IFTA hosted an entertaining public interview last night at the Conrad with Father Ted writer Graham Linehan. Prior to last night, I would have said it was unfair to describe him only in relation to Ted, seeing as he’s also been the creative force behind the excellent I. T. Crowd, Black Books and Big Train.
But far from being fed up with Father Ted, Linehan said he was really proud of it – and would be happy with Graham “Father Ted” Linehan being on his gravestone. A nice attitude, cos a lot of people seem to end up hating the very show/film that gives them their big break.
Linehan was interviewed at length by Darklight’s Derek O’Connor and here were some of the highlights of their convo:
* Linehan lived with his writing partner Arthur Matthews in London for four years – in a flat owned by Griff Rhys Jones who charged them minimal rent – and he maintains that Matthews is a very funny person to watch TV with. They used to watch TV for hours on end, something I’ve heard Mitchell and Webb do too. So TV can be educational!
* In their initial stand-up incarnations of Father Ted, Matthews used to play Ted. They cast the show basically by watching loads of comedy shows and programmes and picking comedians/actors from them.
* Ted really was their big chance – they’d already worked on an Alexei Sayle sitcom called Paris, which had bombed.
* Their producer Geoffrey Perkins was the man who picked the iconic musical intro out of two Divine Comedy songs. Linehan and Matthews wanted to go for a happy, jaunty tune.
* Linehan said he felt really bad about the erudite, classically-trained Frank Kelly (present last night) only having five words to say all the time, which is why they opened things up in series two with stuff like, “That would be an ecumenical matter”.
* He said they were only ever going to make the three series, even before Dermot Morgan’s untimely death forced the show to end. Wise move if you ask me – go before any shark jumping can occur!
* Re. Brass Eye, he said he thought Chris Morris had gone a bit far with the extreme approach he took to satirising the media response to paedophilia, with the result that it had turned people off. Interestingly, he said he hates it when comedy shows have the effect of making people change channel and maintained that even the most extreme topic can be made palatably funny. As an example, he brought up the cannibal episode of The I.T. Crowd. Which, he’s right, is absolutely hilarious even though it deals with Mosse possibly getting eaten by a Armin Meiwes-type.
* While he directs all the time now, he said he only does it out of necessity because he reckons other directors won’t see the scene the same way as him.
* Scriptwriting – Linehan says the first draft is basically just a series of notes for basing subsequent drafts on. He says he loves rewriting and refining scripts and will do so right up to shooting.
* Funnily enough, he’s tried writing films and finds it really hard! I’d have said what he does is pretty flipping hard so this was surprising to hear!
I’m sure I’m missing loads of great points he made, but overall Linehan just came across as a very humble, down to earth guy. He was very honest about stuff he’d done that hadn’t worked. After we’d seen a brilliant 12-minute clip from The I.T. Crowd, he pointed out a great joke he missed out on and said he kicks himself now while watching the episode! He wants people to laugh and is prepared to work very hard for their laughs.
Nice one, IFTA – and nice canapés by the way as well!