“We are… de management.”
It’s a phrase etched indelibly on the minds of TV viewers of a certain age, uttered by arguably Gareth Hale and Norman Pace’s most famous creations, the Two Rons, a pair of simmeringly aggressive, humourless nightclub bouncer types.
It was thanks to characters like these, and numerous others (including inappropriate kid’s TV presenters Billy and Johnny) that cemented the pair’s status as comedy household names through much of the 80s and 90s, after meeting as trainee teachers in the 70s.
They’d command audiences of millions for shows like their eponymous sketch caper ‘Hale and Pace’ made for ITV by London Weekend Television, which ran for a decade, as well as appearances on everything from 'The Lenny Henry Show’ to the Royal Variety Performance. They even appeared on three episodes of 'The Young Ones’, giving their early work a dose of alternative credibility, and won the prestigious Silver Rose of Montreux for the first series of their ITV show.
The comedy world was at their feet, following the Young Ones in making a charity single for Comic Relief, 'The Stonk’, with Brian May in 1991.
It was at their peak that they shifted allegiance from ITV to the BBC, a move that has proved the death knell for many a comedic enterprise (see also Morecambe and Wise moving from the BBC to ITV and never quite retaining the magic). Their show 'h&p@bbc’ in 1999 flopped terribly, and it was at that point they began going their separate ways, though amicably.
Rather brilliantly in 2001, they sent themselves up for a pretty post-modern sketch in the Armando Iannucci Show on BBC2, which saw them running their own failing shoe shop. And they’ve never been too shy of such self-mockery, also appearing in the 2007 Christmas special of Ricky Gervais’s 'Extras’.
For Gareth Hale, the TV work never really stopped coming in, however. He took up the role of Doug MacKenzie in daytime soap 'Family Affairs’, then playing head porter Jack Bell in period hospital drama 'The Royal’, and also playing various characters in long-running soap 'Doctors’.
Of late, he’s appeared in the rebooted 'Open All Hours’, 'Still Open All Hours’, with David Jason, playing the role of Michael. And later this year, he’ll appear in British film 'The Bromley Boys’, adapted from Dave Roberts’ football memoir, alongside Alan Davies and Martine McCutcheon.
Pace, meanwhile, has focused more on stage work than screen.
He performed with National Theatre’s acclaimed touring production of 'One Man, Two Guvnors’, playing wheeler-dealer Charlie Clench, and also in productions of 'Annie Get Your Gun’, playing Buffalo Bill. This summer, he’s playing the Narrator in the revamped touring production of 'The Rocky Horror Show’.
The pair are still hugely popular in Australia, however, and performed a farewell tour there in 2014.
Pace recently told the Western Morning News: “After 30 years of living in each other’s pockets, it’s nice to find yourself again. But we would work together again. Maybe if a producer comes along looking for two 60-year-old fat blokes.”
Image credits: Rex Features