Stefan Golaszewski is the brain behind BBC Three comedy hit Him & Her. He is a member of BBC4 sketch group Cowards, has also written and performed two acclaimed solo Edinburgh shows and currently has a play on at Trafalgar Studios. He talks to Honour Bayes about how the devil’s in the detail…
How did you start out in comedy?
I did it quite a lot at university and then a few of us carried it on afterwards, doing shows at the Hen & Chickens in Islington and then the Edinburgh Festival, and it just sort of built from there. We got a Radio 4 show and then did a small TV show and then Him & Her [pictured below] came along and it hasn’t really stopped. I’m just waiting for the bit when they tell me I’m not allowed to do it any more!
What’s your writing process?
I usually write something as quickly as I can, so I’ve got the shape of it and then spend absolutely ages tweaking it and doing tiny changes. With the play [Sex With a Stranger] I wrote it in the beginning of 2010 and I’ve just been tweaking it ever since. When I write Him & Her, I write the episodes as quickly as I can and then spend months and months on set just tweaking and trying to make it as detailed and small as possible.
You write plays as well as TV and radio. How different is writing for theatre compared to, say, TV?
You have to think about it being a live thing with people in the same room as you, people are locked in – they can’t leave. It’s quite interesting that on telly anyone can flick over at any point and they’ve got about six billion programmes they can watch or just turn it off, even. I think with theatre, more than anything else, people go in there and sort of take the lid off their heads and you’re allowed to poke around with their brains and with their emotions. It’s a more direct contact with your audience because they’re literally in the same room as your performers. You have the opportunity to do something more visceral and more emotional because of that human contact.
Do you have any particular exercises or tricks for dealing with writer’s block?
If I’m finding it hard to write something, it probably means it’s not a good idea, so if I’m spending hours and hours on the same thing, I always find that I end up deleting it anyway. If it’s not fitting, there’s a really good reason; I think that’s something I’ve learned. But if you’re stuck, just go for a walk or do something else – take the afternoon off and think again tomorrow. I think it’s better not to work than to write and it be rubbish, and then you start to feel that what you’re doing is rubbish and you start to lose confidence.
We’re running a £30k funding competition in partnership with Sky Arts. If you were an emerging artist, what would you spend £30k on?
Time, probably. If you’re a writer, well – you don’t really need anything else. I’d use £30k worth of time to sit and do nothing apart from write. That was what was hardest, when I wasn’t earning any money from writing – trying to have a life where I earned money, but also wrote.
A third series of Him & Her has been commissioned to come out this year.
Sex With a Stranger starring Russell Tovey and Jaime Winstone is running at Tralgar Studios 2, London, until Saturday 25 February 2012. Buy tickets.