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Barry Chuckle leaves half a century of laughter as his legacy

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 05/08/2018 Michael Hogan

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(Provided by: Press Association)

To me. To you. And now to a better place. Another piece of many TV viewers’ childhoods has vanished with the sad news that Barry Chuckle, half of comedy duo the Chuckle Brothers, has died aged 73.

The showbiz veteran, whose real name was Barry Elliott, might just have been one of the most unlikely children’s entertainers of all time. Alongside real-life sibling and comedy partner Paul, he was a shellsuit-clad, bogbrush-haired, pencil-‘tached pensioner from Rotherham who spoke almost entirely in daft catchphrases – yet the pair became fixtures on children’s TV and beloved as cult heroes.

Watch: The Chuckle Brothers' brand of slapstick (Sky News)

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The brothers hailed from solid clowning stock and had an early introduction to music hall. Their father Jimmy was a well-known Gang Show performer under the stage name Gene Patton and once worked with the young Peter Sellers. Their two older brothers, Jimmy and Brian, also formed a double-act called the Patton Brothers – who, a tad confusingly, popped up on Barry and Paul’s TV vehicle ChuckleVision as “No Slacking” and “Getoutofit".

he Chuckle Brothers, Barry (left) and Paul Elliott, arrive at Southwark Crown Court in London © Getty he Chuckle Brothers, Barry (left) and Paul Elliott, arrive at Southwark Crown Court in London

The younger brothers got their own big break on a pair of TV talent shows, winning Opportunity Knocks in 1967 and New Faces in 1974. Their cartoonish act was Charlie Chaplin meets Morecambe and Wise. Like Dick Emery or Benny Hill without the sauce. It usually saw Paul (the taller, dominant one) bossing around Barry (the shorter, hapless one) until some slapstick accident befell them, usually involving ladders, buckets and custard pies. 

The Chuckle Brothers - Paul Elliot and Barry elliot © Shutterstock The Chuckle Brothers - Paul Elliot and Barry elliot The siblings did the rounds of light entertainment series and even joined the circus for a while, before at last landing their own vehicle in 1985: BBC dialogue-free pre-school series Chuckle Hounds. "It was like Laurel and Hardy but dressed as dogs,” said Barry.

David Walliams and the Chuckle Brothers - Barry Elliot and Paul Elliot © Shutterstock David Walliams and the Chuckle Brothers - Barry Elliot and Paul Elliot

Two years later, this was expanded into the iconic kids’ show with which they’d become synonymous: slapstick sitcom ChuckleVision. Each episode would find the inept brothers given a seemingly simple task to do, often by unseen boss Dan The Van, and get into all manner of surreal scrapes while trying to complete it. 

Barry Chuckle of The Chuckle Brothers performs onstage during day 3 of Bestival 2015 at Robin Hill Country Park on September 12, 2015 in Newport, Isle of Wight. © Getty Barry Chuckle of The Chuckle Brothers performs onstage during day 3 of Bestival 2015 at Robin Hill Country Park on September 12, 2015 in Newport, Isle of Wight.

They travelled on a quadracycle called “The Chuckmobile” (registration plate: CHUCKLE1) and the theme tune (“Ch-ch-ChuckleVision”) was infuriatingly infectious. Visual gags were mixed with endless repetitive catchphrases: "Silly you, silly me”, "Oh dear, oh dear”, “Stupid thing!”, "Now look what you've done!" and, of course, "To me, to you”. “It was a family thing,” explained Barry. “We used to say it at home when we were moving furniture."

To adults, the appeal was a mystery. To anyone aged eight and under, it was avoid-your-homework, roll-around-on-the-floor hilarity. Innocent, irresistible and deceptively skilled: day-glo in production values, blessed with uncanny comic timing, a mastery of sight gags and performed with utter conviction. Russell T Davies, of Doctor Who reboot fame, used to write scripts. It even got a spin-off gameshow titled (naturally) To Me, To You and an album called (you guessed it) To You, To Me.

The Chuckle Brothers Paul and Barry Elliot in costume for the pantomime Snow White at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton. © Shutterstock The Chuckle Brothers Paul and Barry Elliot in costume for the pantomime Snow White at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.

ChuckleVision went onto run for 22 years, adding up to 292 episodes, before its epic run finally ended in 2009. Before it did, Paul and Barry received a special award at the Children’s BAFTAs. Between series, and after it went off-air, they toured relentlessly and were ever-reliable box office business, performing in panto for 50 consecutive years.

Barry Elliot and Paul Elliot, aka The Chuckle Brothers, arrive at the British Academy Children's Film and Television awards at the London Park Lane Hilton, Park Lane on November 30, 2008 in London, England © Getty Barry Elliot and Paul Elliot, aka The Chuckle Brothers, arrive at the British Academy Children's Film and Television awards at the London Park Lane Hilton, Park Lane on November 30, 2008 in London, England

Adored by actual children and overgrown ones alike, the Chuckles’ cult status meant they never really went away. They appeared at nightclubs and student nights, popped up on insurance ads, panel shows and Comic Relief sketches. They performed in front of their biggest ever crowd at music weekender Bestival and won reality show Celebrity Coach Trip. Another proud moment was when they were made honorary presidents of their beloved Rotherham FC.

Prince Charles, Paul Chuckle and Barry Chuckle, 6 Dec 2016 © Shutterstock Prince Charles, Paul Chuckle and Barry Chuckle, 6 Dec 2016

The pair recently guest-starred on ITV comedies Benidorm and The Keith & Paddy Picture show. They also kept up their profile with a thriving social media presence and gained surprise street cred by recording a charity single with grime artist Tinchy Stryder titled – what else? – To Me, To You (Bruv), in aid of the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust. The rapper happily admitted that he used to run home from school every day to watch ChuckleVision, so was chuffed to collaborate with them.

In pictures: People we lost in 2018 (GES)

The Chuckle Brothers are even immortalised in Hansard. During Prime Minister’s Questions in 2015, David Cameron referred to the two Eds in opposition, Miliband and Balls, as “The Chuckle Brothers”. To me, to PMQs.

The duo had recently filmed a comeback for Channel 5 after a decade off-air. Barry had reportedly been unwell towards the end of filming and cancelled his summer work on doctor’s orders. It remains to be seen whether Paul - the younger by three years – can now carry on without his brother, best friend and comedic right-hand.

An entertainer from the old school, a great British eccentric and a total gentleman off-stage, Barry Chuckle leaves half a century of laughter as his legacy. Thanks for all the chuckles.

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