Ronnie Corbett's 'emotional' return to Christmas TV

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Ronnie Corbett has admitted he felt "slightly disloyal" working on a new Christmas show without his late comedy partner Ronnie Barker.

Corbett has teamed up with younger comedians for his new Christmas day show, The One Ronnie.

Barker and Corbett's show The Two Ronnies was a staple of festive TV schedules since it began in the 1970s.

The comedy duo last appeared on TV together in The Two Ronnies Christmas Sketchbook in 2005.

The show was screened after Barker's death in October that year.

In an interview with Mark Lawson for BBC Radio Four's Front Row, Corbett admitted to divided loyalties while making The One Ronnie.

"I suppose a bit of me every now and again felt slightly disloyal doing it with other folk, but I enjoyed it very much."

'It's goodnight from me'

The show was commissioned to celebrate Ronnie Corbett's 80th birthday and was produced by Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

Image caption,
Ronnie Corbett's monologue, which features a long and rambling story, is returning

Ronnie confessed he felt emotional making a Christmas show without Barker.

"It was really quite touching and at the end it was difficult for me not to be saying, 'And it's goodnight from me and it's goodnight from him'. So yes, it really was quite touching."

The show's structure is very similar to The Two Ronnies, featuring Ronnie Corbett's chair monologue and ending with a musical number.

In the show sketches range from a superannuated superhero to a stage-struck dog.

Corbett dons a variety of guises, dressing as a woman and appearing as an ageing rocker reuniting with a former bandmate, played by James Corden.

In a scene reminiscent of the famous Two Ronnies Four Candles/Fork Handles sketch there is a scene in a grocer's with Harry Enfield playing the shopkeeper role.

Among Corbett's other co-stars are Catherine Tate, Rob Brydon, Miranda Hart, Charlotte Church, Robert Lindsay, Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

Corbett revealed the show was the Little Britain stars' idea: "I have done bits with them and it was their idea to collect together as many people in today's world who would be willing to have a go with me, which was very exciting really."

It is the second time Corbett has worked with Walliams and Lucas, having appeared as himself in Little Britain Abroad in 2006.

The comic has become good friends with the Little Britain stars, attending Walliams' wedding to model Lara Stone in 2010.

New humour

He also counts Corden and Brydon as friends and disputed newspaper reports that said he was not a fan of younger comedians.

"There was a story saying I didn't like contemporary comedians but it's completely untrue - a lot of them are very dear friends of mine," he said.

Corbett had been quoted as saying younger comedians were crude and vulgar but he says that is not the case: "No I don't think that, one or two of them maybe, but I don't think that."

He said he was a regular visitor to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, with his grandson Tom, to watch new comedians.

He also enjoys the special treatment he receives as an elder statesman of comedy, where he is ushered in to shows first ahead of the crowds.

He recalled comedian Ed Byrne's shock when the Irish comic went out on stage to look at the venue and Corbett and his grandson were the only people in the audience.

"It was a funny moment to see him catch my eye in the empty auditorium seeing my little face."

Corbett said it was "fascinating" to spend so long with Walliams and Lucas.

But while he enjoyed working with the younger comedians, he said he never thought of forming another double act after Ronnie Barker retired.

"I avoided thoughts of it because it had been such a happy and supportive collaboration that we had, that I would miss his advice and his touch.

Image caption,
Sketches in The One Ronnie include a superannuated super-hero and a stage-struck dog

"The people who used to write for us I thought would feel that they were working on a slightly damaged idea, as half was not there, and I felt probably a bit of that myself."

However, Corbett insists The One Ronnie is not the start of a new run of comedy shows.

"I couldn't bear the strain of looking for so much more material," he said.

He is not retiring completely and has not ruled out more TV appearances if the BBC asks.

"I might say, well, I wouldn't mind contemplating a half hour of some sort, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Hear the full interview on Front Row on BBC Radio 4 on Friday 17 December at 1915 GMT or listen again on BBC iPlayer.

The One Ronnie will be broadcast on BBC One on Saturday 25 December at 1710 GMT.

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