Interview by Graham Finney Photo copyright © Paul Warburton

It’s been over 11 years in the making but last week, Michael Dee’s sitcom, Morbid, finally launched with a sold-out premiere. Following the release of the show, I had a chat to Michael about Morbid, funeral stories and the future of the sitcom.

1. Hi Michael! So the pilot episode of your sitcom Morbid has just hit the internet following a sold-out premiere last week. What has the feedback been like?

“It’s been amazing! I’ve just seen on our Facebook page that people have been leaving recommendations and saying how great the show was. When I wrote the script ten years ago, it wasn’t the greatest but it had potential. Over the last few years since we’ve been filming it, myself and Elric Cadwallader have really gone to town on it and, if something hasn’t worked while we’ve been filming it we’ve reworked it. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into it so we knew it was going to be of a good standard but the reaction we’ve has been really good. We’ve had a really good family feel going on while we’ve been filming it so we know we’ve done the best we could with what we had. Going into the premiere last week was more of just excitement of people seeing it. It was a really enjoyable night.”

2. Like you said, the idea started eleven years ago, why is it only coming to light now?

“I wrote it in 2007 and I left college in 2008 and Elric, who is now the co-writer, did a show in 2005 and I was just really inspired by his work. I had these characters in mind but I’d never written a script before. So, the basis was there but the dialogue wasn’t very good and the characters were all a bit samey. It took a while for me to, I don’t know, learn about life and grow up and, plus, there was no way at nineteen I was going to be able to get a hearse and a church. Over the last ten years with the growth of twitter and social media and the availability of film making equipment, the industry of independent film-making has changed dramatically to the point where we turned around and said, you know what, we could film this ourselves which wasn’t an option in 2007, you just sent it to the BBC, waited for a bit then got a no and that was it.”

“I think times have changed as well in the funeral industry too with people having more extravegent funerals and doing things like hiring double-decker buses and things like that. Funerals are moving more away from the religious aspect of it and we’re seeing some quirky funerals so it was a great time to for a show like this.

3. Has there been any adverse reaction to it because of the subject matter?

“Not really, no. We invited a lot of funeral directors to the premiere and they absolutely loved it. We’ve also got a real funeral director involved as well from the start and gave him a cameo part. We filmed on his premises and in a morgue, he lent us a limousine for filming. He’s been 100% behind us all the way and thinks it is about time a sitcom is done and done in the right way. There have been sitcoms before, the BBC have done three or four set in funeral directors and there have been loads on the internet but I don’t think the subject matter has been tackled in the right way and with the right amount of respect.”

4. From the original script written back in 2007, have you changed it much?

“Quite a lot, well, obviously there are some scenes which haven’t been touched at all but they’re just quite simple scenes. Yeah, the script has changed dramatically since day one but you can still see the original script within the new one we actually filmed with.”

5. You crowd-funded the hearse, how did it feel to hit an amount like £5,000?

“It’s really weird and people do keeping asking me how I feel but, all the way through, it has just felt like a normal production. I think that, now it is out and on the internet, it feels like a massive weight has been lifted but it’s been a great project to work on and we didn’t want it to end. I’m just so grateful to everyone who has helped. We’ve had a great cast, a great crew, great support from the local community. People have just wanted to see a success story and I think it has become, or will become that the more we push it out there.”

“There’s a buzz around Ellesmere Port as well because the area gets a lot of bad press and I think there are so many talented people here. 70% of the cast and crew are made up of people from Ellesmere Port. People were either at university or just wanted to help out and I don’t think this place gets the credit it deserves. Everything was so London-centric but the internet has changed that. People are telling us we should send it to the BBC and I think that would be the worse thing we could do. They’d change it and it would end up like Extras with Ricky Gervais, I’d have sold out with David Bowie singing me a song and this is not what I want. I’d rather struggle but tell the story the way I want it rather than have someone come in who has had years and thinks they can just bash out a load of jokes.”

“Comedy these days is really hard to come by. I’ve only seen about three or four really decent sitcoms in the recent years. I grew up watching watching people like The Two Ronnies, Morecambe And Wise, Dave Allen and lots of British comedy and, for me, I want to be up there with them.”

6. Given the growth of the internet and things like GoFundMe etc, how important are they to independent film makers?

“I think very much so. Look at something like Netflix, there are shows on there which are independent. Poldark, one of the BBC’s flagship shows, is produced by an independant company and the BBC buy it. It’s not as if I’m the only person doing this, I’m just really low down the chain because I haven’t done anything this major. It all comes down to funding. If the funding was there, we’d be filming the series tomorrow.”

7. Going back to the Morbid theme, what inspired the show? Are there any funny funeral stories you’ve experienced or been told about?

“To be honest, I’m a massive Dave Allen fan and I remember seeing a scene where there are two coffins and they’re chasing each other down the road and the humour was just brilliant.”

“It was when my grandad died though and my mum used to say to him ‘your nose will never fit in that coffin’ and it used to be a running gag. When she went to see him in his coffin after he’d died, she looked at him and said ‘I told you’. That’s the type of humour that never gets touched on in Britain, we never want to talk about death and stuff like that and so, I thought that this was a unique humour, and when I tell people they say it’s a great idea. Everybody has a story about a funeral or knows someone who has a story. The reason I don’t think it has been done well is because I don’t think the subject matter has been tackled properly.”

“Within our sitcom there is ups and downs. It’s about a brother and sister who have just lost their parents and have to run this business. One doesn’t want to be there and one wants to run the business themselves. There is a lot of pressures but you’ve got the ups and downs, the ying and yang. Other people have tried it but they’ve either focussed on really inappropriate jokes or they’ve just not tackled the subject matter properly. It’s a very raw subject and we had so much respect when we wrote it. When we showed the script to Ian, the funeral director, we read it through, we asked him what would work and would people find it offensive. There is a scene in a morgue where we’ve used terminology but we made sure that it was the correct terminology as we wanted to educate people too.”

8. Okay, off subject now. It’s Halloween next week, what is your scariest childhood memory?

“Oh, you know, do you remember those video shops where your mum would go in on a Friday and get a couple of vhs films? Well, there was one my mum went to and it was at the time when one of the Nightmare on Elm Street films came out and there was a massive cut-out Freddy Krueger in the window. When she came back out of the shop and to find the car shaking with me and my sister inside screaming at this cardboard cut out.”

9. We’ve talked about your love of British sitcoms so who are your top five sitcom characters?

“Father Ted, Father Dougal, Del And Rodney, Trigger and I would probably say Manny from Black Books.”

10. Just to finish, the pilot is out, the feedback has been brilliant, what are your plans for the rest of 2018 and into next year?

“Into next year we’ll be crowdfunding for the full year to try and get a proper budget. Each episode for TV is something like £60,000 and we’ll never get that so we’ll be working to a realistic budget. I don’t know what that will be yet but we’ll be crowdfunding from January and showcasing the episodes to try and get people interested.”

For more information visit: Below is a selection of images from the premier

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