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Marks & Gran

Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran

Maurice GranLaurence Marks

Laurence and Maurice met at a youth club in Finsbury Park, North London in the early 1960s. Subsequently, they played together and separately in a number of unsuccessful pop groups. Just as it seemed as if they might have to get proper jobs, they hit upon comedy writing as a way of avoiding decades of tie-wearing 9 to 5 careerism. Oddly, they now own several ties.

They did have proper jobs for a time though; but while working as a journalist (Laurence) and a civil servant (Maurice) they wrote several comedy scripts, which they sent off to various broadcasters, who each sent them back, though usually with encouraging noises.

Then in 1978, just when it seemed that respectability was inevitable, Laurence overslept for the first and only time in his life. Thus he missed his flight from London to Manchester, where he was researching an edition of ITV’s This Week. Instead of sacking him, Thames Television booked Laurence onto the Manchester train where he found himself sitting opposite legendary comedy writer and producer, Barry Took.

Laurence eventually summoned up the courage to talk to Barry, and tell him of his and Maurice’s comedy writing ambitions. Barry generously offered to take a look at the lads’ unsold efforts; he was sufficiently impressed to introduce them to the producer of the Frankie Howerd Variety Show. This is what is generally termed a baptism of fire. Before they knew it, Laurence and Maurice were writing the bulk of a six-hour radio series, while trying to hold down their day jobs.

However, after a brief period of psychological counselling they put Frank behind them (often a risky stratagem) and broke into television. Success came quickly; their first television comedy series Holding the Fort (1980-1983), was a top-ten hit for London Weekend Television. They followed this up with the wildly popular Shine On Harvey Moon (1982-1985) the first television “comedy drama”.

In 1983 the duo created Relative Strangers, a spin-off of Holding the Fort. To this day Relative Strangers remains Channel 4’s most viewed situation comedy, Always interested in music, Laurence and Maurice’s next big TV hit was Roll Over Beethoven (1984-1985), a romance between a rock legend and a village piano teacher, which featured an original song in each episode.

Then Hollywood called, and Laurence and Maurice left the UK to become studio writers at Paramount Studios. When they eventually returned to the UK – rich and famous – they got together with the legendary Rik Mayall to create The New Statesman (1987-1992), a blistering satire that had no effect whatsoever on the popularity of the Thatcher government, but which nonetheless won both the BAFTA for Best Comedy, and an International Emmy/

Eager to have more control over their work, in 1989 Lo and Mo, as they were becoming known, founded ALOMO Productions in partnership with über producer Allan McKeown (the ‘AL’ in ALOMO). For most of the subsequent decade ALOMO was one the country’s leading independent television producers, with Laurence and Maurice creating a plethora of hits, including comedies Birds of a Feather, Get Back, Goodnight Sweetheart, and Unfinished Business; comedy drama Love Hurts; Mosley, a four-part historical film mini-series about Britain’s would be Führer, and Wall of Silence, crime movie.

In 1993 Laurence and Maurice were awarded UK television’s top writer’s award when they jointly won The British Academy Writer’s Award. Arguably, they surpassed even this in 1997 when they achieved the twin peaks of their televisual acclaim – they were featured to deliver the prestigious McTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival. With brilliant incisiveness they analysed the shortcomings of the major broadcasters, especially the BBC, and demolished the case for the licence fee. The following week their BBC car park privileges were revoked.

Despite their heavy TV schedule, Laurence and Maurice were always devotees of the theatre, and a chance meeting between Laurence and Sir Alan Ayckborne (Laurence’s talent for chance meeting is legendary) led them to writing their first stage play, Playing God, which premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2005. A year later they adapted The New Statesman for the stage; the production toured the country to great acclaim, including riotous residency in London’s West End.

Further plays followed: Birds of a Feather, Dr Freud Will See You Now, Mrs Hitler, Early Birds, Ephesus Schmephesus, Von Ribbentrop’s Watch, and Love Me Do.

But in 2008 Laurence and Maurice got the chance to fulfil their last remaining ambition when they were invited to write the “book” for a major new musical. Dreamboats and Petticoats, inspired by the best-selling hit compilation album of the same name. It ran for nine years. There followed two more musicals; Dreamboats and Miniskirts (the sequel), and Save The Last Dance For Me. They are currently writing a new play and musical, which will be ready for the stage in 2022, and they themselves will take the stage to present their two-man show, Blokes of a Feather.

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