A great entertainer who genuinely enjoyed his craft

The stereotypical comedian is a neurotic, tortured soul. Sadness sits behind the jokes. For some comics, unkindness is simply the price of laughs.

That wasn’t Barry Cryer. This great public entertainer once complained: “I’ve been dogged by good luck all my life.”

Known for his gravelly cackle as well as those bawdy, deadpan puns, Cryer made clear just how much he was enjoying himself. It’s infectious behaviour.

In their tributes on Thursday, friends noted his habit of ringing them up out of the blue – often when they felt a bit down – and without any introduction trying out a new joke on them, before declaring, “I’ll let you get back to your life!” and hanging up.

Such calls were “a frequent treat”, recalls Jack Dee, whose own favourite was: “There’s a priest in the confessional box and someone comes in and sits down behind the screen. After a couple of minutes the person still hasn’t said anything so the priest knocks on the side of the confessional. There’s no response, so a minute later he knocks again and a bloke’s voice says ‘You can knock all you like, there’s no paper in here either’.”

In any tribute to Cryer, it’s hard not to let him do the talking. He offered one of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of artistic licence – a riposte captured in his Times obituary. Asked if all of his stories were true, or whether he sometimes exaggerated for effect, he conceded: “You do neaten them up a bit. Real life can be so badly written.”

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Self-effacing, he described his favourite era of comedy as “now”, a typically generous response to younger comics plying their trade.

Bravo, then, for a 60-year dedication to broadcasting cleverly crafted filth that escaped censorious media execs. Who wouldn’t want to have such passion for making other people laugh?

I hope he wrote his own epitaph.

Twitter: @olyduff

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