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Motivating Mitchell and Webb

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Gareth Edwards Gareth Edwards | 11:10 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010

mitchellandwebb_s4ep5_600.jpgAs the producer of That Mitchell and Webb Look I'm often asked if it's as much fun working with David and Rob as it is watching them. The answer is of course no.

Scientists have known for some years that the universe contains a constant quantity of happiness that cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be re-arranged. Making a comedy programme essentially means creating a temporarily high local concentration of happiness and capturing it on camera. The best way to do this is to push all the happiness out of the surrounding area and onto the set, and it's something that I take great pride in as a producer.

Here's how it's done...

I begin by using the same tools as any other TV production crew or police state: waking people up at four in the morning; long periods of unexplained waiting; irrational and wasteful changes of plan; artificial shortages of fresh vegetables and real coffee. But to make a really funny sketch show you have to strive for more-than-usual levels of dismay behind the scenes and that's where preparation can really pay off.

A lot of it is down to creating the mood for the cast. Each night David's trailer is decorated with fresh pictures of crying clowns holding dead flowers, and charity leaflets with slogans such as "Pedro wishes he wasn't a brutalised donkey either" are left on his chair.  For Robert we cover the walls with poems of John Clare and some of the bleaker bits of Gerard Manley Hopkins, but muck the words about here and there to spoil the scansion so there is no chance of the grimness of the emotion being redeemed by the beauty of the verse. Sarah Hadland is routinely demoralised by workplace bullying and for James Bachman I simply order a cake every day and leave it out in the rain. Meanwhile Abigail is given hardly any funny lines and each day Mark is put in a cage and strapped to a rat's face.

But some days are special and you have to pull out all the stops. I remember once Robert arrived at 4.30 am and we removed his keys and shoelaces as usual and showed him his new walls. He'd read no further than "I am, yet what I am none cares or does know" when I brought him in a small ginger kitten. Robert loved that kitten, and played with it all morning until I came in, took it away and told him that it was David's kitten and David had had it killed but refused to talk about why. Then I left them together in a metal shed for three hours for no reason. That was the day we filmed the Laboratoire Garnier sketch, the murderous grammarian sketch and the Llama with a Lama sketch (which subsequently turned out to be too funny to transmit safely).  It's things like that that make it all worthwhile.

For this week's semblance of interactivity why not tell me your second-favourite kind of cheese? I'm genuinely interested. Mine is Caerphilly. Or maybe Lancashire. Sorry if this is a tricky one.

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Gareth Edwards is Producer of That Mitchell and Webb Look, which continues on Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC Two. Read more of Gareth's unique insights in the blog archive.


  • Comment number 1.

    Mr. Edwards you are very funny indeed!
    My second favorite cheese is Blue Cheese... it tastes very good, but is not top because it does smell like vomit...

  • Comment number 2.

    Cleanlinol = amazing

  • Comment number 3.

    I cannot decide on my second-favourite cheese. I made a list of all my favourite cheeses, sat here pondering for twenty minutes, started rearranging them in order of favouriteness but ended up frustrated and incapable of putting any of them in the #2 spot. If you are ever interested in learning what my 5th, 14th or 72nd favourite cheese is, let me know.

  • Comment number 4.

    Incidentally, I have the same difficulty when arranging my Netflix queue.

  • Comment number 5.


  • Comment number 6.

    Are Mitchell and Webb the least funny 'comedians' on television (apart from Lenny Henry)?

  • Comment number 7.

    @Christopher, you've chosen a very irrational and convoluted means of criticising the program, write to Points of View.

    My second favourite type of cheese is Bree, after Dairy Lea Triangles.

  • Comment number 8.

    Red Leicester.

    Although, since my favourite, the Catalan variety 'Mato Anarchist Special' was inexplicably discontinued in 1939, RL may technically now be my favourite. So I guess it doesn't count.

  • Comment number 9.

    @Christopher This is a phenomenon of the online world that I fail to understand - why, if a performer (be it comedian, actor, singer or trapeze artist) does not appeal to you, do you deem it necessary to seek out blogs/articles written about that/those person(s)? If you don't like David and Robert - or, I should say, their TV personas(since neither of us know these gentlemen in "real" life)then why do you feel the need to find articles about them and then inform us of your dislike? Just seems odd to me - there's plenty of people who don't "entertain" me, but I don't feel the need to be publicly insulting, I simply choose not to go to their websites, or follow them on Twitter, or watch them on TV, or pay to go to a performance or read articles about them. Far better to spend time on things one DOES enjoy in life, surely?

  • Comment number 10.

    Mr Edwards has posed an exceptionally difficult question, as ranking depends upon context. Indeed, tonight's tea involved three different types of cheese, varying in flavour, texture and the point during the cooking process at which they were involved

    I am impressed with Clangerfan1's claim regarding cheese ranking - what is your secret, Clangerfan1?! (PS - agree with your further post earlier today)

  • Comment number 11.

    Oh heavens! @its-a-sin has got me rethinking all my cheese rankings now...I may have to make some switches.

    Mr. Edwards - (or may I call you Gareth?) - could you please come up with an easier question next week? I have been having nightmares about this! (Perhaps all the cheese I was eating before bedtime in an effort to confirm my order of favourocity didn't help the situation though.)

  • Comment number 12.

    My second favorite cheese is "American", which is not really cheese. The packaging ("Cheese-food") gives it away.

    My favorite cheese is "real". Just any real cheese, even cheddar, I will gladly eat after having been raised on "cheese-food". Oh the damage parents wreak on their children!


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