Johnny Vegas

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For the character in Tim Dorsey's novels, see Johnny Vegas (character). For the golfer, see Jhonattan Vegas. For the footballer, see Johnny Vegas Fernández.
Johnny Vegas
Johnny Vegas backstage at the filming of an episode of QI in 2007
Birth name Michael Joseph Pennington
Born (1970-09-05) 5 September 1970 (age 46)
St Helens, England
Medium Stand up, television, film
Years active 1997–present
Spouse Catherine Donnelly (m. 2002–2008; divorced)
Maia Dunphy (m. 2011)
Children 2
Website Official website

Michael Joseph Pennington, Sr., better known as Johnny Vegas (born 5 September 1970),[1] is an English actor and comedian, known for his angry rants, surreal humour, portly figure and high husky voice.[2][3]

His television roles have included playing Al in the ITV Digital adverts, drug dealer Moz in the BBC black comedy Ideal, Geoff Maltby in the ITV comedy series Benidorm and Eric Agnew in the BBC sitcom Still Open All Hours.

Early life[edit]

Vegas was born in Thatto Heath, St Helens, Lancashire, the youngest of four children of Laurence and Patricia Pennington. He has two older brothers (Robert and Mark) and an older sister (Catharine). He was brought up as a Roman Catholic. At the age of eleven, he attended St Joseph's College in Upholland, a Roman Catholic boarding-school seminary, to train for the priesthood, but came back homesick after four terms.[4] He also attended West Park School, Alder Hey Road, St Helens.

After studying art and ceramics at Middlesex University for three years and gaining a third class degree,[4] Vegas returned to Thatto Heath and took various short-term jobs including working in an Argos warehouse, selling boiler insurance door-to-door and packing bottles of Jif in a factory, before eventually becoming a barman at the Brown Edge pub in Thatto Heath.[5]

Between 1994 and 1997, he was a member of Cluub Zarathustra, a comedy performance group led by Stewart Lee, Roger Mann and Simon Munnery.[6]


Television and radio[edit]

In 1996, Vegas made his television debut as a contestant on Win, Lose or Draw in the UK under his real name of Michael, but made references to the fact he wanted to be a comedian and that his stage name was "Johnny Vegas". He featured on the The Big Breakfast during the programme's final months before it ended in March 2002.[7] His appearance was briefly shown during Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups and BBC Three's Almost Famous 2. Vegas gained a wider audience as a regular member of Shooting Stars. His character was not too dissimilar to his real-life persona at that time: a pitiable sort always nursing a pint of Guinness.

In 2002, Vegas starred in the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Night Class, which he co-wrote with Tony Burgess and Tony Pitts, with Dirk Maggs as director. Vegas played a former Butlin's redcoat teaching evening classes in pottery.[8][9][10] It was a runner-up for best comedy at the Sony Radio Academy Awards.[11]

He starred in the BBC Three sitcom Ideal as Moz from 2005 to 2011.[12][13]

Between 2007 and 2009, Vegas played Geoff "The Oracle" Maltby in the ITV sitcom Benidorm. On 16 January 2015, he made guest appearances in episode 3,4,5 and 6 during the programme's seventh series. He returned full-time in Series 8, which began on 11 January 2016.

In 2012, Vegas played the role of Mr. Croombe in a television adaptation of David Walliams' children's novel Mr Stink.[14] In 2014, Vegas voiced Fat Baz in the ITV4 animated sitcom Warren United.[15]

In August 2014, Vegas took part in ITV's two-part documentary series Secrets from the Clink.[16] In May 2013, Vegas played the role of Lord Ratspeaker in a BBC radio adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, adapted by Dirk Maggs.

