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So Hot Right Now #20

2 Mar

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 take a look below.

MOONE BOY RETURNS

This week sees the long awaited return of Moone Boy to Sky 1 HD, once again starring Chris O’Dowd and David Rawle.

 Sky Corporate

Sky Corporate

For the uninitiated, Moone Boy tells the story of young Martin Moone (Rawle) as he grows up in rural Ireland in the early 1990s, and his best friend Seán Murphy (O’Dowd), who happens to be imaginary.

Semi-autobiographical, the show is the brainchild of O’Dowd and co-writer Nick Vincent Murphy, and has garnered numerous awards and a strong cult following through its first two series in 2012 and 2014 respectively. With none other than Sharon Horgan set to make guest appearances this time around, it’s once more something you’d be mad to miss.

Series Three begins on Monday, 2nd March at 9pm, exclusively on Sky1 HD.  In the first episode, Liam and Debra abandon the kids for a romantic break to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but it all threatens to fall apart after a chance encounter with Liam’s old flame. Meanwhile, Martin and Padraic are in Dublin, where they soon discover new talents.

POMPIDOU ON BBC TWO

The madcap adventures of Matt Lucas magnificent aristocrat nutjob Pompidou continue on Sunday 8th March.

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

The show stars Lucas as the titular aristocrat, who is as pompous as he is penniless, as loveable as he is tubby and eccentric. He is all of those things in abundance – an elderly oddball who has fallen on hard times, and is forced to live in a knackered old caravan in front of his now crumbling estate, alongside his dog Marion, who is the handywork of former Mongrels puppeteers Andy HeathIestyn Evans and Yvonne Stone.

This week, Pompidou thinks he’s won the lottery, but it turns out that it’s Hove who has actually hit the jackpot and he has no intention of sharing it. With Pompidou evicted from his caravan because he hasn’t been keeping up with his bills, Hove offers him a place to stay – but now it is he who must earn his keep.

You can catch Episode Two on Sunday evening at 6:30pm over on BBC Two.

HOUSE OF FOOLS TEMPORARILY EVICTED

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Due to Let’s Play Darts For Comic Relief taking place this week, House of Fools has been given a week off, and will return on March 9th.  If you haven’t read them yet, you can pass the time by catching up on our trilogy of interviews with the cast of the show: Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White, and Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson.

As a result of this, full blown TVO offerings are a little thin on the ground this week – but you’ll be pleased to know there’s still material of note to savour.  First up, Uncle on BBC Three (Tuesday, 10pm) features the talents of Nicholas Burns and Daniel Lawrence Taylor.  Cockroaches star Tom Davis is making regular appearances in The Keith Lemon Sketch Show (Thursday, 10pm) for ITV2, and Saturday evenings provide a rare repeat for Bellamy’s People on UK Gold (11pm), starring Rhys ThomasLucy Montgomery and Simon Day.

However, this quietness does give us time to pause, reflect, and catch up on a couple of shows we missed recently. Cardinal Burns star Dustin Demri-Burns has been appearing alongside Ben Miller and Kayvan Novak in Asylum - with all three episodes available on iPlayer for the next 12 days.  Elsewhere, the delightful Jessica Hynes and the equally fantastic Rebecca Front have been appearing in Series Two of Up the Women on BBC Two, and most of the series is still available to view on iPlayer as we went to press.

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!

Moone Boy & Inside No. 9 Shortlisted For Royal Television Society Awards

1 Mar

© Sky

The Royal Television Society Awards nominations were announced this week, and two TVO-connected shows are amongst those shortlisted.

Moone Boy, The Irish sitcom, created, co-written by and co-starring Chris O’Dowd, has picked up a nomination in the ‘Scripted Comedy’ category, alongside fellow nominees Harry and Paul’s Story of the Twos and Him & Her: The Wedding. 

Fans of the show should note that the new third series of Moone Boy starts tomorrow (Monday 2nd March) at 9pm on Sky1. Sharon Horgan will be guest-starring in the new series, playing the similarly-named Sharon Morgan, a high powered, yoga-loving entrepreneur.

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have picked up a nomination for Inside No. 9 in the ‘Comedy Performance’ category. They’re up against Harry Enfield for Harry and Paul’s Story of the Twos and Sarah Hadland for The Job Lot.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday 17th March at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London. For the full list of nominees click here.

Good luck to all of those shortlisted!

 

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

Get Inside Inside No. 9 – With Steve & Reece!

27 Feb
© BBC

© BBC

As we mentioned last month, a second series of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton‘s Inside No. 9 is in the offing – and you can see the first two episodes before everyone else at a preview screening.

What’s more, Reece and Steve will be there, along with series producer, Adam Tandy, for a Q&A. Exciting stuff!

The special screening of episodes 1 and 2 of the critically-acclaimed and award-winning BBC2 anthology series takes place at BFI Southbank in London, on March 11th at 6:15pm. They will be screening ‘La Couchette’, which features Jack Whitehall in its cast and takes place in compartment No. 9 of a night train, and ‘The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge’, which features another TVO-er, Paul Kaye. This time the action takes place in barn no. 9 as two of England’s most notorious witch-finders try a defenceless old woman.

And now for the important bit (if you want to be there). Tickets go on sale at 11.30am TOMORROW, SATURDAY 28th FEBRUARY right here. We suspect they’ll sell out fast – so  be quick!

As yet there’s no firm confirmation of the series 2 transmission date, but we’ll be sure to let you know as soon as we hear something.

So Hot Right Now #19

23 Feb

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 take a look below.

POMPIDOU BEGINS…

This week sees Matt Lucas new show Pompidou, co starring Alex MacQueen and Tony Way, begin its run on BBC Two.

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

The show stars Lucas as the titular aristocrat, who is as pompous as he is penniless, as loveable as he is tubby and eccentric. He is all of those things in abundance – an elderly oddball who has fallen on hard times, and is forced to live in a knackered old caravan in front of his now crumbling estate.

Episode One airs at 6:30pm on BBC Two, on Sunday, 1st March. You can see a selection of preview images over on our news pages.

HOUSE OF FOOLS CONTINUES…

The delightfully bonkers House of Fools continues its second run at 10pm on Monday 23rd February via BBC Two.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

In this week’s episode, Vic steals some unused botox equipment and decides to test it out on Julie and Bosh, while Bob tries to get into Erik’s good books by making Rachel’s brithday a special day. Elsewhere, Beef’s saucy past catches up with him, as he is forced to hide the consequences of his actions from a very irate butcher – brilliantly played by guest star Johnny Vegas.

