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So Hot Right Now #10

15 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.

TVO ON TELLY

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

This week sees a drop in the number of TVO related shows on our screens, as both Toast of London finished its latest runs last week.  However, with Psychobitches (Sky Arts, Tuesdays, 9pm) and Trollied (Sky One, Mondays, 8:30pm) still going strong, there’s life in the Onion yet.

Most excitingly, we’ve still got the mighty Brian Pern: A Life in Rock to savour – with Episode Two (airing on Tuesday 16th) featuring the titular prog-rock legend (played by Simon Day) trying to bring his long-mooted adaptation of The Day of the Triffids to life on stage.

© BBC / Neil Barnes

© BBC / Neil Barnes

Once again featuring co-creator Rhys Thomas alongside Michael Kitchen, Paul Whitehouse, Nigel Havers, Lucy MontgomeryTony Way and Steve Burge, this episode also features a truly hilarious cameo from Sir Roger Moore, and is one you’d be mad to miss.

Last week, TVO spoke not only to Brian Pern via an exclusive email catch-up, but also to Simon Day and Rhys Thomas. You can catch up on our interview with those fine gentlemen over yonder.

Those of you who set your DVRs way in advance should take note – Episode Three next week airs on Monday, right after Never Mind the Buzzcocks, rather than the usual Tuesday slot. You have been forewarned.

Speaking of Buzzcocks, this week’s edition features Irish actress Yasmine Akram, American musician and producer Steve Aoki, Canadian stand-up comedian Bobby Mair and singer-songwriter Rumer – and for those uncertain of who any of those people are: this is the one with the lads covered in cake, as seen on all those pictures doing the rounds with the Tumblr crowds. Enjoy.

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

© Talkback / Brian Ritchie

CATCH UP WITH COL

Last week saw the launch of Colin Hoult‘s new YouTube channel, featuring a brand new in-character vlog five days a week.  Anna Mann, Andy Parker, Eddie Cartezian and Thwor bring us weekly updates Monday through Thursday, with a special treat each Friday.

If you missed any of last week’s editions, you can catch up now over yonder, and we’ve included this week’s first video, in which Anna Mann discusses credit card debt, below.

PADDINGTON STILL TOPS

Paul King‘s delightful Paddington is still sat atop the UK box office, having taken £10.33m in just ten days. Figures for last weekend have yet to be revealed, but we’re sure the film, which features a bevvy of TVO cameos alongside its big name cast, will still be firing on all cylinders – and rightly so!

©  Studio Canal

© Studio Canal

Elsewhere, Chris O’Dowd can be seen in St Vincent and Michael Smiley pops up in Black Sea - both of which opened fairly modestly last week, so do get out to see them if you haven’t already!

TWEETS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

Living in Rock: Simon Day & Rhys Thomas on life with Brian Pern

9 Dec
© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

This week sees the launch of Brian Pern: A Life in Rock on BBC Two.

The mockumentary focuses on prog-rock singer Brian Pern, as he attempts to adapt to life after fronting one of rock’s biggest bands.

Featuring a host of big name guest stars, the show is an absolute treasure, and TVO was lucky enough to talk to its creators, writers and stars, Simon Day and Rhys Thomas about the life of Brian.

Brian Pern is many things. Former frontman for prog-rock legends Thotch. Jukebox musical writer. World music inventor. Campaigner for WiFi-afflicted moths. He’s also the brainchild of Fast Show and Bellamy’s People veterans Rhys Thomas and Simon Day, who first brought the character to life in a series of YouTube videos for BBC Comedy, before Pern was unleashed on a wider audience via his debut tv series earlier this year.

That show, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, was a critically acclaimed smash, jam-packed with celebrity guest stars as it used the medium of the music documentary (for which Thomas has previously won awards including an Emmy and a Rose D’or), to poke fun at the ridiculous nature of classic rock.

Now Pern is back with a brand new series, Brian Pern: A Life in Rock, which takes the character out of the clip show, and into a living, breathing world of his own. As Rhys explains, this was an easy decision to make.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

“To do another series like the first,” he tell us, “would be difficult. Harry Hill had twenty people all watching television at the same time to keep up for TV Burp, but for the first series it was basically me and Simon, hunting through the archives looking for all those funny clips. It would take us about a year to do it again, so we got rid of all that. The money we would have spent clearing archive footage we’ve now put into…”

“Rick Wakeman,” interjects Simon.

Wakeman is one of many guest stars in the new run, which expands Brian’s world by focusing on his day to day life, and the challenges he faces trying to get projects off the ground.  In Episode One, Pern and his former Thotch bandmates plan to launch their own jukebox musical, Stowe Boys, with Martin Freeman and Jack Whitehall in its cast and Kathy Burke on directing duties.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Elsewhere, the second episode sees Brian attempt to play a charity gig, for the aforementioned moths, at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, whilst the third and final episode focuses on Brian’s attempts to record a charity Christmas album with a string of fellow rock stars including Roy Wood, Chrissie Hynde, Rick Parfitt and Melanie C. Oh, and his live-in assistant and world music protégé Pepita, played once more by Lucy Montgomery.

“To take him forward,” Simon explains. “We knew we had to have him living his life, meeting up with his manager, Pepita living in his house, and how he relates to the outside world.  Then we throw crisis at him in each episode.”

“His whole raison d’etre,” he continues, “is to stay very calm, so that nothing can go wrong. But he’s put under this intense pressure, and hopefully that’s where the joke is.”

