When politicians or famous academics die, because they lived in worlds we’d never have access to, their passing doesn’t affect us emotionally to any great extent.
But . . . when someone who made us laugh dies, whether they’re comedians, comedy actors or much-loved broadcasters with a sharp sense of humour like Terry Wogan, their death takes us aback.
We somehow can’t believe that a person who had us doubled-up with laughter has left our lives. It feels so unfair.
Recently, that great comedy actor Clive Swift who played Hyacinth Bucket’s husband Richard in the BBC sitcom “Keeping Up Appearances” died at the age of 82. He was the perfect, patient foil to the monstrous Hyacinth.
Around the same time, comedian Jeremy Hardy, who appeared on many Radio 4 comedy shows and always seemed to be on tour, died aged just 57.
He was described by Rory Bremner as ‘Funnier than the lot of us – a unique comedian and lovely man’. That he had a social conscience was evident in his politically-based comedy.
But it was something he mentioned in a newspaper interview years ago that revealed what sort of man he was in real life. He’d been having breakfast in a South London café, when a young father and his small son, aged five or six, came in and sat at the next table.
The boy’s talking and laughing inexplicably irritated the father who suddenly, at the top of his voice, screamed “Shut it…you little…$%*~!” using an expletive so strong the whole of the café went silent. The boy was terrified and the father glared menacingly at the other customers, daring them to complain.
Jeremy said: “I suddenly knew at that moment the poor child’s life was going to be absolute hell and there was nothing I could do about it.”
He left the café with tears in his eyes, the incident staying with him for a very long time afterwards. Just as I haven’t been able to forget that interview.