British TV comedy actor Ronnie Barker, who starred in Porridge and The Two Ronnies, has died aged 76.
One of the most loved and respected comedy performers of his generation, he was best known as one half of a double act with Ronnie Corbett.
But he also proved himself as an outstanding sitcom actor and script writer, winning four Bafta TV awards.
Chat show host Michael Parkinson told BBC News 24 he was “one of our very greatest comedy actors”.
His agent said: "He died yesterday after a long period of heart trouble.
“He died peacefully and his wife was with him. He had been nursed at home for a long time.”
He leaves a wife, Joy, and three children, actress Charlotte Barker, the actor Adam Barker and Larry Barker.
Last year Barker was awarded a lifetime achievement Bafta for his TV work and was honoured by a raft of contemporary comedians including Peter Kay.
Laughs, big laughs, and laughs that you will always remember
Michael Hurll, The Two Ronnies producer
That led to a return for The Two Ronnies on BBC One, 34 years after the show first appeared on TV screens and 17 years after he first retired from showbusiness.
He starred in two of the most popular sitcoms in BBC history - Porridge and Open All Hours, creating two classic characters, the laconic inmate Fletcher and the stuttering shopkeeper Arkwright.
Barker also delivered a number of dramatic performances, most recently as Winston Churchill’s manservant in the award-winning TV film The Gathering Storm and in HBO film My House in Umbria.
RONNIE BARKER REMEMBERED
Obituary: Ronnie Barker
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At the peak of his career Barker, along with his diminutive cohort Corbett, entertained 17 million people every Saturday night.
The Two Ronnies ran for 15 years and delivered comic sketches, funny songs and old-fashioned tall tales and made great play of the little and large relationship between the two comedians.
It was the most popular light entertainment programme of its day.
Every programme ended with lines which became national catchphrases.
Corbett would bid the audience “goodnight from me”, to which Barker would add “and it’s goodnight from him”.
“He was not just a comedian. He had a writer’s ear for a good script and was a very good writer himself,” added Parkinson on Tuesday.
"He was also a generous performer. He was uneasy with the fame that came with the job.
The Two Ronnies ran for 15 years on the BBC
“He was an object lesson to a lot of people who seek the limelight with half his talent.”
Paying tribute Michael Hurll, producer of The Two Ronnies, said: "We will never see his like again.
“You felt safe with him. The whole family could watch him.”
He said the comedian delivered “laughs, big laughs, and laughs that you will always remember”.
The BBC head of comedy Jon Plowman said Barker was “just a genius”.
I put him in the same league as Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers
"He had an everyman quality and he loved words. He could just do it.
"He was a perfectionist and I think we can all respect that.
“He was an extraordinary guy and an encourager as well as a brilliant performer and writer.”
Writer Barry Cryer, who had known Barker for 40 years, said: "We knew things weren’t good but it still comes as an awful shock.
“He was a one-off. I put him in the same league as Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.”
In an interview with the BBC looking back on his career, Barker once said: “I would like to be remembered as one of the funniest men people have seen on TV.”
another great enters the pearly gates