"We've actually never met off camera... the whole thing is a tissue of lies."
With hints of Curb Your Enthusiasm, real-life married couple and successful comedians Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont have opened up the doors to their home, their family and their friends in Meet the Richardsons, a new six-part scripted comedy based on their life.
Written by Lucy and Car Share co-writer Tim Reid, this keenly observed and naturally funny series offers a window into their often frustrated marriage focussing on their home life and work life as well as their celebrity friends and Hebden Bridge neighbours.
I recently sat down with both Jon and Lucy to discuss what it was like working together, the involvement of their three-year-old daughter and the telly they enjoy watching of an evening. Here's what they had to say...
How would you best describe Meet the Richardsons?
Lucy Beaumont: It's basically a mockumentary, it's our real life.
Jon Richardson: That's a documentary.
Lucy: Oh right. Well, it's about 80 per cent real and then we had to make up the rest.
Jon: I'd describe it as a show that's going to change the landscape of British comedy forever. (Laughs)
Lucy: It came about because we did Married to a Celebrity on Channel 4, where we basically argued on TV and the producer Lee Hupfield thought there was a sitcom there so we trusted what he had to say and here we are.
Was anything off limits? Any side of your personalities you chose to keep out of the show?
Jon: No, not really. We pretty much put everything on the table didn't we? Because you've got an edit you can afford to. We trust everyone who worked on the show because we'd worked with them before so we had to push it as far as we could - especially if the thing is just bickering.
It would be pointless if we tried to hold back and have an argument where we decide we both want to come across as quite nice reasonable people. You've got to trust that over the six episodes it balances out and it's right.
If you do overstep the mark - you know that bit where you (Lucy) smash the kitchen up and say "I've had enough. I'm sick of the sight of you. I never should have married you. My mum was right." - maybe take that bit out. (Laughs)
Lucy, how did the writing process between yourself and Tim Reid work, because the show is largely improvised.
That's right. We worked on the structure and scenarios and knew that the best thing to do would be to not write dialogue and let us play. For some episodes we did write dialogue but that was more for timing than anything else. We very much wanted it to feel natural.
We were taking stuff from our real lives and seeing how they'd work. A bit like The Only Way is Essex...
Jon: Are you trying to piss me off? It's just not a reference we should be making for what is a cutting edge piece of art.
Lucy: We're trying to do what Geordie Shore did.
Jon: Oh for God... she's had a long day, she's bored and she's trying to upset me. That's what's happening here.
Your three-year-old daughter Elsie is in this series, how was she with all the cameras? Does she understand what you both do?
Jon: We're starting to explain that we make people laugh. But it's so alien. She doesn't really understand what work is. She doesn't understand any job.
Lucy: We didn't want her in it but then it would be weird to not have her in it at all. It might seem like we didn't spend time with her. We did think, what if you just heard her in the background every now and again.
But the minute she was on set - there was that time at the party where I was meant to just have her in my arms and you'd see the back of her head, but she came out with such a good line that we had to put that in!
Jon: There were days where we'd be getting ready in the morning and setting off and she would say "Can I be in it?" because she just wanted to be with us and do something. So she was on set most days, behind the camera or upstairs with the crew, so we'd have her around because she is still very young.
She's amazing. Everything she's done in it. It's like having Helen Mirren playing a bit part and realising why aren't we doing more with her? She played her way in a bit.
Has she watched the show back to see herself in it?
Lucy: No she hasn't but we should show it to her.
Jon: I don't think it would impact her. This generation are so used to seeing themselves filmed. They're constantly filmed on mobiles. She asks me now, if we're having tea, "Will you film me having my tea?" and we'd have to watch it while she's having her tea. She's just so used to the idea of seeing herself doing stuff that I don't think she would understand that other people are watching that as well.
A lot of couples in the industry choose not to work together. Was that ever a consideration for you two?
Jon: We found actually that we worked really well together. We work well on camera but off camera it can be a bit tense.
Lucy: We're not going to... but I think if we got divorced, we'd work for years together on camera pretending to be a married couple.
