Yes, so, Stephen Mangan's yet ANOTHER top comic actor who happened to go to Cambridge. But to be fair to the man, he doesn't hail from some unspeakably plummy clan who are on first name terms with the Redgraves. He was actually the very first person in his family to go to university at all, and it was with the intention of getting into law. Until he got involved in the local drama society and realised that he'd much rather do that, thanks. It probably helped that his fellow students included Sue Perkins and Rachel Weisz. Plus, he'd already had a taste of performing, having been in a prog rock band called Aragon when he was 14. That's right: he was a teenage boy into prog rock, and it wasn't the 70s. We'll skirt over this one, for his sake.
He had his sights on a place at RADA – serious acting, darling – but things took a grim turn when his mum was hit by cancer at the horribly young age of 45. He nursed her during that painful period, then – drawing on frankly staggering amounts of inner strength – auditioned for RADA just days after her funeral. Things fell into place after that – the place being the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stephen's since said that his mum's untimely passing actually spurred him on to pursue the crazily uncertain, completely financially screwy career of acting, because "if I've got 20 years left, I want to spend it doing something I love".
He's been doing it ever since – his career-making role being the adult Adrian Mole in 2001, followed swiftly by his scene-stealing turn as Dan the "sex person" in I'm Alan Partridge. (Top tip: if you happen to see Stephen Mangan out and about, minding his own business, shout "Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan!" at him – he never, ever gets tired of that one). It was hospital sitcom Green Wing, that sick, surreal work of demonic genius – a show that plays out like an extremely funny bad dream – that really made Mangan a household name. Sadly, it coincided with yet another blow – the death of his father, also from cancer. "Really? Again?" was Stephen's incredulous reaction to this grim turn of events. It meant rushing from the fake hospital of Green Wing to the very real hospital his dad was being treated in.
The upshot after all this is that Stephen gets probes put up his rectum, in search of errant cells, far more than any man should. Hopefully he sees the funny side. His TV work's certainly continued to be chortlesome, and in fact utterly brilliant in the case of Episodes – the show which sees him and fellow Green Winger Tamsin Greig have their souls crushed by Hollywood, and Matt LeBlanc. The triumph of this transatlantic series more than makes up for his unexpectedly short-lived stint as Dirk Gently, we reckon. Plus, he's helped bring Jackanory to a new generation – or, more accurately, an aging and hopelessly nostalgic generation – by being a storyteller on Crackanory. We can think of no better use for his famously rich and chocolatey tones. Except maybe Postman Pat. He's doing the voice for the movie, brilliantly.