Comedy legend Barry Cryer tells hospital nurse one last joke before passing away at the age of 86

Barry Cryer, the legendary comic writer, comedian and actor once dubbed the ‘King of Comedy’, told a hospital nurse one final joke before passing away at the age of 86 surrounded by his loved ones.

The funny man was a stalwart on BBC Radio 4’s popular panel game ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, first featuring as a host in 1972 and then as a panelist for almost 50 years.

And fitting to his humorous streak, Cryer was telling a hospital nurse a joke about a man, his wife and the Archbishop of Canterbury not long before he died on January 25, his family have revealed.

In a statement, his family said: ‘It’ll be of no surprise to those that knew and worked with him that he was telling an Archbishop of Canterbury joke to a nurse not long before he died.

‘That was one of his gifts, making strangers feel welcome. Making them laugh.’

It is believed that the joke was likely one he had told to his friend Ben Preston just weeks before he died, and which Preston shared on Twitter as he paid tribute to Cryer.

Sharing the joke, the journalist wrote: ‘A man and his wife are out walking one day when they spot a lone fellow on the other side of the road. ‘That looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury over there,’ says the woman. 

‘Go and see if it is,’ she adds.

‘The husband crosses the road and asks the man if he is indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury.

‘F**k off,’ says the man.

The husband crosses back to his wife who asks ‘What did he say? Is he the Archbishop of Canterbury?’

‘He told me to f**k off,’ says the husband.

‘Oh no,’ replies the wife, ‘Now we’ll never know’.’

English writer, comedian and actor Barry Cryer (pictured here in 1979) has died at the age of 86 

The comedian (pictured here with his wife Terry in 2009) was a stalwart on BBC Radio 4's popular panel game 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'

The comedian (pictured here with his wife Terry in 2009) was a stalwart on BBC Radio 4’s popular panel game ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’

Cryer, who wrote some of his best work alongside John Junkin in the 1970s, also worked alongside radio DJ and television presenter Kenny Everett

A talented writer and comedian, he was made an OBE in 2001 for services to comedy. In a BBC article reporting on the honour, Cryer was titled the 'King of Comedy'

Cryer, who wrote some of his best work alongside John Junkin in the 1970s, also worked alongside radio DJ and television presenter Kenny Everett. A talented writer and comedian, he was made an OBE in 2001 for services to comedy. In a BBC article reporting on the honour, Cryer was titled the ‘King of Comedy’.

JOKE BARRY CRYER IS BELIEVED TO HAVE TOLD BEFORE HE DIED 

Not long before he died on January 15, Cryer told a hospital nurse a joke about a man, his wife and the Archbishop of Canterbury, his family revealed. 

The joke was likely the same one he had told to his friend Ben Preston just weeks before he died.

The joke goes: ‘A man and his wife are out walking one day when they spot a lone fellow on the other side of the road. ‘That looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury over there,’ says the woman. 

‘Go and see if it is,’ she adds.

‘The husband crosses the road and asks the man if he is indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury.

‘F**k off,’ says the man.

The husband crosses back to his wife who asks ‘What did he say? Is he the Archbishop of Canterbury?’

‘He told me to f**k off,’ says the husband.

‘Oh no,’ replies the wife, ‘Now we’ll never know’.’ 

In the same tweet, Preston revealed Cryer had ‘cackled with delight’ after telling the joke, saying he had told the quip to a Bishop who had ‘roared with laughter’, adding: ‘Nothing made Barry happier than that.’

In a statement today, his family paid tribute to the star and to Macmillan nurses for their ‘comforting words and guidance’ prior to his death at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, north west London, on January 25. 

His cause of death has not been explicitly revealed.

The comedy legend wrote for many household showbiz names, including Sir Bruce Forsyth, Sir David Frost, The Two Ronnies and legendary radio DJ and television presenter Kenny Everett. 

But Cryer wrote some of his best work alongside John Junkin in the 1970s, when the pair teamed-up to write for Morecambe and Wise, penning the comedy duo’s 1972 and 1976 Christmas shows. 

A supremely talented writer and comedian in his own right, Cryer was made an OBE for services to comedy in 2001. In a BBC article reporting on the honour, Cryer was titled the ‘King of Comedy’.

Today tributes have flooded in for the star, who is originally from Leeds and had been married to his wife Terry for almost 60 years. The couple have four children.

One of his sons, Bob Cryer, himself a writer, said today that the comedian had died ‘peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him’. 

‘He leaves behind him a life of fun, joy, love and silliness and we’ll all be doing our best to maintain that legacy,’ he added. 

Meanwhile, in the statement his family said: ‘He had a gift for friendship and a genius for putting people at their ease. Oh yes, and he made many people laugh. A lot.’   

