Art & Lit

John Finnemore: Interview

Did you always want to write comedy or did you have other childhood ambitions?

I was quite serious about being a vet at one point. I wasn’t even put off by doing work experience at one, and having to put dead cats in the deep freeze. Having spoken to some vets since, though, I gather my job is more fun.

How did you get into comedy?

Two main ways – performing as much as I could at university, at the Edinburgh festival, and then at little venues in London; and writing sketches on spec for current TV and radio sketch shows, and sending them to their producers.

Wikipedia says (hopefully correctly) that you were in Footlights. Do you have any favourite anecdotes or memories from that?

Lots and lots. But none, I suspect, that aren’t incredibly tedious to hear if you’re not me or my friends.

Cabin Pressure was obviously very popular and was very satisfyingly concluded, however were there any scenes or ideas that you wished had made it into the show?

Not that I wished had made it, exactly, but there certainly some episode ideas that kept on coming up, but which I could never quite make work. One about Arthur looking for a home of his own, for instance; and another about Douglas’ grown-up daughter. Generally, though, if they never made it in over four series, there was a good reason for it.

Would you travel with MJN Air?

Absolutely. It was always a rule that, for all its many faults, MJN is fundamentally safe. As Carolyn says at one point: ‘I have a good pilot and a safe pilot, and the safe pilot is in charge of the good pilot. Martin won’t let them get in trouble, and if they do, Douglas will get them out of it.’

Can anything be turned into comedy?

That’s complicated, but in brief I would say that a better way of putting it is that comedy can come from anywhere.

Do you make yourself laugh?

Almost never when writing by myself; almost always when working with other people.

What are you working on at the moment?

A new series of my sketch show, John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme; and a new series of short comedy plays for two voices, Double Acts.

Do you have any advice for finalists (who might be procrastinating by reading this)? 

I don’t, but the Danish poet Piet Hein does:

 

Put up in a place

Where it’s easy to see

The cryptic admonishment

T.T.T.

 

When you feel how depressingly

Slowly you climb

It’s well to remember that

Things Take Time.

 

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