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A Chat with Graham Linehan Creator of The IT Crowd

A Chat with Graham Linehan Creator of The IT Crowd (photo)

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In advance of tonight’s U.S. premiere of Series 4 of the BAFTA and Emmy award-winning British sitcom The IT Crowd, we chatted with writer, director, and creator Graham Linehan. It wouldn’t be an interview with the creator of The IT Crowd if there weren’t some technical difficulties. After we made sure everything was plugged in and turned everything on and off, we started the interview.

IFC Now: What can we expect from Series 4 of The IT Crowd?

Graham Linehan: Just the same things we’ve seen before. More of the same. Silly nonsense. Silly situations. But funnier. We were finding our feet in the first series and then we had one or two great episodes in the second series. They were great episodes that really showed what we were capable of as a show and with the cast. Then we had a couple of really good episodes in the 3rd series. We came closest in that series to living up to our potential. 5 out of the 6 episodes are truly great. The one episode that wasn’t, we had to have a complete re-write in the final week of rehearsal. You can see the strain a little bit. We like to call the episode our Apollo 13 in that it could have been a lot worse. But in Series 4, it really is the same stuff as always really. Same things with loose connections.

IFC: Speaking of connecting, are we ever going to see Roy and Jen connecting?

GL: Interesting question. We experimented with it in Series 1, but it didn’t feel right. I’m not great at story arcs. Introducing a romantic subplot would mean I’d have to start thinking properly about what I’m doing.

IFC: In the past you have crowd sourced the props and set design…

GL: …And the jokes!

IFC: Really? Please explain.

GL: We were so behind with writing, we didn’t really have time to think of all the funny. So we were literally asking Twitter on the day of filming, asking for euphemisms for …er, “behind” and it was really successful! And because we were behind we were still getting suggestions right before the audience came in.

IFC: Well to that end, we got some questions from fans on Twitter for you.

GL: Great.

IFC: @tor2600 asked, Are the characters in The IT Crowd based on real people?

GL: Roy is me in my 20s and 30s and I punish Roy for all the terrible things I did to girls in my 20s and 30s. Roy is kind of a voodoo doll who I can punish. Moss is me before I was interested in girls and Jen …There’s a lot of my wife in Jen. She’s a woman coming into a male environment, which is what happened with my wife. Jen represents all that. Douglas is a just generic rich guy who you can make do all the generic rich guy things. Stuff that people like Richard Branson or Conrad Black are always doing.

IFC: How many wives has Douglas had?

GL: (Laughs) He seems to have killed one. And his other wife bears an uncanny resemblance to Denholm’s wife when he died.

IFC: @Vuk_Oreb wants to know if there will really be a Christmas Special?

GL: There might be. It’s definitely something I’d like to do, because I’ve got what I think is a really funny idea for a Christmas special. But it will have to wait until after the next Series.

IFC: Is there a Series 5 to look forward to then?

GL: We’ve been commissioned. We need to get a commitment from the actors. Because they have been doing this a long time. I’m also starting to get enough ideas for another series.

IFC: The relationship between the characters has really evolved from Series 1 where they didn’t really like each other to Series 2 where they were friends. How does their relationship progress in Series 4?

GL: I’m not really good at character or plot development. I’m just interested in big comedic moments. The characters are running on the spot, but they are friendlier now and I’m glad you noticed that they are friendlier now. In the first series they were all shouting at each other a lot, because I thought they needed to have that tension, and it lead to quite a shrill experience. Now they are much nicer and they like each other. I also really didn’t want to make Jen as negative a character as the boys. I like shows where the female characters are as funny as the male characters, not just commenting on how funny the male characters are. I like to maintain a thing where all the characters are just as bad as each other.

IFC: @JoesRobot asked via Twitter, with The IT Crowd rising in popularity, is there an added pressure when working on the new season?

GL: Yes, but it is suiting me really well. On Twitter people keep asking me when the new show is coming out. It’s nice for me to have that reminder that there is an audience and people are watching. The scripts were really good this time. I think there is something to be said for churning things out. Motown churned out hits and there is nothing wrong with that.

IFC: Each series has only six episodes. Why so few? We want more!

GL: It’s only six episodes because I write them all myself and I direct them myself so it is all I can manage without having a nervous breakdown.

IFC: What does Reynholm Industries do?

GL: (Laughter.)

IFC: I thought if I slipped it in there you might answer.

GL: It might be something to do with various weapon sales. Something bad. Not bottled water, although they might be doing that on the side. If I actually said what they did, I would have to do research and I’m too lazy.

IFC: So many British shows are getting turned into versions for the American viewing audience. Is there going to be a U.S. version of The IT Crowd?

GL: Yes. I think it is in development right now. With Joel McHale and Richard [Ayoade].

IFC: Do you think parts of the show would have to change for an American version of IT Crowd?

GL: I don’t understand the need to remake things. I don’t really understand why. There was a British version of the “Golden Girls”. Like the Golden Girls with none of the sass or the sparkle. You can buy Blanche being a bit of a slut, but you couldn’t buy these ladies being one. If you’re so desperate to have a comedy with three old women in it why not make your own? And the format of the IT Crowd is not the most groundbreaking thing about it. The Big Bang Theory seems to remake it well.

IFC: You think Big Bang Theory is a remake of IT Crowd?

GL: No, but it’s similar. It is a new way of approaching the same format. Father Ted would be impossible to remake it in America. The whole situation of being Irish and being a priest in Ireland is so different than anything else in America.

IFC: Like remaking “The Wire” in London?

GL: Or Kent! Having said that, the IT Crowd is a better contender for a remake. Being looser in its themes and what it is about makes it a better contender. If they are going to remake it as long as the show keeps to the same principles of big set piece comedies and no hugging, no learning, I think it could be okay.

IFC: No hugging, no learning?

GL: There’s a thing from Seinfeld, No hugging, No learning. The characters don’t hug and they don’t learn. They just are who they are. That’s something that I takes as law. British sitcoms are a lot more cynical and I would hate for the show to come to America and get a heart. People like seeing the characters getting in and out of trouble, but they don’t need to learn life lessons from it. The characters are one step away from being a cartoon. I love The Simpsons and South Park and I’m trying to do a live action show that makes me laugh as much. The characters don’t need to change. Lisa Simpson has been 8-years old forever.

IFC: Finally, my geeky dream (and the dream of some Twitter fans) is to have some IT Crowd action figures. Any chances of that?

GL: YES! Well, I’m saying yes and then worrying about the details later.

The IT Crowd airs on IFC on Tuesdays at 10:30. Series 4 starts tonight.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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