John Cleese has led tributes to the “wonderful” Andrew Sachs, the actor best known for starring as Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers.
Sachs was buried on Thursday at 86 after battling vascular dementia for four years.
The German-born performer died at a care home on November 23.
Cleese, 77, the co-creator of the 1970s sitcom, told Radio 4’s Today programme he was in “a little bit of shock” by the news as he paid tribute to the “wonderful” actor, who he said perfectly portrayed the hapless Manuel.
He said acting with Sachs was “like playing tennis with someone who is exactly as good as you are”.
“Sometimes he wins and sometimes you win but somehow there’s a rapport and it comes from the very deepest part of ourselves. You can work on it, but in our case we never had to work on it, it all happened so easily.”
Cleese added that Sachs “turned into a completely different human being” when wearing his familiar Manuel moustache.
Asked of his favourite scene with Sachs in Fawlty Towers, Cleese told Today it had been The Kipper and the Corpse - episode four of the second series of the hit comedy.
“I think that was some of our very best physical comedy and working out all that stuff like getting the body into the basket and getting it out again I think that was so much fun.
“Occasionally you come across someone who loves physical comedy and although he was such a quiet demeanour, Andy absolutely loved it.
“He was wonderful.”
Cleese said he last saw Sachs “eight or nine months ago” when they were being photographed together.
He said he realised then he “wasn’t totally present” but added the news of his death was “a little bit of a shock”.
“Although I knew his memory was not so good, despite that he was very special.”
Earlier the actor had posted on Twitter: “Just heard about Andy Sachs. Very sad ... I knew he was having problems with his memory as his wife Melody told me a couple of years ago.
“A very sweet gentle and kind man and a truly great farceur. I first saw him in Habeas Corpus on stage in 1973. I could not have found a better Manuel. Inspired.”
Cleese said he was aware the actor had been admitted to a care home “but I had no idea that his life was in danger”.
He also referred to a foreword he wrote in 2014 for his former co-star’s book which was said to have “moved Sachs to tears”.
Sachs had been a resident at Denville Hall a private care home in Northwood, west London. Staff said on Thursday night they were unable to talk about his death.
His wife of 57 years, Melody Sachs, told the Daily Mail: “It wasn’t all doom and gloom, he still worked for two years (after his diagnosis in 2012). We were happy, we were always laughing, we never had a dull moment.
“He had dementia for four years and it wasn’t very pleasant. We didn’t really notice it at first until the memory started going.
“It didn’t get really bad until quite near the end. I nursed Andrew, I was there for every moment of it.”
She said the father-of-three, a native German speaker whose parents fled the Nazis in 1938, refused to complain about his deteriorating health.
Mrs Sachs, also 86, said her husband lost his ability to speak and write during his final few weeks and he was unable to feed himself or eat during his final days.
After Fawlty Towers, Sachs would go on to play Ramsay Clegg in Coronation Street in 2009 - a year after the Sachsgate scandal in which Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made a prank call to the actor on the radio about his granddaughter. But he slipped from public life as his illness took hold.
Blackadder actor and comedian Sir Tony Robinson paid tribute to his “true friend”.
He said on Twitter: “So sad that Andrew Sachs has died. A true friend and a kindred spirit.
“I still have the wonderful baby pictures he took of my children. RIP.”
Samuel West, whose mother Prunella Scales starred alongside Sachs in Fawlty Towers, added: “Creator of one of our most beloved EU migrants. Such warmth and wit; impossible to think of him without smiling.”
Director of BBC content, Charlotte Moore, also paid tribute to the “wonderful actor”.
She added: “He will be fondly remembered for his many appearances across television and radio, not least for making the nation laugh in the classic role of Manuel.
“He entertained millions across a brilliant career and will be greatly missed.”
Sachs’ son, John Sachs, said as his father battled with vascular dementia he was shown Fawlty Towers but did not recognise the hit comedy.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “Vascular dementia is a terrible thing for an actor because you lose your voice, you lose movement and they even tried playing Fawlty Towers to him but he didn’t even recognise it, so it is a terrible change.”
The younger Sachs also revealed his father used Manuel’s moustache to hide behind.
“I think he stuck that big moustache on because he didn’t want to be recognised.
“(He) tried to make it even bigger but John wouldn’t have it. I think he would have whole big furry thing across his face.
“Honestly he didn’t seek the limelight at all, just enjoyed the craft.”
Asked if Sachs considered the role as the standout of his career, his son said: “I don’t think he ever thought that as anything particular special. I guess we did.
“He wasn’t even sure if John had written him into the next series because it was a two-part so that’s how much regard he had for it really but of course he loved doing it and liked the royalties.
“He brought a certain subtlety to it.”