My Comedy Hero: John Kearns on John Sullivan

My Comedy Hero: John Kearns on John Sullivan

As he takes Don't Worry They're Here across the UK, John Kearns picks the creator of Only Fools and Horses as his comic idol

Many people first encounter their comedy hero as a child being allowed to stay up late, usually because there was a sitcom or comedian on the television. If something was funny enough and written well enough, age was transcended, bedtimes scrapped and jokes that maybe you shouldn't hear were allowed to fly over your head.

Only Fools and Horses, John Sullivan's best-loved sitcom, brought my family together in a way that only Christmas, church on Sunday morning and breakfast could. I became a completest, spending birthday money on tapes, cassettes and Corgi diecast three-wheeled vans. The holy grail was The Bible of Peckham, which contained every OFAH script. These scripts were not only extremely funny and warm, they were blueprints for life. Sullivan wrote about how to look after family and be generous, as well as how to pick yourself up and dust yourself down. He showed me my first wedding, pregnancy, funeral … the list goes on.

I always loved the domesticity of his writing, the importance he put on home and food. My favourite episodes are when the family are all hunkered in the flat, bickering over tea, Del dipping bread in someone's egg without asking or when he wines and dines at his local curry house. Sullivan's sense of place rooted these characters in a world that I knew, that I believed in, as South London was my actual home too. Even to this day when watching the opening credits, my brothers and I will pause it and point out who we think is my grandmother in the background pictures of a bustling market. We literally saw our own family in the show. Sullivan said his secret was that he just wrote what he knew. His real magic and the reason why I got into comedy, was wanting to work out how he knew me.

John Kearns: Don't Worry They're Here is on tour until Sunday 27 May.
As told to Brian Donaldson

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