A piffling idea
Wooden Overcoats began life as an idea for a short film thought up by Felix Trench and Tom Crowley on the Jubilee Bridge, London, in July 2014. The two were to play competing funeral directors in ten minutes of silent slapstick, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau style. Much to their friends' and loved ones' relief, they forgot about it and had a coffee instead.
Some months later, the idea resurfaced as a possible sitcom. They floated it with light comedy genius David K. Barnes who promptly ran away.
After twenty minutes, he came back with a sheet of A4 that summarised the events of Episode 1 and some of the major characters. An island was born.
Building An Island
It quickly became apparent that this was not a three man operation. The cry went out to radio producers extraordinaire Andy Goddard and John Wakefield who trumpeted back across the London veldt. They had reckless enthusiasm, a thirst for a challenge, and some laptops.
The team of five was complete. Only a couple of additional actors would be required, it was thought. They got twenty five, just to play it safe. Also, eleven musicians, nine crew, and a communal kitchen.
Meanwhile, David assembled a crack squad of writers (and Tom Crowley), stole their best ideas, and over the early months of 2015 lost sleep, weight, blood and perspective as he pulled together eight episodes of funereal fun and frolics. The other writers were occasionally distressed at how sad the lives of their characters had become. David didn't care.
Season 1 was recorded over four days in Artspace Studio, Brixton. Andy and John supervised the creation of the world by creating four separate recording areas: a small indoor space, a large indoor space, a dedicated Funn Funerals space, and a dead room for outdoor scenes. Engineer Supremo Tom Gillerion ensured that everything went smoothly. Some runners brought pizza. People drank prosecco. It was remarkably decadent.
Then everybody hugged and waved goodbye and went back to their lives. Andy and John weaved their magic and turned the recordings into eight lavishly produced episodes.
David continued his day job as a perfume salesman, and Felix became a pub quiz master. Tom, by contrast, faded into obscurity.
The Piffling Philharmonic
The music was written by James Whittle and recorded in York in July 2015. It features guitars, mandolin, drums, maracas, cello, violin, a piano and, as is now standard in every podcast, a concert organ.