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Whitehouse, Paul (1958-)

Actor, Writer

Main image of Whitehouse, Paul (1958-)

Described by Johnny Depp as his favourite actor, Paul Whitehouse is one of Britain's most versatile comic talents. Creating some of television's most memorable comedy characters from Harry Enfield's Stavros to his own monosyllabic Irish gardener Ted in the award-winning The Fast Show, he remains at the forefront of British comedy.

Born in Wales, the son of a Coal Board worker and an opera singer, Whitehouse was voted Baby Smile of Rhondda Valley. After dropping out of East Anglia University, he worked for Hackney Council, where his co-workers would inspire his future comic creations. With university friend Charlie Higson he earned extra money as a plasterer and their evenings were spent down the pub exchanging funny characters with Harry Enfield. One of Whitehouse's characters, Greek kebab shop owner Stavros, was adopted by Enfield who invited Whitehouse and Higson to write the material for his appearances on Saturday Live (Channel 4, 1985-87). The triumvirate then created the cockney Thatcherite plasterer, Loadsamoney and his Geordie counterpart, Buggerallmoney, on Friday Night Live (Channel 4, 1988).

Whitehouse's television debut came on The Craig Ferguson Show (ITV, tx. 4/3/1990) and he was next seen rolling around in a black bin liner as 'The Slitherer' on Vic Reeves Big Night Out (Channel 4, 1990-91). He became a regular contributor to Harry Enfield's Television Programme (BBC, 1990-92) and Harry Enfield and Chums (BBC, 1994-97). In collaboration they produced the cantankerous Old Gits and the 'poptastic' DJs Smashey and Nicey. Solo, as nosey neighbour Michael Paine, Whitehouse gave a perfect impression of a young Michael Caine.

After watching an edited press package of Enfield's sketches, Whitehouse and Higson hit upon the idea of an ensemble sketch show with a rapid turn of material and characters. The Fast Show (BBC, 1994-2000) breathed new life into a dormant format, described by Whitehouse as: "Come on - do the catchphrase - get off." His characterisations showed no bounds; as rambling drunkard Rowley Birkin QC, based on a man he met while fishing in Ireland; football pundit Ron Manager, who had his own spin-off series Jumpers for Goalposts (Sky One, 2001); 1940's variety artist Arthur 'Where's Me Washboard?' Atkinson. Whitehouse's performances were honoured with a BAFTA in 1997.

A long-time admirer, Johnny Depp appeared as a customer in the depraved gentlemen outfitters sketch 'Suit You' in the final Fast Show. Their friendship has secured Whitehouse film roles: the stage manager in Finding Neverland (US, 2004) and voicing several characters in Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (US/UK, co-d. Mike Johnson, 2005).

Co-written with Dave Cummings, the situation comedy Happiness (BBC, 2001-03) was a complete change of pace. Whitehouse played a recently widowed voice-over artist who lives a life of middle-aged male misery. He returned to the sketch show format with Help (BBC, 2005). Opposite Chris Langham's therapist, Whitehouse plays a myriad of comic characters showcasing the his ability to play men of all ages and from different walks of life (especially with his exceptional portrayal of Monty, an old Jewish cab driver).

Graham Rinaldi

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