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Barry Cryer

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Barry Cryer
Cryer during a recording of You'll Have Had Your Tea for BBC Radio 4 in 2006
Birth nameBarry Charles Cryer
Born(1935-03-23)23 March 1935
Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died25 January 2022(2022-01-25) (aged 86)
Harrow, London, England
Theresa Donovan
(m. 1962)
Notable works and rolesI'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (1972–2022)

Barry Charles Cryer OBE (23 March 1935 – 25 January 2022) was an English writer, comedian, and actor. As well as performing on stage, radio and television, Cryer wrote for many performers including Dave Allen, Stanley Baxter, Jack Benny, Rory Bremner, George Burns, Jasper Carrott, Tommy Cooper, Ronnie Corbett, Les Dawson, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Bruce Forsyth, David Frost, Bob Hope, Frankie Howerd, Richard Pryor, Spike Milligan, Mike Yarwood, The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise.[1]

Early life[edit]

Barry Charles Cryer was born on 23 March 1935 in Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, to John Cryer, an accountant, who died when Barry was five, and his wife, Jean. After an education at Leeds Grammar School, he began studying English literature at the University of Leeds.[2][3][4] He later described himself as a university dropout: "I was supposed to be studying English Literature at Leeds, but I was in the bar and chasing girls and my first-year results showed it. So I'm 'BA Eng. Lit. failed' of Leeds."[5]


Cryer was a writer for Leeds-based Proscenium Players, the first Jewish amateur stage group, which was founded in 1948.[6] After appearing in the university revue, Cryer was offered a week's work at the Leeds City Varieties theatre, home of The Good Old Days, which became the longest-running television entertainment show in the world.[7] Cryer left university after learning his first-year results and travelled to London.[3][8] After impressing impresario Vivian Van Damm, Cryer began as the bottom billing act at the Windmill Theatre in London, a theatre which showed comedy acts in between nude tableau shows.[9] Cryer suffered severely from eczema and was hospitalised 12 times in eight years.[3][10] He was released from his contract by Van Damm and concluded that a performing career was not a wholly sustainable income choice because of his skin condition, so he chose to focus on writing.[3]

Cryer joined the cast of Expresso Bongo (1957) with Susan Hampshire, Millicent Martin and Paul Scofield, during which he recorded the song "The Purple People Eater", best known in the version by Sheb Wooley. For contractual reasons, Wooley's version was never released in Scandinavia, Cryer's was, and reached number one in Finland.[11] Cryer's first writing credits were four sketches for The Jimmy Logan Show, co-written with Douglas Camfield.[12] Cryer became head writer with an occasional stage role for Danny La Rue's London nightclub, where he was spotted by David Frost. This led to a writing role on the variety special A Degree of Frost, which led to Cryer joining the writing team, which also included John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman, on The Frost Report from 1966–67. Frost used Cryer on a number of subsequent shows, which established Cryer as a comedy writer in the 1970s.[12] Cryer is seen serving the wine in the original performance of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch on At Last the 1948 Show, first broadcast in 1967.[13][better source needed][14] He enjoyed a prolific partnership with Chapman, in pre-Monty Python days. They wrote about 50 television shows together, including Doctor in the House (ITV, 1969–70), and several for Ronnie Corbett: No – That's Me Over Here! (ITV, 1968–70), Now Look Here (BBC, 1971–73) and The Prince of Denmark (BBC, 1974). With other writers he contributed to The Ronnie Corbett Show (BBC, 1987) and Ronnie Corbett in Bed (BBC, 1971), and was also part of The Two Ronnies (1971–87) team.[3]

Cryer always preferred to write in partnership, so that should he dry up he was never left to deliver material. His regular partner during the 1970s was John Junkin, and with Junkin performing as Eric Morecambe and Cryer most often the role of Ernie Wise, the pair wrote some of The Morecambe and Wise Show in its BBC period (the 1972 and 1976 Christmas shows) when regular writer Eddie Braben was unavailable. Cryer still enjoyed performing, appearing with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Junkin in the BBC radio series Hello, Cheeky!, in which the three performers bounced jokes off each other.[3] He also appeared in the comedy television series The Steam Video Company and provided the voice of the judge in the 1975 animated comedy musical Dick Deadeye, or Duty Done.[15][16] He hosted the ITV comedy panel game Jokers Wild (1969–74)[17] and had a role in All You Need Is Cash, a 1978 spoof documentary about the Beatles parody band the Rutles,[18] as well as a cameo as a police inspector in Kenny Everett's 1984 horror spoof Bloodbath at the House of Death.[19]

