Welsh comedy favourite Chris Corcoran tells Shelley Marsden that his fellow Celts’ readliness to call a meeting on anything inspired a whole show…
If you don’t recognise the name, ask a little person or their mum, who will know Chris Corcoran (or at least his voice) from cult Cbeebies show Doodle Do, as the writer and the voice of Miss Bunny. or as the Welsh teddy bear on CBBC’s live animated show Nelly Nut Live, both of which were BAFTA nominated (only one of which did he have to pretend puppets were real).
Playing in venues across England and Wales this autumn, the Welsh comedian and presenter, who has family roots in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow and Bagnalstown, Co. Carlow, describes The Committee Meeting, which is set in the Valleys, as a conspiratorial take on what he believes is the country’s endemic workingmen’s club culture.
“Everything there is done by committee”, he says, “so, although obviously ridiculous, the shows aren’t a million miles away from what might happen in real life in the Valleys! For example, every club in the valleys has a Marxist, Health & Safety obsessed caretaker like Rex Jones. The characters set out to tackle everyday issues, from the problem of Trick or Treaters at Halloween, to dead pigeons in the water tank.”
His character, the pedantic Mr Chairman is, he says, “basically me in a blazer. But as far as the show goes, he’s the guy around which all the madness happens” and his favourite performance so far was their ‘Halloween’ show in Pontypridd, South Wales, which they wrote four days before they performed it, so they’d have no idea if it was going to work or not.
As Rex Jones, the health and safety obsessed caretaker played by rising comedy talent Elis James, says: “Whether it’s calling the Bingo or preventing an outbreak of the Ebola virus, it’s all life in a brown coat to me, Mr Chairman”.
The show was originally conceived by Chris around four years ago after a chat with his comedian friend Greg Davies. He asked Elis to perform as Rex, a character he had been doing on the Rhod Gilbert show, and the pair wrote over ten shows together.
As well as a comedy career which has seen him tour solo as well as support the likes of Rob Brydon and Stephen Merchant on tour, Chris presents the Saturday morning show with Rhod Gilbert on BBC Radio Wales, comedy series Come the Revolution on BBC Radio Wales, and he performed and directed the second series of the sitcom Those That Can’t for the same station.
It’s a medium he adores, and he can’t quite believe his luck that he gets to talk rubbish every week with his mate Rhod and get paid for it:”My funniest moment was when Rhod and I were talking about a mouse in the house and I ended up role-playing a mouse in a restaurant ordering penne arrabbiata with Rhod as the waiter. It’s the most I’ve laughed on air, although in fairness you probably had to be there…”
The 41 year old also turned his comedic talents to sport recently for the BBC’s Wales and the Other Five Nations, where he takes a fun look at the Six Nations, its characters and greatest moments.
It was peppered with hilarious moments – with some of the biggest stars of the sport. He interviews Martin Johnson; puts Eddie Butler on the spot; asks Iuean Evans about his mud-moustache and mows the lawn of the Millennium Stadium.
His highlight was playing ‘Will Carling Mastermind’ with Will Carling because he turned out to be such a humble guy: “The answer to the question ‘Who was the greatest English centre of all time?’ was ‘Jeremy Guscott’. He was a top bloke – which blew Welsh people’s minds to the point of denial.”
When Chris debuted at the Edinburgh Festival In 2004 with the stand-up show Welsh Assembly, his mission was to persuade audiences to change nationality (from whatever they were to Welsh). He failed, but managed to get four star reviews in several papers. He is hoping that The Committee Meeting will equally spread a little more love in the country’s direction.
He says: “What’s not to like? We’re harmless, our accents are hilarious and we give away our fossil fuels to whoever is polite enough to ask for them. But if it is possible to spread more love for Wales, then yes – the feel of the show is definitely very warm and inclusive; no matter where you’re from.”
A BBC Three TV pilot episode of The Committee Meeting is currently available on iPlayer, and there BBC Wales is in talks to commission a series. If that’s not exciting enough to call some kind of a meeting about, says Chris, then what is?!
The Committee Meeting is on tour from October 2 to December 6. For more see www.thecommitteemeeting.co.uk.