Every time I walk past Benjy’s in Earl’s Court, I smirk at this sign and finally snapped a photo for you. There are always plenty of people there. Perhaps their very large hot chocolates really are for free?
Luke Smith and Guy Keown are aspiring comedy writers who live in Golders Green and Salford, Surrey respectively. They met at an Oxfordshire school at the age of 15 and formed a lasting friendship despite guy moving to back Swansea a year later. After finishing university, they ended up (entirely by accident) living a stone’s throw from one another (as had been the case seven years earlier). They took this as fate (or stalking from both or either party) and, in the summer of 2008, decided to write together.
They both share the same influences and enjoy the same styles (Chris Morris, Red Dwarf, Curb your Enthusiasm, Black Books, Peter Cook, Spike Milligan) so it was a happy arrangement. Their first sketch show (The HaHa Show) was praised by both the Writer’s Room and Pett Productions (the company founded by Reeves and Mortimer) for its wit and pace, but has found no offers as of yet. Their sitcom “Seen the Light” is a current work in progress that follows a doomsday cult facing Armageddon, a shortage of food and one member hogging the comfy chair.
For this week’s London Art Spot, Guy and Luke tell us about how adventures on the London Underground influence their comedy, about their current “tour” around the West End and share the first podcast episode of The HaHa Show.
LLO: Tell us about your new podcast “The Ha Ha Show”.
GK: The Ha Ha Show Podcast is the result of pent up anger and masses of rejection. We have received nothing but compliments from the industry in regards to our material, but alas no one is willing to front us the dosh to make our scripts into fully fledged media texts. So we have taken up the microphone and put together our very own podcast to share with the world.
We just want to demonstrate our writing abilities and put forward some fresh ideas into the comedy genre. We know our material is great, but seeing as no one is going to help us we have decided to do it ourselves.
LLO: What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this week?
LS: Oddly enough, I get my biggest laughs at my capoeira class. What tends to happen is we’re practicing some complex move then someone says something utterly ridiculous just to break the tension. We were listening to a CD with a master singing and when my teacher asked a student who was singing he said, poker-faced: “Susan Boyle”. Classes are intense, so moments like that are a huge release.
LLO: Is there a specific moment that stands out when you knew you loved to make people laugh?
LS: I was in a production of Abigail’s Party at sixth form that clinched it. We worked really hard because it’s very naturalistic and easy to get wrong. You have to pitch it perfectly. We got such a fantastic response; the audience were in hysterics and the cast were fighting to stop laughing ourselves because it was so infectuous. I got my second dose after my first stand up gig. I got a few laughs and it was more exciting than I can describe.
LLO: You’ve got four sentences. Give us a chuckle.
GK: There once was a man called Ronald. Took a trip to McDonald’s. His burger was modified, promptly his mind died. And he spent the rest of his days as a clown. (They aren’t people too.)
LLO: What makes a good comedian and what elements make a great comedy show?
LS: A good comedian is always honest. I’ve seen comedians trying to be something they’re not and it shows. They take the world apart as they see it and hopefully enough people tap into that and laugh. They make you see the world in a different way. Personally, I find observational stuff like Michael McIntyre horribly banal as it doesn’t make you think. A great comedian makes you gasp with suprise and recognition as you laugh at something you never noticed.
A great comedy show has suprises because an audience expects a lot these days. You can see a million stand-ups online now and I think that’s made people tougher. However, we’re familiar with lots of pop culture which mean shared humour is wider than ever. Mitchell and Webb works great for me as it has so many approaches and subjects. One minute you’re in a lab, the next you’re up a mountain. Its exhilirating to bounce inside someone’s head and see so many ideas in so many different settings. Obviously that’s a little tougher on stage.
LLO: Which London comedians do you most admire?
GK: We both have a great admiration for the king of wit, Paul Merton. He is the master of comedy and is just brilliant. I think that is about as much as I can say without sounding fanatical.
LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your comedy sketches?
LS: The mix of cultures obviously. The tube is another. Because people are often locked in their own world, there are great moments on the tube where people are chatting, not really thinking that someone can hear them as most have their iPods on. I heard a hilarious conversation between two actresses coming into Victoria. People they knew were divided into people they had or hadn’t slept with. One of them said she liked a certain guy and added as an afterthought “but I haven’t slept with him”. I had this bizarre image of her liking everyone up to the point she had sex with them.
LLO: What do you get up to when you’re not making people laugh?
GK: In the rare moments I spend in life not making people laugh, I get up to such simple things as reading, dreaming, imagining myself as ruler of time and standing around in parks dressed in a skin tight pink leotard arguing with ducks about their views on crusts and why it doesn’t make their feathers curly. They constantly tell me it’s all hokum and I’ve been lied to by my elders, but I won’t stoop to their level. Partly because I’m a very tall man, partly because deep down inside I harbor a fear they might be right, and I don’t want to see my mental stability forced into jeopardy.
So just the usual things really. I’m just like all of you.
LLO: Best London comedy venues or comedy nights?
LS: There is a great place in Leicester Square inside Storm called the 99 Club. It’s quite cheap for a non-open mic night as well, £9. You get a 2-hour show and some good comics. The Lions Den in King’s Cross offers a lovely open mic on Tuesday. Great atmosphere and some suprisingly good people, although it’s not called the Comedy Car Crash for nothing! The Comedy Rocket off Leicester Square is tiny, but quite funny. There’s so many comedy nights in london, they’re like mushrooms in a cupboard.
LLO: Where’s the best place to catch the two of you on stage?
GK: Well, at the moment, we are doing a very successful tour of the West End. We sold out the pavement in front of the Gielgud Theatre and the alley behind The National. Our audiences by the backdoor of the Albery were disappointing and our run at the Palace Theatre was cancelled by some stupid musical about the suburbs. Apparently it’s got Michael McIntyre in it. No review could sting that much.
Thanks Guy & Luke!
Listen to the first edition of The HaHa Show here: The HaHa Show
Future HaHa Show podcasts can be found on MySpace.
Guy also writes a blog called Thoughts from a Former Optimist.
For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.