Keith Harris, Orville ventriloquist, dies aged 67

Popular entertainer and occasional chart star passes away following a battle with cancer

Ventriloquist and entertainer Keith Harris has passed away following a battle with cancer. He was 67.

Harris, known for his TV appearances with Orville the Duck, announced that he had been diagnosed with the diseased on stage in April 2014. His agent Robert C. Kelly confirmed news of his passing on Twitter earlier this morning (April 28).

After making his name with performances at holiday camps and on TV variety shows in the 1970s, the ventriloquist hosted his own Saturday night programme on BBC One, The Keith Harris Show, from 1982 to 1990. In 1982, ‘Orville’s Song’ credited to Keith Harris and Orville peaked at Number Four on the UK’s Official Singles Chart. Harris and Orville also released an album, ‘At The End Of The Rainbow’, and two further singles, ‘Come To My Party’ and ‘White Christmas’, which charted just outside the Top 40.

After his BBC One show was axed, Harris’s career went into decline but he and Orville enjoyed something of a revival in the late 90s and 00s with guest appearances on TV shows including Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Little Britain, The Weakest Link, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Channel 5’s reality series The Farm, which he and Orville won. He also appeared in Peter Kay and Tony Christie’s music video for their 2005 chart-topper ‘Is This The Way To Amarillo’.

Though Harris toured student unions in recent years with an edgier show titled ‘Duck Off’, he turned down a role in Ricky Gervais’s sitcom Extras in 2006 because he felt the script was “pure filth”. Fellow entertainer Keith Chegwin took the part first offered to Harris.

Harris is survived by his fourth wife, Sarah, and their two children, plus his third child from a previous marriage. His agent said today that he spent his final months “at his second home in Portugal, taking walks along the Blackpool seafront and sitting in the park eating ice cream and watching the world go by”.

Watch Keith Harris and Orville performing ‘Orville’s Song’ on Top Of The Pops below.