Performing is a laughing matter for duo reviving art of the sketch show
Dedicated in part to all those who have enquired of them –how did you get into comedy and whether they will ever make it pay? – double act Marina O'Shea and Tess O'Gaukroger are launching into 2013 with their show A Comedy of Careers.
With one surname's oh-apostrophe being a genuine family heirloom and the other bestowed for comedic effect – we'll leave you to guess which is which – O'Shea and O'Gaukroger have already been compared to French and Saunders and Wood and Walters.
In an era where on the TV at least, sketch comedy appears to have been superseded by live stand up and sitcoms, the Exeter-based pair have embraced the joys of writing, messing around and taking note of silly things that make them laugh, to bring a fast-paced character-based comedy back to the live comedy circuit. "We have to do most of our writing in private, as we've been banned from the local pubs," says O'Gaukroger.
"The great things about writing together, is if you hit a wall, the other one might have a ladder."
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Marina interjects: "If I have one goal in life, it's up make her crack up on stage. What makes us laugh is silliness."
"We see lots of things in real life we bring into our comedy, " adds Tess. "We are constantly looking at things to laugh at."
Among the host of characters that the pair will introduce to UK audiences this year are The Kids – "they came about because its a comedy of careers," says Tess. "It's about what do you want to be when you grow up. They are quite sweet.
"With characters, you need to give an audience time to get to know them. People say they love them and getting to know them and don't seem to mind seeing them again. We've hit on a good process, so will develop one main show and take it round all year."
On top of this, the Exeter-based duo have produced a DVD and short comedy film series with Cineon Productions, also based in the city.
For Somerset-born Tess, 21, who graduated from the University of Exeter with a degree in drama, comedy was not a burning childhood ambition: "The first thing I wanted to be when I was a kids was an archaeologist. It was all about wearing khaki shorts.
"It wasn't a choice for me," says Marina, 29, who was "pretending to work" in admin at the Exeter Phoenix when she met Tess. "People told me to do it. My mother reminded me recently that when I was a child I wanted a dog and she said no. The only way I was going to get my way was to be a dog. So I pretended to be one for two weeks."
With previous shows, the pair have "avoided" traditional comedy venues.
"On our last tour, we played at a big music festival and had to go on to a screaming crowd waiting for KT Tunstall. If you can perform to 2,000 drunk music fans, you can pretty much do anything," says Marina.
"For the most part, we've had quite supportive audiences, although if we are heckled, we like to bring the audience along with it. It's always a bad move to argue with a heckler – it's best to join in."
"And," adds Tess, "if we want an audience member to pick on, we'll always go for the one that's trying hardest not to look at us."
Audience members set to see the duo at Laughing Stock at the Leaping Salmon in Horrabridge this evening, have been warned.
O'Shea and O'Gaukroger will be making people laugh at the Exeter Phoenix Voodoo Lounge as part of the LOL Festival. Visit www.osheaogaukroger.co.uk