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Peter Kay

For the footballer, see Peter Kaye. For the philanthropist, see Peter Kay (philanthropist).

Peter Kay
Kay giving a comedy master class at the University of Salford in 2012
Birth name Peter John Kay
Born (1973-07-02) 2 July 1973 (age 42)
Bolton, Lancashire, England
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Years active 1996–present
Genres Observational comedy
Subject(s) Everyday life
Influences Ronnie Barker[1]
Influenced Jason Manford[2]
Spouse Susan Kay (m. 2001)[3]
Children 1
Notable works and roles Phoenix Nights (2001–2002)
Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere (2004)
Comic Relief
Peter Kay's Car Share (2015)

Peter John Kay (born 2 July 1973) is an English comedian. His last stand-up comedy tour was officially inaugurated into the Guinness World Records as the most successful of all time, playing to over 1.2 million people. He has written, produced, and acted in several award winning television and film projects. In addition, he has authored three books, the first of which—The Sound of Laughter—still remains the biggest selling British autobiography to date.


Peter Kay was born and brought up in Bolton.[citation needed] He attended St Ethelbert's R.C. School then Mount St Joseph High School, leaving with one GCSE in art. He took several menial jobs, including working in a toilet roll factory, a Netto supermarket, a cash and carry, and a bingo hall, which later inspired episodes for That Peter Kay Thing. He began a degree course at the University of Liverpool but dropped out because he was given an unconditional offer to attend a Higher National Diploma (HND) in media performance at the University of Salford. He then attended the University of Salford's school of media, music and performance, where he studied for a HND in Media Performance, which he completed; this involved a stand-up course, at which he excelled.

His first stand-up was the competition the North West Comedian of the Year, which was held in Manchester and hosted by Dave Spikey, who would later be the co-star and co-writer of Phoenix Nights. Kay was last on the bill and won the competition, beating Johnny Vegas. Kay has said that he sought a career in comedy. However, Kay continued to work part-time as an usher at his local cinema in Bolton whilst performing stand-up locally. When the cinema closed, Kay was presented with the choice between finding another menial job or moving into comedy full-time. After he entered and won Channel 4's So You Think You're Funny? contest in 1997, his first semi-professional stand-up appearances were at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he received a prestigious Perrier Award nomination. During this time, he also appeared at various other clubs, such as London's influential Comedy Store. Although this led to a certain level of public recognition, it was only after his first live video show Live at the Top of the Tower in 2000 that Kay attained mainstream recognition. During this period, he appeared on several chat shows, such as Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and Parkinson, on the latter of which he had previously served as warm up. It was at this time that production also began on Phoenix Nights, which was to see him achieve critical acclaim as well as mainstream success. Subsequent advertisements for John Smith's bitter which imitate the realistic style of Phoenix Nights saw Kay develop his catchphrases "'ave it!" and "two lamb bhunas".

1997–2000: Early career

Kay's first TV project was in an episode of New Voices, a comedy series which showcased up and coming talent. His episode, "Two Minutes", written by Johanne McAndrew, saw him play a getaway driver as two of his mates attempted to rob a pub of its takings. This was broadcast in 1997. After appearing on BBC2's The Sunday Show— presenting his own slot, "Peter Kay's World of Entertainment"—Kay made an episode of Channel 4's Comedy Lab, "The Services", in 1998, which won a Royal Television Society award for best newcomer. This served as a pilot for That Peter Kay Thing. His idea for this series was to create a testbed for ideas and concepts that he could later use within other series. The idea of having several characters all played by himself was something with which Kay experimented.

After a favourable reception to the pilot, That Peter Kay Thing was devised. It was based on Kay's experiences from his earlier life working in several menial jobs. The range of characters included Brian Potter, who would go on to become the primary character in Phoenix Nights, and who Kay said was a combination of all his bosses' personalities along with the voice of a man he knows. The eccentric Leonard de Tomkinson is reputedly based on a real man named Leonard who used to visit Peter during his working time at the local Majestic Garage. Following the series' success, Kay and his co-writers—Neil Fitzmaurice and Dave Spikey—used the episode "In the Club" as the basis for Phoenix Nights.

