Jack Dee worked as a waiter at the Ritz after his mum wouldn’t let him attend drama school and told him to get a real career. Which strikes us as a spectacularly inappropriate occupation for a man with a face like a raincloud. Unsurprisingly, he hated it and began drinking heavily, as well as becoming a regular church attender, which turned him on to the rather unlikely idea of becoming a priest. Eventually Jack went off the idea and, luckily for us, found his true calling.
While Ritz regulars probably didn't enjoy being served by the unsmiling human equivalent of Marvin the Paranoid Android, and religious types would no doubt have found little comfort in a permanently sour priest, Jack managed to find a far more welcoming niche in the world of comedy, becoming everyone's favourite grouchy uncle. Yes, he constantly wears the expression of a man who's accidentally poured curdled milk over his Coco Pops, but that's just the way we like him.
Starting out in stand-up, as all great comedians do, Jack made his debut at an open-mic night at the Comedy Store. It didn't take Jack very long to become a hit: in 1991, he won the British Comedy Award for Best Stage Newcomer. From there it's been a string of awards and accolades for his stage and TV work, including two awards for the John Smith's Bitter adverts he appeared in. He's been on our TV screens almost constantly since 1991 with programmes like Jack Dee's Happy Hour, Jack Dee Live at the Apollo and Celebrity Big Brother - which he won. Jack was a bit of a rule breaker in Big Brother, escaping from the house several times, once purely just to kiss his wife. Well, any excuse eh Jack? Since then he’s renounced the programme and doesn’t allow Channel 4 to show any of the clips. And he's usually so happy-go-lucky...
Jacks' turned his hand to radio with Tell Jack, a Radio 2 consumer programme, and made headway into the world of dramatic acting (Silent Witness, Spivs, The Deputy). He’s also walked the boards in the theatre playing the character of Serge in play Art. But he's not leaving comedy behind - he still turns down far more dramatic roles than he accepts.
Don't tell anyone, but the real Jack Dee is actually quite happy. By all accounts, he laughs and smiles frequently. Yes, this miserable thing is a bit of an act. And who can blame him? He has a lot to smile about these days. His extremely successful comedy career is a great leap forward from his abject failure as a caterer. He's also married and has four kids.
He’s currently well known for his long running Live at the Apollo series and also cult favourite semi-autobiographical comedy show Lead Balloon. He’s also taken part in Channel 4’s Comedy Gala to raise money for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital – so he does have a heart after all, it’s just very deeply hidden under a mask of frowning and misery. He was also a regular on Shooting Stars for two series and has regularly popped up on QI and on Have I Got News For You, which he’s guest presented nine times.
Of course he'll never admit that all this success has made him chirpy. "I got into a bad mood when I was 14," he says, "and it's never lifted." Never a moment of joie de vivre or hint of ecstasy for poor old Jack Dee. But still, he brings so much joy to the rest of us we'll let him off...