Tributes have been flooding in for comic, actor and director Mel Smith, who has died at the age of 60.
They were led by his friend and comedy partner Griff Rhys Jones, who said: “He inspired love and utter loyalty and he gave it in return. I will look back on the days working with him as some of the funniest times that I have ever spent. We probably enjoyed ourselves far too much, but we had a roller coaster of a ride along the way.”
Fellow Not the Nine O’Clock News star Rowan Atkinson said: “Mel Smith – a lovely man of whom I saw too little in his later years. I loved the sketches that we did together on Not the Nine O’Clock News.
“He was the cast member with whom I felt the most natural performing empathy. He had a wonderfully generous and sympathetic presence both on and off screen.
“He was also an excellent theatre and movie director, doing a wonderful job on the first Mr Bean movie.
“If you direct a comedy movie that takes $245m at the box office you’ve done something pretty special, and I never thought he was given enough credit for this success. I feel truly sad at his parting.”
ITV director of television Peter Fincham, who was the business partner of Smith and Jones as well as their agent, said: “Life was always exciting around Mel.
“He was my friend and business partner for many years and had extraordinary natural talent with the rare gift of wearing it lightly.
“Being funny came naturally to him, so much so that he never seemed to give it a second thought.”
BBC director general Tony Hall said: “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.
“And his pioneering TV production work with Griff Rhys Jones through their company Talkback has created many of the defining comedy shows of recent decades.”
BBC director of television Danny Cohen said: “Mel Smith was one of the comedy greats of the modern era.”
Comedian and broadcaster Stephen Fry wrote: “Terrible news about my old friend Mel Smith, Mel lived a full life, but was kind, funny & wonderful to know.”