With new comedians coming forward who wrote their own material, and age progressing and still wanting to perform, Cryer refocused his career to include more performance, touring with Willie Rushton in Two Old Farts in the Night and, after Rushton's death, That Reminds Me.[3] After a brief early stint as chairman, Cryer was one of the panellists on the BBC radio comedy programme I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, which began in 1972. He also wrote and starred in You'll Have Had Your Tea with Graeme Garden.[3]

He wrote an autobiography, You Won't Believe This But..., as well as a book of miscellaneous anecdotes, Pigs Can Fly.[20][21] In 2005 he toured the UK with Barry Cryer: The First Farewell Tour, and in 2008 he toured with Colin Sell in Barry Cryer: Still Alive. He remained a popular after-dinner speaker.[22][23][24]

He performed comic monologues and songs on The Green Tie on the Little Yellow Dog, which was recorded in 1982, and broadcast by Channel 4 in 1983.[25]

In 1987 Cryer was the guest for Michael Parkinson on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs where his musical choices included "Bad Penny Blues" by Humphrey Lyttelton and His Band, "The Girl Can't Help It" by Little Richard and "I Get Along Without You Very Well" by Carly Simon.[26] He was the subject of This Is Your Life in June 1995 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel at Thames Television's Teddington Studios.[24][27]

His clip show Comedy Legends with Barry Cryer, a programme paying tribute to a number of comedians such as Tommy Cooper, Frankie Howerd and Bob Hope with "comedy experts" Tony Hawks, Steve Punt and critic Stephen Armstrong giving their opinions on the stars, began airing on Sky Arts in 2018.[28][29]

In 2021 Cryer was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the British Music Hall Society.[5]

Personal life and death[edit]

Cryer married Theresa Donovan, a singer and dancer known as Terry, in 1962.[30] Interviewed by Country Life in 2021 Cryer attributed his success to his wife. In his early days as a stand-up comedian, he had been badly afflicted by eczema. After encountering Theresa in a nightclub in Piccadilly, his health improved; "I was only in hospital once more after meeting her."[5] They had four children, seven grandchildren and, at the time of Cryer's death, one great-grandchild.[31]

Cryer was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2001 Birthday Honours for services to comedy drama.[32][33] In July 2013 Leeds Metropolitan University made him an honorary Doctor of Arts.[34] In July 2017 he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Leeds.[3] He was a member of the entertainment charity the Grand Order of Water Rats.[35] In the 1980s he was a supporter of the Social Democratic Party.[36]

Cryer died at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow on 25 January 2022, at the age of 86.[37][3][10][38] A memorial event was held at the Moon and Sixpence pub in Hatch End, where Cryer was a regular customer, to raise funds for Macmillan Nurses and the Royal Variety Charity.[30] At the event, a memorial mural of Cryer was unveiled by his widow, containing photos of Cryer and some of his famous jokes.[30]


  • You Won't Believe This But...: An Autobiography of Sorts (1996), ISBN 1-85227-682-7 (repackaged as The Chronicles of Hernia (2009), ISBN 978-0-7535-2215-8)[39]
  • Pigs Can Fly (2003), ISBN 0-7528-5991-9[21]
  • Butterfly Brain (2009), ISBN 0-297-85910-2[40] (also a West End show[41])
  • Barry Cryer Comedy Scrapbook (with Philip Porter) (2009), ISBN 1-907085-04-1[42]
  • Mrs Hudson's Diaries: A View from the Landing at 221B (with Bob Cryer) (2012), The Robson Press, ISBN 1849543909[43]


