Poem: Saturday in Athens

Saturday in Athens


You can just  discern her, a faded imprint

in the matinal shimmer

a little shabbier than one might hope

She sits and thinks and sits and thinks

about her glorious heyday years

(which all the world is still applauding)

and wonders what will become of her…


But then as dusk unfolds

She starts to sparkle and preen and glow

and all the lights way down below

salute their boss

in her moonlit gloss.

As midnight comes

she starts to preen

and feel the joy of what she’s been.

From her columns centuries spill

shining shining on her ancient hill.

“Hey all yous,” she suddenly cries,

“all you lot beneath the skies,

Who on earth do you think you are?

Round Athens way there’s just one star.

Everybody suck on this

I am the fucking Acropolis.”


13th September 2014 – Athens

Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Vol 2)

The Tour 

Autumn 2014



Saturday 27th – Wyvern Theatre, Swindon – Tickets & Info


Fri 3rd – Churchill Theatre, Bromley – Tickets & Info

Mon 6th – Harrogate Theatre, Harrogate –Tickets & Info

Wed 15th – Theatre Royal, Brighton – Tickets & Info

Thursday 23rd – Galway Comedy Festival – Tickets & Info

Wed 29th – Concert Hall, Reading – Tickets & Info

The moment you wake

The moment you wake

Is nothing

The immense unknowable zero

Before the big bang

Of self-consciousness

Who you are

Where you are

Who you know

What you do


And then

What you have to do this day


And what for breakfast?

Swing round

Slippers on

Here we go again

Nightingale Café January 18, 2014


Nightingale Café January 18, 2014


Maybe I should go inside

With all the others

I am the only one outside

And I am cold


The street is shiny wet

Two joggers overtake an old lady

The waitress delivers my porridge

It is too hot and I am too cold

Maybe I should go inside


And then it appears

Above the bus stop

Arcing the sky

The matchless miracle

A rainbow

I watch it for the duration of its life

At which point the porridge and I

Are at our perfect temperatures


As I eat the oats

I read an article about

A woman who caught a falling baby


And I think

Well this day

This Saturday

Has started superbly

Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too)  Soho Theatre, London – 16th Feb to 2nd March 2014 


Advice to Mr Jethro Bumpkin-Yokel

The Naked Rambler

Last summer in a beautiful pub in Devon the barman was telling me how much he loved this picturesque village in which he was born.

“But you’re only young,’ I remarked, “don’t you ever long for the bright lights of the city?”

He looked at me aghast, “I’ve been to Crediton,” he said, “ It’s too fast for me there…”

Some country folk do not see the need ever to leave their environs, and good for them, but for those who do, here is my guide on how to live and disport yourself in the city….

– Be aware there are a lot of us living in close proximity in a large conurbation and our needs are various. Life is better for everyone if you treat your neighbours with suspicion and mistrust. Try not to talk to them or have any idea who they are – they’re probably Mormons or crackheads. In fact avoid eye contact with everyone except your optician.

– If you are in a queue in a shop and the person ahead of you starts chatting to the shop assistant, huff loudly, saying, “I’m sorry, is this a shop or a dinner party?’

– Never turn up anywhere unannounced. Even if you have just been mugged – and you probably have – directly outside a friend’s house, do not knock on their door without first ringing to make an appointment

When on public transport be vigilant and tense. If anyone tries to engage you in conversation on a bus they are self-evidently insane and should be immediately reported to the Police. Nevertheless, during the rush hour you should be prepared to have intimate physical encounters with several strangers of any of the various sexes. In the country this is known as a swingers party, in the city it is called commuting.

– If, when waiting for a train or tube, there is an announcement that someone has thrown themselves on the line, under NO circumstance show any sympathy for them. Rather, grumble and complain about how selfish they are for making you late.

– Remember that, in the city, right-of-way on the pavement and road belongs to those who are most proficient at trampling, elbowing and punching their way to the front.

– Always be on your iPhone everywhere you go, even if there is no-one on the other end; you never know when you may turn a corner to be confronted by a dangerously enthusiastic young woman with a badge or a clipboard asking for money.

