British Comedy Guide

Jack & Dean Of All Trades. Image shows from L to R: Jack (Jack Howard), Dean (Dean Dobbs).

Jack & Dean Of All Trades

Fullscreen sitcom starring YouTube stars Jack & Dean. 12 episodes (2 series), 2016 - 2017. Stars Jack Howard, Dean Dobbs, Jessica Hynes, Andrea Valls and others.

Watch the first episode

Image shows from L to R: Dean Dobbs, Jack Howard.

Jack & Dean interview

Jack & Dean may not be a comedy double act you've heard of before... unless you're a regular visitor to YouTube, in which case you are probably familiar with their sketch offerings and may even be one of the half a million plus people who subscribe to their channel.

For the readers who are new to Jack & Dean, let us quickly fill you in: Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs have been making comedy together since they were in secondary school. Over the years, they've honed their writing, acting and directing skills to build up an impressive catalogue of funny sketches. Jack - in the glasses - tends to play the uptight straight man, with Dean as the laidback silly one.

Here's an example of one of their sketches, guest starring Amy Schumer no less:

They have now moved on to making an online sitcom, which features them playing versions of themselves alongside the likes of Spaced and W1A star Jessica Hynes. More on that shortly, but first let's hear a from the duo about how their partnership started, back when they were teenagers. Jack explains: "We have known each other since we were in school. We met in a maths class because Dean saw I had a Green Day sticker on my planner and pointed at it and went 'they're shit!', and I was like 'well name a better band then?'. Dean suggested 'Panic! At The Disco' and thus Jack went home and listened to the band, liked what he heard ("it was a different time!"), and a friendship was born.

They started working on a short film project with others and took their tasks very seriously, but it seems not all their peers shared their level of commitment. The main actor essentially halted the project down by cutting his hair and thus ruining any chance of continuity. "We were so irritated. We really cared about making films. We were like, 'we're surrounded by amateurs!'... at 15 years-old."

The budding film makers learnt some useful skills on the project though, like editing, and soon started collaborating together on making sketches for the then-new platform of YouTube.

Fast forward to now, and they are two of the biggest British-based comedy stars on the video website, fast approaching the 40,000,000 views milestone. We wondered at what point did they realise they had 'made it'? The answer is there was no set day, although there are several moments which have felt significant to them. "We got invited to a YouTube event in Orlando when we were in our first year of uni, which was a weird moment of going 'oh, things are changing'. They sorted our flights and hotel and stuff, we felt like rock stars a bit!"

Image shows from L to R: Dean Dobbs, Jack Howard.

For a couple of years they presented shows on Radio 1, which felt like another significant career step. Jack explains: "It was a chance to tell the people around you 'oh, Radio 1 want us to make a show!'. People understand what Radio 1 is. You tell people you make YouTube videos and it's like 'oh, cool, but everyone can do that...' but when you say Radio 1 want work with you, especially to parents...!"

Dean adds: "We don't work with them so much any more. I've got my parents' friends going 'so what happened, did you mess it up?'. No, we went on to make a sitcom..."

That sitcom is Jack & Dean Of All Trades, a charming light-hearted comedy series in which they play versions of themselves moving from one temp job to another. Jessica Hynes plays their job coordinator Marv, and a number of other actors who will be familiar to British comedy watching audiences pop up in guest roles.

Having proved popular with audiences when it launched last year, Jack & Dean Of All Trades is now in its second series. The show can be found exclusively on the Netflix-style online subscription service Fullscreen (although the opening episode from the new series can be watched for free at the bottom of this article).

The budget that comes with that collaboration has allowed the duo to fully realise their ambitions, as is particularly demonstrated by a musical scene in the first series which was filmed on a studio lot with equipment that wouldn't be out of place on the set of a big movie.

On the story front, Jack admits that they're guessing at what it is like to be temps, having never actually had to hop from job to job. However, he points out "the show is not really about the jobs. They're in the situation, and then it sort of goes somewhere else." Indeed, episode premises include a fight in a bakery, mucking about in a swimming pool and getting involved in a hold up - very little work actually gets done.

