Barry Elliott, who has died at 73, was one half of a comedy double act that could claim to be the last in the great tradition of Northern music hall.
In the character of Barry Chuckle, he and his younger brother Paul entertained a generation of children in the BBC long-running comedy, ChuckleVision.
He was born in Rotherham on Christmas Eve, 1944 to Amy and James Patton Elliott. His father was also an entertainer, who performed in variety shows under the name Gene Patton and worked with a young Peter Sellers.
Paul and Barry were allowed to stand in the wings of Northern theatres, watching the likes of Norman Evans, Frank Randle and Jewel and Wariss go through their paces.
Paul Elliott recalled that the brothers’ later stage act had its roots in that era. “A lot of older people will recognise the routines from 30, 40 years ago – more, probably,” he said. “But no-one’s doing them any more. A couple were in the Crazy Gang shows back in the 1950s. We’ve brought them up to date.”
Paul and Barry’s first performances were impromptu affairs for friends and family in their back yard. They made their TV debut on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks in 1967, and later had success on New Faces in 1974.
They made further guest appearances on The Good Old Days, game show 3-2-1, both recorded in Leeds, and with the comedian Freddie Starr in The Freddie Starr Showcase.
“But we always entertained the whole family; we were never blue,” says Barry. “They loved us in Bradford. They used to say, ‘Next time you come, we’ll bring the kids’. It wasn’t kids’ material but it was the sort of visual stuff we still do now. It just took us a long time to get it on television.”
When the BBC did come knocking, it was at someone else’s door. The brothers had agreed to do an Easter stage show with the ventriloquist Ward Allen, who, with Roger the Dog, had his own children’s TV show in the mid-1980s.
“We got to the theatre in Ashton-under-Lyne and there were 28 people in,” Barry recalled. “He was a big draw, Ward Allen.
“So we just went on stage and enjoyed ourselves. What can you do with 28 people? We just messed around.”
They did not know that among the 28 was Allen’s producer. He liked their ability to generate an atmosphere even without a crowd, and before too long had signed them to a contract and dispatched Roger the Dog to the local pound.
Even so, the Chuckle Brothers’ acceptance into the mainstream of the BBC was not without a hiccup.
“The first series we did, they said, ‘You’re going to have to tone your accents down, go more posh’,” Paul remembered. “And this was Manchester, not even London. They thought people in the south wouldn’t he able to understand us.
That first series, in 1985, saw them in dog costumes of their own, as Chuckle Hounds. Two years later, ChuckleVision began its run of 292 episodes on BBC1.
It was a family affair: two older Elliott brothers, Jimmy and Brian, who had their own double act called The Patton Brothers, made regular appearances.
The programme was known for its visual gags and spawned catchphrases such as “To me, to you”, “Oh dear, oh dear” and “No slacking”, usually uttered by Jimmy.
They were the oldest stars on Children’s BBC, by some margin.
“People ask if we’re worried about getting too old for all this,” said Barry. ”The truth is, we’re too old already. But people don’t look at us and see an age. No-one looked at Laurel and Hardy and saw two old men. They took ‘em for what they were. Peter Glaze was the same, and Mr Pastry.”
In 2008, the brothers were awarded a special Bafta award for their contribution to children’s television.
As well as his TV work, Elliott and his comedy partner toured the UK for decades in pantomimes and their own stage shows, including parodies of the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises.
Elliott and his brother were lifelong supporters of their local football side Rotherham United and often included references to the team in their work. They were made honorary presidents by the club in 2007.
In 2014, Elliott and his brother collaborated with the rap performer Tinchy Stryder on a charity single called To Me, To You (Bruv) in aid of the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust.
Barry was also seen in the BBC’s comedy, Still Open All Hours, and in drag in ITV’s Benidorm.
Last year, it was announced that he and Paul would make a TV comeback on Chuckle Time, a Channel 5 clip show which saw them perform comedy sketches and introduce videos from members of the public.
He is survived by his wife, Ann, to whom he was married for 45 years, and his three brothers.