Born in Brighton in 1960, Hawks was educated at Brighton Hove and Sussex Grammar School (1971—76) (became Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College in 1975) and Brighton College (1976—78). He stated during an appearance on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue that he briefly attended the University of Manchester.
He first attempted to break into show business as a serious singer-songwriter, but it was with a novelty record that he had his first brush with fame. As leader of the trio Morris Minor and the Majors, he reached number 4 in the UK charts with the Beastie Boys parody, Stutter Rap in 1988. It went on to sell 220,000 copies, and was number one in Australia. The follow-up, a pastiche of Stock Aitken Waterman called This Is the Chorus, fared less well.
A TV series followed from this, Morris Minor's Marvellous Motors, written by and starring Hawks. In it the fictional bandleader attempted to maintain his pop career while running a garage. It ran for one series in 1989.
Hawks performs stand-up comedy, and is a regular on TV and radio panel games in the UK, including I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Just a Minute, The Unbelievable Truth and Have I Got News for You, although he first came to prominence as one of two resident performers ... the other was Jo Brand ... on semi-successful BBC monologue show The Brain Drain.
He has also appeared in Red Dwarf in a number of supporting roles, on several occasions as a voice artist for intelligent machines. Hawks provided the voice of a vending machine in "Future Echoes" and "Waiting for God" and the voice of a suitcase in "Stasis Leak", and appeared onscreen as The Guide in "Better Than Life", The Compere in "Backwards", and Caligula in "Meltdown". He also provided the voice-over for a restaurant ad in the episode "MeČ", although this role was uncredited. In the first few seasons of "Red Dwarf," Hawks performed a warm-up act for the live audience before taping began to get them laughing. His continuous presence during the early seasons of the series led to his being nicknamed "The Fifth Dwarfer". More recently he has appeared in the television series Grumpy Old Men and a contestant on the BBC quiz show School's Out.
Round Ireland with a Fridge:His first book was an account of his quixotic attempt to hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge to win a bar bet. It sold over 800,000 copies. (ISBN 0-09-186777-0)
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis: His second book, also the result of a drunken bet (with the comedian Arthur Smith), this time involved an attempt to beat each member of the Moldova national football team in a game of tennis, based on the theory that people good at one sport aren't necessarily good at others. (ISBN 0-09-187456-4)
One Hit Wonderland:His third book, describes his attempt, over 10 years after his first, to write a second hit song. This culminates in him performing on Albanian television with Norman Wisdom and Tim Rice (ISBN 0-09-188210-9)
A Piano in the Pyrenees: An account of his purchase of a house in the south of France, after deciding that the two things he wanted in life were to meet his soul mate, and to purchase an "idyllic house abroad somewhere abroad". (ISBN 0-09-190267-3) A summary of the book
The Fridge Hiker's Guide to Life
Hawks has also contributed to the collection The Weekenders.
The full length feature film version of his book Round Ireland with a Fridge, starring Tony, Josie Lawrence, Ed Byrne and Sean Hughes is scheduled for release in Autumn 2010. Filming on the follow-up, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, with Steven Frost, Angus Deayton, Morwenna Banks and Laura Solon has just been completed.
Tony Hawks donated half of the royalties from his book Playing the Moldovans at Tennis to a trust fund for Moldova, which was used to open the Hippocrates Centre, a medical centre that provides rehabilitative therapy for disabled children from socially vulnerable families. Hawks continues to support Hippocrates through fundraising and personal involvement.
Hawks is the co-founder and public face of the 'Tennis for Free' campaign which aims to make Britain's existing municipal tennis facilities available to all.
Hawks is currently collaborating with Chesney Hawkes on various songs available from a MySpace website.
He is frequently confused with Tony Hawk, largely because the latter's video game franchise uses the possessive apostrophe ("Tony Hawk's"). Hawks maintains a list of emails intended for the skateboarder and his mischievous responses to them on his website. On 2 January 2008 he appeared on an edition of Celebrity Mastermind, with Tony Hawk as his chosen specialised subject. Hawks noted that his correspondents "might be able to do backside varials but they can't spell to save their lives."