Jack & Dean Of All Trades. Image shows from L to R: Dean (Dean Dobbs), Jack (Jack Howard).

Fullscreen is an American service, so how did two young content creators from Britain end up on it? "We were shopping our sitcom idea around and we had three different people who were interested, and Fullscreen were one. They were new, up-and-coming and looking for new content and were the ones who were, um... we describe it as 'putting their claws in'. They liked it a lot. It just went from there. They let us do what we wanted to do."

A concern for any British writers working with a US network must be that the Americans will try and knock the British eccentricities out of the scripts, but the end result here does come across as a very British production. "They never forced us to do anything" they confirm.

"There were chats initially about us protecting some of the characters and making them not as flawed but we managed to work around that by pointing out some of the best characters in history are incredibly flawed.

"They were worried about Jack's character being too cynical, or not sympathetic enough. We liked the fact he was situations because it was his fault and he deserved this stuff to be happening to him, and they came around to that idea."

However, the odd line was changed in the script in an attempt to help it to appeal to the American audience too. Dean says: "I think we called someone a bellend. They were like, 'what's this?'"

However, many British phrases do still remain. "Jessica Hynes was scripted to say the line 'getting fired', but she pointed out no one really says that in England. It'd be 'getting sacked', or something like that.

"They were very good at keeping it authentically British, even when it came to things like the marketing. The poster features the tagline 'leave it to the unprofessionals', which is one we picked. Their initial suggestion was something like 'There's no job they can't fully half ass'... that's such an American sounding term! They're very good at listening to us and collaborating with us and leaving us to make the show we want to make."

Jack & Dean Of All Trades. Image shows from L to R: Jack (Jack Howard), Dean (Dean Dobbs).

Fullscreen sounds like a fun company to work with. Jack confirms: "It's nice there's not a big hierarchy of management there. For example, I speak to the head via Twitter. I think he accidently leaked the news about Series 2 that way, as he tweeted us saying "Really looking forward to Season 2" and we're like, "Er, we've not announced it yet!?!"

Jack cites Spaced, The Royle Family, The Office, Extras and Arrested Development amongst the sitcoms he's inspired by, but also definitely movies too. "I think we're both massive fans of films, you can see those influences cinematically in the world."

Stylistically, Jack & Dean Of All Trades seems far removed from the naturalistic style of many of the shows listed above though, instead gloriously revelling in silly jokes and heightened reality scenes. This is perhaps where Dean's influences come in. "For me, The Mighty Boosh the reason I wanted to do this, why I like the duo dynamic of the straight guy and the funny guy. I watch a lot of cartoons, which is why I'm always up for a joke that's silly or something like that. I do think Jack & Dean Of All Trades feels like a cartoon a little bit at times."

Indeed, premises in the new series include Jack being mistaken for a best-selling author, and a swimming pool full of people being convinced that there is a shark in the water. Yet, somehow, the show still feels authentic. Talking about the writing process, Jack explains: "It's about the rules of the show. What you ask the audience to believe, and not believe. So, like when Dean fakes his death and we're at a funeral and everyone is sad, but Jack is just talking to him in the coffin, we never really ask the question why no one notices he's just standing by the coffin talking to him. We never really ask that, so hopefully the audience don't think about it."

Dean adds: "I think the world round them looks mad. They're supposed to be the two people who don't fit in, and yet they're able to transition into absolutely everything. We get away with the silly little gaps in logic because everybody else is mad."

So how did they get so many familiar faces to appear in the show? "Our producer is also the casting director, because she's really great at finding people. She's the reason we got Jessica Hynes because she'd worked briefly with her on Up The Women.

"Some roles benefit from it being: 'oh shit, I know that person'. Like Jacob Anderson who plays Grey Worm in Game Of Thrones. His role benefits from that, because it feels he's out of the show's league.

