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Rowan Atkinson did live on-stage skits – also appearing with members of Monty Python – in The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979) for the British section of Amnesty International. It is a reaction to several recent high-profile arrests which Atkinson sees as a restriction of freedom of expression. The Conservative Party politician Alan Clark himself a devotee of classic motor cars recorded in his publiRowan Atkinsond Diaries a chance meeting with a man he later realised was Atkinson while driving through Oxfordshire in May 1984: "Just after leaving the motorway at Thame I noticed a dark red DBS V8 Aston Martin on the slip road with the bonnet up a man unhappily bending over it.
He has been listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest actors in British comedy and amongst the top 50 comedians ever in a 2005 poll of fellow comedians. Atkinson first came to prominence in the sketch comedy show Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979-82) and via his participation in The Secret Policeman's Balls from 1979.