Interview: Frisky & Mannish

Twisted comedy cabaret double-act Frisky and Mannish specialise in mad musical mash-ups that unearth the hidden meanings in some pop classics and poke fun at the ridiculousness of the songs we know and love. SIMON PARKIN found out more.

Ever spotted the overtones of Noel Coward in the oeuvre of Lily Allen? What about the parallels between Shirley Bassey and Dizzee Rascal?

Frisky and Mannish have — and lots more besides.

The hotly-tipped cabaret comedy duo tipped to be the 'big new thing' are experts at spotting the hilarious in the humble pop song and uncovering the strange similarities between seemingly very diverse artists.

Frisky and Mannish are the creations of Oxford graduates Laura Corcoran and Matthew Jones who came upon their hilarious theories of music after putting together a collection of pop parodies for a charity show.

The pair aim to 'uncover the unfamiliar elements dormant within the ubiquitous pop classics' and 're-educate the world as to the plethora of possibilities hidden within such seemingly innocuous hits as Come On Eileen, and Thriller'. Or as they sometimes put it 'just tit about with pop songs'.

It has seen them score two hit Edinburgh shows, first with School of Pop and then its sequel College Years. The later expands the theory to breaking point and beyond — and sees Kate Nash get right royally spoofed in a mash up with Kate Bush.

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Tell us about College Years?

This is the second show and we are intending to do a third one after this too, to make it like a trilogy. We have tried to make this one more of the same of what people had seemed to like but moving it on to the next level. School of Pop was this basic lesson in pop, College Years is more about an overriding theory — collision theory, the theory that opposites attract. That is basically an excuse for us to put together as many random combinations as we want.

How did you come together as a duo?

We met at Oxford. We weren't at the same college and we weren't doing the same course but we were doing as much of extracurricular drama and music as we could. We kept bumping into one another and got on but we weren't intending to work together. However later I was renting a room in her house in London and then really by accident because someone asked us to do 10 minutes at a charity fundraiser we started messing around with songs, purely to make ourselves laugh really. How popular it has proved has really taken us by surprise. We never intended to become comedian or for this to become our career.

Juxtaposing musical styles isn't new, but it seems to have really struck a chord with audiences?

It is something that reviewers and critics always say that it is one of the oldest tricks in the book what we do. It is not something massively groundbreaking in terms of the basic conceit. It does hark back to music hall and vaudeville. That's something we are more than happy to agree with. We hope it not what we do, but the way that we do it that is interesting. Where we're lucky is that what we do is something that most people can immediately get into.

Do people need to know all songs to get the joke?

I always thought that they did more than perhaps it turns out that they do. I often get people who are more towards my parents generation than mine and I think 'oh no, I didn't know any of the songs', when in fact that they are coming up to say is 'I really enjoyed that, even though I didn't get everything'. I think we do enough explaining before we get into the joke that even if you don't know the song you can still find it funny. Then you can go away look it up and think 'oh god, there is a song that has those lyrics in it'.

What is your particular favourite song from this show?

One thing that never fails to make me smile is what we do with Florence and the Machine which we recently did on Radio 1, so that has sort of become our calling card. A lot of people are probably coming to these dates, including in Norwich, having just heard that. Certainly when we introduce it in the show there is this audible ripple. It doesn't matter that they've heard it either, they are still looking forward to hearing it in the room. That's the thing about music as opposed to jokes and comedy you do want to hear the song again.

Are there any combinations of artists that just cannot be mixed?

We do actually do a bit in the show were we ask people to select some on the spot and lead the audience on into believing that this really isn't going to work because the artists are completely different, but the jokes really is that they are usually the same. Shirley Bassey and Dizzee Rascal — we can make it look like they're one and the same person. But in terms of what really does and doesn't work in the show, its best if an artist has a trademark or a style. If someone is run-of-the-mill indie band, that doesn't really work for us. We have to find it funny ourselves too. Very ferocious women are very funny, very weedy men are very funny. Also we like people who have got away with singing really odd songs but making it mainstream, like Kate Bush. The only person we'd love to do but cannot think of a way of getting him in is Elvis.

Would you describe the show as cabaret or comedy?

We would say that what we are doing is cabaret. But it sort of falls between the two genres, so we'd prefer not to label it. We would say its largely comedic but we are hoping to entertain too.

t Frisky and Mannish: The College Years is at Norwich Playhouse on April 25, �12 (�10 cons), 01603 598598,