Arthur Smith: 'Malcolm Bradbury marked my play: 'B minus. Stick to comedy'

From a speech by the writer and comedian, given at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich

Share
Related Topics

God, it's very exciting to be back. I never thought I'd get to speak in Lecture Theatre 1. I sat here and watched the poet Stephen Spender and I once saw A J Ayer, the founder of logical positivism here. There was a whiteboard and he was scrawling all over it and it was just a load of squiggles and it meant nothing at all - he was a very peculiar man.

When I arrived in 1973 we were kind of post-hippy pre-punk, my generation. I was kind of fearless, in a way, and a terrible show-off. It was the first time I had come across all sorts of ideas and it was also the first time I had come across anyone from public school. I mean, I met a posh woman who had a car and an overdraft.

I studied Comparative Literature. The idea that you could compare T S Elliott with Dante, that you could go across cultures, across languages, was really exciting to me. As part of my dissertation I wrote a play during my year in Paris. It was a terrible play, looking back on it, but it was a play.

I enjoyed the academic side of it but I also got drunk and did wacky things. I remember I had a sherry party in the laundrette on my 19th birthday. The following year, somewhat in homage to John Lennon, I took my bed and placed it in the square out there and lay in it. And I was gradually joined by about 20 or 30 other students, all lying in their beds in the middle of the square in celebration of my birthday. I wasn't a shy student.

When I arrived at UEA I worshiped Malcolm Bradbury, who had founded UEA's creative writing programme. He was part of the reason I came here and this play I had written in Paris was given to Malcolm to mark. He had seen me doing some comedy show that was quite funny and he wrote on my play: "B minus. Stick to comedy."

A few years before his retirement, I travelled to Indiana with Malcolm. He had been a young lecturer there not long after the war and I was privileged to spend three days with him as his papers were being taken into the university library.

What a wise man, what a funny man, what a gifted man, what an inspiration to me.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Russell Brand joins residents and supporters from the New Era housing estate in East London as they deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street  

With Russell Brand and the public on our side, this is how I helped my family and countless others from being evicted this Christmas

Lindsey Garrett
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick