Brian Beacom

EVER failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Gregor Sharp doesn’t have Samuel Beckett’s quote tattooed on his arm (as tennis star Stan Wawrinka has.)

But when we meet at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay there’s little doubt the mantra is fairly ingrained into Gregor’s fair-haired head.

Gregor’s story as a hopeful writer reveals a career with more on and off switches than a demonstration TV set in Curries.

Right now, he and writing partner Simon Carlyle are riding high, enjoying the accolades for the opening of their third BBC Two series of clever, caustic domestic comedy, Two Doors Down.

Gregor is also a BBC comedy commission editor, commuting to London from his home in Glasgow’s West End.

However, the writer has worked long and hard to make it happen. Failing hard. Failing often.

Even, at one point, failing to land a job stacking shelves in Tesco.

“Growing up in Cardonald I wrote a lot of stories in primary school, read avidly and plundered the local library,” he recalls.

“But I wasn’t a bookworm, I’d be outdoors a lot on my bike. The media was never on the radar.

“And while I watched a lot of TV and sitcoms, it was never going to be a career.”

Encouraged by his parents – a teacher and a lecturer - to get a “proper job” the teenage Gregor had no idea what that actually meant so he attempted a Business Studies degree at Strathclyde University.

“It was the worst thing ever,” he says with a wry smile.

“I was about to chuck it all in when I got talking to a guy outside the student union who was set to change course to English.

“I didn’t know that was possible. So I went back to First Year to do exactly that.”

After university, Gregor knocked on the doors of journalism only to achieve sore knuckles.

“It got to the point I once applied for a job on a porno mag, Galaxy Publications.”

Gregor didn’t make it into porn and decided to grasp at a teacher training position. But just as he licked his stamp on the application form, his eye was caught by a magazine ad in which STV were looking for a “lowest level” intern.

Gregor didn’t land the job, but was invited to work for free, to gain experience.

“There was one week I didn’t have the bus fares to get in. I was signing on that day The Head of Arts called me up and encouraged me to come back. It was a really important moment.”

After a stint stuffing envelopes, Gregor became a Junior on arts show NB and soon had hands-on experience. Within two years he was directing items and producing, putting together programmes.

Along the way, he met his future wife Angela, who would go on to become a TV producer. But Gregor met someone who was to impact tremendously on his professional life.

Simon Carlyle was another freelancer working on shows such as Wheel of Fortune.

The pair connected, even though they were polar opposites. (Simon had once dreamt of a life of a drag artist in London and was a professional ice skater.) But they shared a love of comedy.

Later, they both moved to BBC Scotland to work on children’s television and Simon began writing sketches.

Simon encouraged his chum to co-write - Gregor providing structure, with Simon offering “all the filthy jokes I’d learned in the gay bars of Glasgow.”

In 2003, they came up with sunbed sitcom Terri McIntyre: Classy Bitch. A comedy writing partnership was born.

“But we didn’t always use to get along, especially in the early days,” says Gregor with a knowing mile.

“It’s hard to write comedy. You need a sense of humour to go into a shed in Ayr for two months. (Simon’s parents’). And you also need to have a mutual veto, to be able to say ‘That’s not funny.’ And I had to defer to the fact Simon was the performer. He was saying the words.”

Terri McIntyre was a minor hit but not big enough to propel the pair into the majors.

The pair plodded on with their separate TV lives, Simon acting, writing on his own. Gregor took on freelance production contracts.

They got back together, and 2006 they had another crack at the big time with BBC sitcom Thin Ice. It only ran to one series. “It was funny, but the world (of ice skating) didn’t really work.”

Three years on, Gregor gave up his job as a researcher with BBC Scotland to co-write again with Simon. This time the result was caravan park sitcom Happy Hollidays. But it was static. Again, the alchemy not quite right.

“Those were my worst days,” Gregor admits of the post Hollidays period. “I was trying to make it as a writer on my own. But my accounts that first year revealed I’d earned £900 in total. And you don’t get dole money.

“I was at the point of chucking it all in and applying for teaching jobs. At one point I even applied for a night shift in Tesco. But I didn’t get it. I was over-qualified. Yet, I had to bring money in to the house. It was a really tricky time.”

He continued to write spec scripts. “I wrote a lot that year, three sitcoms, a film script, trying to generate my own leads.”

He wrote again with Simon, this time coming up with one-off comedy No Holds Bard in 2009. It was funny. It was dark. The pair were coming to find their voice. It led to nowhere but they were now failing better.

The writers came up with another idea, based on suburban family lives in Scotland. Two Doors Down was transmitted as a one-off comedy drama in 2013, commissioned by BBC Scotland. But it wasn’t picked up as a series.

Given the critical acclaim for the show, Gregor could have been forgiven for reaching for the anti-depressants. But he persevered. And fate kicked in. He was earmarked for a comedy commissioner job with the BBC in London.

“I wasn’t trying to build a career in this way, but I guess I had acquired some of the skills.

“In the first week, I was working with Hat Trick Productions who were making the second series of Episodes and I was suddenly at dinner with Matt LeBlanc and Friends writer David Crane.

“The next day I was working on Outnumbered. To get a view of the world from that side of the fence was amazing.”

But then a surprise kicked in; Two Doors Down was commissioned by BBC2, to run on the network.

Sharp and Carlyle’s dark, caustic humour has been honed to near perfection.

How much a part has self-belief played? “No one teaches you to write scripts,” says Gregor, smiling.

“You have to work it out for yourself and that puts so many people off. But you keep going. And hope.”

*Two Doors Down, BBC2 Scotland, Monday at 10pm.