Sounds From The Other City

April 30, 2015

Interview with Ben Tonge of Sham Bodie

Among the many delights on offer at Sounds From The Other City this year is the Sham Bodie stage. Andy Tymms caught up with Ben Tonge from Sham Bodie to find out more.

I thought that SFTOC was a music festival. Wait…there’s funny stuff as well?!

Yeah, there’s two Sham Bodie shows back to back, with a break in between: five hours of Sham Bodie.

Sham Bodie: what on earth is that?!

It’s a variety adventure. Stand up comedy is at the heart of it, but music’s always been an essential element. We also have loads of audience participation and games. There’s always crazy interaction. Last month, we had an Easter egg and spoon race; on Sunday, we’re gonna have a sound effects game and a fake photo shoot game.

Intriguing. It all sounds like the best children’s party we’ve never been to! Is there jelly and ice cream too?

Sadly not, but we do make hot dogs for the audience.

Hot dogs?!

Yeah. We cook them on a camping stove at the side of the stage and then divvy them out at half time. The winners of the games get to put the ketchup and mustard on people’s hot dogs.

Amazing! So, where is all this madness happening?

It’s in the back room of the New Oxford pub on Bexley Square.

The New Oxford isn’t the biggest pub in the world – are you going to be able to fit everyone in?

I’m hoping that we’ll have that lovely dilemma of “there’s too many people – how are we gonna get them all in?” That would be a nice problem to have.

When does it start?

We kick off at 5 with the first show, then come back on at 8 after a half hour break.

It’s quite a small capacity – am I going to need to get there early?

Getting there early is a good idea but if we can fit you in, we will. I’m not a fire marshal, so I can’t speak for the rules!

What time are you on ‘til?

We’re on ‘til 11 but the New Oxford has just been given a licence ‘til Midnight, which gives us a licence to carry on dicking around, which is dangerous. Barbara Nice is closing it down…let’s see what happens…

Ah yes, Mrs Barbara Nice – everyone’s favourite housewife. Last time I saw her she was leading a conga line out of the King’s Arms, singing The Bare Necessities. What can we expect from her this time?

I couldn’t possibly predict. She’s fantastically bonkers. For people who’ve seen her before, it’s fair to say, don’t expect anything from her because you’ll be pleasantly disappointed. I don’t think you can predict anything she’ll do. She’ll be on at 11, so it’ll be one for the drinkers.

Who else is playing this year?

We’ve got stand up from Will Setchell, Tony Basnett and Sean Morley, and sketch comedy from Quippodrome and Sam and Tom. We try to mix it up and blend the different styles of comedy. Talent wise, I’d say it’s a 9 out of 10.

Some of those names don’t mean anything to me I’m afraid, but then SFTOC is all about discovering the next big thing. Are we going to be watching the stars of tomorrow?

Will Setchell is definitely one to watch and Tony Basnett runs and MCs at Trapdoor Comedy’s gigs – they’re good boys, I expect they’ll do well.

Sean Morley is one of the cleverest comics I’ve ever seen. He’s able to get on stage and just go with whatever comes out of his or the audience’s mouth.

Quippodrome – there’s four of them, they’re definitely gonna get somewhere, and Sam and Tom are a hilariously crazy duo – they’re gonna be big.

If I didn’t already have a ticket for Sunday, I’d be furious with myself by now! Did you say that there’s music too?

Yeah. Pins are playing an acoustic set for us in the first show, and I’m a huge fan of Brown Brogues, who are on in the second show – this will be the second time they’ve played Sham Bodie. I think they’ll be acoustic too. I’m hoping that they strip it back even more and don’t bring their drums on Sunday and they have to bang on pans from the kitchen!

So, for those of us who haven’t experienced a Sham Bodie show before, could you give us a taster?

We’ve got a promo video. Brown Brogues and Pins have recorded a song for us called Come To Salford but we’ve got Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan singing it! I hope that will get people to come and see what sort of idiots are responsible for that sort of promo.

Is The New Oxford going to know what’s hit it?

No, they’re in for a funny afternoon. If the weather’s nice and people are having a few ciders, our line up will definitely keep that energy up. It’s going to be fairly ramshackle – anything could go on the day. Let’s hope they’ve got enough booze!

You’re hosting the show – will you be staying sober?

I can’t decide whether it’s funnier to stay sober or not. I would say almost certainly not. It’s Bank Holiday Sunday, the atmosphere’s gonna be great and we’re in a pub…

Are you expecting any stage invasions?

Oh, undoubtedly- whether it’s up to the audience to invade the stage or for the acts to go into the audience, it’ll be a nice meeting of body and mind between act and audience. It’ll be a room full of people and you won’t quite know who’s doing what!

Are you prepared for the hecklers? What’s been your worst heckle?

Yeah. My Mum has started coming to Sham Bodie shows. When I’m telling a story on stage, my Mum shouts out: “THAT’S NOT TRUE!”

What made you want to do comedy?

Probably watching Vic and Bob and thinking how much fun they have – being stupid and getting paid for it! I think it’s probably their fault. TFI Friday was very much the reason I wanted to start Sham Bodie – that was what I wanted the show to be like.

As a comedian, have you died many deaths on stage? What’s been your worst gig?

Yes. I won Beat The Frog [weekly open mic competition at the Frog and Bucket] on my first go with my character Batmanc. I thought: “this is easy, I can do this.” I was invited back to do my first eight minutes. I had pre-recorded myself being an Australian down the ‘phone. Phil Ellis compering introduced me as the first comic. I came on with my own ‘phone and held it into the mic. The crux of it was: through the ether, this ‘phone call had come in to me and it was me having a conversation with myself. By the end of it, I was playing Dreams by Gabrielle out of my bum into my ‘phone. The crowd didn’t get it. It was pretty silent. It was my first venture into playing Dreams by Gabrielle out of my bum and it wasn’t great. I came off pretty crushed. Playing Gabrielle out of my bum is funny, so maybe I didn’t deliver it properly!

Is comedy “the hardest game in the world”?!

No, squash is. No, golf. No! Snooker – controlling the cue ball is one of the hardest things on planet earth. Being a doctor of tropical diseases is pretty tough too. I’d rather host a variety show.

And of course, Sham Bodie is for life, not just for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Quite right. We’ve just finished a run of nights at Kraak in the Northern Quarter. We’ve got a Summer party on 4th July – we’re gonna try and do it outdoors. We don’t know the line up or the venue yet but it’s a Saturday and Independence Day – God knows what could happen!

And you’ve got a radio show too, haven’t you?

Yeah, the Sham Bodie Radio Show on Fab Radio International, Tuesday nights from 10 ‘til 12. Tuesday night is comedy night. Nina Gilligan, Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-Mclean have also got shows, so it’s really exciting.
So, in conclusion then, why should anyone take a break from watching bands to come and check out Sham Bodie?
Any good pub crawl (pub = band) needs a shot of rum thrown in about half way through. Once the rum (rum = Sham Bodie) comes out, you never know what could happen! There will be hot dogs, audience games, brilliant stand up and wonderful bands. If the weather’s good, I think it will be amazing!

Sham Bodie is on at The New Oxford, Bexley Square, Salford from 5-11pm on Sunday 3rd May 2015, as part of the 11th Sounds From The Other City Festival, which is taking place at venues across Chapel Street in Salford. Limited tickets are still available from Piccadilly Records, the Kings Arms and via this website.

The Sham Bodie Radio Show is on Fab Radio International every Tuesday night 10-12. Listen online at