Stage Wednesday, April 6th

Live comedy in Hereford: the grave world of The Death Hilarious

Sketch-based comedy duo The Death Hilarious are bringing their South Wales valleys-tinged brand of mayhem to the Booth Hall in Hereford on April 8.

Think Monty Python with extra surrealism crossed with a particularly twisted episode of The League of Gentleman and you might be barking up the right tree.

Mark Bowen had a chat with one half Darren J Coles about their influences, beginnings and  unique brand of theatrical comedy. 

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Your name seems to suggest that death is amusing. What could possibly be funny about dying?

The cessation of life has always been chucklesome to me, but purely in theory. I wouldn’t laugh at a funeral, but I’d laugh at the idea of a funeral. Glenn would say that it’s an attempt to stave off the despair that accompanies death. I’m less philosophical; I’d say it’s white privilege and an absent moral compass. We all have our alibis.

I’ve read in an interview with you that you and your comedy partner Glenn Wade are both very different to your families. In what ways are you different?

I often have different thoughts to a lot of my family, although there have been occasions where we’ll all have the same thought at exactly the same time. We’ve tried to recreate it on Britain’s Got Talent, but Simon Cowell accused us of being ‘shameless frauds’.

Aside from that, we’re both interested in comedy, politics, literature, world history and other artsy-fartsy stuff that could be considered anomalous in the Welsh Valleys.

The Death Hilarious: dates and tickets

In terms of comedy TV shows what have been formative influences? What is it that you liked about these shows?

We frequently get compared to The League Of Gentlemen, which we both love and is an apt comparison owing to its provincial bleakness and grotesque characters. Rattling off a list of shared comedy influences: ‘Limmy’s Show’, anything by Chris Morris and Peter Cook, ‘Bottom’, ‘Blackadder’ and a Canadian comedian called Norm Macdonald. Personally, I like that there’s nothing tepid about the subject matter they choose to joke about, they’re formally experimental and their writing is lyrical and very precise. Plus, there’s a healthy dose of insanity. But we’re equally as influenced by Dylan Thomas, Godspeed You Black Emperor or the menus in seafood restaurants as we are by anything comedic (Look out for our new characters ‘Black Bream and Roe’).

What can a Hereford audience expect from your show?

Vintage crossdressing, ritual humiliation, misremembered jokes, screaming, dubious accents, mild indecency, wigs, audience interaction, a sex-robot, psychotic breaks, half-hearted satire, two eggs, milk, dried quinoa and three ounces of wholemeal flour.

How have you gone from a writing partnership to a double act?

In much the same way as Jeff Goldblum changed from a man into a fly.

Toilet humour. Good or bad?

Good, but I prefer kitchen quips.

Where are you both from? What was it like growing up there?

I’m from a village called ‘Beddau’, which is Welsh for ‘graves’, neatly encompassing the deathly aura that hangs over the place. I was an overmothered child who spent a lot of time in my bedroom doodling, scanning the TV Times listings for comedy programmes or making films about a man having sex with a giant alien using action figures (The film received a limited release). It was an idyllic feral childhood, punctuated by the odd cocaine dealer arrest and machete attacks on the local bakery.

Glenn grew up in the Uplands in Swansea, from what he tells me, it was fine.

How far do you think you can take your comedy career?

Until national fame or mental collapse, whichever comes first.

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What was it like living together?

Glenn and I lived with Will Palmer, a friend we met at Cardiff University and unofficial part-time third member of The Death Hilarious. We all recorded podcasts, made short films or wrote sketches. I have very fond memories of the three of us writing together until the wee hours, deliriously tired and crying with laughter. I also started doing solo stand-up comedy during that time, so it was a very creative year. Although there were often altercations regarding the washing up that legally I’m obliged not to discuss.

How was your friendship formed?

In a petri dish. Friends that subdivide together, stay together!

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