It was certainly a busy weekend in April 2024, when I got to buy a few beers for Rat Scabies, drummer for The Damned, and then two days later I was buying a couple of house reds for the co-creator of Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd – Graham Linehan.

Date: Sunday 24th March. I had seen online adverts for a Australian talking tour by Graham Linehan. He now did seem linked to right wing organisations, due to his having been cancels for his stand on anti-trans issues, which was a bit of a concern. Luckily the organisers were very good at responding to emails. I established that the Tuesday evening boat cruse was more likely to be full of campaigners, but that the incredibly affordable Sunday morning comedy writing workshop was likely to be just comedy people. So I got two tickets for the event. Right up till that morning of it, we were not sure what to expect.
Something that should have been expected was that we were turning up late. Not by much, but as we entered the venue (announced only an hour-ish before the event to avoid protestors), and found our way to the function room, we were very pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by Graham himself, who was so warm and happy, all the fears disappeared.

meeting Graham Linehan Mar 2024
meeting Graham Linehan Mar 2024

What followed was exactly as advertised, a few hours of workshopping comedy writing techniques, with a few rich examples from Grahams experience. Some of the stand out stories included how trying to keep up with Dylan Moran’s drinking lead to Graham being hospitalised (hardly a light weight at Grahams size). Graham assured us that if you find the right comedy characters, and do enough research on them, that you will find the comedy situations. It was from talking to IT people that he knew that the “Have you tried turning it off and on again” phrase became apparent, and it is still true (though now it feels like ‘have you reset your password’ is the new norm).

Graham did mention his troubles, and how it has effected huis career. In particular how he had come up with an ending to the saga of Father Ted, and was looking at putting it on as a stage play. This lost funding, as has all of his projects. His did write a book, and at the end of the session, I got a copy and Graham kindly signed that, the booklet for one of my Father Ted DVDs, and the slip to Lara’s Black Books DVD set. I wish that I had ordered the Father Ted scripts or Craggy Island book before this, but such is life.

After the workshop session was over Graham said that he would stick around for a drink and a chat, and he did. I was very quick to offer a drink, which Graham took me up on – just the house red. Too easy. I mentioned that I had just bought Rat Scabies a beer the day before (ok, it was two days before), which gave a spark of recognition in Graham.

Straight off the bat I asked Graham how Father Ted ended, as he was not able to get the stage show up.
I used the example of how in the comic 2000ad we had the start of the Alan Moore story The Ballard of Halo Jones, but due to ownership issues, Moore would not finish the story. Now that the illustrator Ian Gibson had passed, we will never know the ending. All of these little bits of names did seem to trigger bit of recognition in Graham, which was the point. to check if he was still in touch with the great underground pop-culture consciousness, or if he was away in right wing closed territory.
He said he would make a deal, if the stage show wasn’t up in two years, he would publish the plot.
Good enough.

Lara seemed to get deep into the reasoning for the cancellation, to the point where Graham gave her his email, so that he could send her some links. It certainly seems that there is something of an issue, but as to the extent of the issue, I really don’t know, but suspect that it is a lot smaller than the fear is leading people to believe. I mentioned to the guy sitting next to me during the actual workshop, how I had a daughter right at the age of concern. He seemed concerned for me, but honestly, none of the sort of issues they are talking about (puberty blockers, etc) have entered our world at all. this guy wasn’t interested in the workshop at all, he was just there to lend support for any anti-trans issues.

After a few drinks it was time for Graham to head off for dinner with his two suspiciously quiet minders. I suspect that they are heavily into the right wing, anti-trans movement, and were either wise enough, or canny enough to keep their views to themselves.

All up, and outstanding day with a four time BAFTA award winning writer.