Entertainment & Arts

Keith Harris, entertainer and ventriloquist, dies aged 67

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Media captionHarris had a big hit with the Orville Song

Entertainer Keith Harris, best known for his ventriloquist performances with puppet Orville, has died, aged 67.

His agent Robert C Kelly said on Twitter: "Sad to announce death from cancer of my client, dear friend and great talent, Keith Harris."

The Keith Harris Show, featuring Orville, ran on Saturday evenings on BBC One between 1982 and 1990.

Harris also had a top 10 hit with Orville's Song, popularly known as I Wish I Could Fly, in 1982.

Orville - an innocent green duck in an oversized nappy - was Harris's most famous creation.

Orville was relentlessly taunted by Harris's other character, Cuddles the monkey, whose catchphrase was "I hate that duck".

Singer and broadcaster Aled Jones said: "Sad to hear of the death of Keith Harris - sending best wishes to his family and friends."

"So sad," tweeted presenter Keith Chegwin.

"A great entertainer and all round nice man Keith Harris has passed away. Best wishes to his family at this sad time. RIP x"

Comedian Julian Clary described Harris as a "lovely, funny talented man."

Image caption Cuddles' catchphrase was: "I hate that duck"

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Very sad to hear that Keith Harris has died after a battle with cancer. Brought joy to my childhood."

Actor and comedian Paddy McGuinness said: "RIP Keith Harris. A part of my childhood gone."

Harris appeared on a total of five Royal, and Children's Royal Variety Performances.

At the personal request of Diana, Princess of Wales, Harris gave private performances at Highgrove House for Prince William's third birthday and then at Kensington Palace for Prince Harry's third birthday.

In the 2000s, he reinvented himself as an X-rated ventriloquist, touring student unions with his adult show, Duck Off.

He appeared in the 2002 documentary When Louis met Keith Harris, and won the Channel Five reality show The Farm in 2005.

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Media captionHarris was 'the ultimate entertainer', says fellow ventriloquist Roger De Courcey

But he turned down the chance to appear in Ricky Gervais's comedy series Extras.

"I read the script and thought, 'This isn't clever writing, it's pure filth'," he told the Independent in 2006.

"I turned it down. I'm not desperate."

He continued to appear in pantomime and at holiday camps, but was diagnosed with cancer of the spleen in 2013.

After having the spleen removed, he endured four months of chemotherapy and was given the all-clear, allowing him to return to the stage.

But last summer, he told an audience in Great Yarmouth the illness had returned and he needed further treatment. He was moved to tears when they gave him a standing ovation.

The entertainer leaves behind his fourth wife Sarah, and their children Kitty and Shenton, as well as a daughter, Skye, from his first marriage to singer Jacqui Scott, and his mother Lila and brother Colin.

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