Childhood & Early Life
Richard Ellef Ayoade was born on June 12, 1977 in Hammersmith in west London, but grew up in Suffolk County, where his parents moved to later on. His Nigerian father Layide Ade Laditi Ayoade is an electrical engineer and his mother Dagny Amalie is a Norwegian. He is their only child.
He attended St Joseph's College in Ipswich, and in 1995, he went to Cambridge University to study law. In 1998, he graduated from Cambridge with other future stars like Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Olivia Colman.
He was the president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club in 1997. He also bagged the Martin Steele Prize for play production in college.
He wrote and performed in several Footlights Dramatic Club productions along with the club’s vice-president John Oliver. He participated in touring shows like ‘Emotional Baggage’ and ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’.
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Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness together wrote the stage show ‘Garth Marenghi's Fright Knight’. He also starred in the show along with Matthew at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2000. The show was nominated for a Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
He wrote the TV comedy sketch show ‘Bruiser’ in 2000, which starred David Mitchell, Robert Webb, and Matthew Holness. In 2001, he co-wrote and performed in ‘Garth Marenghi's Netherhead’, the sequel to ‘Fright Knight’. He bagged the Perrier Comedy Award for it.
He was a part of ‘The Mighty Boosh’ television show. The Mighty Boosh is a British comedy troupe, which includes comedians like Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. The troupe has developed numerous stage shows and radio series.
Ayoade also appeared in the radio series ‘The Boosh’ in 2001. He continued appearing in the second series in 2005 and portrayed the character of Saboo. He was associated with ‘The Mighty Boosh’ in the third series too, this time as an actor as well as a script editor.
In 2004, Richard and Matthew created a horror comedy series called ‘Garth Marenghi's Darkplace’ for Channel 4. He wrote, directed and starred in the series. In the same year, he directed, co-wrote and co-starred with Matt Berry in ‘AD/BC: A Rock Opera’, which was aired on BBC Three. He also appeared in a small role as a reporter in the HBO television film ‘The Life and Death of Peter Sellers’ in 2004.
In 2005, he was cast as Ned Smanks in Channel 4’s sitcom ‘Nathan Barley’, written by Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris. His character of Dean Learner was used to host a comedy chat show called ‘Man to Man with Dean Learner’ in 2006. It was aired on Channel 4. In the same year, he was featured in the comedy series ‘Time Trumpet’, which was aired on BBC Two.
He started playing the role of the socially awkward IT technician Maurice Moss in the television sitcom ‘The IT Crowd’ which began airing on Channel 4 in 2006. Irish television comedy writer and director Graham Linehan had specially written this role for Richard Ayoade.
The series ran for four seasons and his performance earned him the award for the outstanding actor in a television comedy series at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival in 2008. He also bagged a BAFTA for Best Male Comedy Performance.
During his meeting with the film company Warp to discuss scripts, he displayed his keenness to direct a music video. Warp connected him to Arctic Monkeys, and he created Arctic Monkeys’ video song ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ in 2007. For this, he received a UK Music Video Award nomination. Since then, he has made a number of videos. In the same year, he directed Super Furry Animals' ‘Run-Away’ video.
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In 2008, he continued to direct a number of music videos, starting with two Vampire Weekend singles, ‘Oxford Comma’ and ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’. These were followed by The Last Shadow Puppets’ songs ‘Standing Next to Me’ and ‘My Mistakes were Made for You’.
He also directed a live DVD, ‘At the Apollo,’ by the Arctic Monkeys. Later, he directed two more music videos for the Arctic Monkeys–‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Cornerstone’.
In 2010, he directed his first feature film, ‘Submarine’, which was a comedy drama. It was critically acclaimed. He also earned a nomination for a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.
In 2011, he directed an episode of the comedy television show ‘Community’. The episode, called ‘Critical Film Studies’, pays homage to the film ‘My Dinner with Andre’, released in 1981. Critics appreciated the episode.
Richard Ayoade lent his voice to the main character of the animated television sitcom ‘Full English’, aired on Channel 4. However, the show was cancelled after five episodes. In the animated film ‘The Boxtrolls’, he provided his voice to the character Mr. Pickles, a henchman. He also voiced a villainous snowman character in the animated series ‘Danger Mouse’.
In 2012, he was featured in a science fiction comedy ‘The Watch’ along with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill. Although the film didn’t do well, his performance was highly praised. In the same year, he provided his voice to the character Todd Lagoona, a hammerhead shark, in the television series ‘Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy’.
In 2013, he wrote and directed his second film, ‘The Double’, a black comedy thriller, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska. Critics praised the film.
He is also a published author. His first book, ‘Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey’, published in 2014, satirizes interviews and books that documented the careers of film directors.
In 2017, he presented the game show ‘The Crystal Maze’, created by Jacques Antoine. The show featured other comedians like Jessica Hynes and Adam Buxton. In the 20-episode series, five contestants work through the Aztec, Medieval, Future and Industrial zones of the maze, and finally, a showdown takes place in the iconic crystal dome.
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He also presented and hosted two other shows on Channel 4 TV—the technology series ‘Gadget Man’ and the documentary series ‘Travel Man’.
His second book, ‘The Grip of Film,’ was published in 2017. It features an “A-Z of films” and highlights what makes them good or bad with detailed footnotes.
In 2018, he did an advertisement for HSBC. It was about the Brexit and the impact of other nations’ cultures on the UK.
He provided his voice to the character Treebor, a Stone Age caveman, in the comedy ‘Early Man’, released in 2018. He also voiced the title character Onion in the animated series ‘Apple & Onion’, aired on Cartoon Network.
He was cast in a supporting role in a mystery film ‘The Souvenir’, which features Robert Pattinson in the lead role. The film is set to release later in 2018.
Richard Ayoade’s performance in ‘The IT Crowd’ was highly praised by critics. Written by Graham Linehan, the British television comedy sitcom featured Chris O'Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson, and Matt Berry.
The story focused on the IT department of the Reynholm Industries and its three staff members—Maurice Moss, played by Ayoade, Roy Trenneman, portrayed by O'Dowd, and Jen Barber, played by Parkinson. The show bagged several awards, including the BAFTA, Emmy, the British Comedy Awards and Irish Film and Television Awards.
His first directorial comedy film ‘Submarine’, which was based on the debut novel of the same name by Joe Dunthorne, received rave reviews from the critics. The film revolves round an intellectual teenager who tries to solve his parents' marital difficulties. It starred Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor and Paddy Considine.
The film premiered at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. It also featured five original songs by Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner of The Last Shadow Puppets. The film bagged the British Independent Film Award for Best Screenplay, Palm Springs International Film Festival Directors to Watch Award, and Giffoni Film Festival Award for Best Film.