Mad as a Hatty – Ten minutes with the star of Give Out Girls

Hatty Ashdown

Set in the world of promotions, Comedy Central’s new sitcom, Give Out Girls, follows four promo girls who hand out free products on the streets of the UK. The show is the brainchild of series creator, Hatty Ashdown. Ashdown, a stand up comedian and actress, devised the semi-autobiographical comedy from the six years she spent as a promo girl to pay the bills while she pursued her passion for comedy and performance.

Ashdown said that she “frequently took notes,” particularly of different characters and personalities that she came across, during her years in the promo world. The show started to come together three or four years ago, when Ashdown, who had never written a sitcom before, pitched her idea to producer Robert Popper, whose company, Popper Pictures, is a co-producer on the show.

The show really gained momentum when Popper introduced Ashdown to Tony MacMurray. MacMurray, a writer and actor by trade, had written previously for shows like Touch Me, I’m Karen Taylor and Al Murray’s Personality Disorder. The marriage of MacMurray’s sitcom writing experience and Ashdown’s natural comic talent that really gave the show life. Ashdown and MacMurray “hit it off right away” and began taking her rough ideas and crafting them into treatments.

When the show became more fleshed out, Popper took Give Out Girls to Big Talk Productions, the shingle run by the Cornetto Trilogy trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. The show was the shopped to Sky Living, but earlier this year made the transition to Comedy Central. This ultimately seems like the best decision for the show, whose offbeat, energetic tone fits well with Comedy Central’s current slate.

The show centres around four girls, Gemma (Diana Vickers), Marilyn (Kerry Howard), Poppy, (Cariad Lloyd), and Zoe (Miranda Hennessy). The obvious chemistry between the show’s principal characters was the product of what Ashdown called a “fun but heartbreaking” casting experience. On finding the right people for the parts, Ashdown said, “it sounds cliché but you knew immediately.” She spoke excitedly of the energy between the show’s cast members, including the small male ensemble that serves as a welcome contrast to the largely female cast.

The decision to focus the show on female promotional workers was partly due to Ashdown’s comfort writing in a female voice, as she explains “you write what you know” but she also acknowledged that the show’s female focus was more due to the fact that the world of promotions is a largely female one. Even going so far as to say that the industry was “very sexist” and that women who had been working for years were passed up for promotions in favour of men with far less experience.

Nevertheless, Ashdown ends up with the last laugh. On the subject of getting her show off the ground, she attributes some credit to its female focus. As she puts it, “four years ago there wasn’t so much female comedy on television.” The show itself is not exclusively meant to showcase the struggle of the modern woman, but rather to bring a fresh new perspective to the world of workplace comedy.

The show accomplishes that and then some. Give Out Girls is a funny, smart, and most of all well acted sitcom. The show takes advantage of smart writing from Ashdown and MacMurray who bring Ashdown’s experiences to life organically and hilariously. While the show is not yet slated for a series two, and discussions haven’t occurred, Ashdown remains optimistic, saying calmly, “we’ll see, we’ll see.” In the meantime she is working on a pilot, in the vein of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, minus the cars and minus the comedians. Well some comedians. The show will focus on all kinds of creative professionals and delve into their pasts; exploring the various day jobs they held while chasing their dreams, something Ashdown is certainly no stranger to. Personally, I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Give Out Girls airs Tuesday nights on Comedy Central.