Controversial comedian Bernard Manning has died aged 76 after being treated in hospital for a kidney condition.
He shot to fame in the 1970s on ITV programme The Comedians, having already developed a career in music as a vocalist and a compere.
His website branded him "one of the most outrageous and successful comedians of our time".
Manchester-based Manning denied being racist, once remarking: "I tell jokes. You never take a joke seriously."
However, in 2002, he was banned from performing in the Dorset seaside town of Weymouth, where councillors were worried that his act would breach laws on race.
He died in North Manchester General Hospital at 1510 BST on Monday.
Last month a tribute to him was paid at the recording of a proposed TV show entitled This Was Your Life, in front of an audience of 600 friends and fans.
He told them: "I'm going to be with you for a long time yet!"
His biographer, Jonathan Margolis, last saw him six weeks ago, and said he was "the last of the joke-tellers".
"I think he'll inevitably become famous for this question of whether he was a racist comedian - and it's a funny thing because it's some way down the list of things he was," he told the BBC News website.
"He was a man of his age - and as people of his age went, he was relatively un-racist.
"Until his dying day, he didn't understand what all the fuss was about."
Writer and broadcaster Barry Cryer said: "The thing about Bernard was that he looked funny, he sounded funny and he had excellent timing. It was just what he actually said that could be worrying."
Comedian Roy Walker, who met Manning when he started on the club circuit in Manchester nearly 40 years ago, told the BBC he was "devastated".
"I found him hilarious and extremely charitable," he said.
"I went to his birthday party last year. I was sat at the table with loads of comedians, and his schoolfriends - Jewish, Asian - I thought it fantastic that he could stay friends with the people he grew up with," Walker said.
"He whipped out gags galore and made sure everybody got a laugh," fellow comedian Frank Carson told the BBC News website.
"He was a wonderful man. If I had to write his gravestone I'd put: 'Here lies Bernard Manning, comedian, who died 76 years old.'
"Underneath that I'd put: 'What a pity, he had a booking next week.'"
Carson added: "He's gone but he'll never be forgotten. He was one of the most generous men on earth."
Another comedian, Stan Boardman, said that all he did "was take the mickey", which was "the British sense of humour".
"Right up until last week he was still cracking the jokes and pulling the audience in.
"Because he wasn't on television very much doesn't mean he wasn't still successful.
"He was more successful than any of the comedians that have been on television in the last 15 years."
Film director Michael Winner, who paid for Manning to perform at a party, described Manning as "the funniest man in the world".
"He was the last of the comedians who put the PC brigade behind him. He took no notice of them and just got on with the job of being funny," he said.
Agent Mickey Martin, a close friend of the comedian, told the Manchester Evening News his death had come "all of a sudden as we thought he was on the mend".