Appearing at a charity fundraiser yesterday, comedian Ronnie Corbett once again attracted comments that unlike almost every other celebrity he actually appears bigger in the flesh than on the screen.
‘It’s a trick of the light,’ said the 79 year old. ‘Well, not exactly a trick of the light, but if I said it wasn’t a trick at all I wouldn’t be telling the truth, but that’s another story.’
Corbett, who is actually 5 feet 7 inches tall, said the whole thing started as a way of exaggerating the height differences between himself, Ronnie Barker and John Cleese in their seminal sketches on The Frost Report in the 1960s.
‘This was in the days before all this digital technology,’ he said, ‘and we used to get the effect by having me stand a few feet back from the other two. With the right lens and no background to give perspective, it was a very successful trick. There you are, I said it was a trick.’
Mr Corbett described how the illusion was perpetuated through the use of oversized props, particularly his glasses and the enormous chair he sat in when telling stories on The Two Ronnies. ‘I do a lot of pro-celebrity golf,’ he said, ‘so I had these oversized clubs and golf umbrella made up and hired a very large caddy. It worked a treat, and I’d have hit the ball a mile with those clubs if I hadn’t been using a bigger ball too.’
Newsreaders and actors are often disappointingly small in the flesh, while larger-than-life sports heroes can turn out to be remarkably compact in reality. Fashion icons such as Victoria Beckham, who give the lie to the saying that you can’t be too thin for TV, almost disappear from view in person, with the exception of Elle Macpherson, whose legs really do go on forever.
Hat tip to Stan Laurel. John O’Farrell is 6 foot 5.