'She was absolutely crackers!' | Nick Mohammed on the teacher who inspired Mr Swallow © Chris Blacklay

'She was absolutely crackers!'

Nick Mohammed on the teacher who inspired Mr Swallow

Ted Lasso star Nick Mohammed has detailed how he based his irritating alter-ego Mr Swallow on his old English teacher.

And the comic, who was educated at Abbey Grange High School in Leeds, explained the accent comes over as camp as the teacher was a woman. 

He also got his name because the teacher, who is now dead, use to noticeably gulp to punctuate some of her rants.

Speaking to presenter Nick Grimshaw and Angela Hartnett  on their Dish podcast, Mohammed said: ‘ I do that impression at school from when I was like 15. 

‘She'd do things like we were learning The Merchant of Venice and she'd divide up the parts and we'd read it together to get through it. And she'd be like, "Right, who wants to play Antonio?" "No?" but she wouldn't look up and she'd be like, "I'll do that then. Who wants to play Portia? I'll do that then."

So then the whole lesson was then her going "Antonio: On sooth I know not why I am so sad. So is it your ship Antonio?" And we're like what the hell is going [on]… She was Absolutely crackers. 

‘One lesson she stomped in and was like, "Right, we're having a debate." And we were like, "Why?" And she was like, "We're going to debate capital punishment." It's not on the syllabus.  She literally just slammed down these A3 printouts of an infamous serial killer, slapped them down, was like, "I think they should have been put to death." And like, we're like, "Okay…" Then she continued to talk at us as if we had been heckling her. 

‘She was using her position as a teacher to  spout these … [opinions] just as a platform, and it always tickled me and it always made me laugh.’

So when he started performed comedy sketches as part of the Cambridge Footlights ‘occasionally I'd slip into that voice  it  for me at least, it made things ten per cent funnier. 

‘I used to do lots of different characters and that was the one that I could sense was getting the biggest reaction, and now I don't do anything else but, but that character.

'I think in this next touring show I will, now she has sadly passed away, will actually talk about the origins of it because I think it's funny to talk as Swallow about her.’

Mohammed also spoke about being recognised from Ted Lasso – especially as he used to live in Richmond, South West London, where the Apple TV comedy is set.

The most notable occasion was when he and his son Arthur spotted a Ted Lasso themed walking tour around the town, and Arthur yelled out: ‘My dad's in Ted Lasso!’ 

‘They went mad,’ Mohammed said. ‘I think they thought it was maybe part of the tour, like  we’d planned it. The walking tour person was like, "Thank you so much, thank you." 

‘But it's touching and I feel so grateful for that show. It has been life-changing… and it's so nice to have been in a show that has touched people in the way that we know it has.’

On the podcast, Mohammed also spoke about learning magic from a Paul Daniels magic set and performing at weddings and bar mitzvahs, as a teenager, long before he thought about acting and comedy.

* Dish from Waitrose is available on all podcast providers, including Apple.

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Published: 22 May 2024

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