Comedy in the Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared web series

The final episode of the web series, Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, has been released amongst much anticipation, rounding up a four year project. The six episodes parody children’s television, but quickly twist the initial impression, with the shorts rapidly turning odd, surreal and very dark.

There’s a vast array of fan theories aiming to explain the storylines, which I must admit are incredibly addictive once you’ve started digging. The videos are filled with clues to the meaning, some obvious, others more discreet being hidden in the background. The most popular theory is that the creators, Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling, are making a comment on the controlling influence of the media on society.

I’m going to refrain from discussing the theory as I’d just be parroting other bloggers, but what I do want to look at is the comedy in these videos. If you like the surreal then these videos are a much watch. They’re the sort of thing Noel Fielding would conjure up and I admire the artists behind the project for not holding back with their creativity, which, as the theme of the first episode, may be something that the artists have experienced restrictions on in the past. Thanks to YouTube however, the creators have full control.

There’s three main characters; Red Guy, Yellow Guy and Duck. Duck’s squeaky voice is intrinsically funny and by contrasting it with Red Guy’s monotone pitch and Yellow’s typical dumb kid persona, every line is becomes funny.

Songs are a major part of each episode, helping to create the upbeat and seemingly safe childhood nostalgia. The songs are all catchy and will certainly induce stares if you unknowingly start muttering them in public.The juxtaposition with the songs exaggerate the harrowing scenes that appear late in each episode, and will make you laugh purely at how bizarre a situation it is.

The production is superb, there’s no distraction by poor quality. Each episode has a ‘teacher’, represented by an inanimate object that comes to life. Be it a tap dancing steak that can’t pronounce the word ‘organs’, or a butterfly mistaken for a little baby pigeon, the unique characters could seemingly be part of any mainstream children’s show.

Deeper into the series, episodes become packed with Easter eggs in the background. Some of these contribute subtly to the overall meaning of the narrative, but many are just neat little call backs which crack a smile. They’re videos made for repeated viewing, allowing new discoveries even upon the third or fourth watch. That’s when you realise how catchy the songs really are.

Episodes three and five are the most prolific in terms of comedy. They contain a few jokes, albeit it strange ones. The creators I think focussed more on making the steak character in episode five funny, with mispronunciation, the stupidity of his lesson and the bullying of the main characters. As for episode three, the inappropriate line by the sexually aggressive dog forced me to pause the video to break down laughing.

By reading and watching many of the fan theories, my favourite being by YouTube Explained, I believe that the messages behind the videos are very grandiose, but the skill in presenting it through a simple and familiar medium cannot be underestimated. The comedy on top of that and the ability to laugh at society has drawn in the viewers. This is what great writing and screenplays do, fantastic comedy on the surface masking a deeper meaning.

Episode 1

 

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Interview: Facebook favourite Paul Ballington

For Paul Ballington plumbing is his trade, however it’s not what the comedy singer songwriter wants to do full time. All day he fixes pipes, but when he gets home he sets up a camera and shows off his own set of pipes to his rapidly growing Facebook following. I spoke to him about his recent success, as well as the money he’s raised for charity and balancing family life with music. 

“I set my page two years ago I think, it’s grown a lot over the last six months,” says Paul ‘Ballo’ Ballington. The 38-year-old, confessing he’s an old man, has been writing songs for 20 years but only recently turning to comedy and finding success through his Facebook page.

The first comedy song I wrote was Ten Pints Of Carling and that was about three years ago I think. To be honest I wrote it by accident, I sat on my keyboard to write a serious song, which is what I used to do, and then the line ten pints of Carling popped into my head and it went from there.”

Currently Paul’s Facebook page has 29,000 followers and some of his videos have hit over a million views. His most popular, a song about boy racers, was shared widely on social media. From the off he makes his opinions known with a tidy expletive.

 

You kind of hope that you write one and it takes off a little bit and that seemed to happen with the boy racer song. Even though I got tons of abuse from boy racers, it took off and I think my page grew from something like four or five thousand to about ten thousand”

Paul insists that he’s never offensive in any of his songs. “I always avoid things like race and religion, I take the mick, just light hearted humour.”

Boy Racers, however, did get some backlash but Paul just humoured it. “I picked on a bunch of people who didn’t like the mick taken out of them. It didn’t really bother me to be honest. I thought it was quite funny more than anything, not really a problem.”

