Arthur Smith (comedian)
|Born||Brian Arthur John Smith
27 November 1954
Bermondsey, South London, England, UK
Smith was born in Bermondsey, South London. His brother is Richard Smith, the medical doctor, editor and businessman. He was a student at The Roan School for Boys, a grammar school, now John Roan School in Blackheath, London. He then studied at the University of East Anglia where he was chairman of the poetry society, wrote for the student newspaper and contributed sketches for the student review. He graduated with a 2:1 BA degree in comparative literature in 1976.2
Smith was one of many stand-up performers on the alternative comedy scene in the 1980s. He still performs today in much the same manner, and has regularly attended the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival since 1977, and still compering the long-running Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition final. He has also written a body of serious or semi-serious work, including stage plays such as An Evening with Gary Lineker.
In addition to stand-up comedy, Smith has performed musical comedy shows such as Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (later broadcast on Radio 4). He returned to this theme for the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 with "Arthur Smith Sing Leonard Cohen (Volume Too).3 He is also a radio presenter on such BBC Radio 4 programmes as Excess Baggage and Loose Ends, and appears on television comedy panel games. He took over as narrator of the TV series A Life of Grime after the death of John Peel and more recently was one of the Grumpy Old Men in the television series of that name. Both of the latter two series used "What a Wonderful World" as their theme song. For Grumpy Old Men, Smith was one of the cast members who contributed to a montage rendition of the song, providing an imitation of Louis Armstrong's closing "ohhhh yeeeah!".
His near-death from pancreatitis made him teetotal, an experience which he turned into a poignant comedy monologue Arthur Smith's Last Hangover. Subsequently he developed type 2 diabetes but still smokes. He regularly writes a column for the Diabetes UK magazine Balance.
One of Smith's routines has been set to music by Mark Beazley, aka Rothko, for a CD curated by comedian and writer Stewart Lee. The CD, The Topography of Chance was guest-curated by Stewart for the Sonic Arts Network and Arthur's track is called I've seen your arse and contains extra vocals by Caroline Quentin taken from a live recording of Smith's show, Arthur Smith's Last Hangover.
In December 1985, Smith, along with temporary comedy partner Phil Nice, made a short series of parody documentaries for "Channel 4" television network called "Arthur and Phil Go Off". One episode, titled "Nessie - Real or Pretend" about the Loch Ness Monster, was aired in America on the A& E cable channel in 1986. None of these shows has officially been released to any video format.
Debrett's lists his full books and publication list as "Trench Kiss (1990), An Evening With Gary Lineker (with Chris England, 1992), Pointless Hoax (1997), Sit-Down Comedy (2003), That Which Is Not Said (poetry, 2006), My Name is Daphne Fairfax (autobiography, 2009)"4
One of Smith's more unusual roles was in the sitcom Red Dwarf in the episode "Backwards". He gave a speech (in reverse) blaming Kryten and Rimmer for starting a fight. If, however, the speech is played forwards, he is heard to be insulting the listener who has flipped the recording over trying to find out what he was saying ("What a poor sad life he's got").
A night in watching football with Tony Hawks ended with him challenging Hawks to beat the entire Moldovan football team at tennis. Hawks took him up on this bet, and wrote a book5 about it. Hawks won the bet, and Smith had to stand on Balham High Road and sing the Moldovan National Anthem whilst naked.
Smith also appeared in a cameo role in the first series of the BBC science fiction radio comedy Married. He played a version of himself from a parallel universe who eked out a living as a children's party entertainer. This role expanded in the second and third series.
In the winter of 2006, Smith travelled to Margate to host The Margate Exodus which brought together local musicians and singers to perform songs of the 10 Plagues. Such bands as NARCS and NoisePunk exponents Lips Like Oxygen took to the stage. Smith said, "Blimey, I'm exhausted just watching them!" Smith also played "Clarrie" in the Doctor Who audio, The Kingmaker.
He is currently the host of "Arthur Smith's Comedy Club" on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
In 2005, Smith turned down a lifetime achievement award from the Perrier Award organisers. He said that "Comedians rather dislike the Perrier Awards and the public aren't interested. Basically, they wanted to tell me I was old and cool; well, I know that already, and anyway, my ego is bloated enough."7
In 2010, he was a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award nominee for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe after declaring that he would pay £100 to any journalist attending his show who would juggle fish.8
He has been a longtime resident of Balham, London, Smith has described himself as the "Night Mayor of Balham — I don't do days". In 2009 he broadcast a comedy series for BBC Radio 4 from his own home called Arthur Smith's Balham Bash.
- Sit-Down Comedy (contributor to anthology, ed Malcolm Hardee & John Fleming) Ebury Press/Random House, 2003. ISBN 0-09-188924-3; ISBN 978-0-09-188924-1
- My Name is Daphne Fairfax (audiobook read by the author) Random House Audio, May 2009. ISBN 978-1-84657-179-4
- Arthur Smith. My Name is Daphne Fairfax: A Memoir. London: Hutchinson (2009). ISBN 0-09-192103-1
- Arthurian legend returns to his comic roots at UAE. Retrieved 8 October 2013
- Hawks, T. Playing the Moldovans at Tennis (ISBN 0091920353)
- "British Comedy Guide, August 2009". Retrieved 22 September 2010.
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