Mel Smith's gambling spiralled from £500 bets to £50,000 wagers

Mel Smith’s gambling spiralled from £500 bets to £50,000 wagers after he and Griff Rhys Jones landed £62million windfall, his former comedy partner reveals

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Mel Smith’s multi-million-pound windfall saw his gambling spiral as he swapped £500 bets for enormous £50,000 wagers after selling the production company TalkBack for £62million, according to co-founder Griff Rhys Jones.

Suddenly having access to millions, the comedian sought greater thrills with much bigger sums and larger risks.

Smith and Jones formed the company in 1981, going on to produce influential British comedy shows including I’m Alan Partridge, Smack The Pony and Da Ali G Show.

In 2000 they agreed to sell to the media firm Pearson for £62million, which meant – as well as a turnover of £32million the previous year – Smith, Jones and managing director Peter Fincham each pocketed roughly £20million.

Speaking to The Idler magazine about adjusting to life with new-found fortunes, 69-year-old Jones said: ‘Mel liked to lay a bet and when he had a lot of money he liked to lay a huge bet.

After the sale of the production company he co-founded made millions, gambler Mel Smith (pictured in 2005) went from placing £500 bets to £50,000 wagers

Jones and Smith with Pamela Stephenson and Rowan Atkinson starring in Not The Nine O’Clock News in 1980

READ MORE: He hit me, kissed me – and drank me under the table. My magical, mad friend Mel: A moving yet joyously funny tribute by his comic co-star GRIFF RHYS JONES 

‘I don’t know anything about gambling, never liked it.

‘But if before coming rich he’d been in the habit of putting down £500 on the gee-gees, then the thrill of that would wear off if you’ve just made £22million quid.

‘So it might be more of a thrill to lay bets of £50,000.

‘But I don’t judge him.’

Smith, who famously appeared in Not The Nine O’Clock News alongside Jones, died age 60 in 2013 following a heart attack.

He had suffered from health problems for some time.

During an appearance on Celebrity Mastermind in 2009, Smith had appeared frail and slurred his words.

He was taken to hospital days after the show was recorded and said later: ‘My throat specialist feared I had cancer. I spent three weeks in agony in hospital. It turned out I had a virulent throat infection.’ 

Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones in one of their classic head-to-head sketches

READ MORE: Cocaine, pill addiction and the wild life that caught up with comic genius Mel Smith 

In 2000, Smith revealed that he had conquered a seven-year addiction to over-the-counter painkillers.

He said he downed handfuls of the drug Nurofen Plus ‘like Smarties’ after developing gout which spread from his feet to his wrists, elbows and knees, causing excruciating pain. 

In 1999 he was rushed to hospital with ulcers after the drugs stripped away his stomach lining.

The withdrawal symptoms caused him to experience a severe depressive episode, but he was supported by his devoted wife Pam.

‘It was my dark secret and I got deeply depressed,’ he said.

He had been a director since his university days in Oxford, and had great success behind the camera with films such as Bean, The Tall Guy and Blackball.

Despite having sold Talkback, Smith remained one of the key figures in UK comedy.

In 2007, he took to the West End stage to play Wilbur Turnblad in the hit show Hairspray alongside Michael Ball. 

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