BERNARD Manning, a British comedian who enjoyed mainstream fame in the 1970s but whose jokes about women, the Irish and ethnic minorities later fell from favour, has died, it was announced yesterday.
North Manchester General Hospital said Manning (76) died yesterday afternoon. He had been admitted earlier this month with kidney problems.
Born in the working-class Ancoats district of Manchester, Manning left school at 14 and worked in a tobacco factory. He began entertaining fellow troops while posted in Germany as a teenage conscript.
In the 1950s he sang with big bands and began to appear as a standup in working men's clubs, eventually running his own Manchester club, the Embassy. He gained national fame with the 1971 TV series 'The Comedians'.
The show brought Manning a mass audience, and a fortune. But with changing social attitudes and the rise of a new generation of young comedians in the 1980s, his material began to seem dated and was often deemed offensive.
He denied he was racist, once saying, "I tell jokes. You never take a joke seriously." But increasing numbers of people failed to see the humour in his material.
He appeared infrequently on television in later years, and in 2002 was barred from performing in an English seaside town by local authorities who feared a breach of race-hate laws. He is survived by a son.