Cobh school kids TV sitcom, says

More than 72 schoolchildren from Cork will make their TV debut (Thursday November 23), when they star on RTÉ2 in a new comedy by CCCahoots, writes Colette Sheridan
Cobh school kids TV sitcom, says
Filming of 'The School', a three-part 'mockumentary' by CCCahoots for RTE, at Walterstown NS, Cobh. Picture: Larry Cummins

THE old showbiz saying, ‘Never work with children or animals’, as advised by WC Fields, has been turned on its head by Cork comedy troupe, CCCahoots.

The trio, made up of Tadhg Hickey, Dominic MacHale and Laura O’Mahony, have a new sitcom, The School, going out on RTÉ2,  Thursday November 23, at 10.35pm.

The three-part series was shot at Walterstown National School in Cobh with more than 70 children taking part — as well as their pets.

Written and directed by Tadhg, The School is “for anyone who looks fondly back on their own school days,” says the RTÉ press release.

The premise of the sitcom is that it’s the first day of school for new principal, Dominic English. When school secretary, Briege, takes a shine to him, a jealous teacher, Mr Tony Hegarty, decides to undermine him at every opportunity.

It’s not that Mr Hegarty fancies Briege himself, but they were very close friends until the interloper arrived on the scene.

The comedy, a ‘mockumentary’, starts in the run up to the school’s nativity play. Producer Claire O’Connell explains that she and Tadhg set up their production company two years ago.

“So CCCahoots is a troupe of three comedians as well as a production company.”

The School was filmed in August when Laura was pregnant with her second child. She has recently given birth to a baby boy.

“Laura is pregnant in the show as well. She shows a birthing DVD to the kids in the sitcom. She is looking for a man to complete her family.”

Clearly, Laura is a very capable comedian. Two weeks before she gave birth, she performed a show at UCC.

That The School is going to be screened on RTÉ 2 is a big achievement for CCCahoots.

“We sent our comedy, Ronanism (written and performed by Tadhg about a guy who’s in love with himself) to RTÉ’s head of comedy, Eddie Doyle. The relationship grew from there.

We worked with different projects with Eddie and had a few sketches on the Republic Of Telly. We’re obviously delighted about The School being screened.

“We worked on ideas with Eddie to see what would be commercial and enjoyable to work on at the same time. We wanted it to be true to CCCahoots.”

By ‘commercial’, Claire explains that the show must have the potential to be sold to another network and gain a broader audience.

“A network would buy the three episodes and commission a second series. There is already interest in it from a UK channel.”

Approximately 65 children are involved in the filming in the national school.Picture; Larry Cummins
Approximately 65 children are involved in the filming in the national school.Picture; Larry Cummins

Claire describes the comedy as being family-friendly as well as “clever and warm”, adding: “The joke is always on us. We never make a joke of other people or out of the kids in the sitcom.

“Most of the kids in the show have never really acted before. They’re absolutely amazing and really make the show.

“We told them what’s going on in the (fictional) school. They didn’t get any script. What they’ve come out with is absolute gold. We created a really nice environment where the kids could relax. There’s 72 of them altogether in the show, from junior infants to sixth class pupils. We had chaperones for the kids.”

The schoolchildren were encouraged to bring in their pets and involved them in the shooting of the sitcom. Controlled mayhem ensues, which is not helped by a visit to the fictional school from a Department of Education official.

Claire originally studied accountancy at CIT before deciding to embark on working in the theatre.

“I happened to end up in the comedy industry. I was finding the accounting a bit boring. But I’m actually using it in my role as a producer. I have to work with budgets and payroll.”

CCCahoots used to run a comedy club at the Everyman last year.

“We’d invite stand-up comedians to perform and the troupe would do a few sketches. We moved on to just doing our own shows in different venues. We have 12,000 followers on Facebook and we like to think that’s growing all the time.”

As well as performing in venues and releasing a new sketch every week on social media, the company also turns its hand to making promotional videos for the corporate sector.

What does Claire think of Irish comedy on TV?

A scene from new RTE comedy The School, by CCCahoots
A scene from new RTE comedy The School, by CCCahoots

Bridget And Eamon is good but their show is a lot different to our family-friendly work. We like kids being able to watch what we do as well as adults.”

Claire loves Mrs Brown’s Boys, a co-production from RTÉ and the BBC: “There’s a good bit of Irish stuff being sold to the UK. It depends on the sense of humour.”

Tadhg is a big fan of Ricky Gervais of The Office fame.

The company is ambitious and enjoys working together. They each work from their homes and have regular meetings before going into rehearsal or production.

“It can be stressful when we’re in the depths of production. But it’s very rewarding when you see the result. The trio are naturally funny. They’re not putting on anything for their job.”

The camera work for CCCahoots is done by Jonathan Ulrich who moved to Cork from America in April. “He also edited The School. He has been a godsend with ten years of TV work under his belt.”

Claire is also full of praise for Keith Bradley, the principal of Walterstown National School who made the sitcom possible.

“We would like to make a film at some stage,” says Claire.

Ambition, talent and a can-do attitude combine to make CCCahoots a company whose star is very much in the ascendant.

The School airs on RTÉ2 tonight (Thursday) at 10.35pm.

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