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British TV Interview

'Britain Unzipped' Russell Kane Q&A: 'The geeks are ruling the earth'

By and Jamie Wotton
Russel Kane arriving for the 2012 NTA Awards

© PA Images / Ian West/PA Wire

Stand-up extraordinaire Russell Kane continues to uncover the quirks and foibles of the general public in BBC Three's new survey show Britain Unzipped, in which he stars alongside 'nerdy mate' Greg James.

Speaking to Digital Spy ahead of the programme's latest episode, Kane spoke of his own potentially career-ending secrets, shared his thoughts on a Cheryl Cole Geordie Shore cameo, and addressed the subject of controversial comedy.

What first attracted you to Britain Unzipped?
"Well I heard the word 'statistics', and was like, 'The next page better be good', and the next page I saw Greg James's name was on it and was like, 'Please God, let this get commissioned. It'll be such a laugh'.

"I realised, straight away, it was giving me permission to have free reign and just be myself. And it was basically me doing my stuff with Greg, being like two teenage boys. People will realise I don't just have to be doing stand-up. I actually just love people. I'm obsessed with talking to people, looking into them and learning about them. So that's why I did it."

So Greg being on the show was a big part of it then? Did you need to give him any guidance or tips about being on camera?
"Well, I've not done that much straight presenting, down the autocue or anything. We sort of held each other up a bit. He is obviously much better at hitting the links and sounding much better and presenting stuff because he presents every day.

"We gave each other skills. I'm good with rolling with the live audience. I brought out the anarchic side in him and he's bought out the silly side in me. We work together well. You wouldn't put us together on paper necessarily."

Greg James and Russell Kane - Britain Unzipped, BBC Three

© BBC/Talkback/Dave King



Yeah, it's kind of an odd pairing.
"It's kind of like two friends from school who hang out in a corner. They are never gonna get girlfriends or friends so they are just thrown together."

You're selling yourself short, I think.
"That's what I was like at school! That's exactly what I was like! The geeks are taking over the earth, there's no shame in that anymore."

Britain Unzipped is about celebrating the weird and wonderful things about the British public. You are known for being quite eccentric - did you ever feel like you paled in comparison to some people?
"Well, actually, I gotta be honest, there's no way I'm gonna give my survey results out. When I was going through it, I was like, 'If this is ever leaked to the press I'll be in serous trouble'. A lot of the really weird questions I had to go right to the end of. So, no I don't.

"There's supposed to only be three people who look at the results, but I get the impression that more than that have seen them. Might be why people on the team are avoiding me. It's either that or my lecherous behaviour."

You have spoken candidly in the past, particularly about your romantic life. Do you feel like you're quite an open person?
"I don't actually. I'm quite private. I don't dry my laundry out in public and all that. All of my most personal stuff is in my stand-up, and everything falls away there to get a laugh. I'm much funnier when it's just myself, when you hear something about my dad that is just so painfully true, or when it's some girl I broke up with, it's just so f**king funny.

"I think that's all it is. It's not that I've got some need to overshare - I just know that's where the laughs are. And I'm not autobiographical like some of the other celebrities, like, 'Hear why I'm brilliant! Listen to my great sex life!' I'm the opposite. I have a bad sex life, I make a poor celebrity. That's what British people identify with. The underdogs."

Greg James and Russell Kane - Britain Unzipped, BBC Three

© BBC/Talkback/Dave King



Has the show inspired some of your comedy? Do you think there are jokes to be made of what you've learnt?
"Maybe, yeah. It does sometimes happen when I'm on a TV show. If I didn't use something in the studio, I think, 'That could be a bigger routine on stage'. If I'm doing a link, I'll get a line of stand-up in. Maybe I can get half a sentence into an interview."

What kind of programme format do you think your comedy best lends itself to?
"My actual comedy lends itself to stand-up. I'm one of those stand-ups, as you can hear now, that is the same off-stage as on. You can just put me in a seat on The Apprentice: Your Fired and I'll just be me.

"As long as I'm just chatting away being me around people I like, I like to think I'm not really doing a job. I'm doing what I would be doing around the office or with my family, but there's a camera there."

So you weren't ever determined to get on TV then?
"No, not ever. I was one of those introverted quiet types, but whenever the camera switches on, I'm quite the opposite. I'm the same in ASDA as I am on BBC3."

Would you ever follow Greg on to Radio 1?
"F**king hell, God yeah! I think I'll just end up being a bit too talky. Maybe I'll just wait ten years and go straight to Radio 2. Yeah, yeah, I'd enjoy it. Alan Carr went straight to Radio 2, didn't he?

"The type of show I'd present on Radio 1, I'd be doing too much talking. Radio 1 is about the music. This is what I like about Greg's show. The talking is good, but the music is flipping awesome too as you're coming home from work. Maybe we can make that a regular feature. Russell drop-in."

Greg James and Russell Kane - Britain Unzipped, BBC Three

© BBC/Talkback/Dave King



You're not really known for being a controversial comedian, but there have been a few jokes that haven't gone down well. Do you think people take comedy too seriously nowadays?
"My rule is, as long as people are laughing and no-one has got a hurt face, you're probably doing okay. The problem is when you're on TV and you have an audience as well as everyone at home, then the rules are different. You've performed under one set of rules - theatre rules - and it's gone out under a different set of rules - TV rules. You're in the hands of producers and editors, there's nothing I can do about that.

"You can run on stage, say the 'c word', and it's up to the editor to see whether it's appropriate for people's lounges. It's happened so few times that I've actually f**ked someone off that I don't really worry about it. There are ways to discuss race, discuss religion, everything, but there are ways to do it where you don't leave people feeling like they are victimised. They should be laughing along too."

You've hosted the Geordie Shore reunion too. What do you think about the news that Cheryl Cole is a fan and wants to cameo?
"I didn't know that. I didn't know that at all. That'd be f**king awesome. I'm well behind that. I think it'd be absolutely awesome. She can come on the reunion show. Is she still single? I'll take her out for a Nando's, no problem."

You also host I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here Now! - would you ever appear on a reality show yourself?
"No, not at the moment. I am an analyser. I'm the one looking on, picking apart and presenting. I think that part of my career has at least 20 years in it yet. And if it doesn't, never say never. I don't have that comedian snobbery. I just wanna work. At the moment I like just making the shows I'm making."

Britain Unzipped airs Tuesdays at 9pm on BBC Three.

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