Absolutely is a comedy revue show with a difference, and very few rules. Philip Parr spoke to Moray Hunter, a founder member ofthe team who start a third series on Channel 4 this week.
Stoneybridge. It‘s never been a place to inspire artists, nor a place for poets to go and die, nor a place that even exists. It did, however, provide the basis for one of the funniest sketches ever to grace Channel 4. The team responsible for launching the mythical sleepy town into the public consciousness come under the umbrella ofAbsolutely and they‘re back for a third series this week.
In the tradition of Not The Nine O'Cloek News andA Kick Up The Eighties, Absolutely took established club performers Jack Docherty. Moray Hunter (both Edinburgh boys), John Sparkes and Morwenna Banks and ﬂung them together. Although the group sketches usually hit the mark, it‘s the characters created by individual actors which provide the show‘s highpoints. Morwenna Banks dresses up as a scruffy schoolgirl, sits on a desk and waxes doggerel about an eight-year-old‘s lot. John Sparkes portrays a constantly bandaged TV DIY man. And, most impressively, Moray Hunter is the positively .‘ painful Calum Gilhooley; a man blessed with considerably less personality than John Major and y the capacity to talk about his life ad nauseam.
: ‘Calum’s loosely based on a couple ofguys I used to know,” says Hunter, putting fear into the hearts
ofall Edinburgh citizens. ‘John made him up and gave me the part which is quite worrying in itself. He said. “Here you go, you can do this boring bastard.“ Obviously. the character is exaggerated but the anorak is authentic. Last time I met one of the guys that the character‘s based on he said, “1 like that Calum“, standing there. in his anorak. I don‘t want to go on about Calum anymore or I'll start sounding like him.”
Absolutely evolved out of Hunter and Docherty’s radio series. The Bodgers. Alan Nixon, the producer of that show and Absolutely had the idea oftransferring to the TV and adding Banks and Sparkes to the line-up. ‘With The Badgers. nobody could make out what we were saying,‘ explains Hunter. ‘Four Edinburgh accents on the radio - people didn‘t know if it was one person, eight people or what. So we got Wen and John in, you know, to add a bit ofdiversity.’
The fact that Absolutely is the product of a production company whose board consists of
Jack Docherty and Moray Hunterin Absolutely
Nixon and the eight writer/performers from the show has, says Hunter. given the team much more freedom than is usually the case with review programmes. Only when they run into legal problems is something dropped. This unrestricted situation means that the company are not stuck in a rut and, to emphasise the point, there are several new characters appearing in the new series.
‘John Sparks will be doing Frank Hovis who’s a northern club compere. it will actually be Frank Hovis on the lavatory — he sits on the loo and tells a little story. That‘s certainly new to TV. And Jack will be presenting his rabid. racist Scot who hates the English. Oddly enough, that goes down really well in England. We're taking the crap out of Scottish people who just hate the English for no reason at all. But. ofcourse. it also gives us the chance to slag off the English at the same time so we really have our cake and eat it.‘ (Philip Parr) Absolutely will be on Channel 4 from Friday 17 May.
: ; City slickers
Putting live comedy on the box has always been a fraught business. Last ' year’s BBC venture Paramount City was l a welcome Innovation, with a ' particularly memorable edition featuring Jeremy Hardy delivering some top-notch political material while the poll-tax riot was In lull swing i outside the studio.
It’s something of a disappointment l then‘to discover that the new series will i be recorded the day before i transmission. Oiliclal explanations are ' that It allows time for the bands to set up, although it also allows plenty of
time to edit out anything too i controversial. j By way of consolation, the presenters g don't come from the cosy, sell-perpetuating London alternative comedy clique, but lrom the more youthful and vibrant black cabaret scene. Double-act Curtis and Ishmael g appeared on five of the shows last year and, In their own words: ‘We appeared to be well received, so we were asked to come back and host this series.’
They have a refreshing disregard for their new-lound status (they are also appearing on BBCZ's The Real McCoy) and continue to moonlight, Curtis selling West Indian takeaways from a van, while lshmael llogs T-shlrts at Greenwich market. ‘We like to keep in
touch with our roots,’ lshmael mocks. They only get around eight minutes or . cm
0N FOLLOWING PAGES: BLUE REMEMBERED HILLS e RADIO GUIDE 0 VIDEO ROUND-UP ”
Curtis and Ishmael Introduce Paramount
so a show to deiivertheir stuff, so it has to be slick and punchy. Topics range widely, with influences that Include Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy. ‘Anything is funny as long as it’s not derogatory to black people,’ explains Curtis. “Apart from that and not doing sexist material, anything goes. Mainly light stuff, but It .. , there’s something with a message,
: we'll put it in If It's funny. We're not
1 Into preaching for the sake of lt.’ lshmael Interrupts to stress they are ' not the typical double act. ‘There are no , fall guys In the Curtis and lshmael set-up. We are both funny men. It's just ; ' a case ol who gets the lunny line in l first.’ Most oi the time It’s a close-run l l
thing. (Tom Lappln) Paramount City starts on BBCI on Saturday 25 May at 10pm. f
The List l7—3()May 1991 81