Jonathan Lynn

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Jonathan Lynn
Jonathan Adam Lynn

(1943-04-03) 3 April 1943 (age 81)
Bath, Somerset, England
EducationPembroke College, Cambridge
  • Film director
  • writer
  • producer
  • actor
Years active1964–present
Notable workClue
Nuns on the Run
My Cousin Vinny
The Whole Nine Yards

Jonathan Adam Lynn (born 3 April 1943) is an English stage and film director, producer, writer, and actor. He directed the comedy films Clue, Nuns on the Run, My Cousin Vinny, and The Whole Nine Yards. He also co-created and co-wrote the television series Yes Minister.

Early life[edit]

Lynn was born in Bath, Somerset, the son of physician Robin Lynn and sculptor Ruth Helen (née Eban), whose first cousin on her mother's side was the neurologist Oliver Sacks. Another cousin, Caroline Sacks, married Nicholas Samuel, 5th Viscount Bearsted.[1][2][3][4] Lynn was educated at Kingswood School, Bath, between 1954 and 1961, after which he studied law at Pembroke College, Cambridge. (His maternal uncle, Israeli statesman Abba Eban, had also studied at Cambridge in the 1930s.) There he participated in the Cambridge University Footlights Club revue Cambridge Circus (appearing with the revue in 1964 on Broadway and on The Ed Sullivan Show).[5][6]



Lynn's first West End appearance was in a stage production of Green Julia, for which he was nominated for the 1965 Plays and Players Award as Most Promising New Actor.[7] In 1967, he played Motel the tailor in the original West End production of Fiddler on the Roof (production recorded by CBS Records).[8] From the late 1960s, Lynn was appearing in and writing television sitcoms, including the television comedy series Twice a Fortnight with Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Tony Buffery.[9]

Lynn played the Irish medical student Danny Hooley in the second series of the television comedy Doctor in the House in 1970. He wrote some episodes for Doctor at Large, Doctor in Charge, Doctor at Sea and Doctor on the Go.[4] As a TV actor, his most memorable roles included Beryl's boyfriend Robert in early series of The Liver Birds,[10] the role of Harold in Jack Rosenthal's 1976 television film Bar Mitzvah Boy,[11] and the role of Ted Margolis in Rosenthal's The Knowledge (1979).[12] He had a bit-part as a window cleaner in the BBC television series The Good Life. His film appearances have included roles in Prudence and the Pill (1968), The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Romance with a Double Bass (1974), and Three Men and a Little Lady (1990).

Lynn is a guest instructor at HB Studio.[13]


Lynn's first (co-written) screenplay was for The Internecine Project, which was released in 1974.[14] For television he wrote episodes for the Doctor TV series and On the Buses and wrote for Harry Worth and George Layton before eventually, in partnership with Antony Jay, writing Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.[15] His later writing credits include the first two films he directed, Clue (1985) and Nuns on the Run (1990).[16] He is also known for his co-writing, co-producing, and co-directing of the revived Yes, Prime Minister series produced by the BBC on Gold in 2013.[17]


Lynn co-authored the books The Complete Yes Minister, as well as The Complete Yes Prime Minister, which spent 106 weeks on the Sunday Times top 10 fiction list. Both were ranked number one on the Sunday Times list, including in December 1986 when the books were ranked number one and number two respectively.[18] He also wrote the 1993 novel Mayday.[19] In 2011 Lynn wrote a non-fiction work entitled Comedy Rules. The Independent newspaper called the book "a charming memoir, full of amusing and insightful anecdotes about the many entertainers Lynn has worked with" and described it as a combination of autobiography and how-to manual for comedy. The paper wrote further: "By dovetailing different types of book, Lynn cleverly avoids the pitfalls of both genres. Because it's ostensibly a sort of how-to book, there are no boring childhood reminiscences. Because it's also a kind of autobiography, his no-nonsense dos and don'ts are springboards for entertaining yarns, rather than academic discourse."[20]


Lynn won praise for his direction of the 2010 London stage version of Yes, Prime Minister, which he co-wrote as well.[21]

In 2016 Lynn's play The Patriotic Traitor was published. Its subject is the relationship of Philippe Pétain to Charles de Gaulle. In the words of the blurb, ‘Two giants of the twentieth century who loved each other like father and son until they found themselves on opposing sides in World War II. In 1945 de Gaulle had his oldest friend tried for treason. Their complex relationship – noble, comic and absurd – changed history.’ [22][23]

Lynn also co-wrote the stage play of "Clue", together with Hunter Foster, Eric Price and Sandy Rustin.


