Comedian Eddie Large, best known for his comedy double act Little and Large, has died after contracting COVID-19 in hospital, his agent has confirmed.
His family said he caught the coronavirus while being treated for heart failure, and his son, Ryan McGinnis, posted on Facebook: “It is with great sadness that Mum and I need to announce that my dad passed away in the early hours of this morning.
“He had been suffering with heart failure and unfortunately, whilst in hospital, contracted the coronavirus, which his heart was sadly not strong enough to fight.”
Large, real name Edward McGinnis, was best known for his partnership with Syd Little, with the pair achieving huge success on TV throughout the 1970s and ’80s after winning talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1971.
In a statement sent to Sky News, Little said: “I am devastated to have lost not just my comedy partner of 60 years, but my friend of 60 years.”
Large’s agent, Peter Mansfield, confirmed his death, aged 78, saying the comedian’s family had not been able to sit in the room with him at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
“His family were very sad not to be able to be in the same room as him, touching him, in the last week, because of coronavirus,” he said.
“They were only able to speak on the phone which was obviously very sad for them. But they wanted to say thank you to the NHS which was fantastic throughout.”
Mr Mansfield said Large’s family also “wanted to say how grateful they are for the extra 17 years that they have had with Eddie” following his heart transplant in 2003. “And a huge thank you to the donor and the donor’s family.”
Fans and comedians including Matt Lucas, Jason Manford, Michael Barrymore, Lenny Henry and Paul Chuckle are among those paying tribute on social media.
Eddie Large. He was such a funny and talented man. I was his support act for many years and he was nothing but kind caring and supportive to the upstart at the bottom of the Bill. Me. My love and condolences to Patsy, Samantha his daughter and Ryan his son. XXX
— Michael Barrymore (@MrBarrymore) April 2, 2020
RIP the very talented Eddie Large. Such a funny and lovely man. Love goes out to his family at this time ❤️
— Paul Chuckle (@PaulChuckle2) April 2, 2020
Little Britain star Lucas wrote: “Eddie Large [along with his supersonic friend Syd] was really lovely and kind and encouraging to me when I was a nipper on Shooting Stars. So sad to hear of his passing.”
Manford said: “Came to every comedy and musical show I did whenever I hit Bristol and was always around for a chat about comedy and Man City afterwards.”
Large was a Manchester City fan, and the club also paid tribute, saying: “Everyone at Manchester City is sad to hear that lifelong City fan and celebrity Eddie Large has passed away aged 78.
“Our thoughts are with Eddie’s friends and family at this difficult time.”
Eddie Large died. Midnight Matinee Great Yarmouth 1978. They finished part one. I’d never heard laughter like it. Rude, raucous and rollicking.Dunno how they did it, but Eddies energy and electricity and impressions and props and improv were hugely impressive. R.I.P.
— Lenny Henry (@LennyHenry) April 2, 2020
Film director Edgar Wright shared an anecdote on Twitter, writing: “In the 80’s my family were on the M5, overtaking a car with a massive Little & Large decal on the back.
“I was bemused a sticker even existed, then floored to see Eddie Large himself driving (with Syd in shotgun). I waved furiously. My 1st celebrity sighting & still the best. RIP.”
Johnny Mans, Large’s friend and former producer and promoter of Little and Large’s theatre shows, told Sky News that “both Syd and Eddie were a joy to work with”.
Paying tribute, he said: “Eddie was a great longstanding friend, an incredible talent and an outstanding comedian.
“Having toured The Little and Large Show for over 35 years, they were on of the most successful double acts on the UK variety theatre circuit.
“I will miss Eddie terribly and he will be a great loss to the world of showbiz.”
In their heyday, Little and Large attracted audiences of millions, with shows including The Little and Large Tellyshow and then, later on, simply The Little and Large Show.
Large published his autobiography, Larger Than Life, in 2005, and reunited with Little to appear on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Take Away in 2018, and Pointless Celebrities just last year.
He is among several famous names who have contracted coronavirus, with actors Tom Hanks and Idris Elba, magician Dynamo, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson all testing positive for the disease.
In the US, musicians including Fountains Of Wayne star Adam Schlesinger, country star Joe Diffie and I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll writer Alan Merrill have died in the last few days after contracting the virus.