Graham Linehan could arguably be described as the predominant comedy writer of his generation. Yes, that is a bold claim, but when you realise that he is the man whose creative talents are responsible for no less than Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd you can see where we are coming from.
Linehan’s comedy career stretches far further back than those comedy gems however and has its roots in music journalism where, while working for Irish music magazine Hot Press he found he was most successful when he was trying to be humourous rather than poetic or serious.
He quickly formed a writing partnership with Arthur Mathews and when he was 25 they penned the first series of Father Ted. Prior to that Linehan had dabbled in comedy by writing comedy for shows such as Alas Smith and Jones, Harry Enfield and the Ted and Ralph characters in The Fast Show.
Working with Mathews’ remains one of Linehan’s career highlights, speaking to the British Comedy Guide he said: "I don't think I'll ever have as pleasurable a writing experience as I did writing with Arthur. That was as good as it gets."
Linehan has said he takes his inspiration from a number of comedy’s greats including Woody Allen, whose quote he used as part of his and also Seinfeld, which he says is ‘on a structural level, the best-written sitcom ever’.
After the success of Father Ted Linehan went on to write Black Books with Dylan Moran while he wrote and directed The IT Crowd alone. Linehan penned The IT Crowd (which was originally going to be set in a travel agents) in part as a reaction to the trend after The Office to see traditional sitcoms as dead.
"Because The Office was successful,” he says. “Everyone thinks they have to do stuff on location with a shaky camera, naturalistic performances, and very black humour. And I always think that if everybody's doing one thing, it's probably an idea to do the exact opposite. So this is unashamedly old fashioned.
The effort won Linehan an International Emmy for The IT Crowd as well as a BAFTA for Best Situation Comedy and Best TV Comedy Script.
Among his other awards - and there are many - Linehan has collected the Ronnie Barker Award for writing at the British Comedy Awards – and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
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