ONE of comedy trio Foil, Arms and Hog’s weekly YouTube sketches features a Skype job interview gone wrong, writes Ellie O’Byrne.
At the end of the piece, where Hog plays the hapless interviewee, it is revealed that both interviewer and job applicant are dressed smartly from the waist up, but clad only in their boxer shorts from the waist down.
So it’s a little disconcerting when Conor McKenna (Arms), Seán Finegan (Foil) and Seán Flanagan’s (Hog) faces crowd into view on the laptop, Skyping from Flanagan’s Dublin apartment.
The trio, who met in college drama society and have performed together for eight years, are in the midst of a tour of their current show, SkiddlyWup. Their brand of comedy is high-energy and charmingly goofy, yet astute too; ‘The Ryanair Song’, one of their weekly Thursday YouTube videos, is funny because it features McKenna as a disgruntled air hostess, but also because it parodies passengers’ frustrations with the airline.
From Laurel and Hardy to Jay and Silent Bob, the comedy duo is a notable phenomenon; how does it work when three is the magic number? “We’re still trying to whittle it down to a duo to be honest, but I haven’t decided which of the Seáns I want to keep,” McKenna says. “Obviously as a duo the two Seáns sounds better— like the two Ronnies — so it’s a bit of an uphill struggle for me in that regard.”
“When we’re writing there’s usually a discussion,” Flanagan cuts in, on a slightly more serious note. “You trust the other two people and there’s always a majority with three. We have a motto, which is ‘funny first, think later’,which we try to stick to.”
Despite having numerous TV credits for shows like RTE’s The Savage Eye, their weekly YouTube video has become a cornerstone of their comedic currency, generating new audiences for their live shows.
“We’re doing our own channel with YouTube really,” McKenna says. “Comedians used to have to try to get on TV to get noticed but you can do it yourself now with a fraction of the cost and with no TV execs telling you what to do.”
Their willingness to embark of flights of fancy in pursuit of comedic goals seems very much in the whimsical Irish vein of Flann O’Brien or perhaps Spike Milligan; how do UK audiences relate to their humour?
Finegan says that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the perfect petri dish for shows like SkiddlyWup.
“By the end of Edinburgh if there’s anything being lost in translation you’ll know.
“Although we did have a sketch that mentioned sliced pan and we got halfway through the run before we realised that no one knew what that was; they imagined a frying pan cut into slices.”
Their stage names are nicknames, a relic of their college days. “I’m Foil,” Finegan says. “We were slagging each other about our stage performances and I was getting really annoyed because I was getting all the straight man roles and just setting up the jokes — I was just a foil for them.”
“I’m Arms because I was a very inexperienced stage actor and I was moving my arms around in all these crazy big gestures,” McKenna adds.
“And I’m Hog because I hog all the limelight,” Flanagan cuts in.
We never discuss what they’re wearing from the waist down.
Foil, Arms and Hog appear at City Limits in Cork on Friday and Saturday; and Civic Theatre, Tallaght on March 24
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