As ever, starring Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer alongside Matt BerryDan SkinnerMorgana Robinson, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White, this second episode is a much funnier affair that last week’s admittedly hilarious opener, so if you’ve not checked into the House of Fools yet, now’s as good a time as any.

If you missed us shouting from the rooftops recently, TVO was graciously invited to be one of the few publications to speak to the cast of House of Fools at one of the Salford filming dates late last year. You can read our trilogy of interviews over on our news pages now, but if clicky links are more your thing, you’ll like the highlights over the names ‘Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer‘, ‘Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White‘, and ‘Matt Berry and Morgana Robinson‘.

CATASTROPHE ENDS…

Sadly we say goodbye to Catastrophe this week, with Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney going out on fine form on Monday 23rd March at 10pm on Channel 4.

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

In the series finale, a heavily pregnant Sharon picks Rob up at the airport after a trip to Boston and tells him she has invited an old friend from Ireland to be her maid of honour. Rob decides to ask his fiancee’s brother to be his best man, but Fergal has more important things to worry about – his wife has left him and taken their children. The bride and groom later split up to enjoy their hen and stag nights, both of which spiral out of control.

It’s a great end to a bold and inventive series, which is thankfully returning for a second run in the not too distant future. There’s also an appearance from none other than John Hopkins as Sandy Laybourne, so if you haven’t caught up yet, get on 4oD and savour the magic.

CASUAL VACANCY FILLED…

The star studded mini series The Casual Vacancy concludes on Sunday 1st March, once again featuring Rufus Jones and Richard Glover.

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

In this third and final episode, tensions rise as the Pagord parish council election approaches and each side steps up its campaign. It’s another meticulously crafted edition that lets this mini-series go out on a high, and if you enjoyed it, you can pre-order the dvd for £10.50 in The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

REPLAY THE GAME…

It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that Game of Thrones is set to return in April. With the fourth season (featuring Tony Way) currently nesting at the top of the dvd and blu-ray charts, Sky Atlantic have started their campaign to prep audiences for Season Five – and this may give us a chance to revisit a couple of TVO faces.

© HBO

© HBO

Not only does Tony Way appear in the second and fourth seasons as Sir Dontos Hollard, but Paul Kaye turned up as Thoros of Myr in the third season (we wonder if the GoT team were Mongrels fans like the guys at Pixar?), and the recurring role of Yara Greyjoy is played by actress Gemma Whelan: who also gigs regularly as a stand-up comedian and appeared in cult TVO smashes Cardinal Burns and The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains.

So in brand new clipshow Game of Thrones: Greatest Moments, there’s every possibility we’ll see these three characters once more, as cast members and celebrity fans count down the 20 most thrilling moments from the fantasy drama. You can see it at various times throughout this week, and the show is also available on SkyGo and Now TV.

TOUCHDOWN IN SOHO…

This week sees Sarah Kendall bring her highly acclaimed stand-up show Touchdown to The Soho Theatre.

© PBJ

© PBJ

The show, which toured the festival circuit last year, features Kendall deconstructing the key joke from her previous stand up show, which focuses on real life experiences back in 1992: a year of broken hearts, broken friendships, and broken orthodontic elastics.

Touchdown is a moving and often hilarious coming-of-age story that explores the clumsiness of adolescents, their awkward relationships, and painful need for friendship and love. If that’s not reason enough to pop along to the run between 24th-28th February, then why not read our interview with Sarah, in which she discusses the show at length, as well as Beehive, women in comedy and her obsession with Jaws 4

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!

Presenting Pompidou

22 Feb
© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

A series of promotional images for Pompidou - the new (mostly) silent comedy from the brain of Matt Lucas - have been released.

Earlier this weekend, you may have noticed TVO get a little weird, as our language barrier collapsed into Pompidou territory, in celebration of the release of the first Pompidou trailer. The show stars Lucas as the titular aristocrat, who is as pompous as he is penniless, as loveable as he is tubby and eccentric. He is all of those things in abundance – an elderly oddball who has fallen on hard times, and is forced to live in a knackered old caravan in front of his now crumbling estate.

Alex MacQueen (Hunderby, The Thick of It, Doctor Who) stars as Pompidou’s crusty butler Hove, and the series also features appearances from Tony Way, Alex Lowe (Barry from Watford), Jane Asher, Bella Emberg, Anita Dobson and Roy Barraclough.

It all looks utterly bonkers in the most charming manner, and the curious amongst you won’t have to wait much longer: The show begins its first series at 6:30pm on Sunday, 1st March on BBC Two. You can see a gallery of images from the first episode below.

Pompidou

21 Feb

Ah trahlorh fuh deh Pompidou, ehsnu avehbehl teh vuw ohnlihn.

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

Pompidou eh deh brahnchil deh Mah Luhcah, ahn ahlsuh stur Ahleh MehQueh, Tehne Weh, Aleh Loh eh Reh Bahrahcluh. Luhcah stur ah Pompidou – ah tehbeh, pehmpahs, pehnnileh, exentreh, yeh lahvbah ahristohcrah, lehvin ihn ahn ohl cahrvahn.

Eh wihl beh sehngin “pompibompidoudou” frem Mehrch Fehrs ohn BehBehCehTuh. Yeh cah seh trahlorh behluh.

Reece’s Chain Reaction

20 Feb
© bbc.co.uk

© bbc.co.uk

Reece Shearsmith is interviewed by Adam Buxton in the first of the new series of BBC Radio 4’s tag team interview show Chain Reaction. Each week the interviewee from the week before becomes the interviewer.

The 10th series of the chat show carries on from the end of the last series, when Adam Buxton was interviewed by Graham Linehan.

During the show the pair discuss the League of Gentlemen, Psychoville and Inside No 9 and Reece’s strange job making models.

Next week Reece interviews House of Fools legend Bob Mortimer, the following week Bob interviews his comedy partner Vic Reeves, and Vic then interviews three-time Bafta award winner Olivia Colman.

Chain Reaction is broadcast on Wednesdays on Radio 4 at 6.30pm, followed by repeats on Radio 4 extra at 7.30am and 10pm the following Wednesday. It is also available after broadcast on BBC iPlayer.

Wow Wow Show Now!

17 Feb
© Dan Clark / Soho Theatre

© Dan Clark / Soho Theatre

Once upon a time, Kylie Minogue sang a song called Wow, in which she seemingly described being a horny insect (whose antennae were sensing you up, no less). Now, though, she could very well be going “Wow, wow, wow, wow!” for a whole other reason, as Dan Clark is to host a brand new monthly comedy night at the ever wonderful Soho Theatre.

