Barry Cryer: 1935-2022

Former WGGB Comedy Chair Dave Cohen pays tribute to veteran comedian and writer Barry Cryer, who has sadly died at the age of 86

Barry Cryer (pictured above) spent his entire working life encouraging new writers and performers. I’ve known him for more than 35 years and in all that time he never stopped working, and never stopped encouraging new people.

I first met Barry in 1985, when he’d been brought in to write with us on Rory Bremner’s TV show. Like Rory we were all young and alternative, and were initially wary of a man who we associated with the old world of northern clubs and frilly shirted comedians. We needn’t have worried. Barry’s ridiculous jokes, hilarious anecdotes and cigarette laugh set the tone for the series, one of the most enjoyable I ever worked on.

I saw him frequently in the 1980s and 1990s, he always came to Edinburgh, came to all our shows, was generous with praise and silently smiling if he had none to give.

There have been a lot of tributes from younger writers and comics who said “I was lucky enough to work with Barry” because he never stopped working, never stopped being curious about new work. Barry was a constant inspiration to new writers and performers, a treasure trove of comic history with stories stretching back to his years spent working with WGGB legends like David Nobbs and Galton and Simpson. Post-war, Python, alternative comedy, Barry was at home writing in all of these worlds.

I only ever made one show as a BBC radio producer, it was with Barry, Ronnie Golden and John Dowie. One of Barry’s jokes in the show was “I’m 66, someone called me middle-aged. That must mean I’m going to live to be 132.” I was beginning to think he would.

Photo of Barry Cryer at a WGGB sitcom event in 2017: Em Fitzgerald