As part of our continuing lookback at projects which may have escaped the attention of some of our readers, or simply passed into faded memories, we elected to take a look back at Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher’s sketch-series Snuffbox.
And none of us were more qualified to do that than TVO resident ‘Fulcher Fanatic’ afroharold. This then, is her retrospective on the misadventues of the hangmen.
The six episodes of Berry and Fulcher’s Snuff Box were broadcast on BBC3 in 2006, and have never been repeated. Written by and starring Rich Fulcher and Matt Berry, Matt also composed the music for the series, which was directed by Michael Cumming.
OK, that’s the facts out of the way. Now for the difficult part! It’s not easy to describe Snuff Box to someone who has never seen it. It doesn’t fit into any category, which might explain why it has never been shown again, and a second series is a very unlikely happening.
The series is set in a Gentlemen’s Club, which is home to ‘Matt Berry’, ‘High Executioner to the King of England and all Sovereign Colonies’, and ‘Rich Fulcher’, his apprentice. A lot of the action takes place in the club – a magnificently decorated building which adds a lot to the unconventional atmosphere of the series, but there are a variety of other locations, mostly backstreets and parks of London.
All the episodes begin with Matt and Rich walking down a long white corridor. The first F-word is uttered within forty seconds of the start of the first episode, followed thirty seconds later by a man being hanged, accompanied by a cursing priest – played by ‘ardman regular Alan Ford.
Then the opening credits roll, and by this time you realise that this is no ordinary ‘sketch show’. Snuffbox is funny, it’s bizarre, disturbing in places and sometimes it is just plain wrong, but I love it! The two main characters are awful people, totally unlikeable, and yet you can’t help but love them. Watching it for the first time provides the slightly apprehensive feeling you get at a live comedy show, where you don’t know quite what’s going to happen and you can’t help feeling a bit scared!
Each episode follows a loose pattern of songs, sketches, running jokes, hangings and time travel. Oh, yes, did I mention the time travel? But be warned, this is nothing like ‘Doctor Who’.
I’ve briefly outlined each episode to give those unfamiliar with Snuff Box an idea of the series and hopefully inspire the rest of us to get out the DVD!
Episode 1, ‘Rich’s Mother’
in which Matt tries to work out who Rich’s Mother was, as he cons Rich out of his royalty cheque. We are introduced to ‘Sir Charles’ and his ladies, and the fantastic song ‘Rapper with a Baby‘ is performed by Rich and the Rapper Dads. There’s also an amazing version of ‘California Dreaming’. Matt shows us how to play the guitar in his unique DVD.
Episode 2, ‘Matt’s Diary’
is actually about Matt’s Diary! There’s the ‘Awkward Moments of your Life’ sketch, a wonderful cameo by Alice Lowe as Bowie, and a spoof of ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, featuring Richard Ayoade. There’s a trip to the opera for the pair, although Matt doesn’t enjoy it as much as Rich.
Episode 3, ‘Punchline’
shows Rich constantly stealing Matt’s punchlines. Rich goes swimming, and disses Jimi Hendrix (a fine performance by Stephen K. Amos). There’s an end to Matt’s quest for his silver cowboy boots and Rich is behaving strangely in the bedroom. This episode ends with an unusual take on the theme tune.
Episode 4, ‘Oh Brothers’
is about Matt and Rich’s brothers coming to stay. I love this episode, it’s probably my favourite one, maybe it’s because there is double Berry and Fulcher, and Richard Ayoade as a bonus. There’s a visit from ‘David Beckham’, to show off his IT skills, and more from the Censors. It also has the very wrong ‘Restaurant Date Sketch’, and a very rude word before the credits.
Episode 5, ‘Love Triangle’
sees the boys end up commentating on the golf, Rich having to take over a ‘Ripper Tour’ and ‘Elton John’ has a bit of an accident. Matt and Rich talk in each others voices, and somehow they are both invited onto ‘Mastermind‘. There’s also the slightly disturbing ‘Hangman Song’, and Matt gets friendly with Rich’s girlfriend.
Episode 6, ‘Wedding’
can you guess what this one is about? Rich finds the woman of his dreams, but Matt is not happy. They have a stag night and Rich meets Matt’s Dad. This episode also has slightly different words to the start theme and the end theme is sung by Matt, in French, accompanied only by the guitar, it is a sad haunting tune appropriate to the end of the series.
Matt’s music perfectly complements the show. The incidental music adds atmosphere, and the many variations on the theme tune link each episode, while remaining appropriate to the plot.
Of course Snuff Box isn’t perfect, some of the sketches are less successful than others, but overall it is an amazing show, and the performances from Matt and Rich are definitely Gold and not Bronze.
If you would like to see more, rush over to The Velvet Onion Store to buy your very own copy of the DVD.