The Wow Wow Show! will feature the former How Not to Live your Life star as the frontman for an evening of satnd-up and sketches from “the new wave of comic talent in the UK”: their words, not ours, but we love that they’ve adopted New Wave Comedy as a thing.

Promising a very British take on the American late-night talk show vibes of Letterman and Fallon, there’ll also be set pieces, a house band and some very special guests.

Who those guests are we cannot yet reveal, but given Clark’s reputation from six years of his own self-named club night, it’s going to be a pretty fantastic line-up, and at long last brings a regular club night back to the heart of London’s comedy scene with a velvety vibe to savour.

Tickets for the first show on Saturday, March 7th at 9:30pm are on sale now for just £15. Get in there fast, because this is going to be an event you’ll wish you were at afterwards!

Hunderby & Partridge Return!

16 Feb
© Sky Atlantic

© Sky Atlantic

Now there are two more reasons to get Sky Atlantic – and they come in the form of two productions from Baby Cow.

The award-winning Hunderby, Julia Davis‘ darkly comic homage to Daphne Du Maurier, will be returning to the channel for a Christmas special. Co-written with fellow TVO-er, Barunka O’Shaughnessy, the two-part special will precede another (hush-hush) new project from Julia for the channel, which is due to air in 2016.

© Sky

© Sky

Head of Sky Atlantic, Zai Bennett, has also confirmed that Steve Coogan will be back on the channel as Alan Partridge, as part of his attempt to dial up the comedy content of the channel (alongside dramas like Fortitude and Game Of Thrones).

In today’s Media Guardian Bennett said: “Game of Thrones and Banshee are brilliant but they are quite visceral and hard. That’s why landing the comedy is important, it will give us emotional breadth. A lot of our drama can be … heavy going, it can be hard work. People might draw breath before coming to Atlantic; I want them to come a little bit more.’

Sky’s head of comedy, Lucy Lumsden, has said of Hunderby’s return: “We couldn’t be happier…Julia Davis is such a rare talent and Sky Atlantic the perfect home for her unique voice and vision.”

The special will introduce two newcomers to the cast: a French sexpot and a homophobic locum pastor with a taste for hanging. At TVO we’re hoping that Rufus Jones will be reprising his role as Dr. Foggerty and Julian Barratt as the Narrator. Series one also featured Kevin EldonArnab Chanda and Antony Elvin, so we’re holding out for a few other familiar faces in the Christmas special!

 

Onion Talking: Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer on House of Fools

11 Feb
© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Next week sees the launch of Series Two of House of Fools - the brilliantly surreal sitcom from the minds of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.

Co-starring Dan Skinner, Matt Berry, Morgana Robinson, Daniel Simonsen and Ellie White, the show also features cameo appearances from  Reece Shearsmith, Rufus Jones, Tony Way, Tom Davis and many more.

To celebrate its return, TVO sat down with the main cast during the filming of Series Two to discuss the show. Today, we bring you our catch-up with the legendary duo at the centre of it all: Reeves and Mortimer.

Television listings describe House of Fools as a sitcom. Which, by definition it is, but there’s far more to the multi-camera, studio-audience enhanced end product. In today’s climate, even mainstream fair like Mrs Brown’s Boys breaks down the fourth wall, slyly winking to the viewers at home as well as those in the studio just how absurd the traditional sitcom format is.

So when the mainstream is doing exactly what the alternative was doing twenty years ago, it falls to the alternative to do something, well… ‘Alternative’ once more. Thankfully, Vic Reeves (real name Jim Moir) and Bob Mortimer have grafted for over 25 years doing exactly that, and their long-awaited move into sitcom territory is as utterly unique as it is delightful. It was only natural, then, that it’s superb first series would be followed by a second run.

Of course, the tropes of sitcom are there, but the duo have always taken the traditional and run with it in their own inimitable style: their natural chemistry and love of the hyper-surreal carving out a legacy of incredible programming. Big Night Out, The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer, Bang Bang It’s Reeves & Mortimer, Shooting Stars, Catterick… even their underrated turn at drama in short lived fantasy series Randall & Hopkirk {deceased} has a charm quite unlike anything else seen on British television in the last few decades. Truly, they stand apart from their peers, even as they rub shoulders with them, and inject everything they do with a high standard of professionalism beneath the on-screen madness.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

That said, today’s House of Fools recording, isn’t going too well. The sheer complexity of the show requires for a number of shots to be pre-filmed before the audience arrive: and the more of them there are, the more it cuts into camera-rehearsal. Filming in Salford, but rehearsing in London, the camera-rehearsal is crucial to locking down the show as it will eventually appear on screen, and the lack of one causes (the admittedly still hilarious) filming to overrun – the entire end sequence left unfilmed as the cast and crew take a break before the day’s second recording block has to get the job done.

“Were you down there watching?” asks Bob Mortimer nervously, as he and Jim Moir, the man behind the public persona of Vic Reeves, settle down to talk and grab a well-deserved bite to eat in a somewhat condensed lunch hour, less than five minutes after shooting was forced to wrap up. TVO assures him we were, and in spite of the problems, what we saw was still working really well. “We ran out of time,” he continues. Jim chips in. “We had so many things on the pre-record, and there’s lots of camera moves.”

“It is weird, when you haven’t done it in front of the cameras, isn’t it, Jim?” asks Bob. “Yeah,” Jim replies. “We’ll see how the second run goes.”

Bob continues: “The thing is we’ve got so many props and pre-records,” he states, “you’ve got to be ahead of it. You can’t come in on the day and say: ‘Can we have this prop?’ There’s no time to do anything new. Rehearsals change what, Jim? Twenty or thirty percent?”

“We do change little bits here and there,” Jim adds. “But it’s all there in the script. If you can’t do your lines, someone jumps in front of you and you’re in trouble.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

With the option to stay and watch the second studio record later that day, TVO sticks around, and the transformation is incredible.  What was a hilarious, if somewhat jumbled first run has been replaced by a smooth, well-oiled production, which, although overrunning due to only one chance to film the complex end sequence, ably demonstrates the skill with which the pair, and all of those around them, craft these episodes. They may have had a tough afternoon, but it’s a fun evening ahead of them.

Not that Jim and Bob are aware of this as we talk, and fearing we have perhaps dwelled on the negatives for too long, TVO decides to lighten the mood.  First off, who amongst the cast is most likely to fluff their lines, we ponder.