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

The expanded world – which also features Tony Way as Brian’s driver Ned, Michael Kitchen as his Jim Beach inspired, yacht loving manager John Farrow, Paul Whitehouse and Nigel Havers as his former bandmates – takes a character that could have seemed like a one-trick idea, and beds him into a believable world, much like the transformation of Alan Partridge over the years.  Yet Rhys is determined to spell out the differences between the two characters.

“He’s not like an Alan Partridge,” he states, firmly. “None of it is ever played for laughs. What you’re laughing at is that he’s a foil to his own ideas. When he’s trying to put on a concert to save moths in Africa, if it was a concert for ebola, it wouldn’t be funny. It’s the idea that it’s wifi affected moth’s wings that’s the joke. A silly idea dealt with seriously, and played naturalistically.”

© BBC / Neil Barnes

© BBC / Neil Barnes

“It’s like the similarity with Peter Gabriel,” adds Simon. “Brian’s based on Peter Gabriel, but Peter’s actually a much nicer person with a really good heart. I just took him a baseline, and run with it, really. Brian’s just a pompous child at heart.”

Indeed, the new run harks back to the duo’s previous collaboration, Bellamy’s People, and it’s radio forbear Down the Line, which focus on heightened realism to base increasingly silly comedic ideas upon.  The later ran for five series on Radio 4, but the former was shunned by the Beeb after only one series, a decision which still baffles comedy lovers nationwide.

“It should have carried on, really,” notes Simon. “It’s a shame various events conspired to stop it. But it did use up a lot of characters, which I suppose we could go back to. We still have fond memories of it, but it’s a shame it never really took off.”

Rhys is less philosophical about the experience. “The problem with it,” he suggests, “is that it’s part of that time where comedy series started dropping off with audiences for the first time. Episode One got 1.58 million viewers, but then it tailed off each week. That’s what everything does now, but we were one of the first ones to do it. Something like Toast of London gets something like 450,000 viewers on Channel 4, which is so small for something that great. Ten years ago that would have got five million.” He pauses for a moment, then adds the prophetic: “Christ, people just don’t watch telly like they used to.”

It’s certainly true. When Simon and Rhys first started working together, it was on the hugely acclaimed, ratings grabbing sketch show The Fast Show, which shockingly began airing over twenty years ago now, and still returns sporadically, most recently in the form of online videos for Fosters Comedy converted into full episodes for BBC Two. It’s lasting legacy, apart from establishing a huge network of comedy talent, is that it remains as beloved today as it once was.  Simon Day puts this down to canny decisions.

Simon & Rhys in Fast Show spin-off Swiss Toni. © BBC

Simon & Rhys in Fast Show spin-off Swiss Toni. © BBC

“They never sold it to a channel like Dave,” he explains, “where it could get repeated on a loop. It never really has been repeated. They want to but Paul [Whitehouse]’s holding back. People have dvds and videos of it, but that’s it, so it’s held up in people’s memory without them getting sick of it.”

“And also,” he adds, “lots of people watched it. Back in the days of four channels, no internet, no Twitter, it really took off. We didn’t do too many – three series and a couple of Christmas specials – so its preserved itself quite well.”

“The third series was the best…” chips in Rhys. “You’re only saying that,” Simon retorts, “cos you were in it!”

Two decades on, and both Simon and Rhys are still working with the same people.  Fellow Fast Show veteran Paul Whitehouse stars in A Life in Rock as Thotch guitarist Pat Quid, whilst Rhys is married to co-star Lucy Montgomery, and went to school with Tony Way (Ned) and composer Steve Burge. Many of those involved, as with a number of their projects, have genuinely known each other for decades, making the show something of a family affair.

Steve Burge & Tony Way © Burge & Way / United Agent

Steve Burge & Tony Way © Burge & Way / United Agent

“Oh, we really do feel like a family,” enthuses Rhys. “I like the idea we all work together better anyway, cos we’re all friends and it ends up being more fun.  You can do what you want and don’t mind making a fool out of yourself.”

“When I did Star Stories,” he reveals, “I didn’t know anybody. And you turn up, and it’s all a bit competitive. Everyone’s trying to get one up on each other. I like everyone there, and I ended up making friends with them all, but these days I’d rather not do that again, and just work with people I know.”

If this sounds like comedic nepotism, it should be pointed out that these choices are also made because said actors are brilliant at what they do. And besides, TVO itself is based on a continuing trend of recycling the same talent in new ways, as part of one big comedic family.

Tittybangbang © BBC

Tittybangbang © BBC

“There’s this thing with television,” Rhys explains, in reference to this, “where someone will get famous, and then they’re endlessly in everything.  We’re sort of not using the same faces as everyone else.  Commissioners decide they want a funny actress, say, so they just ask the same people over and over. I like using people like Lucy and Tony. Even though Tony’s been in Edge of Tomorrow, in terms of comedy television, people will still think: ‘Oh, let’s get James Corden instead.’”

Indeed, knowing each other for such a long time has further benefits, in that there’s an innate sense of reliability that allows everyone to do the best job possible. Steve Burge, who was part of comedy trio Stay Alive Pepi with Thomas and Way, was put in charge of most of Brian Pern’s musical back catalogue.

“I would say to Steven: I need a song like this,” reveals Rhys, “or a piece a bit like that. He would then go off and write something brilliant, and I knew he’d deliver it in time for us to write the lyrics.  Then there’s songs like Simon’s written, like Black Christmas.”

“Which I sold,” chips in Simon. “I sold it to Westlife.”

