That’s Yer (Pi)Lot: Speak For Yourself

By | December 2, 2013

I’ve just come back from this filming at Studio 2 of The London Studios. John Robins was the warm-up, which was exciting as I hadn’t experienced him before. He was alright.

  • This is also the first time I’d seen Nina Conti properly (I think) and she kept up the comedy ventriloquism up solidly for about the two-and-a-half-ish hours of recording, even doing the puppet personas between takes. Certainly I think to be able to convincingly improvise between four or five different characters on the fly is a massive talent, although it certainly wasn’t all gold – the main stars are her characters of Granny and Monkey, and doing the intro with those two and herself felt like hard work for all concerned both host and viewer. It wasn’t really until round two I could suspend my disbelief enough I think, and they reshot the entire opening towards the end of the session which presumably felt better because of the two hour warming up (there was a mammoth twenty minute pickup session).
  • The set is a large stage with a white slightly mirrory backdrop, a large sqaure frame with a walkway stage left for host and contestants come in, large screen stage right which isn’t actually used for a great deal. A big box in the middle stores Conti’s puppets when not in use and there’s a stand for Granny to sit on – certainly they don’t shy away from the idea that they’re puppets and she’s a ventriloquist.
  • The show features two couples, each one “captained” by either Monkey or Granny. They’re introduced with a short film where Conti’s gone round their house with the relevant puppet for a chat.
  • I’ve had a very tiring week so I’m afraid I can’t tell you the “proper” titles for the rounds. In round one one half of the couple is asked questions by Conti and Granny about the other for two minutes (supposedly), not especially the sort of ting you can play along with at home, the sort of thing it would be slightly embarrassing not to know “what’s your girlfriend’s bra size?” “when’s her mum’s birthday?” “how many girlfriends did he have before you?” I can’t in honestly say this bit was all that much fun. The thing about Mr and Mrs is that the questions tend to be framed around what people think about things rather than quite insular absolutes.
  • I would love to tell you how everything fits together as a format. Unfortunately I can’t – the contestants seem to be real (SRO was carrying advertising for them), but scoring was a bit of a mystery (indeed the pick ups were Conti saying each correct answer was going to be worth 1/2/3/4/whatever points), along with “and after that round, X is in the lead!” I’m hoping that this comedy panel show technique is because they’re cutting it for a pilot and isn’t a new exciting production thing because I think that’s quite disrespectful to contestants and audience used in a ‘proper’ setting. It seemed quite clear round one was designed so they could chop bits out. Surely you have had weeks to work out what the format of the show is. I accept the attraction is funny woman says funny things through puppets, but come on.
  • Round two is based on confessions. One contestant is dressed up in a “human ventriloquist” mask which I found rather creepy (like on this Youtube video) and reveals three confessions (well Conti does through them) and the other person must guess which of them is true (“for three points!”). However it was a bit easy as two were a bit Jeremy Kyle and the third rather milder (“I throw away the sandwiches you make me and go down the pub.). Puppets come back out to discuss answers and results after each game.
  • Round three, and if you thought one person wearing a mask was creepy, Conti grinning her way through controlling both contestants at once is full on Doctor Who nightmare. Here she gives eight statements supposedly though the mouths of the contestants and the contestants need to push a button with “true” or “false” on it. Every time they match, they score X points. Statements are of the sort “I think that love is a mainly physical thing,” “my partner dances like this (contestant obligingly dances), he thinks he’s such a good dancer,”my partner is this size, I would rather he was this size [the insinuation is penis length which is interesting for a show aimed at 7pm Saturdays].” Puppets come out and discuss results.
  • And then that’s apparently it and we’re told who the winners are, which feels a bit arbitrary. They get to come back for the final and play for a holiday.
  • And then they film a fourth round presumably for use for cutting in to the show in the edit. The baffling thing is, for something it sounds like they were happy to throw away it was actually the best round of the evening. It’s called Actions Speak Louder Than words, in it one contestant is in the mask and has to do charades – as many titles of things as they can in two minutes. However they have to do this whilst wearing the mask with Conti putting the guessing contestant off with verbal misdirection as much as possible. Really good fun, it wouldn’t be a show in itself but it’d make a cracking bit of a better show Conti could be involved with.
  • There were about twenty minutes of pick up at this point, lots of switching between puppets. It’d been a very reasonable filming up to that point.
  • The final is a rather Bob’s Your Uncle. The backdrop opens up dramatically. The contestants on Monkey’s team won, so they got dressed in a giant Monkey costume (one with three legs, classic three-legged-race style, and about ten feet tall. Heads come out about shoulder level, each contestant controls one arm) which Conti could control the mouth of with a button like her masks. The idea was it’s a day at the beach, first they had to coordinate to put on a giant pair of bermuda shorts. Then they had to run to a large flower necklace and hoopla it over themselves, pick up a maraca in each hand and conga over to an ice cream table, where they then had to make an ice cream with three scroops and sundries, then race over and sit in a giant deckchair. If they manage it within three minutes they win a trip to Thailand (with Turkey and Tunbridge Wells the lesser prizes depending on how many tasks they completed). It was all done in knockabout spirit.
  • I think Conti could be really good but the show didn’t do much for me to be honest (questions were largely a bit dull, if you can’t play along then they need to be a bit more outrageous I think, as such I don’t think it was funny enough) and I have no idea how they’re planning to edit it anyway.

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