But he was best loved by audiences for his drunken, offensive portrayal of Father Jack Hackett in the Channel Four sitcom – including his infamous catchphrase, “Feck”.
Frank’s death come exactly 18 years to the day after the death of his co-star Dermot Morgan, who played the eponymous Father Ted.
Ardal O’Hanlon, the surviving actor who played the third of the trio of hapless clergymen, said: “Frank was an all-round talent, an institution in Irish entertainment, a very determined professional and he’ll be greatly missed by all who knew him.”
Morgan’s son Don tweeted about the coincidence of the date of his co-star’s death.
“Isn’t life just weird? Frank Kelly going on Dad’s anniversary.”
The show about three priests and their housekeeper living on the fictional Craggy Island, somewhere off Ireland’s west coast, attracted huge audiences in Ireland, Britain and abroad.
It aired over three series between 1995 and 1998 and won a string of Bafta awards.
Father Jack was an alcoholic and at times violent clergyman who made no attempt to mask his contempt for his fellow priests.
One of his defining quotes was “Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!”
Speaking at the time, Frank said: “I’ve been working as an actor for over 50 years, and a shaky hand certainly won’t stop me.
“I’m quietly confident that I’ve had this for years and years. If you are watching what you are doing, you can control it.
“You might have heard of the American actor Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 22 years ago and is still working today. I’m the same.”
“Frank was an all-round talent…he’ll be greatly missed by all who knew him.””
The actor got the all-clear from bowel cancer in 2011.
He also underwent procedures to remove two small skin cancers in 2014.
Dozens of devastated fans took to Twitter to post tributes to the much-loved Irish star.
Travis singer Fran Healy wrote: “Father Jack passed on the 18th Anniversary of Father Ted’s death. There is some comfort in this, somehow.”
Frank is survived by his wife of 51 years, Bairbre, and leaves behind seven kids and 17 grandchildren.