 years, Cryer maintained he had no real talent. “I feel a complete fraud,” he claimed, “I never intended to be a writer. I wanted to perform but I just didn’t have enough sparkle.”

Global Tech News Daily

What he did have was a seemingly inexhaustible fund of ad-libs and anecdotes, which he deployed on television shows such as Blankety Blank, Give Us A Clue and Punchlines, as well as radio regulars including Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, for which he was originally cast as co-chairman with Humphrey Lyttleton.

Cryer furnished material for performers as diverse as David Frost, Danny La Rue, Tommy Cooper and Kenny Everett. Usually working with a partner, most notably John Junkin, he co-wrote sketches for most of the popular television and radio comedy stars, including the two Ronnies (he devised the newsdesk format that opened and closed their television show), Morecambe and Wise and Les Dawson.

Barry Cryer, comedian and writer who was the cornerstone of the hit radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for half a century – obituary
© Provided by The Telegraph Cryer and schoolmates at Leeds Grammar – Julian Simmonds

But his relentless participation in all this merrymaking attracted criticism from at least one corner of Comedy Central. In 1985 the comedian Jimmy Tarbuck turned on Cryer, his fellow speaker at a charity lunch. “I’m speaking slowly so Cryer can write this down,” Tarbuck declared. “Go on, write it down.

“Last time I had dinner with Cryer,” Tarbuck added, “a week later he was doing my act.”

Barry Charles Cryer was born on March 23 1935 in Leeds. His father, Carl Cryer, an accountant and prominent local freemason, died when Barry was four. At Leeds grammar school young Barry had hopes of becoming a journalist, but the editor of his local newspaper pointed out that he was too old to start as a teaboy and too young to write articles. 

Instead he won an exhibition to Leeds University and read English Literature, but having spent most of his evening singing in jazz clubs and participating in student theatricals he failed his first year exams and left, taking a series of menial jobs before joining the council’s highways department as a clerk.

In 1956 he produced the university’s rag revue at the Leeds Empire, where his comedy act was spotted by Stanley Joseph, who ran the theatre with his brother, and offered a two-week booking at the City Varieties. Although this led to further bottom-of-the-bill bookings in other provincial theatres, Cryer soon returned to Leeds where he was offered a job as a stagehand at the Empire theatre where he had started.

Barry Cryer, comedian and writer who was the cornerstone of the hit radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for half a century – obituary
© Provided by The Telegraph With Michael Palin in 1968 in a pilot for what became Frost on Friday – ITV/Shutterstock

Moving to London the following year, at the suggestion of the magician David Nixon, Cryer still hoped to break into professional comedy, but suffered recurring attacks of the skin complaint psoriasis. This mutated into a severe case of atopic eczema, requiring hospital treatment. Eventually he accepted a three-minute spot as comic at the Windmill Theatre. “Bruce Forsyth was top of the bill,” he recalled, “and I was bottom. After a season I knew I didn’t have what it takes.”

Later in 1957 Cryer made his radio debut in the talent show Search For A Star. He won his round but was unable to take part in the finals – held at the BBC studios in Manchester – because the Windmill would not release him.

After further attacks of psoriasis, he left the Windmill, and in 1958 was cast in the West End musical Expresso Bongo. In 1960, working from a bedsitting room in north London, he started to write gags and scripts, some of which were used in revues at the Fortune Theatre. When the entertainer Danny La Rue saw his material, he invited Cryer to write a show for his new nightclub, launching a partnership that lasted 13 years.

Having had four of his sketches accepted for The Jimmy Logan Show, Cryer co-wrote See You Inside (1963), a revue he remembered because one of the sketches was banned by the Lord Chamberlain, “the only person in Britain,” as Cryer pointed out, “to imagine that Jackie Kennedy would be annoyed at being impersonated by Moira Lister”.

Barry Cryer, comedian and writer who was the cornerstone of the hit radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for half a century – obituary
© Provided by The Telegraph Cryer with his I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue colleagues, l-r, Graeme Garden, Humphrey Lyttelton and Tim Brooke-Taylor – Jeff Gilbert

In 1964 Cryer began his long association with David Frost, writing material for A Degree Of Frost and Not So Much A Programme, More A Way Of Life before becoming a full-time writer and warm-up man on The Frost Report. After two seasons, when Frost himself moved to ATV to make The Frost Programme, Cryer went with him. In 1967, with Graham Chapman, Cryer co-wrote a sitcom for Ronnie Corbett – No, That’s Me Over Here.

Throughout the 1970s Cryer continued to write for a wide range of television shows including the ill-fated Now Look Here (1971), Marty, Back Together Again and The Les Dawson Show (1973). In Jokers Wild, which he hosted on ITV, he wrote material for Tommy Cooper, Max Bygraves and Frankie Howerd.

