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Onion on Site: Toast Q&A

17 Nov
© Channel 4

© Channel 4

The long awaited third series of Toast of London airs this week (Wednesday, 10:30pm, Channel Four), and you’re in for a real treat.

TVO’s newest recruit, Jess Gerber, recently attended the series launch, which featured a Q&A from the show’s writers Matt Berry and Arthur Matthews.

Her thoughts are below…

The epic Toast of London is returning to its home on Channel 4, and is bringing all the bells and whistles with it! The general plot of the series has not changed, but feels enhanced by wittier writing than ever, as Steven Toast gets himself into all kinds of unthinkable situations.  All the quirky regular characters, such as Toast’s hilarious house mate Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathhurst), his colourful agent Jane Ploug (Doon Mackichan) and the unforgettable Ray “Bloody” Purchase (TVO’s Harry Peacock), are back and up to their usual, entertaining mischief. And there are also some exciting and surprising guest appearances from the likes of Paul Whitehouse and Jon Hamm to savour too!

As well as the fantastic new episodes, the highlight of the evening was a Q&A session at the end with Matt and Arthur Matthews, hosted by Adam Buxton. Of course, the first thing everyone wanted to know was what Jon Hamm was like, and how did he come about being in Toast?

Matt and Arthur were both very chuffed to have Jon guest star, which came about due to Matt’s work over the pond, and the wonderful connections he’s made along the way. Many people he met there know about Toast of London and they love it. When Jon was approached to be a guest star in Toast, he was delighted to do it as as a fan of the show… and they also added that he smelled fantastic!

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Berry and Matthews also spoke about how they make their long distance writing partnership work. With Matt living in London and Arthur living in Ireland, they utilise the wonders of modern technology to send each other ideas and bits and bobs as they come to mind, and slowly piece it all together.

They also explained that even though they have brought in some pretty big guest stars and come up with some explosive new plot twists, they have not made very many changes to the skeleton formula of the show, as it works – and they like it – just how it is. As Matt explained: It makes Arthur and I laugh, and it seems to make others laugh, so we are happy with it. And we agree: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Finally, Adam asked Matt if he enjoys playing the character of Steven Toast, and of course asked him to do some Toast’s voices. Matt exclaimed that Toast is great fun to play as he is such a fool, and it is fun to be so socially awkward and get away with it. He told us that most of the voice work he does he just comes up with on the spot and is influenced by the fact that when he was younger his mother used to take him to the theatre a lot. He was fascinated by how loudly the actors spoke even when they were not acting, and the amusing way they would over pronounce some of their words.

Very few TV shows can tell the tale of a theatre actor and still manage to have that theatre magic and feel to it. Toast of London has done this brilliantly, and it’s a joy to have it back on our screens. Series Three does not disappoint.

Toast of London returns Wednesday 18th November at 10:30pm on Channel 4. The book, Toast on Toast – a fictional autobiography of the character – is out now.

The Power Of Three: Tom Meeten & Mike Fielding Talk Tours

9 Nov
© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

With Noel Fielding embarking on the next leg of his UK tour, and US/Canada shows in the pipeline, we wanted to do our bit to support An Evening With Noel Fielding. But because we’re The Velvet Onion, and because you lovely lot expect something different from us compared to what you can find in the mainstream media, we wanted to approach it from a fresh angle.

So we asked Noel if he had any ideas. “I’d love to include Tom and Mike” was his reply. It quickly became all about Tom and Mike, rather than just about including them. Noel’s response says a lot about the significance of their roles in the show and the respect that he has for his co-performers. Here then is what Tom Meeten and Mike Fielding told us about the live show and how the three of them work together. A glimpse through the stage curtains from a different angle, as it were:

© Dave Brown/Afrikids

© Dave Brown/Afrikids

I meet Tom in a busy West End pub. Owner of one of the deepest voices in comedy (transcribing the interview uses parts of my inner ear hitherto unknown) and initially quiet, Tom turns out to be terrific fun. Unguarded, candid and possessing an encyclopaedic knowledge of our kind of comedy,  spending an hour in his company is a real treat.

We discuss most of the projects and creative partnerships he has ever been involved with, including his enduring double act with Steve Oram, his recent appearance in the marvellous monkey movie Aaaaaaaah! and his starring role in a serious new feature film The Ghoul, written and directed by Gareth Tunley. But more of that another time; right now we’re focusing on Tom’s involvement in An Evening With Noel Fielding. Before we begin I mention Noel’s insistence that Tom and Mike are given an interview platform. He laughs: “Noel always wants to make it not just about him, but no one is interested!” Well we are.

As the conversation unfolds and the extent of Tom’s involvement in both the development and the performance of the live show becomes clear, one can only wonder how he could be perceived as anything other than a fundamental part of its story.

Tom and Noel have been friends for years, their first meeting taking place during the early days of their stand up careers. “I would turn up to gigs and people would think I was Noel – we had similar 90’s hair.” Tom remembers. “Lance Dior was based on that kind of thing. When I first met Noel I’d done an advert and his gran thought it was him. He was mildly furious that people thought it was him. It was one of the first conversations we ever had.”

© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and they’re now working together on live material. An Evening With… was written by Noel and Tom, with the addition of Nigel Coan (director of Luxury Comedy and long time friend of Noel’s) as the third member. “It was a really good dynamic,” notes Tom, adding that Nigel was, “Amazing, really lovely to work with.”

Much has been written and debated about the significance of the double act in comedy: Morcambe & Wise, Vic & Bob, Barratt & Fielding, Oram & Meeten – there are endless examples of comedy power couples, and as a nation we love them. Famous comedy trios are a tad thinner on the ground; Noel, Tom and Mike all cite The Marx Brothers as their favourite threesome when I ask. I’m keen to understand how working as a three shifts the dynamic. “When you’re creating something, it’s it’s about making choices. If there are three voices you can debate it more, which gives you extra reassurance,” Tom explains. “With a double act it’s much more one person’s opinion versus the other.”

This unique set up allowed the trio to enjoy the best of both worlds: the additional perspective that a third person brings compared to two, and also clearly defined roles between the three of them: “The more people you have, if you don’t have a leader, the more dissipated the material gets. You need a singular vision. But then with this – and I flatter myself that I helped write it – it’s really all about Noel’s ideas. He’s the boss.” Tom says. There’s no hint of anything other than respect and camaraderie.

With Noel at the helm, Tom frequently saw his role as helping to filter ideas: “Noel has the most ideas per minute of anyone I’ve ever worked with,” he laughs. “And sometimes we would spend a whole day discussing one of those brilliant ideas and trying to work out how it would work in the context of the show.”

Tom explains that this sometimes meant killing off ideas which held real promise: “There’s a whole alternative show of weird and beautiful stuff,” he sighs. He mentions a Dondylion sketch (performed twice as part of their warm ups) which sadly didn’t make it to the final cut: “That was me and Noel being left alone without Nigel, creating this weird sadistic sketch. I still think there’s something in it – I’d love to think one day it might resurface in some form, but it just wouldn’t fit into the show. “

© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

The amount of practical planning that goes into the show is surprising; Preparation and sheer hard work is needed to bring those effortless flights of fancy to life on stage. Considerations like allowing time for costume changes, or the need to conceal props for later scenes can end up dictating whether a particular sketch remains in the show or not. It also explains the development of the strong supporting characters: “We had to establish other characters who could cover certain things – mundane practical stuff.  It means the characters have to be strong, so you put work into them,” says Tom.

He places a great deal of significance on his character’s first appearance on stage. “I get thrown to the lions a little bit. I’m the first person the audience sees that isn’t (a) Julian or (b) Mike. Half the people don’t know who the fuck I am!” Tom jokes. “In that moment when I come on, it’s really exciting because it might fail – and sometimes it has. The introduction of my character suddenly shifts it, so you never quite know. You say your first words and there’s a reaction…you feel it. That’s the amazing thing about performing live – you get influenced by the reaction you get. So if you get that reassurance from the audience, you’re away; you’re relaxed and excited. But sometimes I’ve come on and people have been, ‘What’s going on? Hold on – who’s this dude?’.”

I ask if audiences give any early clues as to what kind of reception he’s going to get. “There are certain parts of the show where you look for signals,” he explains. “During Noel’s stand up I’m backstage, waiting to go on. I know all of his stand up now – it goes around my head for weeks after we’ve finished the tour! There are certain points in it, and if they get a big laugh, you know it’s going to be a really good show. It’s reassurance.” I can only imagine what it must feel like, waiting in the wings for his cue on those nights when the positive signals aren’t forthcoming from the crowd.

© Dave Brown

© Dave Brown

An Evening With… includes some elements from Noel’s TV show Luxury Comedy (like Sergeant Ray Boombox and Joey Ramone), but it doesn’t rely on audiences being familiar with the series. I wonder whether there was any discussion about Tom’s TV character, Andy Warhol, featuring in the live show. “Andy Warhol was in some of the previews, but in the end we cut him out because he changed the dynamic. His status was wrong, because he was subservient and we needed a high status character to try to undermine Noel. You need that bit of friction.” Tom’s reply provides further evidence of the degree of thoughtfulness that’s gone into creating the show. Thrown together it certainly isn’t.

With our conversation drawing to a close, I bring up the third member of their on-stage troupe; how does Mike fits into the equation? “Mike is the enigma.” Tom pauses, as a smile spreads across his face: “Noel and me are doing all this hard work – I’m pouring with sweat and Noel’s just done this full hour of material, really working it. Mike just comes on stage and the house comes down!” Whenever Mike’s mentioned he’s spoken of with genuine fondness. The impression Tom gives of Mike is that he orbits in a slightly different plane to Noel and himself. But it’s clear that the dynamic works – both on stage and off, where his presence is felt very positively. “Mike keeps us going throughout the tour,” Tom observes.

© Tom Meeten

© Tom Meeten

My dialogue with Mike is sadly only fleeting, but no less charming for it; he’s one of the most considerate, polite people I’ve ever spoken to. I catch him at a busy time, during a week when he’s been attending a James Bond-themed party next to the runway at Gatwick airport and also serving drinks to Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman (which is what he does when he’s not on tour). As such, our conversation is limited to a few quick questions and answers.

Mike describes his role in An Evening With… as a lot more developed than the role he played on the Boosh tours, which is something he enjoys. I ask him how the working relationship between Noel, Tom and himself differs from that of the Boosh gang. “Its very different working as a trio,” he says. “Noel, Tom and I get on very well, we never fall out – even when we’re living in each others’ pockets on the road. When you have a bigger group, like the Boosh tour did, there’s too many egos in the pot; always someone trying to outshine the others or be the loudest. There’s great camaraderie in our trio; we call ourselves the Peloton, as we all have each others backs equally.”

