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The Psychadelik Medievalists descend on London Town

23 Nov

There’s a rare chance to see Princes in the Tower live this week in London.

© Edward Lloyd

© Edward Lloyd

Formed in the aftermath of Circulus’ implosion, PitT are a fusion of traditional music and electric sounds, who keen eyed viewers will have spotted in the first series of Hunderby. The trio of Michael TyackHot Brew‘s Antony Elvin and William Summers (most recently seen in Poldark!), were minstrels at the marriage of Edmund and Helene.

Of course, we here at TVO are very fond of the Princes – even giving you a free download of a track from their unreleased debut album a couple of years ago. And with this latest gig taking place in the Lovekyn Chapel – one of London’s oldest and most exquisite buildings, there’s no reason not to attend if you’re in the area this Wednesday!

Tickets are available now for £15, and are also available on the door. For more info, visit the Facebook Event page, or the Kingston Arts website.

Hot Brew Live!

30 Sep
© Jimmy Crippen

© Jimmy Crippen

We love Hot Brew, so we were particularly excited to hear the news that they’re performing live again, after a brief hiatus.

The vegetable-obsessed prog folk duo will be playing at Stroud Valleys Artspace (4 John Street, Stroud GL5 2HA) on Friday 23rd October. Tickets are £5 in advance from Trading Post or £6 on the door (door at 8pm).

For those of you who haven’t encountered Oona and Crispin Wheatflake yet, we urge you to seek them out; they were one of the highlights of our live show a couple of years ago, and you can see why from the footage of their brilliant set below.

You may also notice that they bear an uncanny similarity to Alice Lowe and Antony Elvin, but rumour has it that this is entirely coincidental. We remain a tad unconvinced, however…

Here’s hoping that this one-off gig in the west country develops into more!

For more information visit the event Facebook page.


B-B-Cee-Again as the Beeb announces BBC Store

8 Jul


The long awaited BBC Store will launch this Autumn, according to a report by The Independent.

Launched through BBC Worldwide, the Store will sell permanent downloads of hit programmes – often within hours of their television broadcast.

The proposed catalogue of releases will build to around 10,000 hours of content, including material from the BBC archives and independent production companies, some of which have never received a commercial release, which will hopefully include a number of TVO related productions such as Gas, Is It Bill Bailey?, Dead BossCrimsBrian Pern and Lifespam to name but a few, as well as long out of print titles like AD/BC: A Rock Opera and Perfect World.

It will also mark the first time that BBC Worldwide will directly sell HD copies of most of their recent comedy output. Despite being early adopters to blu-ray, the company has all but abandoned the format except for big budget releases (such as Sherlock and Doctor Who), with shows such as Inside No. 9House of Fools and SunTrap all being released on dvd only this year. HD downloads are currently only available through iTunes and Google Play.

We’ll aim to bring you a round-up of what’s available of interest when the store launches. In the meantime, here’s a vintage clip of a very young Noel Fielding alongside an equally young Mark Gatiss in Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round – a 1998 sketch series from the legendary Comic Strip veteran, directed by a pre-Spaced Edgar Wright and featuring pre-fame appearances by Jessica Hynes, Paul Putner, Reece Shearsmith, David Walliams and Peter Serafinowicz. We’re hoping this finally gets a release in the Autumn!

Editors Note
An earlier version of this story suggested – via the original source, The Independent – that the initial launch catalogue would include 10,000 hours of content, and indicated that the store will “hope to recoup the loss” of licence fee money from recent changes to the infrastructure. BBC Worldwide have since clarified to The Velvet Onion that neither of these things are strictly the case. The catalogue will build to c.10K hours of content, and the licence fee shortfall is far greater than the money BBC Store can hope to recoup, but will contribute towards it, and TVO would like to apologise to any readers who were potentially misled by our report.

British Muslim Comedy

18 Jun


To celebrate the start of Ramadan, BBC iPlayer has released five comedy shorts, written by and starring British Muslim comedians. They explore the highs and lows of modern Muslim life, including personal struggles around Ramadan.

All the shorts are directed by Dave Lambert, with costumes by Suzy Evelyn-Hall of DeadDogInBlackBag. Eid Mubarak is written by and stars Asim Chaudry who stars in Hoff The Record.

The mixture of stories and styles means there is something for everyone, and not just for Muslims.  You can see them all here on BBC iPlayer, where they are available for 29 days.

While you are there, don’t forget Matt Berry‘s moving tribute to UK Father’s – Father’s Day, which also features Bob Mortimer.

