British actor and comedian, best known for his roles in the radio shows ‘Round the Horne’ (1965-1968) and ‘Just a Minute’ (from 1968), and the ‘Carry on’ films. In ‘Carry on Cleo’ (1964) he had what has been considered the funniest line in British cinema, ‘Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!’. With little formal education, he was noted for his erudition as well as his rapid, nasal, delivery. Although he wanted to be a serious actor, his weakness for humour and misbehaviour on stage, together with an audience expectation of camp comedy, undermined most attempts.
He was brought up a strict Wesleyan (a word whose sibilants he maximized in broadcast interviews over against the more wooden ‘Methodist’). Despite rejecting the institutional church, religious values remained at the centre of his beliefs and life. Playing music, for instance (he wrote in his diary) ‘leads me to the inner quiet and that much nearer to my striving for God … I just pray and pray’. He believed that an incorruptible force of goodness exists, for whose truth and beauty we should strive. This guiding light lay behind his artistic career.
His homosexual inclinations were barely concealed, especially after homosexuality became legal in Britain in 1967. However, his upbringing made him believe that consummation of such feelings was against religious principles.