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Watch Big Keith’s iconic scotch egg scene from The Office

By Yasmin Rufo
BBC News

Actor and comedian Ewen MacIntosh, best known for his role as “Big Keith” in The Office, has died aged 50.

The character, Keith Bishop, was a scotch egg-loving accountant who had a monotone answerphone message and would have rather had a career as a DJ.

MacIntosh also appeared in other British comedies including Miranda and Little Britain.

The show’s creator Ricky Gervais led the tributes on X/Twitter, describing MacIntosh as “an absolute original”.

Bishop, who worked at fictional paper company Wernham Hogg, will be remembered for scenes such as when he dressed up as Ali G for Red Nose Day.

Big Keith particularly shone in a memorable scene from season two’s episode Appraisals.

In his appraisal, office manager David Brent, played by Ricky Gervais, makes him list his strengths and weaknesses.

Chewing gum and looking bored, Keith responds “don’t know” to all answers and lists eczema as his weakness and accounts as his strength.

MacIntosh appeared in both series of The Office, which was first broadcast in 2001.

Stephen Merchant, the co-writer and co-director of the BBC comedy series, paid tribute to MacIntosh on Instagram., describing him as “a lovely and uniquely funny man”.

“I fondly recall we asked him to improvise an out-of-office message, and he was so hilarious we started writing more and more dialogue for him,” Merchant recalled.

“He soon stole every scene he was in. A total one-off. A tragic loss.”

MacIntosh also appeared in other British comedies including Miranda and Little Britain

In 2017, MacIntosh played Lionel in British romantic comedy film Finding Fatimah.

He also appeared in the final season of Ricky Gervais’ After Life, playing “Buffet Man”, who had been banned from his local all you can eat restaurant.

In 2021, MacIntosh spoke to Vice about his character’s passion for scotch eggs.

“My first scene with Martin [Freeman], where I eat the Scotch egg – we had trouble doing that for some reason,” he recalled.

“It took ages to get that done. I got through a lot of Scotch eggs. I wasn’t told about it. The props guy nipped out and bought them last minute.”

Actor Miranda Hart paid tribute to MacIntosh and said she was glad they got to do a scene together on her BBC comedy show Miranda.

“We were the same age and crossed paths many times as we did our best to be funny and make a living out of it,” she wrote on Instagram. “It wasn’t always likely but we did it and I am glad we got to do a scene together. Thank you xx.”

Comedian and TV presenter Matt Lucas said he was “so sad” to hear of MacIntosh’s death.

“We were lucky enough to have him appear in Little Britain,” he said. “He was sweet and smart and humble and, of course, brilliantly funny.”

The Office creator Ricky Gervais described Ewen MacIntosh as an “absolute original”

Actor Rufus Jones, who directed and wrote comedy TV series Home, called MacIntosh an “absolute pleasure of a guy”.

“A familiar and hilarious member of the Edinburgh sketch scene when we all started, and went on to create one of the most iconic scene stealers in tv comedy history,” he wrote on X.

MacIntosh, who attended Edinburgh University and was actively involved in its comedy troupe, performed at the Fringe Festival in 2007 as part of a double act with Tim FitzHigham.

In 2009, he appeared in a charity music video for Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas alongside other celebrities.

TV personality Lizzy Cundy shared a tribute to MacIntosh on X, writing: “We were great mates and we danced together in Chris Rea’s Driving Home for Christmas video. Such a lovely man inside and out.”

TV channel Gold tweeted: “We loved him as Keith in The Office and were lucky enough to work with him over the years on the channel. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at such a difficult time.”

MacIntosh’s friend Ed Scott said: “He may have had a famous face known by millions as Keith from The Office but the person inside is what I will most remember.

“Ewen was so full of empathy, kindness, and integrity and above all a really good man.”

MacIntosh’s cause of death has not been confirmed, but he died at Willow Green Care Home in Darlington.

Scott said: “Thanks to the incredible care and love provided by the wonderful medical staff and especially the nurses who all loved him when he brought a smile to their days.”

The actor’s agency Just Right Management said there would be a private cremation for family and close friends, and a celebratory memorial service later in the year.

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9 July 2021