So Hot Right Now #28

27 Apr

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


© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

The superlative creativity of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton seemingly knows no bounds, as demonstrated perfectly by the second series of Inside No. 9, which concludes its eclectic run of six one-off tales this week, with special guest appearances by Downtown Abbey star Sophie McShera and Mike Leigh veteran Alison Steadman in the macabre Seance Time.

Tina (McShera) has never consulted the spirit world before, and isn’t quite sure what to expect on her visit to psychic Madam Talbot (Steadman). The medium’s assistant Hives (Shearsmith) seems quite helpful, but there’s already something waiting for Tina on the ‘other side’ and he knows all about it.

To say more would, as ever, ruin the subtle surprises on offer, but we will add that there’s the added bonus of guest appearances by TVO regulars Alice Lowe and Cariad Lloyd, as well as Doctor Who‘s resident Sontaran, Dan Starkey (last seen in Ben Wheatley’s Deep Breath in August, and occasional improv artist alongside Phil Whelans).

For one week only, the show shifts from its usual Thursday night slot to WEDNESDAY at 10pm on BBC Two. We’ll be sorry to see Inside No. 9 go, as this second run has proved to be a telly highlight this year. The campaign for a third run begins here…


© BBC / Jack Barnes

© BBC / Jack Barnes

Spoof documentary series W1A moves to Inside No 9‘s old slot of Thursday at 10pm this week, as Hugh Bonneville and team meet to discuss the troubling rumours that Newsnight presenter Evan Davis is to compete in the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Elsewhere, there’s a new Pilates initiative as Anna (the ever magnificent Sarah Parish) puts herself forward for the newly advertised role of Head of Better, and ever put upon Lucy (the inimitable Nina Sosanya) faces yet more tinkering with her as-yet-uncommissioned drama project.

As ever, Rufus Jones and Jessica Hynes are part of the impeccable ensemble cast, and the results are yet more must-see telly.


© Monicker Pictures

© Monicker Pictures

New ITV sitcom The Delivery Man continues on Wednesday, once again featuring Aisling Bea and Alex MacQueen alongside Darren Boyd, Paddy McGuiness and Faye Ripley.

This week in the maternity ward comedy, a prisoner arrives on release to give birth, but the police need some crucial information, so Ian (McGuiness) tries underhand interrogation tactics on the expectant mother. Elsewhere, Ryan (Joe De Costa) discovers Lisa (Bea) has been lending money to Matthew (Boyd), and heads to the hospital in a rage.

You can catch this latest episode at 9:30pm on Wednesday evening, over on ITV1. Previous episodes are available on ITV Player now.


© Kieron McCarron / September Films / GME / ITV

© Kieron McCarron / September Films / GME / ITV

Okay – we have to admit: this one perhaps understandably slipped by us… but ITV’s latest incarnation of gameshow Celebrity Squares returned recently, with Warwick Davis (Life’s Too Short, The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains) at the helm.

The Harry Potter star is now two episodes into the run, which airs on Sunday evenings at 7:15pm on ITV1, and both installments to date have featured TVO regulars or connected artists, so they’re well worth catching up with on ITV Player.

The first show, which aired on 19th April, featured none other than cult duo Anna Crilly Katy Wix amongst its star line-up, whilst the second, which aired yesterday (25th April), featured Jessica Hynes and House of Fools stars Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer.

The third show, which will air on Sunday 3rd May, will feature comedy legend Doon Mackichan – best known for her work on shows such as The Day Today, Smack the Pony and most recently, Toast of London. And we will never rule out ITV gameshows for potential connections ever again.



There’s a whole lot more TVO goodness to savour this week if you know where to look on tv and radio, thanks to a healthy dose of repeats – and a sneaky little spot of guest starring here and there.

BBC Two repeats Noel Fielding‘s 2013 appearance on QI XL on Saturday 2nd May at 11pm, whilst over on Channel 4 an hour earlier, there’s another chance to see the excellent British sci-fi action movie Dredd, which memorably features heavy usage of Matt Berry‘s theme for Snuffbox.

On radio, duo Max and Ivan continue their series The Casebook of Max and Ivan with a guest appearance from Reece Shearsmith this Tuesday evening at 6:30pm on Radio 4. Last week, they sneaked in an appearance from Jessica Hynes, whilst Matt Lucas joined them the previous week. You can catch up with the whole run on iPlayer now.

