Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

June 08, 2006

Review of Linda Smith tribute show from The Evening Standard

When comedian Linda Smith died of ovarian cancer in February, aged 48, the country lost one of its finest stand-ups.

The tributes transcended the usual clich├ęs, with widespread homages being paid not just to Smith's memorable gags but also to her warmth and humanity.

Here was a performer who, through her appearances on institutions such as Just A Minute and The News Quiz, truly touched a nerve.

Last night's show was aimed clearly at her Radio 4 Barmy Army - the devotees who hung on her every elegantly crafted witticism. There were few stars in the stalls, but plenty on stage.

Compere Jo Brand set the tone by commenting that Smith 'was sorely missed' and recalled how her friend famously said she was from Erith, a town so hideous it was not twinned with anywhere, but 'did have a suicide pact with Dagenham'.

Most comedy shows simply wheel on one quip-merchant after another, but it was in keeping with this idiosyncratic personality that the format was shaken up.

Jazz bands and stand-ups jostled for space between live versions of some of the shows on which Smith made her panel-beating name.

Paul Merton was the inevitable star of Just A Minute. He has the brilliant knack of appearing utterly distracted while remaining as sharp as a tack. When he was crowned the winner he did the kind of rubber-limbed lap of honour you'll never get to see on the radio.

A live round of The News Quiz also managed to be more than just a radio show with visuals thanks to Phill Jupitus, who broke the taste barrier with the kind of one-liners about Paul McCartney that would never make it onto the BBC.

The epic night concluded with a guest appearance by Smith's favourite group, the Blockheads, with Jupitus taking the late Ian Dury's place.

It is obvious why Smith appreciated Dury. Both had a great love of language and knew how to turn words to their advantage.


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