Talent issue - the comedian: James Corden

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You know you're on to something as a young comic writer and performer when Alan Bennett encourages you to put pen to paper.

A couple of years ago James Corden was struggling to find his creative mojo. At the time, he was appearing in the National Theatre production of Bennett's play, The History Boys.

"Alan gave me such confidence. He said to me: 'James, you should write some of these ideas down because they're really funny. There are lots of people who make people laugh now and again, but you really have a chance, if you write these things down, to do something.' And when Alan Bennett says that, you can't really argue!"

That was just the kick that Corden needed. Suitably inspired, he started writing. Within three months, he and his co-creator and co-star Ruth Jones had penned the entire first series of Gavin and Stacey.

This charming show charts the culture-clash relationship between Essex boy Gavin (Mathew Horne) and Stacey (Joanna Page), a sweet girl from Barry Island. Just as entertaining if not more so is the pairing of Gavin and Stacey's wonderfully stroppy best friends, the laddish Smithy (Corden) and the supremely dismissive Nessa (Jones). When it went out last summer on BBC3, followed by a swift repeat on BBC2, Corden and Jones had an instant hit on their hands, and the show won three gongs at the British Comedy Awards earlier this month.

At the age of just 27, Corden is being inundated with offers. Having already starred in Mike Leigh's All or Nothing and Pierrepoint, he will next be seen playing opposite Kevin Spacey in Telstar, a biopic about the flamboyant 1960s record producer Joe Meek. In addition, he is headlining in a new sitcom set in a monastery, the felicitously titled, Hey, Hey, We're the Monks.

The attention does not seem to have gone to his head, though. "I don't feel like there is any attention," he says. "I'm not being mobbed I'm in Wales shooting the second series of Gavin and Stacey in a car park in the middle of nowhere! The only discernible difference in my life is that people smile at me a bit more on the train."

Portrait by Kalpesh Lathigra