Today tributes have flooded in for the star, who is originally from Leeds and who was made an OBE in 2001 (pictured here with his family) for services to comedy

Today tributes have flooded in for the star, who is originally from Leeds and who was made an OBE in 2001 (pictured here with his family) for services to comedy

One of his sons, Bob Cryer, himself a writer, today said the comedian had died 'peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him'. 'He leaves behind him a life of fun, joy, love and silliness and we'll all be doing our best to maintain that legacy,' he added

One of his sons, Bob Cryer, himself a writer, today said the comedian had died ‘peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him’. ‘He leaves behind him a life of fun, joy, love and silliness and we’ll all be doing our best to maintain that legacy,’ he added 

 

Cryer (pictured right with John Junkin and Tim Brooke Taylor) wrote some of his best work alongside John Junkin in the 1970s, when the pair teamed-up to write for Morecambe and Wise, penning the comedy duo's 1972 and 1976 Christmas shows

Cryer (pictured right with John Junkin and Tim Brooke Taylor) wrote some of his best work alongside John Junkin in the 1970s, when the pair teamed-up to write for Morecambe and Wise, penning the comedy duo’s 1972 and 1976 Christmas shows

BARRY CRYER’S BEST JOKES THROUGH THE YEARS 

Best quotes and one-liners

‘Quick – the noise made by a dyslexic duck.’

‘I’m 59 and people call me middle-aged. How many 118-year-old men do you know?’

‘I met my wife and Ronnie Corbett on the same day. I tossed a coin… and married her.’

‘Analysing comedy is like dissecting a frog. Nobody laughs and the frog dies.’

‘Hashtag, party game where you chase each other for drugs.’

‘Picasso was burgled and did a drawing of the robbers. Police arrested a horse and two sardines.’ 

‘A wife is in the bathroom trying on a new dress. She comes out and says to her husband: “Does my bum look big in this?” He says: “Oh be fair, love, it’s quite a small bathroom”.’ 

The parrot joke

In 2020, Cryer published what he claimed was the ‘ultimate’ parrot joke in The Oldie Magazine. He was famous for his jokes about parrots and Cryer and his son Bob even published a collection of the jokes, Hercule Parrot’s Cagebook. 

His ‘ultimate’ parrot joke tells the story of a woman who bought a parrot for just £5.  

‘Well, I must confess, it was brought up in a brothel,’ says the shopkeeper. ‘And, to put it politely, it has quite an extensive vocabulary.’

‘Never mind,’ says the woman. ‘At that price, I’ll take it.’

So she takes the parrot home, puts its cage in the living room and takes the cover off.

‘New place – very nice,’ says the parrot.

Then the woman’s two daughters walk in.

‘New place, new girls – very nice,’ says the parrot.

Then the woman’s husband walks in, and the parrot says, ‘Oh hello, Keith!’

 

Barry Cryer’s Family Statement 

It is our sad duty to inform you that our dear dad Barry (or Baz to his mates) died on Tuesday afternoon (January 25) at Northwick Park Hospital, in Harrow. However, we’re pleased to say that he died peacefully, in good spirits and with his family around him. He was 86.

Dad was a talented comedy writer and comedian in a particularly golden vintage. Incidentally, he never really liked the terms ‘comedy writer’ or ‘comedian’, instead preferring ‘hack’ and ‘entertainer’  and always thought the term ‘national treasure’ meant he’d just been dup up.  He was, in his words, arrogant in his humility.

He had a gift for friendship (as anyone who still has a landline will testify) and a genius for putting people at their ease. Oy yes, and he made many people laugh. A lot. Over many years.

Baz was, firstly a loving husband to Terry for nearly sixty years and a gentle father to Tony, David, Jack, Bob. He was a friend to their partners, Jayne, Matt, Garry and Suzannah. As a grandfather, Ruby, Tom, Evan, Archie, Hope, Martha and Connie all loved him and more recently, Ruby’s daughter Isobel, had the good fortune to spend time with him as a great grandfather.

The family want to place on record our thanks to the doctors, nurses and consultants on Crick and Gaskill Wards for the compassion, dedication, skill and respect they showed to him at Northwick Park. We’d also like to acknowledge the care taken by Dr Denton and Liam and Nisan at MacMillan for their comforting words and guidance. It’ll be no surprise to those who knew and worked with him that he was telling an Archbishop of Canterbury joke to a nurse not long before he died. That was one of his gifts, making strangers feel welcome, making them laugh.

He leaves behind him a life of fun, joy, love and silliness, and we’ll be doing the best to maintain that legacy.

Meanwhile BBC Director General Tim Davie also paid tribute to Cryer. He said in a statement: ‘Barry Cryer was a uniquely funny, talented and generous person. 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.’ 

