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Rhys Jones, Griff (1953-)

Actor, Writer, Presenter

Main image of Rhys Jones, Griff (1953-)

Born on November 16, 1953 in Cardiff, the son of a doctor, Griff Rhys Jones emerged from the Not the Nine O'Clock News team with Mel Smith as one of British television's most durable double acts. As a solo performer, he has developed into an accomplished comedy actor on both stage and screen, and an enthusiastic presenter of literary and heritage programmes.

Jones grew up in Brentwood, Essex and studied English at Cambridge. His old school friend Douglas Adams introduced him to the celebrated Cambridge Footlights and he subsequently became its President. He had wanted to perform comedy since the age of six, when he wrote an essay about his desire to be Charlie Drake. After leaving Cambridge, he worked briefly as a bodyguard to Arab visitors to London, and then joined BBC Radio Light Entertainment as a producer. His output included programmes for Frankie Howerd, the satirical show Week Ending and Brain of Britain.

When television producer John Lloyd assembled the team for the satirical series Not the Nine O'Clock News (BBC, 1979-82), Jones played small parts ("usually milkmen"), but his impression of Donald Sinden impressed Lloyd enough to elevate him to the main team of Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson and Mel Smith for the second series (replacing Chris Langham).

Jones and Smith then developed a long-lasting comedy partnership, beginning with the sketch series Alas Smith and Jones (BBC, 1984-87), which included their hilarious 'head to head' conversations. Further series followed: they commented on old film clips in The World According to Smith and Jones (ITV, 1987-88), made a series of comedy playlets titled Smith and Jones in Small Doses (BBC, 1989) and returned to sketches in Smith and Jones (BBC, 1989-98). They also starred in two films; the disastrous Morons From Outer Space (d. Mike Hodges 1985) and the more successful Wilt (d. Michael Tuchner 1989). In 1981 they formed Talkback Productions producing radio and television commercials, and comedy series showcasing themselves and others (The Day Today, BBC, 1994; Smack the Pony, Channel 4, 1999-2003).

Aside from his work with Smith, Jones has also acted in comedy dramas Porterhouse Blue (Channel 4, 1987), Mine All Mine (ITV, 2004) and Riot at the Rite (BBC, 2005). His films include Staggered (d. Martin Clunes, 1994), Up 'n' Under (d. John Godber, 1998) and Puckoon (d. Terence Ryan 2002), and he has also won two Olivier Awards for best comedy performance for the stage farces Charley's Aunt (1984) and Absolute Turkey (1994).

A tireless worker for good causes, he has hosted and participated in Comic Relief (BBC, 1986- ). An avid reader, he presented the literary magazine programme The Bookworm (BBC, 1995- 97), and his passion for restoring old buildings led him to present Restoration (BBC, 2003 - ). With Dara O'Briain and university chum Rory McGrath, he recreated Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (BBC, 2006), before rejoining his old comedy partner for The Smith and Jones Sketchbook (BBC, 2006) with classic sketches and new 'head to head' conversations.

Graham Rinaldi

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979-82)Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979-82)

Satirical sketch show that paved the way for a new comedy generation

Thumbnail image of Porterhouse Blue (1987)Porterhouse Blue (1987)

Riotous adaptation of Tom Sharpe's satirical novel about Oxbridge life

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Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Smith, Mel (1952-2013)Smith, Mel (1952-2013)

Comedian, Actor, Writer, Director