"This is what the future looks like, it's queer, it's fat, it's working class and it's not just white!"
This August Bank Holiday, Comedy Central UK will air a one-off special of Edinburgh Fringe smash-hit Amusical, created by Jayde Adams, Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Dave Cribb who performs with his live band, The Quavers.
Essentially, the show is an infectious, feel good, musical extravaganza where comedians perform their unique take on their favourite songs from classic musicals. The 22-minute special will feature performances from Frank Skinner, London Hughes, Tom Allen and Suzi Ruffell and was recorded at the Hackney Empire in London.
I chatted exclusively to Jayde, Kiri and Dave in their first joint interview about the special about what audiences can expect, why this show is a win for diversity and why this might not be the last time we see Amusical on TV.
When did the idea for Amusical first come about?
Dave: We had our first Amusical show at Backyard Comedy Club in March 2017 but the idea started about 18 months earlier when myself and Kiri were driving back from Cardiff and listening to musicals - because we are cool - and we basically went "We should do this in Edinburgh! Get comedians to come and sing musicals and it'll be great!"
And actually, Tom Price, another comedian who was in the car with us said "You are never going to do that!" and we went "We'll show you!" - but then we didn't actually do it for about a year-and-a-half. So we did one in London to see how it would go down, it went really well and that was the start!
Are you surprised by the success of Amusical? And how up for it people are to take part?
Kiri: Can I arrogantly say no? (Laughs) because I think it's a total no brainer. Even if you don't like musicals, there's probably one song or one musical that you quite like. Most comics are frustrated performers anyway or did lots of musicals at school because it was an excuse to show off.
So the comedy element just adds this lovely air of jeopardy to it because you're getting to see people outside of their comfort zone and as Jayde Adams frequently says "Outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens."
Jayde: Yes. I do say that!
Jayde and Kiri, did you always know how brilliant you'd both be at hosting?
Kiri: The only thing I wasn't sure about was whether or not Jayde and I would be OK on stage together. We knew each other and were mates, but had never performed together. But it's absolute magic!
You see so many presenters, especially females, who are just whacked together and they've got that professional chemistry. Where as we are two women who like each other and think the other one is really funny.
It was never going to be two people vying for the limelight and it weirdly just works really really well. I feel so safe on stage with her.
Jayde: Same here. I've tried many a double-act before, probably for the last 10 years of performing, where I've met someone and gone "Hey! Let's do a double-act!" and these things have lasted an afternoon, possibly a YouTube video and it's never worked out past that.
Obviously there was the fear that this wouldn't work out but after doing the first show it was very clear straight away that we're really great together and it works. What's been fantastic is that we've been doing this since March 2017 and I think we can all safely say that there hasn't been a single dud night.
For us it's been a really easy sell, it's been super funny and with the support of Dave and the Quavers it means that whatever tangent me and Kiri go on, we have this air of sophistication because Dave and the lads completely cover up any mishap or anything.
It also means we get our straight man which is essentially Dave. The alchemy of the whole thing has been incredible to see. Sometimes things just work and this has definitely been one of those.
How did the TV special come about?
Dave: We never pursued it really. Comedians started talking about it and people in telly started getting interested and came to watch. It just so happened that fans of the show also turned out to work in telly and went "Let's do this on TV!" The TV stuff happened really quickly which was a really nice affirmation that this was a really good show.
Jayde: We seem to have spawned a new genre within comedy. I'm not saying that they copied...
Kiri: I'll say that.
Jayde: OK, basically BBC and ITV have come up with similar formats after we came up with ours and I know that loads of these people who work in television have been to see our show before. The problem is, they've not been able to recreate it because as I said, the alchemy of the entire team including Dave and the lads and me and Kiri seems to just work. We all have our things we do.
What can people expect from the special then?
Jayde: Comedians who are normally very confident with their material shitting their pants because they're doing something that's totally not what they do. But what you'll see is a lot of people trying really hard and the audience really lapping it up.
Kiri: The special is 22 minutes long so it just gallops through and there's not actually that much room for anything outside of the songs but all the funny bits of Jayde and I that have made it in are ad-libs on the night. It's stuff that happened in the room.
That shows that the magic really does happen in the room with these people, it's not the script and I'm really glad that we've managed to make it translate onto TV. It was a big fear for all of us that this might be one of those things that only ever works live in a dingy club in the East End of London when everyone's hammered!
Jayde: What was unanimous from everyone who came to see the special, which included lots of people from the industry, was that Amusical was one of the best TV records they'd ever been to.
Kiri: Yeah that's true actually. We deliberately didn't have anyone doing warm-up, Jayde and I did it ourselves, and the show ran for the length that our live shows do, because we wank on a lot! But the energy was amazing for a record of that length which was about three hours.
The audience were so good and we were adamant that we had to have the audience that come to Backyard come to the Hackney Empire because they get it and get involved.
The audience are key to the success of the show I think.
Kiri: Absolutely! We also know that this show only works because 300 musical theatre nerds turn up every six weeks, singalong and cheer and boo and clap and make the show what it is. We're not too arrogant to understand the important role that our audience play. We're really really lucky.
And isn't it about time we see some different presenters on telly?
Jayde: We talk about this a lot and isn't it fantastic that there's a TV channel putting two women like Kiri and I, of our body shapes and personalities, as hosts of a show together on a Bank Holiday Monday, which is a very popular day to sit and watch television. Fingers crossed they go for the series because I think it will be very successful.
So the series is very much still on the table then?
Jayde, Kiri and Dave: Yes!
Dave: The truth is that we are still working on a series for Comedy Central and we're hoping to film it towards the end of the year.
Jayde: That's literally the truth. It's still looking like it's happening.
Kiri: We want this to be perfect and we have a really strict wish list of people who we want to do it so navigating their availability with our availability has been an absolute nightmare.
Jayde: We like to have people on that aren't known for singing because as both Kiri and I say, it's nice when people can sing but it's nice when people who aren't very confident at singing take part. That's much better telly I'd say.
Another part of the show's appeal is how inclusive and diverse it is right?
Kiri: Absolutely. It can sound really shit and cheesy, a musical theatre show hosted by two fat girls with some comedians, but there's something in there for everyone. It was really important to us, and always has been, to have a diverse group of people making the show and being on the show.
Musical theatre is a huge part of queer culture so we had to have that group of people represented. Tom Allen and Suzi Ruffell were at the top of our list. They're bloody gay icons who love musical theatre so it was a no brainer!
Our dancers are really diverse as well because we want our show to look like our audience as opposed to everyone looking the same, being the same size, young and botoxed within an inch of their lives. People should look like real people.
Someone said that to us at the Fringe last year actually, that it was the first show they saw that felt like it was made by real people with love and if we can get that to come over on TV then we've nailed it.
Jayde: In terms of live entertainment, I will say it now - and I know I'm in it so I might be a bit biased, but I think a lot of people will agree - this is one of the best live entertainment formats that has come out of comedy in a really long time.
We've done two years of shows now, we know how good this is and we all felt really emotional watching the TV special.
Kiri: What I find tedious about the conversation around diversity is that it's always talked about as a way of hamstringing things. The fact that our programme is diverse is one of the things that makes it better. You wouldn't have us on it. You wouldn't have London Hughes on it. You wouldn't have Tom and Suzi on it. And one of the execs is a gay guy who just absolutely got it straight away. You wouldn't have all our dancers and it would be shitter for it.
Instead of pretending that diversity is taking anything away from telly, let's realise that when you're watching something like Amusical that it's bringing so much to the table.
Dave: It just makes sense that something like this should be on the telly and everyone should be able to see it.
Kiri: The special is a really nice celebration of where comedy is going. This is what the future looks like, it's queer, it's fat, it's working class, it's not just white! It's everything. And it's fucking funny. That's what's really exciting about it.
Amusical will air Monday 26th August at 9pm on Comedy Central UK