Do You Think That’s Wise? – the Life & Times of John Le Mesurier ON TOUR – LINKS TO ALL TICKETS BELOW

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FOLLOWING A SELL-OUT TOUR OF MY JOHN LE MESURIER SHOW FROM NOV. 2018-JUNE 2019, I AM EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE A NEW TOUR FOR THE AUTUMN – ALL VENUES & LINKS BELOW:  THE LINKS WILL GO LIVE AS SOON AS THE TICKETS GO ON SALE:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH A PREVIEW OF THE SHOW HERE ON BBC TV SOUTH-EAST!

BRITISH COMEDY GUIDE BANNER AND QUOTE

‘One of the best vocal performers around,’ – BBC Comedy

‘A compelling performance,’ – Chortle

‘A brilliant tribute to the great John Le Mesurier,’ – Jeffrey Holland, Hi-de-Hi!

YOURS MAGAZINE’S PICK OF STAGE SHOWS 2019!

SHOWS COMING UP:

Sat 11th January 2020 OTLEY COURTHOUSE ARTS CENTRE……..BUY TICKETS HERE

MARCH

13 ASHCROFT, Arts Centre

MAY

07 – NEW MILTON, Forest Arts Centre

 

 

PAST TOUR DATES:

January 2019
25 STRATFORD UPON AVON The Bear Pit
26 CHIPPING NORTON Theatre

February 2019
03 HALIFAX Square Chapel Arts Centre
06 SWINDON Arts Centre
07 DEAL The Astor
08 MAIDSTONE The Hazlitt
09 KETTERING The Arts Centre
15 SPALDING South Holland Centre
16 BARTON UPON HUMBER Ropery Hall
24 GRAVESEND The Woodville
28 TEWKESBURY The Roses Theatre

March 2019
01 WISBECH Angles Theatre
15 LEICESTER COALVILLE Century Theare
22 SUDBURY The Quay
23 WALTON ON THAMES Riverhouse Barn
30 BROMSGROVE Artrix

April 2019
04 HORSHAM The Capitol
06 LETCHWORTH The Broadway
09 LONDON Bloomsbury
10 LONDON Bloomsbury
13 BLACKBURN Darwen Library Theatre
18 RUNCORN The Brindley
26 GREAT TORRINGTON The Plough Arts Centre
27 PENZANCE Acorn Theatre

May 2019
03 LONDON Museum of Comedy
04 LONDON Museum of Comedy
11 SOUTHEND Jokers Club

June 2019
03 HAVANT The Spring
07 BARNSLEY Lamproom
14 HEMEL HEMPSTEAD Old Town Hall
15 ST AUSTELL Arts Centre

October 2019
Fri 4th MAIDENHEAD Norden Farm
Sat 5th CRAWLEY Hawth Theatre
Sun 6th SOUTHAMPTON Nuffield Theatre
Sun 13th COLCHESTER Arts Centre
Fri 25th BANBURY, Mill Arts Centre
NOVEMBER 2019
Fri 1st WORCESTER Huntingdon Hall
Sat 2nd BIRMINGHAM OLD Old Joint Stock, 2.30pm & 7.30pm.
Sun 3rd PRESTON Playhouse

 

THE SHOW:

In this acclaimed tribute to one of Britain’s best-loved comedy stars, leading impressionist Julian Dutton (BBC1’s The Big Impression, BBC R4’s The Secret World) brings to life the man behind the wry smile and urbane English repartee that charmed millions and turned John Le Mesurier into a household name as Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army.

Set in a dressing-room at BBC Television Centre during a break in camera-rehearsals for Dad’s Army in 1972, John Le Mesurier waits for a journalist.  The home guard sitcom has been a hit for three years, and after a lifetime playing bit-parts Le Mesurier has just won a BAFTA for his leading role in Dennis Potter’s Traitor. As he waits he looks back at his life and traces his journey from his rejection of his upper-class origins in Suffolk to a life onstage and work as a jobbing actor in 1950’s cinema. He rehearses some anecdotes and funny stories for the reporter.

But as he digs deeper, cracks begin to appear, and for the first time he confronts the shadows in his life – the unfaithfulness of his wives, the betrayal by his best friend Tony Hancock. How did he overcome these setbacks? How did this complex, sensitive actor finally break away from a life of cameos to achieve ultimate triumph with Dad’s Army and the BAFTA-winning Traitor? For the first time he faces head-on the events that almost broke him both as a performer and as a man.

