Alexander Armstrong (comedian)

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Alexander Armstrong
Alexander Armstrong.jpg
Armstrong in Charlotte Street, London, June 2005
Born Alexander Henry Fenwick Armstrong
(1970-03-02) 2 March 1970 (age 50)[citation needed]
Rothbury, Northumberland, England, UK
Education Durham School
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Television presenter, comedian, actor, singer
Years active 1994–present
Spouse(s) Hannah Bronwen Snow (2003–present)
Children 4

Alexander Henry Fenwick Armstrong (born 2 March 1970)[1] is an English comedian, actor, television presenter and singer, best known as one half of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller and as host of the BBC TV game show Pointless.[2] Aside from his Armstrong and Miller sketch show characters, Armstrong's television credits include guest appearances in various TV series and he also voiced Professor M in Tooned and alien supercomputer Mr Smith in the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Early life

Armstrong was born in Rothbury, Northumberland, the youngest of three children, to physician Henry Angus Armstrong and his wife, Emma Virginia Peronnet Thompson-McCausland. His maternal grandparents were economist Lucius Thompson-McCausland[3] and Helen Laura McCausland (6 April 1903 - February 2000), granddaughter of Captain Conolly Thomas McCausland (13 May 1828 - 25 June 1902) and Hon. Laura St. John (12 June 1842 - 21 October 1919), daughter of St Andrew St John, 15th Baron St John of Bletso.

Armstrong was educated at Mowden Hall School in Stocksfield, Northumberland and St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh[4] and attended Durham School and Trinity College, Cambridge on music scholarships.[5][6] He played the piano – which has been alluded to in several The Armstrong and Miller Show sketches – and the cello, the latter of which he dropped in favour of the "much more masculine" oboe.[5][7] At Cambridge, Armstrong read English and sang baritone as a choral scholar with the college choir.[5][8][9][10] Armstrong joined the Footlights in his final year as part of the writing team for the 1992 revue and was Spooks creator David Wolstencroft's comedy partner.[6]


After graduating in 1992, Armstrong moved to London with some friends to pursue a career in acting and comedy. While waiting for acting roles, he worked in a string of North London bars and restaurants and was eventually introduced to Ben Miller, who had also moved to London, through Jez Butterworth.[7] In 1996, Armstrong and Miller performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and were nominated for the Perrier Award.


Armstrong and Miller co-starred in four series of Armstrong and Miller from 1997 to 2001. The duo decided to take a break and split for several years to forge their own solo careers.[6] Armstrong renewed his partnership with Miller for the award-winning The Armstrong and Miller Show in 2007.[citation needed]

Armstrong appeared on the BBC Radio 4's The Very World of Milton Jones, broadcast between 1998 and 2001, and between early 2000 and early 2001, starred as a misanthropic, animal-hating vet in the BBC One sitcom Beast and he has also been the star of a series of TV commercials for Pimm's. In 1999, Armstrong starred as Prince Charming in ITV's Christmas pantomime with Miller, Samantha Janus, Paul Merton, Harry Hill, Frank Skinner and Ronnie Corbett. Armstrong narrated the animated cartoon series The Big Knights, which first appeared on the BBC1 over the Christmas Season of 1999–2000.

On BBC Radio 4, Armstrong played John Weak in the office sitcom Weak at the Top. He also played Martin Baine-Jones for the Times Online's "Timeghost" podcast. Between September and November 2010, Armstrong took The Armstrong and Miller Show on tour in the UK, completing 62 dates. This was only the second time The Armstrong and Miller Show had gone out on the road, the first tour being in autumn 2001.

The Armstrong and Miller hardback book was released in October 2010.[citation needed]

Television presenting

On 1 September 2006, Armstrong was chairman of the short-lived Channel 4 panel show Best of the Worst which featured team captains David Mitchell and Johnny Vaughan. Armstrong presented the short-lived ITV1 quiz series Don't Call Me Stupid, in which mismatched celebrities taught each other a subject they are passionate about, before facing a studio quiz on their new topic. He has been a frequent guest host on the BBC's satirical panel game Have I Got News for You, having appeared more than 20 times with his most recent appearance as host being on 28 November 2014. Armstrong has, to date, made the most appearances of any guest, whether as host or panellist.

Armstrong says that in 2003 he was offered the job of replacing Angus Deayton as full-time host of Have I Got News for You but the BBC later changed their minds and withdrew the offer after deciding to continue with the guest presenter format instead.[11] In 2008, he was the presenter and narrator for When Were We Funniest? and was the only person to feature in all twelve episodes.

