When David Jason met Ronnie Barker

David Jason is one of the most recognisable comedy actors in England.

His work on iconic British sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses and Open All Hours catapulted him to the spotlight, and his relationship with fellow comedy actor Ronnie Barker is one of his most impactful and formative. Jason himself has said that he owes much of his early success to Barker, who served as a mentor for him as a young actor.

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The sitcom about a cranky shopkeeper and his long-suffering errand boy, Open All Hours put the two men back-to-back in many pivotal scenes and saw them forge a deep relationship over the course of the show – undercut by the usual witty banter befitting a show of its calibre. However, many will be interested to know that David Jason and Ronnie Barker had a friendship outside the set, and it was one that served to transform Jason into the comedic legend he would eventually become.

Speaking about his mentor, Jason has said that “Ronnie B was the head of the team and because he was such a nice man, and so creative, and very funny and stimulating in his own right, he passed that on to the rest of the cast. He loved showbiz, he loved acting, and he loved giving pleasure to people, and he passed that on to me if you like.”

The close relationship between the two men began in 1969. Barker cast Jason as a unique character – a 100-year-old gardener. From there, the two worked again on a comedy called The Odd Job. A unique premise, The Odd Job was the story of a man who hires a handyman-type character to kill him. Jason played the role of the killer, which was given to him by Barker simply because he recognised the ability of the younger man. This helped cement the ongoing relationship and mutual respect of the two actors.

These parts built on the relationship between the two actors and also guaranteed work for Jason, who says that: “The reason I got to work with Ronnie on Open All Hours was because of the little bits that I had done in his other series. He played this wonderful, bumbling character, and I was playing this hundred-year-old gardener. It was just working with him and understanding how he approached things.”

The two men continued to appear in roles together over the years. From Porridge to Seven of One, (Barker’s own comedic series), the two enjoyed a friendship which defined them both, with Barker citing Jason as one of his best friends at Ronnie Barker: A BAFTA Tribute.

Enduring friendships like these can massively shape and impact the careers of anyone, whether they are actors or businesspeople. Staying in contact, no matter what’s going on, has never been more important for maintaining valuable relationships.

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