21 July 2013 4:00 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Comedian, actor, writer and director who came to prominence in satirical TV sketch show Not the Nine O'Clock News

Mel Smith was once upstaged by a talking gorilla. He was playing a zoologist in a sketch on his hit comedy show Not the Nine O'Clock News and the gorilla suit contained Rowan Atkinson. "When I caught Gerald in 68 he was completely wild," said Smith. "Wild?" retorted the gorilla. "I was absolutely livid!"

If the gorilla had the best line, Smith had the more expressive countenance, mugging with a deadpan virtuosity rarely seen since Oliver Hardy in his pomp. That face – as hangdog as his childhood hero Tony Hancock's – made Smith, who has died of a heart attack aged 60, one of the most recognisable of postwar British comedians.

Smith's face was only part of his fortune. He was a writer and editor of some of the most redoubtable British TV »

- Stuart Jeffries

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