Lynn also produced six episodes of the new Yes, Prime Minister television series, was executive producer of He's Such a Girl, Vanity Fair, and was a producer for Trial and Error.[6] It also received an exclusive production agreement with Columbia Pictures Television in 1992.[24]


Lynn's work on the Minister series earned him three BAFTAs, two Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, and two Pye Television Writers Awards, and he won the ACE Award for Best Written Comedy Series. The Campaign for Freedom of Information also recognized Lynn with a special award for his work on the show.[6] Lynn was a recipient of a Diamond Jubilee Award for Political Satire in 2010.[25] He received a NAACP Image Award for the 2003 film The Fighting Temptations.[26]


Directing, writing and producing
Year Title Credit Notes
Director Writer Producer
1974 The Internecine Project Yes Screenplay
1985 Clue Yes Yes Screenplay, story
1990 Nuns on the Run Yes Yes Written by
1992 My Cousin Vinny Yes
1992 The Distinguished Gentleman Yes
1994 Greedy Yes
1996 Sgt. Bilko Yes
1997 Trial and Error Yes Yes
2000 The Whole Nine Yards Yes
2003 The Fighting Temptations Yes
2004 Vanity Fair Executive
2008 He's Such a Girl Executive
2010 Wild Target Yes
1971 Doctor at Large Yes Episode: "Pull the Other One!"
1972–73 On the Buses Yes 6 episodes
1972–73 Doctor in Charge Yes 11 episodes
1972 Nearest and Dearest Yes Episode: "Worker's Playtime"
1973 Romany Jones Yes Episode: "Look After the Pennies"
1973 All Star Comedy Carnival Yes Writer: Doctor in Charge
1974 My Name is Harry Worth Yes 3 episodes
1974 Doctor at Sea Yes 5 episodes
1975 Doctor on the Go Yes 5 episodes
1975–76 My Brother's Keeper Yes 13 episodes
1980–84 Yes Minister Yes 22 episodes, written by & script by
1982 The Funny Side of Christmas Yes Writer: Yes Minister
1983 Arms and the Man Yes TV film
1985 Twee handen op een buik Yes TV film
1986–88 Yes, Prime Minister Yes 16 episodes
1987 Mr. President Yes Episode: "Freedom of Speech"
1988 American Playhouse Yes Episode: "Suspicion"
1988 Smart Guys[27] Yes Unsold pilot
1990 Ferris Bueller Yes Episode: "Pilot"
1990 Life After Life Yes TV film
2013 Yes, Prime Minister Yes Yes Yes 6 episodes, written by
Year Title Role Notes
1966 Thirteen Against Fate Moise Episode: "The Lodger"
1967 Twice a Fortnight Various 11 episodes
1968 Prudence and the Pill Chemist's Assistant Feature film
1968 The Jazz Age Harry Plant Episode: "Black Exchange"
1969 Hadleigh Harold Episode: "The Ring"
1969 Softly, Softly Tony Episode: "Wild Goose"
1969 The Merchant of Venice Tubal Short TV film
1970 ITV Playhouse John Simons Episode: "Rumour"
1970 Doctor in the House Danny Hooley 9 episodes
1971 The House That Dripped Blood Mr. Petheridge (uncredited) Feature film (segment: "The Cloak")
1972 The Liver Birds Johnny Episode: "The Driving Test"
1972 ITV Sunday Night Drama Bill Episode: "Don't Deed the Fish"
1972 Colditz Bergman Episode: "The Spirit of Freedom"
1972 Turnbull's Finest Half Hour Roddy Cheever-Jones 5 episodes
1973 Doctor in Charge Danny Hooley Episode: "Should Auld Acquaintance
Be Forgot?"
1974 The Liver Birds Robert 7 episodes
1974 Whodunnit? Bob Deacon Episode: "It's Quicker by Train"
1974–75 The Dick Emery Show Various 4 episodes
1975 The Good Life Window Cleaner Episode: "Pig's Lib"
1975 Romance with a Double Bass Leader of the Orchestra Short film
1975–76 My Brother's Keeper Pete Booth 13 episodes
1975 Who Sold You This, Then? (unknown role) Video short film
1976 Play for Today Harold Episode: "Bar Mitzvah Boy"
1976 Pleasure at Her Majesty's Various TV film
1976 The Cold Call (unknown role) Video short film
1977 The Fortune Teller (unknown role) Short film
1978 BBC2 Play of the Week Gaston TV film: "She Fell Among Thieves"
1978 Play for Today Cyril Benson Episode: "Dinner at the Sporting Club"
1979 The Knowledge Ted Margolies TV film
1980 Breaking Glass Radio DJ Feature film
1982 Outside Edge Kevin TV film
1984 Diana Twining Miniseries, 3 episodes
1985 Into the Night Tailor Feature film
1988 American Playhouse Beaky Thwaite Episode: "Suspicion"
1990 3 Men and a Little Lady Vicar Hewitt Feature film
1994 Greedy Douglas Feature film
1999 One Man Band Tailor's Assistant Short film
2009 He's Such a Girl Priest Feature film
2010 Wild Target Parrot (voice) Feature film
Additional credits
Year Title Credit Notes
1975 Decisions, Decisions Writer Video short
1976 The Cold Call Writer Video short
1977 How Am I Doing? Writer Video short
1977 The Unorganized Manager, Part One: Damnation Writer Video short
1977 The Unorganized Manager, Part Two: Salvation Writer Video short
1977 The Fortune Teller Writer Short
1979 I'd Like a Word with You Writer Video short
1983 Arms and the Man Stage director TV film
2003 Beyoncé Feat. Walter Williams Sr.: He Still Loves Me Director Music video

