Stage comedy legend dies aged 80

TRIBUTES were paid last night to stage and comedy legend Paddy Comerford who died suddenly yesterday. He was 80.

Mr Comerford, who was one of Cork’s best-loved and most acclaimed performers, lived alone near Douglas since the death of his beloved wife, Anne, about five years ago.

He was due to appear in a major charity concert this weekend.

The board members of the Everyman Palace Theatre, where Mr Comerford made one of his last public performances in July, learned of his death before one of their regular meetings yesterday. Board chairman Michael White said Cork has lost a showbusiness legend.

“His death will be mourned by generations of Cork people, both at home and abroad. He was a unique stage performer whose comedic gifts lit up Cork stages for decades,” he said.

Pat Talbot, the theatre’s artistic director, said Mr Comerford was one of the most popular performers Cork has ever produced. “Paddy Comerford was a one-off and a theatrical all rounder,” he said.

“He was a gifted comedy actor and a stylish song and dance man. I had the privilege of performing with him in many pantomimes, directing him as Joxer Daly in Juno and the Paycock, and producing his solo show Just Paddy on the stage of the Everyman Palace in 2009, which was also recorded for DVD.

“The echo of the laughter he generated will reverberate for many years to come.”

Lord Mayor, Cllr Michael O’Connell, described Mr Comerford as an iconic figure in the entertainment world.

“He was loved by generations of Corkonians and his death will leave a huge void. On behalf of the people of Cork I would like to extend my sympathies to his family,” he said.

Self-effacing and modest, Mr Comerford was enjoying renewed popularity following the release of the Just Paddy DVD. He performed last summer as a special guest in the Cha and Miah Laughter Show in the Everyman during its sell-out run.

He received a standing ovation on the last night of that show when the cast and crew surprised him on stage with a birthday cake to mark his 80th.

He was the master of ceremonies at a heritage concert in City Hall in October. And he was due to star in the 50th Lord Mayor of Cork’s Christmas Charity Concert this Saturday.

But it will be his character Uncle Peter — “a cranky northsider who thinks he knows everything but knows nothing in the end” as he once described the character — for which he will always be remembered.

Mr Comerford was born in Rock Terrace on the North Mall, Cork, a son of Mary and James Comerford. He was one of four children.

He attended the North Monastery and was apprenticed to the shoe department at Grant’s department store.

When Grant’s closed, he joined the advertising staff of the former Cork Examiner, now the Irish Examiner.

His memorable theatre roles include the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof in Cork Opera House, and the Straw Man in The Wizard of Oz.

He had parts in several plays by John B Keane and with the Cork Group Theatre, where his work with James N Healy led to Cork Operatic Society and Gilbert and Sullivan productions. He also played Joxer in Juno and the Paycock, directed by Mr Talbot.

He appeared alongside Billa O’Connell in several pantomimes and they subsequently appeared together in the now legendary Late Late Show, recorded in 1982, which featured some of Cork’s leading talent of the time.

He received the Cork Person of the Year award in 2004.

He had a love of sailing and was closely involved with the Ballycotton lifeboat.

Plans were announced in the summer to install a plaque on one of the Everyman’s seats to mark his contribution to the theatre and to showbusiness in the city.

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