Tag Archives: League of Gentlemen

Ever-calm Chris Lincé laughs: “I’ve tried to work on the best and worst shows”

Chris Lincé

Chris – “Maybe I saw it and have repressed it. “

In a blog chat three weeks ago with Jody Kamali, an unjustly forgotten Edinburgh Fringe show called Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian came up.

‘Unjustly forgotten’ in the same way that it would be unjust if the sinking of the Titanic were forgotten.

Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian was outstandingly bad and the reviews reflected that.

Coincidentally, I chatted with writer-director Chris Lincé and it turned out he had been involved in the production – but only designing the sets.

“You never actually saw the stage show itself?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

“Trust me,” I said, “if you had seen it, you would have remembered it.”

“I definitely read the script,” said Chris. “Maybe I saw it and have repressed it. I really don’t know.”

“It was truly awful,” I said. “It was like when young male comics get on stage and talk about wanking… Sometimes you get girls who think they’ll be terribly avant-garde and progressive if they talk about sex and say the word ‘cunt’. It was all that. The central character worked for CUN TV, which was the best pun in it. Did the script read OK?”

“No,” said Chris. “It was that for an hour.”

“It’s not my memory misleading me?” I asked.

A 2005 photocall in Edinburgh for the Sally Swallows show

2005 photocall for Sally Swallows Fringe show

“No. To a certain extend, I think it’s someone watching things like the League of Gentlemen and not really understanding why it works. Looking at ‘dark’ things and learning the wrong lessons. Thinking: Ooh! If I’m as dark as possible, if I swear as much as possible, that will do and that will be funny! and I believe from people who saw the Sally Swallows show that… eh… that was not the case… Presumably you saw it with an audience?”

“Yes,” I said. “There were about 8 or 10 of us and, beforehand, there was a sense of enormous anticipation. We had all come see it because we had read the terrible reviews. But – and this is true – I do remember that the sets were really, really good. I seem to remember realising enormous work had been put into the sets and the sound and I think the costumes too.”

“A lot of effort went into the production,” agreed Chris, “and she hired a really good cartoonist to design the poster. I did a painted backdrop of London and there was an ice cream van that I spent ages making in my living room. It was huge and heavy.”

“This was for the sperm ice cream scene?” I asked.

“I guess so,” said Chris. “I remember there was a hairy clam on a plate and a small, deformed puppet body that I think one of the characters wore around their neck.”

“The hairy clam on the plate,” I said, “must surely have been a vagina?”

“I think that was the innuendo,” said Chris.

“Any contact since,” I asked, “with the lady who created the show?”

Gail Porter projected her ideas on Parliament

Gail Porter’s successful Parliamentary projection

“Well,” said Chris, “shortly after doing that show, she sent me lots of naked photographs of herself… to be projected onto the Houses of Parliament. I think it was after FHM had projected Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament and so she wanted to project herself onto them to promote the raising of import tax on fur.

“She was going to have a photograph of herself, completely naked – I think with a little aeroplane over her lady parts. I got as far as re-touching the photos and adding text to it – and the aeroplane – but then she found out how much it would cost to hire a projector that big and the whole project fell apart. That was the last I heard from her.”

“I don’t know what you are,” I told Chris. “You are difficult to categorise. When I first met you, it was as a writer. But then other people see you as a director. And now I find out you were a set designer.”

“I’ve tried,” laughed Chris, “to work on the best and worst shows that have been out there!”

“Most recently…?” I prompted.

“I script edited a small, independent British movie,” said Chris. “Superbob. Been in cinemas, now available on DVD and video-on-demand and all those other exciting things. Written by Brett Goldstein, directed by Jon Drever.

SuperBob_poster

SuperBob – “very sweet and heartwarming”

“It was based on a short film that Brett and Jon had made and they developed it into a feature script, got lots of producers involved. But, like any low-budget film, it took five years to get anybody to see it.

