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Comedian Ashley Storrie on new sitcom Dinosaur, neurodiversity and relationship with mum Janey Godley

© Steve UllathorneAshley Storrie.
Ashley Storrie.

While filming her new sitcom, Dinosaur, Ashley Storrie could have drawn on the wealth of experience around her to check if things were going well.

The show was produced by the brains behind Fleabag. She had co-stars like veteran funny man Greg Hemphill, and of course she could always call her mum, stand-up comic Janey Godley.

Perhaps it was her own roots as a stage comic, and living in Glasgow’s East End, which turned her attention to the reaction of the working-class geezers on set.

“If you’ve ever been on a film or TV set, the electricians are the least interested in what’s going on,” she said. “They don’t care. They just want to put up lights and bits of electrical cable with gaffer tape and talk about what’s happening with the weans.

“As we were filming I was constantly looking out the side of my eye thinking, ‘are Joycie and Connor laughing?’

“If I got a smile out of them I knew I was having a good day.”


Dinosaur, which begins this week on BBC3, sees Ashley front a sitcom for the first time.

It’s about Nina, an autistic palaeontologist from Glasgow navigating her 30s, who is a fan of a specific Harry Potter fan fiction called My Immortal.

As it happens, Ashley, 37, has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), lives in Glasgow and is a fan of My Immortal. The role wasn’t written for her but the fit is, she admits, uncanny. It almost seems like fate and, when I ask if she believes in that sort of thing, there’s no hesitation.

“One hundred per cent,” she says. “I won’t buy crystals but if I see a penny lying in the street I’ll say to myself that it’s a sign. I just have my own very weird signs and portents that I believe in.”

Ashley Storrie and David Carlyle in Dinosaur.
Ashley Storrie and David Carlyle in Dinosaur.

Much of Dinosaur is about Nina trying to cope with a world which doesn’t understand her as much as she doesn’t understand it. Being the centre of a production brought pressure, she admits. There was a worry that her neurodiversity would interfere with the production and ruin things for the rest of the cast and crew.

Things have changed for those who experience ASD. In school, Ashley was given something called the Baron-Cohen Test, and the first question asked was if she had difficulty talking on the phone.

For years she had been fielding calls for her dad, Sean, who felt unable to speak on the telephone. Ashley took to speaking to callers while she relayed information back and forth.

“I read this list of questions and thought, ‘That’s my daddy’,” she said. “My dad had been in his bed at this point for about six years. He hadn’t left bed because he was really depressed.

“Mum was off doing comedy and she just left me with him. He was my responsibility. I read about Autism Spectrum Disorder and immediately thought, ‘I know what was wrong with you, my friend’. And he went to the doctor who said, ‘yeah, good call.’ He got a diagnosis so quickly.”

Autism on screen

Ashley was working in a chip shop and looking after her dad at that point; she was 16. She became what she calls autism literate, and it became apparent that she herself had ASD.

“I spoke to the GP who told me not to tell anyone because I wouldn’t get a job,” she says, laughing. “He was a very old man and he was trying to be super helpful. Just hide it, he said!”

Seeing others with similar conditions that weren’t just Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of an autistic character in Rain Man helped.

“In terms of TV, I think it’s nice to show people who have actual neurodiversity, and not a very narrow idea of what neurodiversity is like,” she adds.

“I remember the first time I ever watched the first episode of Community, the Dan Harmon series, and it was the first time that I’d ever heard, in a comedy, the word Asperger’s.

“Someone says to Abed (played by Danny Pudi), ‘I think you have Asperger’s’? I thought that was amazing. I wasn’t offended or thinking they’re being too light-hearted about it.

“It was the best feeling in the world to feel that somebody on the telly was like my dad, and then the more I watched it, was like me.”

Ashley Storrie. © Steve Ullathorne
Ashley Storrie.

Being Janey Godley’s daughter

Ashley’s mum, Janey, has in recent years made headlines not just for her comedy, but fierce battles with people on social media. In 2021, Janey was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She and Ashley joke about her dying. It’s that sort of relationship.

“She’s seen a tiny bit of Dinosaur, but we made a deal where she just wouldn’t die before it came out,” explains Ashley. “So I didn’t want to jinx it, I’m waiting for it to come on TV before she sees it. And then she may die right after it’s broadcast. How awkward would that be?”

Mother and daughter clearly share pitch black humour, but is her mum’s comedy opinion important to Ashley?

“Not in any way, shape or form,” she says. “We have such different senses of humour. Sometimes she gets up on stage and asks people to remember how things were different in the 70s. I tell her that’s not a joke, that’s just a memory. We’re not dependent on each other’s approval. Everything else? Yeah. But not comedy.

“She tells me I’m not funny but you have to remember I’ve been a woman on the internet. I’ve been told I’m not funny all my life.”

Ashley, without being asked, is open about the strange way she grew up, having had to look after her dad while her mum pursued a stand-up career.

“We’ve had a weird relationship my whole life, I looked after her and my dad, I had to be the grown-up and she got to chase her dreams,” adds Ashley. “She got to have her youth in her 30s and 40s because, you know, she had a sad life. I had to be well behaved and look after my dad so she could do that and have those experiences.

“I’ve had to parent her in the past but I don’t mind, I quite liked it. Although it made me never want to have children. I’ve done my time!”

‘It’s a Glaswegian trait. We can always find light in the dark’: Janey Godley on her new documentary, the importance of friendships and her determination to keep taking to the stage

Despite having the joy of a massive TV project like Dinosaur, though, I ask if her mum’s illness plays on her mind.

“I’ve tried to compartmentalise it. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not, but she has said it would make her incredibly sad if I didn’t get to enjoy this time in my life because she’s sick,” says Ashley.

“You know enough about my mum to know this isn’t the first bad thing that’s happened. But we kept going and came out the other side. And I’m sure I’ll do the same thing with this.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I think it’s nice having a bit of preparation and knowing that it’s coming, and being able to prepare myself. And then we’ll get to share this little moment of fruition with Dinosaur.”

Film crew made me feel safe

Ashley Storrie was in safe hands with the producers of her new sitcom, Dinosaur.

They created Fleabag, starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Ashley revealed one of the first things producer Sarah Hammond did was make her feel at ease.

“They encouraged me to not only be me but my full self,” she said. “The brilliant thing about filming Dinosaur was Sarah said that they would accommodate me and not the other way around.

“It’s one of the main things in life, you spend a lot of time trying to find ways to make other people feel at ease.”

Ashley Storrie in Dinosaur.
Ashley Storrie in Dinosaur.

There weren’t many moments, apart from a time where, filming in a bathroom, Ashley couldn’t see the exit due to the cameras and crew. She wasn’t about to bolt for the door; she just felt she had to see it.

“I was panicking not because of wanting to see the exit as much as the fact I was holding back the schedule for everyone else.

“But everybody was fine, nobody cared. With hindsight there are probably actors who aren’t neurodiverse who have thrown bigger wobblies than that.

“The director took me aside and said that it was fine. This sort of thing is allowed. That was so helpful. It wasn’t just me, everybody had that same permission to speak up.”

Dinosaur, BBC Scotland, next Sunday from 10.30pm, with all episodes available on iPlayer