Lazy Susan: 'We'd love young women to like it and maybe be inspired'
As the new sketch comedy series Lazy Susan airs on BBC Three, we talk to its writers and stars Celeste Dring and Freya Parker.
"Growing up, I watched loads of classic comedy shows, which were all great, but the majority were made by men," says Freya Parker, half of the duo Lazy Susan.
Together with Celeste Dring, she writes and stars in the sketch show, which originally came from material they used in their live shows.
"On one level, young girls shouldn't watch our show because, of course, it is completely inappropriate. But it would be cool if some did and thought maybe one day, they could do it too," Freya says.
Freya insists their work is made to be enjoyed by "anyone who'll watch it, including the Queen".
"Of course we'd love young women to like it and maybe be inspired however cringe that might be, but if some Hollywood executives could watch it too, that would be fantastic," she says.
"Our diaries are very free and we both have passports so there are no worries there!" Celeste chimes in.
Despite working with a big crew for the first time during the filming of their new BBC Three show, Celeste admits that comedy can be "quite a solitary" path, particularly for women.
"You don't have an office, and you spend a lot of your day on your own, so it isn't rare to doubt your abilities," she says. 'You regularly ask yourself, am I even funny? Why am I doing this? Am I good enough? Should I quit?"
Because of this, the pair say having friends who also work in the sector is a necessity. "I'm not saying comedy is hard like being a doctor is hard," Celeste says, "but it is nice to have a community to rant to if you do a bad gig."
They are both members of a WhatsApp group open to women working in comedy, which Freya praises as "a helpful and supportive community". Originally starting as a way to find people to cover gigs, the group has grown into a place to offload and discuss their shared careers.
"You don't have colleagues really, so it is good to be able to talk to people who understand what it is like. I think it is needed," she says.
Lazy Susan follows a traditional sketch comedy format, which Freya admits they've both enjoyed from childhood. "As kids, we both watched a lot of sketch shows. Stuff like French and Saunders, Smack the Pony, and Big Train. And more recently shows like Famalan, which have been huge and really shown what is possible for the genre," she says. "Even though our work isn't really like all theirs, they've definitely really inspired us."
Despite this, Celeste argues that "no-one really knows how to make sketch comedy anymore" and adds that the filming process for Lazy Susan "was all a bit of trial and error".
"We were all working together to create something no one really does nowadays on TV. Even in a small crew, there was a lot of things to consider. It was a bit like a jigsaw fitting everything together and trying to get it right," says Freya.
With no scenes lasting more than two minutes, the pair needed a lot of material. "It is always a mixture where we get our characters from. You might hear a funny turn of phrase on the street when someone walks past, or maybe a character is based on an aspect of yourself or one of your friends - although you never want to do a direct impression of one of them. It is all osmosis I guess," says Freya.
Ranging from radio DJs to nuns, the sketches in Lazy Susan are broad in scope. "We did have to cut some scenes which was a shame, but when you're shooting sketch comedy on a small budget you can't have too many locations because the cost adds up," Celeste says.
"But what was a delight, is that we wrote a lot of characters with people in mind, and then they did actually end up starring in the show," Freya says. The cast is full of well-known faces in comedy, including James Acaster, the co-host of the Off Menu podcast. "It was very satisfying to see them do it," Celeste adds.
Celeste and Freya met nearly 10 years ago through a mutual friend, Ed. "He was assistant directing a play Freya was in and he thought she was really cool and that we should meet," Celeste says. "We actually decided to start working together before we were properly friends," Freya continues.
After originally deciding to write as a trio with Ed, by the time they took their first trip as performers to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014, Ed had returned to university, leaving them as a duo.
"We went to Edinburgh very inexperienced. We'd done a few gigs to our closest friends but really hadn't performed very much at all," Celeste says. "It was like walking into a bear pit, but surprisingly it didn't go too badly."
Not having an audience to perform to when filming Lazy Susan, the pair say, took some getting used to. "We didn't know how people would react to things. Nobody was there to tell us if what we were doing was any good," Freya says.
"So the most important thing was to keep an eye on making sure the comedy was funny," says Celeste. "That has always got to be the most important thing."