Interview: The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek
Graeme Rooney, Paul Charlton and Kevin O’Loughlin met over ten years ago at drama school as they looked to fashion successful acting careers for themselves. But two Edinburgh Fringe shows later and over 6500 tickets sold, the trio, a.k.a The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek, are one of the most sought after sketch troupes in the country. Ahead of their Childish Things charity gig where they’ll perform alongside Michael McIntyre, Andrew Dipper caught up with Paul Charlton to chat about the trio’s inception, their recent appearance on Dick & Dom’s Funny Business, and what the future holds for The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek.
AD: Hi Paul, how did you get into sketch comedy?
PC: Me and the boys did a self directed play at drama school about a decade ago and it went down really well so we always said we’d write a comedy show together one day. Fast forward quite a few years and we were all working as actors trying to pay the bills so we decided that we’d write a sketch show.
AD: Where do you, as a group, find the inspiration for your sketches?
PC: Coffee plays a huge part in our creative writing! You could probably say we have an unhealthy reliance on it to kick start our sessions. The Geek [Kevin O’Loughlin] in particular is obsessed. He thinks he’s a coffee connoisseur. Food also plays a huge role – treats are very important. Chicken kebab meat is the reward for the completion of a sketch. Influence-wise we love Big Train and I suppose our big, silly style humour is similar to theirs. But over the past couple of years we’ve found our own style that is inoffensive, silly, feel good humour, looking sometimes at things in our lives and sometimes at just random silly characters.
AD: Did you expect to enjoy so much success with The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek?
PC: We got into sketch comedy because we thought we could do something different from the majority of sketch shows as it seemed saturated by middle class, South of England sketch acts when we went in 2008. In that sense we were hopeful, but we didn’t expect to sell 3000 tickets in our first Edinburgh show. Since then we’ve had an amazing year and a half. We said at the beginning our aim was to get a TV series in three years, but we knew it was a goal that’d be very difficult to achieve so to get a first TV appearance just two years in was brilliant- though we still have a long way to go.
AD: You mentioned Edinburgh just then – your 2010 Edinburgh run was, on a whole, very well received, and I personally thought it was a very slick performance. How difficult is it to perfect an hour long sketch show, and how difficult is it to maintain an audience’s attention when you’re showcasing so many different ideas and roles?
PC: We had a great Edinburgh last year and to sell out all 3500 tickets, largely on word of mouth – as we didn’t get many reviews – was the most satisfying thing. For our show we spend nearly the whole year leading up to the festival trying to create sketches and characters that are both laugh out loud funny and also intelligent. It’s hard work and the hardest thing is to keep the momentum going for 60 minutes without that unfunny dip that can quite often happen, as it’s this that can lose the audience’s attention. Our longest sketch is just over 3 minutes and our shortest is about 20 seconds so having that kind of variety throughout the show also helps to keep the audience interested. We also like to mix up the castings so that all three of us get to play different characters and this can sometimes get quite tricky when you have to consider the logistics of our ten million props and costumes or when The Ginge [Graeme Rooney] has to come on naked as a sheered sheep and then race to get his clothes back on at break neck speed. As we’re all trained actors we also like to bring a very polished theatricality to the show so we spend a lot of time drilling it on caffeine and protein fuelled 12 hour rehearsals. As you can imagine it gets very smelly!
AD: So what was your favourite moment from your time in Scotland?
PC: To be honest it’s from 2009 and at the time it wasn’t my favourite moment but it is now. I was walking on as usual behind The Ginge at the start when he turned round in the darkness and whispered in panic ‘we’ve forgotten the chairs!’ This was quite pivotal as we used them as props in pretty much every sketch. So I sprinted back off stage leaving The Ginge and Geek onstage as the lights came up to adlib. At the back of the room you could hear me bang and crash about as I told some of my friends to stand up as I stole their seats from them and returned to stage 30 seconds or so late with chairs in hand.
AD: You recently filmed some sketches for Dick & Dom’s Funny Business – how was that, and do you think your comedy is transferable to television?
PC: Dick & Dom was great fun. They were really nice guys and took time to chat to us even though they had a million things to do. Acting with Catherine Tate was also quality. Our sketch went down really well with the kids so hopefully it should come across well on TV. In general we write most of our sketches with a view to our long term goal of a series so the idea is that when people come and see our show it’s like watching a TV sketch show, only with the benefits of a live audience and actors. That’s the idea, anyway.
AD: I hear you’ve been asked to perform at the Childish Things charity gig alongside Michael McIntyre, Beardyman and James Corden. Firstly how does it feel to be recognised in such a way, and are you looking forward to the show itself?
PC: I’m nervous already! We got the line-up emailed to us yesterday and to see our name on a bill with so many amazing comedians is surreal. My girlfriend wants a picture of me with Miranda Hart, but I’m worried with me only being 5ft 6, we won’t be able to get us both in frame. As a sketch group we’ve never performed in front of 2000 people in one go before so I’m hoping I can keep my bladder in check while I’m on stage!
The recognition is very flattering, and we just hope we make people laugh. Even though we’ve done the set we’re going to do next week a million times it’s always nerve wracking as every comedian has died on stage at some point and we don’t want it to be in front of 2000 people.
AD: Finally, what does the future hold for The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek? Will you be returning to Edinburgh this August?
PC: We’ve already started planning for this year’s Edinburgh show. It’s a huge year for us so the pressure is still on. Can we make people laugh for a third hour?! We’re actually bringing back our best of 2009/10 show as well as a new show and they’re only going to be an hour or two hours apart.
Who knows what else is going to happen this year. We’re hoping to come back to Newcastle to preview the show before we go to Edinburgh, and we’re in talks with a company to do some gigs around County Durham in May so hopefully that’ll come off. We’ve just finished shooting a pilot with the production company we’re signed to so hopefully after our Edinburgh show it’ll get bought up by a network and we’ll get to pay our credit cards off. The way we spend money I think we’ll need at least two series just to break even.
If you want to see The Ginge, The Geordie And The Geek live they’re performing at the Glasgow Comedy Festival on March 27th. More information can be found here.