What Trevor and Simon did next

Simon and Trevor in bike gear at TVC doughnut Simon Hickson and Trevor Neal run riot around the TVC doughnut in 1988

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To a certain section of the population, the former Going Live! duo Trevor and Simon will be fondly remembered for the catchphrases "swing your pants" and "we don't do duvets".

"By a certain section of the population, you mean pensioners," chips in Simon. "The grandmas love us these days," adds Trevor.

Hmm, I was thinking about the 30-40 age group. In other words, people who, as children and teenagers circa 1990, watched the comic duo perform with the likes of Cher and Catherine Zeta-Jones on Saturday morning TV.

As stalwarts on Going Live! and then Live and Kicking, Trevor Neal and Simon Hickson regularly appeared on our screens for a decade until 1997.

"I think we were hoping to move swiftly into this great big Channel 4 comedy show but that didn't quite happen," admits Trevor.

Dinopaws

They're now among the scriptwriters for new CBeebies animation Dinopaws, which follows the adventures of a trio of dinosaurs. Launched last month, it features a voiceover cast that includes Amanda Abbington, recently seen in ITV's Mr Selfridge and as Mary Watson in Sherlock.

Tony, Bob, Gwen the dinosaurs on a hill Dinopaws features the characters Tony, Bob and Gwen

"The good thing about Dinopaws was that Alan Gilbey, who created it, had a vision to create something that had silly fun and slapstick at the heart of it," says Trevor.

"So he was keen to get writers with a bit of comedy history, rather than children's scriptwriters who happened to have done comedy as well."

They did have a BBC Two show in 1996 called Transmission Impossible but that got dropped after the corporation cut budgets. Since then, they've performed on tour, including twice at the Edinburgh Fringe, and written for shows including the CITV sitcom My Parents are Aliens.

"The weirder change would be to do jobs where we didn't write stuff, and almost be just performers or actors," explains Simon.

"So it made sense at the time to write and create, and when things don't particularly take off, then you write and create for other people."

The Young Ones

Trevor and Simon first met in 1981 as drama students at Manchester University, in a department whose alumni include Benedict Cumberbatch and Meera Syal.

Adrian Edmonson as Vyvyan, Rik Mayall as Rick, Nigel Planer as Neil, and Christopher Ryan as Mike play a game of University Challenge, representing Scumbag College A fertile comedy scene thrived at Manchester University...

The comic duo were influenced by the sitcom The Young Ones, based on the experiences of Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson, who had all graduated from the same course a few years earlier.

"There was the alternative comedy scene taking off, so there was a bit of a fashion for new comedy and a kind of punk style, and I suppose we slightly jumped on that," recalls Trevor, who arrived from Southampton.

Simon, who grew up in Manchester, points out: "There was something nice about it being a northern university thing, rather than what was, and possibly still is now, the standard thing of comedians coming from Oxford or Cambridge."

Swing your pants

After graduation, they got their first Edinburgh Fringe show, and then moved on to the London comedy circuit, where they were spotted by a Going Live! researcher. The show had not yet launched but programme-makers wanted to introduce comedy into the slot, previously occupied by Saturday Superstore.

Simon and Trevor in a selfie Simon and Trevor selfie-style

The editor Chris Bellinger told the pair that, although he enjoyed their set, they only had one joke suitable for a young audience. In other words, they needed to write new material.

Trevor and Simon were then given a four-week probation period, and so with Sarah Greene and Phillip Schofield, they appeared on the first show in 1987.

Simon remembers the switch from repeating the same set on the pub circuit, to writing 20 minutes of brand new material every week, as being a "shock to the system".

"The one thing that people used to assume with Saturday morning TV - which, in a way, was a compliment - was that we made it all up, there and then, as if it was all improvised."

They set up regular characters to save time, and so the Singing Corner - better known for its catchphrase "swing your pants" - was born.

"It came out of trying to think of some fun characters that appealed to us and made us laugh," says Trevor.

"Obviously we were interested in that 1960s folky style… So we were just mucking about - I picked up my acoustic guitar, sang some songs, and Simon started dancing."

Kylie and Judi

Their prominence on national TV meant they could write sketches involving "really famous people".

"We were quite star-struck a lot of the time," Trevor recalls. "The new acts were always encouraged to do stuff with us, which was really good fun. Kylie was one of the first ones who kept coming back for more, funnily enough."

During one episode, the actress Judi Dench got nervous about appearing in one of their live sketches but eventually took part after her daughter persuaded her.

Trevor and Simon with Sarah Greene and Phillip Schofield drawing out competition winners Going Live! with Sarah Greene and Phillip Schofield started in 1987
Trevor and Simon snapping the mouth of Roland Rat shut Trevor and Simon silence furry superstar Roland Rat
Trevor, Kylie and Simon do swing your pants sketch A Neighbours-era Kylie Minogue joins a 'swing your pants' sketch

On the whole, the comedians had very little time to rehearse with guest stars.

Trevor says: "We'd meet up with them in the dressing room about 10 minutes before to talk it through, and have a quick read-through - it wasn't really a rehearsal. We'd explain how it was going to work, and then meet up later or run straight on to the set and do it."

Film script

The pair also got accustomed to writing material that crosses age groups as the Going Live! audience changed during its three-hour slot, from parents with children, to students and viewers waiting for Grandstand.

Their experience and, they acknowledge, former producers now higher up in the BBC, has led to work on popular CBeebies programmes such as Get Well Soon and Let's Play, as well as Dinopaws.

Amanda Abbington smiling Amanda Abbington voices Gwen the dinosaur

Simon believes that Amanda Abbington's involvement in the latter "heightens the profile of the show".

Trevor agrees: "For a long time, children's TV and certainly pre-school TV were a poor cousin, particularly in terms of comedy, so it's good for everyone if you can bring as much talent into children's TV as with adults' [shows]."

The duo have also written material for a Turkish programme, which gets translated into the native language, and have developed a film script. Although it's not a comedy, Trevor plugs: "If anyone's interested and enjoys our writing, and they want to produce a film, we've got a great script for you."

It's a testament to their friendship and professional relationship that, even though this interview is conducted on a three-way phone call, they still remain funny and cooperative 33 years after their first encounter.

Trevor admits he finds it "incredible" that people still shout out some of their catchphrases.

Simon differs: "But Trevor, it's not surprising you get recognised because you've got a big sign above your house that says 'Welcome to swing-your-pants land'."

  • New episodes of Dinopaws start on CBeebies, Monday 24 March, 7.45am

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