How We Met: Jeremy Dyson & Reece Shearsmith

'I'm known as the grumpy one, while he is like an aromatherapy candle'
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The Independent Online

Jeremy Dyson, 44, a screenwriter and author, Dyson is best known for his work with Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton as part of the comedy group the League of Gentlemen. He has also written and directed current supernatural stage hit 'Ghost Stories'. He lives in Leeds with his wife and children

I met Mark Gatiss back in 1986 and Steve Pemberton a few years after that, so I got a long lead-in of hyperbolic praise about Reece: "Funniest guy you'll ever meet"; "He's hysterical." I finally met him at a party, at Mark's house in north London, in 1993. I wanted to charm him, as we were all about to start working together on what would become the League, but he was impervious to my attempts; there was this stony face staring back at me.

We initially wrote material in set pairs, I with Mark, and Reece with Steve, and I envied what they came up with. They shared a rented flat in Highgate, and we'd go round to try new ideas on each other. In the TV room they'd have a blank video in their VHS ready to catch a key snippet on Kilroy, or a segment on the local news about a policeman demonstrating a new pepper spray on himself: 80 per cent of the League came out of that stuff.

The second year we went to perform our show at the Edinburgh Fringe, in 1997, a friend recommended Reece and I go and see a certain magic show, and it turned out that Reece loved magic, as did I, and we started connecting over that.

I was the invisible non-performer in the League, and it made me feel vulnerable. Reece sensed there was something up, and we had a conversation about it on our first tour; he told me he understood, but said it was a foolish thing for me to worry about, which was a great help.

Ending the League was a very gentle process: there was an inevitability to it, but Reece and I actually became closer: my new wife got on well with Reece and his wife, then we both had kids, so we're a constant presence in each other's lives.

I've read about how insensitive the Python guys could be to each other, and with Reece, we have such different sensibilities and personalities that we could easily have wound each other up, but we've done the opposite. I'll always remember a reading he did at my wedding. It was Philip Larkin's "The Mower", which ends: "Of each other, we should be kind, while there is still time."

Reece Shearsmith, 4, an actor and writer, Shearsmith's projects with the League of Gentlemen included their eponymous TV series and its follow-up, 'Psychoville', which he co-wrote with Steve Pemberton. He lives in north London with his wife and two children

Jeremy was not at Bretton Hall [drama college] where Mark, Steve and I became friends, but I remember going to a party in Leeds, in 1993, and someone saying, "You have to meet this man." I sensed I'd been built up, as one of the first thing he said was, "I hear you do a really great impression of Frankie Howerd," which I didn't, but I tried to do it anyway and he said, "Well, that's rubbish."

Once we got into our likes and dislikes, we had such synchronicity, it was bizarre. For example, we found out that we both stayed in to watch Carry on Screaming on 5 November 1976. That's not to say we're like each other: I'm known as the grumpy one, uptight and angry – but I play on that. Jeremy is like an aromatherapy candle: he calms you down when you're stressed.

It wasn't until the third series of The League of Gentleman [in 2002] that we collaborated on a script directly: I was surprised by how happy he was to just write it all down regardless of whether it was right or wrong.

We share a huge interest in illusions, and the people who inhabit that world. Jeremy always says the divide between magic and porn is very thin: both feel seedy and are populated by old men. We go to a magic convention in London every year, and troll around old trade shows. It's our one indulgence; it's nice to be able to blow £300 on a magic trick.

We were holidaying together in Cornwall last summer, meeting up for picnics, when Jeremy mentioned that [his co-writer] Andy [Nyman] was leaving the production of Ghost Stories. I was such a huge fan of the show – I'd seen it, like, 10 times – and I said, "How on earth are you going to find replacement?" And he replied, "We were thinking of you." I was gobsmacked, but I've loved doing it.

Since we've had kids, we've become increasingly squeamish. We did self-censor a little before, but having kids you become a bit more sanguine and responsible about what you can do. But, then, we never aimed to be dark kings of comedy – that was foisted upon us; we just wrote what we found funny.

'Ghost Stories' is at the Duke of York's Theatre, London WC2 until June (0844 871 7623, ghoststoriestheshow.co.uk)

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