February 7 2009: The world as listed by the new queen of TV comedy

Before I meet Sharon Horgan, I ask Rob Brydon if he has any profound insights into her comedy. Given that they worked together on Rob Brydon’s Annually Retentive, I expect a comment on her comedy brilliance. Instead, he sends this text: “She has the healthiest hair of any woman I’ve ever known.” I tell Horgan and she unleashes a fantastically filthy laugh. “Thanks a million! I always worry about my hair when I’m going to see Rob; I don’t want to let him down by turning up with a dull mane.”

Horgan, 38, is gorgeous, talented and funny. She started writing comedy only six years ago, after leaving Ireland for London in her late teens, attending second-rate acting schools, doing an awful lot of waitressing and, in her late twenties, going to Brunel University to study English. Then she met Dennis Kelly, he showed her a script and they started writing together. The result was Pulling, a savagely honest, cruel and inspired comedy about three girlfriends who say it like it is, dump crap men and get drunk.

Bizarrely, given its super-cool cult status, the BBC hasn’t commissioned a third series of Pulling, but there will be an hour-long special in the spring. In the meantime, Horgan is co-starring with Stephen Mangan, of Green Wing fame, in Free Agents, a romcom in which two talent agents who are disillusioned in love may or may not get it together.

Acting in a comedy she didn’t write was tough and Horgan was “wary of doing it”, but now she seems to be up for all sorts of work experiences. Apart from stand-up. “I’d love to have done the whole Edinburgh thing. I envy people who can do it. I’d never have the balls; I’d be terrified of messing it up. I’d get stage fright. I wouldn’t be able to put an audience at ease, they’d see my knees knocking. Since I’ve had two children, my brain is so bad that I wouldn’t be able to memorise any jokes either; I’d have to write them on my arms.”

Horgan frets about her top-five lists, worries about those she’s left out and if she’s being funny enough. So I ask how funny she really is, on a scale of one to ten. “That’s a horrible question! You meanie! When I’m in the pub, on a roll, a bit drunk and making my husband laugh, maybe an eight. If I’m put on the spot, probably a three. I’m much funnier when I’ve got a bit of time to think about things. I’ve always got that Holden Caulfield thing of realising what I should’ve said after the event.”

What are yourfavourite . . .


Alan Partridge
When I think of Partridge I think of his big plate. More than any other comedy I can just watch him over and over.

The Office
An obvious choice but it’s brilliant. Brent’s a massive idiot but you end up caring about him.

Peep Show
I can’t think of any other ongoing comedy that is still so fresh and enjoyable.

I watched it when I was growing up and it doesn’t date. Fletcher is the original smartarse.

Steptoe and Son
Harold used to break my heart. I always wanted his latest love to work out.

American comedies

Roseanne was about the most cynical woman on telly.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Sometimes you can see the actors trying not to corpse, which I love. And Larry David is attractive, which is insane.

Will & GraceI
love it. It’s so vicious. Above all, in Grace it’s got a real klutz of a female. She’s Lucille Ball.

More because of George Costanza than Seinfeld.

For its warm heart. I could watch an entire episode just looking at Marty’s chair.

Sporting events

Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup
My brother Shane plays for Ireland. It’s a great opportunity to shout at the telly.

Olympic Boxing
I love turning on the telly early in the morning and watching some young nutter punch his way to gold.

Any big fight
My dad taught boxing when we were kids and was a big fan so we’d be allowed to stay up for the seminal matches. Sometimes we’d put on the gear and recreate fights at home. Wait.

That sounds a bit weird now.

I was obsessed with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. I was convinced there was huge sexual chemistry there.

The Grand National
I was in the pub once with my brother watching it and this guy who bet on the winning horse turned to us and said, “Well, it’s something to tell the grandchildren isn’t it?” Like he’d ridden the f****** horse to victory himself.

Comedy actresses

Debra Messing
A goddess. I went to the HBO Golden Globes party and she was the first person I saw on the way in. Some mental was hanging round her neck trying to take her picture. I thought, “Who’s looking after Debra?”

Frances McDormand
I love her in Fargo so much. “I’m not sure I agree with you 100 per cent on your police work, there, Lou.”

Julie Walters
It’s incredible that she can do comedy and straight acting with the same brilliance.

Julia Davis
Not only is she a brilliant actress but she’s also been in some of my favourite comedies: Human Remains, Nighty Night, Big Train, Blue Jam.

Rebekah Staton and Tanya Franks
It’s a bit cheesy choosing my co-stars in Pulling but they are brilliantly funny girls. I’ve never seen anyone act drunk as well as Tanya, and Rebekah does one of the funniest walks you’ll ever see.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: it was almost ruined for me when I did my English degree. I don’t want to know that his pink shirts are a metaphor.

Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway: it’s the book I reread the most. I love the whole world he recreates in Spain with the bullfighting.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: it’s a graphic novel but with incredible stories about superheroes with human failings.

The Dubliners by James Joyce: The Dead is the saddest unrequited love short story I’ve ever read. It kills me every time.

Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr: the two parallel stories of the son’s heroin addiction and the mother’s addiction to slimming pills are equally harrowing.

Free Agents, Friday, Channel 4, Friday, 10pm