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Ben Elton (born May 3, 1959) is a British comedian and writer. Born in Catford, London of an immigrant family of academics, he studied at Godalming Grammar School and became a stand-up comedian and comedy writer shortly after leaving Manchester University in 1980. He was a central figure in the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980s.
In 1980 he wrote and appeared in Granada Television's sketch show Alfresco, which was also notable for early appearances by Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane but which received poor ratings.
His first major success was as co-writer of the television sitcom The Young Ones. This was followed by Happy Families — a six-part series starring Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson — then Filthy, Rich and Catflap which was assumed by many to be a sequel to The Young Ones. He went on to co-write the second and subsequent series of Blackadder starring Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson, while simultaneously becoming well-known for his television appearances as host of Channel 4's Saturday Live — later moved and renamed Friday Night Live — which was seen as a UK version of Saturday Night Live. Many of his catchphrases became well-known, for example the "double seat, double seat" chant (tired commuters wanting space to themselves on the train home). He graduated from his closing slot in the first series of Saturday Live to hosting the show.
In 1990 he starred in his own stand-up comedy and sketch series entitled The Man From Auntie, which had a second series in 1994. A similar format was used for The Ben Elton Show which aired in 1998. His most recent television sitcom was The Thin Blue Line, set in a police station and also starring Atkinson, which ran for two series (1995, 1996).
Prolific and ambitious, he began writing novels and plays, including Stark (1989, made into a television series in which Elton starred), Gridlock (1991), This Other Eden (1993), Popcorn (1996), Blast From the Past (1998) and Inconceivable. The latter, which is based on the author's own experiences of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, was made into a film under the title Maybe Baby (2000), directed by Elton himself. More recently, he has embarked on a career in musical theatre, co-writing The Beautiful Game with Andrew Lloyd Webber, and then the rock musical We Will Rock You with music by Queen. His latest novels are Dead Famous (2001), a variation on the classical whodunnit of the 1930s and 1940s set around a reality TV series akin to Big Brother, and High Society (2002), a novel exploring the social consequences of drug illegality in Britain.