THE world of comedy has had little to smile about over the last few days. First Rik Mayall died and then, on Saturday, one of our most talented comic actors, Sam Kelly, was taken.
I first met Sam last year when I took a production of Glenn Chandler’s Killers to the Brighton Fringe. In a break between shows the company popped into a local coffee shop - there he was doing a crossword.
We said hello and invited him to see Killers. He was delighted and duly arrived the following night with his producer. During the play, the actors playing Ian Brady, Peter Sutcliffe and Dennis Nilsen pick on, and hold eye contact with one audience member each. Sam was fascinated by this, admitting he’d find doing such a thing difficult despite his years in the business. Afterwards he chatted with the cast and we kept in touch through Twitter.
In April, when I invited him to a show in London, he revealed he was “deep into heavy doses of chemotherapy.” As ever, he was upbeat, adding, “A way to go still, but the I’ll get there! Funny old business, never been ill in my life.”
We were last in touch on April 17 when he happily reported his appetite had returned, “I’m getting hungry again - and pleased to be so,” he confided.
Sadly, he then disappeared off the radar. Still, it was a shock to hear that such a warm, funny and hugely optimistic man had, to borrow an expression from my wee pal Katy Manning, “departed on his awfully big adventure”.
I didn’t know Sam long, although through his work felt I knew him longer. He leaves a legacy of great comic creations for generations to come - Bunny Warren in Porridge, ‘Allo ‘Allo’s Captain Hans Geering, and my own favourite, Ted, Barbara’s wonderfully balmy husband in the sitcom Barbara, to name just three.
Rest in peace Sam. You made the world a funnier place and all the better for it.