An interview with Scottish Comedian Limmy

limmyI interviewed Limmy back in 2009, just after the pilot of his television show – Limmy’s Show – aired. I was still working out how journalism worked at the time, so the questions maybe aren’t the best, but I post the Q&A here, for anyone interested, and as part of my commitment to regularly update this website, at least once every year or two.

For those unaware, Brian Limond – Limmy – is a Scottish comedian, who had a three-series sketch show on the BBC. His sketches regularly do the rounds online, particularly the ‘steel is heavier than feathers‘ one.

When I interviewed him, he was known for a dark, comic podcast called Limmy’s World of Glasgow. The pilot of Limmy’s Show had recently aired, and the first series was about to be broadcast a few months later in 2010.

I fucking love the guy’s comedy. It’s very Glaswegian, and he has a great grasp of the absurd. These days, he has a huge following on Twitter, were you can find a lot of his sketches. Before clicking through to that though, take a trip with me back to a pre-Brexit, pre-Trump, pre-2016 world known as 2009:

Q: How would you describe the comedy you do? And what influences it?

A: Black comedy with a bit of The Twilight Zone. I’m influenced by life in general, The Twilight Zone, horror films, bits and pieces.

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Live at the Electric review – Episode One (Series 2) – BBC3

Live at the ElectricLive at the Electric is a sketch show filmed in front of a live audience, and presented by Russell Kane, one of what Stewart Lee hilariously called the ‘Russell comedians.’ Kane is a preening, twatish-looking figure fond of flouncing mannerism and the same vocal inflections as Russell Brand. He has received a lot of critical praise and has won a number of awards but I’ve never really liked the guy. There are little bits of intelligence and insight in his work but I struggle to see what about him has generated so much admiration.

Kane opened the show this week with some pretty straightforward stuff about older children picking on their siblings. You can find content just as funny at your nearest Jongleurs on any random night. The first sketch of the show was poor, lacking in any jokes or interesting set-up and with some dodgy comic performances – one guy seemed to be doing an impression of Matt Berry. This was followed by a much better character piece that had a pretty funny exploration of the ‘69’ position and which built into a list of increasingly absurd sexual positions based on numbers.

Live at the Electric bills itself as a showcase for new comedic talent and I guess it does have worth for that reason. It does, though, seem to lean heavily on certain kind of slightly off-kilter acts that eschew traditional jokes. Paul Currie for instance, performing a bit here with a puppet, appears to be doing something original, but, really, his act wouldn’t be out of place on Britain’s Got Talent or a 1970s talk show (to be fair, this is presumably just a tiny bit of his act).

There was also this episode another purposefully weird bit – from Joe Wilkinson and Dianne Morgan – which was decent in places, a pretty awful Shakespeare parody of The Only Way is Essex, and a terrible Twilight parody that didn’t come anywhere close to accurately sending up the actors being portrayed in the sketch. Also splitting up the show were some backstage scripted segments that were poor throughout but at least built to a half-decent punchline at the show’s conclusion.

I guess we shouldn’t really expect too much of a show like this. It’s not supposed to be groundbreaking; it’s just BBC Three light-entertainment, with a reasonably admirable goal of giving attention and TV time to some little known comedians. But that doesn’t excuse it being so poor in places, overusing juvenile humour and performing it in a way as if it is something other than lazy and rote. It’s just not very good, Live at the Electric, but it’s probably worth tuning in now and again to see if there are any good acts on it.

Choice lines:

  • ‘As a finale, can we put a crossbow up, and then spin it? There’s your big finish.’
  • ‘A man attempting to fuck an angry cobra. It’s quite an advanced move.’

It’s Kevin review – Episode Six – BBC Two

I's Kevin Episode SixIt’s Kevin didn’t quite go out on a high, but episode six was slightly above the series’ usually low standard. There was a decent amount of okay sketches, and a few that were actually quite good. Maybe half of the show I enjoyed, and while 50/50 is still a poor hit-rate, it’s better than it has been most weeks.

