Richard Herring introduces each of his guests on his RHLSTP podcast (audio / video) by highlighting the most obscure roles they’ve done, which have been excruciatingly excavated from the farthest reaches of pop culture (by which I mean Herring poked around on Internet Movie Database for about a minute). So, for you trivia nerds, here are some of your favorite people in the roles you’ve never heard of.
Mark Gatiss is probably best known as a writer on Doctor Who and co-creator of Sherlock, but he’s done a lot of acting, not just as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft and Who‘s Lazarus, but also in TV shows like Being Human, Game of Thrones, and of course This Morning with Richard Not Judy.
Sex Lives of the Potato Men (2004)
Starring comedian Johnny Vegas and The Office‘s McKenzie Crook, Sex Lives of the Potato Men is exactly what it sounds like: men who deliver potatoes partaking in lewd acts. Director Andy Humphries set out to make a film that depicted real men’s behavior, in response to what he saw as an inaccurate portrayal in Nick Hornby films. What he got instead was a movie widely considered one of the worst films ever made. Mark Gatiss (as Jeremy) joins a recognizable cast also including Miranda‘s Dominic Coleman, Hogfather‘s Nicholas Tennant, Shaun of the Dead‘s Lucy Davis, and Human Remains’ Julia Davis.
Mark Gatiss says, “The best thing about it is it was the first time I worked with Julia Davis.” Gatiss and Davis went on to do Nighty Night later that year. In 2006, they co-starred as husband and wife in Fear of Fanny, which got them nominations for best performance from the Royal Television Society and Monte-Carlo TV Festival. It was a TV biopic about TV chef Fanny Cradock, an early advocate for cosmetic plastic surgery.
After claiming that he wouldn’t abandon British media for Hollywood, Simon Pegg went on to be in three Mission Impossible films and is currently co-writing the next Star Trek movie, having played Scottie in the latest reboot. In Britain, he’s most known for Edgar Wright’s Cornetto film trilogy and his TV show Spaced.
Six Pairs of Pants (1995)
Six Pairs of Pants was a three-episode sketch show starring Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes (then Stevenson), Miranda‘s Sally Phillips, Spaced‘s Katy Carmichael, Neil Mullarkey, and Simon Schatzberger. The show, which Pegg claims is “more intimately funny than most sketch shows,” ran on TV everywhere…except in London. This is the first time Pegg and Hynes had ever worked together. After three comics backed out of the 1996 Edgar Wright-driven sketch show Asylum for claims that it was in poor taste, Pegg recruited Hynes, and from there, Spaced was born. Pegg and Hynes have gone on to play opposite each other in Shaun of the Dead, Burke and Hare, and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).
Edgar Wright is most notably a director, having directed the three Cornetto films, Spaced, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. He’s also written and produced many great films like Sightseers, Attack the Block, and The Adventures of Tintin.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Disney’s attempt at Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was directed by Garth Jennings. Edgar Wright and Garth Jennings like to give each other uncredited cameos in their films. Consequently, Jennings has appeared in all three Cornetto films: Shaun of the Dead (as a zombie), Hot Fuzz (as a crack addict), and The World’s End (as a beer drinker), while Wright has appeared in The Son of Rambow and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy wherein a super computer called Deep Thought spends seven and a half million years coming up with the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but then has to design a different computer to work out what the actual question is. Blink and you’ll miss him–Edgar Wright plays the Deep Thought technician.
Nick Frost got his start in show biz when he met his co-worker’s boyfriend Simon Pegg who cast him in Edgar Wright’s Spaced. He went on to star in all three Cornetto films, as well as Hyperdrive, Attack the Block, Mr. Sloane, Cuban Fury, and even a role as Santa Clause in Doctor Who.
Man Stroke Woman (2005-2007)
Man Stroke Woman was a comedy sketch show centered around the roles of men and women. Nick Frost starred with Episodes‘ Daisy Haggard, Sherlock‘s Amanda Abbington, Game of Thrones’ Ben Crompton, The Good Night‘s Meredith MacNeill, and Uncle‘s Nicholas Burns. In 2008, there was an American remake of Man Stroke Woman.
Stephen Merchant is a standup comic, actor, and TV writer. He’s most known for co-writing The Office with Ricky Gervais. He also wrote and co–starred in Extras, wrote and starred in Hello Ladies TV show and TV movie, and co-produced An Idiot Abroad.
Run Fatboy Run (2007)
Run Fatboy Run stars Simon Pegg and is “directed by Ross from Friends,” says Stephen Merchant, referring to David Schwimmer. The basic plot is Dennis (Pegg) tries to get back in shape by winning a marathon with the hopes of winning back his ex, and does so with the help of his friend Gordon (Dylan Moran). Merchant cameos as “man with broken leg.”
Merchant plays small parts in other Pegg-fronted films, Hot Fuzz and in Burke and Hare. In 2002, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost hosted an Edinburgh radio show where Stephen Merchant & Ricky Gervais lent out their Xfm radio producer Karl Pilkington to join Pegg & Frost’s show.
He also played a CTU staffer in 24. “I got to know the guy that created 24 and I was visiting the set because I was a fan, and he said, ‘Put on this shirt and tie and have this woman hand you a floppy disk.'”
Stephen Fry is historically associated as one half of the comical duo Fry and Laurie, alongside his companion Hugh Laurie, having co-starred in Jeeves and Wooster and A Bit of Fry and Laurie, but Fry has gone on to do incredible television and film work on his own and has written several books. He also hosts the panel show for clever people, QI.
You’ll remember Lionel Jeffries as Grandpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who despite being in his early 40s played Dick Van Dyke’s father. In 1993, Jeffries starred in a kids program about an old man with a boy who could turn into a dog. It was called Woof! and ran ten episodes. Lionel Jeffries was the reason Stephen Fry accepted a role in the show. He plays a cartoonist whose house is being redecorated by Jeffries’ character and the ‘dog.’ “He was a wonderful man,” says Fry of Jeffries, “whose every other word was c***.”