Big School: Writing with comedy greats

Thursday 15 August 2013, 11:41

The Dawson Bros The Dawson Bros Writers

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Collaboration was at the heart of Big School, a sitcom conceived by David Walliams (the swimmer turned actor who also plays Mr Church) but written, from the very first draft of episode one, by four people: David himself and us Dawson Bros (who can neither act nor swim).

The Dawson Bros are Andrew and Steve Dawson, the brothers, and Tim Inman their professionally adopted sibling - and we’ve been collaborating with each other now for 21 years.

Admittedly at the beginning we were just kids mucking about with Dixons' cheapest video camera making bad comedy that no one but our friends ever saw (thankfully YouTube didn’t exist) but it still technically counts as collaboration.

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Mr Church's (David Walliams) attempt to make science fun blows up in his face

The upshot is we three have a pretty developed way of working together and are fortunate to have writing partners very much on the same wavelength (or for the youngsters reading, ‘wifi network’).

It’s great! We share the same reference points, we’ve been through the same experiences together, developed the same shorthand and have heavily overlapping senses of humour.

And while working as a three has its disadvantages versus solo/duo writing (principally that we have to work enough to pay three mortgages) it also has its advantages: debates can easily be settled with a two-one majority.

So what happened to this finely honed comedy writing dynamic when we were asked to collaborate with the multi-award-winning comedian and estuary paddling Roald Dahl plagiarist David Walliams?

Well we spent an incredible six months sitting together in a small rented office making each other laugh, exactly as the three of us had done when we made our home videos two decades ago.

To our newly formed quartet David brought years of comedy experience, a world class understanding of character and killer dialogue. We brought the biscuits.

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Miss Postern (Catherine Tate) makes an impression at her first assembly

But the collaboration doesn’t end there. In later drafts Catherine Tate, a comedy writing genius in her own right, worked with us four to refine her character Miss Postern.

So it was actually a quintet. And throughout the whole process we were expertly guided by script notes from comedic oracle David Baddiel. Sextet?

And we haven’t even gone into the essential contribution of the dream cast, elite producers and talented behind the scenes crew who brought Big School into existence. About 10 nonets (thank you Wikipedia).

As you can hopefully tell by now making a sitcom is a hugely collaborative process. So if you watch Big School and don’t like it remember absolutely loads of people made it not just us, OK?

But if you watch it and love it then, you know, it was kind of basically all down to us three.


The Dawson Bros (Andrew Dawson, Steve Dawson and Tim Inman) are the co-writers of Big School.

Big School begins on Friday, 16 August at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

More on Big School
The Independent: Remains of the school day: David Walliams and Catherine Tate in Big School

WalesOnline: It's an education teaching at the school of hard knocks for comic actor Steve Speirs

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    As someone who worked in a state secondary - I loved it!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    After recent sitcom disasters "Big School" is a welcome relief. Witty dialogue hurrah! Engaging characters, especially Glenister's. And the two kids - hope there will be more kid:teacher sketches. I was worried by the assembly set-up. Does this still happen as it did in the Sixties? Not daily anymore, I trust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    So Dawson Bros, no apologies for slagging off the Welsh character with the utterly disgraceful reference yet again ( It happened very recently in New Tricks too) of Welsh people being "sheep shaggers". I know of not one person who has ever done that but sad to say I do have a daughter who teaches and she no longer tells her students that she's from Wales because the reaction has mirrored the scene in your "comedy". It wasn't funny when it happened in real life and with this "comedy" you are doing nothing more than helping to perpetuate exactly that kind of attitude. Bottom line is would you have made a reference to let's say someone of Asian appearance as a bomber? You bet your life you wouldn't AND if you had you would never have got away with it.
    Good comedy does not need to continually get laughs at other peoples expense.
    Finally, as an excersise in school bullying it was undoubtedly invaluable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Ooh, what a disappointment. I don't think it's anything to do with being thoroughly researched. It just wasn't funny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Loved it, laughed throughout show the relationship in the love triangle is hysterical the Headmistress making everyone stand in her room is nothing short of genius


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