CHARLES GRAHAM - Farewell to loved genius of comedy

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THE death of Eric Sykes was announced just after this page went to press last week.

But I couldn’t let this wonderful man’s passing go unremarked even at this belated stage.

Happy were the evenings watching his long-running comedy show Sykes And A... with Hattie Jacques, Deryck Guyler and Richard Wattis, and I particularly relish the memories of a live version of the programme I saw at a theatre in Torquay while on a family holiday way back in 1976.

I recall Sykes breaking out of character several times to natter to the audience (usually when things went wrong on stage), and I was charmed and amused then just as was ever after when he appeared on the screen or I read him in print.

One of the best comic script-writers this country has ever produced, Sykes was unofficially the fifth Goon, helping his long-time chum Spike Milligan produce weekly madcap stories for the country’s top comedy shows on an exhaustingly regular basis.

But he was also a very good actor, perhaps an under-appeciated one. Seek out if you can excerpts of that massive theatrical hit Big Bad Mouse with his bewhiskered mate Jimmy Edwards. The slapstick comic timing as Sykes manages to get his neck tie trapped in a desk drawer is a joy to behold.

There are not so many of the old stagers left now, but heaven will be a funnier place with Sykes aboard, that’s for sure.