Meanwhile, BBC Radio 4 Extra are revisiting a firm TVO favourite in the form of Lucy Montgomery’s Variety Pack – which also features Waen Shepherd and was written by Montgomery with Steven Burge and Dan Tetsell. The first two episodes of Series 1 are on iPlayer now, with Episode 3 airing again on Wednesday evening at 11:30pm.

If you’re in the US, and feeling left out, don’t forget that Steve Coogan continues his run in Happyish on Sunday evenings exclusively on Showtime at 9:30 pm ET/PT.


As we reported last week, this Friday sees the relaunch of Rachel Stubbings web series, Stubbing Out Problems

The stand-up comic’s first run of S.O.P. videos began in May 2011, and featured Rachel’s disinterested alter-ego (Dr Stubbings, that is, not Rachel from Friends) trying – and failing – to help a series of clients sort out their issues, all played by fellow comedians. TVO regulars Stephen Evans, Alice Lowe, Tom Meeten, Alex Kirk and Aisling Bea joined the likes of Luke McQueen, Brett Goldstein, Katherine Ryan and Margaret Cabourn-Smith as clients across the series.

Following Rachel’s debut Edinburgh run with a show based on Stubbing out Problems in 2012, the concept was retired except for a handful of rare live revivals – but now at long last, it’s back with a bang! For the whole of May 2015, Dr Stubbings has pledged to heal at least one problem per day (except weekends), which is really impressive. The results will be uploaded to Vimeo every day* throughout May, and will feature a whole host of new clients – some of whom you can see in the teaser above.


© Tony Law

There’s almost always a chance or two to see a TVO regular on the London stage, and whilst this week is a bit of a quiet one, there’s still a few chances to see great people this week.

27/04/15 – Joey Page with Craig Murray – The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 8pm, £8

29/04/15 – Richard Sandling with Bec Hill, Brett Goldstein, Chris Coltrane, Howard Read, Tiernan Douieb (new material night) – Betsey Trostswood, 8:00pm, £3.50-£5

30/04/15 – Tony Law with Sara Pascoe, Zoe Lyons and Brett Goldstein – 99 Club, Leicester Square, 8:30pm, £9-£12

30/04/15 – James Cook: Outsiders Alternative Pop Cabaret with special guests – Aces and Eights, 8:00pm, £5

01/05/15 – SPANK! featuring James Wren and Leon Fleury, plus special guests Abandoman, Marcel Lucont, David Morgan and In Cahoots – Udderbelly, 10:45pm, £15.50


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

So Hot Right Now #27

20 Apr

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


Smash hit mockumentary W1A returns on Thursday for its second series, with an extended opening episode.

© BBC/Jack Barnes

© BBC/Jack Barnes

Currently making headlines due to a subplot about a certain ejected presenter (as writer/director John Morton has chosen to bleep out the name of the person in question), the show reunites stars Hugh Bonneville and Jessica Hynes with the incredible supporting cast, which includes Rufus Jones, Monica Dolan (Sightseers), Sarah Parish, Nina Sosanya (Nathan Barley), Jason Watkins (Psychoville, Trollied) and David Westhead, alongside narrator David Tennant.

One year since Ian Fletcher (Bonneville) became Head of Values at BBC Broadcasting House, and he has finally got his own office, and an impending visit from Prince Charles to contend with. Meanwhile, Siobhan (Hynes) has been charged with updating the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon, and format producer David (Jones) has a great new title for a show, if only he can think of a concept to go with it.

A typically witty and ever so slightly scary treat, this is a show which pulls no punches, yet still finds a lot to love about dear ol’ Aunty, even amongst the sheer frustration of corporate nonsense. And in Siobhan Sharpe, Hynes has found an utter monster to throw herself into with sheer gusto. A must-see. You can see the first episode of Series Two at 9pm on Thursday evening via BBC Two, just before Inside No. 9 – and it is also repeated on Sunday.


The almighty Gary Le Strange returns this week with his brand new single, Shut Up Mum, which launches on Tuesday.

© Waen Shepherd

© Waen Shepherd

For those who are unaware, Le Strange is the much-loved alter-ego of Waen Shepherd, who famously won the 2003 Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe for debut show Polaroid Suitcase, before going on to make return appearances in Face Academy and Beef Scarecrow until Shepherd chose to mothball the character.

Revived in 2012 for a handful of live dates, including The Velvet Onion Live, no less, Le Strange’s back catalogue was reissued digitally in recent years, and was followed by the Glamoronica EP and last year’s Norman (I’ve Dropped My Cup Of Tea) single.

The new track is an instant Le Strange classic – all pulsing synths, funky bass, thwacking great percussion, and lyrics that are hilariously punk intact. It comes with a brand new, and rather fantastic music video, which should be available on Tuesday when the track will be up for purchase via iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Spotify. We can’t think of a better thing to spend 79p on this week, so go get it!


© Tracy Ann Oberman

© Tracy Ann Oberman

Tracy Ann Oberman‘s new radio play, Mrs Robinson, I Presume airs on Friday afternoon.

Telling the real life story behind the 1967 movie The Graduate, the production features a star-studded cast including John Simm (Life on Mars, Doctor Who) as director Mike Nichols, Paul Kaye as producer Lawrence Turman, Kevin Bishop (Star Stories) as Dustin Hoffman, Terry Mynott (The Morgana Show) as Gene Hackman, Steve Furst(Little Britain, Catterick) as Mel Brooks and Lorelei King (Chef, Bob the Builder) as Ava Gardner.

Also featuring Oberman herself as Anne Bancroft, the play tells of the struggle that Nichols and Turman faced convincing Hollywood that Hoffman was a suitable Benjamin Braddock, and how their classic movie went on to define a generation and change Hollywood forever.

The play can be heard on Friday 24th April at 2:15pm, and will be available on iPlayer worldwide shortly after transmission.


© Showtime


Too often our US readers are left in the lurch, particularly when it comes to So Hot Right Now events… so it’s great that they’ve got a rare one up on us this week, as Steve Coogan‘s new show Happyish premières on Sunday 26th April.

As you may be aware, the show was initially piloted back in 2013 with the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman in the leading role, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator John Cameron Mitchell on directing duties. However, the series – fully commissioned for a run of ten episodes – was thrown into turmoil by Hoffman’s untimely demise in February 2014.

Enter Steve Coogan, who we reported last year was to replace Hoffman for a second pilot. Following that, Showtime confirmed in January that it was picking up the show for a full series once more, though they remain tight-lipped on whether Hoffman’s version of the pilot will ever be released.

With Coogan stars as a 44-year-old man whose world is thrown into disarray by the arrival of new 25-year-old boss with buzzwords on the brain, the New York set show begins its run on Showtime this Sunday, at 9:30 pm ET/PT. US audiences can see the first episode for free online now.

There’s currently no word of a UK tx date, or even a broadcaster picking up the show, but as soon as we hear anything, we’ll let you know.


© Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Ltd,

© Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Ltd,

Over on our news page, we have a competition to win tickets to see Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri in new West End play The Mentalists. The competition closes on Sunday evening, so get in while you can!


The Mentalists is a comic two-hander from Richard Bean, the writer of smash hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors, and sees Merchant (Life’s Too Short, The Office) make his West End debut alongside Rhodri, who you may recognise from his appearances in Submarine, Gavin & Stacey, A Touch of Cloth or most recently, Cucumber.

Holed up in a faceless Finsbury Park hotel room, long-standing friends Ted (Merchant), and Morrie (Rhodri) are forced to confront the darker side of their unique relationship. Things unravel as the pressure mounts in this hilarious and touching tale of friendship and utopian visions gone awry.

Directed by rising star Abbey Wright, the production runs for a strictly limited season at the Wyndham’s Theatre from Friday 3 July to Saturday 26 September.


Episode five of Inside No 9‘s second series airs on Thursday evening, and it’s another stone cold classic from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

Written and directed by the duo, Nana’s Party guest-stars Claire Skinner (Outnumbered) and Elise Kelly (Benidorm) as caring but OCD-ridden Angela and her excited mother Maggie – the titular Nana. On the latter’s 79th birthday, the whole family gather for the celebrations, but events take an unexpected turn thanks to practical jokers Pat and Jim (Shearsmith and Pemberton).

Less out and out madness than some editions of the show, more Mike Leigh drama in cosy suburbia, the results are typically enthralling, and will no doubt delight critics and audiences alike. You can make an assessment of your own at 10pm on Thursday evening over on BBC Two, right after W1A.


© Monicker Pictures

© Monicker Pictures

In last week’s So Hot Right Now, we unfortunately failed to alert you to the start of a new ITV sitcom which is worthy of your attention. Probably because in over five years of Velvet Onioning, we’ve never really had to draw much attention to ITV, who so rarely ventured into comedy until very recently.

