The comedian returned to British television recently after a near-three year hiatus from comedy, when he cited “unforeseen” family reasons for cancelling all of his tour dates and upcoming projects. He resurfaced on BBC’s ‘Big Night In’ as part of a line-up to fundraise for Children in Need and Comic Relief, during the coronavirus lockdown. The Bolton-born star earned critical acclaim through a number of TV sitcoms, most notably ‘Phoenix Nights’, and his stand-up routines. The performer, who made a name for himself through witty observations, cited Ronnie Barker as his personal “hero” and someone whom he modelled himself on. His love for one-half of ‘The Two Ronnies’ double act, was reiterated by the admission that his favourite show of all time was ‘Porridge’. Unearthed accounts reveal the star struck up a friendship with his comedy idol and they communicated in an amusing way in the years leading up to Ronnie Barker’s death in 2005.
Six years after Ronnie Barker passed away, his aspiring protege Peter Kay spoke flattering words about the star during an interview with the Daily Express.
The comedian, who rarely speaks to the press due to his longing to keep his private life hidden from the public eye, came out of hiding to speak about the deceased star in 2011.
He recounted a heartwarming tale about his initial interaction with Ronnie – a performer who he confessed to have “loved” and was grateful to call his greatest inspiration.
Peter first wrote to the star back in 2003 and was surprised to receive a hilarious handwritten response on headed notepaper from HMP Slade Prison – the setting of his show ‘Porridge’.
Ronnie played the character ‘Fletch’ in the popular British TV show that ran for four years from 1973.
It focussed on the lives of inmates Norman Stanley Fletcher, known as ‘Fletch’, and Lennie Godber, who was played by Richard Beckinsale.
The title for the popular situation was taken from the slang ‘Doing porridge’, which is another phrase for serving a prison sentence, and was also the traditional breakfast of those kept behind bars.
Peter Kay shared part of the note with the Daily Express, which read: “I have been keeping a clean sheet so far. But that’s mostly because I work in the prison laundry.”
He summarised “four pages” of the note that regaled the tale of how he had “stolen paper” from prison guard Mr McKay when he “was not looking”.
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