Johnny Vegas

Johnny Vegas
Johnny Vegas

Vegas in 2007
Birth name Michael Joseph Pennington
Born 11 September 1971 (1971-09-11) (age 40)
St Helens, Lancashire (now Merseyside), England
Medium Stand-up, television, film
Years active 1997–present
Spouse Catherine Donnelly
(m. 2002–2008, divorced)
Maia Dunphy (m. 2011–present)

Johnny Vegas (born Michael Joseph Pennington on 11 September 1971)[1] is an English actor and comedian. He is known for his angry rants, portly figure, high husky voice and support of St Helens rugby league club.[2] More recently he has moved into dramatic acting.


Early life

He was born in St Helens, Lancashire, the youngest of four children of Laurence and Patricia Pennington. Vegas has two older brothers (Robert and Mark) and an older sister (Catharine). He was raised as a Roman Catholic, but is now non practising. At the age of eleven, he attended St Joseph's College in Upholland, a Roman Catholic boarding-school seminary, to train for the priesthood, but came back homesick after four terms.[3]

He studied art and ceramic design at Middlesex University for three years and attempted to forge a career in pottery, but became disillusioned when he received a third class degree. Despite this, his passion for pottery continues to this day. He returned to St Helens and became a live-in barman.

In 1996, Vegas made his TV debut as a contestant on Win, Lose or Draw in the UK under his real name of Michael, but made references to the fact he wanted to be a comedian and that his stage name was "Johnny Vegas". His appearance was briefly shown during Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups and BBC Three's Almost Famous 2. In the mid-nineties Vegas spent time living in London and Glasgow with the intention of becoming a stand up comedian. In London, he was mentored by 'comedy godfather' Malcolm Hardee.

Early performances

Before his success in the late '90s, Vegas was a compere of many comedy nights at the Citadel Arts Centre in St Helens where he developed his character's stage performance; in London, Malcolm Hardee repeatedly booked him at his Up The Creek stand up comedy club in Greenwich. His career took off when he won the Festival Critics' Award at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival, and was the first newcomer to be nominated for the Perrier Award. Vegas also won the Leicester Mercury Comedian of The Year Competition in 1997. His early shows The Johnny Vegas Gameshow and The Johnny Vegas Show contained elements such as Butlins style sing-a-longs, onstage pottery, verbal abuse of the audience, and drunkenness.


Feature films



Having achieved fame in entertainment Vegas received plaudits for his ceramic work. Ceramic Review praised him, leading to a role in Pot Shots (collaborating with Roger Law), a film made for an international gathering of potters.[4] This led to his work being acquired for a collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum and a commission from Old Spice to design a bottle for their aftershave.

In 2005 he participated in the celebrity special edition of The Generation Game demonstrating how to make a pot, before judging the participants' attempts.

Personal life

Vegas married Catherine "Kitty" Donnelly in August 2002 and sold pictures of the wedding to Viz magazine for a penny. The couple separated in 2004. They reunited briefly (twice) in 2005. Vegas and Donnelly were divorced by agreement on 11 March 2008 after having lived apart for more than two years. In early April 2011, Vegas married columnist and Irish TV producer, Maia Dunphy in Seville.[5]

Vegas admitted on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in May 2008 that he has been losing weight after being diagnosed with gout. On 30 October 2008, on an episode of 8 out of 10 Cats, he mentioned that he had lost 4 stone (25 kilograms).

He fulfilled a lifetime ambition by appearing for St Helens Rugby League team in Keiron Cunningham's testimonial game, a friendly against Hull FC, in 2005.[6]


  1. ^ "BBC — Drama — People index Johnny Vegas". Retrieved 30 May 2008. 
  2. ^ Johnny Vegas turns out for Saints. BBC News (3 February 2005). Retrieved on 25 August 2011.
  3. ^ Here's Johnny .... Interview. The Guardian. 13 March 2006. Retrieved on 25 August 2011.
  4. ^ Johnny Vegas. BBC biography.
  5. ^ "Comedian Johnny Vegas marries girlfriend Maia Dunphy in Spain". Ghana MMA. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Johnny Vegas turns out for Saints. BBC News (3 February 2005). Retrieved on 25 August 2011.

External links

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