The Not Going Out star had recruited the pair for his Edinburgh sketch show, Lee Mack’s Bits, which played the Fringe in 1999 and 2000, when it was nominated for the Perrier award.
He was later approached to be in ITV’s The Sketch Show, which used many of the scripts from the festival shows. He leapt at the chance, even though it meant breaking up the team that proved such a hit in Edinburgh.
In his new autobiography, Mack The Life, he tells how he reacted to the offer to be part of the TV series: ‘Of course I wanted to be in it. Why wouldn’t I want to be in it?
‘Looking back now, many years later, I know the answer to that question. The reason I didn’t want, or shouldn’t have wanted, to be in it was that they didn’t want Dan or Catherine.
‘They wanted to put me together with four other performers, but still use a lot of my sketches. Why didn’t they want the other two? I have absolutely no idea, but if I had to guess it would be because TV people like to tinker.
‘I’m not a great believer in regret, but looking back over the last eighteen years of me doing this job, not keeping our sketch show Bits together and jumping at the first offer to put a version of it on telly is probably the biggest mistake I’ve made.
‘Having said that,I was still a relatively new comedian with one pretty forgettable TV show under my belt [he had hosted a Channel 4 stand-up show called Gas], who was being asked by Steve Coogan, one of Britain’s funniest and most successful comedians, to make a telly show. It’s easy to see how tempting it was.’
Mack said that although he enjoyed working on the show – which also starred Tim Vine, Jim Tavare, Karen Taylor and Ronni Ancona – he didn’t like the attitude towards material that led to ‘just one stinker too many allowed through because it was felt that we were doing a “mainstream” show, and so what the heck.’
- Mack The Life has been published by Bantam Press, priced £18.99. Click here to order from Amazon at £10.99.