Interview: Rob Brydon, comedian, actor, author

Rob Brydon
Rob Brydon
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THERE are two things that have had a huge influence on Rob Brydon and stayed with him throughout his life: Bruce Springsteen and spots.

As a teenager, he became a huge fan of the musician. At the same time the acne, which came to define the contours of his adult face, began to appear, he reveals in his autobiography Small Man In A Book.

The Swansea-born star of Gavin And Stacey, who shares some insights from his recently released memoir at the Traverse Theatre on Monday, admits it’s only recently he’s felt able to talk about his skin condition.

“The problem with acne is friends and family, keen not to upset the sufferer, will often declare, ‘It’s not that bad, really,’ when in fact it’s appalling.”

Some years later he went to see a dermatologist who told him he had chronic acne and put him on a heavy course of vitamin A. That put an end to the condition, but by then the scars were irreversible.

“My family played it down. They saw beyond my skin, but it did affect me. I was always fearful of rejection in the last stage with girls. It was the kiss that scared me.”

Brydon, 46, who is well known for his eponymous chat show and as host of the panel show Would I Lie To You?, relied on his voice rather than his looks when he started his broadcasting career.

“I remember the VHS demo reels coming back with a thud of doom on the doormat, when you could tell they hadn’t even been opened,” he recalls.

After enjoying some success with BBC Radio Wales, plus spells as a continuity announcer, a home shopping presenter and the warm-up man for Hale & Pace, Brydon was still looking for his big break in TV when he moved from Cardiff to London.

Auditioning for a job as a presenter on a Sky programme called Xposure, the producer observed, “Rob’s very good but it’s a pity his skin looks so bad in some lights...”

Despite this, he got the job.

On another occasion, a casting agent specialising in commercials told him, “Ah, right, your skin ... it’s not very good, is it? I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to help you. I mean, I could hardly put you up for a chocolate commercial, could I? Eat this and you’ll look like me...”

“You just have to take it on the imperfect chin and carry on,” he says philosophically.

“At one point I thought voice-overs were going to be my career. I was getting to the last chance saloon scenario.”

His complexion was the main obstacle, he admits.

“You just want people to look at you for who you are, but they’d see these scars. Traditionally in drama, people with bad skin are cast as villains.

“I thought it might preclude me from a certain amount of parts. But I don’t know that it has. I mean, I’ve done OK.

“It’s only recently that I felt at ease enough to talk about my skin. Of course, if someone had said to me, ‘You can have smoother skin’, I’d have had it.”

Small Man In A Book by Rob Brydon is published by Michael Joseph, £20

An Evening With Rob Brydon, Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street, Monday, 7.30pm, £15, 0131-228 3223