Peter John Kay (born 2 July 1973 in Farnworth, Lancashire, England) is an English comedian, writer, producer, and actor. His work includes That Peter Kay Thing (2000), Phoenix Nights (2001), Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere (2004), Britain's Got the Pop Factor ... and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice'' (2008) and other independent productions.
Peter Kay was born on 2 July 1973. After leaving his secondary school, Mount St Joseph High School, with one GCSE in Art, Kay took several menial jobs, including working in a toilet roll factory, Netto
supermarket, a Cash and Carry
, and a Bingo Hall
, which later inspired episodes or sequences in That Peter Kay Thing
. He began a degree course at the University of Liverpool
but was unable to cope with the written work and dropped out. He then attended the University of Salford
where he studied for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Media Performance, which he completed. This involved a stand-up course at which he excelled. His first stand-up was a competition in Manchester, hosted by later co-star and co-writer of Phoenix Nights
, Dave Spikey
. Peter was last on the bill and won the competition, beating fellow stand-up comedian Johnny Vegas
Kay's earliest TV appearance was an interview with Granada Television in which he listed the contents of his room, as well as detailing his experience meeting Jimmy Savile. This would later be used in That Peter Kay Thing, in the role of Leonard de Tomkinson.
Kay's experience working at the Manchester Evening News Arena inspired him to wear the official yellow jacket of the MEN Arena for the final performance of his Mum Wants a Bungalow tour. Kay has said that he sought a career in comedy. During his time working as a cinema usher, he experimented with stand-up, participating in several local events, as well as others at the Comedy Store in Manchester. After losing his job at the cinema, Kay was presented with the choice between finding another menial job or moving into comedy.
After he entered and won Channel 4's So You Think You're Funny contest in 1997, his first semi-professional stand-up appearances were at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe festival, where he received a prestigious Perrier Award nomination. During this time, he also appeared at various other clubs, such as London's influential Comedy Store, and the Barracuda Club in Lincoln. Although this led to a certain level of public recognition, it was only after his heavily-promoted show Live at the Top of the Tower in 2000 that Kay attained mainstream recognition.
During this period, he appeared on several chat shows, such as Parkinson and Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, where he had previously been a warm-up man. Production also began on Phoenix Nights, which was to see him achieve critical acclaim as well as mainstream success. Subsequent advertisements for John Smith's Bitter, which imitate the realistic style of Phoenix Nights, saw Kay develop his now much-repeated catchphrases "'Ave it!" and "Two Lamb bhunas".
In 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 Funniest British Comedians and also directed one page of Nuts magazine. In addition, he made an appearance in a 2005 poll of comedians and critics to find The Comedian's Comedian, a search for the 50 greatest funnymen of all time. In March 2005 he also came top in a survey sponsored by the Jongleurs comedy club chain to find Britain's favourite comedian.
In 2006, a Channel 4 television show 100 Greatest Funny Moments voted him at the #1 spot, for his most notably stand-up act, Mum Wants a Bungalow tour at the Bolton Albert Halls, including his description of a family wedding and Bullseye.
On 17 April 2006, Channel 4 broadcast a "Peter Kay Night", showing out-takes from Phoenix Nights (previously featured on DVD), a behind-the-scenes documentary of the Mum Wants a Bungalow tour and also the whole Peter Kay Live in Manchester show. During this evening, Kay was seen in character as Max (from Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere & Phoenix Nights) discussing the tribute with Paddy (Patrick McGuinness). Max stated that he disliked Peter Kay and thought that Channel 4 was going downhill for dedicating an entire night to him. Paddy wondered why ITV have not snapped up Kay. Max is shown to be ignorant of current events, failing to realise that civil partnerships are now legal and that Elton John has made use of it, to controversial news stories involving Michael Barrymore, Gary Glitter, Diana, Princess of Wales and Michael Jackson. Channel 4 repeated the "Peter Kay Night" on 25 March 2007.