Colleagues at BBC Radio 4 also paid tribute, writing a Twitter post: ‘We’re so sad to learn that our old friend and comedy inspiration Barry Cryer has died, aged 86.’ 

A host of famous faces also paid tribute to Cryer today. Close friend, the actor, broadcaster, writer and former politician Gyles Brandreth, wrote on Twitter: ‘Baz was just the loveliest guy: funny and generous. 

‘He’d worked with everybody & everybody he worked with liked him.

‘Shall miss his happy company so much – & his regular phone calls: he gave you a gem of a joke with each one.’

Actor, comedian, screenwriter and director Mark Gattis also paid tribute, he wrote: ‘Barry Cryer was the real deal. An incredibly funny man who worked with – and wrote for – the giants of comedy. 

‘Yet he remained forever curious and delighted by whatever was fresh and original. 

‘Kind, encouraging, generous and a one off. Goodbye, Cheeky.’

Presenter Piers Morgan today wrote: ‘RIP Barry Cryer, 86. Such a warm, funny and talented man. 

‘A giant of British comedy. Thanks for all the laughs, Barry.’

Fellow Comedy legend Stephen Fry wrote: ‘Such sad news, one of the absolute greats of British comedy, Barry Cryer, is no more. 

‘A glorious, gorgeous, hilarious and gifted writer and performer who straddled all the comic traditions. Universally beloved … farewell, Baz.’

Food critic Jay Rayner, posting on Twitter, added: ‘Farewell to the great Barry Cryer. A comic genius and a very, very lovely man. 

‘Had a habit of phoning people on their birthday and telling them a joke. 

It was always a good one. But then his jokes always were.’ 

Born in Leeds in March 1935, Cryer was educated at Leeds Grammar school before going on to study English Literature at the Yorkshire city’s university.

While at university he got his foot in the door in the world of entertainment by getting work at Leeds City Varieties Theatre.

There he helped with the BBC’s long-running entertainment show The Good Old Days.

He left university after a year and travelled to London, where he began at the bottom of the bill at the famous Windmill Theatre in Soho.

But, unwell with eczema, and having faced a number of spells in hospital, he was let go from his contract. 

Cryer chose to focus mainly on writing – something he could do even when suffering eczema attacks, which he did for the next eight year.

Born in Leeds in March 1935, Cryer was educated at Leeds Grammar school before going on to study English Literature at the Yorkshire city's university

While at university Cryer (pictured right with comedian Willie Rushton) got his foot in the door in the world of entertainment by getting work at Leeds City Varieties Theatre.

Born in Leeds in March 1935, Cryer (pictured left in 1973) was educated at Leeds Grammar school before going on to study English Literature at the Yorkshire city’s university. While at university Cryer (pictured right with comedian Willie Rushton) got his foot in the door in the world of entertainment by getting work at Leeds City Varieties Theatre

Cryer (pictured here in 1976) got his first big writing break penning sketches for The Jimmy Logan Show, becoming head writer with an occasional stage role for the London nightclub of singer Danny La Rue

Cryer (pictured here in 1976) got his first big writing break penning sketches for The Jimmy Logan Show, becoming head writer with an occasional stage role for the London nightclub of singer Danny La Rue 

In 1972, Cryer (pictured) joined the new BBC Radio 4 show 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue', originally hosting the panel game show, before becoming a regular panelist - a role he continued right up until his death

Cryer (pictured here in 1993) also worked alongside Kenny Everett, even making a cameo appearance as a police officer in the 1984 spoof horror the Bloodbath at the House of Death

In 1972, Cryer (pictured left) joined the new BBC Radio 4 show ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, originally hosting the panel game show, before becoming a regular panelist – a role he continued right up until his death. Cryer (pictured right here in 1993) also worked alongside Kenny Everett, even making a cameo appearance as a police officer in the 1984 spoof horror the Bloodbath at the House of Death. 

A writer who preferred working alongside a partner, Cryer (pictured centre right in 1983 while holding up Shirley Williams of the Social Democratic Party) teamed up with John Junkin for much of the 1970s, where the pair helped write the Morecombe and Wise show during its BBC hey-day

A writer who preferred working alongside a partner, Cryer (pictured centre right in 1983 while holding up Shirley Williams of the Social Democratic Party) teamed up with John Junkin for much of the 1970s, where the pair helped write the Morecombe and Wise show during its BBC hey-day

Unwell with eczema, and having faced a number of spells in hospital, he was let go from his contract at the Windmill

Cryer chose to focus mainly on writing ¿ something he could do even when suffering eczema attacks, which he did for the next eight year

Unwell with eczema, and having faced a number of spells in hospital, he was let go from his contract at the Windmill. Cryer chose to focus mainly on writing – something he could do even when suffering eczema attacks, which he did for the next eight year.

