James Bachman

James Bachman

James Bachman recording the BBC Radio 4 comedy pilot Zoom, 6 May 2008.
Born James Hamilton Bachman[1]
(1972-02-24) 24 February 1972
Cuckfield, Sussex, England
Occupation Comedian, actor, writer
Years active 1996–present

James Hamilton Bachman[1] (born 24 February 1972) is an English comedian, actor and writer. He has written for and acted in many British television and radio programmes, including That Mitchell and Webb Look, Saxondale, Bleak Expectations and Sorry, I've Got No Head. In 2014 he co-starred in the film Transformers: Age of Extinction.

He is the grandson of the best-selling author M. M. Kaye, and holds both British and American citizenship.

Early life

Bachman was born in Cuckfield, West Sussex to an American father and English mother. He attended Radley College and studied Natural Sciences at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, focusing on Physics and Mathematics. He joined Footlights, having been a Monty Python and Fry and Laurie fan as a youngster.[2] It was while in Footlights that he first met David Mitchell and Robert Webb, whom he would collaborate with for their shows, and also future writing partner Mark Evans. His other student comedy contemporaries included the writer and director Dan Mazer and the TV scriptwriter Robert Thorogood.

He became co-vice-president of Footlights in 1993 and appeared in and wrote for the 1994 Footlights revue The Barracuda Jazz Option. He returned after graduation to direct the subsequent revue Fall From Grace, which included amongst its cast Mitchell, Webb, and Matthew Holness.[3] That same year he also directed a production of the Keith Waterhouse play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, starring Mitchell as Jeffrey Bernard and Webb in multiple roles.

By the time Bachman finished university he had lost interest in his area of study and chose to go into comedy instead.


Shortly after graduating, Bachman began a short-lived sketch double-act with fellow Cambridge comedian Matthew Holness. Bachman & Holness performed their first sketch show Rummage in the Pleasance Attic at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1996. Their second show Shoes debuted at the ADC Theatre in Cambridge the following year and is notable for including one of the first ever performances of Holness' character Garth Marenghi.

Bachman then went on to spend the early part of his career earning a living mainly as a comedy writer, starting as a solo writer for radio shows such as Week Ending, and then forming a writing partnership with Mark Evans. As a pair they contributed material to a huge number of sketch and entertainment shows for radio and television including The Very World of Milton Jones, The Jack Docherty Show, The 11 O'Clock Show, The Priory, The Richard Blackwood Show, Rhona, Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Popetown, Ed Stone Is Dead, That Mitchell and Webb Sound, and That Mitchell and Webb Look. As writers on That Mitchell and Webb Look, Bachman and Evans created several of their much-loved sketches including 'Numberwang', 'David's Chiropractor', 'Glucozade Port' and 'Bed & Booze'.

During this period he made a few appearances on TV in shows he was writing on as well as occasional roles in shows such as 15 Storeys High, The Robinsons and Comedy Nation.

Frustrated at the lack of outlets for sketch and character performers on the London comedy circuit, Bachman, along with Evans and Robert Thorogood, set up the sketch comedy club TBA-2 at the Latchmere Theatre (now Theatre503). (The name was a reference to London's 'first ever sketch comedy club' TBA set up by Henry Naylor and Andy Parsons in the mid-Nineties.) Regular performers included their university contemporaries Mitchell, Webb, Holness and Jonathan Dryden Taylor as well as The Four Horseman, The Trap, Stuart & Quigley, John Reed, Ben & Arn, Nick Doody, Andy Bodle, Spencer Brown and Georgie Morgan.

In early 2001 Bachman and Evans began a weekly live residency at the Etcetera Theatre in London, developing a free-form live sketch-sitcom under the title Work In Progress. Material from this residency became their first Edinburgh Fringe show Hmm... which ran at the Assembly Rooms. Bachman and Evans returned to Edinburgh in 2002 with their second show The Bachman and Evans Special Edition, which attempted to add DVD-style commentary and 'extra scenes' to their normal live-sitcom-adventure format. In 2001 and 2002 Bachman also directed Edinburgh Fringe shows for Mitchell and Webb: The Mitchell and Webb Story and The Mitchell and Webb Clones.

At the end of 2001 Bachman joined Lucy Montgomery and Barunka O'Shaughnessy to form the clown comedy trio Population: 3. Their first show Gladiatrix was devised with director Cal McCrystal and performed at the Soho Theatre in London and subsequently at the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it achieved some success. Continuing the theme of taking Hollywood films and reversing the sex of the main character, Population: 3 returned to the Fringe in 2003 with their most successful show The Wicker Woman (which was seen by Robin Hardy the director of the original The Wicker Man), and its 2004 follow-up The Elephant Woman, both devised with director David Sant.[2]

Bachman was then invited to become part of the regular team behind Ealing Live!, a weekly live comedy show at Ealing Studios inspired by the format of the American show Saturday Night Live and the 1980s British comedy shows Saturday Live and Friday Night Live. He also became a regular fixture on the live character and sketch circuit in London, performing as Oscar Wilde, The James Bachman International Orchestra and Papa Christmas at comedy nights including Oram and Meeten's Club Fantastico, The Book Club, and The Pros From Dover.

