Goodbye Cheeky: Barry Cryer R.I.P.

A moment or two ago, I caught up with the news that comedy legend Barry Cryer, one of the world’s most naturally funny men, had died peacefully at the age of 86. As a writer and as a performer, he could make me laugh with everything he said. His record, and the number of people he worked with, is beyond impressive.

But in an instant, I was taken back to 1973, to BBC Radio 2 at 2.00pm on Saturday afternoons, and to a little-regarded, barely remembered half hour radio comedy unfder the name of Hello Cheeky. It was wsritten and performed by Cryer along with John Junkin and Tim Brooke-Taylor. We would be at my Gran’s for Saturday dinner, and the meal would finish in time for me to sneak off into the armchair at the back of the room, in the corner, affix the little earphone into the transistor radio and curl up, invisible but not inaudible, because for the next thirty minutes, week in, week out, I would laugh myself sick.

It wasn’t a sophisticated joke. Most of it was one liners, with puns and twists and jokes hurtling at you relentlessly, to such an extent that by the time you’d finished laughing at one joke, another three would have flashed by you. I loved it. It was the first time I was exposed to Barry Cryer.

Later, Yorkshire TV put them on the air to do the same thing but it didn’t come over as well, for this was radio comedy at its purest, where the pictures are all in your mind and all the better for it.

One episode featured a sketch about, I think, Jack the Ripper. I had taped that episode and replayed it a dozen times. I can still recall the opening, word for word.

My name is Scarf, Inspector Scarf. I thought I’d get a gag in early. This case began one day when I was sat at my desk in the Yard – next year they’ve promised me an office. There was a knock on the barbed wire and my Sergeant entered with bleeding knuckles…

Maybe that doesn’t leave you howling like it did me and maybe it’s not only because you don’t hear the voices like I do, but Barry Cryer and his two team-mates made me laugh every week, for thirty exhausting minutes that I remember still so vividly, and I loved him for it. He was a comedy God and now he’s gone. One by one the stars are going out…

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