Births, Deaths And Marriages. Image shows from L to R: Anita (Sandy McDade), Malcolm Fox (David Schneider), Lorna (Sarah Hadland), Mary (Sally Bretton), Luke (Russell Tovey). Copyright: Unique Productions.

Births, Deaths And Marriages

BBC Radio 4 sitcom. 12 episodes (2 series), 2012 - 2013. Stars David Schneider, Sarah Hadland, Sally Bretton, Russell Tovey, Sandy McDade, Melanie Hudson and Lewis Macleod.

David Schneider interview

David Schneider.David Schneider is probably most recognised for his Tony Hayers character, which he played in the award-winning Alan Partridge series. There are not many days of the week that go past without people stopping him in the street to talk about Monkey Tennis, or days in which he doesn't get an inappropriate fist in the face saying "smell my cheese you mother." I resisted, but the temptation was huge...

Since collecting awards for co-writing Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge, The Day Today and The Friday Night Armistice, David has penned films for the likes of Matt LeBlanc, directed adverts and sitcoms, and even written a play with the National Theatre about Stalin.

His latest creation for Radio 4 - Births, Deaths And Marriages - is set in a Register office (the first thing he learnt when researching the show was that it's a 'Register' office, not 'Registry'... they hate that).

"The great thing about it is that you get people there from all walks of life, people who are in love, people who've just given birth, people who are pretending to be in love for visa reasons, people grieving. So it's a big fat basket of potential comedy: The silly names (Harper Seven) the bad choice of wedding readings. It's all there."

Whilst researching for the show, David came across an elderly lady of eighty, who had grown tired and bored of her husband and so asked the Register office if she could have another one. Let's hope they change the law to prevent all those "accidental" poisonings and falling down the stairs!

The idea for Births, Deaths And Marriages came about when David's producer registered his own wedding. The Registrar had his own stock anecdotes "about a naturist wedding I seem to remember" but was very "proper picture-of-the-Queen-on-the-desk type", David says. He thought it could be a fun subject to write about, so pitched the idea to Radio 4... and they said yes.

David's time at Oxford University influenced his comedy career in many ways. "I was most fortunate to meet some great comedy people there who I went on to work with in the real world, like Armando Iannucci and Rebecca Front. Oxford was a good place to try things out. There was a lot of comedy going on there, stand-up was just starting to happen. Stewart Lee was there at the same time as me."

David plays Malcolm Fox in Births, Deaths And Marriages, a bit of a modern day Captain Mainwaring. The characters in this sitcom are unlike some of his other creations, unlike magician Tony Le Mesmer in Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge - Ah ha! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself) - for example. These characters are as funny, but they're not knocking on the door of total insanity crankiness. "When you create a character and write their dialogue it's not as if you go 'ooh, I hope this is the new David Brent or Basil Fawlty'. You just have to write what you think is funny and hope that everyone else agrees with you."

I personally couldn't be a comedy actor myself, how David keeps a straight face in some of the scenes is acting at its very best. He finds it difficult though when there's a lot of improvisation going on. There were times with Alan Partridge when Steve Coogan would improvise a line; the result of which - David tells me - is you could say he technically lost bladder control ("Through laughter rather than any of those things you see adverts for on daytime TV").

Now Births, Deaths And Marriages is recorded and ready for transmission, David has a few more projects in the pipeline. "I have a couple of sitcoms I'm waiting for a decision on. I don't want to the name them as that may be bad luck before a commission. There are also a couple of film projects in the pipeline that I will be acting and directing on."

Births, Deaths And Marriages is on Radio 4 on Fridays at 11:30am.

Published: Wednesday 23rd May 2012