chris addison


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Chris Addison

Chris Addison was born Anatole Gorzjic in a sideshow tent during the middle of a four week run of the Cirque du Zinfandel at Dubrovnik Municipal Rec.  His father was the bearded man and his mother was an itinerant teeth-grinder.  Much of his early life was spent following the circus from town to town, learning the skills of the big top and occasionally standing in as a tent peg when needed.  These experiences proved formative and the influence can still be seen on Addison's act - his unconventional use of elephants, for example, which has challenged the stuctural integrity of a number of pub-based comedy clubs.

When his father's career was cut short by an overkeen barber in the mid-nineteenth century, the Gorzjic family settled permanently in England, a country they had grown to know and understand through the novels of Charles Dickens.  Anxious to fit in, they decided to change their name to something more typically English.  There followed long months of experimentation and bewildering reactions.  At first they called themselves Bumberdink, then Feddlechip.  They moved through Garnlevel, Moodibank and Filp until they gave the whole thing up and called themselves Addison.

Young Anatole was schooled at Manchester's only Hassidic Anglican Academy, a deeply Orthodox High Church establishment.  Although he enjoyed the curriculum, he would later complain that he found the smell of incense was difficult to get out of his Homburg.  It was during his years here, that Anatole took his first steps in the world of Comedy, writing, directing and performing in the end-of-year reviews 'Holy Moses, Here Comes Jesus!' and 'Fiddler on The Roof Repair Fund'.

On leaving the Academy, and following military service in the Crimea, Anatole took the professional name Chris and began trying his luck at open spots around Manchester, whilst earning money during the days as a pasta smelter's assistant.  In November of 1995 he won the prestigious City Life North-West Comedian of The Year competition, following which he was fortunate enough to be able to up his hours at the pasta smelting plant.

In 1998, Addison met a chinese mystic at the northbound Stafford services on the M6 (then still a Granada, now rebranded as Moto) in the queue for sandwich prisms.  Over an under-cooked panini, the mystic persuaded him to take a self-titled and largely eponymous solo show to that year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  The mystic then got into an RAC van and drove off.  Lacking any direction or decision-making facility of his own, Addison chose to follow the mystic's advice and was surprised to be rewarded with a Perrier Best Newcomer nomination for his trouble.

The rest of 1998 passed in an extraordinary whirl for Addison, who found himself much in demand by the crowned heads of Europe.  Indeed, he spent long enough at the court of the Queen of Bohemia during the autumn to cause the Mitteleuropa rumour mill some effort.  A full-blown scandal was averted when the Queen eloped with the Crown Princess of Vulgaria, the fictional nature of their two countries doing nothing to diminish the impact of the event.

Back in England, Addison spent an enjoyable few weeks sitting on a sofa under hot lights, presenting 'The Alphabet Show' with his great friend, the musician, broadcaster and wit Lauren Laverne.  The show was aired by the now defunct UK Play channel, which just goes to show.

In the spring of 1999, Addison returned to the Crimea, where he'd left his keys.  Now able to get back into his well-appointed garret in a Tooting attic, he wrote a fairly unremarkable follow-up solo show, 'Gentleman, Scholar, Acrobat', with which he troubled Edinburgh audiences that August.  Nothing much happened for the rest of that year, although he did receive an interesting book for Christmas from his godmother, Gypsy Rose Liebowitz, who was spending December, along with the rest of the circus, on Peckham Rye.

In 2000 Addison had two further, and very different, encounters with the world of Television.  In May of that year he and his friend Gail were somehow persuaded to present the best-forgotten 'Dotcomedy' programme for Britain's Channel 4.  Later that year, though, Addison and another friend, Geoff Lloyd, were invited to co-write the final series of TFI Friday, for the same channel.  They seem to have approached this as an exercise in fantasy fulfilment, using the opportunity to strand Keith Harris and Orville on a raft in the middle of the Thames, unleashing highwaymen onto the streets of Hammersmith and instigating a program of Womble-eviction, amongst other things.

It was during this latter period that Addison developed his unfortunate scratchcard addiction.  Unusually, he became addicted not to the gambling element, but to the silver paint that covers the numbers, which he would take in a 'tea' form.  Friends eventually confronted him and he was persuaded to retreat to a rehabilitaion venue, where he was weaned off his dependency with raffle ticket ink.

The summer of that year saw Addison's third assault on the sensibilities of Scottish festival-going audiences when he arrived in Edinburgh with his new show, 'Cakes and Ale'.  This was an exploration of what Englishness means these days and was jolly well-received.  Earlier that summer he performed at the famous 'Just For Laughs' comedy festival in Montreal, which he enjoyed greatly, although when he ordered a burger from room service, it was cold.  But that's just picking holes.

