Nigel George Planer (born 22 February 1953) is a British actor, comedian, musician, novelist and playwright. He played Neil in the BBC comedy The Young Ones and Ralph Filthy in Filthy Rich & Catflap. He has appeared in many West End musicals, including original casts of Evita, Chicago, We Will Rock You, Wicked, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He has also appeared in Hairspray. He won a BRIT award in 1984 and has been nominated for Olivier, TMA, WhatsOnStage and BAFTA awards.
Nigel George Planer
22 February 1953
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, musician, novelist, playwright|
Planer's father's Hungarian-Romanian family left Nazi Germany in 1933 and settled in Mortlake, London. He established a medical equipment company, which pioneered technology in controlled-rate freezers, IVF and stem cells. Nigel, who has two brothers, was born in Westminster, London. He attended King's House School in Richmond and Westminster School in central London, where he wrote a satirical play about the school with fellow pupil Stephen Poliakoff. Having failed to gain a place on a drama course at university, he instead began a degree course in African and Asian Studies at the University of Sussex but dropped out and went travelling. After becoming ill, he applied and was accepted to study acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where he met and began working with Peter Richardson.
Planer was a founding member of the London Comedy Store and original member of The Comic Strip – pioneers of the alternative comedy movement in the United Kingdom. Planer appeared with Peter Richardson as part of the double act "The Outer Limits". Planer and Richardson also wrote the That's Life! parody on Not the Nine O'Clock News. Over the next 20 years he went on to star in film, theatre and television. With Christopher Douglas, he created the spoof actor character "Nicholas Craig", who appears in book, radio, TV and articles as well as live; most recently at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in Stewart Lee's At Last the 1984 show. Planer is also the author of several books, plays, radio plays, and TV scripts as well as a small volume of poetry. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Edinburgh Napier University in June 2011.
Planer is best known for his role as Neil, the hippie housemate in the BBC comedy The Young Ones, which ran for two series broadcast in 1982 and 1984. He has starred in The Comic Strip Presents..., a series of short films sporadically broadcast from 1982 onwards, as various odd outsiders.
In 2003, Planer played Professor Dumbledore in a Harry Potter parody, Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber Pot of Azerbaijan. He appeared on a BBC4 programme in the guise of Nicholas Craig in 2007, in which he was interviewed by Mark Lawson.
Planer's guest appearances include programmes such as The Bill, French and Saunders, Jonathan Creek, Blackadder III, The Last Detective, The Paul Merton Show, The Lenny Henry Show, Death in Paradise and Gary Wilmot's Songs from the Shows. He also guest-starred in an episode of This is Jinsy entitled "Nameworm", and in the BBC series Boomers. Planer played Matt LeBlanc's lawyer in the TV series Episodes.
Leading roles on television include Shine on Harvey Moon, Filthy Rich and Catflap, The Grimleys, King and Castle, Bonjour La Classe and Roll Over Beethoven. He also starred in Michael Palin's Number 27, Simon Gray's Two Lumps of Ice, Emma Tennant's Frankenstein's Baby, and Blackeyes by Dennis Potter.
In 1990, he replaced Michael Gambon in Alan Ayckbourn's Man of the Moment in the West End. Leading roles followed in other productions at the Bush Theatre, the Lyric Theatre, the Traverse, the Young Vic, the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Regent's Park Open-Air Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Plymouth Drum and the Hampstead Theatre.
From 10 to 15 July 2006 he played the part of the narrator in The Rocky Horror Show, taking on the role in Manchester and Bromley. He then starred as The Wizard in the original West End production of Wicked alongside Idina Menzel. The show opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre on 27 September 2006. Planer ended his run on 7 June 2008 and was replaced by Desmond Barrit.
In 2010, Planer returned to the role of the Narrator in the UK Tour of The Rocky Horror Show, playing in Cambridge and Northampton, before also reprising the role of Wilbur in Manchester and Leeds. He also featured in Doctor Who: Live touring the UK, as Vorgenson The Inter-Galactic Showman, before appearing in Pantomime as Captain Hook at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield.
Planer has appeared in films, including Flood, Virgin Territory, Bright Young Things, Hogfather, The Colour of Magic, The Wind in the Willows, The Land Girls, Clockwork Mice, Carry On Columbus, Brazil, The Supergrass, I Give It a Year, The Apple Picker and Yellowbeard.
Planer played Den Dennis, one of the four members of the 1980s spoof rock band Bad News, which made two albums produced by Brian May. The band performed at the Hammersmith Apollo as well as the Donington and Reading Rock Festivals.
As Neil from The Young Ones, Planer gained a number two hit single in 1984 in the form of "Hole in My Shoe" (originally a hit for 1960s band Traffic). A cover of Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle" was a less successful follow up, only reaching No.97 in the charts. After that, an album was produced, entitled Neil's Heavy Concept Album. Planer also took Neil's stage act on the road in that year as Neil in the "Bad Karma in The UK" tour. This culminated in a month-long run at St. Mary's Hall at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Young Ones also appeared on Cliff Richard's 1986 charity rerecording of "Living Doll", which spent three weeks at number one in the UK. He has a silver and a gold disc and has a Brit award from his musical career. In 2015 he started a new music project called Rainsmoke with Chris Wade (Dodson and Fogg) and Roger Planer.
In 2017 he recorded two songs for the album Wit & Whimsy – Songs by Alexander S. Bermange (one solo and one featuring all of the album's 23 artists), which reached No. 1 in the iTunes comedy album chart.
In 2021, Planer released several of his own musical projects. "Five Songs Left" and "Four Songs More", collaborations with Chris Wade, are Nick Drake-inspired folk songs that he wrote in 1971, when we was eighteen. He also released two singles written more recently, "City in the Summer", a jazz song about the hot summer of COVID-19, and "Love Strikes". He also wrote lyrics for "Commit No Nuisance", a music collaboration with Neil Avery. Described as a "labour of love", "Talk it Out", one of the songs from the album, aims to encourage male mental health awareness. He has also written lyrics for Matts Lindblom.
Planer was the initial main reader for the first unabridged audiobook editions of many of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. He also appeared in the television adaptations of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather and The Colour of Magic, and performed as a voice artist in the games Discworld 2 and Discworld Noir. Discworld Audiobooks narrated by Planer include (with number in parentheses indicating order of the book in the Discworld series):
Other voice roles include the narrator of Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids (and the audiobook narrator for Fearsome Tales for Fiendish Kids), the title character of Romuald the Reindeer, and Dr. Marmalade in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants (alongside Young Ones co-stars Christopher Ryan and Rik Mayall). Planer has also been the narrator of many of BBC Four's Britannia series of documentaries, including Prog Rock Britannia, Blues Britannia and Heavy Metal Britannia. In addition he voiced Frodo in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil from the 1992 radio series Tales from the Perilous Realm. He was a narrator in a direct-to-video version of Val Biro's Gumdrop book series in 1994. He also narrated two short surreal monologues on the album In A Strange Slumber, by Dodson and Fogg, Chris Wade's progressive folk rock project. He narrated as a thirty-something Adrian Mole in the radio adaptation of Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years.
In 2018, he voiced the character of Henry Davenant Hythe in the Big Finish Productions original production, Jeremiah Bourne in Time, which he also wrote. Planer also narrated an audiobook written by Chris Wade called Raymond's Room, released by Wisdom Twins Books.
Planer has written books, stage plays, TV shows, radio plays and newspaper articles as well as penning 105 episodes of The New Magic Roundabout.
His television comedy and satire work includes: