Tributes paid to comedy legend Barry Cryer who dies aged 86

27 January 2022, 10:57 | Updated: 27 January 2022, 12:43

Barry Cryer's career spanned seven decades
Barry Cryer's career spanned seven decades. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Tributes are pouring in comedian and writer Barry Cryer who has died at the age of 86.

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His family said he died on Tuesday "peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him".

The writer and performer appeared on stage, screen and radio and penned jokes for countless household names during a seven-decade career.

He wrote for legends of British comedy, including Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Sir Billy Connelly and Tommy Cooper.

He had a long-running partnership with Sir David Frost and was a panellist on BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue for more than four decades.

In 2018, he was handed a lifetime achievement award for his comedy career by the British Music Hall Society.

Barry Cryer performing in 2014
Barry Cryer performing in 2014. Picture: Alamy

A family statement said: "Dad was a talented comedy writer and comedian in a particularly golden vintage. 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."

The statement added: "It'll be of no surprise to those that knew and worked with him that he was telling an Archbishop of Canterbury joke to a nurse not long before he died.

"That was one of his gifts, making strangers feel welcome. Making them laugh."

Barry Cryer with comedian Lee Mack
Barry Cryer with comedian Lee Mack. Picture: Alamy

Details of the funeral and memorial service will be posted on Twitter at @barrycryer80, the family said, while asking for messages, photos or videos to be submitted to a book of condolence, details of which would also be announced on Twitter.

The statement continued: "He leaves behind him a life of fun, joy, love and silliness and we'll all be doing our best to maintain that legacy.

"He regularly told fantastic stories and anecdotes about others - the many brilliant and fascinating people he'd worked with and knew - but as he was loved and admired by to many - why don't we start telling some stories about Baz and his brilliant and mischievous life and career?

"And to end, as Dad would say, 'Same time tomorrow?"

Stephen Fry led tributes, describing Cryer as "one of the absolute greats of British comedy".

He wrote on Twitter: "A glorious, gorgeous, hilarious and gifted writer and performer who straddled all the comic traditions. Universally beloved … farewell, Baz."

Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth said: "Wherever Barry went he brought laughter with him - even to memorial services. And he went to lots because he'd worked with everyone!

"He was generous about everyone: a great mentor & friend."

Writer and broadcaster Victoria Coren Mitchell tweeted a photo, writing: "Here's Barry Cryer at our wedding. How young we all were! Except Barry, obviously.

"I was so proud to have him there, and it made my father feel closer. He was a lovely, lovely man and this is a very sad day."

Comedian David Mitchell added: "I'm so proud to have known Barry Cryer. He was a brilliant man and a bringer of huge joy who never stopped being delighted by comedy. What an amazing life."

Comedian Ross Noble said: "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."

Writer and actor Mark Gatiss tweeted: "Barry Cryer was the real deal. An incredibly funny man who worked with - and wrote for - the giants of comedy. 

"Yet he remained forever curious and delighted by whatever was fresh and original. Kind, encouraging, generous and a one off."