Johnny Vegas (born 11 September, 1971 as Michael Joseph Pennington) is an English actor and comedian. He is known for his random rants, portly figure, husky voice, loyal support of rugby league (particularly St Helens RLFC) and avid consumption of Guinness. More recently he has made a successful move into dramatic acting.
Vegas made his TV debut as a contestant on Win, Lose or Draw in the UK under his real name of Michael, but made references to the fact he wanted to be a comedian and that his stage name was "Johnny Vegas". His appearance was briefly shown during Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
His career took off when he won the Festival Critics' Award at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival, and was the first newcomer to be nominated for the Perrier Award. Vegas also won the Leicester Mercury Comedian of The Year Competition in 1997.
His early shows The Johnny Vegas Gameshow and The Johnny Vegas Show contained elements such as Butlins style sing-a-longs, onstage pottery, verbal abuse of the audience, and drunkenness. He was accused of sexism. Audience members report great variation in the quality of the shows - on occasion the talent for ad-libbing seems to desert him to be replaced by a shambolic, fragmentary performance.
The pathos in these shows is often remarked upon as it is often hard to identify how much of the apparent disintegration of Vegas is performance and how much is a genuine, guileless display of personal pain.
Vegas gave an award-winning performance as Charlie in 2001's Happiness, marking his transition from stand-up comedian to actor.
In 2003 Vegas wrote and starred in a DVD-only film, Who's Ready For Ice Cream? in which he played himself. The plot centred around Vegas's fame and success having resulted in the decline of his stand-up ability and the resulting efforts to regain it. The film was directed by Stewart Lee.
He starred in the 2004 film Sex Lives of the Potato Men. He has displayed unshaking pride in the venture, despite very poor reviews, some going so far as to label it one of the worst films ever.
He starred as 'Moz' in the 2005-present comedy-drama Ideal, as a shut in drug dealer.
Later in 2005, he appeared in straight acting roles on BBC One, first in their high-profile adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House (as Krook), and then as Bottom in an updated, modern-language version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In 2005, he was the host of 18 Stone of Idiot on Channel 4, an attempt by Vegas to 'make a programme that wouldn't be recommissioned', something that he achieved, as due to the content, Channel 4 has no intention of doing so.
In February 2006, he topped the bill at London's Hackney Empire in a 5-hour tribute show to comedy club owner Malcolm Hardee, who had drowned the previous month.
In January 2007 PG Tips, a popular brand of tea in the UK, reunited Johnny Vegas and the Monkey character in a new advertising campaign. They are emotionally reunited over the product, with Johnny notably cleaner and more sober than his characteristic appearance, presumably as PG Tips has always promoted a wholesome image and for many years used chimpanzees as humorous characters. Johnny and the Monkey had been mentioned in a show over the 2006 holiday period documenting really bad decisions (ITV Digital's moribund launch, particularly buying the rights for the lower division football).
Vegas appeared on the BBC Two series The Comedy Map of Britain broadcast on 26 April 2008. In the programme, dedicated to comedy-related locations in Scotland, Vegas and comedy promoter Karen Koren revisited the former site of Koren's comedy club The Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh, where Vegas appeared in his early days as a stand-up. The producers provided a potter's wheel at the site, the building itself having been demolished after damage in the 2002 Cowgate fire, so that Vegas could recreate his early pottery routine.