Vintage video: Ventriloquist Keith Harris dies at 67
Robert C Kelly said Harris, whom he described as a “thoroughly decent man”, was first diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and became ill again in January.
He said: “I spoke to Keith most days, whether we had business to do or not. I think I laughed every single time we spoke.
“Keith was not only a technically great ventriloquist, he was also a gifted mimic and an extraordinarily funny man both on stage and off.
“Perhaps even rarer than that in showbiz, he was a thoroughly decent man, a great friend and a wonderful father and husband.”
Mr Kelly said Harris, who died in hospital in Blackpool, spent his last months “at his second home in Portugal, taking walks along the Blackpool seafront and sitting in the park eating ice cream and watching the world go by”.
Harris, who married four times, had three children.
He entertained generations of children with his sidekick Orville, a bright green duck who wore a nappy, and a monkey called Cuddles.
At the height of his fame, he was a regular on Saturday night television and put on private performances at birthday parties for Prince William and his brother Harry.
His 1982 single with Orville, I Wish I Could Fly, was a top five hit and sold more than 400,000 copies.
Among those paying tribute were singer and broadcaster Aled Jones, who said: “Sad to hear of the death of Keith Harris - sending best wishes to his family and friends.”
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Very sad to hear that Keith Harris has died after a battle with cancer. Brought joy to my childhood.”