Pair may be new French and Saunders
Pair may be new French and Saunders

Britain's latest comic pairing, Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver, are eating breakfast in a five-star Sydney hotel while we talk, still slightly awed by the fact that they were invited to Australia for the launch of BBC Worldwide's Australian program slate for 2013.

Their show, Watson & Oliver, begins on UKTV on Monday and is one of the channel's highlights.

Though the pair now have made one comedy series for the BBC, with a second pending, success has been a long time coming with more beans on toast than haute cuisine over the years.

Friends since meeting at school in Surrey when they were 13, they individually spent years as jobbing actors, scraping together a living and filling in time doing temp work in London.

Watson describes what she says was her worst job - filing death sheets, the records of those who had died in hospital, for the National Health Service.

It was not until they were approaching 30 that they joined forces and hired a London theatre to try out their comedy routine.

"I remember so clearly our first show," Oliver says. "We gave ourselves two months to write it and invited friends and family so we couldn't back out.

"I remember so clearly the minute we walked out on stage that first time. I was thinking I have no idea if we are funny or if it is all in our heads. Until you open your mouth you don't know. Of course, it was our families so they were not going to sit in silence but we got signed by an agent after the first show. We were very lucky."

Performances at the Edinburgh Festival followed and then came the BBC series. Now they are being spoken of as the next Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French.

It is an obvious comparison: both sets of women share an ability to completely transform themselves for skits, with Watson at times bouncing between being Prince William, Keira Knightley and a Playboy bunny. The other similarity is that while they may mock, they are not mean-spirited.

Initially, they wrote material for the first series together, sitting at the table in Watson's kitchen and taking turns on the typewriter.

"The first series was quite labour intensive because Lorna lives over the other side of London to me," Oliver says.

"But halfway through the series we realised that given that we both had computers it might be a good idea to write separately."


The West Australian

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