'I’m definitely a lot odder in the show than I am in real life' | Alex Horne talks about his new Channel 4 project, The Horne Section TV Show © C4

'I’m definitely a lot odder in the show than I am in real life'

Alex Horne talks about his new Channel 4 project, The Horne Section TV Show

Next week, Alex Horne breaks away from Taskmaster to front a  new late-night music chat show, The Horne Section TV Show, filmed live from his family home. It’s a show about a show, as the group try to impress the bosses at Channel 4, and also features the likes of Desiree Burch, Camille Ucan and Georgia Tennant in acting roles and guest stars including Martin Kemp, Big Zuu and  Anneka Rice. Here Alex talks about it…

How would describe the show?

I think it’s quite a silly, heartfelt comedy about a band made up of old friends who spend their lives trying to make each other laugh.

We mainly wanted to be funny. There’s a lot of TV comedy programmes that delve into deep issues, we don’t do that. It’s hopefully a funny show with music in it.

I mean that’s sort of what we do with Taskmaster; we concentrate on trying to be funny and warm. Hopefully within that you get some other stuff as well, but the main idea is that every time we’re on screen we’re trying to make you laugh.

Episode One begins with a Taskmaster recording and Greg ridiculing you for not being the front man of your own show... how does it feel finally being the front man?

Well, there’s a lot in the show which is art imitating life I suppose.  In the show I’m trying to get my own show, but even doing the press for it I’ve ended up being overshadowed by Greg all the time, which I really like.

I hate being the front man and in the sitcom, it becomes apparent more and more that I don’t like it. It’s quite lonely being the front man and having all the weight on your shoulders. So, it’s quite true to life, I much prefer being with other people so I normally have Greg next to me, or the band - so it’s odd being nominally in charge but in reality I’m never in charge because there are always people undercutting me.

How does the series differ from what you and the band have previously done?

The main difference is everything we’ve done before has been pretty much live and one take. So suddenly we had to be actors.

We recorded about six minutes of the show per day, which is really slow, so we had to adjust to suddenly taking our time over things and doing things again and again. It took us about a week to understand the language of narrative telly but by the end we really loved it and it was quite a lot of fun.

I think all musicians’ instinct is to perform it and then move on to the next bit and as a stand-up that’s my instinct as well, so that was a learning process, but we had the director, Babs Wiltshire who was really good at coaching us through that. We’re now at the point where we’re just desperate to have another go and do it all again next year, so fingers crossed.

It’s quite complicated to do because there are bits of the show which are meant to be a live show, which we did have to perform in front of an audience - these were sort of the easy bits in a way, it was the acting that was the challenging part of it.

It’s not the first time there’s been a show within a show, but it does make it quite complicated for the director and for us to understand, and also, we’re not used to not shooting things in order…

It’s the first thing that I’ve written in terms of being a narrative. The first script I wrote was far too long, it was  more like a movie, and I realised very quickly that less is more.

It’s a sort of exaggerated version of my life where I’ve got too many children, I’ve got a wife who is keen to see me at times and things are spiralling out of control… it’s a reflection of how we, the band, live in our lives.

The band and DesireeBurch

Are there any ridiculous requests that didn’t quite make the cut?

Well in the first script there was a 20-piece German brass band which I thought would be fun and that was the very first thing to go - they said you can have one person!

There’s a tribute band to The Horne Section and their lead singer is called Alan and I wanted him to skateboard out of a meeting but that would have taken health and safety officers and training, so we had to have him leaving on foot. There are things that have changed but every time, hopefully, any limitation is a chance to make it funnier in some way, so there was nothing that I had to let go of that I was sad about.

Is it actually filmed in your house?

No, I wish it was!. It’s a house of an incredible musician who appears in episode five, Imogen Heap. It’s her house and she’s got a recording studio there. It’s sort of believable I could live there, I think. Some people will assume it’s my house...

The show features music videos. Which was your favourite to shoot?

Probably the first one, we shot one where we’re all in a car, it’s called ‘Is It The Police?’... It’s quite a magic house because every time we asked for something Imogen would go, ‘Yeah we’ve actually got a car in a barn out the back so you can shoot in there because it’s really old.’

I don’t know anything about cars but it’s a 1960s car and all six of us were crammed in, it’s the very first thing we shot in the whole sitcom, and it was a bit like the Blues Brothers which is my favourite film ever. Like us, it’s a band going round the country being badly behaved.

It was a nice way in and we were really happy with the outcome of it; it’s stupid, we wear sunglasses and it’s funny. Also we’ve not done this sort of thing before but there’s people outside the car windows holding blue flashing lights as if the police were going past and stuff. It’s just really exciting for us to suddenly be in this TV world.

