Onion Talking: Zimbani

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ll be aware that Julian Barratt appears in the the new comedy pilot Zimbani – set to air on freeview channel Dave on June 4th at 10:50pm.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

With the broadcast of the pilot little over a week away, we’ve been lucky enough to speak with its creators and stars Dave McNeill and Colin Hoult {pictured with Barratt}, to find out more about a show which may well become the jewel in Dave’s fresh programming crown.

Hi Colin and Dave – welcome to The Velvet Onion! Now, we’ve read the press release about Zimbani, but how would you describe the show, in your own words?

Dave: Zimbani, played by Julian Barratt, is the most evil man in the world. He’s trying to take out civilisation. Basically Zimbani’s a right bastard.
Colin: He’d probably be the creepy kid at school who pulled the legs off spiders.
Dave: We play the force that’s tasked with stopping Zimbani. Accurately named : Taskforce ZIMBANI.
Colin: I play Harry Lenarkos. He’s the very stupid field operative.
Dave: I play his boss. Chester Van Der Chester. Confined to the office but I do get to wear a lovely hat.
Colin: It is a lovely hat.

Zimbani started off as an Edinburgh Festival show. How much of that initial concept has survived the transition to screen?

Dave: Very little really. I think we always sort of saw it as a tv show because it’s in essence inspired by old tv shows and films from our childhoods. In Edinburgh a lot of the show became jokes on the fact that we couldn’t actually do the things they had on TV (lions, guns etc) as were in a 50 seater porta-cabin.

The show came to our attention because of the casting of Julian Barratt. How did you decide who to cast in the show, and was Julian in your mind early on?

Dave: Zimbani as a character wasn’t in the Edinburgh show – he was a shadowy figure in the background. But while we were writing the pilot we realised it would be better if he was seen.
Colin: We’ve always been fans of Julian through his work in ‘The Mighty Boosh’ but also his performance in ‘Nathan Barley’. As well as being really funny he could appear quite menacing.
Dave: And he looks great in uniform.
© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Julian has a stellar reputation as a down-to-earth, approachable man, but what is he like to work with?

Dave: A very nice man indeed. We were filming in a freezing cold disused army barracks with no heating or facilities (you can actually see our breath a couple of times even though we’re meant to be in Africa) which didn’t seem to bother him at all. Although he did come down with a really bad cold the next day.
Colin: We were lucky that Julian had seen me perform my ‘Len Parker’ character on a night supporting Rich Fulcher. He was very encouraging about it, so there was already a connection there.
Dave: He hates me though.
Colin: No he doesn’t mate. He just thought you were a bit clingy.

The show isn’t about Barratt, of course – what else can our readers (and us!) expect to see?

Dave: Lions. Guns. Sex. Lovely hats. A whole chicken used as a deadly weapon.
Colin: Also the line ‘you’ve pulled down my pants and now you’re playing pattercake on my buttcheeks’. What more could you possibly want?

Our readers may be familiar with your faces, if not your names… yet! Where else may they have seen you both previously?

Colin: I’ve recently been in the first two series of Russell Howard’s Good News, often wearing hotpants. I’ve also worked on the comedy circuit as double act Colin and Fergus and I now do my own character show, Carnival of Monsters.
Dave: I play a very good dog in kids Tv show Mist the Sheep Dog. A very good dog. I’m also playing an alien called Vortron in Rufus Hound’s new series ‘Hounded’.

Colin – this isn’t your first real brush with Booshdom is it? You were in short lived sitcom Angelos with Alice Lowe and Simon Farnaby – a show that never really stood a chance of developing a loyal following. Do you have good memories of the production?

Colin: To be honest I think my contribution consisted of one line and running (something I do very badly – as you will see in Zimbani). That said Sharon Hogan was very sweet. Although the last casting I did with her she told me I was mental and I haven’t seen her since. Farnaby is the devil incarnate.

When Angelos was aired it was tricky to guarantee second series. These days it’s quite difficult to get a series comission in the first place. Are you thoughtful of previous attempts by the likes of Julia Davis, Alice Lowe, Adam Buxton and even Kristen Schaal not quite getting the internal support they needed from broadcasters?

Colin: I’ve been through the process myself before and it is consistantly heartbreaking. I don’t think the core problem is that anyone in particular is at fault but that there are so many doors to get through and so much second guessing of what is fashionable at any particular time. For example scripts get rewritten to fit what someone thinks is the vogue at that time and are then dropped because of that very element. Also things take ages to get off the ground and often the people who backed you in the first place have gone on to other things by the time a decision is made. I think the thing to learn is to ignore most advice and do what you really believe in and find funny and eventually it will find a home.
© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

The show is being made for Dave, who seem to be striving to develop new comedy since the success of their Red Dwarf relaunch. Do you think they could become the new home for fresh talent?

Dave: I think its very exciting that they’re commisioning original comedy as they don’t have all those obstacles that Colin just mentioned. The whole process has been smooth and they’ve been genuinely helpful throughout.
Colin: They also encouraged us to go further with the more crazy stuff, which is normally not really encouraged. And they told us to get rid of comedy nuns which in hindight was probably for the best.

Do you have any plans for future episodes of Zimbani if the show is comissioned? And what can The Velvet Onion readers do to help?

Colin: If the show is commisioned as a series you’ll see Zimbani spreading his evil all over the world. We’ll be tracking him to a different place each episode and packing it full of as much stupidity and slapstick nonsense as we can. We promise. Basically if you like the show and want to see more then make it known as loudly and proudly as possible! Twitter, facebook all those things. If its clear there’s an audience for the show then it will vastly improve the chances of us making more. And finally we’ll be able to move out of the wigwam.

Finally, what does the future hold for Colin and David. Now you’re on the radar of loyal Boosh fans, where can we all see you next?

Colin: We both appear regularly on the comedy circuit. I can be seen in character as karate enthusiast Len Parker and gorgous cabaret singer Anna Mann.
Dave: And I like to warn people that an increasing reliance on technology will ultimately result in the destruction of civilised society – The laughs come thick and fast.
Colin: Also I’m going to be at Edinburgh with a new show Enemy of the World and we’re both tinkering on new projects together.
Dave: We’re desparate to create the new Ghostwatch.

Dave and Colin – thank you for your time, and we at TVO wish you the best of luck with the pilot and beyond… especially with that Ghostwatch plan!

Zimbani airs on Dave at 10:50pm on Friday June 4th. For more info, visit the Zimbani Facebook group.
Editor’s Note: Colin Hoult has recently tweeted the following: “To anyone who saw Zimbani and liked it and wants to see more please let this be known to the world. (esp the Dave Channel).”  So if you’re a fan of the pilot, please tell the Dave channel what you think, and let’s get this commissioned as a series!

1 Comment on Onion Talking: Zimbani

  1. I watched it and genuinely loved it. I laughed out loud more than I anticipated I was going to, to be honest. It seemed to have a fantastic ‘look’ to it as well, props to the design team. Well done, Colin and David, I’ll be looking forward to ep two! 😀
    By the way, Julian as a baddie with a gun – way sexier than it should have been. 😉


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