Le Mesurier’s career straddled the twentieth century like a colossus. Full of glorious reminiscences and stories from the Golden Age of Classic British Comedy, Julian Dutton’s show is a long overdue celebration of one of the most popular comic actors of our era.

 

WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SAID ABOUT THE SHOW:

‘A brilliant tribute to the great John Le Mesurier,’ – Jeffrey Holland, Hi-de-Hi!

‘A compelling performance,’ – Steve Bennett, Chortle. 

‘Absolutely brilliant,’ – Steve Doherty, Craft of Comedy Festival

‘Beautifully written & performed,’ – Sarah Ecob, Venue Cymru

‘Uncanny,’ – Nick Steel, Bath Comedy Festival

‘One of the best vocal performers around,’ – BBC Comedy

‘A superb impersonation,’ – Claire Cavanagh, BBC Bristol

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Secret Diary of Samuel Pepys, aged ten & three quarters

Ever wondered what it would be like if the great diarist Samuel Pepys had kept a journal as a boy? Wonder no longer!

My new forthcoming book is The Secret Diary of Samuel Pepys, aged ten & three quarters, a fictional re-creation of the great Pepys’s childhood. A comic adventure story for 8-12’s set in the heady early days of the English Civil War, the book is a sparkling humorous romp through the England of the seventeenth century.

More updates soon – but in the meantime here is what the critics are saying! –

“Well.. nothing, because it hasn’t been published yet. But it sounds good,” – Arbuthnot Mellotron, Carpet Monthly.

BookCoverPreview

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Last of the Summer Wine UK tour 2020 – links to tickets below will go live as soon as they are on sale

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=op5kD2iDs1g

After a sell-out UK tour of DO YOU THINK THAT’S WISE? – the Life & Times of John Le Mesurier, throughout 2020 I will be bringing the classic sitcom Last of the Summer Wine to the stage in a brand-new tour.  In a sparkling adaptation of Roy Clarke’s world-famous comedy, I will be recreating the immortal adventures of Foggy, Clegg & Compo, in three of their classic tales!

Relive the classic exploits of the three lovable Yorkshire misfits from Roy Clarke’s Last of the Summer Wine as they gambol, frolic and reflect on a life that seems to have gone by so fast. Three of their funniest adventures adapted by Julian Dutton from Roy Clarke’s scripts & presented as a live radio performance.

 LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE, STARRING JULIAN DUTTONLast of the Summer Wine is officially the longest-running and one of the best-loved sitcoms in the world, still shown all year round on UK Gold. In this brand new show I will be bringing to life the sublime characters, the anarchic fun, and the wry wisdom of those three hilarious Yorkshire men who ramble the hills & meadows around Holmfirth and whose adventures lit up our TV screens every Sunday evening for more than thirty years.

Staged as a one-man impressions show, this will be the nearest thing to seeing this classic sitcom live again!  Presenting three of their best-loved episodes – Isometrics & After, Whoops!, and the immortal Stop That Bath! theatre audiences will delight at seeing their comedy favourites re-incarnated live onstage.

ALL LINKS TO TICKETS WILL GO LIVE AS SOON AS THEY ARE ON SALE!

2020

JANUARY

Fri 10 – HENLEY, Kenton Theatre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

FEBRUARY

Sat 01 – WALTON-ON-THAMES, Riverhouse Barn Theatre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

MARCH

Thurs 05 – HUDDERSFIELD, Lawrence Bailey Theatre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Thurs 12 – SOUTH MOLTON, Plough @ The George….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Sun 15 – GRAVESEND, Woodville ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Sun 22 STRATFORD Bearpit Theatre… CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Fri 27 – HIGH WYCOMBE, Old Town Hall ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

MAY

Fri 01 – MARGATE, Theatre Royal ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Sun 10 – SWINDON, Arts Centre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Wed 13 MAIDSTONE Hazlitt Theatre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Sun 17 – WELLINGBOROUGH, The Castle ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Fri 22 BANBURY The Mill Arts Centre….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

JUNE

Thurs 04 – PENZANCE, Acorn ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Fri 05 BRIDPORT Arts Centre …. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Sat 06 – MAIDENHEAD, Norden Farm Arts Centre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Fri 12 – BORDON, Phoenix ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Tues 23 – WINCHESTER – Theatre Royal ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Weds 24  – WORCESTER, Huntingdon Hall….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

JULY

Wed 08 GRANTHAM Guildhall Arts Centre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Thu 09 STAMFORD Arts Centre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Fri 10 BLACKBURN Darwen Library Theatre

Fri 17 MILLOM CUMBRIA, Beggars Theatre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

Sat 18 – MIDDLESBOROUGH, Theatre ….. CLICK TO BUY TICKETS!

