IT’S HARD to top English comedy, but that nation’s approach to humour falls into two distinct categories, the dark, such as The League Of Gentlemen and One Foot In The Grave, or the wonderfully silly, like Monty Python.
Pappy’s Fun Club - Ben Clark, Brendan Dodds, Matthew Crosby, and Tom Parry - unapologetically follow the latter style and this very funny and award winning comedy sketch team will bring a very English kind of good natured silliness to the Laughter Lounge in the Róisín Dubh next Wednesday at 9pm.
This will be Pappy’s second appearance in Galway, following their Galway Arts Festival show last summer. Then they staged their latest show Funergy, but this time they will have something a little different.
“It will have our favourite elements from Funergy, some material from previous shows, and new stuff,” Matthew Crosby tells me. “So people coming will see a lot of stuff they have not seen before.”
The group came together in university earlier this decade, with Ben, Tom’s old mate from Wolverhampton, joining slightly later. Moving to London, the group got some gigs, playing mostly to friends and family. Their breakthrough came in 2006, when they played Edinburgh. Such was the positive reaction from the public and critics, that Pappy’s were nominated for an If.Comedy Award in 2007 and won the Chortle Best Sketch Act Winner last year.
However, one place that remains immune to Pappy’s endearing brand of silliness is Nottingham.
“We have never had a good gig in Nottingham,” sighs Matthew. “They just don’t enjoy what we do. We played a club there three times. The first time we were booed off stage. The second time was to silence, and the third time we got a horrible review. It was as we were preparing for Edinburgh and the review said ‘There will be a lot of very angry Scottish people’.
“The club owner has asked if we would give it another shot but we don’t really want to...we have friends and fans in Nottingham but I think they will have to travel to wherever else we are playing if they want to see us.”
Every comedian faces two terrors - dying (metaphorically ) on stage and enduring a heckler. Nottingham certainly delivered the first to Pappy’s, did it deliver the second?
“The best heckle we have ever had was, surprise, surprise, in Nottingham,” says Matthew. “It absolutely got to the very core of what we do. We came out playing ourselves and chatting to the audience but they weren’t really enjoying us. I ran back and put on the mediaeval minstrel character costume which is just me with a little guitar and a little green hat as it never fails to lift the audience and get them on our side.
“I came out as the mediaeval minstrel and stared playing the guitar. Then this guy stands up - he really wanted to be seen - and said: ‘It’s just one of you guys in a hat and you’re still s**t’. That really punctured it.”
It was all part of the learning curve though, and as Matthew admits, it’s helped them to build “an arsenal to deal with hecklers”, so Pappy’s are able to turn the tables on them.
“Dealing with a heckler in character is a fun way to do it as it’s not you being rude, it’s the character,” says Matthew. “We had a gig in the University of Southampton. We were getting good laughs but there was one table that was clearly not enjoying it. It was this guy surrounded by girls and he thought he was cool.
“We had radio mikes for the gig and I was dressed as Abraham Lincoln so I was walking around the room interviewing people as Abraham Lincoln. I went to his table and every time I asked him a question, Abraham Lincoln would respond that he was better than this guy.
“I asked him what was he studying and he said law. I said ‘Law? I emancipated the slaves. Call me back when you’ve changed history.’ Doing that kind of thing in character adds an extra element to the show.”
Sometimes heckling can be a source of inspiration and improvisation, such as when an audience started comparing Matthew to well known personalities.
“At a gig someone said I looked like Jim Royle - I had a beard then - so I asked for any other suggestions and we got ‘You look like the bastard offspring of Bille-Jean King and Ben Elton’. Bille-Jean King is a bit of an obscure reference now!
“I think people feel compelled to shout out at a comedy show because they feel they are participating in the show. There is no other form of performance where people do that.
“For my part I would love to think that I look like Dustin Hoffman. A couple of people say so but they’re my mum’s friends. I’m fine though with my own face. I’ve had nearly 30 years to get used to it.”
One of the highlights of Pappy’s previous Laughter Lounge show, was Matthew’s character of irrational stuntman and lost soul Julian Banjos, who will hopefully be getting an airing at their next performance.
“We wanted to create a great stunt performer who is a really, really, old man with a Southern accent who cannot let go of the idea that he is no longer able to do the stunts,” says Matthew. “From there he goes on quite a journey that the audiences take with him. We have a rule that we never repeat characters from previous live shows and that’s a good rule but I don’t think we have heard the last of him yet.”
Final question. Who is Pappy?
“Pappy is our rich benefactor and puts up the money for the shows and sends us out to do them,” says Matthew. “He’s supposed to be a benevolent benefactor but he is always threatening to shut the Fun Club down. Pappy remains a mysterious figure and it’s nice to have that element of mystery as throughout the show audiences develop an idea of what he might look like.”
Support is from Jon Richardson. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.