29 January 1958
27 February 2006
№ of episodes
2 regular shows
Linda Helen Smith (29 January 1958 – 27 February 2006) was an English stand-up comic and comedy writer. She was a regular Radio 4 panellist, being voted "Wittiest Living Person" by listeners in 2002. She met her partner, Warren Lakin, at university, and they were together for nearly 30 years until her death.
She was born in Erith in Kent in 1958 and was educated at Erith College (now Bexley College), and gained a place at University of Sheffield, graduating in English and Drama. She joined a professional theatre company and turned to comedy. In 1987, she won the 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. After appearing on Radio 4's Devout Sceptics to discuss her beliefs she was asked by the British Humanist Association (BHA) to become president of the society, a role she occupied with great commitment from 2004 until her death.
In 2002, she was voted "Wittiest Living Person" by listeners to BBC Radio 4's Word of Mouth. During The News Quiz she would often mockingly use Richard Littlejohn's catchphrase "to hell in a handcart".
On 27 February 2006, Smith died at the age of 48, following a battle with ovarian cancer. Before she died, she chose that her funeral be humanist and her memorial at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East on 10 March, was dedicated to the BHA. Smith's life and work was honoured at the British Academy Television Awards in 2006. The first episode of Dawn French's Girls Who Do: Comedy, was dedicated to the memory of Linda Smith. Her obituaries described her style as beguiling, apparently vulnerable and whimsical 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".
Two tribute gigs were held in her memory. The first took place on 14 May 2006, at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, In Praise of an English Radical, the second 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 entitled 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 became incapacitated by her illness; as a tribute, digital radio station BBC 7 ran the previous two series, the first all on one day.
- Sit-Down Comedy (contributor to anthology, ed Malcolm Hardee & John Fleming) Ebury Press/Random House, 2003. ISBN 0091889243; ISBN 978-0091889241
- A Brief History of Timewasting BBC Radio 4
- Anarchist with attitude (interview) by Laurie Taylor New Humanist, 6 September 2004
- Radio comedian Linda Smith dies BBC News, 28 February 2006
- Obituary: Linda Smith BBC News, 28 February 2006
- Jeremy Hardy pays tribute BBC News, 28 February 2006
- Obituary by Mark Steel The Independent, 1 March 2006
- Obituary by Jeremy Hardy, containing many biographical details The Guardian, 1 March 2006
- News Quiz colleagues pay tribute The Guardian, 2 March 2006
- Linda Smith: God, the biggest joke of all The Independent, 2 March 2006
- President of the British Humanist Association, 2004 - 2006 British Humanist Association
- Linda Smith talking about Just a Minute BBC2, Arena, 26 December 2005 (RealVideo)
- Linda Smith explores Auvergne & Corsica BBC Radio 4, 12 April 2005
- The Limited Power of Satire/Linda's Rise from Obscurity BBC Radio 4, The News Quiz, 7 September 2005
- Linda Smith has her eye on the Chairman's seat BBC Radio 4, The News Quiz, 6 February 2006
- Interview with Jenny Colgan, containing tribute BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour, 1 March 2006