'This show was very much a nod to Ken Dodd' | Alex Horne on The Horne Section Television Programme

'This show was very much a nod to Ken Dodd'

Alex Horne on The Horne Section Television Programme

Alex Horne is to front a two-hour TV extravaganza with his backing jazz band later this month. Recorded at the London Palladium, The Horne Section Television Programme features guest performances from Nadine Coyle, Sue Perkins, Sara Pascoe and Joe Wilkinson, and airs on Dave May 24 at 9pm. Here he talks about the show and how the Horne Section came about…

Why did you choose to film at the London Palladium? 

Well, it’s got excellent changing room facilities…

 It's such a wonderful, historical venue. The theatre has 2,000 seats, but no one is far from the stage so there’s still an intimate atmosphere.  It was genuinely amazing, the most memorable bit of performing I’ve ever been part of.

The Palladium is in the very heart of London, and you're feeding off that energy. If it never happens again, I don't care. When you see your name on the front of the London Palladium, you feel like you've had a good day. 

I'm a big fan of Sir Ken Dodd [Alex chose the comedian as his specialist round on Mastermind] and the Palladium was his second home. The Horne Section is in many ways old-school variety show, as were all his shows. So, in my head, this show was very much a nod to him.

Horne

Also, we were keen to muck about with the traditional Saturday Night At The Palladium style programme. 

We do want it to be a variety show but also a surprising and modern one so it just seemed like the ideal venue. We can play with expectations there. 

Can you give us an example of that? 

As you’ll see in our section with Sue Perkins, we have tinkered with the conventions of showing one person’s performance entirely linearly. That obviously doesn’t make much sense written down but that’s why you should watch the show. 

What do you hope viewers take away from the  show? 

The show lasts two hours, so viewers will need snacks and liquids. 

I hope it keeps surprising people. Something new happens around every corner. It's not like a traditional variety show where a musician comes on and plugs their latest single.

 If it doesn't make you laugh, at least it'll sound great. And if it doesn't sound great, at least it'll look great. All bases are covered. Especially if you have snacks and liquids. 

We have some fabulous guests, too. Throughout my career, my main skill has been to collaborate with people far more talented than I am.

Your dance to The Promise with Nadine Coyle from Girls Aloud was particularly memorable… 

I’ve watched that dance back, and I have to say, it’s fairly embarrassing for me. I watched the original routine more than 80 times on YouTube and practised it for a month. I really thought I’d nailed it. But it turns out I didn’t nail it. I think if anything I got too into it. 

Also, I can’t dance.

What did Sara Pascoe do on the show

We’ve always had comics come and play with the band and Sara did that brilliantly. We like to ask people to do their normal routine, but incorporating a band somehow. 

Pascoe

Sara told a very funny story about going on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, but with music. It really worked. Her dad is a jazz musician and she's got a great voice. Especially compared to me. 

What is great is to watch something that works as pure stand-up transformed into something completely different by music. 

How about Joe Wilkinson

Joe plays his own game. On stage, he was far less enthusiastic about the band chipping in. He read from his autobiography, but with musicians playing in the background. Music was much more incidental to his routine but it’s still there, subtly shaping it. 

Wilkinson

He’s one of my favourite comedians, and having both he and Sara on was a very good way of showing the different ways you can use comedy and music. 

How did The Horne Section first come about? 

About nine years ago, I became a dad for the first time. For me it was an odd time work-wise when I thought a lot about trying something different. I was asked to do a ten-minute comedy routine with a band at Ronnie Scott's. It was the first time they had done comedy. I was performing with these brilliant musicians, and it was really fun – hopefully for the audience too. 

Mark [Brown, saxophonist] from the Ronnie’s band got talking with Joe [Aukland] and Ben [Reynolds] – the trumpeter and drummer who I’ve known all my life – and found Will [Collier], the bassist. The pianist whose name I often forget [Ed Sheldrake] came along later. 

We booked six shows at the Edinburgh Festival, performed some very unrehearsed shows at midnight, and I got anyone I knew from the comedy circuit to come and do something with us. 

We clicked straight away. It was really exciting. 

Why does The Horne Section work so well? 

I just think live music improves anything. Comedy is traditionally one person with a microphone, but anything on top of that just gives it another dimension. 

What I enjoy about music is the jokes between songs. And what I enjoy about comedy is when something extra happens. Hopefully we've got that blend right. 

It helps that the band are really good musicians. But we're also very good friends, so I don’t like saying that they’re really good musicians. 

Also I can be not very nice to them on stage, and they know it's a joke. I trust them completely. I know if I ask them to give me some sad music, they'll play a brilliant bit of sad music straight away. They deserve some credit – frustratingly.

Over the last nine years, we've been through so much together. We've been through marriage and parenthood. I've known Ben and Joe for nearly 40 years. Our mums are best friends and all come to the gigs together. It’s worryingly close-knit…

• The Horne Section Television Programme airs on Dave at 9pm on May 24. 

Published: 13 May 2018

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