Review: The League of Gentlemen in Conversation

The League talk

League of Gentlemen

Well, you asked for it, so here it is: it’s a write-up/review of the League of Gentlemen in conversation at the NFT/BFI last month. Sorry it’s taken a while, but I’m all busy moving flat, getting snowed in, working, etc.

All the League were there on stage, including Jeremy Dyson, all in a row. For some weird reason, Dick Fiddy who was hosting the event decided to sit Reece Sheersmith on his left and everyone else on his right, resulting in a decidedly hacked-off looking Sheersmith moping behind Fiddy for most of the evening.

Anyway, since I can’t be arsed to construct even a halfway decent narrative for this, I’m probably just going to dump my copious notes down after the jump.

SP: One of the conditions of making the radio series was that they’d get a TV pilot

JD: They thought they’d been offered a series so it was actually ungreenlit as far as they were concerned down to a pilot.

MG: Mark Thompson apparently kept saying “Why do they keep bringing this back to me? I do not want it.”

SP: At first they wanted to do it like the live show. Pauline would talk to the audience as though they were the job seekers. But after they saw the single camera footage, they realised it would work better.

RS: Remembers meeting Caroline Aherne in a shop and her saying “I don’t like you”

SP: They had a standard half hour budget for each episode.

MG: The launch for the show was at the Swiss Centre. The BBC had brass band music playing because they’re from the North. Everyone wanted to talk to “Craig Whatsit” from Red Dwarf, which was also being launched there.

SP: They kept doing live shows to generate new characters such as Steve McQueen.

JD: Has an abiding memory of auditioning dwarves above the Soho Brasserie. But the door bell was too high for them to push to be let in.

SP: The Christmas special helped them realise they could do narrative.

RS: They did something called “Highgate House of Horrors” on a camcorder before the League which is where the ‘local’ pig noses came from except using sellotape.

JD: They didn’t think the movie was going to be a League movie at first, but a freestanding one instead. However, the gravity of the League was so huge they couldn’t pull away.

SP: They didn’t want to repeat themselves with the movie.

RS: There’s an essay to be written on the difficulty of writing spin-off films.

JD: There’s no reason they won’t doing anything together again in the future.

RS: Loved doing it. He did The Producers for a year [acts dejected] and now realises that three month runs are the maximum.

SP: Charlie Higson came to one of their first live shows and introduced him to Vic Reeves. He’d already met him at a signing but Vic didn’t remember him. “Was I a c*nt?”

MG: When he was growing up, fantasy was a valid genre like cop shows. Thanks to Doctor Who, it is again.

JD: Anything different is hard to get on the BBC because it’s politicised because of the licence fee.

MG: The BBC will champion something odd and different only once it’s popular. Until then, it’s nearly impossible to get it made.

SP: He goes to auditions and gets “Oh, you act as well”. It’s so easy to be pigeon-holed and bracketed.

MG: Without the League, he’d be working in Findus.

MG: It wasn’t until on tour that he knew that Papa Lazarou was so popular.

SP: Papa Lazarou was based on their landlord – and a dream. He kept ringing their flat and didn’t realise that there was two of them, so always asked “Is Steve there?” (may have been Reece not Steve).

MG: While on tour, they used to play cards. One day, Reece switched the pack for one of “Extreme Cum Shots”. Gatiss also thought he was going mad since he started to imagine he could hear a member of the audience making bubble-bursting noises at every performance during pauses in the show, trying to put him off. He called it the “Bubble Angel” and told the others. They imagined it had a pigeon’s body and a baby’s head. By the end of the run, they all imagined they could hear it.

Haven’t noted this down, but I do remember one of them (Mark Gatiss?) saying that in one theatre show (probably the League on tour), the other actor (might have been one of the League), kept changing one line in the play to reflect something he’d heard that day and because of the way the play was written Gatiss, had to repeat it back to him. One day, Gatiss mentioned seeing a mouse round the back of the stage and that’s what got mentioned.

A bit incoherent, I know, but I was too busy watching them to make too many notes!

Any questions?