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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!

 

Thanks For The Memories

5 Feb

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

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

Paul

© Paul Holmes

© Paul Holmes

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

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

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

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

Mog

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

© Noel Fielding/Dave Brown

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

© Big Face Productions

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

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

Helen

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

Paulyne

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

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

© Mog

Aggie

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

Rosanna

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

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

Michael

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

Trixie

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

Becca

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

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

Breaking the Ice with The Forgery Club

4 Feb
© Greenpeace

© Greenpeace

Next week sees Bob Pipe‘s legendary The Forgery Club return as part of a specially curated night in aid of Greenpeace.

Selected by Bob himself, the night of Friday 13th February will feature Pippa Evans (The Now Show, Newsjack), duo Trodd Et Bratt (Well Done You), Holly Burn (Bad Bridesmaid), and Lou Sanders (Good News) on the bill.  Give Out Girls writer Hatty Ashdown will be the host for two hours of great comedy.

After that, there’s live music from Ned Dylan, The King’s Parade and Jenny Said Yes, folowed by DJ sets from King Toby, Tropical Beats, The Bastard Brothers, DJ Dave and The Spigel Has Landed until 3:30am.

It all takes place at Passing Clouds on Richmond Road, London – just down the road from Dalston Junction Station, with tickets a mere £5 in advance or on the door.

Anyone turning up after the comedy will pay double that, so that’s even more of an incentive to see some great comic talent and support a great cause into the bargain.  For more info on the fantastic work of Greenpeace, and the Arctic Sunrise Campaign this night will directly be funding, visit their website.

Cockroaches For Laurie & Dan

14 Jan

This week saw the launch of new ITV2 apocalyptic comedy Cockroaches - and there was a familiar name or two for regular TVO readers involved.

© Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

© Big Talk Productions / ITV 2

The show stars Daniel Lawrence Taylor, known on the live circuit as one half of excellent musical storytelling duo Ginger & Black, but perhaps better known elsewhere for his roles in How Not to Live Your Life and Hunderby

He’s also appeared in MongrelsAngelo’sThe InbetweenersA Touch of ClothThe IT Crowd and Uncle, so definitely a man with an enviable resume.

Here he plays Tom – survivor of a nuclear holocaust alongside his on-off girlfriend Suze (Esher Smith) and their daughter Laura, as they struggle to survive in post-apocalyptic Britain.

Tom Davis (soon to be seen guesting in House of Fools), Jack Whitehall and Robert Bathurst are also along for the ride, with later episodes promising guest appearances by Alexander Armstrong, Nigel Planer, Rich Hall and our very own Dan Skinner, marking it as a rarity – a show on an ITV channel worth watching!

Episode One, as we discovered last night, also had the good fortune of being shot by famed cinematographer Laurie Rose - best known for his work with Ben Wheatley on all of his films, including Sightseers, A Field in England and the forthcoming High Rise.

Rose told TVO, however, he was only involved in Episode One, as his work on the latter film called him away from the show, but nevertheless, with the top talent involved, we reckon it may be worth TVO readers checking out the rest of the run.

If you missed it, you can catch Episode One via ITV Player now, and for another 28 days. Episode Two will air next Tuesday at 10pm.

Mongrels Men at FurCon

9 Jan

© FurCon

FurCon (Further Confusion) is one of the world’s largest anthropomorphic (or “furry”) conventions, and is now in its fifteenth year. This year, two of the puppeteers from Mongrels will be appearing at the event!

Warrick Brownlow-Pike (Marion) and Andy J. Heath (Nelson) worked together on the BBC3 show, and their appearance at the convention later this month seems to be causing a fair amount of excitement amongst the organisers.

Many of you will be familiar with their recent puppeteering on Mongrels, but if you’ve ever wondered what else they’ve done, here’s a brief potted history, courtesy of the helpful folk at FurCon:

Andy began his career as swing performer on Doctor Dolittle – The Musical (1998). Since then , he has performed Kit on Play With Me Sesame UK (2004) and has also puppeteered guest spots on Jim Henson’s Mopatop’s Shop, as well as assisting on The Hoobs. He performed a Penguin with The Muppets on their UK spot on The X Factor, and then puppeteered various characters on Muppets Most Wanted (2013). Later in the same year, he was also involved in The Robbie Williams Holiday Special on BBC1. His other film credits include The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2004) , Tales of the Riverbank (2008) , Harry Hill – The Movie (2013) and Frankenstein (2014).