“Fucking me,” Bob blurts out, laughing. “Shit,” he adds… “You can take that answer and run with it!”

With the vibe improving, we suggest a quick game of Snog, Marry, Avoid, reworked in keeping with the House of Fools theme by asking who the pair would Rent with, get a Mortgage with, and Evict. We’re sure you’ll all be playing this by Easter, especially as the thought gets the approval of ‘Reeves & Mortimer’.

“I wouldn’t wanna live with Beef,” considers Bob. “I’d throw Beef out. Dirty man.”

“Vic Reeves is mentally inefficient,” states the man himself, firmly removed from his stage persona. “I think you’d probably want Bob to rent with.”

So, no mortgage for the duo?

“You’re asking if we got a house,” Bob clarifies, “would we get a joint mortgage?” He bursts out laughing as Jim props his chin up and grins that mischievous grin that only ‘Vic Reeves’ can. “Great question,” he adds, and pauses for a moment. “Yeah, we probably would. We’d probably get interest only as well.”

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Perhaps, TVO opines, they could open a bistro of their own, just like their neighbour Julie has in the new series. Bob decides it could be called Vicky Manhattans, before Jim fires back the suggestion of George Bensons. Bob immediately changes this to Benson and Hedges, as they start giggling to themselves: that natural chemistry that has fuelled over two decades together in full force.  Some things never change, even when the ideas around them do.

House of Fools for example, was a first for the pair. Though they had dabbled in the sitcom world with their dark comic drama Catterick back in 2004, the closest they had ever come to a studio sitcom was the running Slade in Residence sketch from The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer.  In recent years, the studio-sitcom has been somewhat dismissed by alternative comedy, with only The IT Crowd really shining as an example outside of the mainstream. Jim and Bob’s reasoning for doing one now is surprisingly pragmatic.

“I think it’s something we always wanted to do,” states Moir. “I think the days when you’re kinda forced into doing a quiz show went away, so we said: ‘This is what we want to do.’ We spent a long time thinking about it, and working it out. It was quick to start with, and we had a lot of advice, so we knew it was going to work. If you put enough work into something, it’ll work out in the end.”

“In a practical sense,” Mortimer adds, “we bumped into someone from the Beeb, and told them we were going to write a sitcom. And they said: ‘Alright, if you do, give it to us and we’ll have a look’. That was quite quick, wasn’t it? We wrote one in a couple of days, did a pilot. The procedure’s never really that grand, is it, Jim? It’s more like bumping into the right person at the right time.”

One of the more interesting aspects of the initial set-up, however, was the casting of the supporting roles. While ‘Vic’ and Bob play heightened versions of themselves, they are ably backed up by regular collaborator Dan Skinner as hapless Bosh, as well as new collaborators Matt Berry as randy randomer Beef, Morgana Robinson as frankly bonkers neighbour Julie, and Norwegian stand-up Daniel Simonsen as Bob’s reclusive son Erik. This year, they are also joined by Erik’s girlfriend, Rachel – played by relative newcomer character comedian Ellie White.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

Then there’s the guest roles, filled across the series by the likes of Reece Shearsmith, Sally Philips, Rufus Jones, Tim Healey, Tom Davies, Romesh Ranganathan and Tony Way, to name but a few, with the latter three filming today’s episode as a dance gang. It’s that combination of established names that Jim & Bob know so well, and the encouragement of up and coming talent that has traced its way through their career ever since they were established enough to call the shots somewhat. Let’s not forget, it was through Reeves & Mortimer shows that the likes of Matt Lucas, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way got their big breaks.

“Tony was like sixteen or seventeen on The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer,” remembers Moir. “And then he was in The Club [a running sketch in Bang Bang] as well.” And dancing with you both in the studio, TVO points out. “Yeah,” Mortimer laughs, “with a firework up his arse!”

With a track record in providing a platform for new talents, TVO wonders if the pair consciously elect to nurture fresh faces. “I think we give them a chance,” Jim begins. “Then it’s up to you…”

We’re suddenly cut off, by loudspeaker announcement, as the audience for the evening session is about to be let into the studio. “Attention please,” it says, drowning out Jim in mid-thought. “Ladies and gentlemen for House of Fools. We will be going into studio in approximately ten minutes. We will call you in by the colour…”

“Of your skin!” yells ‘Vic’, gleefully, and the pair erupt with back and forth banter once more, before Bob straightens up.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“The thing with Daniel [Simonsen] is…” he trails off, trying to find the right words to say. “We’ve been wanting to do something with him for ages. And Ellie was just a friend of a friend to come in and read lines during rehearsal, but she was great.”

“These things kind of evolve a bit,” Jim adds. “They have to evolve naturally, and then you work on it after that.”

“It’s brilliant,” Bob states, smiling. “When you use Dan, and you use Daniel, and you use Matt and Morgana, you just know they’re comfortable with the way we work, and they’re comfortable with us. So they’ll lob their own stuff in and bring it to life. We knew what to write for them, and what would work because of that shorthand. But it’s more about the story than anything.”

After all of this time, it would be easy for Reeves & Mortimer to fall into a generic pattern, relying on old gags and goodwill to get by. Instead, they’re pushing the limitations of what can be done in a studio sitcom, with a cast who get what they do and strive to help them make the best show they can. Three episodes into recording the second series, the pair are confident they’re onto a winner.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

“Last week’s was fucking great!” Bob enthuses.

“And Christmas was good as well,” chips in Jim. “They’ve all been really good, I think. Better than the last series, up to now.”

“I’ve no idea what this one is like, though,” adds Bob, seemingly with the worry of the looming record drifting back into his mind.  TVO can’t help but hope there’s more to come, and perhaps a slightly stripped back version of the show could be taken on the road, too?

“I think it’s great fun to do,” Jim sums up. “If people want it, we’ll keep doing ‘em.”

“Everyone involved in it, would like to do a run in a theatre, wouldn’t they, Jim?” asks Bob, as his partner in crime nods. “I don’t know whether that will happen, but we’d all like to do it.”

TVO is sure it would work, and notes that the chemistry between the gang, and between Reeves & Mortimer themselves, feels so natural it would be a shame for it not to happen.

“Well,” notes Jim, with a knowing wink in his eye, “That’s acting!”

And with that, they’re off to do more of it. That episode won’t record itself.

House of Fools returns on Monday 16th February at 10pm on BBC2. The first series is available on dvd from 23rd February.

So Hot Right Now #17

9 Feb

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.

