Express & Star

'Aynuk sparked my interest in comedy' says Black Country funnyman in glowing tribute

Stand-up comic Wayne Beese has paid tribute to Black Country comedy legend Alan "Aynuk" Smith, who died last week at the age of 84.

Aynuk and Ayli on the beach at Torquay

Wayne, who has worked with the likes of Bill Bailey, Ross Noble and Tom Stade, said it was seeing Alan and his comedy partner John Plant which influenced his decision to go into the entertainment business.

“The first live comedy show I ever saw was Aynuk and Ayli at Dudley Golf Club, probably in the 1990s," he said.

"I loved them and I thought Alan was fantastic as the straight man of the duo, the deadpan, exasperated Aynuk to John Plant’s silly and playful Ayli.

"They worked really well together as a duo and the crowd lapped it up."

Wayne, who comperes regular comedy nights in Dudley and Stourbridge, said he saw them on a few latter occasions, including a strange show with fish and chips at the former Harry Ramsden's in the Merry Hill centre.

Wayne Beese

“I suppose looking back, it planted the first seeds in my head of how great live stand-up comedy is and could be," he said.

"It laid the foundations for my journey after that into eventually putting on my own shows, so I’ll always be thankful to them for that. I was very saddened to hear the news and my thoughts are with his family,” adds Wayne, who is also behind the Whitchurch comedy festival in Shropshire.

Alan, from the Netherton area of Dudley, died at Russells Hall Hospital on Tuesday last week after a short illness.

He created the Aynuk & Ayli stage show in April, 1964 to raise money for the Cole Street Methodist Church in Netherton.

Alan took on the role of Aynuk – Enoch pronounced with a thick Black Country accent – while his friend Harry Felton played his gullible, put upon sidekick Ayli, or Eli.

Aynuk and Ayli open the refurbished Woodman pub in Dudley Wood in 1999.

Harry dropped out as the act began to take off, and for more than 20 years Ayli was played by John Guest. After John retired from the role in the late 1980s, and his place was taken by John Plant, who had been Alan's apprentice while working as an auto electrician at Fred Jennings' garage in Netherton. They worked as a double act for more than a quarter of a century before John's death in 2006.

Former Express & Star photographer Graham Gough, a close friend of Alan's, has released a collection of pictures he took of the funnyman over the years.

"I first met him back in the 80s, and have done hundreds of pictures over the years," he said.

"He was brilliant, he would do anything, and if you ever needed a picture he would always help."