During 2009-2011, Andy co-designed, built and operated the puppets for BBC3′s adult sitcom Mongrels with his business partner, Iestyn Evans. Together, they run Talk to the Hand Puppets.

Warrick has performed puppetry on some of Britain’s best loved and most watched children’s shows, most recently in Sesame Street’s The Furchester series. He was also a principal puppeteer in The Muppets last feature film Muppets Most Wanted. He has also been a writer, director and consultant for various projects, including the Jim Henson company. He worked with The Muppets in their most recent movie, and with Sesame Workshop.

© BBC

FurCon is being held in the San Jose Convention Center, San Jose Marriott, and San Jose Hilton. It takes place from January 15th – 19th, and the organisers promises eminent guests, educational panels, a dealer’s room with comics, artwork, collectibles and clothing, an art show, gaming, nightly dances and world-class costuming. Wowsers!

For more information and to register for the event visit the convention website. Pre-registrations closes at 11.59pm on 10th January (local time), so make sure to get in there quick!

Onion Talking: Adam Kay on Crims

7 Jan
© Adam Kay

© Adam Kay

This week sees the launch of Crims - BBC Three’s new sitcom starring Elis James & Kadiff Kirwan.

We sat down with one of its co-writers: cult stand-up and former Mongrels writer Adam Kayto discuss the gestation of the series, and his plans for its future.

Imagine the scene. You go to pick up your girlfriend’s brother, only to find he’s committed a bank robbery, and you’re now his getaway driver.  More accurately, considering your stationary and surrounded by armed police, his getting-caught driver.

Such is the plight of Luke (Elis James), whose situation is made all the worse when he is confined to a Young Offenders Institution for 600 days, sharing a cell with said girlfriend’s brother – the hapless Jason (Kadiff Kirwan).  The result is Crims, BBC Three’s brand new sitcom from the pens of Adam Kay and Dan Swimer.

“It’s a huge privilege to be trusted to write a few hours of comedy on telly,” Adam tells TVO following a sneaky peak at the first two episodes, “and everyone worked very hard to make the best product we could.  Though, the progression of a comedy writer is to write on sketch shows, write episodes of other people’s shows, script edit other people’s shows, then work towards someone trusting you to write your own rulebook. So if it’s not funny, I can’t say it’s because I was told a character couldn’t say that. It’s because I fucked up. I can blame every other show I’ve worked on for not being funny on other people.” He pauses for a moment and ruminates. “I guess I could still blame the actors on this one.”

Kay needn’t worry. Crims is hysterically funny. Set in a world slightly detached from reality, it features prison guards who are obsessed with urinal cakes, gang leaders with an allegiance to Team Edward, and regular discussions about wanking rotas.  One character goes by the name of ‘Black Elton John’, for no apparent reason than his need of spectacles. It’s that kind of show, and TVO loves every second of it.

© BBC / Adam Lawrence

© BBC / Adam Lawrence

“The show found its feet as we were writing it,” explains Adam. “It didn’t feel out of place in the world to chuck that sort of weird stuff in. You never want to break the world with something outlandish. When people suddenly take stock and realise they’re just watching telly, it’s never good. But we peppered these crazy moments in without making it seem mad.  The temperament of the show allowed us to throw in those moments.”

Every character has something inherently likeable about them – even those who would typically be portrayed as purely negative stereotypes. For Kay, this was a natural decision to make. “You’re inviting people into your living room,” he states, “and the characters are not the most hyper-real on television. We’ve tried to give everyone enough fallibility and relatability to be enjoyable. There’s no real villains. It has to be more complex than setting up a goodie and a baddie, because no-one is really like that in real life.”

It also helps to set the series apart from the shows it will inevitably be compared to. Whilst no-one bats an eyelid at sitcoms set in shops or offices, you only have to look at the way Hyperdrive was dismissed before it even aired as a Red Dwarf knock-off to suspect that Crims will be unfavourably compared to Porridge by some, much as Dead Boss was before it.  Thankfully, Adam isn’t worried.

“I’m happy for anything I do to be compared to anything else,” he asserts. “Porridge casts a very long shadow, and rightly so. But in general, it’s less helpful thinking of a show in terms of the precinct it’s based in. A show is essentially the characters that are part of the world. We’d come up with the characters of Luke and Jason, and their relationship, before we came up with the situation they would be in.  I don’t feel constrained by it. I would happily write a sitcom set in a hotel. We could have set this in a retail bank, and it could have had the same vibe. But as soon as we plonked them in a prison, everything slotted into place.”

