“Why have you changed your hairstyle?” I asked James Hamilton at the Soho Theatre Bar.
“I’ve going for the shit Wolverine style,” he replied.
“I have a shit memory,” I told him. “Why am I meeting you?”
“Casual Violence Live!” he said.
“Ah yes!” I said. “Casual Violence. How long have you been going? I’ve forgotten.”
“Fucking ages,” said James. “In our current post-studenty form, almost five years now.”
“And this is your first DVD?” I asked.
“Yes… Well, we don’t have the money to make it a DVD, but we’re putting it online as a download. It’s uploading as we speak”
I think I have seen all the Casual Violence shows – in Edinburgh, Brighton and London – except this year’s one The Great Fire of Nostril. At the Edinburgh Fringe, its show times clashed with my own Grouchy Club shows.
“You’ve done four different shows and a Best Of show?” I asked.
“Yes,” said James. “But the most recent show – The Great Fire of Nostril – is not really a sketch show. So the DVD is a mix of stuff from the first three shows plus a few sketches that didn’t fit into any particular show. Well, it’s not a DVD; it’s a download. Maybe a third of the material in it wasn’t in any Edinburgh Fringe show but stuff which we’ve occasionally done out-and-about. “
“There must,” I asked, “be some sketches which work live but not on a screen?”
“Yes, we found that with the seven web series sketches we did. The one with the Human Defence League guys in a shed… We spent 16 hours in a normal-sized garden shed with five people. It was horrible and then the sketch wasn’t as good on screen as it is live. The three sketches I wrote specifically for the web work very well on screen but can’t be done live.”
There are several Casual Violence taster sketches on YouTube.
“So,” I said, “at the Edinburgh Fringe next year…?”
“Casual Violence are not going to do a new Edinburgh show next year,” said James. “But I may be doing a solo show. We’ve done five shows in a row together. We’ve basically got Edinburgh fatigue and, by developing what we do, we found ourselves… confined is probably the right word… by that particular style
“We love doing stories because, when it works, it’s better than doing a ‘normal’ sketch show. But it’s so much more difficult and we don’t realistically have another one in us. We could say: Oh, let’s just churn out an hour of sketches, but that’s lazy and none of us really wants to do that. So, instead, we are filling our time with all the projects we always wanted to do but can’t do because Edinburgh takes over all our time.”
“They’re solo projects?” I asked.
“Yes. But also group stuff. We’re making a podcast. You came to see the Obsoletium read-through a year ago. We’re going to do that as a podcast and we’re currently writing the second episode. We’ve re-titled it Hector vs The Future because no-one could spell Obsoletium.”
“You’re writing that alone?”
“I’m co-writing it with James Huntrods, our co-producer. He’s got a very good handle on story structure, which I tend to be weaker at.”
“Is that why you’ve done sketches within a single situation in the past, rather than a single linear narrative?”
“Pretty much, although The Great Fire of Nostril had one complete narrative even if it’s a very weird narrative – a bizarre, surrealist one. We’re performing it at the Soho Theatre in the first week of February.”
“How’s your father?” I asked. “Is he no longer trapped in the depths of the London Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane?”
“I don’t know where he is,” said James. “Since leaving the depths, he’s been gallivanting around the… I dunno… I dunno… I tend to leave him to it… He’s just working in…I dunno where he goes… Wherever he goes… God knows where he is.”
“And you?” I asked.
“It wasn’t planned,” said James, “but, over the course of the next couple of months, we have so many projects all happening at the same time. Casual Violence are doing the podcast and the Soho run and I’m developing my solo project and there’s the Casual Violence Live! DVD… erm download. We filmed it at the Brighton Fringe in May which was advantageous, because we won an award specifically for the show we filmed.”
“Which award?” I asked.
“The Argus Angel Award. I think they used to do trophies, but now they just e-mail you a PDF of the award certificate, so it’s an award that actually costs you, because you have to print it out yourself if you want a physical version.”
“That’s quite a good idea,” I said. “Perhaps I should do that with the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. In 2007, I had trophies made for every year up to 2017. After that, I could just send people PDFs of photos of the trophy they might have won if I had bothered to have one made.”
“Or,” suggested James, “part of the prize could be that the winners this year have to design and make trophies for next year’s winners.”
“It would be in the spirit of Malcolm,” I said, “that the winners lose money. I did originally have the idea that part of the prize for each winner would be that they had to buy the judges drinks. But, as I don’t drink alcohol or spirits, it seemed a rather pointless idea… and it doesn’t really work as a concept if they have to buy the judges tap water. It would somehow diminish the award. Although there did used to be the Tap Water Awards. Perhaps I should reconsider the idea.”
On YouTube, there is a trailer for Casual Violence Live!