Absolutely everybody likes to laugh: bouncers, politicans even retail store managers. So when you stumble upon a combination of personalities and talents that consistently makes you chuckle, you grab hold and don’t let go until you’ve squeezed all the funny out of them and they’re shells of their former selves, like the Simpsons Season 25 or Eddie Murphy in the Nutty Professor II. What I mean to say is, you show them support, and comedy group Seldom Differ is currently at a very exciting time in its development, perfecting the comedy craft and seeing recognition and support start to roll in from places unlooked for. Their sketches have got them widespread critical praise, the attention and funding of Channel 4 and the BBC, a nomination in CoFilmic Awards, an appearance on Charlie Brooker’s How TV Ruined Your Life and representation from Troika Talent. Seldom Differ Comedy is James Lord (director), Ryan Howes, Matthew Skillington and John Collins (writer/performers) – hailing from the UK’s comedy capital,
Edinburgh Sheffield. A group of very talented lads, well on their way to making people laugh for living and eagerly awaiting the day they can return the favour to the many people who have helped them along the way.
MEOKO sat down for a chinwag with three quarters of the group and started with the serious, hard-hitting topics, for example the vague resemblance between Matt and John…
MEOKO – Are you two related?
Matt – Yes.
John – No
Matt – We have got that before though, I’ve started wearing hats to make myself stand out.
John – I have quite a similar hat to that.
Ryan – People have confused them in videos before – it just means Matt gets way too much credit. I never saw it, but maybe recently you’ve grown into each other.
MEOKO – Like dogs and their owners…
MEOKO – How did it all begin?
Ryan – Matthew and I were at school together, then after high school we decided to do a stage show, because theatre was going to be the future. So we went down to the library theatre in Sheffield; the entrance is next to the nice theatre, but actually a horrible little doorway where homeless people sleep. We only had half a sketch written when we met the woman who ran the place to find out about costs and stuff, and we thought we’d go away and think about it but she was like “OK I’ll pencil you in for this date then”… so we thought if we were penciled in we better do it. We had eight weeks and towards the end of rehearsals we got Rebecca Taylor involved, who is involved in our sketches still (Looking for Keegan, Duck Face), we also had another guy who dropped out at the last minute and so Rebecca suggested John.
John – I had met Ryan and Matt before and Matt had actually already sold me a ticket for the show. I thought yeah I’ll come along – only two pound fifty – which he still owes me, because I was actually in the show… After the summer Matt and I were going to the same uni and we got to know each other quite well
Matt – We really hit it off in uni –
John – Ohhh we did, didn’t we Matt.
Ryan – I was his special friend before uni, then I went to a different uni…
Matt – You’re still my special friend.
Ryan – After uni these guys moved down to London and we lived near each other, that’s when we started making more videos.
MEOKO – During the writing process, do you sit down with an idea and script it first, or do you just get up and improvise?
Ryan – Usually we have a script, and improvise on it as well. It used to be much more improvised – we never even used to have a script – but more recently we’ve started scripting a lot.
Matt – Now that other people have got involved, like recent stuff for Channel Four, they need to see a script to make sure they want it.
John – We still improv on the day though.
Matt – Yeah but it’s in the script in brackets
Ryan – (do a funny thing here)
MEOKO – Have you settled into specific roles within the group, or does everyone do a bit of everything?
Ryan – With regards to the videos, I edit them all – which is just because that’s what I do for a day job anyway. But there’s actually a fourth person we should mention – James [Lord]. He directs all our stuff.
Matt – We met him at uni. He was initially interested in horror, and then he met me and was interested in comedy.
MEOKO – They’re so similar…
Ryan, Matt, John – Mmmm.
Matt – It’s funny when we were pitching to the BBC, they wanted to pigeon hole us into character types, so Ryan was the Naïve Innocent Victim and I would tend to play the bigger, more outlandish characters – although I can do very serious acting as well – [unusually hearty laughs all round], and then John suits roles with authority quite well: the teacher, doctor, grandfather. Mostly because he’s the only one that can grow a proper beard.