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Finally getting somewhere - Essay - Lives". TLS. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  2. ^ A Sense of Purpose: Recollections, Suzy Eban, Plunkett Lake Press, 2015
  3. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 106th edition, vol. 1, Burke's Peerage, Ltd, p. 218
  4. ^ a b "Jonathan Lynn Biography (1943-)". Film Reference. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Sir Anthony Jay CVO and Jonathan Lynn". Political Studies Association. Archived from the original on 5 March 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  6. ^ a b c "Jonathan Lynn". IMDB. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Jonathan Lynn bio". Archived from the original on 1 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Jonathan Lynn". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Twice a Fortnight (1967– ) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Liver Birds". BBC. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  11. ^ Jenni Frazer (9 November 2009). "Review: The Barmitzvah Boy". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  12. ^ Jonathan Lynn (2011). Comedy Rules: From the Cambridge Footlights to Yes, Prime Minister. Faber & Faber. p. 181. ISBN 9780571277971. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Jonathan Lynn". HB Studio. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  14. ^ "TCM Biography - Jonathan Lynn". Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Jonathan Lynn on Yes, Prime Minister's rise to high office". Radio Times. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Biography". Jonathan Lynn. Archived from the original on 15 February 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  17. ^ Rupert Christiansen; et al. (4 January 2013). "Culture and arts: what to see in January 2013". The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  18. ^ "The Complete Yes Prime Minister". Archived from the original on 24 September 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  19. ^ "Jonathan Lynn". Archived from the original on 21 September 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  20. ^ William Cook (26 August 2011). "Comedy Rules, By Jonathan Lynn". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  21. ^ Lahr, John (11 October 2010). "Brits and Wits". The New Yorker. pp. 116–118. ...a new stage version of 'Yes, Prime Minister' (expertly directed by Lynn, at the Gielgud, in London)...
  22. ^ Lynn, Jonathan, The Patriotic Traitor, London, Faber and Faber, 2016. ISBN 9780571331024.
  23. ^ "Free Thinking – Delacroix. Petain, De Gaulle. Jonathan Lynn". BBC Radio 3. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2022. The discussion between Lynn and Philip Dodd, the presenter, begins at 16.00 after the start.
    A podcast is also available for downloading within the United Kingdom, but not necessarily elsewhere, as in some cases the BBC blocks its podcasts from being downloaded outside the United Kingdom.
  24. ^ "Lynn signs deal with Columbia" (PDF). Broadcasting. 14 December 1992. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  25. ^ "Diamond Jubilee Award" (PDF). p. 14.
  26. ^ "Author bio: Jonathan Lynn". Archived from the original on 1 August 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  27. ^ ""Smart Guys" Unsold Pilot". Retrieved 24 October 2023.

Further reading[edit]

  • Wilmut, Roger (1980). From Fringe to Flying Circus: Celebrating a Unique Generation of Comedy. Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-413-50770-9.
  • Hewison, Robert (1983). Footlights!: A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy. London: Methuen. ISBN 978-0-413-51150-8.

External links[edit]