Probably most famous for his numerous appearances on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Tony Slattery is an English actor, comedian and singer.
Born the youngest of a family of five, which include a set of triplets, Slattery was born in London, England on 9th November 1959 to Irish parents who moved to Stonesbridge, London, just after World War II. They named their youngest child Anthony Declan James, and all lived on a council estate in Willesden, North London. Whilst the house was full of children, Tony was a lonely child, as his sister Marlene was much older than him, and his brothers, Christopher, Michael and Stephen preferrred being with their own circle of friends. Tony himself preferred the company of his best friend which he made from an old pair of pyjamas. Tony would play with Fred, the object of his early improvisational creativity, and would act out various scenes from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well as practising judo on his and beating him up. Despiste being a loner, Slattery had a happy childhood, with not too many difficulties, with the judo practise on Fred helping him to earn the opportunity to represent Great Britain in an under 15's judo competition, and a black belt in judo by the age of 17.
By the time he had finished his time at Gunnersbury Boys Grammar School in London, Slattery had earned a scholarship to study at Cambridge University in Medieval and Modern Languages. This was a big culture shock for the boy from a Willesden council estate to which he had difficulty adjusting.
Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club
Whilst attending Cambridge, Slattery specialised in Spanish Poetry and French Literature. Here he met Stephen Fry, at the time an aspiring actor. Fry invited Slattery to join a drama group, an offer he took up, so Slattery became a member of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club. This comedy group are famous throughout the world for giving early opportunities to many performers who are considered to be the foremost of British comedy talent such as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Eric Idle, Clive Anderson and Peter Cook.
Footlights puts on three main shows a year as well as a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. At this festival, the Footlights won their first Perrier award in 1981 for their production The Cellar Tapes. The next year Slattery was given the honour of being named President of the drama group. From then on, Tony started touring London comedy clubs and writing various scripts.
In 1985, Slattery was a host on children's programme, TX, with Sue Robbie. This show was one of many which ITV ran to try and steal viewing figures from the massively popular Saturday Superstore which was being shown on BBC1. TX was a game show segment of ITV's Saturday morning television programming where there were teams of children, who, if they answered questions correctly, could try to knock down their opposition's wall of coloured bricks with a long pole.
This same year, Slattery starred in Gems and The Lenny Henry Show. His big stage break, however, came the next year, when he was given the starring role in Me and My Girl which was showing in the West End.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
"Words are like loaded pistols... Use them at your peril."
In 1988, Slattery had had enough of being heckled and having bottles thrown at him during his stand-up comedy act, and decided that a job as a stand-up comedian wasn't for him. He made a video which contained a selection of his best material, and sent it to improvisational comedy show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? who invited him to join the show which was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. Whose Line Is It Anyway was a good showcase for Slattery's talents, and he was a very popular contestant on the show. Because of this, Slattery stayed as a regular contestant with the show for seven years until 1995.
In the time he was on the show, Tony once told the host, Clive Anderson, to Fuck Off, being the only person to do this during the filming.
Despite the longevity of his time on Whose Line Is Is Anyway?, Slattery did not, and most likely will not appear on the American version of the show like a number of his British co-stars due to a disagreement he had with the shows producers during his wilder days. This added to his dislike of air travel and his tendency not to leave the UK, make the prospect of transatlantic travel even more unlikely.
Just A Gigolo
Whilst still appearing on Whose Line Is It Anyway in 1993, Slattery starred as Nick Brim, an ex-teacher who is looking for a new job. Whilst going about his daily business, Nick is mistaken by a wealthy middle-aged woman as a male escort. After much encouragement from his brother after discovering how lucrative his prospective career is, Nick starts up work as a gigolo. This causes Slattery's character to have a few problems as he is ashamed of his profession, and when he meets a woman he wants to ask out on a date, he is scared to tell her that he is Just A Gigolo.
After playing the role of Gordon in the stage production of Neville's Island, Slattery was nominated for a Olivier Award. Just as his career was at a peak, his life took a turn for the worst.
"Before I retreated, I was doing ten grams of cocaine a day and partying at Stringfellows. I'd worked non-stop for 13 years and had all this money to blow so i was. 'Let's parteee... there's a girl... there's a boy'. I was in toxic delirium entering various stages of exotic psychosis."
During his rockiest spells he survived on cocaine and amphetamines, starting his day with two bottles of vodka. Bankruptcy followed which resulted in Slattery locking himself away in his converted warehouse appartment overlooking the River Thames, not opening the door to friends and bailiffs alike. On one occassion he even threw his furniture out into the river. This depression continued for two years accompanied by physical and emotional exhaustion as he had been working almost continuously since his graduation from Cambridge University.
"The only excuse I can offer is of my plain, basic insecurity and because of my working class ethic - make hay while the sun shines."
Of this time, he states,
"I reached the bottom and there is no more fuel left to destroy myself further. It's evaporated, I've used it up and there's nothing left now. In fact, things can only get better."
He also contemplated suicide, but decided against it. In a statement after his depression he said,
"It's not courageous to take your own life, it's cowardly. I didn't want to leave those I love - who had shown me so much kindness - grieving. So, that morning about a year ago, I made the decision to live. I wanted to go on, to achieve something. Also I was broke. I wondered what I'd been doing, there had been so much waste. It is so easy to hate yourself. Now I'm learning to love. It's tricky, but I'm getting there."
During this time, his father was suffering from a terminal illness which was providing him with a slow death. However, the eventual death of his father gave him back the will to live. He booked himself into a private clinic but accused the medical establishment of prescribing him with the incorrect medication.
"I considered The Priory but it would be, 'How are you, darling - kissy kissy', in every corridor. I'd meet people I knew and be back on the stuff in no time," he says. "Instead I found this excellent psychiatrist. He said, 'You are not a well man. I don't want to be your friend, don't try to be mine. I just want to help you. Go home and think about that and we'll take it from there'. And we did."
After recovering, in 1988, Slattery was elected as Rector to Dundee University in Scotland after an election campaign to try and gain the position instead of his rival, a broadcaster local to the university called Billy Kay. During this campaign, they were both questioned on their opinions on a variety of issues by the student body including questions on tuitions fees and dress sense. Slattery answered thess questions demonstrating that he still had the quick wit which he had exhibited in previous years on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and pledged to "represent students with all his heart and soul".
"The request to stand for rector came out of the blue and I was extremely flattered and honoured and also immediately terrified by the idea - the role carries such a weight of responsibility if you take it seriously, as I am determined to do. In this role however I can make a difference to people’s lives."
In interviews he sated that he intends to attend all meetings as well as holding surgeries for students where they can discuss and concerns or worries they have.
"I intend to be a rector not a celebrity - although I will shamelessly use whatever profile I have in the public eye if I think it is publicity that will benefit students and the university in general."
Slattery presently is not married and is back on stage performing regularly at The Comedy Store
. He still lives in his warehouse
conversion overlooking the Thames near London Bridge
where he previously went into hiding.
Television, Film and Stage credits