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Creator / Rowan Atkinson

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"No, well I don't tend to find things funny."
— After being asked if he ever laughed at his own work.

Rowan Sebastian Atkinson CBE (born 6 January 1955 in Consett, England) is an English comedian, actor and writer.

He is famous for his work on the classic sitcoms Blackadder, The Thin Blue Line and Mr. Bean, as well as doing voice-over work in The Lion King (1994) and sketch comedy in Not the Nine O'Clock News. He has also appeared in movies, such as The Witches (1990), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Rat Race and Love Actually.

He is a master of the Deadpan Snarker and has a filmography that would make most other actors go green in envy with most of the things on it a major success. A perfectionist to the point of frustration, he is infamous for stopping partway through a take and apologizing because he wants to try again. He is also, by his own admission, not nearly as funny in real life; Edmund Blackadder and Mr. Bean are the result of tight scripting and detailed acting, rather than anything spontaneous.

Behind the scenes, he's a car enthusiast and has been known to take part in auto racing. In Top Gear he was once the second fastest "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car".note  He also has a degree in electrical engineering.

Being a car enthusiast, he has some Improbably Cool Cars, including a McLaren F1 whom he had crashed and repaired twice, before he actually sold it.

In 2013, he was awarded a CBE, while his Blackadder co-star Tony Robinson got a knighthood.

His filmography includes:

He also has a repertoire of stage comedy routines, which include:

  • "The Amazing Jesus": A vicar gives a Bible reading that starts out as the traditional story of Jesus turning water into wine, then takes a left turn after the servants beg Jesus to show them another trick.
    And they said unto the Lord "How the hell did You do that?"
  • "A Day in the Life of the Invisible Man": A showcase for Atkinson's physical comedy, as he is tormented by an invisible prankster.
  • "A Final Bash": A janitor tries his hand at a drum solo on an invisible drum kit, with the sound provided by a professional drummer offstage.
  • "Fatal Beatings": A meeting between a strict headmaster and the parent of a student goes rapidly downhill after the headmaster mentions casually that the student is dead.
  • "The Good Loser": An actor is called on to accept an award on behalf of one his colleagues — having just been passed over for the same award himself.
  • "No One Called Jones": A schoolmaster calls the roll and hands out punishments and assignments; humor arises from the incongruous names of the students and Atkinson's Comically Serious delivery. Also exists in a "Dirty Words" version, in which all the students' names are rude words, and everything the schoolmaster says becomes a double entendre.
  • "Elementary Dating": A guest lecturer gives a series of tips on how to take a girl out for the first time, with Atkinson acting as the example.
  • "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props": A Small Name, Big Ego actor presents a lecture on the characters and plots of Shakespearean drama.
  • "A Warm Welcome": A maitre-d'-like devil welcomes the new arrivals to Hell and directs them to their seats. Over the years this one has been modified and updated to suit the audience, the venue, and current events, so if you've heard one version, you have most-likely not heard them all. Originally, one category he mentions is "Americans" but when he performed at a venue in Boston, he instead quipped, "the French, are you here?"
  • "With Friends Like These": Three speeches from the wedding from hell — the priest reminisces about giving sex advice to newly-weds, the best man is embarrassingly hapless, and the bride's father hates everybody.
  • "Indian Restaurant": A friendly and endlessly patient Indian restaurant waiter has to deal with a group of nine rowdy drunks returning from a football match. Inspired the famous "Going for an English" sketch by Goodness Gracious Me.

These provide examples of:

