Top agent Addison Cresswell dies at 53

Heart attack claims 'the most powerful man in comedy'

Legendary comedy agent Addison Creswell has died of a heart attack at the age of 53.

The combative manager, who was last year named the most powerful man in comedy, represented many of comedy’s A-list, including Jonathan Ross, Lee Evans, Jack Dee, Alan Carr, Michael McIntyre and Dara O Briain through his Off The Kerb agency.

And his sister company Open Mic made most of the stand-up shows on TV, including Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Chatty Man, Stand-Up For The Week and Live At The Apollo.

He cultivated a Cockney wide-boy image and famously negotiated Ross’s £18million three-year BBC deal, promoting tabloid furore about big-money contracts. Subsequently Ross was accused of ‘stuffing’ his BBC chat show with comedians from Cresswell’s books – although at the time the Corporation argued that these were big comedians who deserved their place on the sofa regardless of who represented them.

Born on June 28, 1960, Cresswell’s career started when he was entertainments officer at Brighton Polytechnic. He began representing comedians professionally in 1981, beginning with poet John Hegley, and his office was his kitchen table.

In the early days he frequently clashed with rival agents Avalon, especially with poster wars at the Edinburgh festival, and Cresswell was once described as ‘the Darth Vader of the Fringe’.

But he also used his power for fundraising, masterminding the Channel 4 Comedy Gala every year as well as the Brighton Fringe opening gala. Only last week Off The Kerb promoted McIntyre's Christmas gig at the Hammersmith Apollo in aid of Kids Company.

He was as feared in TV as much as he was on the live circuit, with Channel 4 executive Kevin Lygo once describing as ‘volatile’ but honest.

Cresswell, who was known known for his cigars as much as his tough-talking, once said of agents: ‘I don't see us as in any way different from the people who run the channels. They're complete bastards as well but we all have to work with each other.’

Comics took to Twitter to pay tribute, giving a flavour of the man’s larger-than-life personality…

Simon Evans, who was represented by him, said: ‘Very hard to accept that Addison Cresswell is gone. Very hard indeed. To say RIP seems almost disrespectful to his whole approach to life.

Andre Vincent said: ‘Addison Cresswell, he never had a bad word to say about me though I always wanted him to. Goodbye, the bulldog of comedy.’

Martin White said: ‘First time I met Addison Cresswell he put me in a headlock and threatened me with a broken champagne glass while screaming obscenities. RIP.’

Michael Smiley said: ‘RIP, mate, I never once was bored in your company, my heart and prayers go out to your family'

And even rival agents paid tribute. Mike Leigh posted: ‘Shocking news about Addison Cresswell. A brilliant agent who modernised the business. Our thoughts are with his family and friends’

And Vivenne Clore said: 'He will leave a huge gap in comedy and always have a place in comedians' hearts.'

TV figures also paid their respects. Kenton Allen of Big Talk, makers of Rev, said: ‘He's been a beacon of light in my life for over 30 years.'

Ash Atalla, who produced The Office, said: 'The fact that you once threatened to hit me will only make me miss you more. RIP.'

And Jay Hunt, Channel 4's chief creative officer said: 'Addison was an industry legend but he was also an incredibly decent man and a loyal friend. He will be missed by everyone at 4. Our thoughts are with his wife Shelley and his family at this upsetting time.'

Cresswell also previously ran the production company, Wonderdog Productions, with Julian Clary and Paul Merton, which made Clary's Channel 4 show Sticky Moments.

Published: 23 Dec 2013

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