Rowan Atkinson

Mel Smith, the man who made me howl with laughter

As so many people have said, Mel Smith, who has died at the age of 60, was a comedy giant. And his talent was evident – obvious – when I first saw him 40 years ago. I was then trying to make my way in comedy at Cambridge, and he, then president of the slightly loftier Oxford University Dramatic Society, had agreed to take part, rather to amuse himself, I suspect. He was by a mile the best thing in it. Clever, and very, very funny, as he always was subsequently.

Diary: Ukip's Tory defectors could be thorn in the side for PM

The UK Independence Party has more reason than any other to complain about the British election system: despite winning 900,000 votes at the last general election it has no MPs. In the European Parliament, which is elected by proportional representation, the party has a dozen MEPs.

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How We Met: John Lloyd & Griff Rhys Jones

Griff Rhys Jones, 55, is a writer, comedian and television presenter, who came to prominence through his performances in Not the Nine O'Clock News. His latest series, Greatest Cities of the World, aired earlier this year. He will be appearing in a new edition of Three Men in a Boat over Christmas. He lives in London with his wife

Why being funny is no joke

As a 'melancholy' John Cleese's third marriage comes to an end, Oliver James wonders what is it about comic geniuses that seems to make it so hard for them to be happy?