Griff Rhys Jones

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Griff Rhys Jones
Rhys Jones in 2019
Birth nameGriffith Rhys Jones
Born (1953-11-16) 16 November 1953 (age 70)
Cardiff, Wales
MediumFilm, television
Years active1979–present
GenresImprovisational comedy, sketch comedy
SpouseJo Jones
Notable works and rolesNot the Nine O'Clock News
Alas Smith and Jones

Griffith Rhys Jones OBE (born 16 November 1953), often known and credited as Griff Rhys Jones, is a Welsh comedian, writer, actor, and television presenter. Rhys Jones starred in a number of television series with his comedy partner, Mel Smith. He and Smith came to national attention in the 1980s for their work in the BBC television comedy sketch shows Not the Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones.

From 2008 to 2022, Rhys Jones presented the television bloopers show It'll be Alright on the Night for ITV, having replaced Denis Norden and being succeeded in 2022 by David Walliams.

Early life and education[edit]

Rhys Jones was born on 16 November 1953 in Cardiff,[1] the son of Gwynneth Margaret (née Jones) and Elwyn Rhys Jones,[2] a medical doctor. His family moved due to his father's occupation to West Sussex when Rhys Jones was six months old.[3] Rhys Jones attended Conifers Primary School in Midhurst, West Sussex, before his family moved to Epping, Essex.[1] He attended a junior school in Epping, Essex, and the Brentwood School, also in Essex.[4][1]

After a short spell working as a petrol pump attendant, Rhys Jones gained a gap year job on the P&O ship Uganda, working for a company organising school trips. In his autobiography, Semi-Detached, he describes how he was charged with helping to look after 600 Canadian schoolgirls, followed by a similar number of younger Scottish schoolchildren, and refers to the experience as being like "St Trinians at sea".[5]

Rhys Jones initially read History, later changing to English,[1] at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, graduating with a 2:1.[6][7]


After Cambridge, Rhys Jones then joined BBC Radio Light Entertainment as a trainee producer,[1] with his responsibilities including the satirical show Week Ending and Brain of Britain.[1] He also appeared in 1974 in the Comedy series Oh no it isn't ! on BBC Radio 4.

Rhys Jones came in as a producer of Rowan Atkinson's show The Atkinson People with Frankie Howerd, Clive Anderson and Rory McGrath, for the BBC and appeared twice on Whose Line Is It Anyway?[2]

Rhys Jones filled in several minor roles in the first series of Not the Nine O'Clock News,[1] and was brought in as a regular cast member from the second series onwards,[1] 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 dating his sister at the time. Rhys Jones became a regular from the commissioned second series.

Rhys Jones was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1984 for Best Comedy Performance in Charley's Aunt[1] and in 1994 for Best Comedy Performance for his performance in An Absolute Turkey.[1] He also played Toad in The Wind in the Willows at the National Theatre in 1990,[2] as well as several other theatre roles including Fagin in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and Harpagon in The Miser. at the Garrick Theatre. He provided the voices on the series of short cartoons Funnybones.[2]

Rhys Jones has continued his acting career, being cast in Casualty[2] and Agatha Christie's Marple[2] as well as starring in Russell T Davies' drama series Mine All Mine on ITV.[2] It'll be Alright on the Night returned with Rhys Jones as the new presenter, taking over from Denis Norden. The first programme with Rhys Jones as host aired in 2008.

In January 2012, Rhys Jones returned to BBC sketch comedy The Ones[2] alongside the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander and Larry Lamb, for one of a three-episode series in which comedy legends take to the stage for a mix of stand-up and sketches.[2][8]

Partnership with Mel Smith[edit]

After Not the Nine O'Clock News, Mel Smith and Rhys Jones teamed up in 1984, and they appeared in the comedy sketch series Alas Smith and Jones.[1] (the show's title being a pun on the American television series Alias Smith and Jones). After the first series, the two men appeared on in Mike Hodges' science fiction comedy movie Morons from Outer Space.[1] and then in 1989, the London Weekend Television production Wilt.[2] Dressed as bobbies, in July 1985 Smith and Rhys Jones introduced Queen on stage at Live Aid.[9]

Smith and Rhys Jones were reunited in March 2005, for a Comic Relief sketch,.[1] which led to a revival of their previous television series in The Smith and Jones Sketchbook.[1] Their final television appearance together was a Head To Head routine for the special of 2012 The One Griff Rhys-Jones.[1][2]

With Smith, he co-founded the television production company Talkback Productions, now part of RTL Group and later in 2005, he established the production company Modern Television.[10] When Smith died in the summer of 2013, Rhys Jones wrote a piece about his comedy partner in the Radio Times, saying it was "sheer bliss" to perform with Smith.[11]

