Barry inspired generations, says NI funnyman Jimmy Cricket
Veteran comedian writer and performer Barry Cryer has been described as the “godfather of laughter” who inspired generations, by Northern Ireland’s Jimmy Cricket.
Throughout his seven-decade career, Cryer, who passed away on Tuesday aged 86, appeared on stage, screen and radio, and wrote jokes for countless household names.
Paying tribute, his family recalled his “gift for friendship and a genius for putting people at ease”.
Cryer was born in Leeds and studied English literature at the University of Leeds.
He had a long-running partnership with Sir David Frost, with their collaborations including The Frost Report on the BBC.
He was also a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue for more than four decades.
Cryer wrote for many veterans of British comedy, including Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Sir Billy Connolly and Tommy Cooper.
In 2018, he was handed a lifetime achievement award for his comedy career by the British Music Hall Society.
Cryer was made an OBE in 2001 and was also a member of the entertainment charity the Grand Order of Water Rats.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Cookstown comedian Jimmy Cricket said Cryer would have “bemoaned the fact” there were not enough visual comedians when he met him at the Edinburgh Comedy Fringe a number of years ago.
“When Sir Ken Dodd turned 90 I met him again and we would have had a bit of banter,” he recalled.
“I did admire him obviously, he was the godfather of laughter and inspired generations. He was embraced by the younger comedians which is wonderful as well.
“The CV is there for everyone to see. You have Morecambe and Wise, Dick Emery — it’s just a litany of great comedy that he put his pen to.”
After watching a BBC News video tribute to Cryer, Mr Cricket said he would have loved to have seen old footage of him performing on the music variety show The Good Old Days.
From 1953 to 1983, the BBC show featured entertainers who performed musical, comedy, magic and recitation acts in Edwardian costume.
“Barry made a couple of appearances as a Scotsman,” explained Mr Cricket. “He would have came out and done some gags in the kilt and the big tartan hat.
“That would have been lovely to include because people would have actually seen him do his stand up as opposed to his I’m Sorry I Haven't A Clue on Radio 4.
“He did a lot of radio and hosting of shows such as panel games and interviews.
“I remember seeing him on The Good Old Days because it’s something else, you know? People would have been used to him being a writer.
“He was just banging out the one-liners in the City Varieties in Leeds on that show as well.”
Other tributes from comedians and presenters across the UK poured in for Cryer.
Monty Python star John Cleese said: “Just heard about Barry Cryer. We worked together on the Frost Report, The 1948 Show, and Jokers Wild.
“I never met a nicer, kinder, more cheerful man. Feeling sick. RIP old friend.”
Actor Rob Brydon tweeted a photo showing him at lunch with Cryer, David Mitchell and Lee Mack, writing: “So terribly sad to hear the news.
“A great man it was my life enhancing pleasure to know and call a friend.
“This was taken at the most enjoyable story rich lunch just last year RIP #BarryCryer”
TV presenter Lorraine Kelly tweeted: “Oh bugger. He was one of the REALLY good guys. Very sad #celebratebaz”
Comedian Victoria Coren Mitchell, who is married to Peep Show actor David Mitchell, shared a photo of Cryer at their wedding.
She said: “How young we all were! Except Barry, obviously.
“I was so proud to have him there, and it made my father feel closer. He was a lovely lovely man and this is a very sad day.”
Mitchell said he was “so proud” to have known the veteran comic, adding in a tweet: “He was a brilliant man and a bringer of huge joy who never stopped being delighted by comedy. What an amazing life.”
Fellow comic Tim Vine recalled the support Cryer had offered him.
“Just a little story about Barry Cryer’s generosity of spirit,” he said.
“After the first of my radio 4 chat shows finished the phone immediately rang. It was Barry telling me how much he enjoyed it.
“He was always encouraging and always funny. And crikey, what an amazing career. RIP Barry.”
Mayor of West Yorkshire, former Labour MP and actress Tracy Brabin, tweeted: “Very sad to hear the news of Barry Cryer’s death, a true #WestYorkshire legend.”