Jack Douglas and Barry Cryer 'Jokers Wild' TV Series - 1973 Jokers Wild was a British comedy panel game show made by ITV Yorkshire TV that originally aired as a pilot on 15 April 1969 and then as a full series from 9 July 1969 to 20 November 1974

Jack Douglas and Barry Cryer ‘Jokers Wild’ TV Series – 1973 Jokers Wild was a British comedy panel game show made by ITV Yorkshire TV that originally aired as a pilot on 15 April 1969 and then as a full series from 9 July 1969 to 20 November 1974

He got his first big writing break penning sketches for The Jimmy Logan Show, becoming head writer with an occasional stage role for the London nightclub of singer Danny La Rue.

It was here he was spotted by legendary television host, journalist and comedian Sir David Frost. He helped write variety special ‘A Degree of Frost’ alongside Monty Python star John Cleese.

Frost used Cryer on a number of subsequent shows, which established Cryer as a star writer in the 1970s. 

A writer who preferred working alongside a partner, he teamed up with John Junkin for much of the 1970s, where the pair helped write the Morecombe and Wise show during its BBC hey-day.

During this time he also hosted the ITV show Jokers Wild, a Mock the Week style panel show where two teams of three comedians each played for points by telling jokes on a certain subject chosen by the host.

In 1972 he joined the new BBC Radio 4 show ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, originally hosting the panel game show, before becoming a regular panelist – a role he continued right up until his death.

Cryer (pictured here in 2009) got his first big writing break penning sketches for The Jimmy Logan Show, becoming head writer with an occasional stage role for the London nightclub of singer Danny La Rue

Cryer (pictured here in 2009) got his first big writing break penning sketches for The Jimmy Logan Show, becoming head writer with an occasional stage role for the London nightclub of singer Danny La Rue

It was here he was spotted by legendary television host, journalist and comedian Sir David Frost. Cryer (pictured here centre right in 2002) helped write variety special 'A Degree of Frost' alongside Monty Python star John Cleese.

It was here he was spotted by legendary television host, journalist and comedian Sir David Frost. Cryer (pictured here centre right in 2002) helped write variety special ‘A Degree of Frost’ alongside Monty Python star John Cleese.

Barry Cryer (left) and Tim Brooke-Taylor (right) unveil a plaque to Willie Rushton in The Foyer of the BBC TV Centre, London, in 2001

Barry Cryer (left) and Tim Brooke-Taylor (right) unveil a plaque to Willie Rushton in The Foyer of the BBC TV Centre, London, in 2001

A writer who preferred working alongside a partner, he teamed up with John Junkin for much of the 1970s, where the pair helped write the Morecombe and Wise show during its BBC hey-day. Cryer (left) pictured here with Ronnie Golden in 2002

A writer who preferred working alongside a partner, he teamed up with John Junkin for much of the 1970s, where the pair helped write the Morecombe and Wise show during its BBC hey-day. Cryer (left) pictured here with Ronnie Golden in 2002

In 2017, Cryer (pictured here in 2018) received an Honourary degree from the University of Leeds

In 2001 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, with the BBC in their article describing him as the 'King of Comedy'.

In 2001 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, with the BBC in their article describing him as the ‘King of Comedy’. And in 2017, Cryer received an Honourary degree from the University of Leeds.

During this time he also hosted the ITV show Jokers Wild, a Mock the Week style panel show where two teams of three comedians each played for points by telling jokes on a certain subject chosen by the host. Cryer pictured here in 2005 with Ronnie Corbett

During this time he also hosted the ITV show Jokers Wild, a Mock the Week style panel show where two teams of three comedians each played for points by telling jokes on a certain subject chosen by the host. Cryer pictured here in 2005 with Ronnie Corbett

He also worked alongside Kenny Everett, even making a cameo appearance  as a police officer in the 1984 spoof horror the Bloodbath at the House of Death. 

In later life he wrote an autobiography, ‘You Won’t Believe This But…’, as well as a book of miscellaneous anecdotes, ‘Pigs Can Fly’. 

In 2005 he toured the UK with ‘Barry Cryer: The First Farewell Tour’, and in 2008 he toured with ‘Barry Cryer: Still Alive’.

In 2001 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, with the BBC in their article describing him as the ‘King of Comedy’.  And in 2017, Cryer received an Honourary degree from the University of Leeds.

Away from comedy, Cryer was married to his wife Theresa, known as Terry, since 1962. 

They had four children, three sons – Tony, Dave, and Bob, and a daughter Jack. They also had seven grandchildren and, as of 2017, one great-grandchild. 

Last month, Cryer launched a podcast with his son Bob, titled Now, Where Were We?, which had featured guests including Stephen Fry, Danny Baker and Miriam Margolyes. 

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