Man writes TV comedy about paper

After
the success of Phoenix Nights, which he co-wrote with Peter Kay, David
Spikey has turned his attention from the northern club circuit to local
newspapers in his new comedy Dead Man Weds . Spikey plays exnational
journalist Gordon Garden, the new editor of the Fogburrow Advertiser,
alongside Johnny Vegas as the paper’s chief reporter, Lewis Donat.

What inspired you to write about a local newspaper?

When
I worked as a bio-medical scientist I was driving home from the
hospital and saw a hoarding outside a newsagents from the Bolton
Evening News that said ‘Dead Man Weds’.

I went: “Fuck off! I’ve got to get this paper.”

What
actually happened was a guy had been drilling a hole in a wall, hit
some wires and had a massive electric shock. The paramedics came, he’d
arrested on the way to the hospital, was technically dead in the
ambulance for a couple of minutes and they brought him back to life.
So, six months later he was sufficiently well to get married and go on
his honeymoon. There was a big picture of him beaming on the front of
the Bolton Evening News with ‘Dead Man Weds’ above it, with no inverted
commas, punctuation or anything.

I got obsessed with going
through newspapers and looking at headlines. I searched across the
country for ones I could use. I had two categories, one was banal and
the other hopeless – totally not newsworthy, but they’ve had to make a
story out of it because nothing else has happened like ‘Some trains may
be late’.

I’d included the ‘Dead Man Weds’ set in my stand-up act
and used to have the newspaper with me and I did a whole comedy routine
about newspapers.

I also got side-tracked into the obituaries.

The
people who write poems for them – what are they thinking? They’re
supposed to comfort the bereaved but all they’re worried about is
making them rhyme: ‘Tears and flowers are all we can share, for today’s
your birthday and you’re not there.’

Somewhere the sentiment’s missing.

Can you remember any other headlines that really stood out?

One
of my favourites was ‘Small blaze averted’. How do you know it was only
going to be small and how did you avert it? I think the editor was
having a slow news day, dropped his fag on the carpet, put his foot on
it and went: “There you go – there’s your news for this week”.

Are all the headlines in the series genuine?

50 per cent are absolutely unchanged, the rest I’ve sort of tweaked.

Did you do any other research for the series?

I
went in to a couple of my local papers. Even the Chorley Guardian was
too high-tech. There were loads of computers, people using Quark and
hustle and bustle, so it wasn’t right. So I went down the road to the
local free paper. I went in the office and knew I’d found it – four
people, sat round twiddling their thumbs, looking at computer screens,
playing solitaire.

I didn’t need to do anything as I’d already written the series, it was a case of confirming I’d got the environment right.

Is the character Gordon Garden based on anyone you know?

I
guess he’s based on me. My middle name’s Gordon and it’s also my dad’s
name. Good job, as the editor of the local paper’s called Gordon so he
probably thinks I’m writing about him.

Do you think you’re giving a fair portrayal of regional journalists?

If the number of emails I’ve had from journalists is anything to go by I think I might be close to the mark.

I haven’t set out to stereotype local journalists.

I’ve had a lot saying: “You’ve written about my office.” They’ve all been quite positive.

The
situation’s secondary to the characters. I’ve put them in a newspaper
office because it’s an interesting environment. You can bring news
stories in every week that can affect the plot or the way things are
happening, apart from just concentrating on their relationships and
interactions.

Do you think your local papers provide accurate news?

I think they do, given what happens round here.

You’ve
got the banality of it all, where they must be sitting there, deadline
approaching, and nothing’s happened all week apart from a change to the
chemists’ rota.

The other week the Chorley Citizen ran a massive
front-page headline: ‘Need a loo? Use the pub’. The local library was
having its loo refurbished. People were going to the library asking to
use the toilet and they were told to use the pub. It’s not even news,
is it?

Journalism, according to Gordon Garden, is about diligence, integrity and truth. Is that what you believe?

Of course it is. That’s why in the series I put up a poster of All The President’s Men to motivate everybody!

How have you been treated by the media?

People
seem to like me, so I haven’t really had any bad press, but it’s never
accurate. The worst interview was when I was talking about all my fan
mail at the British Comedy Awards. I said I get emails saying ‘I love
your blue eyes’ and all that bollocks. I think they’re off nice young
ladies then you look at their email addresses and they’re like
sexyfunkydiva and hotbitch and my wife’s like “Who’s this? Have you
been emailing porn sites?” One of the tabloids ran it as ‘I’m a stud’
says Spikey in a big, bold font. My mates really took the piss, it was
pretty embarrassing.

Dead Man Weds is on ITV1 on Wednesdays at 10pm.

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