Phoenix Nights was set in a newly refurbished social club run by wheelchair-bound Brian Potter. The cast was made up almost entirely of stand-up comics whom the writers had met on "the circuit". The show was an immediate hit. It followed the story of the club and the various events that happened there. Much of the humour was somewhat implicit, relying on subtle background clues and hints or paradoxes. The first series was filmed in part at St Gregory's Social Club in Farnworth, Lancashire, where the exterior, hallways and function suite were used. Other sets—such as the Jocky Wilson suite—were built at Granada Studios. For the second series, all filming took place at St Gregory's Social Club.

In 2004, Kay followed the success with Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere, a spin-off of Phoenix Nights. The show featured the bouncer characters from the show—played by Peter Kay and Paddy McGuinness—and at times also featured other characters from Phoenix Nights. Six episodes were made and broadcast from November to December 2004 by Channel 4. The DVD of the series was released in October 2005, but—unlike previous DVDs—does not feature commentary from either Kay or McGuinness, instead opting for "surprise" commentators. In 2005, Kay was awarded a Rose d'Or at the international television festival in Montreux for best performance by an actor. He later commented "if anybody knows anything about comedy, it's the Swiss." In December 2005, a spoof workout DVD was also released, starring McGuinness and Kay and entitled Max and Paddy's: The Power Of Two.

On 17 April 2006, Channel 4 broadcast a "Peter Kay Night", showing out-takes from Phoenix Nights (previously featured on DVD), a behind-the-scenes documentary "180 – A Tour Documentary" which followed Kay behind the scenes of his mammoth Mum Wants a Bungalow tour and also screened the whole Peter Kay Live in Manchester Arena show. During this evening, Kay was seen in character as Max (from Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere and Phoenix Nights) discussing the tribute with Paddy (Paddy McGuinness). Max stated that he disliked Peter Kay and thought that Channel 4 was going downhill for dedicating an entire night to him. Paddy wondered why ITV have not snapped up Kay. Max is shown to be ignorant of current events, failing to realise that civil partnerships are now legal and that Elton John has made use of it, to controversial news stories involving Michael Barrymore, Gary Glitter, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Michael Jackson.

In 2008, Kay returned to TV after an absence four years with the BAFTA-winning satire of reality talent shows, Peter Kay's Britain's Got the Pop Factor... and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice, which he co-wrote with Paul Coleman. The two-hour special was screened on Channel 4 on 17 October 2008 and pulled in a record 6.5 million viewers, the highest viewing figure the channel had had in seven years. Kay won his second Royal Television Society award for best actor for playing Geraldine McQueen, a transsexual dinner lady from Ireland. The show also featured songs composed by Gary Barlow and Kay, including Once Upon a Christmas Song and The Winner's Song, both of which reached number two in the official Top 40 ironically beating real-life X-Factor winner Leon Jackson. Since 2002, Kay has featured in television advertisements for John Smith's beer through which the catchphrase—"'Ave it!"—gained popularity for an unceremonious hoof upfield in a football-themed advert.

He later claimed in his autobiography that he never meant to use "'Ave-it!", he just said it after kicking the ball successfully. Kay's only other TV advertising work to date has been a brief appearance in the Marks & Spencer Christmas advert in 2010.

2000–2011: Stage shows

Kay has released several DVDs of live performances, including Live at the Top of the Tower, Live at the Bolton Albert Halls (which holds the record as biggest selling British stand-up DVD), Peter Kay: The Live Collections (the previous two combined), Peter Kay: Live at Manchester Arena, and Peter Kay Live – The Tour That Didn't Tour Tour (which was recorded during his record breaking fifteen-night sold-out run at The O2 in London). He remains the only act in the world other than Prince to play as many nights.

Charity involvement

Kay has supported Comic Relief and Children in Need since his first appearance in 1997, most notably by performing in music videos.[citation needed]

The first such video project was a re-release of a Tony Christie track, "Is This the Way to Amarillo". The concept featured Kay miming to Christie's original vocal, walking in various locations flanked on either side by an eclectic assortment of British TV and music icons from across the decades, including Michael Parkinson, Ronnie Corbett (who famously and quite painfully fell over during filming, but the footage still appeared in the final edit), Geoffrey Hayes and Bungle from children's television series Rainbow, Shakin' Stevens, Mr Blobby, Jim Bowen, Danny Baker, Keith Harris & Orville, Ken & Deirdre Barlow (from Coronation Street), Shaun Ryder and Bez from the Happy Mondays, and Heather Mills. On Sunday 20 March 2005, the single reached number one in the UK singles chart. It stayed there for seven consecutive weeks and was the biggest-selling single of 2005. It raised over £1 million for Comic Relief.

