I was beginning to think nobody was going to pay attention. Barry Cryer died several weeks ago and I expected a flurry of tributes; special editions of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue or reminiscences by old colleagues, but found only radio silence. Finally today I came across a radio 4 tribute, Cryering with Laughter, presented by Jack Dee and featuring numerous people who’d worked with him. It’s an entertaining listen featuring many of his favourite jokes, but there was one story I liked the best. Cryer was one of a kind; old-school in the same way as, say, The Goodies (yet not quite so corny) but devoid of sexism or racism and always interested in up-and-coming comedians. One of his friends was Kenny Everett and he tells this story about Ken’s TV show, in which he was involved:
‘Kenny used to have a character called Cupid Stunt. After the first series Bill Cotton (a bigwig in the BBC) collared me and said look, we can’t have this kind of Spoonerism on the BBC. He’ll have to change it. I said OK, and in the second series Kenny changed the character’s name to Mary Hinge. Bill Cotton came over. See? he said. You don’t have to be rude to be funny.’
Like Jack Dee and many others, Cryer was great at self-deprecation. When asked which series of a radio show he’d liked best he said, ‘the third – because I was just beginning to get the hang of it.’
For Cryering With Laughter is a great listen, featuring colleagues such as Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry, Andy Hamilton and Jo Brand. Go forth and seek it out, I command you.