I wonder what the highlight of the tour has been for him so far. “My favourite leg has been Australia. I love Australia; I moved there for a year in my teens, so it was amazing to go back and see a lot of my old friends and work colleagues. Australian crowds are very different to UK audiences, they’re very chilled out but still very much up for it – very humble and polite.”

After playing a shaman, an ant eater, the digital Wimbledon umpire and his brother’s wife, what’s next for Mike Fielding? “I’m still writing with my writing partner Max, (Peanut Jones in Luxury Comedy). We’re developing new ideas sand revisiting old scripts to refresh and condense them – and we’ll maybe film some stuff and put it online.” Given how unwittingly hilarious Mike is, this is something we need to see.

© Joe Lynn

© Joe Lynn

In the end I leave it to Tom to provide the final word on the dynamic between the three of them; besides the Marx Brothers, which other trios does he admire? He snorts derisively at my suggestion of sporting threesomes (“What sport do you know that’s played by three people?”), so we agree that it should be another comedy threesome. It takes a moment or two to think of one, then eventually inspiration hits: “The Three Amigos! Noel is Chevy Chase, Mike has to be Martin Short…and I’m Steve Martin.” Tom grins, visibly pleased with his conclusion. “I’ve come out of this very well!”

You lucky people can still get to see An Evening With Noel Fielding – in the UK from now through to December, and then touring the US and Canada in March/April 2016. For more information and to buy tickets visit Noel’s website.

Many thanks to Tom and Mike for giving their time to The Velvet Onion – and to Noel for suggesting that we badger them. We wish the three of you the best of luck for the rest of the tour!

Look out for Part 2 of our interview with Tom Meeten, coming soon, when he’ll be telling us about his new film The Ghoul, working on Aaaaaaaah!, and his working partnership with Steve Oram.

Crackanory Returns

5 Nov

The long awaited third series of Crackanory is just over a month away, and the full list of this year’s readers have been revealed.

Crackanory - Series 3 - Picture Shows: Richard Ayoade, Sarah Millican, Jimmy Carr, Catherine Tate, Simon Bird, Carrie Fisher, Greg Davies, Christopher Lloyd, Tamsin Greig, Paul Whitehouse, Moragana Robinson and Robbie Coltrane

© Tiger Aspect / UK TV

For the uninitiated, the show features big name guests reading twisted tales – intercut with live action and animated segments which quite often star a bevy of TVO regulars, many of whom are also on the writing staff!

As we revealed back in July, new stories have been written by the likes of Kevin EldonNico Tatarowicz, Holly Walsh and Toby Davies, whilst guest readers announced at the time were Back to the Future legend Christopher Lloyd, The Inbetweeners Simon Bird, plus comedy legends Sarah Millican, Greg Davies and Tamsin Grieg.

Now we can confirm that they will be joined by Richard AyoadeMorgana Robinson, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Paul Whitehouse, Catherine Tate, Robbie Coltrane and Carrie Fisher (currently appearing in Catastrophe, and a little thing called Star Wars).

There’s currently no word of who will be appearing in the story segments, but across the first two series we saw the likes of James Bachman, John Willie Hopkins, Alex Kirk, Alice Lowe, Cariad Lloyd, Tom Meeten, Lucy Montgomery, Steve Oram, Tony Way and Katy Wix, whilst past episodes have been directed by Gareth Tunley and scored by Waen Shepherd, so we’re expecting to see some familiar faces once more.

Series three begins Monday 7th December at 10pm on Dave and in an unusual move, will air across that week at the same time until Saturday.

As ever, the yearning for a home media release of the whole series continues, but you can see a selection of promo images from the new series below.

BBC Store now open!

5 Nov


The BBC has unveiled the long awaited BBC Store: a new digital service that makes it easy for audiences to buy, enjoy and keep their favourite BBC programmes. And the best news of all is that it’s officially open right now!

A large collection of titles across genres are available at launch, featuring recently broadcast shows, television favourites and best of all – lost gems from the BBC archive.



BBC Store will work in tandem with the company’s longstanding iPlayer service – with a new My Programmes area allowing full playback.

iPlayer itself will continue to offer the same range of programmes to watch live, catch up on and download for up to 30 days for free, while the Store collection will continue to build each day. In fact, many BBC programmes will be made available to buy on BBC Store the day after transmission including, for the first time, serial dramas such as EastEnders and Holby City.

As an introductory offer to celebrate the launch of this new service and to get collections started, anyone registering with BBC Store will be eligible for a 25% discount on their first purchase. Audiences can buy programmes using a UK registered credit or debit card, and gift cards will be available to buy on the high street and in supermarkets in the coming weeks.

