TRIBUTES have been paid locally to the immensely “gifted and compassionate” comedian and former Farnham Grammar School and College student Jeremy Hardy after his death from cancer, aged 57.
Hardy, whose first big break on the stage came at the Redgrave Theatre in Farnham, was also a regular at the Maltings over the years – but is perhaps best known for his roles on BBC Radio 4 panel shows like The News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.
His death was confirmed last Friday by his publicist Amanda Emery, who added in a statement he was with his wife and daughter when he died.
Born and raised in Farnborough, Hardy was the fifth and youngest child of rocket scientist Donald D Hardy.
He attended Farnham Grammar and Sixth Form College and studied modern history and politics at the University of Southampton before embarking on his stand-up career in the 1980s.
He went on to win the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1988 and best live act at the ITV Comedy Awards in 1991.
Hardy made his television debut in 1986 in comedy Now – Something Else, alongside impressionist Rory Bremner, and also appeared in an episode of BBC’s Blackadder Goes Forth in 1989. He would go on to present Top of the Pops in 1996, and in the same year teamed up with comedian Jack Dee to write Channel 4 sketch show Jack and Jeremy’s Real Lives. His latter TV roles included appearances on panel shows such as QI.
It was his radio work for which he will possibly be best remembered, however, having fronted Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation, a series of comedy lectures for BBC Radio 4, from 1993, followed eventually by his long-standing roles on The News Quiz, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and countless other star turns on the airwaves.
An outspoken critic of Waverley Borough Council’s decision to close the Redgrave in East Street, he recounted his early studies, and first adventures on stage, in the town when pledging his support for the Farnham Theatre Association’s campaign to save the theatre in 2011.
Hardy wrote: “I went to Farnham College, starting when it was still the boys’ grammar. I also went to a theatre-in-education workshop called Saturday Mornings at the Redgrave Theatre (SMART), run by the actor and writer Peter Corey. We did two live shows. So my first appearances in a theatre were at the Redgrave. I also did shows there professionally in the 80s. It’s a great space.
“This year I had a book out in which I wrote about the theatre in a chapter on Farnham. I was a keen teenage theatre goer and went to see everything the theatre produced for a number of years.
“It’s ludicrous a wealthy town like Farnham can’t sustain a medium-sized theatre, especially with the potential to forge links with the sixth form college and the art school (now the UCA).”
Reacting to news of his death, Farnham Theatre Association (FTA) chairman Anne Cooper told the Herald: “Having just heard of the death of Jeremy Hardy, on behalf of the FTA, I would like to express our sadness at the loss of such a gifted and compassionate comedian.”
Jemma Redgrave, the grand-daughter of Sir Michael Redgrave after whom the theatre is named, added: “Devastated. Just heard Jeremy Hardy has died so so young. A warm, kind, generous, brilliantly funny man. Huge love to his family.”
Actor Stephen Mangan, whose first stage role was also at the Redgrave, responded to the news on Twitter: “Oh no. Funny, funny man. And a big hearted man. Plenty of righteous indignation in there too. This is so sad.”
Hardy performed at the Farnham Maltings on at least three occasions, in 2011, 2013 and 2015, and was scheduled to perform again at the venue in November but the show was pulled.
The Maltings also tweeted in response to Hardy’s death: “It’s been a sad morning hearing about the passing of a man who gave Farnham so many happy memories. Rest in peace, Jeremy Hardy.”
Andy Hibberd, owner of 101 Collectors Records in West Street, also tweeted: “This is the most dreadful news. Rest in peace you wonderful, funny man. #RIPJeremyHardy”.
Announcing his death, Hardy’s publicist Ms Emery continued: “He retained to the end the principles that guided his life; trying to make the world more humane, and to be wonderfully funny.
“He will be enormously missed by so many, who were inspired by him and who laughed with him.”
BBC Radio 4 also expressed sadness at the loss of “one of the funniest people around”.