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Born in London to a Norwegian mother and Nigerian father, Richard Ayoade has become an unassuming powerhouse of British pop culture. Since he began his multifaceted career 20 years ago, he’s shown his comedy chops with roles in The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh, directed the highly acclaimed British indie films Submarine with Craig Roberts and The Double with Jesse Eisenberg, hosted the quirky game show The Crystal Maze and travel documentary series Travel Man, and written several very funny books exploring his love of film.

As he prepares to host tonight’s BAFTA TV Awards (7pm U.K. time) – which are going ahead virtually due to coronavirus, and also being announced on Twitter – here are some things you might not know about this fascinating creative who’s often described in profile pieces as “elusive.”

1. Growing up in the quiet English town of Ipswich, he became obsessed with J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

“I started to dress like [lead character] Holden Caulfield,” Ayoade recalled drolly last year. “In the novel, Holden buys a red hunting hat, after losing all his goddam fencing gear on the goddam New York subway. I never lost all my goddam fencing gear, nor did I ever possess any goddam fencing gear, but I did resolve to get myself a red hunting hat, which Holden wears all the goddam time. It’s a changed town now, but the retail opportunities in Ipswich did not seriously rival those of New York, and I remember I had difficulty sourcing the requisite regalia. If I had wanted another pair of cheap shoes, boy was I in the right place.”

2. He’s married to actress Lydia Fox, a member of the famous Fox acting dynasty.

Lewis‘s Laurence Fox is his wife’s brother, while Silent Witness star Emilia Fox and Cucumber actor Freddie Fox are her cousins.

3. Though he won a BAFTA TV Award for playing socially challenged Moss in The IT Crowd opposite Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson, he doesn’t really rate his performance in the cult sitcom, calling it a mere “turn.”

“The others are really good actors, so [the show] can contain something which is more of a turn than an acting performance – I wouldn’t dignify what I do by calling it acting,” he told The Guardian in 2011.

4. He studied Law at Cambridge University, where he became president of the famous Footlights theatrical club.

Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, and Dame Emma Thompson all honed their craft as Footlights members in the early ’80s. Ayoade served as president in 1998, and during his time there was captured in a local TV documentary which also features a young John Oliver, one of Ayoade’s Footlights writing partners.

Ayoade isn’t a fan of the documentary, though, telling The Guardian in 2014: “It was literally one of the things that made me not want to do interviews again. You have to imagine: a bunch of 21-year-olds, never-been-out-of-the-house type people. Our tour manager is another 21-year-old saying, ‘This is very important publicity, Anglia television want to do a feature.’ It was awful.”

5. He has some pretty serious issues with the whole interview business, actually.

His 2014 interview with British newscaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy went viral because Ayoade used it to turn the tables, hilariously, on the “essential lie” of the whole celebrity interview process.

6. He’s directed music videos for indie bands including Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, and Kasabian.

One of the three videos Ayoade directed for Arctic Monkeys, 2007’s “Fluorescent Adolescent,” stars Line of Duty and The Irishman actor Stephen Graham.

7. He has a small cameo in The Mandalorian.

In episode six of season one, Ayoade provides the voice of droid pilot Q9-0… as you can hear in the clip below.

8. He’s written a very tongue-in-cheek book about View from the Top, a flop 2003 movie in which Gwyneth Paltrow portrays an ambitious flight attendant.

According to the publishers’ blurb, it’s “the definitive book about perhaps the best cabin crew dramedy ever filmed” and finds Ayoade arguing for “the canonization of this brutal masterpiece, a film that celebrates capitalism in all its victimless glory.”

When Ayoade promoted the book on The Graham Norton Show last year, fellow guest Olivia Colman was clearly intrigued by it.

9. He’s not a big fan of being spotted out and about in London.

“I hope the idea of seeing me in the street is as boring to everyone else as it would be for me,” he told The Independent in 2014.

10. He was linked to The Great British Baking Show when it switched networks in the U.K. in 2016.

According to The Sun, he was a “leading candidate” to replace hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc at one point. Can you picture him presiding over proceedings in the Baking Show‘s famous tent?

What’s been your favorite Richard Ayoade moment to date?

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Filed Under: Richard Ayoade
By Nick Levine