As I sat down to chat to two of the stars of “The Inbetweeners” franchise – Okay, so there’s not sleepwear or anything it’s simply a Television series and feature film that falls under the franchise umbrella – I’m itching to confess. I’ve never seen an episode of “The Inbetweeners”. Even worse, I’ve probably seen more episodes of “Charlie & Lola” that any 36-year-old man out there. Needless to say, Simon Bird and Joe Thomas demanded an explanation.
I’m sorry but if the four-year-old wants “Charlie & Lola”, “Stuart Little” or, er, “Twilight”… that’s what’s on. You don’t get to watch normal television when you’re a parent. But the show is definitely on my to do list.
Simon: That’s good.
Joe: Oh, cool yeah. Well, you know, they’re quite short. So you might be able to run through them easy, yeah.
Short? How many series have you done now?
Joe: Three series.
Simon: Six episodes each
Joe: Yeah. English series. So really, really short.
Simon: And I think that’s probably it for the TV shows. We won’t do any more of those. You know, potentially, maybe another movie? There are talks but nothing concrete in that regard, though.
So enough of our televisual habits, How did the idea of the movie come up? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Simon: Well it’s not… Not necessarily without… The show is really about the creators, Iain [Morris] and Damon [Beesley], who are in their late 30s. Basically that… I mean the first season in particular of the series was just totally almost sort of word for word taken from their teenage years. And the film is based on a number of anecdotes from similar holidays. So it was their idea obviously to do the film. I think they were interested in bringing this American drama, the teen comedy, to England and doing the British take on that because we really haven’t had a comedy about teenagers on TV. I can’t remember one. It seems so odd because it’s obviously such a great area for comedy. I think teenagers are obviously inherently very funny.
Joe: Absolutely, they are funny. I think… And then often stuff just focuses in on how intense it is, how painful it is, life. The kind of issues. And the thing is it obviously… It is painful and intense and confusing. But teenagers do also laugh all the time. Teenagers are maybe the funniest group of the population because you know, they’re young, they’re sharp and they’re completely fucked up. They’ve got all this…
Simon: That’s because they’re bored. They’ve got nothing to do, but make each other laugh. They don’t have to worry about the stock exchange and mortgages.
That’s right. No debt collection agencies until 14.
Joe : If you can try and trap into that, I think you know its’ a rich… The Americans obviously realized that.
Simon: And the TV shows have their way of trying to do that. The film just had its own natural life it felt like. It was something we started, because the show started so small, and so few people watched it, and we sort of started joking about it after the second series, which is why I think the audience… And we sort of had a laugh about the idea of the four of us being in a film. I think it’s sort of the main joke of the film, is the idea that would be a film based around four people who obviously don’t look like movie stars in any way, shape or form.
Joe : Yeah, we have these wide shots and it shows these just four guys who look like the ones we see in news reports…
Simon: And then people start taking those sort of jokes quite more seriously, and so I looked into the possibility of that. And I think it’s because the DVD sales of the show were so good. They sort of knew that there would be an audience who would watch it. I think they knew they’d make their money back. And then it was a much bigger hit than anybody predicted. We reached a whole new audience beyond just the teenagers that we were sure would come watch it.
And story-wise it’s taken that ”Revenge of the Nerds 2 : Nerds in Paradise” kind of approach where they go on holiday.
Simon : Yeah, exactly.
That’s what I like to throw it all back to, “Revenge of the Nerds 2”.
Simon: Yeah, a classic [Laughs]
It’s Return To Gilligan’s Island. They go on a holiday. Family Ties vacation. Was that always the idea that…
Joe : It probably is the…
Simon: It was just perfect for the characters because that’s what… I mean finish the schooling, which is what teenagers do when they finish school and the series ended with them finishing school. So the next step would that they would have gotten a holiday together. And like you said, there’s a traditions, and certainly the sitcoms… Well not an illustrious tradition, by any means, all you did was sort of go to a holiday…
Joe: Run abroad.
Simon: And then what hopefully…
Joe: What gave this one a sort of better chance is that there is a tradition of school leavers going on a holiday. I think one could argue that you could make a film about lapped holiday without it being the imprint. So I think it’s a discrete idea.
Simon: Oh, definitely, yeah. In the same way that there are American films about the prom, there could just as easily be ones about around holiday, because that’s what kids do.
Joe: If ever there was, we never thought we’d be… I think writers have a backburner of ideas. This was a sort of lapped holiday thing. I suppose maybe even Damon thought they would do that anyway, if the show… If they couldn’t… It’s because the imprint got to the point of success where they were able to do it with those characters. I think if they didn’t feel they would have got an audience with the series they might have made it, but just set probably with other actors and done it that way. I think they certainly felt that it was in either case worth exploring.