One good sketch about the invention of coupons illustrated what this show could have been with better writing. Kevin Eldon and Adam Buxton put in two funny performances, Buxton as the inventor of a perpetual motion machine, and Eldon as a French king misconstruing the inventor’s idea. The acting was great, with Buxton jittering about nervously as Eldon haughtily ripped up his blueprint: ‘What is this; is it a tiny mouse? No, it is a coupon.’

The crucial thing about the acting though, is that it aided the joke and the premise of the sketch. It didn’t, as many sketches in It’s Kevin have done (see the 1980s nurse sketch this episode), build the entire skit around performance. And there were little jokes spread throughout the sketch; it didn’t rely entirely on the punchline or premise.

I also liked the sketch about ‘Standing up Saleem’ who quickly became ‘Sitting down Saleem,’ and the foster ghost sketch made good use of the show’s world and inventive directing. Speaking of which, the directing throughout the series has been really good and has played a huge role in keeping the show interesting despite the often substandard writing.

Then there were the poor sketches. In one, Eldon played a fictional man from the north of England. They’ve done this sketch in nearly every episode, and it has been almost the exact same joke each time. I’ve always had a problem with recurring sketches that cross episodes, because usually there is no difference in the joke week-to-week. Monty Python didn’t do that and instead stressed originality. Sometimes I feel like Python ripped up the sketch show rule book so that every other show since could piece it back together bit by bit, with a few notable exceptions. That said, I know most people enjoy these types of recurring sketches – same jokes every week and all – so maybe it’s just a personal bugbear.

The rest of the sketches in episode six were poor to okay. The sketch with Bertrand Russell on a 1950s TV show was nothing but a weak premise, while the ‘thousand bums’ encyclopaedia was a little funny. The episode ended with a song from a folk band with a Dubstep addition that was both funny and enjoyable to listen to. And then Eldon signed off, and It’s Kevin ended.

It's KevinIn my review of the first episode of It’s Kevin, I said I ‘far prefer any show which attempts to be original and fails sometimes, to one which treads well-worn ground and remains consistently mediocre.’ It’s Kevin was, sad to say, consistently mediocre, but it did strive to be different and original, and to create a show that lasted long in the memory and which wasn’t just a collection of jokes randomly strung together.

The show succeeded in that aim, and it will stay with me for a while after its end. I watched every episode, because it was interesting and fun at times, and it was better than most shows on TV – although most shows on TV are terrible.

It was also, though, very poorly written at times. Many sketches had weak premises, which are a problem, but a problem made even worse when the sketches have nothing beyond the premise. The show leaned very heavily on absurdity, using it as a crutch, and to get out of sketches. It was, to put it bluntly, kind of lazy at times. And I realise that Eldon has a love of the absurd, but I still think that it was used to paper over cracks in the writing.

Eldon himself is an outstanding and very funny comic actor. He can elevate a sketch with just a funny face or the delivery of a line. But that wasn’t enough in the end to make It’s Kevin anything more than an okay but consistently disappointing sketch show. If it comes back for a second series I won’t be annoyed or anything but I’m not going to mourn if it’s quietly killed off. I look forward to seeing Kevin Eldon in the future, in the work of others and in his own stuff too, but not in It’s Kevin.

Choice lines:

  • ‘It’s the last show of the series and this week, quite frankly, I am spoiling myself rotten. And why not? It’s only your money.’
  • ‘Just chilling out to some Dubstep…ahhh, Dubstep.’
  • ‘Fear plus time equals fun.’

It’s Kevin reviews: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four,                  ……………………Episode Five

Watson and Oliver review – Episode One – BBC Two

Watson and Oliver‘Yes! Watson and Oliver is back!’ said nobody this week. The commissioning of a second series of the sketch show came as a surprise, considering series one received mixed reviews and poor ratings, losing over half its audience at one point. Presumably there will be a third series to follow this second one then, unless the two hosts, I don’t know, spit in the face of the Director General of the BBC. Maybe they’ll black-up in a sketch.