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

Rhys laughs, straightens himself up and states: “You know, Simon and Steve remind me of each other, cos they don’t think like anybody else. They won’t come up with what you predict, but they’ll find something funny. Tony too… he came up with the version of Little Donkey we gave to Chrissie Hynde to sing. They’re so good. But they never put me in their fucking things!”

“Who?” asks Simon, perplexed.

“Tony or Steve,” Rhys answers, as Simon erupts with laughter.

Not that Rhys is short on work. Since he persuaded Brian May to write the theme music for his sitcom Fun at the Funeral Parlour, he has been working on dvds, blu-rays and award winning documentaries for Queen. His last piece, The Great Pretender won an International Emmy and a Rose D’or, no less, even though it very nearly didn’t get made.

© Queenonline

“I wasn’t going to direct that,” Rhys reveals. “Just produce it. But the director I had said it wasn’t going to be any good, cos it’s boring and about an opera singer. So I did it myself, and I’m glad I did!”

Part of the joy of Brian Pern is that the show uses Rhys’ background in documentary filmmaking to look authentic. “I’ve got the same editor I worked with on the Queen documentaries, and the same cameraman,” he tells us. “So it has the right look. When people try to make spoof documentaries with cameramen who haven’t come from that field, they make it look shoddy on purpose. Real documentary makers try to make it look as good as they can.”

“We thought about doing something after this about crime,” adds Simon. “Sending up gangsters and the whole middle class obsession with it. But getting real people to talk about it.”

Rhys agrees. “I think it’s better than having people pretending to be real people,” he suggests. “You look at Spinal Tap, and it’s brilliant, but it’s just taking the piss out of idiot heavy metal bands. It’s not taking the piss out of the documentary form itself, and we could have a lot of fun doing that.”

Perhaps this is what the future holds for Brian Pern?

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

 “If there’s a desire for it, he’ll be back,” states Simon. “If the channel want to do it, cos people like it, we’re never going to say: ‘No, we’re killing that off.’ Though, I don’t think it’s something you could do for a hell of a long time.”

Could we even see Brian take to the road? A live tour of his classic hits, perhaps? Simon is most definitely keen. “YES!” he enthuses, when the suggestion is put to him. Rhys is a little more pragmatic: “As long as it does well,” he opines, “it’d be a nice thing to do.”

Brian Pern: On Tour. Here’s hoping.

Brian Pern: A Life in Rock airs from tonight at 10pm, Tuesday 9th December on BBC2. Thank you to Simon Day and Rhys Thomas for talking to us, and to Abigail Johnson at BBC Comedy for arranging our discussion.

Onion Talking: Brian Pern

8 Dec

This week, prog-legend Brian Pern returns to television in A Life in Rock, directed once more by TVO regular Rhys Thomas.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

The show, a follow up to Pern & Thomas previous documentary saga, The Life of Rock, follows the former Thotch frontman as he undergoes three new challenges in his life: the opening of the Thotch musical starring Sherlock megastar Martin Freeman, the staging of his epic musical saga The Day of the Triffids and the recording of his new Christmas album.

We were lucky enough to be put into contact with Brian through the good folk at the BBC, and he agreed to answer some questions via email.  This is how it went down.

TVO: Hi Brian, thanks for talking to us. Are you well?

BRIAN PERN: You will have to forgave me as I have in fact broken my rists in an acksident that I cannot disguss dew to leegal reezons so Ned, my driver is typing this for me. he is a little slow at typing as he is a simple minded kind folk and his spelling is shiv.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: You’ve been appearing on stages around the world for over 40 years. Does the heydey of Thotch still feel like yesterday?

BP: No it doesn’t feel like yesterday, I am much older, fatter and balder now and at times I get very depressed.

TVO: Of course, your first documentary series with Rhys Thomas, The Life of Rock, brought your music to a whole new audience, culminating in the limited rerelease of Spirit Level: The Best Of. Have you seen a change in the fans approaching you in the street?

BP: No. No one reconizeses me in the street anymore I don;t look the same as i did and i don’t reeely want to go around with face paints on an out lanbddish owtfits

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: Recently, Thotch have turned to making a jukebox musical about their life story. How’s that coming along?

BP: You will have to watch the program but it’s not happening. there is talk of a film with the man who did Interstellars. but i thought it was long and i don;t want my life in space. i like babadooks director, maybe they will do a god job, can you pass me the straw for my drink ned a thicker one the lumps of banana keep clogging it from the smootheee – don’t tupe that but – what are you doing oh you idiot. i might get siri to do it.

TVO: You bagged Martin Freeman to play you. He’s a big, big star now. What’s it been like working with him?

BP: Not easy as actors can by tricksy. i was a big fan of nativity 3 which he wasn’t in. apparently 1 is good. kermode said so.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: Rhys knows Martin from his comedy days, of course. Did they enjoy reminiscing about those days?

BP: Dey talked for about 3 hours about the time dey were both on Does Doug Know with Daisy Donovan and how the format has been sold to the USA for 29 million $.

TVO: You’re also no stranger to pushing into new territories. You’ve quite a few firsts under your belt, isn’t that right?

BP: what is under my belt is none of your beeswax. ned don’t write beeswax i wouldn’t say that just say business.

TVO: You’re also a keen supporter of charity work. What draws you to plights few seem to have noticed?

BP: I do it because I have a lot of money and I think it’s not fair to keep it all. redistributiin of welth. ned get the phone. i can;t pick ir up/.

TVO: Has Rhys got involved with the charity work too?

BP: No, he’s not rich enough. he works for bbc and is still on the make, he can’t afford. to give money away.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: There’s a few other new projects on the horizon, too. I hear you’re releasing a Christmas album?

BP: yes. It’s out already.

TVO: It’s not the first foray into Xmas music for you, Brian, is it?

BP: no i did 2 of then and episode 3 is all abowt that. its on 22nds of december after never mind the buzzards with Peter Jupitis.

TVO: You’re also working on your long mooted Day of the Triffids album, is that right?

BP: i recorded it in 1977nand now its coming out yes you can see it all on bbc in episode 2. how many more of these i need to have a bath

© BBC

© BBC

TVO: There were bootlegs doing the rounds a few years ago of the Triffids demos. How do you feel about illegal downloading of your work?

BP: i don’t care really. I have made enough money i think if fans want to listen great – is my fawlt for not finishing it

TVO: Presumably your manager has something to say about it.

BP: yes and it would envolve a swear word.

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

© BBC / Rory Lindsay

TVO: You’re also keen on encouraging new talent in what they call world music. Why is that?

BP: i like the sound of voices from other cuntrees its better than todays bvabds in uk like kasabian,

TVO: Finally, I have to ask: do either of you think a full blown Thotch reunion is ever likely to happen?

BP: I never say never say never so never say never, ever – no.

Brian Pern: A Life in Rock starts on Tuesday 9th December at 10pm on BBC Two. Our thanks to Rhys Thomas for setting up this interview – we’ll be speaking to him and collaborator Simon Day later this week, so stay peeled.

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

Wee Paper People

1 Jun

Regular readers of TVO might remember Paper People – cut out and keep paper models of your favourite TVO folk. We’ve just revisited the site and there are many, many more characters for you to cut out and keep. How many do you recognise from the pictures below?

If you can’t wait to get your hands on your own Wee Paper People, all you have to do is click on the website, download your favourites then print and assemble. Assembly instructions are on the site.

If you want something more personal, the creator of all these fantastic models, Sally Grosart, can make personalised little people of your friends and family, or personalised cards or banners. To contact Sally and see the rest of her creations click here.

Fifty 2

20 May

This coming weekend sees the culmination of BBC 2’s anniversary celebrations from a TVO perspective, as the fifty year old channel revives some of it’s biggest comedy smashes for a series of one-off specials.

© Balloon (50 Year Special) Limited / Mark Johnson

© Balloon (50 Year Special) Limited / Mark Johnson

Top of the hitlist is Harry & Paul’s Story of the 2sa one-off special from comedy legends Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, poking fun at everything BBC2 is famous for.  Revisiting and parodying around fifty different shows from the channel’s illustrious history, there are over 150 different presenters, actors, comedians and politicians being lampooned in just under an hour.

It all looks like fantastic fun, and Onion fans will be pleased to note Enfield & Whitehouse have recruited Justin EdwardsKevin EldonRhys ThomasLucy Montgomery, Simon Greenall (Alan Partridge, Alice’s Wunderland), Catherine Shepherd (The IT Crowd, The Peter Serafinowicz Show), Rowland Rivron (French and Saunders) and music superstars Jeff Beck, Damon Albarn and The Klaxons for good measure.

You can catch the show on Sunday evening at 9pm, and it will be available on iPlayer after transmission. A selection of stills – including one of Justin Edwards as a later-in-life, portly Orson Wells, can be seen below.

Story of the 2s is not the only show airing either – with a two-part compilation of The Fast Show sketches made for Fosters Comedy airing on Friday and Monday.  Made in 2011, these reunited Paul Whitehouse with co-stars Charlie Higson, Arabella Weir, Simon Day, John Thomson, Caroline Aherne and Rhys Thomas, as well as bringing Lucy Montgomery along for the ride as well.

© Tyson Benton

© Tyson Benton

The first batch of six mini episodes aired in late 2011, with six more following in Spring 2012. TVO even ran a competition to win a signed script, though by now all of the videos have been removed from YouTube, so these broadcasts will be the first chance to catch the episodes in some time.

Part one airs on Friday at 10pm, with Part Two on Monday following a one-off special of seminal comedy classic Goodness Gracious Me - starring the original lead cast of the 90s hit: Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Nina Wadia, Kulvinda Ghir and Dave Lamb.

© BBC / Gary Moyes

© BBC / Gary Moyes

For those unaware of the show, it ran for thee series and a special between 1998 and 2001 following two series on BBC Radio Four, and explored the conflict and integration between traditional Indian culture and modern British life to great acclaim… the dvds are still regularly watched here at TVO HQ, so if you’ve never seen it we can’t recommend it highly enough even without any links to ‘our lot’!

And that’s not all – with Saturday night featuring a two-hour celebration, 50 Years Of BBC Two Comedy, airing from 9pm.  Looking back at the channel’s greatest moments from The Likely Lads to W1A, the talking heads clip show will no doubt feature a TVO face or two, amongst countless other comedic legends.

© BBC

© BBC

Contributors include Ricky Gervais, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Alan Alda, Vic and Bob, Rebecca Front, Alexei Sayle, Mitchell and Webb, The Goodies, Catherine Tate, Bill Bailey, Ian Hislop, Sarah Millican, Dara O Briain, James Corden, Rob Brydon, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Armando Iannucci, Prunella Scales, Charlie Brooker, Paul Whitehouse, The League of Gentlemen and many more… so you’d be mad to miss it.