Jon: We've actually never met off camera have we? We get in separate cars. The whole thing is a tissue of lies.
Have you enjoyed watching your relationship back on screen?
Jon: We have actually. Not least because you've (Lucy) written something and we've made something that we're really proud of. I think this show is really funny, relatable and broad in a really good way.
So it's just nice as a couple to say that actually the things we've been through and our experiences as parents and a couple, we've been able to turn that into a show that will hopefully make people laugh. That's quite a nice feeling.
Let's talk about your neighbours Emma and Damian who are your real neighbours and appear in the series. Did they much convincing to take part?
Jon: No they wanted to be in it. We had originally talked about actors in that role because it was quite a big part.
Lucy: They're not in it enough I don't think. The episodes they're not in aren't as good.
Jon: They really ground it I think and they're a gift really. They're so funny. Again, the scenes they're in are played as real. We're not asking them to act. It's just us saying "You know when you come round and this happens? Let's just do that."
Lucy: For Christmas, they bought me a bag of crisps and wrapped it up.
Jon: In fairness to them, it was a six-pack. A six-pack of cheese and onion Squares.
Lucy: But why would you wrap them up? They're trying to get into series two.
Jon: Hebden Bridge as an area is full of quite characterful people I would say. There's a real community spirit. People are supportive of things like this so hopefully we'll see more of the community in the next series. We have been very lucky.
In one episode Jon, we see you playing the guitar. Has being a musician always been a secret ambition of yours?
Jon: (Laughs) Oh I'd forgotten all about that! Because it was a long time ago. Oh... people are going to see that aren't they? I want people to know that I was playing that for laughs and actually I have a beautiful singing voice and I play grade 8 standard classical guitar.
Lucy: He would like to be in a musical but he don't want to admit it.
Jon: That's exactly right. That's bang on. I want to be asked to be the Phantom but not have to audition. That'd be amazing.
Sticking with music, Jake Thackray is a regular reference point in the show. Not the most mainstream choice. Why him and did Dave take much convincing?
Jon: I absolutely adore his songs. It's a style of music we don't get anymore, that storytelling. His use of language I don't think I've seen matched in song. His wordplay, the puns he can get in, the double meanings and the way he can make words rhyme just with his accent - I think it's stunning what he can do.
I only agreed to the show so that somebody will commission the Jake Thakray documentary. And the minute that happens, this series and our marriage is over.
There are some great cameos in this series including Bernie Clifton. Why did you want him in it?
Lucy: Bernie Clifton is a friend and an incredible talent. A lot of younger people might not even know him, there are a few people like that who should still be on TV. They want to still be on telly and they're good enough to be, but they're just not given the opportunity. He's gifted. So funny. I've never seen anyone work a room and make a room laugh like that.
Lucy: I've seen it with a few people. I've seen it with Norman Lovett when he's on form. And I've seen it with Johnny Vegas...
Lucy: ...and Jon.
What other guest names are there in the series?
Lucy: Jason Donovan. Which was very exciting. Johnny Vegas, who directed my Edinburgh show. He's in it and he's brilliant. He's good at everything. He could do anything he wants to do.
Jon: Rob Beckett is in and out as my fictional nemesis. It's fictional aside from my own bitterness that I'm getting older and less popular. But Rob's amazing and was very generous from the beginning. He knew that was the role and said "Say what you need to say. I'm up for it." which was an absolute gift, to know that you can say anything.
Alan Carr, Susie Dent, Jonathan Ross, Matt Forde, Chris Kamara - which was a big coo for me as a Leeds fan. Jack Dee as well. We've got some pretty good names. A few idols of our have done us a favour which is lovely.
Anyone you wanted to get but couldn't?
Jon: We did ask about a Leeds player, a specific player, to be in that episode with Chris Kamara, but obviously because they're actual footballers it was quite hard. Marcelo Bielsa is quite an intense manager and I think to give a player a pass from a training session to go and be in a sitcom in West Yorkshire was a touch too far.
