Death: What was Denise Coffey’s cause of death, and who was she? As the “comedian and actor” passes away, tributes pour in
Denise Coffey, who died at the age of 85, was one of the few genuine clowns in theatre and television. She was a crucial television presence in British comedy during its most formative postwar time and seeing her on stage, always puckish and wonderful, was like investing in two or three hours of spiritual tonic.
She was a key member of the vivacious Young Vic company, which was founded in 1970 under the auspices of the National Theatre at the Old Vic to present classics and new plays to a younger audience. She had already performed in a number of classical and low-life roles at Bernard Miles’ Mermaid theatre in Puddle Dock throughout the 1960s.
She made her stage debut at the Young Vic, directed by Frank Dunlop, with several film credits and a prominent profile in surreal television comedy, most notably in ITV’s Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-69), which was influenced by the Goons’ radio humor and foreshadowed Monty Python.
In a company of university wits – Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, the producer Humphrey Barclay – she and David Jason constituted the “legit showbiz” aspect, with musical incursions from Vivian Stanshall’s wild Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.