Tom O’Connor, Comedian and Veteran Game Show Host, Dies at 81

·2 min read

Tom O’Connor, the British comedian and host of game shows like “Crosswits,” “Password” and “Name That Tune,” has died. He was 81.

O’Connor’s family told the BBC that the comedian, who had Parkinson’s disease for over a decade, died in a hospital in Buckinghamshire on Sunday.

O’Connor began his career in show business on the talent show “Opportunity Knocks,” which he won three times. His television breakthrough was on the show “The Comedians,” where he performed stand-up sets. But O’Connor was best known as the host of several classic game shows, including “Crosswits,” “Password,” “Name That Tune,” “The Zodiac Game” and “Gambit.”

Born on Oct. 31, 1939 in Bootle, Merseyside in England, O’Connor originally became a math and music teacher at a school in Bootle, performing at night in the working men’s clubs of the time. After appearing on “Opportunity Knocks” and “The Comedians,” O’Connor quickly became one of the most recognizable faces on British TV in the ’70s and ’80s as a game show host.

Beyond hosting, O’Connor soon added acting to his resume, making his stage acting debut in 1991 as Pike in “The Perils of the Pond.” He also had a recurring role on the BBC series “Doctors” from 2000 to 2004, playing a Catholic priest named Father Tom. Toward the end of his career, O’Connor began appearing on game shows himself, and was even given an award for having been on the show “Countdown” 100 times. In 2010, O’Connor won the Channel 4 show “Celebrity Come Dine With Me,” and in 2011 he appeared on BBC One’s “Pointless Celebrities” with his daughter-in-law, Denise Lewis.

Speaking to the BBC, O’Connor’s son, Steve Finan O’Connor, said his father was a “unique comedian who was light years ahead of political correctness.”

Survivors include O’Connor’s wife and four children, as well as 16 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter, according to the BBC.

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