Still Game stars Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill have ruled out trying to turn Jack and Victor into movie stars – but have said they would return to their Edinburgh Festival Fringe roots “in a heartbeat” to test out brand new characters.
The creators of the hit sitcom have vowed they would turn down big-money offers to revive the much-loved pensioners for a feature film due to the “track records of failure” of classic comedies like Rising Damp, Porridge and Steptoe and Son.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the final season of the sitcom on 24 February, as part of the launch night of BBC Scotland’s new channel, the revealed they had explored the idea of a Still Game movie several years ago, but jettisoned it as it “didn’t feel right”.
Kiernan said The Inbetweeners was the only “anomaly” he could think of where a hit film comedy had become a bigger success than a TV comedy.
However, Kiernan and Hemphill have vowed to keep working together and hinted about a return to the Fringe, where the first Still Game show attracted an audience of just eight at the Gilded Balloon in 1997.
They revealed they had been unable to pursue “other opportunities” in recent years due to their commitment to Still Game since reviving the characters in 2014 for a live show at the Hydro in Glasgow.
They have insisted there will be no way back for Jack and Victor on TV after the final episode airs next month, although the Craiglang pensioners and the other regulars at The Clansman will be back at the Hydro for a final farewell in the autumn.
Still Game’s worldwide appeal is growing all the time thanks to repeats on Netflix, but Kiernan and Hemphill insisted they would even resist any big-money offers from the entertainment giants to bring Jack and Victor back in future.
Kiernan said: “If you look at sitcoms Rising Damp, Porridge, Till Death Us Do Part and Steptoe and Son, they all became movies, but they very rarely made money.
“Apart from all the gambles involved with making a film, there are all the other track records of failure with sitcoms. The Inbetweeners movie was an anomaly. That really did the business. But the odds are stacked against turning sitcoms into films.”
Hemphill said: “For our tastes, sitcoms just don’t make good films. We investigated it a few years ago and it didn’t feel right.”
Kiernan added: “We’ve been on a mouse wheel for a long time. It was part of the reason we would down [tools] in the first place. It was non-stop.
“We’ve been really tied up with Still Game, but we’re still relatively young enough in the business to be doing other things. Now we’ve got time to examine what those other opportunities are.
“We make each other laugh and our minds work the same way. You don’t want to put that to bed because it can always be applied somewhere else, whether it is in comedy, drama or whatever.”
Jack and Victor made their TV debut in BBC Scotland’s comedy sketch show Pulp Video in 1996. The characters were turned into a full Fringe show after being offered a slot by Gilded Balloon founder Karen Koren.
By the end of the run, which also featured Paul Riley playing the character Winston, it was a sell-out success and the pair thought they were onto something when the pattern was repeated in Canada.
Kiernan said: “The Edinburgh Festival is a great thing. We’ve got nothing but fond memories of it, even though we only got eight people on our first night. We’d go back in a heartbeat.”
Hemphill said: “If you come from that environment, it’s very comfortable for the performer. Karen Koren was actually the one that came up with the title of the show. We were going to call it The Bunker. It feels like yesterday.
“You can explore different things in the theatre that you wouldn’t explore on TV. You can do things differently. You can maybe be more risky.”
Hemphill admitted he was aware of criticism of the two new series of Still Game, which were made in the wake of demand for the first live show at the Hydro.
He said: “Our audience has grown and grown. When that happens you get more dissenting voices. We’ve never let that influence us. We’ve had people saying to us that series four, five and six weren’t as good as series one, two and three.
“We knew that they were and that we were putting as much effort into those shows as we did the early ones.
“There’s been a fair amount of criticism of the last two series. Some people have outgrown it. But we’ve only ever tried to make ourselves laugh and hope that that will make the audience laugh. I remember like it was yesterday when the show wasn’t on, people coming up to me and saying, ‘When are you bringing it back?’ We’ve done that now.
“When you bring a show back you’re never going to have the same shelf life with it. Not outstaying your welcome is a good policy.”
Kiernan revealed the BBC had wanted the pair to sign up to three more series in the wake of the popularity of the show’s TV comeback in 2016.
He said: “We’ve been at it a long time. We just thought there’s no point in getting shoved or pushed and for them not to commission it.
“There wasn’t really a conscious decision to quit while we were ahead. We wanted to quit while we still had plenty of ideas.”