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Brydon, Rob (1965-)

Actor, Writer

Main image of Brydon, Rob (1965-)

Once voted (presumably ironically) the forty-seventh sexiest man in Wales, Rob Brydon would be the first to admit that his distinctive looks have made him unlikely leading man material, though he has carved out a career spanning comedy and straight acting with aplomb. Born on 3rd May 1965 in Swansea, he studied at the Welsh College of Music and Drama. He began his career in radio, where he provided numerous continuity announcements, and was also a DJ for BBC Radio Wales. Amongst the characters he created was a woebegone but strangely cheerful figure named Keith. He also had a brief stint as a presenter for the Home Shopping Network, the source for much of his closely observed comedy of the absurd.

His film debut came with the inauspicious bit-part 'Man in Crowd' in the Arthurian romp First Knight (US, 1995), but a more significant appearance came in the same year when he played a radio commentator in the football satire Eleven Men Against Eleven (Channel 4). Small parts in other films followed, including Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence (UK/USA, d. Nick Hamm, 1998), and, as the world's unluckiest traffic warden, in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998).

He teamed up with Steve Coogan's production company Baby Cow for his first significant venture, the dark, twisted comedy series Human Remains (BBC, 2000), which he created with Julia Davis. Tapping into the vogue for bleak, observational humour, it was a critical triumph, winning Brydon best TV comedy actor at the British Comedy Awards. Yet it was the tragicomic Marion and Geoff (BBC, 2000) which proved his most distinctive creation, in which his radio character Keith Barret was resurrected as a taxi driver whose wife has left him for another man. His uncomfortably intimate monologues, adroitly combining pathos and black comedy, recalled Alan Bennett's Talking Heads (BBC, 1988/98). Barret later resurfaced in the amusing but less striking The Keith Barret Show (BBC, 2004), in which he played agony uncle to a series of real-life celebrity couples.

Brydon has also made a variety of distinctive one-off appearances in cult TV comedies such as I'm Alan Partridge (BBC, 2002), Black Books (Channel 4, 2002) and, as the gloriously slimy Roman de Vere, Little Britain (BBC, 2005). He also made an impressively rounded Kenneth Tynan in the drama Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore (BBC, 2005). His film career has tended to consist mostly of anonymous supporting roles in such projects as 24 Hour Party People (d. Michael Winterbottom, 2002), although his glorious dual performance as both the character Uncle Toby and, as 'himself', stealing scenes mercilessly from Steve Coogan in Winterbottom's A Cock and Bull Story (2005) led many to wonder whether the (highly improvised) script accurately reflected the rivalry between Coogan, the leading man, and Brydon, his former protégé.

Alexander Larman

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