Yes, I know, Homeland is an American television series, so you may be asking why write about this on Tellyspotting? It’s simple, really. The series stars British actor, Damian Lewis. The St. Johns Wood born actor has won numerous awards for his portrayal of former U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Nicholas Brody including the 2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and the 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama.
The series also stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a Central Intelligence Agency officer with bipolar disorder. Mathison has come to believe that Brody, who was held captive by al-Qaeda as a prisoner of war, was ‘turned’ by the enemy and now threatens the United States.
Besides Damian Lewis’ individual awards, the series has received critical acclaim and has won several awards, including the 2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, and the 2011 and 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series, Drama. The individual and series awards are very deserving, all of them. But, as Downton Abbey can attest, you haven’t arrived until Sesame Street gets involved.
In their just released Sesame Street parody, the entire Homeland cast get a well-deserved Muppet makeover. In Homelamb, the Big Bad Wolf is on the lamb. Special Sheep Agent, Nicholas Ba-a-a-a-rody is the agency’s only hope for bringing the Big Bad Wolf to justice.
Potential terrorist Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is perfectly cast as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The action focuses on earlier series of the conspiracy thriller as CIA intelligence officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) tries to prove that Brody is in fact the big bad wolf…but, is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Or just a sheep in wolf’s clothing in sheep’s clothing?
KERA-TV in Dallas was the first PBS station in the United States to broadcast Monty Python’s Flying Circus back in October 1974. The subsequent March 1975 KERA/Dallas in-studio appearance was the Pythons’ first stop in the U.S. after the Los Angeles premiere of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Recently, Tellyspotting had the great good fortune to sit down with Michael Palin at the BBC Syndication Showcase meeting in New Orleans. Michael was in town to talk about his newest project that would be coming to PBS in 2014, Brazil with Michael Palin. In a nutshell, one of the nicest, most accommodating individuals on the planet, so grab a coffee and enjoy…
Python and KERA/Dallas…
Tellyspotting: I want to take you back to October 1974 when Monty Python’s Flying Circus first premiered in the U.S. on KERA-TV in Dallas. When you initially heard the news that it was ‘Dallas’ and KERA-TV where Python would first air, what were your thoughts?
Michael Palin: My first thought was that this was just right. This is perfect Monty Python. It wasn’t picked up by the ‘fashionable’ markets of Boston, New York or San Francisco. It was picked up in Dallas. In a strange way, someone once pointed out that all the Python team were out-of-towners. We didn’t come together in London. We came from places like Sheffield and Weston-Super-Mare and places like that so it just seemed ‘right’ that the premiere was in Dallas. Dallas, of all places at that period in history, was still recovering from when the President was shot. I remember thinking, this is wonderful. And, the fact that it had been so successful that PBS stations around the country then picked up on this. It was exciting to think that Dallas started it all, especially since as a city at that time, it was pretty conservative.
TS: How important was it to be on PBS:
MP: For us, it was absolutely vital because that meant it was uncut. We had been told after 1969 that it would never air in the U.S. No TV company would touch it. It’s too rude, it’s too difficult, too naughty. And yet, lots of Americans that came to London loved it. The movie ‘And Now for Something Completely Different’ was made to pick up an American audience through movies rather than television. That didn’t work either. We hadn’t almost given up. So, with that October premiere in Dallas, the news was truly unexpected…very exciting and a true celebration for us, but quite unexpected.
TS: That video of when yourself, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman were in the KERA studios in 1975. My first thought was ‘Who are these kids?’ Four extremely talented individuals that were very innocent and just having fun. Did you have any idea as to the explosion that was getting ready to take place for Python?
MP: We had absolutely no idea. In fact, when we came on those early tours, I remember it just like it was in Dallas with a lot of kids sitting around on the studio floor. We’d walk through them and sit down and didn’t quite really know how to behave. Were we expected to be silly, should we be serious or what? Nowadays, we talk quite seriously about Python but in those days we were just bewildered by what was going on. I do remember going on one quite famous chat show and they didn’t even realize that ‘Monty Python’ was more than one person so they didn’t have enough room for us in studio. Terry Jones sat on one of the guests’ lap, which happened to be David Soul from Starsky and Hutch.
TS: We’re coming up on 40 years of Python in the U.S. How do you feel seeing a whole new generation of Python fans out there discovering this silliness?
MP: To our great surprise, it did last. At the time, there wasn’t a great history of shows lasting. They didn’t often keep programs, they just got rid of them. Lots of good material was just ditched because there was no storage space. Things like the DVD or YouTube didn’t exist so we really didn’t expect it to last. To find after all these years that the interest in Python continued, especially in America, more so than in the UK, that people were not going to let it go was exciting. You have fathers telling sons or daughters who are now telling the next generation of 9-10 year olds making that two generations after Python. I don’t analyze it but I think all the different types of comedy in Python with its’ physical jokes, historical jokes, present-day jokes and verbal jokes leaves people in the end with a joyful feeling.
Diaries: 1969-1979, The Python Years and a recent return to comedy
TS: The diaries that you kept, in particular the 1969-1979 diaries, are an incredible collection of the time. Was there a point that you took a step back and felt that these should be published?
MP: I kept the diaries since just before Python began. After 30+ years, someone told me that these should be published. Honestly, I thought ‘I don’t know’. Would it be ‘giving away family secrets’ but I thought I’d give it a go and maybe edit a bit. Probably 75-80% was taken out, all the family holidays and personal stuff didn’t need to be in there but there was still a narrative of my working life which was important. I don’t regret it. Ultimately, I wanted to share these things while I was alive rather than having everything be printed after you’re gone. I think I’d like to hear what other peoples memories are, what they recall. I think that’s been one of the great satisfactions of doing the diaries. The number of people that have come up and said that they’ve been moved by a particular bit. It’s always something different. A lot of comedy writers have loved the diaries as it details the dynamics of a comedy group working together.
TS: You recently returned to comedy in The Wiper’s Times. What drew you to this particular project?
MP: Well, the writer of the show edits ‘Private Eye’, which is a bit like Python. It’s like Python in that it’s intended to be satirical. I think it’s one of the best magazines in the country. It remains funny but also very perceptive and revealing about what’s going on in the news. I’m a great fan of ‘Private Eye’. I’m also very interested in the First World War. Really, it was the fact that the script was about humor in war which is an area that is not touched on at all and one that is very important area. When dreadful things are going on with incomprehensible suffering, people will use humor just to cope. The problem is, war has a tendency to become sanitized with good people doing good things when, in reality, it’s a terrible mess with people doing terrible things to each other which they regret. Comedy is very important, especially, in this area so I was very happy to be asked to a part of it.
Around the World with Michael Palin
TS: It’s been roughly 25 years since your first travel series, Around the World in 80 Days. Where did your interest come in travel?
MP: I think it’s always been there. I was born and brought up in Sheffield, which is a very industrial city just on the edge of the Pennines mountains (separating North West England from Yorkshire and North East England). I just loved the sense of adventure minutes away, getting away from the house on a bicycle. I read books and magazines such as ‘National Geographic’ and traveled vicariously. With Python, we did a lot of traveling in the States but didn’t really see America. Only airports, the inside of TV studios, radio stations and the like. So, when the BBC asked me after A Fish Called Wanda if I’d like to go around the world in 80 days, I said ‘yes, of course’. Others had turned it down, which I didn’t realize at the time. The BBC had told me I was the only person that could possibly do this.
TS: One of the successes of your travel series is the concept that you become the ‘everyman’ with a natural curiosity in each series and not merely ‘the host’.
MP: That’s how I see it. When we did Around the World in 80 Days, I really didn’t know what to expect. Was I supposed to be an actor, am I supposed to be ‘me’, there’s no script, I wasn’t particularly skilled at doing long pieces summing up what I had just seen. It didn’t really matter. What people liked was this everyman thing which gave the impression of a bit of each of them being there, making the same mistakes. I think the largest portion of people that watch don’t want to travel. They want to see other countries but they want to be reminded why traveling is just a hellish business. There’s Michael Palin eating strange food, getting ill, getting sand blown in his face. We don’t want to go there but we want to see someone else doing it. So it works two ways. One as an everyman figure taking people with them and also someone there testing the dangerous waters of travel reminding people why it’s best to stay home.
TS: With both Sahara and Brazil coming out in the States soon, is there something that audiences on PBS will have to look forward to? Was there one takeaway from each that surprised you?
MP: With ‘Sahara’, it was a revelation. To me, anyway, as to how much was going on in what one might think of as merely 1000′s of miles of barren desert. That was the greatest success of ‘Sahara’. Beautiful music in places you’d least expect it. In many ways, we were able to show things that had never been seen before. ‘Brazil’ is different in a way. Where ‘Sahara’ is about scarcity, ‘Brazil’ is about abundance. Abundance of everything. How do you deal with a country that has so much of everything. What are the problems? It’s sort of looking behind the ‘carnival face’ and seeing how it all works and who lives there. I don’t get the sense that people know Brazil at all.
TS: Looking back on your 40+ years of work whether it be comedy or travel, do you ever stop for a moment and think about being a part of something that has made millions of people laugh or get enjoyment out of your work over the years?
MP: It’s hard to go through life thinking ‘I’ve done this or I’ve done that’ You do, in a way, but I’m always thinking about the future. It’s nice to have done those things but you can’t hang on to that. You can only hang on to what you are currently about to do. It does remind me, in a good way, that my life has been about entertainment. It’s been very satisfying. To think there are people that still find Python funny. Funnier than I ever thought it would be. The ‘Knights who say Ni’ was done on a bleak Scottish mountainside one day and I thought it just didn’t work. It was such a slender idea when we read it, it didn’t work. And, of course, today it’s classic. So that’s quite nice. Something that will remain for people to see. The success of Python was due to our independence. We were never told what we could do or what we couldn’t do. The BBC just let us have 13 half-hours to work out what we wanted to do. We had incredible freedom. The six of us were allowed the freedom to indulge ourselves which I don’t think happens too much in television today.
TS: What makes you laugh today?
MP: Well life generally (laughing), I suppose. My general reaction to things going wrong you laugh rather than agonize over them. Twenty Twelve is very good, indeed. Ricky Gervais’ portrayal of David Brent in The Office was brilliant.
I couldn’t leave without asking Michael about that fateful day in March 1975 in the KERA studios and what he must have thought when he entered the studio and someone handed him a real armadillo – stuffed. You can see in the video how interested the Pythons were in all aspects and angles of this creature that they had probably never seen. I’ve always wondered, to this day, what ever happened to that petrified armadillo. Amazingly, he said he still has it and even had a photo on his iPhone to prove it! How cool is that? So, to whomever gave that armadillo to the Pythons that day in Dallas some 40 years ago, it’s still part of the Palin and Python family and here’s the picture to prove it!
As we barrel head long towards Halloween, there will be a seemingly endless barrage of haunted houses and horror movie premieres at everyone’s disposal in the coming days. Let’s not forget the traditional ‘lady of the lake’ story that seems to fluctuate from urban myth to “..no, it really happened to my brother, I promise“.
Far more important from our perspective and in keeping with the focus of Tellyspotting, will be to turn our attention to the Top-10 Haunted Pubs in Britain this Halloween. While there are a number of top-10 lists floating around of Britain’s most haunted, one thing remains a constant as to why pubs are the way to go. As Spooky Stuff explains, “…all-night vigils in haunted buildings are all very well. But wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to wait cold and bored while hoping to see a ghost? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a bite to eat socialise with friends, maybe even quaff some cold beer while waiting for the spooks to appear?” Couldn’t agree more. Here are their top-10 to check out this year if in the neighborhood…
Grenadier Pub, London – once the favourite haunt of soldiers from the Duke of Wellington’s regiment, one unfortunate grenadier seems to still be hanging around. As the story goes, he was playing cards with his fellows guards and was caught cheating. Outraged, they beat him up and threw him down the pub stairwell. The poor chap died and is said to haunt the pub to this day. Numerous lists consider The Grenadier the most-haunted pub in London.
Golden Fleece, York – this pub is said to house both a ghostly pickpocket and a phantom curmudgeon who sometimes gets upset whenever a customer sits in what used to be his favourite seat in addition to a ghostly dog that tugs at punters’ trouser legs.
Red Lion, Avebury – amidst the stone circles, UFO reports and some fairly regular paranormal activity, be on the lookout for the ghost of a woman called Florrie who was murdered by her soldier husband in the 17th century after he discovered that she had been unfaithful to him while he was away at war.