YOU SAY GOODBYE…

This week sees the Comedic Guard of 2015 begin to change for the first time, as January’s new shows begin to wrap up, and February’s new shows start to arrive. Sadly, this means we must say our goodbyes to two firm favourites already: Love in Recovery and Crims, both of which end this week.

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

The sublime Love in Recovery wraps up on Wednesday 11th February, with the sixth and final instalment of Radio 4’s touching comic drama. Written by Pete Jackson, the series follows the lives of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting group, made up of characters portrayed by Sue Johnston, John Hannah, Eddie Marsan, Rebecca Front and Paul Kaye, whilst Julia Deakin plays village hall cleaner Marion.

This week we turn our focus away from the individual tales of each recovering alcoholic, as the group are forced to leave their meeting room to try and rescue one of their members from a nearby pub. As it all comes full circle for the gang, we can’t help but hope we haven’t heard the last of them yet.

 If you missed previous installements, you can catch all previous episodes except Episode One on iPlayer now, but be quick – as Episode Two will vanish in four days time…

© Hal Shinnie / BBC

On Thursday 12th February, we also say a fond farewell to Crims - as the BBC Three sitcom from the pens of Mongrels writer Adam Kay and Grandma’s House writer Dan Swimer airs its sixth and final episode at 10pm, with Tracy Ann Oberman once again making a guest appearance.

It’s another firm favourite, as Dawn (Cariad Lloyd) is to receive a commendation for her crackdown on drug use in the institution, and Creg (Ricky Champ) is forced into a difficult position when he accidentally lets the collected substances go missing on his watch. Let’s just say, this episode features the best comedic sandwich consumption since Arnold Rimmer ate a triple fried egg sarnie with chilli sauce and chutney.

When the show began, it was easy to believe the focus would remain entirely on Luke and Jasan, brilliantly played by Elis James and Kadiff Kirwan, but as the series has developed, Dawn, Creg, Marcel (the sublime Theo Barklem Biggs) and the rest of the gang have become just as important to the success of the show. We’re certainly hoping we haven’t seen the last of Crims yet.

If you have missed previous episodes, you can catch up on iPlayer now. There’s currently no sign of a dvd or blu-ray release, but the episodes are now becoming available to own via Amazon Digital, so keep an eye on your preferred digital store for the whole run soon.

…AND I SAY HELLO!

Sunday evening brings us a brand new show, in the form of JK Rowling’s comic drama The Casual Vacancy, which features Rufus Jones and Richard Glover in its top notch cast.

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

© Steffan Hill / BBC / Bronte Film and Television Ltd

Michael Gambon (Harry Potter), Julia McKenzie (Miss Marple), Keeley Hawes (Ashes to Ashes), Rory Kinnear (Count Arthur Strong), Monica Dolan (Sightseers), Silas Carson (The IT Crowd) and Emilia Fox (Silent Witness) join Glover & Jones in the three part mini-series, which centres on the seemingly idyllic English village of Pagford.

With it’s cobbled market square and ancient abbey, Pagford looks quaint and charming to all who enter. Behind the pretty façade however, is a town at war: rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.

When a local councillor dies suddenly, the town is left in shock, and the empty seat becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the village has yet seen. Three candidates are soon lined up: Miles Mollison, Colin Wall and Simon Price – played by Rufus Jones, Simon McBurney and Richard Glover respectively.

Episode One airs on BBC One this Sunday evening at 9pm, and you can see our preview gallery alongside clips and trailers, over yonder.

© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

© BBC/Baby Cow/Chris Brock

Tuesday 10th February also sees Series Two of Uncle begin on BBC Three at 10pm, once again starring Nick Helm and Elliot Spencer-Gillot alongside Sophie Haggard (Psychoville), Nicholas Burns and Daniel Lawrence Taylor.

A year after Andy (Helm) was banned from seeing his nephew Errol (Spencer-Gillot) for being a destructive influence, the unlikely duo are hanging out in secret, with the latter having a broken voice and the former being as broken in general as ever.

It’s a welcome return for a very popular show, and you can see what TVOer Mog thought of its return very soon.

CONTINUING ADVENTURES IN ONION LAND

It would, of course, be foolish to focus only on the newly arriving and the soon departing, as lots of other great shows vie for your attention in the middle of their current runs this week.

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

Monday 9th February at 10:05pm sees Episode Four of Catastrophe air on Channel 4. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s charming yet brutally honest sitcom focuses on an American man and an Irish woman in London, forced to make a whirlwind romance develop into something more when they find themselves expecting a child.

This week, Sharon’s parents head over from Ireland, only to have a difficult first encounter with Rob, as the subject of pregnancy is broached.  More health complications for Sharon and the baby also arise, and Rob’s secret friendship with Chris backfires in a way he could never have imagined.

As the story unfolds and becomes ever more complex and rewarding, it’s increasingly a delight to spend half an hour with realistic, flawed characters you can’t help but like, even if you’re not sure why.  The show thunders on with rave reviews, and a second series commissioned, so if you’ve not caught the bug yet, you can catch up with the series now via 4oD.

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

Episode Five of Cockroaches airs on Tuesday 10th February at 10pm over on ITV2. The post-apocalyptic comedy stars Daniel Lawrence Taylor (How Not to Life Your Life), Esher Smith, Jack Whitehall and Tom Davis (House of Fools, Murder in Successville), alongside a string of big name guest stars such as Dan Skinner, Alexander Armstrong, Caroline Quentin, Robert Bathurst and Nigel Planer.

This week, Tom’s mother-in-law Cathy (Caroline Quentin) arrives at the camp with her new boyfriend Pete, who happens to be his former PE teacher – and an overbearing alpha-male American, played by the initimitable Rich Hall. Meanwhile, Suze is sceptical when a stranger called Ash (Jamie Winstone, Dead Set) arrives from the woods claiming not to have seen a single person for the past three years.

It’s another suitably bonkers episode, and if you like what you see, you can catch up with past episodes via ITV Player, or pre-order series on dvd for release February 23rd.

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

Also on Tuesday 10th February, the sixth and penultimate episode of the second series of Count Arthur Strong airs on BBC One at different times, depending on your location.

Viewers in England can see the show at (shock horror), the same time as last week: 10:45pm, whilst those watching in Northern Ireland and Wales don’t have to wait as long as usual, with the episode moved up to 11:10pm. Viewings in Scotland, annoyingly, have to wait almost 24 hours, with the episode airing at 10:40pm on Wednesday instead.

