Barry Cryer: Sheer hard graft made him a national monument

Click to follow

Bob Hope was a complex man and had many critics alongside his many fans.

The first time I met him was on the Parkinson show in the late Seventies. He was on a bit of a wobble after the Vietnam War and was suffering a dip in popularity. He was a friend of pretty much every US president and some of his young audiences didn't like that.

I was a bit daunted and didn't know what to expect. You were conscious you were in the presence of someone a bit special but he put me instantly at ease and was very courteous. I met him again a number of times in both a professional and social capacity, and did some writing for him, and I was struck time and again by his professionalism and this courteous manner.

Without meaning to be sycophantic about this, he would always remember your name, and even though he barely knew who you were, was more than happy to engage in conversation. I don't think people always expected that.

Bob made no claim to be a writer but he was a brilliant editor, a fantastic judge of jokes. He had the ability to take a page of material written for him, within seconds singling out the ones he thought would work for him and scrubbing out the rest. I've not seen an eye like it.

He was the one-liner king, a phenomenon for stand-up, prince of the gag with his superb timing and refining it to an art form. One of his greatest technical strengths was his speed: if a line didn't get a laugh then he was so fast he could fool the audience into ignoring it by racing into the next one, "bang, bang, bang".

Bob was a national monument really. People grew up with him and there really was no substitute for his experience.

The real secret to Bob's success was sheer hard graft. He never seemed to take his eye off the game, and that's what won him the huge popularity that he enjoyed.