With three man strong sketch show WitTank set to tickle your funny bones this Monday, Owl Eyes were curious about what they had in store for us. So we thought it was a good excuse to call them up for a chat about the trio and their sketches.
Naz Osmanoglu, described as “half English boy, half Turkish warlord” on WitTank’s website was unable to make the interview, so Mark Cooper-Jones and Kieran Boyd were more than happy to step up and answer on his behalf.
“Could you describe yourselves each in three words” I venture, introductions having been made over a fuzzy phone line. Not quite Pulitzer standard journalism, but classic interview ice breaker nonetheless. Mark opts for “geographer, quite rude” and Kieran settles for “sloven, smiling mess”. Also, incidentally, a favourite among seminar tutors. Freshers, prepare your answers now.
They jump at the chance to describe Naz. “Let’s be fair to him” says Mark, a sentiment that doesn’t last very long. They settle very quickly on “loud” and, slightly worrying, “sweaty” and finally “disgruntled” (suggested by Kieran) “well we’ve got to think of something slightly nasty, to justify my ‘quite rude’” insists Mark. There’s nothing quite like friends to bare your personality to the world. And it’s clear that Mark, Kieran and Naz have an easy, relaxed relationship, which seems key to their comedy.
Mark fills in the gaps; “I and Naz went to school together from the age of 13 and started writing there […] at Durham we formed WitTank with others including Kieran, and the rest of the group slowly fell away.” What’s it like working in a threesome? “If you’re going to do comedy in a group at all, three is the best number” I’m assured. Anymore and it’s less focussed, and three does, after all, mean that in any debate there’s never a stalemate.
The sketch show is at this point still an enigma, a big unknown at Freshers week. With sketches lasting from 10 seconds to three minutes and recurring themes, we’re promised a mammoth 25 sketches (more or less) which are “big and very silly… with lots of energy and character, silly voices, accents and premises.” “It’s not really about anything,” explains Kieran “fans of narrative should not attend.” You’ve been warned then, so no complaining.
There is no formula, no grand plan. Sketches are the result of “being in the same place, and messing around.” Outside of WitTank all three have their own stand up shows, their own careers. Mark “talks about geography” (which is logical, as a geography teacher), Naz “does his thing”, Kieran is more of a compère; there isn’t really a crossover.
I decide to address my main comedy related concern; audience interaction. Where should I sit? “No where’s really safe, so sit at the front” is the conclusion. Do I trust them? “We only really use a member of the audience once, if at most twice a show […] the purpose is to embarrass us, not them […] and beyond answering ‘what’s your name’ you never really have to speak”
We broach the topic of props. Specifically Kieran’s dress. With the Kate Kennedy parade, St Andrews is clearly in favour of men in dresses; will we be getting the same pleasure on Monday, or is that reserved for TV? According to Kieran “the dress will not be present.” “Unless specific demands are made” Mark butts in. “We could get the red dress” suggests Kieran. I’m not sure what back story I’ve opened up there… Well, if they’re short of a frock or two, the Kate Kennedy has a whole cupboard full.
There are not many of WitTank’s sketches available online, what there is can be seen here. All the more reason to go to the gig, Owl Eyes would argue – so is there anything we should keep an eye out for?
Kieran: “A rabbit”
“It’s a sugar addicted bunny, that’d probably be my favourite” adds Mark.
Curious? Time to hop to it and buy a ticket, then.
What’s in the future? Recently on BBC Three's Live at The Electric as well as regularly at the Edinburgh Festival, it turns out that Live at The Electric been recently re-commissioned and WitTank will be a part of it again.
“From there” Mark muses, “probably immediately to fame and stardom.” Simple.
But who entertains the entertainers? For Kieran, Dylan Moran is current favourite. Mark’s man of the moment, though he’s reticent to settle on anyone in particular, is the US’s Bill Burr. Owl Eyes will be sure to check him out.
We end the interview on a high note; most embarrassing moment. “Can we answer for Naz?” Well, if you can’t trust friends to give candid interviews on your behalf, who can you?
“We were doing a gig, and there was quite a quick costume change. When he was on stage and the lights went up, he was meant to be standing on a stool. Now, he took too long getting changed, and he knew the lights were about to come up because the music track was about to end. So he ran on stage as quick as he could and jumped onto this stool just as the lights came on. And of course, because he had momentum the stool just slid out from under him. He absolutely wiped out. Didn’t do the sketch, just walked off. We really enjoyed that.”
Perhaps that was more a low note for Naz, but it fulfils the brief perfectly.
We can’t wait to see WitTank in action on Monday. Check back on Owl Eyes for a post gig review!
WitTank are performing at the Union on Monday 10th September at 8pm and 10:30pm. Tickets are £7 and can be bought here
Many thanks to Naz for setting up the interview, and Kieran and Mark for their patience and answers. Welcome to the bubble!
All images sourced from www.wittank.com