Despite the crazy scheduling, this episode – once more from the pens of star Steve Delaney and Graham Linehan (best known for The IT Crowd and Father Ted), is perhaps the series highlight: as a trouser fire causes Arthur to move in with Michael. His claims of being low maintenance clash with Michael’s Game of Thrones obsession, so Arthur turns to John the Watch for companionship.

Brilliantly structured, and surprisingly heart-warming, this episode works better still when you know the characters well enough to enjoy spending time in their company, but if you only watched one episode this year, this could be the one for you. Either way, catch up on the series now via iPlayer over yonder.

© Comedy Central UK

© Comedy Central UK

Meanwhile, the fifth episode of Drunk History UK airs at 9:30pm on Monday 9th over on Comedy Central UK, once more featuring famous British comedians getting absolutely plastered in the name of reciting tales from the past – which are then re-enacted by a top notch cast.

Tony Way, Cardinal Burns, Rebecca Front, Marek Larwood and Mat Horne have appeared across the series so far, and tonight’s edition keeps the talent levels up high: as Marc Wooten (La La Land, Shirley Ghostman) returns to the show, along Simon Bird (The Inbetweeners, Friday Night Dinner).

With Russell Kane and Alex Horne on story telling duties, and Tony Way again making an appearance, it’s another great excuse to watch comedy talents being very silly indeed. Enjoy!

LIVE HAPPENINGS

There’s lots brewing at the moment, with Kim Noble in the middle of his run at the Soho Theatre, a special Forgery Club for Greenpeace this week, Rachel Stubbings hosting a film night next Monday, Tony Law wrapping up his Tone Zone tour, and tickets for Sarah Kendall at Soho Theatre later this month, and Angelos & Barry later this year on sale now.  Keep an eye on our news pages for the latest live news as and when we can throw it your way!

TVO IS FIVE

We’ve been celebrating our fifth anniversary this month, with a couple of reflective articles on our news pages, and a number of our regulars sending us video messages wishing us a very happy birthday. Kind of. The video below features, in order of appearance: Rachel StubbingsColin HoultDave BrownJames CookBob PipeDave McNeillKaty BrandNeil ColePhil WhelansJames WrenSpencer MillmanWaen ShepherdJacqueline WrightHolly Jane ShearsRufus JonesStephen Evans and Tony Way.

Our huge thanks to all involved – and we’ve got a few more messages coming through to give you Part Two very soon, so stay peeled!

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!

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.

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…

Murder In Successville – Coming Soon to BBC Three

2 Feb

BBC Three and Tiger Aspect have officially confirmed that, following a non-broadcast pilot last year, Murder In Successville will be appearing on the channel as a full series later this year.

© Tiger Aspect / BBC Three

© Tiger Aspect / BBC Three

The series is set in a fictional town brimming with celebrities – and a high incidence of surreal homicide, and it’s up to Detective Inspector Sleet to solve each murder case, with the assistance of a  real celebrity guest sidekick.

Sounding part Stella Street, part Cludeo, the utterly bonkers premise features at its epicentre rising star Tom Davis as DI Sleet – who you may recognise from his appearances in CockroachesCommon Ground and The Morgana Show.  He recently filmed a guest appearance in House of Fools, and can also be seen in the new Keith Lemon sketch show on ITV2.

Joining Davis each week as the celebrity residents of Successville are Tony Way, Cariad Lloyd (Crims, Crackanory), Gemma Whelan (The Day They Came to Suck Out Our Brains, Game of Thrones), Frances Barber (Psychobitches, The IT Crowd), Tom Stourton (Drunk History, Up the Women) and Jenny Bede (Watson & Oliver, The World’s End).

Real life celebrities including Dermot O’Leary, Louis Smith, Jamie Laing and Greg James will be joining Sleet on his adventures, in a town where Harry Styles runs a mafia gang and Mary Berry is the owner of a strip club.

Part sitcom, part improv and part murder mystery, the show will be coming to BBC Three later this year, and we’ll bring you more news as soon as we can. Stay peeled!

So Hot Right Now #16

2 Feb

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 VELVET ONION IS FIVE

This week marks our fifth anniversary, and to celebrate, a number of our regulars sent us video messages wishing us a very happy birthday. Kind of. The video below features, in order of appearance: Rachel StubbingsColin HoultDave BrownJames CookBob PipeDave McNeillKaty BrandNeil ColePhil WhelansJames WrenSpencer MillmanWaen ShepherdJacqueline WrightHolly Jane ShearsRufus JonesStephen Evans and Tony Way.

Our huge thanks to all involved – and we’ve got a few more messages coming through to give you Part Two very soon, so stay peeled!

THE WEEK IN TV & RADIO

A couple of regular shows wrapped up last week, but we’ve still got a number of great things on telly to savour across the week. Each one is as important as the other to us, as has always been The Velvet Onion way, so for ease of understanding, we’ll tackle them in chronological order.

MONDAY: DRUNK HISTORY

© Comedy Central UK

© Comedy Central UK

Airing at 9:30pm on Monday 26th over on Comedy Central UK, the fourth episode of Drunk History UK once more sees famous British comedians get absolutely plastered in the name of reciting tales from the past – which are then re-enacted by a top notch cast.

With the likes of Tony Way, Seb CardinalDustin Demri-Burns, Tom Rosenthal, Mat Horne, Marek Larwood, Tom Stourton, Alex Owen, Ben Bailey Smith and Rebecca Front on re-enactment duties across the series, tonight’s edition also features Ben Ashenden, Russell Kane and Joy Lycett getting hammered. Enjoy.

MONDAY: CATASTROPHE

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

Monday 2nd February at 10pm brings us Episode Three of Catastrophe - the brand new comedy from Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, in which an American man and an Irish woman fall in love in London whilst navigating the choppy waters of their increasingly complicated lives.

In this week’s edition, Sharon’s hormones plague her with waves of different emotions, and she has a chance meeting with an old flame (Phil Nichol), which leads to dinner. Meanwhile, Rob struggles to generate advertising business, since he has very few contacts in London, and begins a clandestine friendship with Chris, who is married to a woman Sharon can’t stand.

After wowing critics and audiences alike, Catastrophe will be returning for a second series, so it’s naturally a treat to watch the story unfold a little more this week.  If you missed the first two episodes, you can catch up with the series now via 4oD, whilst iPlayer houses Sharon and Rob’s last minute guest appearance on The Graham Norton Show last Friday.

