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Griffith Rhys Jones (born 16 November 1953), better known as Griff Rhys Jones, is a Welshmarker comedian, writer and actor. He came to national attention in the 1980s when he starred with Mel Smith in a number of comedy sketch programmes on British television.

Early life and education

Rhys Jones was born in Cardiffmarker, the son of Gwyneth Margaret (née Jones) and Elwyn, a doctor. Moving with his father's work, he attended Conifers primary school in Midhurstmarker, Sussex, junior school in Harlowmarker, Essex and Brentwood Schoolmarker, Essex. While the family was resident in Essex, his father had a boat in West Merseamarker, which they would sail around the coast of Suffolk and into The Broads.

While at Brentwood School he met Charlie Bean (later Executive Director of the Bank of Englandmarker) and Douglas Adams (who would later write The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). In 1967 he appeared in Macbeth as the First Witch, alongside Douglas Adams who played Young Siward and "A Sargeant". The producer, Wiliam Barron, remarked in the programme concerning the roles of the witches: "To deprive young boy actors of any opportunity of expressing devilish glee would be to take away half the fun of playing such parts: yet it is agreed that they must not be allowed to "'hee-hee, ho-ho' at each new tempation and crime." He was part of a group whose antics led to them being referred to as "The Clique" by the school's headmaster. After a short spell working as a petrol-pump attendant, he gained a gap-year job on the P&O ship Uganda, working for a company organising school trips. In his autobiography, Semi-Detached (see below), he describes how he was charged with helping to look after 600 Canadianmarker schoolgirls, followed by a similar number of younger Scottishmarker schoolchildren, and refers to the experience as being like "St Trinians at sea". He wrote to eight of the Canadians afterwards, and lost his virginity to one of them.

Rhys Jones followed Bean and Adams to Cambridgemarker, reading history and English at Emmanuel Collegemarker. While at university, Jones joined the prestigious Cambridge Footlights Club (of which he became Vice-President in 1976). He was also president of the ADC (Amateur Dramatic Club) during his time at Cambridge. At this time, his ambitions were focused on the theatre, particularly directing.

Career

After university, he worked briefly as a bodyguard to Arab visitors to London.

He then joined BBC Radio Light Entertainment as a trainee producer, with his output including the satirical show Week Ending and Brain of Britain. An evening planned to spend watching his hero Frankie Howerd at the invitation of friends Clive Anderson and Rory McGrath, who were writing the show at the time, resulted in Rhys Jones replacing the show's producer, who had suffered from a stress-related illness from dealing with the comedian. He later produced Rowan Atkinson's show Atkinson's People for the BBC and has appeared twice on Whose Line Is It Anyway?.

Rhys Jones filled in several minor roles in the first series of Not the Nine O'Clock News, and was brought in as a regular cast member from the second series onwards, replacing Chris Langham. Rhys Jones says that the reason he got the part was not due to his appearance in the initial shows, or his talent, but because producer John Lloyd was going out with his sister at the time. Rhys Jones became a regular from the commissioned second series, alongside Atkinson, Mel Smith and Pamela Stephenson.

Partnership with Mel Smith

After Not the Nine O'Clock News, Smith and Rhys Jones thought they would be unemployed. They decided to take action in two areas: firstly by creating and writing more material together, and secondly by starting a management company to produce their own programmes as well as those of other performers.

In 1981, Smith and Rhys Jones founded TalkBack Productions, a company which has produced many of the most significant British comedy series of the past two decades, including Smack the Pony, Da Ali G Show, I'm Alan Partridge and Big Train. From 1984, Smith and Rhys Jones appeared in the comedy sketch series Alas Smith and Jones (the show's title being a pun on the American TV series Alias Smith and Jones). After the first series of Alas Smith and Jones, the pair appeared on the big screen in Mike Hodges' sci-fi comedy movie Morons from Outer Space, and then in 1989 the LWT production Wilt. They also developed TalkBack to manage other acts, they sold the company to Pearson for £62 million.

Smith and Jones were reunited in 2005 for a review/revival of their previous television series in The Smith and Jones Sketchbook. The BBC was criticised for using it to repeat a series of programmes without resorting to unpopular repeats. Smith joked: "Obviously, Griff's got more money than me so he came to work in a Rolls-Royce and I came on a bicycle. But it was great fun to do and we are firmly committed to doing something new together, because you don't chuck that sort of chemistry away. Of course, I'll have to pretend I like Restoration."

Recent work

Rhys Jones was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1984 (1983 season) for Best Comedy Performance in Charley's Aunt and in 1994 (1993 season) for Best Comedy Performance for his performance in An Absolute Turkey. He also played Toad in The Wind in the Willows at the National Theatre in 1990, as well as a number of other theatre roles.

During 1999 and 2000, he featured in TV adverts for the Vauxhall range of cars as a "boffin".

Rhys Jones has developed a career as a television presenter, beginning as the co-host on several Comic Relief programmes. He presented Bookworm from 1994 to 2000, and is the presenter of the BBC's Restoration programme (he began filming its third series at Lincoln Cathedralmarker on 3rd June 2006), and has done a considerable amount of fundraising work for the Hackney Empiremarker theatre conservation project. In 2004 he led a demonstration at the Senate House in Cambridge Universitymarker for the purpose of saving architecture as a degree in Cambridge.

