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Last Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006, 02:51 GMT
Comic Brydon branches out on film
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Comedian Rob Brydon, known for TV hits Marion and Geoff and The Keith Barret Show, is starring opposite Steve Coogan in film comedy A Cock and Bull Story.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in A Cock and Bull Story
Steve Coogan (left) and Rob Brydon star in A Cock and Bull Story
Five years after making an award-winning breakthrough in edgy TV comedies Marion and Geoff and Human Remains, Rob Brydon's career path looks more like crazy paving.

He is most famous for playing hapless cab driver Keith Barret - first in Marion and Geoff and then in Barret's own TV chat show, in which celebrity couples would squirm under his tactless scrutiny.

A mainstream sitcom, Supernova, saw him play a scientist in the outback and he dabbled in drama to portray legendary theatre critic Kenneth Tynan.

Still having trouble placing him? Think the bronzed blubber-lover Roman de Vere in Little Britain or other guest roles in shows from I'm Alan Partridge to Miss Marple.

Even if you do not recognise the name or face, you probably know the voice.

Rob Brydon in Marion and Geoff
Rob Brydon made his name in BBC Two comedy Marion and Geoff
Brydon's 500 TV and radio commercials have included Tango, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Andrex and, most famously, Toilet Duck.

Brydon says he is trying not to get pigeonholed as an "edgy, minority" comedy actor, and is making a pretty good fist of it.

He recalls a two-day stint filming an emotional scene as Tynan one day and singing with Shakin' Stevens on The Keith Barret Show Christmas Special the next.

"Now, I love that," he says. "I can't think of anyone else who has that kind of career, who has those extremes. I love playing to the crowd, but I also like doing the smaller stuff."


He is working on a new project for Barret and wants to return to doing something darker and more offbeat on TV again soon, he says.

"I did Supernova, which was a family, accessible thing. Great. Loved it. Hopefully going to do more. But I want to do something edgy as well. So I want to keep jumping between different things."

Rob Brydon (centre) with Matt Lucas (left) and David Walliams in Little Britain
Brydon (centre) is a guest star in Little Britain
A Cock and Bull Story, the film of Laurence Sterne's notoriously "unfilmable" novel Tristram Shandy, is Brydon's first major movie role.

Mixing the 18th century book's rambling story with a satire on the film-making process, it comes in the "edgy" category, Brydon says.

He plays Uncle Toby, who is intent on reliving supposed battlefield glories, while Coogan portrays Tristram Shandy as well as his father Walter.

But at the same time, we also see a semi-fictional account of the film shoot.

Like the book, the film makes a variety of digressions and diversions without actually saying very much in the way of storyline.

Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson and Rob Brydon at A Cock and Bull Story screening
We are competitive, but in a healthy way
Rob Brydon on his relationship with Steve Coogan
"It being in the spirit of the book was lost on me because I hadn't read the book, so I just went with the script," Brydon says.

But the best bit is the banter between Brydon and Coogan when they are playing themselves, an actors' rivalry that might be real - or might not.

Coogan pokes fun at his reputation as an egotistical philanderer, Brydon frets over the colour of his teeth and the pair indulge in friendly bickering about billing and who looks tallest.

"What you don't see in the film is the warmth there is between us," Brydon says.

"Steve has said the more well-rounded aspects of our personalities don't get an airing because they're not funny.

"So we take the ones that lend themselves to humour - the vanity, the competitiveness. We are competitive, but in a healthy way. We're not a million miles away from it but we twist it round to serve the film."


The original script had Brydon being more deferential to Coogan, looking to him for advice on how to break into Hollywood.

But the real relationship, which is reflected in the final film, is "more complex" than that, Brydon says.

"I didn't want to play that puppy-like persona because I have done that to a degree with Keith Barret," he says.

"If I am at all typecast, it is as that."

Thanks to A Cock and Bull Story, Brydon is now receiving more film offers - giving him yet another chance to branch out and without having to ask Coogan's advice.

A Cock and Bull Story is released in the UK on 20 January.


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