Eric Sykes

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Eric Sykes, CBE (born 4 May 1923) is an English radio, television and film writer, actor and director whose performing career has spanned more than 50 years. He is widely acknowledged as one of the most significant figures in British radio and TV comedy in the latter 20th century and he frequently wrote for and/or performed with many other leading comedy performers and writers of the period, including Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, John Antrobus and Johnny Speight. Sykes first came to prominence through his many radio credits as a writer and actor in the 1950s, most notably through his work on The Goon Show. He became a TV star in his own right in the early 1960s when he co-starred with Hattie Jacques in several popular BBC comedy television series. A trademark of Sykes's work is the idea of taking a single comic idea to its extremes, as epitomised by what is probably his best remembered work, the famous slapstick film "The Plank".

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Career

Sykes was educated at Ward Street Central School in Oldham. He joined the Royal Air Force during World War II and qualified as a wireless operator with the rank of Leading Aircraftman.

Sykes's entertainment career began during World War II while serving in a Special Liaison Unit, when he met and worked with then Flight Lieutenant Bill Fraser. When the war ended Sykes decided to try his luck in London, arriving in the middle of the coldest winter in living memory (1946/47). He rented lodgings, expecting to find work quickly, but by the end of the first week he was cold, hungry and broke. The turning point in his life and career came on the Friday night of his first week in London—he had a chance meeting in the street with Bill Fraser, who was then starring in a comedy at the Playhouse Theatre. Fraser took the impoverished Sykes to the theatre, offered him food and drink then asked if Sykes would like to write for him. Sykes began providing scripts for both Fraser and Frankie Howerd and soon found himself in demand as a comedy writer, contributing to the successful BBC radio series Educating Archie -- where he first met Hattie Jacques -- as well as Variety Bandbox. By 1948 he had begun writing for TV.[1]

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