It was on this date, June 11, 1959, that the English actor, comedian, and writer, best known as star of the television show “House, MD,” Hugh Laurie was born. He was active in the 1980s and 1990s as half of a comedy duo, Fry and Laurie, performing with longtime friend and fellow atheist Stephen Fry. The two also performed Jeeves and Wooster (with Laurie playing Wooster). Before the 2004-2012 TV series that made him famous (and the highest paid actor ever in a television drama), Laurie appeared in the films Sense and Sensibility (1995, adapted by friend and co-star Emma Thompson), the live-action film 101 Dalmatians (1996), and the three Stuart Little films (1999, 2002, 2006).
After auditioning from a bathroom, and convincing producer David Shore that he speaks “American” better than all the other actors who auditioned for the title character, Laurie was cast as the “antisocial maverick doctor who specializes in diagnostic medicine [who] does whatever it takes to solve puzzling cases that come his way using his crack team of doctors and his wits.” The “House, M.D.” TV series ran eight seasons on Fox. From the first, it is clear that Dr. Gregory House is an atheist…
You can have all the faith you want in spirits and the afterlife, and heaven and hell, but when it comes to this world, don’t be an idiot. ‘Cause you can tell me you put your faith in God to put you through the day, but when it comes time to cross the road, I know you look both ways. (Season 1, Ep. 5)
You talk to God, you’re religious. God talks to you, you’re psychotic.
Isn’t it interesting that religious behavior is so close to being crazy we can’t tell it apart?
James Wilson: That’s why religious belief annoys you. Because if the universe operates by abstract rules you can learn them, you can protect yourself. If a Supreme Being exists he can squash you any time he wants.
House: He knows where I am. (Season 2, Ep. 19)
Rational arguments don’t usually work on religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people. (Season 4, Ep. 2)
Religion is not the opiate of the masses; religion is the placebo of the masses. (Season 5, Ep. 15)
…but what of the actor?
About his upbringing, Hugh Laurie notes that “belief in God didn't play a large role in my home, but a certain attitude to life and the living of it did.” He has declared (The Daily Telegraph – “Man about the House” 10/28/2007): “I don’t believe in God, but I have this idea that if there were a God, or destiny of some kind looking down on us, that if he saw you taking anything for granted he’d take it away.”
In a 7/31/2006 appearance on “Inside the Actors Studio,” host James Lipton asked Laurie, “Do you share Houses’s skepticism?” Laurie replied, laughing, “I do. Big chunks of it, yes. I’m not a religious man. Again, I think this is connected to my father. My father was religious, oddly enough, but I nonetheless I suppose I was impressed by, enamored of his devotion to medical science. I find I am a fan of science. I believe in science. A humility before the facts. I find that a moving and beautiful thing. And belief in the unknown I find less interesting. I find the known and the knowable interesting enough.”
During the British chat show, “God Almighty,” in which celebrities describe what they would do to change the world if they were God (3/11/2003), a member asked, “Who would you create first, woman or man?” Hugh Laurie replied, “Oh, um. I see pitfalls either way. But see, the other problem I have, is that, being an atheist [audience laughs], is regards to this whole exercise is, it holds me back a bit. Unless I start to appear in people’s visions and tell them that ‘I don’t exist’ ... think about that!”