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Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK


Clowning around with Mr Jones

One of Britain's great comedians, Griff Rhys Jones rose to fame in the 1980s in ground-breaking comedy programmes such as Alas Smith and Jones and Not the Nine O'clock News.

He became a household name in his twenties and is still as popular in his forties. Griff Rhys Jones talks to BBC World's HARDtalk about a life of fame - and regret.

"I am probably the top man in the country for low farce acting on stage" said Griff Rhys Jones. "It's not much to be top man of but at least it's something."

Griff Rhys Jones: "Earning money stops you thinking about money"
Modest to the last, Griff Rhys Jones, who became famous at the age of 26, is unmoved by the trappings of stardom.

"I still feel the only noticable thing about being famous is that people come a long way down the carriage to sit next to you on trains", he says.

Born in Wales and raised in Scotland, Griff Rhys Jones says he was "smothered with love" by his parents.

"We were a close warm family and still are" says Jones, who went on to Cambridge before starting at the BBC as a radio producer.

It was here in 1979, that Jones made his name on Not The Nine O'Clock News, the comedy show that gave rise to some of the UK's best known comedy talent of his generation.

No rows with Mel

[ image: Jones now prefers a quiet evening in to a night on the town]
Jones now prefers a quiet evening in to a night on the town
Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, and Pamela Stephenson all worked with Jones on the programme, at a time when TV was dominated by a much older and experienced crowd.

Jones maintains that the secret behind the show's success was it's originality.

Steering away from the Monty Python school of comedy that was dominant at the time, Not The Nine O'Clock News was topical and fresh, and led by a group of young comedians who pushed the boundaries of comedy to new heights.

In the wake of this success, Jones hooked up with Mel Smith for the highly popular Alas Smith and Jones series which made the pair famous for their classic face-to-face rambling dialogue exchanges.

Despite working in such close quarters with Smith, Jones insists that they have never had a row.

"We do spend lot of time together and we need to have certain amount of trust," he said, adding that essentially they "stay together because we started a business together".

Jones also met his wife June, a graphic designer, whilst working at the BBC. "I was semi-naked and she was throwing water over me," says Jones as he recalls the day they met.

Prefers domestic bliss

Griff Rhys Jones: "I tend to avoid parties"
But despite the japes, the comedian insists he has no 'laddish' street cred. He gave up alcohol fifteen years ago and now prefers a bit of domestic bliss to an all-night party.

"I don't drink so going to a party can become very tedious," says Jones. "By about 11 o'clock everybody goes to another planet and you're not there with them, so I tend to avoid that sort of thing."

Instead he enjoys time relaxing at his homes in London and Suffolk and persuing his latest hobby, running.

Griff Rhys Jones talks about his new fitness drive
"I'd spent my entire life thinking that people who did that were mad, but now I regret I didn't start years ago".

Indeed, Griff Rhys Jones says he is full of regrets and in the wake of a well-publicised mid-life crisis, admits he still spends time "worrying what it's all about".

"All cynics are in fact disapointed romantics," says Jones. "If you're inclined to want things to be tickety boo, you're inclined to disappointment from time to time."

You can watch the HARDtalk interview in full on Friday 14 May on BBC World at 1930 GMT (2030 BST) and in the UK on BBC News 24 at 2030 BST.

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