Entertainment & Arts

Your memories of comic actor Mel Smith

Image caption Mel Smith was known for his role in Not The Nine O'Clock News show among other comedies and was as amusing off screen and he was on it, one of his producers Sean Hardie said

The British comic actor and writer Mel Smith has died of a heart attack, aged 60.

He was well known for his roles in sketch shows such as Alas Smith and Jones and Not the Nine O' Clock News.

Here, BBC News website readers who met him and one who was often mistaken for him, share their experiences.

'He treated everyone the same'

Image caption Terry O'Sullivan grew up with Mel

Terry O'Sullivan, 64, from Chiswick, London, lived on the same street as Mel when they were growing up.

He was a few years younger than me but my mum and his mum, my sister and his sister, we were all friends together. We all used to play in the street together. It was after the war.

We stayed friends even after he went to the local grammar school and moved away and went to university. That's where he met Griff Rhys Jones I think.

I was just a normal working lad and became a signal engineer, but it didn't make any difference to Mel. He treated everyone the same and he came to my mother's funeral.

We used to play cricket in the street together, he had all the bats and the stumps and we played football too, well you did back then.

He was a very generous man and a kind character. Not bad at cricket either.

'He was enormously fond of horse racing'

TV executive Linda Agran worked with Mel but counted him as a friend first.

He was a generous, kind and very talented man and a brilliant director. He was also enormously fond of horse racing and would spend any free time he had at the races.

There are probably as many people who will miss him in the racing world as from show business.

His father was a bookmaker and he had grown up around racing.

Mel was either completely broke or driving a Bentley, but he did incredibly well in business and was extremely wealthy from selling his TV company Talkback Productions.

'Without him it would have been much more ordinary'

Image caption Mel Smith was happiest in a frock, Sean Hardie said

Sean Hardie co-produced Not The Nine O' Clock News show with John Lloyd.

Mel was very loyal. There were a lot of people gossiping and looking for gossip in show business at that time, but you never heard a bad word said about Mel.

He worked hard and he lived hard too.

His acting technique, knowledge and understanding of drama was rare enough in comedy then and now, and in the end defined the whole style of the show. Without him it would have been much more ordinary.

He loved wearing frocks and he was never happier than when he was playing the pantomime dame.

He was fast, dangerous, funny and hugely inventive. A real and original talent and a generous man to boot.

I will miss him in all kinds of ways.

'People would upgrade me thinking I was him'

Image caption Melvyn Smith was mistaken for Mel

Mel Smith, a 63-year-old retired fraud investigation officer, from Cresswell, near Worksop in Derbyshire, used to be mistaken for Mel the comedian and writer.

In my line of work I used to travel around the country quite a bit and when I checked in I would get some very disappointed faces when they realised I wasn't THE Mel Smith.

Sometimes they would be very apologetically and say "I'm sorry there has been some mistake with the booking and we will upgrade you right away."

It was great while it lasted and I shall forever be in his debt for that.

I was a fan and very much enjoyed watching Mel and Griff's sketches.

'We all thought he was going to be the next big thing'

Andrew Rissik, from Worcester, met Mel Smith in 1973 during his first year of university when Mel was president of the drama society.

I remember the brilliant production he did of the Tempest and talking to him about it afterwards.

It was done in a white-box set in fierce bright light with striking Regency era costumes, it caused quite a lot of interest from people in the theatre.

He was clever, funny, generous and helpful, it seemed to me at the time that he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of European and British theatre.

We all thought he was going to be the next big, serious director of British theatre.

Unlike a lot of the undergraduates he was not introverted. He had a life-loving, relaxed, louche sense of fun and was street savvy.

He always wore a well cut suit with an open necked shirt, I don't think I ever saw him wearing everything else.

More of your comments

I remember him so well from the 60s when our schools performed plays together. Latymer Upper's 'Jantaculum' was the start of Mel's comedy career. He was terrific even then. Very sad news that he's died at only 60, a life cut short. Julia Walker, Cambridge

I met Mel Smith when I was working at a horse racing event. We were in a lift together when a very well to-do lady asked Mel if he was here to watch the racing and how bad the traffic was on the way. Mel looked at me and replied to the lady: "I'm a back-up jockey, I've just parachuted in for the next race." The lady got out and we both laughed our heads off. Mel then stuck a fifty pound note in my top pocket to put on the next race. What a top guy a true legend. Gary Sloane, Liverpool

A great loss. I remember being in fits of laughter during the "Not The Nine O'Clock News" era. All of the stuff he did subsequently was really funny too. Rest in peace, and thanks for the all the laughs. Dave Swift, Southampton

Mel was a year ahead of me at school and I remember him in school shows during 6th form. A real character, that deadpan humour was his trademark then, along with highly original material. Howard Broadwell, Nottingham,

I was lucky enough to meet Mel and Griff at a book signing in Oxford. We picked the right time as we were the only ones there, neither early nor late! They were so funny as when they tried to sign my book spelling "Karen" seemed to be beyond them. They turned this into a mini sketch, leaving all of us in the shop laughing. Rest in peace, Mel. Condolences to the family and friends. Karen Moss, Barnstaple, Devon

So very sad to hear the news about Mel. I used to love watching Alas Smith and Jones. Mel could never keep a straight face. I also loved him when he did comic relief. He will be sadly missed. Claire Barrass, Morpeth

I shall always remember Mel for the joy he brought into our lives, through his work as a comedian, and for his always being able to make me laugh. I never met this "True Gentleman" of the stage and screen, but will retain good memories of the times in which he kindly shared his enormous talents with us all. My thoughts are with his family and friends. R.I.P Mel Smith you will be sadly missed by so many. John Redmond, Cardiff

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