The second series comes with an obvious budget cutback, losing the studio audience and Morecambe and Wise like segments from last series, as well as the regular famous guests. Less money and resources is hardly likely to improve the show, and after watching the first episode, it’s clear that, yes, it’s still awful.

Most sketches in episode one were built on really weak premises; what if the Prime Minister wanted to get out of a dinner party? What if surgeons didn’t just wash their hands, but their whole bodies? What if prisoners had a dance and, er, that’s it, but we’ll draw the sketch out for two minutes, and include not just no jokes, but, in fact, no dialogue whatsoever.

Watson and Oliver also have no idea how to get out of a sketch, meaning each one drags on forever. There’s a sketch where the joke is that Watson has assigned the theme from Psycho as the ringtone for Oliver. When Oliver rings the phone, she hears the ringtone and is angry. Hilarious – now end the sketch. But no, Watson answers the phone and says ‘hello?’ Hilarious – end it now? No, the sketch drags on and on with a series of poor punchlines that get increasingly weaker until the sketch exits at its worst point.

This happens in a number of different sketches. It starts getting awkward, like you’ve wandered into someone else’s private conversation. Or at least, I would have felt that way, if it wasn’t for the constantly screeching audience who think everything is hilarious, from okay gags, to poor ones to footage of a woman walking a little bit funny, before it’s even been explained why she’s doing that, and before it’s happening long enough for most people to even register it. Please, BBC, stop trying to cue my laughter in. If something isn’t funny, playing the sound of a hundred idiots over-reacting on the soundtrack isn’t going to change that.

If I was to praise anything about the show, it would be the acting. But I’m reluctant to do that, because I suspect that is why they’ve been given a second series. ‘Yeah the jokes are terrible, and there is no originality in the sketches, and the ratings are bad and the reviews are mixed, but their performances are kind of funny.’

That is not enough. I gave Anna and Katy, the Channel 4 sketch show from two other female comedians, a pretty bad review. But compared to this, that show is groundbreaking television. And I don’t mean to insult Anna and Katy by saying that; that show at least had a voice and attempts at originality. Watson and Oliver on the other hand is just really weak.

It’s Kevin review – Episode Five – BBC 2

It's Kevin Episode FiveHere’s a clip of Kevin Eldon’s stand-up, which includes some of the characters used in It’s Kevin. Eldon is a comic actor, and in front of an audience, in a more personal space, his unique mix of characters and funny faces and improvisation works far better than it does on It’s Kevin. A sketch show just isn’t, in my view, the best format for Eldon’s humour. He’s a very funny actor, and an interesting and different stand-up, but not, I think, a great writer. And his ideas for this show have been supplemented by sketches from other writers which mostly just aren’t very good.

That said, there were some decent skits in episode five. One, about a former music hall star, had elements disappointingly similar to The Fast Show’s Arthur Atkinson sketch (although Paul Whitehouse was in this episode, so presumably he doesn’t mind), but the interview between Eldon and the former star’s grandson was funny, as Eldon awkwardly treated the man as a child – ‘How old are you?’ ‘I’m 37.’ ’37? Wow…would you like some juice?’ The comic timing in the sketch was great, along with the reactions and facial expressions of Eldon and Rufus Jones as the grandson.

That was pretty much the only outstanding sketch in the episode though. There was a decent one about a competition between two outraged 1970’s vicars but it went on far too long – five minutes in total, or 20% of the episode’s run time. That’s if you include the buckets of water gag that broke the sketch up, which was the same joke as last week’s screaming pillows sketch, which as I pointed out last review, is a joke done many times before. So, it’s derivative of a derivative then, which is at best very lazy.

Episode five also leaned heavily on the absurd. There where two sketches, one in which Eldon wonders if there is any difference between being shot at dawn and being shot at dusk, and one about David Hockney, which were so baffling I think I must have missed something. Then there was Crab Marley, a reggae singing crab, which is the type of thing you might find on YouTube, smirk at, and then forget forever. Televised comedy shows need to be better than that.

The poet sketch had some funny lines, the Perspective Twins raised a laugh and the bizarre sketch in which Sanjeev Kohli seemingly sits in a room interminably guiding flies out of a window was funny in a Chris Morris’ Jam kind of way. And then there were the songs: one at the start which was good, one in the middle about kings which was uncharacteristically flat, and quite bland in direction, and the final one, Caveman Pop, which was okay, although the commenters on YouTube seem to have taken issue with its similarity to a Horrible Histories sketch (presumably this one). It’s becoming a bit of a problem; this show’s similarities to other shows. To be fair, it is tough to be original with a sketch show.

It’s impossible to know, without having access to specific writing credits, whether Kevin Eldon is lacking as a writer or if he just didn’t have enough material for six 30 minute episodes. Either way, it’s a shame that a show with such potential has been so consistently poor in its writing.

Choice lines:

  • ‘That’s really rattled them – the bum there.’
  • ‘Available in what bookshops there are still left.’
  • ‘But wait. What’s that up in the road ahead? A car crash and the driver’s dead. And by the road stands an orphaned vole and he laughs and he shouts from the depths of his soul. Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-HA. Death to the driver, death to the car. Roadside, roadside, gene-cide. Roadside, roadside, geneciiiidDrive care-fullyyyyyy.’
  • The comic strip sketch at the end had the 1967 hit I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman by Whistling Jack Smith as the soundtrack, the bizarre music video for which is well worth a watch.

It’s Kevin reviews: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four,              ……………………Episode Six

It’s Kevin review – Episode Four – BBC Two

It's Kevin Eldon Episode FourIt’s Kevin has gotten some decent reviews and most of them highlight Kevin Eldon’s acting as the show’s biggest strength. I agree with that, but not even someone with comic timing and performances as impeccable as Eldon’s can make poorly written sketches funny.

In episode four we had a parody of 1980’s Northern misery dramas. A Liverpudlian family are in dire straits, and the only joke in the sketch is the over the top nature of their suffering. This is a joke that is literally two decades out of date. Yeah, Eldon is kind of funny in his performance and Julia Davis is good as well, but they can’t carry the sketch only on performance. And why is such a tired, out-of-date premise making its way into a sketch show with seemingly every decent British comedian in the country working on it? It is baffling that they seemingly put such little work into the writing relative to the talent they acquired for the acting.

Another apparent strength of the show is its originality; it sends-up comedic tropes according to the Guardian. Does it though? In every episode so far we’ve had a doctor’s sketch, a famous and over used sketch set-up. In episode four, the doctor can’t understand what Kevin is saying, and that is the entire joke. I get the impression that the writers think it’s enough to simply say the words ‘doctor’s sketch’ as a wink to the comedy enthusiasts watching, and think that the pointed reference alone makes the sketch funny. It doesn’t.

We also got a surreal sketch about a screaming pillows salesmen, which is very similar to a lot of sketches I’ve seen before; Burnistoun’s furniture salesmen, for instance, or Family Guy’s whacky inflatable arm flailing tube man.

There was one sketch in particular which illustrated It’s Kevin’s lack of originality, and how you can’t build a sketch show on performance alone, no matter how good it is. In the sketch, Eldon played a nerd in a shop who finds a toy of a talking figurine that looks exactly like him. Besides the performance, there is one joke in the whole sketch, and it is that Eldon’s character is a virgin. A joke around the reveal of a nerd being a virgin is not something that should be ever making its way into a professional sketch comedy; it’s such an obviously over-used gag that I can’t help but think they included it out of laziness, because surely someone would notice how noticeably tired a joke that is?

Eldon’s acting in the sketch is quite funny and my attention was captured from the start, as he was filmed from a distance obsessively placing products back on the store shelve as neatly as possible. But that only grabs the audience’s attention; the show then has to build on that, and make the sketch funny. And you can’t do that with tired, old jokes.

There were a couple of sketches in this episode I liked. The diner party sketch, which stressed the boring routine of those types of conversations, was okay, and the chair and stick music one had some funny delivery: ‘Why not try the songs of Coldplay, arranged for chair and stick, or Kate Bush’s The Sensual World, arranged for chair and stick.’

These moments and a few others aside though, the episode was again disappointing, although at this point I should probably be approaching the show expecting it to be really poor. It just feels strange doing that, considering the comedic talent involved. At least the songs are good, and the musical, supermarket bullying sketch was the best bit of this episode. Here’s hoping episode five is 90% songs.

Choice lines:

  • ‘He’s got a tattoo he did on himself of one of the boys from Jedward; Edward, because he doesn’t like John.’ ‘John? No. They should call themselves Edward.’
  •  ‘Sometimes I wonder if you are making the best use of this space,’ Eldon tells his caretaker, in his tiny cupboard in the middle of the giant white world.

It’s Kevin Reviews: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Five, …………………….Episode Six

It’s Kevin review – Episode Three – BBC 2

It's Kevin Eldon Episode ThreeThe song that begins each episode of It’s Kevin is always really good, with the lyrics changing each week and Kevin Eldon strutting around some interesting backdrops. It has got my hopes up three weeks in a row and each time I’ve felt let down by the poor sketches that follow.

I counted 18 sketches in episode three, only two of which I liked. Three of them were okay, and there were a few isolated funny moments within the poor sketches, plus the songs which were fun. That’s probably just over one third of the show which was enjoyable to two thirds which was poor. That’s a pretty bad ratio even for a sketch show.

One of the biggest problems It’s Kevin has is that sketches are often completely lacking in jokes and are instead built around punchlines and the premise. Take the beefeater sketch in this episode, which went its whole length without a joke beyond Eldon’s amusing performance and the punchline that his character didn’t know about the Tower of London.

Even worse was a sketch about someone travelling back in time to kill Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was three minutes long and had just two jokes: the premise that someone would travel back in time just to kill Lloyd Webber and the punchline when it is revealed Tim Rice ripped off Rolf Harris’ leg. At a push, you could maybe say the wackiness of the sketch was a joke, but I’ve already written extensively about the laziness of using such absurdity in place of an actual joke.

A three minute sketch can’t have just two jokes in it. This problem occurred in a number of the sketches, for instance, the child chef sketch or the Alexander Graham Bell one. They had nothing but a punchline. And then there were the sketches that relied entirely on absurdity, like the wrist perfume one, or Stewart Lee pointlessly showing up for 15 seconds to make a bad joke.

There was though some sketches towards the end that I enjoyed. The Amish version of the sex pistols’ notorious interview was funny and innovative, contrasting the two extremes of morality to good effect, and I liked the purposefully lame ‘hold your hand over one eye’ sketch, which reminded me of an ingenious Andy Kaufman bit.

The show ended on a song about catchphrases which was really well directed and edited, with the words of the song appearing superimposed on the screen and Eldon filmed at skewered angles in his weird, white world. The show in general is really well directed, adding quite a lot to the comedy and the world Eldon has created. Al Campbell was the director, and according to IMDB he also directed Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe and Newswipe shows, which were also visually stunning.

It’s a shame that inbetween the songs It’s Kevin has been consistently mediocre. Hopefully future episodes will improve, but I’m not that optimistic after the first three. Another three episodes left though, so still time for it to improve.

Choice lines:

  • ‘Is seeing believing?’ ‘Well…’ ‘Rhetorical question.’ ‘Ah.’ ‘You do know what a rhetorical question is?’ ‘Oh, sorry, I thought that was a rhetorical question. Yes I do know what a rhetorical question is; who doesn’t?’ ‘Lots of people.’ ‘No, that was a rhetorical question.’
  • ‘Got a cat called Lady Gaga that’s got a face that looks like it’s been squashed in a vice.’
  • ‘I would not like to get my head between those two beauties and go waba waba waba.’ The poet sketch was funny but it’s the same joke Tim Key has been doing for years now.

It’s Kevin Reviews: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Four, Episode Five, ……………………..Episode Six