Barry Cryer was born in Leeds. Educated at Leeds Grammar School and Leeds University, he is B.A. Eng.Lit. (Failed). Of the latter, this was due to the outbreak of World War 11, he says, which was sixteen years before, but upset him very deeply.
While appearing in a university revue, he was offered a week’s work at the famous City varieties theatre, home of the Good Old Days, the longest-running television light entertainment show in the world. In later years, he was to appear on the show many times. While appearing there, he was seen by a London agent and offered work in variety. He appeared all over the country in what were known as the “Number Three’s” and then auditioned for the Windmill Theatre in London, a legendary school for comedians, whose graduates included Harry Secombe, Peter Sellars, Jimmy Edwards, Alfred Marks and many more. He passed the audition and started work at the theatre an hour and a half later. Top of the bill was Bruce Forsyth, who became a friend and colleague to this day.
Night Club Shows with Danny La Rue
After seven months of six shows a day, six days a week, he left to appear in Expresso Bongo, a musical savaging the pop music scene of the day, starring Paul Schofield, Millicent Martin and Susan Hampshire. It was during this period that he started making records and had the rare distinction of being Number One in Finland. He believes that this may have had something to do with the fact that they gave away a car with each record. After this he commenced writing revues for the Fortune Theatre, home of Beyond The Fringe. This led to writing and appearing in night club shows for Danny La Rue, an association that was to last for thirteen years.
While still working with Danny, he met David Frost who invited him to join the writing roster on the BBC programme, the Frost Report – an amazing group of writers who included what was to become the whole of Monty Python - Marty Feldman, David Nobbs (author of the Reginald Perrin series and a future writing partner) and many more. One show – “Frost over England” – won the Golden Rose at that year’s Montreux Festival. Barry has also been associated with Silver and Bronze award winning shows at the Festival.
He moved with Frost to ITV and wrote and appeared in the Frost Programme, Frost on Sunday etc etc, until he returned to the BBC as one of the original Two Ronnies writers. His association with Ronnie Corbett had begun in the Danny La Rue shows and still continues, with Barry writing for the last two series of Small Talk.
Barry also wrote extensively with Graham Chapman of Monty Python including a general sitcom series for Ronnie Corbett and episodes of Doctor in the House.
In 1984 he appeared as the Dame in Sleeping Beauty at the Shaw Theatre, in 1988 he appeared as the King in Jack and the Beanstalk in Leicester and in 1994 Barry played Dame Daisy in Jack and the Beanstalk at Hackney Empire.
Barry Cryer has written for most Top Comedians
Following his Frost years, he went on to write for practically every top comedian in the country, including Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth (on the number one ratings show The Generation Game), Tommy Cooper, Stanley Baxter, Dick Emery, Dave Allen, Frankie Howerd, Les Dawson (with David Nobbs), the Carry On team on television, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Mike Yarwood, Billy Connelly, Russ Abbot, Bobby Davro, Jasper Carrot and many more. Also during a long association with ATV, he wrote for Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Phil Silvers, Phyllis Diller, Richard Pryor and other visiting stars. He also wrote shows for singers such as Tom Jones and Petula Clark (a Silver Rose winner) and advised and wrote a musical show for Dennis Waterman of The Sweeney and Minder. A Harry Secombe show which he co-wrote with Spike Mullins and Peter Vincent (both writing partners for many shows) won the Pye Light Entertainment award of its year. For eight years he wrote (with Ray Cameron) the Kenny Everett shows for ITV and BBC, which to date have won several awards, including BAFTA, the Royal Society, The Press Guild and two special mentions at Montreux. The Everett connection has yielded nine series, Christmas and New Year shows, two independently made videos and a feature film. The same team produced Assaulted Nuts – a series for HBO cable TV in America and on Channel 4.
As a performer he move into TV and radio from the theatre and night clubs and has appeared in practically every panel game on British TV, including That’s Showbusiness, Blankety Blank, What’s My Line?, Punch Lines, Give Us A Clue, Gibberish (and on radio) I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Just A Minute etc, etc.
For five years he was the chairman of Jokers Wild on ITV. He wrote and appeared in Hello Cheeky with Tim Brooke-Taylor and John Junkin on both radio and television. He wrote and appeared in What’s On Next and The Steam Video Company for Thames TV and also appeared in All Star Secrets for LWT and I’ve Got A Secret, for BBC. He hosted a series of Cross-Wits for Tyne Tees Television and was the host for the BBC’s Music Match. 1992 Barry made a guest appearance as Sergeant Sammy Simpson in The Detectives alongside Jasper Carrot and Robert Powell.
He has become one of the country’s most popular after-dinner speakers. He has spoken at tributes to Gene Kelly, Tommy Steele, Frankie Howerd and Harry Secombe. He appeared regularly on Granada TV’s Milord, Ladies and Gentlemen, a programme which featured the country’s leading after-dinner speakers. He has addressed and entertained at hundreds of corporate events, including; British Leyland in London and Vienna, The Coal Board, Avon Cosmetics, British Telecom, Smiths Foods, ITV Advertisers, the Institute of Bankers (3 times), Fiat (three-night conference), Websters Brewery (three-night conference), EMI and many more. He has presided over copious Awards ceremonies including the Sony Video Awards. He has spoken before the Prince and the late Princess of Wales at both Guildhall and the Mansion House, entertained Princess Anne in music hall and shared speaking duties with the Duke of Edinburgh at the Savoy Hotel. He has spoken many times at the old Wembley Stadium at Cup Finals and International celebrations and for the Lords Taverners and for the Variety Club regularly addresses large audiences in London and the provinces.