Tributes paid to comedian Mel Smith

Tributes have been paid to comedian, writer and director Mel Smith who has died of a heart attack at the age of 60.

Griff Rhys Jones, co-star

"I still can't believe this has happened. To everybody who ever met him, Mel was a force for life. He had a relish for it that seemed utterly inexhaustible. He inspired love and utter loyalty and he gave it in return. I will look back on the days working with him as some of the funniest times that I have ever spent."

Rowan Atkinson, co-star

"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. If you direct a comedy movie that takes $245m at the box office you've done something pretty special, and I never thought he was given enough credit for this success. I feel truly sad at his parting."

John Lloyd, Not The Nine O'Clock News creator

"It is the most awful news. It's a tragedy, it's a great loss, not just as an amazingly talented guy in all sorts of areas but also as a friend."

Clive Anderson, broadcaster and writer on Not The Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones

"I'd often have read his part while we were writing or rewriting or improvising, and I have to admit - it's not just that he's just died - I never did it anything like as good as he did. It was always a sort of 'How did he do that then?'. But that's a mark of all good performers. They suddenly take what you hoped were quite reasonably funny lines and it turns them into something more magical."

Tony Hall, BBC director general

"Mel Smith's contribution to British comedy cannot be overstated. On screen, he helped to define a new style of comedy from the late 1970s 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."

Danny Cohen, BBC director of television

Mel 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."

Stephen Fry, broadcaster and comedian

"Terrible news about my old friend Mel Smith, dead from a heart attack. Mel lived a full life but was kind, funny and wonderful to know."

Helen Lederer, actor and comedian

"It's very sad when anybody passes away but at least this will offer an opportunity for us to relish that very unpretentious, very game-changing time where there was intelligence and satire and topicality in one glorious burst. He was very, very intelligent - I think he studied psychology - very versatile, very approachable, very cutting and very knowing. You just know that you're in totally good hands when you're watching someone like Mel Smith."

Graham Linehan, comedy writer

"Very sad to hear news of Mel Smith's death has been confirmed. He and Griff gave [Father Ted co-writer] Arthur [Mathews] and I our break. Was always so kind and generous to us."

Matt Lucas, comedian

"So sad to hear about the passing of the great Mel Smith. Brilliant writer, actor and director and a lovely man too."

Peter Fincham, ITV director of television

"Life was always exciting around Mel. He was my friend and business partner [along with Rhys Jones at Talkback] for many years and had extraordinary natural talent with the rare gift of wearing it lightly.

"Being funny came naturally to him, so much so that he never seemed to give it a second thought. Mel and Griff were one of the great comedy acts and it's hard to imagine that one of them is no longer with us."

Graeme Garden, comedian

"RIP Mel Smith. A great loss to the comedy world."

Adam Price, actor

"There are so many wonderful things to celebrate about Mel. I was covering Michael Ball in Hairspray, and I played Edna opposite Mel. Mel looked after me because I was so nervous and so unready and Mel was just a diamond. And from that moment we made great friends. We even had to kiss each other on stage and I used to tell him that kissing him was like kissing a cigar-smoking bloodhound."

Peter Serafinowicz, actor and comedian

"Very sad to hear about Mel Smith. He did something very kind for me early in my career even though he hardly knew me. Such a funny man."

Dara O Briain, comedian

"Sad news about Mel Smith. Not the Nine O'Clock News was my first ever essential comedy show, aged nine. Holds up today too."

Simon Pegg, actor and comedian

"Sad to hear about Mel Smith. His influence on contemporary British comedy both as a performer and producer is impossible to calculate."

James Corden, actor and comedian

"Thank you for the laughs Mel Smith. RIP"

Johnny Vegas, comedian

"So sorry to hear of Mel Smith's untimely passing. My sincere condolences to his family. A great loss, a comedy legend, a nice bloke."

David Schneider, comic actor

"Jeez. Mel Smith. A man who knew funny and made it seem easy. Sad news."

Nicky Campbell, broadcaster and journalist

"Great Mel Smith line. 'I've got a terrible memory. And I'll tell you something else. I've got a terrible memory'."

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