Live At The Moth Club | Interview with Dustin Demri-Burns (Cardinal Burns)

How would you describe Live at the Moth Club?

In essence, Live at the Moth Club sets out to capture what a night at a real alternative comedy club night is like at a working man’s club in the middle of Hackney, while weaving in narratives of what’s happening backstage.

The show is anarchic and experimental, more in line with Vic and Bob’s old nights, making this the naughty older brother to the more sanitised version of live comedy in huge venues which we see so often on TV. This is more of an immersive experience, like Punchdrunk Theatre performing comedy.

How did the idea for the show first arise?

Rupert Majendie’s Knock2Bag nights at the Moth Club have been running for years and have always been a testbed for up and coming comedians; he’s always been brilliant at championing new comedy and has a great radar for what works. With our own night he’d say, “I’ve booked some new guy” and five years later they’re winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award, like Sam Campbell.

Rupert’s been talking about this concept for a long time. He’s achieved this sense of stepping into the club and being a fly-on-the-wall by marrying the live performances with a mockumentary angle, which is clever because it adds a sitcom layer on top. To capture the energy of a live comedy night is really hard but Ed Tucker, the brilliant director of photography, has an amazing CV of comedy languages and styles, so he was the right person to marry the two.

The way the action cuts to the audience and scripted characters in the crowd is an ambitious and intelligent way to place the viewers in the trenches with the audience. Dave has given Rupert a great space which does justice to the live format he’d created.

What are the show’s inspirations?

I don’t think I’ve seen a real comedy night captured on screen – there was Phoenix Nights, and there are elements of that, and there are shades of Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out

When we had our Cardinal Burns residency at the Moth Club we would be really loose and so many of the acts would use the night to try out material. What’s so good about Rupert is that he encourages risk-taking over playing it safe. He’s just a comedy fan.

What version of you are you in the show?

I don’t know – there are so many. It’s a weird one. As Cardinal Burns we’ve always hidden behind multiple characters and in this we didn’t settle on one version of ourselves. We chose to be weird.

Many of you in the core cast work together regularly – how did you all meet?

The friendship has grown organically from all being on the circuit over the last 10 to 15 years. When Seb and I started out we were friendly with people like Colin Hoult, Fergus Craig, Katy Wix, Dan Skinner, and Marek Larwood, who were in sketch nights with us over a decade ago. As we started our telly work, Jamie, Tash, and Ellie started to gig and perform at Edinburgh.

We’d head up to Edinburgh for our glory runs and visit these upstart shows, and say, “Yeah, good luck, guys.” Then they began writing a bit on our shows, and those three became regulars at our night at the Moth Club, too. After that people like Jamie started getting a bit too big for their boots, but luckily he cast me in Stath Lets Flats. I was quite happy with that. Arnab [Chanda] is a good friend who used to perform stand-up and he’s come back to be in this, too.

Mark Heap is in the cast, too…

I’ve worked with Mark on a couple of things and we spent a lot of time voicing a kids’ animation called Digby Dragon, where we played woodland elves and gnomes. I got to know him by sitting in a sweaty studio with him. He’s unique – it’s guaranteed he’ll produce something special.

How exciting was it to be able to include signature extravagant Cardinal Burns sketches?

It was a nice chance for me and Seb to dip back into sketch work again. We’ve never completely stopped, but family and filming other work means you’re not regularly creating together.

We started writing and this gave us a platform to make more Inzane [a spoof action thriller] and perform solo spots as live characters in the Moth Club. It’s been great to do it again. I hadn’t done a live sketch for about three years, and I absolutely loved performing again. It was incredible.

The atmosphere was amazing, but that’s the Moth – it’s home to incomparable live nights which you won’t find anywhere else.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.