Kay's first TV project was in an episode of New Voices
, a comedy series which showcased up and coming talent. His episode, "Two Minutes", written by Johanne McAndrew, saw him play a getaway driver as two of his mates attempted to rob a pub of its takings. This was broadcast in 1997. After appearing on BBC2
's The Sunday Show
presenting his own slot entitled "Peter Kay's World of Entertainment", Kay made an episode of Channel 4's The Comedy Lab
, "The Services", in 1998. This served as a pilot for the later That Peter Kay Thing
. His idea for this series was to create a testbed for ideas and concepts that he could later use within other series. The idea of having several characters all played by himself was something with which Kay experimented.
That Peter Kay Thing
After a favourable reception to the pilot, That Peter Kay Thing
was devised. It was based solely on the experiences of Kay's earlier life working in several menial jobs. The range of characters included the now legendary Brian Potter, who Kay said was a combination of all his bosses' personalities along with the voice of a man he knows, and the eccentric Leonard de Tomkinson, who is based on a real Leonard who used to visit Peter during his working time at the local Majestic Garage. Following continued success, Kay and his co-writers, Neil Fitzmaurice
and Dave Spikey
, eventually decided to create another series, and settled on "In the Club". This would use the character of Brian Potter, as well as improve other features that audiences were known to enjoy. The cast was slightly altered, elements thought to be unnecessary were removed, and it became reincarnated as Phoenix Nights
Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights
was his notable TV programme, written by him, Dave Spikey
and Neil Fitzmaurice
and set in a newly refurbished social club run by wheelchair-bound Brian Potter
. The club was based on an episode of That Peter Kay Thing
entitled "In The Club". The cast of Phoenix Nights
was made up almost entirely of stand-up comics whom the writers had met on 'the circuit'. The show was an immediate hit. It followed the story of the club and the various events that happened there. Expertly written, much of the humour was somewhat implicit - relying on subtle background clues and hints or paradoxes. The first series was partly filmed at St. Gregory's Social Club in Farnworth
, Greater Manchester - where the exterior, hallways and function suite were all used. Other sets, such as the Jocky Wilson
suite, were built at Granada Studios
. For the second series, all filming took place at St. Gregory's.
Max & Paddy's Road to Nowhere
Max & Paddy's Road to Nowhere
was a spin-off of Phoenix Nights
. Featuring the bouncer characters from the show played by Peter Kay and Patrick McGuinness
and even featured at times characters from Phoenix Nights. Notably this did not include the characters portrayed by his former co-writers Neil Fitzmaurice or Dave Spikey, the latter's character instead being represented by a body double in brief scenes.
Made for Channel 4 to be shown on a Friday, 6 episodes were made and broadcast from November to December 2004. The DVD of the series was released in October 2005, but unlike previous DVDs does not feature commentary from either Kay or McGuinness, instead opting for "surprise" commentators. In December 2005, a spoof workout DVD was also released, starring McGuinness and Kay, entitled Max and Paddy's: The Power Of Two. All the music was once again written (or co-written with Peter Kay) by Toni Baker who did all the music for Phoenix Nights & Max & Paddy's Road to Nowhere.
Since 2002, Kay has featured in television advertisements for John Smith's beer
, through which his catchphrase — "'Ave it!" — gained popularity. He later claimed in his autobiography that he never meant to use "ave-it", he just said it after kicking the ball successfully.
He has also released several DVDs
of live performances, including Live at the Top of the Tower
, Live at the Bolton Albert Halls
, Peter Kay: The Live Collections
(the previous two combined) and Peter Kay: Live At Manchester Arena
. The latter brought considerable criticism from fans who bought the DVD unaware that it was simply a different performance of the same material as seen on the Live at the Bolton Albert Halls DVD. Similarly, the Peter Kay: Stand Up UKay
DVD, released for the 2007 Christmas market,
Kay appeared on stage at the Queen + Paul Rodgers concert at Manchester's MEN Arena (with Patrick McGuinness) and in Hyde Park in 2005 both as himself and in the persona of Brian Potter.
Kay also appeared at the BBC's televised charity event Comic Relief in 2003 and 2005, sharing the stage with Alan Partridge (actor Steve Coogan) in 2003. As part of the 2005 event, on 14 March Kay promoted a re-release of Tony Christie's 1971 hit "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo?". The song had earlier featured in Phoenix Nights, and Kay performed in the accompanying music video. On Sunday, 20 March 2005, the single reached number one in the UK Singles Charts, and stayed there for seven consecutive weeks. In 2007 he released "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", originally by The Proclaimers, with Matt Lucas for Comic Relief.
