Graham Linehan turned down £200k to take his name off the Father Ted musical | Writer could have saved the project by walking away

Graham Linehan turned down £200k to take his name off the Father Ted musical

Writer could have saved the project by walking away

Graham Linehan was offered £200,000 to walk away from the Father Ted musical so it could be staged without toxic links to his gender-wars fights – but turned it down.

Producers Hat Trick, which also made the original Channel 4 sitcom, offered the payment to avoid the divisive issue turning into box office poison. The writer has been effectively cancelled over his vehement campaign over the trans lobby, and backers felt the show had no chance of success if Linehan’s name was attached.


He had written a script with his former writing partner Arthur Matthews, but was surprised when he was asked to step aside.

‘They said, "We want you off the show",’ the writer says in a major profile in The Times today. ‘And they offered me £200,000 to walk away from it.’

Hat Trick managing director  Jimmy Mulville does not deny the account, saying that the show was a ‘surefire' West End hit – but only if Linehan was not directly linked to it, other than as a co-creator of the original sitcom.

Mulville recalls telling the writer:  ‘We’re not getting at you. We’re trying to save the work and the only way we save the work now is by disassociating it from you, tragic as that is.’

He added: ‘I know writers really well. It’s hard for writers to do that. And I said it would take an enormous amount of personal courage and humility, but the only way that we go forward is to make a statement. We had statements prepared where we said, we believe in Graham’s right to speak his mind and that he’s sincere in his beliefs.’

Also speaking to The Times, Mulville added that he hated the way people were cancelled for their views, calling it ‘a horrible aspect of the modern world – but it’s reality.’

However, he did deny Linehan’s claim that  Hat Trick wanted him off the project because they were ‘terrified’ of their younger members of staff.

The 54-year-old writer made a similar claim against the producers of Steve Martin and Martin Short’s comedy Only Murders In The Building – who invited him to direct an episode, only to withdraw the offer soon afterwards.

He said: ‘I said, "Yes, please! Fantastic!" They were like, "We’ll get in touch with your agent. We’ll set it all up". Maybe five minutes later, the phone rings again. I pick it up. "Oh, I’m sorry, someone else has taken it."

‘I know exactly what happened. They went out and they said, "Guess what, everyone. We’ve got Graham Linehan." And someone, some kooky intern who wears a lot of liner, said, "Oh, he’s a bigot."’

However it is not just ‘kooky interns’ who have turned against Linehan – who also wrote The IT Crowd and Black Books – over his relentless tweets on trans issues.

In the broadly sympathetic Times interview, the writer expresses anger at the lack of support he has received from others in the industry.

He said: ‘I thought this would be over in a few months and someone would step in. I really did think as soon as people heard what’s been happening to children, all my friends, satirists, comedians, progressives, people who marched against the Iraq war, lesbians, gay men, they’d all come rushing to my aid.

‘And no one turned up. Just no one turned up. All I got was dirty looks, people ghosting me.

‘I have met people, people I’ve worked with — big names — and begged them to become involved. Begged them. Please just say, "Graham Linehan is right," or "Graham Linehan has some important contributions to make on this," anything that makes it sound as though I’m doing this for anything other than recreational cruelty.

‘That’s how I’m portrayed. Like a recreational sadist. And none of them will stand up for me.’

Last month Linehan performed stand-up at the anti-cancel culture night Comedy Unleashed at the Backyard Comedy Club in East London – and he suggested that may be a future for him.

He said: ‘The stand-up felt good, you know — getting in front of a crowd, people laughing. Also, I’ve got this weird story of mine that I can use to make jokes.’

» Read Graham Linehan: the trans debate left me cancelled and broke in The Times

Published: 17 Mar 2023

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.