In addition to the original songs, recently Paul has been covering several of the big hits in the charts by artists such as Meghan Trainor, Shawn Mendes, Galantis and Miley Cyrus. But of course with Paul there’s a twist, changing the lyrics to his down to earth and sometimes cheeky humour. He doesn’t believe Mike Posner “took a pill in Ibiza”, but that “he took a bird for a pizza.”

 

Paul’s bouncy Yorkshire charm makes him immediately likable. Starting videos with an ebullient “Ey up” and finishing them with a theatrical “I thank you,” adds to his cheeky chappy demeanour. He admits these sign ins and outs were not a conscious decision, nevertheless, they’ve become a signature mark.

As well as the Facebook page, Paul has produced an album. Memories Of Yesterday was released last year amassing a couple of hundred downloads through itunes as well as around a hundred sales in CDs but, as Paul is posting them out, he concedes big sales are difficult. “I don’t think I’ll be making my millions doing an album but it’s done alright,” he adds.

Being his first comedy song, Paul says his favourite from the album is Ten Pints Of Carling. It’s another song, however, that has been the best received. “I think the most popular on it is When We Were Kids, I think if I was listening to it and it wasn’t my own album, I’d say When We Were Kids was my favourite.”

A whirlwind of childhood nostalgia, When We Were kids is a toe tapping list of memories coalesced by Paul and his friends over Facebook, the idea to make it as relatable as possible. “I put a little status on Facebook saying can people list things they remember from their childhood, there was tons of stuff, obviously there was plenty that I could remember, but people just put all sorts of stuff down.”

Paul has also raised money for charity. He released a Christmas song to raise money for PACT, a charity through Sheffield’s children’s hospital which helps leukaemia sufferers, paying for them to have a day out. The song was rereleased the following year to raise money for Bluebell Wood, a hospice caring for children and young adults across South Yorkshire.

“The PACT one was the first one and it was quite successful that, raised near a thousand pounds, that was through downloads and we also set up a just giving page so people could contribute.”

Paul tries to perform his songs live in his home town of Sheffield as much as possible. “I’m starting to do it more and more, I put a couple of nights on around here, got a little local theatre that holds a couple of hundred people and I’ve sold that out a couple of times and I’ve played at the O2 academy in Sheffield.”

Balancing two young kids, his job and music, Paul is understandably too busy to perform as much as he’d like. “All this music stuff has come at the wrong time in my life. I’m more kind of bothered about the writing side of it than the actual performing. I’m just going along with it at the minute and seeing what happens.”

“I try not to have too much going on all at once, it just gets crazy.”

Asking whether his children have listened to his music Paul chuckles, replying: “Yeah they do, they really enjoy them. There’s only certain ones they’re allowed to listen to so I have to be a little bit careful.

“My little lad, he’s nine, I have played him songs and I’ve said when it gets to this word you know it’s not a word you use at school. There’s the Christmas song which is a totally clean song and the Get On Yer Bike song and yeah they love them, my little girl dances around to them and they were both in the Christmas video.”

A football fan, Paul has released a song and accompanying music video for England ahead of their European Championship campaign. I’d Love It is a classic jumpy football tune, immediately relatable for any fan.

 

Doing something you love as your job is something many people aspire to and this is no different for Paul. With no hesitation when asked about his ultimate ambition, Paul says: “It’s got to be doing this as a job, doing something in music, it’s not to be famous or anything like that it’s to make a living doing music, whether I’m in the background or I’m performing I don’t mind.

“My big ambition is to not be plumbing well I would say at 40 but that’s a bit ambitious because that’s 18 months away, but to be doing this as a day job definitely the ambition, not to be scratching about under people’s baths and bogs!”

 

Where are Britain’s Got Talent’s former comedy stars now?

Britain’s Got Talent has come to an end, and not soon enough, the talent this year dipped well below par. However, I’m not interested in the latest series, instead I want to take a look at the comedy acts from previous years that, despite not winning, have had a degree of success after their fledgling appearance in the spotlight.

 

Philip Green

In his audition back in 2013 comedy impressionist Philip Green was a bundle of nerves, but this seemed to bring out the funny in him. He was hilarious just when talking to the judges and was instantly likable. His impressions were also spot on and saw him through to the semi-finals, but that’s where the road ended for Green unfortunately.

