Robert Webb says heart surgery ‘created a void in domino fall’

Robert Webb has called his heart surgery a “gift” as it forced him to think about his health and put himself first.

The 50-year-old actor and comedian is best known for appearing alongside David Mitchell on the Channel 4 comedy Peep Show, where he plays unemployed musician Jez, and on the sketch show That Mitchell And Webb Look.

In 2019, while filming the second season of his Channel 4 sitcom Back alongside Mitchell, he underwent a routine medical, which revealed he had a congenital heart defect.

David Mitchell and Robert Webb with the award for Best Comedy Program for That Mitchell And Webb Look in 2007 (Yui Mok/PA)

He told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs: “There were symptoms but I was too much of an idiot to notice. At that time I drank and smoked quite a bit. I was 47 and I thought this is how it feels to be 47 when you still treat your body like garbage.

“So I got out of breath walking uphill, but I figured that just happens. Then I went to this medical exam and the doctor put his stethoscope on my heart and made this alarming face.

“He said, ‘What are you doing about the heart murmur?’ and I said ‘What heart murmur?’ I’ve had a cardiologist say, ‘You’re not going to have a heart attack for a fortnight, but in the next two or four months this heart is going to fail’.”

Webb, who married Abigail Burdess in 2006 and has two daughters, described this period of his life as a “roller coaster ride.”

He said: “The scary thing was having the echo, you’re standing in front of the wall and somebody basically gives you this heart ultrasound and then the counselor came in, and then you hear the counselor say, ‘Oh right, that’s it serious.’ .

“It was actually quite educational because my thoughts went more or less in this order: Abby, the kids, the rest of my family, my friends. I thought of that.

“I wasn’t thinking about work or money or fame or status worries or where I fit into the great Lego cathedral of British comedy. It was about love.”

Strictly Come Dancing 2021

Robert Webb had to retire from Strictly Come Dancing in 2021 due to ‘ill health’ (BBC/PA)

Webb described the operation as a “complete success” because he has normal heart function and a normal life expectancy.

He added: “It was just such a gift in so many ways. I got out of the hospital and finally I was on my own side.

“It was like these internal organs, these are my boys, I have to take care of them. I had been trying to quit smoking for 10 years and I knew my drinking was now out of control.

“This created a gap in the fall of the domino, those seven days in hospital and when I got out it would have taken quite an effort to start again.

“I don’t think about cigarettes every week and I don’t think about drinking very often.”

In 2021, Webb was forced to withdraw from participating in Strictly Come Dancing due to health reasons after he “started to feel symptoms” while training for the BBC One celebrity dance competition.

He was partnered with Dianne Buswell and had completed a tango, a cha cha, and a quickstep on the show.

Desert Island Discs airs Sundays at 11.15am on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4.

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