Rowan Atkinson is one of Britain's best-loved comic actors, whose continuing exuberant performances shield the surprising fact that he's been at the top of his profession now for some thirty years.
Born in Durham, Atkinson studied electrical engineering in Newcastle and then at Oxford, where he met writer and future serial collaborator Richard Curtis and first honed his physical comedy style with the Revue.
He took a hit stage act to the Edinburgh Fringe, and in 1979 was invited by producer John Lloyd to join the BBC's new satirical sketch series Not the Nine O'Clock News.
A massive hit, the show itself was relatively short-lived but it made Atkinson a star and provided the springboard for his next major project, a historical sitcom co-written with Curtis: The Black Adder.
Atkinson took the starring role as the conniving Edmund Blackadder and although he handed over co-scripting duties in later series to Ben Elton, his brilliant (arguably career-best) performances, mixing his characteristic physical style with a delicious comic timing, lit up one of the most enduring of all British sitcoms.
A second collaboration with Curtis spawned the hapless Mr. Bean character whose slapstick escapades both on TV and latterly in two feature films have become global smash hits.
While police-based sitcom The Thin Blue Line (written by Ben Elton) may have been a misstep in the mid-Nineties, Atkinson remains a hugely popular and bankable star with a rare (and perhaps recently underused) gift for comedy, that has prompted Stephen Fry to offer the accolade "It is as if God had an extra jar of comic talent, and for a joke gave it to a nerdy, anoraked northern chemist."
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