So imagine it’s a sunny day. You’re out on the estate enjoying the rare bright weather. All around you is vibrant celebration. Kids kicking a football around gleefully, tunes pumping out of a stereo and girls testing themselves and each other’s skipping rope skills. Now imagine that two drunken businessmen have staggered over, still clutching their fried chicken, loudly demanding that they want a go. You join in watching what is sure to be a lesson in painful humiliation… except they’re good. In fact they’re better than good. They’re nailing each precise jump with a bit of flare. Now they’re doing tricks you never imagined were possible. Handstands and flips! Everyone is stunned. The ropes come to a stop, and the crowd cheers. The drunken businessmen soak up the applause, then one of them throws up on himself. Welcome to the world of Cardinal Burns.
Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns met at film school before forming the trio Fat Tongue in 2006 with Sophie Black. They received a Best Newcomer nomination at the Edinburgh comedy awards before becoming a duo in 2009. In 2012, the first series was broadcast bagging best sketch show at the British Comedy Awards and a range of BAFTA nominations. Introducing characters like the Office Flirts, the core bromance of the series, Young Dreams, a spoof teen girl reality series with the guys in unnervingly convincing drag and Banksy as you’ve never expected to see him.
Influenced more by film, most likely due to their film school background and series such as Eastbound and Down, Cardinal Burns also owe a sizeable amount to UK character comedian giants such as Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge and the League of Gentlemen.
Now two years on from their TV debut, Cardinal Burns have been promoted to Channel 4 proper for another 6 episodes of crafted nonsense from the guys. Taking viewers on a journey into a world with walking 80s action movie tribute taxi drivers bringing back the office dwelling skirt chasers, middle class street artists and an affectionate nod towards Channel 4 favourite The Crystal Maze.
One of the first things you notice is just how good it all looks. Every sketch is shot like it belongs in a movie. When asked on the thinking behind this, Seb responded “With the openers especially, a lot of shows start with the title sequence first. We just thought it has much more of an impact if there’s very little dialogue. Almost like a two minute film.”
Dustin expanded further “What we noticed, is when you try to bring live sketches onto telly they feel quite flat. They’re not very TV friendly a lot of the time. So if you filmed them all, it would be sort of still from each one to the next. So I think as it’s developed our ideas have gotten a lot more intricate and visual. But then a lot of the stuff we film, we wouldn’t able to do live. It just wouldn’t work.”
Cardinal Burns‘ reality isn’t that far removed from our own. It’s just sort of shunted left a bit. “We’re very good at doing mundane characters. In that we like find different levels of mundanity funny. It’s funny to us, that intricacy,” says Dustin. Though it’s hard to see what’s mundane about their new characters, the larger than life duo Hashtag and Bukkake, two Turkish taxi drivers who live in an ongoing episode of The Equalizer.
But old favourites such as Banksy and the Office Flirts haven’t been forgotten. This series sees them becoming more fully rounded. “With the Flirts we found they lent themselves to telling a story. The Young Dreams girls are more episodic but there’s a journey to the flirts. When we first started writing the series up, we had an eye on what could they do and where could they go,” says Dustin on the progression the Flirts take.
Turning celebrated street artist Banksy into a middle manager type is a great joke in itself but now Cardinal Burns‘ version is taking on a life of his own. “We always liked characters that are incredibly mundane and unaware of how boring they are,” explains Seb. “So that’s where it started from and then we knew we wanted him to be living a normal suburban life.” In this series, we see more of Banksy’s family life, Seb says. “It’s fun when you start off with one character and you build on the people around them. It really helps when the cast come in with ideas on how they play their characters.”
Having been developed over two years, there’s a real feeling of progression with series 2. Rather than just sit on their laurels, Cardinal Burns have pushed their material that little bit more and commit to more and more gags. Though they say they’re not good at punchlines, there’s plenty to be found here. With a second series and an upcoming national tour, the future looks bright for them both.
Cardinal Burns series 2 starts on April 30th and can soon be seen touring around the country from September. For more info, check out their website.
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