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It's an arrogant assumption to say you ‘decide’ to become a comedian. The audience decides for you

Best known for co-starring with actress Hattie Jacques in the sitcom Sykes, Eric Sykes was a much-loved household name.

He began his comedy career contributing jokes to radio series including The Goon Show and Educating Archie after the Second World War – in which he’d played a role in the Normandy Landings.

Lancashire-born Eric often worked with Spike Milligan, but his heyday came in his TV shows with Hattie. She played his sister, rather than the traditional sitcom wife, freeing up the characters to go on dates and end up in other funny situations with less than predictable outcomes.

Sykes had appeared in the classic comedy film The Plank in 1967, one of more than 20 films he appeared in. In the latter stages of his career, he worked on a number of box office blockbusters, including as an eerie servant in Nicole Kidman chiller The Others and the caretaker who meets an untimely end at Lord Voldemort’s hands in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Throughout most of his adult life, Eric wore specs – but his glasses had clear frames and actually served as a disguised hearing aid, until later macular degeneration left the actor partially sighted and an ambassador for supporting charities.

Never a fan of bad language, Eric said: “Even when I'm in the bath or shaving, my brain is going like an express train, thinking up funny things.”