Ray Peacock and Ed Gamble interview: comedy, Doctor Who, Muppets and more

Ahead of their Edinburgh Festival show, Pete caught up with comedians Peacock and Gamble to talk about podcasts, Doctor Who, Muppets and more...

Perhaps best known for their hit series of eponymous podcasts, comedians Ray Peacock and Ed Gamble have been performing as a double act since 2009, with appearances on Russell Howard’s Good News and a regular presenting role on Radio 4 Extra under their belts. Fresh from touring their 2011 show Peacock And Gamble’s Emergency Broadcast, the duo are returning to Edinburgh this year with Peacock And Gamble Don’t Even Want To Be On Telly Anyway.

The new show follows the pair as they try their hardest to shun the hardships of fame and fortune, and if early previews are anything to go by, it looks set to be another hysterical hour of gleeful idiocy. We caught up with Ray and Ed to discuss the 2012 show, podcasting, Doctor Who, Muppets and much more…

So, tell us about the new show…

Ed Gamble: The show is called Peacock And Gamble Don’t Even Want To Be On Telly Anyway, and it’s about how we’re not even bothered that we’re not on the telly, so you can all shut up and stop looking at us like that!

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Ray Peacock: It’s a petulant reaction to a lack of TV opportunities. We’ve been close with several projects, television-wise, and we just got to the point where we were actually thinking ‘Is it even something that we want to push through?’ – It suddenly became important when it wasn’t important, so we decided to counter-balance that by being petulantly against it.

EG: Certainly it’s magnifications of our personalities. I think we make it clear in the show that we’re basically playing very desperate characters who are trying to keep up a front.

Ray, in particular, gets to act very childish on stage. Is that as liberating to perform as it looks, or just exhausting?

EG: Ray tires himself out by running round being a wally, and it is really tiring; I need baby reins quite a lot of the time in real life.

RP: I am fun! I am fun!

EG: It’s not that much of a stretch… I know you probably sit there watching Ray and going “What an inventive and deep character he’s gone into”; literally he just walks in off the street and it’s exactly the same as he is – utterly irrepressible.

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RP: So it’s me that’s tiring, isn’t it? I am sorry. I am just trying to be a good boy. That’s all I am trying. I know that some people literally go “I cannot take any more of this!”

EG: It really gets on some people’s nerves, which we like, and that’s kind of what we’ve started to aim for. Some people absolutely love it, but for others, if they’re not keyed into it, it can really grate. If we’re children, then the audience is our mother, and we don’t stop until the mother is at the bottom of the garden drinking gin and crying.

With the Radio 4 Extra bits and the recent shows, there seems to have been a shift towards having defined roles in the double act, with Ed being the straight-er man. Is this a conscious decision?

EG: I think that’s what we work towards best.

RP: It makes it easier to write, doesn’t it? Because then you have your defined roles.

EG: Especially with the 4 Extra stuff. But I think with the new show, there’s slightly more balance than there ended up being in Emergency Broadcast [last year’s show]. I won’t necessarily be childish or idiotic, but I’ll have semi-breakdowns in the show.

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RP: There’s also a bit, for example, where – spoiler alert! – my shirt’s on back to front. Rather than last year, where I think it would’ve been Ed going “What’re you doing? You’re ruining it!”, in this one he comes over and tries to help, but then he gets involved in it as well. But he’s not angry with me – we’re just trying to get our shirts on properly.

EG: I think, given the theme of the show and where we’re trying to get to with it, it’s us against the world rather than me against Ray, which is much nicer.

RP: And it’s more fun for you, isn’t it, rather than you just going “Oh, what’re you doing now?”

You’ve just finished your first tour together. How was that?

RP: We’ve not had our accounts yet, have we?

EG: I enjoyed watching the show develop, from doing 2-hour long new material shows at Kings Place, honing that down to an hour, doing it in Edinburgh, watching it get better and better over Edinburgh… Essentially, we didn’t add whole bits to it, it just got longer and longer over the tour just from improvisation. So we were doing an hour and fifty minutes by the end of the tour, but with the same bits that we had in Edinburgh. It’s really nice to see a show completely evolve from all that material, right down and then grow back out again. It was a really nice experience, touring it.

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RP: And they weren’t dragged out; it wasn’t that we were adding things and it felt stretched. It was very organic, it was interesting. So on the last day of the tour we were like “That’s the best show we’ve done, that was bang on – that was exactly what it needed to be.”

