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Monday, 19 March, 2001, 15:49 GMT
Comedian Paul Whitehouse quizzed

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Mid life crisis, tragedy, getting hammered with your friends - it's all part of the search for Happiness, a new comedy drama series written by and starring Paul Whitehouse.

Paul Whitehouse began his comedy writing career with Harry Enfield in the mid-80s for the character of Stavros, who appeared on the hugely popular Channel 4 series, Saturday Night Live.

Paul has since worked on a variety of comedy productions including, The Harry Enfield Television Programme, The Fast Show, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and The Paul Merton Show.

How did he get into writing and performing comedy? What has been his greatest achievement? Where does he get his ideas from?


Karen Wilkin, London, UK:

Who is the character Chris - a one-man crime wave - from the Fast Show based on and do you frequently mix in such dodgy circles?

Paul Whitehouse:

I have met some dodgy people in my time but no I don't associate with criminals!

The character came to me one day when I was going round to Charlie Higson's house and he had left his door open and I thought I could just walk in here and nick a load of stuff - not that I would have Charlie! It literally came to me then. If I had been a bit more dodgy I could have gone in an nicked a load of stuff off him!

Aiden, Laos:

What do you think of Chris Morris and his series Jam that has caused controversy when shown on television recently?

Paul Whitehouse:

I wouldn't be surprised if Chris had no notion of who I am. I didn't see Jam - I have got all six episodes at home on video. So I haven't yet seen Jam but I do intend to watch it.

Gino, Australia:

Do you have any aspirations to work in Australia?

Paul Whitehouse:

Yes, I would love to go to Australia. It would be a good laugh to do a Fast Show tour in Australia - that is if anyone knew who on earth we were! If you can rustle up a few mates Gino and assure us of a good audience I would love to do a tour of Australia.

Robin Johnson, Los Angeles, USA:

After obtaining such a large degree of success for your past projects have you found that you have been given more of a free reign to do what you want with Happiness than you were in the past?

Paul Whitehouse:

I don't think I would have even considered doing something like Happiness earlier anyway just because it relies on certain experiences and shared experiences as well. I wouldn't have been able to do the show years ago and I wouldn't have been able to get the celebrity voices for the animated bear!

Bob Bailey, Lancaster:

Your material comes from people and observed situations but do you find that you were influenced by comedians from when you were younger and is this still the case?

Paul Whitehouse:

The comedians that I did like when I was young was Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Monty Python. Tommy Cooper used to make me laugh and I liked Dad's Army and Morecombe and Wise. But I would say that Pete and Dud and Monty Python were my main influences.

The people who have influenced me recently were Harry Enfield obviously - I wouldn't be doing this without having met Harry and also his encouragement. But in terms of the joy with which they approach their comedy it would be Reeves and Mortimer. I think they are far and away the best comedians that we have had in this country for a long while.

Darren Harris, London, UK:

Unlike yourself I am useless at delivering jokes however people always laugh at the stuff I write. What is a good way to start as a comedy writer?

Paul Whitehouse:

I am not actually very good at delivering jokes. I can't tell jokes very well. As a performer and writer I wrote what I knew I could do which is little character pieces rather than specific jokes. I already had an "in" in that I knew with Harry and I that was the humour we liked - we liked character-based humour. Harry had his foot in the door in a certain way although not many of his characters had been developed at that point.

We wrote to our strengths which was the catch-phrase based characters. But if you are confident in your ability as a writer and you have got funny scripts then send it to the BBC or anyone else and it will get read. If they don't read your scripts they are idiots. So if you have something that you like and you are happy with it then send it to people and they will read it. That is the only advice I can give.

John Marsden, Bristol, UK:

What is your definition of happiness?

Paul Whitehouse:

John, I have absolutely no idea. I think it is an elusive thing that we hanker after and realistically we all know we are not going to get it or certainly not all the time anyway. So just be grateful to grab what you can when you can!

Bob, Hertfordshire, UK:

Do you miss working with Harry Enfield or had that relationship run its course?

Paul Whitehouse:

Actually I have done some work with Harry very recently. I don't think the relationship had run its course but I think it was important for me in retrospect to go and do other stuff although I didn't have that burning ambition to go and do something else.

I think the only thing I felt that about was the Fast Show. I knew I needed to go off and write that and do it. I worked with Harry recently - it is actually quite nice working with Harry occasionally because I don't have so much of the responsibility to carry. It is good for me as a performer and it is fun - I can muck about and not be the one who has to think what are we going to do next. In a way it is an easier thing to do to work with Harry than it is doing the Fast Show or Happiness.

Carole, Leeds, UK:

Are there any plans to resurrect the Fast Show?

Paul Whitehouse:

Not at the moment. We don't plan to resurrect the Fast Show - we certainly don't intend to do a series. I am sure that might change in a few years - I'll come knocking on Greg Dyke's door when I haven't got any money left!

There is always a possibility that we might do a one-off. I would still love to do a tour and properly go around the country and not just stay in London. My great show biz pal - Johnny Depp - claimed the other day that he told us we should do a Fast Show film and he would love to be in it. But rather than do a film specifically as the Fast Show, if we can think of a good idea for a film in which we can use some of the characters and Depp wants to be in it I am sure we will do it.

Paul Derbyshire, South Africa:

Who is the funniest man in Britain at the moment?

Paul Whitehouse:

I would say it is Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer but that is my personal opinion. Some people would say I am wrong but that is who I would say. Or maybe Simon Day.

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