– Never show any surprise when it is announced your sandwich and take-out coffee cost £12.50.

– Be proud that you live in a place that has theatres, cinemas, art galleries and concert halls. However, never go to any of them. Choose rather to get home from work, heat a microwave dinner from Iceland and sit watching old box sets of the Sopranos til bedtime. Only go out on Saturdays when you should congregate in the centre of town before embarking on a strenuous bout of binge–drinking. Stagger drunkenly around the streets after closing time, perhaps dressed as Superman, and punch anyone you don’t like the look of – which will be everyone. After your night in the cells, relax on Sunday night watching yourself in a T.V documentary about binge-drinking in city centres.

After 10 years or so you will have qualified as a city-dweller. If you spot a confused country person blundering around in the face of all this colour and speed, speak to them calmly, point them in the wrong direction, then run off up a side street and have a bloody good snigger.
Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too)  Soho Theatre, London – 16th Feb to 2nd March 2014 – http://bit.ly/1auy20X


PC Syd Smith, London, 1951 – From my dad’s memoir

PC Syd Smith, London, 1951

PC Syd Smith, London, 1951

In the meantime, life went on. The Festival of Britain took place. One or two events concerned with my job stand out in my mind.

I was on night duty and walking on Waterloo Bridge at 2am in the morning. I noticed a young lady looking over the parapet. She appeared somewhat distressed. She spoke in a foreign language which, with my linguistic experience I deciphered as German. It was fairly obvious that she had suicide in mind. After some time I managed to escort her off the bridge and walked her to the station where we later discovered she was reported as a missing person.

On another occasion whilst on patrol in London Road at the Elephant and Castle during the day a lady approached me and threw her arms around me and demanded a kiss. She wasn’t exactly an Elizabeth Taylor. She stank horribly of stale beer. I was somewhat flattered by her persistence and at the same time very embarrassed especially as an audience had gathered. My only option was to arrest her, which she seemed to enjoy. Unknown to me, a photograph had been taken by someone and a few days later 2 arrived at the station and were presented to me.

The Sun (*)

The sun (*)

A savage review is much more entertaining for the reader than an admiring one; the little misanthrope in each of us relishes the rubbishing of someone else. But however much I enjoy it in others, I find it hard to be a rude critic myself. Even after some bum-murderingly boring play I think, “At least they turned up and had a go.” Wrath should be reserved for important things.

Today though, I choose vitriol.

The show in question, which has been running longer than The Mousetrap, has been in the news again lately, generating endless crass conversations. The sun has turned up for a brief run at a few venues around the country, and I for one am sick of its predictable, pathetic routine.

It always opens in darkness with a mob complaining. Then a suggestion that the sun might be coming transforms the mood into one of happy anticipation.

The macabre figure of the doctor warns them it will kill them, but they ignore him and run off to buy new clothes. Then the sun makes its big entrance and we’re all meant to be impressed by the clever lighting tricks.

Yes, of course it created all life-forms and keeps us alive, but haven’t we heard enough about all that? If the sun is so great, why are we prevented from looking directly at it? What has it got to hide?

It is a very arrogant character compared with its rival the moon. Where the moon invites the stars out and plays among them, the sun obliterates them, jealous of their greater but more distant strength. The capricious moon will appear during the day, but the sun never surprises us by showing up at night. The moon puts on an elegant show, different every time in shape, colour and nuance.

The sun is just a round, yellow thing with one trick. It continually comes out and goes in like some vacillating homosexual. Its closing number, Sunset, always peters out after a few minutes.

The PR people know that recent productions in Britain have been feeble and sporadic. For years they’ve been promising the global-warming version, where the central figure is more brilliant and the doctor has a much bigger part but it seems some Gulf Stream subplot has ruined that. Recent shows seem to have conformed to the same tired old formula that we’ve been watching for years but evrytime a little worse. In short, the sun is crap.

It won’t I think be appearing at the Edinburgh Festival this year and if it does it won’t be welcome in my show either – but you are.

Arthur Smith sings Leonard Cohen (volume too)

And yet – we’ve been friends for a long time and I owe it a lot. So let’s forget about this production and consider future ones, which will surely be passionate, engaged and full-blooded.