Armstrong was a leading contender to take over as host of Countdown when Des O'Connor left in 2008, although when he hosted Have I Got News for You on 24 October 2008, he said that he hadn't yet accepted the job, despite team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton making jokes about his "new role".[12] Armstrong declined the job, telling The Independent that he didn't want to be "pigeonholed" as a presenter, preferring to focus on acting and comedy.[13]

Armstrong has been the presenter of the BBC One game show Pointless with former university friend Richard Osman since it began in 2009.[2] He also presented a documentary, Alexander Armstrong's Very British Holiday, for the BBC on 8 November 2009 about the history of the "great British summer holiday" and his attempts to explore its modern version. On 30 May 2011, Armstrong hosted the pilot for a new panel show, Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask for Dave with Dave Lamb, Katy Brand, Griff Rhys Jones and Robert Webb. After a positive response to the pilot, Dave commissioned the first series which first aired on 6 February 2012. In July 2011, Armstrong became a co-presenter on BBC One's The Great British Weather. In August 2011, he began presenting a game show on BBC One called Epic Win.[14]

On 27 October 2013, Armstrong co-hosted ITV series Prize Island with Emma Willis.[15]

On 3 January 2015, Armstrong and Rochelle Humes co-hosted entertainment special Frank Sinatra: Our Way on BBC One.[16]

On 17 September 2014, it was announced that Armstrong would succeed David Jason as the voice of Danger Mouse in the 2015 revival of the 1980s animated series.

Armstrong has done other voiceover work, including Mr Wolf and Policeman Stag in Peppa Pig and he is the narrator of Hey Duggee.

On 1 June 2015, Armstrong presented a documentary, Rome's Invisible City, which used 3D scanning technology to discover the underground spaces below the city.[17] Subsequently it was announced that Armstrong would be making a three-part series exploring the lost and hidden sites of Florence, Naples, and Venice.[18]

In 2015, Armstrong presented a three-part factual series for ITV, called Land of the Midnight Sun, in which he travelled half-way round the Arctic Circle meeting its inhabitants and exploring their ways of life.[19] In January 2016, he guest presented Bruce's Hall of Fame on BBC One.

Singing and music

After over a decade in television and comedy, Armstrong returned to his musical roots and put together his own cover band,[20] which plays a wide range of music from jazz to rock to pop classics. A classically-trained baritone,[8] he is the vocalist and is backed up by Harry the Piano on keyboards,[21] Simon Bates on woodwind, Jeff Lardner on drums and Dave Swift on bass.[22] The band's first tour ran from 19 September to 6 November 2013.

Until he started his band, Armstrong mainly sang at his local parish church services or at weddings, away from the public eye.[23] Armstrong impersonated Susan Boyle's Britain's Got Talent rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" in the show Your Face Sounds Familiar and surprised the judges by singing in falsetto.[24] He sang "Winter Wonderland" during the celebrities Christmas special of Pointless and "No Rhyme for Richard" from Blondel in BBC Two's Tim Rice: A Life in Song[25] and collaborated with The Sixteen to record the single "Good King Wenceslas" to raise funds for the charity Crisis.[26] In May 2015, Armstrong also appeared on the BBC's celebration of 70 years since VE Day, performing a number of songs during the concert.

Since September 2014, Armstrong has presented the Saturday afternoon programme on the classical radio station Classic FM.[27][28] He now also presents the Sunday lunchtime programme.

On 9 May 2015 Armstrong participated in VE Day 70: A Party to Remember, a televised commemorative concert from Horse Guards Parade in London, where he sang "We Must All Stick Together" by Ralph Butler and Raymond Wallace, and "London Pride".[29] He sang in Songs of Praise: The Big Sing, broadcast on 20 September 2015, a special programme from the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II becoming the world's longest-serving monarch. Armstrong sang I Would Be True.[30]

On 6 November 2015, Armstrong brought out his debut solo vocal album, A Year of Songs, on Warner Music Group's East West Records label. It reached number 6 on the UK Albums Chart in its first week and topped the UK Classical Charts, the first time a comedian/actor has reached number 1 in that chart.[31] In January 2016 he will begin a 9 date UK tour with his band.[32]