It was all very homemade, the cameraman filming through the window... most of the shoot was really fun because it’s just me and my mates mucking about but luckily, we’re led by professionals

What would the first single from the theoretical Horne Section TV show album be and why?

We’re hoping it won’t be theoretical, we’ve always got ambitions for the band, but it would probably be the song in the second show which is called Grandaddy. I’s a very innocent song about peas and pea farming. It’s definitely our biggest hit and I’d love it if that became an actual hit.  It’s sweet and innocent on the surface and it’s really catchy. When there’s a six-year-old singing it, it’s so funny.

Hw did you convince the guests to get involved and was there anyone that you wanted that couldn’t make it work?

It’s a weird one this - and it’s the same in most TV shows when you’re trying to persuade people to be in it when it’s a brand-new thing, even though the Horne Section’s been around people don’t know if you’re going to take the piss out of them.

I mean there’s elements of Ricky Gervais’s Extras, I suppose. We wanted people to come on and be an exaggerated version of themselves and they were being controlled. Martin Kemp and Anneka Rice did the pilot, and they were so good we were desperate to have them back - luckily, they enjoyed it too, so they were easy ones. I wanted Greg Davies to be in it because it makes sense in the narrative, and he’s the funniest... well, him and Tim Key are the funniest people I know so I was always desperate for them to do it.

Key in the show

Having Imogen Heap was just amazing, we wanted a proper musician... I think you’ve either heard of her or you haven’t but if you have, you’ll be amazed that she’s on our stupid show. It was quite a long process and I think now we’ve done it hopefully it’ll be easier in future, but we’ve got Big Zuu, Dr Ranj Singh, John Oliver who is in every episode and he’s enormous in America, he’s won a million Emmys! So that’s odd, he said yes straight away.

It’s an odd ensemble but hopefully it’s always unpredictable. We didn’t want it to be the sort of show you look at and think, oh it’s the same old faces.

How did that work with John Oliver on the laptop calling in?

We had to be really clever with that, I had a day with him over Zoom and we had to record everything. We had to go through every script and lots of costume changes, we had to improvise quite a bit and then we had to fit round his bits in the room.

So, we had to pretend he was there, someone had to press play, that was really odd, but it worked. Hopefully I think when you’re watching it you presume that he’s actually there but he’s a man that doesn’t have much free time. He also nailed everything first time. We’re all so used to people being on Zoom now and you don’t really bat an eyelid, I think.

TV used to showcase live music more than it does today. Did you take inspiration from older shows?

We talked about Jools Holland a lot, he’s kind of the only music show that’s still there on terrestrial telly and I love the idea that people go to Jools and perform. I think my character of ‘Alex Horne in the show’, wants to be the new Jools Holland, wants to have all these famous people coming to his house and have a party.  There’s also a bit of Noel’s House Party in there and naffness as well.

There was stuff like The Word when I was growing up, that was really cool because it was live, and you never knew what was going to happen. TFI Friday was a big thing when I was 18, you’d always watch that with a few beers and then go out. We were trying to harness a bit of old school rock-and-roll TV programmes which I think don’t exist anymore.

You say Alex Horne in the show, how different is Alex Horne in the show compared to Alex Horne in real life?

I think he’s quite a lot different. He’s definitely got a bigger ego and he thinks he deserves to have his own show. I think I’m more modest in real life, but maybe it’s not that different.

It’s probably just me times two in the same way that he’s got five children in the show and he’s just about to have a couple more which is not far off from the truth. It’s definitely me but just an ever-so-slightly more monstrous version.

We never wanted it to go too cartoony so it’s hopefully believable but in the show I eventually... I don’t want to give things away but there’s a clash with the band and I’m definitely a lot odder in the show than I am in real life. I’m very boring in real life.

Horne and the band on set

What was your main ambition in creating The Horne Section TV Show?

We’ve tried to be quite ambitious with each episode in that we’ve mucked about with the genre a bit, so there’s one which I narrate the whole thing and there’s one where we have words on the screen, like we’ve split it up into chapters.

We’re just trying to make each episode slightly surprising for the viewer because this is our one chance. It’s pretty amazing to have your own sitcom so we’ve chucked everything at it I suppose, we’ve tried to not regret anything.

On that front I would say we really like it, so we’re really happy. No matter how it goes we don’t really mind but it’s very strange thinking this is what we wanted to make.

If people don’t like it I don’t know what that says about our sense of humour because this is exactly our sense of humour, which I guess is the name of the game, but it is very exposing. Normally, because we’re a live band, if something doesn’t go well, we know and we do something else whereas if this doesn’t go well, we are saddled with it. So, it’s quite an exciting, scary time.

• The Horne Section TV show lands on All 4 next Thursday, November 3, as a box set.

Edited version of an interview supplied by Channel 4 press office

Published: 25 Oct 2022

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.