World of comedy mourns Norman Collier

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COMICS including Russ Abbot, Roy “Chubby” Brown, Eddie Large and Freddie “Parrot Face” Davies have paid tribute to the “funniest man in the world” at Norman Collier’s funeral.

Hundreds of people joined Collier’s family for the service in the village of Welton, East Yorkshire.

Lucy Collier (centre) widow of comedian Norman Collier arrives for his funeral service at St Helen's Church, Welton, Hull.  Below: Comedians Roy Walker (left) and Roy Hudd

Lucy Collier (centre) widow of comedian Norman Collier arrives for his funeral service at St Helen's Church, Welton, Hull. Below: Comedians Roy Walker (left) and Roy Hudd

The much-loved funnyman died earlier this month at the age of 87.

Among other famous faces paying tribute outside St Helen’s Church were Tom O’Connor, Tommy Cannon, Bobby Ball, Syd Little and Roy Hudd.

Some of the comedy legends who gathered in the freezing temperatures and snow flurries even attempted Collier’s trademark stuttering microphone routine.

But Abbot admitted “no-one could do it like Norman”.

Comedians Roy Walker (left) and Roy Hudd arrive for the funeral

Comedians Roy Walker (left) and Roy Hudd arrive for the funeral

Large said: “Norman was the funniest man I’ve ever met in my life.

“I’ve never had so many laughs in his company, ever. He was just brilliant.

“We’ve driven up from Bristol today - I would have walked to be here because of Norman.

“He was magical.”

Norman Collier

Norman Collier

He said: “Norman found everything funny.

“I know it’s a sad occasion but if he was here he would be laughing his head off - at anything.

“That was what was so great about him. He was a wonderful, wonderful man.”

His coffin was carried into the church to sound of a trumpeter and followed by his wife of more than 60 years, Lucy, as well as his three children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Norman Collier being escorted by Margaret Green, 20, and Laraine Barden, 17, to his stint in the Black and White Minstrels show.

Norman Collier being escorted by Margaret Green, 20, and Laraine Barden, 17, to his stint in the Black and White Minstrels show.

Collier died at residential care home close to his home city of Hull after being ill with Parkinson’s disease for a number of years.

He became a major figure on the club circuit and on TV with his stuttering performances as he pretended to have a sound problem, as well as for another long-running gag where he strutted and clucked like a chicken.

Collier had been a gunner in the Second World War and made his comedy debut in 1948 when a performer at Hull’s Perth Street Club failed to show up and he agreed to fill in.

Alongside his day job as a labourer, he honed his craft on the northern club circuit, eventually making comedy his main career by 1962.

He did seasons at Blackpool and shared stages with Sir Cliff Richard and the Everly Brothers as he rose up the bill.

Collier’s performances were showcased on ITV show The Wheeltappers And Shunters Social Club, hosted by Colin Crompton, which was set in a fictional smoky working men’s club and featured the top comedy stars of the day. But he was also a regular on many of the light entertainment shows of the day.

He continued to perform well into his 80s, playing the variety circuit alongside his contemporaries and more modern performers, as well as raising thousands of pounds with the charity The Grand Order Of Water Rats.

The trumpeter played From This Moment On, from Kiss Me Kate, as the coffin was carried in, the tune Collier came on stage to.

Speaking outside, Russ Abbot said: “He was the comedian’s comedian. Although we knew what was coming, we still had to laugh. We were laughing because Norman was laughing.”

Syd Little said: “He wasn’t just a funnyman, he was a man full of fun.”

Roy “Chubby” Brown said: “He was the loveliest man you could ever wish to meet. He was a funny, funny, funny, funny man.”

Bobby Ball said: “We’ve lost a comedy genius.”

Roy Hudd said: “Quite simply, he was the nicest man ever in showbusiness but also he was one of the most inventive comedians ever.”

Roy Walker said: “He was the original alternative comedian. He never told a joke in his life. Everything he did was funny.”