Alexander Armstrong (comedian)

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Alexander Armstrong
Alexander Armstrong.jpg
Alexander Armstrong, June 2005, in Charlotte Street, London
Born Alexander Henry Fenwick Armstrong
(1970-03-02) 2 March 1970 (age 44)
Rothbury, Northumberland, England, UK
Education English literature
Alma mater Durham School
Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Television presenter, comedian, actor
Years active 1994–present
Spouse(s) Hannah Bronwen Snow (2003–present)
Children 3

Alexander Henry Fenwick Armstrong (born 2 March 1970[1])[unreliable source?], also known as Xander Armstrong,[2] is an English comedian, actor and television presenter, best known as one half of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller, alongside Ben Miller, and as host of the BBC game show Pointless. Aside from his Armstrong and Miller sketch show characters. Armstrong's television credits include guest appearances in various TV series and he also voiced Professor M in Tooned and alien supercomputer Mr Smith in the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Early life[edit]

Armstrong was born in Rothbury, Northumberland, the youngest of three children, to Henry Angus Armstrong and his wife, Emma Virginia Peronnet Thompson-McCausland, daughter of Lucius Thompson-McCausland.[3]

Armstrong was educated at Mowden Hall School in Northumberland, St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh[4] and Durham School and read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, on music scholarships.[5][6] His musical talent was showcased in several sketches of The Armstrong and Miller Show. At Cambridge, Armstrong read English and was a member of the college choir.[5][7][8] Armstrong joined the Footlights in his final year as part of the writing team for the 1992 revue and was Spooks creator David Wolstencroft's comedy partner.[6]

Career[edit]

After graduating in 1992, Armstrong moved to London with some friends to pursue a career in acting and comedy. While waiting for acting roles, he worked in a string of North London bars and restaurants and was eventually introduced to Ben Miller, who had also moved to London, through Jez Butterworth.[9] In 1996, Armstrong and Miller performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and were nominated for the Perrier Award.

Comedy[edit]

Armstrong and Miller co-starred in four series of Armstrong and Miller from 1997 to 2001. The duo decided to take a break and split for several years to forge their own solo careers.[6] Armstrong renewed his partnership with Miller for the award-winning The Armstrong and Miller Show in 2007.[citation needed]

Armstrong appeared on the BBC Radio 4's The Very World of Milton Jones, broadcast between 1998 and 2001, and between early 2000 and early 2001, starred as a misanthropic, animal-hating vet in the BBC One sitcom Beast and he has also been the star of a series of TV commercials for Pimm's. In 1999, Armstrong starred as Prince Charming in ITV's Christmas pantomime alongside Ben Miller, and with Samantha Janus, Paul Merton, Harry Hill, Frank Skinner and Ronnie Corbett. Armstrong narrated the animated cartoon series The Big Knights, which first appeared on the BBC1 over the Christmas Season of 1999–2000. On BBC Radio 4, Armstrong played John Weak in the office sitcom Weak at the Top. He also played Martin Baine-Jones for the Times Online's "Timeghost" podcast. Between September and November 2010, Armstrong took The Armstrong and Miller Show on tour in the UK, completing 62 dates. This was only the second time The Armstrong and Miller Show had gone out on the road, the first tour being in autumn 2001.

The Armstrong and Miller hardback book was released in October 2010.[citation needed]

Television presenting[edit]

On 1 September 2006, Armstrong was chairman of the short-lived Channel 4 panel show Best of the Worst which featured team captains David Mitchell and Johnny Vaughan. Armstrong presented the short-lived ITV1 quiz series Don't Call Me Stupid, in which mismatched celebrities taught each other a subject they are passionate about, before facing a studio quiz on their new topic. He has been a frequent guest host on the BBC's satirical panel game Have I Got News for You, having appeared more than 20 times with his most recent appearance as host being on 30 May 2014. Armstrong has, to date, made the most appearances of any guest, whether as host or panellist. Armstrong says that in 2003 he was offered the job of replacing Angus Deayton as full-time host of Have I Got News for You but the BBC later changed their minds and withdrew the offer after deciding to continue with the guest presenter format instead.[10] In 2008, he was the presenter and narrator for When Were We Funniest? and was the only person to feature in all twelve episodes.

