Comedian Tom O’Connor dies aged 81 | TV comedy
Tom O’Connor, the stand-up comedian and host of television quizshows including Name That Tune and Crosswits, has died at the age of 81.
O’Connor was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 14 years ago, his daughter-in-law, the former Olympic athlete Denise Lewis, said. He died in hospital on Sunday.
He was born in Bootle and was always seen as a proud son of Liverpool. The city council tweeted its respects: “Sad news breaking about the death of veteran Liverpool comedian Tom O’Connor. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Thanks for the laughs, Tom.”
Before his showbiz career, O’Connor taught maths and music and once said the only way he could get through to his pupils was by telling jokes: “It worked a treat … and that’s really how the comedy all started.”
He taught by day and performed stand-up in clubs at night, getting his early television break on the talent show Opportunity Knocks, which he won three weeks running. Soon came The Comedians, a 1970s ITV show that made stars of comics including Frank Carson, Stan Boardman and Jim Bowen.
O’Connor had a gentle, inoffensive humour and a relatable act. His easygoing manner made him the perfect quizshow host, beginning with the massively popular Name That Tune, where contestants could win £1,200 cash, a car or even “a superb four-band radio including double cassette stereo tape recorder to give you hours of greater music enjoyment”.
Later, there was the cosy crossword-themed Crosswits, made by ITV Tyne Tees, which O’Connor presented for a decade until 1998. “And remember, if there’s ever a cross word in your house, make sure that it’s written and not spoken, just for me, all right,” he would tell audiences.
The BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker revealed he was a Crosswits fan, tweeting: “How sad. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom O’Connor and he was kind, funny and a true gent. I loved watching him on telly – Crosswits was great. My sympathies are with his family and friends.”
Other shows included I’ve Got a Secret, The Zodiac Show, Gambit and the snooker-based Pick Pockets.
O’Connor became a regular in dictionary corner on Countdown and had occasional work as an actor, playing a Catholic priest, Father Tom, on the daytime soap Doctors. In more recent years, he was a winner of Celebrity Come Dine With Me and Pointless Celebrities with Lewis.
O’Connor leaves behind a wife and four children.