Edinburgh Festival Fringe will be a less cheerful place without improv comedy master Andy Smart – Vladimir McTavish
Edinburgh this August will be a much less cheerful place, as one of the Fringe’s most enduring and endearing faces will be missing. Just over a week ago, the world of comedy received the tragic news that the wonderful Andy Smart had died suddenly of a heart attack at the scandalously early age of 64. Over the last ten days, tributes have been flooding in from throughout the entertainment industry to one of its greatest unsung heroes.
While not a household name or a huge TV star, Andy was a well-kent face to comedy audiences all over the country and he had worked alongside some of the biggest names in the business, quite frequently outshining them. He had been a regular at the Fringe and a stalwart of the UK comedy scene for the best part of 40 years. Starting out as one half of The Vicious Boys in the early 80s, he made several television appearances in those days including Channel 4’s iconic Friday night show The Tube in 1984.
But it was on the live stage where Andy really made his mark. He was a master of improvisation and had been a regular member of London’s Comedy Store Players for well over a decade, frequently also appearing on Paul Merton’s improv shows.
He was due to appear at this year’s Fringe, as part of The Impro All Stars, along with Ian Coppinger and the legendary Steve Frost. They were a marvellously anarchic combination, making much fun of their incongruous heights. Andy stood around 6ft tall, Steve towered several inches above him, while Coppinger is 5ft 2in at most.
When I was in touch with Ian last week, he said they were still intending to go ahead with the show at the Frankenstein Pub on George IV Bridge, whether as a two-hander or with a stand-in. I hesitate to use the word “replacement” as Andy was irreplaceable. He was a comedic force of nature.
Most importantly, he was a lovely guy. Every time I bumped into him in the street, he had a smile on his face. And he always made me smile. Not only did he bring so much joy to others, he really seemed to enjoy life. It’s cruel that his should be cut so short.