RadioAtkinson starred in a series of comedy shows for BBC Radio 3 in 1978 called "The Atkinson People". It consisted of a series of satirical interviews with fictional great men, who were played by Atkinson himself. The series was written by Atkinson and Richard Curtis, and produced by Griff Rhys Jones.
TelevisionAfter university, Atkinson toured with Angus Deayton as his funny man in an act that was eventually filmed for a television show. After the success of the show, he did a one-off pilot for ITV in 1979 called Canned Laughter. Atkinson then went on to do Not the Nine O'Clock News, produced by his friend John Lloyd. He starred on the show along with Pamela Stephenson, Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith, and was one of the main sketch writers.
The success of Not the Nine O'Clock News led to his starring in the medieval sitcom The Black Adder, which he also co-wrote with Richard Curtis, in 1983. After a three-year gap, in part due to budgetary concerns, a second series was written, this time by Curtis and Ben Elton, and first screened in 1986. Blackadder II followed the fortunes of one of the descendants of Atkinson's original character, this time in the Elizabethan era. The same pattern was repeated in the two sequels Blackadder the Third (1987) (set in the Regency era), and Blackadder Goes Forth (1989) (set in World War I). The Blackadder series went on to become one of the most successful BBC situation comedies of all time, spawning television specials including Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988) and Blackadder: The Cavalier Years (1988).
Atkinson's other famous creation, the hapless Mr. Bean, first appeared on New Years Day in 1990 in a half-hour special for Thames Television. The character of Mr. Bean has been likened somewhat to a modern-day Buster Keaton. During this time, Atkinson appeared at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal in 1987 and 1989. Several sequels to Mr. Bean appeared on television in the 1990s, and it eventually made into a major motion picture in 1997. Entitled Bean, it was directed by Mel Smith, his former co-star from Not the Nine O'Clock News. A second movie was released in 2007 entitled Mr. Bean's Holiday.
In 1995 and 1997, Atkinson portrayed Inspector Raymond Fowler in the popular The Thin Blue Line television series, written by Ben Elton, which takes place in a police station located in fictitious Gasforth.
Atkinson has fronted campaigns for Kronenbourg, Hitachi electrical goods, Fujifilm, and Give Blood. Most famously, he appeared as a hapless and error-prone espionage agent in a long-running series for Barclaycard, on which character his title role in Johnny English and Johnny English Reborn was based.
He also starred in a comedy spoof of Doctor Who as the Doctor, for a red nose day benefit.
Atkinson as Mr. Bean, in Brussels, next to the Manneken Pis.Atkinson's film career began in 1983 with a supporting part in the 'unofficial' James Bond movie Never Say Never Again and a leading role in Dead on Time with Nigel Hawthorne. He appeared in former Not the Nine O'Clock News co-star Mel Smith's directorial debut The Tall Guy in 1989. He also appeared alongside Anjelica Huston and Mai Zetterling in Roald Dahl's The Witches in 1990. In 1993 he played the part of Dexter Hayman in Hot Shots! Part Deux, a parody of Rambo III, starring Charlie Sheen.
Atkinson gained further recognition with his turn as a verbally bumbling vicar in the 1994 hit Four Weddings and a Funeral. That same year he was featured in Walt Disney's The Lion King as Zazu the Red-billed Hornbill. Atkinson continued to appear in supporting roles in successful comedies, including Rat Race (2001), Scooby-Doo (2002), and Love Actually (2003).
In 2005, he acted in the crime/comedy Keeping Mum, which also starred Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith and Patrick Swayze.
In addition to his supporting roles, Atkinson has also had success as a leading man. His television character Mr. Bean debuted on the big screen in 1997 with Bean to international success. A sequel, Mr. Bean's Holiday, was released in March 2007 and may be the last time he plays the character. He has also starred in the James Bond parody Johnny English in 2003. Its sequel, Johnny English Reborn will be released in 2011.
TheatreRowan Atkinson appeared in the 2009 revival of the West End musical Oliver! as Fagin. The production was directed by Rupert Goold. A year prior he starred in a pre-West End run of the show in Oxford, directed by Jez Bond.