Live from Latitude: an interview with Four Screws Loose.
Four Screws Loose are a four-piece sketch group consisting of Richard, Thom, Joseph and Conan. They’ve been described as “a word of mouth hit”, which might have something to do with the fact their shows feature bawdy comedy with as much audience interaction as humanly possible. This summer, Four Screws Loose are expanding their festival hit-list to include Latitude, Edinburgh and Bestival; so Giggle Beats’ James Harle caught them outside Latitude’s Cabaret Tent for a few choice questions…
JH: How are you guys at another festival? Weren’t you just at World Pride 2012 in London last weekend?
Joseph: Yeah, on Saturday. We had a great day! We got a load of our friends along, took a big banner, and marched in the parade. It was a really good laugh, a really fun supportive and everyone had a great time. We were lucky with the weather as well, although we did have a little bit of rain where we had to hide under our big banner.
Richard: We find that a lot of sketches that we see seem to be more manly and laddish, so what we try to do- which lends itself well to the whole gay pride thing- is make our sketches a bit camp, a bit silly, at times musical and fun… the kind of old-school English humour which gets everyone on side. That’s kind of why we did World Pride- as well as the lovely aspect of pride, of course. It was a good way to get our name out there, to show that we’re good for, well, everyone.
JH: So you’re not planning to turn into a political group, then?
Richard: [Laughs] I think we do kind of the opposite, we’re so acceptable to everyone that we don’t have any politics in our show- or if we do, it’s very subliminal. It’s all just about humour, really- physical comedy.
Conan: Yeah, we’re just about having fun, letting people laugh and giving them the opportunity to enjoy themselves. That’s our politics.
JH: So, now Latitude. Does it live up to the hype?
Joseph: Thom was really scared about coming here.
Thom: Yeah… I love music and things like that, and I’ve always enjoyed live things, but festivals and camping… no. I’m afraid that since I was brought up in the country, I was never really one for camping. If someone had a party in their back garden, sure. That’d be fine. But that was about it. And with the weather as crazy as it is, I was a little bit terrified.
I’m looking forward to our spot this afternoon; when I’ve been to festivals before on a day ticket I’ve always really enjoyed the atmosphere. it’s going to be a real party.
Conan: And if you want to quote that Thom loves being camp, but is afraid of camping…
Joseph: [Laughing] He got his tent out the other day, and he said: “I’ve never been in a tent before, do you think this is going to be big enough?” And it was the shittiest little thing you’ve ever seen. He got it free from – where was it? Animal?
Joseph: Yeah, it was a little freebie tent that was about six foot by one foot, and he’s six foot four; so we were kind of like: “Thom, that’s not going to work”.
JH: I see; so you’re a bit apprehensive?
Joseph: Not all of us, not all of us. I’m well up for it, I’ve never actually done a festival in the UK before, and to be part of Latitude is just amazing.
Richard: There’s so much hype about Latitude as well, we’ve met loads of people who’ve said: “Ah, we’re going to that, we’ll see you there!” And in terms of comedy there are just so many great acts we can’t wait to see on stage. To be honest, I’m a bit musically ignorant – so it’s a good festival for me personally because there are so many other things you can do and see. I think it’s quite a friendly one to go to, comparatively. Everyone’s always talking about T in the Park, which sounds amazing, but from what I’ve heard it’s an absolute riot. Latitude is a bit more chilled out, soft core, with a lot more of a variety, so it’s a better fit I think. We can work our way up.
Joseph: Latitude is going to lube us right up for Edinburgh.
Conan: I’m not even going to wash.
Joseph: That’s not saying much though. Conan’s still got glitter on from Pride.
JH: You guys obviously have a pretty great dynamic going on here; how did you all meet?
[pullquote_right]We said: “Let’s not be afraid to be big, loud and proud” – and I think that’s how we found ourselves, so now we’re practicing that and making it better.[/pullquote_right]Thom: We all got together at university: Conan, Richard and myself all studied together, and we found we all had an interest in making people laugh. We were always the clowns of the group, so we joined forces to see if we could do something with it. Then we met Joseph, who’s the organised one, the one who organises the chaos. He’s the one who keeps us all in check, so once Joseph came along we started to put our natural joking to a bit more use – and we created Four Screws Loose.
