Mel Smith, English comedian, writer, film director, producer and actor, best known for his pioneering work on the sketch comedy shows Not the Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones has died of a heart attack at the age of 60. Smith and comedy partner, Griff Rhys Jones, founded Talkback in 1981, which grew to be one of the UK’s largest producers of TV comedy and light entertainment programming.
To this day, one of my favorites was the late 70’s/early 80’s series, Not the Nine O’Clock News, in which Smith starred alongside Rowan Atkinson and Griff Rhys Jones. The series, which featured satirical sketches on current news stories and popular culture, premiered on BBC2 as the comedy alternative to the Nine O’Clock News, the flagship BBC news program which was a staple of BBC 1 programming for just over 30 years.
Not the Nine O’Clock News: I’d like to buy a Grammaphone
Not the Nine O’Clock News: Gerald, the Gorilla
Not the Nine O’Clock News: Life of Brian controversy
Following Not the Nine O’Clock News, Smith and Jones, along with for Not the Nine O’Clock News alumni, Chris Langham (The Thick of It, People Like Us), teamed up for Alas Smith and Jones, the brilliant sketch comedy series that ran on the BBC from 1984 to 1998.
Alas Smith and Jones: Police Complaint
Commenting on Twitter, Graham Linehan (Count Arthur Strong, The IT Crowd, Father Ted, Black Books) fondly remembered Smith for providing the outlet for one of his and writing partner Arthur Mathews’ first sketches on Alas Smith and Jones.
Rowan Atkinson commented on the sad news of Smith’s passing: “Mel Smith – a lovely man of whom I saw too little in his later years. I loved the sketches that we did together on Not the Nine O’Clock News. He was the cast member with whom I felt the most natural performing empathy. He had a wonderfully generous and sympathetic presence both on and off screen. He was also an excellent theatre and movie director, doing a wonderful job on the first Mr Bean movie. I feel truly sad at his parting.”
R.I.P. Mel Smith. You will be missed.