The protagonist and narrator is Dexter King (Goldblum), an American actor working in London and living platonically in Camden Town with his “educated, charming…nymphomaniac” landlady (played by Geraldine James). He’s just finished his sixth year playing “The Tall Guy”, a straight man in a two-man, long-running comedy revue starring (and dominated by) Ron Anderson (Rowan Atkinson, playing a role based on himself).
Chronic hay fever prompts him to see a doctor, where he meets and falls quickly in love with Kate (played by Emma Thompson), who works there as a nurse.
Soon after meeting Kate, Dexter is fired by Ron. After being rejected for a role in a new Steven Berkoff play for “lacking anger”, Dexter wins the title role in a new Royal Shakespeare Company musical based on The Elephant Man. It’s a “nasty send-up of Andrew Lloyd Webber” called Elephant! which features a song called “He’s Packing His Trunk” and a finale which ends with the lyric “Somewhere up in heaven there’s an angel with big ears!”
During rehearsal, Dexter succumbs to the advances of a married co-star (played by Kim Thomson). On the new musical’s opening night, Kate puts together evidence of the affair from a few subtle clues, and leaves Dexter without further ado.
After seeing a scene in a televised award show that suggests Ron is now dating Kate, Dexter impulsively gives up his role in Elephant! just before the curtain rises, with plans to make an impassioned plea to Kate to take him back. With Ron’s involuntary help (Dexter ties him up in his dressing room and steals his car), Dexter presents his case to Kate in a busy hospital ward. Kate agrees to give him another chance.