To book the show contact SAMUEL NUNN at RBM COMEDY – 0207 630 7733

FOGGY                    COMPO

CLEGG

 

REVIEWS OF DO YOU THINK THAT’S WISE? – THE LIFE & TIMES OF JOHN LE MESURIER

QUOTES

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How to ‘break into’ comedy writing

  1. First, read as many broadcast comedy scripts as you can. This will give you a flavour of the rhythm, pace and structure of comic writing, and give you a sense of the ‘rules’ of a funny line. When I was starting out I read every script of Rising Damp and every script of Porridge, in addition to the Galton & Simpson scripts and Peter Cook sketch books and Monty Python books I owned.
  2. Write what gives you pleasure. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. You are a human being. If writing something gives you pleasure, then you will not be alone – another human being is bound to obtain pleasure from it also (but you must have absorbed the comic knowledge from point 1).
  3. Listen to radio comedy and watch TV comedy and note down the producer’s names of the shows you like and admire. Life is about making connections and if you love a particular series then you will have an instant mental rapport with that producer. Send your scripts to them. When I started out I walked into the BBC carrying some comedy scripts and showed them to the Script Editor (Harry Thompson – whose shows I admired) and my sketches were broadcast two days later. I was then offered a contract. I don’t think that happens now. But you can still target specific producers with your scripts. I cannot emphasise the importance of this enough – you have to be specific. If you just “send things off” you will never ever get anything on. Life – and comedy most of all – is about human connection.
  4. BBC Writersroom. I have no knowledge of the Writersroom. I cannot give any advice at all as to how it works, what it does, or how it does it. It didn’t exist when I began. It seems to be a great enterprise and a way to get involved, but I don’t know how it connects to the commissioning process, and the  narrow ‘windows’ of submissions I’ve heard about seems to be a little like when dockyards in the 1930’s would open gates for two minutes to let workers squeeze through, then slam them shut again. I don’t know if that sounds a good thing. All I can say is that I think targeting a specific producer because you love their work trumps sending your stuff into an anonymous system.
  5. If your script gets rejected, send it to someone else. If you know you are good, then you will succeed. Talent will out. As in all walks of life there are lots of parasitical mediocrities working in commissioning and production and your work is bound to come in front of them at some point. (There are many producers, for example, who think that sitting in the same room as a writer and chucking out ideas, is “writing.” It’s not. Anyone can have ideas. Actual writing is sitting at a desk – and writing). So don’t worry if your stuff is turned down. It might not be because it isn’t good enough –  it might well be because the commissioner/producer is wrong.  And I wouldn’t really recommend doing a “comedy writing course” designed to “equip you for working in the business.” Because, in the truest sense of the phrase, there is no work out there – the only  work is the work you generate yourself. If you are funny, you are funny. Additionally, courses might make your writing self-conscious and formulaic. And they might make you feel inferior, when you are not inferior, you are the NEXT BIG THING.
  6. I know this is a cliché, but – persistence. The greatest comedy writers have had stuff turned down. And I mean, the greatest. Keep going, and you’ll get something on. And work with people who are “nice.” Don’t work with people who are negative and aggressive – they’re just life’s losers pretending to be winners.
  7. And if you don’t “get something on” – make it yourself, put it on the internet. The old platforms are dying – or rather, morphing – and now has never been a better time to make your own comedy cheaply and broadcast it. And if it’s brilliant, it’ll be picked up by the old platform – TV. And if the old platforms still won’t “put it on” – who cares? They’re yesterdays’ news. Start your own channel on you-tube, film some stuff with your mates, and you have the potential to get bigger audiences than the BBC & Sky combined. Maybe the age of writing something then sending it off to someone else for their “approval,” – usually someone sitting in an office in London – is over. All the old platforms are becoming – have become – just another part of the big internet. It’s never been a better time to be a creative.

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The Cream of Galton & Simpson – a personal selection of their finest work

For my own personal project – and for those who perhaps haven’t heard or seen much, or indeed any, of their work  – I’ve drawn up a list of what I think is the cream of Galton & Simpson. They wrote 600 scripts of radio, TV & Film, so to dive in to an ouvre as vast as theirs with no guide can be somewhat daunting.

So here’s my guide. I’ve whittled it down from 600 to 60-odd – a gigantic task.

Very personal, very partial, but each one is a comic delight, and each one – astonishingly – is a masterpiece.

