A couple of years after their well-received Comedy Lab, Anna Crilly and Katy Wix have finally got their own full-length sketch show, which starts this Wednesday on Channel 4.
As big fans of sketch, Digital Spy were very excited to sit down with the duo to quiz them about comedy, controversy, and sharing an award nomination with Rylan Clark. Here's what they had to say.
When did you decide to start doing sketch together?
Anna: "We met doing stand-up in 2003 and we weren't very good at it! Either of us. We both thought each other were funny."
Katy: "Dreadful... I hadn't really seen any comedy, that was my problem."
Anna: "I certainly wasn't ready to do an hour of stand-up at Edinburgh the following year. So I said to old Wixy, 'Let's get together and do some sketches'. And the rest is herstory."
Katy: "It meant that I could leave Wales, which was really exciting, and come to London."
What sort of stand-up did you do - was it sketch based?
Anna: "It was quite odd stuff... I used to do an impression of a jellyfish, for heaven's sake. We could express ourselves a bit easier doing sketches."
Your Comedy Lab was a couple of years ago - was this picked up right away?
Anna: "No, we waited a year for it to be commissioned. We pretty much gave up all hope."
Katy: "It was like a slow-moving juggernaut, this show, slowly turning around on a motorway."
Anna: "We finished filming last year, last summer."
How come it's taken so long to get aired - just scheduling?
Anna: "It's partly a new person taking over at Channel 4. There was lots of shifting about. I'm sure that had something to do with it."
Ash Atalla [The Office] is your executive producer - what does that actually mean?
Katy: "He turned up for lunch every day and then left again!"
Anna: "He turned up and threw cash in our faces and said, 'BE FUNNIER', and then off it went."
Katy: "'Put some pineapples in the set', stuff like that."
Do you have affection for the shows you spoof or do you despise them?
Anna: "I think 'despise' is a very strong word."
Katy: I think you have to be fond of something to pastiche it. If you hated it, it would just come across as bitter. The game show stuff, we just find it hilarious that there are so many ridiculous game shows on at the moment... that was a lot of fun, coming up with the ideas for the game shows. They're believable, I think."
There's no studio audience on the show - was that an active decision on your part?
Anna: "They weren't allowed in!"
Katy: "Once the audience are in, everything gets a bit bigger."
Anna: "You lose the nuance, I think, with a studio audience."
Katy: "Which for certain shows is what you want - it's big and silly and in your face. But for our stuff, we like to play quietly on set, and you don't have the opportunity to do that when there's 300-odd people baying for your blood."
Anna: "Audience stuff tends to be very planned out. It's a bit more theatrical, you rehearse it. We quite like not knowing... being able to play."
How much was Channel 4 involved in decisions like that and in general?
Katy: "They've been awesome... they've been there for support when we've needed it, but left us to it when they've been happy that we're being funny enough."
Anna: "They knew our live stuff, so they knew what they were getting, I think. They weren't surprised when it was surreal."
Did you always want a TV thing rather than say, making these sketches for YouTube?
Katy: "We've done stuff on the web and just put it on YouTube, but then Channel 4 offered us loads of money to do it properly!"
Anna: "I don't think I even know how to upload something. That would be my first hurdle."
Katy: "And you need someone to get you up in the morning."
What comedy and specifically sketch stuff are you both into?
Katy: "My biggest influence is probably Kenny Everett, as a kid. And then later on, Monty Python and then later still, The Fast Show was the first thing I watched and went, 'Oh my god, this is me, this is what I want to do'."
Anna: "Big Train, I loved. That was a very original-feeling sketch show. I think Chris Morris's stuff really got me. You felt like you were part of a special gang."
Katy: "Can I have Chris Morris too?"
If Chris stopped directing hit movies to do some more TV - would you be knocking down his door for a role?
Anna: "We'd be offering him money to be in this - he's a ledge!"
Sketch has that 'hit and miss' reputation - there was that great Mitchell & Webb sketch about just that. Do you fret about that and worry about pacing and sketch order because of it?