Television dramas and sitcoms
Year Work Role Notes
1995 You Bet! Doctor Watson Series 8, show 6
Guest appearance
The Thin Blue Line Unnamed gentleman S1E6
Guest appearance
1996 Sharpe Lord John Rossendale
1998 Is It Legal? Nick S3E5
Guest appearance
2000 Beast Nick
2001 Dr. Terrible's House of Horrible Michael Masters Episode 1
2002 TLC Dr Stephen Noble
2004–2006 Life Begins Phil Mee
2005 Marple DI Craddock "A Murder Is Announced"
2006 Saxondale TV presenter S1E2
Guest appearance
2007–2011 The Sarah Jane Adventures Mr Smith Voice only
2007 After You've Gone Dr Howard Banks S1E7
Guest appearance
Hotel Babylon Aiden Spencer S2E6
Guest appearance
Christmas at the Riviera Reverend Miles Roger
2007 To the Manor Born Adam fforbes-Hamilton Christmas special
Guest appearance
2008 Doctor Who Mr Smith S4E12 "The Stolen Earth"
S4E13 "Journey's End"
Mutual Friends Patrick Turner
2009 Micro Men Clive Sinclair
2010 The Trial of Tony Blair David Cameron
Reggie Perrin David Series 2, 5 episodes
Guest appearance
2011 Doctor Who Reg Arwell S7EX "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"[33]
2012 Hacks David Bullingdon MP [34]
Love Life Dominic
Tooned Professor M Voice only
Hunderby Brother Joseph
2014 Not Going Out Himself
Hey Duggee Narrator [35] Voice only
2015 Danger Mouse Danger Mouse Voice only
Cockroaches Doctor [36]
The Sound of Music Live Max Detweiler UK adaptation of The Sound of Music Live![37]
Year Work Role Notes
1999 Plunkett & Macleane Winterburn
2001 Birthday Girl Robert Moseley
2005 Match Point Mr Townsend
2006 Scoop Unnamed policeman Guest appearance
2009 Skellig Mr Hunt
2010 Jackboots on Whitehall Red Leader
Television presenting
Year Title Role Notes
2003— Have I Got News for You Guest presenter Most frequent guest presenter to have appeared on the show
2009— Pointless Co-presenter With Richard Osman
2011 The Great British Weather Co-presenter Series for BBC One
Epic Win Presenter
2011, 2012— Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask Presenter Series for Dave
2013 Your Face Sounds Familiar Contestant
Prize Island Co-presenter With Emma Willis
The 12 Drinks of Christmas Co-presenter With Giles Coren[38]
2014 Alexander Armstrong's Real Ripping Yarns Presenter [39]
2015 Frank Sinatra: Our Way Co-presenter One-off special; with Rochelle Humes[16]
Sunday Night at the Palladium Presenter Guest presenter; 1 episode
Alexander Armstrong in the Land of the Midnight Sun Presenter [19]
Rome's Invisible City Presenter One-off special
2016 Bruce's Hall of Fame Presenter Stand-in presenter for Bruce Forsyth
Video Games


Studio albums

title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
A Year of Songs 6

Other work

In 1997, Armstrong and Miller provided the voices for lead characters for the PC game 'Wings of Destiny', published by Psygnosis in 2000, as British airmen and Nazi officers covering the two comic-book plots in the game. From 2002–09, Armstrong appeared in a series of successful British television adverts for the drink Pimms.[43] With Miller, he has formed a production company called Toff Media.[44]

In 2002, Armstrong provided the voice for the character Horse in the English dub of the series A Town Called Panic.

The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World was published in the UK by Coronet, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, in October 2012.

Also in 2012, Armstrong is the voice of Professor M for the animation breaks for the McLaren F1 team with the animations called Tooned also featuring the voices of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button broadcast on Sky Sports F1.

In 2013, Armstrong and Miller appeared in the television advertising campaign for Spitfire Ale[45]

Personal life

On 27 August 2003, Armstrong married Hannah Bronwen Snow, an events organiser. They have four sons, Rex (born 2007), Patrick (born 2009), Edward (born 2010), and Henry (born 2014).[46][47][48] He lives in Oxfordshire.[49]


In August 2010, Armstrong was featured in an episode of BBC One's Who Do You Think You Are?, through which he discovered that he was a descendant of William the Conqueror. His father comes from a land-owning family with deep connections to the North East and is a great-grandnephew of Robert Spence Watson and distantly related to William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong.[50] With Armstrong's father's family history already well-known to him, the series traced his mother's side of the family, who were descended from Irish landed gentry. The McCauslands were originally seated in Drenagh, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland and trace their ancestry through the Rouse-Boughton family to Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Worcester (1602/3-1667), a descendant of William the Conqueror via Edward III and the Beauforts, Dukes of Somerset.[51]

Edward Somerset's first marriage was to Elizabeth Dormer (died 1635). Elizabeth's grandfather, Robert Dormer, 1st Baron of Wing (1551–1616), was half-brother to Jane Dormer (1538–1612), lady-in-waiting to Mary I.

Armstrong is a second cousin to Imogen Stubbs.[52]


Armstrong is an active supporter of the Countryside Alliance, appearing in their advertisements and magazine to promote countryside shooting.[7] In an interview with The Independent in March 2012, he said that his family had traditionally voted for the Liberal Democrats. Armstrong describes himself as a "centrist" and a "floating voter" stating "I'm not greatly impressed by party politics but I am by individual people. I'm a centrist, and very suspicious of any tribalism."[7]

In February 2011, Armstrong became President of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne and launched their million pound appeal at a special gala event.[53] He is a patron of several charities, including Family Links,[54] the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust[55] and Just A Drop.[56]

In August 2014, Armstrong was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[57]


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External links