Dirk is a dog. Lovett is a comedian. The twain meet in a one-offcomedy show on BBC2 which may well prelude new

beginnings for one tnan and his mongrel. Alastair Mahhot joins them in the


While the hrash comedians that

eante tip with the (‘omic Strip hay e stolen the spotlight. and 'l‘\' executives fall over themselves to gratify their every whim. Norman l.ovett has remained in the i hackground. Pushing gently and hiding his time as the harassed floor 3 manager in two series of [hm '1 Miss Hut and Holly the fatalistic

computer in Red Dwarf? he is now in with a chance of getting a ’l‘\' series

maturity [CSIS of his own. The halding. 42-year-old ex-panel heater. with the long panses and deadpan delivery that make Marvin from The lli'Ic/i-Ili/y‘er's~ Guide to (he (Eu/my sound positively garrulous. has now had his patience rewarded with the pilot show for a possihle series called I. l.ot't’ll. which will he shown as part of BB( 'Z's ('omic Asides series on Friday 9. and he's Quietly confident" that it will take off.

The real hit is expected to he Dirk. the ‘very lazy" puppet mongrel which is Norman’s constant companion. takes five people to operate and whose voice is provided hy (ieotl'rey Hughes. (‘uronulion Street's liddie Yeats. 'l'o Norman‘s great delight.

l lughes‘ Northern accent contrasts strikingly with hisown (‘oekney tones. l.ovett. though hrought up in (‘lacton-on-Sea and now living in lidinhurgh. spent fourteen years in l.ondon.

Norman can catch you ottt with his shy. slightly confused look. When he starts talking ahout l)irk's origins he diverts into a surreal twist so gently that he‘s finished talking hefore I realise I‘m having my leg pulled.

‘l'd always wanted a dog. and they ask you what sort of a dog you w ant w hen you meet the special effects men from l.ondon. and I took a couple of photos of a dog that lives tip the road here. and I said it‘s got to he a mongrel ohviously. and they just went away and came tip with that. 'l'hey huilt a whole skeleton first . . . and. you know . [mi/Ia dog. with what a real dog has got you know . a skeleton. flesh. lungs and everything. . .'

Norman found it a happy experience travelling hetw een his new lidinhurgh home and the studios in ( ilasgow . where BBC Scotland has worked on his segment ofthe series. Moving up here to join a lov ed one eight months ago. he has had no prohlems adjusting. ‘l iust slipped into it. I do come from the

seaside. don't forget. But to compare ('laeton with lidinhurgh is a very foolish thing to do.‘

Partly hecause. he says. if he'd stayed there he might still he a panel-heater now. with five kids and mayhe a car with shiny paintwork. He was already in his early thirties and a veteran of many reiected scripts. hefore dehuting as a comedian. encouraged hy old

schoolmates. After one performance

'miserable and laconic'

for friends at a party. with accompaniment from a musical friend (‘l le was in a group ~ that shows you my age. when I say group instead of hand‘). the first taste of the comedy circuit was at a puh called The ll'lteuls'lieufoit the King's Road.

"l‘he rough end of King‘s Road. the l-‘ulham end. (’hrist. that was awful. Some hloke shouting at me and stttff. regulars saving. Who‘s this idiot'.’ Of course. when you first start and you get heckled and you start shitting hricks. you shout louder as if to try and shout them down. And that makes it worse. hecause your shouting through a microphone makes people angry hecause of the

noise. Later on. as I learnt to do the l joh and he low-key. I actually drew people in.‘

However. the incongruous-looking l.ovett soon found himself supporting groups like Bauhaus (‘thcy had a more middle class kind of punk I went down very well') and The (lash. (‘ome 1983. he was singing comical songs with a guitar at the (‘omedy Store. a regular gig for Mayall. [{dmondson. Keith Allen. French and Saunders and the like in its original hase in Dean Street. One night he walked hack on stage. drunk. without his guitar and launched into a monologue ahout ‘maturity tests‘ at school - his first spoken routine. After that. small parts htiilt up slowly. heginning with the Don 'I .lliss ll'ut floor manager.

‘(‘ult is the word. isn‘t it'.’ (‘ult Red l)w'arfcult Ruhy Wax cult floor manager. .~\nd playing a computer in Red [)tt'tll‘fWilS nice. hecause it‘s a nice up-to-date character. isn‘t it. a talking computer. making him miserahle and laconic.’

lt's a very detached part. almost like the floor manager. a hit left out of the action. ‘l'm left alone. I like heing on my own. as well. I like it. I can take part

'watered down'

in something and still he quite detached. as you say. I think that’s good. hecause l could never ltave hecome part of a team. I think that‘s why the lead part of my comedy is a puppet that actually shuts up and doesn't say sod all after the recording.’

Norman looks at home in a hlaek cardigan in his neat. eotttfortahle flat. He’s not very interested in going out -- ‘those days are gone' ~ and gives offa very placid. home-loving aura. lle sounds most irked w hen he talks ahottt the state of comedy on TV.

"l‘here's not enough money spent on it. and what with these new channels coming in it's going to he watered down. And ( ~hannel 4. it seems anyone can get a programme on ('hannel 4. you know [haven‘t yet. hut I worked with Ruhy's show. I thought Ruhy's show was very good. But some of these programmes on ( ’hannel 4; any one can come in with a little idea on an envelope and they get a series.'

Nevertheless. Norman's not complaining.

‘Well. I am. hut I‘m not complaining as much as I used to. hecause I’m not doing the thing where I'm a working class hoy coming into a field where it‘s all run hy ( )x'hridge. I‘m in now . and I‘m doing okay. htit I can hay e a hit of a eliipon my shoulder at times ahout 1 my hackground and saying that's the reason they won’t accept me . . . But don't he scared of sontehody with two degrees. hecause you‘v e prohahly got something that they haven't got.’

Comic Asides: I, Lovell is on . BBCZ on Friday 9 at 9pm. J

'l‘he list 3 15 .lune 19895