Paul Julian Whitehouse (born 17 May 1958) is a British actor, writer and comedian. He became known for his work with Harry Enfield and as one of the stars of the popular BBC sketch comedy series The Fast Show. In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was in the top 50 comedy acts voted for by comedians and comedy insiders. He is most well known for his comic characters in The Fast Show, Harry & Paul and Harry Enfield and Chums.
Paul Julian Whitehouse was born on 17 May 1958, in Stanleytown, Glamorgan, Wales. His father worked for the National Coal Board and his mother was a singer with the Welsh National Opera. The family moved to Enfield in north London, England when he was four years old, which led to his discovering his talent for mimicry:
"At school I didn't say a word for the first four weeks – I called it my Silent Month. I think it was because everyone was speaking so differently from how it had been in Wales. Then, after four weeks, I came home one day and said, 'Muumm, I wanna go to Sarfend!' For her that was the end because I had lost my lovely Welsh lilt. So I became very conscious of speech and the effects it can have. But when I went back to Wales I would start talking all Welsh, 'lyke that you see' before going all Alf Garnett while coming back the other way."
Whitehouse attended the University of East Anglia from autumn 1976, where he made friends with Charlie Higson. The pair spent little of their first year studying, instead playing sitar and performing with their jazz fusion combo, the Right Hand Lovers, along with other university friends Duncan Beamont, Kevin Buckland and Dave Cummings.
Whitehouse dropped out and lived with other drop-outs in a council flat in Hackney, east London and occasionally worked as a plasterer. After Higson graduated in 1980, he moved in with Whitehouse, working by day as a decorator and performing at night and the weekends with his new punk-funk group The Higsons.
The pair began working as tradesmen on a house shared by comedians Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball, which inspired them to start writing comedy. They moved to an estate where in a pub they met Harry Enfield, a neighbour with a stage act, and after he gained a place on Channel 4's Saturday Live, the pair were invited to write for him. Whitehouse created Enfield's character Stavros a London-based Greek kebab shop owner, and then Loadsamoney an archetypal Essex boy made good in Margaret Thatcher's 1980s; he also appeared as Enfield's sidekick Lance on Saturday Live.
This success turned Whitehouse and Higson's career, and they began to appear on shows such as Vic Reeves' Big Night Out and extensively for the BBC, with Whitehouse appearing on A Bit of Fry and Laurie as a man with a clinical need to have his bottom fondled, and Paul Merton: The Series, then as performer on shows such as Harry Enfield's Television Programme, where he developed numerous characters including DJ Mike Smash of Smashie and Nicey alongside Harry Enfield as Nicey.
While watching a preview tape of highlights from Enfield's program, Whitehouse and Higson were inspired to create a rapid-fire delivery comedy series, which would evolve into The Fast Show (when shown in the United States on BBC America, the show was titled Brilliant). Whitehouse's characters included:
Rowley Birkin QC
The 13th Duke of Wymbourne
Archie ("hardest game in the world")
Ken, one of the "Suit You" tailors
Lindsey, one of the Rubbish Offroaders
Poutremos Poutra-Poutremos, anchor of the foreign TV station Chanel 9 sketch
An online series of The Fast Show commissioned by Fosters led to six weekly episodes launched on 10 November 2011.
In 2001 and 2002, Whitehouse wrote and performed in two series of the BBC comedy drama Happiness, in which he played a voice-over actor with a mid-life crisis.
Whitehouse wrote, produced and appeared with Chris Langham in the 2005 comedy drama Help, also for the BBC. In this series he took 25 roles, all patients of Langham's psychotherapist (except one, who is Langham's psychotherapist's psychotherapist). The pair's collaboration resulted in Whitehouse taking the witness stand on 24 July 2007 in the trial of Langham, in regard to the charge of holding explicit images and videos of minors. Langham claimed he downloaded this material as research for a character in the second series of Help, but Whitehouse's testimony only partially corroborated this explanation.
Whitehouse appeared in the BBC sketch series Harry & Paul (formerly Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul), starring alongside Harry Enfield.
Whitehouse starred alongside Charlie Higson in the BBC2 comedy series Bellamy's People, with the first episode broadcast on 21 January 2010. The comedy evolved from the BBC Radio 4 program Down the Line. The show originally had the working title of Bellamy's Kingdom.
In October 2014, Harry Enfield and Whitehouse returned to the characters of Frank and George in a sketch for Channel 4's testicular cancer awareness comedy series The Feeling Nuts Comedy Night.
In 2015, his sitcom Nurse, based on his Radio 4 series of the same name (see below), debuted on BBC2 on 10 March.
In August 2015, Whitehouse, alongside Enfield, in celebration of their 25-year partnership, presented An Evening With Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse.
Whitehouse and Charlie Higson produced and appeared in a spoof phone-in show Down the Line on BBC Radio 4. The first series was broadcast May–June 2006. A second series was broadcast 16 January–20 February 2007, during which they won a Sony Radio Academy Award. A third series was broadcast in January 2008, a fourth in January 2011 and a fifth in May 2013. In February 2014, Radio 4 broadcast Nurse, written by Whitehouse and David Cummings and starring Esther Coles in the title role, with Whitehouse playing a variety of characters, including Graham Downs who had previously appeared in Down the Line.
Whitehouse is divorced and has three daughters – Molly, Sophie and Lauren. He lives in Islington, is a supporter of football team Tottenham Hotspur and has appeared on fellow comedian Phil Cornwell's podcast.
Whitehouse's main early influences were the sketches of Les Dennis and Dustin Gee and The Goodies. Tommy Cooper made him laugh, as did Morecambe and Wise and the television show Dad's Army. He cites his modern influences as Harry Enfield, of whom he says without meeting he would not have been doing what he does now, and the approach of Reeves and Mortimer who he thinks are "far and away the best comedians that we have had in this country for a long while."