'Living legend is a nice way to say I'm ancient': Barry Cryer interview ahead of his Hull Truck show
He's worked with everyone from Morecambe and Wise to Tommy Cooper and Kenny Everett, so why doesn't Barry Cryer believe his own hype? Ian Midgley finds out
Living legend is an overused term, says living legend Barry Cryer.
It's like "national treasure", groans the 77-year-old funnyman, "you have to cringe when you hear it applied to yourself."
"I think Alan Bennett said it best: if you're a national treasure, you should be put in a museum or buried.
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"I have no intention of being either."
"Living legend" has largely lost its meaning too, shrugs Barry, with mock desperation.
"I'm not saying us oldies don't like compliments," says the man whose CV of writing credits includes everyone from Morecambe and Wise to Tommy Cooper, the Two Ronnies and American greats Bob Hope and Jack Benny.
"But 'living legend' is a term that gets thrown around far too easily," he chuckles.
"All it means to me is that you've managed not to die yet.
"Living legend implies you happened a long time ago and were never real in the first place. I can assure you, sir, that I am very much alive and real.
"Living legend is just a flattering way for people to say I'm ancient."
Ancient or not, the man all young thrusting comics affectionately call Uncle Baz, is in fine fettle; sharp as a tack and still throwing out the lagubrious one-liners that have maintained his position of joke-writer to the stars for half a century.
Despite describing himself as "an old fart" – he has actually been describing himself as ageing flatulence since he toured with Willie Rushton back in the early 1990s – he is still treading the boards most nights, regaling audiences with gags and his unrivalled collection of showbiz anecdotes amassed over decades.
Tonight, the Leeds-born comic says he is heading for Abergavenny, deepest Wales, to dispense wit and wisdom; on Saturday, March 16, he will be travelling north, back to his ancestral Yorkshire, where he will perform at Hull Truck alongside fellow oldie Ronnie Golden.
The show, he says, fea- tures the duo making up songs on the spot, armed with little more than a ukulele and whatever brain cells they have left.
Or, as Barry describes it. It's "speed metal garage thrash meets George Formby via Valerie Singleton".
He says: "I met Ronnie at the Hackney Empire in London years ago and we've been friends ever since.
"The idea for this show actually came in the pub – like all the best ideas do.
"Ronnie said: 'why isn't anyone doing a show that's got rock'n'roll, gospel, the blues – and jokes. No one's doing that.'
"So we thought 'why don't we do it?' And here we are. Older and not much wiser but on the road.
"It's a lot of fun," says the living legend, before dashing out of the door for his Abergavenny-bound train.
"You should come and see it if you've got an hour to spare. "And if you have got an hour to spare, you really should get out more."
Barry Cryer at Hull Truck Theatre
When: Saturday, March 16, 7.45pm
Where: Hull Truck, Ferensway, Hull
Tickets: £16 to £14 To book: 01482 323638