© Baby Cow

© Baby Cow

But what you really want to know is what TVO related goodies will be available from launch. Confirmed so far are the following classics and recent favourites:

  • The Detectorists – written, directed by & starring Mackenzie Crook and featuring Simon Farnaby
  • Doctor Who – The biggest sci-fi show in the land, with a cavalcade of TVO guest stars over the years. It’s various spin-off series will also be made available.
  • The Fast Show – Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse’s seminal sketch show phenomenon featuring Simon Day, Mark Williams, Arabella Weir, John Thomson and Caroline Aherne alongside Felix Dexter, Colin MacFarlane, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way
  • Horrible Histories – Education has never been so much fun, as the wickedly entertaining show featuring Simon FarnabyAlice LoweKaty Wix and many more makes a welcome reappearance.
  • Human Remains – The little seen anthology series featuring Julia Davis and Rob Brydon as a string of darkly comic creations.
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You // I’m Alan Partridge – Steve Coogan‘s masterful creation in three dynamite series of cringeworthy faux pas in the name of CHAT.
  • The League of Gentlemen – The show that launched the careers of Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton, and pioneered a darker and cinematic side to alternative comedy on television.
  • The Thick of It – The now infamous political comedy from Armando Iannucci starring Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison alongside Alex MacQueenRebecca FrontJustin Edwards and many more.


Plus a few other legendary shows with looser TVO connections:

  • Absolutely Fabulous – The recent specials featured Lucy Montgomery
  • Blackadder – Which featured an early appearance by Geoffrey McGivern in Series Three
  • Gavin and Stacey – Featuring a recurring role for Julia Davis
  • Live at the Apollo – Featuring several TVO guests over the years
  • The Office – Look out for Matt Holness in several episodes!
  • Sherlock – Featuring appearances by Alice Lowe and Tony Way
  • The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer – Arguably the finest sketch show of the 90s – and look out for a young Matt Lucas!

There’s also promise of a Steve Coogan collection (which may include the Paul Calf Video Diaries, Coogan’s Run and various other assorted classics).

And that’s just the start of it. We’ll give you a full run-down of everything that’s in the store as soon as we can. Until then – we suggest you head on over to BBC Store right now, and start digging!

Cast Of Aaaaaaaah! Ape About In New Video

31 Oct

A new promo film for Aaaaaaaah! has been released, which features members of the cast talking about their the film. As you might expect from Steve Oram, it’s not your run-of-the-mill ‘speaking heads’ promo.

Featuring Julian Barratt (with post-Mindhorn barnet), Sean Reynard, Julian Rind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey and Lucy Honigman, the promo includes short clips of the chicken sequence the Battenburg scene – two of our favourites moments in the film!

You can see it here:

Don’t forget you can watch Aaaaaaaah! in full on VOD via Frightfest here.

Halloween Horror From Barratt

27 Oct


Julian Barratt will be pouring into our ear holes on Halloween night in a spooky radio drama for BBC Radio 4.

The Stone Tape is adapted from the 1972 TV movie of the same name, originally written by the creator of the Quatermass series, Nigel Kneale. The story revolves around a team of scientists who move into a new facility in an old Victorian mansion that’s supposedly haunted. When one of the scientists hears a disembodied scream, the team discover what appears to be a psychic impression trapped in the wall. They realise that their work has disturbed something ancient hidden beneath the stone.

Julian plays the part of Terry Briscoe, and will be joined by Romola Garai, Julian Rhind-Tutt (with whom he recently starred in Aaaaaaaah!), Dean Andrews, Tom Bennett, Jane Asher (who was in the original version) and Eugenia Caruso – as the disembodied scream.

The hour long programme will air at 10pm as part of Radio 4’s Fright Night on 31st October.

A special enhanced version will be available online here and for download after the Halloween airdate. It utilises pioneering sound technology from BBC Research and Development to create a 3D binaural mix designed for headphones. Binaural sound gives a unique immersive listening experience which is perfect for a horror drama – but only for the brave!

So tune in, but keep the lights on…




This remake has been conceived by Peter Strickland in collaboration with writer Matthew Graham (Life On Mars). It features new music from James Cargill (of the band Broadcast) and sound design from Andrew Liles (Current 93, Nurse With Wound). A stellar cast includes Romola Garai (The Hour, Atonement), Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing), and Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh), with a special cameo by the star of the original version, Jane Asher.

A special enhanced version of The Stone Tape is also available online and for download from BBC iPlayer Radio. Pioneering sound technology from BBC Research and Development has been used to create a 3D binaural mix designed for headphones. Binaural sound gives a unique immersive listening experience, perfect for a horror drama – but only for those who dare.

Big Fat Quiz Of…Everything

25 Oct
© channel 4

© channel 4

Channel 4’s popular ‘Big Fat Quiz’ series has added a new one – The Big Fat Quiz of Everything!

Most of you will be familiar with the format, but did you know the original Big Fat Quiz of the year was all the way back in 2005? Jimmy Carr, of course, is the host in charge of three teams of celebrities who answer questions about – in this case – everything, although to keep things (slightly more) manageable, it’s split into categories such as history, music, art etc.

The teams this time are Noel Fielding and Richard Ayoade (the fourth time for this particular pairing), Jonathan Ross and Chelsea Peretti (from Brooklyn 99), and Jack Whitehall and Mel Giedroyc. No Goth Detectives this time, but Fielding and Ayoade make a great team, of course.

As Mel was there, you can expect to see cake, not all of it where it should be.

As usual there were plenty of witty and funny answers, although (again, as usual), most of the funniest and filthiest will sadly remain on the cutting room floor. Be prepared for surprise guests and other unexpected visitors, including one from prehistory!

