Birthplace: London, England
Geoffrey Dyson Palmer, OBE (born 4 June 1927) is an English actor known for his roles in British television sitcoms playing Jimmy Anderson in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-79), Ben Parkinson in Butterflies (1978-83) and Lionel Hardcastle in As Time Goes By (1992-2005). His film appearances include A Fish Called Wanda (1988), The Madness of King George (1994), Mrs. Brown (1997), and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).
After being demobilised from the Royal Marines, Palmer drifted into theatre, joining a local amateur dramatics society because of a girlfriend. He became an assistant stage manager at the Q Theatre, by Kew Bridge, then the Grand Theatre in Croydon. He spent several years touring with a repertory company, and was an actor in theatre, coming to television and public prominence later in his career. Early television appearances included a variety of roles in Granada Television's The Army Game, two episodes of The Baron and as a property agent in Cathy Come Home.
Getting a major break in John Osborne's West of Suez at the Royal Court with Ralph Richardson, he then acted in major productions at the Royal Court and for the National Theatre Company and was directed by Laurence Olivier in J. B. Priestley's Eden End. Palmer found the play so boring, however, that it put him off a stage career for good. Many of his television parts were as a stuffy, middle class buffoon, with a stiff upper lip, and he is known for deadpan drollery. Two sitcom roles brought him major attention in the 1970s: the hapless brother-in-law of Reggie Perrin in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976-79), and the phlegmatic Ben Parkinson in Carla Lane's Butterflies (1978-83). He has continued to appear in productions written by Perrin creator David Nobbs, the latest being the radio comedy The Maltby Collection.
He starred opposite Judi Dench for over a decade in the BBC situation comedy As Time Goes By (1992-2005). During this time he also appeared with Dench in other productions, including the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, in which he portrayed Admiral Roebuck, and Mrs. Brown, playing Sir Henry Ponsonby to Dench's Queen Victoria.
He played Doctor Price in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse", determined to get breakfast amidst the confusion caused by the death of a guest and Basil's inept way of handling the emergency.
His distinctive voice has given him a career in advertising in such commercials as the 'Slam in the Lamb' ads for the Meat & Livestock Commission; television voiceovers such as the Audi commercials in which he popularised the phrase "Vorsprung durch Technik", and as the narrator for the BBC series Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Holidays. He narrated the audiobook version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, released in 2005 as a podcast by Penguin Books. He narrates Little England. He regularly voices books for the blind.
In the 2006 DVD series The Compleat Angler, Palmer partners Rae Borras in a series of episodes based on Izaak Walton's 1653 The Compleat Angler.
In 2007, he recorded The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith as an online audiobook.
In December 2007, Palmer appeared in the role of the Captain in "Voyage of the Damned", the Christmas special episode of the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who (having previously appeared as different characters in the Third Doctor serials Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Mutants).
In March 2009, he joined in on a sketch with the two double acts "Armstrong and Miller" and "Mitchell and Webb" for Comic Relief.
In 2011, he played the reactionary father-in-law of the eponymous clergyman of Rev. in its Christmas episode.
Palmer was born in London, the son of Norah Gwendolen (née Robins) and Frederick Charles Palmer, who was a chartered surveyor. He attended Highgate School, London. In 1963 he married Sally Green in Wilmslow. The couple have a daughter, Harriet, and a son, Charles, a television director, who is married to actress Claire Skinner.
Palmer lives between Great Missenden and Wendover, at Lee Common in Buckinghamshire, England. From 2011 onwards he publicly opposed proposals for the High Speed 2 rail network which would run within 300 yards (274 m) of his home.
In the New Year's Honours List published 31 December 2004 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to drama.