Anna: "It's pointless trying to please everyone, because you won't. There's already a wide variety of things that are people's favourite. It's always quite surprising that people go for something that you wouldn't expect."
Katy: "And ultimately, nothing in the show is a mistake! This is Channel 4, we're not messing about. Just because one person doesn't get it."
Anna: "In a way, that's the biggest pressure on a sketch show. Keeping up the quality. You've got to not have a miss."
Critics can be more vicious about sketch than any other art form - are you worried about the response?
Anna: "We don't read them!"
Anna: "Doing ten years of Edinburgh... I'm not on Twitter, I've got a hidden Facebook page, there's no point in opening yourself up to it. We do a job, and we enjoy our job and I'm sure there's enough people who like it."
Is the show made up of recurring characters?
Anna: "There are a few recurring, for sure."
Katy: "We tried to avoid it too much, because it can get really repetitive. We do a German sketch - a German spoof of a particular show but every week that German show is a different show - German Jeremy Kyle, Antiques Roadshow, Countdown. Because sometimes when you're watching sketch shows you feel like you could be watching the same episode."
Katy: "We wanted to be unpredictable - that you're not just waiting for the catchphrase. Which I think we've done."
Lee Mack is the gorgeously-haired presenter of German Countdown, Kuntworts - how did you get him involved?
Katy: "He asked us if we got a series - he's always said can I come back and do some stuff. He loves doing other people's shows because there's no pressure for him."
Anna: "Even on set, he has to stop himself wandering off and looking at the monitor - he forgets that he's not in charge!"
Katy: "He says, 'People never ask me to do things, Wix, I want to do it!'"
You'll still be working with Lee on Not Going Out - how will that work with Tim Vine gone?
Katy: "Yeah, we've just finished. Well, I just do the same old thing. But yeah, he's got his reasons and that was that really. We did everything to persuade him. It's fine. It's surprising. It still works. There's no replacement as such. There's more hi-jinks."
Why did Lee decide not to replace him?
Katy: "I think he thought it would be two big changes. To get used to him not being there is one thing, and then to have someone else is too much."
Is sketch 'coming back', or is it always there and that's just something journalists write?
Anna: "I suppose because there's such a sketch scene, we never think it's dead. But I know what you mean - it tends to come and go in trends... I hope so, that it's back in fashion."
What other guest stars have you got lined up?
Katy: "We've got Martin Kemp... he was lovely. He was such a pro! He was just utterly charming, really good fun. He said the reason he was doing our show - because you think, 'You don't really need to, do you Martin?' - was because you need to make sure you never take yourself too seriously."
Anna: "Ruby Wax, and old Eamonn [Holmes] is back.... and Brian Dowling."
Is there anyone else out there you'd love to get into one of your sketches?
Anna: "Prince Charles - who knows?"
Katy: "Salman Rushdie!"
Anna: "Let's think of someone good.... Victoria Wood, and Julie Walters. She'd be amazing."
You've been nominated for 'Best Double Act' again at the Loaded LAFTAs - but this year Gary Barlow and Rylan Clark are in your category...
Anna: "I should imagine that Rylan and Gary Barlow will win, won't they? No-one's heard of us!"
Is it knocking the art form having them there?
Anna: "No, it's a bit of fun, isn't it?"
Katy: "I think that I'd worry if it was a BAFTA - I'd have different ideas."
Anna: "I'd worry if we did win we'd have to do a bikini shoot! So maybe it's for the best."
Your show doesn't seem to have anything that would get people writing to a tabloid newspaper - is that something you every worry about? Things being taken out of context.
Katy: "We've [been bearing] it in mind. People could allow things to get out of hand really quickly."
Some comedians really seem to look for that though..
Katy: It's just what makes us laugh - we don't try to make it cleaner which tends to be silly, rather than sensational."
Anna & Katy starts this Wednesday, March 6 at 10.35pm on Channel 4.