Tributes are being paid to British comedy great Barry Cryer following his death at the age of 86.
Born in Leeds in 1935, he started out as a variety performer before going on to write for and with some of the biggest names in British comedy, including Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Sir Billy Connelly and Tommy Cooper.
He received an OBE in 2001 and in 2018 was given a lifetime achievement award for his comedy career by the British Music Hall Society.
Cryer’s family said the star died in hospital in Harrow, “peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him”, on Tuesday afternoon.
“Dad was a talented comedy writer and comedian in a particularly golden vintage,” they said in a statement paying tribute. “Incidentally he never really liked the terms ‘comedy writer’ or ‘comedian’, instead preferring hack and entertainer, and always thought the term ‘national treasure’ meant he’d just been dug up. He was, in his words, arrogant in his humility.
“He had a gift for friendship (as anyone who still has a landline will testify) and a genius for putting people at their ease. Oh yes, and he made many people laugh. A lot. Over many years.”
During a seven-decade career, Cryer appeared on stage, screen and radio and penned jokes for countless household names.
He was known for his long-running partnership with the late Sir David Frost, with their collaborations including The Frost Report on the BBC, and was also a panellist on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue for more than four decades.
He was also a much-loved family man, known to those who knew him as Baz. One of his sons, actor and writer Bob Cryer, shared the family’s statement on Twitter with the caption: “#celebratebaz”.
“Baz was, firstly, a loving husband to Terry for nearly 60 years and a gentle father to Tony, David, Jack, Bob,” their statement said. “He was a friend to their partners Jayne, Matt, Garry and Suzannah.
“As a grandfather, Ruby, Tom, Evan, Archie, Hope, Martha and Connie all loved him and more recently, Ruby’s daughter, Isobel, had the good fortune to spend time with him as a great-grandfather.”
Comedians and fans pay tribute
Stephen Fry, Gyles Brandreth and David Baddiel are among the many stars and fans also commemorating Cryer.
Fry described the comedy legend as a “glorious, gorgeous, hilarious and gifted writer and performer who straddled all the comic traditions” and was “universally beloved”, while Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss called the star “the real deal”.
Gatiss continued: “An incredibly funny man who worked with – and wrote for – the giants of comedy,” he wrote on Twitter. “Yet he remained forever curious and delighted by whatever was fresh and original. Kind, encouraging, generous and a one off. Goodbye, Cheeky.”
Writer Neil Gaiman tweeted: “I’m so so so sorry to hear this. I only worked with Barry Cryer once, on the @BBCRadio4 Anansi Boys – and he wasn’t in the broadcast version, as he was unwell.
“But being in the room and watching him act and tell jokes was an utter joy. #RIPBarry.”
Comedian Ross Noble tweeted: “Devastating news to hear of the passing of Barry Cryer.
“He was a legend of his generation and more engaged with the many new generations of writers and comics who followed him than anyone else in the business.
“Spending time with him was always a great joy. Such a funny and nice man.”