In 2007, Kay followed this success with a re-release of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)", originally by The Proclaimers, for Comic Relief. It featured Kay in the guise of Brian Potter and comedian Matt Lucas in guise as Andy Pipkin from Little Britain. This, too, reached number one in the UK singles chart and remained there for four weeks. The video featured a celebration of iconic British talent, including appearances by Basil Brush, the Krankies, Bucks Fizz, Showaddywaddy, Timmy Mallet, Dusty Bin, Rod, Jane and Freddy, Paul O'Grady, Tess Daly, Bonnie Langford, Robert Powell, Des Lynham, Mark Curry, June Whitfield, and David Tennant.

In 2009, Kay switched his musical fund-raising to Children in Need with the release of Peter Kay's All Star Animated Band, which had taken two years to complete. He brought together over 100 animated children's characters in a six-minute animated medley. These characters included Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, SpongeBob SquarePants, Paddington Bear, the Wombles, Fireman Sam, Peppa Pig, Postman Pat, and the cast of Thunderbirds. It also featured some the characters' original voice artists including Bernard Cribbins, Neil Morrissey, and Ringo Starr. The video was premiered on BBC1 on Friday 20 November 2009 to an audience of nine million and reached number one in the UK singles chart the following Sunday, remaining there for four weeks. Contractual restrictions on behalf of the characters contained in the video means that the project can never be televised again.

Kay returned his support to Comic Relief in 2011 with a cover version of "I Know Him So Well", originally performed by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson in 1985. The song was re-recorded by multi-platinum selling singer Susan Boyle and Kay in the guise of Geraldine McQueen from Britain's Got the Pop Factor. The video which accompanied the single was also directed by Kay and identically parodied the original video shot for shot. It was premiered on Comic Relief on Friday 18 March.

Kay returned with his Sit Down challenge sketch for Comic Relief 2013. A parody of the popular and fashionable celebrity charity challenges, the viewers saw Kay embark on a mammoth sit-down challenge from Belfast to London aided and abetted by personalities from showbusiness and the Olympic Games. Wearily he eventually made his way to Comic Relief night, live on Friday 22 March. The challenge also so the re-release of the James song "Sit Down". An accompanying video featuring Tim Booth, Kay and the band was also premiered on the night.

Return to stand-up

In November 2009, after an absence of seven years, Kay announced a return to stand-up with four (later extended to 40) dates at the Manchester Arena the following April with a show entitled "The Tour that Doesn't Tour Tour". The reason given for restricting the show to Manchester was so that Peter could remain close to his family. However, demand for tickets caused him to announce soon after that the show would be toured. Venues included London's O2, Birmingham's National Indoor Arena and LG Arena, Cardiff International Arena, Sheffield Arena, SECC, Belfast Odyssey, Dublin the O2, Liverpool Arena, Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, which took place in November 2010 and April 2011 and then end again at Manchester and entitled The Tour That Doesn't Tour Tour...Now On Tour...The Farewell Tour. In October 2010 Kay announced six further dates for 2011 due to demand, bringing the total shows to 140. Kay remains the only artist ever to play forty sold-out nights at an arena.

In January 2012, the tour entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful stand-up comedy tour of all time, playing to a total of 1.2 million people.

Theatre work

In February 2007, Kay played flamboyant gay director Roger DeBris in the Tony Award winning Mel Brooks musical, The Producers at Manchester's prestigious Palace Theatre for 120 shows. He also returned to the role for the last week of the UK tour of the production at Cardiff's Millennium Theatre in December 2007.[citation needed]

He also appeared in the Royal Variety Performance four times to date.[when?] As a performer in 1998 and 2008 where he appeared in the guise of Geraldine McQueen and as host of the ceremony in 2009 at the Opera House, Blackpool and also in 2011 at the Lowry theatre in Salford.[citation needed]

Guest appearances

He appeared in the first episode of the 2002 series of the BBC's comedy-drama Linda Green, playing a pizza delivery man who ended up being something of a soulmate to the eponymous heroine.

