Jane Bussmann and Naisola Grimwood have a new sitcom they are writing ad developing for Channel 4. Bussman is a legend, writing on shows such as Brass Eye, Smack The Pony, South Park, Jam, Crackanory and more. As that list might suggest, she has an incredibly sick streak of humour, increasingly difficult to find a place for in an industry seeking less and less to offend. She wrote the non-fiction book Worst Date Ever about her attempts to shag a social activist that saw her getting involved in Ugandan politics and confronting child soldiers. Grimwood has worked with Bussmann on a number of projects, though is best known for her documentary work. And now they have a new comedy, an attempt to create a family sitcom for today, full of warmth, knowing banter and emphasising the importance of surrounding yourself with those you love. It happens to be called Tits and its currently with Channel 4.
Two nights ago, I was in an office-turned-studio while Jane Bussmann read out the script, doing all the voices, including the dodgy accents, to a group of around fifty people. The aim was to cut out the unfunny, read a fifty minute script and keep the funniest half hour of it. A hell of a trick, as there is a hell of a lot of funny in it. The story of two brothers Festus and Roger, one ex-SAS the other… not, taking over the family's decades-old lingerie business.
DAD: Did you know, Miss Ethel wrote our first ad? "Munge: the pants that last you thirty years. Buy a three pack, that's you done."
Before, Bussman explained that she looked to the likes of HBO, to Showtime, to the great American modern TV dramas and discovered that they all have tits in them. And that's what she's recreating here. The name refers more to the two main characters, who clearly are a couple of tits. But in amongst the grandmother who constantly finds an excuse to get the family to watch her old porn films, the demands and debts left behind by the boys' late father and the gangs and investors tied up in the family firm, they have created what is at heart Only Fools And Horses. Just with lines like
ROGER: That woman was the devil. She destroyed you. Mate, you cried in a Starbucks! Everyone was staring. I had to tell them you'd been charged with paedophilia.
FESTUS: Who did you say that to?
ROGER: Oh, everybody, mate. I got your back.
Or the German fashion designer talking about his approach to what everyone else would see as incredibly uncomfortable imagery
ROGER IS F*CKING WITH KRISTIAN THE GERMAN FASHION INVESTOR, POINTING AT THE MODELS IN HIS ADVERTS.
ROGER (his German fashionista voice): For our summer collection, it is innocent… but legal…
AN ADVERT WITH A 12 YEAR OLD LYING ON A BED.
ROGER: Again innocent… Legal? Not so much. But it's OK, she is in the bedroom. "Knock knock, can I come in?" "No, I am twelve." "OK."
And scenes where the characters have to remove the distended balls of a very important man that have fallen through the slats in a sauna bench and have begun to swell, all with SAS training coming to hand. It is repeatedly very silly, very funny and very rude, but overall incredibly warm. I was hurt with laughter, but engaged with the family vibe that was so clearly present through the utter filth.
And if anyone fancies seeing a read through tonight, they are giving it another go in Soho at 7pm. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org for details. I know it's late notice. But if you really want to be able to say "Everyone likes it now. But I remember seeing it performed in a little club in the West End years before…" this is your chance. It's free and they may throw in some wine/beer and nibbles.
But just remember. I saw it two days before you. So I win.