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

Part of what makes Crims stand apart from most recent comedy shows, is that it all seems to be coming from relatively new blood. Kay has spent years as a musical comedian, regularly selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe, and you may have heard his viral favourite London Underground. His first major television writing gig was crafting songs for the second series of Mongrels back in 2011. Co-writer Dan Swimer cut his teeth co-writing Grandma’s House with Simon Amstell, and has also written for shows as diverse as How TV Ruined Your Life and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Despite their talents, neither man could really be defined as a household name just yet.

This vibe extends to the cast, too. Elis James is an up-and-coming stand-up with occasional sitcom acting credits to his name, with much of the rest of the cast made up of relative unknowns. Comedian and actress Cariad Lloyd (Cardinal Burns, Fit) plays Prisoner Officer Dawn, the only sane voice in the whole place. Former Dead Boss and Him & Her star Ricky Champ plays fellow warden and hapless idiot Creg. By far the more diverse CV on the cast-list is that of Theo Barklem-Biggs, who plays Twilight-loving thug Marcel – and who you may recognise from his appearances in productions as varied as The Inbetweeners Movie, Silk, Moses Jones, A Touch of Cloth or The Fades.

“We were certainly never put under any pressure to fill it with names,” Adam states. “Everyone just set about making the best possible show.  Cariad is brilliant. Ricky Champ’s been in a huge amount before and he’s always brilliant, likewise Theo. And there are some who’ve done smaller roles or we’re bringing them to the screen for the very first time. It’s exciting.”

This certainly isn’t your typical BBC Three starring-vehicle, though it could have ended up very different indeed.

 © BBC / Robert Viglasky

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

“Lots of people were seen for the show,” reveals Adam, “Some with large amounts of profile, some with even less profile than these guys. The casting director put huge numbers of people up for it. But not only are Elis and Kadiff individually really great actors, but we knew their chemistry would show on screen from the moment we tried them together.  Ellis has been gaining profile of late, but I think this is the start of a long comedy journey for Kadiff in particular.”

One familiar face does turn up in Episode Two, however – in the form of Doctor Who legend Sylvester McCoy. As Luke tries to impress his girlfriend by getting an A-Level on the inside, he meets a daffy old Latin teacher, and the two bond over the true meaning of life, the universe and everything, with delightfully charming results.  Which, given Sylvester’s track record for delightfully charming everyone around him, is no surprise.

 © BBC / Robert Viglasky

© BBC / Robert Viglasky

“I can tell you now,” Adam beams, “he was an absolute joy. Sylvester was a huge presence and source of energy and enthusiasm. We had a puppy on set that day, and normally the puppy gets all the attention on a set, but Sylvester stole its limelight very much, which is pretty unheard of.  He does it really well, too. It’s a very unusual part, and he gets away with it with just the right amount of mad.”

So what does the future hold for Crims? “At the start of every episode,” Adam tells us, “is the number of days they’ve spent in the prison. By the end of Episode Six we’re a couple of months in. If time continues at the same rate, we’re not going to be limited by their sentence. We’d rather keep doing it while we’re all enthusiastic about it enough to want to write more. You know how comedy works. If we were commissioned for Series Eleven, and we wanted to do it, we’d find a way.”

But is there a moment in this first series Adam is most proud of? He has two.  “Episode Six,” he grins, “where Creg is eating a sandwich. That’s a plot construction I was extremely pleased with.  And there’s one thing that Luke says, as a very sarcastic character. In a moment of annoyance to Jason, he asks: “Isn’t there a yourself you can go fuck?” I’m waiting for a chance to say that in real life.”

TVO suggests the slogan could end up on t-shirts. “You’re in,” Adam retorts. “You get 10%.” Deal.

Crims airs from 10pm on Thursday 8th January on BBC Three.

Space Ark Pilot Commissioned

28 Dec

© comedy.co.uk

Channel 4 has commissioned a non-broadcast pilot of Space Ark, a sci-fi sitcom starring Justin Edwards and Nico Tatarowicz (former Mongrels writer).

The show, from Hatrick Productions, is set 6 months, 1 week, and 4 days since the earth was destroyed by an asteroid. 200 humans are surviving on board a huge ‘Space Ark’, trying to find a new planet where the human race can be re-established. The Space Ark is populated by the finest minds the earth had to offer, plus an inept crew, an android-bear pilot and a member of the public who won his place by lottery.

In the pilot episode the crew encounter a seemingly friendly alien race, whose space craft has broken down.

