Arthur Smith (comedian)

Brian Arthur Smith[1] (born 27 November 1954) is an English alternative comedian and writer.

Arthur Smith
Impersonating Leonard Cohen in the cabaret tent at the 2008 Glastonbury Festival
Brian Arthur Smith

(1954-11-27) 27 November 1954
ResidenceBalham, London, England
OccupationComedian, writer, actor, presenter
Years active1977–present

Early life

Smith was born in Bermondsey, south London. His eldest brother is Richard Smith, the medical doctor, editor and businessman. His younger brother is Nick Smith, a civil servant who for a period of time was also a stand-up comic, but in more recent years has turned to amateur dramatics. Arthur 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 revue. 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 Sings 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 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.

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.

During the late 1980s, Smith took the role of consumer expert, testing such items as hangover cures and Pot Noodles on the BBC Radio 2 Nightcap show hosted by Peter Dickson.

In 1989, Smith provided voices for an Aardman Animations short called Ident with Nice and later in the mid and late 1990s, he went onto lent his voice to some television animations including the TV short The Animal Train as Jim Jam (with veteran voice actor Rick Jones voicing the character in the USA version), the BBC clay animated series Rex the Runt (also made by Aardman) as Arthur Dustcart in five episodes and the British-French children's animated series Romuald the Reindeer as the big bully Clint.

One of Smith's more unusual roles was in the sitcom Red Dwarf in the episode "Backwards". He plays a bar manager on backwards Earth who has hired Kryten and Rimmer as a forward novelty act. 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").[4]

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 book[5] 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 2006, Smith played "Clarrie" in the Doctor Who audio, The Kingmaker.

He is currently one of the hosts of "The Comedy Club" on BBC Radio 4 Extra and also narrates the BBC series Money for nothing.[6] He makes a cameo appearance in the music video of the song Happy Goddamn Christmas[7] by Loretta Maine and Matt Roper, released on 13 December 2012 via BBC Three.

In August 2016 he appeared in the role of Mr Harman in the revival of the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served.[8]

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), and My Name is Daphne Fairfax (autobiography, 2009).[9]


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."[10] In 2007 he went on to win the Panel Prize at the Edinburgh Fringe.

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.[11]

Personal life

Smith has been a longtime resident of Balham, London, and 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.

He is engaged to Beth Kilcoyne, a performer and screenwriter,[1] who is the co-writer of the BBC TV series Roger & Val Have Just Got In.

Smith is a socialist and is a supporter of the Labour Party.[12]

His near-death from pancreatitis made him teetotal, an experience which he turned into a comedy monologue Arthur Smith's Last Hangover. Subsequently, he developed type 2 diabetes but still smokes.


  • 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


  1. Arthur Smith. My Name is Daphne Fairfax: A Memoir. London: Hutchinson (2009). ISBN 0-09-192103-1
  2. Arthurian legend returns to his comic roots at UAE. Retrieved 8 October 2013
  3. "ARTHUR SMITH SINGS LEONARD COHEN (VOLUME TOO) AT EDINBURGH FRINGE » Arthur Smiths' Blog". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  4. Revelations2009 (16 November 2008), Red Dwarf Backwards - Played Forwards, retrieved 20 March 2019
  5. Hawks, T. Playing the Moldovans at Tennis (ISBN 0091920353)
  6. "Money for nothing". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  7. "Happy Goddamn Christmas, Comedy Snacks - BBC Three". BBC. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  8. "How similar are the new Are You Being Served? cast to the TV originals?". Radio Times.
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. "Historic Perrier win for female comic". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  11. "British Comedy Guide, August 2009". Retrieved 22 September 2010.
  12. "Gallery 2012". Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
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