Robert Webb says heart surgery ‘provided gap in the domino topple’
Robert Webb has described his heart surgery as a “gift” as it forced him to think about his health and put himself first.
The actor and comedian, 50, is best known for appearing alongside David Mitchell in Channel 4 comedy Peep Show, where he plays unemployed musician Jez, and in sketch show That Mitchell And Webb Look.
In 2019, he had a routine medical check during filming for the second series of his Channel 4 sitcom Back, alongside Mitchell, which revealed he had a congenital heart defect.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs: “There were symptoms but I was too much of an idiot to notice. At the time I was drinking and smoking quite heavily. I was 47 and I thought this is just what it feels like to be 47 when you still treat your body like a skip.
“So I’d get out of breath walking up hills, but I thought, that’s just what happens. Then I went for this medical and the doctor put his stethoscope on my heart and pulled this alarming face.
“He said ‘What are you doing about the heart murmur?’ and I said ‘What heart murmur?’. I had a cardiologist saying, ‘You’re not going to have a heart attack in the next fortnight but in the next two or four months, this heart will fail’.”
Webb, who married Abigail Burdess in 2006 and has two daughters, described that period of his life as a “rollercoaster”.
He said: “The scary bit was having the echo, you’re facing the wall and someone’s basically giving you this heart ultrasound and then the consultant came in, and then you hear the consultant going, ‘Oh, right, that is severe’.
“It was quite instructive actually because my thoughts more or less in this order went, Abby, the children, the rest of my family, my friends. That was what I was thinking about.
“I wasn’t thinking about work or money or fame or concerns about status or where I fit in in the great Lego cathedral of British comedy. It was about love.”
Webb described the operation as a “complete success” as he has normal heart function and a normal life expectancy.
He added: “It was just such a gift in so many ways. I came out of hospital and finally I was on my own side.
“It was like these internal organs, these are my guys, I need to look after them. I’d been trying to stop smoking for 10 years and I knew that my drinking was now out of control.
“This provided a gap in the domino topple, these seven days in hospital, and when I came out, I would have to have gone to quite some trouble to start again.
“I don’t think about cigarettes from week to week and I don’t think about drinking very often.”
In 2021, Webb was forced to withdraw from competing on Strictly Come Dancing due to ill health after he had “begun to feel symptoms” while training for the BBC One celebrity dancing 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 on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4 at 11.15am on Sunday.