The main cast also features Georgia King, Tom Stourton, Alex Beckett and Ricky Grover. If we hear any more about plans to transmit the pilot, or if a full series is commissioned, we’ll be sure to let you know.

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.

ST VINCENT AND THE BEAR

© 2014 Sony Pictures

© 2014 Sony Pictures

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

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

©  Studio Canal

© Studio Canal

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

TVO ON AIR

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

©  BBC/Talkback/Brian Ritchie

© BBC/Talkback/Brian Ritchie

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

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

NORMAN

© Lauren Taylor / The Velvet Onion

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

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

THE JAZZ MEN

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

Click on our news post to see the video!

AND THE REST!

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

Chris Morris Radio Retrospective

23 Nov

© cookdandbombd

Next Saturday the BBC will broadcast a three-hour tribute programme devoted to the radio work of new wave comedy pioneer, Chris Morris. ‘Raw Meat Radio’ will look back at Morris’ radio career, and will include rarely-heard archive material

Mary Anne Hobbs (who we’ve been talking about a fair bit this weekend) will present the show, which airs on BBC 4Extra ay 7pm on 29th November.

It will feature contributions from Armando Iannucci, David Quantick, Peter Baynham, Matthew Bannister (who suspended Morris from Radio 1) and Morris’ biographer Lucian Randall, amongst others.

If you read TVO regularly, you’ll be familiar with Morris’s creative output, but for those of you who aren’t (what??), he’s probably best known for his work on spoof news programmes The Day Today and Brass Eye, during which he lured a host of celebrities into backing increasingly bizarre public awareness campaigns. He also worked with Julia Davis and Kevin Eldon on Jam, and appeared on IT Crowd as Denholm Reynholm. Behind the camera, he co-wrote the Channel 4 media satire Nathan Barley alongside Charlie Brooker, and wrote and directed the 2010 film Four Lions.

He has also produced an as-yet unheard audio comedy with Noel Fielding and Richard Ayoade, set in an old people’s home. We live in hope of hearing it one day!

We’re sure that we speak on behalf of many of you when we say how delighted we are that 3 hours of radio airtime have been given in Morris’ honour. Don’t forget to tune in next Saturday!

Learn From The Experts

15 Nov

© comedy.co.uk

If you’ve ever fancied getting into comedy, get yourself along to the Big Comedy Conference, taking place in Clerkenwell, London on Saturday 29th November.

Organised by the British Comedy Guide, the conference  promises to give you an in on how to get on in TV and radio comedy writing, with practical advice from some of the biggest names in UK comedy. The line-up of speakers includes our very own Graham Linehan, as well as David Cohen (Horrible Histories), Andrew Allard (IT Crowd, Count Arthur Strong) – plus loads of non-Velvet Onion connected, but proper A-list, comedy writers. To see the full line-up click here.

Tickets cost £169 for the full day (9am-7pm), which includes lunch and a one-to-one session with an expert who will help you hone your own comedy project.  To register head on over here.

So Hot Right Now #5

10 Nov

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

This week sees the continuing adventures of Trollied (featuring Aisling Bea) on Sky One, and Toast of London (written by and starring Matt Berry) on Channel 4, whilst Not Going Out - the BBC One sticom featuring Katy Wix alongside Lee Mack, takes a break for Children In Need, returning next Friday (Nov 21st).

©Brian Ritchie / Talkback / BBC

©Brian Ritchie / Talkback / BBC

Miss Bea also makes an appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks alongside pop veterans Lisa Stansfield and Ana Matronic, and fellow comedian Joe Lycett, and the regulars Rhod Gilbert, Phill Jupitus and Noel Fielding.

If you missed it last week, there’s also the opportunity to catch up with Richard Ayoade joining David WalliamsCatherine Tate, Dame Shirley Bassey and Annie Lennox on The Graham Norton Show via iPlayer, which is available until Friday evening.

© BBC / So Television

© BBC / So Television

There’s one other little treat for TVO fans out there this week, with a round of popular quiz show Pointless featuring Cult Sitcoms, which aired on Tuesday, November 4th.  The question asked 100 people to name actors who appeared in two or more episodes of SpacedThe Mighty Boosh and French & Saunders oft-neglected 80s sitcom Girls On Top.  Surprisingly, those polled were clearly not regular readers of The Velvet Onion – as quite a number of our regulars came up as pointless answers! Check it out, 36 minutes in, over yonder.

TVO TOASTS

The nominations for this year’s British Comedy Awards were announced this weekend, with a huge number of shows having TVO connections.  As we noted in our news post, the nominations include a whopping – and totally deserved – eight nods for Matt Berry via Toast of London and his recent short The Lone Wolf.