In 1976 Cryer returned to performing with the short-lived Hello Cheeky, an ITV spin-off from a BBC radio show that failed to make a successful transition to television.

The following year Cryer struck a rich radio seam when he joined the Radio 4 panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, in which he was teamed with Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Willie Rushton. Although dismissed by one critic as “a collection of parlour games played by a collection of ageing 1960s humorists”, the show has now run for well over half a century. In the first series in 1972 Cryer had shared the role of chairman with Humphrey Lyttleton, but the producers decided he worked better as a panellist, a role he filled from 1977 for more than 40 years.

Barry Cryer, comedian and writer who was the cornerstone of the hit radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for half a century – obituary
© Provided by The Telegraph With Graeme Garden on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue in 2009 – BBC

On television in the 1980s he wrote for the comedians Kenny Everett and Russ Abbot, remaining in constant demand as a writer and after-dinner speaker. In 1991 Cryer returned to the stage to appear with Willie Rushton at the Edinburgh Festival, playing to full houses in the revue Two Old Farts In The Night. Later the pair toured with the show.

Cryer won many industry honours for his comedy writing, including Baftas, Writers’ Guild and Royal Society of Television awards. He was appointed OBE in 2001 and in 2018 the British Music Hall Society gave him a lifetime achievement award. He published a volume of memoirs, You Won’t Believe This But. in 1996, and a collection of anecdotes, Pigs Can Fly, in 1999.

In later years he was a stalwart of The Oldie, much in demand to act as MC at the magazine’s award lunches and dinners – at which frequently a cry would go up from the audience imploring him to tell one of his extended parrot jokes.

He reflected on having turned 86 with a characteristic wry gag: “My longevity is due to cigarettes and lager. I can’t account for it. It’s just a number. I don’t know how long I’ve got left. I don’t even buy green bananas.”

He never learnt to drive, and listed the study of public transport among his recreations.

Barry Cryer married, in 1962, the singer Terry Donovan, whom he met while working at Danny La Rue’s club, and who survives him with their three sons and a daughter.

Barry Cryer, born March 23 1935, death announced January 27 2022     

Sign up to the Front Page newsletter for free: Your essential guide to the day’s agenda from The Telegraph – direct to your inbox seven days a week.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

New York Rangers get another comeback win to force Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH — How many times can the New York Rangers dig themselves into a hole and climb back out? At least one more, as of Friday night. The Blueshirts came ... Read more »

Wilson, balanced Aces cruise to 96-73 victory over Dream

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — A’ja Wilson scored 15 points, Kelsey Plum had 14 points and 11 assists and the Las Vegas Aces rolled to a 96-73 victory over the ... Read more »

EXPLAINER: Why frustration lingers in Okinawa 50 years later

The Associated PressFILE – U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Anglen of Turner, Ore., center, stands atop a cliff as Sgt. Bryan Wallace of Pikin, Ill., waits for his turn before ... Read more »

Astros beat Nationals 6-1 for 11th straight victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep and the Houston Astros extended their winning streak to ... Read more »

Kreider scores late, Rangers edge Pens 5-3 to force Game 7

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Chris Kreider’s long slap shot bounced over Louis Domingue and into the net with 1:28 left and the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on ... Read more »

Astros push winning streak to 11, roll past Nationals 6-1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, and Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep to help the Houston Astros extend their winning ... Read more »

Moustakas, Drury power Reds to 8-2 victory over Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Moustakas homered twice and Brandon Drury drove in four runs to break out of a slump and lead the resurgent Cincinnati Reds to an 8-2 victory ... Read more »

Peterson's bases-loaded walk lifts Brewers over Marlins 2-1

MIAMI (AP) — Jace Peterson walked against Anthony Bender with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 Friday night. After starters ... Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during manager Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Ogunbowale, Gray help Wings rally past Mystics, 94-86

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arike Ogunbowale scored 27 points, Allisha Gray had 21 and the Dallas Wings overcame a 15-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Washington Mystics 94-86 on Friday night. ... Read more »

Resigning North Dakota senator led lawmakers in travel costs

The Associated PressFILE – North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg listens during a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on Jan. 7, 2009. Holmberg, ... Read more »

Residents in picturesque California county hit with gas prices topping $7 a gallon

A California county known for its spectacular mountains and proximity to Yosemite National Park has been paying the nation’s highest gas prices. Read more »

Boudreau to return as coach of Canucks next season

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Bruce Boudreau will return as coach of the Vancouver Canucks next season after helping to turn the struggling NHL club around as a midyear replacement. ... Read more »

New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern tests positive for COVID

On Location: May 13, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has tested positive for COVID-19 ... Read more »

