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Hugh Dennis: ‘One in three of us will get dementia – we need to act’

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Hugh Dennis on raising awareness for dementia, career highlights and starting out in comedy (Picture: Getty / BBC / ITV / Metro.co.uk)

Metro has teamed up with Alzheimer’s Society for Dementia Awareness Week to shine a light on the devastating disease and the work being done to combat it.

Among those joining the campaign is presenter and actor Hugh Dennis, 62, who was part of a hard-hitting storyline in his TV role as Pete in Outnumbered.

Hugh tells us about the experience of having a grandfather with early-onset dementia, why he’s a supporter of Alzheimer’s Society, and the reason raising awareness is so important.

One in three of us will get dementia in our lifetime.

We saw you recently at the Alzheimer’s Society’s international football match to help raise awareness about the disease…

(Credits: Fergus Burnett Photography)

Yes, I went to England versus Belgium at Wembley, which was great because I love football. But it was also nice to be there for the Alzheimer’s Society, who are the FA’s chosen charity. 


They raise money during games and use the matches to raise awareness. The sooner you get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the easier it is to treat, so they encourage people to do that.

The match really was a game of two halves, wasn’t it?

Yes, they did it cleverly.

The first half was like a normal football game with the England players all having names on the back of their shirts. And in the second half, they didn’t have names on them, to sort of go, ‘This is the kind of the thing you’d struggle with if you had Alzheimers,’ – because those are the type of things that disappear.

Why are you a supporter of Alzheimer’s Society?

Hugh Dennis helped write a dementia storyline on Outnumbered (Credits: Hat Trick Productions)

For various reasons. One in three of us will get the disease and huge numbers of the population are caring for people with dementia.

It’s important because it’s all tied in with what happens towards the end of your life, and as a society we haven’t really got anything nationally in place to deal with it other than the Alzheimer’s Society. But we need to do something about it.

My grandfather had what was, at that point, called early onset dementia – I think he got it in his 60s – so
I remember him and I’d experienced it that way.

But really I was approached because in the final series of Outnumbered, my character Pete’s father-in-law had dementia and he and his wife, Sue, were looking at the next steps for him. So I was involved in it script-wise, about the enormous problems of care and looking after someone who is living with dementia.

In terms of your career, you started out gigging at The Comedy Store with Steve Punt once you left uni…

Steve Punt and Hugh in 1992 (Credits: Getty Images)

We did, but that was a slightly odd thing because I also had a normal job. I was at The Comedy Store on Friday and Saturday nights and the rest of the week I was in a suit somewhere in the West End flogging deodorant as brand manager of Lynx.

I did that for five years, even when I started doing telly on the Jasper Carrott Show for five series.

That was live on a Saturday night from Television Centre so was amazingly good training because it had 13million viewers a week. All fear you might have about doing telly disappeared during that show, because you thought, ‘It can’t get much more stressful than this’.

I was doing Spitting Image at
the same time because that was recorded on Saturday mornings. So I could still be
a brand manager and then be Norman Lamont at the weekend. After Jasper Carrott, we did The Mary Whitehouse Experience on Radio One – 48 in 18 months before we went to BBC Two.

You’ve worked with so many amazing people – who makes you laugh the most?

Hugh feels lucky to have worked with Lee Mack(Credits: BBC/Avalon/Rob Parfitt)

I’ve been amazingly lucky to work with Lee Mack in Not Going Out and various things.
I remember a gig organised by Jasper for the NSPCC, where the headliner was Rowan Atkinson. It was the first time I became aware that if enough people laugh at the same time, it moves the air. You can feel that wave of laughter coming – astonishing. James Acaster I find stupidly funny, too.

But most of the time when you’re on a panel show, you’re desperately thinking about what you say next, so you’re missing all the comedy magic happening around you.

What do you consider the pinnacle of your career? Appearing in the Bond film No Time To Die?

Hugh would put Outnumbered above Bond when it comes to career highlights (Credits: Hat Trick)

That was an amazing thing to be asked to do – I’m so glad I did it.

I’m most proud of Outnumbered, just because it was such a good thing to be a part of and a lovely production.

Then even though I only did four days on Fleabag, it was a phenomenon – I’m really pleased to have been part of that. But I like to think the pinnacle of my career hasn’t yet
come. I don’t know whether that’s going
to work out!


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