  • All Women Are Lustful: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", to contrast the Hero's wife, who gives him a chaste kiss before he goes off to war, the Villain's mistress instead strips down for a quick shag.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The sketch show "Not Just a Pretty Face" ends with a journalist played by Angus Deayton telling the audience that Mr. Atkinson is wanted for murder, terrorism, cattle rustling, espionage, and parking on those zigzag lines you get either side of zebra crossings.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The punchline of "A Warm Welcome", in at least one version, is that all Christians end up in Hell because "the Jews were right all along". However, the Jewish version of what happens after death doesn't include Hell.
  • Badass Driver:
    • Mr. Bean pulls off some amazing stunts in his Mini.
    • One of the few things Johnny English does consistently well is drive powerful vehicles at high speeds in tight quartersnote .
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: The father of the bride's speech from "With Friends Like These" begins with one:
    Father of the Bride: I would like to take this opportunity, sloshed as I may be, to say a word or two about Martin. As far as I'm concerned, my daughter could not have chosen a more delightful, charming, witty, responsible, wealthy, let's not deny it, well-placed, good-looking and fertile young man than Martin as her husband. And I therefore ask the question "Why the hell did she marry Gerald instead?"
    • Similarly done with "Fatal Beatings", as the headmaster eventually reveals that he'd been pulling the father's leg - "I wouldn't cancel after-school activities to bury that little shit."
  • Bearer of Bad News: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", along with the Bearer Of Indifferent News, and the Bearer Of Bad News That The Messenger Thinks Is Good News.
  • Bitter Wedding Speech: The father of the bride's speech from "With Friends Like These". He hates the groom and all the groom's family and all the groom's friends, and is not shy about saying so.
  • Brick Joke: The frothing mug of ale in "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", which also leads to the payoff of the Running Gag of the actor hurting his knees when he falls to the floor during his death scenes.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The headmaster in "Fatal Beatings" just can't understand Mr. Perkins' "morbid fascination" regarding his son's death.
    Mr. Perkins: Are you mad?
    Headmaster: I'm furious!
  • The Comically Serious: It must be seen to be believed.
  • Corporal Punishment: "Fatal Beatings"
  • Day in the Life: Of the Invisible Man, who targets Atkinson with various pranks.
  • Deadpan Snarker: You can't expect to cast him in any role, not even one as straight as Maigret, and have this not come into play.
  • Dean Bitterman: "Fatal Beatings" and "No One Called Jones"
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
  • Documentary: In Played for Laughs, Rowan Atkinson gives a lecture (seriously presented) on the principles of visual comedy, with commentary on Charlie Chaplin (of whom Atkinson is a huge fan), and fascinating insight on why people do not laugh at Chaplin any more.
  • Don't Fear The Reaper: Played with in "A Warm Welcome". The devil - or Toby, as he invites the damned to call him - is quite affable, but still makes it clear that the souls who have just arrived are in for a literal eternity of torment.
    No, there are no bathrooms. If you had read your Bibles, you would know that this is "Damnation without relief".
    You can call me Toby: we try to keep things informal down here, as well as infernal... that was a joke, I tell it every time.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: In "A Warm Welcome", Toby requests that Thieves, Murderers, and Lawyers stand with each other. His 2018 version tossed Hedge Fund Managers into the mix as well.
  • Evil Twin: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", the hero of the play is king of an unnamed nation; he has a brother who is evil (and has a physical defect, which apparently entails flipping off the audience) and usurps the throne when the king is presumed dead on the battlefield.
  • Fell Asleep Driving: Discussed during the "Date" segment of his live one-man show. The narrator states that while driving your date to the restaurant that if you are aggressive (honking the horn, giving the finger, etc.), you probably will lose her respect and if you are drowsy behind the wheel, you probably should have taken a taxi.
  • Flipping the Bird: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", the villain has a physical defect, which consists of a middle finger straight up.
  • Funny Character, Boring Actor: invoked During one interview he even lamented how much he was currently proving how much trouble he has being funny without material prepared.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: In "A Warm Welcome":
    Satan: You're all here for eternity, which I hardly need tell you is a heck of a long time.
  • Groin Attack: During the "Invisible Man" bit, the eponymous man lifts the hapless passenger's legs into the air and kicks him in the groin.
  • Hollywood Apocrypha: "The Amazing Jesus" features an apocryphal Gospel reading, in a parody of King James Bible English mixed with Sophisticated as Hell.
    And they brought to him on a stretcher a man who was sick of the palsy, and they cried unto him, "Maestro, this man is sick of the palsy." And the Lord said, "If I had to spend my whole life on a stretcher, I'd be pretty sick of the palsy too!" And they were filled with joy, and cried out, "Lord, thy one-liners are as good as thy tricks; thou art indeed an all-round family entertainer."
  • Hypocritical Humor: The ending to the Inherently Funny Words sketch has the schoolmaster chastising his students for smutty graffiti found on the bathroom walls, despite all of them having smutty names.
    All members of staff have an alarming increase in the use of silly humour and puerile innuendo about the school. Rigid, Fistup, Bottom: out.
  • Inherently Funny Words:
    • His schoolmaster sketch employs this trope heavily and to hilarious effect. Atkinson's pronunciation of the (increasingly ridiculous) names is reminiscent of his use of the name "Bob" in the various Blackadder series.
    Schoolmaster: Ainsley. Babcock. Bland. Carthorse.
    • Turned up to eleven in the version of this sketch from Rowan Atkinson Live, where the names are simply filthy. Can be found here.
    • Atkinson has an ability to turn almost any word into one of these just with the right vocal inflections.