However, look closely at new hospital based sitcom The Delivery Man which airs on Wednesday evenings, and you’ll see a few familiar faces. Fronted by Darren Boyd (Spy, Mid Morning Matters, Saxondale), the show also co-stars Aisling Bea and Alex MacQueen, the latter of whom is no stranger to telly hospitals having held a long running stint on Holby City many moons ago.

The show is written by Robert Harley and James Henry, who previously both wrote for Smack the Pony and Green Wing. The signs are there with The Delivery Man, which feels a little too bonkers to be on a mainstream chanel, and as such might be just the kind of thing for all you alternative comedy lovers out there. The first episodes have divided critics, but you can make up your own mind at 9:30pm on Wednesday evening.


As new shows arrive, and loom on the horizon, we must also say farewell to others, with both Travel Man and Chat Show Roulette rounding out their first series this week.

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

Travel Man is the first to bid us farewell, with the fourth and final episode seeing Richard Ayoade joined by Green Wing star Stephen Mangan for a weekend in Marrakesh on Monday evening at 8:30pm over on Channel 4.

Wanting to experience its famous street food, the pair sample steamed sheep’s head, before taking a hot-air balloon flight over the Atlas Mountains, watch a traditional story-telling performanve, visit the historic Saadian tombs and ancient tanneries, before heading into the desert for a contemplative camel ride.

Ayoade is, as ever, a charming host, and bounces off Mangan so well, they could almost be a double act. So if you’re reading this, commissioners, we want 10%…



Over on BBC Radio 4, Chat Show Roulette ends its long awaited first run, and this week Justin Edwards is joined on the improvisation led chat-show by Matt Lucas, Robert Popper, Pippa Evans and Hugh Denis.

It’s another corker, and you can hear it on Thursday evening at 11pm. Previous episodes are still available on iPlayer, but not for very much longer, so dive in and enjoy.


©  Aisling Bea / Kernan Andrews

© Aisling Bea / Kernan Andrews

While a lot of our regular touring lot are on their way back from the Melbourne International Comedy Fesival, which wrapped up last weekend, there’s still a number of other chances to see TVO regulars this week. Ok, so we admit, this week mostly belongs to the ever resilient Aisling Bea, flying the flag in a most-deserved manner, but nevertheless, here’s where you can see TVO types this week…

20/04/15 – Aisling Bea opening for Dave Hill – Aces and Eights, 7:15pm, £6-£8

23/04/15 – Aisling Bea Lou Sanders with Issy Suttie, Brett Goldstein, Grainne Maguire, John Robins & Mae Martin – Bloomsbury Theatre, 8pm, £12-£15

24/04/15 – Aisling Bea with Andrew Maxwell, Sara Pascoe & Reginald D Hunter – Bush Hall8pm, £17.50 {sold out}

24/04/15 – Tony Law with Tina T’urner Tea Lady & Spencer Jones – Old Nun’s Head, 7pm, £10-£15

24/04/15 – Phil Whelans as part of MONKEY TOAST with special guest Brett Goldstein – The Proud Archivist, 7:30pm, £7

26/04/15 – Aisling Bea with Tom Craine, Ali Brice and James Ross – The Lion Stoke Newington, 7pm, £3-£4


Finally this week, we leave you with a short film from Rachel Stubbings and Jon Drever about a woman and her dog, which you can download over yonder. You’re welcome.


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

James Cook’s New Video!

18 Mar

James Cook has released a new video for ‘Jamie’. The song is his modern British interpretation of Jacques Brel’s French classic from 1965 ‘(Chanson de) Jacky’.

The track is taken from James’ studio album Adventures in Ausland, which is available to listen to and buy for just €8 (digital file) or €10 Euros (signed CD) here. We’re loving his contemporary spin on the song’s lyrics. “My name would then be Simon Cowell, plucking stars out of my bowels” is a particular favourite!

You can watch the video for Jamie below:

And for those of you who appreciate thoroughness and things that come in threes, here’s the original French song, by Jacques Brel – plus, for good measure, Marc Almond’s cover version, which included a relatively straight translation of the original French lyrics:

So Hot Right Now #22

16 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.

House of Fools welcomes Way & Davis

Series Two of House of Fools continues apace this week, with Episode Four featuring guest appearances from Nurse star Esther Coles, stand-up Romesh Ranganathan and TVO regulars Tony Way and Tom Davis.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

The latter three play a trio of hard-as-nails dancers, who threaten to wipe the floor with Vic, Bob and Beef at the Danceathon event over at Julie’s bistro. Though when Julie isn’t dealing with Bosh’s poor customer service, she’s dealing with a rat infestation.