Production companies[edit]

In 1981, Rhys Jones along with Mel Smith founded Talkback, a production company which produced many British comedy series, including Smack the Pony, Da Ali G Show, I'm Alan Partridge, They Think It's All Over, QI and Big Train.[2]

In 2005, Rhys Jones created his own production company Modern Television,[12] which has since made several productions with Rhys Jones as presenter and executive producer.[13]

In May 2014, Rhys Jones was executive producer on his production company's debut BBC drama A Poet in New York[2] starring Tom Hollander as Dylan Thomas.[14]


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, was the presenter of the BBC's Restoration programme and has undertaken fundraising work for the Hackney Empire theatre conservation project.[2]

Since 2006, Rhys Jones has appeared in the BBC's Three Men in a Boat series, alongside Dara Ó Briain and Rory McGrath.[15] The series has included the trio rowing the River Thames, as in the 1889 novel, sailing from London to the Isle of Wight for a sailing boat race, borrowing numerous vessels to make their way from Plymouth to the Isles of Scilly.[16]

In later adventures, the three men took to the Irish Canals and Rivers on a trip from Dublin to Limerick (Dara's Greyhound Snip Nua also tagged along for the trip), went to Scotland, and sailed along the Balkan coast ending up in Venice for a gondola race.[16] His documentary series Mountain, for which he climbed 15 British peaks during 2006,[16] was broadcast on BBC One 29 July–26 August 2007. Rhys Jones visited his mother's home town in Ferndale, Rhondda Cynon Taf for an episode of the BBC One series Who Do You Think You Are?, broadcast on 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.[16] He presented a documentary series with 5 episodes A Pembrokeshire Farm which was broadcast on BBC4 in July/August 2007.[16] Two years later he presented another 5 episode documentary series Return to a Pembrokeshire Farm which was broadcast on BBC4 in September/ October 2009. Both series concerned the renovation of a farm in Pembrokeshire which Rhys Jones had purchased intending to restore them.[16]

He presented a seasonal documentary, Charles Dickens and the Invention of Christmas, which was broadcast on 23 December 2007 on BBC One.[17] Rhys Jones fronted Greatest Cities of the World, which saw him visiting a different city each week. The first series, featuring London, New York City and Paris, aired on primetime ITV in October 2008. A second series featuring Rome, Sydney and Hong Kong was broadcast in April and May 2010.[16] Rhys Jones has created and presented programmes about Arthur Ransome,[18] Thomas Hardy,[19] John Betjeman[20] and Rudyard Kipling.[21]

During July to August 2009, Rhys Jones presented the BBC programme Rivers with Griff Rhys Jones.[22] which featured on the cover of Radio Times.[23]

In 2010, Rhys Jones presented a programme called The Prince's Welsh Village that featured Prince Charles.[24]

In 2011, he presented the series Hidden Treasures of Art, which examined the art of Australia, India and Africa over the course of three episodes.[25] Britain's Lost Routes with Griff Rhys Jones[26] was broadcast on BBC One from 30 May to 20 June 2012. The show looked at lesser-known routes around Great Britain. On 29 April 2012,[16] Rhys Jones guest presented an episode of Perspectives on ITV, his chosen subject being The Wind in the Willows.[16]

In 2013, Rhys Jones presented a documentary about his father's service as a medical officer with the Gold Coast Regiment and the war in Burma,[27] Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army, was broadcast on BBC Two on 7 July.[28]

In 2014, Rhys Jones fronted an eight-part ITV documentary series entitled A Great Welsh Adventure with Griff Rhys Jones.[29]

From 10 April 2015, he introduced a five-part documentary series for ITV, Slow Train Through Africa, taking in life on and off trains from Morocco to South Africa, by way of Algeria, Tunisia, Kenya and Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.[30]

In December 2015, it was announced that Rhys Jones would present Griff's Great Britain, a new eight-part series for ITV.[31]

In August 2022, Rhys Jones presented Griff's Canadian Adventure a new 6-part series for Channel 4, where he travelled across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia.[32]


Rhys Jones has written or co-written many of the programmes he has appeared in, and many spin-off books. In 2002, he began 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 Petersburg, port by port.[33]The book was published in 2003, with Rhys Jones 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."[34]

His early life has been captured in his autobiography, Semi-Detached, published in 2006 by Penguin Books. His book to accompany the BBC One series Mountain was published in July 2007.[35]

Rhys Jones in 2007

Other work[edit]

From 1999 to 2001, Rhys Jones featured in television adverts for the Vauxhall range of cars, as a "boffin". In April 2001, he was dismissed by Vauxhall, after an embarrassing advert for the Vauxhall VX220.[36] He officially signed the deal in May 1999.[37]

