British Comedian Ronnie Corbett Dead at 85

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Ronnie Corbett. Photo: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Ronnie Corbett, one of the leading lights of postwar British comedy, died Thursday “surrounded by his loving family” at the age of 85, his publicist told the Associated Press. Born in Edinburgh, the diminutive Corbett entered show business after a National Service stint in the Royal Air Force, where he was the shortest commissioned officer in the armed forces. After toiling for a decade in theater, Corbett’s big break came when he joined the cast of The Frost Report, starring alongside John Cleese and Ronnie Barker in the famous “Class System” sketch:

The relationship with Barker would pay off. In 1971, the pair launched the sketch show The Two Ronnies, which ran on BBC1 for 16 years. The series showcased the duo’s love of silly wordplay — and, always, their comical height disparity — both of which are exemplified in their sketch “Four Candles”:

Throughout the run of Two Ronnies, Corbett also starred in the sitcom Sorry!, playing a shy 40-something bachelor dominated by his mother. In his later decades, he hosted the game show Small Talk and voiced the lead role in the radio sitcom When the Dog Dies. In 2005, he and Barker revived their partnership with The Two Ronnies Sketchbook; five years later, after Barker’s death, Corbett celebrated his 80th birthday with a Christmas sketch show The One Ronnie. He is survived by his wife of 51 years and two daughters.