Ken Campbell dies

Comic, actor and improviser was 66

Comic and actor Ken Campbell died yesterday at the age of 66.

Known as a master improviser and a pioneer of experimental theatre, he became known for his one-man shows that mixed stand-up, theatre and lecture.

His friend Mark Borkowski, the PR guru, confirmed the news, saying: ‘The theatre and entertainment world has lost an extraordinary man. Ken was a dear friend. The world will never be the same.’

The cause of his death is not yet known, as he has not been ill. He was found dead in his home in Epping Forest, Essex, where he recently returned from a holiday after last month’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Born in Ilford, Essex, on December 10, 1941, Campbell studied drama at RADA before touring in rep. But in the early Seventies he set up is own theatre group, the Ken Campbell Roadshow, that performed in unusual venues such as pubs. Members included Bob Hoskins and Sylvester McCoy.

In 1976, he and Chris Langham formed the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool to stage Illuminatus!, an eight-and-a-half hour cycle of five of his own plays, as well as an unsuccessful stage adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with Langham as Arthur Dent.

Campbell’s TV credits include Alf Garnett's neighbour Fred Johnson in In Sickness And In Health, and the irritating Roger in an episode of Fawlty Towers. On radio he played Poodoo in The Hitchhiker's Guide and he unsuccessfully auditioned for the part of the seventh Doctor Who in 1987, being beaten to the role by Sylvester McCoy.

Campbell has more recently been known for his series of one-man shows, the most successful of which have been Pigspurt and The History of Comedy Part One: Ventriloquism, as well as staging marathon improvised comedy shows, spanning more than 36 hours.

>> Obituary by Mark Borkowski

Here is a clip from a 1996 show he made for Channel 4 about the human brain:

Published: 1 Sep 2008

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