The Badger talks to Sussex comedy group Casual Violence! about black comedy, kitchen-sink dramas and urination
Hannah: Okay so I’m here to talk to you about the Gradual decline of…
James: The Gradual decline of a previously tight family unit in the face of economic hardship: A comedy.
Hannah: I’ve read that it’s a spin on a ‘gritty kitchen sink drama’.
Adam: Yes, really strange irony, my old school is putting on a play at the same time called ‘Love on the Dole’ with exactly the same story, but it’s serious. Properly going for the heart strings stuff, whereas this is, going for the mole strings.
Hannah: Can you give a brief synopsis of what happens?
Adam: It’s based around a family living in Manchester or Newcastle.
James: an unspecified northern place.
Adam: You’ve got Barry, the big man of the house who loses his job, and the son Mark played by Alex here, whose got no arms or legs and lives in a box. Probably the most controversial part is the daughter whose parents are labouring under the misapprehension that she’s got Downs syndrome and are repressing her because of it. It’s showing each family member’s struggle, but presented in a ridiculous and comic way.
James: With the daughter, it’s looking at people’s attitudes to that sort of thing (Downs Syndrome).
Adam: A lot of the comedy that I do is looking at stupidity and ignorance. The two characters in this play who are disabled or considered disabled are actually the strongest in the play and by the end we are invited to have judgements about the mother and the father.
Hannah: Your comedy does push limits, it’s quite black but it does have a point.
Alex: It’s not ‘haha Down’s Syndrome’, it’s portraying attitudes towards it.
Adam: There isn’t a single joke made at the expense of disabled people.
Hannah: Obviously there’s a fine line, and you should consider how complicit the audience is.
James: Oh definitely, it’s all quite dark and grotesque but we don’t do offensive comedy.
Adam: But then there’s certain subjects that when people hear, they press the alarm button in their head and go ‘ah, that’s offensive’.
Hannah: There’s a delightful quote in an interview that you said about pissing on people’s boundaries.
James: (laughing) no, I said I don’t like to piss on people’s boundaries!
Adam: That’s a good point. We don’t like pissing on people, we do like pissing on their boundaries.
James: I said I don’t like pissing on people’s boundaries!
Alex: Pissing near people but not actually on them. Sometimes we splash them.
Hannah: Nothing actually on your clothes.
James: When I got interviewed for the first time by the badger about Porn for the Blind I said I didn’t want to step on people’s boundaries but we’re aware we might be toeing the line, the second for the monologues in October we said that we won’t completely piss on people’s boundaries and now we’ve said that we’ll piss everywhere and some people might get splashed.
Alex: Bring an umbrella.
James: There’s always people who like to hit the red button though.
Hannah: A little Daily Mail reader in the corner of the room.
Adam: It’s the kind of mentality that almost deliberately misses the point.
Adam: The comedy is dark but it takes a position of ignorance and makes it. look ridiculous. I actually once got attacked for mocking stupidity. I was doing stand-up and some guy got up and asked me to define stupidity. What a stupid question.
James: It kind of proves the point. You feel vindicated when people have that sort of reaction. Sometimes when I’ve done sketches that have been close to the bone, and people pick up on one aspect, you kind of mentally tick them off next to the idiot box. Comedy is the format where you can play with these sorts of things.
Hannah: It’s the space on stage where you can articulate certain issues safely.
Alex: And if you laugh at it, it takes away its power.
Adam: It’s got to be in a context where that’s obvious though.
Hannah: I was thinking about Harry Potter, when you get the scary things in the cupboard.
Adam: A boggart.
Hannah: And you’re supposed to laugh at them and they’ll go away.
Alex: We are the boggart.
James: Yeah laugh at us and we’ll go away.
Alex: We’ll hide in your cupboards.
James: With one play, Dead as a Dodo, this guy comes to sit next to me and was asking about the comedy group. There was a flyer for Dead as a Dodo on the table and I showed it to him and he told me that he was from the island where all the dodos were massacred by English and Portuguese soldiers and so found the title quite offensive. Apparently he hadn’t heard of the saying ‘dead as a dodo’ and later on I caught him downstairs ripping up posters and flyers. He said that he didn’t understand, why didn’t we call it ‘dead as a doughnut’? He compared the slaughter of the dodos to the Nazis killing the Jews in the Holocaust. The play was actually about the destructive impulses of mankind and how this resulted in the death of the dodo and as soon as I explained this he apologised.
Hannah: Do you have any comedy influences that you use?.
Adam: Christopher Morris from Brass Eye. I think TV comedy is dying. Brass Eye came out eight years ago and that was the last really solid comedy programme. Now you have to look to the internet. A lot of web animators don’t have the same constraints as they would in TV, and that’s where the future of comedy is.
‘The Gradual Decline of a Previously Tight Family Unit in the Face of Economic Hardship’
Marlborough Little Theatre, 29th/30th Jan, 8pm, £5