Ronnie Corbett today led the tributes of the entertainment world to his comedy partner Ronnie Barker following his death at the age of 76.
The diminutive comedian described Barker (pictured), who died at 12.15pm yesterday following a long illness, as "pure gold in triplicate".
The pair worked together for four decades and enjoyed huge success with the popular television show The Two Ronnies.
Corbett said of his long-time friend and colleague: "Ronnie was pure gold in triplicate: as a performer, a writer and a friend.
"We worked together since 1965 and we never had a cross word.
"It was 40 years of harmonious joy, nothing but an absolute pleasure. I will miss him terribly, but he went out on a lift."
Barker will be remembered as one of the most successful TV comedians of all time.
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As well as the long-running partnership with Corbett, he struck gold with the sitcoms Porridge and Open All Hours.
To the delight of audiences, the star, who retired from the small screen in 1987, was back on TV only recently in The Two Ronnies Sketchbook.
Corbett added: "He was delighted that the Two Ronnies Sketchbook had gone so well, bringing us to a new generation of audiences."
A special half-hour programme celebrating Barker's life will be shown tonight at 10.35pm on BBC1, said the Corporation. It will replace the factual show Drama Connections.
A show first screened last year to mark a lifetime achievement Bafta the comedian received will be shown again at 9pm on Friday on BBC1.
The Two Ronnies ran for 98 episodes over 12 series between 1971 and 1987.
In its heyday, the show attracted up to 18 million viewers and the pair remain an inspiration for many of today's comedians, including Peter Kay.
The Mastermind sketch, the two constantly bickering tramps, and the Four Candles sketch - in which Barker attempts to buy "fork handles" at a hardware store - still gets laughs today.
John Cleese, who began his comedy career with Barker in the 1960s comedy series The Frost Report, today described him as "a warm, friendly and encouraging presence to have when I started in television" and "a great comic actor to learn from".
Peter Kay said: "He made me laugh so much and I'm just so lucky to have been able to get to know my hero and the person that I aspire to be."
Former Monty Python star Michael Palin said: "I can't think of anyone who knew how to play comedy better than Ronnie Barker.
"Ronnie was a straightforward, down to earth man who had this extraordinary ability to make the nation laugh, probably more often than anyone else I know."
David Jason, who rose to fame playing Granville alongside Barker in Open All Hours, was said to be "absolutely shocked and distressed" by the news, according to his agent.
Comedian Ben Elton said: "Britain has lost one of its greatest comic artists, but he lives on in an incomparable body of work which will continue to bring joy to millions."
BBC chairman Michael Grade said: "We have lost a national treasure. He was a comic actor of real genius and a naturally funny comedian in the vaudeville tradition - a unique combination."
Barker was honoured by Bafta in Ronnie Barker: A Bafta Tribute in 2004.
He announced his retirement from TV comedy acting in 1987 at the height of his success after more than a decade of acclaimed shows.
He set up an antique business with a shop in the Oxfordshire village of Chipping Norton.
Today his role as a shopkeeper Arkwright in Open all Hours and as rebellious prisoner Fletcher in Porridge remain enduring comedy favourites.
Since retiring, Barker has only been on screen a few times, including a special tribute to The Two Ronnies in 1999, and in the BBC drama The Gathering Storm in 2002, in which he played Churchill's butler.
But when The Two Ronnies looked back at some of the best sketches they recorded for their long running show in The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, it showed the duo's long-lasting appeal.
Barker's agent Rosalind Chatto said Barker's wife Joy Tubb - they married in 1957 - was with him when he died.
He had been nursed at home but is thought to have gone into a hospice in the last 24 hours.
Ms Chatto said: "He died yesterday after a long period of heart trouble.
"He died peacefully and his wife was with him. He had been nursed at home for a long time."
Barker, who wrote many of the scripts for The Two Ronnies, got his TV break came when he was chosen for the supporting cast of The Frost Report with John Cleese in 1966.
It was here that he first met Corbett, his future comedy partner and the other half of one of the most successful comedy double acts.
Barker and his wife had three children, actress Charlotte Barker, the actor Adam Barker and Larry Barker.
Michael Hurll, producer of The Two Ronnies, told the BBC: "There was a rhythm to a joke and he was able to show us how that worked. It worked every time.
"With Ronnie Barker you felt safe. The whole family could watch, granny and the kids.
"Ronnie Barker meant to comedy in this country, laughs, big laughs and laughs that you will always remember."