Armstrong was a leading contender to take over as host of Countdown when Des O'Connor left in 2008, although when he hosted Have I Got News for You on 24 October 2008, he said that he hadn't yet accepted the job, despite team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton making jokes about his "new role".[11] Armstrong declined the job, telling The Independent that he didn't want to be "pigeonholed" as a presenter, preferring to focus on acting and comedy.[12]

Armstrong has been the presenter of the BBC One game show Pointless with former university mate Richard Osman since it began in 2009. He also presented a documentary, Alexander Armstrong's Very British Holiday, for the BBC on 8 November 2009 about the history of the "great British summer holiday" and his attempts to explore its modern version. On 30 May 2011, Armstrong hosted the pilot for a new panel show, Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask for Dave with Dave Lamb, Katy Brand, Griff Rhys Jones and Robert Webb. After a positive response to the pilot, Dave commissioned the first series which first aired on 6 February 2012. In July 2011, Armstrong became a co-presenter on BBC One's The Great British Weather. In August 2011, he began presenting a game show on BBC One called Epic Win.[13]

On 27 October 2013, Armstrong co-hosted ITV series Prize Island with Emma Willis.[14]

Armstrong also voices characters such as Policeman Stag in Peppa Pig.

Bandleader[edit]

In 2013, Armstrong put together his own band[15] to cover a range of material from jazz to rock to pop classics. Armstrong is the vocalist in the band and sings all the material. The other musicians include Harry the Piano on keyboards, Simon Bates on woodwind, Jeff Lardner on drums and Dave Swift on bass.

The band's first tour ran from 19 September to 6 November 2013.

Filmography[edit]

Television Dramas and Sitcoms
Year Work Role Notes
1995 The Thin Blue Line Unnamed gentleman S1E6
Guest appearance
1996 Sharpe Lord John Rossendale
1998 Is It Legal? Nick S3E5
Guest appearance
2000 Beast Nick
2002 TLC Dr Stephen Noble
2004–2006 Life Begins Phil Mee
2005 Marple DI Craddock "A Murder Is Announced"
2006 Saxondale TV presenter S1E2
Guest appearance
2007–2011 The Sarah Jane Adventures Mr Smith Voice only
2007 After You've Gone Dr Howard Banks S1E7
Guest appearance
Hotel Babylon Aiden Spencer S2E6
Guest appearance
Christmas at the Riviera Reverend Miles Roger
2008 Doctor Who Mr Smith S4E12 "The Stolen Earth"
S4E13 "Journey's End"
Mutual Friends Patrick Turner
2009 Micro Men Clive Sinclair
2010 The Trial of Tony Blair David Cameron
Reggie Perrin David Series 2, 5 episodes
Guest appearance
2011 Doctor Who Reg Arwell S7EX "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"[16]
2012 Hacks David Bullingdon MP [17]
Love Life Dominic
Tooned Professor M Voice only
Hunderby Brother Joseph
2013 Your Face Sounds Familiar Himself
Film
Year Work Role Notes
1999 Plunkett & Macleane Winterburn
2001 Birthday Girl Robert Moseley
2005 Match Point Mr Townsend
2006 Scoop Unnamed policeman Guest appearance
2009 Skellig Mr Hunt
2010 Jackboots on Whitehall Red Leader
Television presenting
Year Title Role Notes
2003— Have I Got News for You Guest presenter Most frequent guest presenter to appear on the show
2009— Pointless Co-presenter Co-hosted by Richard Osman
2011 The Great British Weather Co-presenter Series for BBC One
Epic Win Presenter
2011, 2012— Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask Presenter Series for Dave
2013 Prize Island Co-presenter Co-hosted by Emma Willis
2013 The 12 Drinks of Christmas Co-presenter One-off Christmas special, co-hosted by Giles Coren
Radio
Video Games

Other work[edit]

In 1997, Armstrong and Miller provided the voices for lead characters for the PC game 'Wings of Destiny', published by Psygnosis in 2000, as British airmen and Nazi officers covering the two comic-book plots in the game. From 2002–09, Armstrong appeared in a series of successful British television adverts for the drink Pimms.[19] With Miller, he has formed a production company called Toff Media.[20]

In 2002, Armstrong provided the voice for the character Horse in the English dub of the series A Town Called Panic.

The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World was published in the UK by Coronet, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, in October 2012.

Also in 2012, Armstrong is the voice of Professor M for the animation breaks for the McLaren F1 team with the animations called Tooned also featuring the voices of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button broadcast on Sky Sports F1.

In 2013, Armstrong and Miller appeared in the television advertising campaign for Spitfire Ale[21]

Personal life[edit]

On 27 August 2003, Armstrong married Hannah Bronwen Snow, an events organiser. He has three sons – Rex (born 2007), Patrick (born 2009) and Edward (2010). Just before Armstrong appeared on This Morning on 24 June 2010, his wife went into labour and later gave birth to their third son, Edward.[22][23][24]

In August 2010, Armstrong was featured in an episode of BBC One "s Who Do You Think You Are?, through which he discovered that he was a descendant of William the Conqueror. His father comes from a land-owning family with deep connections to the North East and is a great-grandnephew of Robert Spence Watson and distantly related to William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong.[25] With Armstrong's father's family history already well-known to him, the series traced his mother's side of the family, who were descended from Irish landed gentry. The McCauslands were originally seated in Drenagh, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland and trace their ancestry through the Rouse-Boughton family, to Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester, a descendant of William the Conqueror via Edward III and the Beauforts, Dukes of Somerset.[26]

Affiliations[edit]

Armstrong is an active supporter of the Countryside Alliance, appearing in their advertisements and magazine to promote countryside shooting.[9] In an interview with The Independent in March 2012, he said that his family had traditionally voted for the Liberal Democrats. Armstrong describes himself as a "centrist" and a "floating voter" stating "I'm not greatly impressed by party politics but I am by individual people. I'm a centrist, and very suspicious of any tribalism."[9] However, Armstrong has personal connections with George Osborne.[9]

In February 2011, Armstrong became President of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne and launched their million pound appeal at a special gala event.[27]

In August 2014, Armstrong was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alexander Armstrong at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Stanford, Peter (12 May 2013). "Alexander Armstrong: Don’t blame us for being rather posh". The Daily Telegraph. 
  3. ^ "Tough and tender side of the down-to-earth comedian Alexander Armstrong". telegraph.co.uk. 2 January 2012. 
  4. ^ "Interview: Alexander Armstrong on bringing variety back to Saturday night TV". The Scotsman. 26 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "A Personal Introduction from Xander & Ben...". The Armstrong and Miller Show. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2010. "Alexander attended Mowden Hall Preparatory School in Northumberland where he picked up a lively interest in music and acting. So much so that he transferred at the age of 11 to St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh where he specialised in singing and playing the piano, the cello, and the giddy goat. He proceeded to Durham school on a music scholarship where he dropped the Cello in favour of the much more masculine Oboe but continued to hone his love of showing off." 
  6. ^ a b c "Alexander Armstrong: can't curb his enthusiasm". telegraph.co.uk. 17 July 2011. 
  7. ^ Petty, Moira (13 August 2010). "Camilla's delightful so I have to stick up for her: Alexander Armstrong on why there's one public figure he won't ridicule". MailOnline (London). Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2010. "Even at public school, Alexander Armstrong found himself accused of being posh. 'I was unlike everyone else at Durham School. It was like a country club for the children of rich, Northern industrialists, so an awful lot of big hairstyles on high stiletto heels climbed out of sports cars." 
  8. ^ "Durham School". Guide to Independent Schools. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d Gilbert, Gerard (10 March 2012). "Pedigree Chum: Is Alexander Armstrong the poshest man in comedy?". The Independent. 
  10. ^ "Armstrong upset over TV quiz job". BBC News. 14 March 2005. 
  11. ^ Irvine, Chris (17 October 2008). "Alexander Armstrong 'accepted job as new Countdown host'". The Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 24 May 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  12. ^ Rajan, Amol (31 October 2008). "Armstrong turns down 'Countdown' job". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  13. ^ BBC One – Epic Win at BBC Programmes
  14. ^ "Alexander Armstrong wins Prize role". The Sun. 10 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Alexander Armstrong Music
  16. ^ Frost, Vicky (21 September 2011). "Cast for Doctor Who Christmas special unwrapped". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "Hacks". Comedy.co.uk. 1 January 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2013. "Satire on the phone-hacking scandal set at a fictional newspaper where "any means necessary" doesn't begin to cover it." 
  18. ^ "Private Passions – Alexander Armstrong". bbc.co.uk. 26 August 2007. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  19. ^ Kemp, Ed (26 June 2009). "Pimm's drops comedian Alexander Armstrong after seven years". Marketingmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  20. ^ Paton, Maureen (19 July 2009). "In a Taxi with Ben Miller". The Mail on Sunday. p. 49. 
  21. ^ "Spitfire Ale". Shepheard Neame. 
  22. ^ "Life is sweet for Alex". Manchester Evening News. 14 February 2005. 
  23. ^ "The 5-minute Interview: Alexander Armstrong, Comedian and presenter". The Independent (London). 4 September 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  24. ^ Potter, Laura (1 February 2009). "My body & soul: Alexander Armstrong". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  25. ^ "Interview: Alexander Armstrong, president of the Lit & Phil". The Journal. 15 December 2011. 
  26. ^ "Alexander Armstrong". Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. BBC. Archived from the original on 29 August 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  27. ^ "Lit & Phil Appeal". The Literary & Philosophical Society. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  28. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 

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