“The shoot was about three weeks, two and a half years ago. Within the last six months or so, they got distribution for it and it’s been out there, people have been liking it and the reviews are good. All the things you hope for but don’t expect. All the reviews seem to say it’s very, very sweet film; heartwarming.”

“What,” I asked, “is the elevator pitch for it?”

“It’s about a postman who is hit by a meteorite and it endows him with superpowers. He gets hired by the Ministry of Defence to be the world’s only superhero. But this film is set on his day off.”

(There is a trailer for Superbob on YouTube)

“You directed,” I said, “Brett Goldstein’s last three Edinburgh Fringe stage shows and you directed two other shows at the Fringe this year… but you didn’t actually go up to Scotland… Don’t you have to up if you’re directing something?”

“I can’t be doing with that any more,” explained Chris. “If it’s not directed by the time it starts, it’ll never be ready… It’s only hand-holding after that. Each of Brett’s shows I work on for about a year and a half. The hard work is early on.”

“You do a lot of script editing,” I said. “Isn’t that frustrating, because you’re making someone else’s writing better but getting no credit for it?”

“You don’t get the immediate praise a stand-up gets when he’s performing,” admitted Chris. “but, as a non-performer, I don’t particularly crave that. You do want to be recognised for it so you can get more work off the back of it.”

“How does anybody actually direct stand-up?” I asked.

“The word directing is almost meaningless,” replied Chris. “It can mean almost being a co-writer or turning up at the last minute and suggesting performance or presentation things. I’ve got involved in shows at all types of different stages of development. “

“What are you doing next?” I asked.

“I’m directing a short play at the New Diorama Theatre – The Story Project’s Chapter 2 – starting on Tuesday – about a teenage girl who’s being trolled and abused online.”

“Have you,” I asked, “decided to concentrate on being a director now?”

“I do whatever people ask me to do. Bits of script editing; bits of directing; a little bit of writing recently, to stop myself getting rusty.”

“Can you be rusty in writing?”

“I think so, yeah.”

“Have you got ambitions?”

“Only to do more of the same but get paid better – or paid – for it. I’m always busy but not always productive.”

Chris Lincé’s showreel is on Vimeo.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Movies

‘Hated’ comic Alexander Bennett has an interest in serial killers’ lives & the link between comedy and horror punches

Alexander Bennett yesterday in London’s Chinatown

Alexander yesterday in London’s Chinatown

By paragraph 11 of this blog, I stare in open-eyed amazement at comedian Alexander Bennett and say WHAAAAAAAATTT????

Alexander first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011.

Next Monday in London, he will be performing a version of Alexander Bennett’s Afraid of The Dark, his 2013 Edinburgh Fringe show about a girl called Amy who started to hear voices in her head and then went missing. Alexander found her diary and the show involves him enacting her diary. Except neither Amy nor the diary is real. Alexander made them up.

“You’d be surprised what people think,” Alexander told me at Bar Italia in Soho yesterday.

“What do they think?” I asked.

“That it’s real, despite the fact there are obviously constructed jokes in the diary. At the end of the Edinburgh show, I had people come up to me saying Do you know what happened to her? – Yes I do, I told them. Happily ever after. She’s fictional. She got hit by a truck. There you go. I can change what happened to her.

“Why did you think of doing that show?” I asked.

“Because I’ve been doing comedy for a while and…”

“How long a while?” I asked.

“Well,” replied Alexander, “I’m 21 now and I…”

WHAAAAAAAATTT????” I said, shocked.

Alexander faces up to old age as a young man

Alexander really doesn’t look this young in the flesh

“Yes, I know,” said Alexander. “I look much, much older. When I was 18 and gigging in Manchester, an audience member guessed I was 35 and I was so depressed the gig went downhill from there on. A lot of my life has been women telling me they hate me.

“They come up to me and go Your hair’s great; do you mind if I touch it? – No, go ahead – And you don’t do anything to it? – No, I just wash it – It’s really good quality. I HATE you. That’s one reaction.

“The other one is 30-year-old women who are flirting with me who ask How old are you? When I say 21, they are initially annoyed and then they say You’re going to look like that for the rest of your life and then they are even more annoyed with me.”

“You are annoyingly young,” I said. “So you started performing comedy when you were 18?”

“No,” said Alexander. “When I was 15.”

“So,” I said, “you decided when you were 15 that you wanted to be a comedian?”

“No,” said Alexander. “I was younger than that. I loved cartoons – The Simpsons and Wallace & Gromit and all the Aardman Studios stuff. At first, I thought it was because they were cartoons. But then my dad showed me some Ronnie Barker shows and I realised Ah! The reason I like these shows is because they are funny! Then, from the age of 8 or so, I wanted to be Ronnie Barker. And I was watching John Cleese at around the same time.

Tall, aloof but older-looking John Cleese

Tall, aloof but older-looking John Cleese

“I can identify with John Cleese because I’m not a kind of smiley-happy comedian. I come across more authoritarian than loose. I can identify with Cleese because there’s a similar sort of aloofness. The first thing I ever wrote as a kid of 13 was about trying to bury someone who’s not dead.”

“You were writing at 13?” I asked. “I think I may be starting to hate you.”

“Yes,” said Alexander. “That always happens. When I was 16, I made a feature film that cost about £250 and had a crew of three people. It was a comedy horror called Love: A Mental Illness and it is about a stalker. The girl he’s stalking becomes very upset and he realises the reason she is upset is because all of her friends are horrible. So he goes through the process of getting rid of all these friends who are making her life a misery.”

“You did this aged 16?” I asked.

“Yes, that is why I don’t usually tell people my age,” said Alexander. “Because they will hate me. I am young in a way that irritates people.”

“I think I hate you,” I said. “Also, if you are 21, why aren’t you at university?”

“I am,” said Alexander.

“I think research before you meet people for a chat” I said, “is much over-rated.”

“I’m finishing a degree in film & television production.” explained Alexander, “which is a 90% practical course.”

“And you are particularly interested in….?” I prompted.

“My dissertation was on The British Identity in The Horror Film,” he replied.

“Not a lot of laughs in that,” I said.

“One of the greatest comedy films ever made”?

Rape, ultra-violence and “one of the greatest comedy films ever made”?

Clockwork Orange is one of the greatest comedy films ever made,” said Alexander. “That is 100% true. When I first watched it, I didn’t realise it was a comedy. The second time I watched it, I did. Clockwork Orange is hilarious; there are loads and loads of jokes all the way through it.”

“Well,” I said. “There is some vague connection between comedy and horror and I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if maybe laughter and fear release some of the same chemicals into to the body or something like that.”

“I think a lot of comedy has a horrific element to it,” said Alexander. “They say there’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Well, if you push that a little bit further…”

“I do think,” I said, that a lot of the great comedies which have lasted have been set in tragic situations. Hancock…”

“I completely agree,” said Alexander. “Steptoe and Son, Porridge. The idea of being trapped, which is central to all good sitcoms is essential to a lot of horror as well. Steptoe and Son are trapped in a relationship.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “And in One Foot in The Grave they’re trapped. A lot of their situations, if they actually happened, would be horrendous. Good comedy is when things go slightly wrong with reality and..”

“Comedy is a break in reality,” said Alexander, “and horror is kind of the same thing, really. The kind of punch in the stomach that can come with something that’s very tragic is very similar to the punch in the stomach that comes with that Ooohhh! of comedy. The ending of Planes, Trains and Automobiles… It’s a very tragic twist to the end of a comedy film.

“Another thing that horror does which comedy also does is it puts people in pressured spaces. All good horror films have a small group of characters who the film puts pressure on until all the relationships break down. And that is a very good description of any sitcom that works.”

“You like dark comedy…” I suggested.

The Mighty Boosh showing their textures

BBC TV’s Mighty Boosh showing some of their many textures

The League of Gentlemen, I think, is the best sketch show I’ve ever seen. The Mighty Boosh, as a television programme, is fantastic because there are so many textures. And Spaced had a very distinct visual grammar that serves what they’re doing very well.”

“You told me off-microphone,” I said, “that you are interested in serial killers.”

“I run a first-Tuesday-of-the-month comedy club called This Is Not a Cult and the basic structure of the show is I give people new rules to live their lives by. At my January night, I said to the audience: Name any serial killer and I will tell you when they lived and how many people they killed, because I have enough of a working knowledge of that sort of thing to be able to respond. Later on during the same show, I tried to flirt with a girl, having forgotten I’d revealed this aspect of myself. It’s not a great chat-up technique, is it?”

“Any comedy heroes?” I asked.

“My real heroes,” said Alexander, “are Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and early Woody Allen. They all directed, performed and wrote. Stan Laurel ended up virtually directing all the Laurel & Hardy stuff.”

“So you like auteurs,” I said. “And you’ll have a new show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August?”

“Yes. Alexander Bennett: Follow Me. It’s about the people who are looked-up-to in society and I will prove why I’m better than all of them and convert the audience to my cause.”

“Which is?”

“That I’m brilliant. My stand-up persona is a man who thinks he knows how to run the world. I think my act is more a persona than a character. My life feeds into it and it’s presented in a way that is not necessarily me but is born of me. So it’s a persona not a character. I just take the worst aspects of my personality.”

“Which are?” I asked.

“Ego. I do think I’m brilliant, but I know that’s ridiculous. I do kind of think the world would run so much smoother if everybody would shut up and listen to me. But the guy on stage says things I don’t agree with. It’s a persona.”

There is a clip on YouTube of Alexander performing at the 2013 Chortle Student Comedy Awards.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Horror, Humor, Humour, Movies, Television

Not all the most interesting shows happening during the Edinburgh Fringe are listed in the Fringe Programme…

This coming Sunday, TV production company Brown Eyed Boy are opening an all-year-round venue and sketch-based show called Alchemy EH1  in the Trinity Apse, part of the 15th century Trinity College Kirk on Chalmers Close, just off the Royal Mile.

Alchemy is the idea of Jemma Rodgers, who produced The League of Gentlemen and Irvine Welsh’s Wedding Belles, then became BBC Scotland’s Head of Comedy before moving to new Shine-owned Scottish-based venture Kudos Brown Eyed Boy which started earlier this year.

Alchemy is going to run for eight nights during the Fringe and then continue monthly in Edinburgh all-the-year round.

The idea is to develop new-ish writing and performing talent – including musical comedian Helen Arney and my comedy chum Janey Godley’s staggeringly talented daughter Ashley Storrie and “to nurture these acts through a team writing model used so successfully on shows like Saturday Night Live, and to enable us to forge a strong creative relationship with such a promising mix of non-London-centric talent.”

Cutting through the pseudo-American circumlocution, that is a bloody good idea. They team up talented people, let them develop new ideas and give them a regular live performance outlet. It is an especially bloody good idea given Shine, Kudos and Brown Eyed Boy’s US contacts.

Shine produce Merlin and Masterchef. Kudos have made Life on Mars, Spooks and Hustle as well as the movies Eastern Promises and Brighton Rock.  Brown Eyed Boy are opening up a Los Angeles arm and have just had their Imran Yusuf Show pilot commissioned by BBC3 – Imran Yusuf was nominated as Best Newcomer in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards last year.

The hour-long Alchemy EH1 stage shows during the Fringe start at 10.00pm and are on:

Sunday 7th August

Friday 12th August

Saturday 13th August

Friday 19th August

Saturday 20th August

Thursday 25th August

Friday 26th August

Saturday 27th August

At the very least these shows sound a tad interesting and have impressive backing.

It is ironic that one of the most interesting and potentially successful ideas at the Fringe is not actually officially on the Fringe but is on the fringe of the Fringe.

Who knows what future years may bring?

Not me.

I still have Fringe fever: a swirling of uncertainties in the head, coupled with a slight shiver of anticip….

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Scotland, Television, Theatre