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Enfield, Harry (1961-)

Actor, Writer

Main image of Enfield, Harry (1961-)

Despite early appearances alongside alternative comedians such as Ben Elton, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, Harry Enfield has always viewed himself as a traditional entertainer, his catchphrase-based comedy more reminiscent of Dad's Army (BBC, 1968-77) than the anarchy of The Young Ones (BBC, 1982-84).

After meeting long-term collaborators Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson while at university, he worked as a gag writer for BBC Radio 4's Week Ending, and was recruited to Spitting Image (ITV, 1984-1991) while playing the comedy circuit as an impressionist. On Saturday Live (Channel 4, 1985-87) he became famous for creating linguistically impaired kebab chef Stavros and obnoxious plasterer Loadsamoney, forever boasting of his newly acquired wealth. Concerned that the latter - intended as a satire on Thatcherism - was instead becoming a cultural hero, Enfield killed him off during Comic Relief Red Nose Day (BBC, tx 5/2/1988), run over after presenting an over-sized cheque for just ten pence.

Co-written with Geoffrey Perkins, Norbert Smith: A Life (ITV, 1989) was an excellently observed spoof of television documentary biographies. Enfield starred as the titular thespian, whose fictional acting career was charted from early appearances in Will Hay-style comedies, through a slew of repetitive composer biopics and second-rate war films.

Harry Enfield's Television Programme (BBC, 1990-92) featured a host of new characters, including Tim Nice-But-Dim, the Scousers (a none-too-subtle spoof of Channel 4 soap Brookside), stilted public information announcers Grayson and Mr. Cholmondley-Warner, and know-it-all Mr. You-Don't-Want-To-Do-It-Like-That. Perkins, Higson and Whitehouse all contributed, with the latter increasingly visible as a performer. In addition to providing one half of the misanthropic Old Gits, Whitehouse memorably played Radio Fab disc jockey Mike Smash to Enfield's Bachman Turner Overdrive-obsessed Dave Nice. This thinly veiled parody of Radio 1 DJs led new controller Matthew Bannister to rid the station of its 'Smashie and Nicey' image, a culling mirrored by Enfield and Whitehouse in Smashie and Nicey: The End of an Era (BBC, tx. 4/4/1994). Another valuable addition to the cast was Kathy Burke, who portrayed the unsavoury Waynetta Slob. The increasingly ensemble nature of the show led to it being re-titled Harry Enfield and Chums (BBC, 1994-98).

Although film spin-off Kevin & Perry Go Large (d. Ed Bye, 2000) was a moderate success, Enfield's style of comedy began to seem out of step with popular taste in the wake of Whitehouse and Higson's The Fast Show (BBC, 1994-2000). His Brand Spanking New Show (Sky One, 2000) was cancelled after one series, while reality TV spoof Celeb (BBC, 2002) paled in comparison with The Osbournes (MTV, 2002-05). Enfield subsequently had a dramatic role in teen drama Skins (Channel 4, 2007-09), also directing three episodes.

In 2007 he re-teamed with Whitehouse for Ruddy Hell It's Harry and Paul (BBC, 2007), which was hailed by some as a return to form by the old masters - a view inevitably parodied by the duo in the title sequence for the follow-up, Harry and Paul (BBC, 2008-), which depicted them as jaded Soviet dictators out of touch with the modern world.

Richard Hewett

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Thumbnail image of Norbert Smith: A Life (1989)Norbert Smith: A Life (1989)

Note-perfect Harry Enfield spoof of a grand career in theatre and film

Thumbnail image of Saturday Live / Friday Night Live (1985-88)Saturday Live / Friday Night Live (1985-88)

Live variety for the alternative comedy generation

Thumbnail image of Spitting Image (1984-96)Spitting Image (1984-96)

Topical satire show featuring memorably vicious puppets

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Thumbnail image of Whitehouse, Paul (1958-)Whitehouse, Paul (1958-)

Actor, Writer