Suffolk comedy king in new show

COMEDY duo Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith are back together for a brand new series tonight, The Smith & Jones Sketchbook. Here, Suffolk-based Griff Rhys Jones looks back on the making of a comedy classic.

COMEDY duo Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith are back together for a brand new series tonight, The Smith & Jones Sketchbook. Here, Suffolk-based Griff Rhys Jones looks back on the making of a comedy classic.

Legendary comic duos? There have been a few.

Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly - aka Ant and Dec - are, perhaps, the current kings of comedy, enjoying the sort of celebratory status that only prime time television can deliver. The pair are often compared to Morecambe and Wise - the late Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise - who immediately spring to mind when asked to name a comic duo.

Then, of course, there were the Two Ronnies - the late Ronnie Barker and his half pint partner Ronnie Corbett - who entertained millions with their own brand of family comedy.

Griff Rhys Jones, who has a home in Suffolk, is, perhaps, most famous for being one a half of legendary comic duo.

During the 80s and 90s, along with his partner Mel Smith, the pair made millions smile in their Smith & Jones series.

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And now the pair are joining forces once again to reminisce about the making of their award winning Smith & Jones series, and remember anecdotes about their times recording together.

Recorded in front of a live studio audience, the series provides a showcase of some of their best classic footage from the long-running Smith & Jones series, which ran on the BBC from 1984 to 1998.

As well as delving into the archive of comedy footage, including some of the funniest of Mel and Griff's classic and infamous 'Head To Head' dialogues, The Smith & Jones Sketchbook includes some brand new ones specially written for the series.

Asked if it was fun getting together with his old sparring partner to work on the series, Griff said: “It was like putting on a pair of old slippers, to begin with they felt a little cold and unfamiliar, but within a few minutes I suppose it was as if I'd always been wearing them. (So obviously I'll do my best to throw them out at the end of the year!)

What did he feel, watching the old sketches and did anything surprise him about them?

“I was surprised by them all! I simply didn't remember doing any of them. Well obviously I remembered some of them, but it was nice to watch them again, I'm now getting too old I don't always remember the punch-lines!

“The truth is that, and we found this out a long time ago doing Not The Nine O' Clock News, that lots of people remember them more than you do.

“We had to remember lots of them as they were recorded in a great row, so you just learnt the lines, did the sketch, then moved onto learn a new sketch.

“If it had been a particularly successful sketch, people used to come up to us in pubs and tell us they loved the particular sketch and I usually couldn't remember it. In fact it usually ended up being a sketch from The Harry Enfield Show, or people would mistake me for Michael Palin.

“It was good to have Mel there because he has a better memory than me. He was able to remind me that it was me in some of the sketches we looked at.

“It was nice to see the different styles of hairdos I've had over the years and nice to see I've managed to lose some weight.

“What was strange was that although I've been fat, thin, grey, and seemed to have changed continuously, Mel Smith, on the other hand, who obviously has a picture in his attic, stays incredibly the same!''

What other projects is he working on at the moment?

“I'm now working on very different projects - a film about Rudyard Kipling, a film about John Betjamin, a third series of Restoration and a series about Wales.''

Born in Cardiff on November 16, 1953, Griff Rhys Jones joined the comedy world after a stint with the Cambridge Footlights, which led to a job as a BBC Radio Light Entertainment producer.

Griff is probably best known for his comedy sketch work on the BBC, most notably Not The Nine O'Clock News and Smith and Jones.

He is a prolific actor and writer, with his recent book To the Baltic with Bob and a memoir is due out later this year.

His recent acting work includes Mine All Mine and Marple for ITV1.

He has hosted two series of the BBC TWO show Restoration and is starting work on a third. He is also currently working on programmes about John Betjeman and Rudyard Kipling.

Griff's Television credits also include, 3 Men In A Boat, Final Chance To Save Rhinos, The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome, and Bookworm. His film credits include Puckoon, Wilt and Morons From Outer Space.

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The Smith & Jones Sketchbook, a series of six, starts on BBC1 today at 9.30pm.