'Comedy feels serious now' | Vic and Bob on the return of Shooting Stars

'Comedy feels serious now'

Vic and Bob on the return of Shooting Stars

When he’s not making comedy, Vic Reeves runs an electrical contracting business installing Ethernet cabling in offices near his Kent home, with Bob Mortimer working as his unskilled mate. ‘It’s a good thing to be doing,’ Mortimer insists. Keeps them grounded.

Reeves, though, says he’s more interested in growing a strain of super-grass on his farm. ‘I want to create something thicker and longer,’ he says. ‘I’m packing the lawn with nutrients and when it’s really big I’m going to get the seeds, dry them out and grind them, maybe make it into bread. I want to do something to benefit mankind, or cattle.’

He also says he likes building chopper bikes in the old bell foundry where he lives, as well as having just finished working on an Encyclopaedia Of World Knowledge, which involves him drawing 260 illustrations by hand.

This last one, at least, is true, even though they maintain a deadpan insistence about the veracity of the rest. The thing is with Vic Reeves, you just can’t tell, given that he’s a man of such diverse interests. He’s an artist, a birdwatcher, has hosted TV shows on everything from pirates to Jack The Ripper, buried his classic Austin Westminster in his back garden, worked as a pig farmer, studied aeronautical engineering. Oh, and redefined the face of comedy with his anarchic and hugely influential Big Night Out shows in the Eighties.

That, of course, spawned Shooting Stars, which is back this month for its sixth series – almost seven years after the last one. Both Reeves and Mortimer agree that now seems like a good time for a revival, with the comedy scene looking increasingly safe, and professional and lacking that devil-may-care spirit that pervaded much of alternative comedy’s early days.

‘Comedy does feel serious,’ says Bob. ‘It’s all the comedy of pointing things out now.

‘Shooting Stars has a different texture and approach from other panel shows like Mock The Week. They have a spirit of competition and cynicism, as people fight to get their jokes on. They can be very funny shows, but I don’t like prepared shows like that which are pretending to be improvised.

‘I prefer the tension of not quite knowing what’s going to happen next. We haven’t been too scientific, we just give it a go. A couple of the end games didn’t work out how we wanted them to, but it’s still pretty interesting. We have a lot of fun; it still feels the same as when we were doing Big Night Out 25 years ago.

‘It’s a lot of fun in a short period of time,’ Vic agrees. ‘The excitement is still the same as it always was.’

One change for this series is Jack Dee stepping up as a permanent team captain opposite Ulrika Johnsson, after taking the role in a 15th anniversary Christmas special last year. ‘We enjoyed having Jack. It felt like a bit of casting as the person sat in that chair has always been grumpy, but Jack was great fun. We felt it worked.’ ‘His misery was paramount,’ Vic agrees.

As well as Matt Lucas as the bizarre George Dawes, the other part of the Jigsaw is the guests. Vic says his favourites in the new series were the One Show’s Christine Bleakley, Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs and actor Paddy Considine; while other celebs taking part include DJ Ironik, Mutya from the Sugababes and Kim from house-cleaning duo Kim and Aggie.

Bob says: ‘The celebrities we have on aren’t plugging anything, they aren’t trying to revive their career, so they’ve got nothing to lose. Celebrities are usually very guarded, but on Shooting Stars they just have fun, so I think viewers like to see that.

The duo hope that if this latest incarnation of Shooting Stars is a hit, they may be given a new sketch show. ‘Of all the stuff we do, Shooting Stars has the most commercial appeal’ says Vic. ‘We’d like to use it to help get a sketch show, like The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer. We have millions of ideas, if only we get commissioned, and we’re wanting to do a sitcom, too.’

They claim never to fight over material. ‘We probably each generate six ideas and one will get us going,’ Bob said. ‘Neither of us would fight our corner over what was funny.’ Which is perhaps why their professional relationship is still going strong, 23 years after Bob wandered into Goldsmith’s Tavern in New Cross, London, to see one of Vic’s shows.

They do work separately, of course. Since completing his book of world knowledge, out this autumn, Vic is working on a follow-up about the British Isles; although he says he has no immediate plans to follow up the first volume of his memoirs. ‘I liked the process of writing about my youth,’ he says. ‘But writing about showbusiness holds no interest to me.’

And Bob worked on Titty Bang Bang without Bob, one of the more derided comedies in BBC Three’s output. Did he think the criticism was fair? ‘No, I thought it was very good, and Lucy Montgomery is a significant talent.

‘The bad reception might have been because it was women, it might have been because it was BBC Three or it might have been because it was rubbish. It was a very masculine form of comedy, and maybe there was something in having male writers writing for women, but I’m proud of it and I think it will stand the test of time, and it was getting audiences of about 800,000 – which was pretty good for BBC Three at the time.’

But then maybe it wasn’t destined to be a huge hit. As Vic says: ‘We don’t want to please everyone, we just do what makes us laugh.’

Interview by: Steve Bennett

  • Shooting Stars returns to BBC Two at 10pm on August 26.

Published: 18 Aug 2009

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