Rhys Jones provided the voice-over for Brentwood School's 450th anniversary DVD, reading a script written by fellow Old Brentwoodian Jonathan Ruffle.[38]

Rhys Jones became President of The Victorian Society in February 2018, in succession to Asa Briggs, following a period as vice president from 2009,[39][40] and has participated in media campaigns for the society.[41] Since 2007, he has been a Vice-President of the River Stour Trust, a registered charity led by volunteers who are dedicated to the restoration and conservation of the River Stour Navigation for the benefit and enjoyment of the public.[16]

In June 2008, it was announced that Rhys Jones was to become the President of Civic Voice, the nationwide charity that campaigns for better places in the built and green environment.[42]

In August 2014, Rhys Jones was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.[43]

Personal life[edit]

Rhys Jones met his wife, Jo, a graphic designer, while working at the BBC. He 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 London (previously in Islington, now in a Grade I listed house in London's Fitzrovia in the West End) and Holbrook in Suffolk.[44][45] Rhys Jones owned Undina, the 45-foot (14 m), fifty-year-old wooden sailing yacht which was used in Three Men in Another Boat; he spent £500,000 on her restoration and in 2013 stated she was for sale for £195,000, "probably less".[46]

Around 2011, he bought a 1948 57-foot (17 m) wooden yacht, Argyll, which he races at regattas, including the Fastnet Race.[46][47] He and Jo are keen gardeners, and he discussed their extensive garden in an October 2015 episode of Gardeners' World, part of which was filmed there.[48]

A former heavy drinker, Rhys Jones is a teetotaller: "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."[44] He started running as a leisure pursuit in his early forties. In 2008, he presented two programmes called Losing It which were shown on BBC Two, in which he discussed his own problems with anger management.[16]

An active conservationist, Rhys Jones is the president of Civic Voice, the national organisation representing Britain's civic societies. He also owns a small herd of alpacas.[49]

A resident of East Anglia, Rhys Jones was awarded an honorary degree by the University of East Anglia in 2002.[33]

He was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Glamorgan, the University of Essex[4] and an honorary D.Litt from Anglia Ruskin University.[50] He is also a Fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama,[51] the Royal Society of Arts, and an Honorary Fellow of his alma mater, Emmanuel College, Cambridge.[52] In 2009 he was honoured by his father's former university, the University of Wales College of Medicine (now part of Cardiff University).[7]

Rhys Jones was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to the National Civic Society Movement, charity and entertainment.[53][54]