He currently has no plans for a new tour.
He has had two cameo roles in Coronation Street
. The first, in the late 1990s, was a brief appearance as a shopfitter, but in January 2004 he co-wrote his own scenes, appearing alongside real-life good friend, Sally Lindsay
, who played Shelley Unwin
On 17 June 2006, Kay appeared in a Doctor Who episode titled "Love & Monsters". His character, the sinister Victor Kennedy, proved to be an alien called the Abzorbaloff in disguise. Although the episode itself was quite comedic, Kay's role was more serious than those he normally plays.
Kay's film appearances have included minor roles in, Going Off Big Time (1999) With Neil Fitzmaurice,24 Hour Party People (2002), Roddy Smythe Investigates (2003) and The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse (2005). He also provided a voice to the character PC McIntosh for the film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005). Kay also does the voice for the character "Big Chris" in the children's TV show Roary the Racing Car.
From February 2007 he played flamboyant gay director Roger DeBris
in the Mel Brooks
musical, The Producers
for the Manchester leg of the UK Tour, at the Manchester Palace Theatre
until May 12, 2007. He reprised his role later in the year at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.
He has appeared on numerous chat shows, including Parkinson
and The Paul O'Grady Show
. When he appeared on The Paul O'Grady Show
) at Christmas
2005, he came on in a Christmas tree costume. For his second appearance with Paul on The New Paul O'Grady Show
) he was dressed as a Catholic Nun wearing a large mask of himself, mimicking the front cover of his new book, The Sound of Laughter
. At Christmas
2006 he made a third appearance, this time dressed up as a snowman. On his fourth appearance, on 5th June 2007, he came onto the set dressed as a chicken. He also co-hosted Top of the Pops
in character as Brian Potter alongside Fearne Cotton
in January 2006.
In September 2006 he co-presented the Edith Bowman afternoon show on BBC Radio 1 where he revealed that he had written a third series of Phoenix Nights. In addition two specials of Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere have been penned.
On 15 March 2007, he was the first guest of the inaugural recording of Danny Baker's All Day Breakfast Show
He appeared as a guest on the last ever Parkinson show on ITV on 16 December 2007, making a return to the programme on which he'd been a warm-up act years before. He hugged everyone on the show. He also brought with him a bag of 'goodies' including party hats and also a lollipop man's outfit as a joke for Parkinson's use during his retirement.
- The Best Of Peter Kay...So Far - audio CD (compilation) (2005)
- Kay has performed at the Reebok Stadium in his home town Bolton as an opening act for Elton John. In addition, Bolton Wanderers F.C.'s fans have adopted "Amarillo" as a theme song, with Tony Christie's recording played at the home ground whenever the team scores.
- Kay appeared at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, London on 2 July 2005, where he introduced The Who, after joining the audience in a rendition of "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo". He played a gag on the crowd by first announcing that the Spice Girls were the next act. However, the greater part of his performance was not shown on the live broadcast, producers instead opting to interview George Michael at the same time and show that instead.
- He supported Queen at the Hyde Park gig in Summer 2005 after appearing on stage at the Manchester leg of the tour, coming on for the encore.
- Kay introduced both Texas and Doves at the V2005 festival in Weston Park, Staffordshire.
- Kay introduced Phil Collins at the Glasgow SECC on 20 November 2005.
- Kay appeared at the Carling Weekend : Leeds Festival in 2006 on the Saturday Night. He introduced Kaiser Chiefs by using his famous line "Garlic ... Bread" but replaced it with "Kaiser ... Chiefs"
- Appeared on stage during Fat Boy Slim's set at The V Festival 2006 at Weston Park. He walked on stage with a hard hat on and danced as he did in the Amarillo video.
- Kay provided warm up for Keane at their Warchild concert at the Manchester Apollo on 31 October 2007.
- Kay was shown on the big screens at the side of the stage at V festival in 2008 just before Girls Aloud performed.