So did you actually watch Jackanory as a wee lad? Be honest.
I did, I did watch it as a kid. And the whole idea of storytelling is even more relevant to me these days because I have a little boy, and I've been reading to him and watching CBeebies bedtime stories, where people like Stephen Fry read stories aloud. So I already completely appreciated the warmth that comes from telling stories, and I loved the idea of marrying that with comedy aimed at grown-ups.
Now, you do a lot of gag-writing for some very big comedians. How did spinning tales for Crackanory compare to that?
It was very liberating and thrilling – a bit like being allowed to play on your favourite football team instead of watching from the sidelines. When you do sketch or sitcom writing there's a lot of formal constraints on what you can do, it's very structured, but writing for Crackanory meant I could just go crazy with dialogue and descriptions, and basically flex my muscles a bit. Of course, that was just for the first draft, and during the editing process I had to structure it a bit more. But it was still so much fun to write.
Which of the stories are yours then, just so we know to look out for them.
Mine are being read out by Jack Dee and Harry Enfield. One is about an average man in a pub who sends out a sarcastic tweet about a Justin Bieber-type singer, and it causes the biggest Twitter storm of all time and he becomes the most hated man in the world. The other's about this guy nobody takes any notice of until he makes a cup of tea for someone, and it turns out to literally be the best cup of tea in the world, and his talent for making incredible tea ends up threatening the coffee industry.
Speaking of Twitter and all that social media malarkey, do you find it gets in the way of work? Or are you not the procrastinating type?
My strategy is to use Twitter the way people use cigarette breaks. It's an occasional reward. So I'll write a scene or whatever, and then give myself a 10 minute break on social media. Thing is, it's actually pretty good for writers in terms of the social interaction it gives you. Because otherwise you might go crazy, spending all your time alone at the computer. #
OK, think fast. What other classic kids' shows do you reckon they should bring back, Crackanory-style?
Rentaghost. I always loved that. Or maybe some of those old-style educational shows. Remember the one with the music box spinning around? Of course, all that nostalgia can now be enjoyed via YouTube. Actually there was one show I'd love to see come back – it was this thing called Play Away, and it had a bunch of performers doing jokes, sketches, and music hall type songs in front of a live audience. It felt a bit like a stand-up show except aimed at kids, and was really different to other childrens' shows.
Did you hobnob with the other Crackanory writers while coming up you’re your stories? Any vicious behind-the-scenes rivalry we should know about?
Sadly not. It was mainly us messaging each other saying "This is really fun, I`m really enjoying it, why can't every job be like this?". Of course, knowing that you're writing for the same show as someone like Jeremy Dyson makes you want to do yourself proud. But it was all very mutually supportive and encouraging.