The actor and comedian Bill Kerr, who has died aged 92, was a master of laconic understatement. He became a household name as a perfect foil for Tony Hancock in six series of the wildly popular BBC radio show Hancock's Half Hour, which ran in the second half of the 1950s.
Playing Hancock’s breezy and good-hearted Australian lodger, Kerr was often given the best lines by writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson because of his deadpan delivery.
His main function was to relentlessly encourage Hancock’s grandiose schemes or to suggest ludicrous ventures of his own, immediately pounced upon by the gullible Hancock: “You know, that’s a very good idea, Bill!”
He was chosen for the show because it was thought his Australian accent would be a fine contrast to the star’s theatrical, delusional ramblings. In a television interview years after Hancock’s death, it was Kerr who pointed out the similarity between the great comedian and Mr Toad: “The bluster, the pomp, the dignity, the frailty.”
When the show moved to television, it did so without him. Kerr, a down-to-earth professional not given to temperament, took it all in his stride, and found plenty of other work in stage, television and films.
, he worked in a
series and in the TV soap
. He also formed a stage relationship with
. He also had supporting roles in many films, including
The Dam Busters
He moved back to Australia in 1979 and continued his career as a reliable character actor in films, notably with a key role in Gallipoli (1981). In addition to his more serious work, he continued to appear in comedies.
He is survived by his wife Sandra and their two children, as well as two children from a previous marriage.