‘A lot of shout­ing and a bit of typ­ing’

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

then Birds hap­pened, largely through the the­atre show [a 2012 stage ver­sion] and sud­denly we were re­dis­cov­ered.”

“Now we are roy­alty, ap­par­ently,” adds Marks iron­i­cally. As Gran says, “wheels turn”. But some things don’t change. The pair still write in what Gran, rather un­der­stat­edly, calls Marks’s spare room. The room is ac­tu­ally part of an apart­ment in a Sher­bourne, Glouces­ter­shire, stately home with 12 acres of land.

“For 34 years now it has been the same modus operandi,” Marks says. “Mau­rice comes in, I stop do­ing what­ever I’m do­ing and then we get on with the job.”

“There is a lot of shout­ing and a bit of typ­ing,” Gran ex­pands. “In the 90s, we would have six cups of cof­fee and pro­duce as many scripts.”

“Th­ese days we take it eas­ier,” Marks says. “We might play ten­nis.”

“It’s a very big room, you see,” Gran quips.

This is the cre­ative process that has pro­duced much of the main­stream com­edy with which gen­er­a­tions grew up, Shine on Harvey Moon and Good­night Sweet­heart also among them. If there was an un­suc­cess­ful ca­reer pe­riod, it was their time work­ing for Para­mount in Los An­ge­les in 1985. It was a bruis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. They were vic­tims of a cul­ture clash. They hadn’t un­der­stood that pro­duc­ers — one of whom was Henry Win­kler — ex­pected their writ­ers to be on hand all the time.

“We’d write 10 pages, think we can fin­ish the script by Fri­day and then go out and buy a hi-fi,” Gran re­calls. “It was like you had jumped pa­role.”

“One day Henry Win­kler in­vited us to a party,” Marks adds, “but I wanted to come back to Eng­land that week, which was my week off. He never spoke to us again. He ig­nored us. For­ever.”

De­spite the ex­pe­ri­ence, to the com­edy com­mu­nity back in Bri­tain Marks and Gran had been to the Holy Land, as Gran calls Hol­ly­wood — “or at least Mount Si­nai”.

“We were sud­denly ex­perts, not job­bing writ­ers,” Marks says. “Our ca­reers wouldn’t have been as they were had we not gone.”

The shows that fol­lowed in­cluded The New States­man, star­ring Rik May­all, whose re­cent death at 56 shocked all who knew and watched him. “He was one of only two ac­tor friends we ever made in this in­dus­try,” Marks says.

“We had such a mu­tual re­spect be­cause he thought we were bril­liant and we thought he was bril­liant,” Gran adds. “It was a ter­ri­ble shock.”

Marks warns I should be care­ful about how I broach the sub­ject of May­all. But then the for­mer jour­nal­ist does my job for me by say­ing: “If you asked me, ‘Did I think he was go­ing to die’? the an­swer would be ‘yes’.”

“He lived life to the full and then some,” Gran re­flects. “So be­fore the accident [May­all crashed his quad bike in 1998] he liked to

Rik May­all in his star­ring role in Marks and Gran’s

booze and smoke. Af­ter the accident he wasn’t al­lowed to drink. But he did re­dou­ble his smok­ing be­cause he had to do some­thing naughty. He drank gal­lons of black cof­fee and he would put on a lot of weight and then run it off. He re­ally pun­ished the ma­chine. I t was a shame, but the big­ger shame was that accident which stopped his ca­reer at its vir­tual peak.”

I f Marks and Gran are now back on top, suc­cess is not nec­es­sar­ily matched by crit­i­cal ac­claim.

And when Birds was re­vived by ITV ear­lier this year, it was given a gen­er­ally snippy and neg­a­tive re­cep­tion by TV crit­ics. “They never mat­ter,” says Marks dis­mis­sively.

Gran is more even-handed. “Over a whole ca­reer I would say the crit­ics have been more than kind,” he says, adding: “I always like to think that ev­ery critic has got at least one re­jected com­edy script at the bot­tom of his drawer.”

Marks notes that the crit­ics changed their tune once the view­ing fig­ures were re­vealed. “You can’t get too out of kil­ter with public opin­ion.”

Mean­while, the duo are work­ing on a new pilot for the BBC, which is to star Paul O’Grady, and they are in no doubt that the suc­cess of the re­vived Birds has made ITV think very se­ri­ously about com­mis­sion­ing new com­edy. Will they turn to Marks and Gran?

“Al­most cer­tainly,” Marks be­lieves. Love Me Do opens at the end of Septem­ber. wat­ford­palacethe­atre.co.uk


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