Comedian and actor.

Born: July 17, 1940;

Died: April 12, 2020.

TIM Brooke-Taylor OBE, who has died at the age of 79 after contracting Covid-19, was, to most television viewers, the posh, Union Jack-waistcoat-wearing member of The Goodies, the Seventies comedy show that launched him into the national spotlight.

He was also renowned for his many years as a panellist on the long-running Radio 4 show, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. He and his fellow Goodies, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, were on the panel for the very first edition, a pilot, that aired on April 11, 1972.

For years, Brooke-Taylor was part of Clue’s classic line-up, alongside Garden, Barry Cryer and, until his death in 1996, Willie Rushton – all under the acerbic chairmanship of Humphrey Lyttelton.

Lyttelton died in 2008, and Brooke-Taylor continued to make regular appearances on the zany, much-loved show – “the antidote to panel games” - under Lyttelton’s successor, comedian Jack Dee.

Brooke-Taylor’s success in comedy was always on the cards. The son of a Derbyshire solicitor, Edward Brooke-Taylor, and Rachel, a former lacrosse internationalist (his posh-boy performance on The Goodies was not too much of a stretch) Timothy Julian Brooke-Taylor attended Winchester college, where his masters believed him to be a natural comic.

One teacher advised his parents, “Tim might get a job as an actor, if he fails his A-levels. Or, as he’d probably prefer, he may find work as a musical comedian.”

TBT, as he was known at school, had shown no aptitude for performance, in theatre or even school musicals; the teacher’s observation was based upon the seemingly hopeless schoolboy’s propensity for larking around in class. Indeed, he managed to have himself expelled from primary school for labelling a teacher with an unfortunate nickname. Given that he had not yet turned six, it says more about the school’s discipline policy than it does the child’s behaviour. (Years later, he could offer up an ironic smile when he became Rector of St Andrews).

Nevertheless, Brooke-Taylor managed to find a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge, studying economics and, later, law. It wasn’t long before he became involved with the Footlights Comedy Club, becoming President in 1963 and teaming up with such names as John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and Eric Idle.

At this time, it was almost a given that the Footlights performers would make a straight transfer to the BBC. And Brooke-Taylor indeed skipped gaily through Auntie’s corridors, on BBC2’s Broaden Your Mind (1968-69), via a stint working with Cleese and Chapman on ITV’s At Last The 1948 Show (1967).

Brooke-Taylor, Cleese and Garden were joined by Garden, Oddie, and Idle, plus new recruits, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, who had been at Oxford when they were at Cambridge, to make the radio perennial, I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, forerunner of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

Two teams of comedy talent then formed; Pythons and Goodies. Brooke-Taylor would reveal later that at one point his career could have taken a very different turn. “I could have been in Monty Python as John Cleese, Graham Chapman and I had already worked together,” he said. “But I wasn’t available when it was set up. They did pay me for a sketch they used on their big London dates.”

In its heyday The Goodies achieved viewing figures of 12 million, and ran for nine series. It was initially an attempt to create surreal comedy, as the the Python team had done so successfully, but the the Goodies crossed the line into sheer silliness. And while the team achieved pop success with such as Funky Gibbon, and banked barrowloads of cash in the process, they lost the interest of the counterculture.

The Goodies, always moving to earlier time slots, became a children’s television favourite and the three men-on-a-bike found themselves riding to work at ITV instead. Brooke-Taylor wasn’t happy with the move. “We didn’t want to leave the BBC. But they kept delaying the next series because the invaluable special effects department were heavily involved in making The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.”

Yet, Brooke-Taylor had great fun with The Goodies. Much of the early material was surreal and quite audacious. One episode saw him in drag, playing a more right-wing successor to Margaret Thatcher, the sketch taking the form of an elaborate musical parody of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Evita.

The punchline was a cheesy pun – the politician had assistants called Marge and Tina, purely so she could plead with them in song not to cry for her.

Daring content continued, with the Goodies satirising the women’s movement, for example. They also parodied Roots, the TV series based on African identity. (None of these items would see the light of day on television today.)

He also acted in sitcoms such as You Must Be the Husband, with Diane Keen, and His and Hers, with Madeline Smith.

He also appeared countless times on stage, generally being typecast as an English toff, and in the early Eighties he played a panto dame in Dick Whittington. He was an in-demand after-dinner speaker. “It pays well, but I have made myself so expensive now that they don’t ask any more,” he joked in 2012.

Brooke-Taylor received an OBE in 2011 for his contribution to the entertainment industry, a lovely irony in that The Goodies once poked fun at the Government’s readiness to hand out OBEs in the 1960s.

But he was massively popular in the industry he loved, a feeling summed up by Jack Dee. “Tim was a delightful man and never anything but great company", Dee says. "I can’t bear the thought of introducing I’m Sorry, I Haven’t A Clue without being able to say ‘And on my right, Tim Brooke-Taylor...’”

Tim Brooke-Taylor is survived by his wife Christine and their two sons, Ben and Edward.