Link and Lorne on TV comedy and their new show
Ewan Denny and Joe Hullait on TV commissioning, casting and leaving your best mate on the cutting room floor
Joe Hullait, creator and narrator of Scot Squad, and comedy partner Ewan Denny make up sketch duo Link and Lorne. The pair arrive at Glasgow Comedy Festival with something of an 'outtakes' show from their popular BBC Short Stuff videos. "Terrestrial is the Bestrial gives people an insight into the bizarre world of TV development," says Hullait. "We’re currently working on some new things for TV and this show is mostly a look at the rubbish ideas we had to burn through to get to the decent ones. It’s very much a Monkey Tennis take on the industry. I’d be willing to bet Ewan’s life that none of this ever makes it to screen." A bet which Denny counters with one of his own: "I’ll shag you if any of this makes it on TV."
Success on screen – if in a four-series hit such as Scot Squad, or for Link and Lorne's short sketch streams – is remarkable given that TV comedy commissioning is in a risk-averse phase. "Generally if a programme is funny on UK TV then it does tend to find an audience," says Hullait, "What I’m really enjoying is The Young Offenders on BBC Three. I’m also rewatching Still Game, for the first time ever in sequence and absolutely loving it in its completeness. What those two shows have in common is that they existed in other forms, as a film and a play respectively, before being put on TV.
"I think that’s a crucial element to most successful comedy, being able to find its feet and establish its comic tone before making a transfer to TV. […] The reason this is the case is because everybody in TV is going to have a note or opinion. It’s a lot easier to resist bad notes and opinions if you’ve got something that proves that your idiosyncratic style has been proven to work for an audience. Luckily, Ewan and I have a very keen sense of what our type of humour is. We’ve established our comic style independently of broadcasters."
Scot Squad is known for breaking new talent from the Scottish comedy scene, often casting comedians in acting roles. Hullait explains he looks for a knack for comedic timing more than anything else: "We’re rarely looking for people to fill certain roles on Scot Squad. When we see comedians we’re always just trying to get a sense for their mannerisms and comic reflexes. We always emphasise to people at auditions that we don’t want to see people playing high concept characters, or to come in with funny accents or wacky stories. Last year I saw Liam Farrelly doing BBC Presents Red Raw at The Stand. I think it was his third ever gig. He just has a funny stage presence and we ended up having him on the show as a dodgy undertaker."
Anyone hoping to butter Hullait up for a part is likely to be disappointed: even being his friend and comedy partner doesn't beget any special favours: "If anyone is looking for irrefutable proof of nepotism in TV casting then they won’t find it in this show. I’ve known Ewan for seven years and he only got to be in Scot Squad last year."
"And guess what?" says Denny, "The bastards cut me from the show. I played someone who had made a stab proof bodysuit out of magazines. Cut. Disgraceful."
Link and Lorne: Terrestrial is the Bestrial, Blackfriars Basement, 23 March, 9.15pm, £8-10