Phoenix, Oxford Circus 4th June 2017
I’m not ashamed to admit it, David Reed bamboozled me.
I was present at the first podcast record of Inside the Comedian a few weeks back, when the show shared a double bill with Pappy’s. I’d come along for a Flatshare Slamdown, so was pretty clueless as to what David Reed’s offering would entail, except that it featured Miles Jupp, which to me can only be a good thing.
Because I’m ever-so-slightly ditzy/dimwitted/drugged up to the hilt on psychiatric meds, it took me a good few minutes into the show to realise that it wasn’t following the usual “but…are you happy?” format. In fact, Reed’s questioning grew more and more obscure, and poor old Jupp’s responses became barmier and barmier. It was pure joy to see the now oh-so-commonplace format of comedians interviewing other comics be mocked so skillfully.
So arriving for yesterday’s record with Marcus Brigstocke, I was slightly better prepared, although I have to admit that the sight of Reed in his three-piece tweed still made me come over all wobbly kneed (what can I say – I went to Cambridge – it’s a Pavlovian response).
The interview kicks off with Reed discussing Brigstocke’s latest venture – a club where left wing comedians can finally drop the shackles of pretending to care for others and give voice to their right wing ideologies. Brigstocke describes this as a ‘play space’ that has proved especially popular with Rob Newman (“Christ, he’s got some interesting ideas about the poor!”) and Stewart Lee, amongst others.
This is all, of course, utter horseshit. But it’s wonderful horseshit, because Reed’s clipped RP tones lend the whole ludicrous interview an air of legitimacy and gravitas, which heaven knows we need in our current unhinged political landscape, where satire has become indistinguishable from reality.
Reed’s straightfaced interjections are classic gold; “so, if we could start at the beginning of your career…just as you did” are almost on a par with the deadpan Mrs Merton (RIP). Speaking of Brigstocke’s radio work, Reed asks “so what’s it like to be left on in the kitchen when the many households have gone back to the living room to watch television?”. Brigstocke takes the digs without missing a beat.
Reed doesn’t shy from the issue of gender politics, leading Brigstocke into a discussion about the underrepresentation of women at the BBC. Marcus goes on to describe how he heroically redressed the gender balance by impersonating a female, interviewing a range of other male comics posing as women. This revolutionary approach created the current situation where Mock the Week may have “up to one woman…laughing at what the boys say”.
A potential flaw with this kind of format is that the quality of the interview will depend greatly on the ability of Reed’s subject to give as good as they get. I haven’t yet seen enough to see how Reed would cope with someone who gets stuck in the face of improvisation, but I suspect he’s got the skills to accommodate the style of most of his interviewees.
Verdict: if you’re expecting to come away knowing more about the life, career and comedic influences of Reed’s interviewee, you will be sadly disappointed. You certainly won’t find out if they are happy. If, however, you’re prepared for a session of gentle teasing, mocking and arch questioning of the unsuspecting victim (Reed assures me that his subjects have no idea of his lines of questioning in advance), then you will be in for an absolute treat.