Jane Bussmann

Jane Bussmann

Bussman writes 'the rudest sitcom ever'

...and now wants someone to fund it

Smack The Pony writer Jane Bussmann has written 'the rudest sitcom ever' – and is seeking commercial sponsorship to make it happen.

The former celebrity journalist co-wrote and stars in Distinguished Ladies, an anarchic, semi-autobiographical sitcom set in the trashy, showbusiness supplement of a national newspaper.

Sally Phillips, Morgana Robinson, Fonejacker's Kayvan Novak, The Thick Of It's Olivia Poulet and Psychoville's Vilma Hollingbery will co-star in the sitcom, which Bussmann wrote with African documentary producer Naisola Grimwood.

A read-through was recorded in London earlier this month, with the pilot loosely based on the initial part of Bussmann's 2009 memoir The Worst Date Ever – or How It Took A Comedy Writer To Expose Africa's Secret War.

Bussmann, who also wrote for Brass Eye and South Park, said her sitcom’s style is inspired by Absolutely Fabulous and The Young Ones, 'how it was really fast and loose with mad little inserts', while 'ripping the shit out of celebrity, like the Zoolander of celebrity culture'.

Her book revealed how she lost her job writing celebrity features in Los Angeles when her editor Liz Jones fabricated quotes in her interview with Ashton Kutcher, prompting Busmmann to set out to Uganda to follow conflict negotiator John Prendergast, reporting on the war, poverty and corruption that she witnessed.

Phillips directed Bussmann's Edinburgh Fringe show, Bussmann's Holiday, adapted from the book, and plays the magazine's editor, 'a big, fun monster, who's always enjoying herself, even when she's throwing an absolute fucking shit fit and firing everybody'.

The character is not specifically based on Daily Mail columnist Jones but is 'a composite of pretty much every newspaper and magazine editor since time immemorial. There were quite a few journalists in the audience who were saying “that's exactly like my boss”, so I think Sally nailed it. She's got the right element of: “Why has this woman got responsibility for anything?”'

Bussmann plays herself, Jane, 'the journalist in the middle of it all'. 'I don't really act, I just stand there and take the shit from all these people, so it's a very old school sitcom in that sense'.

Robinson is Phillips' 'beautifully thick' daughter who works on the magazine for 'no reason at all. Basically, she's Peaches Geldof. But likeable'. Poulet is Melissa, the politically correct deputy editor and office creep, while Hollingbery plays Jane's long-suffering, Trotskyist mother, who 'likes a drink'.

Novak is Bussmann's Australian, metrosexual half-brother, 'whose life goes very well because he's very beautiful and happy. He's decided he wants to work in an African slum so he can empower them with beauty and make-up tips. He's a bit Ollie Locke in Made in Chelsea.'

A number of journalists, from publications as diverse as the Mail, BBC and Heat magazine makes cameos, with Times columnist Caitlin Moran appearing during a press conference at Buckingham Palace, 'doing the funniest pratfall I've ever seen when she got bodyslammed'. As with government insiders in Yes Minister, 'we've got loads of friends in the media who feed us stories from behind the scenes. Even though it's big, loud and bright, it's based on fact.'

Bussmann is no web broadcasting ingénue. She and her regular co-writer David Quantick are credited with creating the world's first internet sitcom in 2000, The Junkies, which was described as 'Friends on heroin' and starred Phillips, Peter Serafinowicz and Peter Baynham as addicts, attracting three million hits.

After a fruitless seven-year development deal with the BBC and the failure to adapt The Worst Date Ever into a film with Big Talk and Film Four, Bussmann is reluctant to 'rely on the TV development process', speaking instead to advertising agencies about sponsoring the show.

'I'd rather work with a big corporation that isn't giving me notes and wants to make things happen fast, than get bogged down in development for years and years. The audience is simply never going to see it it if we do it the normal way, the cast will go off and get other jobs because they're all very popular and successful. And I'll lose the will to live.

'A commercial deal is an honest business, we advertise their product, they give us money to make more shows. It's not seven years of pain.'

-by Jay Richardson

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Published: 18 May 2013

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Jane Bussmann: Bussman's Holiday


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