The Star of Kings in King’s Cross has been the perfect home for the madcap comedy of Cassie Atkinson and Neil Frost, who front the Spectacular Spectrum of Now. Gabriella Werre delves into their comedic minds
How did you two meet?
Cassie: We met through a mutual friend. I came to watch one of Neil’s gigs.
Neil: Yes, because you were looking for a host for Spectacular. So, Cassie originally ran this night on her own about what was it, two years ago?
Cassie: No way, maybe a year?
Neil: I am sure I did that gig two years ago.
Cassie: Maybe. Time flies doesn’t it?!
How’d you get the idea to generate this type of show?
Cassie: I’ve always been really inspired by the old variety shows. And I felt like there was nothing around like that at the moment, but more particularly I thought, what is the evolution of that? Like, what makes the old variety shows apt now? I thought multimedia. And also, from a comedy perspective, it’s such a creative medium and people choose to express themselves especially because we both do alternative comedy. People find ways to express themselves so imaginatively. I wanted it to be something that wasn’t just straight stand-up. There was so much going on at the moment, so many exciting things and that was my original inspiration.
Why did you want to bring in another person?
Cassie: It was a lot of work to do on my own especially because it was multimedia.
Neil: I think because we also have the same ideas as well.
Cassie: It’s quite good because we work in a yin and yang way. I’ll always be freaking out, ‘no one’s coming, no one’s coming!’ And Neil will be like, ‘It’ll be okay.’ He’s laid back and I’m a bit more uptight!
Neil: And then the night will come and I’ll be the one freaking out and Cassie will be the one who says, ‘it’s fine’!
Are there ever any differences when you’re working together?
Cassie: I don’t think so. I think we’re quite good at listening to each other. That’s one thing I really noticed, Neil will suggest things that I wouldn’t have ever noticed.
Neil: Then you’ll have an idea and we’ll base the show around that idea.
Cassie: Because we like to try and do something different every time. We have a lot of people that come back, and even though the acts change, I know a lot of comedians keep the same 10-15 minute set, but we don’t want to do the same thing over and over again because why would you come back? It’s really good for us as well because it pushes us to come up with new ideas and be better.
What is Spectacular Spectrum of Now all about?
Cassie: It’s alternative comedy.
Neil: We don’t have any traditional stand up people come up. A lot of it is character based – they come up and do these strange characters. A lot of clown acts, or sketch groups. Musical comedy. But nothing that’s kind of stand up. We get different acts on, every two months, and we host it. We host it in character, each time we do the show it’s a different character.
Cassie: We’ll try and make it an immersive experience. So, from the moment you walk through the doors and give your money one of us will be there in character. Straight away you have this experience of interacting with people. We’ll have an act and then a video and then an act and then a video. For a bit it was kind of like trial and error because sometimes the videos worked and sometimes they didn’t. It was harder to gel them all together, but we figured out if we could link the host within the videos. For example, it’ll be just a little snippet of the host doing something before the video, it ties everything together.
Neil: It makes it a bit different because at normal comedy nights they’ll just say, ‘welcome our first act’, but we have these characters come in that start the night and introduce everyone.
What does it take to get into character?
Neil: Get drunk!
Cassie: I don’t know, in some ways it comes from developing the set.
Neil: We’re a bit different on that because you do a lot of work, whereas I just kind of get up and panic and it all comes out.
Cassie: Yes, I can’t really do that. I have to have a couple of points even if I improvise around it. I have to have an A to B in my mind, whereas yeah Neil just goes up.
Neil: I kind of have an idea of the character and I get up and just find it there on stage.
How many acts are in each show?
Cassie: We book five different acts per night and have four videos. We try and start at 8, get the audience in, then we try and finish by 10:15 but it always finishes at half 10 because we generally say to the acts, if it’s going well don’t feel like you have to rush off the stage, enjoy it! And then if you feel like it’s going badly then just kind of ride with it, work on the audience interaction. You can’t time it.
Neil: There’s a lot of interaction with the audience. It’s not like stand up where they are in your face asking, ‘where are you from?’ and taking the mickey out of that. Especially if they’re characters, they interact with the crowd as characters.’
What’s it like performing at The Star of King’s?
Neil: This is a nice space. It’s like a little dungeon. A lot of comedy nights in London, the smaller scale ones, are in pubs and rooms and aren’t very nice sometimes, and that kind of adds to that awkward feeling, but this is a nice space.
What are audiences like here?
Cassie: Incredible. They love getting involved! Last time, someone took off their bra and threw it at the stage!
Find out more at facebook.com/spectacularspectrumofnow – their next show is scheduled for 21st January 2015