Doubled up...

Parsons and Naylor\'s comedy careers

Andy Parsons and Henry Naylor are returning to Radio 2 on July 24 with a new series of Pull-Out Sections, some of which will be recorded at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The topical show is put together just a few days before transmission, with final tweaks being made up to the last minute. The team has even been known to make changes for the repeat if a major news story breaks.

"We meet up on the Tuesday and we have a writing posse of about six of us. We all sit around and throw ideas at each other," says Andy. "We then write it up in the canteen at Broadcasting House with tea and coffee on tap and read it through on the Wednesday and check that it still sounds vaguely funny."

Henry adds: "The nice thing is that the BBC has used the programme to try to encourage new writers, so there are people being invited to submit stuff and, if it's good enough, it'll get on the show."

"That 's how we started," says Andy, "being non-commissioned writers, sending stuff in for Week Ending. And we are now the forum for people who have never written and want to start," says Andy.

It's not the first time the pair have helped aspiring comics. In the early Nineties, they started their own sketch club, TBA, at the Gate Theatre in London's Notting Hill.

"At the time, there was only stand-up on the circuit and we were pretty much the only sketch people," says Henry.

"We put an ad in Time Out asking for people to do sketches and the response was enormous - we had about 200 people."

They ran TBA for about three years and each week had to fit the show around whichever play was on at the Gate during the rest of the week. "We'd comeon and perform a sketch set in a hospital, but on an outer-space set," says Henry.

"The worst one was when we turned up to do the show and found they 'd turned the entire auditorium into a boat," Andy adds.

"It worked really well though and, at the time, it was incredible," says Henry. "It sold out virtually every single time and I certainly think there's been a trend for sketches since then. A lot of the people who are now doing sketches, like Armstrong and Miller, started there."

Andy and Henry started working together after they met at university in the late Eighties. They both performed for the National Student Theatre Company, but both admit they had no particular aspirations to become comedians.

"I had no idea what I wanted to do," says Andy. "I studied law at university and then got a job working on a case at the Glasgow shipyards. It was the most tedious thing I'd ever done.

"I was in this derelict boatyard on the Clyde, the weather was awful and the job was awful. Thankfully, the case settled out of court and they gave me a bit of a payoff, and that was enough for me to start writing for Week Ending."

Henry, on the other hand, had a different career path planned ­ in sewerage.

"My family works in sewer pipes!" he says, proudly. "The business has been going for about 100 years and when I was at uni they kind of expected me to go into it.

"The weird thing is, I know so much about sewage and I 'm always full of shit," he says, adopting his best naff comedy voice. "I'm just waiting for a topical sketch show that requires sewage knowledge and I'm there"

That actually almost happened a few years ago. "We did this Radio Five Live show where we had to travel up the country in a straight line," Andy recalls. "There were 52 episodes and we weren 't allowed to deviate. We did actually go through a sewage farm. Henry then bored everybody stupid with his intimate knowledge of the world of sewers ­ the size of the pipes, the fact that the clay ones are slightly more expensive "

"...and they 're better quality," chips in Henry. "You show me any sewer pipe and I can tell you all about it. I can tell you whether it 's suitable for bed laying or whether you need some aggregate underneath it"

Luckily,the call of comedy was strong enough to lure Henry away from sewage and the pair soon became two of the principal writers for Spitting Image .

"That was great," says Henry. "Spitting Image had hit a lull and gone down to about 4.5million viewers. By the end of the series we got it back to 7.5million.

"It 's a shame there 's nothing really satirical on the telly at the moment ­ politically satiric anyway. There 's plenty of social satire and Rory Bremner does his stuff, but there 's nobody really doing it on the circuit, apart from ourselves, and we feel like we have to cut it with a few more user-friendly things."

First published: July 6, 2003

Published: 22 Mar 2009

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