“Smith’s comic timing is always a wonder to behold” The Times (2011)

You are being arrested for breach of the peace and possession of a megaphone” Lothian Police (2001)


Just as Degas felt compelled to return to ballet dancers and David Attenborough to his gorillas, so

Arthur Smith turns again to Leonard Cohen.

It is 13 years since Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe.  The show subsequently ran in London’s West End and at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal.  It was recorded for Radio 4 and it is still repeated frequently on Radio 4 Extra.  Is it a coincidence that Cohen’s stock has risen ever since? (yes).

In this new show Arthur, channeling Leonard, deals with the big ‘D’s of life – death, disappointment, diabetes, dementia, darkness, desire and dancing. He also recounts the bizarre story of his recent meeting with Mr Cohen.  Arthur will be accompanied and enhanced by Kirsty Newton and Carrie Marx.

Arthur Smith has been regularly attending the Edinburgh Fringe since 1977. He has also written stage plays such as An Evening with Gary Lineker and The Live Bed Show, both of which transferred to the London’s West End.  His autobiography, My Name Is Daphne Fairfax, was published to critical acclaim in 2009.  Arthur Smith is a regular presenter on Radio 4 and 4 Extra, appears in the series Grumpy Old Men and the One Show and tours the country doing his one man stand up show.

In 2008 he finally accepted the ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ award that had been offered to him numerous times.



Venue:                    Pleasance Cabaret Bar, 60 The Pleasance

Time:                       14.30 (1 hour)

Tickets:                   Aug 3-4,9-11,16-18  £12.00(£11.00)

Aug 5-8,12-15  £10.00(£9.00)

Box Office:            www.pleasance.co.uk/ 0131 556 5660

Mrs T

Friday, November 23rd 1990 – as the Funeral March strikes up I mope slowly to the dimly-lit centre stage of the Hackney Empire and declare, in sepulchral tones, that I have come to bury all the Mrs Thatcher jokes – jokes that no longer serve any purpose following her resignation the previous day. Then I leap up and beam, the theatre is flooded with light and loud music as I rip my shirt off in dramatic fashion to reveal a red T–shirt emblazoned with the words: ‘Hooray! She’s gone!’ As I recall it the routine didn’t get many laughs.

There weren’t actually many good Thatcher jokes – Ben Elton did a few but then disappointed a lot of people by teaming up with a known Thatcherite; the only one anybody can remember, which was quoted in most of the reports and obituaries, was Spitting Image’s “What about the vegetables?” “They’ll have the same as me.” Mrs Thatcher famously had no sense of humour and was impervious to criticism so she was untouched by anything comic. Nevertheless she unintentionally altered British comedy forever as a new style of comedian began to usurp the golf-playing establishment acts who were perceived to be Tory supporters and numbered several who did racist, homophobic and sexist material.

There was an irony about the new comics’ opposition to Thatcher of course. What could be more Thatcherite than a stand-up comedian? Self-employed, un-unionised, unsupported by any namby-pamby arts grant, he/she has got on a bike and got a gig. As she won the next two elections, the not very good jokes and the vitriol continued, but I am not persuaded that the routines of a small number of comics troubled Conservative Party ‘Think Tanks’ for long.

Another irony for me was that my own fortunes, in contrast to those of the millions she put out of work, improved radically during her governments. When she became Prime Minister, I was 24, unemployed, skint and living in a slum. By the time of that Hackney Empire gig I was an established act, was writing a play that would enjoy a decent run in the West End and had moved into a palace in Balham.

When the news broke about her death I wondered if I should make some similar gesture to my 1990 effort at my gig in Solihull 2 days later. Or maybe I should send some angry tweets, write a piece for a paper, host a party or just stand in the street with a megaphone railing against all she did?

Coincidentally, the day before the announcement I MC-ed a show at the Royal Court in London put on by the Stop the War coalition, marking 10 years since Tony Blair, Mrs Thatcher’s illegitimate son by Lionel Blair, had ignored the huge anti-war demonstrations and invaded Iraq. Naturally at one point I shouted “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie!” and the audience responded with the old roar, “Out! Out! Out!” I joked that in Guildford the same cue produced the response ‘Hoorah! Hoorah! Hoorah!”  Lord knows how different the show might have been if she had died a day earlier.

