14 April 1949
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, writer|
|Years active||1973-2007, 2011 - present|
|Criminal charge||level 5 child pornography, child sexual abuse, attempted rape of minors|
|Criminal penalty||six months imprisonment|
|Sue Jones-Davies (divorced)
|Parent(s)||Michael Langham (deceased)
Christopher Langham (born 14 April 1949) is an English writer, actor, and comedian.
He is known for playing the cabinet minister Hugh Abbot in the BBC Four sitcom The Thick of It, and as presenter Roy Mallard in People Like Us, first on BBC Radio 4 and later on its transfer to television on BBC Two, where Mallard is almost entirely an unseen character. He subsequently created several spoof adverts in the same vein. He also played similar unseen interviewers in an episode of the television series Happy Families and in the film The Big Tease. He is also known for his roles in the TV series Not the Nine O'Clock News, Help, Kiss Me Kate, and as the gatehouse guard in Chelmsford 123. In 2006, he won BAFTA awards for The Thick of It and Help.
Langham began performing comedy and writing for Spike Milligan.
One of his earliest breaks was as the sole British writer for The Muppet Show. He also appeared as the "special guest star" in the nineteenth episode of the final season, when the scheduled guest, Richard Pryor, was unable to make it to the recording; a script was hastily written in which "Chris the Delivery Boy" stood in for an absent celebrity. He received two awards from the Writers Guild of America for his work on The Muppet Show. He also made a brief appearance as a police driver in The Pink Panther Strikes Again in 1976, opposite Peter Sellers.
Langham was part of the original cast for the pilot for Not the Nine O'Clock News in 1979, written by Richard Curtis. The show was positioned as a comedy series which was neither Monty Python's Flying Circus nor The Two Ronnies. Even after the original pilot was pulled from the schedules, Langham was retained for the first full series, billed equally with the then-unknown Mel Smith, Pamela Stephenson, and Rowan Atkinson. The first series did not rate as well as hoped, however, and it was felt that Langham was "too independent a spirit." Langham took a part in Monty Python's Life of Brian as a centurion, against the reaction of which[clarification needed] Curtis had written a skit of the debate between John Cleese and Malcolm Muggeridge. Langham was upset at the inclusion of the sketch, which gave the team and producer John Lloyd the excuse for his replacement by support player Griff Rhys Jones. Langham did not learn of the switch until the last day of filming when he heard the crew discussing the second series. The show only achieved cult status during its later series and, in subsequent compilation repeats, most of Langham's contributions have been cut, giving the impression that he was never a main cast member.
Langham went on to appear on Smith and Jones' own programme, Alas Smith and Jones, playing an ineffectual panel show host. This character apparently inspired John Morton to create the character of Roy Mallard, who was later to feature in his show People Like Us; Mallard was played both on radio and (offscreen) on television by Langham. Langham also played a fly-on-the-wall documentary interviewer very similar to Roy Mallard in Happy Families in 1985.
Also in 1979, Langham played Arthur Dent in the first professional stage version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, directed by Ken Campbell. He later returned to Hitchhiker's, appearing as Prak in Above The Title Productions' Tertiary Phase radio series in 2004.
Langham narrated the 1984 radio series The History of Rock with Chris Langham, in which Langham gave a comedic and somewhat fictitious account of the history of rock music. On 14 November 1985, Langham appeared as the narrator/reporter in "Roxanne", episode five of the BBC situation comedy Happy Families, written by Ben Elton. In 1992, he appeared in the film Carry On Columbus.
In addition to several one-man shows, Langham counts among his stage credits Les Misérables, in which he played Thénardier in 1996; Crazy for You, for which he received an Olivier nomination; The Way of the World, The Nerd and The Pirates of Penzance. He created the comic role of the Assassin in Blondel (co-starring Paul Nicholas; by Tim Rice and Stephen Oliver), and appears on the original cast album.
Langham wrote the BBC One sitcom Kiss Me Kate, in which he appeared alongside Caroline Quentin and Amanda Holden. In 2002 he wrote and starred in Bradford in My Dreams, an adaptation of a short story by Lawrence Block for the BBC. On Radio 4 he narrated the series The Rapid Eye Movement, which starred Martin Freeman as Chester Bennington, in whose head the entire series took place. In 2003 he directed the BBC TV comedy series Posh Nosh.
In 2003 and 2005, respectively, he portrayed the authors George Orwell and John Wyndham in the BBC docudrama George Orwell - A Life In Pictures and the BBC Four documentary John Wyndham: the Invisible Man of Science Fiction. He also appeared in the radio magazine satire The Sunday Format.
He starred alongside co-writer Paul Whitehouse in Help on BBC Two in 2005, where he also appeared in the Armando Iannucci comedy The Thick of It in the same year. Langham was named Best Comedy Actor in the 2005 British Comedy Awards and won the 2006 BAFTA Best Comedy Performance award for his role in The Thick Of It. In November 2005 Langham wrote and starred in ITV pilot Seven Second Delay.
