Tab Interview: The Unexpected Items
TABATHA LEGGETT speaks to Matt and Max from The Unexpected Items about the success of Gap Yah, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and videos of cats in bins.
They came. They chundered. And then they chundered some more. I’m talking, of course, about The Unexpected Items (a.k.a the guys behind ‘Gap Yah’).
I say ‘the guys behind ‘Gap Yah”; the sketch was actually written by member Matt Lacey before he joined the sketch group. ‘What’s really fun is being able to see where people are viewing the YouTube video,’ Matt explained. ‘And, they’re viewing it all over the world: in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, pretty much everywhere apart from the Central African Republic. Although, I’ve a feeling it’s not the Kazakhs watching me. I think it might be students on their gap yahs.’
For those of you who have been living in the Central African Republic, ‘Gap Yah’ follows the story of Orlando, a pashmina-wearing Sloane who aerates his vowels, chunders a lot, and spends every minute of his life telling anyone who’ll listen about his gap yah in Burmah, Tanzanah and Perah. The sketch begins, ‘Oh no Tarquin, I can’t come shopping on the King’s Road today. Yah, cos I’m literally in Burmah.’ Since going online in February, it has achieved over 2.2 million hits.
‘I never expected the sketch to take off as well as it did,’ Matt confessed. ‘When I first uploaded it onto YouTube, it just sat there for two weeks. Then, one Friday it went from 1,000 to 40,000 hits. People must have been really bored that Friday.’
And so, before you could say ‘banter’, Orlando was popping up everywhere. He was on pre-election posters of David Cameron. His single is currently number 3 in the UniLife charts. There’s even a bloody iPhone app; the iChunder.
‘Basically, if people can’t bear to go five minutes without hearing my voice, they should get it,’ explained Matt, laughing. ‘I suppose it’s the equivalent of an Orlando fart machine.’ I should point out that Matt’s laugh is identical to Orlando’s deep and drawling chuckle. He doesn’t put that on.
So, what inspired the sketch? ‘I went to Oxford,’ explained Matt, ‘and so inevitably there were a few Orlando-types floating around in my vision. I suppose Orlando is an amalgamation of people I know, people I’ve overheard and, to an extent, me.
‘Tragically, I did take a gap year,’ Matt added. ‘I spent a portion of the year in Ireland, working in a Chinese restaurant. It was quirky.’ He also spent time in Tanzania. ‘But, I didn’t call it Tanzanah!’ he insisted.
But, many critics are suggesting that Matt’s ‘Gap Yah’ video was nothing more than a lucky fluke. Is this the case? Absolutely not. We mustn’t forget that there is more to The Unexpected Items than Matt. In fact, the group consists of six highly talented individuals.
The Unexpected Items burst onto the comedy scene in 2008, with a whole host of comedy sketches and a set of rahther lovely upper-class accents. ‘Essentially, we’re a rag tag bunch of renegade undergrads,’ member Max Pritchard told me.
But, Max is by no means a one trick pony. ‘I recently learnt hypnosis!’ Max proudly revealed. ‘I love magic. But, I guess my real job is as a translator.’
Matt too is far more than just a comedian. ‘Comedy is just something that happened, and we all find it great fun,’ he explained. ‘We’ll keep doing it for as long as we can. We love it. But I did always want to go into straight theatre. That’s what I did more of at university and, that’s what I want to do eventually.’
The group have just come to the end of a gruelling run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. ‘We did one show per night for the full month and Adam and I did our own, separate show too; so 56 shows in total,’ said Max. ‘It was knackering, but great fun. And I think people enjoyed it. No one’s asked for their money back yet!’
Gap Yah, the single
So, The Unexpected Items have been performing together for years; and, with the popularity ‘Gap Yah’, they’ve suddenly been thrust into the limelight. They have faced an unprecedented amount of press. But, do they read it? ‘I always do,’ confessed Max. ‘There doesn’t tend to be much negative press. Occasionally, because we started out with the Oxford Revue, people do say things about Oxbridge graduates having access to a direct channel to comedy work, which is a bit unfounded.
‘But, it’s important that we read our press and learn from it. I think we have to be careful to avoid pigeon-holing ourselves and limiting ourselves to a certain type of comedy and character.’
Matt, however, takes his press less seriously. ‘I’d like to be aloof and say I never read my press, but I do,’ he told me. ‘I even read my YouTube video comments. Some are great; I mean, it’s nice to be called a genius.
‘The good thing about YouTube is that you can click on people who comment on your videos and see what they’re like. So if they say something really awful about me, I’ll check them out, and if they like videos of people putting cats in bins, or something like that, then their comments are somewhat undermined, and I feel better.’
Where do The Unexpected Items see themselves in five years? Matt is less than optimistic. ‘I see myself hanging out with Howard from the Halifax adverts, still spouting out my old catchphrases. It’s a bleak but realistic outlook.
‘I’m joking. We’ll move onto bigger and better things.’
The Unexpected Items will shortly be announcing their Christmas Special in London. Check out http://www.theunexpecteditems.com for more information.