Good thing festival performers are so entertaining. Today,
two funny women with one man in common... Jo Caulfield has
worked as a scriptwriter on Graham Norton's British TV show.
Her latest Fringe show, Jo Caulfield Goes to Hell, is at
Assembly @ George Street until 27 August. Nicole Korkolis has
worked as a scriptwriter on Graham Norton's US TV show. Her
debut Fringe show, I'll Show You Mine, is at Laughing Horse @
Berlin until 25 August.
JO CAULFIELD: I got the job
because I gave Graham a lift. I knew him before he was famous
and I do remember that we bonded while driving from Chester to
London, very very slowly. We got to London about 4am and I
thought, "I can't throw a poof out of a car at 4am. That's
mean." So I drove him all the way to Hackney. An extra two
hours for me.
NICOLE KORKOLIS: I've never met a comedian who would do
JC: I was actually the warm-up at first. He wanted his
friend, who's a very extrovert lesbian who plays the organ, to
give out snacks, and the producers said, "You can't do that,
you have to have a warm-up." Then the second series, they had
trouble getting people to write, because they'd write very gay
- but a 1970s John Inman gay ...
NK: Wait. John Inman?
JC: He was in Are You Being Served. Gay but doesn't have
sex. That kind of gay.
NK: Right. You weren't supposed to think he was gay.
JC: I don't know what you were meant to think. So anyway,
they said "try Jo out" and I ended up working him for ever.
NK: With me it was a Tuesday night. I didn't want to
go, but I went and there were six people in the audience, and
two of them were Graham and one of his people. And apparently
he thought I was funny. The next morning I got a call to come
in. I wrote 25 jokes, sent them to him and the next Monday I
was working. I know you were his person. He talked about you -
very "ahhh Jo". But he wanted American writers because... he
wanted the difference. The big example was always Catherine
Zeta-Jones. Apparently they love to make fun of her here [in
the UK] and in America nobody gives a shit. Some people think
she's cheap here, apparently. In America we're like,
[indifferently]. 'oh, she's pretty'."
(The pair then discuss Liz Hurley, Lindsay Lohan and Paris
Hilton at some length, in a manner that couldn't possibly be
printed in this newspaper. And don't look for the audio file
on the Scotsman website either because it ain't there).
JC: So it is always celebrity, isn't it? And also quite
snobby. I think that's why [Graham] needed American writers.
It's that weird thing where you look at an audience and you
can judge things about them based on the way they look, then
when you go to America you think, I can't quite work out what
what you're wearing means about you. So you need someone to
go, oh that means new money, or...
NK: British people can't tell by looking at Americans
JC: Not so easily, no. You can't tell what's cheap. That's
what you need to know, because I do think Graham's very
snobby. Which is a very Irish thing, I think.
NK: I think he said one time he spent £800 on a pair of
jeans. It's clothes that can tell you if someone's cheap, I
guess, but it's also hair in America. Or too much nail polish.
JC: I remember during the first series people were writing
very studenty male jokes about smoking dope. So you'd know the
jokes you'd never do. You'd also know that he'd do a joke
about Darfur, but in his way. He is very interested in
NK: That was one of the things they said to us later that
they really liked, when we went into sort of literary jokes,
to show how smart he was.
JC: Sometimes on the chat show he'd make some quite good
points. And Graham would be like, ooh, look at me with my
points! The monologue was quite clever with interesting
references, and then there'd be, you know, a joke about Jordan
having a big fanny. He really prided himself on the fact that
you could try to connect with all different kinds of people
but also throw in a little intellectual reference and have
some sort of point.
NK: That's what's so great about him, I think, that he is
so smart. He makes it seem so accessible and sweet and funny.
JC: We never really had a discussion about what we could or
couldn't say. But I remember there was one thing where we did
completely misread the public. It was the British soldiers'
version of Abu Ghraib prison [in Iraq]. We had the American
pictures, which were terrible. And then there were the British
soldiers who had done some things and it seemed really tame
compared to what the Americans had done. We thought it was all
a bit of a laugh and we were completely wrong. Graham's
attitude was that the British soldiers weren't very good as
torturers. The audience sort of stared at us in horror that we
thought it was funny. The BBC practically vomited.
NK: We were pretty tame because American audiences won't
put up with as much as British audiences.
JC: When you're doing five nights a week you can get a bit
carried away and lose track of reality.
NK: What was that like? We were once a week.
JC: It was a nightmare, exhausting for Graham.
NK: Is it not freeing in a way, that you do the show and
then it's gone and not a big thing?
JC: Actually it meant that each show was a big thing. Every
day it had to be good. And every day there isn't enough news.
People would say all the time, 'I really liked the show when
it was once a week but five days a week, I don't see the
point.' Maybe our attention span is shorter.
NK: Or maybe you're smarter?
JC: I think so. We need challenging TV, every night.
NK: I think that's what it is... Thank God Americans aren't
going to read this.
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