British comedian Mel Smith died of a heart attack at the age of 60. Smith was an actor and writer whose evening news parody preceded shows like The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
He rose to fame with partner-in-comedy Griff Rhys Jones in the show Not the Nine O’Clock News. The pair’s take down of serious BBC newscasts, talks shows, and commercials, inspired The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, among others.
Smith’s show also featured a generation of comedians that included Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson and actress Pamela Stephenson. The pair’s company went on to help other British comedy greats, reports NPR.
Mel Smith was born in London, England. By the time he was six, he was already directing plays. Smith went on to study experimental psychology at Oxford and directed productions at the Oxford Playhouse. He also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
He met Griff Rhys Jones after he joined the Not the Nine O’Clock News program, which launched in 1979. The pair would stay together until they sold the firm Talkback in 2000, notes Reuters.
Along with his comedy shows, Smith also directed films, including Bean — The Ultimate Disaster Movie, starring Atkinson. His acting credits include the 1987 favorite The Princess Bride.
Griff Rhys Jones stated of Mel Smith’s death, “I still can’t believe this has happened. To everybody who ever met him, Mel was a force for life. He was a gentleman and a scholar, a gambler and a wit.”
Tony Hall, the Director General of the BBC, added of the late comedian, who died on Friday, “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.”
Mel Smith’s agent, Michael Foster, announced that the comedian died on Friday at his home in northwest London. Smith is survived by his wife, Pam.