Tuesday 7 August 2012 | By Chris Cooke
Casual Violence: Doing comedy casually and violently
Casual Violence burst (or, beeped loudly, maybe?) onto our radar last year with a distinctive sketch show that won the enthusiastic approval of our ThreeWeeks reviewers, as well as the fervent approbation of the rest of the Fringe press. At the end of the Festival we gave them an Editors’ Award. After handing them one of our extremely glamorous gongs, it seemed only right to catch up with the group again one year on…
CC: Let’s start at the start, how did you guys come to form Casual Violence?
Alex: James did it.
James: We met at university, like every sketch group ever ever ever. I started writing comedy plays and shows, and the six of us basically came together through those. It used to be more of a theatre company dynamic – now we’re a sketch group. We’re the only surviving members.
CC: You seemed to have a great Fringe 2011 – how did last year’s Festival work out for you guys?
Greg: Luke got a chest infection.
Luke: Yeah. Don’t stand in the rain for hours on end, chain-smoking.
Dave: Luke’s top tip for the Edinburgh Fringe.
James: It went far better than we thought it would, which is always lovely. Winning a ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award for our show was an awesome way to round off the Fringe, and the audiences really seemed to be on board with what we were doing.
CC: What have you done since?
Adam: We’ve all been focusing on getting better at what we do individually – I’ve been doing film soundtracks; James has been doing a masters degree in scriptwriting and learning improv on the side; a few of us have been acting in other projects. We’ve also been running a series of Casual Violence Portable Residency shows in London to test-drive new material for this year before bringing it all together for the new show.
CC: Tell us about this year’s show, ‘A Kick In The Teeth’.
James: It’s tales of tragicomedy sketch terror. Macabre, weird, sinister and silly storytelling.
Adam: Yeah, it’s bittersweet comedy without the sweet bit.
Luke: It’s about having aspirations that get shattered, which is always funny.
Dave: It’s a show about trying to make the world a better place and failing so miserably that you should never have bothered in the first place…
James: …which is obviously prime subject matter for comedy.
CC: And tell us about the best bits show – what’s the plan there?
James: We’re doing a show once a week called ‘Om Nom Nominous’ as part of the Free Fringe, on Wednesday afternoons at the Voodoo Rooms.
Luke: We were given an opportunity to do a few nights of a show and we thought it’d be a good chance to do an hour of our “circuit” material that doesn’t fit into our main narrative/story-driven shows.
Dave: It also means we get to revisit our favourite characters from last year’s ‘Choose Death’ show, for those who want to see bits from that again.
CC: How do you describe your style of sketch comedy – what are your influences?
James: I read a hell of a lot of Roald Dahl while I was writing the script. There’s a big ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ influence lurking in this show. Our style is basically character-driven storytelling for sadists.
Adam: It’s melancomedy.
Dave: As in “melancholy comedy” – nothing to do with melons.
Luke: We don’t have the guts to bully real people, but no-one complains if you bully fictional characters.
CC: You’ve just launched a web series on YouTube. What can we expect from that?
Luke: We were approached after Edinburgh last year by The Whole Buffalo, who are a great film company and who’re really supportive of what we do.
James: We’re using the web series to start translating our style of comedy to screen. We’ll be doing a character from ‘A Kick In The Teeth’ – the Poppyman – as our next one. He’s horrible, but he means well, and that’s what counts.
CC: We hear you eased out the exclamation mark from Casual Violence! recently. Was it an amicable departure?
James: We didn’t lose it, it left us.
Adam: It wrote most of the material, so now we’re really struggling without it.
Luke: It’s true, it did add a lot of excitement to our work. We did experiment with other punctuation…
Alex: But the semi-colon didn’t work; it works better in the middle of sentences.
CC: Sketch comedy has been very vibrant at the Fringe in recent years, are there any other groups you particularly rate?
Greg: The Silky Pair are brilliant.
Adam: Yes, those guys – they are quite odd and their sketches are very fluent and funny and don’t make us want to cry.
James: The Beta Males are probably our group’s favourite overall – they’re brilliant at what they do.
Luke: Apart from me – I don’t really like sketch comedy!
CC: To quote back your press release right back at you – how exactly do you defeat an unbeatable Battleships supercomputer?
Luke: If we told you that, it would destroy the entire crux of our show and there would be no point in any of your readers coming to see it. Why do you hate us? Why do you want to ruin our show and undermine our chances of success at the Fringe? We thought you were on our side, ThreeWeeks!
Casual Violence show ‘A Kick In The Teeth’ was performed at Just The Tonic At The Caves while ‘Om Nom Nominous’ was performed at The Voodoo Rooms at Fringe 2012.