He’s since taken to YouTube producing regular videos which have attracted 64,000 subscribers. Impressions are still the beating heart of his content, and he incudes them in parodies of music videos, mock film auditions as well as ‘how to’ videos for his most popular characters.

 

Jack Carroll

It was 2013 when a 14-year-old Jack Carroll appeared on Britain’s Got Talent with his stand up, and just missed out on winning the show, finishing as the runner-up. His cerebral palsy was a subject for a lot of his comedy on the show, but since then he’s expanded his material.

He’s been hugely successful performing at the Palladium and on Jason Manford’s It’s a Funny Old Week which aired last year. Carroll has also popped up in the popular sitcoms Trollied and Big School. His rapid assentation to the comedy sphere probably makes him the most successful comic act to appear on BGT.

 

Lorraine Bowen

David’s golden buzzer last year, Lorraine Bowen impressed with her catchy crumble song. She’d played in bands in her early career, then turned solo, to write and perform comedy songs for live audiences. Her hilarious performance on BGT shunted her into public consciousness. Since the show, she has continued to perform, written new songs and produced slightly differing versions of her big hit, the crumble song.

 

The Brett Domino Trio

Back to 2009 now, and the then three piece keyboard band The Brett Domino Trio had a successful first audition, but failed to reach the semi-finals. Host of Britain’s Got More Talent, Stephen Mulhern, did however take a liking to the Yorkshire threesome, drafting them in as the house band on his show on ITV2.

Since then The Brett Domino Trio have been busy but only as a duo, despite hilariously playing under the same name. They had a brief appearance in the charts with a song about Gillian McKeith’s appearance on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, but the majority of their success has been on YouTube. They specialise in awkward humour, their music videos and video blogs proving popular with 173,000 subscribers.

They’ve recently run a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce an album which I pledged seven quid towards so it better be good! Brett Domino, the creator of the band, has also played a melange of musical characters spanning several genres. He also wrote and starred in a sitcom about the his dubstep alter ego Cbomb ripping up the Sheffield music scene, however it only managed to get a pilot on BBC3 not being commissioned for a full series.

 

Allan turner-ward

With Allan Turner-ward you get more cheese than a bag jumbo of Wotsits. 2014 was the series in which the DJ appeared on BGT, getting through to the semi finals. He doesn’t have many original songs, but what he has produced is pure gold. His audition featured a song called Model Pose, and in the semi he performed an old song of his, Shake The Knees , which did quite well around Europe back in the day, but bombed on the show.

As well as being a local DJ on radio Wimbourne, he’s also produced a couple of new songs – Twistin’, Feeling Glad All Over and Over The Top This Christmas. He isn’t strictly a comedian, but his songs make me laugh whenever they’re on so I’m allowing his presence on this blog. He’s not everyone’s flavour, but I’m for an orange pack of Doritos any day.

 

Gatis Kandis

Are you well?
No I’m not a well I’m a person

This, the best joke of the 2012 series, was told by Latvian comedian Gatis Kandis. He made it to the semi finals that year and actually returned for the 2016 series, but with little success. His deadpan delivery of utter stupid gags somehow get audiences laughing, but at the same time strip him of his dignity, coming across as a real odd ball. As well as performing live comedy every now and then, he has taken to YouTube, producing what I presume are comedy videos, but they’re even stranger than his stand up.

 

Feel free to comment below if you think I’ve missed a comedy act that’s found success after their appearance on the show, and as always, remember to share and subscribe, you always seem to forget.

6 Times Brett Domino nailed modern life

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YouTuber Brett Domino writes songs about any number of things, and in doing so has put the obscurities and annoyances of modern life into his funny little ditties. Here’s 6 times he summed up our tech driven lives in his unique awkward manner…

That’s his day

Looking at screens, really that’s all our days.

Parents on Facebook

The invasion began a long time ago now, but most parents are still clueless.

Blue shell blues

The pain… it cuts deep.

TV dramas

This one hits home for me. Leave me alone Penelope, I don’t care about The Breaking Dead!

Everybody On The Internet’s an Idiot

Yeah, he’s probably right.

Reaction video

Finally someone’s pointed out how ludicrous the craze in reaction videos is.