TUESDAY: COCKROACHES

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

© Colin Hutton / Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

Tuesday 3rd February at 10pm sees Episode Four of Cockroaches air on ITV2. The post-apocalyptic comedy stars Daniel Lawrence Taylor (How Not to Life Your Life), Esher Smith, Jack Whitehall and Tom Davis, alongside a string of big name guest stars such as Dan Skinner, Alexander Armstrong, Caroline Quentin, Robert Bathurst and Nigel Planer.

In this week’s episode the survivors race to find an antidote after the camp’s children turn green – believing they may have nuclear radiation sickness or have become vampires – and the Doctor has gone power mad. If they do not find a cure, Tom may be forced to go through with a grisly deed.

As to be expected, you can catch up with past episodes via ITV Player, and the series will also be released on dvd on February 23rd.

TUESDAY (and Wednesday): COUNT ARTHUR STRONG

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

Also on Tuesday 3rd February comes Episode Five of the second series of Count Arthur Strong airing on BBC One at FOUR different times, depending on your location.

Viewers in England can see it at the slightly later than usual time of 10:45pm, whilst those watching in Northern Ireland have to wait until 11:40pm. However, if you’re in Wales, there’s an even sillier timeslot, as it airs at 12:15am – and viewers in Scotland can see the episode on Wednesday at 10:40pm!

Episode Five, once more from the pens of star Steve Delaney and Graham Linehan (best known for The IT Crowd and Father Ted), sees a documentary team arrive to film a profile of Michael, but Arthur threatens to steal the show with his new career. Fun stuff, as ever.

WEDNESDAY: LOVE IN RECOVERY

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

Wednesday 4th February brings us Episode Five of Love in Recovery on Radio 4. Written by Pete Jackson, the series follows the lives of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting group, made up of characters portrayed by Sue Johnston, John Hannah, Eddie Marsan, Rebecca Front and Paul Kaye, whilst Julia Deakin plays village hall cleaner Marion.

This week’s episode focuses on Kaye’s character, Danno, as he deals with the death of his father after returning from his memorial service – in the pub down the road.  If you missed previous installements, you can catch all previous episodes on iPlayer now, but be quick – as Episode One will vanish in four days time…

THURSDAY: CRIMS

©  Hal Shinnie / BBC

© Hal Shinnie / BBC

Thursday 5th February brings Episode Five of Crims - the new BBC Three sitcom from the pens of Mongrels writer Adam Kay and Grandma’s House writer Dan Swimer – at 10pm. And gawd, have we been waiting to rave about this one.

As ever, starring Elis James and Kadiff Kirwan, alongside Cariad Lloyd, Ricky Champ and Theo Barklem Biggs, with a guest appearance once again by Toast of London‘s Tracy Ann Oberman, this week’s episode draws on Adam Kay’s musical comedy background in the best possible way, as plans for the Young Offenders Institute to put on its own theatre production, are hijacked by Marcel, and turned into a musical interpretation of Twilight, which poor ol’ Luke has to write in 24 hours.

Typically bonkers, with charming tunes and possibly the best Elton John joke ever, this is possibly our favourite episode of the run, and the cast and crew seem to agree. If you only see one episode, make sure it’s this one, but if you have missed previous episodes, you can catch up on iPlayer now.

SATURDAY: HORRIBLE HISTORY’S SPECIAL

©  Phil Miller / Laura Rawlinson / LionTV / BBC

© Phil Miller / Laura Rawlinson / LionTV / BBC

On Saturday 6th February, Horrible Histories returns for a one-off special focusing on the story of King John and the Magna Carta.  As you can see from the image above, comic actor Ben Miller leads the cast as King John, by sheer coincidence, just a few months after he appeared as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Doctor Who!

Whilst the original HH team moved on to create Yonderland for Sky One, and the forthcoming movie Bill, regulars Jim Howick and Simon Farnaby return for this special, with Farnaby’s famous character Death now hosting his own chat show.

As fun as ever, this transitional episode prior to the next series (with a mostly new leading cast), airs on Saturday evening at 5:15pm on BBC Two.  The team have also made a series of new videos promoting internet safety for children – you can see Farnaby’s contribution (alongside Matt Baynton) below.

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!

TVO-ers On Tittle Tattle

31 Jan

© Rhys Thomas

We’ve discovered a new upload of a BBC Radio 2 pilot, featuring a number of Velvet Onion regulars.

Tittle Tattle was written by and features Rhys Thomas, alongside Lucy Montgomery, Steve Burge and Waen Shepherd.

The 30 minute topical show sees Thomas chatting with guests, discussing the headline stories of the week and inviting the audience to get involved. It also includes Alex Lowe and Russell Grant, who reviews the latest TV.

This is a rare chance to hear the seriously TVO-connected pilot, which originally aired in October 2012. What’s more, it has been marked as a TV Adaptation proposal, so who know – perhaps we haven’t heard the last of Tittle Tattle?

Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday to us!

30 Jan

This weekend marks TVO’s fifth anniversary, so what better way to celebrate than to grab as many video messages from the good folk we feature on these pages as physically possible, and put them all together for your enjoyment?

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed a message, as well as to all of those who really wanted to but have various deadlines and personal matters to take care of that have kept them out of this compilation. If you’re one of our regulars, and you haven’t been featured in this video – we’re still up for hearing from you, so do get in touch asap!

So Hot Right Now #15

26 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.

SEVEN IN ONE

This week sees not one, not two, but SEVEN great shows with direct TVO connections airing across UK television and radio. The result is over three hours of brand new great comedy for you to enjoy. Each one is as important as the other to us, as has always been The Velvet Onion way, so we’ll tackle them in chronological order.

MONDAY: DRUNK HISTORY

© Drunk History

© Drunk History

Now at the new time of 9:30pm on Monday 26th, the third episode of Drunk History UK once more sees famous British comedians get absolutely plastered in the name of reciting tales from the past – which are then re-enacted by a top notch cast.

With the likes of Tony Way, Tom Rosenthal, Dustin Demri-Burns (one half of Cardinal Burns), Mat Horne, Marek Larwood and Rebecca Front on re-enactment duties across the series, and tonight’s edition featuring Joel Lycett, Romesh Ranganathan and Brian Pern himself, Simon Day, it’s no doubt another edition worthy of your attention.

You can see a preview clip, telling the story of Dick Turpin, below.

MONDAY: CATASTROPHE

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

© Ed Miller / Channel 4

Monday 26th at 10pm brings us Episode Two of Catastrophe - the brand new comedy from Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, in which an American man and an Irish woman fall in love in London whilst navigating the choppy waters of their increasingly complicated lives.

