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He toured with a one-man show, with Angus Deayton as the straight man. The one-man show was filmed for television, and is still popular on video. It characterises Atkinson's comedy style, which is tightly planned and scripted, often physically-based comedy - comedy as performance, rather than comedy as observation or discussion, observant of life as many of the routines were. Atkinson's talent for physical comedy has seen him described as "the man with the rubber face".
Atkinson studied electrical engineering at Newcastle University then at Oxford (Queen's College), starting his comedy career at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He is married with two children. His major hobby is apparently fast carss, having written for the British magazine Car and owning and racing Aston Martin vehicles.
He starred in several TV comedy series, among which:
- Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979 - 1982)
- Mr. Bean
- Funny Business (1992), a documentary about the craft of comedy
- The Thin Blue Line (1995-1996)
- the Comic Relief Red Nose Day telecasts (notably starring in the Doctor Who skit in the 1999 telecast)