© Kuba Wieczorek

© Kuba Wieczorek

With Toast currently in the midsts of its second series, as mentioned above, there’s no better time to check out what all the fuss is about!

In fact, the nominations go a long way to proving what we’ve been telling you all for almost half a decade now: that Onion Land is a talented place indeed.  All four nominations for Best Sitcom and three of the four for Best New Comedy Programme have TVO connections, as do fellow nominees, The Inbetweeners 2, Harry and Paul’s Story of the Twos and How To Make A Hit Pop Song.  It’s a glorious time for British Comedy indeed.

Our huge congratulations go to all the nominees, but especially our regulars Matt BerryAisling BeaKatherine ParkinsonReece ShearsmithDan Skinner, Spencer MillmanSimon FarnabyChris O’Dowd and Steve Coogan.  Good luck to you all!

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE VIRAL

Three stories caught the public’s imagination this week in ways we didn’t quite expect.  First up, Paul King‘s forthcoming Paddington movie – featuring cameos from Steve Oram and Tom Meeten amongst its star studded cast – began the biggest part of its publicity campaign, with a series of statues of the titular bear being erected across London.

© John Furniss / Studio Canal

© John Furniss / Studio Canal

The full blown Paddington Trail, detailed on the official Visit London website, features a whole host of Paddingtons designed by celebrities: with the likes of Peter Capaldi, Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Sheen, John Hurt, Emma Watson and Julie Walters amongst those making their mark on the famous bear.

The film itself is due out on November 28th, and there’s a new trailer for it below.

On the subject of all things film related, the bad news this week was the closure of Teddington Studios, which will be demolished to make way for a series of luxury homes, as reported here by The Express.

Starting life as a film studio in the 1910s, Teddington was at one time a home for Warner Brothers productions of quota-quickies, before being taken over by ABC, and later Thames Television – in that time making shows as diverse as THe Avengers and Morcambe & Wise.  It became an independent studio in the mid 90s, and was leased to Pinewood for the last decade or so – but with the expiry of their lease, time is up for the legendary studio.

© Talkback

© Talkback

In recent years, Teddington has housed The IT CrowdHarry Hill’s TV BurpBlack BooksMan To Man With Dean LearnerBrass EyeNot Going OutStarlings and Dick And Dom’s Funny Business - all featuring a bevvy of TVO regulars.  It will be missed by the industry, but its legacy will live on.

Whilst Teddington leaves behind a positive legacy, the one ITV2 are making at the moment has been the source of much concern over the weekend, with friend of TVO (and cult comedian) Nathaniel Tapley being on the receiving end of abuse – alongside his collaborator Abi Wilkinson – after they dared to criticise ITV2 star Dapper Laughs for his remarks about women and the homeless.  The furore shows no signs of slowing down, but if you’ve missed it all, we recommend you start catching up here, then read the follow up pieces from BBC News and Huffington Post.  We’re firmly on Team AbiTap, here…

THE BRAINS! THE BRAINS!

The campaign for The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains fundraising continues apace – and you can help make the movie happen! Join the campaign over yonder, and watch the splendid Neil Cole make a tit of himself in the name of moviemaking below.

AND THE REST!

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

See you next week… until then, keep on peeling!

Smiley Says

9 Nov

© Zimbio

Michael Smiley has been in more TVO-connected films, TV shows, and even music videos, than you can shake a stick at. He brings a particular type of menace to the screen, whether victimising mushroom heads in A Field In England or robbing banks while Blue Song plays. So it’s nice to come across an in-depth video with the man himself, in which he discusses his entire career.

Smiley was recently interviewed by Moviehooker, a blog that recommends movies to people. It’s a comprehensive, candid piece and well earth a read if you want to familiarise yourself with everything that Smiley has done.

The interview runs the gamut from his early says of stand up in Northern Ireland, via his time working with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, right up to date with his latest feature film with Ben Wheatley, Free Fire (currently in pre-production).

When asked about his career highlights, Smiley says: “I’m very proud of my plays that I did in the 90s. But I’d say my highlight for me was winning the BIFTA Award for Kill List. That was a major highlight of my life. Nothing would have come close to that. I was in a room with incredibly well known and incredibly talented people. I was on a list with Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and Eddie Marsan, then they called my name out!…When my name was called out, there was a roar, it was like I went deaf, it was like that scene in fucking Goodfellas when he’s taking her to the restaurant – people moving out of your way, just going up to the podium.”