 

As well as these videos Brett Domino along with Steven Peavis form The Brett Domino Trio, posting original songs like the ones above as well as covers of popular songs and video blogs. They’re currently tying to raise funds on Kickstarter with the view of producing an album. For more information go straight to their Kickstarter campaign or see my earlier blog post about it.

 

The Brett Domino Trio launch Kickstarter campaign

The Brett Domino Trio are a duo. They used to be a trio but surviving members Brett Domino and Steven Peavis retained the name after losing Mitch Hutchinson. They’re musicians and bloggers posting their hilarious content on YouTube. They make music funny, covering a range of songs as well as creating originals in their distinctive awkward manner. Here’s their channel trailer.

They’re planning on making an album but need help to do so. Launching a kickstarter campaign, they’re aiming to raise £10,000, offering incentives just like any other crowd funding project . Here they are to tell you all about it.

I’ve followed them for a good few years now, and I really hope they raise the money. They appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, getting through the first round but failing to make the live show, but were however drafted into the role of house band on ITV2’s Britain’s Got More Talent, so it went fairly well for the fledgling band.

Since then they have built up a huge catalogue of songs and blogs, boasting upwards of 170,000 subscribers. The pair have developed their nerdy characters around the premise that being bad at something and messing up is funny, but it’s far more subtle than that, using facial expressions, awkaward silences and superb editing. Their comic timing is excellent, so too their music, which is often clouded by the comedy.

I fully recommend checking their YouTube page out, and if you like what you see, which you certainly will, then pledge a couple of quid to their campaign here. After all, their stuff on YouTube is free.

 

M.U.F.F Sitcom

M.U.F.F is the unapologetically outrageous indie sitcom created by comedians Daniel Sloss and Tom Stade along with Charlie Parker and Joe McTernan. It follows Sloss’ character Lawrence, a new intern at the television company M.U.F.F Productions, as he inadvertently creates a zombie apocalypse by helping to produce re-hashed, mind numbing TV programmes.

The six part internet series essentially sticks two fingers up at what television has become. Each episode rips apart a type of show by satirically copying formats that are plastered all over our modern screens, taking the ideas to hilarious extremes.

Issues of race, mental health, sexuality, feminism and political correctness are all discussed throughout the series, with Lawrence representing the voice of liberal reason against the rest of his moronic team. Despite these subjects being touched, don’t expect any moral lessons as they just form the basis for jokes.

It’s a fast paced show, with a hit and run attitude to some of the jokes, leaving aspects of the show unexplained, but that’s the beauty of it. Jokes run the show, everything else comes later. And anything that has the potential to be joked about is, even the warning at the start of each episode is hilarious.

The whole series is stuffed full of great gags, some quite obvious such as the continuity joke in episode one, others more original, but all very funny. Many of the jokes acknowledge the fact that the show was made on a tiny budget, referring to the lack of props and special effects. Also joked about is the TV making process, for example the first episode has Tom Stade’s character saying “this is only the first episode so it doesn’t have to that great, we’ve just got to show monkey public who the characters are.” The constant and blatant breaking of the fourth wall demonstrates that Stade and Sloss are fully aware how  ridiculous the show is

The acting throughout, as expected with a group of comedians, won’t win an Oscar, but it is nonetheless hilarious. When comedians attempt acting they rarely give a real performance, but what they can do is more important in a sitcom, and that’s delivering a joke. J.P, the boss of MUFF, is played by Tom Stade and is the stand out performance. The character is an exaggeration of the comics own personality, creating a gun wielding, drugged up boss who dishes out enough expletives to make a nun crumble.

There are cameos by recognisable comedians such Stephen K Amos, who plays future Lawrence taking on a narrator role, Eric Lampaert, appearing in episode two as the cross-dressing robber and Jarred Christmas, starring in a seductive mock lemonade advert.

The best thing about MUFF, besides being able to make stupid jokes with the title, is that the creators didn’t have anyone above them curbing creativity to commercialise the end product. The very subject matter of the show is why it would never be taken up by a production company.

They could do what they wanted and they certainly didn’t hold back, throwing wild punches at modern television. So many sitcoms are dumbed-down in concept, characters and jokes for the benefit of the mass audience and the fear of offending them. It’s good to watch a sitcom where the creators did it because they wanted to.

Here’s episode one, the rest can be found on MUFF’s YouTube channel along with extra content.

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