The next year, as you can confirm if you check your diaries, was 2001.  In January, Addison was the victim of a booking mix-up (the first since his four nights at the Moulin Rouge in 1997) and became for three weeks the head of the Atomic Energy Agency.  The mistake was discovered when his first presentation to the board consisted of a reworked version of the routine that he had first devised in the 1920s with Niels Bohr and Ernest Rutherford, in which they would split an atom and then perform a series of juggling manoeuvres with three quarks and a fire club.

Disappointed to be relieved of his position, Addison was invited to take 'Cakes and Ale' to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in March, which more than made up for it.  On his reluctant return to the Northern Hemisphere, he fought off depression by writing a companion piece to 'Cakes and Ale', entitled 'Port Out, Starboard Home', an exploration of the English abroad and their wider attitudes to the world outside their borders.  This he took Edinburgh.  It seemed the thing to do.

2002 saw another trip to Melbourne with the aforementioned 'Port Out, Starboard Home', which was nominated for the Barry Humphries Award.  Despite this, his application for residency was unsuccessful.  Always a likely outcome, but probably not helped by his having to tick the box marked 'feckless mountebank' on the 'occupation' section of the form.  Forced by the expiration of his visa to leave Australia once more, Addison returned to his desk and produced a new show - his fifth - which he called 'The Ape That Got Lucky', another exploration - this time of the whole of human evolution.  This he managed to fit into an hour.  You can see that as an achievement, or you can see it as the trivialisation of an important subject.  It's up to you.

After the Edinburgh Festival, Addison was involved in presenting another television programme, this time for the erstwhile digital channel BBC Choice, called 'The State We're In'.  It was cancelled.  Nobody raised any objections.  However, along with Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver, he was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 to write 'The Department', a satirical series set in the non-governmental organisation which really runs the country.  The Establishment trembled.

It was during this period that Addison became the victim of a booking mix-up (the second since his four nights at the Moulin Rouge in 1997) when he was asked to provide holiday cover for Sir Simon Rattle at the Berlin Philharmonic.  Persuaded by his agent that this might work nicely as a profile-raising excercise, he took up the challenge, but was relieved of his position shortly after his first concert, when he conducted Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in waltz time.

In 2003, Chris Addison spent the first half of the year writing and self-publishing a three part novel entitled 'The Lord of The Rings' about a 'hobbit' called 'Frodo' who undertakes a quest to destroy a ring (the 'ring of power') in a volcano ('Mount Doom').  He spent the second half of the year in court.  Thankfully, taking the sour taste of litigation from his mouth, was the welcome reception of the Chortle Comedy Award for Best Compere 2003.  In December he appeared on 'Have I Got News For You', as part of a protracted campaign to raise legal fees through the medium of working.  This was also aided by his engagement in May to write a fortnightly column for The Guardian's 'Jobs & Money' section, despite having had neither a job nor money for a number of years.  

Early in 2004, 'The Department' was finally recorded and aired.  With the money they earned, Zaltzman, Oliver and Addison clubbed together and got a subscription to 'Uncut' magazine, leaving them just enough for a bag of ostrich biltong.  The programme was well-received by people who stay up late and a second, longer, series was commissioned for spring 2005.

In March, Addison returned to Melbourne with 'The Ape That Got Lucky', a version of which he'd just recorded for BBC Radio 4 as a pilot for a series of the same name. (It was subsequently commissioned and  recorded at The Almeida Theatre, over a series of Sunday nights and was broadcast in August 2005.)  The show sold out in Australia, as it had in Edinburgh, which is just as well because flights to Melbourne aren't cheap.  Unless you live in Sydney.

Once back in England, Addison became the victim of a booking mix-up (the third since his four nights at the Moulin Rouge in 1997) when he was awarded the tender for the restoration of the west front of St. Paul's Cathedral.  He was relieved of the project after coming to blows with two of the residentiary canons over plans for the installation of a waterslide and a wave machine.

Short of something to do, and under increasing pressure from his agent, which was just habit as much as anything else, Addison found himself committed to writing and performing yet another show for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  This he called 'Civilization'.  It concerned the elements that go to make up that concept, and it received a nomination for that year's Perrier Award, Scotland's premier fizzy-drink-based trophy.

