“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.” — Simon Pegg
If you love British comedy, you’re familiar with Simon Pegg. The writer/comedian/actor has been a mainstay of U.K. TV for 20 years and has appeared in several big-budget American films to boot.
Pegg’s bromance with frequent co-star Nick Frost is approaching mythic status, and the two often collaborate with writer/director Edgar Wright. It’s downright refreshing seeing straight guys unabashedly show affection toward each other; the married Pegg often calls Frost his “other soul mate.”
Want a goofy, entertaining Twitter feed? Follow Pegg. The loud-and-proud nerd constantly posts quips and hilarious exchanges with co-stars, and once famously pranked his followers with a three-day-long ghost story.
In honor of Pegg’s birthday — the world’s biggest “Star Wars” and zombie fan turns 49 today — let’s count down his greatest roles to date:
6. BENJI (“Mission Impossible” series). Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise)’s tech specialist of choice for the last four movies, Benji has slowly transformed from a mere comic relief background player to a kick-butt field agent in his own right. It was great seeing him team up with femme fatale Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) in the latest outing, “Fallout,” as the pair took out the big bad AND defused a nuclear bomb.
5. SCOTTY (the J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” series). As everybody’s favorite space Scotsman, Pegg has done a lovely job of honoring original Scotty James Doohan while making the role his own. Standout moments include how he took alien Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) under his wing in the last film, “Star Trek Beyond,” which he also co-wrote. (It was Pegg’s idea to reveal Sulu (John Cho) was gay, too, adding some great representation to the already diverse cast.)
4. GRAEME WILLY (“Paul”). Sure, Pegg’s basically playing an exaggerated version of himself — Graeme is a comic book nerd and sci-fi enthusiast who, alongside BFF Clive (Nick Frost), meets the titular alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) on a cross-country road trip after he busts out of a government facility. But it’s all played with a lot of heart as he falls for the awkward Ruth (Kristen Wiig), clashes with Clive and tries to help Paul escape from nefarious men in black.
3. TIM BISLEY (“Spaced”). The role that made Pegg a star and created the Pegg/Frost/Wright team. Tim works at a comic book shop, gets overly emotional about “Star Wars” and hallucinates zombies after too many rounds of “Resident Evil 2,” all while pretending to date roomie Daisy (Jessica Stevenson-Hynes) so they can keep their couples-only apartment. Thanks to Pegg’s performance and chemistry with Stevenson-Hynes — and the stellar supporting cast of weird neighbors and friends — “Spaced” is a fried gold example of modern British comedy. For some serious belly-laughs, be sure to check out the infamous paintball episode, “Battles,” where Tim and survivalist nut/BFF Mike (Nick Frost) take on the jerk who stole Tim’s girlfriend.
2. SHAUN (“Shaun of the Dead”). Hapless loser Shaun is finally forced to rise to his potential when the zombie apocalypse begins in London; Pegg does a masterful job of making you care about a perpetual screw-up trying his best. Nick Frost, yet again, does BFF duty as even-bigger-loser Ed. Arguably the first zom-rom-com (or romantic comedy with zombies) and the first in Pegg/Frost/Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy” of films — “Hot Fuzz” and “At World’s End” complete the trio of films — “Shaun” remains one of the funniest and bloodiest of comedies, cunningly crafted with in-jokes, horror references and foreshadowing that rewards repeat viewers. Be sure to watch it sometime with the zomb-o-meter option, which provides running commentary on everything (from blink-and-you-miss-’em cameos to song placement) that went into the movie.
1. NICHOLAS ANGEL (“Hot Fuzz”). Eschewing his typical loser schtick, Pegg plays an uber-competent police officer drummed out of the city by his own superiors thanks to his drive and success making them all look bad. Re-assigned to a sleepy small town and a bumbling partner (you guessed it: Nick Frost), Angel quickly uncovers a murderous plot in an intricately layered mystery that lovingly lampoons buddy cop films AND the cozy British countryside. It’s great fun watching Pegg play the stern straightman for a change, getting in some serious action sequences amidst goofy characters and ridiculously quotable dialogue. The supporting cast, which includes Olivia Colman, Jim Broadbent, a scenery-chewing Timothy Dalton and the Hound of “Game of Thrones” as a dangerous trolley boy, only adds to the riotous fun. Easily one of the best cop films of all time — and Simon Pegg’s greatest performance/film to date.
• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.