5 things all communicators could learn from Ronnie Corbett

By George Hulbert, a big Two Ronnies fan:

Sad days, when comedy greats drop off the perch.

Last week, a tiny man of huge comedy stature, Ronnie Corbett, set off to join the heavenly entertainment industry.

Famous for more than 50 years, Ronnie Corbett was best-known for his long-running collaboration with Ronnie Barker in the hit comedy showThe Two Ronnies.

I grew up watching the show, and my sense of humour has I am sure been indelibly dyed by their love of wordplay and silliness.

And, when I thought about it, there are a number of things communicators can learn from Ronnie's approach:

1. Keep the news interesting

Every week, The Two Ronnies would start off with a series of news items (see above link). Always silly and funny, the items were always rapid-fire, with hardly a wasted word: never lengthy.

What they show is that jokes / news stories should never be wordy: keep it tight to keep it interesting. Get to the heart of a story quickly – and tell it.

2. Get the details right

The 'Four candles' sketch is a comedy classic, right up there with Monty Python's parrot sketch or any other if you ask me.

Whilst trying to avoid dissecting a piece of comedy beauty – never a good idea – the sketch's foundations on double meanings show us that being clear about what you want is critical. Get the details right - and be clear.

3. Long stories can also be better

Every week, Ronnie Corbett would sit in a chair facing the audience / camera and give a monologue – a rambling, meandering shaggy dog story that always had multiple jokes in it.

Often it seemed to have little point to it, but there always was one, and the process of getting to it was often the point – and the fun.

In telling stories we bring topics to life: don't just skate over the surface – get into the detail and give your story some flavour: be interesting.

4. Always affable, always available

Famously open, Ronnie Corbett was renowned for making himself available to people and requests, and regularly appeared on a variety of shows until even recently. Check out this appearance in 2014 on the Graham Norton show, when he was at his witty best, or on Would I Lie To You? Ditto.

You'll struggle to find anything bad said about him anywhere, largely because he was always keen to talk to people and be engaged.

This is more of a personal guideline for me than a professional one really, but I often think that in my professional capacity my job is to be available and open, providing advice (yes) but passing judgement (no).

5. Great content endures

One of the greatest comedy writing teams of all time, the Two Ronnies' songs and sketches have endured for many people for more than half a century. I hope they last for at least as long again.

And their style and content has taken on a new lease of life with the likes of Harry Enfield working on an all-new sketch in 2010 with Ronnie Corbett (as 'The One Ronnie'). With 22.5 million YouTube views and counting, this sketch - about a Blackberry not working – shows that skilful, quality content can find an entirely new audience over time.

If you put the time and trouble into what you create, thinking about your audience and focusing on what they want, your content is much more likely to have lasting power, too.

Heaven just got funnier.


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