First Impressions: Hugh Dennis

…is a comedian and actor. He is perhaps best known for his role in BBC's Outnumbered and as a regular panellist on Mock the Week. He has also worked on radio, including his partnership with Steve Punt, and as an impressionist, providing voices for Spitting Image. He lives in London.

What are you working on at the moment?

A play called The Messiah by Patrick Barlow. It was originally done in 1983 and it is a revival of that. It’s about two men putting on a nativity play. It is very funny but it’s really about loss, angst, midlife crisis and all that kind of stuff, which I have so far avoided in my own life.

When are you at your happiest?

Outside. I’m always happier outside than inside.

What is your greatest fear?

I’m slightly claustrophobic. I got trapped in a lift once when I was a child and that has led me to not like confined spaces. I’ve got better about it; I used to panic under the duvet.

What is your earliest memory?

This really does date me, but my dad was the vicar on the Isle of dogs in the 1960s. I was born in 1962 and in 1965 it was Sir Winston Churchill's funeral; I stood in the garden with my dad while these RAF fighters flew really low over the house.

What do you dislike about yourself?

There are bits about me that I find irritating. There are various bits I’ve reached an agreement with. I’ve always disliked my bow legs, for example, but I’ve taught myself into thinking that of the world’s great footballers, 99 per cent of them have bow legs, so that’s fine.

Who has been your greatest influence?

Comedically, Eric Morecambe or Ronnie Barker. In terms of attitude to life, it’s my mum and dad.

What is your most treasured possession?

I’m not sure I have one. Apart, of course, from my hair.

What trait do you most deplore in others?

People who make everything about them.

Do you have any pets?

No. I have had in the past. I had a 28-year-old goldfish, cats, horses. Never had a dog, despite the fact that I grew up on the Isle of dogs. Mad.

Favourite book?

I love William Boyd.

Favourite film?

If it’s Christmas, then I love It’s a Wonderful Life. I like Some Like It Hot and all the Christopher Guest films.

Favourite piece of music?

Weirdly, even if I’m feeling very happy, rather than putting on happy music I quite often put on Leonard Cohen.

Favourite meal?

Sunday roast probably – all those echoes of childhood.

Who would you like to come to dinner?

José Mourinho, Audrey Hepburn, Pope Francis and Tyson Fury.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?

I had an incident once in the street early in my career. A cycle courier looked at me and just said, ‘You’re s***.’ On the other side of the road a bloke with a briefcase said, ‘Oh no, I disagree. I think you’re terribly good.’

Do you believe in aliens?

I do, sort of.

What is your secret vice?

I play football whenever I can, but I’m not sure that’s a vice.

Do you write thank you notes?

I try to. I write thank you emails.

Which phrase do you most overuse?

‘Do you know what I mean?’

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

A slightly better coffee machine. Tell us something people might not know about you. My first toe is slightly longer than my big toe and I think it makes me a Neanderthal.

What would you like your epitaph to say?

When you’re on the telly you realise this is true, so I’d want, ‘Here lies the body of… oh, you know, he was in… what’s that programme?’ because no one ever remembers.

Hugh Dennis is appearing in The Messiah at The Other Palace, London, until 5 January 2019. For tickets, call 020-7087 7900 or visit www.theotherpalace.co.uk

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