Since 26 December 2013, Vegas has played Wet Eric Agnew in the revived BBC sitcom Still Open All Hours.[17] Vegas has guest presented numerous episodes of Sunday Brunch for Channel 4. In August 2015, he narrated the four-part series Travel Guides for ITV. In 2016, he took part in ITV's celebrity driving show Drive, hosted by Vernon Kay.[18]

In August 2016, Vegas starred in a one-off comedy pilot called Home From Home, playing the lead role of Neil Hackett. Filmed at Skiddaw View Holiday Park,[19] the episode aired on BBC Two on August 30, 2016. In December 2016, it was announced that Home From Home had been commissioned for a full series to air on BBC One in 2017.[20][21]


In 2003, Vegas played Jackie Symes in the film The Virgin of Liverpool, Alf Prince in the film Cheeky and Trevor in the film Blackball. In 2004, he played Dave in the film Sex Lives of the Potato Men and voiced Uncle Stewart in the film Terkel in Trouble.

In 2013, Vegas was the voice of Abu the hamster in the British film The Harry Hill Movie.[22]

Other projects[edit]

Johnny Vegas as Al with Monkey.

Vegas appeared in Joe Orton's The Erpingham Camp at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival. In 2001, Vegas starred as Al in adverts for ITV Digital with a puppet named Monkey (voiced by Ben Miller). In 2007, he reprised the role in adverts for PG Tips tea.

Having achieved fame in entertainment, Vegas received plaudits for his ceramic work. Ceramic Review praised him, leading to a role in Pot Shots (collaborating with Roger Law), a film made for an international gathering of potters.[23][24] This led to his work being acquired for a collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum and a commission from Old Spice to design a bottle for their aftershave.[25] In 2005, Vegas participated in a celebrity edition of The Generation Game demonstrating how to make a pot, before judging the participants' attempts.

In 2014, he directed a music video for Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott.[3] That year he also published his autobiography.[26]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2002, Vegas married Catherine "Kitty" Donnelly and sold pictures of the wedding to Viz magazine for a pound.[27] Vegas and Donnelly were divorced by agreement on 11 March 2008 after having lived apart for more than two years. In April 2011, Vegas married columnist and Irish television producer Maia Dunphy in Seville.[28] In January 2015, the couple announced that they were expecting their first child together.[29] On 26 January 2015, Maia Dunphy posted an image of her ultrasound on Twitter, stating; "Well @JohnnyVegasReal, at least we know he's definitely yours......".[30] Their son Tom was born in July 2015.

Vegas said in 2012 that he had returned to his Christian faith in the previous few years, crediting his parents' faith for his good upbringing.[31]

Vegas fulfilled a lifetime ambition by appearing for St Helens in Keiron Cunningham's testimonial rugby league game, a friendly against Hull, in 2005.[2]

In July 2014, Vegas was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Edge Hill University.[32]



Year Title Role Notes
2003 The Virgin of Liverpool Jackie Symes
Cheeky Alf Prince
Blackball Trevor
2004 Sex Lives of the Potato Men Dave
Terkel in Trouble Uncle Stewart (voice only)
The Libertine Sackville
2013 The Harry Hill Movie Abu (voice only)
2016 Grimsby Milky Pimms
Womble Movie Giro
2017 The Drowning of Arthur Braxton[33] Arthur Braxton Sr


Year Title Role Notes
2001–2003 Happiness Charlie Doyle 12 episodes
2001 Attention Scum! 24-hour newsreader 6 episodes
2002 Shooting Stars Regular panellist
2005–2011 Ideal Moz 53 episodes
2005–2012 8 Out of 10 Cats Regular panellist
2005 Bleak House Krook 6 episodes
18 Stone of Idiot Host
Dead Man Weds Lewis Donat 6 episodes
2007— QI Regular panellist 10 episodes
2007–2009, 2015— Benidorm Geoff Maltby Regular role
2008 Massive Tony 6 episodes
2012–2015 Moone Boy Cruchie Haystacks 6 episodes
2012 Mr Stink Mr. Croombe One-off TV film
2013— Still Open All Hours Wet Eric Agnew Regular role
2014 Warren United Fat Baz (voice) 1 series
Secrets from the Clink Himself, participant
2015, 2017 Sunday Brunch Guest presenter 3 episodes
2015 Travel Guides Narrator 1 series
2015— 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown Himself, panellist 9 episodes
2015-16 The Last Leg Himself, guest 7 episodes
2016 Comedy Strip Presents...Red Top Johnny
Drive[34] Contestant Finished in fourth place
The Funny Thing About Dating Presenter One-off show
2016— Home From Home Neil Hackett BBC sitcom

