The English comedian and author, Ben Elton has been named as the celebrity host of the inaugural BBC annual comedy lecture which has been suitably titled ‘The Ronnie Barker Talk’. The Young Ones and Blackadder writer’s own observational and satirical wit make him a fitting choice for a talk that is believed to have been developed with the Barker family’s approval.

Comedy theme to lecture

The inspirational lecture – scheduled to be recorded this summer by Elton at the BBC Radio Theatre in London in front of a star-studded audience - will incorporate a comedy theme of the acclaimed comedian’s own choice, a format expected to be mirrored in future lectures in the series.

Viewers will have to wait until later in the year though for the announcement by the Beeb as to when the show will air on BBC1.

Set up as a ‘passion project’ by the BBC comedy commissioner, Shane Allen, each lecture is planned to be hosted by an invited speaker with comedy forming the central theme to the talk.

Spoke of his admiration

Speaking this week, Elton spoke of thehonour” of being involved in such a high-profile project and of his fond memories when growing up of “loving Ronnie Barker” and his material. He mentioned the hope that his association did not cause the late Barker to be “spitting spiritedly splenetic spoonerisms in Comedy Heaven.”

Sizeable contribution to BBC

The BBC have much to thank Barker for, given his sizeable contribution to the history of comedy, with many of his greatest moments being shown on their TV channels over the years.

Not only did he form one half of the comedy sketch show The Two Ronnies (with Ronnie Corbett), a programme that dominated the TV ratings during the 70s and 80s, but he also provided the material and pinpoint delivery on many other celebrated shows.

Many fans who had been richly entertained and delighted by his comedy output during his career were deeply saddened at the news of Barker’s death in 2005 at the age of 76, with heart failure taking the great man from us.

Comic genius

Testament to his great talent, Barker’s comedy legacy encompassed something for every generation and taste. The edgy and acutely observed classic show Porridge – groundbreakingly set in the fictional Slade prison in Cumberland – is commonly held up as one of the greatest British sitcoms of all-time.

Contrast that with the stuttering and money-pinching Arkwright in the corner shop-located Open All Hours or his welcome contributions to the satirical sketch series The Frost Report in the 1960s, and his place in comedy royalty was assured.