Ryan – I played John’s grandson once. That’s the range that we have.
Photography – James Chapman
MEOKO – Do you trust your collective judgment or do you need to show your work to an outside source to confirm that it’s funny?
Ryan – James acts as a sort of sounding board, in that we’ll put a script together and then show it to him and he’ll give us all the constructive criticism. He is part of the collective group but he’s outside the writing process usually, so it’s quite a good thing to have which I think a lot of sketch groups don’t. He’ll be like the producer, before it goes to the producer. We argue with him a bit but in general we trust his judgment.
Matt – Nowadays we have little screenings as well. We get people who don’t know anything about the sketch to come and look at the sketch and see how they react.
John – Ryan’s editing experience really helps in the production process as well… at least some of us have technical ability. We use effects quite a lot, like green screen, so it really helps to have someone who knows how to use it.
Ryan – Now James’ bedroom wall is painted green.
Matt – It’s chromakey green as well, it’s the official green. He’s dedicated to the cause, that’s the kind of man he is – he’s painted half of his room green.
MEOKO – It takes quite a bit of confidence to make your own comedy… do you think you have more confidence through doing this work?
John – I think it’s different for all of us. I never thought I was funny until I met these losers. I’ve got three older brothers that – well bully is a harsh word – but they sort of forced me into being the funny one to keep up with them ‘cause they’re all older.
Matt – We do live stuff as well as videos, and you shit yourself before you go on stage.
Ryan – Oh yeah. Very immediately before, for me.
Matt – We write something together and we laugh at each other’s jokes and think yeah we should do this… but there’s always the chance we’re completely deluded. I’m confident that the three of us can write something funny if everyone else agrees, but I would say that we’re still terrified. I come across as confident but inside I’m terrified and lonely. I’m just a show off… so I have confidence in that respect but I’m terrible at talking to girls, I crack bad jokes … I’m always shitting myself. I’m shitting myself right now talking to you.
MEOKO – Have you radically offended anyone yet?
Matt – I think we’re seen as quite nice to be honest.
John – It’s the northern-ness… Plus it’s never been our thing to make offensive jokes, if our characters are making offensive jokes the joke’s on them. We’ve never tried to have a go at a celebrity or anything, it’s just not really our style.
MEOKO – What are your day jobs?
Ryan – Editor
Matt – Runner in post production
John – Runner in post production
Photography – James Chapman
MEOKO – Would you quit your day job and make this your life if you could?
Ryan – Um. Yes. In a heartbeat.
Matt – Making tea for people or doing comedy for a living? Mmm not much of a difference. Yeah of course. The comedy is the main thing.
John – Absolutely – the day job is just there to support the comedy.
Matt – I mean I worry about Ryan because he’s got a decent job.
Ryan – It’d probably be hardest for me to do that because I quite like my job actually.
Matt – Once John and I became bigger you could edit our stuff, so you could still keep your job and still feel a little bit connected to the comedy…?
John – What if we needed cups of tea, and were happy to employ you as a runner. How would you feel about that Ryan?
MEOKO – What’s coming up for Seldom Differ?
Matt – We’re developing something with the BBC, but we have to be vague. I think they’re planning on launching in spring sometime. The next sketches have got to be pretty shit hot basically; we’ve got the foot in the door, but we want to make something that will prove to everyone else that we’re good so they’ll give us a bigger goals.
John – We should also mention we have a great camera man too, Dom Herd, who works for us freelance and used to be a runner with us. We’ve been really lucky with the team we’ve managed to assemble. Dom liked our videos and liked our comedy and just wanted to make it look better. He asked to be a camera op – and he’s got these fancy cameras – so we thought yeah, anything for free! We’ve been quite lucky in that we’ve met a lot of people that enjoy our comedy and want to help. And hopefully that will pay off for them, and we can actually repay them at some point.