Clement Freud, food critic and wit, dies at 84

Stephen Fry leads the tributes to the deadpan radio broadcaster

Sir Clement Freud, the distinguished bon viveur, humourist, gastronome and former Liberal MP who gave a speech calling on the House of Commons to serve finer wine, has died nine days short of his 85th birthday.

A grandson of psychiatry's founding father, Sigmund Freud, and the estranged brother of the artist Lucian Freud, Sir Clement became almost as celebrated throughout his life thanks to an array of careers that ranged from soldier and restaurateur to journalist, politician, radio broadcaster and self-parodying dog food marketer.

A statement released by his family said he had died at his desk in north London on Wednesday evening. Friends and colleagues yesterday paid tribute to one of British comedy's driest intellectual wits. Only two weeks ago Sir Clement had recorded his last session of Just A Minute, the BBC Radio 4 show which he joined in 1967, where panellists compete to see who can talk for the longest time without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Stephen Fry, his fellow Just A Minute panellist, led the tributes yesterday, praising the 84-year-old's "raffishness".

"I was lucky enough to do a couple of Just A Minute and I became immensely fond of him," Fry said. "I was at first very afraid of him. A lot of people were. There were stories that he was immensely grouchy, he was rude sometimes to people who asked for autographs. I never experienced that side of him at all. And another element to him which perhaps should not go unmentioned is his raffishness, if you like, his air of disreputability."

Sir Clement became a household name in the 1960s when he appeared, in a typically deadpan manner, advertising Chunky Meat Minced Morsels dog food alongside a bloodhound. At the time he was a fêted food critic and Fleet Street's highest-paid journalist. But he agreed to the self-parodying adverts on the condition that he was paid the same salary as prime minister Harold Wilson.

Born into an already-famous Jewish family in Berlin, he came to Britain with his brother Lucian in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution "before the habit caught on". He barely spoke English but quickly adopted his new country, serving in the Army as a liaison officer during the Nuremberg trials.

Sir Clement returned from the Second World War to open the Royal Court Theatre Club in Soho before breaking into journalism, first as a sports writer and then as a food critic. In 1973 he turned to politics, gaining Isle of Ely for the Liberal party. No one was more surprised than Sir Clement, who bet £1,000 on himself at 33-1 odds.

He remained in Parliament for 15 years but returned to writing and radio after losing his seat in 1987. He leaves his wife Jill and five children, including the PR Matthew Freud and the broadcaster Emma Freud. His funeral will be held next week.

In his own words





* On measuring the height of a building using a barometer: "I would enter the building and find the janitor. Then I would say to the janitor: 'If you tell me the height of this building, I will give you this barometer.'"

* On receiving new titanium and plastic knees: "Regardless of the surgeon's promise that I would be able to dance the tango by Remembrance Day, I am still pretty lame. When propositioned recently by a woman to 'come upstairs and make love', I had to explain that it was one or the other."

* On denying yourself life's luxuries: "If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don't actually live longer; it just seems longer."

* On his grandfather Sigmund Freud: "He was to me not famous, but to me a good grandfather in that he didn't forget my birthday."

* On the police: "I think our police are excellent, probably because I have not done anything that has occasioned being beaten up by these good men."

* On being cheeky: "Cheek is when someone of diminished responsibility goes to the BBC and elects to be chairman of a panel game on the basis that he might have some idea of how to control people whose... words he doesn't understand."

* Comedian and writer Tony Hawks, who worked with Sir Clement: "Through his great intellect he would always bring out the best in you, because you sometimes would think 'Who's doing the show?' and when you knew it was Clement, you thought 'Oh, I'd better be on tip-top form'."

* Stephen Fry, who was a fellow contestant on Just A Minute: "There were stories that he was immensely grouchy, he was rude sometimes to people who asked for autographs. I never experienced that side of him. An element to him which should not go unmentioned is his raffishness, if you like, his air of disreputability. He, during the 1950s and 1960s, was a real Soho figure, he knew all the girls of easy virtue, he knew the pimps and, of course, the restaurateurs, which is where he learnt his business as a chef."

* Mark Damazer, BBC Radio 4 controller: "He had style and he had content. Call it what you will – dry, lugubrious, droll, deadpan – it was a unique way of dealing with the show's inherent verbal challenges."

* Gordon Brown: "I first met Sir Clement more than 30 years ago when he was rector of Dundee University and I was rector of the University of Edinburgh. I was proud to have known him and the whole country should recognise the achievements in his life."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week