As ever, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer lead the ensemble, alongside Matt BerryDan SkinnerMorgana RobinsonDaniel Simonsen and Ellie White. TVO saw this episode being filmed in Salford back in the Autumn when we went to interview the cast, and while it was a struggle to put together, we’re confident the end result is an absolute treasure. You can see for yourselves on Monday 16th at 10pm, over on BBC Two.

Nurse continues with Day and Hoult

Episode Two on Nurse – the new show from Paul Whitehouse starring himself alongside Esther Coles – continues on Tuesday.

© Des Willie

© Des Willie

With Whitehouse starring as a cavalcade of troubled characters, and Coles portraying the community psychiatric nurse who has to see to them all, the show has charmed critics with its off-kilter comedy and a respectful look at mental health.

Co-starring Simon DayColin Hoult, Vilma Hollingberry and Rosie Cavalero, this week’s episode features a guest appearance from none other than Fast Show veteran Arabella Weir, and you can catch it on Tuesday at 10pm over on BBC Two.

Justin Edwards goes In And Out Of The Kitchen

Here’s one that slipped us by last week – as we reach the middle episode of a three-part sitcom starring Miles Jupp and Justin Edwards entitled In and Out of the Kitchen.

© Gary Moyes / BBC

© Gary Moyes / BBC

The show is based on the Radio 4 comedy of the same name, and charts the life of cookery writer Damien Trench (Jupp) and his partner Anthony (Edwards). The show also stars Philip Fox, Brendan Dempsey, Ade Ofeyoso and Margaret Cabourn-Smith, who just so happens to be the wife of one Dan Tetsell.

It’s a huge treat to not only see a show focusing on a middle-aged gay couple on our screens without any ‘novelty’ hoo-har about it, but also to see one that’s so expertly written and delightfully performed by its talented cast, and we urge you to catch up with the series, with Episode One available on iPlayer now.

In the second episode, which airs on Wednesday evening at 10pm on BBC Two, Damien is banned from the kitchen for the day as Anthony prepares their Valentine’s meal. However, his desperation to know more is soon the last thing on his mind, as his planned documentary about the culinary habits of the great poets is thrown into jeopardy.

More Moone-ing around for O’Dowd and company

Over on Sky 1, the third series of Chris O’Dowd‘s Moone Boy continues with a very special guest star this week, in the form or legendary broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan.

© Sky Corporate

© Sky Corporate

In this third episode, Martin (the ever brilliant David Rawle) finds out that every clip played on a TV video out-take show earns £250 – so he and Padraic get hold of a camera and try to film themselves doing something stupid. Meanwhile, the Moone household is bursting at the seams when Fidelma, Dessie and baby Rose move in, leaving Liam at the end of his tether.

One of the great charms about Moone Boy is that, though written by and starring a big star like O’Dowd, he is not afraid to let his character take a back seat to allow others to shine. And when you’ve got an ensemble like this, who can blame him? You can see the episode for yourselves on Monday 16th at 9pm.

Pomipidou Continues

Sunday evenings are that little bit warmer and fuzzier with Pompdiou around for teatime.

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

The utterly bonkers and penniless aristocrat is played with sheer delight by Matt Lucas, who is ably supported by the sublime Alex MacQueen as his put upon butler Hove. This week, Pompidou wants to spend Valentine’s Day with a date, and signs up to a dating agency to make his wish come true. Except, his idea of romance isn’t to everyone’s taste.

With special guest appearances by Anita Dobson and Paul Putner, this is another charming way to spend 25 minutes in the company of Lucas’ madcap alter-ego. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it seems that ol’ Pompi has found his audience, and you can join them on Sunday 22nd at 6:35pm.

TVO IS FIVE all over again

As this weekend marked five years since we became a dotcom, and we had some bonus birthday messages that came in too late to be in our first round-up, we’ve extended our TVO IS FIVE video to include lots of new treats. You can see the results below.

And the rest

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

The Velvet Onion Is Five Again

15 Mar

The Velvet Onion is proud to bring you an updated version of our TVO IS FIVE video for your perusal, featuring a cavalcade of comedy legends wishing us a very happy birthday.

Some of you may remember at the end of January, The Velvet Onion marked its official fifth anniversary with a string of birthday messages from regular faces on these pages for the last five years.

