Victor Lewis-Smith

Victor Lewis-Smith (12 May 1957[1] – 10 December 2022) was a British film, television and radio producer, a television and restaurant critic, a satirist and newspaper columnist. He was executive producer of the ITV1 Annual National Food & Drink Awards.[2] He was an alumnus of the University of York[3] and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Westminster in November 2008.[4]

Victor Lewis-Smith
Victor Lewis-Smith (left) in 1989, with writing partner Paul Sparks
Victor Lewis Smith

(1957-05-12)12 May 1957
Ilford, Essex, England
Died (aged 65)
Bruges, Belgium
Occupation(s)Writer, broadcaster

Early life and personal life

Lewis-Smith was born in 1957, the son of a neurosurgeon, and grew up in Chadwell Heath, Essex,[5][6] although according to The Telegraph, he "never knowingly gave an interview discussing his parents, background or childhood."[7] He was married to Virginia Stewart Duff.

He worked for Radio Medway before going on to study music at the University of York, where he presented the "bizarre student TV show" Intimate Freshness under the name "Damien Filth". During his time as a student he was arrested, convicted and fined £20 for causing a public disturbance after climbing up scaffolding at York Minster in the middle of the night and reciting the adhan from a ledge, having previously played "I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside" on the cathedral's organ. When asked in the magistrates' court hearing if he had anything to say, he replied: "All my leftwing friends told me they were beaten up by the police when they were in custody. But nothing of the sort happened to me. What am I to tell them when we next meet?".[8]


Production company

Lewis-Smith owned a film, television and radio production company called Associated Rediffusion Productions Limited, having in 1990 acquired the rights to the name and logo of the original company, Associated-Rediffusion.[9]


Lewis-Smith contributed to a number of productions for British television:

  • In 1989, he wrote and presented eighteen episodes of Buy-gones for Club X on Channel 4, and contributed sketch scripts for Central's Spitting Image
  • Up Your Arts (compiled from his contributions to Channel 4 show Club X; 1992)[10]
  • Inside Victor Lewis-Smith (1993) in which he is a virtually unseen character, the series taking place inside the head of a man having old BBC programmes played into his life support machine
  • TV Offal on Channel 4 (pilot 1997; series 1998)
  • TV Offal Prime Cuts on Channel 4; 1999
  • Ads Infinitum for BBC Two (pilot 1996; two series, 1998 and 2000)
  • Z For Fake for BBC Two in 2001 (8 programmes)
  • The Barftas for Channel 4 in 2002 [10]
  • The Vicious Circle for Channel 5 (UK) in 2002
  • Has anyone seen Junfan? (2002, ITV pilot)
  • Here's a Piano I Prepared Earlier for BBC Four (2005, narrator and producer)
  • Jake on the Box for BBC Four (2006, narrator and producer)

As producer

On 1 January 2021, the Sky Documentaries Channel aired "Steve McQueen: The Lost Movie", presented by David Letterman.[11]

Lewis-Smith's documentary, The Undiscovered Peter Cook, was the first in a series transmitted on BBC Four in November 2016.[12] In December 2018, Lewis-Smith made three more documentaries in the style of The Undiscovered Peter Cook for Sky Arts, this time concerning Peter Sellers, Kenneth Williams and Tony Hancock.[13] Lewis-Smith was executive producer of a series of controversial documentaries presented by Keith Allen for Channel 4. This included biographies of Nick Griffin, then leader of the British National Party, Lottery winner Michael Carroll, the TV cook Keith Floyd (who died two hours before the programme was transmitted), and the "child prodigy" Lauren Harries.[14]

Lewis-Smith was executive producer of a series of 44 television programmes called 21st-Century Bach - The Complete Organ Works. The series started on BBC Two in June 2003 and ran for six years. The series has since aired on Sky Arts. John Scott Whiteley was the organist.