HANCOCK’S HALF HOUR RADIO

The Poetry Society

Sunday Afternoon at Home

The Last Bus Home

Hancock’s War

The Childhood Sweetheart

The Elopement

The Wild Man of the Woods

The Last of the McHancocks

Hancock’s Happy Christmas

The Christmas Club

Almost a Gentleman

Hancock in the Police

The Emigrant

The Unexploded Bomb

The Americans Hit Town

The Threatening Letters

The Sleepless Night

Fred’s Pie Stall

The Diary

Visiting Day – Hancock in Hospital

HANCOCK’S HALF HOUR TV

The Bedsitter

Twelve Angry Men

The Missing Page

Sid in Love

The Oak Tree

The Babysitters

The Economy Drive

The Two Murderers

Lord Byron Lived Here

The Big Night

The Cold

The Reunion Party

The East Cheam Centenary

The Poison Pen Letters

The Radio Ham

Succession – Son and Heir

The Bowmans

The Train Journey

The Lift

The Blood Donor

STEPTOE & SON

The Offer (pilot – Comedy Playhouse)

The Desperate Hours

Divided We Stand

The Piano

Wallah-wallah Catsmeat

A Star is Born

Without Prejudice

Robbery with Violence

Live now P.A.Y.E. later

The Siege of Steptoe Street

Oh What a Beautiful Mourning

Back in Fashion

Men of Letters

Upstairs, Downstairs, Upstairs, Downstairs

The Bath

A Musical Evening

Two’s Company

Tea for Two

Cuckoo in the Nest

FILMS

The Rebel 1960

The Bargee 1963

The Wrong Arm of the Law 1964

Loot (adaptation of Orton’s play) 1970

FORGOTTEN CLASSIC SERIES

Clochemerle (adaptation of Gabriel Chevallier’s novel) 1972.

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Alan Simpson, (27th Nov. 1929 – Feb. 8th 2017) Ray Galton (17 July 1930 – 5 October 2018)

GALTON AND SIMPSON

Have you noticed if you stare long enough at the wallpaper you can see faces.
Really?
Yes, faces. Look, just above the serving-hatch. A man with a pipe.
I can’t see anything.
Yes you can, narrow your eyes. See?
No.
Of course you can. Squint, man, squint! Don’t shut ’em!
I can’t see anything.
Oh shut up. You wait till you want me to see something.

Years before Seinfeld, Hancock’s Half Hour – a show about nothing. And like Seinfeld, George Costanza, Elaine and Kramer, the dysfunctional household of Hancock, Sid, Bill & Miss Pugh were amiable losers adrift, eccentric, a non-nuclear family in a world that revered gentility and respectability. There are no jokes in Galton and Simpson – it’s comedy hammered out of the commonplace. (When Hancock asks Bill to pass him his letter-opener, it’s not just a letter-opener, but a swordfish letter-opener. Delight at the mundane, poetry of the ordinary).

HANCOCK AT RECORDING

Each week he tries to escape from the mundanity of his surroundings through frenzied adventures – one week he is a Scottish laird, the next a proto-hippy escaping from it all into the wilds of Clapham Common. He is a Mr. Toad of East Cheam, whipped up into enthusiastic obsessions that only fizzle out – and he is dragged back to the drab reality of 23 Railway Cuttings.

This is of course the life-pattern of the manic-depressive, and this is precisely what the character is (I can’t comment on the actual Hancock, only the Anthony Aloysius St. John persona) – a desperate, deluded suburbanite dreaming of acting stardom, a knighthood, glory, when all along he is a Nowhere Man living in a shabby house with three other nobodies – a petty crook, an Australian simpleton, and a secretary with the desperate combination of a large libido and an even larger bodily frame.  Outsiders all, hovering on the fringes of society while dreaming of social success. HANCOCK STARING OUT OF WINDOW

And what of the later Hancock? A man stares out of a bedsit window, alone now, his friends from Railway Cuttings gone. He struggles to understand the work of Britain’s most eminent philosopher, fails to get a date, lies on the bed, stares up at the ceiling. He may have left East Cheam for a new life but he’s still staring at the wallpaper. Is this a sitcom, or something more profound, the kind of stuff serious playwrights and novelists were trying to do? Is this Galton & Simpson saying to John Osborne and Harold Pinter – look at this, mush, TV comedy can be art too, you know. (As Hancock says, ‘People respect you when you don’t get laughs.’)

