Comedian Mel Smith has died of a heart attack aged 60, his agent said on Saturday. The comic, known for Alas Smith and Jones and Not the Nine O'Clock News, was at his home in London when he died on Friday, his agent Michael Foster said.
In a statement to the Press Association on behalf of Smith's wife Pam, Mr Foster said: "Mel Smith, comedian and writer, died on Friday aged 60, from a heart attack at his home in north west London."
Griff Rhys Jones called his longtime comedy partner "a force for life" to everybody who met him, adding he was "a gentleman and a scholar, a gambler and a wit". Jones added: "We are all in a state of shock. We have lost a very, very dear friend."
Mel Smith and his comedy partner Griff Rhys Jones
Tributes have been paid to the late star. Comedian and broadcaster Stephen Fry wrote 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 & wonderful to know."
Author Kathy Lette wrote on the site: "R.I.P. Mel Smith. Sorry to bring sad and bad news, but apparently he died from heart attack in his sleep." Writer Irvine Welsh took to Twitter to write: "Sad to hear about the death of Mel Smith, who gave me loads of laughs."
Smith was described as having "extraordinary natural talent" by Peter Fincham, director of television at ITV. Fincham, who was the business partner of Smith and his comedy sideback Griff Rhys Jones at Talkback Productions 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. Mel and Griff were one of the great comedy acts and it's hard to imagine that one of them is no longer with us."
Not the Nine O'Clock News producer John Lloyd told Sky News Smith was an "amazingly talented guy" but added that he had not been in good health. He said: "We did know he was ill. He's been ill for some time. 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."
Father Ted writer Graham Linehan said he and writing partner Arthur Mathews had been helped in their career by Smith, with their first sketches being broadcast on Alas Smith and Jones. He said on Twitter: "Very sad to hear news of Mel Smith's death has been confirmed. He and Griff gave Arthur and I our break. Was always so kind & generous to us."
Actor and comic Peter Serafinowicz also paid tribute on Twitter. He wrote: "Very sad to hear about Mel Smith. He did something very kind for me early in my career even though he hardly knew me. Such a funny man."