Rebecca Front Profile

She specialises in amusing panic attacks, hilarious dread and rib-tickling nervous breakdowns. But how did Rebecca Front end up becoming our most neurotic national treasure?

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Rebecca Front's done a lot, a LOT, in her time. Even in the space of one show – Knowing Me, Knowing You – she played a gaggle of Alan Partridge guests, from a hapless show jumper to a bonkers fashion designer to an alarmist bell-ringing evangelical Christian. But the roles that really made her name have one thing in common: misery. Absolute, soul-killing misery. Well, soul-killing for her characters anyway – the horrorshow has been rather fun to watch from our side of the TV screen. Think of her in Nighty Night as Angus Deayton's trembling, anguished, panic-stricken wife. That was a hoot. And of course there's her now surely iconic role as The Thick of It's Nicola Murray, who was basically a meltdown on legs. Not since the downfall of Steve McLaren as England manager has the pain and suffering of one person been so spectacularly entertaining for everyone else.

So, all in all, Rebecca Front is a comic genius. But her career might never have turned out this way were it not for… queues. Specifically, the queues leading to the auditions for student plays at Oxford University. That was where the young Rebecca went to study, and she was so put off by the hideous cutthroat competition to get into the "serious" productions that she decided to try for the comedy revues instead. It helped there were hardly any other women there too – all the willowy, pouting, Knightley types were too busy poncing about in Pinter plays, probably, which meant Rebecca could "shine and do something different", as she later put it.

And she shone all right. She shone like a radioactive candle, and ended up doing an Edinburgh Festival show called The Bobo Girls which got promptly snapped up for BBC Radio 4. Rebecca was on her way, and she was even on her wayer when the second series wound up being produced by Armando Iannucci – the demonically talented satirical overlord who'd go on to give us I'm Alan Partridge and The Thick of It, among other brilliant things. It was Armando who asked Rebecca to do a couple of bits for The Mary Whitehouse Experience, back when that soon-to-be-seminal sketch show was still on the radio. One sketch involved her doing sex noises while pretending to be Mrs Thatcher. Look, it was groundbreaking stuff, right? And it was the springboard to her joining Chris Morris and Steve Coogan for the radio series that would eventually become The Day Today, perhaps the greatest British satirical series of all time.

Apart from The Thick of It, which is better. Plus it's the show that finally gave Rebecca Front a major lead role in a major TV comedy, albeit one which involved her looking petrified, upset, sour, depressed and more or less completely suicidal. While being screamed at by Peter Capaldi. Then again, most of us would probably rather enjoy being screamed at by Peter Capaldi: Malcolm Tucker makes happy masochists of us all. We should probably also point out Rebecca Front HAS had a chance to play non-terrified people in shows like Jo Brand's Great Wall of Comedy, and a sitcom called The Spa where she was in the unlikely role of a kind of female, vampish Gordon Brittas.

Plus, massively unrelatedly but it's got to be said for trivia-value, Rebecca Front's dad was the guy who designed the iconically oozing logo for the classic Beatles album Rubber Soul. Which is such a claim to fame that it's a wonder she bothered to go and become actually famous in her own right. There's drive for you.

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