Tom O'Connor, Beloved Comedian, Dead at 81

British comedian Tom O'Connor, well-known as the host of game shows like Crosswits and Name That Tune, has died. O'Connor's family confirmed to the BBC the comedian died in a hospital in Buckinghamshire on Sunday, July 18. O'Connor had Parkinson's disease for over a decade. He was 81.

Born in Bootle, Merseyside on Oct. 31, 1939, O'Connor began his professional life as a math and music teacher at a school in Bootle. O'Connor taught during the day and performed at night in the working men's clubs of the time. However, he started his show business career as a singer, before introducing comedy into his act. He made the transition to a professional entertainer and established himself as a household name in 1972 with shows like Pick Pockets and The Zodiac Game. He went on to host Name That Tune from 1976 until 1983. Throughout his career, he hosted numerous other game shows, including I've Got a Secret and Gambit.

O'Connor, though, was also an actor. He made his stage debut in 1991 as Pike in The Perils of the Pond, according to Variety. From 2000 until 2004, he had a recurring role as Father Tom in daytime soap Doctors. In 2010, he won the celebrity edition of Come Dine With Me. Just a year later, he appeared on BBC One's Pointless Celebrities quiz show with his daughter-in-law, Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis. The BBC notes that O'Connor also made appearances as a guest in Countdown's dictionary corner and received an award from the Channel 4 quiz for being the first to mark 100 appearances on the show.

News of his passing led to an outpouring of condolences, with British broadcaster Piers Morgan calling him a "Liverpool legend & a very funny man." He thanked O'Connor for "all the laughs." TV host Carol Vorderman said O'Connor "was universally loved in our industry....he was as lovely and caring and funny off-screen as he was on. A true gentleman." BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker tweeted, "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."


Remembering his father, O'Connor's son, Steve Finan O'Connor, said he was a "unique comedian who was light years ahead of political correctness." He added that his father "was famously known for a brand of humour that was 100% clean and always totally family-friendly." He also gave a nod to his father's many TV roles, remembering him as a "firm TV favourite." O'Connor is survived by his wife, four children, 16 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.