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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.

AAAAAAAAH! On Tour

30 Jul

unnamedThe excitement is mounting…. As we’ve mentioned previously, AAAAAAAAH!, the new film by Steve Oram, which features a bevy of TVO faces, will be getting its world premiere next month at Film 4 FrightFest at Leicester Square! But for those of you who can’t make it there, don’t despair – because the film may be coming to a screen near you!

Additional screenings of AAAAAAAAH! include:

Picture House Central in London’s West End on 4th September (+ cast Q&A)
End of the Road Festival (Dorset), 4th-6th September
Mayhem in Nottingham, 15-18 October

Plus more dates to be announced soon. Sign up or check here for screening updates and general AAAAAAAAH! news.

Rook Films

Rook Films

For anyone out there who isn’t familiar with AAAAAAAAH! (how??), Steve’s debut features the entire cast behaving as apes – speaking in grunts and gibberish, in an anarchic, disturbing and touching look at the human condition. It stars Julian Barratt, Toyah Willcox, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Steve Oram, Lucy Honigman, Tom Meeten and Sean Reynard. The supporting cast includes Noel Fielding, Holli Dempsey, Shelley Longworth, Alice Lowe, Tony Way and Waen ShepherdBen Wheatley is also executive producer.

What’s more, AAAAAAAAH! is already receiving rave reviews; here are a few choice comments from the critics:

“Terrifyingly funny, hilariously sick and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Easily the cult movie of the decade” – Alan Jones Film4 FrightFest

“Steve Oram’s AAAAAAAAH! made me question humanity.” – Adam Woodward, LWL’s

“Deeply offensive in all the right ways. Marks its strange, humorous territory with originality and style.” – Phelim O’Neill

Excited yet?

The Mighty Lifesavers

20 Jul

Here’s a story you don’t see every day, via the good folk at The Bristol Post: an episode of The Mighty Boosh has been credited with saving a young man’s life.

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

Chances are the majority of our readers are familiar with Journey to the Centre of the Punk, the 2007 episode in which Howard Moon is shrunk down to minuscule proportions and injected into Vince Noir, who is infected with the blood of jazz freak Howlin’ Jimmy Jefferson after biting Howard’s beloved new record.

To set the scene, Lester Corncrake tells everyone the story of Howlin’ Jimmy, and this animated cutaway has made a lasting impression on 21-year old filmmaker Joe Melarky from Kingswood, Bristol.

After describing the swamp fever that took Howlin’ Jimmy away, and the methods local voodoo priest Tiny Roberts used to create a record his spirit could live in, Corncrake sums up: “Jimmy died, and Tiny Robert got ball cancer, but spotted it early and got it removed, and it was all fine. Here’s a lesson in that for everyone: Check Your Balls (twice a week!).”

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

And that, is exactly what Joe did, and at Christmas he identified a lump, went to the doctors, and discovered he did have testicular cancer. Thankfully, his checking caught the disease early, and he was able to undergo immediate treatment and was given the all clear last month!

© The Bristol Post / Joe Melarky

© The Bristol Post / Joe Melarky

Joe told The Bristol Post: “I laugh when I say it, because it does sound ridiculous, but The Mighty Boosh may well have saved my life. There was this silly skit about checking your balls and it stayed with me, so I did actually check regularly. Who knows, if I hadn’t caught it to early I may not be here.”

Following an 84-day treatment plan with chemotherapy for five days every two weeks at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, Joe is now healthy once more, and is setting up his own film business, The Reel Melarky.

He recently made a film of his sailing trip around the Isle of Wight with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, which you can see, alongside more about Joe’s story, on the Bristol Post website. Nice one, Joe.

And remember everyone: Check Your Balls.

World Premiere & Q&A For Aaaaaaah!

5 Jul

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.47.33As our regular readers will be aware, we’ve been getting more than a little over-excited about Aaaaaaah! for some time – and now the details of the World Premiere have been announced.

Steve Oram‘s directorial debut comedy horror, about a world inhabited by apes in human form, will star a cavalcade of comedic TVO-connected talent (and post-punk icon Toyah Wilcox), including Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding (or “Noah Fielding” according to this site), Alice Lowe, Tom Meeten, Steve Oram, Sean ReynardWaen Shepherd, John Hopkins and Tony Way.

The film premieres at Film 4 FrightFest at Leicester Square – and you can be there to experience it on the big screen in person! What’s more, the event will feature a Q&A with some of the cast. Steve and Toyah are confirmed for this, but there’s on news yet as to which other cast members will be there.

The film will be screened at 18:35 on Friday 28th August on the Discovery 1 screen. A festival pass costs £185 (eek) and day passes for the Friday are £60 (still eek) – these are available here. Single tickets at £13.25 per film will go on sale on 25th July, but unfortunately there are no guarantees what will be available then. Festival and day passes went on sale yesterday and it looks like demand so far has been very high.

In the meantime, to remind yourself how flipping exciting this is (and it really is!), take another look at the Aaaaaaah! trailer below:

Barratt & Farnaby Team Up For New Film

24 Jun
© Holy Moly

© Holy Moly

Rumours have been circulating for a while about this one, but the details of Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby‘s feature film, Mindhorn, have now been made public.

Written by Julian and Simon, and directed by award-winning theatre director Sean Foley (who will be making his feature debut), Mindhorn is produced in association with production company Baby Cow – who are responsible for many of the shows we write about at TVO. Filming starts on July 27th on the Isle of Man.

The narrative for the film sounds brilliantly bizarre: the story revolves around Bruce Mindhorn, a MI5 Special Operative who was captured in the late 1980s. For reasons not yet entirely clear, at the time of his incarceration Mindhorn’s eye was replaced by a super-advanced optical lie detector, which means he can literally “see the truth.” He subsequently escaped from his captors and fled to the Isle of Man to recuperate in the island’s temperate microclimate, and is now serving as the top performing plain-clothes detective on the island. Oh yes.

There’s still no word yet on casting – although, like you, we’re very much hoping that the two co-writers take a role in front of the camera as well. As soon as we hear any more – including the planned release date, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Edit: We’ve managed to find out a bit more information about the movie: It seems that Mindhorn is actually a fictional detective, who will be played in the film by Julian. His acting career is on the rocks until a real killer killer tells the police that he’ll only speak to the Mindhorn.

We’re not entirely sure how this new narrative ties into the version that’s described in our main article (which is being reported in the wider press)…but at least we now know that Julian will be appearing in the film as well as co-wtiting it.

Weird Al Crimps!

9 Jun
A_Yankovic_RT13_Propaganda6_046

© Al Yankovic

There’s something inherently familiar about the latest “Weird Al” track, and Boosh fans around the world will no doubt be going crazy when they hear it.

Make no mistake about it: TVO loves “Weird Al” Yankovic. It is still one of our proudest achievements to have been quoted on the back of the US release of Snuffbox on dvd, which featured Al discussing his love of the show in the US-exclusive documentary retrospective on the series.

As it transpires, Al’s also been watching The Mighty Boosh – as his recent recording trip to Jack White’s Third Man Records reveals.

Al and his long-standing bandmates, Stephen Jay, Jim Kimo West and Rubén Valtierra took to Third Man’s vintage 1947 Voice-O-Graph recording booth to commit a short acapella track to vinyl.

Inspired mostly by the work the band have been doing during the Yoda section of their live tour over the years, it features a rather familiar section towards the end of the piece, which you can see and hear below.

Yes, that’s right. “Weird Al” Yankovic just sang part of the legendary Four Way Crimp, performed by Vince, Howard, Naboo and Bollo in the fictional Velvet Onion club in The Mighty Boosh episode The Power of the Crimp. Wow.

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

You can see Al and the gang on tour across the world this Summer and Autumn, including a selection of UK tour dates for only the second time in their long career. Perhaps we’ll see you there, and if TVO hears of a release for this recording from the vinyl loving Third Man Records, we’ll give you a shout, so stay peeled!

So Hot Right Now #26

13 Apr

Welcome to The Velvet Onion – the central hub for an interconnected range of alternative comedy and more. Click through for the latest news, and see what’s so hot right now THIS WEEK below…

TRAILAAAAAAAAH!

Late last week, TVO recieved the first teaser trailer for Aaaaaaaah! – the directorial feature debut of Steve Oram which features a cavalcade of TVO regulars in its impressive cast list.

The film features Oram alongside Tom MeetenJulian BarrattNoel FieldingAlice Lowe, Waen ShepherdShelly Longworth, Tony WayJohn Hopkins and Sean Reynard, as well as Julian Rhind-Tutt (A Touch of Cloth, Green Wing), Holli Dempsey (Derek, Doctor Who), Lucy Honigman (Mr & Mrs Murder) and post-punk legend Toyah Willcox.

With music from King Crimson Projekts (Robert Fripp) and David Westlake (Sneakerpimps), and no real dialogue to speak of, the teaser is certainly whetting appetites – and we can’t wait to tell you more. Stay peeled, and we’ll let you know what we can, when we can!

DO YOU COME FROM A LAND DOWN UNDER?

With the Melbourne International Comedy Festival now in full swing, the arrival of An Audience With Noel Fielding down under has led to a sizable chunk of TVO regulars entertaining audiences on the other side of the world to their normal location for an extended period of time.

© News.com

© News.com

MICF kicks off the Australian tour for AAWNF this week, as Noel FieldingTom Meeten and Mike Fielding bring their full length live mayhem to Oz. If you’ve not paid attention so far, the show features Noel’s long-form standup storytelling and a series of characters from Luxury Comedy and beyond… plus the Moon makes regular interjections on the action!

This week’s Melbourne dates are sold out, but Saturday’s second show in Adelaide and a return to Melbourne on Sunday are both still on sale, and some of the later dates are also up for grabs for the time being too. Next week, dates in Canberra, Sydney and Perth follow (all bar the second Perth date sold out), and the show will visit Brisbane, Syndey (again), Melbourne (again), Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch before wrapping up on 14th May. For tickets, go over yonder.

© Sarah Kendall

MICF is also hosting a series of TVO flavoured gigs from some of our favourite standups until it all comes to an end on Sunday 19th April. Most excitingly, this includes the première of Sarah Kendall‘s brand new show, A Day in October.

The storytelling stand-up follows her work on previous shows by exploring another tale from her childhood: this time focusing on a pool party in 1989 that was so disastrous, the ramifications are still being felt today. It was a bad pool party. Book tickets here.

© Paul Foot

Elsewhere at the festival, the mighty Paul Foot brings his 2014 Edinburgh show, Hovercraft Syphony in Gammon # Major, to Aussie audiences.

Paul has become a cult favourite in Australia, and returns after rave reviews to stimulate minds with his brief case full of new rants and tall tales. Book tickets here.

© Tony Law

Also there for one more week is Tony Law, who is bringing his 2014 Edinburgh show Enter the ToneZone to Australia for one final run. Following a huge UK tour and a Soho Theatre residency, Tone offers magical shapes, an original song, some truly heart-breaking nonsense and brief tackling of world issues through the medium of dance.

There’s tons of other great shows on offer, so we suggest maybe hitting the list here and booking as many as you can, but whilst we’re here, we’d also like to give a shout out to up and coming comic Alexis Simmonds, whose show Mist-Conceptions is taking place at The Tuxedo Cat.  A long-standing friend of TVO and a big fan of our regulars now forging her own comedic path, she’s one of us, and one of you, and it’d be great if you could go along and say hello from us.

TRAVELLING JESS

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Back on our tellyboxes, the truly incredible Jessica Hynes joins Richard Ayoade for the latest edition of Travel Man this Monday evening at 8:30pm on Channel 4.

The delightful duo take a whirlwind weekend trip to Iceland, visiting the most famous waterfalls, glaciers and geysers of the Nordic island by helicopter, go in search of whales and chill-out at the Blue Lagoon geothermic pool. But it’s not all rosy, with a meal of rotten shark and Breavin (mashed potato spirit) on the agenda, and a mandatory attendance of Elf School. Magnificent.

TONY VISITS NUMBER NINE

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

The sublime Inside No. 9 continues on Thursday evening at 10pm on BBC Two, and this week, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are joined by Ab Fab legend Jane Horrocks, Luther star Nikki Amuka-Bird and TVO regular Tony Way in Cold Comfort.

This week focuses on Booth Nine in the Comfort Support Line’s call centre, which offers the lonely and desperate a chance to talk about their problems. Each of the CSL counsellors have their own ways of dealing with clients, the stress of the job and killing time between calls, but newcommer Andy (Pemberton) really isn’t prepared for what is to come.

Inside No. 9 continues to innovate and push the boundaries of its format, and this episode is no exception. Shot almost entirely via a fixed camera in the booth, other angles of CCTV footage are displayed down the side of the screen, and become increasingly important as the story unfolds. It’s clever television that also manages to remember to be gripping, thoughtful and creepy in good measure, and above all else, it’s a comedy that’s downright hilarious. A must-see.

ROULETTE FOR SIMON DAY

© BBC

© BBC

If you’ve not tuned in to Chat Show Roulette yet, it’s really time you did – as the improvisation led chat-show in which famous names pretend to be fictional guests on the spur of the moment to host Justin Edwards only has two episodes left in this long-awaited first series.

This week, he is joined by Brian Pern himself: the legendary Simon Day, as well as friend of TVO, David Reed. Also along for the ride are Luisa Omielan, Beardyman and regular musical accompanier James Sherwood. You can hear it on Radio 4 on Thursday evening at 11pm, and previous episodes, including appearances from Kevin Eldon, Matt Lucas, Charlie Higson, Cariad Lloyd and many more can be heard over yonder.

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

©Stubbings

© Rachel Stubbings

While a lot of our regular touring lot are down under as listed above, there’s also a number of other chances to see TVO regulars this week. Here’s where you can see them…

13/04/15 – Rachel Stubbings and Lou Sanders with Jessica Forteskew – Aces and Eights, 7:30pm, FREE.

15/04/15 – Aisling Bea with  Ed Caruna, Joe Lycett, Matthew Crosby and Stuart Goldsmith – Bar FM, 8pm, £10.

15/04/15 – Richard Sandling with Alexis Dubus, Sarah Bennetto, Syd Moor, Spencer Jones and Elf Lyons – Betsey Trotwood, 8pm, £5.

15/04/15 – Cariad Lloyd with Josie Lawrence, Niall Ashdown, Richard Vranch, Andy Smart and Lee Simpson – The Comedy Store, 8pm, £17.

16/04/15 – Joey Page, Julian Deane, Michael Fabbri, Richard Todd, Nathan Cassidy, Laurence Owen, Faye Treacy and Luke Capasso – Camden Comedy Club, 8pm, £4.

17/04/15 – Aisling Bea with Mae Martin, Mike Wozniak, Tim Key – The Bloomsbury Theatre, 7:30pm, £20. {in aid of The Lullaby Trust}

Please note – there are listings out there suggesting Tony Law is appearing at Laughing Boy Comedy this Thursday in Brixton, but as he’s currently in Melbourne, we’re not sure how that’s possible, even for the ToneZone.

IN OUR PERIPHERAL VISION

© HBO

© HBO

We’d be remiss not to mention the long-awaited return of Game of Thrones this weekend, which is just about the biggest show in the world right about now. As you may remember, Tony Way played Ser Dontos Hollard in Seasons Two and Four, while Paul Kaye was Thoros of Myr in Season Three and comedian Gemma Whelan (The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains, Cardinal Burns) has been appearing as Yara Greyjoy since the second season.

Whilst we’ve seen the last of Hollard, Thoros and Yara are still out there with stories to unfold, and the show’s international cast draws on a wide range of incredibly talented actors and actresses, so we’ll never rule out another TVO regular making an appearance until the show reaches its conclusion. And either way, it’s generally awesome, so it’s well worth your attention.

AND THE REST…

As always, there’s so much going on at the Velvet Onion, it’s easy to miss things. As well as our News pages, the best way to keep track is via our Twitter feed, so here are a few highlights from throughout the week gone by. Until next time, keep on peeling!

Teaseaaaaaaaah!

10 Apr

Joey Page & Toyah On 6 Music’s Roundtable

13 Mar

© BBC

We love to see an unexpected mash-up of TVO-connected folk – and yesterday saw one such combo: comedian Joey Page and iconic actress/singer, Toyah Willcox!

We’ve been showcasing Joey’s comedic output on these pages for some time, but if you’re wondering what links Toyah to TVO, for those of you not currently in the know she features in Steve Oram‘s new film, Aaaaaaaah! alongside a bevy of ‘our lot’ (Julian Barratt, Noel Fielding, Shelley Longworth, Alice Lowe, Tom Meeten, Sean Reynard, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Waen Shepherd, Tony Way and Steve himself ).

Joey and Toyah joined 6 Music presenter, Steve Lamacq and fellow guest, Gideon Coe, for this week’s Roundtable, where they reviewed new releases by Mumford and Sons, Mini Mansions featuring Alex Turner, Sharon Van Etten, Streets of Leredo, Johnny Marr, Pins and Gang Of Four.

You can hear the show on BBC iPlayer, where it’s available for your aural pleasure for a further 29 days.

Fans of Joey Page will be pleased to know that he has offered to do five previews of his new show Catastrophe Party in people’s living rooms. Awesome stuff! If you want to be one of the select few to enjoy a private performance of Joey’s new show, get in touch with him via twitter.

 

Caaaaaaaast Revealed at Laaaaaaaast!

7 Mar

If you’re an avid Twitter user, you can’t help but have noticed the buzz mid-week when the poster for Aaaaaaah! was revealed.

Now that the details are out in the open, we can confirm that Steve Oram‘s directorial debut will star a cavalcade of comedic talent and a post-punk icon for good measure.

In alphabetical order then, Aaaaaaah! will star: Julian Barratt, Holli Dempsey, Noel Fielding, Lucy Honigman, Shelley Longworth, Alice LoweTom MeetenSteve Oram, Sean Reynard, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Waen Shepherd, Tony Way and Toyah Willcox.

The names in bold, we’re sure need little introduction from us – with Barratt & Fielding being the spearheads of The Mighty Boosh, and Longworth, Lowe, Meeten, Oram and Shepherd all being Ealing Live veterans and regulars on our pages, alongside a certain Mr Way.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name Sean Reynard, you may perhaps know him as Sean the Prawn: a regular on the live circuit often found appearing in Oram & Meeten’s Club Fantastico shows, as well as the man behind often disturbing yet compelling short films like 321-(2.6.78).

Of the other four names: Holli Dempsey will be familiar to viewers of Derek as Vicky, and she’s also appeared in BreathlessDoctor Who and the forthcoming Dad’s Army movie.  Lucy Honigman, on the other hand, is a young Australian actress best known for her role in Mr & Mrs Murder, and Aaaaaaah! marks her first leading role in the UK.

Julian Rhind-Tutt needs little introduction: perhaps best known as Mac in Green Wing, he’s also appeared in A Touch of ClothInside No 9, HippiesBlack Books, Oliver Twist and drama-of-the-moment, Banished.

© Toyah Willcox

Toyah Willcox, of course, has been crossing over between a successive music career and acclaimed roles on stage and screen for over 35 years now, with roles in Jubilee, QuadropheniaThe Tempest, Barmy Aunt Boomerang and Secret Diary of a Call Girl showcasing her range, and a string of classic albums including Anthem, The Changeling, Prostitute, Velvet Lined Shell and In The Court of the Crimson Queen behind her, she still tours the UK regularly with her live band, and records with her side-project The Humans. Like many of the stars of Aaaaaaah!, TVO is a bit of a fan…

Excitingly, Toyah’s inclusion in the production has paved the way for the music in the film to be a collaboration between King Crimson Projekcts (featuring her husband, Robert Fripp) and David Westlake: formerly of Sneakerpimps and the Boosh live band.

All of this is shaping up to make Aaaaaaah! the TVO-related event of the year, and as Steve Oram has been locked in the edit suite honing his masterpiece for some time now, we’ve yet to see a single frame of footage from the production… so we’re in that rare position of being just as much in the dark as you, dear readers. As soon as Mr Steve opens the door a little bit to get a draft going, we’ll let you know everything we can, so stay peeled!

For a wee bit more info, why not check out our previous posts about the film – here and there?

Onion Talking: James Cook’s Adventures in Ausland Part 2

28 Feb
© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

If you’re a die hard fan of The Mighty Boosh or a lover of alternative music crafted with care for the details, chances are you’ve heard of James Cook. If you haven’t, then perhaps you haven’t been reading TVO properly these last five years.

With his new album out now, Cook has returned to the London music scene in recent months, and sat down to talk to TVO’s editor-in-chief Paul Holmes, about his past, present and future in a revealing two-part interview, ahead of the next round of his club night, Outsiders, on February 26th.

Part One was shared with you in mid February, and you can read the second part of our discussions below…

History tells us that the most famous of men named James Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe, mapping lands from New Zealand to Hawaii to an unprecedented level during his voyages of discovery.  There’s a sense of irony in the way his namesake – cult musician James Cook, formerly of NEMO, has traversed the globe over the past decade.

“The last ten years have been pretty crazy to be honest,” Cook tells TVO, as we continue our first in-depth catch-up since James performed at The Velvet Onion Live night almost three years ago.  “I started touring in 2004,” he continues, “when I was the guitarist in IAMX for about a year. We travelled across Europe, Russia and the USA – a rotating line-up featuring Chris Corner, Noel Fielding, Sue Denim, Dee Plume, Julian Barratt, Julia Davis and myself.  It was an amazing year, and the first time I started earning money from music.  Unfortunately,” he adds, “I couldn’t remain in IAMX because I had to concentrate on NEMO.”

© James Cook

© James Cook

NEMO were the electro-tinged indie darlings who released three albums in four years, concurrently with the televisual run of The Mighty Boosh, with which they were closely linked.  While they never cracked the mainstream in England, the band were particularly successful across Europe, taking James to Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.  However, James decided to disband NEMO in 2008, and move to Berlin.

“I started touring solo,” he recalls, “with just a laptop and electric guitar. This actually enabled me to be even freer with my movements, so I continued my European travels as well as venturing further away to the Americas, visiting Uruguay, Argentina, New York and LA.  I was mostly invited to these places, or I knew people there and sought out gigs and travel. Myspace allowed NEMO to have fans all over the world, so it was a relief and a dream come true to be able to travel through music.”

All of this travel enthused his latest record, Adventures in Auslandnamed after the German word for ‘abroad’. “It can also mean ‘outside’,” Cook notes. “Or ‘otherness’.  Wanderlust is addictive. Once I had a sniff of that lifestyle, I was hooked! There was no question of me not taking every opportunity to escape the comparative confines of London, and the experiences gained from all this travel fed directly into the new album. Songs were written and recorded across several years in LA, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Genova and London, now I’m based here again.”

© James Cook

© James Cook

Adventures in Ausland marks James’ second full length solo album, following 2012’s Arts and Sciences and 2013’s covers EP Reverse Engineering.  With three NEMO albums and the full-length record by side-project The Dollhouse behind him, however, the album is technically his sixth complete record, and arguably his best work yet.

“The feedback has been great so far,” Cook states, “which is obviously why you continue releasing new material. The aim is to constantly improve and grow, and hopefully never repeat yourself. I think I am physically unable to repeat myself artistically. I never make the same album twice, and have never even used the same method and techniques twice. I always use new and different musicians and instruments, and the process of recording is as important as the writing stage. It’s basically a series of filters, like distilling alcohol like some sort of electro/chemical process.”

Well, quite. Indeed, the album adds brass elements to Cook’s impressive canon, The usual degree of classy strings and James’ curious ability to sound both impassioned and distant at the same time remain, but this album feels less immediate and more mature than ever before.  James’ natural influences – Lou Reed, David Bowie, Scott Walker – remain at the heart of his work, and as the years have progressed, other artists have crossed James’ path and made an enormous contribution to his style. TVO notes that there appear to be strong traces of Neil Hannon’s work across Cook’s catalogue, and James is quick to own up to an admiration for the songwriter.

© James Cook

© James Cook

“It’s hard to disguise formative influences,” he notes, “and the first two Divine Comedy records were definitely a big influence on me, and it took me a while to shake the influence off! I initially discovered them whilst living in Paris and was blown away by something that seemed to me to come from another universe. I then investigated Scott Walker and Jacques Brel as a result of listening to them, so I owe Mr Hannon quite a debt!

The mention of Brel draws conversation to an intriguing aspect of Adventures in Ausland: Cook’s voice has often been compared to Marc Almond, and the album features a new interpretation of Brel’s magnificent Jacky, which was infamously given a camp disco makeover in the early 90s. James was aware that this could draw closer comparisons to Almond’s work, but his love for the original song overrode any reservations he had. It was time, he suggests, to finally do it justice.

“Brel was one of the 20th century’s greatest songwriters,” James explains. “People like Scott Walker brought his amazing songs to an English speaking pop audience in a way he could never have done himself. However, as a university student of politics and French, I became obsessed with how badly his songs are actually translated into English. Most of them totally miss the point, or just simply don’t make much sense, and it is perhaps impossible for anyone who doesn’t speak French to understand that.”

“They’re very satirical songs,” he continues. “Very personal, very dark and very funny, so doing a proper translation is really no mean feat. I had always dreamt of doing my own modern translations of his song. Scott Walker’s version of Jacky was my main reference, but so was Momus 1986 version, Nicky.”

“People have been saying I sound like Marc Almond for years,” he sighs. “I’ve never really been a fan. I think that first Soft Cell record is great, but I think it’s more that we had a similar music and cultural upbringing. We definitely share similar tastes and influences in our music, so that’s probably where it comes from. But Marc Almond’s version of Jacky is pretty crap and pointless really, so I decided to pluck up the guts to go for my own version. It’s a very personal song, so you have to make it about yourself – which is why my version is called Jamie, after my childhood name. Then you have to have the appropriate cultural references, and requisite irony, correctly translated and updated. When I sing it live, I update the words to fit current situations. That’s how it should be done.”

© James Cook

© James Cook

We’re suddenly touching on ground that has come up in the Cook’s work previously: a sense of frustration about the abandonment of art and discovery, hand in hand with the rise of technology and the era of disposability. It is something TVO is only too acutely aware of, and James shares our frustration and apprehension about the way society is headed.

“Without sounding too depressing,” he explains, “I genuinely feel we are in some sort of cultural nadir right now. Technology should be allowing us to create more and more insanely mindblowing art, but all we seem to be doing as a collective community is tweeting nonsense, and posting up pics of ourselves, our food and our pets. The idea that we have all the information known to man inside our pockets, is something that would have been inconceivable even fifteen years ago.  Somehow that potential access has frozen us in fear, mediocrity and narcisism.”

“Music has been devalued to virtually nothing,” Cook continues. “Disposable, vacuous art permeates popular culture. Narrative creativity seems to be anachronistic. Attention spans are at an all time low. Our technology is controlling us right now, rather than the other way round. Let’s hope we snap out of this dystopian Orwellian nightmare and take control of our lives and collective destiny!”

TVO proposes that one way independent artists are trying to do exactly that, is by abandoning traditional release structures, and turning to pledge culture to release their work via fundraisers and special releases. Could the future for James involve making albums through this method?

“I am open to it,” he suggests, considering the angles. “I’ll try anything and everything I can with my future releases. I’m currently working on three new albums, and must find new ways for people to experience them. Unfortunately, I have a small fanbase, and am not really very good at self-promotion or asking for money when it comes to my own music. Those Kickstarter type situations seem unappealing to me, somehow, but I’m looking into them.”

There’s an interesting honesty about Cook. He is perhaps, his own worst critic, yet acts also as his own personal champion. Proud of his achievements, but keen to downplay his abilities, there’s a sense of an artist who still has so much left to give and an awful lot more to say. As conversation moves briefly onto science fiction, and Cook and TVO share a mutual moment of Doctor Who admiration, he teases about a treatment he is working on for an animated time-travel detective spy thriller. There’s a sense that he has so much more to give, and TVO could listen to him talk about his plans for hours. Sadly, it is time for James to disappear into the early dusk of a Winter’s day. Before he goes, however, TVO suggests that, in an ideal world, Cook would be utilising his delicious string arrangements, cryptic lyrics and silky smooth vocals on the next James Bond theme. “Oh, god, yeah! That would be another dream come true,” he beams. “But I guess I’ll have to join the queue for that one!”

James Cook returns with Outsiders on 26th March. His new album, Adventures in Ausland is available now via Bandcamp

Onion Talking: James Cook’s Adventures in Ausland Part 1

18 Feb
© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

If you’re a die hard fan of The Mighty Boosh or a lover of alternative music crafted with care for the details, chances are you’ve heard of James Cook. If you haven’t, then perhaps you haven’t been reading TVO properly these last five years.

With his new album out now, Cook has returned to the London music scene in recent months, and sat down to talk to TVO’s editor-in-chief Paul Holmes, about his past, present and future in a revealing two-part interview, ahead of the next round of his club night, Outsiders, on February 26th. The initial results are below…

The story of any cultural movement that shaped the course of an entire industry is always fascinating to hear.  Some stories, however, have yet to be told in any real detail, such as the birth and subsequent explosion of the new wave of alternative comedy and music that existed in tandem at the turn of the millennium, focused primarily in the heart of North London.

One major player in all of this was James Cook – former frontman of cult favourites NEMO, collaborator of Chris Corner and regular guest star with The Mighty Boosh.  For the last six years, Berlin has been Cook’s base, and thanks to large amount of travel, he knows his ‘way around’ LA, Montevideo and Prague, too. But London will always be his real home. 

© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

“This year has definitely felt like some sort of homecoming,” he tells TVO as he strolls the cold streets of a capital knee-deep into Winter. “It feels like home, really. I was born and grew up in Luton and Dunstable, but London was somehow embedded in my subconscious. It was the teenage dream for a musician and songwriter, to head into the Big Smoke!”

Now following a period of several years spent living abroad, Cook has returned to London to make it his permanent home once more, and has already begun finding his feet again with a new regular live night in the works.

Indeed, as TVO caught up with Cook, he was filled with enthusiasm for the opening night of Outsiders – his alternative pop cabaret at Aces & 8’s in Tufnell Park. “The room was completely full,” James exclaims, full of joy. “The audience was great and the night was fun and exciting – for the band as well as the crowd. It was a lovely way to begin the live side of things again.”

Outsiders features Cook hosting a night of, in his terms: “music and nonsense, with a bit of classic pop dj-ing from yours truly”. It’s also an opportunity to see his ever expanding live band, plus special guests every month. Fifteen years after NEMO began their career as part of legendary club night, The System, there’s a sense that his journey has come full circle.

© James Cook

© James Cook

A whole decade has passed since those heady days, when NEMO ran The System as an electro/indie club night of their own.  “It was unheard of back then,” James states.  “The scene blossomed. Robots in Disguise, Chris Corner and Sneaker Pimps… who later became IAMX, The Mighty Boosh, Imogen Heap, Graham Coxon… they were all regulars.”

“We all used to hang out together as friends,” he continues.  “We’d go to each others events, get drunk together, perform, collaborate, and guest in each other’s shows. I remember once performing a song onstage at the Hen & Chickens with The Mighty Boosh, and Julian Barratt pretending to ‘fancy’ me after seeing me perform. He tried to snog me!” He bursts out laughing, and adds: “Much to Noel’s annoyance!”

Cook subsequently shared a flat in Angel with Barratt and violinist Anne Marie Kirby, with whom he still works to this day. “That was between 2003 and 2007,” explains James.  “So it coincided with my touring with IAMX, NEMO’s rise to infamy, and the writing and filming of all three series of The Mighty Boosh.  They kept calling me in for some weird and wonderful cameo…” He adopts an impression: “James Nemo? Are you available to come to shooting 8am tomorrow morning with the Boosh? Today you will be a blue alien nomad. Can you play this Oud?”

Indeed, Cook’s cameos on the show are numerous. He was one of the Ape of Death’s bodyguard mandrills, a Mod Wolf, a mutant postman, magical shaman, dying hipster, a blue tennis player (The Blue McEnroe, no less), and perhaps most delightfully, Kevin Rowland, searching for the New Sound.  His biggest role in the show, came as a blue-faced nomadic minstrel, slave to Rich Fulcher’s Blue King Alan, who is composes a song about Vince Noir being ‘The Chosen One’.

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

“We seriously wrote that song together five minutes before we shot that scene,” James reveals.  “Shooting the Boosh was a bit like that. There was always room for people to put themselves into the role, add lines and improvise. That was the reason for so much laughter and hilarity on set. They were truly magical times.”

It is perhaps hard to believe that it’s now over seven years since the third series aired, and almost eight since the Boosh team were making new episodes – a fact that Cook is all too acutely aware of.  “It still feels very recent,” he tells TVO, “but everyone involved has been so creative and busy that it also feels like forever.  So much amazing material has gone out into the world from that little scene of comedians and musicians.”

“I was so glad when TVO came along,” he adds passionately, “to help join the dots for people. In the early days I felt like I was the one constantly talking about the collective hive mind we had. That family feel. We used to go on holiday together, make short films…” He trails off as a near-forgotten memory rises to the surface.  “We made a legendary silent horror film which we shot in France.  It was called ‘La Rose D’Envie’, and featured Julian Barratt, Chris Corner, Sue Denim and myself. Never even released!”

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

The creative family has widened, remoulded and become increasingly fluid in recent years, yet at its core will always be two inter-connected groups – that of Ealing Live (a comedy troupe featuring Alice Lowe, Richard Glover, Oram & Meeten, Katy Brand, Simon Farnaby and many, many others), and the Boosh/IAMX collective across the city.

“When you started to write about it in TVO,” James enthuses, “I was relieved that someone else had noticed the connections and references. It means it has been initially documented and recognised, but the full story can and should be fleshed out properly one day.”

“There was so much creative overlap,” he continues, “between the comedy shows, music nights, albums and tv programmes. The energy was bursting out of North London at the time. A lot of it is captured within the art, but there are so many little notes and stories…” He pauses for a moment, then adds with determination: “I would love to write some sort of memoir about it one day!”

James Cook returns with Outsiders on 26th February. His new album, Adventures in Ausland is available now via Bandcamp. Part Two of this interview will follow next week.

Thanks For The Memories

5 Feb

Celebrating our 5th birthday this week has caused us to get a wee bit nostalgic. So we thought we’d collate some of those “Do you remember when?…” reminiscences into a Best of the first 5 years of TVO. It’s not a comprehensive overview of everything we’ve done, more a subjective account of a few of those ad hoc moments that made us feel warm, fuzzy and just a bit excited.

The favourite moments are different for all of us; sometimes it’s the memory of the event behind the article; sometimes it’s because we nailed an exclusive or wrote something that generated a huge amount of traffic for the website (one post last year generated over 13,000 unique visits in one day, fact fans!), and often it’s the buzz of being able to share something new, exciting and special with you, our readers. So here are a few of the happenings which have brought a smile to our faces over the past 5 years: 

Paul

© Paul Holmes

© Paul Holmes

There are so many glorious memories to treasure. There’s one particular Forgery Club that will forever be in my mind, presented by Hot Brew, and featuring a rare performance by Brown Jenkin (Colin Hoult & Stephen Evans), an appearance by The Mighty Thor and loads more. We were sat talking to Steve Oram before the show, and he noted that he’d never made it big because he liked to do things that broadcasters don’t know what to do with… then went on to give the audience an epic, ten minute long version of “Mary“. To this day, I can’t get a cab in London without thinking: “I will not go South of de river.”

I was particularly proud of the Mongrels takeover in November 2011, as various people being very busy meant I did that one pretty much solo, but was riddled with a genuine (and full blown) flu after arranging interviews with the whole cast and creator Adam Miller! I managed to salvage the interviews, strike up positive relationships with every single one of the team I spoke to which continue to this day, and fix up a wodge of behind the scenes stuff AND a competition to win DVDs of Series One, despite being unable to stand up or focus on a screen for more than a few minutes at a time. If you click here and scroll down, you can see everything.

Another good one to mention is Zimbani, which came to my attention early on in the life of TVO, when Dave McNeill & Colin Hoult emailed me to enthuse about their new show featuring Julian Barratt. It was the first time anyone had come to me direct outside of casual chatter, and really began expanding our world for the first time. Colin later made my partner, and occasional TVO designer, Lauren, get down on all fours and pretend to be a pig in front of Simon Amstell. Now that was a strange moment.

Then again, there’s many of those. Getting accidentally lost for a moment in a strange building behind the London Palladium with Isy Suttie at a screening of Alice Lowe‘s People Place. Similarly, getting trapped in a lift with Mike Fielding and an old lady who refused to let anyone else press the buttons to get us out of this chaos. And then there’s that strange bar James Wren led a motley post-Spank crew along to that felt like something out of a Bond film, somehow managing to stay glamorous at 3am. It’s been a funny old time.  But above all else, it’s just been nice to be welcomed into the fold of this wonderful group of friends and collaborators, and be trusted to give them everything I can to help their work reach a wider crowd. Let’s keep doing it, eh?

Mog

Having been involved in TVO since the very early days makes picking a favourite moment is a real challenge – but this one was pretty special: In 2011 Dave Brown was putting together Noel Fielding‘s art book Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton. They needed one last thing to finish it off before it was sent to the printers, and they contacted us to provide it. We were able to offer our readers the opportunity to have a photograph of their faces painted over by Noel and included in the book. A double page spread of your lovely faces appeared in the book when it was published, alongside the caption ‘MY TINY CHILDREN’. A wonderful show of their appreciation for the fans, and something which we were delighted to facilitate on their behalf.

© Noel Fielding/Dave Brown

Our Sightseers take-over was pretty special too (click here and scroll down). We had no idea it would become such a cult hit at the time, and it was great to be able to support so many of ‘our lot’ (Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Richard Glover Tom Meeten) with a week of exclusives.

© Big Face Productions

On a personal level, getting to know a few of the people who we write about – and discovering that they’re damned nice people as well as being unbelievably talented – has been a privilege.

A particular high point has been getting to know Hoppo. Introduced to me at Club Fantastico as “the only man to have survived Old Gregg”, John Hopkins turned out to have a TVO pedigree as long as his (long) arms, being part of the original Ealing Live gang and having worked with half of the people that we cover. He’s also lovely. If you don’t know who he is, we urge you to read our interview/profile about him and check out his stuff.

Helen

There are lots of brilliant moments I could mention, but as a fan of Hayden Black, it’s been a pleasure getting the chance to spread the word about him. I guess I’ve become our resident expert on Hayden’s creative and comedic output; take a look at this to find out more.

Paulyne

The moment that stands out in my mind is Fulchfest (Rich Fulcher‘s legendary comedy night in Kentish Town). I’d say that was the most fun I could have. This Pete Heat video that we filmed summarises it perfectly:

I’ve also had some brilliantly fun nights at Dan Clark gigs – often with Mog. Here’s a review of one of them.

© Mog

Aggie

I think my favourite moment is the Zappa Plays Zappa gig at the Camden Roundhouse, with The Mighty Boosh Band as support. Being surrounded by odd men with moustaches while weird music was playing… and then rushing across town to a Rich Fulcher gig – where all the familiar faces already were. It was a perfect blend of what started it all and the new direction TVO had pushed us all in.

Rosanna

Seeing the Boosh warm-up gigs in 2013 was great, and it was lovely going to Soho Theatre as part of the TVO team. It was brilliant to see them on stage together again, in a lovely small venue, with the magic between them there as if they’d never gone away. The review was great too!

I loved going to see the Inside No. 9 preview at the BFI. It’s now one of my favourite pieces of TV and seeing it in the cinema was really special.

Michael

Being involved in filming TVO Live was one the most fun shoots I’ve done, but also the toughest because it was so difficult holding the camera still due to my laughter! We couldn’t have wished for a better line up. Fingers crossed for a TVO Live 2!

Trixie

My favorite TVO memory is of when I interviewed Rich Fulcher in LA. I hadn’t done anything like it before, and he was so funny and generous! I admire Rich so much, and it was wonderful that he was everything he seems to be and more. A truly funny man.

Becca

The Luxury Comedy coffee competition was great, because it encouraged people to create something artistic. And I loved the series of Noel Fielding interviews to celebrate his birthday, which featured questions from our readers:

So there you have it – a sprinkling of very happy memories from a few of us. A big TVO thank you to the artists who we write about, who have provided us with these highs and who make it all possible. And thanks too to you, for being interested enough in what we do to come with us on our journey to the outer reaches of the comedy universe. It’s been quite a ride so far…

ALT CAB or Where Did It Go Wrong?

4 Feb
© CANAL

© CANAL

A new and extremely limited run exhibition on the transformation of alternative comedy across the 1980s and early 90s will take place at London gallery CANAL later this month.

ALT CAB or Where Did It Go Wrong? utilises archive material from the period as well as a programme of performances and discussions to track the journey of the movement from its initial reactionary beginnings against Thatcherism and the comedy mainstream, through to stadium gigs, star status and its placement as ‘the new rock’n’roll’, slap bang in the heart of a new mainstream.

With film footage, artefacts and ephemera relating to the aesthetic, innovativeness and political concerns of the live movement, the exhibition is the brainchild of former comedy promoter turned gallery curator Monika Bobinska and comedy director/producer/performer Dec Munro.

The linked live program includes an evening with Simon Munnery revisiting some of his classic works, a live installation by Ivor Dembina and a full length show by the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society.

Munnery will also be giving a talk after his show, in which he’ll discuss alternative comedy and the infamous Cluub Zarathustra – which was a regular haunt for Kevin EldonWaen Shepherd, Graham Linehan and Julian Barratt, amongst many others.

The exhibition runs from February 13th to March 7th, with a couple of additional live events on March 10th & 14th. For more information, visit the CANAL website.

As no doubt many of you will be unable to attend, as a treat below, we’ve included a tv pilot made by members of the Cluub Zarathustra gang in 1996 for Channel 4. Entitled The League Against Tedium, it features Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee, Kevin Eldon, Roger Mann, Sally Phillips, Jason Freeman and Richard Thomas, and is a fascinating look at the movement which paved the way for Ealing Live, Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh. There’s also a chance to see a then 27 year old Julian Barratt performing the kind of material he used to explore at those events. Enjoy…

So Hot Right Now #11

22 Dec

Welcome to The Velvet Onion – the central hub for an interconnected range of alternative comedy and more.  Click through for the LATEST NEWS, and see what’s so hot right now below.

CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY FOR TVO TELLY FANS!

As Noddy Holder once sang: IT’S CHRIIIIIIISSSTTTTMAAAAAAASSSSS!!!!!! Which means there’s a sudden glut of top notch telly to be savoured, and that naturally includes a bevy of TVO regulars on our screens once again.  We’ve got more news to share with you below this epic round-up, but first off, we’ve got to celebrate just how much we can enjoy this week!

Monday 22nd December

© Sky

© Sky

The crux of that comes on Monday 22nd December, with six new shows and a vintage repeat to savour across the evening. First up at 5:30pm on Sky 1 is Katy Brand‘s Little Cracker getting a welcome re-airing.

First shown in 2012, the episode – like the rest of the Little Cracker series which inspired Moone Boy – focuses on a key event from it’s writer’s childhood Christmasses dramatised and exaggerated for comedic value.  Katy Brand’s edition centres on the moment ten-year-old Katy made an earth-shattering discovery on Christmas Eve, and in one fell swoop the magic and sparkle of the festive season vanished. All is not lost when an unlikely opportunity to save Christmas presents itself.

Stick with Sky1 at 8:30pm for the last in the current series of Trollied featuring Aisling Bea. In tonight’s episode, it’s Charity Day at Valco supermarket, with a big prize draw called into question, a sponsored bike ride, shaved legs and a giant pain-relief tablet costume. Mad as ever.

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Over on Channel 4 at 8pm is the Gadget Man’s Guide To Christmas in which Richard Ayoade presents a gadget-packed guide to the festive season, joined by techno-loving celebrity friends including Jonathan Ross, Stephen Merchant, Robert Webb, Jessica Hynes and Reece Shearsmith.

In this hour long special, Richard and his guests reveal new ways of doing the Christmas shopping, surviving the winter weather, cooking Christmas dinner, wrapping gifts, dealing with snow, handling fog and getting through long nights. They also look at a smartphone breathalyser, a pitch-shifting karaoke machine and Richard makes a festive feast. Bring it on!

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

After Gadget Man, we heartily recommend you switch over to BBC Two, where the new series of The Wrong Mans begins at 9pm. The show featuring writers James Corden and Matthew Baynton as two idiots accidentally caught up in a huge espionage plot, was a smash hit last year, and featured a huge array of incredible guest stars, including our very own Rufus Jones and Dan Skinner amongst them.

This year, Baynton and Corden are again joined by a top notch cast including Dawn French and Rebecca Front, and the show is directed by once more by Jim Field-Smith – formerly a member of criminally underrated sketch troup Dutch Elm Conservatoire alongside Rufus Jones, Dan Skinner, Stephen Evans and Jordan Long, who you may recognise from Junglophilia, World of Wrestling, Mongrels and the first series of The Wrong Mans!

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

© BBC / Hulu / Coco Van Oppens

The first two episodes are being shown in a double bill on Monday 22nd from 9pm, with Episodes Three and Four – featuring a guest appearance from Fergus Craig as a pilot – airing tomorrow evening at the same time. American fans shouldn’t fret either – The Wrong Mans is a co-production with Hulu, so should be on your screens over there in the New Year.

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

Stick with BBC Two at 10pm for a double bill of musical mayhem. First up is Never Mind The Buzzcocks Christmas special to round off the series in style.  As you can see, the festive edition got everyone in the spirit of Christmas, and you’ll probably never look at turkey the same way again.

Joining host Rhod Gilbert and team captains Noel Fielding and Phill Jupitus for the madness are legendary Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, his polar opposite Louis ‘X-Factor’ Walsh, singer Melissa Steel and comedian Lloyd Langford. There’s even a guest appearance by the actual Snowman. A must see!

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Straight after Buzzcocks is the final episode of Brian Pern: A Life in Rock – the madcap mockumentary from Rhys Thomas and Simon Day which features a massive ensemble cast of real life celebrities and great comic talents.  Michael Kitchen, Paul Whitehouse, Nigel Havers Lucy Montgomery and Tony Way are joined this week by Mel C, Chrissie Hynde, Roy Wood, Roger Allum and loads more as Brian tries to record a Christmas album.

There’s a glorious set of pastiches of past pop favourites on offer in this week’s episode, including Simon and Lucy’s homage to Barcelona, the Thotch lads getting all Chas N Dave on us, and the glorious Black Christmas.  Mel C and Pepita get to fight it out over the microphone, Roy Wood’s producer wants to put a till on everything, and the best is saved till last as Peter Gabriel makes another appearance.

As we bid Brian a fond farewell, don’t forget to catch up on our interview with him, as well as series creators Rhys Thomas and Simon Day, and we hope he’s back for more soon!

Both Buzzcocks and Brian Pern happen to clash with another TVO favourite, but thanks to the wonders of 4+1, that’s not necessarily a problem. At 10pm on Channel 4 (or 11pm on 4+1), is the special final episode of Derek starring Ricky Gervais.

© Channel 4 / Ray Burmiston

© Channel 4 / Ray Burmiston

The second series introduced characters played by Tony Way and Colin Hoult, and Colin features in this grande finale, in which Broadhill regulars are busy planning the wedding of the year.  However, Kev’s behaviour proves too much for Hannah, while Vicky prepares to fill her boss’s shoes, and Derek is just trying to hold everything together.

Previous finales from Gervais have tended to tackle surprisingly weighty issues in brilliant dramatic form – whatever anyone thought of Extras or Life’s Too Short, for example, there’s no denying they went out with a bang, so we’d definitely recommend you give this one a chance.

Tuesday 23rd December

If you’ve caught everything from Monday 22nd live, or you’re fully up to date from catchup services, then stick near your remote, cos there’s more to savour throughout the week. On Tuesday 23rd, at 9:30pm, we have the final episode of Psychobitches Series Two to savour over on Sky Arts HD, and it’s set to be as magnificent as the rest.

© Sky Arts

© Sky Arts

The highlight of the show looks set to be Richard E Grant’s guest appearance as Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, as he interrupts a psychiatric session for grotesque witches played by Matthew Baynton, Kevin Eldon and Cardinal Burns star Dustrin Demri-Burns.  Also visiting Rebecca Front’s psychoanalyst this week are Gracie Fields (The IT Crowd guest star Frances Barber), Fanny Cradock (the other half of Cardinal Burns, Seb Cardinal), Hildegard of Bingen (Doctor Who’s Michelle Gomez), the Statue of Liberty (Toast of London‘s Doon Mackichan), Shirley Temple (Benidorm’s Sheila Reid), Daphne du Maurier (House of Fools star Morgana Robinson), Zeus’s wife Hera (Goodness Gracious Me legend Mera Syal) and Hindu goddess Kali (La La Land‘s Marc Wootton). Phew!

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

That’s not all, either, as 10pm brings us the festive special of Man Down on Channel 4.  The show, starring Greg Davies as idiotic teacher Dan, is produced by Spencer Millman (of The Mighty BooshMan to Man and The Inbetweeners fame), and the first series was hugely popular on its initial airing late in 2013.

However, the show suffered a near-fatal blow earlier this year, with the tragic death of co-star Rik Mayall – who injected so much life into proceedings (as always) taunting Dan as his vindictive father in a pitch-perfect casting choice.  Nevertheless, the show must go on, and this special – ahead of a second series – is the first chance we have to see the show without him.

Stephanie Cole guest stars as Aunt Nesta, and there are a few familiar faces for TVO fans on board too: with Justin Edwards making an appearance as a solicitor, and the excellent Ramon Tikaram (star of This Life, brother of singer Tanita Tikaram, and Mighty Boosh guest star as Banoo) also involved.  Al Campbell – aka Barry Shitpeas – is directing once again, and it looks set to be another fine addition to the festive canon.

Also on telly that evening are the aforementioned third and fourth episodes of The Wrong Mans, plus Sky 1 are repeating Treasure Island across Tuesday and Wednesday at 5pm each day. This adaptation starring Eddie Izzard, Elijah Wood and Donald Sutherland from 2012 also featured a cavalcade of British telly talent, including Philip Glennister, Daniel Mays, Shaun Parkes, Nathan Barley star Nina Sosyana and our very own Julian Barratt as Thomas Redruth.

Christmas Eve

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

© Avalon Television / Pete Dadds

Speaking of Wednesday, Christmas Eve brings us the Not Going Out Christmas Special, in which the will-they-won’t-they tension between Lee (Boosh radio series star Lee Mack) and Lucy (Sally Bretton) reaches unseen new highs, and Lee’s pint-sized dad Frank (Bobby Ball) takes him for a night on the tiles.

As ever Katy Wix co-stars, and there’s a guest appearance from Phil Cornwell as a police officer (only a week and a bit after his role as a police officer in Brian Pern, actually!). Lee Mack has indicated this may be the final ever episode, so expect it to go out on a happy note, just in case.

One last treat for Wednesday – if you happen to be watching Film Four’s repeat of Saint Trinians – see if you can spot Richard Glover as a put upon telly bod. Nice little cameo, there…

Christmas Day

©  BBC / David Venni

© BBC / David Venni

Christmas Day itself is a little short on treats, but like the rest of the country (we hope), we’ll be settling down to watch Nick Frost as Father Christmas in the Doctor Who special, Last Christmas.  Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman return as The Doctor and Clara, alongside guest stars Michael Troughton (of The New Statesmen fame), Faye Marsey and Natalie Gumede (who appeared in sitcom flop The Persuasionists with Simon Farnaby).

There’s currently no word on whether Ben Wheatley will be returning to direct further episodes of Doctor Who in the new year, but with filming set to begin in January, we’re sure to know soon enough. Last Christmas, which has been getting rave reviews so far, will air at 6:15pm on BBC One.

Over on Channel 4 in the early hours – midnight to be exact – is the Father Ted Christmas Special, A Christmassy Ted. This festive classic, written by Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews sees Ted and his fellow priests trapped in the lingerie section of a major department store, and Ted’s quick thinking resulting in him staging an award-winning rescue.  The episode is also shown on More4 across the festive season, so keep your eyes peeled if you miss it, or catch it on 4od. And really, you should own the dvd by now!

Boxing Day

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

Boxing Day brings with it another Big Fat Quiz of the Year – and whilst Noel Fielding is absent this year, his old cohort Richard Ayoade is on hand to add a bit of Onion into the mix.  He joins David Mitchell, Mel B, Sarah Millican, Kevin Bridges and Micky Flanagan as well as regular host Jimmy Carr.

There’s also guest appearances from Michael Palin, Rio Ferdinand, Lily Allen and the stars of The Inbetweeners, plus some surprises in store, so check in to Channel 4 from 9pm.

Sunday 28th December

© Pett Productions / Chris Baines

© Pett Productions / Chris Baines

Lastly, but by no means leastly, Sunday 28th December brings us the Christmas Special of House of Fools on BBC Two at 10:05pm.  This special episode of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s sublime sitcom is set on Christmas Eve, but when Bob’s present for Erik is unexpectedly engulfed in flames, the housemates go on an underground boat journey to Phil Collins’ mansion.

It’s typically glorious madness from the team, which features Matt BerryDan Skinner, Morgana Robinson and Daniel Simonsen, as well as a guest appearance once more by Reece Shearsmith – as Santa no, less. We’ll have a full preview of the episode later this week, and interviews with the cast (and new regular Ellie White) ahead of Series Two launching early next year.

SECRET SANTA SHOCKER FOR NEIL COLE

Of course, we’re celebrating all this telly, but it’s too late for Christmas. Neil Cole has exposed him, as we revealed over yonder.  Kris Kringle himself is launches his revealing autobigoraphy Secret Santa, but Neil wouldn’t take no for an answer…

Absolutely scandalous.

COLIN KEEPS ON COLLAB-ING

Another week goes by, and Colin Hoult continues his five-times-a-week quest to vlog in character.  Last week saw Anna Mann discuss credit card debt, Andy Parker tackle the Twilight saga, Eddie Cartizean dance his way into some beetroot, Thwor suffer from Season Affective Disorder, and Dom Fez tell us all about the girls that make him go CWOR!

With more videos uploaded every weekday, there’s a treat in store every day. Visit Colin’s YouTube channel now to subscribe.

AND THE REST…

There’s so much going on, a lot of which is featured on our News Page, but here’s some of what you may have missed in the last seven days.

We’ll see you throughout this week – and hope you have a very, very, Merry Christmas. Peace and love and all that jazz. Keep on peelin’.

So Hot Right Now #8

1 Dec

Welcome to The Velvet Onion – the central hub for an interconnected range of alternative comedy and more.  Click through for the LATEST NEWS, and see what’s so hot right now below.

ST VINCENT AND THE BEAR

© 2014 Sony Pictures

© 2014 Sony Pictures

This week sees the UK release of St Vincent – the new Bill Murray film about a young boy whose parents have just divorced who finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran (Murray) who lives next door. We’re telling you about it because the film also features Chris O’Dowd as a priest/teacher. Have a look at the trailer below to see what it’s all about. The film is released in the UK on Friday (5th December).

Don’t forget, Paul King‘s movie adaptation of Paddington featuring an all-star cast and cameos from Alice LoweSimon FarnabySteve Oram and Tom Meeten is still in UK cinemas, so do go and see it if you haven’t yet!

©  Studio Canal

© Studio Canal

Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent and former Nathan Barley actor turned Bond movie star Ben Wishaw lead the cast, with Kidman, Bonnerville & Walters turning up on last week’s Graham Norton Show to publicise it. You can catch up on iPlayer here.

TVO ON AIR

The current runs of TVO favourites continue apace this week, with Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Toast of London, Psychobitches, Trollied and Not Going Out all airing new episodes throughout the week – and available via catchup services after transmission. Here’s a pic from tonight’s Never Mind the Buzzcocks to keep you going.

©  BBC/Talkback/Brian Ritchie

© BBC/Talkback/Brian Ritchie

Also this week, the voice of Rich Fulcher can be heard in The Regular Show on Cartoon Network. The episode is called I Like You Hi (season 5, episode 26), and Rich is the voice of the answering machine and smoke signal. The episode will be repeated regularly on the channel so keep a look out for it.

For more on the show, visit the Cartoon Network website now.

NORMAN

© Lauren Taylor / The Velvet Onion

If you missed it last week, the brand new Gary Le Strange single, Norman (I’ve Dropped My Cup Of Tea) is available for download now via iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby, and is also up for streaming on Spotify. You’d be insane to miss it. Grab a copy over yonder.

It marks the first completely new Le Strange material from Waen Shepherd since Beef Scarecrow in 2006, following the character’s revival in 2012 at Club Fantastico and The Velvet Onion Live, and the release of the ‘lost’ EP Glamoronica last year. Judging by the strength of Norman, which we’ve had on repeat at TVO Towers all week, forthcoming material is going to be stonking!

THE JAZZ MEN

A couple of years ago Julian Barratt made a surprise appearance on stage with Tenacious D at their Hammersmith Apollo gig. At the time all we had by way of evidence were a couple of blurry photos and videos. New footage has been published by Peter Kyriacou, which shows what happened from back stage and front of stage – so we can have a proper look at their freeform performance of ‘Simply Jazz’.

Click on our news post to see the video!

AND THE REST!

As always, there’s so much going on, that we’re using Twitter to keep you informed quicker these days. Join the other 11,900+ of our regular readers by following us there, and get regular updates such as these:

The Jazz Men

28 Nov

A couple of years ago we found ourselves a tad flustered when we heard that Julian Barratt has made a surprise appearance on stage with Tenacious D at their Hammersmith Apollo gig. At the time all we had by way of evidence were a couple of blurry photos and videos.

Today some new footage has been published by Peter Kyriacou, which shows what happened from back stage and front of stage – so we can have a proper look at their freeform performance of ‘Simply Jazz’. Finally!

Although it make you hanker for more live Barratt, it’s splendid to see nevertheless. Take a look below…

Katherine’s Cooking Conundrum

17 Nov
© The Guardian

© The Guardian

Katherine Parkinson stars in a new microplay written by Laura Wade. The 7 minute short film – Britain Isn’t Eating – is the first in a series of plays inspired by a new collaboration between Guardian journalists and Royal Court theatre-makers.

Britain Isn’t Eating centres around a politician, who is determined to show everyone that food banks are just for the lazy, and anyone can make a meal from just a few store cupboard essentials.

There are a couple of TVO connections as the director of the TV show in the play is Kyle Soller, who starred alongside Julian Barratt in Government Inspector at the Young Vic, and Julian starred in NSFW at The Royal Court Theatre.

There will be 6 microplays in total on the subjects of music, fashion, politics and education, all will be available for viewing on the Guardian website.  There will also be a Guardian Live and Royal Court Theatre Big Idea premiere screening of the films, with introductions from the artists and journalists involved on 5th December.

To watch Britain Isn’t Eating and for more information, head over to the Guardian Website.

Julian Does Fred

21 Sep

© Stephen Cummiskey

Julian Barratt has brightened up many an ad break with his voice-over skills. And now he’s brought his silky northern tones to a new ad campaign for Homepride, which broke in the UK yesterday.

The cookery brand is back on TV screens after a 10-year hiatus with a £2.3m ad push that aims to celebrate its 50th anniversary and the relaunch of the brand with a new strapline ‘Everybody loves Homepride’.

We managed to bag a chat about Julian’s involvement in the project with the advertising creative responsible for the campaign – indie film writer/director and all round top geezer, Mike Oughton:

Thanks for talking to us Mike. Can you tell us what the campaign is about?
We’re relaunching Homepride Fred to the mums of Britain. Being that it’s no longer the 1980s, we decided we needed to contemporise the character. So instead of a little 2D cartoon, he’s now a full-sized real-life character who, surreally, appears at mealtimes to help mum. However, dad is a bit put out because Fred takes the ‘helping mum’ thing a little too far.

When can we see the ad/hear Julian do his thing?
The campaign is running on TV, radio and online (we’ve got a Youtube channel, innit.) And Fred is also charming the mums of Britain, and pushing out more content (vids, pics etc.), through his @Homepride_Fred Twitter feed. #LoveFred

Why did you pick Julian Barratt for the voice-over?
We wanted the surreal humour of the concept – a 6-foot cartoon character turning up in your house – to shine through. Sean Bean was busy, unfortunately. So the next best thing, we thought, was to go for someone synonymous with surreal comedy. I’m also a fan of The Boosh and Julian, so it was a great excuse to meet someone I admire.

What was he like to work with?
He was brilliant, of course. It was hugely affirming that he laughed out loud when we showed him the ad for the first time. And he understood exactly what was required of the TV voiceover. He delivered it with just the right amount of ‘dry voiceover man meets knowing comedian’ in his voice. Spot on.

In the radio ads, Julian speaks on behalf of Fred – Fred has a painted-on smile, you see, so doesn’t talk. We think Julian’s intimate voice on radio will charm the mums of Britain into dropping their trolleys… Sorry! I mean, dropping Homepride jars into their trolleys at the supermarket.

Using Julian as vo has also made the The Twitter feed much easier to write. When we imagine him speaking the words, it helps us to hit just the right note of comedic faux sincerity in the tweets.

Oh, did I forget to mention that he was a nice bloke? Well, he was a nice bloke. Taller than I imagined. And he left his earphones behind when he left the recording studio. Damn! I sent them back to him. Could have earned myself a few Euros if I’d auctioned them on here, complete with genuine Julian Barratt ear wax residue.

You can take a look at the first ad below, and keep your eyes and ears peeled for more of Julian’s voice in the forthcoming campaign.

Thanks to Mike Oughton from McCann for taking the time to talk to us. 

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