He was a frequent guest on The Heaven and Earth Show and part of Bremner, Bird and Fortune writing team. In this series he has occasionally appeared as a civil servant discussing things with Bremner's Tony Blair. On radio, Langham has appeared as a panellist on the Radio 4 show Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive.
Langham starred in a feature-length comedy drama Black Pond, his first screen appearance since his release from prison.
Langham's first marriage, to actress/singer Sue Jones-Davies, produced three children, but broke up on his own admission due to his alcoholism. Langham had two children by his second wife, director Christine Cartwright.
Langham sought counselling for alcohol and cocaine addiction, and was still undergoing therapy once a week as of 2006. He used his experiences to co-write the BBC2 series Help, in which he portrayed a psychotherapist, with friend Paul Whitehouse; and played a counsellor in sitcom Kiss Me Kate.
On 29 November 2005, Langham was arrested by Kent Police in connection with Operation Ore, a British police operation into credit card customers paying to access indecent and abusive images of children on the internet. The arrest was first reported in the press on 16 December 2005, in response to which Langham's lawyer read a statement in which he said that he was innocent, and pointed out that he had not been charged. On 11 May 2006, he was charged with 15 counts of "making indecent images" (a legal term meaning to download and store indecent images as distinct from the act of photography) of children.
The trial took place during July and August 2007. Part of Langham's defence to these charges in court was that they were research on a peeping tom character "Pedro" for a television comedy. Langham's former Help co-star/writer Paul Whitehouse confirmed that the character was referred to as a "peeping tom" who was prone to highly dubious sexual behaviour. Langham had suggested that it be implied "he had rubbed up against someone on a train", Whitehouse stated in court. Whitehouse stated that he was unaware that the character was intended to be a paedophile, nor was he personally aware of Langham obtaining such material for the development of the programme's script.
A selection of files and images found on Langham's laptop computer was shown to the jury on 25 July 2007. Langham stated under oath that he had been sexually abused by a stranger as a child, and admitted having pornography to help him "work through" his own psychological difficulties which resulted, but denied being himself a paedophile. Regarding one downloaded pornographic film, he said: "I talked to my wife about it. I'm one of the children in the photographs. That's the problem I have with it. I don't know how to react to it", adding: "I know about the world of being at the receiving end of a paedophile but I don't know about paedophilia, the networks, the slang, what does the room look like [...] [When watching the pictures] my heart started beating, my mouth went dry and I started feeling sick. I tried to think what was the connection that made me go there [...] To me it was like putting my face in a chainsaw. I had to get out. I did it on four occasions and had I not been arrested, I probably would have done it again [...] it's an issue in my life. It was horrible."
On 2 August 2007, Langham was found guilty on charges of possessing child pornography and made to sign the sexual offenders register. At the same trial, Langham was acquitted of eight sexual offences against an unnamed woman who was below the age of 16 at the time the assaults allegedly happened. On 14 September 2007, he was sentenced to 10 months in prison. The judge said before sentencing that "some of the children viewed are clearly prepubescent... The worst video was 15 minutes long and it showed in quite graphic detail the sadistic brutalisation of an eight-year-old girl in the UK, with some serious sexual offences against her."
Langham stated throughout that he was determined to clear his name, but withdrew from all BBC projects pending the outcome of the case. On 5 December 2006, it was reported that he was banned from attending the 2006 British Comedy Awards, despite his current show, The Thick of It, being a contender for an award. Many industry commentators suggested that the jailing of Langham would bring an abrupt halt to the actor and writer's 30-year comedy career, just as it was peaking.
He was released on 14 November 2007 after his sentence was reduced to six months on appeal. Dame Heather Steel, who gave the Appeal Court's decision, said that the court viewed Langham's explanation as "highly improbable" but could not actually reject it, although he was still guilty of encouraging "despicable acts" through downloading the pornography. On his release, Langham stated "My life has been ruined but my conscience is clear" and complained that the media "completely ignored" his claims of the court's "acceptance based upon all the evidence and expert opinion that I have no sexual interest in children".
A few days after his release from prison, Langham was interviewed by celebrity psychologist Dr Pamela Connolly (née Stephenson), with whom he had worked on Not the Nine O'Clock News, for her UK television series Shrink Rap, where he discussed being abused as an eight-year-old child, the events that led up to his conviction, and the subsequent trial. The interview was broadcast on More4 on 15 January 2008. Langham was also invited to make a speech in front of the Oxford Union on 29 May 2008, but the invitation was subsequently withdrawn.
In 2011, he was cast as the lead in Black Pond, a low-budget British film directed by Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe. In an interview with The Guardian in September 2011, Langham stated that many people had suggested to him that he should work again, but no one wanted to employ him. Reviewing his performance in Black Pond positively, The Independent commented, "whether it will rehabilitate him among casting agents and comedy show commissioners is another question." The "Kino Digital" cinema in Hawkhurst had a screening of the film on 11 December 2011. Afterwards, Langham, a resident of the town, held a brief question-and-answer session to help promote the film.