Graham Linehan would like to make one thing really clear, Father Ted was filmed in front of a studio audience. It might look as thought it’s all done in a draughty house on a remote Irish island, but in fact it’s a studio set. Linehan is irked by the persistence of the idea that the sitcom has canned laughter on it.
“I get asked it all the time,” he says, his Dublin accent tinged with faint exasperation. “It’s like the moon landings or something.”
I know this to be true as one day in the mid 90s, I was working at Guinness and picked up the phone to a man asking me if I was aware of a programme called Father Ted. Seems odd now, but at the time, it wasn't that well known. However, I had plenty of Irish friends and they had been raving about it for a year or two already.
It turned out that the voice was the late, much-missed, Dermot Morgan* (Ted himself), and he wondered whether there was any chance of a barrel of Guinness for the end of show wrap party. I was more than happy to help and he invited me and a friend down to the filming on the South Bank.
The episode we saw was Flight Into Terror which btw includes a couple of covert appearances from Linehan as a priest and Pauline McLynn (usually Mrs Doyle) as a nun.
It was a great evening and I can testify that the laughter is very real and absolutely from the audience. However, my main memory is how welcommed we were made to feel. The beer had been delivered, so no-one had any particular reason to be nice to us, but Dermot took time to look out for us, get us in the green room and share a bundle of gags with us. What a genuinely lovely fella.
* Dermot was a well known comedian in Ireland and apparently used to introduce himself with "Hello, my name's Dermot Morgan – that's big M, small organ."