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 45)
St Helens, Lancashire, England
Medium Stand up, Television, Film
Years active 1997–present
Spouse Catherine Donnelly (m. 2002–2008; divorced)
Maia Dunphy (m. 2011)
Children 2 (son and daughter)
Website Official website
Johnny Vegas's voice
Recorded October 2010 from the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs

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 drug dealer Moz in the BBC black comedy Ideal. Vegas has also appeared in comedy panel shows such as QI and 8 Out of 10 Cats.

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.

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 will return full time in Series 8, which begins on 11th 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]

On 6 August 2014, Vegas took part in ITV's two-part documentary series Secrets from the Clink.[16][17]

Since 26 December 2013, Vegas has played Wet Eric Agnew in the revived BBC sitcom Still Open All Hours.[18] In June 2015, he guest presented an episode of Sunday Brunch for Channel 4 and in August 2015, he narrated the four-part series Travel Guides for ITV. In 2016, he will take part in ITV's celebrity driving show Drive, hosted by Vernon Kay.[19]


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.[20]

Other projects[edit]

Vegas appeared in Joe Orton's The Erpingham Camp at the 2000 Edinburgh Festival.

Johnny Vegas as Al with Monkey as shown on one of ITV Digital's adverts

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 tea brand PG Tips.

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.[21][22] 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.[23]

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]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2002, Vegas married Catherine "Kitty" Donnelly and sold pictures of the wedding to Viz magazine for a pound.[24] The couple separated in 2004. They reunited briefly (twice) in 2005. Vegas and Donnelly were divorced by agreement on 11 March 2008 after having lived apart for more than two years. In early April 2011, Vegas married columnist and Irish television producer Maia Dunphy in Seville.[25] In January 2015, the couple announced that they were expecting their first child together.[26]

On 9 May 2008, Vegas admitted on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross that he has been losing weight after being diagnosed with gout. On 30 October 2008, on an episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats, he mentioned that he had lost 4 stone (25 kg).

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]

Vegas has claimed to be a socialist.[27]

In July 2014, Vegas was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Edge Hill University.[28]



Year Title Role
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 The Brothers Grimsby


Year Title Role
2001–03 Happiness Charlie Doyle (12 episodes)
2001 Attention Scum! 24-Hour Newsreader (6 episodes)
2001 The Weakest Link Comedians Special, won £10,200
2002 Shooting Stars Regular panellist
2005 Dead Man Weds
Bleak House Krook
18 Stone of Idiot Host
2005–11 Ideal Moz (53 episodes)
2005–12 8 Out of 10 Cats Regular panellist
2007– QI Regular panellist
2007–09, 2015– Benidorm Geoff Maltby
2012 Mr Stink Mr. Croombe
2013– Still Open All Hours Wet Eric Agnew
2014 Warren United Fat Baz
Secrets from the Clink Himself
2015 Sunday Brunch Guest presenter (1 episode)
Travel Guides Narrator
2016 Drive[29] Participant

TV guest appearances[edit]



  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. ^
  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. ^ [1]
  17. ^ "Secrets From The Clink: Comedian Johnny Vegas's reveals he is actually a southerner - Hot TV - Showbiz and TV - Latest Celeb Gossip, TV, Film, Pop and Celeb News - Daily Star - Daily Star". Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  18. ^ "Johnny Vegas to return for Still Open All Hours". Nottingham Post. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Harry Hill Movie premiere guests: From Sheridan Smith to a giant hamster". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  21. ^ "Johnny Vegas biography". [dead link]
  22. ^ "Johnny Vegas biography". BBC website. Archived from the original on 28 April 2005. 
  23. ^ a b Richard Herring. Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast Episode 71 - Johnny Vegas. Leicester Square Theatre: British Comedy Guide. 
  24. ^ Clennell, Andrew (28 September 2002). "Comic sells pictures to Viz for £1". The Guardian. 
  25. ^ "Comedian Johnny Vegas marries girlfriend Maia Dunphy in Spain". Ghana MMA. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  26. ^ [2]
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Johnny Vegas awarded Honorary Doctorate". Edge Hill University. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Jo Brand, Johnny Vegas to judge ITV's 'Show Me The Funny'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  31. ^ [3]
  32. ^ "Celebrity Fifteen to One". Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  33. ^ "Celebrity Fifteen to One". RadioTimes. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  34. ^ [4]
  35. ^ "House of Fools - Episode 2 - Credits". BBC - House of Fools. BBC. Retrieved 24 February 2015. 

External links[edit]