British comedy figure Mel Smith dies, aged 60

LONDON, England

Smith first shot to fame along with his partner-in-comedy Griff Rhys Jones in "Not the Nine O'Clock News," an absurdist take on staid BBC newscasts.

The show, which also introduced Britain to Rowan Atkinson's "Mr. Bean," was a watershed, laying the ground for other current affairs spoofs.

Smith's company, Talkback Productions, became a major force in British comedy, responsible for shows including Sacha Baron Cohen's wince-inducing "Ali G" and Steve Coogan's hilariously awkward "I'm Alan Partridge."

Agent Michael Foster says Smith died Friday at his home in northwest London. Few other details were immediately available.

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