At their most grotesque, they possessed imagination dark enough to spew forth the village of Royston Vasey – a place populated by pen-obsessed sadists, an incestuous "local" couple and a magical man who swanned around in black-face, abducting innocent women from their homes. Now, after 10 years, the League of Gentlemen are back ... on a children's TV show.
In a way, there's no better place for them than CBBC's Horrible Histories. Loved by children and adored by adults, its focus on poo, gore and stupid deaths (all told through fantastically clever and hilarious sketches) is precisely the sort of thing Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Mark Gatiss might write if they lowered the age of their target audience.
"We're all huge fans of the show," explains Gatiss. "It's brilliantly written and genuinely, dare I say, Reithian in its aims to inform, educate, entertain. It also doesn't talk down to kids in any way. They're just straightforwardly funny ideas and people of all ages respond to that."
Their sketches, sprinkled throughout series four, see them take the form of a hyperactive panel of film executives to whom historical figures (such as an irate Dick Whittington) pitch their biopics – a spoof of those Orange cinema adverts. "We didn't try to influence or change the sketches at all," says Gatiss. "We just had a laugh – after 12 years together, there's a kind of shorthand that developed. We ended up doing some quite outrageous things, just for fun. Or I did. Maybe I'll never work again. They treated us rather like elder statesman."
Has being back together given them a taste for writing as a trio again? "We'd love to do something together but we're all so busy on separate projects," says Gatiss. "Maybe 'A Return to Royston Vasey' in 2019, 20 years on, to see where the characters have got to?"
'Horrible Histories' starts on CCBC on Monday at 5pm
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