He provided the voices on the series of short cartoons Funnybones, for which he also sang the theme tune. Other notable television work includes two BBC documentaries re-creating the British comic novel Three Men in a Boat, in which he rowed up the Thames from London to Oxford with fellow comedians Dara Ó Briain and Rory McGrath. The team was reunited for a sequel, Three Men in Another Boat, in which they attempted to sail from Tower Bridgemarker to Cowesmarker in Rhys Jones' own restored racing yacht, Undina. The two-part documentary was broadcast 1– 2 January 2008 on BBC Two. In 2009, the BBC broadcast a second sequel, Three Men in More Than One Boat, in which the trio attempt to get from Plymouthmarker to the Isles of Scillymarker using several boats.

Rhys Jones has also created and presented programmes about Arthur Ransome, Thomas Hardy, John Betjeman and Rudyard Kipling.

Rhys Jones has continued his acting career, having roles in Casualty and Marple as well as starring in Russell T Davies' drama series Mine All Mine on ITV1. His documentary series Mountain, for which he climbed fifteen British peaks during 2006, was broadcast on BBC One 29 July26 August 2007.

A resident of East Anglia, in 2002 he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of East Angliamarker. He also has honorary degrees from the University of Glamorgan and APU, and is a Fellow of the Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Royal Society of Arts and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Rhys Jones also returned to his mother's roots in the village of Ferndale, Walesmarker for the purposes of an episode of the BBC One series Who Do You Think You Are?, which was broadcast 20 September 2007. In the episode he detailed early memories and stories of his grandparents' fruit and vegetable shop on the high street and his mother's childhood concert performances at Trerhondda Chapel.

He provided the voice over for Brentwood School's 450th DVD in 2007, reading a script written by fellow Old Brentwood Jonathan Ruffle.

He presented a seasonal documentary, Charles Dickens and the Invention of Christmas, which was broadcast on 23 December 2007 on BBC One.

It was announced in June 2008 that Rhys Jones was to become the President of The Civic Trust, the nationwide charity that campaigns for better places in the built and green environment.

It'll be Alright on the Night returned with Rhys Jones as the new presenter, taking over from Denis Norden. The first programme was recorded at The London Studiosmarker on 5 September 2008. It is broadcast in one-off episodes on Saturday nights throughout the year, on ITV1.

Greatest Cities of the World a new series where Rhys Jones visited; London, New York and Paris. The three-part series aired on primetime ITV1 in October 2008.

During the summer of 2009, Rhys Jones presented the BBC programme Rivers. According to Omid Djalili's twitter, Rhys Jones will be taking over the role of Fagin in the musical Oliver! from December 2009.

Writing

Rhys Jones has written or co-written many of the programmes he has appeared in, and a number of spin-off books. In 2002, he started writing a book called '[To the Baltic with Bob, describing his adventures on the high seas with his sailing friend Bob, as they make their way to Saint Petersburgmarker, port by port. Rhys Jones released the book in 2003, saying of the experience: "As a child you go out and play and you lose all track of time and space. It's harder and harder to attain that blissful state of absorption as you get older. I did a six-month sailing trip to St Petersburg with some mates just to get it back."

His early life has been captured in his autobiography, Semi-Detached, published in 2006 by Penguin Books. His book to accompany the BBC1 series Mountain was published in July 2007.

Personal life

Rhys Jones met his wife, Jo, a graphic designer, while working at the BBC. He has described their first meeting by saying "The day we met, I was semi-naked and she was throwing water over me." The couple have two children, and live between homes in Londonmarker (previously in Islingtonmarker, now in a Grade I listed former office block in London's West Endmarker) and Holbrookmarker, Suffolk. The family have a chocolate-coloured Labrador called "Cadbury". Rhys Jones owns a 45-feet-long, 50-year-old blue wooden sailing yacht named Undina.

A former heavy drinker, Rhys Jones is a teetotaler: "I don't drink so going to a party can become very tedious. By about 11 o'clock everybody goes to another planet and you're not there with them, so I tend to avoid that sort of thing." He started running as a leisure pursuit in his early forties. In 2008 he presented two programmes called Losing It which were shown on BBC2, in which he discussed his own problems with anger management.

References

  1. Who's Who
  2. http://www.filmreference.com/film/49/Griffith-Rhys-Jones.html
  3. The actor and director thinks back to his school days, Headliners, 1996. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  4. Suffolk: Estuary English, Mail on Sunday, 2001. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  5. Brentwood School Winter Theatricals Programme, 1967
  6. Semi-Detached, Griff Rhys Jones' autobiography, Penguin, 2006
  7. This much I know: Griff Rhys Jones by Michael Odell The Guardian, 5th November 2006. Retrieved 3rd March 2007.
  8. Bio at Screen Online
  9. Interview with Mel Smith, Metro.co.uk. Retrieved 3rd March 2007.
  10. Radio Times: 22 Dec 2007–4 Jan 2008
  11. My Cardiff at the Internet Archive. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  12. [1]Writer, actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones becomes President of the Civic Trust.
  13. www.applausestore.com
  14. BBC programme Rivers Retrieved August, 2009
  15. http://twitter.com/omid9/status/3892826542
  16. Clowning around with Mr Jones at BBC Entertainment, 14th May 1999. Retrieved 3rd March 2007.
  17. Restoration interview (96 KB pdf), BBC, 29th April 2004. Retrieved 3 March 2007.


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