|Paul Kaye as Mike Strutter
in Kilburn, London, 2008
|Notable works and roles||Dennis Pennis
Paul Kaye (born 1965) is an English comedian and actor. He achieved notoriety in 1995 portraying the character of Dennis Pennis, a shock interviewer on The Sunday Show. Recently he has been known as rude New Jersey lawyer Mike Strutter with his own show Strutter on MTV.
Kaye was born in Clapham, London to Jewish parents. Kaye and his twin sister were brought up in Wembley where their father and mother ran a nearby schoolwear shop called Jackie's, first in Kingsbury and then in Kenton. Kaye was a promising schoolboy athlete who achieved an impressive time in the 100 metres and he became a fan of punk rock, particularly Sid Vicious. He attended Nottingham Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University) and graduated with a degree in Theatre Design.
Celebrity interviewer Dennis Pennis – created by Kaye and his friend Anthony Hines – was one of Kaye's best-known characters. A cross between Johnny Rotten and Woody Allen, with a shock of red hair, gaudy jackets adorned with punk-style badges, and thick glasses (worn, ostensibly, to reduce the likelihood of getting assaulted), Pennis stood out from the crowd and asked celebrities atypical questions, ranging from playful to cruel.
After brief stints presenting two episodes of Transmission (ITV's indie music magazine program circa 1990) as Pennis, the character next appeared in 1995 on BBC2's The Sunday Show. The basic premise was that Kaye and a camera crew would visit movie premieres, press functions and other assorted celebrity gatherings to attempt to get an "interview" with the stars, in between short skits and sketches featuring the character.
Originally, the celebrities would be mainly British stars harassed at assorted London-based events, such as actor Hugh Grant, TV host Ulrika Johnson and sports pundit Des Lynam. A 1995 video release of these early clips, Anyone For Pennis, assured success for the controversial comedian, who sought to broaden Pennis's scope.
His victims from this point on were much more renowned, the most famous of whom were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Demi Moore, Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis, amidst a raft of other Hollywood A-list stars. It was apparent that these victims, in the absolute upper echelons of fame, were unsettled and unhappy with Pennis's unique line of questioning. Some stars, such as Costner, insulted him back, while others, such as Moore, simply declined to comment and left. Pennis was visibly amused at the look of disgust on some of the stars' faces. There was some controversy when Pennis asked of Steve Martin: "How come you're not funny anymore?" Martin subsequently cancelled all scheduled press interviews. Kaye says it was the sole interview he regretted whilst playing the Pennis character.
The final video release, Dennis Pennis RIP: Too Rude to Live, released in 1997, saw the character killed off. In the video's plotline, certain members of the public take such offence at Pennis that they form a protest group against him, and the leader of the group deliberately provokes lawyer Mike Strutter (another Kaye character, see below) into strangling and finally bludgeoning Pennis to death. Kaye gave his reasons for axing Pennis as expense, the effort required to get a single usable interview, the notoriety of the character, and Kaye's own boredom and unhappiness with Pennis. Although the video consists partially of more celebrity interviews in the familiar format, Kaye also used this release to portray several new characters he had created. One example was Labian Quest, an eccentric upper-class composer who turns out to have written many of the best-known English football chants, such as "In your Everton slums" and "Who the fucking hell are you?" (in Quest's words, "a generic piece concerning identity and belonging").
The reasoning for killing off the character was stated as such by Kaye, "Dennis Pennis had become too expensive. Taking a film crew out every night with no guarantee of getting even a minute's worth of footage of me harassing celebs was just stupid. And then the programme would take months to compile, and it was just boring, man..... hanging out in the rain, twiddling your thumbs, playing with your hip flask...... he had to go......"
The character was also said to be killed off after a mockery of the pop star Simon Le Bon backfired.
Pennis remains unrevived, although Kaye in 2002 stated his intentions to bring him back in some form or other .
In 2000 Kaye starred in the comedy series Perfect World, a sitcom about a down-on-his-luck marketing manager. Although somewhat coolly received, the show did manage two series, although a third has not been commissioned by the BBC. He also briefly presented a BBC2 quiz show, Liar, in which six contestants would all have a supposed claim to fame and the studio audience voted on which one they believed was telling the truth. In the same year Kaye took a dramatic role alongside Michelle Collins in Two Thousand Acres of Sky.
In 2004, he played the leading role in the film Blackball, which was well received, though by a discerning minority. His role as deaf DJ Frankie Wilde in the 2005 mockumentary It's All Gone Pete Tong won him the Film Discovery Jury Award at the 2005 US Comedy Arts Festival. Television appearances in 2006 and 2007 include episodes of Hustle, EastEnders and Kingdom. Kaye is now the chief interviewer on rockworld.tv, in which he interviews up and coming punk/indie bands.
Kaye appeared in Hotel Babylon (11 March 2008, BBC One), Pulling (Series 2, March 2008, BBC Three) and as Uncle Gorwel in A Child's Christmases in Wales by Dylan Thomas (17 December 2009, BBC Four and 24 December 2009, BBC One Wales).
Paul appeared in an episode of Channel 4's Skins drama as Cook's lawyer, Duncan.
Kaye is a huge Arsenal fan, and writes a regular column for their official magazine, although, ironically, he used to work for their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. As evidenced by his Dennis Pennis look ("a punkoid Woody Allen"), he is fond of punk music, particularly The Clash, and The Sex Pistols. He has two sons, the younger of which bears the middle name of Strummer, as in The Clash's Joe Strummer. His favourite film is Princess Mononoke as he stated when he introduced the film on Film4.
He has been critical of a perceived anti-Israeli bias in the British media. In a BBC News interview with Kaye on 2009-01-03 he said that he felt the need to react to an earlier interview with Alexei Sayle. Sayle had been protesting against Israel's Operation Cast Lead. Kaye wrote an article calling for peace in the Guardian in January 2009.
Kaye has been nominated for, and won , a number of film awards: