PUBLISHED 06 FEBRUARY 2014
Nearly 20 years ago, when cassettes were a viable option for sharing music and not just shorthand for DIY, a couple of friends started making compilations for their social group, with little bits of comedy thrown in for good measure between songs. Gradually, the ‘bits of comedy’ began to take over, but the name of the near-forgotten musical playback medium remained – and Cassetteboy was born.
Releasing their first album, The Parker Tapes, in 2002, the duo then teamed up with DJ Rubbish in 2003, beginning a partnership akin to Lennon and McCartney – but for topical musical comedy – releasingInside A Whale’s Cock Vol 1, and continuing to perform live gigs and festivals incognito dressed as chimps, politicians or soap characters. It was in 2008 that they realised there was a future in cutting videos as well as tapes, and quickly taught themselves some Final Cut techniques to apply to clips of then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. As a learning tool it was a success, and their next attempt – with Nigella Lawson as subject – gained thousands of views in just a few days, before being removed for copyright infringement.
The next video was The Bloody Apprentice, which is still Cassetteboy’s biggest hit with over five million views at time of press, and since then they have skewed MasterChef, The One Show, Jamie Oliver, Barack Obama, James Bond and TOWIE. They now turn their attentions again to live comedy with their promise to crash a show into a club, and dance on the wreckage.
We spoke to Mike from Cassetteboy about what the hell any of it all means, and how they aim to get people dancing at a comedy show.
Your shows are notoriously difficult to explain to people, so with that in mind, can you please explain your show to everyone. Thanks.
“I’m glad it’s hard to explain, because that means it’s not like any other night out. That said, you can sum it up in two words – comedy disco. We play party tunes and pop music, mixed in with people off the telly like Alan Sugar. There are funny pictures on the screens, and Cassetteboy wear some really stupid outfits. DJ Rubbish is on the mic, instigating silly dancing and giving out sweets to anyone who’s really going for it. We want people to dance their socks off and laugh their arses off. After each show we spend an hour picking up socks and arses.”
You recently did a gig at Liverpool's Leaf; how was that?
“It was really good. Leaf is a nice venue, and the Liverpool crowd were definitely up for it. Basically they laid down a challenge to the people of Manchester, and we’re looking forward to seeing who can have it the most. We’re playing at the Leicester comedy festival the week after we play Manchester. We don’t really like playing to crowds full of drunken, aggressive blokes, stag parties and that sort of thing. We want to create an accepting, friendly atmosphere, where everyone feels safe to be as silly as they want to. We want it to feel like a house party round your mate’s house.”
When did you start the live performances?
“One of our first gigs was at the 333 Club in London in 1999 or 2000. We literally just played a cassette tape for 30 minutes while we stood there, both dressed as Pat Butcher from EastEnders. Our shows gradually got more theatrical, with costume changes and props, and we would act out some of the more filthy bits. We’d do this at festivals and nightclubs, and sometimes go down a storm, and sometimes get bottled off. The show we do now is different again, as it’s much more dancefloor friendly. I think we’ve finally got a show that is accessible and funny and works when you’ve had a few drinks and want to dance, but also want to have a laugh.”
It always seems to be the quite trashy, popular shows that you skew; why not do one on Game of Thrones or House of Cards so at least then you could watch quite a lot of good TV as well?
“Harry Hill said that the best programmes to feature in TV Burp were those made on the cheap and in a hurry, and I think the same is true of Cassetteboy. Dramas are much harder to cut up than other genres, as the cast and the locations are so varied. With something like The Apprentice or MasterChef you’ve got hours of the same people talking in the same room, which is ideal for us.”
Do you actually watch as much TV as is suggested by the videos, or is that simply for the job?
“Personally I don’t watch much British TV apart from for ‘work’. Mainly I watch US sitcoms like Community, Parks and Recreation and South Park.”
What would you say is the ratio of the amount of a show you will watch to minutes of a mash-up?
“Oooh, maths! I’ve never really worked this out before, but it seems it varies enormously. Probably the best you can hope for is one minute of finished mash-up per two hours of programme watched. But for things like our Apprentice and Downton Abbey videos, it’s more like one minute of mash-up from eight hours of raw footage. And of course there’s more to it than just watching the programmes. It’s a long process. You can’t really start with any preconceived ideas, as the chances are you won’t find the necessary words. You just have to watch A LOT of raw material, collect anything that sounds like it might be useful, and rearrange it all until it makes sense (and jokes).”
Do you get many requests?
“People do suggest suitable shows quite often, but we generally don’t end up doing them. Our videos take a long time, so when we do find the time to make a new one we generally already have an idea of our own that we’d like to try. We might try Bake Off at some point, but my gut feeling is that it would be quite difficult, as there are two hosts and two judges – that’s a much more complicated dynamic than Alan Sugar shouting at people over a desk. We have done Paul Hollywood’s Bread show – let’s just say once we’d finished with him, it wasn’t dough he was kneading (it was his penis).”
What do you do in down time to get away from TV? Ice fishing? Big game hunting? Paragliding?
“Cassetteboy is essentially a hobby that’s grown and got out of control. When what you used to do to relax becomes your ‘job’ (in the loosest possible sense of the word), it is hard to know what to do with your down time. Mainly I sit in silence, staring at the wall, trying not to think about Jeremy Kyle, Jamie Oliver or Alan Sugar.”
Do you have plans to go back to Edinburgh? Or are the rumours really true about a trip to Ibiza?
“We’d like to go back to Edinburgh, but we haven’t sorted anything out yet. We’re definitely going to Ibiza, we just need to find someone to pay for our flights, find us some accommodation and book us to play in their club. Shouldn’t be too difficult.”