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Comedian Mel Smith dead at 60

The comic actor Mel Smith, best known for writing and starring in the TV sketch shows Not the Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith & Jones, has died of a heart attack at the age of 60. He’d been ill for some time, having recently suffered a stroke.

Although most familiar as a performer, his true passion was directing and as well as working in theatre, he directed several feature films, including The Tall Guy, Bean and High Heels & Low Lives.

Smith was also a successful businessman, setting up the TV production company Talkback with his long-time comedy partner Griff Rhys Jones. They sold the company in 2000 for more than £60m.

Jones described his best friend of the past thirty five years as “a gentleman, a scholar and a force for life”. Other comics have also been paying tribute to Mel Smith. Rowan Atkinson, who worked with the pair on Not the Nine O’Clock News and starred in Bean, said “He had a wonderfully generous and sympathetic presence both on and off screen.” John Lloyd, who produced Not the Nine O’Clock news described him as “a brilliant talent and a wonderful guy” and said he was kind, generous and fun to be with.”

The BBC’s Director General, Tony Hall, said “Mel Smith’s contribution to British comedy cannot be over stated. On screen he helped to define a new style of comedy from the late 1970’s that continues to influence people to this day. And his pioneering TV production work with Griff Rhys Jones through their company Talkback has created many of the defining comedy shows of recent decades.” The BBC’s Director of Television, Danny Cohen, said Smith was one of the comedy greats of the modern era. “He brought huge pleasure to audiences through both his performances and his writing. Many of today’s most celebrated comedians will have grown up learning from Mel Smith.”

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