A lot of people watching Crackanory may well find themselves getting all wet-eyed and wistful about their terrifyingly distant childhoods. So did you get any nostalgia pangs for the original Jackanory when you were asked to contribute to this gritty reboot?
I didn't really remember it, to be honest. It may have been just before my time, maybe? But of course I was totally aware of how Jackanory is such a huge part of the common consciousness, the simple but brilliant format of it. And I think it's maybe a good thing that I didn't come to it with any preconceptions because it freed me up to do it my way.
So what's your Crackanory yarn all about? No spoilers, mind.
It's about this woman who wakes up one day to discover her child-self in her house, asking to know how her life has turned out. And she gets so worried about her young self making the same mistakes as she did that she winds up making up a whole heap of lies.
Comedy coinosseurs may know you from such popular panel shows as Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, as well as your own stand-up. But you're also a seasoned scribbler of comedy, and wrote a sitcom called Dead Boss a little while back. How does all that compare to writing for Crackanory?
Well I really love short stories generally. Probably because I have a terrible attention span. But to actually write one is very hard, especially when you have to factor in how it will work on television. I was just very lucky that I have Jessica Hynes reading it on the show. Knowing that she'd make it amazing really helped give me confidence while I was writing the story.
Speaking of stories you like to read, which writers were your main inspirations for this tale?
Roald Dahl, definitely. His sort of magical realist stuff. But I also love absurdist Russian stories where bizarre things happen in really ordinary settings. Stuff by writers like Gogol and Bulgakov. But please don't put that down because it'll make me sound really wanky.
That's fine. We definitely won't mention your w*nky love of Russian literature when this interview goes up on the site. Still on the subject, where do you actually do your writing?
I work in a cafe opposite an undertakers. Which can I say is all the inspiration you need for not procrastinating and hurrying up and getting on with your work.
Was there any sense of playful competition and/or deadly snarling rivalry between you and the other Crackanory writers?
Actually I didn't really have any contact with them at all. Except for Nico Tatarowicz, as he's a good friend of mine, so we did chat to each other about it. It was helpful talking to him on the phone in the midst of it all because writing a short story is so different to stand-up, where you get immediate feedback from the audience on how good it is. With stories you have no idea, you can't gauge how it's going, so talking to other writers is really handy.
Finally… big question, just to put you on the spot. What other classic shows do you reckon they should give a Crackanory-style reboot?
It's not a kids' show as such but when I was young I was absolutely obsessed with Challenge Anneka. I just loved the idea of a show where someone just runs around and builds a school playground or whatever. I'll do anything to front a new version of that.
We'll see what we can do.