Comedian Norman Collier dies aged 87


Comedian Norman Collier, best known for his faulty microphone act, has died at the age of 87, his daughter confirmed.

Collier, who had Parkinson’s disease and was living in a nursing home near his hometown of Hull, died on Thursday.

A contemporary of Little and Large, with whom he often worked, he rose to fame on the club circuit, getting his big break on the Royal Variety Show.

“It’s kept me in good health, making people laugh. And it’s kept them in good health too,” he said in 2009.

Danny Baker and Jon Culshaw were among those paying tribute on Twitter, with Culshaw writing: “Rest in peace Norman Collier.. Funny, funny, wonderfully funny man. People would be permanently laughing whenever they were around him.”

The eldest of eight children, Collier was born in Hull on Christmas day in 1925, and once joked there were “five of us sleeping in one bed”.

After serving as a gunner in World War II, he worked as a labourer but turned to comedy in 1950 after a one-off stint at his local Perth Street Social Club.

Variety performance

He quickly drew a popular following on the northern club circuit, but it was his debut at the 1971 Royal Variety Performance that brought him to wider attention.

“Unknown comedian Norman Collier won a standing ovation for his act in the Royal Variety Show,” wrote the Daily Express, of his critically acclaimed turn.

“Norman turned out to be one of the big successes of this year’s Royal Knees-up,” added the Daily Mirror.

Collier went on to make regular appearances on television and at theatres across the UK in the 1970s and 80s, and is arguably best remembered for his act featuring an intermittently working microphone – and his chicken impression.

He was also a frequent pantomime performer, notably playing Widow Twanky opposite Little and Large at Hull’s New Theatre in Aladdin.
He never moved to London – despite the lure of fame – preferring to stay in the local area surrounded by his family. He told the BBC in 2009 he had “no regrets”.

He leaves a wife, Lucy, to whom he was married for more than 60 years, three children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His friend and biographer Mike Ulyatt recalled a meeting between Collier and Eric Sykes, in which Sykes commented “we are the last of the Vaudevillians in this country”.

“How I wished I had recorded their conversation over lunch that day. It took me over two years to complete Norman’s life story, he would go off at such tangents at our numerous meetings,” added Mr Ulyatt.

“He was a local lad who never wanted to move from East Yorkshire and a real family man. He often said to me ‘ All I ever wanted to do was make people laugh’.

“His good friend Bernie Clifton got him a copy of the 1971 Royal Command performance and Norman could never remember what the Queen said to him afterwards but on the recording they talked like long lost friends!

“In Blackpool, he met up with Ringo Star and George Harrison just before their fame began and said to them what a funny name for a group the Beatles was!”

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Olivia Wilson
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