Where comedy’s concerned I prefer sitting to standing as I like sit-com but find stand-up quite scary. I’m terrified of people not laughing. Stand-up is quite confrontational; it’s a series of jokes, whereas sitcom is far more complex. The comedy comes from dialogue, situation and character; every sitcom creates a world of its own and that’s something that really interests me. Take the latest series on BBC about a pair of blokes searching for bits of metal in a field. ‘Detectorists’ (we learn in episode one that a metal detector is a piece of equipment and the person operating it is a detectorist) is an unusual sitcom in that it takes place mostly outdoors as the pair search for the Holy Grail that is the Saxon ship thought to have been buried nearby. It’s a very well-observed comedy and the characters are utterly believable and well-acted by Mackenzie Crook (Gareth in ‘The Office) and Toby Jones (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and, bizarrely, the voice of Dobby the house elf).
I could see myself writing sitcom (and in fact I did once write a radio sitcom) but I could never in a million years do stand-up. As a poet the worst thing that can happen to you is that people don’t listen or don’t clap – but as a comedian if you’re up there giving it your all and people don’t laugh, it’s just the worst thing ever. It makes me shudder.
I need some comedy at the moment as I’ve just had an email saying my memoir has not even made the longlist. I’m really upset because I thought this was going to be my big break.
PS I’ve just found out that Toby Jones is the son of Freddie Jones, the character actor. I once knew someone at Uni who was friends with him…