Rhys Jones in 2014
Year Title Role Notes
1979–82 Not the Nine O'Clock News Various
1984–98 Alas Smith and Jones Various
1984 The Young Ones Host of University Challenge Episode – "Bambi"
1985 Morons from Outer Space Graham Sweetley
1987 The Grand Knockout Tournament Himself Television special
1989 Wilt Henry Wilt
1992 Funnybones All voices
1994–2000 Bookworm Presenter
1994 Monty the Dog All voices
1994 Staggered Graham
2003–09 Restoration Presenter
2004 Mine All Mine Max Vivaldi
2006–11 Three Men in a Boat Presenter
2007 Mountain Presenter
2007 A Pembrokeshire Farm Presenter
2008–16 It'll be Alright on the Night Presenter
2008–10 Greatest Cities of the World Presenter
2009 Rivers with Griff Rhys Jones Presenter
2009 Return to a Pembrokeshire Farm Presenter
2010 The Prince's Welsh Village Presenter
2012 Britain's Lost Routes with Griff Rhys Jones Presenter
2013 Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army Presenter
2014 A Great Welsh Adventure with Griff Rhys Jones Presenter
2015 Slow Train Through Africa with Griff Rhys Jones Presenter
2015 The Quizeum Presenter
2016 Griff's Great Britain Presenter
2017 Murder on the Blackpool Express David
2019 Griff's Great Kiwi Road Trip Presenter
2020 Griff’s Great Australian Adventure Presenter
2021 Griff’s Great New Zealand Adventure Presenter[55]
2022 Griff's Canadian Adventure Presenter [56]
Future TX [57]
Gangsta Granny Strikes Again! Mr Parker[58]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Rhys Jones, Griff (1953–)". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Griffith Rhys Jones biography". Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  3. ^ Matthew Stadlen "Griff Rhys Jones: 'I’m greedy for life – I do too many things'", The Daily Telegraph, 3 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Essex announces honorary graduands". 4 May 2010. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013.
  5. ^ Semi-Detached, Griff Rhys Jones' autobiography, Penguin, 2006
  6. ^ "Griff Rhys Jones". London Screenwriters' Festival. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Degree for Griff Rhys Jones from father's old university". South Wales Echo. 14 July 2009.
  8. ^ BBC series: The Ones, BBC. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  9. ^ Live Aid: The Greatest Show on Earth. Sidgwick & Jackson. 1985. p. 118.
  10. ^ "Griffith Rhys Jones biography". Modern Television. Archived from the original on 18 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Griff Rhys Jones on his comedy soul mate Mel Smith". Radio Times. 3 August 2013.
  12. ^ "Modern TV". Archived from the original on 18 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  13. ^ "Griff Presenter Burma". Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  14. ^ "Tom Hollander cast as Dylan Thomas in new drama A Poet in New York". BBC Media Centre. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  15. ^ "Interview: Griff Rhys Jones". The Tab. 3 May 2012. Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rhys Jones, Griff (2007). Mountain: Exploring Britain's High Places (1st ed.). Michael Joseph Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7181-4989-5.
  17. ^ Radio Times, 22 December 2007 – 4 January 2008.
  18. ^ "The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome", BBC.
  19. ^ Serena Davies, "The Heart of Thomas Hardy", The Telegraph, 3 September 2008.
  20. ^ Helen Brown, "A tribute to the poet of privet hedges", The Telegraph, 19 August 2006.
  21. ^ Kipling: A Remembrance Tale, BBC, 12 November 2006.
  22. ^ "Rivers with Griff Rhys Jones – BBC One". BBC.
  23. ^ "Radio Times Cover July 2009". 28 February 2013.
  24. ^ "Modern TV: The Prince's Welsh Village". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  25. ^ Hidden Treasures Of Art, Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  26. ^ "Britain's Lost Route". Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  27. ^ "Guardian Article". 8 July 2013.
  28. ^ "Burma Doc". Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  29. ^ "A Great Welsh Adventure With Griff Rhys Jones". Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  30. ^ Slow Train Through Africa with Griff Rhys Jones, Programme preview, ITV corporate website, Undated. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  31. ^ "Griff’s Great Britain",, 1 December 2015.
  32. ^ "Griff's Great Britain",, 13 August 2022.
  33. ^ a b "My Cardiff". Archived from the original on 19 February 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link). Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  34. ^ Michael Odell, "This much I know: Griff Rhys Jones", The Guardian, 5 November 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  35. ^ "Griff Rhys Jones". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  36. ^ Roland Gribben (13 April 2001). "Vauxhall gives comedian the boot". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  37. ^ "Rhys Jones to star in 12.5m Vauxhall Zafira launch". Marketing Week. 20 May 1999. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  38. ^ "Famous OB Griff Rhys Jones records DVD voice-over". 10 March 2008. Archived from the original on 15 January 2014.
  39. ^ Dunton, Jim (7 February 2018). "Griff Rhys Jones becomes Victorian Society president". Building Design. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  40. ^ "Griff Rhys Jones appointed President of the Victorian Society". The Victorian Society. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  41. ^ "Victorian Society risk list: Auf Wiedersehen, Pet pub added". BBC News. 29 September 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  42. ^ Writer, actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones becomes President of the Civic Trust Archived 30 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  43. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  44. ^ a b "Clowning around with Mr Jones". BBC Entertainment. 14 May 1999. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  45. ^ Griff on an even keel in suffolk | Celebrity Interviews | EADT Suffolk Magazine. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  46. ^ a b "Q & A BY Griff Rhys Jones". Classic Yacht Argyll. 2013. Archived from the original on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  47. ^ James Boyd (23 August 2015). "2015 Rolex Fastnet Race – Five boats remain at sea". Archived from the original on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  48. ^ "Episode 30". BBC Gardeners' World. Episode 30. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  49. ^ Moffitt, Dominic (21 November 2018). "Come and meet my alpacas! Celebrity Griff Rhys Jones invites youngster to his Suffolk home". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  50. ^ "Anglia Ruskin University Honorary Graduates". Archived from the original on 17 December 2012.
  51. ^ "Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama – Honorary Fellows". Archived from the original on 28 March 2012.
  52. ^ "Emmanuel College – About Emmanuel – The Fellows". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 11 June 2012.
  53. ^ "Birthday Honours 2019: Olivia Colman and Bear Grylls on list". BBC News. 8 June 2019. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  54. ^ "No. 62666". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 2019. p. B12.
  55. ^ "Griff's Great New Zealand Adventure". Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  56. ^ "Blue Ant Media orders first originals for BBC First, BBC Earth in Canada". C21media. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  57. ^ "Film shot in Dorset goes on nationwide release". BBC News. 22 October 2022. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  58. ^ "Gangsta Granny Strikes Again! on the BBC". 19 December 2022. Retrieved 22 October 2022.

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