EG: That’s a nice way of going out with it, and then just building it all back up and doing a new show. It’s a nice cycle, then getting rid of that show and starting a completely new one – I think it’s quite satisfying.

How much of a gap is there between the two of you in terms of stand-up experience?

RP: I started as a stand-up in around 2001. I’d been in a sketch group for a while before that, from about 1997 onwards, and that overlapped with my standup.

EG: I started stand-up in 2007. I’d done a couple of gigs before that, but not much, and I was in a sketch group at Uni from 2005 as well. Which is how we met.

RP: It was fate, wasn’t it?

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EG: Jonathan Fate, my friend, he booked it.

RP: I compered a gig at Ed’s college…

EG: University.

RP: Ed’s college of further education.

EG: Durham College of Further Education..!

RP: And Ed was on that night, and he made friends with me, ‘cos he likes comedy so he made friends with a real comedian.

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Do you regret that decision..?

EG: Not at all! Not at all…

RP: It’s a bizarre one, because Ed was in my Edinburgh show that year as free labour, and I didn’t enjoy that year at all – it just didn’t pan out how I’d envisaged it – but as time went on, I went “Okay, well that was the year I started working with Ed, so that was the purpose of that year.” So it did mean that I worked with Ed, and we got on and stuff; so when we started the Ray Peacock Podcast, I thought ‘Oh yeah – Ed! Ed’d be good on that’.

The Ray Peacock Podcast ended up being you two and former EastEnders/The Bill actor Raji James (or, as he was known on the podcast, ‘Little Raji James Who Used to be on EastEnders but Ruined It’), who was often the butt of the joke; in one episode, you appeared to smash up his personal possessions…

RP: Did we not come out over that? I think one day I just said it online somewhere; I went “Look, it’s not as it appears – it couldn’t be as it appears.” It came to the point where we were going “We’ve not kidnapped him! He’s not there with a gun to his head”. It just makes it a bit more interesting when there’s a bit of drama to it. I mean, there were some things that were real, but certainly there were some things where he knew what was going on, walking out and stuff like that… I don’t think he ever really walked out, did he? Some days he got angry in real life…

EG: He did face me in the knee; that happened. And we did hit him and stuff..

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RP: But it was never as hard as it sounded! (laughs) Occasionally we listened back and thought ‘That sounds like we went too far’, but we knew that we hadn’t in real life. But then as it went on, it just got to a point where it started to become real, that Raji genuinely hadn’t worked in that time. And it’s very hard to do it when it becomes real, because it’s not in our nature to be genuine bullies. You feel like you’re kicking a corpse, if you like – kicking a dead horse.

EG: That’s a phrase, isn’t it? ‘Kicking a dead horse’?

RP: But what we found was that we could control what we were doing, but we couldn’t control what fans were doing to Raji. So whenever anyone attacked Raji, supposedly as a joke online, I would always – and I was quite vigilant about it – I would always defend Raji straight away. And I think we do it as well, don’t we? If anyone says anything divisive to us, then we close ranks.

EG: What people won’t learn is that they shouldn’t join in!

RP: Say you like it, but just don’t join in! But people were writing to Raji on his personal Facebook page, and things like that… Thinking they were being funny. It ultimately upset Raji. And it certainly upset his immediate friendship group, who couldn’t hate us more, because they all thought it was real as well.

We don’t really see Raji at all now. But he’s gone off and got married and stuff, and as far as we’re aware he’s happy and he’s sort of settled down, and from an outside eye it appears he’s settled in what he wants to do. Certainly from our point of view there’s no bad blood or anything like that.

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It seems that everyone and their nan is doing a podcast these days; would you have any advice for podcasters?

RP: Find the next thing.

EG: If you want to make a name in it, or you want to stick out, you need to do something either massively innovative within it or something different.

RP: I think it’s a creatively dead medium. It is just so over-saturated now. And also, I think there’s a point to be made that a corporate thing has squeezed the life out of it. There was a time when, in the top 50 podcasts, we were the only truly independent podcast in there. Even then, ours was hosted by Chortle, but they certainly didn’t give us any money – all he would do was put it on the front page for 20 minutes every week! So we still maintain it was an independent podcast.

But then suddenly the BBC started doing podcasts of all their shows, and Absolute Radio dominated things as well, until it became that everything was branded, and you can’t compete with that, because they’re pushing it on their stations all the time. I would definitely say that iTunes need to have an independent podcast chart and a branded podcast chart.