We don’t know when the broadcast date is, but it will be a Friday at 9pm if the trailer idents they recorded are anything to go by.

Out On Mondaaaaaaaah!

17 Oct

If you’re a regular reader of The Velvet Onion, you’ll know that we’ve been getting more than a bit excited about Aaaaaaaah!, the comedy horror from Steve Oram, which stars a bevy of TVO faces. And now we can get excited again – because from Monday everyone will get the chance to see what all the fuss is about.

The film is available to pre-order from iTunes here for £9.99, and from Monday 19th you’ll be able to find it on a variety of other VOD platforms from FrightFest Presents, including Virgin Movies, Blinkbox, Google Play, Amazon, Xbox Video, Wuaki, Talk Talk and Volta. Thoroughly recommended!

In the meantime, why not occupy yourself with this podcast interview with Steve about the film:

If you’re a fan of Aaaaaaaah! and you haven’t wandered down these parts for a while, why not read our interview with Steve himself and our review of the film. And keep an eye out for our profile about one of the film’s stars too, which will be coming your way very soon…!

New Matt Berry Live Album

10 Oct

The new Matt Berry & The Maypoles live LP is now available to pre-order, and it comes in a variety of formats – including blue vinyl.

The album, due out on 20th November, is a recording of tracks from Matt’s greatest live performances. It’s available as a CD for £10, on blue vinyl in a specially-designed double gatefold sleeve (with free download code) for £20, and on white cassette tape in a white cassette case for £7.50 (this latter format is exclusively available on the Acid Jazz Store only, and will also be made available on the bands’ 2015 December tour).

© Acid Jazz

© Acid Jazz

The track listing for the live album is as follows:

1. The Innkeeper’s Song
2. So Low
3. October Sun
4. Take My Hand
5. Sorry (Theme From)
6. Solstice
7. Snuff Box
8. Song For Rosie
9. Medicine
10. Devil Inside Me
12. The Pheasant

You can pre-order the all formats from Acid Jazz here. Your order will be shipped to you several days ahead of the official release date.

He Wore Dreams Moves North

8 Oct
© Noel Fielding/Hooligan Art Dealer

© Noel Fielding/Hooligan Art Dealer

Following successful shows at the Royal Albert Hall and Gallery Maison Bertaux earlier this year, an exhibition of Noel Fielding‘s watercolours will be taking place in Harrogate from this weekend.

The exhibition starts this weekend at Harrogate Theatre’s Circle Bar and will be open to the public on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th October from 10am to 9pm each day. After this special opening weekend, due to public demand, the exhibition will move to RedHouse Originals Gallery, where it will continue until the 31st October.

He Wore Dreams Around Unkind Faces is Noel’s first foray into the medium of watercolour painting, and the result is vivid, bright and bold – both in terms of the canvases themselves and the ideas that they contain. As with his previous art collections, this show brings to life the point at which his love of comedy and art collide, so it provides a fascinating insight into his creative processes.

The painting reproduced here, Leonara Carrington’s Pencil Case, is one that we particularly covet at TVO Towers…

For more information about Noel’s art and to purchase a painting, contact his art dealer, Hooligan Art Dealer.

Toast Book Release

4 Oct

© Channel 4

A new book by Steven Toast will be released later this month, and is now available to per-order.

Toast on Toast is part memoir, part ‘how to act’ manual, with the author drawing on his self-proclaimed vast and varied acting experiences, taking the reader on his journey from school plays to RADA, and from ‘It’s a Right Royal Knockout’ to the Colony Club.

Along the way, the Toast of London thesp reveals the secrets of his success. He discloses how to brush up on and expand your technical and vocal skills, how to nail a professional voiceover, and how to deal with difficult work experience staff in a recording studio. He also reveals the dangers of typecasting, describes the often ruthless struggle for ‘top billing’, and shares many awesome nuggets of advice.

The not-entirely-serious book is written by TV series writers Matt Berry and Arthur Mathews (in character as Toast). It’s available to pre-order here in hardcover (£10.49) and kindle (£8.54) editions, and will be released on 22nd October.

Here’s Toast himself, to explain more about it:

Noel Fielding Tour DVD Release

30 Sep

tumblr_nvi5wzATbn1tip4qxo1_540The DVD of An Evening With Noel Fielding, Noel Fielding‘s 2014/15 live show, will be released on 16th November and is now available to pre-order.

Priced at £12.50, the DVD features a recording of the live show (filmed in Australia), and a behind-the-scenes documentary by Joe Lynn, who accompanied Noel, Mike Fielding and Tom Meeten on the UK leg of the tour.

An Evening With Noel Fielding was applauded by fans and critics alike, so whether you were one of the lucky ones who saw the show and fancy some happy reminiscing, or if you weren’t and you simply want to watch some top drawer, inventive comedy – then get pre-ordering!

There are still a few tickets available for the forthcoming November/December UK dates; details and ticket information can be found here.


Blessed To Play Berry’s Dad

29 Sep
© Channel 4 / The Samaritans

© Channel 4 / The Samaritans

Matt Berry is well known for his resonant vocal prowess (amongst his many other talents, of course), so who better to play his father than Brain Blessed, famous for owning the most booming voice in the business!

In an inspired piece of casting, 79 year old Blessed will appear in an episode in the forthcoming new series of Toast – as Steven Toast’s dad. It will be the same episode as Mad Men star Jon Hamm is appearing in (playing himself).

