THERE will not to be a dry eye in the house when North-East "comic genius'' Johnny Hammond takes his final curtain call later today.

Figures from the world of entertainment are to attend the funeral service of the 77-year-old comedian and comedy script writer who died this week of cancer.

A winner of television's New Faces, Johnny performed with Perry Como, and appeared several time at the London Palladium and on stage in Las Vegas.

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He appeared on Granada's popular 70's rapid fire stand up comedy show The Comedians which helped launch comedians like Frank Carson, Colin Crompton and the late Bernard Manning.

He wrote material for comedians Jim Davidson, Hale and Pace and Roy 'Chubby' Brown. And he inspired some of today's stand up comics.

The pensioner died suddenly at Southport, Merseyside where he lived in later life, though he proudly told everyone he met, he hailed from Hartlepool, where he still has relations.

He was engaged as an after dinner speaker and comic and only stopped working a short time before his death.

The man who served on Royal Navy destroyers as a boy sailor in the Second World War, told friends the doctor who broke the news that he had only weeks to live, had told him he looked like a man who could take the truth.

The friends were North-East comics Ronny Oliver said Ned Kelly, who will both attend today's cremation.

Mr Oliver said: "It was great to see him one last time. He didn't suffer, he went to sleep. He was like our mentor. He was brilliant. The tales he told off stage were funnier than the ones he told on stage. His story telling was absolutely brilliant and the tales all true; they all happened to him.'' Johnny Hammond perfected the malfunctioning microphone as part of his comedy routine, while singing the Telly Savalas hit single 'If'.

Before he reached the end of the first line : "If a picture paints a thousand words''...... Liverpool comic Gary Skyner says his audience would be rocking with laughter, tears rolling down their cheeks.

"He was a comic genius and a gentleman to boot,'' said Mr Skyner. "He never forget his North-East roots. He was a Hartlepool man through and through. He was just lovely.'