Eric Sykes was really about the last of the great comedians left, and has died at 89. Despite being barely able to hear or see, his comic timing stayed with him to the end. There was something very Dad-like and logical about his frustrations and obsessions, a mild-mannered, exasperated everyman whose low-key high moments included getting his toe stuck in a bath tap and having endless trouble with a plank. Although he’s also terrific in a straight role, in ‘The Others’.
In the Golden Era of British comedy that is acknowledged to have run from Hancock’s Half Hour to Fawlty Towers, Sykes’s gentle humour caught the national mood. I was present at this recording of ‘Dinnerladies’, which featured Thora Hird, Dora Bryan and Eric Sykes as the gathered parents of the beleaguered canteen staff. Sykes turns up around three minutes in, although skipping to that misses out Hird’s delivery of the line; ‘Are you the one with cancer?’