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Slattery (right) taking a break from playing Sidney Snell in Kingdom.
Tony Declan James Slattery
9 November 1959
Stonebridge, London, England
|Mark Michael Hutchinson (1986-present)|
Tony Declan James Slattery (born 9 November 1959) is an English actor and comedian. He appeared on British television regularly from the mid-1980s, most notably as a regular on the Channel 4 improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway? His serious and comedic film work has included roles in The Crying Game, Peter's Friends and How to Get Ahead in Advertising. In 1994, Tony became a founding patron of Leicester Comedy Festival alongside Norman Wisdom. Tony appeared at the first festival, in 1996 & again in 2020.
In 2019 Slattery revealed that he had been repeatedly sexually abused by a priest at the age of eight, but had never told his parents; he believes the event contributed to his unstable character later in life. He was educated at Gunnersbury Boys' Grammar School in west London and won a scholarship to read Modern and Medieval Languages at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, specialising in French literature and Spanish poetry. Slattery held a black belt in judo and represented England internationally in the under-15s.
At the University of Cambridge, Slattery discovered a love of the theatre, taking delight in making people laugh. He met Stephen Fry, who invited him to join the Cambridge Footlights. Other members at that time included Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Sandi Toksvig, Jan Ravens and Richard Vranch.
In 1981, Slattery, Fry, Laurie, Thompson and Toksvig won the inaugural Perrier Award for their revue The Cellar Tapes. The following year, Slattery was made President of the Footlights. During his tenure, the touring annual revue was Premises Premises.
Slattery first broke into television as a regular performer on Chris Tarrant's follow up to O.T.T., Saturday Stayback (1983), while also appearing for children in Behind the Bike Sheds and the Saturday-morning show TX. By 1989 he was a regular on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, starred in his own improvisational comedy series, S&M, alongside Mike McShane, and appeared on other panel quizzes such as Have I Got News for You. He was a regular on the TV version of the quiz show Just a Minute and was also on the radio version several times, including the live version held at the Edinburgh Festival.
At the end of the 1980s he became a film critic, presenting his own show on British television, Saturday Night at the Movies. He also appeared in the ITV sitcom That's Love with Jimmy Mulville. Other TV appearances include The Music Game alongside Richard Vranch and as a regular guest with both Ruby Wax and Clive Anderson. In 1988, Slattery appeared in the BBC sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf, in the episode "Kryten" he played the voice of the main character on Kryten's favourite soap opera, "Androids", a parody of the Australian soap opera Neighbours.
Early in the 1990s he appeared on many TV shows to the extent that he was a target of satire. For example, the Have I Got News for You 1991 annual showed images of the game from around the world, and each local variant featured Slattery as a guest. Spitting Image showed a sketch in which an anthropomorphised BBC2 logo refused to have blue paint splattered on it and Slattery intervened for the sake of publicity. The satirical magazine Private Eye once published a memorable cartoon depicting his answering machine with the outgoing message "Yes, I'll do it!"
In 1992 he appeared in the film Carry On Columbus. In the same year he appeared in the series Dead Ringer, filmed for the observation round in The Krypton Factor. Also in 1992 Slattery appeared as a contestant on the Channel 4 show GamesMaster, in which he said that he hated video games, despite the show being entirely devoted to them. He played the real-time arcade shooter Who Shot Johnny Rock?, failing the challenge by shooting an innocent victim in the game.
In 1993 he starred in the ITV sitcom Just a Gigolo. Only one series was ever made.
Personal problems later overshadowed Slattery's career, leading to a reduced profile. Due to an extended period of illness, he undertook only very occasional television work from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. He reappeared in Red Dwarf in 1999 as the voice of a vending machine that threatens Arnold Rimmer in the final episode of the series' initial BBC2 run, "Only the Good...".
In January 2005, Slattery appeared in the TV film Ahead of the Class with Julie Walters. In December 2005 he joined the long-running drama Coronation Street as Eric Talford and in April 2006 he appeared in Grumpy Old Men on BBC Two. In 2007 he played Tom O'Driscoll in the feature film Lady Godiva: Back in the Saddle. In 2007 he appeared as a regular cast member in the ITV series Kingdom, playing the eccentric Sidney Snell, returning for a third series in 2009.
In 2005, Slattery appeared in series 7 of Bad Girls, as D.I. Alan Hayes, who was investigating the murder of Jim Fenner. Also in 2005 he won a celebrity edition of the gameshow The Weakest Link, beating Vanessa Feltz in the final round. He announced at the end of the show that he would donate his prize money to the Terrence Higgins Trust. He appeared as well in a cameo role in ITV's Life Begins as a date for Maggie (played by Caroline Quentin). In addition, he played the Canon of Birkley in the Robin Hood episode "Show Me the Money" on 17 November 2007. In January 2010 he appeared with Phyllida Law on Ready Steady Cook.
In March 2011, Slattery appeared in a reunion special of Whose Line Is It Anyway? along with David Walliams, Josie Lawrence, Clive Anderson, Humphrey Ker and Neil Mullarkey for the BBC Comic Relief show 24-Hour Panel People.
In May 2020 Slattery and partner Hutchinson were featured in an edition of the BBC Horizon series entitled "What's the Matter with Tony Slattery?", which examines a diagnosis of bipolar disorder with specialist Professor Guy Goodwin. In the programme Slattery meets with consultant psychiatrist Professor Ciaran Mulholland who suggests that Slattery continues to suffer from the effects of the trauma suffered in his childhood abuse. Professor Goodwin concludes that Slattery should be judged to be on the bi-polar spectrum, but that his main challenge is his alcohol dependence. The programme ends positively with Slattery reducing his alcohol intake and being able to accept that he can take steps to improve his mental health.
In 1981 he teamed with Richard Vranch as a comedic duo calling themselves "Aftertaste". For a number of years they toured throughout Great Britain performing in small venues: theatres and clubs, most notably the Tunnel Club, King's Head Theatre in London and aboard the Thekla, then known as the "Old Profanity Showboat" in Bristol. Together they hosted the Channel 4 quiz The Music Game and over 100 episodes of Cue the Music on ITV.
In May 2006 he was the first voice of the narrator in the 35th anniversary theatre production of Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Tribute Show, held at the Royal Court Theatre, just downstairs from the first ever showing of Rocky Horror.
In the mid-1990s, after leaving Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Slattery suffered what he described as a "midlife crisis" - triggered by cocaine use and excessive drinking. Slattery says he does not remember how much he spent on cocaine but "would not be surprised" if media reports that he spent £4,000 per week on the drug were accurate.
In 1996 Slattery's crisis culminated with a six-month period as a recluse, during which he did not answer his door or telephone, "or open bills, or wash... I just sat." Eventually, one of his friends broke down the door of his flat and persuaded him to go to hospital. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He discussed this period and his subsequent living with the disorder in a documentary made by Stephen Fry, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, in 2006; Slattery claimed that he spent time living in a warehouse and "throwing [his] furniture into the Thames."
| Rector of the University of Dundee