Neil and Rob Gibbons wrote the the Fosters-sponsored Mid Morning Matters web show that saw the return of Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge. This has led to them working on Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, as co-writers and executive producers.
In a recent interview with AskMen.com they spoke about the film and writing comedy.
Rob: “90% of the time on any Partridge project, it’s me, Neil and Steve in a room and Armando Iannucci if he’s around.”
Neil: “Armando’s a sort-of godfather. He’s very good at anchoring things back to the Partridge essence. So, if you take too much of a divergence, he’ll close that road.”
Rob: “With Mid Morning Matters, which were self-contained 12 minute episodes just in the radio studio, we would write a script, take it in, pull it apart with Steve and rebuild it again. But sometimes we start from scratch with Steve in a room. Both times the process is the same, really. You start talking about the joke and why it doesn’t work and then try and improvise ways to fix it. And you have to sort-of do that in an Alan voice.”
Neil: “Which is hard, because even if you did the best Partridge impression in the world, it’s still going to be rubbish because you’re doing it in front of Alan Partridge.”
Rob: “…But you have to go halfway because otherwise it’s not clear if it’ll work. Sometimes Steve will be ‘doing Alan’ and then he’ll say something like ‘last night I saw a great episode of Air Crash Investigation,’ and you haven’t realised he’s back as Steve. You’ll start writing it done and he’ll say, ‘Oh, no. That was me.’”
Neil: “On the day of Alpha Papa shoots, we’d often have to write fresh scripts. Everything we’ve ever done with Steve kinda goes like that. Even when they did Knowing Me, Knowing You in front of a live audience, changes were being made right up until the last minute.”
Rob: “And you have to buy into that or you’ll get spat out the other end. I remember on the first day of anything we do Partridge-wise, any new cast or crew just go a bit pale. They’ll say, ‘This can’t be how it goes all the time, right?’ The first day of the film, all the assistant directors were just looking around as we’d be doing a take, then stop, change the line again. Get halfway through, stop, change it again. We were getting to somewhere good, but it wasn’t always set it stone when we started shooting it. The crew were all looking around saying, ‘Surely it can’t be like this for eight weeks?’ They were coming up to Neil and I saying, ‘You’ve done this before, this is a one off, right?’ and we’d say, ‘No, no, this is quite a good day, actually.’ And it went on from there.”
Neil: “As a writer though, those environments are good though, because you don’t ever become precious about lines. Because you’re writing new lines constantly.”
You can read the rest of the interview over at the newly revamped and relaunched AskMen.com
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is in cinemas nationwide now