The Kings Arms, Monkton Farleigh – filled with an array of ghostly patrons, head on over to the Kings Arms to maybe catch a glimpse of a monk who reportedly died in the pub in mysterious circumstances or a woman whose runaway carriage crashed into the building, killing her. There is also a mysterious key which was unearthed during recent building work on the site. Allegedly two ghosts appeared and warned the bar staff not to knock down the wall behind which the key was eventually found. The purpose of the key is still not known but it now hangs proudly on the pub wall.
St. Anne’s Castle, Essex – home to numerous ‘ghost hunter’ vigils, St. Anne’s Castle is the oldest public house in England and home to a woman who was burned to death as a witch in the early 17th century.
The Skirrid Inn, Wales – used as a place of execution in the medieval period, The Skirrid Inn has the dubious distinction of having been pronounced the most haunted pub in Britain by famed ghost hunter Richard Jones.
Devil’s Stone Inn, Devon – gets its name from the mysterious giant boulder which sits at the centre of the town. No one knows where it came from and legend has it that it was dropped by the Devil himself as he was flying overhead. Not really a reason to classify this as a top haunted pub but is, supposedly, haunted by quite a few ghosts. Most of these seem to have a fairly pleasant disposition save for the single curmudgeon who was believed to be a rent collector in life.
Seven Stars Pub, Sussex – with a history dating back to the Middle Ages, there are regular occurrences of phantom footsteps, shadowy apparitions, and dogs reacting to the presence of something unseen.
Marsden Grotto, South Shields – this private residence was soon transformed into an inn which became a favorite with the local smugglers. The spirit of one unfortunate is believed to be that of a smuggler who informed on his fellows and was brutalised by them after being caught. Psychics have claimed to detect a high level of paranormal activity in the building on numerous occasions.
If you’re looking for some closer to home options in Central London, theres’s always The Morpeth Arms, The Old Bull & Bush, The Black Cap, The Blind Beggar and The Old Queen’s Head. How can you not include the The Bucket of Blood in Cornwall, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese which is just off Fleet Street or The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden?
Happy Haunting. Let us know if you are aware of any others or have experienced anything first hand….
An all-star cast Julia McKenzie, Joanna Lumley, Rob Brydon and Miranda Hart are set to bring David Walliams’ best-selling children’s novel Gangsta Granny to life in a special 60-minute adaptation for BBC One this holiday season. Following the enormously successful 2012 adaptation of Mr. Stink, an earlier Walliams children’s book, Gangsta Granny reunites the BAFTA-nominated team behind the 2012 special which was co-written by Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley (Gnomeo & Juliet, Robbie The Reindeer, Black Books) with Walliams. The comedy drama tells the story of schoolboy Ben (Reece Buttery), who is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at the house of his grandma, played by Julia McKenzie (Agatha Christie’s Marple, Cranford); all she ever wants to do is stay in, play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup.
One day, when Ben’s grandma tells him a story that she was once an international jewel thief, and together they go on a wild adventure to complete the one heist she never quite managed in her criminal heyday, which brings them face-to-face with Her Majesty The Queen, played by Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous, Jam & Jerusalem, Sensitive Skin).
David Walliams (Little Britain, Big School, Britain’s Got Talent) and Miranda Hart (Call The Midwife, Miranda) appear as Ben’s Strictly Come Dancing-obsessed parents, Mike & Linda. Rob Brydon (Gavin & Stacey, The Trip) plays Mr Parker – a nosy neighbour who could scupper Ben and his grandma’s plot; and Jocelyn Jee Esien (3 Non Blondes, Little Miss Jocelyn) appears as Kelly, the pushy mother of Florence (India Ria Amarteifio) with whom Ben has to dance in a local ballroom competition.
Mr. Stink, which starred Hugh Bonneville and Sheridan Smith and has, for me personally, put themselves in a must-see holiday viewing situation alongside the perennial favorites of Charlie Brown’s Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life. With BBC One holiday audiences set to sit down to Gangsta Granny this Christmas, U.S. audiences will get their first chance to see Mr. Stink beginning Sunday, December 22 on PBS. Filming has begun on Gangsta Granny with a targeted transmission for 25 December of this year.
There are a number of people that I continue to marvel at the endless and varied talents that they possess in the industry. Obviously, Steven Moffat and Benedict Cumberbatch top the list. Hugh Bonneville is brilliant in both Downton Abbey and Twenty Twelve. Dame Judi Dench can bounce from As Time Goes By to the Queen, to ‘M’ in the James Bond films to Broadway to singing ‘Send in the Clowns’ at Royal Albert Hall. If you have read Tellyspotting over the last four years, you know there is a laundry list of folks that I have the utmost respect for when it comes to both acting and writing talent. Moving up on the list is Mark Gatiss.
Mark Gatiss is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter and novelist. He was, and is, a member of the comedy team The League of Gentlemen, which, to this day, has made me never want to set foot in a ‘local shop’ again. He adapted H.G. Wells’ The First Men In the Moon into a television film of the same name for the BBC. Growing up, as he did, a big fan of the Hammer horror films, Gatiss made a three-part BBC documentary series entitled A History of Horror, a personal exploration of the history of horror cinema. He has both written episodes for and acted in Doctor Who and, of course, is the co-creator along with current Doctor Who showrunner, Steven Moffat, of what is, perhaps, the best show on television, Sherlock. In addition to co-creating, he also lends his acting talents to the series playing Sherlock Holmes’ older brother, Mycroft.
Currently, Gatiss is the creative force behind the forthcoming British television documentary/drama commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the science fiction series Doctor Who, ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’, starring David Bradley as William Hartnell, the First Doctor.
But, did you know that Mark Gatiss does a killer Joan Crawford? The Sky Arts’ dark comedy Psychobitches, which featured famous women from history in the therapist’s chair. In this clip, which takes place in the waiting room imagines Gatiss’ Joan Crawford character crossing paths with Bette Davis, brilliantly played by Frances Barber. Let’s take a look…
It’s hard to imagine the Crawleys at the dinner table during just about any episode of Downton Abbey and not seeing wine served. Without question, when Mr. Carson pulled a bottle of wine from the cellar for Lord and Lady Grantham, one could be assured it was a fine French Bordeaux, the wine of choice amongst the British nobility in Edwardian England.
Honoring those same wine-making traditions, the Downton Abbey Wine collection is crafted with premium fruit from the famed Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux, France by Dulong Grand Vins, a family-owned vineyard with more than 130 years of winemaking experience.
Fifth-generation winemaker Jean-Marc Dulong, whose ancestors might well have made the very wines enjoyed at Downton, has created a collection of finely balanced, elegant wines that are eminently drinkable. The Blanc is a blend of muscadelle and semillion fruit crafted to create a rich, dry white wine with a hint of tangerine and citrus and offers a perfect accompaniment to goat cheese, fish and shellfish. The Claret is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec grape varieties which reveals scents of wild berries including blackberries, raspberries and black currants with an added hint of violet and an excellent pairing with cheeses, game, grilled red meats and hearty stews.
The Dowager Countess may not have known ‘what a weekend was’, but she knew her wine. Thankfully, it was Mr. Carson serving and not Basil Fawlty at Downton.
What news could possibly top yesterday’s announcement of the U.S. airdates for the forthcoming Sherlock series on PBS? Obviously, the news that the 50th Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor will be screened in 3D in cinemas across the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Germany and Russia, of course.
According to doctorwho.tv, the cinema screenings will take place the same time as the UK TV broadcast on BBC One on 23rd November 2013, giving fans yet another unique opportunity to be part of a truly global celebration for the iconic British drama series.
216 VUE, Cineworld, Odeon, BFI and Picturehouse cinemas in the UK and Ireland have already confirmed their participation, with tickets for the anniversary screening set to go on sale this Friday October 25th at 9am. Locations include London, Birmingham, Belfast, Dublin, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Internationally, Doctor Who fans in Germany and Russia will be able to gather in cinemas to enjoy the simulcast release with approximately 30 cinemas in Germany and up to 50 theaters debuting the episode in Russia. The celebrations will cross time (and space) zones traveling over the equator to New Zealand and Australia where fans will have a choice of 106 cinemas across both countries to view the episode in 3D on the big screen on the 24th November, following the simulcast TV broadcast earlier in the morning.
At this time, no word yet as to where American or Canadian audiences can see the 50th special in theaters and in 3D, but expect that information from BBC America any day now. Remember…#SavetheDate
The moment that U.S. fans of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have been waiting for since May 20, 2012 at 10:30pm ET has arrived. Ever since Sherlock took that leap off the rooftop of St Barts Hospital, rapid fans of brilliant telly have accessed the Internets daily for any production news or broadcast date update. Who can blame them after having witnessed what many have called one of the most shocking cliffhangers in television history. Well, that day has arrived.
PBS has just announced the following schedule for Sherlock 3 as part of the ongoing series, Masterpiece.
Trying to curb her enthusiasm for the upcoming new set of episodes, Masterpiece Executive Producer, Rebecca Eaton calmly said: “These new episodes are as wildly-imaginative and brilliantly-produced as all the others. These people are GOOD!”
An equally subdued Sue Vertue, executive producer for Sherlock and Hartswood Films, which coproduces Sherlock with MASTERPIECE and BBC Wales for BBC One said: “We are hugely excited about this next series of Sherlock, and have worked closely with our partners, MASTERPIECE and PBS, to bring these episodes to U.S. audiences in January. We promise our fans that Season 3 is worth waiting for.”
U.S. fans of Downton Abbey will immediately recognize that this places Sherlock right in the wheelhouse of the new 4th series of Downton which premieres at 8p CT/9p ET on January 5, 2014. Doing the math, that will make Sunday the most definitive night for appointment television since NBC’s Must See TV night back in the 80′s anchored by Friends, Seinfeld and ER.
The countdown begins now until January 2014. Need we say more?
The London Evening News called Irish comedian/actor/writer, Dylan Moran, ‘The Oscar Wilde of comedy‘. Just minutes into the interview I understood why. His swing through Texas on the final leg of his current North American tour (tonight at the Paramount Theater in Austin and Thursday at the Lakewood Theater in Dallas), is the comic’s first venture into the state. It may be the first time he has set foot on Texas soil but public television viewers in both North Texas and across the U.S. will immediately recognize Moran from either his brilliant Black Books sitcom or the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright zombie classic, Shaun of the Dead.
Tagged awhile back as ‘the greatest comedian, living or dead‘ by French newspaper, Le Monde, Moran routinely does a bit of localizing of his stand-up material by doing some fairly extensive research about the area. Where most comedians or visitors to the area tend to, sadly, binge watch the entire 1980′s series, Dallas, or feel the need to connect with a JFK assassination story, Moran is light years beyond that and quickly referenced a recent story in Time Magazine as the starting point for his Lone Star State research…
Tellyspotting: First time in Texas?
Dylan Moran: First time. I know nothing.
TS: You seem to do a bit of research prior to a tour stop about the city or area you are in and tailor your stand-up a bit to where you are. How on Earth did you research Texas?
DM: My general policy wherever I’m going is to look into what’s going on, what are the recent local political stories, all trying to get a sense as to what people are talking about. There was a big story in Time Magazine the last couple of days about how people are using ‘the Texan model’, how economically people are moving into the state, it’s cheaper to live, you can buy yourself a big house for the amount of money it would cost to buy a small apartment in a bunch of other cities. There’s obviously a lot going on here, it’s a dynamic time in the state. Historically, there has always seemed to be a feeling of separatism and a very strong local identity.
TS: In the middle of your U.S. tour, have you figured out America yet?
DM: No, not at all. I think that might be pushing it and would take some doing. I’m overwhelmed at the vastness of the country. It was interesting coming here from Eastern Europe because so many people came over here on the Red Star Line and other big ships. People who really got involved in the construction of America, the people who were fleeing Naziism.
TS: Having performed virtually in all parts of the globe, does comedy travel as well as you’d expected?
DM: You’d be very surprised. It’s really hard to tell how it’s going to go. I’ve been surprised at how quick AND slow people are on the uptake. There are certain countries that people want to join the world party, to improve their own lot for their families, learning English. Luckily, I happen to be doing this at a time in a period of history where English is hovering around the peak point as sort of a false language for people that don’t understand each other but will use English so you can sort of sail along on the tailwind of that.
TS: Personally, you seem to be in a constant state of learning and very much enjoy the art of conversation. Where does that come from?
DM: I grew up in Ireland where the most popular form of entertainment or passing the time is talking because that’s always free. You’re always swapping stories with people about where they’re from, what’s going on, etc.
TS: Have you been able to pick up in either certain areas of the country or certain areas of the world things that you thought would connect but didn’t or vice versa?
DM: Tracking the immigrant experience from Eastern Europe was really interesting to see what those people were coming from and why those people are vociferously patriotic, nationalist types and as Americans from that part of the world are very appreciative of what was made available to them here. Traveling around the different territories in America, it’s very interesting to see there are so many nations within the nation. When you’re in a territory as big as Texas with 25 million people or a huge city like New York, everyone is really self-referential. People will track national politics in the big cities but for the most part, people’s concerns or focus are quite local.
TS: In writing ‘Black Books’, did you find it tougher to write for yourself in a sitcom as opposed now writing for yourself doing stand-up?
DM: That’s a good question. With ‘Black Books’, I wanted to make an ensemble show. I was very lucky to have Bill Bailey, an amazing comic phenomenon and Tamsin Greig who is an absolutely world-class actor. To be honest with you, I just wanted to write a show that made time go by quickly. In terms of writing stand-up, it’s as hard as you want it to be. If you don’t want to just phone it in, it does get harder. You can talk about certain stuff any where in the world and you’ll get laughs but if you want to try and push it a bit, be more exploratory, then it takes more work.
TS: When you look at the individual characters of a Bernard Black, Basil Fawlty or Edmund Blackadder, is it the writing that can take a very unlikeable human being and, essentially, deliver a character that the audience desperately wants to succeed?
DM: It’s not so much writing as it is a question of voice. When you are very familiar with a character’s voice in your head or a particular type of human being, they resonate with people and what happens is that it’s not so much that they want them to succeed as it is that they love the fact that they can vicariously live through these characters who get to say and do all kinds of things they wouldn’t dare.
TS: What makes you laugh today?
DM: I think there is lots of good comedy around. I prefer small stories that are more like literature where its from someone’s mind. This particular thing happened on this particular Sunday in this particular small town. They tend to hook me more. What I really love is ‘The Kids Are Alright’ which comes to mind recently. You get a real sense of the person who had written it and the characters. What works best for me is something that has a really strong voice rather than something that is simply trying to get as many laughs as possible.
After letting me in on a bit of inside information that he favors both The Long Hall and Doheny & Nesbitt‘s in Dublin (two really great pubs, BTW), it was time to head out to find a bite to eat in Austin before Tuesday’s show and, from what I could surmise, to continue to tweak and put the final touches on what promises to be an evening you’ll definitely regret if you are not in attendance. If you miss Wednesday’s show at the Paramount Theater in Austin, get in your car and head 200 miles north to the Lakewood Theater in Dallas on Thursday to catch the show. If you’re in Dallas, you need to be at the Lakewood on Thursday. All the cool kids will be there. You can thank me later…
A new series of sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf has been ordered by Dave, the Home of Witty Comedy Banter in the UK.
Writer and series co-creator Doug Naylor is currently working on scripts for RDXI, with filming due to commence in 2014. The news has been widely expected for the past eleven months, following huge ratings in the UK for the sitcom’s 10th series, which was broadcast during October and November 2012 on Dave, the home of witty banter.
Robert Llewellyn, who has played the neurotic Series 4000 service mechanoid Kryten (full name Kryten 2X4B – 523P) since the sitcom’s third series, wrote on his blog Sunday: “We are officially making another series but we don’t know when. UKTV, the company behind Dave, who broadcast Red Dwarf X, want another series and we’d love to make one. It will be sometime in 2014, but I can’t be any more accurate that because we simply don’t know yet.
“As far as the main cast are concerned, Chris, Danny, Craig and myself are all very committed to making another series, Doug Naylor is working on it like a man possessed but beyond that it’s in the lap of the GELFS.” Hopefully, we’ll be seeing something along the lines of Kryten’s RDX message from back in 2010 posted in the not-to-distant further with news about RDXI.
Fans of the series calling North Texas home might remember that KERA, the PBS affiliate in North Texas, was the first and only station in the U.S. to air the series back in July of this year. Those in attendance will no doubt remember Kryten’s message to fans of ‘The Small Rouge One’ in North Texas.
Stay tuned to this space for word on RDXI when more information becomes available about taping and transmission dates, etc.