And I wouldn't have wanted that anyway. I'd hate to think Leeds wouldn't have got promotion because one of their players was in fancy dress in our school's cricket pitch or something. I'll take that.
How are you feeling now that the series is about to launch?
Lucy: You only make it for people to enjoy. At the end of the day it's for entertainment. Creatively, I hope it gets a second series because you learn so much doing the first series and where you want to take it and what you'd change. It was so enjoyable that I hope it keeps going.
Jon: Dave are a great channel to work with. They're still grateful that you bring them ideas. Some of the more established longer running channels are so used to being inundated ideas, they take it for granted.
It's an opportunity for you to be on their channel whereas Dave are really grateful that you've brought an idea to them which is a great starting point for that relationship. They have just let us do it haven't they?
Lucy: They have. Dave are great. You want them to do well as well because they really trust their comics and their talent to make something good.
Jon: I hope it's a success for them because it's broad appeal in the best sense. We haven't tried to make it bland. There's no reason why this show shouldn't appeal to everyone. More than anything I've ever made, exactly what Lucy said, it's made for people to enjoy.
There'll be certain elements people won't like and we live in a world where they'll contact us and tell us what they think. But the hope is that for those people who enjoy it, they can just sit down in a difficult world and get half-an-hour a week where they can just laugh. It's such a privilege to be able to do that for people isn't it?
And now I hate myself for saying that. (Laughs)
Will you be watching it when it goes out?
Jon: Lucy's on tour but I'll be at home watching it and checking Twitter. I can't not really. I'm just proud of it. I think it's really funny. It's natural and I really want people to enjoy it and I care a lot about people enjoying it and making it that escape and excuse for people to laugh.
It's not heavy, we're not trying to make a statement about what marriage is or how hard it is, having a career and a child...
Lucy: I am a bit. But you're right, it's not taking itself seriously and it's definitely something I'd choose to watch.
Jon, you're a famous worrier, what are you most worried about Meet the Richardsons?
I worry about people like our neighbours who have been kind enough to be in it and have laid themselves bare and been exactly themselves, because TV is quite an exposing medium. I remember the nerves I felt the night before the first bit of telly I ever did went out.
It feels like you're about to do a gig for a million people, but you can't change anything about how it's going to go. I hope they get the feedback and reaction they deserve because they've been really funny and made it markably better.
Not just the neighbours, but our parents and all the people who have been kind enough to be in it. I hope they enjoy watching it back and get a bit of a boost by it.
Any ideas for a possible second series?
Lucy: I can see us going to France and doing up a chateau. Really it's going to be a holiday but as Tim, the other writer quite rightly said, I think we need another episode to bed in the area again.
Jon: Escape to the Shithole is a great title!
Lucy: (Laughs) A lot has already happened that we can use. I've been on University Challenge, we've been looking at schools... there are programmes that we've done that have got great back stories to them.
Jon: And feedback to series one. Taking umbrage with comments online.
Lucy: There's already a lot that we can use. Like what they do on The Only Way is Essex.
When you both sit down and watch telly together, what do you enjoy watching?
Jon: We don't tend to watch a lot of intense telly. We tend to watch the likes of First Dates and Gogglebox.
Lucy: We don't watch dramas do we? We always say we should but we just never have enough time really so we just end up watching Gogglebox and First Dates.
Would you ever consider going on Gogglebox?
Jon: Yeah, I think we would. It's always hard as a comic going on a show where you know you're not going to be as good as members of the public. You cannot do Gogglebox better than the Siddiquis or Lee and Jenny. They're just exceptional so there's sort of no point.
What's next for you?
Lucy: I'm on tour with Space Mam, just a small tour. I'm doing two episodes of Joe Lycett's Got Your Back which I'm looking forward to because I like Joe. And we're hoping that we're going to be able to get cracking with writing more of this.
Jon: And I'm on tour at the end of the year called The Knitwit. Aside from that I'm trying to save the planet, make people laugh and be a great dad and husband. What more can you do?!
Meet the Richardsons starts Thursday 27th February at 10pm on Dave