He was born and raised in Oxford, where he attended the Dragon School (a famous prep school), before going on to Eton and then to Selwyn College, Cambridge. His father had won an Olympic gold medal in rowing, and he himself was a rower at school and university taking part in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race of 1980.
During his first year at university, Laurie went out for a while with Emma Thompson, now a well-known actress. He also joined the famous Footlights Club at Cambridge, which has been the starting point for many successful British comedians. In his final year, he was the President of the club, while Emma Thompson was the Vice-president. It was when Footlights took their end-of-year revue to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1980 that Laurie met Stephen Fry.
Fry and Laurie had several series of their own as a double act, as well as starring in the television series Jeeves and Wooster, an adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories. Laurie played Bertie Wooster, a role for which his talent as a pianist and singer came in handy.
However, like Fry, Laurie has branched out into a solo career as an actor in both comic roles (such as the Blackadder series with Rowan Atkinson) and more serious ones, such as his parts in the films, Peter's Friends and Sense and Sensibility. Other film appearances include Maybe Baby and Stuart Little. In the mid-1990s, his book The Gun Seller, a humorous novel of suspense, was published.