I Think the Nurses Are Stealing My Clothes: The Very Best of Linda Smith

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Once voted the wittiest living person by Radio 4 listeners, Linda Smith’s death in February of ovarian cancer robbed the UK of one of its highest regarded satirical voices. Best known for appearances on The News Quiz, Just a Minute and Have I Got News for You, this compilation brings together recordings of Smith’s live stand-up from 1986 to 2003. Edited by her long-time partner Warren Lakin and introduced by Hattie Hayridge, these routines (from Edinburgh Festival performances and elsewhere) were recorded for the comedian’s own use, with the sound quality and audience intelligence occasionally dipping below optimum levels.

Nevertheless, this is a fine distillation of the world-weary East Londoner’s humour. Most striking is how, through a Thatcher government to a Blair one, her passionate socialism shifts from an intelligent twentysomething’s ranting to a more carefully measured, middle-aged tirade at the abuses and incompetence of the powerful. Reserving most of her scorn for the monarchy and politicians, Smith memorably dubbed David Blunkett ‘Satan’s bearded folk singer’.

Described by her friend and fellow comic Mark Steel as ‘a very English radical’, much of the affection Smith continues to inspire derives from her exceedingly English lament for crap towns and sporting failure, particularly in cricket. The Edinburgh extracts reveal her to be every bit as suspicious of Leith’s trendification as she was Morningside’s amateur dramatics, yet she is always keen to offer the absurd the benefit of the doubt, asking ‘how do you punish a sadomasochist?’

Out now on Hodder Audio

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