A source on the show told the Radio Times: “We find out where Steven comes from – it’s not a humble background, let’s say, but then there isn’t much about Steven that’s humble.”

Matt has previously said of the new series: “Every actor’s got some horror stories – it’s quite a big world of anguish and upset. There’s a lot more stories of horrible things that happen in this profession than nice things, so running out of material hasn’t been a worry so far.”

Series three of Toast is scheduled to air later this year on Channel 4.



29 Sep

© Rook Films

The good folk at Rook Films have released a limited screen print run of the Aaaaaaaah! movie poster.

There are only 100 copies of the five-layer print made to celebrate Steve Oram‘s directorial debut. In case you’ve missed it, the film stars Oram alongside a cavalcade of TVO regulars: Noel FieldingJulian BarrattTom MeetenWaen ShepherdTony WayAlice LoweShelley LongworthWaen ShepherdSean Reynard and John Hopkins.

Also along for the ride are the brilliant Julian Rhind-Tutt, Holli Dempsey and the legendary Toyah Willcox.

We’ve sung the film’s praises, and a lot of you have fallen in love with it already. Now thwack a bit of it on your wall for good measure, while you still can!

Noel & Mike Join The Trailer Park Boys Podcast

26 Sep


Noel and Mike met up with The Trailer Park Boys, who were visiting England for a few days, to chat about life in London, and the best tourist locations to visit.

They also discussed the lack of ice in England and frozen guitar solo’s, along with Margaret Thatcher and Walt Disney. The star of the show is Noel’s outfit, watch it (and the podcast)  here:

Needless to say, as it’s The Trailer Park Boys, the podcast is NSFW.

Onion Talking: Steve Oram Opens Wide & Says AAAAAAAAH!

8 Sep

unnamedIf you’re a regular reader of The Velvet Onion you’ll know that we’ve been getting pretty excited about Steve Oram‘s unique simian comedy horror AAAAAAAAH! for a while now. Thought-provoking, hilarious and frequently downright disgusting, AAAAAAAAH! enjoyed a triumphant World Premier at Frightfest last month and is being screened at a number of festivals over the coming weeks. Trust us when we say that you really need to see it.

Earlier this week Steve kindly found the time to chat to us about the film:

AAAAAAAAH! portrays a world in which humans behave like apes – but how accurate are those ape-like behaviours? Were you down at the zoo, taking notes, Steve?

The idea of them behaving like apes isn’t strictly what I was intending – they’re actually more like cavemen. I was creating a world where language, in particular, isn’t so advanced in evolutionary terms. So they don’t have all of the things that language gives us, and those subtleties are played out in different ways.

I think AAAAAAAAH! a very open thing that exists in its own world, but we decided to describe it as “behaving like apes” because it’s a concise and easy way of describing it. It’s for everyone to interpret how they wish.

We see some pretty out there behaviours on screen. If your intention wasn’t to directly mimic the ape world, how did you come up with them?

There’s a strong internal logic to it – they’re all slightly-skewed social rituals. For example, the fact that they use their hands to eat [instead of cutlery] is about etiquette; that’s just what they do in their world, it’s a custom. And when Toyah and Lucy [the mother and daughter of the family] poo on the floor, that’s just something that mothers and daughters do; it’s social ritual bonding thing that they do when they’re cooking.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 22.20.27

With AAAAAAAAH!, are you trying to say something significant about modern society, or is the construct simply an idea that you liked?

It’s just something I found funny; I didn’t set out to make something that was a satire or a commentary. I just really enjoyed creating an intricate world, and creating the interactions and the characters – making them do silly, extreme things.

10291146_10152555044887673_1890467153980958974_nYou’ve worked with many of the cast members multiple times before, but how did you decide on which new faces to bring on board, like Toyah and Julian Rhind-Tutt? 

With Toyah, I loved her work in Jubilee and Quadraphenia – I’ve been a massive fan of hers for years. I was trying to cast a lady in her 50s who wouldn’t mind having to do embarrassing sex scenes and have blancmange thrown at her face. There’s not that many of them! I didn’t know her before, but I sent her the script and she loved it.

I was working with Julian on a TV film called Wipers Times over in Northern Ireland, coincidentally while I was writing AAAAAAAAH! on my days off.

I started thinking about him for the film, and he was one of the first people I attached to the script. He was keen to play against type – as a horrible washing machine repair man!

The dynamic between you and Tom, who plays your beta male, is pretty special. Do you think anyone else could have played that role apart from Tom?

Absolutely not, and not just because of his balls – although that is always a consideration [Tom’s familiar testicles have a supporting role in the film]. I was so pleased to work with Tom on this, and it was so much fun doing it with him. There’s a shorthand for the things we do and have done for years; when we started the film it made me feel really confident and happy that he was in it and that we were doing something together.

10418463_10152143892116526_4047534245763507909_nThere’s no actual speaking in the film, but you wrote a script for the actors to follow. How did that work?

The script was all written out in English. The scenes had English dialogue in them for the actors, so that they got a sense of what each scene was about and what they were trying to do and say. On the day we read it through with the dialogue, and then we ‘went ape’. We threw the scripts away and instead of speaking everyone went “Ughhhhh”. No one will ever know what that script contained because it is full of filth!

