Rowan Sebastian Atkinson, CBE, MSc was born on 6 January 1955. He first won national attention in the Oxford Revue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 1976. He had already written and performed early sketches for shows in Oxford by the Etceteras – the revue group of the Experimental Theatre Club (ETC), and for the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS), meeting writer Richard Curtis and composer Howard Goodall, with whom he would continue to collaborate during his career.
After university, Atkinson toured with Angus Deayton as his straight man in an act that was eventually filmed for a television show. After the success of the show, he did a one-off pilot for London Weekend Television in 1979 called ‘Canned Laughter’. Atkinson then went on to do ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ for the BBC, together with Pamela Stephenson, Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith. He was one of the main sketch writers.
The success of Not the Nine O’Clock News led to him taking the lead role in the medieval sitcom The Black Adder. This became a serialized comedy, set in various historical eras including the Elizabethan era and World War I.
During the 1980’s, Atkinson regularly appeared as a standup comedian, also appearing annually at Comic Relief. In 1986 he sang the duet Do Bears… together with Kate Bush. The duet was released on the album Utterly Utterly Live at the Shaftesbury Theatre: Comic Relief.
Atkinson’s most famous creation, the hapless Mr. Bean, first appeared on New Year’s Day in 1990 in a half-hour special for Thames Television. Several sequels to Mr. Bean appeared on television until 1995, and the character later appeared in a feature film. Bean (1997) was directed by Mel Smith, Atkinson’s colleague in Not the Nine O’Clock News. A second film, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, was released in 2007.
Other films starring Atkinsons were Johnny English (2003) and Johnny English Reborn (2011), best described as a James Bond parody.
Atkinson was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2013 for services to drama and charity.