Smith and Jones: Scratch and Sniff Tour: Theatre Royal, Hanley, 1986
Play: Plunder: Savoy Theatre, London, 1996
Musical: Oliver!: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 2009
Play: The Miser: Garrick Theatre, London, 2017
Griff Rhys Jones: Why I Still Love Laurel & Hardy: Bristol Slapstick Festival 2023, Old Vic, Bristol, 2023
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones formed a very successful television comedy partnership after the success of the television series Not the Nine O’ Clock News which also featured Rowan Atkinson and Pamela Stephenson. Smith and Jones were the perfect double act delivering classic sketches and routines with withering bewilderment and excellent comic timing. The only time I saw them together live when I was at college at Staffordshire University in 1986 studying for a B/TEC Higher National Diploma in Business and Finance. They were on the Scratch and Sniff Tour which stopped off at the Theatre Royal, Hanley and they were at the top of their game being very risqué and very funny. At the start of the show, Smith furiously and frantically appeared on stage on his own trying to get ready for the show and wondering where Jones was. Suddenly from the balcony very close to where I was sitting and with a nod to Morecambe and Wise, Jones appeared in a coat, cap and carrying a shopping bag wondering what all the fuss about. When the show got into full swing, the insults between the two came thick and fast and the material was far more adult than their television output (as is the norm with live comedy). This made the evening somehow more funny and surprising. I saw the show at Christmas time and I can vividly remember the finale entitled Jesus in Pantoland featuring the duo playing all the roles of the nativity including Smith (the more portly) memorably playing two of the three wise men.
Rhys Jones appeared in the classic Ben Traver’s farce Plunder alongside Kevin McNally and Sara Crowe in 1996, as well as starring as Fagin in Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2009. In 2017, Jones starred alongside comedian Lee Mack in a revival of Moliere’s classic comedy The Miser at The Garrick Theatre. Whenever I have watched Jones perform on stage, he proves time and again what a versatile comic actor he is.
I saw Rhys Jones examine why he still loved Laurel & Hardy at the Bristol Slapstick Festival in February 2023. Sharing his long-time affection for, and favourite screen moments of the world’s finest slapstick comedy duo, Laurel & Hardy. Rhys Jones proved an extremely witty, intelligent and genial host and this was one of the best shows at the festival.
Between 1979 and 1998 Smith and Jones were a very funny double act. Mel Smith died in 2013 and along with his partner Griff Rhys Jones, they have left a legacy of work that rank alongside the work of other comedy greats.