Laurie first gained recognition for his work as one half of the comedy double act Fry and Laurie with his friend and comedy partner Stephen Fry, whom he met through their mutual friend Emma Thompson whilst attending Cambridge University, where Laurie was president of the Footlights. The duo acted together in a number of projects during the 1980s and 1990s, including the sketch comedy series A Bit of Fry & Laurie and the P. G. Wodehouse adaptation Jeeves and Wooster. Laurie's other roles during this time include the period comedy series Blackadder (in which Fry also appeared) and the films Sense and Sensibility, 101 Dalmatians, The Borrowers, and Stuart Little.
Outside of acting, Laurie released the blues albums Let Them Talk (2011) and Didn't It Rain (2013), both to favourable reviews, and authored the novel The Gun Seller (1996).
Among his honours, Laurie has won three Golden Globe Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and has been nominated for 10 Primetime Emmy Awards. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2007 New Year Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2018 New Year Honours, both for services to drama.