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March 16, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Tom Binns interview (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)


Published by Beat magazine in March 2011

Until I started working with a few British people last year, the accent still seemed foreign to me. Now it’s become such a familiar part of every day that I can’t help but feel I’m talking to someone I know when Tom Binns answers the phone.

After a hectic Adelaide Fringe Festival schedule, Binns will be in Melbourne for the International Comedy Festival in March. His double bill is a mix of the old and new; the return of Ivan Brackenbury and the introduction of the new and creepy Ian D Montfort.

As Brackenbury, Binns plays a hospital radio DJ and eternal loser who effortlessly chooses the most cringe-worthy songs to play for sick patients. While Binns agrees that the DJ ‘tries to do the right thing, but does the wrong thing and makes it ten times worse’, it’s not as though real-life is any better. Binns recounts one story he heard, where a nurse in a hospital walked past a double-leg amputee with thyroid-affected, bulging eyes just as ‘Wide-eyed and legless’ (by Andy Fairweather Low) came on the radio. Stories like this made the peculiar British tradition of hospital radio a quarry Binns was happy to mine for comedy that hinges on the politically incorrect.

And while Brackenbury has appeared on Spicks and Specks and made comedy festival audiences cringe, Binns’ new addition to the line-up promises just as well for laughs. As Ian D Montfort, a psychic who talks to dead celebrities, Binns learnt the tricks of the trade to get a real feeling for the illusion of talking to dead celebrities. And he does the act ‘for real’, saying people will be amazed what Montfort knows about them and their pets (and what Hitler has to add on the subject). Binns points out that Montfort is not based on John Edwards, the television psychic famous for his ability to impart messages from dead relatives of audience members. He says Montfort is startlingly accurate but also a little creepy, as unpleasant and syrupy sweet as Brackenbury is needy and hopelessly inappropriate.

Binns seems to have a knack for cringe comedy, but it has sometimes come with a price tag, most noticeably when he was sacked by a British radio station after he junked the Queen on air. The kerfuffle started when Binns, a DJ at the time, interrupted the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast with ‘Two words: Bor-ing!’. To that he segued into a song by George Michael with the line ‘Going from one Queen to another’. It cost him his spot at Birmingham’s BRMB station. When I mention it he just laughs, adding he’s been sacked ‘20 times in 26 years’ and that, if anything, the experience has given him a thicker skin for taking the piss out of people. When I ask if it has made him more tentative above using character assassination for laughs, he says he quickly realised that the stage rather than radio was a better platform for that particular brand of comedy. Audiences seem to concur; among others, Binns has picked up an Edinburgh Comedy Award Nomination, Best Established Comedian Nominee at the Adelaide Fringe, and five-star reviews in Telegraph, Time Out, Fringe Review, and glowing feedback from The Guardian.

While audiences already know Brackenbury, the double-bill means they’ll also get an introduction to Ian D Montfort, a character that, Binns hopes, will ‘whack them over the head with something new’.

The Tom Binns Double Bill: Ian D Montfort and Ivan Brackenbury will be at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 30 March to 23 April 2011. More information on tickets and times is available at http://www.comedyfestival.com.au.

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One Comment

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  1. Keith Robertshaw / Mar 25 2011 7:25 PM

    Hiya Tom,

    All the best down under. Hope everything goes well. Next time you are around Liverpool / Chester would love to do another interview with you for my hospital radio programme. Do you still wear my badges?
    Best wishes
    Keith

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