From all at TVO then, Happy Birthday BBC Two, and thanks for all the funnies…

 

Brian Pern’s On The (Spirit) Level

25 Feb
© EmuBands

© EmuBands

Last night saw the finale of The Life Of Rock air on BBC Four, and to celebrate, seminal rock legend turned documentary host Brian Pern has reissued his greatest hits on iTunes.

The show was the brainchild of Rhys Thomas, who worked alongside Pern (whose physical resemblance to Simon Day cannot go unnoticed), to craft the three part documentary, each of which can be seen again now via iPlayer.

Featured a variety of rock legends and musical know-it-alls detailing the birth, life and death of the art-form across the series, the show also offered Brian’s fans a chance to see behind the scenes into his organisation, and revisit some long-forgotten television appearances and rare live material.

Here is Brian, for example, performing his classic solo smash, Spirit Level on Top Of The Pops back in 1986, which was part of a series of classic clips uploaded to YouTube via the BBC earlier this month.

Of course, we’re only playing along. Pern is, of course, Simon Day, and the show also featured TVO regulars Lucy MontgomeryTony Way, Michael Smiley and Steve Burge, who composed the music for the series alongside Rhys Thomas.

The series also featured big name guest stars like Paul Whitehouse, Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Nigel Havers, Michael Kitchen, Al Murray, Danny John Jules, Roger Taylor, Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman and Peter Gabriel, whilst Episode Three had an additional connection to TVO as former Mighty Boosh star and professional ape impersonator Peter Elliot appeared as a gorilla with surprising musical agility.

Due to popular demand, highlights from the show’s soundtrack have been released digitally on iTunes, with the eleven track album featuring Thotch ‘classics’ like Worm Equinox and Brian’s protest song Succulent Chinese Meal

© BBC

© BBC

Naturally, the album features Simon Day’s vocals and Steve Burge’s instrumentation, as well as guest vocals from Lucy Montgomery and Tony Way – the latter of whom gets to unleash a extra dirty verse on the title track under the guise of Captain Cupnutz.  Savour it.

You can download the album now for £7.99 over yonder.

Sadly, due to the expensive nature of rights negotiation in making the show, Rhys confirmed today that there will be no dvd or blu-ray release, so keep an eye out for repeats, and savour the music instead!

The Life Of Rock Starts Tonight!

10 Feb

The Life Of Rock - the new mockumentary from Rhys Thomas and Simon Day – starts tonight on BBC Four.

© BBC

© BBC

We first told you about the show a while back now, and have been itching to see the results ever since.  It features Simon Day as spoof 70s rock god Brian Pern, and pays homage to an era ripe for parody, and several noteworthy stars of the era have lined up to put their tongues firmly in their cheeks.

Queen’s Roger Taylor, prog legend Rick Wakeman and perhaps the biggest influence on Pern – Peter Gabriel – join a series of comedy legends in the show.

These include TVO regulars Michael SmileyTony WayLucy Montgomery and Steve Burge, as well as Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer, Paul Whitehouse, Danny John Jules and Matt Lucas.  Don’t worry – we’re salivating at that line-up too.

The show airs at 10pm on BBC Four this evening, having moved from its previously announced Wednesday slot, and will be available on iPlayer after transmission.  Rhys also appeared on both BBC Breakfast and Radcliffe & Maconie this morning to discuss the show, and you can catch his interview with the latter over yonder soon.  The trailer for the show can be seen below.

BBC4 Announces New Comedy

4 Feb

BBC4, the channel perhaps better known for meaningful documentaries about seminal albums is ramping up its comedy offering, and there are a few TVO faces in the line-up!

© Cambridge News

First up is The Walshes, a three-part series co-written by Graham Linehan and the five piece Irish comedy troupe Diet of Worms (who also play lead roles).  The Walshes are a tight-knit family from near Dublin, who are all still live at home because the state of the Irish economy has forced them all back together.

Next up is rock doc parody The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern by Rhys Thomas and fellow Fast Show comic, Simon Day. Brian Pern (Day) is an ageing rock star and former front man of prog rock group, Thotch. The premise is that the BBC have asked him to front a major new documentary where he presents his guide to The Life Of Rock, from prehistoric man to the present day, in a spoof three-part chronology of some of the biggest moments in rock history.

The series includes cameos from the world of comedy and music, including Paul Whitehouse, Matt Lucas, Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer (as Mulligan and O’Hare), Rick Wakeman (Old Gregg reference anyone?), Jools Holland and Roger Taylor.

And finally,there’s In And Out Of The Kitchen, a three-parter based on the BBC Radio 4 comedy created, written by and starring Miles Jupp about cookery writer Damien Trench (Jupp). His partner, Anthony, is played by Justin Edwards. It promises to show us everything that happens to him both in and out of the kitchen, ‘no matter how grizzly, or indeed, how gristly’. If the radio series is anything to go by, expect this to be a good un.

Shane Allen, BBC Controller of Comedy Commissioning, has said of the new commissions that they are, “A testament to BBC Four’s unique legacy in bringing the audience big name comedy talents in surprising and inventive shows that follow in the footsteps of award-winning predecessors like Getting On, The Thick Of It, Twenty Twelve and Screenwipe.”

As soon as we get any information about the transmission dates of the above-mentioned shows, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Trailer Time For Brian Pern & Inside No. 9

30 Jan

The BBC have released trailers for two of their forthcoming comedy shows with strong TVO connections.

The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern – written, directed and produced by Rhys Thomas - airs from Monday 10th February at 10pm on BBC Four, and features Simon Day as the titular rock god turned documentary host.

