“There are some people who were born with good timing, and I think my comic timing is pretty solid.” Known for playing a large part in television’s nerd culture since landing the part of Barry Kripke on The Big Bang Theory in 2007, there’s a lot more to John Ross Bowie than what meets the eye. Born and raised in New York City on May 30, 1971, Bowie graduated from Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities and moved to upstate New York where he attended Ithaca College. Dabbling in college radio while working toward his Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Bowie remained undecided on his future and, after earning his degree, took on a number of jobs—as a high school teacher, a bassist for the 1990s pop-punk band Egghead (no, we’re not kidding!), and as a copywriter for a New York-based consulting firm—before he settled on acting.
Once he decided to become an actor, Bowie focused all his energy on perfecting his talents and went to work as an improv actor on the stage. He studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York in 1998 and, while there, formed a sketch comedy troupe alongside aspiring comedians Brian Huskey, Seth Morris, and Rob Corddry. The group traveled across the country performing and made their television debut on the sketch comedy series, Upright Citizens Brigade, which ran on Comedy Central from 1998 to 2000.
Amid his success with the Upright Citizens Brigade troupe, Bowie found his niche as a “stock nerd character” during the dot-com boom and appeared in several commercials throughout the 1990s. This earned him his official Screen Actors Guild card and led to his silver screen debut in the 2000 comedy, Road Trip. “Scott Armstrong, who cowrote that movie with Todd Phillips, was a UCB student when we were in a show together and a bunch of people from UCB read for the main roles, the main guys who go on the road trip,” Bowie said of landing the part as a waiter at the last minute. “I had read for the part that Paulo Costanzo got, but none of us got work. But apparently, they did a table read down in Atlanta, and the guy who was playing Waiter showed up late and the got really pissed off and they fired him, but they frantically needed someone to play Waiter. Scott suggested me and said, ‘He’ll fly himself down.’”
Landing the part and flying himself south to Georgia, Bowie stayed on a friend’s couch in Atlanta while he filmed his scene and had a hunch that his career would only improve from there, so he moved to Los Angeles in late 2002. Within months, he snagged his first recurring role on the short-lived television series, A.U.S.A. He then won a minor role on Comedy Central’s Reno 911! and made guest appearances on popular shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Party Down as well as in the popular film, He’s Just Not That Into You, starring Jennifer Aniston.
In 2009, Bowie found even bigger fame when he auditioned for and won the part of Barry Kripke, a physicist with a speech impediment on The Big Bang Theory. “I came in and I was playing Kripke, who just on page was this nerd bully and this incredibly smart but incredibly alpha guy, and they suggested he should have some sort of vulnerability,” Bowie recalled of his audition. “They suggested a very subtle impediment like Tom Brokaw has… I came out with this Elmer Fudd thing, and Chuck Lorre started giggling like a mad man. I was like, ‘Well, this could go any number of ways.’ But I got it in the room—they gave me the job right there and I went to work the following morning.”All About Barry: A Bully Nerd with a R-W Speech Impediment
Since 2009, Bowie’s Elmer Fudd-like impersonation of Kripke has made the nerd villain a fan favorite on the series alongside Penny, Leonard, Sheldon and the rest of The Big Bang Theory gang. Kripke made his debut on the series in an unofficial robot fight where his robot—the Kripke Krippler or the “Kwipke Kwippler” for Barry—destroys the M.O.N.T.E. robot, which seals his fate as a villain as Kripke antagonizes Sheldon in every way imaginable. “It’s just fun to be the villain anywhere, but on a sitcom where villains are kind of few and far between, it’s just really rewarding,” Bowie said of playing the part.
As Kripke annoys Sheldon in every way imaginable from competing for a retired professor’s office to unwillingly partnering on a work proposal where it’s obvious his work is more advanced than Sheldon’s, Kripke maintains his footing on the outer skirts of the group. This only annoys Sheldon even more as Kripke asks Sheldon’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Amy, prying questions about their relationship and romantic life. Then again, nothing is off limits for Kripke who constantly hits on Leonard’s mother, Beverly, at Sheldon’s birthday party.The Dish on Dating and Relationships: John Ross Bowie Today
While Kripke may not have the charm to woo Beverly on The Big Bang Theory, that isn’t the case for John Ross Bowie himself. The actor and comedian met his wife, fellow comedian Jamie Denbo, on the improv circuit in New York in the late 1990s. At the time, Denbo had just moved from Orlando, Florida and joined the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater where she met and fell in love with Bowie as the two performed together alongside Denbo’s comedy partner, Jessica Chaffin.
During their early courtship, Bowie starred in several television commercials before his career took off and warranted a move to Los Angeles where he and Denbo later tied the knot in 2004 and started a family with the birth of their daughter and son. Once they were settled down in California, Bowie and Denbo joined the UCB’s West Coast Division as Bowie made guest appearances on shows like Joan of Arcadia, CSI: NY, Girlfriends, Las Vegas, Monk and Glee while Denbo starred in Happy Hour, Ronna & Beverly, and Terriers before making guest appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Happy Endings, Reno 911, Bad Judge, Mike & Molly, Weeds, and How I Met Your Mother. She also picked up a teaching job at UCB—Los Angeles, a position she still holds today.
As for Bowie, the 46-year-old actor is finally a household name in Hollywood and is known for his appearances on popular series like Chasing Life, Fresh Off the Boat, and Veep. He continues to star as Kripke on The Big Bang Theory but has managed to find time to star in another popular sitcom, Speechless, opposite Minnie Driver on ABC. “I had heard there was a pilot script for a show about a family with a child with special needs, and it was kind of being prejudged by a lot of my friends,” Bowie said of the series. “They were like, ‘It sounds like it’s going to be really treacly and sentimental,’ and honestly, I’m not just saying this, but I was like, ‘Well, yeah it could be, but if it’s done properly, it could be really interesting, and it could be really innovative.’”
Bowie’s intuitions were right and, although he wasn’t the first choice for the role of Jimmy, he landed the part. “I did the entire pilot pretty sure that I was going to get fired if we got picked up, but I just watched the season premiere, and I’m still on it, so cautiously optimistic,” Bowie said. With the show recently picked up for a third season, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for Bowie on Speechless and in the highly anticipated 11th season of The Big Bang Theory.