Barry Charles Cryer OBE (born 23 March 1935 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England) is a British writer and comedian. Cryer has written for many noted performers, including Dave Allen, Stanley Baxter, Jack Benny, Rory Bremner, George Burns, Jasper Carrott, Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Dick Emery, Kenny Everett, Bruce Forsyth, David Frost, Bob Hope, Frankie Howerd, Richard Pryor, Mike Yarwood, The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise.
Cryer also wrote episodes for the Doctor in the House television comedy series in Britain.
Educated at Leeds Grammar School, Cryer went on to study English Literature at the University of Leeds.
After appearing in University revue, Cryer was offered a week’s work at the famous Leeds City Varieties theatre, home of The Good Old Days, the longest-running television entertainment show in the world. On graduation he transferred professionally to London. After impressing impresario Vivian Van Damm, Cryer began the bottom billing act at the Windmill Theatre in London, a club which showed comedy acts in between nude tableau shows.
However, Cryer suffered severely from eczema, and after a number of hospitalisations was released from his contract by Van Damm. Concluding a performing career was not a wholly sustainable income choice because of his skin condition, Cryer chose to focus mainly on writing - something he could do even when suffering eczema attacks, which he did for the next eight years.
Cryer joined the cast of Expresso Bongo (1957) with Susan Hampshire, Millicent Martin, and Paul Schofield, during which he recorded the song “Purple People Eater”, made famous by Sheb Wooley. For contractual reasons, Wooley’s version was never released in Scandinavia, but Cryer’s was, and it made number one hit record in Finland. Cryer’s first writing credits were four sketches for The Jimmy Logan Show, co-written with Douglas Camfield. Cryer became head writer with an occasional stage role for Danny La Rue’s London nightclub, where he was spotted by David Frost. This led to a writing role on the variety special A Degree of Frost, which lead to Cryer joining the writing team, which also included John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Marty Feldman; on The Frost Report from 1966-67. Frost used Cryer on a number of subsequent shows, which established Cryer as a star writer in the 1970s.
Cryer always prefers to write in partnership, so that should he dry-up he is never left to deliver material. His regular partner during the 1970s was John Junkin, and with Junkin performing as Eric Morecambe and Cryer most often the role of Ernie Wise, the pair wrote some of The Morecambe and Wise Show show in its BBC heyday, (the 1972 and 1976 christmas shows) when regular writer Eddie Braben was unavailable. Cryer still enjoyed performing, appearing with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Junkin in the BBC radio series Hello, Cheeky!, in which the three performers bounced jokes off each other. He also appeared in the comedy television series The Steam Video Company. He hosted the ITV comedy panel game Joker’s Wild (1969-74), and had a role in All You Need Is Cash, a spoof documentary about the Beatles parody band the Rutles.
With new comedians coming forward who wrote their own material, and age progressing and still wanting to perform, Cryer refocused his career to include more performance, touring with Willie Rushton in Two Old Farts in the Night, and That Reminds Me after Rushton’s death. After a brief early stint as chairman, Cryer has been one of the panellists on the BBC radio comedy programme I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which began in 1972. Recording of the 51st series is indefinitely postponed after the death of Humphrey Lyttelton. He also writes and stars in You’ll Have Had Your Tea with Graeme Garden. He has written an autobiography, That Reminds Me, as well as a book of miscellaneous anecdotes Pigs Can Fly. and in 2005 he toured the UK with Barry Cryer: The First Farewell Tour, 2008 with Barry Cryer: Still Alive, and remains a popular after-dinner speaker.
He was awarded an OBE in 2001. Cryer is a member of the entertainment charity the Grand Order of Water Rats.