Comedian Tony Slattery opens up on drink, drugs and bipolar disorder ahead of Edinburgh Fringe show

Comedian and actor Tony Slattery has thanked fans for their support after giving a revealing interview about struggling with substance abuse and bipolar disorder.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 29th April 2019, 7:18 pm
Updated Monday, 29th April 2019, 7:35 pm
Tony Slattery
Tony Slattery

The 59-year-old was once well known for programmes such as Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Just A Minute but has disappeared from the spotlight in recent years.

He said on Twitter that he had amassed 2,000 new followers after the article in The Guardian, and also apologised to fans who thought he had died.

He tweeted: “Oh my god, I’ve jumped 2,000 followers in a day.

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“Can I just say: thanks to everyone for your best wishes, I am trying to respond to everyone but it’s moving so fast that people’s tweets keep disappearing from my feed.

“Sorry if I missed you. Also sorry if you thought I died xx.”

Slattery also expressed surprise to have received so much support from fans and celebrities including Keeley Hawes, who tweeted: “Such a talented man - I wish him all the luck in the world and look forward to seeing more of him in the future. I hope he knows how loved he is x.”

“Flabbergasted,” said Slattery.

“Huge fan of Ms Hawes. What kind words.”

Slattery said in the interview that he had a breakdown in 1996 after a period when he had been working constantly, and drinking two bottles of vodka and using cocaine every day. He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“The manic part of me was not because of the drugs and alcohol. I think it was there already,” he said.

“But the drugs and alcohol certainly ignited it.”

He said he used to feel “a lot of rage”, which he attributed to “something that happened when I was very young”.

“Not to do with family. A priest. When I was about eight,” he said.

Slattery is now touring again and is hoping “to get back into the swing of things”. He has revealed he is reuniting with some of his old Whose Line colleagues for a show at the Fringe this summer.

Slattery’s career began after Stephen Fry invited him to join the Footlights theatre club at Cambridge University where he was a student reading Modern and Medieval Languages.

In 1979 Tony Slattery won a Fringe First in his first Edinburgh show. Two years later he won the first ever Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival with the Cambridge Footlights. It would be hard to imagine any of the company he kept – co-winners Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie – in the basement, albeit a generous one, of the New Town Theatre on George Street, selling signed CDs after the show to fans mostly of a certain age.

But drugs and depression took their toll to such an extent that Julie Walter, the actress, once staged an intervention on the set of the 2005 movie Ahead of the Class.

“She sat me down and said, ‘One - Tony, I think you’re a good actor, but there’s a darkness inside you,” he said. “‘Two, you smell a bit of vodka. Three… take it easy.’”

“I think there’s a capability in me to be really dangerous and sinister - as opposed to just being a light entertainment comedian.

“I’m pleased mental health is discussed more openly now.

“I had a very happy time until I went slightly barmy.”