Arthur Mathews: comedy masterclass

From Big Train to Father Ted, some of the best known and most successful British comedies of recent years have been penned by Arthur Mathews. In this masterclass, recorded at the home of BBC Radio Comedy, he shares his ideas on finding comedy in the most unusual situations.

He started out as an art director for music papers in Ireland, doing “a little humourous writing” on the side. Fast forward a few years and Arthur Mathews is now one of the biggest names in British comedy. He’s written for Harry Enfield, Alexei Sayle, and wrote the Ted and Ralph segments for The Fast Show, and co-wrote sketches for Brass EyeBig Train, and Catherine Tate, graduating along with writing partner Graham Linehan to the critically acclaimed and much loved Father Ted. His most recent creation is Toast of London for Channel 4.

In this specially recorded masterclass, head of BBC radio comedy Jane Berthoud caught up with Arthur to celebrate his career and to share his insights into what makes great comedy. From his early start sending in sketches to Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones, he reveals how he worked with comedy writing partners Matt Berry and Graham Linehan on his most successful shows, and how his relationship with producer Geoffrey Perkins has shaped so much of his work.

“How do you know you’re funny? It’s an internal chuckle, rising to a crescendo of laughter.” - Arthur Mathews

Using examples from his most famous shows, he also shares his views on characters, plots and comedy situations, and the process of creating stories scene by scene and finding characters, usually flawed and generally ridiculous, who draw the audience in. We also hear his thoughts on the importance of the cast and find out some of the famous names who never quite made the journey to Craggy Island.