In the end I chose not to join in the kerfuffle because I decided that the judgement of her career should not be confused by the celebration of her death. It was her political life that counted, not the one that ended in a hotel room at the Ritz – besides, I knew there would be plenty of people doing all those things without my encouragement. Mind you, there is one particular Rod Stewart song I cannot seem to get out of my head:  “Maggie, I wish I’d……” 

In Memoriam Pete


It’s true he could be mean

but he was funny and charismatic.

I liked Pete.

And so I set off to his memorial service

in Brighton.


Arriving at Clapham Junction station

I see a sign

with those 2 dismal words,

Bus Replacement.

‘Bus Replacement to Burgess Hill.’

Burgess Hill?

That’s 30 fucking miles away!


I hesitate

I reflect

and I conclude…


I liked Pete

but I didn’t like him enough

to take the bus replacement to Burgess Hill.


I remember just how mean he was

I turn round and head back home

where I catch the last 10 minutes

of the Antiques Road Show.

Predictions 2013 – (Orig. Pub. The Stage)


I have been gazing into my crystal ball…. but I’m sure you don’t want to know about that so, instead, here are my predictions for the world and for comedy in the coming year –

At first, beneath leaden skies, most of the country grinds along the bottom hoping for something – anything – to lift the cold winter gloom and to resist the endless cuts, but by February the economy and the weather are back clinched together in their dismal dance. Heavy rain resumes, flooding half of all comedy venues which means comics who can’t swim are effectively barred from performing – the word ‘gig’ reverts to its original meaning of  ‘six-oared rowing boat’, shows are cancelled and as recession also snarls louder, venues begin to close.

Old notables like the Comedy Store in London, the Stand in Edinburgh and the Frog and Bucket in Manchester stay open but there are lots of comics looking for fewer spots. Some acts, deprived of a stage but fighting bankruptcy, take to busking in the increasingly deserted shopping centres. But here they are obliged to compete with a wave of new Chinese mime acts who have jetted into Britain.

As spring arrives TV panel shows featuring well-fed young men in expensive shirts begin to lose their allure and the big laughs on TV now derive from the humiliation of dim people on reality shows. The first death in one of these programmes proves so popular and uplifting that ritual murders become the staple of Saturday early evening television.

In June more theatres and clubs are forced out of business by triple dip and by the riots that have begun to break out on the streets. But then, – at last! – the sun arrives, the rain abates  and there is, for the first time in many months, a feeling of optimism in the air. An immense collective sigh of relief. O hooray!

That mood doesn’t last because the sun becomes too hot and George Osbourne flees to Switzerland with the 27 trillion pounds in cash he has prised from under the carpets of the Treasury. By July the only comedians still in work are Michael Macintyre, Jack Whitehall, Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Carr; all 4 have moved into Cameron Palace World, the high security luxury district in the City of London reserved for the absurdly rich. Outside its walls the under-humans, as they are known, scuff around in the filthy, sticky mud for any scraps of food thrown from the parapets by the elite. (or, as they are known, THEEL).

Temperatures have now risen so high that people are becoming dangerously listless; THEEL comics cannot get a booking because laughter has become a pointless waste of energy. All the remaining live venues have now closed in the suffocating heat. Even the absurdly rich in their palace, sheltered by a huge nuclear bomb-proof transparent bubble, are wilting.

In August numbers are up for the Edinburgh Fringe and Lucy Beaumont wins the Comedy award.

Come October though the heat is so great that the roads are melting and the channel evaporates as Britain is joined with the continent for the first time in a quarter of a million years. Then almost overnight the heat is replaced by snow that has slipped down from the arctic and covers Europe in 40 feet of ice. It seems the whole temple of human achievement is about to be buried beneath the debris of a world and a solar system in ruins… (to be continued*)

And a happy New Year to all my readers.


*or maybe not.


Arthur Smith is EXPOSED! – Tour 2013