Chris Addison is a standup comedian, actor, and television host known best for his role as Ollie Reader in The Thick of It. There is some resentment surrounding Addison, likely because he doesn’t appear to age. Like Benjamin Button or Jensen Ackles, he might actually be getting younger.
Chris Addison is annoyed by open cupboards
Years before his big comedy break (his 2004 Perrier Award), Chris Addison watched comedy duo Lee & Herring on television* thinking “I wish I were them.” At 31-years-old in 2002, he was still a massive comedy fanboy but was sharing a flat with Lee & Herring (as well as Dan Antapolski and Jerry Springer: The Opera‘s composer Richard Thomas) during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.** One evening, there was an argument in the flat over something trivial, probably Herring implying that he and Lee were equally successful in their careers. The next morning, the kitchen cupboards were all smashed in.*** A flat meeting was called, and poor Chris Addison had to witness his comedy heroes in this uncomfortable row: “No, it was you! It was you!” perhaps as a sort of subtext to their (un)professional relationship. Recounting the story years later on RHLSTP, Addison tells Richard Herring, “It would [even] have been awkward in a student house watching two people having this massively upsetting conversation, but it was you two.” Over the years, clues have emerged. While Herring likes to leave cupboard doors open for browsing ease, Addison finds this annoying because at four and a half inches taller, he tends to bang his head on them. Is Lee’s convenient memory lapse suspicious? What about Herring’s incessant accusations? Was Addison just annoyed Herring had left the cupboard door open again? To this day, it remains one of the great mysteries of Edinburgh.
*Likely Fist of Fun or This Morning with Richard Not Judy. Stewart Lee and Richard Herring’s hybrid sketch shows inspired a whole generation of comics.
**Addison was there doing a show called The Ape that Got Lucky, which was a spoof lecture about the evolution of man and later became a Gold Sony Award-winning BBC Radio 4 radio show starring Addison and Hitchhiker’s Guide‘s Geoffrey McGivern, co-written with Carl Cooper.
***This varies depending who you ask. While Herring maintains it was multiple cupboard doors, Addison suggests it may have been just one shoddily assembled door. Lee denies remembering the incident at all.
Chris Addison’s cheese-related advice cannot be trusted
In 2001 in Edinburgh, Addison and his flatmates bought a bunch of fancy cheeses. Addison announced that cheese is better if un-refrigerated. This is only a fact if the cheese is left out briefly, as opposed to being left in a cupboard in 80 degrees overnight. Eating the skeavey cheese is said to have given Richard Herring terrible nightmares.
Addison’s son has stuffed animals filled with someone else’s couch cushion stuffing
Long before Red Dwarf had a lemon-powered time machine, Lab Rats, written by Chris Addison and Carl Cooper, had a lemon-powered calculator in 2008. The sitcom took place in a University science lab and featured mostly the faculty, with Addison starring as Dr. Alex Beenyman. Carl Cooper’s grandmother knitted the stuffed rats for the show, but she also knitted other things, including a stuffed animal for Addison’s son. When Addison visited her home, he discovered that the cushions on the couch were flat and deduced that she’d been stealing stuffing from her own couch cushions to make these toys.
Addison’s Show and Tell was suspiciously familiar
In 2011, Addison hosted a comedy showcase called Show and Tell, the premise of which was that comedians brought an item with them and talked about it. Prior to this, Addison had guested on Robin Ince’s podcast on Paramount Comedy, the premise of which was that comedians brought an item with them and talked about it. Now, I will grant you that hosts are not necessarily responsible for writing the show, and Robin Ince’s podcast was no longer called Show and Tell by the time Addison guested on it, but you must admit the timing is subject to suspicion.
Robin Ince had also co-written and guest starred in an episode of Lab Rats three years before Addison’s Show and Tell. He played a University donor forceably cryogenically frozen for being a tool. He wore the wig Rory Brenner used when he played the queen. The dry ice in the cryogenic chamber made the floor slippery, causing people to fall over, and got extremely hot, nearly burning the actor.
Ollie Reeder…is…Chris Addison
Although Chris Addison’s standup is not usually in character, he used to do a character called Dr. Tristan Harding whenever he performed at John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman’s Political Animal night, an evening of political standup based on an Edinburgh Fringe showcase and Radio 4 show. One night, Armando Iannucci was in the audience and saw Addison perform as Dr. Harding. He assumed this meant that Addison was a political standup. Later, Iannucci and Addison met again on The News Quiz at The King’s Theatre in Southsea. By this point, Iannucci was contemplating his forthcoming show The Thick of It and asked Addison to audition. The auditions were largely improvisational. Addison got the part of young politician Oliver “Ollie” Reeder, one of the lead roles for the entire series.
Once they began shooting the series, Addison worried he wasn’t as good as the actors he was performing with.* This was, after all, Addison’s first acting gig. He went to his girlfriend and said he didn’t know why he’d been cast when all of the others were veteran performers. She asked him what Ollie was like, and he told her Ollie desperately wanted to play with the big boys but he was young and inexperienced. Addison realized he’d been type cast. All he really had to do was play himself. Because the actors inform much of the lines during improvisation in rehearsal, Ollie now talks almost entirely in jokes because that’s the way Addison talks.
Acting wasn’t Addison’s only first in The Thick of It. Season 4 was the first time Iannucci allowed other people to direct episodes. One of these episodes was directed by Chris Addison, but because of a scheduling conflict, he did not get to direct the episode he’d planned to–that is, the episode he wasn’t acting in. So instead he had to act and direct at the same time. Now, of course, he’s gone on to direct many episodes of Iannucci’s American show Veep.
*Actually, all the actors went to Iannucci at one point or another within their first couple days and expressed their concerns that the other actors were all much better than they were.
Chris Addison doesn’t know where his appendix is
In season 4 of The Thick of It, Chris Addison could barely make it into the shooting schedule because he was busy doing other work. The writers put his character Ollie in the hospital so that he had a limited number of co-stars and locations. Ollie is in with appendicitis. In the first scenes they shot, Ollie is babying his left side, in reference to his recent operation. After that scene was in the can, James Smith came in to do his scene, and when Addison told him to mind his left side, Smith corrected him, saying that the appendix is on the right. It was too late to go back and correct the scenes they’d already done. Although Smith’s knowledge of the internal organs comes from the fact that he’d trained as a doctor, it doesn’t take a doctor to know where the appendix is, so it is amusing that no one on the crew realized the mistake.
Addison was short listed as the new Doctor as a prank
Addison’s friend Geoff Lloyd at Absolute Radio got his friend Paloma Faith to tweet “A friend of mine who works on Doctor Who says Chris Addison is replacing Matt Smith–Wow.” She deleted it immediately, but the bookies picked up on it. Instead, Addison got to reunite with his workmate Peter Capaldi in Capaldi’s first season as SEB. Addison posted this on Twitter in March: “Just found this. Further evidence of the brilliance of the Dr Who art dept.”
Quick fire facts for those of you not impressed
- Chris Addison was born in Wales and has a Welsh grandma
- The Daily Mail clams he’s the 18th highest paid comedian in the UK
- Addison’s “Desert Island” comedy thing is People Like Us (1999-2001), which he says is great if you’re a fan of Twenty Twelve or W1A. It stars The Thick of It‘s Chris Langham.
Sources: What's On TV | Carpool | RHLSTP | Utter Shambles | What Are You Laughing At? | The Thick of It commentary tracks