Humour has a special place in my heart.
I think the ability to see the funny side of life that can sometimes be so painful, is a true gift.
I don’t know many people in the world of comedy who were very widely liked and loved as Barry Cryer seemed to be one.
On June 13th 2022, I went to a celebration of Barry’s 86-year life and seven-decade career in comedy, at the Lyric Theatre in London. It wasn’t a glitzy evening, quite the opposite. Simply an opportunity for family and friends to love and celebrate the man who died in January 2022.
It was such a delight.
So many comedians paid tribute to him and his humour. Eddie Izzard, Harry Hill, Milton Jones, Gyles Brandreth, Barry Humphreys, Rebecca Front all appeared live, while video tributes came in from Steven Fry, Judy Dench, Myriam Margolis, Emma Thompson, Sandi Toksvig and Ross Noble.
And Michael Palin was there just to be in the audience!
The overall feeling was what a lovely and generous man Barry Cryer was, obviously funny but also very generous with his love and support. A mentor, guide and champion to other comedians and writers. He seemed simply to want more comedy to exist in the world.
As one of the contributors remarked, he was a friend to them, but was also a friend to the world. He didn’t seem insecure or competitive. His love of comedy and comedians was the most important thing, and he celebrated new talent, alternative comedy and supported anyone and everyone who chose comedy as a career.
It seemed that he had a list of all his friends and their birthdays, and a theme emerged during the evening – he would phone each friend on their birthday and tell them a joke and cheer them up, especially during lockdowns.
He seemed focus on helping others.
But being comedians, several joked about how they dreaded their birthdays because it meant Barry would call them, and they would even consider blocking his number!
One touching part was with Paddy O’Connell, the BBC radio and TV presenter. Barry was often called for a comment and a eulogy when a fellow comedian passed away. So while he was alive, Paddy has asked Barry to create a eulogy for himself and what he would comment on his own life. Hearing Barry talking about himself and his own life in the third person was very poignant and funny. You can hear it by clicking here.
Comedy occupies an important place in my heart. Life seems so absurd and ridiculous at times. I love humour and I love those who dedicate themselves to helping me see the funny side of life, bringing a smile or a laugh. I appreciate those who can help me not to take it all quite so seriously.
Also, humour was one of the ways I really bonded with my dad. We giggled together, like two little boys, rather than father and son. I am sure we must have laughed at Barry Cryer together too.
We had similar a sense of humour and some of the happiest times of my childhood were listening to The Goons or watching the Two Ronnies or Morecombe and Wise, with my dad. We saw the funny side of life together.
In the weeks before his death from kidney failure in 2005, Dad would “pretend” to die, and then with a laugh sit bolt upright and say, “Fooled you, I am still here!”
Not long before he died, my dad said to me, “If you can make other people laugh like you make me laugh, you’ll go a long way!”
Thank you, Barry Cryer, for making us all laugh so much and thank you for your wonderful legacy we can keep enjoying.