In this week’s edition, Sharon faces the reality of having a giant new room-mate in the form of Rob, the man whose child she happens to be carrying, and her brother Fergal (Jonathan Forbes) doesn’t make life any easier. Rob also meets up with an old school friend and comes up with a proper proposal to help Sharon feel better about their situation.

It’s another first rate episode, following up the huge promise of last week’s debut with a refreshingly honest, remarkably brutal and deeply satisfying take on modern life and relationships. If you missed Episode One, you can catch up with the series now via 4oD. Sharon and Rob were also on BBC Breakfast last week, which you can see for yourself below.

TUESDAY: COCKROACHES

© Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

© Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

Tuesday evening (27th January) at 10pm sees Episode Three of Cockroaches air on ITV2. The post-apocalyptic comedy stars Daniel Lawrence Taylor (How Not to Life Your Life), Esher Smith, Jack Whitehall and Tom Davis, alongside a string of big name guest stars such as Dan Skinner, Alexander Armstrong, Caroline Quentin, Robert Bathurst and Nigel Planer.

In this week’s episode, Tom (Daniel Lawrence Taylor) assembles a team to go to the supermarket as the camp is running out of food, where the group discover Steve Giggle: a terrified old children’s entertainer, as well as Spectrum: a gang of cannibal women roaming the countryside and preying on unfortunate victims.

Last week’s edition featured Dan Skinner a little earlier than we realised, and is available to view on ITV Player, alongside the Laurie Rose shot first episode, right now.

TUESDAY (and Wednesday): COUNT ARTHUR STRONG

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

© BBC / Freemantle Productions

Also on Tuesday 27th January comes Episode Four of the second series of Count Arthur Strong airing on BBC One at three different times, depending on your location.

Viewers in England can see it at the slightly later than usual time of 10:45pm, whilst those watching in Northern Ireland have to wait until 11:10pm. However, if you’re in Wales, you’ve got to wait even longer, as it airs at 11:15pm – and poor ol’ Scotland has to wait until Wednesday for an airing at 10:30pm!

Despite the schedule shuffling, the series from the pens of star Steve Delaney and Graham Linehan (best known for The IT Crowd and Father Ted), is still going strong.  In Episode Four, a conman posing as a plumber has swindled the locals out of hundreds of pounds, but he soon regrets the day he tangled with Arthur.

WEDNESDAY: LOVE IN RECOVERY

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

© Karla Gowlett / Lucky Giant

Wednesday evening sees the return of Love in Recovery to Radio 4 for it’s fourth episode. If you haven’t checked in yet, the series – written by Pete Jackson – follows the lives of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting group, made up of characters portrayed by Sue Johnston, John Hannah, Eddie Marsan, Rebecca Front and Paul Kaye, whilst Julia Deakin plays village hall cleaner Marion.

In this fourth episode, Andy has a date for the first time in….well….longer than he’d like to admit. It’s up to the rest of the group to rally round and get him match fit. It’s another charming episode of a show based upon the real life experiences of Pete Jackson, and with one of the greatest casts ever assembled for a radio comedy, it’s a must listen. If you missed them, you can catch all previous episodes on iPlayer now.

THURSDAY: CRIMS

©  Robert Viglasky / BBC

© Robert Viglasky / BBC

Thursday evening brings us Episode Four of Crims - the new BBC Three sitcom from the pens of Mongrels writer Adam Kay and Grandma’s House writer Dan Swimer – at 10pm. Starring Elis James and Kadiff Kirwan, alongside Cariad Lloyd, Ricky Champ and Theo Barklem Biggs, the show has been attracting rave reviews and is a firm favourite in the iPlayer charts, which is good news – as it continues to build on its starting blocks for the rest of its run.

In this week’s episode, a prisoner manages to escape the Young Offenders Institution, and Prison Governor Riley – played by guest star Tracy Ann Oberman of Toast of London, Big Train and Doctor Who fame – goes on the warpath to discover how he did it.  With Creg in the firing line, Marcel forces Luke to work out how he did it.

It’s another suitably bonkers episode, with the cast on great form and some one-liners to die for. If you’ve missed previous episodes, you can catch up on iPlayer now.

THURSDAY: COLIN HOULT’S CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS

© Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

At 11pm on Thursday 29th, it’s time to visit the Carnival of Monsters once more, as Colin Hoult and the gang bring the show back to Radio 4 for the fourth and final time this series.

With regular collaborators Stephen Evans, Dan Snelgrove and Zoe Gardner in tow, Colin brings some of his most memorable characters from his successful stage shows to life once more, such as wannabe Hollywood screenwriter Andy Parker, outrageous forgotten movie star Anna Mann, acid jazz obsessive Eddie Cartezian and troubled god Thwor.

If this isn’t enough Colin for you, don’t forget his regular updates to his YouTube channel, with new videos appearance every weekday until, he collapses from comedic exhaustion (never gonna happen). You can enjoy them all below.

WHEN I’M FIVE

It’s hard to believe it, but The Velvet Onion marks an important landmark of its own this week. We officially launched on January 30th 2010, making us five years old on Friday!

In that time, we’ve had numerous contributors and written thousands of articles on New Wave Comedy, as well as offering countless exclusives, dozens of competitions and a direct connection to many of the biggest and best names on the alternative comedy scene.

And we’ve got so much more to do. Thank you for the last five years, here’s to five more, and watch out on Friday when we’ll be bringing you a little treat to celebrate. As always – stay peeled.

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, plus that Friday treat!

Where Poetry and Comedy Combine – With Kevin Eldon

26 Jan

© BBC

Kevin Eldon has presented a special show on BBC Radio 4 which highlights the close links and crossovers between poetry and the world of comedy.

In Poetry Puhlease, first broadcast on Saturday 24th January, Eldon takes us on a three hour walk along the fine line between the two. With the occasional input of his poet alter-ego, Paul Hamilton, he presents a rich collection of radio comedy that celebrates the risible and funny side of poetry, including Tim Key’s Late Night Poetry Programme; The Simon Day Show; Sir Ralph Stanza’s Letter From Salford and the classic episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, The Poetry Society.

There’s also a look back at the life of the cult poet Hovis Presley, some scholarly input from Cariad Lloyd, and a brand new interview between Eldon and the brilliant John Cooper Clarke, who recently rocked it on an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Fancy a bit of culture and a few giggles? The programme is available to listen to on iPlayer for a further 28 days. For a selection of clips from the show head on over here.

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