STEPTOE

 

And Steptoe & Son? Two men shouting at each other in a filthy house; scavengers, always dreaming, never far from starvation, swearing at each other, crying, making up. Can this be comedy? At first glance not the stuff of sitcom, and not a scenario most of its audience would have experienced, but Steptoe & Son touched a nerve in the British psyche, gave us a glimpse of the truth that even in the Swinging Sixties and the Sunny Seventies none of us were really that far from living at the bottom of the ash-heap, that all this affluence could vanish in a puff of smoke, and that for some living in a shadowy corner of England it had never happened anyway. Above all, the series had humanity, empathy, and the fact that it was watched by 28 million proved that they had empathy too.

We take quality for granted. Those of us who lived through the decade of the Beatles – the default standard for the soundtrack of our lives – grew up assuming that all subsequent bands would be as good as them, But then the decades pass and the bands became ok and quite good and ‘derivative but still a good listen,’ and ‘have you heard so-and-so? – their second album’s not bad, shame they split up after that,’ – then a few more years go by and you realise that Help wasn’t just a top ten tune and Day in the Life simply trippy but the art of its time and suddenly your daughter is coming home from school and telling you that today they studied The Beatles for ‘A’ Level.

It’s the same with Galton & Simpson. At the time it’s standard fare. It’s ‘what’s on the box,’ it’s a funny sitcom. There are lots of sitcoms. You love them all. You love sitcoms. They’re the highlight of your week, this funny encapsulation of British life wrapped up in half an hour. You’re so glad adults invented them. You don’t know who invented the sitcom but you assume it always existed, like your weekly comic. You go to school and you impersonate Harry H. Corbett and Wilfred Brambell in the playground.

Only in hindsight when you examine its peers and its heirs do you realise it is extraordinary literature, up there with Dickens, Wodehouse. Harold Steptoe even speaks with the vot and vy of Sam Weller from the Pickwick Papers –‘vot on earth do you fink you’re doin’ Dad?’. (Even the actors, Mr. Corbett and Mr. Brambell, sound like they’ve sprung from the pages of Hard Times).

Time refines the normalised into genius. But what, precisely, was Galton & Simpson’s genius? Many cite their injection of ‘social realism’ into sitcom, their cementing of the template of the half hour one-act comedy as conflict, the characters trapped; all this is true, but even this is not enough. The genius of Galton & Simpson, in my view, was the language. Not only are there no jokes – and it’s beneficial to pause here, to emphasise the revolutionary nature of what they did: they were the leading comedy writers of their time and there were no jokes.  (Moira Lister, Hancock’s co-star in Hancock’s Half Hour in the early series, would say ‘I’d look at the script and think, where are the laughs going to come? Then Tony would read it, and he’d get laughs. He knew exactly where the laughs were. It was extraordinary.’ )

So not only did they move comedy on from set-up, gag, punchline – I believe their other great contribution to comic literature was the language: they invented a Galton-and-Simpson-ese unique to them, inimitable. When other writers attempt it, it’s forced. They forged a poetry quite their own, instantly recognisable like Betjeman, Alan Bennet, Dylan Thomas. It’s a language we will never know the crucible of, for none of us were ever in the room when Ray & Alan paced, spoke, typed: it has such a richness of vocabulary, a denseness of rhetoric, that it is no surprise that having to learn half an hour of it each week drove Hancock to drink. I would surmise it grew out of the lower-middle-class 1930’s childhoods of its authors, the rough street-speech of South-Londoners refined by Aunts and Uncles attempting to drag themselves up by their boot-straps by adopting a classier tone, enriching their vocabulary to impress neighbours, relatives, bosses: both Hancock and Harold Steptoe are what my grandparents would describe as ‘hoity-toity,’ with ideas above their station and an accompanying high-flown rhetoric – ‘I wouldn’t expect you to understand the outlook of an intellectual like me,’ ‘You’ve held me back all vese years, Dad – you and vat stupid horse out vere.’ I think Hancock, Sid, Harold & Albert are all Galton & Simpson’s relatives – the grandiose Uncle who boasted of his military service, the Grandfather who in his cups recited a music-hall monologue and said he ‘could have been a Shakespearian actor, but never really fancied it.’

I can never prove it, but after years of listening to and watching their work, I suspect that when they were writing Alan Simpson played the Hancock and Harold Steptoe character, and Ray played Sid and Albert. In their interviews together you can see Alan was the benign dreamer, ever-hopeful – (“No, Hancock didn’t reject us, this is where Ray & I differ – he was breaking with the agent, not us,”) and Ray the scowler, the realist, the hard-edged go-getter (“Well, when he left us I thought, good luck mate…”)

Many genius sitcoms have come since, and will always come, but there will be a place in history for the work of the two men who started it all off, who made the extraordinary artistic journey from the 50’s music-hall of Happy Go Lucky to Steptoe. It was a journey that straddled an age: through it Galton & Simpson grew up – and made British Comedy grow up with them.

