Dame Esther Rantzen has joined the world of comedy in paying tribute to Barry Cryer following his death aged 86.
Cryer’s family said in a statement that he had died “peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him”.
Rantzen, who first worked with Cryer in the 60s, told the PA news agency: “In a way Barry was a genius, but so unassuming that he would be astonished, I think, to be called a genius – but he was.
“His jokes were brilliantly crafted and a constant joy. He would ring his friends up with his latest parrot jokes or with some reflection on what was happening. He was so generous with his wit.
British comedy just lost its greatest curator and archivist. Thoughts are with Terry and all his family. RIP Baz. “There was this parrot……..” pic.twitter.com/X9gZwCQZmd— Jack Dee (@TheRealJackDee) January 27, 2022
“He was just delightful. He worked on That’s Life! for some time. But I worked with him in many different contexts. He did a lot of charity events. He was just a lovely human being as well as being very, very funny.”
She added: “He was like an encyclopaedia of humour and unfortunately recently I had met him at funerals, because alas, when you get into your eighth decade that tends to happen.
“But it was always a pleasure to sit next to him because he would always cheer you up.”
Comedian Jack Dee, host of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue which Cryer had also featured in and previously hosted, tweeted: “British comedy just lost its greatest curator and archivist. Thoughts are with Terry and all his family. RIP Baz. ‘There was this parrot……..’”
The BBC’s director-general Tim Davie said Cryer was a “uniquely funny, talented and generous person”.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie pays tribute to Barry Cryer pic.twitter.com/aqjNUJbujl— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) January 27, 2022
In a statement, Davie said: “He was an incredible comedian and writer. If you heard or saw a great sketch there was always a good chance Barry was behind it. He worked with every major showbiz legend because everyone wanted to work with him.
“Barry will be hugely missed by his many friends at the BBC and the wider public.”
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. https://t.co/FiY9XO7Hy0— David Mitchell (@RealDMitchell) January 27, 2022
Comedian David Mitchell said he was “so proud” to have known the veteran comic, adding in a tweet: “He was a brilliant man and a bringer of huge joy who never stopped being delighted by comedy. What an amazing life.”
Former Great British Bake Off host Sue Perkins tweeted “Oh Baz” followed by a broken hearted emoji, adding: “Rest in peace you inimitable gag-cannon. xxx #barrycryer”.
Devastated to hear of #BarryCryer passing, after seeing him only recently sparkling as ever on his podcast. He never missed giving a birthday phone call & joke, never missed giving encouraging comments, never missed the opportunity of telling a story. One of a kind & 🙏🏽 RIPBaz 💔 pic.twitter.com/eIIA8tfL8K— Sanjeev Bhaskar💙 (@TVSanjeev) January 27, 2022
Actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar said he was “devastated” at the news. He tweeted: “Devastated to hear of #BarryCryer passing, after seeing him only recently sparkling as ever on his podcast. He never missed giving a birthday phone call & joke, never missed giving encouraging comments, never missed the opportunity of telling a story.”
Employees at the pub Cryer used to frequent paid tribute to the comedian, who “always had a smile on his face”.
A member of staff at The Moon And Sixpence in Harrow, who did not want to be named, said the veteran performer had been visiting them for more than a decade, telling tales that “always had a punchline”.
She told the PA news agency: “He was a very nice man, a very humble man, he was always kind to everyone who came over to him.
“He would tell his old jokes and stories, everything always had a punchline.
“He used to say ‘touring at 80, I am lucky to be doing anything at 80!’
“It does not matter the day, he never seemed angry, he was always so happy, it was exciting to go over to him… we will miss him dearly.”
The employee remembered the “amazing stories” the comedy star used to tell, including a tale about Princess Diana, who he was sat next too at a function while his wife was sick.
She told the PA news agency: “Barry explained to Diana that his wife was unwell…during a speech by Prince Charles she said to him ‘wouldn’t you rather be somewhere else’ which was a reference to it being boring.
“Princess Diana was given lots of flowers and she said ‘please can you give these flowers to your wife’.
“He was so shocked she had remembered his wife was unwell as she had met lots of people that day.”
The veteran performer reportedly later told the pub staff he went straight home and gave his wife the flowers from the Princess of Wales.
Farewell to Barry Cryer OBE. He enrolled on an English degree @UniversityLeeds, but was spotted by an agent @CityVarieties and pursued a career in comedy before completing his studies. It was a joy to welcome him back to campus in 2017 to award him an honorary degree. pic.twitter.com/zG9aELqRkR— Leeds Alumni (@LeedsAlumni) January 27, 2022
A tweet from the official Leeds Alumni account recalled Cryer’s early beginnings at the University writing: “Farewell to Barry Cryer OBE. He enrolled on an English degree @UniversityLeeds, but was spotted by an agent @CityVarieties and pursued a career in comedy before completing his studies.
“It was a joy to welcome him back to campus in 2017 to award him an honorary degree.”
Cryer was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University in 2013 and is quoted as saying at the time: “Coming back to Leeds is like a warm bath and today is a wonderful day.
“It means a hell of a lot to me to get an honorary degree.”
Cryer’s family said a funeral would take place in the coming weeks and would be followed later by a “more inclusive” memorial service.