Did you find that the podcasts were bringing new people to your gigs?

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EG: Some, but I think the people it brings are probably comedy fans anyway who normally go out and see live stuff. I don’t know how many people it actually brings who wouldn’t have come otherwise.

RP: I’d say at probably all of my gigs now, there’ll be at least one person there who’s aware of me. It might not be 40 people, but there’ll be at least one… And that’s the thing with podcasts; it’s a worldwide thing. So there might be 20 fans in Newcastle, and 5 of them will come to gigs, because the problem you’ve got with crossover is your audience are people who are used to getting stuff for nowt, and they’re used to getting your stuff for nowt.

EG: ‘Nowt’ is Northern for ‘nothing’.

RP: So when you’re asking them to come and pay a fiver or a tenner or whatever to come to a live show, there are people who just simply won’t do that. And it’s kind of frustrating as well; you want to go “If you don’t come, then we’ll have to just stop. There’ll be no more podcasts, no more live shows…” We can’t do live shows to no-one – and luckily we don’t – but if they don’t support it then we just can’t do it. It’s hard not to be petulant about it. We try not to be, but sometimes…

EG: It is going alright though!

RP: We’re talking about a specific faction. It’s certainly not a universal thing. And I know from before starting the podcast to now, I have got a fanbase. It’s not massive, but I have got one. There’s plenty of comics who don’t have that, and won’t have that because all they do is the gigs, and you can’t really build up a following that way.

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So are you done with podcasts now?

RP: No; we’re doing a full run of podcasts at Edinburgh. Not live, but we’re doing 20-ish-minute Peacock and Gamble Edinburgh Podcasts every day.

EG: They’re what I like to call ‘pod-nuggets’; I’ve just made that up now.

RP: The Peacock and Gamble Edinburgh Pod-Nugget! I think we miss it a little bit, sometimes.

EG: If something happens to one of us in our lives and a story definitely comes out of it, or we’re out and about and we do something stupid, it almost feels like it’s not a thing until we’ve recorded it.

So we are doing pod-nuggets every day in Edinburgh, interviewing people, mucking about, and updating people on how our Fringe is going. And it’s good for raising awareness, especially if we have the odd guest on and stuff; that’s what drags people in.

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RP: I think the plan is to have a guest a day. We’re not done with podcasts, but there’s a reason for that one. We’re done with no-reason podcasts. It was certainly a good promotional tool, and it would’ve been handy I suppose… It’s a bizarre stand-off that we’ve got into, just going “Well, if you come to the shows then we might consider doing some more podcasts”.

And we’re doing a live one at the end of the year as well; we’re probably going to make that into a yearly thing for as long as we’re going – we’ll do Don’t Even Want To Be On Telly Anyway’ in the first half, and then in the second half we’ll do a podcast.

Ray, you appeared in the Doctor Who episode Blink [he appeared under his real name, Ian Boldsworth]… Were you a fan beforehand?

RP: No, not at all. I think I had a brief obsession with it as a child, where I went through maybe a year or so of Tom Baker. I have Doctor Who guilt, really, because I know people who are big fans of Doctor Who who would absolutely love to be in it. I don’t dislike it at all, though – you watch Doctor Who, don’t you?

EG: I’ve got not much idea about the history of it, but I’ve religiously watched the Matt Smith ones particularly. But I only really like individual episodes; I don’t get too into the story of it, I think sometimes that can get far too convoluted, especially the last series. So Blink, the one that Ray was in, absolutely loved – that’s like a perfect episode.

RP: And I was perfect in it.

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EG: By extension; it was a perfect episode and you were perfect.

Blink is a very popular episode amongst fans and critics alike…

RP: I kind of thought that though, because when I read the script the night before… I knew it was only going to be a small part, and my intention was to read up to when I was in it, so I knew what was going on and I knew what I was doing. But Moffat’s such an amazing writer, and his scripts are incredible, because they read like novels in a way; he goes into immense detail, and he says what people are thinking… It’s a very accessible script to read. I read the whole thing, and I just thought it was absolutely incredible.

Also, I’m a Doctor Who double; apparently there’s a list of people who have played the Doctor, but not officially. Because on set, we had some of the tapes of Tennant doing the lines for Carey to speak back to, but some of the stuff they didn’t have so I read it in. So put that in: I have played the Doctor in Doctor Who one day for a minute! It’s probably a deleted scene on the DVD, I would imagine – they never sent it me! It is definitely in there, more than likely.