He’ll be joined by a whole host of famous faces including Lucy MontgomeryTony WayMichael SmileySteve Burge, Matt Lucas, Paul Whitehouse, Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer (seemingly reviving Mulligan And O’Hare!), Nigel Havers, Danny John-Jules, Michael Kitchen, David Baddiel, Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman, David Arnold, Peter Gabriel and Queen’s Roger Taylor. Phew!

You can see the trailer below.

One week earlier, Inside No. 9 - the typically macabre anthology series from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton  - begins on BBC Two, also at 10pm, from Wednesday 5th February.

Featuring guest appearances from Katherine Parkinson and Julia Davis amongst others, the show has already wowed critics (including us!), and will be returning for a second series, as confirmed to British Comedy Guide earlier this week.

Those charming gents Reece and Steve introduce the show below, along with a chance to see the previously released trailer from earlier this week.

The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern

28 Jan

TVO can confirm that Rhys Thomas’ brand new mockumentary series, The Life Of Rock With Brian Pernbegins on BBC Four next month.

© BBC Comedy

Originally announced as Rock Ratatouille back in September, the show is the brainchild of of Rhys – who directs, produces and writes the show based around the titular Brian Pern, played by fellow Fast Show veteran Simon Day.

Former front man of prog-rock band Thotch, Pern spends more time trying to save the planet and teach gorillas how to Skype than he does making music.  Now, he fronts a major new documentary series for the BBC – a three-part chronology of rock history from prehistoric man to twenty-first century Britain.

He’ll be joined by Thotch bandmates Pat Quid (Paul Whitehouse) and Tony Pebble (Nigel Havers), alongside Matt Lucas as legendary producer Ray Thomas (a loving homage of Roy Thomas Baker, we imagine!) and Michael Kitchen as manager John Farrow.

They’re not alone, either. Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer, David Baddiel, Jools Holland, Rick Wakeman, David Arnold and Queen’s Roger Taylor also appear as talking heads, taking rock lovers on a re-imagined history of the genre.

EDITOR’S UPDATE: We’ve since discovered that Tony WayLucy Montgomery, Steve Burge and Michael Smiley will all be involved too, alongside Red Dwarf legend Danny John Jules and prog-rock god Peter Gabriel!

The Life Of Rock With Brian Pern airs on BBC Four from Wednesday 12th February at 10pm – directly opposite Inside No. 9 over on BBC Two.  We’ll aim to bring you iPlayer links of both shows shortly after transmission, so stay peeled.

Whilst we wait, you can see a clip of Day in character as Pern alongside Lucy Montgomery and Tony Way from a 2010 BBC Comedy Online sketch below.

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.

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TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Two

2 Jan

Yesterday we brought you a round-up of the first quarter of 2013, as we’d probably forgotten half of it ourselves, let alone you lovely lot out there.  The second quarter provided loads more great things to celebrate, so we’ve been ploughing through TVO’s archives to pluck out the best bits from over 700 news stories across 2013. This second instalment of our round-up covers April-June, and is jam packed with forgotten treasures and instant classics alike.  Enjoy.

APRIL

April, or Ape-ril as it was renamed by the Sumatran Orangutan Society, began with a plea from TVO regulars Dave Brown and Tony Law to grow your beard as large as possible.  This was, of course, in aid of ape conservation: we are all 96.4% Orangutan after all…

The facial hair theme continued apace, with some of Onion Land’s most mighty beard-wearers being active this month.  First up, Paul Kaye hosted a short exhibition of his art, with TVO attended the star-studded press night to admire his work and have a quick chat to the man himself, though sadly his hectic schedule postponed our latest catch-up… we’re gonna get ya in the new year, mate! Kaye also became the latest big name to join the cast of hugely acclaimed fantasy show Game Of Thrones, as warrior Thoros of Myr.

He wasn’t the only one, either. Whilst the world got increasingly excited about his (then) forthcoming film A Field In EnglandBen Wheatley did the last thing critics expected, and made a string of commercials for Go Compare, further proving he works on his own terms ahead of one of the oddest films of 2013…

Another beardy Onion layer up to good things this month was Matt Berry, who was quietly preparing to unleash his new album, Kill The Wolf. May and June would see an awful lot of Berry activity, but April was no push-over, either.  First off, his radio series I, Regress… returned to the airwaves, and he went on to release the first snippet of his new album with a track called The Devil Inside Me

He wasn’t the only one returning, either. Rhys Thomas brought back his incredibly popular Radio 4 show Down The Line for a fifth run – the sixth if you include short-lived tv spin-off Bellamy’s People. Once again it featured Thomas’ fellow Fast Show veterans Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Simon Day and the late, great Felix Dexter. Also along for the ride were Look Around You star Robert Popper, Big Train(and It’s Kevin) actress Amelia Bullmore, Citizen Khanwriter Adil Ray, and another TVO regular (and Rhys’ wife), Lucy Montgomery.

Also back this month were Boosh veterans and indie-folk legends The Ralfe Band, who released the single Come On Go Wild from their new album, Son Be Wise, and toured as support to Manchester’s finest ever band, I Am Kloot.  A video for the single followed on 1st May, which can be seen below.

This month also saw us bid farewell to Life’s Too Short, which returned for a one-off special at Easter. Sadly lacking in Matt Holness magic (Matt was a regular in the show’s first and only series), it nevertheless found the time to bring back Colin Hoult as Warwick Davis‘ useless psychic, Brian. Also along for the ride were telly veterans, Les Dennis, Keith Chegwin and Shaun Williamson, as well as former Batman star Val Kilmer. A fine send-off, then, for a show that ended way too soon.

