PASSED/FAILED: Barry Cryer

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The Independent Online
Barry Cryer, 62, is a comedy writer and performer. His television work includes 'The Stand Up Show' on BBC1. Radio 2 is currently transmitting 'Stand Up Two' on Thursdays; the next series of 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue' begins in June on Radio 4. 'Two Old Farts in the Night', his touring show with the late Willie Rushton, has been replaced by his one- man-plus-pianist act, 'That Reminds Me'. He is working on his autobiography.

Early years? From five to eight I went to an infant school in Leeds, up Easterley Road. It was a little private school in a house run by sisters - two sisters, not nuns.

No joking matter: From eight to 11 I went to a school up Talbot Road, run, in what was virtually a semi, by a maried couple. The man's florid complexion and slightly slurred speech suggested his extra-curricular activities. I hated the school, which was like something from The Seventh Veil - whacking people over the knuckles when they were playing the piano. There were about 20 or 30 of us and we huddled together for warmth.

Cryer freedom? In 1947 I got a scholarship to Leeds Grammar. I was a sort of Bilko, ducking, diving and working out all the angles and scams, such as selling short cuts to the cross-country run - in sealed envelopes, for tuppence. I was undercut by a boy who bought one of mine and sold it on for a penny a time, an early lesson in market economics. My last school report, which I kept for a long time until I lost it, was by a man I respected: "He must learn that glibness is no substitute for knowledge." I decided that glibness was my forte.

Royal Command Performance: I did Falstaff in Henry IV Part I and shared the Acting Cup, which was presented to us by the [then] Princess Royal.

O-levels? Yes. English language and literature, and French. We were taught Latin, which does prove invaluable; you have the roots of the word, and the idea of what it might mean in other languages. You hated Latin at the time, but passed the exam.

Which A-levels? All erased from memory.

One-year degree course: It should have been longer. I got an exhibition to read English at Leeds, but my first-year results were not good. It was an uneasy period, and I was very depressed: Blue Eyes got to university - and blew it. After a couple of retakes I could probably have crawled back in, but an agent came to Leeds to see someone else in a show I was in - and offered me work. I was off and away.

A big hand? I've had quite a few awards as a writer, including Bafta and Royal Society of Arts. I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue has won the Radio Comedy Award and Sony Award. I have no honorary doctorates, just BA Eng Lit (failed).

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