From 2010, Lewis-Smith was the executive producer of In Confidence, a series of one-to-one interviews, featuring leading figures from the arts. Presented by Laurie Taylor, this production for Sky Arts was well received in a television review by the Daily Telegraph, with the Telegraph noting that "In an age of soapy soundbites, Sky Arts hour-long interview strand is a serious attempt to delve deeper into its subjects."[15] Guests included Peter Maxwell Davies, Lily Allen, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Richard Dawkins, Cleo Laine, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Hitchens, Kathy Burke, Stephen Fry, Andre Previn, Jackie Mason, and Danny Baker. 72 programmes over four series were transmitted.

Radio and recording

From 1983 to 1985 he produced and presented the Sunday morning programme, Snooze Button for BBC Radio York.[16] Following this he became a producer at BBC Radio 4, working on Start the Week and Midweek: during his stint on the latter programme he recruited cockney comedian Arthur Mullard as a stand-in host for regular presenter Libby Purves.[8]

In 1986 he became a regular contributor to Radio 4's Colour Supplement and Loose Ends, developing a writing partnership with long-time collaborator Paul Sparks, also a former music student at York, and producing sketches combining music, special effects and toilet humour.[8] During this time he won nine awards at the 1988 Independent Radio Advertising Awards (including the gold) for his Midland Bank student campaign.

In 1989 he made his first programme for BBC Radio 1, with producer John Walters, under the pseudonym Steve Nage, parodying the Simon Bates-style mid-Atlantic nasal delivery of Radio 1 disc jockeys of the time.[17]

Lewis-Smith's company made two series of the comedy show Victor Lewis-Smith for BBC Radio 1, for which he won a Best Comedy Radio Programme award in the 1990 British Comedy Awards. A compilation of his spoof calls peaked at No.1 on the iTunes comedy chart on 27 July 2006. They attracted some controversy at the time of their first broadcast: in The Sunday Times on 15 April 1990, Paul Donovan opined that Lewis-Smith's hoaxes were "repugnant". However, The Guardian's Lucy Mangan described some of the recordings as being "touched with genius".[18] Writing about Lewis-Smith's hoax phone calls in The Times Higher Education, Sally Feldman observed that "He chooses his victims carefully, pricking the pompous and the powerful in the very best traditions of satire. His favourite target is the media, his pranks intended to expose their smugness, their laziness and their gullibility."[19]

One of his best known prank calls would feature on the intro of Towers Of Dub on The Orb album U.F.Orb.[20]

He released two cassettes of his comedy, Tested on Humans for Irritancy (Virgin Records, 1991) and Nuisance Calls (ARTV, 1996).[21]


In the 1980s Lewis-Smith took over from Julie Burchill in writing weekly columns for Time Out magazine. He also wrote weekly columns during the same period for the short-lived Sunday Correspondent and The Mail on Sunday (where he often substituted for Burchill), as well as Esquire magazine. He has also written as food critic for The Independent, and was restaurant critic for Harpers & Queen magazine from 1995 to 1998 as well as The Guardian, where he combined comedy writing and food criticism to help create the now commonplace modern genre of amusing food writing.

In 1992, Lewis-Smith began a long association with the London Evening Standard, contributing daily television reviews along with other writers, as well as occasional restaurant reviews and travel articles. It was announced in June 2007 that he would be retiring from his daily television column.[22]

Beginning in 1993, he was the compiler of the "Funny Old World" column of bizarre news items in Private Eye, where he replaced Christopher Logue. In 2011, he was living in Cumbria and never visited the magazine's London office.[23] He wrote a weekly page for the Daily Mirror for some years until 2003. From autumn 2004 to April 2005 he was the resident restaurant critic of The Guardian's Saturday magazine supplement.[24][25]

His books included Buy-Gones and Inside the Magic Rectangle, a collection of his early Evening Standard TV reviews, and TV Reviews, a collection of his Evening Standard TV reviews since 2000 (published in 2011).

