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Andy Cunningham, star of Bodger And Badger, dead aged 67

Mirror logo Mirror 07/06/2017 Laura Harding
Credits: BBC © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: BBC

Andy Cunningham, the man who brought joy to hundreds of thousands of children with TV show Bodger And Badger, has died at the age of 67.

He died in Brighton's Royal Sussex County Hospital on Monday following a lengthly illness battle with cancer, his sister Tessa told Press Association.

She paid tribute to him, calling him generous, passionate and hilarious.

"'Andy lived to be loved and to make people laugh - starting with me, his little sister," she said.

Watch: Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace and Gromit, dies aged 96 (Provider: Press Association)

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"He had a quicksilver brain, a rebellious attitude, boundless compassion particularly for the underdog, unstinting levels of generosity and, of course, a passion for mashed potato.

"I adored him and, long before he found fame, was immensely proud to have the funniest, cleverest big brother in the universe."

The last known picture of Andy shows him with a fan at his home in Brighton.

Looking a little frail, Andy cradles Badger as he raises a smile for the camera.

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The entertainer came to fame on the 1990s BBC programme, in which he played Simon Bodger - a hapless friend of naughty Badger, whose endless pursuit of mashed potato got the pair into trouble countless times.

The show first aired in 1989 and continued throughout the Nineties, with Andy's handyman Bodger becoming a favourite children's TV character.

Born on May 13 1950, Cunningham read English at Cambridge University before finding fame on children's television.

He gave comedian Julian Clary his first job when he was writing and directing shows for the Covent Garden Community Theatre Group and the pair remained friends.

He also worked as a puppeteer in the Star Wars film Return of the Jedi, operating the character Ephant Mon.

Credits: LucasFilm © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: LucasFilm

Andy was in a long-term relationship with Jane Bassett, who played Mousey in Bodger And Badger.

While the couple separated many years ago, they remained close friends and she was with him when he died, along with his sister and nieces.

The sad news was also confirmed by the magician and puppeteer's friends on Facebook.

Comedian Charmian Hughes wrote: "So sad to hear Andy Cunningham has died. I first met him doing his magic show when I was being a terrible clown at the same event and we were near neighbours in Islington. He was so sweet and kind and full of advice.

Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: PA

"I had quite a pash on him but my dog Arthur weed on him when he came to dinner, so put paid to that. I last saw him at the Brighton fringe about three years ago and he was very mischievous in my audience. Actually, he was my audience. RIP sweet man."

Even after the series ended in 1999, Andy returned with his favourite creation in 2013 to make a one-off Bodger And Badger special for an animal charity, aimed at preventing the badger cull.

Speaking to the Brighton Argus at the time, the funnyman said: "For a long time Badger and I didn't think the cull would really happen.

"The idea of people roaming around at night shooting at, and whatever they say, very likely wounding badgers, just seemed too barbaric to be true."

Credits: Photoshot/Avalon.red © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Photoshot/Avalon.red

He went on: "The idea is that while Badger and I are having a holiday in Somerset, Badger gets an invitation from the British Government to take part in a local all-night shooting adventure, which we assume must mean paintballing.

"Badger decides to use something else, and I'll give you a clue...it's not mashed banana."

He - along with Badger - also appeared on Big Brother's Big On The Side in 2012 in an interview with Helen Price.

Badger raised a smile by informing the audience that he would hijack the Big Brother shopping list by adding potatoes to it.

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