LISTING which comedians Barry Cryer has written jokes for is like an A-Z of comics greats.
Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, Stanley Baxter, Jack Benny, Rory Bremner, George Burns, Jasper Carrott, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Bruce Forsyth, David Frost, Bob Hope, Frankie Howerd, Richard Pryor ... Cryer has worked with them all and provided some of their best jokes.
At the grand old age of 77, the Leeds-born performer is still going strong (not least on the cult radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t Got A Clue) and arrived in Morecambe as part of a farewell tour that has been ongoing for about seven years now (his last tour was called Barry Cryer: Still Alive).
He is a master at what he does, which is, pure and simple, telling jokes. He has gags galore, the only indication of his advancing years the prompt cards he keeps on a table, which he looks at to remind him which joke to tell.
This two-hour show also featured a bit of music, including a rendition of Purple People Eater, a silly song Cryer wrote in 1957 and which, bizarrely, hit No. 1 in Finland.
He is an old-fashioned comedian. There is no observational comedy, the kind favoured by the big comedians of today, like Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre (Cryer co-wrote the Kenny Everett Show with McIntyre’s father in the 70s and 80s).
Cryer just tells gags, but, impressively, they don’t feel too dated. Some are downright surreal, like when he shouts four words in Japanese before stopping and saying ‘oh, I won’t carry on, you’ve obviously heard this one’.
Then there are gags you may have heard but which are difficult not to laugh at all the same.
Take the man in the jungle who comes across an elephant with a thorn in its foot. The man bravely approaches the elephant and slowly and gently removes the thorn. The elephant gets to his feet, takes a long look at the man, and pads off into the jungle. One year later the man is in the front row at a circus watching a show. A line of elephants walks into the ring. Suddenly one of the elephants glances at the man, stops, breaks off from the parade and goes towards him. He bends down, picks the man up and hurls him 40 feet. Different elephant.
That’s what Cryer does well. Writes a joke with a twist you don’t expect at the end.
It’s what the best comics do and explains why, almost 60 years after he started writing gags, the man is still going strong. An excellent night in the company of the one of the greatest joke-tellers the country has ever produced.