Ray, you also did the warm-ups for the new series of Red Dwarf

RP: Again, I was a fan of it for a while… I’m not financially led at all, but when it came in it was significantly less than I would normally get for a warm-up. And I think they know that they’ve got Red Dwarf in their armory, so they go “Yeah, but it is Red Dwarf…” and I go “Yeah, but it is Red Dwarf!”. After the first one I did, I genuinely considered pulling the rest, because I found it really hard. A very, very long warm-up.

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EG: And then he came out of it and realised he’d been calling it ‘Hyperdrive’ all the way through, so that was it – next week he called it Red Dwarf and it was all fine!

RP: I rang Miranda and went “I thought you’d be in this!” (laughs). With the next one I went back and I thought ‘I think I might know how to do this’. Because it is a very long recording – there are special effects things that they have to do or don’t do, and there’s chunks missed out of it.

It was a really nice experience, and one of those things where you just suddenly find yourself at work, talking to Kryten. Not to Robert – you’re talking to Kryten, he’s there. And I remember at certain times just looking into his eyes and going “I know you’re in there, and I know you know what this is doing!”

And I was never a particular fan of Kryten really, but having now worked with them, I can’t speak higher of Robert. He’s absolutely incredible. They were all lovely, but I would single Robert out and say that he particularly made it a joy to go to by the end of it.

My only disappointment was that Norman [Lovett, who played Holly] wasn’t there, because I do like Norman and I do get on with Norman. I did a live show years ago with a sketch group I was in, and Norman just did a voiceover as Holly for us. So he’s a nice bloke, and I guess there’s just something happened along the way that’s upset him, and now he doesn’t even want to be on telly anyway!

You share something in common with Den of Geek, as you have a bit of a Muppet obsession… Tell us about Muppet Corner.

EG: It’s Muppet Wall now!

RP: It’s spread, unfortunately; it’s now either side of my TV – it used to be just to the left of my TV, in the corner…

EG: Have you seen the new Planet Of The Apes film, where at the end you see the disease spreading all over the world..? It’s sort of like that. It’s like he goes to sleep and they’ve just started f**king!

RP: It was an obsession from my childhood, as is my Star Wars thing that I have going on. And I just thought Palisades made such amazing toys. You had the Palisades toys, and you had the beautiful Muppet busts that Sideshow WETA made; they were really nice.

EG: I worry about his finances. It’s like watching a friend on heroin, just shivering and going “Gotta get some more… Gotta get some more… I’ve just spent *bleep* on a Kermit.”

RP: That was bad, wasn’t it? That was bad. But I needed it, I needed it! If I sold my collection now, I’d make masses back on it. The interest just went berserk [with the film], and I don’t find the Disney merchandise particularly satisfying as a collector; I want accurate stuff. But I found with Palisades that they were such meticulous figures, such beautiful figures, and the work that’s gone into them… I think even if you’re not a Muppet fan, you’ve got to admire what they did with that; that range was incredible. And they went bust doing it.

EG: They’re lovely to admire unless, say, you’re staying over and you have to sleep in that room on the sofa, and you wake up in the middle of the night and there’s a f**king Kermit staring at you.

RP: Yeah! And one of my Uncle Deadly figures glows in the dark, so that might be quite scary for you when you’re having a little sleep. But yeah, I think they’re beautiful things and I really like them. So Muppet Corner’s now Muppet Wall, and this time next year it will probably be Muppet House. 

Ed, do you have anything you’re particularly geeky about?

EG: I never started collecting figures or anything like that, because I’m slightly completist with things, so if I start down a path I’m worried where it’ll end up – ie. With a wall of something!

RP: I think that’s generational, though, because I grew up at the time when that became a thing, when Star Wars figures came out, which I was obsessed with as a child. So that’s something that’s ingrained in me, to collect figures; whereas I think generationally you would’ve missed that.

EG: But I know plenty of other people your age who don’t do that.

RP: Empty people. Empty, skint people.

EG: So when you say “generationally”, when you say your generation, you mean specifically you, don’t you?

RP: Yeah. I was looking for an excuse!

EG: I read comics and stuff. I buy a lot of comics, a lot of films and boxsets. I’ve got about six or seven boxsets waiting to be watched at the moment. Because now I don’t have the time that I used to, to be able to sit down for a weekend and plough through an entire TV series.

