James Harle

Interview: Cardinal Burns

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Cardinal Burns | Giggle Beats

Cardinal Burns

Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns are two halves of Cardinal Burns.  Prior to their screen debut on E4 last year, the pair toured Cardinal Burns as a live show and they’re bring it back this summer for spots at Latitude Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe. Since everyone at Giggle Beats HQ was so impressed with the show, we sent James Harle to talk to the duo about the success of Cardinal Burns, their inspiration and their motivation. Enjoy.

JH: So, the first series of Cardinal Burns is out there, it’s extant, it has been broadcast. How’s the reaction been?

CB: It’s been great, yeah; we’ve had such a good reception. People really seem to love the characters and we’re really pleased with that – and we got a lot of nice tweets from comics we admire so we’re over the moon.

Of course, it’s not for everyone. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, but apparently The Daily Mail said it was more painful than getting Chinese burns off a gorilla.

I know, I actually think that sounds quite nice. Yeah, The Daily Mail said exactly what we expected. We didn’t think they’d like it.

JH: Am I right in thinking that you’re probably not aiming it at them?

CB: [Laughs] No, not quite. In fact, I think we’d have been worried if we’d got a glowing review from The Daily Mail. It would have been a bad sign, with our kind of show.

JH: Can we look forward to another series, then?

Nothing is confirmed at the moment. There are talks happening, and we’re fairly hopeful – but you never know.

JH: And presumably you’d stick with E4? How’s it been working with them? They’re pretty big on their American shows…

CB: Yeah, they are, yeah. But what we really like about E4 is that they take risks, and our show on paper was not only a risky show, but in a risky format; so it seemed to be the right fit.

We wanted to do something really different, and the format that we worked with was quite new, which is always a risk in itself. Rather than self contained sketches we wanted there to be narratives that went across the series, and that always has the chance of not working. The content itself is a bit risqué, but probably not so shocking for an E4 audience. After shows like The Inbetweeners, that stuff goes down okay…

JH: It can’t have been that risky, you guys have been doing sell-out live shows for a while now. Or is the live show poles apart from the screen version?

CB: Well, we adapted some things from the stage, but not others. On stage you get away with some things which won’t work on TV. There was a sketch we did where we played Turkish minicab drivers and sang to the audience, and it’s always gone so well on stage that we tried to adapt it for TV. The problem is that it works so well live because you’re just bouncing off the audience; it’s much more of a live sketch. With TV you can concentrate on the little things that a camera can pick up on, and since you can’t do that on stage we really wanted to take advantage of it. That’s why we pay a lot of attention to the world the characters live in: Banksy and the house he lives in, stuff like that. TV gave us the chance, and we enjoyed taking it.

JH: But you’ll be returning to the stage soon, which is great. You’re doing shows at Latitude Festival and you’ve got a run at the Edinburgh Fringe in August…

CB: Yeah, we can’t wait. We played at Udderbelly in May, so we’ve already done a show there, and it was such fun; it was brilliant, and it’s an amazing venue. It’s always fun doing live shows, so we’re really looking forward to it.

JH: Obviously it’s a much bigger operation on TV. Have you made a lot of new friends?

CB: Well we wrote the live show ourselves, whereas we wrote for TV with a group of people. (Nat Saunders, Chris Haywood, Matt Morgan, Keith Mottram, Fergus Craig and Rufus Jones all contributed towards scripts).They wrote some of the sketches in the show, and because we really got on with them, we included them in the live show. So now, for the first time, they appear onstage – and they’re going to be doing sketches as part of our show at Latitude and Edinburgh. It’s nice, there’re four of us now.

JH: And what about the ensemble? You’ve had some great supporting actors on screen.

CB: We were really happy with the cast, it’s been such fun. Most of the time, we cast them for being what we wanted: really real characters. And that’s worked out just great, we’ve got some really funny people and we found ourselves laughing a lot on set. It was really great fun to work with them all.

JH: What’s your inspiration for the sketches? Most comedians draw from everyday life, but some of your sketches seem a little more…exotic.

CB: Various things, really. We spend most of our time together, so it’s definitely a joint thing. We find the same kind of people funny, and so a lot of the time people that we work with give us ideas. You’ll see a character or hear a voice or something, or it might just be an odd idea that comes into our heads…all kinds of things. But mostly, odd people. Odd people inspire us.

JH: And other comics, too?

CB: Definitely, definitely. We’d laugh at Big Train and League of Gentlemen, and there are a lot of American shows that we’ve really enjoyed. We both like a sketch show called Human Giant at the moment, and Eastbound & Down which is an amazing, amazing show on HBO. I think it’s HBO…it might not be.

Anyway, they’re the shows that really inspired us. Eastbound & Down particularly; we were watching a lot of it as we were writing, actually, and it’s a very bawdy show, very unapologetic, and it’s nice to see that on TV.

JH: I don’t know about anyone else, but I particularly enjoyed the ‘Young Dreams’ sketches. Did you have a particular favourite?

CB: Yeah, ‘Young Dreams’ was a lot of fun. We both loved it. It was one of our favourites; really fun and silly. It’s fun dressing up as women, we can’t lie about that. The office flirts are also really fun to do because they’re just such big characters that it’s always fun to play off each other.

I think dressing up as women is a thing the British love though. Dick Emery, Little Britain, Monty Python; there’s a history of British comics dressing as women, so we’re now part of that. We really wanted to not make the comedy out of us dressing up as women, though. We wanted to play female characters even though they’re quite exaggerated; we wanted them to be quite well observed, rather than just laughing at two men in dresses and wigs.

JH: So your writing process, then…when you sit down to write a sketch, how does it work? Is one of you more dominant; is it completely equal; is it random?

CB: It’s all very balanced. We both tend to write the same way: one of us comes in with an idea, and then we’ll improvise with the characters and then transcribe that. It’s very organic. It’s not lead by one or the other, it just comes naturally. We’ve got strengths and weaknesses of course, but they balance out.

Seb Cardinal: I know I could have taken all the credit, but Dustin’s sitting right next to me, so I don’t feel like I could get away with it…

JH: And what is it that keeps you writing with each other?

CB: It’s a very keen eye for detail, I think. And a nuance of character that’s not obvious. I think that’s what we both see in each other. We were talking about it just now actually; we can often play the same kind of characters, and I think that’s what makes us laugh about each other – just odd little characters that you observe in each other that always make us laugh.

JH: Ace. Any closing comments?

Seb Cardinal: Yeah, Dustin wants to know what you’re wearing.

JH: Pyjamas, with a Donkey Kong t-shirt I got from working at GAME.

Seb Cardinal: Thanks. He looks pretty happy now.

Series One of Cardinal Burns is available now on DVD. They’ll also be at Latitude Festival in July, and at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.