Guest appearances[edit]


Year Title Role
2010 Chequebook & Pen Les Dawson
2012 Diary of a Nobody Charles Pooter


  1. ^ Shennan, Paddy (30 November 2009). "Johnny Vegas: I lost myself in 'Johnny Vegas'". Liverpool Echo. 
  2. ^ a b "Johnny Vegas turns out for Saints". BBC News. 3 February 2005. 
  3. ^ a b Heaton, Paul. "@paulheatonsolo". Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Aitkenhead, Decca (13 March 2006). "Here's Johnny ...". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ Sturges, Fiona (2 July 2011). "Johnny Vegas: 'I never liked being the centre of attention'". The Independent. 
  6. ^ You Are Nothing, Go Faster Stripe
  7. ^ "Guest presenters - A Load Of Bow Locks, The Big Breakfast fansite". Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  8. ^ Lezard, Nicholas (1 September 2002). "Radio: Comedy turns on the potter's wheel; Night Class Radio 4". The Independent (London, England). 
  9. ^ Thompson, Ben (2004). Sunshine on Putty: The Golden Age of British Comedy. HarperCollins. p. 383. 
  10. ^ "Arts Diary: Night Class for Vegas. (Features)". Daily Post (Liverpool, UK). 12 August 2002. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Just a Minute wins Sony Award". 9 May 2003. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "Johnny Vegas sitcom 'Ideal' to be made into film". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  13. ^ "Johnny Vegas blasts BBC Three exec Zai Bennett over 'Ideal' axe". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  14. ^ "Sheridan Smith, Johnny Vegas join David Walliams's 'Mr Stink'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  15. ^ "World Cup celebrated on ITV with new animated football comedy". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  16. ^ "Secrets from The Clink". "ITV Press Centre". Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  17. ^ "Johnny Vegas to return for Still Open All Hours". Nottingham Post. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  18. ^ Ben Lee (14 January 2016). "Louis Walsh, Professor Green and Angus Deayton to go head to head on the track in ITV's new racing show Drive". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Harry Hill Movie premiere guests: From Sheridan Smith to a giant hamster". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "Johnny Vegas biography". [dead link]
  24. ^ "Johnny Vegas biography". BBC website. Archived from the original on 28 April 2005. 
  25. ^ a b Richard Herring. Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast Episode 71 - Johnny Vegas. Leicester Square Theatre: British Comedy Guide. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Clennell, Andrew (28 September 2002). "Comic sells pictures to Viz for £1". The Guardian. 
  28. ^ "Comedian Johnny Vegas marries girlfriend Maia Dunphy in Spain". Ghana MMA. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  29. ^ "Johnny Vegas and wife expecting first baby". Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  30. ^ . Twitter. 26 January 2015 Retrieved 20 November 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ . YouTube. 18 December 2012 Retrieved 10 June 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ "Johnny Vegas awarded Honorary Doctorate". Edge Hill University. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Drowning of Arthur Braxton (2017) - Full Cast and Crew". Retrieved 6 January 2016. 
  34. ^ "Drive". "ITV Press Centre". Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  35. ^ "Jo Brand, Johnny Vegas to judge ITV's 'Show Me The Funny'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  36. ^ "The Jonathan Ross Show". "ITV Press Centre". Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  37. ^ "Celebrity Fifteen to One". Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  38. ^ "Celebrity Fifteen to One". RadioTimes. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  39. ^ "All Star Mr & Mrs". "ITV Press Centre". Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  40. ^ "House of Fools - Episode 2 - Credits". BBC - House of Fools. BBC. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 

External links[edit]