The very next day, we got our first late message. And they kept coming in – so much so that we decided we’d soon have to either make a second instalment, or extend the original video. As well as these extra clips, a handful of names who wanted to get involved tried to move the earth to get a video to us, but for various reasons from technological breakdowns to hectic work schedules to full blown flu-outbreaks, just didn’t quite manage to get a message across.

As a result, we made the decision to delay the second video for as long as possible, in the hope that a few more people could get involved. This weekend just gone by marks, in essence, our second birthday – as we became a real, fully fledged .com on March 14th 2010, following six weeks of vibrant positivity around our initial activities. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Queen to have two birthdays, it’s good enough for us, too!

So here, at long last, is Version 2.0 of the TVO IS FIVE video. New to this collection are birthday messages from Paul FootRich FulcherRichard GloverJohn HopkinsPaul KayeTom MeetenRichard SandlingMichael Smiley and Dolly Wells.

Also included in the video are the previous messages from Katy BrandDave Brown, Neil ColeJames CookStephen EvansColin Hoult (and his various alter-egos), Rufus JonesDave McNeill, Spencer MillmanBob Pipe, Holly Jane ShearsWaen ShepherdRachel Stubbings, Tony WayPhil Whelans, James Wren and Jacqueline Wright.

Once again, enormous thanks to everyone who sent us a message and is included in the video. We love you from the bottom of our hearts, and really appreciate your efforts. Whilst we’re here we must say a huge thank you to the wonderful Tracy Ann Oberman, who tried to get a video message to us THREE TIMES, only for technology to block her attempts at every turn. We also greatly appreciate everyone else who wanted to get a message to us, but had various reasons for not managing it in time – we know you tried, and are grateful for that at least.

To still be doing this over five years after we started is a testament to the love we’ve received from those we cover on our pages, and the fact that you, dear reader, keep on coming back for more. Here’s to the next five, eh?

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

Hot Brew Are Bursting Back On Stage

20 Feb

Another live act that brings out the positive superlatives in us will be performing in a couple of week: new-wave folksters Hot Brew!

The musical comedy couple, Oona & Crispin Wheatflake (who look remarkably like Alice Lowe and Antony Elvin) will be taking the stage at Artburst, 18 – 20 London Lane, E8 3PR, on Friday 6th March.

It’s difficult to describe how funny and tuneful the vegetable-obsessed pair actually are, so why not take a look at their set from TVO Live a couple of years ago, below? Suffice to say, they brought the house down:

Also appearing on the Artburst bill are Ben Harris (writer for Vic & Bob), Holly Burn (TV2’s Bad Bridesmaid), Twisted Loaf (winners of the Funny Women Award 2013), Robin & Partridge, James Shakeshaft, friend of TVO Harry Deansway, That Pair, James Hamilton and MC Tom Hensby.

Tickets for the evening cost £15 (available here), and the money raised will be going to help Artburst with its charitable endeavours. Artburst is an award winning social enterprise providing creative educational workshops that improve the lives of young people and their families. You can read more about the brilliant things they do here.

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

18 Feb
© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

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

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

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

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

© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

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

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

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

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

© James Cook

© James Cook

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

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

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

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

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

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

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

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

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

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

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

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

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

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!


That’s What Love Said

12 Feb

© Antony Elvin / Nina Miranda / Spinnup

A brand new single by Antony Elvin featuring Will Summers is available digitally now.

That’s What Love Said is a heartfelt duet between Elvin and cult singer Nina Miranda, with Elvin also providing guitar and percussion and Summers handling flutes and piccolos.

Also featuring Charlotte Stock on violin and viola, Francesca Ter-Berg on cello and Laura Copsey on Flugelhorn, the track fuses the traditional Tudor elements that Summers brings to the mix with more contemporary string arrangements, both of which complement the soulful voices of Antony and Nina to create a track you’d be hard pushed not to adore.

Though we’ve yet to hear of it emerging on any other platforms, the single is currently available to buy on iTunes as of this morning, and is also streaming on Spotify.

Mercedes Grower: Bringing The Ooo And The Eee To Life

8 Feb

© Mercedes Grower

Earlier this week we caught up with actress and film maker, Mercedes Grower. She’s phenomenally well-connected to the web of creative people who we write about, and we’ll be bringing you more about the work that she’s doing in due course (including news of a really exciting project that includes lots TVO-linked folk!). Right now, however, we’ve been talking to her about her role directing the video for Psycho Delia‘s current single ‘The Ooo and the Eee’.

