Unlike most of his fellow Londoners, Arthur Smith didn’t watch the York floods unfolding from the comfort of his living room. He saw them up close.
“My sister-in-law lives in York with her family so I have a bit of a connection with York,” he told YorkMix.
“And I love York. I’m looking forward to going there and seeing them all.
Grand Opera House, York
Sat Mar 12 @ 7.30pm
“I’ve spent a little time there. I was up there at Christmas. Blimey, it was all going off then, wasn’t it, with the flooding?”
It’s a sight he is unlikely to forget.
A great big lake
“We went for a walk and I remember seeing bits that were normally fields and houses now just a great big lake.
“I went and looked at it, it was more like a kind of tourist thing for me, but the trains oddly weren’t affected so I got home all right.”
Talking on the phone while having a “coffee and a fag in Soho”, and he says he might bring the experience into his Grand Opera House show.
“I’ll no doubt riff a little around the subject of York.
“I’ll have to make a flooding joke now I think about it… And maybe a Richard III joke because I was in Leicester recently, and they’ve gone crazy for Richard III. They wanted him back in York of course.”
More than just gags
He inherited his love of words from his mum, and has a lifelong love of poetry.
Among his favourite poets are York-born WH Auden, and Wendy Cope – who appears at the Grand Opera House just hours before his own show, which has Arthur starstruck: “I’ll be like a belieber meeting Justin Bieber!”
Early star of the alternative comedy scene which emerged in the 1980s
Radio credits include Loose Ends and Excess Baggage
Contributor to TV’s Grumpy Old Men
Wrote An Evening With Gary Lineker
Wrote and performed Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen
Hackney Empire New Act compere
Eight more questions for Arthur
Are northern audiences different from those in the south?
You do a lot of work on the wireless – why?
Have you ever considered reality TV?
I got the call and I thought, ‘mmm, what would I rather do here – spend four nights in a row with Peter Stringfellow, or rip my own penis off?’ And really there was no contest.
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How has comedy changed since you started?
It was full of a lot of racism, sexism and homophobia. And we were in a sense cleaning that out, making it unacceptable to do that sort of material. In an odd way it’s coming back a bit now.
In one way it’s gone back to being more of a right-wing establishment thing, which it had been prior to the alternative comedy days.
You’re a big Labour Party man: what do you think of the current leader?
By and large I’m in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, although I’m not in favour of a Labour Party that can’t become a government, That’s the dichotomy. And I think a lot of people are caught in that.
Where are you on Brexit?
Generally speaking, there’s a lot of Little Englanders about. The fact of where you’re born isn’t as significant as the fact that you are a human being. George Bernard Shaw said patriotism is the conviction that you’re country’s the best because you happen to have been born in it.
You’re known as one of the Grumpy Old Men: what are you grumpy about at the moment?
And for balance, what makes you optimistic?