Many people will not have heard the name Mark Heap, and maybe not a whole lot more will recognise his face either, but for aficionados of British comedy talent his is a name to remember. He's a talented comedian who has appeared in a wide range of comedy programmes, and has recently started moving into supporting roles in films such as the big-budget Stardust and the no-budget Captain Eager and the Mark of Voth (as the superbly-named Lieutenant Scrutty Baker; you can view the trailer here). His speciality is playing demented misfits and all-purpose loons, but he's already receiving more mainstream roles in TV programmes like the pleasantly inoffensive sitcom Love Soup (starring his Green Wing colleague Tamsin Grieg) and the period drama Lark Rise To Candleford. Before too long he'll be cast in a Hollywood blockbuster as a psychotic babbling Batman or Spider-Man villain, just you wait.
Heap is the sort of actor who, once you've seen him in a few episodes of a TV programme, you'll realise you know him from numerous other appearances. I have to admit that it took me quite a while to realise that the artist character Brian in Spaced was played by the same actor who played Dr Alan Statham in Green Wing - and to be honest it's not that impressive a disguise. One character has a goatee but no moustache, and the other has a moustache but no goatee. (Yeah, I guess I'm one of those people who would've been taken in by Zorro's mask or by Clark Kent taking off his spectacles when he emerged as Superman...)
Here's a quick tour of some career highlights of Heap's comedy appearances since the late 1990s:
This animated series featured Heap voicing the title character, Eric Feeble, a put-upon suburban dad with anxiety issues. The show was exported to the US but unfortunately it was re-voiced by the ubiquitous and surely rich enough already Hank Azaria of The Simpsons fame. In this excerpt of the UK version, Eric is having some equestrian difficulties.
In this sketch comedy show that ran for two series Heap played a variety of characters, but this one enabled him to display his talent as a street entertainer and juggler. In the Distracting Boss sketches Heap showed the best way to defuse potentially tricky situations with irritable employees:
In Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson's whip-smart Gen-X comedy Spaced, Heap played the basement-dwelling conceptual artist Brian Topp, who befriends Tim and Daisy despite some serious space cadet issues. In this clip Brian tries to explain what he, like, does.
Incidentally, the US release of Spaced on DVD will be accompanied by an extra episode commentary by a few American fans of the series. You may have heard of them...
Spaced: The Complete Series features bonus material including the all-new commentary from Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Bill Hader (Superbad, Saturday Night Live), Patton Oswalt (King of Queens, Ratatouille) and Diablo Cody (Oscar®-winning writer of Juno) [Source: www.spaced-out.org.uk]
It's in the part-improvised and riotously funny Green Wing that Heap portrayed his most famous comedy character: the impossibly neurotic and self-important Dr Alan Statham, who is irredeemably fixated upon the chain-smoking harridan office manager Joanna Clore (Pippa Haywood), despite her eternal disdain and roving eye. In this first clip Statham has prepared a special treat for Joanna, but she's sent an office wageslave (Olivia Colman, who plays Sophie in Peep Show) in her place. Witness the magic of the famous Alan Statham Recorder Dance:
In the second clip, Statham is on one of his regular crusades against perceived persecution, struggling in vain to get a better slot in the hospital carpark. In this scene, Statham breaks one of the basic rules of hospital operating theatres - never, never eat the patient. Truly a special moment in TV comedy history...