Andy Smart

Andy Smart

Date of birth: 16-06-1959
Date of death: 16-05-2023
Former street entertainer Andy Smart was once part of a double act with Angelo Abela, called The Vicious Boys, who in the mid-Eighties appeared on various TV shows including The Tube, Saturday Starship and the Six O'Clock before they were given their own LWT show called Wake Up London.

In 1985 Janet Street Porter asked the Vicious Boys to provide the comedy on Get Fresh a two-hour live outside broadcast every Saturday morning, and they went on to present American Football coverage on Channel 4.

The next three years were spent touring, including many trips to New York and two runs in Australia, but the duo split up in 1990. Smart then began a new career as a stand-up.

He has performed at 20 consecutive Edinburgh festivals, including solo shows in 1993 ( Look Back At Danger) and 1998 (a paean to marijuana called The Dope) and he has been a permanent member of the Comedy Store Players improv team since 1995.

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A Comedy Tribute To Andy Smart

Comedians remember their much-loved colleague

You can tell the manner of a comedian by who turns out for their tribute gig, and Andy Smart drew some of the funniest folk around for the fundraiser in his honour last night. 

‘A comic so fully of joy and kindness’, compere Arthur Smith called him, an ‘amazing’ man who ‘lived about ten lifetimes in the course of one’.

Stories of his sense of adventure are legion, from running with the bulls in Pamplona dozens of times, to playing in the the insane Shrovetide football matches, or racing the cheese down Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire. He hitchhiked the globe and was a member of WARDA, the Western Australian Roof Drinking Association, who drink beer on the roofs of moving trains.

Rufus Hound probably got the best measure of him when he described Smart, who died a year ago at the age of 63, as ‘one of the all-time great blokes’ – when that meant something far more positive than it does today. He was a convivial, rakish barfly who spent his days permanently drunk, by Hound’s account, but was always jovial and kind – the sort of cheery, larger-than-life character all but lost as comedy becomes increasingly professional. 

In short, said Hound, ’a fucking legend who treated everybody kindly: smart and funny and a joy to be with’.

The night at the Duchess Theatre was in aid of homeless charity Crisis, a cause close to Smart’s heart as he regularly helped out at their shelter.

A tribute read by a volunteer on behalf of chief executive Matt Downie recalled a ‘truly remarkable individual’ so generous with his time. Most notably, he said, Smart made every homeless person he interacted with ‘feel like a lifelong friend’ – a vital connection for those so often marginalised. 

Those performing in Smart’s memory included Milton Jones with his beautifully obtuse wordplay; Shaparak Khorsandi contrasting her wild youth to mellow middle age today; crooning comic Charlie Baker imagining himself as part of the Devon Rat Pack; whip-smart Simon Munnery growing ever more comfortably into his mad professor look; and Hal Cruttenden mining his privilege in a way that switched from the acerbically sharp to the charmingly self-deprecating.

The big surprise of the night was Mark Steel, returning to the stage for the first time since his cancer diagnosis in October and clearly delighted to be there: ‘This is lovely,’ he gushed. Steel played on the same cricket team as Smart and recalls winning an award for ‘best catch taken while smoking a fag’.

His treatment has not robbed Steel of an iota of the splenetic ire he directed at the useless, venal Tories with his usual florid flashes or surreal exaggeration. With a typically impassioned rant, you’d never have known he’d been ill.

The sporting links continued with Omid Djalili, a footballing team-mate of Smart’s. The Anglo-Iranian and combined gags with personal reminiscences, not least of the time they shared a Glastonbury stage. 

Almost inevitably, the late Malcolm Hardee gatecrashed this anecdote, as Djalili recalled him demanding the rowdy audience’s attention by taking to the stage with a firework up his arse and singing There’s No Business Like Show Business in tribute/shameless rip-off of Chris Lynam’s act. 

Not to be outdone, Smart shoved toilet paper up his backside and set fire to it. Any story that contains the phrase ‘with smoke still emanating from his blackened anus’ has to be a winner…

The second half of the show was given over to the Comedy Store Players, the improv team that Smart was such a long-serving and much-loved member of. How like him to find a job that required no preparation.

Despite the best efforts of Neil Mullarkey, Josie Lawrence, Stephen Frost, Richard Vranch, Ruth Bratt and the rest, the biggest ad-libbed laugh came – rightly enough – from Smart himself.

A montage featured a clip in which the prompt for a time in history came back as ‘The Big Bang’. As the team assembled on the stage waiting to start, Smart got the sketch off to the perfect start, with the brilliantly timed. ‘Quiet tonight, innit?’

Without him around, the world of comedy is a lot quieter, too.

• To donate to Crisis in Smart's memory text Andy5 or Andy10 to 70020. Usual network rates apply and you'll need the bill-payer's permission.

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Published: 4 Jun 2024

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Book (2019)
A Hitch In Time


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