"The fact Jessica Hynes is in it definitely helps elevate it beyond people thinking 'they're just making YouTube videos in their bedroom.'"

Jack & Dean Of All Trades. Marv (Jessica Hynes).

As Jack & Dean's fame continues to grow, they're having to get used to being spotted by fans. They already have a very dedicated fanbase. Jack says: "We tend to call them The Groovy People." Dean elaborates: "I don't think there's any reason why. I just think we liked the word 'groovy' when we were 18."

Jack continues: "Our fanbase aren't as nuts as you're used to hearing when you hear the word 'fanbase'. They are incredibly dedicated people; they do like what we do and they do look forward to it. It always blows me away that whenever we upload a video, even if it's months - they're still there and still interested."

Dean adds: "If you're on YouTube and stuff you're told the best way to make your channel bigger is to upload all the time, every day if you can. We don't do that, yet our audience has stayed with us, and gets bigger every time we do something else. We get told over and over again if you don't play by the rules your channel will be dead. They're very devoted. Maybe it's because we put so much into it."

Jack picks up this thread: "We've always said quality over quantity and have never fallen into the trap of saying 'we should make more videos'. We've always said we'll do one when we have the idea.

"Us moving on from doing sketch to doing a series is a natural progression and people understand that is what we want to do. I've described it before as the Series being a meal and Sketches being a snack, and now I've had the meal I don't feel I could fully go back. I want to keep on telling bigger and bigger stories, and they seem to get that and be excited we're doing this stuff."

Jack & Dean Of All Trades. Image shows from L to R: Jack (Jack Howard), Dean (Dean Dobbs).

They still haven't got to the stage of finding signing autographs normal yet though. Jack says "it happens very unexpectedly. You never get used to it, and it happens at the most random times. You sometimes get people on trains looking at you and you can't work out if they've recognised you or if you're being arrogant. Later you'll get a tweet saying 'I saw Jack - but I was too afraid to say hello'. You're like, 'that's weirder!'"

Dean adds: "The worst ones are when they take pictures of you without asking you. I've had that once before, but looked really good in it. I was like 'you're so lucky that looks good!'. I'm annoyed, but also I am going to retweet it, set it as my profile picture... ha ha.

"It is weird. It's when you get someone really excited to meet you, and you're like 'I'm not even excited to be me, so I don't understand where you've got all this from!'"

Unlike a double act such as Ant & Dec, they've not set any rules stopping the other from going off and working with other people - "we can go off and do things and always come back and work together" - but at the moment their joint projects are where they're putting all their energy.

They're developing a feature version of their Ghost Fighting Corporation pilot with Ron Howard's company New Form Digital. "We don't know if it's going to go anywhere, but we like the idea a lot."

They also have their fingers crossed people keep watching Jack & Dean Of All Trades so they get to make more. "We'd love to do another series."

Their ultimate ambition though? Jack reveals: "To be honest, we'd like to get to the point where Dean is in Star Wars, and I get to direct Star Wars." A few years ago such ambitions for British comedy talent might have been seen as unrealistic, but with Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge set to star in the next instalment of the movie franchise, the goal seems quite achievable. Dean says: "Obviously we're not on the same level, she's way better - but part of me is like 'maybe there is a shot!'. I could be a little orange person!"

Jack adds: "It's really strange when you think how close everything is, because the Hans Solo film is being co-directed by Phil Lord who follows me on Twitter, and we've occasionally spoken to each other, so the degrees of separation aren't that far any more. That's the dream!"

Well, before Jack & Dean put on their serious faces and head to a galaxy far far away, there is time to revel in the slick, joyous world of Jack & Dean Of All Trades.

Here is the opening episode from Series 2 in full (15 minutes):

Series 1 and Series 2 of Jack & Dean Of All Trades can be watched, alongside lots of other shows, with a subscription to Fullscreen

Share this page

Published: Thursday 23rd March 2017