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Hayden’s Highlights

2 Dec
Image

© Channel 4

Hayden Black has written a sketch for Rich Fulcher‘s 2013: Mashed show, due to be shown on Channel 4 later this month. You can probably remember 2012: Mashed from last year, also hosted by Rich, featuring material from internet legends like Dan Bull, Rob Manuel, Cassetteboy, and David Schneider. Hayden has written an animated sketch about Justin Bieber, inspired by some of the headlines he’s made this year.

Hayden has been busy as he has also contributed to an anthology of stories about Doctor Who: Behind the Sofa – Celebrity Memories of Doctor Who, which was first published last year. It was compiled by author Steve Berry in memory of his mother, Janet, and is beautifully illustrated by Ben Morris.

A new extended version of the book has been published to celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary, and again all profits from the book go to Alzheimer’s Research UK. This version has all the previous stories, including those from Charlie Brooker and Rhys Thomas, plus contributions from Sophia Myles, Ben Aaronovitch, John Leeson and many others.

Behind the Sofa.. is also one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2013 and is, of course, available from The Velvet Onion Store.

Emmys For Chris & Rhys

26 Nov

We mentioned a few weeks ago that both Chris O’Dowd and Rhys Thomas were nominated for International Emmy Awards, and we are pleased to announce that the 41st International Emmy Awards took place yesterday at the New York Hilton and there were some TVO faces there to accept awards!

Rhys Thomas’s Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender tied with Hello?! Orchestra to win the Best Arts Programming award. His documentary focusing on Queen’s Freddy Mercury and the solo projects he worked on outside of Queen, has already won a Rose d’Or award this year.

Moone Boy co-written by and starring Chris O’Dowd won the Best Comedy award, fighting off challengers from Brazil, France and South Africa. The second series of the comedy about 11-year old Martin Moone, growing up in a small town in Ireland is soon to appear on Sky 1.

Sean Bean also won Best Performance by an Actor for Accused. to see a full list of winners click here.

As always, if you have missed either of these gems, the Emmy Award winning Moone Boy and the Emmy Award winning The Great Pretender, are available now from The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

Rhys(ish) Thomas In Doctor Who… Sort Of!

24 Nov
© BBC

© BBC

You’d have to have been living under a rock in a space-quarry within driving distance of Cardiff not to know that this weekend was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who - with its anniversary special, The Day Of The Doctor, being broadcast simultaneously in 94 countries, making a new Guinness World Record into the bargain.

We at TVO are all huge fans of the show, and are eagerly awaiting Peter Capaldi’s debut proper next year, which will be directed by our very own Ben Wheatley.  Yet in the middle of all the celebrations last night, there was a brief cameo from another regular layer of Onion Land.

Former Doctor actor Peter Davison hooked up with fellow Doctors Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy for a star-studded half-hour comedy special which aired on the red-button after the anniversary special proper, entitled The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.

This real Who’s Who of Doctor Who saw a fictional version of the trio trying their hardest to sneak themselves into the main special, managing to break onto the set and be mistaken for extras.  Along the way, they were joined by the likes of Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Jenna Coleman and a whole cavalcade of past companions.

There were also appearances from a smattering of celebrity fans, though to say any more would spoil the fun, and you should watch the show immediately.

However, we have to say, there was a scene early on in which Davison was listening to the radio, and the DJ was discussing the 50th anniversary with rather familiar tones.  We, naturally, did a little digging, and confirmed that it was in fact, our very own Rhys Thomas!

You can see the special on iPlayer now, with a trailer below.

Doctor Who returns on Christmas Day, and the next series featuring episodes directed by Ben Wheatley, will air in Autumn 2014.

Onions At The Emmys!

9 Oct

TVO is pleased to hear that both Rhys Thomas and Chris O’Dowd have been nominated for International Emmy Awards!

Moone Boy: © 2 Entertain / Baby Cow Productions / Sky Comedy | The Great Pretender: © Mercury Songs Limited / Eagle Rock Entertainment

O’Dowd’s sitcom Moone Boy, soon set to return for a second series, has been nominated for the International Emmy for Comedy – an award previously won by The IT Crowd back in 2008.  It faces competition from South African show Late Night News with Loyiso Gola, French show Workingirls and Brazilian series How To Enjoy The End Of The World.  It recently won the IFTA for Best Entertainment.

Elsewhere, Thomas has been nominated for the second year running in the category of Arts Programming, for his Rose D’or winning documentary Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender.  That film was a follow up to his previously nominated documentary, Queen: Days Of Our Lives made in collaboration with Simon Luton.

Rhys’s competition this time around are Hello?! Orchestra [South Korea], Soundtrack [Belgium] and Multiple Views: La Máquina Loca (The Crazy Machine) from Mexico.

Winners will be announced at a star-studded Gala in New York, on November 25th, and gents… our fingers are crossed for ya!

If you’ve not seen either piece, the Emmy-nominated Moone Boy and the Emmy-nominated The Great Pretender (we love saying that!), are available now from The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.

Next Year… We Shall Mostly Be… Reuniting.

20 Sep

© BBC

2014 may be a few months away yet, but already, there is much to look forward to, as Charlie Higson has suggested the 20th anniversary of The Fast Show shall be marked by a reunion of some sort.

The smash-hit sketch show (which our US readers may know better under it’s Stateside title, Brilliant), originally ran from 1994 to 1997 on BBC Two, before going out on the road, then returning for a reunion mini-series in 2000, and a Farewell Tour in 2002.

