Laurence Rickard Horrible Histories

Horrible Histories won three BAFTAs and a Comedy Award last year — not bad for a children’s programme. And later this year, more of us will learn to love Horrible Histories when a compilation of clips introduced by Stephen Fry airs on BBC1. Meanwhile, the show’s back on CBBC for a third series. Laurence Rickard, who both writes and appears in it, tells TV Choice more…

Making Horrible Histories looks like a lot of fun…
It is! Because we’re making it for CBBC as opposed to ‘grown-up comedy’ we’re given slightly more freedom and we’re kind of allowed to play around a bit. It’s hard work in terms of the hours being long, and we don’t always have the budget that we’d like, but the cast and crew get on better than anywhere else I’ve worked.

Where do the writers get their ideas from?
Facts are gathered for us — the vast majority come from the Horrible Histories books by Terry Deary [who makes a series of cameo appearances in the new series]. We have a history guru who has the hardest job on the show, in that he has to trail through history and find the interesting bits we can develop into sketches. And then, equally, sometimes my inspiration might come from something I’ve read in a book or seen on one of those blue plaques on buildings.

Do the actors have input in terms of their own ideas?
They certainly do. When we writers got our BAFTA we thanked the actors as we often get the credit for a funny line they've put in. We always have someone keeping an eye when we’re filming, just to make sure any improvised moments don’t compromise the factual, educational content — but if they’re bringing in an extra laugh, so much the better!

Tell us more about the transfer of Horrible Histories to BBC1 later this year.
We don’t know exactly when it’s going out, that’s in the lap of the BBC, but we’ve always tried to appeal to both kids and their parents, and this is hopefully going to introduce Horrible Histories to a wider audience. Stephen Fry was top of our list to host the show, and we didn’t think he’d say yes, but he did, and he was really positive about the show. It’s a really nice moment when someone of his calibre thinks it’s funny!

Do you get recognised much?
Someone started singing the Horrible Histories theme tune at me while shopping the other day! I didn’t think we would get spotted that much because there’s an awful lot of wigs going on in the show, but they [the fans] seem to see through that.

Martina Fowler