Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Corbett, Ronnie (1930-)

Actor, Presenter

Main image of Corbett, Ronnie (1930-)

Diminutive Ronnie Corbett, the son of a baker, pursued his dream of becoming an actor for many years until in the 1970s he was teamed with Ronnie Barker and found fame as one half of the celebrated Two Ronnies (BBC, 1971-1987). The series showcased both actors' versatility in sketches and musical numbers. Corbett in particular shone, sitting in his armchair telling rambling comic monologues concerning himself, his wife and his producer.

Born in Edinburgh on 4 December 1930, it was playing a wicked aunt for the church youth club at the age of 16 that made him decide to become an actor. The theatre world had to wait, as he worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and then did National Service with the RAF, after which he moved to London. Films were his first port of call with his size landing him schoolboy roles; You're Only Young Once (d. Terry Bishop, 1952) and Top of the Form (d. John Paddy Carstairs, 1953). Between the odd summer season and concert party, his other sources of income were as a tennis court supervisor and barman at the actor's club The Buckstone.

Comedian Digby Wolfe gave his career a boost by casting him as the valet in the sitcom Sheep's Clothing (BBC, 1957). The pair had previously worked together on The Yana Show (BBC). At this time he began the first of three series as the resident comic on Crackerjack (BBC, 1955 - 84). However it was working at the Mayfair nightclub Winston's that gave him his biggest career break when he was spotted by David Frost. Corbett was put into Frost's new programme The Frost Report (BBC, 1966-67) where he would perform satirical sketches with John Cleese and Ronnie Barker.

This was the turning point in his career, with Frost's guiding hand giving him his first starring vehicle sitcom No - That's Me Over Here! (ITV, 1967-70). The series' writers Barry Cryer and Graham Chapman also wrote Now Look Here... (BBC, 1971 - 73) and its sequel The Prince of Denmark (BBC, 1974) for Corbett. Following Frost on Sunday (ITV, 1968), Corbett hosted and performed in his own series The Corbett Follies (ITV, 1969) and as a prelude to The Two Ronnies, Barker guested in Corbett's one-off sketch show Ronnie Corbett In Bed (BBC, tx. 27/3/1971). Throughout The Two Ronnies' successful run, Corbett starred in his own comedy specials and he hit comedy gold with his long-running sitcom Sorry! (BBC, 1981-88, in which he was perfectly cast as mummy's boy, Timothy Lumsden.

The Two Ronnies ended when Barker took early retirement. Corbett, though, has continued to pop up on screens small and large; he presented the children's based quiz Small Talk (BBC, 1993-96), revived his monologue in the chair routine for The Ben Elton Show (BBC, 1998), worked with sea lions in Fierce Creatures (d. Fred Schepisi/Robert Young, 1997) and teamed up with Ronnie Barker for a final swansong The Two Ronnies Sketchbook (BBC, 2005).

Graham Rinaldi

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Fun at St. Fanny's (1956)Fun at St. Fanny's (1956)

Slapstick comedy in a boys' school, with one surprisingly grown-up pupil

Thumbnail image of Crackerjack (1955-84)Crackerjack (1955-84)

BBC children's variety series, featuring comedy, music and games

Thumbnail image of Frost Report, The (1966-67)Frost Report, The (1966-67)

Topical comedy show, a successor to the more famous TW3

Thumbnail image of Two Ronnies, The (1971-86)Two Ronnies, The (1971-86)

Hugely popular sketch series uniting Ronnies Barker and Corbett

Related collections

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Barker, Ronnie (1929-2005)Barker, Ronnie (1929-2005)

Actor, Writer, Presenter