It’s not just stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of course, and plenty of sketch acts will be competing for people’s laughs too.
One of our favourites is Casual Violence – a sketch group that have built a reputation on brilliant black humour, sharp writing and smart dressing. We spoke to head writer James Hamilton about the group’s plans for 2013.
Hello James, how’s it hanging?
It’s not so much hanging as sticking to the inside of my leg. It’s a bit clammy in here.
You have two shows at the fringe this year, can you tell us about them (no spoilers please)?
Our new show this year is House of Nostril, which is a plot-driven comedy nightmare about goblins, chimney sweeps and a terrible parent. It’s set in a Gothic mansion, and filled with all kinds of awful people. It’s quite experimental and a bit of a development for Casual Violence – there’s going to be bits of animation and film and musical numbers and things. Even having a main plot’s a bit of a novelty – but we wanted to develop what we’re doing this year and take a chance with the content instead of sticking to the Choose Death / A Kick In The Teeth model we’ve used the last two years. That’s going to be at the Pleasance Courtyard at 3:45pm every day.
Our other show is our Free Fringe best-of show, Om Nom Nominous, which we’ve updated for 2013 to include favourites from our 2012 show: so there’ll be a healthy dose of Poppyman, Major Tom and Obsoleteum sketches in among our older stuff. That’s on at the Voodoo Rooms for the first two weeks of the Fringe, at 19:15. So we’ll be finished each day by 20:30, which is about three hours earlier than we usually finish a day at the Fringe. That’ll be nice.
Is there any particular character or sketch in your new show House of Nostril that you’re particularly proud of?
Conk the Dyslexia Goblin’s a personal favourite – it’s very strange and nightmarish and Luke gets to show off his ridiculous face with it. But our first ‘Chimney Sweeps’ sketch probably pips it – that one’s a lot of fun to perform and people keep picking it out as a favourite from the new show. Plus I get to throw in a bunch of stupid references to Mary Poppins.
You are one of the ‘darker’ sketch outfits around; are there any key influences you all share?
Game of Thrones, apparently. Although Game of Thrones has been more of a negative influence than a positive one: it’s derailing every rehearsal. We haven’t been able to get through a single day together without the rest of the group calling out “Did you send the ravens?!”, and the line “Conk, NO!” in our show has been repeatedly mutating into “Jon SnOW!”. The latest habit they’ve picked up is sneaking up behind each other, stabbing the other person in the chest with a false knife and saying “the Lannisters send their regards”.
On the positive side: House of Nostril’s main story is about a father/son relationship, and I was watching those amazing/horrible scenes between Tywin and Tyrion Lannister repeatedly when I was writing the ending of our show.
Comedy wise, most of us are heavily into Limmy’s Show at the moment – myself included – but that doesn’t have a huge impact on Casual Violence material, as it doesn’t particularly match our style. Because the others largely don’t write the material, it’s mainly my influences that come up in the writing: Lemony Snicket, Roald Dahl, Colin Hoult, Psychoville. All that macabre nonsense. Limmy’s Show is more likely to impact the solo show I’m planning to write for next year than it is to impact Casual Violence: it’s the first TV show I’ve seen since the first series of Psychoville in 2009 where I’ve thought: “fuck, I want to do what he does”. A couple of the guys in the group adore the League of Gentlemen, but personally I never clicked with that as much as I did with Psychoville.
What are the positives and negatives of doing Edinburgh with such a large group?
I adore performing with the other guys. It’s great to have a group of people you know well enough to write to – and play to – their varying strengths. Plus you can share the costs, and share the flyering responsibility, and a lot of the practical things are easier. The flip-side is you have to split the (very little) money you make five ways, and trying to organise rehearsals and gigs with that many people is a pain in the arse. I’m looking forward to trying out solo comedy on the side next year for pretty much those reasons: Casual Violence isn’t planning to stop any time soon, but I’m looking forward to being able to rehearse ad hoc, and write material that I can perform the same night, rather than weeks later.
Your being supported by the Kevin Spacey foundation. Am I to take it he will pop up in a sketch?
He’s playing the anthropomorphised House of Nostril itself.
If Kevin Spacey demanded to join Casual Violence, playing every role in every sketch himself (using advanced cloning techniques) what would you say?
I’d say yes, obviously. Who wouldn’t want to see Kevin Spacey play a goblin making a sandwich? Or a ten year old chimney sweep? Or the CEO of Amnesty International? NOBODY, THAT’S WHO WOULDN’T.
Casual Violence presents House of Nostril
August 4-25, 3.45pm
Pleasance Courtyard (venue 33)
£8-£9.50 (2-4-1 on August 5-6)
Casual Violence Om Nom Nominous
August 3-17, 7.15pm
Voodoo Rooms (venue 68)