In 2008 he and Evans recorded a pilot for Radio 4 based on the style of their Edinburgh shows comedy. The show, called Zoom, was written by and starred Bachman and Evans, and co-starred David Soul and Carla Mendonça with Jon Glover as Melvyn Bragg. It also featured a special guest appearance by Nicholas Parsons as himself. The show had originally been developed as a TV series with Absolutely Productions and was not picked up for a series by Radio 4.

Bachman has since appeared in regular and cameo roles in Saxondale, The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd, "Jonathan Creek", Hyperdrive, Miranda, Peep Show, Rev. and Mount Pleasant as well as a number of other television and radio programmes. From 2008 to 2010 he co-wrote and starred in three series of the CBBC sketch show Sorry, I've Got No Head, appearing as some of the shows most popular characters including Ross, the only boy in the North Barrasay school, Mark, the record breaker, Prudith, who with her friend Jasmine thinks everything costs a thousand pounds, and the beekeeper who thinks maybe his bees can help.

He was a regular member of the cast of both That Mitchell and Webb Look and That Mitchell and Webb Sound and in the winter of 2006 he toured with David Mitchell and Robert Webb as part of their live show The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb.

Bachman is also well known to BBC Radio 4 listeners as jolly idiot Harry Biscuit in all five series of the BBC radio comedy Bleak Expectations, which ran from 2007 to 2012.

His film credits include the shorts Stiffy and Monsters and Rabbits as well as a cameo appearance in the Bain and Armstrong film Magicians. In 2013 he was cast in Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction as Gill Wembley, head scientist to the character of Joshua Joyce played by Stanley Tucci. The film was released in 2014 and became the first film that year to take one billion dollars at the worldwide box office.

Although Evans now generally works as a solo writer, he and Bachman still occasionally collaborate. Bachman also writes in partnership with a variety of other comedy writers including Tom Meeten, Tony Way, Gareth Tunley, Arnold Widdowson and Toby Davies.

From October to December 2014, he played Tony McDonald in Millie Inbetween for series one, however, the role was recast to Richard Lumsden in series 2, due to Bachman focusing on his music career.


Bachman and Tunley make their own improvised web series Peeder Jigson's Video Diary published on Funny or Die and on YouTube in which Bachman appears as the film director Peeder Jigson (a version of New Zealand film director Peter Jackson, director of the The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies). The show is a spoof behind-the-scenes video diary purporting to show the making of the Jackson's three Hobbit films (here referred to as 'The Hubbard'). In the videos Tunley often takes the role of Peeder's friend Daryl who is operating the camera and therefore unseen, but sometimes heard. Some of the videos also purport to be shot by Peeder himself, and in one instance, due to illness, Peeder claims to have let Sir Ian McKellen make one. The first video in the series was posted to Funny or Die in January 2011, almost a year and a half before Peter Jackson began uploading his own official production diaries of the making of the Hobbit. In July 2012 Empire Magazine published a full-page interview with Jigson about the shooting of the movies. Bachman and Tunley also tweet as Peeder Jigson.

In collaboration with Tom Meeten, Bachman has also shot a number sketches for the BBC's online comedy presence under the umbrella of a fake BBC Internet channel called BBC Nought. The videos are presented as trailers for upcoming shows on BBC Nought, and include clips from parodies of real BBC shows as well as invented shows such as Shower Chat, The Farming Programme and Celebrity Driving School. BBC shows parodied include MasterChef: The Professionals, Question Time, Later... with Jools Holland, Final Score and, most successfully, The Apprentice, in which Bachman and Meeten portray the selection process for the famous reality show.



Year Programme Role Notes
2004 15 Storeys High Erection Man 2 Episodes
'Car Boot and Pigeon Shit'
'Vince The Shirker'
2005 The Mighty Boosh Colin Series 2
'The Legend of Old Gregg'
2006 That Mitchell and Webb Look Various Roles All 4 Series
Also writer
Saxondale Alistair Tommy Saxondale's anger management therapist
Opened every episode of both series
2007 The IT Crowd Jeff/Dominator 1 Episode
'Moss and the German'
Peep Show Role-playing Guy 1 Episodes
'Mark's Women'
Unrecognisable under a large mask
2008 Sorry, I've Got No Head Various Roles All 4 Series
Also Writer
2009 Miranda Quentin 1 Episode
2011 Mount Pleasant Richard 2 Episodes
Rev. Tim 1 Episode
2014 Jonathan Creek Rev. Hugh Chater 2 Episodes
Crackanory Raymond Morris 1 Episode
'The Surprise & The Crisis Plan'
2015 Fried Gareth 1 Episode
'The Chicken Awards'



  1. 1 2 {England & Wales births 1837 - 2006}
  2. 1 2 "Comedy Interview: James Bachman". Londonist. 31 October 2006.
  3. "The Cambridge Footlights Alumni". Footlights Official Website.

External links

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