In June 2006, the television chef Gordon Ramsay, his production company and his producer accepted an out-of-court settlement of £75,000 from Associated Newspapers, after an article in London's Evening Standard written by Lewis-Smith alleged that Ramsay had faked television scenes and installed an incompetent chef. Ramsay said at the time, "We have never done anything in a cynical, fake way." However, a year later, Channel 4 admitted that a scene in another of Ramsay's programmes had been faked, and apologised to viewers.[26]

On 28 July 2006, hypnotist Paul McKenna successfully sued the Daily Mirror for libel over articles written by Lewis-Smith from 1997 alleging that McKenna had deliberately misled the public with a fake PhD, having obtained the qualification from the non-accredited LaSalle University in the United States, whose principal had since been imprisoned for making misleading claims about the status of degrees he handed out to candidates.[27] He later accepted damages of £25,000.[28]


On 12 December 2022, it was announced by Lewis-Smith's public-relations agency that the author had died after a short illness, at the age of 65, in Bruges, Belgium, on 10 December 2022.[8][29]


  1. "Victor Lewis-Smith, writer, producer and broadcaster whose caustic and scabrous diatribes offended and delighted in equal measure – obituary". The Telegraph. 12 December 2022. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  2. "ITV cooks up Food and Drink Awards show". Broadcast Magazine. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  3. "York, University of". The Independent. London. 12 August 2009. Archived from the original on 17 August 2022. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  4. "Honorary awards 1992-2009 - University of Westminster, London". University of Westminster.
  5. "Victor Lewis-Smith obituary". The Times. 13 December 2022.
  6. "Victor Lewis-Smith obituary - Culture - The Guardian". The Guardian. 15 December 2022.
  7. "Victor Lewis-Smith, writer, producer and broadcaster whose caustic and scabrous diatribes offended and delighted in equal measure – obituary". The Telegraph. 12 December 2022.
  8. "Victor Lewis-Smith, writer and broadcaster, dies at 65". The Guardian. 12 December 2022. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  9. Lister, David (19 December 2000). "The strange saga of Dudley and the BBC". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  10. "The worst of Channel 4 (part 3)". The Guardian. 18 October 2002.
  11. "Steve McQueen's lost F1 movie: Day of The Champion".
  12. Hogan, Michael (16 November 2016). "The Undiscovered Peter Cook was like spending an hour with your funniest friend – review". Daily Telegraph.(subscription required)
  13. "New tributes to three troubled comedy geniuses". Archived from the original on 14 June 2018.
  14. Keith Allen (4 March 2012). "Keith Allen: How I hunted down Nick Griffin – Commentators – Opinion". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 17 August 2022. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  15. Radford, Ceri (15 April 2011). "In Confidence: Peter and Christopher Hitchens, Sky Arts 1, review". Daily Telegraph.(subscription required)
  16. "'Larger than life' former Radio York presenter Victor Lewis Smith has died".
  17. "Steve Nage on Radio One". PodOmatic. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  18. Lucy Mangan (29 October 2008). "Lucy Mangan on the chequered history of phone-prank comedy | Culture". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  19. Feldman, Sally (4 December 2008). "Clear and present danger". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  20. Spencer Grady (8 December 2007). "UFOrb - Record Collector Magazine". Record Collector.
  21. "Victor Lewis-Smith - Discography - Discogs".
  22. "Media Diary". The Guardian. London. 17 June 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  23. Macqueen, Adam (2011). Private Eye: The First 50 Years. Private Eye Productions. p. 160. ISBN 978-1-901784-56-5.
  24. Lewis-Smith, Victor (25 September 2004). "Manze's, London SE1". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  25. Lewis-Smith, Victor (23 April 2005). "Audrey's Fish And Chip Shop, Bridlington, East Yorkshire". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  26. Dowell, Ben (16 July 2007). "Channel 4 says sorry for Ramsay spear-fishing 'fake'". The Guardian. London.
  27. "McKenna wins 'fake degree' case". BBC News. 28 July 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  28. "Paul McKenna suffers costs loss". 16 July 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  29. "Victor Lewis-Smith: Journalist and satirist dies aged 65". BBC News. 12 December 2022.
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