Their friendship lasted seventy years – their comedy will last forever.

RIP Ray Galton ( 1930-2018) &  Alan Simpson (1929-2017)

GALTON AND SIMPSON2

 

 

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 Pompidou – early draft script

THE DUMB SHOW – PILOT SCRIPT DEPT. STORE SEPT 2012 – PDF

Before the TV series Pompidou went out lots of people asked me ‘How do you write a script with no dialogue?’, ‘How do you write a visual comedy script?’, & ‘Please post a script up to the BBC Writers-room’ etc. (For those not in the business, the Writer’s Room is a BBC website encouraging aspiring writers).

Initially I was reluctant – and for obvious reasons I couldn’t do it during transmission – but now the series has aired I thought it might be of interest to writers, and indeed anyone interested in comedy and the TV industry, to see how a script without dialogue is written, also to see how a series can change in the process from script to screen, even from the script that secured the series commission in the first place. The draft I’m posting (CLICK ON PDF LINK ABOVE) was an early draft totally written by me so I’ve given myself permission to post it. (Later scripts obviously had the credit ‘Created & Written by Matt Lucas, Julian Dutton & Ashley Blaker).

When people asked me ‘how do you write a script without dialogue?’ I was always a bit surprised. I would reply – well, you just write all the action you want to see on-screen, down to the minutest movement of a hand, the precise timing of a cut to an object etc. You have the idea of the joke or the routine, you visualise it, then set about describing it in the best way possible. Most action screenplays – for example Speed, or Gravity – undoubtedly consist of page after page after page of stage description. Well, a visual comedy is exactly the same, except with jokes.

The script I’m posting is the first script of the show that was written. Initially it was written just by me, as a spec script. Matt Lucas’ company took it on, then me, Matt and Ashley Blaker sat down to rewrite it before submitting it. When we submitted it to the BBC we agreed I’d written 70% of it, Matt 15%, and Ashley 15%.

As a result of reading it the BBC commissioned a series and we wrote five more scripts. At this stage it was still the same template as my original script – a cluster of character-narratives, day-in-the-life, with building routines, slapstick for young people, visual gags and experimental gags for more mature viewers. We wrote 6 scripts along these lines, involving Pompidou visiting different settings – a Dept. Store (script 1 – the one posted above); a Country House, a Hospital, a Fete, a Campsite etc. Significantly, the structure did have a narrative but not in the same way as a traditional normal verbal sitcom: because in a physical comedy a physical event/problem is plot: for example, when Mr. Bean is locked out his hotel room naked, not only is that an event, it is also plot. ie. gradually escalating jeopardy, just like a drama script except funny. Our Mcguffins (devices that drive plot) weren’t as crude as ‘getting a toe stuck in a bath,’ (no insult to Eric Sykes, who I love) but basically involved Pompidou finding himself in gradually complicating sticky visual situations of his own making.

So six scripts were written along these lines – sort of ‘day-in-the-life’ half hours, quite Tati-esque, with Pompidou having a main ‘plot’ and the other characters as garnish having their own little running gags. There were special effects, surreal gags, gags of perspective etc. It was basically an ‘outsider in the modern world’ comedy – quite abstract, a bit of Tati, a bit of Marty Feldman. Matt was going to play all the characters, like Alec Guinness played everyone in Kind Hearts and Coronets.

How the series ended up on-screen was very different. A few  months before filming each script was altered and it became much  more of a traditional sitcom: gags were shed in favour of story and the focus switched from visual comedy and gags to a central performance and the interplay between Pompidou and his butler Hove. Hove, who’d started off as a minor character in early drafts, became a major element. So instead of a ‘solitary eccentric facing the real outside world’ being the engine of the comedy the emphasis moved to character interplay. Additionally, the whole series was moved much more towards being a kids’ show. Which is fine – family comedy is extremely rare. Also all the supporting characters were cut. So the series that viewers ended up seeing was very different to the original scripts.

So here it is: it may be of interest to somebody – comedy archaeologists of the future, aspiring writers who might want to see how a visual gag is written or a running gag developed or a building routine constructed. Needless to say all the material is under copyright so cannot be nicked!

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