Awesome stuff! To read the interview in full click here.

Crims From Kay & Swimer

24 Oct

BBC Three has announced a forthcoming sitcom written and created by two writers with previous TVO connections.

© BBC Comedy

© BBC Comedy

Crims follows straight-laced Luke, (stand-up comic Elis James), who is unwittingly led into trouble by his girlfriend’s brother Jasaon (Kadiff Kirwan).  Sentenced to two years in a Young Offenders Institution, Luke will have to rely on Jason’s street smarts to get him through. Unfortunately, Jason is a massive idiot.

It comes from the pens of Dan Swimer, whose past credits include Grandma’s HouseHow TV Ruined Your Life, Big Fat Quiz of the Year and Never Mind The Buzzcocks; and Adam Kay, writer on Mongrels and Anna and Katy, as well as a comedian in his own right and frontman of the band Amateur Transplants.

With a supporting cast including Doctor Who legend Sylvester McCoy, what TVO has seen from a sneak preview is a witty, oddly charming show packed with great gags, and we’ll aim to bring you more news on the show as soon as possible.  Crims is set to air in January.

Moss & Roy Reunite In The Name Of Technology

11 Oct

© Channel 4

We can only apologise that something this interesting managed to pass us by – until one of our eagle-eared team recognised a couple of familiar voices in an ad break last night.

The UK version of new iPhone 6 TV advert features the voices of none other than IT Crowd‘s Moss and Roy (sometimes known as Richard Ayoade and Chris O’Dowd). Although the ad itself isn’t anything to write home about, the fact that these two are together again – for something tech-related – is making us rather excited!

A big thank you to Amanda Robertson for helping us track it down online. The US version is everywhere, but the UK adaptation has been keeping a low profile. Thanks to Amanda, you can click here to watch it.

Wear Your Favourite Film

11 Oct

© Last Exit to Nowhere

Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of seeing a few of the people that we write about appearing in some pretty awesome films. But what’s been missing until now is the ability to wear creative interpretations of those films emblazoned across our chests. Not any more…

Last Exit to Nowhere is a small collective of film enthusiasts and creative designers. They  collaborate to create unique hand screen printed T-shirts that pay homage to memorable places and characters in cinema history. And we’ve uncovered some great designs with a TVO flavour:

A personal favourite is this design on above (awesomely titled “Death has a ginger beard”), which pays homage to Ben Wheatley‘s Sightseers (written by and featuring Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, just in case it’s managed to pass you by). It’s available in regular and slim fit for £20 by clicking here.

You can also have the pleasure of wearing another Wheatley-directed film on your body, in the guise of this A Field In England t-shirt, also £20. Or a Hot Fuzz-inspired design like this ‘Neighbourhood Watch Alliance’ design.

If you needed any further TV-connected reason to pay the site a visit, Chris O’Dowd fans can also express their love of Cuban Fury by donning this El Corazon Cuban Salsa Dance Club tee for the princely sum of £20.

 There are a ton of other cool designs too – including mugs and posters…so get in!

Gold After Dark

7 Sep
© gold.uktv.co.uk

© gold.uktv.co.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mini IT Tee

24 Aug
© quertee.com

© quertee.com

Quertee –  suppliers of limited edition t-shirts – have a new IT Crowd shirt for sale for the next 12 hours.
This one features our favourite IT professionals, Jen, Moss, and Roy in Lego form, unfortunately there’s no Douglas or Richmond, but you can’t have everything!

The shirts cost £8 (plus postage) and can be ordered via this link.

From Pingu to Paddington

19 Jul

© Heyday Films/Studio Canal

No, not the cute plasticene penguin, but the one from Nathan Barley. Yes, Ben Whishaw has been confirmed to play the voice of Paddington Bear in Boosh director, Paul King’s new film about the bear from darkest Peru.

Wishaw has replaced Colin Firth in the main role, who left the film in June after saying he did not have the right voice for the character. Producer David Heyman said at the time that Paddington needed “a slightly more open, and younger, voice”.

Heyman said Firth had sensed early on in the production his voice did not suit the bear. “He was saying, ‘Are you sure I’m right?’ He was way ahead of us – Colin was brilliant, but his voice was, ultimately, too mature.”

After hearing Whishaw audition for the role, Paul King said he, “Slowly found myself hearing his voice when I was thinking about Paddington…he breathes and he speaks and he sounds like Paddington.”

Wishaw joins an all start cast that includes Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Nicole Kidman. The film is set for release on 28th November.

For more information about the film check out the movie’s Facebook page.

 

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