Did your experience on Sightseers influence how you approached AAAAAAAAH!?

In terms of writing, I got better at it with this film; I did it very quickly and spontaneously. We had a long drawn-out development period with Sightseers, and this was a chance for me to do something very quickly and to do it myself.

I learned a lot from Ben Wheatley about being quick. With Sightseers we moved about a lot, so we had to do the scenes very quickly. That really influenced me, and I started making more short films after that which incorporated a fastness of movement. If you’re not standing around repeating everything fifty-million times, but you’re shooting scenes in one or two takes, it gives the film energy.

10479132_10152143890811526_7908757513103856445_nWhat do you prefer doing: directing, writing, acting, stand-up?

I love them all! At its heart it all stems from writing – that’s probably the single thing that links it all together. As an actor you need to understand writing and interpret scripts…they all feed into the same thing.

So what’s next for Steve Oram?

I’m writing the next one, which we’ll hopefully film next year. It’s another weird, dystopian comedy sci-fi…believe it or not!

I’m really driven by people saying “You can’t do that, it’s too strange”. I just go “Of course you can,” and do it. Film is just a collection of sound and images – you can do whatever you want. It’s sad that we’re so paralysed and narrow in the way we make films, and art generally. If someone says you can’t do it, just do it.

Here here. A big thank you to Steve for taking the time to talk to us about AAAAAAAAH!

You can catch the film at various festivals and screenings over the coming weeks – including dates in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Los Angeles, Belfast, Dorset, Leeds and Nottingham. They’ve even had a Paris screening this week! To find out where and when you can see it and for further updates, check out Lincoln Studios website. 

AAAAAAAAH! will also be available on VOD via Icon Film Distribution and FrightFest from 19th October. 

More About Dangermouse

7 Sep
© Freemantle Media / CBBC

© Freemantle Media / CBBC

We’ve mentioned the new series of Dangermouse a few times before, given that it features a TVO-connected artist as one of the main characters: the very wonderful Kevin Eldon will be starring as the voice of Penfold. Today, however, we discovered that two more of the people we get excited about will be in the Dangermouse reboot!

Richard Ayoade will be voicing the part of The Snowman, who we understand is a secondary character (possibly featuring in the Christmas episode, which also includes Brian Blessed as Santa). And Kayvan Novak will be bringing to life a host of different characters throughout the series.

A new interview with Kevin Eldon has recently been released, in which he talks about taking on the role of Penfold. Of his approach to voicing the nervous rodent, Kevin said: “When I was auditioning for it, the brief was, ‘you needn’t go along the lines of Terry Scott who played the original Penfold’. I tried a few voices at home and the neighbours think I’m insane. But I just kept on going back to what Terry Scott did, and nothing in the lower register works because he’s a little guy and he’s nervous. I thought that Terry Scott had it right. I guess – if anything –because Terry put a bit of a poshness into Penfold’s voice. But yes, it’s up in the upper register and I have to have plenty of honey before I do the job and after.” To read the interview win full click here.

There’s also a new trailer for the show – as you can see below:

Dangermouse launches on CBBC later this month, although an exact date hasn’t yet been confirmed.

The Ape Man Cometh: AAAAAAAAH! Review

28 Aug

unnamedOne of the things that distinguishes the artists that we write about at The Velvet Onion is their ability to think differently and to make waves in a sea of entertainment mediocrity. At their best, they conjure up ideas and dream of worlds so creatively vibrant that they force us, the audience, into a different headspace ourselves. In this respect, Steve Oram‘s AAAAAAAAH! (always written with eight ‘A’s) totally nails it.

The premise of the film is simple: it shows us what human beings would be like if we conformed to the natural behaviour patterns of apes. AAAAAAAAH! presents us with an everyday world that looks like ours but where society has been reduced to little more than factions of fighting, fucking, shitting beasts.

Although I’m no primatologist, I’m fairly sure David Attenborough has said that our simian relatives are more complex than this. But given that the impact of AAAAAAAAH! comes, in large part, from the consistent and gaping absence of anything recognisably ‘human’ in the behaviour of the human forms on screen, let’s embrace the film’s freewheeling approach to natural history.

First things first: the idea upon which the film is built is strange, brave, funny and thought-provoking (more of that later). Conceptually, it’s one of the most interesting films I’ve seen in a long while. The cast are astonishingly good – within minutes you forget that nobody is actually speaking; their grunts, whoops and gestures tell you everything that you need to know about the film’s narrative (as an aside, Tom Meeten told us that the cast were actually given scripts to follow. Wonderful stuff!). Of particular note is the perfectly-observed unspoken camaraderie between Steve Oram and Tom Meeten, the boorish mateyness of Julian Rhind-Tutt and Sean Reynard, and the emotional fragility of a garden-bound Julian Barratt.

It’s also a real pleasure seeing so many of ‘our lot’ working together on a project like this. Proof, if any were needed, that they are a group bound by a shared love of what can best be described as creatively out there. And thank goodness for that!

unnamedBe warned though, it’s not all comedic complexity and anthropological insight. AAAAAAAAH! makes for pretty visceral viewing, sometimes bordering on the gratuitously gross – although it’s generally done for humorous effect, not to offend. The screen is frequently awash with body fluids and body parts, chunks of half-eaten food and unpredictable bloody violence. Within moments of the film starting two key characters defecate in their kitchen, and aggressive, often uninvited sex is never more than a couple of scenes away. Let’s just say it’s probably not a film to take your Mum to.

unnamed-3The overall sense of visual unpleasantness is reinforced by the depiction of a shabby, urban working class existence (I don’t know why, but I suspect that a rural middle-class monkey life might be easier on the eye), and the general look of the film, which is raw and ungraded.

With movie audiences now more used to the anaesthetising effect of Insta filters, it’s actually quite unnerving to watch a film which looks like it might have been shot on video tape.

Perhaps this was a decision born out of budgetary necessity, but by looking less cinematic AAAAAAAAH! feels more real, more immediate. This realism nudges it away from being an artistic concept on a cinema screen, towards a depiction of an authentic world that any of us could easily be part of.

And this is where the film gets really interesting: after watching it I half-expected violent chaos and beastial shrieks to erupt on my tube journey home. The fact that it didn’t, and that every day we unconsciously navigate our way around other people, mindful even of the rights of the strangers in our midst, suddenly seemed astonishing. AAAAAAAAH! provides a fascinating glimpse into what our society could be like if we didn’t follow the intricate set of social rules that have been defined and refined by several millennia of cultural evolution.

unnamed-1Watching people (like us) behave like apes has the effect of re-setting one’s internal gauge of what a ‘normal’ society should be like. We share 99% of our DNA with apes; how incredible it is then that we live in such close proximity to each other, but we rarely fall back on our basic animal instincts to deal with those around us.

AAAAAAAAH! makes you question the validity of the cultural codes by which we live. It forces you to acknowledge how strangely unnatural, transient and man-made our modern lives are. If we were to strip away these superficial social conceits, then really we’re no different to the apes that preceded us. We too are horny, violent, disgusting creatures. It’s no wonder that the news is full of bloodshed and war.

And that’s why I relished AAAAAAAAH so much: it made my brain whirr. It isn’t necessarily lovely to look at and it’s not perfect – indeed, it seems to flaunts its flaws with a strange sense of pride, but it really makes you think – for long after the end credits have rolled – and for that it deserves to be applauded. With the lions’ share of ‘entertainment’ served up for our online/on-screen pleasure these days unlikely to create the smallest cognitive ripple, anything that forces us to sit up and take notice should be celebrated. AAAAAAAAH! is punk cinema at its best: crude, rude and brain fizzingly provocative. Go see!

The next screening of AAAAAAAAH! Takes place at Picturehouse Central in London on 4th September, and includes a cast Q&A. For tickets for this and for updates on other screenings please visit the Lincoln Studios website.


Julian Flowers

26 Aug

Julian Barratt joins Olivia Colman in a new six-part dark comedy from Channel 4, entitled Flowers.

© Kudos / Channel 4

© Kudos / Channel 4

Written and directed by BAFTA nominated writer and director Will Sharpe (who last crossed our paths as a young Pat Quid in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern), the series is described as an imaginative, cinematic comedy about an eccentric family, The Flowers, who are struggling to hold themselves together.

Barratt plays Maurice, author of twisted children’s book series The Grubbs, whilst Colman (Bad Sugar, Broadchurch) plays his wife Deborah, a music teacher. They are barely on speaking terms, yet can’t quite seem to divorce. As Maurice fights inner demons and dark secrets, Deborah tries to keep the family together at all costs and becomes increasingly suspicious that Maurice is in a secret homosexual relationship with his Japanese illustrator Shun (played by Sharpe).

Also on board are the creaky old house’s fellow inhabitants: Maurice’s fruitcake mother Hattie (Leila Hoffman – aka Mrs Treacher from Hot Not to Live Your Life), and the couple’s maladjusted twenty-five year old twins Amy and Donald played by Sophia di Martino (Mount Pleasant, Friday Night Dinner) and Daniel Rigby (Undercover, Cardinal Burns). Both twins are competing for the same girl and continually fail to burst through the confines of their absurdly arrested development.

The series is being produced by acclaimed production house Kudos, who recently brought Humans and Utopia to the channel, and is made in association with NBCU’s new comedy focused subscription VOD platform. Will Sharpe has explained: “This is a comedy about people who are struggling and the situations that can arise when you refuse to admit that there are problems. Our aim is not to make light of the darkness, but to find the light within it.”

Naturally, we’re excited, and can’t wait for tx in 2016. As soon as we hear more, so will you.

Noel Fielding XFM Charity Gig

25 Aug

Noel-Fielding-On-StageNoel Fielding will be performing alongside a smorgasbord of XFM favourites at a stand up comedy event for the radio station’s charity, Global’s Make Some Noise. The night’s compere will be John Robins and other acts on the bill include Crims star Elis James, Nish Kumar and James Acaster, with Fielding headlining this evening of fantastic comedy and fundraising.

The charity Make Some Noise is one that aims to give a voice to disadvantaged children and young people in the UK by providing personal and financial support as well as promoting projects that deliver life-changing work to young people and their families in their communities.

The gig will be taking place on Sunday 27th September at The Pleasance Theatre in Islington. Tickets go on sale tomorrow morning at 8am and are amazingly only £10 each, with all proceeds of course going to the Make Some Noise charity. More information and a link to buy tickets are available over on XFM’s website.

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