Tuesday, January 10, 2006
D&C: Do you think that your experiences in radio and on the stage helped to improve your improvisational skills?
CG: I don't think you can hone those. I believe that you can either improvise or you can't, you figure that out pretty quickly.
RG: When someone in England says 'comedy improv', it sends a chill down my spine. Like when a wacky troupe gets suggestions from the audience. It gets to the point where they get a clap for just making something rhyme. From what I can make out, it's so much harder to watch than do.
D&C: Christopher, in your Saturday Night live heyday did you ...
CG: Heyday? I wouldn't have used that word ...
RG: (loses it) I think I'm dying!
D&C: .. .feel constrained by the producer's inability to allow improvisation?
CG: I don't think that was the issue. I only worked on the show for a year because I knew that it was going to be difficult. We had complete control over what we wanted to do, but although the show is live there's no reason for it to be because everything is written and nothing really unusual happens, so things are very rarely funny.
D&C: Did you feel a cathartic release when you left?
CG: Yes. I started to get into directing while I was on SNL. I directed about eight of the films in the year that I worked on it. I don't know if I even wanted to direct, I think it was a typo or something. I had written for ten years and it just fell into place. The reason I've spent a decade doing small films is because I can control them. It's important to be able to look at something and decide if it is good or bad. It's my fault whatever the case, but I'd rather do something on a smaller scale that I can control rather than something bigger that I would have to compromise on.
RG: Exactly, having control is key. And that doesn't mean power, it means artistic freedom. The fun comes from creating an idea, writing it, casting it and then putting it on your shelf and saying 'I did that'. That's the only thing that matters. Of course, if you're on TV you want your work to be seen by as many people as possible, but that shouldn't be as a result of compromising your art. If someone read a script of mine and said 'I'll give you an extra million if you change the font', I wouldn't change the font.
CG: I would.
D&C: Christopher, you work exclusively with Eugene Levy, and Ricky you have Stephen Merchant. Does everything come down to making them laugh?
CG: If you're not making each other laugh while you're writing, then you might as well go home as there's no point. That's the test. If you make someone who you respect laugh, that's half the job done.
D&C: Do you find that it can become sterile, putting comedy on paper, re-writing it, going to the set and saying it 20 times?
RG: I've got to be laughing at every stage. You've got to realise that half an hour of telly has taken a year and a half to produce. If you're just working up to that half hour, Jesus! I can do without laughing for that half hour as long as the rest of my life is funny.
D&C: And weren't you actually in a Spinal Tap tribute band called The Savage Hearts?
RG: No, the really sad thing was that we formed that band, then saw Spinal Tap and broke up. It's bad that I was in a band like Spinal Tap and really meant it, but it's good that I realised that before it was too late. It's like someone coming up to me and saying 'my friends say that I'm like David Brent'. That's just bad. It's bad that you are and it's bad that you like it.