Today in History for May 14th

Highlights of this day in history: Colonists go ashore in Virginia to set up Jamestown; Lewis and Clark begin to explore Louisiana Territory; Israel founded; Skylab launched; Movie producer George ... Read more »

Twitter CEO expects Elon Musk acquisition to close, addresses spending cuts

Musk is awaiting details supporting calculations that spam, fake accounts represent less than 5% of Twitter's users Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Renovated NYC museum shows indigenous perspectives

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City recently finished a major renovation of its exhibition on the native peoples of the northwest coast of North America. Curators ... Read more »

Police release 911 calls in Gilgo Beach case

A woman who disappeared in a beach community on New York’s Long Island more than a decade ago, sparking an investigation into a possible serial killer, said “there’s somebody after ... Read more »

Academy Awards set 2023 Oscars for March 12

The Associated PressFILE – Oscar statue on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Next year’s Academy Awards will ... Read more »

Actor Fred Ward, of 'Tremors,' 'The Right Stuff' fame, dies

The Associated PressFILE – Fred Ward, a cast member in “30 Minutes or Less,” poses at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2011. Ward, a ... Read more »

Judge refuses to drop elections suit against Trump, media

NEW YORK — A Colorado judge on Friday denied motions to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by an election systems worker against former President Donald Trump’s campaign, two of its ... Read more »

Q&A: Becky G unveils every side of herself in latest album

The Associated PressFILE – Becky G appears at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. Beck G’s latest album is “Esquemas.” (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) NEW YORK ... Read more »

North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak. Read more »

North Korea confirms 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says 21 people died and 174,440 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Friday alone as the country scrambles to slow the spread ... Read more »

White Sox place Giolito on COVID list, activate Vaughn

The Chicago White Sox placed ace Lucas Giolito on the COVID-19 injured list and activated outfielder Andrew Vaughn following a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte on Friday. Giolito began experiencing ... Read more »

Traded back and forth, Ford learns to live out of suitcase

NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Ford has learned to travel light — and quickly. Since the start of the season, the 29-year-old first baseman has played for Tacoma, San Francisco ... Read more »

Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 53 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from California on Friday. (May 13) Read more »

Celtics' Robert Williams remains out for Game 6 vs. Bucks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Boston forward/center Robert Williams missed his third straight game with an injured left knee as the Celtics tried to keep their season alive Friday night in Game ... Read more »

Padres sign Robinson Canó, plan to use him off the bench

ATLANTA (AP) — The San Diego Padres have signed veteran second baseman Robinson Canó to a major league contract and plan to use him as a left-handed bat off the ... Read more »

WNBA star's Russia detention extended by 1 month

The lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner says her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month. Alexander Boykov told The Associated Press the relatively short extension indicated ... Read more »

Louisiana justices toss COVID-related charges against pastor

Hundreds of thousands of Americans fighting long-haul symptoms from COVID-19 Dr. David Putrino from Mount Sinai Health System and COVID long-hauler Joel Fram discuss the long-term effects of the disease.The ... Read more »

Sandy Hook lawsuits against Alex Jones on track to resume

The Associated PressFILE – This Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, photo shows radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones at Capitol Hill in Washington. The Sandy Hook families’ lawsuits against ... Read more »

Rockies' Bryant closer to return after cortisone shot

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies outfielder Kris Bryant took swings in the cage Friday for the first time since he was sidelined with a sore back nearly three weeks ago ... Read more »

Mariners demote Jarred Kelenic to minors after poor start

NEW YORK (AP) — Rather than make his Citi Field debut against the team that traded him, Jarred Kelenic was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners on Friday ... Read more »

Biden: ASEAN partnership 'critical' in this moment

Looking to strengthen ties, President Joe Biden welcomes leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to Washington for the first time. “We’re launching a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations,” ... Read more »

Phil Mickelson will not defend his title at next week's PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson caught lightning in a bottle last year at Kiawah Island, winning a major championship at 50 years of age. The fairways flooded, and the golf world stood and ... Read more »

Tennessee Titans' Malik Willis on Ryan Tannehill's mentorship comments: 'Everything is cool'

The Tennessee Titans didn’t take issue with Ryan Tannehill’s comments about mentoring third-round rookie Malik Willis. Willis and coach Mike Vrabel were asked about Tannehill’s scrutinized remarks following the first ... Read more »

Lawyers plan suit against Lufthansa over Jewish passengers

Lawyers for 26 passengers said Friday they told Lufthansa that they will sue the German airline for refusing to let members of a large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers board ... Read more »

Wild face offseason after yet another early ouster

While the Minnesota Wild were stacking up franchise records and securing the extra home game for the first round, general manager Bill Guerin carefully acknowledged a “great year” for the ... Read more »