Barry Chuckle obituary

One half of the comedy duo the Chuckle Brothers who were stalwarts of children’s television

Barry Chuckle, who has died aged 73, was the smaller, wirier, older half of the children’s TV entertainers the Chuckle Brothers. He and his brother Paul specialised in a skilful but primitive form of physical slapstick, usually announced with the optimistic catchphrase “To me, to you” and, after the mounting catastrophes that followed, ending with the more resigned “Oh dear, oh dear” as they surveyed the chaos.

Some adults found the appeal of their antics, and the rather battered, moustached personas, mystifying, and even somewhat disconcerting, but the brothers were adored by the under-eights. ChuckleVision ran for 292 episodes on BBC TV between 1987 and 2009 and a new series had recently begun on Channel 5.

Each episode opened with the brothers starting a new adventure, often riding their Chuckmobile, a quadracycle pedalled by Barry while Paul put his feet up on the front bar. Paul was the dominant one and ordered Barry around but, like other great comedy double-acts, it was a moot point which of them was the bigger fool.

It was probably the sheer, uninhibited zest they put into their work, and their deep appreciation of what was required, that their fans loved. Children always know when they are being patronised, but the Chuckle Brothers were perhaps like two daft uncles who had never grown up, who could be relied upon to cause shock and laughter and disrupt family gatherings. There was no barrier between them and the children because the Chuckles were essentially children themselves, and understood.

Barry was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, to Amy and James Patton Elliott. His father was a well-known entertainer under the name Gene Patton, who toured the world, and Barry and Paul, who was born three years later, had two older brothers, Jimmy and Brian, who also went on to become a comedy double-act, the Patton Brothers. Jimmy and Brian appeared regularly in ChuckleVision, Jimmy as a “boss” character known as No Slacking and Brian as an unnamed character who appeared in several episodes shouting: “Gerroutofit!”

In 1967 the Chuckle Brothers were the winners of the TV talent show Opportunity Knocks and reinforced this success with an appearance on ITV’s New Faces in 1974. Then there was a lull, during which they kept busy with panto and what was left of the touring variety circuit, with a few TV spots such as appearances on the BBC’s Lennie and Jerry (1979) and the game show 3-2-1, hosted by Ted Rogers, in 1980 and 1982. Also in 1980 they attracted attention in the BBC’s long-running music-hall pastiche show, The Good Old Days. That was the year that their potential as children’s entertainers was realised with an appearance on Christmas Day in the televised A Merry Morning, which saw them performing before 250 children from the Leeds area at Yeadon Town Hall.

However, it was back to panto and seaside summer shows for a few years until the BBC launched Chucklehounds in 1985, a series of shorts aimed at pre-school children, which had no dialogue and saw the brothers performing in dog costumes. Two years later came ChuckleVision.

In 2008, the year before the original series ended, it won the Bafta children’s special award. In 1992, the brothers performed at the Children’s Royal Variety Performance. From 1996 to 1998 they also presented a BBCTV children’s game show, To Me, To You! The format, which incorporated a Treasure Island theme, involved two teams competing for prizes on a shopping trolley.

The brothers toured extensively with lavish stage shows until 2015. These were mostly parodies used as a framework for the slapstick, and the titles included Raiders of the Lost Bark, Doctor What and the Return of the Garlics, Spooky Goings On (and Spooky Goings On 2), Indiana Chuckles and the Kingdom of the Mythical Sulk (which also featured the Patton Brothers), Barry Potty and his Full Blood Brother Paul in the Ghostly Shadows, and Chuckle Trek – The Lost Generation. They appeared in panto every year from the 1960s until 2017.

In 2008 they were in the BBC documentary series The Comedy Map of Britain and in 2012 in Comedy World Cup for Channel 4. The following year they were in David Walliams’s sketch for Comic Relief in which Walliams knocked on their door with important information to give them. Paul replied (of course) “To me?”

Both keen supporters of Rotherham United, in 2007 they were made honorary presidents of the club.

In 2014 the Chuckle Brothers collaborated with the rapper Tinchy Stryder to release a charity single To Me, To You (Bruv) to raise funds for the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust.

Barry appeared without his partner in the BBC’s Still Open All Hours in 2013, as a dog-owner, Mr Marshall, and both were in an episode of ITV’s Benidorm in early 2018 (with Barry in drag).

Barry is survived by his wife, Ann, to whom he was married for 45 years, and brothers, Paul, Jimmy and Brian.

• Barry Chuckle (Barry David Elliott), comedian and children’s entertainer, born 24 December 1944; died 5 August 2018


Stephen Dixon

The GuardianTramp

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