The rapid-fire series originally starred Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Simon Day, John Thompson, Arabella Weir, Mark Williams and Caroline Aherne, with a number of recurring supporting actors on hand to back up the big guns.  The unsung heroes of The Fast Show were the likes of Eryl Maynard, Paul Shearer, Maria McErlane, Colin McFarlane and of course, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way, which is where TVO comes in.

It really was huge: it’s catchphrases entering the cultural lexicon (“Ooh, suit you sir!”, “I’m afraid I was very, very drunk.” and “Scorchio!” just three random samples), and its biggest characters becoming iconic.   Even Hollywood legend Johnny Depp got hooked and begged to appear in an episode.  And then, all of a sudden, it was gone… until that is, most of the team (sans Williams) reunited for a string of webisodes – also featuring Lucy Montgomery – via Fosters and YouTube in 2011 and 2012.

Now, according to Charlie Higson, who spoke to Radio Times, the team are hoping to reform.  He was quoted as saying: “We are talking to [the BBC] about doing something. I suspect it will probably just involve getting together and talking about the show and not doing new sketches.”

More excitingly, he added: “We’ll probably get together and do something for the fans – not for TV but for the stage, like a two week residency in a London theatre, where people would be prepared to pay to watch us for one last time.”

Hopefully, we’ll have more news on that in the new year… aren’t reunions brilliant?  You can see a classic sketch featuring Rhys Thomas, below…

Rock Ratatouille

11 Sep

Rhys Thomas is to reunite with his Fast Show co-star Simon Day for a new series on BBC4.

The spoof music documentary series, Rock Ratatouille, will feature Day as ‘award-winning art rocker Brian Pern’, and feature big name cameos and unseen footage.

The three part run is co-written by Thomas and Day, and will air later this year.  You can see a clip of Day in character as Pern alongside Lucy Montgomery and Tony Way from a 2010 BBC Comedy Online sketch below.

RIP Mel Smith: 3 December 1952 – 19 July 2013

21 Jul
© BBC

© BBC

The Velvet Onion would like to extend its sympathies to the family and friends of Mel Smith, who died this weekend aged 60.

First bursting onto television screens in anarchic, topical sketch show Not The Nine O’Clock News, alongside Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson and his later double-act partner Griff Rhys Jones, Smith was a considerable comic mastermind, a gifted performer, and hugely influential writer and director.

In 2003, he directed his final feature film – the cult comedy Blackball - starring Paul Kaye as a young, rebellious bowls player, alongside Johnny Vegas and Vince Vaughn.  This was not his only direct brush with the TVO family, as Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthew’s first tv sketches were written for Alas, Smith And Jones.  You can see one of them below.

Together with Griff Rhys Jones, Smith’s influence on comedy grew beyond his writing, performing and directing, when they founded Talkback Productions in 1981.  The company went on to produce some of the most seminal works of the last three decades, including The Day TodayBig TrainI’m Alan Partridge and Never Mind The Buzzcocks to name but a few.  When Smith & Jones sold the company, it was merged with Thames Television to become Talkback Thames in 2003 (until early last year), and the company went on to make The IT Crowd, Green Wing and Celebrity Juice amongst others.

IT Crowd creator Graham Linehan led tributes from our regulars on Twitter, stating: “Very sad to hear news of Mel Smith’s death has been confirmed. He and Griff gave Arthur and I our break. Was always so kind & generous to us.”  Matthews replied to this, adding: “Well said. Mel and Griff couldn’t have been kinder to us. And Mel was a brilliant, brilliant comic actor.”

The pair were joined by Rhys Thomas, who added: “Terrible news about Mel Smith. A funny man. Growing up Smith and Jones’ BBC One sketch show was one of my favourites.  He was an underrated director too. The Tall Guy sex scene is one of the funniest things ever.”.  Thomas’ former collaborator Steve Burge (later of Burge & Way and Tittybangbang), responded: “R.I.P. “Colin’s Sandwich” star, Mel Smith.”

Rufus Jones – who followed in Smith’s footsteps at Cambridge – also offered his thoughts on Mel: “RIP Mel Smith. Revered his jowly brilliance. An old boy at my school – he encouraged me to goon about onstage. He was terrific.”  Jones’ regular collaborator Katy Brand was also moved to comment: “Very sad to see the news about Mel Smith. He was a family friend as well as a brilliant comedian/writer/director/actor/bon viveur.”

Yet more names paid tribute, with US based, Salford-born comic Hayden Black adding: “RIP to a comic that was hugely influential to me – Mel Smith.”, and the head of Sky Comedy, Lucy Lumsden stating: “Just heard the sad and shocking news about the multi-talented Mel Smith. Wonderful comic who I grew up watching. A great loss.”

One of those in the outer layers of The Velvet Onion, Peter Serafinowicz, also supported the views of Linehan & Matthews, stating: “Very sad to hear about Mel Smith. He did something very kind for me early in my career even though he hardly knew me. Such a funny man.”  His brother, producer James Serafinowicz, added: “Oh no just heard about Mel Smith. Was so lucky to work for him. Such a lovely man.”

Finally, quite prophetically considering the comedic legacy the great man leaves behind, Neil Cole‘s tweet was simple, but effective, drawing on one of Mel Smith’s finest moments: “I like trucking, I like trucking, I like trucking and I like to truck; I like trucking, I like trucking, if you don’t like trucking…”

RIP Mel Smith. Your work will live on… Kinda Lingers.

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