ED2012 INTERVIEW: Fringe success story The Ginge, The Geordie and The Geek have been appearing around Edinburgh in their underpants (on posters, obviously) for a number of years now. They’ve proven popular with ThreeWeeks reviewers and Fringe punters alike, so we decided it was time to find out about the secret to their success. Other than the pants. And also about the BBC pilot we’d heard about on the grapevine.
TW: Let’s start at the start, how did you guys come together in the name of comedy?
GGG: We trained together as actors at the Royal Scottish Academy Of Music And Drama a decade ago. We all then jobbed about as actors for a few years but didn’t make our fortunes, so we decided to make a sketch show instead. It was blind faith. We approached it as a business and said we wanted a TV pilot after three Edinburghs. Looking back it seems mad, as we now know how hard it is for sketch groups to get their own shows. So the fact that we got a BBC pilot at the start of the year feels amazing. We’re very lucky.
TW: You seemed to quickly build a following at the Fringe despite having a self-promoted show – was it as easy as it looked?
GGG: It was insane!!! We moved out of our London flats to afford to come up, so failure was never an option. We probably worked fourteen hours a day in the first year to make sure we got an audience. It’s not just about flyering, it’s the whole promoting package you need to get perfect, and we just learnt on the job. By the end of that first year we’d sold 3000 tickets, which had us gobsmacked. Even with all the work, we were expecting to lose a packet! Again, there was an element of luck. Actor James McAvoy and Nathan Connolly from Snow Patrol saw our London previews and loved the show, so we got quotes from them and that probably helped ticket sales. As did the silly name (which industry people don’t like very much, but Joe Public do). And the picture of us in our pants helped a lot as well!
TW: Ah yes, that photo! It has certainly served you well. Do the capes and pants ever feature in your shows? And are you planning on using the same photo concept forever?
GGG: The photo has helped sell a lot of tickets. The image is striking and in amongst a sea of comedian’s faces, it really sets us apart! In past shows we’ve started in our pants before getting into the actual sketches wearing our usual costume of black cargos and white polo shirts, but this year has been very hectic for us and we’ve all eaten a lot of take aways, so it’s much kinder for all of our fans if we don’t subject them to our semi naked chips and cheese ridden bodies. Although the Geordie does have to wear a skin tight morph suit at one point! The photo concept is our branding so yes, we will use it forever. It’s a bit of a metaphor for what we represent and who we are: three blokes without pretension and always up for a laugh. It’s a striking image and, love it or hate it, it hopefully makes us stand out from the crowd, just like our comedy.
TW: For the uninitiated, tell us what we can expect from a GGG show.
GGG: It’s a feel-good populist sketch show with 32 sketches in 55 minutes. Big punchlines, lots of jokes, silliness, big characters, clean humour, no swearing and a brilliant 80s soundtrack. One of the things we’re most proud of is the fact that you can bring your 12 year old kid and your gran and the whole family can enjoy it. It’s not easy to achieve, and the show is constantly evolving, but we’ve sold out every day so far with great audience reactions so it’s definitely worth a punt if you haven’t seen us before.
TW: So, tell us about this BBC pilot.
GGG: The pilot was brilliant. We got to work with a fantastic new team of people while managing to stay true to our own style of comedy. We shot the whole thing in Glasgow and worked with a brilliant director called Mandie Fletcher who has previously directed shows like ‘Blackadder’, ‘Roger And Val’ and ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. Mandie has so much experience of what works for television and it was fascinating to see how we could adapt comedy ideas and make them work on the small screen. We did the live studio filming in front of 300 people which was terrifying, but they seemed to love it which was a real buzz.
TW: What was it like working on TV sketches rather than material for the live stage?
GGG: There is a quite a big difference between the two. TV demands a huge amount of material, the pace is very quick and it’s unforgiving on weak material. We’ve always made our stage shows with a very quick pace, and with a TV show in mind, but still, the pilot was a big learning curve for us. The feedback from the pilot from those with the power has been brilliant, so fingers crossed we’ll have something very exciting to announce after the Festival!
TW: The sketch comedy scene has been very strong in recent years, though few groups graduate to TV, why do you think that is?
GGG: Sketch comedy is tough. Each sketch needs to have its own personality, and you constantly have to surprise the audience. Over the years there have been some brilliant sketch shows on TV, but people are always looking for something that is a bit different and fresh – and that is really difficult to achieve. You need to bring your own style and ‘take’ on things and look to be consistently funny without being reliant on a style that only works for an exclusive live comedy savvy audience. We have always prided ourselves on making comedy that is accessible to all and hope that is one of the reasons why it seems to work on the telly.
TW: Are there any other sketch groups at the Fringe this year that you particularly rate?
GGG: There’s a fantastic female duo called Checkley And Bush who are also on at Just the Tonic. They have the same working class sensibility as us and are well worth a watch. They mix amazingly well done comedy songs with character comedy, a bit of audience banter and a hilarious set piece involving a couple of people from the audience. It’s a bit ruder than our show and has some swearing in, but as long as you don’t mind that it’s definitely worth a watch.
TW: You obviously love doing the Fringe; what are the best bits and worst bits of doing a show here?
GGG: The best bits are those audiences that really get the show. The ones that clap between sketches and generally make the atmosphere amazing. The worst bit is the lack of sleep and alcohol poisoning!
TW: You’re doing the new show twice daily – have you started to regret that decision yet?
GGG: No, we’re hardcore. There are moments when we’re really knackered, especially between shows, but the audience always give us a real injection of energy. We will be exhausted by the end of the Festival, but it’s only a month, and it’s one of the best jobs in the world, so we’re pretty lucky really.
The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek performed ‘All New Show 2012′ at Just The Tonic at The Caves at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Stuart Armitt