Just heard the news that the comedian Barry Cryer has died aged 86. Very sad. I never met him, but I always felt I knew him and that we’d get on. I always really enjoyed him as a child, a teenager and an adult: he was always around on the radio and telly, and always seemed like such a genuinely jovial lovely bloke.
As a young adult I started to discover as well what a fantastic craftsman he was: he had written jokes for EVERYONE, from Bob Hope through the 1960s satire boom and on to alternative comedy and beyond; and hearing him talk about it was such an education in how jokes work, and in how the RELATIONSHIPS between creators make the work itself come about. Plus his style and humour never stopped working across all those generational boundaries: he was classic old one-liners and shaggy dog stories, but he was always sharply up-to-the-minute with social issues and changing attitudes too. Not to mention that he was a walking time capsule of the history of comedy – which is a pretty important part of the history of culture.
And he managed to laugh at himself so much. Giles Brandreth just said on Radio 4 that aged 80, he would say, “I don’t know how long I’ve got left. These days I won’t even buy a green banana.”
We’d all be lucky to stay so good-humoured.