Stephen Fry’s tribute to classic comedy writer wth Harrogate links

David Nobbs with Chair of the Knaresborough Players Committe Shirley Holden (seated) and Bernie Costhwaite at the opening of the restored Frazer Theater. (AM090812c)
David Nobbs with Chair of the Knaresborough Players Committe Shirley Holden (seated) and Bernie Costhwaite at the opening of the restored Frazer Theater. (AM090812c)

By Graham Chalmers

The world knew him as the creator of 1970s hit TV comedy Reggie Perrin but, locally, David Nobbs was known as a great supporter of cultural events across North Yorkshire, whether that was school events or village festivals.

Since his death earlier this week aged 80, some of the biggest names in showbusiness and literature have been paying tribute to this friendly and helpful veteran comedy writer and novelist.

Stephen Fry wrote: “Oh no! David Nobbs has died. I liked him very very much. Such a brilliant comic writer and a kind, wise man.”

Despite success nationally at the highest level writing for page, stage, radio and TV, David Nobbs’ ties with both Ripon, Knaresborough and Harrogate were particularly strong.

Born in Kent, he moved to North Yorkshire in 1992. After two years living in a flat in Harrogate, he and his second wife Susan moved to the country outside Ripon, before moving back to Harrogate n 2011.

As well as appearing in person at Harrogate Theatre in 2013 in An Evening with David Nobbs, three of his Henry Pratt novels (Second From Last in the Sack Race, Pratt of the Argus and The Cucumber Man) were adapated for the stage and performed at Harrogate Theatre.

He was also was a vice-president of the Harrogate Theatre Forward Appeal for a time.

Chief executive of Harrogate Theatre, David Bown said: “He was a frequent visitor to Harrogate Theatre and his contribution to Harrogate Comedy Festival two years ago is one of my favourite events in all my time here. He had a great and beautiful mind.”

A former journalist at The Sheffield Star, Nobbs first tasted success at the beginning of the Sixties’ satire boom, churning out scripts for David Frost on That Was The Week That Was.

Despite being the author of 13 hugely popular novels, he was probably best known for writing The Fall and Rise of Reginal Perrin starring Leonard Rossiter.

The Office creator Ricky Gervais, borrowing a catchphrase from Perrin’s tyrannical boss CJ, said: “I didn’t get where I am today by not knowing what a genius David Nobbs was. RIP.”

John Cleese described the Perrin shows as his “masterwork”. He posted on Twitter: “Very sad today to hear of the death of David Nobbs. First worked with him on the Frost Report in 1966. lovely kind, gentle man with a delicious sense of humour.”

Matt Lucas wrote: “Reggie Perrin & A Bit Of A Do were masterpieces. David Nobbs leaves the world a richer place.”

An all-round wordsmith, everything he touched turned to comic gold. He was the man behind many of The Two Ronnies’ funniest moments, including Ronnie Barker’s classic “Pisprununciation” sketch.

He is survived by his wife, Susan, four stepchildren, eight step-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren.