Andrew Dipper

Funny Team interview

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Ahead of their new show at The Stand Comedy Club, Newcastle, we meet sketch group Funny Team.

After a mighty fine debut show at Jesterval earlier this year, Funny Team – that’s Lee Kyle, Sammy Dobson, Catherine Scott, Nicola Mantalios-Lovett and Matt Reed to me and you – are back! The North East sketch group are bringing a brand spanking new show to The Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle next month, so – nebby buggers that we are – we catch up with the gang to talk comedy.

Tell us about Funny Team. Whose idea was it for the five of you to work together?

Sammy Dobson: Lee, was it yours? I think Lee asked me so mentally I’m holding him responsible.

Lee Kyle: MINE and anyone who says different is a liar. I figured we all had similar senses of humour but were different enough from each other so that none of us would be unnecessary. Si Buglass was going to be in it at first but it didn’t work out schedule wise so we got Catherine in. THAT wasn’t my idea.

Catherine Scott: *Cough* But once I joined you were SUPER GLAD I DID, RIGHT?

Lee Kyle: Well, I definitely noticed.

Sammy Dobson: We did a few gigs together and realised we had similar senses of humour and we all loved smut. Loads of smut. And filth. That’s what binds us really.

Catherine Scott: Yes! But nice smut, not like Matt Reed’s smut.

Lee Kyle: It’s quite intellectual. And charming.

What do each of you bring to the group?

Lee Kyle: Sammy is the singer, Matt is the drummer, Nicola is on bass, I’m the funny one and Catherine is in it.

Sammy Dobson: I often bring a tuna salad and Catherine always has her drugs to ‘keep her alive’ apparently.

Catherine Scott: I bring the can-do attitude (bossy) and often upset Lee.

Sammy Dobson: Our skills slot together quite nicely I think. Some have more experience of stand-up and some have more experience of acting and performing.

Lee Kyle: I think we are all funny, which is good. Also, for people who know us, you can sort of tell who wrote which sketch, which is interesting to me. Nicola tends to write dafter stuff for example.

Sammy Dobson:And you write exactly how you talk…

Lee Kyle: Yes, I am very much a one trick pony. Plus, we have other strengths that I hadn’t necessarily realised. Catherine writes scripts so she was great for editing and actually giving some sort of structure, Sammy is a proper actor so has helped us with staging and that, plus she plays instruments and her and Catherine both sing. Me, Matt and Nicola are just stand-ups really and pantomime it up a bit…

So what kind of sketch do you like to watch?

Lee Kyle: I don’t, really. I loved Python as a kid; I still do I suppose, except I’ve seen it too much. I like double acts more than sketches, I think of us as more like a double act only with five people – which makes sense to me at least…

Sammy Dobson: My favourite ever was Big Train. Obviously that’s telly though. They’re one of my favourite forms of comedy due to my toddlers’ attention span. There are loads I love.

Catherine Scott: I enjoyed some Fast Show ones. The dafter the better, really.

Lee Kyle: Sammy, list some so I don’t make us look like misanthropes.

Sammy Dobson: Fast Show, Smack The Pony, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, The Adam and Joe Show, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, That Mitchell and Webb Look, Limmy, etc.

Lee Kyle: Never heard of them. Smack The Pony once did a Kenickie parody, which is quite mental…

Are there any similarly obscure references in your show?

Lee Kyle: God yes! We’ve had to edit bits out that were just for us but some have stayed in. That’s what I like, really; bits like that show that we are real friends and it isn’t fake. Lee and Herring always seemed to do that and, as long as it doesn’t go overboard, I think it adds something.

Sammy Dobson: There’s an obscure reference that I was too young to actually get. But I’m not in that one so it’s fine. I love watching stuff with daft references and, like Lee said, people trying to make each other laugh entertains me almost more in a way.

Lee Kyle: Absolutely. As long as it doesn’t become self indulgent then it’s more fun to watch if we are having fun too.

So, going back to sketch as a genre for a second, I can count on one hand the number of sketch groups from ‘up north’. Why do you think that is?

Lee Kyle: I think it’s probably financial. I think it’s why a lot of sketch groups seem to be middle class and ‘above’. If they have a comfortable background, they can afford to split the pay five ways.

Sammy Dobson: I can think of loads that formed at universities – particularly universities with a sketch culture like Oxbridge, Bristol etc. It could be that.

Lee Kyle: Sammy’s is a better answer. Mine sounds bitter. It isn’t though – I LIKE being poor, actually.

Sammy Dobson: We don’t have a history or culture of it at our universities. Though there may well be groups forming now, historically it’s not been the way.

The only one I can think of is Wit Tank, who formed at Durham University – which kind of supports Lee’s point…

Lee Kyle: It supports Sammy’s too. We are quite clever in a way.

Sammy Dobson: It’s a bit of both, definitely.

Lee Kyle: Also because of Thatcher. Bloody Maggie bloody Thatcher.

Sammy Dobson: She famously closed nearly all northern pit sketch groups. The laughter snatching twat.

Lee Kyle: Then, in ’97, we all thought Blair would come in and change everything but, no! If anything, he privatised even more sketch groups. No wonder people are voting UKIP. Or something.

You mention there not really being a culture of sketch up north, which must make it more difficult to get these things off the ground. You’ve essentially got to perform to a ‘stand-up audience’ who are expecting a bigger gag rate than sketch often provides…

Lee Kyle: I sort of hope that’s the case. Like I say, while we do have sketches, I don’t really think of it as a sketch show as such. I hope it seems like a funny mess. We’ve tried to cram the bastard with jokes, although there are longer bits that have story in them and that. That’s when Sammy has to do her acting.

You performed together for the first time at Jesterval earlier this year. Were you pleased with the show? You all seemed to really enjoy yourselves…

Lee Kyle: Yes. Loved it. I love stand-up but this was something different, it was great to be doing something communal and to be able to bounce off friends. We’d worked so hard on it; it was incredibly satisfying that it wasn’t shit.

And now you’re taking the show to The Stand in Newcastle. Has the show changed much since June?

Lee Kyle: It has changed loads, it’s half an hour longer for a start so we’ve taken a few bits out and added a lot. I think some of the new stuff will be a real highlight plus we’ve added jokes we missed to the old sketches. There are special guests too, schedules allowing and we have a couple of video bits. We still haven’t got used to Catherine being around though.

Funny Team: Proper Sketchy, The Stand Comedy Club, Newcastle, Tuesday 2 December 2014, 8.30pm, £8,