I don’t have anything as specific as Ray’s Muppet thing. I’ll often get obsessed with something for about three days, and I’ll be utterly into it and I’ll read every single thing about it possible. And then three days later I’ll just forget about it and I’ll be onto something else. And I’ll come back to it, but it’s short bursts of utter obsession and learning everything possible about it and then coming away from it.

RP: Do you lose interest, or do you just go “Now I’m saturated”?

EG: I don’t lose interest; there’s just something else that comes along. But while it does have my attention, I give it everything.

RP: We are weird in different ways, aren’t we? 

With the Edinburgh shows, it’s not just Peacock and Gamble; it’s Peacock, Gamble and Naughty Keith, Ray’s ventriloquism puppet. What’s it like working with him?

EG: It’s like working with Ray with a binbag on his hand! Because that’s what it is; some people might look at it and go “Oh, Ray’s using the binbag to say all the things that he wants to say”, but that’s bollocks because he would just say that anyway. But if there’s a binbag around, it’ll go on his hand and he’ll talk. So that’s what I think about working with Naughty Keith.

RP: He’s got his own Twitter (@naughty_keith), and he’s very naughty on that! I don’t update that – I don’t know who does all that, with them naughty words.

EG: What you don’t know is that Ray puts the binbag on to update the Twitter.

RP: That’s why sometimes there’s too many letters. Do you know what? I originally set that account up because I wanted to shout at people who I couldn’t shout at from my Twitter; I wanted an excuse to go “You thick f**kers”. I know there was one where Naughty Keith said “You do know I’m just a f**king binbag, don’t you? You are following a binbag.” On one of the slides we have for this show, there are made up reviews, and Ed wrote one…

EG: “I thought the voice was coming from the thing and not from the man”, which would be the best review for a ventriloquist ever, I think.

What’s the silliest thing you’ve done in the heat of the moment onstage?

EG: Last year in Edinburgh, I had the most worrying and funniest moment of my entire life when I watched Ray pick up a chair, put it on his head to do an impression of a Transformer.

RP: A Dinobot.

EG: Specifically a Dinobot.

RP: There was no reason. Middle of the show.

EG: He put one arm through one strut, one arm through the other strut, so he was completely stuck like that, like Jesus.

RP: It’s called “Doing a Davro”.

EG: So he had no way of moving his arms…

RP: Or breaking any potential fall!

EG: So it was just potential at this moment. And then he started to walk towards me, going “I can’t see where I’m going!” He tripped over a lead, and then went straight down. This proved to me in the heat of the moment what I do in possible medical emergencies…

RP: Listen to this! This is my best friend!

EG: …I ran automatically in the other direction, out the back of the stage, and waited to hear a noise from him at least, and then started laughing. People were gasping, and then once they realised he was alright it took the roof off; it was amazing.

RP: Our stage manager thought I’d broke my neck! I’m still scarred, I’ve still got a bad scar on my leg from it, proper sliced my leg open; I was very very brave.

EG: So in the heat of the moment, that was a pretty idiotic thing to do.

RP: That was stupid, wasn’t it? And I’m actually quite good with spatial awareness on stage, but I wasn’t that day at all; I had a chair on my head and I went over like a sack of s**t. And the beauty of it was, we film every show on the Edinburgh run so we can keep a check of it and that. And Ed’s in charge of setting up the video camera for the show, and that one day he hadn’t done it.

EG: Because that would be a YouTube hit!

And finally, what’s next for Peacock and Gamble?

EG: We’re pretty much concentrating solely on Edinburgh at the moment. We’re really focusing on that to get it right for Edinburgh, and then after Edinburgh into next year we’re touring it; we’re booking those dates in at the moment.

RP: Last year the tour was theatres, and this year it’s theatres and universities, which is what we wanted to do last year and it just didn’t pan out. But there’s more of a push this year for university gigs. I don’t think you can over-plan ahead; we can’t be planning for next year, because we don’t know what we’re doing.

EG: Make a film and then build a rocket! I guess the ultimate aim is just really death. Because we all know it’s going to happen, so you may as well just aim for that.

RP: The one thing we can’t control. Every breath could be your last one, couldn’t it?

EG: So I just hold mine a lot of the time.

RP: If you start thinking about it too much, you’re probably going to bring your own death on.

EG: …This interview ended ages ago, didn’t it?

Peacock and Gamble, thank you very much!

Peacock And Gamble Don’t Even Want To Be On Telly Anyway is on at 21:40 in the Pleasance Dome from August 1-26. A full list of upcoming tour dates, plus information on where to download the podcasts, can be found here.

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