Tributes flow for comedian Eric Sykes

Veteran English comic actor Eric Sykes after receiving his CBE (Commander of the British Empire) award from Queen Elizabeth. Photo / AP
Veteran English comic actor Eric Sykes after receiving his CBE (Commander of the British Empire) award from Queen Elizabeth. Photo / AP

Tributes have been paid to "monumental man of comedy" Eric Sykes following his death at the age of 89.

The British star, best remembered for acting in and writing long-running TV sitcom Sykes And A... with Hattie Jacques, has died after a short illness.

His manager Norma Farnes said that the star of TV, stage and films "died peacefully" and that "his family were with him".

Sykes wrote scripts for comedians such as Peter Sellers, Frankie Howerd and Tony Hancock and penned material for The Goon Show.

His film credits included Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005), The Others (2001) and Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (1965).

The star, who was also a novelist, director and producer, began his career writing for hit BBC radio shows before moving into TV.

Sykes continued working on screen and on the West End stage into his 80s, despite his failing vision and hearing.

Comedian Ken Dodd said that Sykes was "a joy to be with, a wonderful man to know ... a genius at creating comedy.

"He found laughter in anything. More than anything else, he loved everybody and everybody loved him," he said.

"He was never cruel or nasty with his comedy. He was a wonderfully creative man and internationally famous.

"He worked with the great stars but never got big-headed. He was brave and courageous, wanting to work despite the difficulty with his hearing and sight.''

Sir Bruce Forsyth called the "gentle" star "one of the greats of comedy in this country. He was universally loved here ... He was just one of the funniest men ever in comedy".

Actor Bernard Cribbins, who starred in two of Sykes' comedy shorts, The Plank (1979) and It's Your Move (1969), also paid tribute.

"He will be very sadly missed," he said. "I just wish him a lot of rest up there with all the other comics, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe. They will all be up there, having a laugh together."

Cribbins, whose earliest recollection of Sykes is of the star doing a "one-legged darts player routine in the middle of the street", added: "There was a strange, quirky, off-beat quality to his writing."

Comedy writer Eddie Braben said Sykes "was a monumental man of comedy, an inspirational figure for those who aimed for comedy success and a fine hero of comedy.

"He leaves an enormous gap in the field of fun," he said.

"His was the comedy of innocence. He didn't raise any bruises, only laughter."

Braben, who wrote for Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd, added: "Like Spike Milligan and PG Wodehouse, he was a great British man of comedy.

"He had a very quirky sense of humour. He had a way with his body, he was the only man I ever knew who could do a double take with his feet."

TV star Michael Palin said that Sykes, who served as a wireless operator in the Mobile Signals Unit of the Royal Air Force until after the end of World War II, "was one of the nicest, most decent men in the business and one of a kind. No-one else could do what Eric could do. To me, he was a great inspiration, both as a writer and performer."

Stephen Fry was among those to pay tribute on Twitter, writing: "Oh no! Eric Sykes gone? An adorable, brilliant, modest, hilarious, innovative and irreplaceable comic master. Farewell, dear, dear man."

Sykes, whose recent TV credits include Last Of The Summer Wine and Agatha Christie's Poirot, had one son and three daughters with wife Eith Eleanore Milbrandt. He was awarded a CBE in 2004.

- PAA

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