He has had two cameo roles in Coronation Street. The first, in the late 1990s, was a brief appearance as a shopfitter, but in January 2004 he co-wrote his own scenes, appearing alongside real-life good friend, Sally Lindsay, who played Shelley Unwin. On 17 June 2006, Kay appeared in a Doctor Who episode titled "Love & Monsters". His character, the sinister Victor Kennedy, proved to be an alien called the Abzorbaloff in disguise. Although the episode itself was quite comedic, Kay's role was more serious than those he normally plays.

Kay has also appeared twice alongside British band Take That, in An Audience with Take That and as Geraldine McQueen in Take That Come To Town. He also co-wrote "The Winner's Song" and "Once Upon A Christmas Song" with Take That member Gary Barlow. He made a surprise appearance at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert on 4 June 2012, in which he was dressed as a Beefeater.

Chat shows

Kay has appeared on numerous chat shows, including Parkinson, The Paul O'Grady Show, The Jonathan Ross Show, and The Late Late Show in Ireland. When he appeared on the Paul O'Grady Show (ITV1) at Christmas 2005, he came on in a Christmas tree costume. For his second appearance with Paul on The New Paul O'Grady Show (Channel 4), he was dressed as a Catholic nun wearing a large mask of himself, mimicking the front cover of his new book, The Sound of Laughter. At Christmas 2006, he made a third appearance, this time dressed up as a snowman. On his fourth appearance, on 5 June 2007, he came onto the set dressed as a chicken. He also appeared on the last ever edition of Parkinson in 2007 alongside Sir Michael Caine, Sir David Attenborough, David Beckham, and comic inspiration Billy Connolly. This was a return to the programme on which he'd been a warm-up act years before. He hugged everyone on the show. He also brought with him a bag of "goodies", including party hats and also a lollipop man's outfit as a joke for Parkinson's use during his retirement.

Other projects

Kay has released three autobiographies, The Sound of Laughter (the title parodying The Sound of Music) and Saturday Night Peter (the title parodying Saturday Night Fever). He also released a third book to tie in with the promotion of his 2010 tour, named The Book That's More Than Just a Book.


In 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 Funniest British Comedians.[citation needed] In addition, he made an appearance in a 2005 poll of comedians and critics to find the Comedians' Comedian, a search for the 50 greatest funnymen of all time.[citation needed] In March 2005 he also came top in a survey sponsored by the Jongleurs comedy club chain to find Britain's favourite comedian.[citation needed]

In 2006, a Channel 4 television show 100 Greatest Funny Moments voted him at the Number 1 spot, most notably for his stand-up act, Mum Wants a Bungalow tour at the Bolton Albert Halls, including his description of a family wedding and Bullseye. Peter Kay was included in the Independent on Sunday's "Happy List" in 2009 as "simply Britain's best comedian", and – as an exception to their general rule – was included again in 2010 for also raising funds for Children in Need.[citation needed]



  • 2005: The Best Of Peter Kay - So Far


Year Song UK IRE EU
2005 "Is This the Way to Amarillo" (Tony Christie feat. Peter Kay) [4] 1 1 4
2007 "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" (as Brian Potter, with The Proclaimers and Andy Pipkin) [5] 1 7 16
2008 "The Winner's Song" 1 2 21
"Once Upon a Christmas Song" 1 5 35 15
2009 "The Official BBC Children in Need Medley" (Peter Kay's Animated All-Star Band)[6] 1 6 7
2011 "I Know Him So Well" (with Susan Boyle) 1 11

^1 As Geraldine McQueen.




Stand-up DVDs

In December 2011, it was reported that Kay had sold over 10 million DVDs, a UK record for a comedian and more than the combined sales of best selling films Avatar and Mamma Mia!.[12]

  • Live At The Top Of The Tower (22 November 2000) – Live at Blackpool Tower
  • Live At The Bolton Albert Halls (10 November 2003) – Live at Bolton's Town Hall
  • Live At The Manchester Arena (2005) – Live at the Manchester Arena
  • Peter Kay's Special Kay (17 November 2008)
  • Live – The Tour That Didn't Tour – Tour (7 November 2011) – Live at London's The O2
  • Live & Back on Nights (19 November 2012)


External links

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