The promo video for The Ooo and the Eee is an eye-pleasing coupling of London bike ride-based psychedelics and Studio 54 performance glamour. Its formation is the result of a female-centric partnership between Psycho Delia‘s Dee Plume, director friend Mercedes Grower, DOP Shiraz Ksaiba and editor Pat Grimm. It provides the perfect cinematic indie art house backdrop to the song’s carefree folksy/punky/electronica sound.

The inspiration for the film was the song itself, an initial storyline from Dee, and an early idea that Mercedes had about seeing the world float by. Dee had recently been spending time cycling around the city, and Mercedes liked the idea of capturing the strange feeling of a solitary bike ride, and of something creeping up on you.

They didn’t have much filming equipment at their disposal so they had to improvise, using a camera attached to the handlebars of Dee’s bike, which focusd on her face, and a second camera attached to Mercedes’ old Mini. “It was hilarious! I was driving the Mini really slowly around Hackney Wick, with Dee looking like an amazing terrorist Olympic gymnast.” she laughs.

© Psycho Delia

To create the interior sequences, Mercedes rigged up a projector to throw images of giant insects and landscapes onto Dee’s body. “I was telling her these weird stories while she was dancing to get different emotions from her.” Mercedes explains. And the approach worked: “In the arts it’s important that you trust the other person, in order to creatively exchange ideas.” She says.

Floating image projection is a technique Mercedes used to employ to create installations for parties when she lived in New York. This approach meant persuading Dee to get naked. It leads us to discuss the sexualisation of female singers in mainstream pop videos and the effect it’s having on young music fans (“the girls who just see these other girls gyrating” Mercedes laughs).

© Psycho Delia

It’s something she gets irritated about, contrasting it with the musical role models who she admired when she was growing up (the likes of Blondie, Patti Smith and Kate Bush), who she distinguishes as having balls and something to say, without taking themselves too seriously. She’s also a fan of 90’s feminist punk band Bikini Kill, noting that Dee reminds her of the band’s singer, Kathleen Hanna.

I wonder if Mercedes would ever consider directing a video for one of today’s mainstream musicians?

She’s tickled by the idea: “I’d like to put some clothes on them, show them some Blondie or Patti Smith – artists with humour. Even though Dee is in a swimsuit in our video, it’s not done in that way,” Mercedes explains. “She’s climbing walls and doing tomboy things. It’s more sexy in fact, because it’s weird.”

To watch the video in full, take a look below:

The Ooo and The Eee by Psycho Delia is available to download from amazon or iTunes now.

Many thanks to Mercedes for taking the time to talk to The Velvet Onion.  

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.


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!


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.


© 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.


© 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.


© 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.


© 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.


© 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…


©  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.


©  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.


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!

Synth Heaven At Normal, Strange & Fabulous

1 Feb

© The Islington

‘Normal, Strange & Fabulous’ is the name of a unique synthpop/electronic gig taking place in April – which features Waen Shepherd‘s alter-ego, Gary Le Strange.

In addition to Gary Le Strange’s pitch perfect parodies of 1980’s electronic/new romantic hits, you can also see Johnny Normal (Birmingham synth/guitar act who has supported Adam Ant, Blancmange and other mainstream acts throughout the UK) and Shelter (an electro-synth duo who recently supported Erasure in Europe).  A pretty awesome combo (and if you were in any doubt about the cultural significance of synth-based music, look no further than this fascinating BBC 4 documentary, Synth Britannia, which aired on Friday night).

The gig takes place on 24th April, and it takes place at The Islington in north London. Tickets are £11 (inc. £1 booking fee) and can be booked here. Time to dust off your leather trousers, slap on the eye liner and get yourself down there.

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!

Ooo, Eee, It’s A New Song From Dee!

15 Dec

Dee Plume has unleashed the third single from her solo project Psycho Delia.

Formerly one half of Robots In Disguise and a regular guest star in The Mighty Boosh, Dee has been working on Psycho Delia for some time now, and this track: The Ooo & The Eee, comes complete with a charming music video you can see below.

The song will be available to buy shortly, but links are still being confirmed. We’ll try to update you when we can, but in the meantime, keep your eyes on Dee’s Twitter page for more info.

So Hot Right Now #8

1 Dec

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


© 2014 Sony Pictures

© 2014 Sony Pictures

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

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

©  Studio Canal

© Studio Canal

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


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

©  BBC/Talkback/Brian Ritchie

© BBC/Talkback/Brian Ritchie

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

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


© Lauren Taylor / The Velvet Onion

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

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


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

Click on our news post to see the video!


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


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