How Not To Live…The Final Curtain

© Mog

Last week welcomed the DVD release of Series 3 of How Not To Live Your Life , the BBC3 sitcom written and starring Dan Clark. To greet the release of the final series fans were invited to a Q&A to ask the cast (David Armand, Leila Hoffman, Daniel Taylor and, of course, Dan Clark) whatever was floating around their brains. It goes without saying that TVO was there, ready to report back!

Tucked away in the bowels of a central London hotel, we took our seats and were first of all treated to a screening of the episode voted ‘best in series 3’ by fans: Don, The Musical. After this, the cast came out and we were invited to delve straight into our questions by compere Hardeep Singh Kohli. The Q&A covered how they find their characters, how they feel about the end inevitably coming after a one-off Christmas Special this year, and of course Don’s flattering pink dressing gown. Here are some of the questions/answers from the evening:

Dan, is HNTLYL simply a projection of your fantasies?
I guess there is a little bit of living out a fantasy in it. I’m very different to Don and I wouldn’t do or say the things he does, so to be able to play someone who literally speaks his mind like a child would, not having to adhere to normal behaviour, is a bit like acting out a fantasy. It’s not just the pissing and the bondage gear and the dating tramps…which we all want to do, right?

You write and star in the show. How does it feel letting someone else take responsibility for directing?
Partly out of budget and partly out of ego, Gary (the producer) and I thought we should direct the first series. By day two I’d realised that directing while being in every scene is fucking insane! So after that we decided to get other people into direct. What’s nice about it is being able to perform on the shoot without having to worry about everything else that’s going on. It’s also good to have someone there who isn’t afraid to say “this could be better” or “are you sure about doing it that way?”. Different directors have brought different things to the series.


Tell us about Don’s infamous dressing gown.
A lot of people ask me about the dressing gown, and bizarrely they all want to know where they can get one! We shot the pilot in London on a properly low budget, and we got a runner to get all the costumes for everyone because we didn’t even have a costume department. She found this old woman’s dressing gown in a charity shop – it cost £3.50 from the Jewish charity shop in Mornington Crescent. it’s weird that it fits me when old women are generally pretty short. So there was a six foot old woman knocking about London at some point, which is a bit odd. 

How’s the Christmas Special coming along?
Because it’s going to be an hour long it’s the equivalent of two episodes, but it’s one story really. You think ‘well that’s fine, I don’t need to come up with six stories.’ But then you realise that actually this one’s got to be good. You can slip in a dud one in a series of six but you can’t just slip in a dud one in one.

Do you wish HNTLYL had become more mainstream?
Ours is a cult show in the true sense – we’ve never had a big marketing campaign from the BBC and it’s never had huge support from the press. We started really small with the first series and grew and grew. Every season it doubled its figures – it’s a proper word of mouth show. When I meet people they say, “I love your show but none of my friends know about it” and I’m like, “Well do a better job at telling them about it!” Obviously I’d love the show to be seen by more people.

This answer led to one of the highlights of the evening, for TVO at least: a question about whether moving to BBC2 constitutes ‘selling out’ for cult TV shows. The Mighty Boosh was used an example of this by the person posing the question, due to the Boosh’s sky-rocketing mainstream success. This ballsy audience member continued to defend his position by bringing up 2008’s ‘Booshfest’ and a stream of NME covers, ultimately suggesting that the cult status of How Not To Live… is exactly what fans adore about the show. As you’d expect, the Boosh were defended, with Clark making the reasonable statement that everyone would want to be that successful! Here’s what he had to say on the matter:

You felt like the Mighty Boosh sold out and got too big but that wasn’t their choice, that was just the nature of the beast. The problem is you felt like you owned it, that you’d discovered this show and no one else knew about it and you’ve got the pleasure of telling your friends. Suddenly everyone knows about it and you’re like “Fuck off, Mum, you don’t like the Mighty Boosh!” You feel like you’ve lost that ownership. HNTLYL has still got that smaller thing and people don’t feel it’s been diluted…but fuck that, let’s have a massive hit on our hands instead!”

© Jean Goldsmith

The evening was enlightening to say the least, and although the BBC are making us bid adieu to loveable simpleton Don Danbury and his family, we’re still to be treated to an hour long Christmas Special, ensuring that  the show goes out with a bang. From what we witnessed on this night, it’s clear that the shows’ fans still appreciate  How Not To Live Your Life – for its appeal to many, the love put into each joke and being able to know such fantastic characters and people.

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