North West comedian Michael Pennington, better known as Johnny Vegas, was today made an Honorary Doctor of Literature by Edge Hill University.

Johnny Vegas

Johnny Vegas

Best known for his television roles including playing Geoff ‘The Oracle’ Maltby in the ITV sitcom Benidorm, his regular appearances on comedy panel shows such as QI and 8 Out of 10 Cats, and his unique brand of stand-up comedy, Johnny Vegas has become a household name in the UK.

He addressed today’s graduates, all of whom have completed courses within the Faculty of Education: “You as teachers are more important than ever. Education should be available to all rather than a luxury, and the responsibility falls on you to inspire the people you teach – especially those who may see college or University as unavailable to them – to pursue it. Education is what determines us as a society and a civilization. You will make a difference to so many people’s lives. You are the lifeblood and we need your skills – take them and share them for the benefit of all of us.”

When describing his lack of confidence in himself earlier in life, Michael spoke of two teachers who, along with his parents, helped him achieve his ambitions and instill a sense of belief.

He said: “The hardest thing I ever did was write a book (his recently published memoir, Becoming Johnny Vegas). Outside of my son and loved ones, it is one of my proudest achievements and I honestly can’t tell you what it means to now have an Honorary Doctorate in Literature. I’d love to thank Edge Hill for having confidence in me and inviting me along today. I’ll have to visit my old English teacher to show her the award – it pretty much belongs to her!”

Michael, originally from St Helens, started out as a stand-up comic in 1995, winning the Festival Critics Award and a Perrier nomination at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival. His BBC Radio 4 sitcom Night Class, which he co-wrote and starred in, was runner up for best comedy at the Sony Radio Academy Awards in 2002. His popular appeal was cemented playing characters such as Charlie Doyle in Happiness (2001-2003) for which he received a British Comedy Award, Geoff ‘The Oracle’ Maltby in Benidorm (2007-2009) and Moz in Ideal (2005-2011). As a comedy actor he has been commended for a number of roles including Krook in Bleak House (2005), Mr Croombe in David Walliams’ Mr Stink (2012) and Crunchie Haystacks in Moone Boy (2012).

In 2013 Michael turned his talents to directing with two dramas for BBC1’s Moving On series and the Sky Arts drama Ragged as well as the music videos Handyman Blues for Billy Bragg and DIY for Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. As Johnny Vegas, he is a regular panellist on shows such as QI and 8 Out of 10 Cats. His recently published memoir Becoming Johnny Vegas (Harper, 2013) received much critical acclaim.

Listen to Johnny speaking after his ceremony: