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Onion Talking: Sarah Kendall on Touchdown

21 Feb
© Sarah Kendall

© Sarah Kendall / PBJ

Acclaimed stand-up comic Sarah Kendall returns to The Soho Theatre with the final run for her smash-hit show Touchdown this week, running from Tuesday 24th to Saturday 28th February.

With her follow up show, A Day in October, due to launch at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in March, this felt like as good a time as any to finally book ourselves some time to talk to the gifted storyteller, masterful standup and full-time mother.

Editor in chief Paul Holmes caught up with Sarah to discuss about her career so far, and the effects her life beyond it have had upon her outlook, with the following insightful results…

At the turn of the millennium, Sarah Kendall made a huge decision. Already a regular on the Australian stand-up comedy circuit, two years after her initial flurry of success, she packed up her bags and moved to England. By 2003, she was ready to take on the Edinburgh Fringe, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Flight of the Conchords, Gary Le Strange and Adam Hills. The following year, she was nominated for the Perrier Award’s main category of Best Show alongside Chris Addison, Reginald D Hunter and winner Will Adamsdale (best known internationally for his role in The Boat that Rocked).

As the years went by, Kendall built on this initial success, gaining a cult following through heavy touring, countless festivals, and numerous, award-winning live shows. In 2008, she stretched her wings and took on sketch-show comedy, with a role in the short-lived E4 show Beehive, and has spent the last four years voicing Libby McKenzie alongside Sally Philips, Nina Conti and Liza Tarbuck in the long running Radio 4 comedy Clare in the Community.

Recent years, however, have seen Kendall’s extra-curricular activity dry up, as she became a mother and, quite naturally, shifted her workload accordingly.  As TVO calls, she is in her London home with the kids tucked up in bed and a slightly burnt warm-up shepherds pie in the oven. Greeting us fondly, and stressing she isn’t the kind of person to make her own  shepherd’s pie, she confirms her eagerness to talk by exclaiming: “I’m going to stop doing the dishes and give you my full attention. That’s how serious I am, I’m walking away from the dishes. Fire away!”

© PBJ

© Sarah Kendall / PBJ

Naturally, the conversation turns firstly to motherhood, and TVO wonders exactly how having children has changed Sarah’s career plan. “Gosh, that’s a good question,” she says, thinking about the answer for a moment. “It’s a really big answer too. I suppose I’m not really at my sparkiest late at night, so you know, most gigs…” She trails off, laughing. “I generally need to go on early. I can’t do a late night. And I can’t do huge amounts of travel, either. I don’t wanna be away for weekends. I don’t wanna be away for a week, you know? It’s changed the practicalities of work.”

“But I think from a creative perspective,” Sarah continues, “when I do get that time to myself, and I do get that time on stage, I really wanna make it count. I suppose I don’t fuck around as much as I used to. Cos I suppose when I have got that time to work, and to be creative, it’s actually really special ‘me’ time. God, I really relish it. I think when my day wasn’t quite as occupied looking after little people, I’d just go and do a gig and not really think much about it. Now I wanna make that time count. I wanna do the very best material I can do.”

That material at present is Touchdown – the 2014 show she toured around Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe amongst other places, and is reviving for one last shebang at The Soho Theatre across the last week of February.  As with her previous show, it focuses on particular events in her teenage years, rather than Sarah’s life at present, a factor which may be a subconscious reaction to having to grow up and take responsibility for what Sarah endearing refers to as ‘little people’.

“Also, I think,” she suggests, “I don’t want to get on stage and talk about what I’m doing now. That’s only because if I went on stage and whinged about it, it wouldn’t be right. I don’t want to whinge about it, but I also don’t want to stand on stage and say how much I love my children. That’s not particularly hilarious.”

“I’ve been looking into different times of my life,” she adds, “reflecting on them, and thinking about them differently.  I suppose to me, I do regard those years quite differently now that I’m a mother. The thing is, that sounds really boring, but it changes your perspective on the whole time. I find that creatively it’s really energising. I really enjoy writing about it.”

© PBJ

© Sarah Kendall / PBJ

Kendall’s comedy has morphed from its early days of quick-fire stand-up into a more intelligent, thoughtful brand of storytelling that connects with anyone who was ever the slightly awkward kid that didn’t quite fit in, but wasn’t unpopular either. The gags are obviously still there, but it’s wrapped up in intellectual reasoning, emotional resonance, and the odd moment of childish humour for good measure.

“I think, ultimately, I’m a little bit of a whore for a laugh,” Sarah reveals. “Anyone who goes into comedy has to be. I don’t like to leave it too long without one. My training is as a stand up, so I do always look for the gag. I try not to do that at the expense of the story.”

“If it didn’t fit with where the story was at, I wouldn’t do it. But I try to make it a punchy show. I don’t think I’m precious about that sort of thing. I do want people to laugh and have a good time.”

If there’s one thing Kendall could never be accused of, it’s being precious about her work. There’s a remarkable freshness to talking to someone who, unsullied by the PR machine that affects so many in the industry, is completely open and honest about her work, right down to the point of Touchdown’s premise being the reality behind the fabrication of her previous show.

“I had this joke that I’d been doing for years,” Sarah discloses. “I knew in my heart what the real story was, but I’d made it into a good joke. I’d always been slightly plagued by the fact that there is a much bigger story behind it, but I didn’t know how to tell it. I didn’t think it belonged in a comedy show. Then I just thought: sod it. I’m gonna write about what really happened because it is a good story, and an important story. It means a lot more to me now that I’m older, and now I know how to tell it, and I’m not afraid of the serious or silly parts of the story. I think if you do something that’s got a bit of a darker edge to it, you’ve gotta be confident that you can treat it respectfully enough that you’re not gonna panic and try to make a joke out of it.”

© PBJ

© Sarah Kendall / PBJ

“It was a surprise for me,” she notes, in regards to Touchdown’s now deconstructed predecessor, Get Up, Stand Up.  “I enjoyed telling that story every single night I performed it. Generally during a festival there comes a point where you say: if I have to say these words one more time, I’m gonna fucking kill myself. I found that with this show, I never got to that point. I really enjoyed taking the audience on that journey.”

Thankfully, Touchdown offered a similar vibe. “This is my favourite show that I’ve ever done,” she states, firmly. “I was really crestfallen at the end of the festival because I kinda felt it was over. I knew I’d probably do a run at the Soho, but it felt kinda like the end. By the time I did Edinburgh, I’d already done quite a few other festivals, so I knew that was the end of that festival circuit. And I was quite sad.”

TVO notes that, given how precious Sarah’s time has become, this feeling may have been intensified, and it’s something that we’re seeing more and more of. When we began, five years ago, our thirty-something regulars were still riding high on their initial flurry of success, gigging around the clock and constantly making new and exciting things. Recently, there’s been a marked slow-down in the activity of some of them, as they’ve reached the age of having babies and settling down, just like Kendall.

“I suppose you kind of go through this huge sea of change when you have a family,” she suggests. “You do start to look back on events with fresh eyes. It can be a good and a bad thing. Sometimes you go: Ah, shit, I wish I hadn’t done that thing. I really regret that thing that I did.”

Such feelings came to the fore last year, when Kendall wrote a piece for The Guardian about her somewhat flippant handling on stage of a genuinely disturbing moment in her career, when a drunk heckler threatened her with anal rape at a gig. Whilst the routine was funny, as time went by it had increasingly made her feel uncomfortable.

“I hate looking at clips of myself,” Sarah confesses. “Someone sent me that clip and asked for permission to use it, and as I watched that piece of material, I was so struck by how untrue the emotions were that I was portraying on stage. That’s something that would never have entered my mind ten years ago. I would have just gone through and made sure all the jokes were strong without offending people. But I just thought: That is so not what happened. That is so not emotionally what that experience was like, and I have brought none of that to that piece of material. I think it would have been a much more interesting piece of material if I had discussed that.”

© Tiger Aspect Television

© Tiger Aspect Television

Another potentially difficult blip on her career came with the hugely divisive E4 sketch show Beehive in 2008. Designed by committee, it nevertheless gave a platform to Kendall on television, alongside Alice Lowe, Barunka O’Shaughnessy and Clare Thomson. TVO has previously waxed lyrical about the merits of the show: in spite of its obvious flaws, there’s a hell of a lot to love in there too.

“I haven’t watched it since we did it,” Sarah tells us as conversation moves on to the troubled production.  “It was incredibly rushed, from the commission to filming. My memory of it was thinking: This has been rushed. It was four people who’d never met each other, thrown into an ensemble and given a fairly small amount of time to turn a show around.  It’s one of those things where I did it as an opportunity, but in hindsight it could have been a lot better had we had more time. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have had a heck of a lot of alarm bells going off as it progressed.”

Kendall is genuinely touched by our admiration for the team, and the bits that worked really well, such as her magnificent Elizabeth I routine, in which Sarah portrayed the monarch surrounded by bullying lackeys, or the flat sequences with swearing lessons, special robots, love affairs with pot plants and confusion over Spiderman’s true identity. Sadly, the show was buried by E4 before it even had a chance to build an audience, splurged onto television across a couple of nights with no advertising, and never repeated.

© Tiger Aspect Television

“I don’t really know how it happened,” she sighs, “or how it works. I don’t understand who decides these things, but it just felt rushed through. I had a really good time doing it though. I loved working with Alice, Clare and Barunka. They’re such powerful, funny women, and it was such a pleasure to work with them. I don’t want to piss anybody off, but it just didn’t feel like it had a lot of backing.”

Despite the circumstances of its troubled production, Beehive did allow Kendall a break from being ‘herself’ when making people laugh. TVO is curious if she’d do something similar now, given her present work/life balance. “God, that’s a good question!” she explains, and thinks for a moment.  “I think when I was younger I would say yes and just fuck it and see. I think now it would have to be something that I’m really passionate about, because I don’t have a huge amount of spare time. It would have to be something I could really put 100% of myself in. I’d be slightly more selective at this stage.”

The one bonus of the show was that It introduced Sarah to a whole new set of collaborators – some of whom she has continued to work with sporadically whenever possible. In 2010, for example, she played a fellow mum in My First Baby – the Jackal Films short featuring Rich Fulcher as Alice Lowe’s very oversized toddler. A few years later, she cropped up in James Bachman & Tom Meeten’s BBC Nought project, during a spoof on The Apprentice. Evidently, she’s still a part of the family, even if her time with them is sporadic at best.

© Jackal Films

© Jackal Films

“We don’t see each other as much as we used to when we had more spare time,” Kendall explains. “Certainly, not as much as I’d like to. The funny thing about London is you kinda get into your borough. But they were people I really learned so much from working with. There were such a variety of skillsets that were brought to Beehive. I felt they were all quite accomplished actresses, whereas I didn’t come from that background, so every day was a learning curve.”

Thankfully, in this internet age, a buried show doesn’t have to stay buried forever. The dvd release still chugs away on Amazon, the episodes are still viewable on 4oD, and TVO will occasionally bring it up. It still finds an audience. “It’s extraordinary,” Sarah states. “It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally I will get someone recognising me from Beehive, which is just really weird to me. It kinda got buried over three days on television, and yet it does still happen. It’s nice that you don’t live and die by whoever does the programming.”

Nevertheless, the show is firmly behind Sarah Kendall. Her comedic concentration right now, beyond remembering the finer points of Touchdown, is writing her 2015 show, A Day in October. Set to premiere at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the end of March, the show will tour the festival circuit before arriving in Edinburgh throughout August. To that end, Sarah’s already seemingly come up with an enthusiastic manta, when the subject of the new show is brought up.

“March 27th is opening night,” she says, rigidly. “The show will be finished by opening night. I will have a show by March 27th.”

As laughs erupt on both sides of the phone, TVO inquires as to how close that process is to becoming a reality. “I would say a third of the way into the writing process,” Sarah reveals. “I think I have a fairly confident idea of where the story is. It’s another story about my teenage years. It’s about a friendship I had with a guy and we went to a pool party one October, and the show is about the knock-on effect that pool party had on us throughout the rest of his life and my life.”

© Sarah Kendall / PBJ

With the deadline looming, it would be understandable for many comics to leave some of the details hazy, and let them arrive naturally as the show goes on, but not for Sarah. “This show and the last were quite heavily written shows,” she affirms. “There aren’t patches where I fuck around with the audience or bits where I think I’ll ad-lib that on the night. Because they’re stories, you do have to bring all the disciplines of storytelling to it. You do have to have structure, and you do need to have a big thing happening in the third act. All those things you don’t have to think about when you’re doing a standup set, but I find with a story if you just let it happen you can end up with a spectacular mess on your hands. I do tend to write them quite carefully.”

There’s also the potential weight of an unwanted baton to consider. To TVO, and we’re sure to a great many people – a comedian is a comedian, and that’s that. Yet as the debate about women in comedy continues to bubble to the surface, there’s an alarming amount of pressure put on female comedians to be funny for their gender, rather than their vocation.

“I think I used to feel that way,” Sarah considers. “But I think things have got so much better. I’m not saying they’re ‘good’. We’re nowhere near a situation that is equal. But things are so much better than where they were twelve years ago, even though they’re not great. I take real heart in the fact that I’ve seen more and more female talent coming through as the years have gone by. And it’s great female talent I’m really proud to work with and associate with. I do think it’s challenging, and it’s still there, but I think it’s unfortunate, but the media do play it up.”

“On the live circuit,” she continues, “people are out in the club and they want a laugh, and you will get bad audiences and the occasional knob heads, but generally speaking they just want you to be funny. The real problems I’ve faced and have seen, are really in media circles, and tv commissioning, and the people who book talent for shows. The live circuit isn’t really the problem, but there are people who genuinely seem to not want women on television.”

© Sarah Kendall / PBJ

© Sarah Kendall / PBJ

Male comics, TVO notes, are judged purely on their ability as comics. Female comics, however, are judged as ‘female comics’ for good measure. Sarah agrees, and adds: “I also think with social media there are a lot of voices. The really negative voices tend to get heard a bit more. For a hundred thousand people to go: She’s really good, she’s really funny, you’ll get a small proportion of people who just say something really vile, and that draws more attention.”

Not that Kendall will have seen most of this online, as the last few years have seen her maintain a relatively low profile. “I didn’t mean to!” she protests, laughing. “Our Twitter conversation today is the first Twitter conversation I think I’ve ever had.”

TVO explains that, if it wasn’t for Patrick Bustin at PBJ (the management company who handle a sizable chunk of our roster) casually mentioning her Twitter profile, we would have no clue that Sarah was even on there – and we take extra care to try and make sure we’re following everyone we need to in order to keep tabs on events.

“Oh yeah,” she says firmly, and a little guiltily. “Look, I know. I have been so not interested, and so busy. But I was talking to another comic who said: You really need to sort your shit out on that front, cos you’re off the grid man. I thought: Oh, really? I just sort of had my head buried in the sand for five years. I’m learning it, and you know, I’m gonna have to just get in there and do it.”

“It’s extraordinary, though,” she continues. “You do a couple of tweets, and suddenly you get all these pinging noises, and suddenly you’ve got twelve or thirteen new followers, and I just think: What the fuck? To me it’s very curious. It’s a very interesting, weird experience. And I know there are a lot of people who can’t remember a time before it, but I happen to be a billion years old.”

One thing that Kendall does have a lot of time for, however, is Jaws 4. No, really.

“I don’t know why,” she says, as she tries to justify the number of times she’s sat through it.  “I think I just like watching really good actors in terrible films. It’s like a schadenfreude thing. I just really enjoy seeing Michael Caine in this explicably awful movie. I can’t look away. I really like good actors in shit films. It’s like my favourite genre. It makes you feel better about yourself too.”

“I saw a movie with Henry Fonda in it called They Swarm, about bees attacking civilisation. It’s this great actor in this really weird horror film, where he’s being attacked by bees. I love it. It’s a fantastic film, I enjoy it thoroughly. Everyone’s just pulled together to get the product finished. I love that. I like the nose to the grind attitude. They’ve just thought: We’ve gotta bring this thing to life, and we’ve only got 50p. Let’s just use the car park. Fuck it.”

That attitude enthuses Sarah’s work, but is matched by her perfectionism and professionalism, and above all else, her genuine charm as a personality and a performer. As TVO bids her a fond farewell, so she can get back to her dishes and shepherd’s pie, we can’t help but feel that we’ve just spent a good half an hour being delighted by her company, and as a comic whose livelihood depends on storytelling, that can only be a good thing.

Sarah Kendall: Touchdown is at the Soho Theatre between February 24th – 28th 2015. Sarah Kendall: A Day in October is at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival between March 26th to April 19th 2015. Sarah will be at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2015. For more info on future live dates, keep an eye on her Twitter page… hopefully!

RIP Charlie Philips

6 Feb
© Charlie Philips

© Charlie Philips

The Velvet Onion would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Charlie Philips, who died earlier this week.

A BAFTA winning editor for his work on Sherlock, Charlie’s editing career began in 1996, with the Ben Elton penned sitcom The Thin Blue Line starring Rowan Atkinson, Mark Addy and Mina Anwar.

Philips was, however, perhaps defined by his work with director Matt Lipsey on a string of the most widely acclaimed comedies of the last fifteen years, which amongst them manage to include a huge number of the names we feature on these pages.

First working together on The Armstrong and Miller Show, the duo then worked on Lenny Henry in Pieces before being charged with bringing the twisted world of Julia Davis and Rob Brydon’s superlative Human Remains to life in 2000.

The following year, the pair began their first collaboration in the form of Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible - a comedy horror anthology in the style of Hammer and Amicus movies of yesteryear, which featured an appearance by Julia Davis alongside Mark Gatiss, Honor Blackman, Warwick Davis and Armstrong & Miller.

This was followed by Catterick - the seminal comedy drama from Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, which co-starred Matt Lucas and Reece Shearsmith amongst others. They then joined this creative team, alongside Steve Coogan once more for sketch show Monkey Trousers, followed by a sitcom for Coogan’s new character, Saxondale, co-starring James Bachman.

© BBC

© BBC

After short-lived sitcoms The Cup and Lunch Monkeys, came Psychoville - the sublime comedy mystery saga from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, which ran for two series featuring Lipsey & Philips at the helm.

The duo then worked on Chris Brann & Justin Chubb’s bonkers treat, This is Jinsey - co-starring Alice Lowe, no less, across two series either side of Psychoville‘s second run, as well as helming the first series of Greg Davis & Rik Mayall vehicle Man Down - produced by another TVO regular, Spencer Millman.  Sadly, these would mark their final collaborations.

Away from Lipsey, Philips also worked on Tittybangbang and the sixth series of Shooting Stars , as well as editions of Rev and Russell Tovey vehicle Him & Her, as well as the pilot episode of Psychobitches.

© BAFTA

© BAFTA

He moved into drama with mini-series Vexed, and followed that with work on Monroe and five episodes of Sherlock: the latter of which won him a BAFTA Craft Award in 2011.

Details of Charlie Philips outside of his work are limited, and it’s currently unknown exactly how he died. However, he has left behind an extraordinary body of work that has shaped the British Comedy scene for almost two decades, and will no doubt continue to do so in the years to come. He will be missed.

So Hot Right Now #13

12 Jan

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.

DRUNK HISTORY

Over on Comedy Central UK, a brand new British version of Drunk History is about to begin – in which popular faces from the UK comedy scene get hammered, then try and share their knowledge of the past.

© Comedy Central / Tiger Aspect

© Comedy Central / Tiger Aspect

Based on the hit US show (which has sporadically featured Rich Fulcher), this first edition week features stand-up Rob Beckett tell the story of Henry VIII, which is then re-enacted by Mathew Horne, Tony Way and Tom Davies. Also on board for Episode One are Rebecca Front (Psychobitches), Dustin Demri-Burns (Cardinal Burns), Marek Larewood, Joel Fry, Mark Davison and Kerry Howard.

You can catch Episode One on Monday evening at 10pm. It gets repeated Tuesday evening at 11pm, and it will be available on demand via SkyGo and Now TV after transmission. For more info, and some preview clips to savour, visit the Comedy Central UK website.

CRIMS & COUNT CONTINUE

The latest episodes of BBC Three sitcom Crims and BBC One sitcom Count Arthur Strong air this week.

 © BBC / Robert Viglasky

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

Crims - written by former Mongrels writer Adam Kay alonside Dan Swimer - stars Elis George & Kadiff Karwan as two hapless friends in a Young Offenders Institute, surrounded by guards and inmates even more stupid than they are.

In this second episode, Luke (George) tries to impress his girlfriend on the outside by getting himself an A-Level… enter the delightful Sylvester McCoy as a bonkers Latin teacher.

If you missed Episode One, it’s available on iPlayer now, and our interview with Adam Kay can be read over yonder. Episode Two airs on Thursday at 10pm over on BBC Three.

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

As for Count Arthur Strong, the Graham Linehan co-written series returns to BBC One on Tuesday evening, as the former variety star recalls his teddy-boy days in an unreliable flashback that takes in West Side Story, Oliver! and The Great Escape.

With a guest appearance from Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean), you can catch up with Arthur and friends on Tuesday evening at 10:35pm over on BBC One.

SECOND TIME AIRWAVES

Radio shows featuring TVO regulars also continue apace this week, starting with Love in Recovery, on Radio 4 starring Paul Kaye.

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

The show following the lives of five very different recovering alcoholics, played by Sue Johnson, John Hannah, Eddie Marsan, Rebecca Front and Paul Kaye, as well as cleaner Marion (Julia Deakin), continues on Wednesday evening at 11:15pm on BBC Radio 4.

Elsewhere, Colin Hoult brings us another edition of his Carnival of Monsters on Thursday evening.

© BBC

© BBC

The show features a combination of new material and vintage pieces from Colin’s seminal Edinburgh shows, and reunites the team behind those via supporting artists Stephen Evans, Dan Snelgrove and Zoe Gardner, produced by Sam Bryant (Alice’s Wunderland, I Regress).

You can catchup at 11:00pm on Thursday night – again on Radio 4.

BEAR IN THE USA

This weekend sees the US theatrical release of Paddington - the feelgood family movie from the makers of Harry Potter and director Paul King.

© Studio Canal

Starring Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters, as well as former Nathan Barley star Ben Wishaw as the voice of Paddington, the film (as we’ve previously reported) features a bevy of TVO related cameo appearances.

Steve OramTom MeetenAlice LoweSimon FarnabyJames BachmanJustin Edwards and Matt Lucas all feature, as do former Star Stories actor Matt King, The Thick of It actor Will Smith and Toast of London‘s Danny Boy himself – Tim Downie.

AND THE REST…

As always, here’s some of the news you may have missed during the last week, via our Twitter feed. We’ll see you again next Monday, and throughout the week for more news, reviews and interviews. Keep on peeling!

So Hot Right Now #9

8 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.

THE RETURN OF BRIAN PERN

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

This week sees the long awaited return of Brian Pern to our screens, in the brand new series Brian Pern: A Life in Rock.  As always, the show is the brainchild of Fast Show veterans Rhys Thomas and Simon Day, the latter of whom plays the titular prog-rock legend turned hapless world music pioneer and obscure charity fundraiser.

Whilst the first series, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern focused more on telling the story of rock across the generations in documentary format, the second shifts its tone to be more of a candid look at the life of Brian, and those around him.  This includes his luxury yacht loving manager John Farrow (brilliantly brought to life by Michael Kitchen), world music goddess Pepita (TVO regular Lucy Montgomery), Brian’s former bandmates in Thotch (including Paul Whitehouse and Nigel Havers as Pat Quid and Tony Pebble) and his driver Ned (Tony Way).

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Also along for the ride this series are big name guest stars Martin Freeman, Jack Whitehall, Kathy Burke, Roger Allum, Kevin Eldon, Chrissie Hynde, Mel C, Roger Taylor, Roy Wood, Rick Parfitt and more. TVO devoured all three episodes in one sitting, and can confirm this is a joyous continuation of a much loved character, with a wonderful set of supporting characters filling out his world, and once more – some glorious tunes (courtesy of Steve Burge) in the mix.

You’d be mad to miss it. And if you tune in to BBC Two on Tuesday evening at 10pm, you won’t.  Stay peeled this week for an exclusive interview with creators Simon Day & Rhys Thomas, and maybe a word or two from Brian Pern himself…

COMEDY COLLAB

© Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

If you haven’t caught up with Colin Hoult‘s unique blend of dark humour and outright silliness yet, you’ve probably not been reading TVO properly. First coming to our attention via his work with Julian Barratt & Dave McNeill on Zimbani, the character comedian has crafted numerous sell out live shows and appeared on our screens in shows as varied as House of RoomsDerekLife’s Too Short and Being Human.

Now he’s back with some of his most beloved live favourites, preparing for an onslaught of sheer characterness on his own YouTube channel.  Five days a week, Colin will be posting a new vlog from one of the strange people in his mindtank, starting today!

Mondays will bring us a new video from the delightful (if failed) actress Anna Mann, whilst Tuesdays are a chance to get some expert tips on survival, scriptwriting and what movies you must all watch on pain of a poke in the eye, from Ninja Turtle fan Andy Parker.

On Wednesdays, everything will be coming up Saint Germain, as we get a little jazzy with our favourite beret wearer, Eddie Cartizian. And on Thursdays, its time for care in the community, as the Mighty God Thwor weilds his powerful hammer in our direction. Bang, bang.

© Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

Finally, each Friday will bring us a surprise guest from Colin’s oeuvre, including new characters and old favourites – some of whom you may remember from his excellent radio series Carnival of Monsters, which is due back on Radio 4 soon. You can see the first episode, featuring Anna Mann discussing her old actress friend Miriam Crotch below, and don’t forget to subscribe to see more!

ONIONS AIRING

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

As we’re keen to keep reminding you, there’s a large bevvy of shows currently airing with TVO connections.  Monday nights see not one, not two, but three new shows to savour beaming into your homes: Trollied on Sky One at 8:30pm featuring Aisling BeaNever Mind the Buzzcocks on BBC Two at 10pm, featuring Noel Fielding alongside Phill Jupitus and Rhod Gilbert; and Toast of London on Channel 4 at 10:35pm, featuring Matt Berry.

©  Sky

© Sky

But wait – there’s more on telly this week! Psychobitches continues on Sky Arts every Tuesday evening, featuring Sharon Horgan, Katy BrandReece Shearsmith and many many more, whilst Not Going Out featuring Katy Wix returns to BBC One on Friday evening. It’s a good time to be an Onioner, eh?

HOOKED TO THE SILVER SCREEN

Don’t forget that Paddington - directed by Paul King and featuring a host of TVO cameos amongst is big-name cast – is currently wowing the crowds in UK cinemas, having taken a whopping £5.1 million in its opening weekend alone!

© Studio Canal

Alongside Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman et al, are little sneaky guest appearances by Alice LoweSteve OramTom MeetenJames BachmanSimon Farnaby and Justin Edwards – so you’d be mad to miss it.

Also out at the moment are Bill Murray vehicle Saint Vincent, featuring Chris O’Dowd, and a film which almost sneaked past our radar – submarine-based action thriller Black Sea starring Jude Law, Tobias Menzies, David Threlfall and Michael Smiley. US readers can see the film, alongside Paddington in January. Check out the US trailer below.

THE BRAIN SUCKING CONTINUES

Finally this week, the campaign to get a movie version of The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains off the ground needs your help to reach its goal, and we’ll leave you with this clip of TVO regular Stephen Evans to explain why.

DONATE HERE!

Keep on peeling, and we’ll see you back here soon!

TWEETS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

Gold After Dark

7 Sep
© gold.uktv.co.uk

© gold.uktv.co.uk

UKTV Gold are running a new late night strand at the weekends. Starting on Friday (5th), they are “celebrating the very best in dark humour and cult comedy classics every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11pm”.

There are a lot of TVO related people and shows, starting with the reason most of you are here: The Mighty Boosh will be shown on Friday nights at 11:40pm. It’s been a while since the show has been on TV, and I’m sure, like us, even though you have worn out your DVD’s, you’ll be tuning in!

Of course there’s nothing dark about our favourite show, but that can’t be said for the next TVO related offering – Nighty Night starts it’s run at 11:40pm tonight. The show, written by and starring Julia Davis, is described as “a West Country Fatal Attraction”, and also stars Kevin Eldon, Mark Gatiss, Ruth Jones, Angus Deaton and Rebecca Front among others. If you like watching your comedy from behind the sofa then this one is for you. It’s not for those of a nervous disposition, but is very funny once you get over how nasty Jill is.

Gold are also showing another Julia Davis dark comedy. Human Remains is written by and stars Julia and Rob Bryden as six different dysfunctional couples. The first episode follows Nighty Night at 12:35 tonight.

Today at 11pm sees the first episode of The League of Gentlemen (maybe the picture gave you a clue!). As you probably already know, this was the work of writer/performers Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, and writer Jeremy Dyson. This one is definitely in the ‘dark’ category, but also very funny.

Saturday at 11.40pm is The Thick of It, starring Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, Justin Edwards, Jo Scanlan, James Smith, Roger Allam and Alex McQueen. This is a dark political satire, with some laugh out loud moments.

Also on Saturdays at 1am is  The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Best just watch it and see what happens.

Also scheduled is 15 Storeys High, a flat-share comedy written by and starring Sean Lock and Benedict Wong (The IT Crowd), straight after The Mighty Boosh on Fridays.

To see the full schedule and more information about the programmes, see the Gold Website.

Coogan’s Run On Gold

28 Jul

© Sky Atlantic

Some of you may have seen Steve Coogan – The Inside Story on UKTV GOLD last Saturday evening – a look back at Steve Coogan‘s comedy career, with contributions from Reeves and Mortimer, Ben Miller, Kevin Eldon, John Thomson, Mark Williams, Matt Horne,  Julia Davis and many others.

Following on from this, UKTV GOLD is hosting Summer Nights of Coogan – every weekend from 9pm during August they will be showing a variety of shows from Steve Coogan, including I’m Alan Partridge, Knowing Me, Knowing You, Dr Terrible’s House of Horrible, The Trip, Paul Calf Video Diary, Coogan’s Run, Saxondale and Live Shows, so it really is a variety pack of Steve Coogan TV.

UKTV GOLD can be found on Sky channel 110 or Virgin 126.

Steve was a guest on Radio 2’s Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Thursday to talk about the UKTV GOLD shows – the same day Noel Fielding was on talking about Luxury Comedy 2. Catch up here, Noel is on at – 01:38:05 and Steve is on at – 02:13:20.

Don’t forget you can stock up on all your favourite Steve Coogan titles at TVO Store.

Walking on Sunshine… with Dinobots!

27 Jun

© LFI / Photoshot

Today sees the theatrical release of two big films featuring Ealing Live veterans.

The biggest of these is Michael Bay’s latest mega-budget sfx extravangaza, Transformers: Age of Extinction - starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles and our very own James Bachman as Gill Wembley.  The film sees those metal giants hunted down by the humans, and the rise of the Dinobots at last!

The film is released in most territories today, with UK release following next week, and much of Europe throughout July – for a full list of release dates, check out imdb.  Bachman and his wife attended the US première in New York City earlier this week, and pictures of the pair are all over Getty images if you’re thataway inclined.

Here in the UK, romantic musical comedy Walking on Sunshine (originally titled Holiday) finds its way into cinemas today, featuring Katy Brand as part of its ensemble cast, which also features former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis and Being Human star Annabel Scholey.  The feel good flick features a variety of 80s pop classics reworked to drive its ‘boy-meets-girl’ narrative along, including songs by Madonna, The Human League, Duran Duran and Roxette.

You can see trailers for both very different films below, and whilst there’s no news of a wide release for Walking on Sunshine across the world just yet, a handful of other countries have been announced, and we’ll bring you news of release in major territories should we find it.

 

Bachman To Feature In Scandinavian Film

14 Apr

James Bachman will be appearing in a new Norwegian feature film by director Jan Vardoen, called ‘Heart of Lightness’.

The movie is an adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Lady From The Sea’. It follows the story of a group of British actors, who arrive in the Arctic Circle to perform in a film adaptation of the play; however, they have never been to Norway before and have no idea that the sun won’t set for the next month. Bachman plays the part of Max Buchanan.

The film will receive its World Premiere at the Colosseum Kino in Oslo on 28th May 2014, and will open throughout Norway 30th May. For information about international screenings please check out your local cinema listings. In the meantime, here’s the trailer to whet your appetite:

For updates on the Heart of Lightness, including photos and interviews with the cast and crew, take a look at the film’s Facebook page.

Onion Land Catch Up

11 Mar

The past week has seen a smattering of TVO regulars make appearances across television and radio we didn’t have chance to warn you about ahead of transmission, plus a couple of shows you should already be watching have been airing too.

As such, we thought it prudent to give you a quick catch-up, starting with the incredibly popular detective comedy drama Jonathan Creek. The show, starring Alan Davies as the titular sleuth, returned for it’s fifth series recently, with Davies now accompanied by his new co-star (and comedy legend) Sarah Alexander.

© BBC

Episode two, The Sinner And The Sandman, featured James Bachman as Rev Hugh Chater, whose vicarage is being plagued by tales of a strange hump-backed beast that has been seen prowling in the garden by night.  You can see the episode for yourselves via iPlayer now, and it’s also available to pre-order on dvd now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store for release next week!

Elsewhere, another veteran of Ealing Live cropped up on topical discussion show Loose Ends on Radio Four.  The show’s usual presenter, Clive Anderson, was absent, but in his place were Nikki Bedi and Emma Freud – who pronounced over a panel of very talented women.

© BBC

Film director Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham), actress Imelda Staunton (Pyschoville) and artist Victoria Melody joined our very own Katy Brand on the panel. Brand was discussing her long awaited crowd-sourced novel, Brenda Monk Is Funny, which can still be ordered over yonder. If you want to jump straight to Katy, you can find her 39 minutes, 40 seconds in on iPlayer now.

Sticking with the Beeb for a moment, let’s not forget that Inside No. 9 - the latest stroke of genius from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton – is almost at an end, with Episode Six airing this Wednesday (12th March).  Previous episodes – including appearances by Katherine Parkinson and Julia Davies amongst others, can be seen again via iPlayer now.

© BBC / Des Willie

© BBC / Des Willie

Inside No. 9 is also available on dvd as of next Monday, with pre-orders possible now via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.  Shearsmith & Pemberton are also undertaking a dvd signing at HMV Oxford Street on March 20th, so if you want a chance to tell them how great the show is, and get a squiggle on your box, that’s as good a time as any.

That’s not the only BBC2 comedy of the moment to have TVO connections. The glorious Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle returned recently, and the inimitable comic genius is regularly grilled each week by Chris Morris in-between chunks of his stand-up routines.  Regular collaborators Kevin Eldon and Paul Putner are also involved, appearing in sketches at the end of every episode.

© BBC / Colin Hutton

© BBC / Colin Hutton

The first two – focusing on Shillbottle and a certain “political” party – are available to watch on iPlayer now, and we’ll keep you posted on an eventual dvd release.

Finally, for now, whilst we recently bid goodbye to House Of Fools, The Life Of Rock and The Midnight Beast, there are two other very fine shows featuring TVO regulars still underway on Sky channels.

© Baby Cow

© Baby Cow

Moone Boy is currently airing on Sky One, and features co-creator/writer Chris O’Dowd as the imaginary friend of a young boy in early 90s Ireland. A delightful little gem, this show has quite rightly won almost every award thrown at it, and if you can’t catch up via Sky Go, you can at least pre-order the dvd release, due out on March 31st.

Whilst it hasn’t yet won any awards, it would be criminal if the critically acclaimed Doll And Em doesn’t pick some up before the year is out.

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD / HBO

© King Bee Productions / Sky Living HD / HBO

Currently airing on Sky Atlantic, the show features Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer as hyper-exaggerated versions of themselves, and features cameo appearances from big name Hollywood stars as well as Tom Meeten, Laura Patch and Noel Fielding.

Again, the show is available on Sky Go, but there’s sadly no sign of a dvd release yet. It’s due to air on HBO shortly, so perhaps we’ll hear more then. Stay peeled… and if you see any shows with our regulars we miss, do get in touch so we can spread the word!

Paddingtease

5 Mar

© Studio Canal

The teaser trailer for Paul King‘s second feature film, Paddington, has been released.

Based on the ever popular books by Michael Bond, the long-gestating film tells the tale of an impeccably polite, marmalade loving bear from Peru who arrives at Paddington station and is taken in by the Brown family.

It features Colin Firth as the voice of the titular fuzzy one, alongside an interstellar who’s-who of British acting talent.

Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters and Peter Capaldi head up the cast, which also features Nicole Kidman and a couple of TVO regulars in cameo roles.

Rufus Jones and James Bachman are set to appear as dastardly geographers, and we wouldn’t put it past King sneaking in a few other recurring collaborators too.

Produced by the man behind the Harry Potter franchise, David Heyman, you can expect this one to go intersellar on release in November.  The first teaser, can, as promised, be seen below.

Kill Phil Vol. 2

22 Feb
© Phil Whelans

© Phil Whelans

The sublime comedy play Kill Phil returns next month at legendary London venue The Hen & Chickens.

The show is the brainchild of Pros From Dover veteran (and writer/star of My First Planet), Phil Whelans, and co-stars Marny Godden of brilliant sketch troop The Grandees and TVO’s very own Stephen Evans and James Wren.

The plot is simple: Hector and Laramie Van Heusen’s mysterious death and the bequeathing of their only begotten son – who is a man – to a complete stranger – who is another man – sets in motion a murderous train of destruction, slapstick, betrayal, puns, communion with the dead and betrayal by pun that can only end badly.  Except, the show has a good ending.

Featuring a murder, a funeral, a will-reading and a séance, the show is a gloriously witty delight, in turns truly inspired and downright nonsensical in the best possible way. Every cast member has a moment or three to shine, and the fourth wall is positively left in rubble by the time the play is over!

image

The show first ran at The Hen & Chickens back in January, and it is here it stages a triumphant return from Wednesday 5th to Saturday 8th March. Tickets are available now!

Trailer Roundup

3 Feb

Recent weeks have seen a smattering of new trailers featuring TVO regulars from mega-budget Hollywood productions to low-budget independent productions. Here’s a quick round-up.

First off the block here is one which has sent the internet into meltdown, as Optimus Prime rides a Dinobot in the Superbowl trailer for Transformers: Age Of Extinction. As we revealed back in SeptemberJames Bachman will be playing a character called Gill Wembley, but we know precious little else yet – beyond the release date of June 27th, 2014.

A few weeks before that, on June 6th, comes another cgi-filled sci-fi epic in the form of Tom Cruise vehicle The Edge Of Tomorrow. Partially shot in London in December 2012, the film features Tony Way as a character called Kimmel. The first full trailer can be seen below.

Way is also set to reprise his role as shamed drunken knight Dontos Hollard in the fourth season of the omnipopular fantasy series Game Of Thrones which returns in April…

Bringing things a bit more down to earth again, the ever busy Chris O’Dowd appears alongside Brendan Gleeson, Dylan Moran and Game Of Thrones regular Aiden Gillan in forthcoming Irish comedy drama Cavalry due out April 11th. Again, the first trailer is below.

We’ll aim to bring you more news on these productions as and when we can. As always, stay peeled…

Brand & Bachman In International Waters

19 Jan

© International Waters

Not a story about sailing the seven seas – no, this week Katy Brand and James Bachman were guests on pop culture comedy quiz show International Waters.

The pair join host Dave Holmes and competing teams of comedians from the US and UK in a lively test of pop culture knowledge. Imagine a more random version of Buzzcocks and you’re loosely there (-ish). It’s part panel show, part trivia quiz – with large dollops of comedy in-between.

Brand and Bachman represent Team UK on Episode 18 of the show, while and Wham Bam Pow’s Ricky Carmona and Rhea Butcher hold up Team USA. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.  And if you enjoy it, why not check out International Waters’ Facebook page?

Cult Comedy Marathon

12 Jan

© BBC

If you’re into funny telly shows and you enjoy sitting in the dark, then this will be right up your street! Totally Serialized is running an afternoon of cult comedy viewing at Ciné Lumière in London on Saturday, 18th January.

Starting at 2pm, the Cult Comedy Marathon includes TVO-connected shows Saxondale (S1 Ep1), Nighty Night (S1 Ep1) and Spaced (S1 Ep1) – plus The Office (S1 Ep4).

There will also be a couple of short-coms from France (apparently a very popular format across the Channel): Un Gars, use Fille, starring Jean Dujardin before he achieved international fame, and Bref.

Tickets for the event cost just £5 (£3 conc) and can be purchased here.

While you’re at it, why not stick around for the Totally Serialized 6pm Special Screening of the entire series of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, plus Q&A with Matthew Holness? What a way to celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary!? For more details, take a look at our earlier post.

TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Four

4 Jan

Hello and a warm welcome to the final part of our Review of 2013. Although October to December may feel like it only just happened, prepare to be amazed by how much you’ve forgotten. We were, but then we’re getting on a  bit.

So here are the best bits from the fourth quarter of the year – cherry-picked from news stories about both our regulars and a few new faces too. Enjoy.

OCTOBER

October was the month that Booshmania returned.  Just as the fantastic Behind the Boosh exhibition started its run at Proud Camden, showcasing the history of that most Mighty of comedic troops via the majesty of Dave Brown‘s photography, the boys were back in town.  Or rather, on the pier, as The Mighty Boosh went from the Soho Theatre to Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme in LA. A final (chaotic) UK warm-up show and a further run through at The Comedy Store, almost halted by a Visa saga, paved the way for a live performance that turned out to be one of the Festival’s highlights. Fan forums and social media platforms were buzzing with photos, footage and reviews of the show.

Another announcement that got us more than a bit over-excited in October was the news that Ben Wheatley is to direct the first 2 episodes of the next series of Doctor Who, starring the new Time Lord, Peter Capaldi. How good is that!?  We’re itching to see what happens when you combine one of the UK’s finest directors with its biggest export, now in the capable hands of an Oscar-winning acting legend to boot.  You can see the moment Capaldi became the Doctor in the 2013 Xmas special below…

More telly stuff, with the launch of Matt Berry’s new series, Toast Of London.  We’d been itching to see it since the pilot back in 2012, and it did not disappoint…

Elsewhere, Richard Ayoade established himself as a permanent fixture on prime time panel shows with a stint as team captain on Was It Something I Said? on Channel 4. Ayoade’s intellectual sparring with host David Mitchell certainly made our Sunday evenings feel a bit more highbrow!

What else?  Well, in movie news, there was an update on the cast for Paul King‘s long-awaited Paddington Bear feature film, which included mention of Rufus Jones and James Bachman. To end the month, TVO artists offered us a veritable smorgasbord of comedy options for Halloween night’s out, with special spooky performances from Colin Hoult and Richard Sandling.  And we were sad to lose the talented comedy actor Felix Dexter, who died at the too-young age of 52. He left behind an incredible legacy of great TV performances on shows like Bellamy’s PeopleAbsolutely Fabulous, The Fast ShowKnowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge, Mongrels and Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round to name but a few. He will be much misse, and would typically hate all this fuss about him, so let’s remember him with one of his silliest moments – dancing for Sport Relief alongside Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery.  What a dude.

Continue reading

Santa Bachman!

6 Dec

© Microsoft

It’s official. James Bachman is Santa Claus.

Fresh from his ‘appearance’ in the latest Assassin’s Creed game, and the current run of That Mitchell And Webb Soundthe ever busy Bachman has donned the big red suit and a power beard to play an incredibly convincing Little Saint Nick in a series of adverts for Windows Tablets.

Detailing the importance of organisation in a modern Christmas, the multi-part ‘adventure’ sees Santa get into full swing with Windows 8 when communication errors mean he almost has to cancel Christmas.

You can see Episode One, and a preview of the whole shebang via the handy links below.

For more info on the campaign, keep an eye on the Windows UK YouTube channel.

The Return Of Mitchell And Webb

21 Nov
© bbc.co.uk

© bbc.co.uk

David Mitchell and Robert Webb are returning to radio next week in a new 4 part series of That Mitchell and Webb Sound. After a six-year break they are back on Radio 4 at 6.30pm on Tuesday.

As well as Mitchell and Webb the show also stars regulars Olivia Colman and James Bachman.

Further information and preview clips can be found at the BBC Website, and the show will be available on iPlayer after broadcast.

Bachman’s Bonnet

8 Nov

© Ubisoft / Assassin’s Creed Wiki

James Bachman lends his voice and motion-captured movements and facial expressions to a character in hit new game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

The fourth game in the stealthy action series takes on a swashbuckling vibe, and features historical pirate legends galore.  Amongst its top-notch voice cast are Mark Bonnar (Psychoville), Shaun Dingwall (Doctor Who) and Ralph Ineson (Game Of Thrones), and our very own James Bachman.

James portrays gentlemen pirate Stede Bonnet, and according to lead writer Darby McDevitt, the cast were paramount to the game’s success.  He told NowGamer: “We have a huge cast of characters, a really impressive, fantastic British cast. [Bachman is] in our game as a fantastic character. And this is actually the second Assassin’s Creed game with full performance capture. We get all the actors in a room, they play out the scene together and we capture their face and voice at the same time.”

The multi-platform game is available now for Xbox360 and Playstation3, in both standard and deluxe editions, and is scheduled to arrive for Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Wii U and PC on November 22nd, with the first two also getting the deluxe treatment of their predecessors.  All formats can be ordered now from The Velvet Onion Amazon Store, via the links handily placed beneath this gameplay video featuring Bachman, just below.

Xbox 360 & 360 Skull Edition || Playsation 3 & PS3 Skull Edition

Xbox One & One Skull Edition || Playstation 4 & PS4 Skull Edition

 Nintendo Wii U || PC

Onions In Peru… More Paddington Castings Revealed

8 Oct

© Screened

We’ve been getting a bit excited about the forthcoming Paddington Bear movie. Partly driven by our love of all things Paul King-directed, and partly driven by our 70s and 80s childhoods, the film about the bear from deepest, darkest Peru can’t come soon enough.

So far we’ve had confirmation of the identity of the lead cast members; today we received news that there may be some other TVO connections amongst the cast! Rufus Jones has been confirmed as “a dastardly geographer”, and  James Bachman‘s name has also been mentioned in connection with the movie.

As soon as we hear any more about the film we’ll be sure to pass on the news. Rumour has it that the script is a real corker, so watch this space for updates…

That Mitchell & Webb Sound Returns

20 Sep

© BBC

Just as we’re reeling from the return of The Mighty Boosh, and the impending reunion from The Fast Show, here comes yet another gang getting back together, as the team behind That Mitchell & Webb Sound are to make new episodes for Radio 4.

The show is, obviously, the brain child of megastars David Mitchell & Robert Webb, and also stars Olivia Colman (Bad Sugar) and James Bachman, and began back in 2003 for four series, alternating with four series of its television counterpart, That Mitchell & Webb Look from the same team.

The fifth series will be recorded later this month, and will feature all four stars, as well as the work of regular writers Toby Davies, Joel Morris, Jason Hazeley and Mark Evans.  It’s set to air on Radio 4 at 6:30pm on November 26th.

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