Sykes’ life started with tragedy: his mother died during childbirth. He dedicated his life to comedy, starting as a writer for notable British talent: Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Stanley Unwin, and Spike Milligan’s The Goon Show. In 1960 he got his own show, Sykes And A… (…Movie Camera, …Salesman, …Marriage — about 125 episodes in all, on and off through 1979). “Some people walk on stage and the audience warms to them. You can’t explain it, and you shouldn’t try,” he said long after he became popular. “It’s an arrogant assumption to say you ‘decide’ to become a comedian. The audience decides for you.” In film, he wrote or appeared in (or both) Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (1965), The Plank (1967), Monte Carlo Or Bust (1969), Theatre Of Blood (1973) and Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005). He was still a popular performer after he had a stroke, and he was mostly blind and nearly deaf. But he could still hear the audiences laugh, and they did. “If you understand comedy,” he said, “you understand life: drama, death, tragedy — everybody has these.” He met his own death on July 4, at 89.
From This is True for 8 July 2012