In 2005, he was invited back to Australia to perform 'Civilization' at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and for a fortnight's run at Sydney's well known The Sydney Opera House.  At the former event, he was nominated once more for the Barry Humphries Award.  Whilst packing his bags for this exciting venture, Addison was able to find the time between pairing up socks to record a second series of 'The Department' for Radio 4, which commenced its run to critical approval at the end of July.  He also filmed a semi-improvised, political sitcom called 'The Thick of It' (BBC4) under the auspices of Britain's favourite Italo-Glaswegian satirist, Armando Iannucci.

Following the broadcast of the initial three episodes of 'The Thick of It', those involved decided that since they weren't up to anything else particularly, and they needed a displacement activity if they were going to avoid hanging the washing out, they should make a further three episodes.  These were broadcast on BBC4 in the Autumn and the whole run of six made its long-awaited terrestrial TV debut in January 2006.

'The Thick of It' won Best New Comedy Show at the British Comedy Awards 2005, where Mr. Addison was also nominated as Best Newcomer for his 'performance' in the 'role' of 'Ollie Reeder'.  Sadly for him, justice prevailed and he was quite rightly beaten by the brilliant Ashley Jensen, who was far too good as Maggie in 'Extras'.

In that same year he wrote his seventh one-man show, 'Atomicity', and dragged it up to Edinburgh, where it too was nominated for the aforementioned Perrier Award.  Having caught him at the right moment, Addison's agent was able to persuade him to haul the show about the place on what would be his first ever national tour that autumn.  He covered 8,500 miles, which is enough to get you to the top left corner of Australia if you're prepared to swim the last little bit.

That Radio 4 adaptation of 'The Ape That Got Lucky', remember?  Well, it got broadcast in August 2005.  Lots of people liked it, and a few of them work for newspapers.  In the end, it won Britain's top prize for radio comedy, the Sony Gold Award 2006, beating other nominated comedies including 'You and Yours', 'Temazepam at 7 on Classic FM', 'Ken Bruce (News Bit Only)', 'The Organist Entertains' and 'Shaft (Radio 4 Dramatisation)'.  A second series, under the name 'Civilization', was broadcast in April 2006 to broadly favourable noises and  was released for public shunning in compacted discs form that August.

In that same year (2006 - do keep up) the young master spent some time in a room in his house with a pen, some paper and a rhyming dictionary.  The result was a volume of comic verse, 'Cautionary Tales for Grown-Ups', which is published by Hodder and Stoughton and often given to middle-class people as a Christmas present.  And very gratefully received it generally is, too.  The only other book written by Mr. Addison is 'It Wasn't Me: Why Everyone Else Is To Blame And You're Not' - a reflection on the state of the world and instructions on how to prove that none of it is your fault.  It is required reading by politicians and older people and published, once more, by Hodder.

In other news: in 2005, the British Broadcasting Corporation's television people commissioned a pilot episode of 'Lab Rats', a sitcom written by Mr. Addison and his long-time co-conspirator Carl Cooper.  Haste being the public sector watchword and all that, the resulting series was ultimately broadcasted on BBC2 in the July of 2008.  Set in a university research lab, 'Lab Rats' was written and recorded during 2007 and has been variously described by its creators as "stupid," "cartoony," and "filmed in front of a live studio audience."  The show starred the young master alongside his old radio comrades Jo Enright, Geoffrey McGivern and Dan Tetsell, plus Selina Cadell and Helen Moon, and was been produced, overseen and kept shipshape by Simon Nicholls and Armando Iannucci.

In the spring and early summer of 2008, the team who made 'The Thick of It' reunited, in large part to make a film for cinematographical releasification under the title 'In The Loop'.  Feeling a little shorthanded on the first morning of principal photography, the producers rang Kelly Services who were able to rustle up some temps - Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini and the like - to lend a hand.  Everyone mucked in and it was jolly good fun.  The thing was finally released in 2009 to the kind of reviews you generally only get if you land on the moon or have overcome terrible hardship to sing 'Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong' on 'The X-Factor'.

At the time of going to web, Mr. Addison had finished filming new episodes of 'The Thick of It' and 'Skins' and started to spend time writing a new stand-up show for a tour in the Spring, grading his doily collection, faffing about with an antique, wrought-iron Twitter-wrangling unit instead of working, and attempting to make his fortune by buying bark chips from Homebase to sell on at a vastly inflated mark-up as ‘ genuine artisan vegetarian biltong’.

Chris Addison divides what little time he has between homes in Thanet, Oxford, Luton, Galashiels, Westward Ho!, Congleton and New York.  He is partial to parkin, the northern cake speciality, and is married to a woman whom we shall not name, in case either lady should happen to read this.

Thank-you for your kind attention.