Arthur Smith

Arthur Smith

Date of birth: 30-11-1953
Arthur Smith has become one of comedy's elder statesmen: an Edinburgh Fringe stalwart and a club compere since the early days of the alternative scene, he still uses many of the same gags today.

He's also become a regular on Radios 2 and 4, one of TV's Grumpy Old Men, and a writer whose best-known work is the World Cup play An Evening With Gary Lineker.

Before joining the comedy circuit, the Bermondsy-born stand-up worked as a warehouseman and teacher, and studied the University of East Anglia, where he took the acclaimed creative writing course run by novelist Malcolm Bradbury,

He has long been a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe, where he was instrumental in many of the pranks played by his late friend Malcolm Hardee, and his raucous late-night tours of the town became legendary for their high jinks, if not their historical accuracy.

His Fringe shows include Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen, and Arthur Smith's Last Hangover, about his being forced to go teetotal after he nearly died from pancreatitis. Both were subsequently broadcast on Radio 4, where he is also a frequent guest on such shows as Excess Baggage and Loose Ends. On Radio 2 he has presented the long-running Smith Lectures, linking together clips from other comedians.

As well as the Olivier-nominated An Evening with Gary Lineker, which he co-created with Chris England, Smith's other plays include 1989's Live Bed Show, which starred Caroline Quentin and Paul Merton and ran at the Donmar Warehouse.

In 2005, Smith reportedly turned down a lifetime achievement award from the Perrier Award organisers, but in 2007 an exhibition of art from other comedians that he curated won the panel prize from the Perriers' successors, the if.comedy awards.

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Arthur Smith pens book and radio show about his dad

Syd Smith was a Colditz PoW and London copper

Arthur Smith is writing a book and a Radio 4 special based on his father’s extraordinary life.

Syd Smith survived the second battle of El Alamein in Egypt in 1942 but was captured, sent to a slave  labour camp and then  incarcerated in the notorious Colditz Castle. After the war, he became a police officer in South London.

His first-hand account formed the basis of Arthur’s stand-up show Syd, which is now being adapted for radio a book, provisionally titled My Dad Was In Colditz. However it is not slated to be published until summer 2023.

Smith used the same title for a 1993 Radio Five documentary, My Dad Was In Colditz, in which he accompanied his father to his former jail, which had by then been converted into a hotel.

News of the book and radio show were broken by the British Comedy Guide. The comic told them that although he would have a part in the book, ‘I want it mainly to be his story. Obviously, I'll talk about when we went back to Colditz and what I've learned from him, maybe how he died. So I will be present but in the background I hope.’

He added that as well as his wartime exploits, Syd  had ‘a lot of good copper stories too’. including talking a suicidal girl down from Waterloo Bridge and meeting Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

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Published: 7 Mar 2021

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