Yeah, yeah, totally. And I mean, some of the scenes in the film did they leave you red-faced a bit?
Joe: Yeah. There was some hard stuff to film. I’m naked quite a lot in the film. Also naked to a level where I just think… You got the top half naked… [chuckle] In a way, who am I kidding? It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. It’s not like you wear underwear. So that was a hard film. It’s just sort of bit… It starts to just wear you down a bit being naked in public. You’re alright for the first bit because you’ve got this adrenaline rush and you think I will deal right with it. And then actually after… It’s when people start getting a bit bored with you, I mean it’s not really that…
Simon: And I got so used to being naked, it was… Almost as strange as being with clothes on obviously, people were like “Joe, Please, take it off.”
Joe : Yeah, actually it does kind of starts to wear you a bit, if you’re made to be naked for a long time. Because everything will take much longer on TV than you expect. Like you have to… You think you’ll work it out and then they’ll film it and then it will be over and done with. But actually they’re like, they’ll just set it up and then they need to have a look at it, and then you do it again and then when they’ve finally got that shot and they need five other angles and then it’s four or five hours often. So, yeah that’s quite a lot on you…
Simon: Tough for everyone else though.
Yeah. How do you work yourself up to do such scenes, do you have a couple of drinks?
Joe : Yeah, just… We… Towards the end of the shoot, we mostly used to [chuckle] have a drink…But in general, we tried not to mix alcohol with work.
Simon: Yeah, it’s a job and you don’t want to mess it up. To be screwing around…
Joe: You got to remember your lines and do them properly.
Simon: But I think in general, I mean I didn’t have much to do but I think in general we don’t really mind that stuff. We know as long it’s going to be funny, we’d much rather get in the film and get a laugh. Yeah.
Post- “Inbetweeners”, you guys pursuing your film careers and so forth?
Joe: We’re certainly trying to get into… I mean sort of… Sort of, I mean, we’re writing at the moment but we’re writing a… It was a TV show we’re writing. And working with Iain and Damon on the series and the film is really inspiring and that has given us huge amount of impetus throughout our careers. I’ve actually… The most recent thing I did after the movie was another TV series called Fresh Meats, which is about university in the UK. And we are also writing a show together called Chickens which is a historical sitcom. At the moment, I think it’s more that we’re quite keen to try and write something, be the creators of something.
Simon: Those are my main ambitions, the writing, I’m probably done being on a show. Unless, you have something going in one of your films, Clint? [chuckle] But yeah, I think we’ll sort of take it as it comes.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely.
How do you think Australians will take to the movie?
Joe : Well, I hope…
Have you watched it with an Aussie audience?
Joe: Yeah, we have watched it with an audience. We saw it in Melbourne last night, the Melbourne premiere, and it was going down very well. So I mean obviously at premiers, the audience is slightly more than your rigueur’ed up than in normal cinema audience, but there were vital signs. And I think Australian and British humor is really compatible…
It is. Do the “Mother & Son” and “Steptoe & Son” comparison. Chalk and…. Chalk.
Joe: I think more so than American to Australian or even American to British, I think… That kind of embracing the sort of loserness of the characters I think is something I think you don’t find so much in American comedy. I do think Americans have trouble not having happy endings. I just genuinely do. You just need… And I’m being a hypocrite because our film does have a happy ending, but most of the episodes of the show don’t.
Simon: Yeah, it’s a small happy ending because I think you do think that most of the characters are really quite tragic and…
Joe Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Simon: And then you feel… I don’t know how much you believe that we’re actually going to be actually happy with their lives, I don’t know.
Joe: Yeah. But I mean that certainly the redeeming feature is the comedy and that’s basically the message in a way.
Simon: And famously in British sitcoms in particular the main characters are often losers and outcasts.
Joe: They take…
Simon: David Brent, for instance.
Joe: I think if you’re like the world leader in this sort of… In culture then you’ll probably feel a bit of a need to show people a successful way of living your life. Like if you’re not American the onus is off you really, but we don’t fucking know, that didn’t work did it? They didn’t say that would work.
Simon: We’ve just been around longer as well.
Joe: Yeah. Obviously, stuff hasn’t worked out. [laughter]
Simon: It’s probably more worn down.
Joe : I think so, yeah. That sort of fresh-faced optimism. But I don’t know. But whatever it is I think we hope it will find an audience and we think that it’s a… Australians will enjoy it, hopefully.
The warts-and-all approach worked for me, so it could work for the rest.
“The Inbetweeners” is now showing