Stand-up comedian Frank Carson has died aged 85, after losing his battle with stomach cancer.
The Northern Irishman, best known for his catchphrases “It’s the way I tell ’em” and “It’s a cracker!” passed away yesterday at his Blackpool home surrounded by his family and friends.
Carson had been ill for five years with heart problems. Last August he had a tumour removed from his stomach but discovered just before Christmas that the cancer had returned.
He kept working until just a few months before his death, taking part in around 80 events each year. His final stand-up performance was in November.
A statement released by Carson’s family said the “husband, father, Gaga [grandfather] and comedian set off for his final gig today.
“We will be taking him home to Belfast to lay him to rest and celebrate his joyful life.
“It’s quieter down here now. God help them up there!”
Starting his career working in pubs and clubs, Carson rose to fame after winning TV talent show Opportunity Knocks three times during the 1960s, and became a household name as a regular on The Comedians.
Tributes from some of Carson’s many showbusiness friends and admirers poured in following the news of his death.
Sky News presenter Eamonn Holmes said: “The term legend is often overused – but Frank Carson was a legend and we will never ever see his likes again.”
Sir Michael Parkinson called Carson a “good man” and “great company”, saying “He represented that front-of-cloth comedy. It’s a different genre from the kind of comedy that we have today – where younger and smarter comedians play big halls – he was a club comic.”
Sir Bruce Forsyth said: “The only trouble with Frank, as far as I’m concerned, is that he made me laugh too much. He’ll be remembered as the one and only Frank Carson – the man who loved to make people laugh.”
Comics of a younger generation paid their respects to Carson via Twitter, Lenny Henry tweeting one of the comic’s own jokes as a tribute.
“Fella wnt in2 B&Q- He says : I want some nails – the guy said”How long d’you want em?’ fella said “I wanna keep em” Frank Carson R.I.P.”
Simon Pegg tweeted: “Thanks very much and goodnight to Frank Carson. It was the way he told them. Funny man.”
And Anthony McPartlin of duo Ant and Dec said: “Sad news about Frank Carson. Had the pleasure of working with him and he was a real gent. Very funny man. Thoughts are with his family.”
Carson spent much of his life looking after his wife Ruth, who suffered with eyesight problems. He is survived by Ruth, his daughter Majella, sons Tony and Aidan and ten grandchildren.