New Interview: Bob Mortimer

House of Fools

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer return to our screens on Jan 14 with their new sitcom House of Fools. Read a preview of the programme here. BTJ spoke to Bob Mortimer about the programme, which co-stars Matt Berry, Dan Skinner, Daniel Simonsen and Morgana Robinson. It is very childish, very odd and very funny indeed. 

BD: The first episode is a lovely bit of knockabout farce complete with obligatory random violence and Vic getting his testicles in a twist. Tell me more about it.

BM: It's actually the pilot. It was never meant to be shown. It looks very different, we changed the geography of the room. Me and Jim (Moir, real name of Vic) do fall into the trap of getting a bit arsey and making comedy about bottoms, but that's mainly in the pilot. Tthis has ended up as more of a family show.

BD: So no testicles being twanged every week?

BM: You've hit the nail on the head. No more testicles being stretched.

BD: But it's still very slapstick?

BM: We love all that. I'm not saying we are good at it. Bottom were great. Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges were great. We tried to take it as far as we could with our limited resources. I'm sure there's much fun to be had. 

BD: You did the one-off Weekenders for C4 and the musical Catterick for BBC3, but would you say this is your first proper sitcom?

BM: I suppose it is formally our first 28 minute studio sitcom but it reminds me of the longer bits we used to do in our sketch shows. We did a thing called The American Family* with Matt Lucas and Slade in Residence. The trick we sometimes pull off is we are exactly the same in everything we do, we just package it differently. We didn't realise that in sitcoms you have to tell a story to get people's attention and tell motivations. At the end of the day it was too late by the time we realised, but we've learnt that lesson now!

BD: House of Fools captures your early madcap spirit though.

BM: I would definitely agree. Episode 2 is all about us getting a pork pie for Bruce Willis and just saying those words makes me think of Man with the Stick and silly juxtapositions. In Shooting Stars our humour remained the same but we had a nice comfortable format. We are not everyone's favourite cup of tea but if we can make people more comfortable with a studio sitcom format we stand a chance. 

BD: The casting is interesting. Where did you find Daniel Simonsen?

BM: I found him with Lisa Clark, our producer, the same way as when we discovered Matt Lucas and Charlie Chuck. We just take a chance on someone, you go to a comedy night and take a chance. Daniel was very different and very different to work with, quite serious about his craft. He didn't need anything from us, he had strong ideas about his character and it was perfectly formed already. But to be honest the whole project was an excuse to work with Matt Berry. His first bit on TV was playing an auctioneer with me in the series Monkey Trousers. We've always kept a friendly eye on him and it was always in our minds to work with him. 

BD: Who chose his clothes?

BM: I think his voice, dress and mannerisms explain everything. We made him wear those clothes.

BD: How come your son Erik (Daniel Simonsen) is half Nordic?

BM: I had a fling with a Norwegian fisherwoman who returns to haunt us. She wants me dead and wants Erik back, but you find out that he loves me.

BD: Will there be a second series?

BM: Me and Jim would love to do another series,. It's the most enjoyable thing we've done since Catterick. Even at our age we learnt such a lot, it gets you energised.  We knew how to do shooting Stars without thinking almost, but this has been a challenge and more fun.

BD: Would you like to do another sketch show?

BM: We'd love to do another Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer. Nobody has come along to take our place in that sketchy, variety style so it still feels pertinent. Nobody tried to take on the studio light entertainment thing that we were vaguely copying from the past. 

BD: I thought I saw your influence in the Nick Helm pilot Heavy Entertainment, when he came onstage in the boot of a car.

BM: I saw some of that. I thought I saw a bit of us there. 

BD: How exactly did you make Vic's testicles or are they his real testicles?

BM: It's a pair of tights scrunched up with copydex on them inserted into a long strip of latex. We also put a few little hairs on there. 

BD: I missed the hairs. I'll have to watch it on HD. Thanks. 

House of Fools starts on Jan 14 on BBC2 at 10pm. 

*I think when Bob refers to "American Family" he means this sketch. It was part of an early Lucas and Walliams series, Mash & Peas, made for The UK's Paramount Channel in 1997. 

Or maybe this.


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