  1. ^ "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue – Interviews with the Panellists". BBC. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  2. ^ "Barry Cryer: Prolific light entertainment writer and elder statesman of comedy". The Independent. 6 February 2022. Retrieved 25 June 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dixon, Stephen (27 January 2022). "Barry Cryer obituary". The Guardian.
  4. ^ I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue 30th Anniversary Special – Biographies. BBC Press Releases. 4 April 2002.
  5. ^ a b c Watkins, Jack (27 January 2022). "Barry Cryer: An anecdotal stroll through decades of comedic performance on stage, radio and TV". Country Life.
  6. ^ "An Audience of Curious People – The Story of the Proscenium Players". Scratchingshedpublishing.com. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  7. ^ "Barry Cryer – bio at 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue'". BBC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  8. ^ Cryer, Barry (1996). You Won't Believe This But... An Autobiography of Sorts. London: Virgin. ISBN 1852276827.
  9. ^ Obituaries, Telegraph (27 January 2022). "Barry Cryer, comedian and writer who was the cornerstone of the hit radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue for half a century – obituary". The Telegraph – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  10. ^ a b "Barry Cryer obituary: A life dedicated to laughter". BBC News. 27 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Barry Cryer". Gordon Poole Agency. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  12. ^ a b Oliver, John. "Cryer, Barry (1935–)". Screenonline. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  13. ^ "Richard Herring". ThreeWeeks Edinburgh.
  14. ^ Recording of the show
  15. ^ "The Steam Video Company (TV Series)". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 29 January 2022. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  16. ^ Shepherd, Marc. "Dick Deadeye, or Duty Done (1975)" at The Gilbert and Sullivan Discography, accessed 9 February 2011
  17. ^ "Joker's Wild – UKGameshows". www.ukgameshows.com.
  18. ^ "All You Need is Cash". film-authority.com. 28 January 2022.
  19. ^ "Bloodbath At The House Of Death | 1983". www.britishhorrorfilms.co.uk. Archived from the original on 21 October 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  20. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra – Barry Cryer – You Won't Believe This But, Episode 5". BBC.
  21. ^ a b "Barry Cryer – Pigs Can Fly Book". British Comedy Guide.
  22. ^ "Tour archive for Barry Cryer – The First Farewell Tour (One person show). 18th May 2001–17th January 2002 [TOUR]". UK Theatre Web.
  23. ^ "Still Alive, Barry Cryer & Colin Sell at The Core Theatre on 27 Sep 2008". www.livebrum.co.uk.
  24. ^ a b "Barry Cryer – DBA Speakers".
  25. ^ [1] The Green Tie on the Little Yellow Dog production website
  26. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Desert Island Discs, In memory of comedian and writer Barry Cryer". BBC.
  27. ^ "BBC Four – This Is Your Life, Series 35, Barry Cryer". BBC.
  28. ^ "Comedy Legends". Sky.com.
  29. ^ "Comedy Legends". 3ddproductions.com.
  30. ^ a b c Gershon, Eddie (Winter 2022–2023). "Comedian Barry Cryer honoured at his local". Wetherspoon News. J D Wetherspoon PLC. p. 27.
  31. ^ Watkins, Jack (16 August 2018). "I remember: Barry Cryer". Reader's Digest www.readersdigest.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  32. ^ "No. 56237". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2001. p. 10.
  33. ^ "Barry Cryer: King of Comedy". BBC News. 15 June 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  34. ^ "Barry Cryer awarded honorary degree". Leedsbeckett.ac.uk. Leeds Beckett University. 24 July 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  35. ^ Hewitt, Ralph (28 January 2022). "Godfather of laughter... tributes flood in after death of comedy genius Cryer". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  36. ^ "'People said it did in his career': 33 pictures that defined British politicians". The Guardian. 3 February 2024. Retrieved 4 February 2024.
  37. ^ McLoughlin, Bill (27 January 2022). "Comedy legend Barry Cryer dies, aged 86". Standard.co.uk. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  38. ^ Yossman, K. J. (27 January 2022). "Barry Cryer, Comedian and 'Morecambe and Wise' Writer, Dies at 86". Variety. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  39. ^ Cryer, Barry. "You Won't Believe This But... (An Autobiography Of Sorts) Hardback and Paperback". British Comedy Guide.
  40. ^ Cryer, Barry (12 July 2018). Butterfly Brain. ISBN 9780297859116 – via www.weidenfeldandnicolson.co.uk.
  41. ^ "Barry Cryer – Butterfly Brain | Closed: 18 November 2012". Official London Theatre.
  42. ^ "Barry Cryer Comedy Scrapbook". Porter Press International.
  43. ^ "MRS HUDSON'S DIARIES". 4 June 2015.

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