Birthdate: June 11, 1959
Birthplace: Oxford, Oxforshire, England
Height: 6' 2 1/2
Married to: Jo - June 16, 1989
Children: Charlie, Bill, and Rebecca
"I rowed for Cambridge. I was pretty good at that." - Hugh Laurie
British comedian Hugh Laurie could have easily taken another career track rather than that of well-known performer. As a secondary and college student, he was also a world-class oarsman. He wasn't the only one in the family to have a passion for the sport, however. His father won a gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics as part of the British national team. The youngest of four children, Laurie went to Eton College, perhaps Britain's best-known preparatory school. During his time there, he became involved in rowing. He quickly became one of the nation's best, and in 1977, he became one half of the national junior champion coxed pair. In the world junior championships held in Finland that year, he and his teammate finished fourth in the world.
He reportedly became ill during his first year, however, and was forced to withdraw from the rowing competitions. While regaining his health, Laurie had his first experiences as a performer by getting involved with the Footlights Club, a famed undergraduate comedy revue group. In his last year at Cambridge, Laurie was elected President of the club, with fellow Footlighter Emma Thompson acting as Vice President.
Traditionally, at the end of the year, the Footlights take their act on the road throughout the nation. While on these tours, he met, via Thompson, a young playwright named Stephen Fry . They collaborated on a sketch called The Cellar Tapes , which they entered in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1981. They were awarded "Pick of the Fringe," enabling the duo, along with the other Footlight performers (including Thompson) to go on tour through England and eventually, Australia.
(Winning the Perrier Award. Click for larger photo)
Soon thereafter, Laurie, Fry, Thompson, Robbie Coltrane , and Ben Elton formed the television sketch program Alfresco , eventually leading Laurie to the famous (in Britain, at least) Black Adder series, headed by Rowan Atkinson , and also to the Jeeves and Wooster series with Fry.
It wasn't long after these successes that he began appearing in films. In 1992, he appeared alongside fellow comedians Fry and Thompson, as well as Kenneth Branagh and Rita Rudner in the ensemble comedy Peter's Friends
He subsequently did outstanding work as a character actor in such films as Sense and Sensibility (1995) and 101 Dalmations (1996). In 1999, he took the lead in the adaptation of E.B. White's Stuart Little , playing the adopted father to a walking, talking, fully dressed mouse, a role he'd reprise in the film's 2002 sequel Stuart Little 2 .
Ryan Shriver, All Movie Guide
More about Hugh
What are some of Hugh's favorite books? Hugh tells us in O Magazine;
WHAT GOOD IS READing without memory? Come to that, what good is anything without memory? A vertical slice of experience that can't be accessed on the horizontal--is it actually worth anything? Did it even happen? If you can't remember the tree falling in the forest, did it make a sound?
I worry about this because my own powers of recall are failing fast. It alarms me to think of all that I have read and how little of it has stayed with me. My current nightstand companion--an eminent author who shall remain nameless because I can't remember his name--has been with me for months. I crawl into bed and stare at the finely wrought sentences that I know I read last night, and they mean nothing. I retreat a few pages, or a few chapters, pick up the thread, readvance to the same point, perhaps squeeze a sentence or two ahead--although how can I be sure?--and then I'm asleep. It's trench warfare, and I doubt I will be in Berlin by Christmas.
Then there are the books that shine in my memory, milestones along the horizontal course of my life. I remember not just the books themselves but the chair I sat in, the shoes I wore, the woman I loved, what song was on the charts at the time. None of which makes them good books, exactly, although all of them are--it just means that they are mine. They really happened.
The Grapes of Wrath
By John Steinbeck
Novels that set out to describe grand historical events sometimes struggle with scale: too big, and they lose the particular, the personal; too small, and they lose the immensity, the connectedness of all things. Steinbeck describes the experience of migrating "Okies" during the Depression, and makes you weep on both scales.
By Herman Melville
I believe some people have already remarked on this novel. Unflaggingly brilliant and stunningly modern. Besides learning a huge amount about whales and seafaring, you can also impress your friends with the origin of the name Starbuck.
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
By John Le Carre
There are few things quite as beautiful as a well-constructed thriller. This, the coldest of Cold War novels, describes the journey of Alec Leamas, burned-out spy, on his final mission behind the Iron Curtain. It has the symmetrical, mathematical precision of a piece of Bach, and to this day, I get all tingly thinking of the line: "And suddenly, with the terrible clarity of a man too long deceived, Leamas understood the whole ghastly trick."
Darwin's Dangerous Idea
By Daniel C. Dennett
Dennett looks at Darwin's idea of evolution in a philosophical and logical framework instead of a biological one. The book points out that if we truly wish to know what we are in the scheme of things, Darwin is the place to start. You think you can grasp the magnitude of Darwin's leap and its implications for all human life and thought. And then Dennett shows you that you're only on the ground floor of a majestic skyscraper. Beautiful.
By Joseph Heller
A satire on war, I suppose, but that's a pretty broad and uninteresting category by itself. Catch-22 plays with the first principles of existence: Out of a million possible examples, how about this? One soldier named Dunbar notices that time passes more slowly when you're bored; he therefore sets about cultivating a state of perfect boredom in which time will actually stop, allowing him to live forever. Except that thought itself is interesting, and so hastens his death. And so on. Breathtakingly brilliant stuff.
The Code of the Woosters
By P.G. Wodehouse
Over the years, wise men and women seem to have more or less agreed that Wodehouse is unmatched as a writer of comic fiction. This book is where my love affair with Wodehouse began. In this tale, wealthy if intellectually negligible man-about-town Bertie Wooster and his manservant, Jeeves, retrieve a silver creamer in the shape of a cow. Doesn't sound like much, does it? But I warn you, on no account should you drink milk while reading this novel in public. (You probably shouldn't be drinking milk in public anyway.)
Hugh Laurie stars in House, on Fox.
What was on Hugh's Christmas wish list in 2001? (From the Daily Mail)
- Six really good plots for novels, coffee beans, Macintosh iBook laptop computer,Hornby train set, thirty-foot 'Sloop' yacht with teak deck, Macallen Whisky, a bowl of cherries, Triumph 955i motorbike, Steinway Grand Piano
Quotes from Hugh on the 2003 television series on channel 5 called "I am God" (Aka God Almighty). Host Clive Anderson would ask guests what they would do if they were God:
- "BEING God, I would like to look like Robert Mitchum, but with the voice of Orville - a booming 'godly' voice is so 1990s. I would also redress the inequalities between men and women by giving men much larger sperm and fewer of them.
- Women have a small number of eggs, so it is a great burden on them to decide who they are going to allow to impregnate them.
- If men had bigger sperm they would have to be more responsible and thoughtful about where they deliver them. I would like to have a Mrs God to share my duties with.
- On the whole I am content with the way of the natural world, but I would expect that she would want to change a few things, such as colour schemes.
- Does the rainforest have to be green? Surely lilac would be much nicer."
Blurb from the March 26, 2004 Daily Telegraph - Rowing: Tales from the Riverbank:
"Comedian Hugh Laurie rowed for the 1980 Cambridge crew who lost by a canvas. His father, an Olympic gold medallist, wanted his son to row for Great Britain, but Hugh gave up rowing and took up smoking and comedy."