The first few gigs went okay, so we started doing loads of open mic slots – and they were awful. Literally, so hard. I have so much respect for people who do stand-up, because it is tough. It was especially hard for a sketch group, with so many people onstage. But after doing that, we said: “Let’s not be afraid to be big, loud and proud” – and I think that’s how we found ourselves, so now we’re practicing that and making it better. We’re happier now to do what we do in pubs and stuff, venues where you’re right on top of people. That’s where our show’s at its best. It has to be on top of people.
Richard: We did a gig the other night where the stage literally wasn’t big enough for us, so we took one of the audience’s tables and did part of the sketch on that. Our show is very interactional, it’s about getting everyone involved, so whether we’re doing it on top of them, or they’re being onstage for part of a sketch, that’s what the show’s about.
JH: Sounds like you must be pretty close with your audience…
Conan: Yeah, I think we are. And we’ve always been massively encouraged by the feedback of people who’ve seen the show; they get in touch on Facebook and Twitter and stuff, and a lot of them have been with us since our first go at Edinburgh. It’s been incredible; people say just the nicest things about how much they enjoyed the show.
Thom: Lots of the comments mention the fact that we look like we’re having a lot of fun onstage-
Joseph: Which we are! To be able to have so much fun, but also share that enjoyment with others, to share the love, is amazing.
Richard: We also actively encourage our fans to get online on Twitter and Facebook, and to interact with us. We post up pictures of them in the show, and we always comment and reply to other people’s comments. We’re forging a Four Screws Loose community! [pullquote_left]Maybe some comedy people are a bit against social media because it’s trendy and snazzy or whatever, but it’s always been close to us and our show.[/pullquote_left]Also, I always like it when we can attract somebody maybe a little bit older, who doesn’t usually get online. I remember last year we had a woman who joined Facebook just so she could write on our Facebook wall and tell us how much she enjoyed the show. That was so great; maybe some comedy people are a bit against social media because it’s trendy and snazzy or whatever, but it’s always been close to us and our show.
JH: Do you have any rituals before you go onstage? Or are you such good friends with your fans that you don’t get nervous?
Conan: Joseph becomes really anal about all the props and things-
Joseph: I know all the props, and where they should be. Even the ones that aren’t mine, or have nothing to do with me.
Thom: It’s like: “Thom, have you got a pen in your left pocket?” “Thom, have you got a lighter in your right pocket?”
Richard: And Conan becomes more talkative, and I become more silent and stressed – so we don’t gel very well.
Richard: In fact, before a show we pretty much just all hate each other. That’s our ritual. And in Edinburgh Conan usually drinks about 8 cans of ‘Relentless’ every day. That can’t be healthy, can it?
JH: Probably not. Sounds like your act is pretty prop-heavy; have you managed to stow all your wigs and fake boobs in a tent?
Joseph: We’ve had to cull one or two sketches, just for logistics. We had to get the train here, and carrying tents and clothes as well as the props for those sketches just wasn’t going to happen. I mean, we’re usually pretty prop-heavy at Edinburgh, and that’s hard enough – although we got used to it long ago. People marvel at the amount of props we have; seriously, it’s like a rugby bag for 15 minutes.
JH: And, apart from props, then, what else have you brought with you?
Conan: Wellington boots were the first thing I packed. Because it’s British summertime.
Joseph: Me too. Wellies and energy drinks.
Thom: I brought boots…because I thought they’d be a bit more fashionable than wellies. But what do I know? I’m not a happy camper.
JH: You’re going to have to get used to it, you’ll be playing even more festivals next year. Speaking of which, what are your plans for the future? Is TV a natural next step?
Richard: Oooh, I don’t know how much we can say…
Joseph: That is the next step, yeah. It’s just at the stage of getting some ideas together, but then these festivals come along and interrupt everything. We’ve been working with our producer Gary Reich, who worked on How Not to Live Your Life, and our musical director is Richard Thomas of Jerry Springer: the Opera, so we have a lot of help at hand. We’d love to do a musical, actually. Continuing with the camp theme…
JH: It’s clear that, whether live or on screen, you guys are natural performers. What’s the best thing about performing?
Conan: For me, personally, it’s just knowing that you’ve made a difference to somebody’s day; hopefully for the better. They come along and see the show, and they leave feeling happier than they felt when they came in – and then I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile. That’s what gives me such a buzz. And also, being able to do all that with my three best friends…
Four Screws Loose will be in the Cabaret Arena this afternoon, 3pm-4pm, before taking their new show #ScrewTheWorld to Edinburgh in August. And after that, coming soon to a screen near you…