Live at the Electric
Russell Kane introduces Ben Williams to the stars of BBC Three's sketch and character gangshow
With the ‘Apollos’, ‘Roadshows’ and ‘One Night Stands’ seemingly on endless repeat, you can’t move for sharp-suited stand-ups on TV. But with sketch and character acts a force on the live circuit, how can they overcome this dominance and introduce this less-conventional repertoire to a wider audience? Russell Kane could have the answer.
The energetic mega-quiffed comic hosts new BBC Three gang show ‘Live at the Electric’, which features a bunch of writer-performers who are well established on the live comedy scene, but have rarely appeared on television. ‘We wanted to do a show where there was still stand-up in it, because that’s what people are into at the moment,’ says Kane, ‘but also wanted it to be a chance for sketch and character acts to break through. I describe it as the geeky underground bunker: the naughty goth coven of the stand-up programmes; we’ve opened a hatch and the Dungeons & Dragons club is having its own comedy night underneath.’
It’s set at ‘The Electric’, a crumbling old fictional music hall, and Kane has personally been involved with selecting the showcased talent. ‘There would be no point in me working with someone I didn’t like, would there?’ he says, matter-of-factly. ‘I’m at Edinburgh every year, I know who’s coming through, I know who’s hot before they’re hot, as it were. These are the guys that are going to be massive. I would be surprised if one of them didn’t have a series within 12 months.’ So, because he knows them better than anyone, we asked Russell Kane to introduce us to his co-stars of ‘Live at the Electric’ and what to expect from them on the show…
‘WitTank are three reasonably posh lads [Naz Osmanoglu, Kieran Boyd and Mark Cooper-Jones] who are absolutely brilliant actors. I mean, intimidatingly good. The standard of the rehearsal of their dark, macabre, witty sketches is what brings them to life. They’ve just got that performance edge that’s amazing.’
Two Episodes of Mash
‘Two Episodes of Mash are Joe Wilkinson and Diane Morgan. Their sketches are very leftfield and tangential. Most of the time there’s intentionally no punchline, and then they point out that there was no punchline, and they go, “That’s the end, so you might wanna clap” and then just walk off. It’s very, very funny, staring-at-you-till-you-laugh type comedy. And then Joe has his own solo sketches, which I suppose are about a man getting it as wrong as he can in various situations. They start with premises like, “I will never forget the time that I tried to set my leg on fire…”.’
‘The stuff that Humphrey’s written is kind of a pastiche of “The Wire”. It’s a hard-hitting parody about ice cream vans. It’s about a family that run an ice-cream truck and just because the Feasts are out of date or something there’s a killing. But it’s so well done it’s like watching an episode of a high-budget American drama. Humphrey stars in them too.’
‘Lady Garden are five ladies [Hannah Dodd, Beattie Edmondson, Rose Johnson, Eleanor Thom and Camille Ucan] who write very saucy, very funny sketches. There’s a brisk energy running through them and there’s a lot of filth going on, which is bang up my street. They’re very creative.’
‘Jigsaw are a collective of three people who you wouldn’t necessarily put together. They are Nat Luurtsema, Dan Antopolski and Tom Craine. They perform really tightly written sketches with proper punchlines, and now and again they pull a dark one out of the bag when you’re not expecting it. Dan’s got so much experience [as a stand-up] that you can feel his surreal turns of phrase on top of the sketches. They’re really good at doing short, quick sketches, as well as longer narrative ones.’
‘Hari’s our US correspondent. He comes on in one-minute bursts and gives a breakdown of what he thinks of various aspects of British culture, and tries to wind the Brits up watching it. It’s a really funny take on our country through the eyes of an American.’
‘So, on the show it’s not just things on stage or videos, the camera follows me backstage too. Totally Tom play two stage crew, one of which is new to the job, and the other thinks he’s mates with me. They play out scenes that they’ve written where I’ll make them pick up dogshit when I’ve got my dog in, things like that. It’s pushing the boundaries a little bit.’
‘Finally, we’ve got Nick Helm. He’s like a man having a breakdown on stage. He’s a monster gargling gravel, and then spitting it into your ears. With a guitar.