Dick Vosburgh dies

Writer who dominated five decades

Veteran comedy writer, broadcaster and lyricist Dick Vosburgh has died at the age of 77

The American-born gagsmith provided jokes for almost every leading comedy performer in the UK over a career that spanned five decades

Between Alfred Marx in the Fifties to An Audience With Ronnie Corbett in 1997, he wrote for Stanley Baxter, Frankie Howerd, Les Dawson, Kenny Everett, Bob Monkhouse, John Cleese, Rory Bremner, Lenny Henry and more

In later years, he contributed 200 obituaries on lesser-known showbusiness personalities to The Independent newspaper, and was an expert on the McCarthy Communists witch-hunts that shamed Hollywood in the Fifties

Born in New Jersey, in 1929 and educated in Miami, Vosburgh began his writing career with plays for radio stations in Washington. By the age of 15, he was writing a regular series, Youth Drama Workshop

In 1948, he was sent to London to study at Rada, where he won the Comedy Acting Prize. While still at the college, he began contributing lyrics and sketches for West End revues, before moving into radio and television

Occasionally he performed, too, appearing in John Cleese’s 1968 special How to Irritate People and an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus the following year

He also wrote a number of theatre musicals, including the Broadway show A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine, a Marx Brothers pastiche that was so close to the original it sparked a lawsuit from the estate of two of the brothers. Recently the BBC commissioned Vosburgh to adapt A Night in the Ukraine for Radio 4 to be broadcast next Christmas. 2002

He died in London on Wednesday, leaving a wife, Beryl, one son and five daughters

Published: 20 Apr 2007

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