Sunday, 13 January 2013

Retro Books: The Two Ronnies, But First-The News

The Two Ronnies:
But First-The News
The Two Ronnies: But First-The News
Compiled by Peter Vincent
Star Books, 1977, 60p (1978 edition)
Cover Photograph by Don Smith

One of the most memorable images of the 1970s BBC comedy series The Two Ronnies is that of both Messrs Corbett and Barker sat behind a news desk reading hilarious news items about of-the-day celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Yul Brynner or Telly Savalas or respected UK government leaders such as Jim Callaghan or Margaret Thatcher.

In 1976, very few people owned Video Recorders and asides from a few BBC albums very little of the Two Ronnies material was readily accessible for fans to purchase. Enter some clever body at Wyndham’s imprint Star Books who decided it might be a good idea to release lots of those famous news items in a book.

Two Ronnies Writer Peter Vincent compiled a selection of The Best of The Ronnies Dialogue (as the cover puts it)  written by a vast proportion of contributors for several Two Ronnies series between 1971 and 1976 , while Messrs Barker and Corbett along with Two Ronnies producer Terry Hughes wrote a foreword, a further foreword and an indecently foreword.

But First-The News was published in 1977 and was obviously so popular it was reprinted twice in 1978.  Illustrated with cartoons the reader is treat to news items such as…
Ronnie Barker: A survey on the decline of morals in Britain reveals that in Liverpool alone on each day last week an average of 267 women made love to an unmarried man. The man is now recovering in hospital.
Ronnie Corbett: Mr Osbert Grove, Britain’s worst ever postman, who claims he was wrongly dismissed by the GPO, today delivered a petition to the Queen  - at 15 Station Street, Scunthorpe.
Many of these items still work today, although it is the more topical jokes that have now become more historical than hysterical…
Ronnie Corbett: We’ve just this moment heard that the two pandas at London Zoo have begun to mate. The winner meets Bobby Fischer in the final.
Ronnie Barker: Meanwhile British Rail announce that the price of coffee is to go up to 15p a slice.
Obviously reading such items now, you have to keep a historical approach to them, and furthermore nothing beats the delivery of the Ronnies themselves, but still this first title in Star Books Two Ronnies series does still raise giggles in places.

No-one was safe from The Two Ronnies news items including a now disgraced late TV presenter who was largely beloved by a nation back in the mid–70s:
Ronnie Corbett: We were to have had Jimmy Saville (sic) with us but we’ve just heard that his suit has been disallowed by the Noise Abatement Society.

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