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Matthew James Holness (born 1975) is an English comedian, actor, writer and director. Holness is best known for his role as fictional writer and actor Garth Marenghi.

Matt Holness
Matthew Holness as Merriman Wier.jpg
Holness performing as Merriman Weir in 2007
Matthew James Holness

1975 (age 42–43)
Whitstable, Kent, England
Alma materTrinity Hall, Cambridge
OccupationActor, comedian, director


Early life and educationEdit

Born in Whitstable, Kent, Holness attended Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury and read English at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He became a fan of Hammer horror at a young age, to the extent that when, at the age of six, he asked Hammer star and fellow Whitstable resident Peter Cushing for his autograph, Cushing expressed concern that the child knew so much about the films.[1] As a member of the Cambridge Footlights, he was involved with and appeared in a number of shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the mid-nineties. He also served as vice-president when David Mitchell was president and his contemporaries included Robert Webb, Richard Ayoade and John Oliver.[2][1] Holness received the honorary MA, graduating in absentia due to his comedy work.[3]


Before he was on television, he played Bob Fossil in The Mighty Boosh and was the first choice for the role; however, contract limitations between Channel 4 (Garth Marenghi's Darkplace) and the BBC (Mighty Boosh) saw Rich Fulcher take the role permanently, in The Mighty Boosh stage show. He is currently the only regular cast member (of six) from the TV version of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace who has yet to feature in the TV version of The Mighty Boosh. He is the only main cast member from Darkplace (of four) not to have appeared in The IT Crowd.

Holness first appeared on television as a cast-member of the 2000 BBC Choice TV series Bruiser.

In 2000, Garth Marenghi's Fright Knight, a stage show written by Holness and Richard Ayoade, and starring Holness, Ayoade and Alice Lowe, was nominated for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.[4] The show was built around Holness's spoof horror writer character Garth Marenghi, with additional parts played by Ayoade and Lowe. The sequel to Fright Knight, Garth Marenghi's Netherhead, won the Perrier Award the following year.

Garth Marenghi transferred to UK television in the 2004 Channel 4 horror comedy Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Despite critical acclaim and a cult following which grew on the Internet and through subsequent DVD sales, the series suffered from relatively low ratings.[1] Holness is perhaps better known by wider TV audiences for his cameo as Simon (the Computer Guy) in series two of The Office. He played a similar character (among others) in the 2000 TV series Bruiser.

From 2004, Holness played the regular character of Keith Bilk in the BBC Radio 4 series The Department, written by Chris Addison (series 1, 2), John Oliver, and Andy Zaltzman.

Holness's comedy character, Merriman Weir, a guitar-picking folk singer, has performed at small comedy clubs in London and around the UK. Merriman Weir has also appeared as a guest in the pilot episode of the Channel 4 comedy chat show Man to Man with Dean Learner (2005) (then known as Deano's After Dark) where he was interviewed by Garth Marenghi's publicist Dean Learner—a character created by Richard Ayoade. Holness is an exceptionally accomplished guitarist and this shows in the episodes featuring Weir.

Following on from the above successful pilot show, Holness and Ayoade recorded a six-part series for Channel 4 entitled Man to Man with Dean Learner in late May and early June at Teddington Studios, which was broadcast on terrestrial television on Friday 20 October 2006 at 11.05 pm on Channel 4 and continued for 6 weeks. Holness played Dean Learner's different guests in each episode (although the Merriman Weir episode was recorded first, it was the fourth one to be broadcast in the series).

In 2006 he appeared in the BBC Two comedy programme Time Trumpet. In 2009 he appeared in the Channel 4 sitcom Free Agents.

In 2010 he appeared in the Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant film Cemetery Junction. In 2011 he played a minor role in the first episode of Friday Night Dinner as 'Chris Parker'.

Holness has had several short stories published, including pieces in the anthology Phobic; a collection of horror stories, and Black Static magazine.

In 2011 he appeared in Life's Too Short, a sitcom written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and starring Warwick Davis.

In 2012 he wrote and directed a one-off play for Sky Arts Playhouse Presents series entitled The Snipist. It starred Douglas Henshall in the titular role, protecting the citizens of a dystopic alternative 1970s Britain against the threat of rabies. John Hurt provided 'The Voice of The Ministry'.

In 2017 he appeared in Simon Blackwell's Back, during flashbacks portraying the recently deceased father of the main character.

In 2018 he made his debut as a film director with Possum, a horror set in Norfolk and inspired by Jimmy Savile, which he described as "not remotely funny".[1]



Year Programme Role Notes
2000 Bruiser Various Roles 6 Episodes
Also Writer
2002 The Office Simon 1 Episode
2004 Garth Marenghi's Darkplace Garth Marenghi 6 Episodes
Also Writer
2005 Casanova Landlord 1 Episode
2006 Time Trumpet Himself 6 Episodes
Man to Man with Dean Learner Various Roles 6 Episodes
Also Writer/Executive Producer
2009 Free Agents Dan Mackey 6 Episodes
2011 Friday Night Dinner Chris 1 Episode
2011 Life's Too Short Ian Wold 3 Episodes[5]
2014 Toast of London Max Gland 1 Episode
2017 Back Laurie 2 episodes



  1. ^ a b c d Shoard, Catherine (12 October 2018). "From Garth Marenghi to big-screen horror – what the 'lost boy' of comedy did next". Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Cambridge Footlights Alumni 1990–1999". Footlights Official Website. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012.
  3. ^ "Congregation of the Regent House on 25 March 2000". Cambridge University Reporter.
  4. ^ "Send in the clowns". Varsity. 25 February 2010.
  5. ^ Episode 4, Series 1, Episode 6, Series 1, Episode 7, Series 1. Life's Too Short Episode Guide. BBC. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  6. ^ "Possum". The Fyzz Facility. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  • Murray, Andy (Editor) (2007). Phobic: Modern Horror Stories. Comma Press. ISBN 1-905583-07-9

External linksEdit