YES, Velvet Soup is a pithy and irreverent Scottish-made comedy TV sketch show, but no, it's not much like Chewin' the Fat. It's weirder and perhaps a

little wordier, and rather more 21st-century looking.

Unlike Chewin' the Fat, Velvet Soup might initially play best with students, rather than across the entire spectrum of humanity. It might also find instant favour with the majority of English

TV critics.

It is very funny, though, as you'd be daft not to see for yourself when the series makes its full telly debut in a fortnight's time. The fact of Velvet Soup's mirthfulness isn't surprising when

you consider that its two main writers have contributed much

of quality and distinction to Chewin' the Fat.

Glaswegians Ian Connell and Robert Florence are the rib-

tickling nib-masters in question, crafting comedy of a quality that belies the youth of its creators. Because chafe my bunions if Connell and Florence aren't both still in their early twenties.

To the chagrin of goatish old wannabe comedy writers

everywhere, Connell and Florence have already provided Chewin' the Fat with Karen Dunbar's sexually-repressed schoolteacher, the character having recently been spun off into her own half-hour BBC Scotland sitcom pilot.

Connell and Florence have also created such memorable CTF characters as Big Man and the lovelorn late-night taxi-cab controller. They've written for the forthcoming BBC Choice sketch series Revolver, a show which puts dark and sinister new words into the mouths of a host of legendarily fluffy names from the timeless world of seventies British sitcom, including such seasoned greats as Roy Barraclough, Melvyn Hayes, and

Mollie Sugden.

In addition, Connell and Florence have written for Radio Scotland's weekly satire show Watson's Wind-Up, and are

currently engaged in doing

likewise for the Karen Dun-

bar Show. They contributed

to Fred MacAulay's last TV

series. They were about to

re-draft a feature-length script, The Bone Monkeys, for Antonine Films just before the company went bust.

They're currently talking to BBC Scotland about a putative sitcom featuring a pressurised boy genius who's running away from using his intellect and turning his back on being a human performing seal. Very soon, too, they're off to London to talk to leading production company Tiger Aspect about revivifying British wrestling.

Whit? This won't entail grapple-fans Connell and Florence

physically stepping into the

ring, despite Florence's deadpan assurance that, ''following a hard day's writing, there's nothing we like more than unwinding with a manly tussle on the lawn''.

Rather, the duo will be trying to do what the mighty WWF organisation has done with such phenomenal worldwide success: viewing wrestlers as gripping dramatic characters and creating storylines for their televised bouts.

Busy boys, Connell and Florence. Plenty to blow their own trumpets about. Not that they do, though. Modest to a fault, they are. Self-deprecating. Apologetic and mumbly West of Scotland stoics, the pair of them. ''We've been lucky,'' they insist.

Aye, right, I feel like replying, and your talent and hard work have nothing to do with it. How did you get started? Who the heck are you? What's the secret of your success? How do you do it?

''We began with Toonspeak

at 15, writing nonsense about aliens that never reached the stage,'' says Connell. ''We got back together at 17, writing a terrible screenplay for a

psychological thriller that we never finished.

''Our big break as writers came out of me being a teenage actor going up for an audition at BBC Scotland's light entertainment department. I realised at the last minute I needed a comedy piece I could perform, so I wrote up a character that Robert and I had discussed - ridiculous anecdotes about a guy who liked eating chocolate bananas.

''I didn't get called back as an actor, but I did get asked if I had more material. Next, Niall Clark, then a script editor at the BBC and now working at the Comedy Unit, showed us how we could send our stuff in and get it read. Soon after that, we were writing for Velvet Soup in its first radio incarnation, Velvet Cabaret.''

Florence takes over: ''We enjoy writing sketches that are off-the-wall. Oddly, whenever we write sitcom ideas, they come out bittersweet and old-fashioned, like the kind of stuff that was prevalent in the seventies.

''Writing for Velvet Soup is enjoyable in that you get to take chances - for instance, we got to write one sketch that was a very detailed fifties musical. Chewin' the Fat is great because there are returning characters. Velvet Soup is great because there are very few returning characters.

''We are desperately looking for new characters right now. Folk always ask if they're based on people we know, and they never are. It's not real-life observation - although Karen's schoolteacher is based on what Karen told us about an actual teacher that she'd had.

''We write most days, alternating between our parents' houses. We go through it all line by line. It's never 'This is my sketch' or 'That's his sketch'. '' Adds Connell swiftly: ''That way, all the good sketches are mine.''

Concludes Florence in a way that I ought to have seen coming: ''And all the bad sketches are his.''

Thus the pair provide a little instant summary of the Connell and Florence approach to

comedy: classic laughter-making with a fresh twist.

l Velvet Soup will make its nationally networked debut on BBC2 on Sunday, July 1, at 10.15pm, thereafter running for a further five weeks.

Connell and Florence: the weirdos of their families and proud of it

l Aged 24, Ian Connell has a humanities degree from Glasgow University. Robert Florence, aged 23, lasted a year on Glasgow University's Film and TV Studies degree course. ''It was too analytical and theoretical,'' says Florence. ''I wanted to be doing it, writing.'' The partnership provides Velvet Soup with around 50% of its material.

l Raised in the no-nonsense Glasgow suburbs of Crookston and Balornock respectively, Ian Connell and Robert Florence share a working-class family background. Florence's dad and brothers are roofers. Connell's dad is a painter and decorator. Connell and Florence knew from an early age that they wanted to be writers. ''We're seen as the weirdos of our families - but our families have nevertheless always been very supportive.''

l The pair initially met as 15-year-olds at a Springburn amateur youth theatre project, Toonspeak. Connell's teenage acting career peaked with a starring role in a TV ad extolling the virtues of Gregg's sausage rolls. As a youth, he also appeared on TV in A Mug's Game and on stage in Bill Bryden's The Big Picnic. Florence's sole stage appearance was at a stand-up comedy night in Petershill eight years

ago, for which he had to dress up as David Bowie.

l Connell and Florence share a similar sense of humour, most enjoying solid seventies TV sitcom fare like Rising Damp, Steptoe and Son, and The

Likely Lads. Their contemporary favourites include most shows by

Steve Coogan, along with Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights.

l Connell and Florence both support Celtic. Florence proudly admits that he's never had a proper job in his life. Connell supported himself at university by working in a sports shop.

l Velvet Soup is deftly performed by four accomplished actors: Julie Duncanson, Mark McDonnell, Steven McNicoll, and Gavin Mitchell. Their joint CV encompasses High Road, Coronation Street, Taggart, Rab C Nesbitt, and

Atletico Partick. The cast also provide material, alongside writers Neil

Harrison, Paul Marshall, Rab Christie, and Noddy Davidson.

l Velvet Soup's theme music was provided by assorted members of Belle and Sebastian under a hygienic pseudonym, The Gentleman's Wash.