Linda Smith (comedian)

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Linda Smith
Linda Smith

Linda Smith (29 January 195827 February 2006) was a British stand-up comic and comedy writer. She was born in Erith, south-east London, but had no particular fondness for her home town, once joking, "It's not twinned with anywhere, but it does have a suicide pact with Dagenham" ([1]).

Educated at Erith College (now Bexley College), she gained a place at University of Sheffield, graduated in English and Drama and joined a professional theatre company. Turning to comedy, she won the 1987 Hackney Empire New Act of the Year, then known as the New London Comic Award and performed on the Edinburgh Fringe before breaking into radio comedy.

Her first appearances on national radio were on Radio 5's The Treatment in 1997. She was subsequently a regular panellist on The News Quiz and Just a Minute, and appeared frequently on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (from June 2001 onwards), Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week, Countdown and QI. She wrote and starred in her own Radio 4 sitcom, Linda Smith's A Brief History of Timewasting. In 2002 she was voted "Wittiest Living Person" by listeners to BBC Radio 4's Word of Mouth.

Her obituaries described her style as beguiling, apparently vulnerable but often waspish. She excelled at deadpan diatribes about everyday irritations. Her most regularly quoted joke was probably her description of former home secretary David Blunkett as being "Satan's bearded folk singer".

After appearing on Radio 4's Devout Sceptics to discuss her beliefs she was asked by the British Humanist Association to become president of the society, a role she occupied with great commitment from 2004 until her death.

Smith died of ovarian cancer, aged 48, on 27 February 2006. Before she died, she insisted that her funeral be a humanist one. Her memorial meeting at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East on 10 March was dedicated to the BHA. Her life and work was honoured at the British Academy Television Awards in 2006. Also, the first episode of Dawn French's Girls Who Do: Comedy, was dedicated to the memory of Linda Smith.

Two tribute gigs were also held. One, on 14 May 2006 at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, entitled In Praise Of An English Radical and the other on 4 June 2006 at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London, entitled Tippy Top: An Evening Of Linda Smith's Favourite Things. In August 2006, Andy Hamilton presented a BBC Radio 4 tribute entitled Linda Smith: A Modern Radio Star.

An anthology on CD called "I Think The Nurses Are Stealing My Clothes: The Very Best Of Linda Smith", as well as a book of the same name were released in November 2006. A tribute show of the same name was aired on BBC Radio 4 on 10 November 2006. Smith's sell-out stage show "Wrap Up Warm" has been available on CD from November 2006.

Linda Smith was working on a third series of A Brief History of Timewasting before she was incapacitated by her illness; as a tribute, digital radio station BBC7 ran the previous two series, the first all on one day.

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