THE ACTOR Nigel Planer was born in Westminster hospital, London, in 1953. He was educated at Westminster School and then Sussex University, which he dropped out of in 1974 to go to Lamda. His career in comedy began in 1976 with a tour of a comedy rock show called Rank, with fellow student Peter Richardson. Planer became a regular at the Comedy Store in 1979, and a year later founded the influential Comic Strip Club with Richardson, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson and Alexei Sayle. His television debut came in 1981 on the stand-up show Boom Boom, Out Go the Lights, but fame arrived a year later in the role of Neil, the hippie no-hoper, in the cult 1980s comedy The Young Ones.
Planer's CV stretches from numerous television appearances (The Comic Strip Presents, The Grimleys, Shine On, Harvey Moon), through film (Yellowbeard, Wind in the Willows, The Land Girls and Eat the Rich), and theatre (Feelgood and Chicago). Planer has also written two novels: The Right Man and Faking It. In 1990, he wrote and narrated the revival of The Magic Roundabout and narrates most of the Terry Pratchett Discworld audio books. Planer lives with his second wife, the actor and writer Frankie Park, in West London. They have one child together and a boy each from previous marriages.
I've heard you've worked with every Python. Any memorable moments?
Simon Larkin, by e-mail
Most memorably I worked on the film Yellowbeard with several Pythons filmed in Mexico. The greatest privilege, however, was that almost all of my scenes were with Peter Cook, who I got to know a little on and off the set. He really was everything one would hope that Peter Cook would be.
Is it true you prefer writing now to acting? If so, why? And what do you do in your spare time?
Sarah Bishop, Woking
No, it's not true that I prefer writing; it's more a question of trying to juggle time. In a perfect world, the extrovert nature of showbiz should provide a healthy antidote to the paranoid isolation of writing. In reality, it's a mad scramble to get either done.
Did you enjoy making your splendid recordings of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, and which was your favourite character? How did you manage to maintain all the different accents?
Heather Kerr, by e-mail
Yes. My favourite character was the policeman. He's a very deadpan TV detective, a very sardonic downbeat character. There were about 30 or 40 different characters in each book and some of them recur. I used to write a cast list for each book, and then, by the side, I'd write "high pitched John Le Mesurier" or "Stephen Fry with a lisp". I came a cropper a few times. In one of the first books, there is a character called Sergeant Colon - it was only a small part, only about five lines, and as my Irish accent isn't very strong, I thought I'd do him. He then appears in the next 15 books and lots of conversation between Scots and Welsh end up somewhere between Land's End and Geordie.
What inspired the two male extremes - the herbal-tea drinking feminist ponce Oliver and the lecherous chain-smoking drunk Barry - in your novel Faking It?
P Coutts, Stirling
Basically, I wanted to have two exaggerated sides of myself: the new man versus the politically incorrect man, which is going on inside most men's heads at the moment. It was inspired by the episode of After Dark when Oliver Reed went on with Kate Millett and a group of rape counsellors. He drank a load of red wine, tried to snog Millett, fell off the back of the sofa and went for a piss. He was completely out of order, but one couldn't help feeling that he had more life in him than all the others. …