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Planer, Nigel (1953-)

Actor, Writer

Main image of Planer, Nigel (1953-)

Though he has trod a less successful path than former cohorts like Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer is arguably one of the more talented actors to have emerged from the Comic Strip/Young Ones generation.

Born on 22 February 1953 in Fulham, after a miserable experience at Sussex University he went to drama school, where he appeared in plays directed by fellow student Stephen Poliakoff. At the same school was Peter Richardson, an acquaintance from teenage years. The two began a writing partnership, along with Pete Richens. By 1980, the two were regularly appearing at Soho's Comedy Store as double act The Outer Limits. The act was an extension of work the two had been performing since the mid-1970s, involving multiple characters and musical comedy. Planer's character Neil, a chronically depressed hippy with folk ambitions but little discernible talent, emerged from this period.

Spotted at the Comedy Store by off-duty BBC producer Paul Jackson, Planer found himself selected (without Richardson) to appear on Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights (BBC, tx. 14/10/1980), the first television showcase of what was now becoming known as 'alternative comedy'. His appearance led directly to The Young Ones (BBC, 1982 & 84), in which he successfully carved out space for his Neil character alongside the more showy performances of Mayall and Edmondson. Such was Neil's popularity that he even had an unlikely hit single, with his engagingly duff 1984 cover of Traffic's 'Hole in My Shoe'. Meanwhile, he also appeared in the considerably more mainstream ITV comedy Shine on, Harvey Moon (1982-85), as devious spiv Lou Lewis, a role he reprised when the series unexpectedly returned in 1995.

For the remainder of the 1980s, he balanced assorted alt-comedy projects - including Filthy Rich and Catflap (BBC, 1987), The Comic Strip Presents... (Channel 4, 1982-86; BBC, 1990-93; Channel 4, 1993, 2005) and Richardson's spin-off features The Supergrass (1985) and Eat the Rich (1987) - with a variety of very different assignments, including inoffensive ITV sitcom Roll over Beethoven (1985), comic drama King and Castle (ITV, 1968-88) and Dennis Potter's notorious Blackeyes (BBC, 1989).

In 1990, he introduced a new character, Nicholas Craig, a beautifully observed parody of thespian self-importance, for the five-part BBC series Nicholas Craig - The Naked Actor (1990), a series of lectures on stagecraft. The character would make a number of further appearances over the next two years, and was followed by a role in another theatrical satire, Simon Gray's Unnatural Pursuits (BBC, tx. 7 & 9/12/1993). Meanwhile, he gave new voice to The Magic Roundabout (Channel 4, 1992-93), as well as providing scripts for a series of newly rediscovered episodes of the classic French animation.

Following an unsatisfying school sitcom, Bonjour la Classe (BBC, 1993), he reappeared in sharp ITV comedy The Grimleys (1999-2001). In latter years, he has increasingly embraced musical roles, with another opera update by Tony Britten, Puccini's La Bohème (Channel 5, tx. 15/4/2001) and, on stage, former alternative comedy comrade Ben Elton's We Will Rock You. In September 2005, his own first stage play, On the Ceiling, opened in London.

Mark Duguid

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights (1980)Boom Boom... Out Go the Lights (1980)

First TV showcase for the new wave of alternative comedians

Thumbnail image of Comic Strip Presents..., The (1982-2000)Comic Strip Presents..., The (1982-2000)

Long-running film showcase for the alternative comedy generation

Thumbnail image of Trials of Oz, The (1991)Trials of Oz, The (1991)

Dramatisation of the notorious 'Oz' magazine obscenity trial

Thumbnail image of Young Ones, The (1982-84)Young Ones, The (1982-84)

Anarchic sitcom which launched a generation of alternative comedians

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Alternative ComedyAlternative Comedy

The new broom of early '80s humour

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