  • Invisible Jerkass: "A Day in the Life of the Invisible Man", in which the titular man messes with a hapless subway passenger.
  • In the Back: Subverted in "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props" (the guy he's about to stab in the back gets him in the stomach first).
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: "The Amazing Jesus".
  • Left It In: On one of his comedy albums, he suggests putting his 'Madonna' song in to fill up spare time on the album. His sidekick Angus Deayton asks to hear it. After Rowan has sung it, Angus mutters "No way are we including that".
  • Lost in Transmission: the alien who comes to Earth to warn us of a terrible peril, only for his universal translator to intermittently break down owing to defective Earthling power cells.
    (gibberish)-KING DURACELL!
  • Lovely Assistant: In "The Amazing Jesus":
    And there came unto him a woman called Mary who had seen the Lord and believed, and Jesus said unto her, "Put on a tutu and lie down in this box." And then took he forth a saw and cleft her in twain, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. But Jesus said, "O ye of little faith," and he threw open the box and lo, Mary was whole. And the crowd went absolutely bananas. And Jesus and Mary took a big bow, and he said unto her, "From now on you shall be known as Sharon, for that is a good name for an assistant."
  • Named Like My Name: His appearance at the Queen Mother's 90th birthday Royal Gala had him as an Australian named Alec Guinness who is quite puzzled that he was invited to take part, but doesn't quite twig that the letter was meant for the other Alec Guinness until the end.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", the Hero disguises himself by donning an eyepatch (which, furthermore, since the actor doesn't have an eyepatch handy, is represented by the actor holding on hand over his face). This apparently fools everybody except his brother.
  • Parent-Preferred Suitor: In "With Friends Like These", the father of the bride is very clear that the man he really wanted his daughter to marry is not the man she chose.
  • Pascal's Wager: Parodied in the "Devil Sketch". The Devil is sorting sinners by their sins, and comments when he gets to "atheists" that "You all must be feeling like a right bunch of nitwits." Then he calls on the Christians: "Yes, you see, I'm afraid the Jews were right."
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • When David Forbert loses the acting award in "The Good Loser", he shouts, "Oh SHIT."
    • As father of the bride in "With Friends Like These", he tells most of the wedding guests to fuck off.
    • A mimed one appears on "Elementary Dating", when demonstrating the wrong way to react to the bill at the end of dinner.
  • Punny Name: "Roll Call" is a great long list of them.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: In "The Good Loser", Atkinson's character is forced by circumstance to accept the Laurence Olivier Award on behalf of another actor in the same show (they were both nominated, the other guy wins, but Atkinson's character is the only one there). He spends the entire acceptance speech bitching out his costar.
  • Religion Is Right: In "A Warm Welcome", the devil welcomes a group of atheists, and remarks "You must be feeling like a right bunch of nitwits".
  • Running Gag: In the "Pink Tights" skit, the tight-clad Atkinson continuously mimics dying (typically with a "Bleugh!") and falls to his knees on the hardwood stage, reacting in pain each time. He eventually thinks to use a pillow, or crouch down rather than drop to the knees. In his final death scene, he forgets and shouts in pain as his knees hit the hardwood floor.
  • Saw a Woman in Half: Mentioned in "The Amazing Jesus".
    Vicar: He then took out a saw and cleft her in twain.
  • Secret Message Wink: Played with in "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props". The Hero infiltrates the Villain's castle disguised with an eyepatch. The narrator explains that the Hero will typically reveal his identity to the audience with a surreptitious wink, which the Hero demonstrates — using the eye that's completely hidden by the eyepatch.
  • Shoot the Messenger: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", the messenger who enters bearing bad news which he believes to be good news is killed while trying to beat a hasty retreat.
  • Shout-Out: His 2018 rendition of "A Warm Welcome" asks after viewers of Monty Python's Life of Brian.
    Toby: I'm sorry, turns out God can't take a joke after all.
  • Skewed Priorities: The headmaster in "Fatal Beatings" is obsessed with keeping discipline and barely interested in the fact that he's caused the death of one of his students.
  • Spider-Man Send-Up: A 2005 Comic Relief sketch starred Atkinson as Peter Piper, who, after being bitten by a genetically engineered spider-plant (the geneticists had given it teeth for some reason), gained the ability to shoot vines from his wrists and cling to walls and became Spider-Plant-Man! He then had to rescue his girlfriend Jane-Mary from a villain who turned out to be Batman, jealous that he wasn't the top movie superhero any more.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", the king, restored to his throne after his brother usurped it in his absence, drinks from the frothing cup of ale by the throne... which turns out to be filled with poison intended for his brother. Just when it looks as though the poison has simply given him the dry heaves, he shouts "BLEUGH!" and falls to his knees, dead (but not so dead that he can't yell in agony as his knees hit the hardwood floor).
  • Take That!: The 2018 rendition of "A Warm Welcome" changes up the list of the damned to include Americans, as well as reserving a large spot "for a Mister... Trump!"
  • That Poor Cat: Rowan hits an invisible one in "A Final Bash" that then plays out "Three Blind Mice" when running around the drumkit.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: "I am the Devil. You may call me Toby."
  • Too Dumb to Live: In "Pink Tights and Plenty of Props", the villain attempts to use poison by using his finger to stir it into the drink before licking his finger.
  • Wrong Restaurant: In his "Indian Restaurant" routine, one of the drunken patrons attempts to order a hotdog before passing out.


Video Example(s):


R. Atkinson's Wedding Speech

From Rowan Atkinson Live, "With Friends Like These..." The just-married protagonist's less-than-sober new father-in-law makes his speech at the wedding reception, and gives a glowing review of Martin, "and I therefore ask the question, why the hell did she marry GERALD instead?" Things go downhill from there.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BitterWeddingSpeech

Media sources: