Comedian and actor Mel Smith – who found fame in the classic TV sketch show Not The Nine O’Clock News – has died aged 60.
His agent confirmed the news, saying that Smith died at his home in north-west London on Friday after suffering a heart attack.
Smith, who was born in West London in 1952, initially worked as a theatre director but later formed a lifelong career partnership with fellow funnyman Griff Rhys Jones.
The pair – originally known as Mel and Griff – went on to produce and star in four series of topical sketch show Not The Nine O’Clock News.
The show – which also starred Rowan Atkinson and Pamela Stephenson – ran from 1979-1982.
Mel and Griff later fronted the sketch show Alas Smith and Jones, which had a 14-year run on the BBC following its debut in 1984.
The pair also founded the production company Talkback, which has been responsible for a string of shows including I’m Alan Partridge, Da Ali G Show, QI, Green Wing, The Apprentice and Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
Smith also directed a number of movies, most notably the 1997 film Bean – featuring Rowan Atkinson’s rubber-faced comic creation – which became a box office smash upon release.
He also scored a top three hit in 1987 with a comedy cover version of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, on which he duetted with 80s singer Kim Wilde.
Griff was among those who paid tribute to Mel, calling him ‘a gentleman and a scholar, a gambler and a wit’.
“We are all in a state of shock,” he added. “We have lost a very, very dear friend.”
Stephen Fry also paid his respects, saying on Twitter: “Terrible news about my old friend Mel Smith, dead today from a heart attack. Mel lived a full life, but was kind, funny and wonderful to know.”
Producer John Lloyd – who worked with Mel on Not The Nine O’Clock News – said that the comedian had been unwell for some time before his death.
“We did know he was ill. He’s been ill for some time,” he told Sky News.
“So although it is the most awful news – I mean, it’s a tragedy, it’s a great loss not just as an amazingly talented guy in all sorts of areas but also as a friend.”
“I think he was not in good shape, so in some ways we try and put a good spin on it by saying it’s a relief for him.”
Mel is survived by his wife Pam.