Mark Murphy, director, is the writer, director and producer of The Comedian’s Guide to Survival. He co-wrote the film with James Mullinger, who he had known since they were close friends at King Edward’s Witley boarding school – originally bonding over their love of movies such as Groundhog Day and Conan the Barbarian (the original Arnold Schwarzenegger version).
Mark and James first started working together on a comedy film show. The show was called Movie Kingdom, originally airing on Discovery’s DMAX channel for a ten-part series. When the series finished, they were picked up by Comedy Central to produce short-form programming, focusing on interviews (which didn’t always go to plan). As well as writing and directing, Mark eventually got into the presenting side.
James’s other passion was stand up, which he is now hugely successful at. While working together (and with access to many well-known comedy stars), Mark and James both realised that struggling to become a successful stand up comedian while interviewing the cream of the comedy world was the basis of a fascinating story. Several years after writing the script, they finally raised the finances to put the film into production: The Comedian’s Guide to Survival.
The story follows James Mullinger’s real life struggles trying to make his name in the world of comedy.
The protagonist finds himself at a crossroads where no one wants to see his performances, and his wife is getting fed up. The final straw comes when his boss presents him with an ultimatum: quit comedy or lose his job.
To add insult to injury, Mullinger’s boss sends him to Los Angeles, where he is expected to interview some of the world’s most celebrated comedians for the magazine. However, spending time with his former heroes stirs up Mullinger’s passion for stand-up comedy anew.
Portraying one man’s struggle to break into one of the toughest industries in the world, The Comedian’s Guide to Survival follows the story of an embittered journalist with aspirations of making it as a stand-up comedian. From the lowest level of motorway service stations to open mic gigs to the highs of Hollywood, the movie follows the real life story of James Mullinger, a comedian who gave up his job as a magazine writer to chase his dreams of making it big on stage.
Shot in England, Canada and America, the tale follows Mullinger on a path of redemption as he struggles to find his true calling in life. Mark Murphy, Solar Productions CEO, co-wrote and directed the film, at the heart of which is the story of a man who keeps battling adversity to follow his dreams, ultimately achieving true happiness and equilibrium from the ability to make people laugh.
The role of James Mullinger was played by James Buckley, who is best known for playing Jay Cartwright in The Inbetweeners. Buckley’s first role came in 2001, when he played Johnny Vaughan in the BBC sitcom ‘Orrible. He then starred in a Hellmann’s mayonnaise advertisement in 2004, followed by a music video for the Gravenhurst track ‘I Turn My Face To The Forest Floor’in 2005. James Buckley’s stage credits include Whistle Down the Wind, in which he played Clarence, and the West End musical version of Les Misérables, in which he starred as Gavroche. In addition to his role in Inbetweeners, James Buckley also appeared in Rock & Chips, Skins, Teachers, Holby City and The Bill.
James Buckley also starred in Off the Hook, playing the role of Fred. For Red Nose Day 2011, James Buckley and his Inbetweeners co-stars embarked on a ‘rude road trip’, traveling across the United Kingdom and visiting streets with the rudest names. The actor received a BAFTA nomination in April 2011 for his role in The Inbetweeners. He also appears in Everywhere and Nowhere, as well as playing the lead role in the short film Veronique.
Outside of his acting career, James Buckley is also a popular musician, streamer and YouTuber, having started the Completed It Mate YouTube gaming channel in April 2016. By September 2021, the channel had attracted more than 428,000 subscribers, Buckley later moving his channel to Twitch under the same name.
In The Comedian’s Guide to Survival, Mullinger is surrounded by some of the biggest names in British and American comedy today, including the likes of Jimmy Carr, Omid Djalili and Gilbert Gottfried, who all play themselves in the movie. Meanwhile, Paul Kaye stars as James Mullinger’s magazine editor boss.
Paul Kaye is perhaps best known for his portrayal of the shock interviewer Dennis Pennis in a special feature on The Sunday Show, which ultimately propelled the British comedian to fame. Paul Kaye also played Mike Strutter, a New York lawyer on MTV’s Strutter, as well as appearing as Vincent the Fox in the hit BBC comedy Mongrels and starring in HBO’s Game of Thrones as Thoros of Myr.
Born in Clapham, London, in 1964, Paul Kaye studied at Harrow Art School before graduating from Nottingham Trent University with a first-class degree in Theatre Design. He worked as a scene painter at the Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo and illustrated regularly for magazines like Time Out, i-D, International Musician, Literary Review and NME.
The Comedian’s Guide to Survival character Nick Secker (who was coincidentally named after a French teacher from their school) was played by Kevin Eldon, an English actor and comedian who starred in numerous successful British comedy television shows during the 1990s, including Brass Eye; Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge; This Morning with Richard Not Judy; Big Train; Fist of Fun; and Jam.
Actor and comedian Mark Heap played a pickup driver in The Comedian’s Guide to Survival. Heap has starred in an assortment of successful television comedies, including Spaced, Brass Eye, Benidorm, Green Wing, Friday Night Dinner, Big Train, Jam and Upstart Crow. Mark Heap also starred in the BBC One drama Hotel Babylon, in which he played the part of a failed businessman turned bellboy. He played the father of Chris Miles in Skins and the love interest of the main character in the second series of Love Soup. He also appeared in the BBC Two drama Desperate Romantics, in which he played Charles Dickens.