Jessica Knappett thought she was “absolutely made” when her all-female comedy troupe, Lady Garden, landed a slot at Glastonbury festival a few years ago.
“We were just about to go on stage and I was giving everyone a pep talk. I said, ‘Guys, just use the nerves’,” the Yorkshire-born writer and actress recalls. “I could hear an echo because our microphones were on - I’d basically broadcast to the entire audience how nervous we were.
“And then the sound engineer mixed up two CDs. We were supposed to come on to the Foo Fighters and make a real impact, but ended up coming onto the Newsnight theme music. It was a total disaster.”
It’s the kind of blush-inducing but very funny moment which wouldn’t look out of place in Drifters, the E4 “quarter-life crisis” comedy Knappett now writes and stars in.
The near-the-knuckle, Leeds-based sitcom, which is returning for a second series, follows three female friends who have graduated from university and are struggling to find love and a proper job.
And while her character Meg - who mostly earns her money through promotional work dressed as a giant banana/mobile phone - is still waiting for a “glamorous media job” to fall into her lap, Knappett’s star is firmly on the ascent.
She left Lady Garden (who met at the University of Manchester in 2005) after landing a role in the first Inbetweeners movie in 2011 playing Lisa, the equally tall love interest to gangly Neil.
“I had such a great time making The Inbetweeners Movie that I just felt like I wanted to make more TV and film, so I said I didn’t want to go to Edinburgh Festival again that year and waste £6,000 and stand in the rain flyering,” Knappett recalls.
“I quit, and the day after, Iain [Morris] and Damon [Beesley, Inbetweeners writers] were like, ‘Oh well done, that was a bad idea wasn’t it? What are you going to do now?’
“They said, ‘Why don’t you do a sketch show with us?’ I went home to start doing that, I thought, and Drifters came out the end of my pen.”
Landing a second series of the show - which also stars Inbetweeners actresses Lydia Rose Bewley and Lauren O’Rourke, and has been described as a female version of The Inbetweeners - came as a surprise.
“My producer said he’d got an email from Channel 4. He showed me the message and I fell on the floor,” confesses Knappett, who declines to reveal her age (“my mental age is 14, that’s all that matters”).
Writing the second series was fairly stressful - not least because she had also landed a role as Friends star David Schwimmer’s wife in a US pilot.
“It was panic stations,” admits Knappett, who also made an appearance in the 2013 Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa film. “But it was all fine in the end, and sometimes, being tight for time helps.”
The new episodes pick up a few months after series one ended, and fans of the show will be glad to hear that nothing much has changed for Meg, Bunny (Bewley) and Laura (O’Rourke).
“They’re slightly more desperate about having proper jobs or lives, still doing promotional work, and Meg’s still living with her ex-boyfriend Mark,” says Knappett.
“He has moved on now and is openly flouting that, so Meg’s motivation this series is to win the break-up with Mark. It’s war. And she’s getting modern with it and is employing the use of hook-up apps, or sex apps as Bunny calls them...
“Obviously she uses it wrong and sets the distance wrong, so has to commute 40 miles for a one night stand.”
Series two is even filthier than the first, but Knappett insists it’s not “just this gross-out thing”.
“It’s important that we earn it [the filth] with the friendship and the warmth at the heart of it. And also the honesty of being in that situation.”
She adds: “The filthy things are things that have happened to me or my friends. They’re getting increasingly reluctant to tell me things!”
Growing up as a “lanky geek”, Knappett attributes some of her love of comedy to her parents.
“They have quite a gallows sense of humour, because my dad’s a doctor and my mum’s a physio,” she notes. “They had all these horrible times at work so they’d come home and laugh a lot.”
Knappett is currently busy working on some new ideas.
“I go completely mad and I’m disgusting [when writing]. I don’t get dressed, I look like a man, I don’t leave the house for three days, just get takeaways. I live like a caveman.
“People come around and go, ‘Are you ok? Shall we open the curtains?’ No wonder I’m single...”
The Schwimmer pilot is “probably not going to happen” as a series (“he was lovely though and came to set to say hi, which caused a few ripples of excitement”), but for now, London-based Knappett isn’t in any rush to go to America.
“I like being part of the British comedy institution,” she adds.
“It’s amazing to look back and think, ‘The best thing that happened to me was being dry-humped on a boat in The Inbetweeners movie...’”
lDrifters returns to E4 on Thursday, October 23.