Twenty questions for Norfolk’s Nimmo Twins as they celebrate 20 years
12:27 24 November 2015
Tickets go on sale today for the show which marks 20 years of mirth and mayhem from Norfolk’s Nimmo Twins. As the duo (plus ‘silent twin’ Nigel) prepare for next summer’s 20-year celebration at Norwich Theatre Royal, STACIA BRIGGS put 20 questions to the show’s writer, Karl Minns.
Twenty questions to mark 20 years of The Nimmo Twins:
1) Do you have an all-time favourite sketch? What is it and why?
The Fifty Shades of Grey story that She Go read last year. I’ve never heard laughter like that. The script was barely a page and a half but on certain nights, it took close to fifteen minutes to get through. It took ages to write, but I’d go out every single night knowing it was going to land, even with a tough audience. For me, it was a culmination of everything we’d ever done.
2) Why do you think The Nimmo Twins have such enduring appeal?
You’d have to ask the audience, really. But if I’m going to slip out of my modesty thong and put on my yes-we’re-brilliant, figure-hugging control-pants for a second, I’d say that the show has been consistently funny, it’s affectionate, it’s something that the audiences can relate to, it’s exclusive to them and I believe that most folks come away having had a fine night out.
3) Do you think people in Norwich and Norfolk like to laugh about themselves?
I think our audience do. But I think the Norfolk character is, by and large, quite defensive about self-ridicule. I’ve found that when people laugh at certain characters or attitudes that we portray, they’ll never say: ‘Oh, that’s me’. It’s always a mate of theirs or a member of their family. Women tend to relate to She Go a lot. I’ll do jokes and you can see them nodding and laughing, especially if it’s about Norfolk men or lack of bladder control.
4) Can you give us a sneak preview of anything which will be in the 20th anniversary show?
At the moment, there’s about 25 minutes of material in some shape or other. The new IKEA certainly gets a mention. I’ve explored the world of Norfolk’s nudist beaches for the first time. The rise of Ipswich Extremists, UKIP, second home owners, Alex Neil, the Tour of Britain disaster. There’ll also be a few sketches dotted about from our twenty-year history, rewritten and revised. I’ve been going through scripts that are like parchment and discovering bits that haven’t seen the light of day since the late 90s.
5) What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you about a Nimmo Twins’ show?
It’s always great when someone says ‘I haven’t laughed like that in years’. All compliments are nice, but to be honest, it’s looking out and seeing people crying with laughter, or rocking in their seats. That’s worth more than anything that might be written or said. It’s a joyous feeling knowing that something you jotted down at your desk over a cup of tea and a biscuit, can have such an impact.
6) What were you like when you were 20?
I was unemployed, poor, starving, living in a bedsit in Great Yarmouth and had long back-combed hair. I dreamed about being the bass player for The Cure. There were joss sticks, tie-dyed throws and existential ennui. Apart from the hair, little has changed.
7) Are you actually twins?
Yes, we are. Identical. The only way you can tell us apart is that Owen has a small mole in his back garden.
8) Sum up why you love Norfolk in 20 words.
Norwich City, big skies, Nimmo audiences, Stephen Fry, Saxlingham Nethergate, my friends, that accent, Norwich Market, North Norfolk, mushy peas.
9) Why are you, Owen and Nigel such a good team?
The three of us – myself, Owen and Nigel - couldn’t be more different as people, but it really works when it comes to the chemistry needed to create the show. We each bring something that the other can’t and we all want the shows to be perfect. The boys are absolutely irreplaceable, and I should know, because I advertise for new people every year.
10) Do you ever find yourself lapsing into a Nimmo Twins character in real life?
Frequently. She Go, I use a fair bit. She actually has two voices: her posh, Norfolk telephone-voice where she really stresses consonants in words and her really whiny voice which is like a band-saw going through Spam. Both are equally annoying and I use them in very inappropriate circumstances. There’s a particular guttural, moody Norfolk bloke that I use a lot as well. He ‘doesn’t know’ anything and is aggressive and confused most of the time. It’s me, basically. He morphed into the character Hauswerk from the last show: Aylsham’s answer to Kraftwerk. The way he speaks is like a Friesian cow chewing on Brillo pads. I enjoy doing that.
11) What is your favourite Norfolk word or saying?
There’s a few: The word ‘titivating’ I remember hearing as a child and liking. ‘Hold you hard’ works in so many situations.
12) Who is your favourite character from the show, and why?
I enjoy performing She Go, but writing her has got harder and harder, because I feel like I’ve pretty much exhausted her ‘lifestyle choices’. I love Billy Boy: I could write and perform him all day. The terrible wounding, the mental damage that he can’t hide, the lack of choice he has to perform and yet, he’s so terrible at it. It’s probably the closest character to me. I’ve barely scratched the surface about how dark his life is. Vern Gurney, council leader, is always a joy. I also loved Keith Onnatroshin, the unintelligible Broad Norfolk speaker from last year. I think he’ll be back.
13) Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with for 20 minutes, and why?
Well, a lift technician would be ideal. I’m tempted to say Scarlett Johansson, but actually, that would just be really awkward and mortifying. “I loved you in Under the Skin” “You mean when I was naked?” “Er…yes”. Stephen Fry and Peter Ustinov would be great. Also, I’d get God in there, so I could ask him why he paused halfway through my creation and decided to make a ladder instead.
14) How will you be marking the Nimmo Twins’ 20th anniversary?
Apart from doing the show, I don’t know. I’m sure drink will be had at some point. I’m hoping Norfolk will pronounce the weekend of the shows a public holiday. I think perhaps a retina-scalding firework display and then a large street parade with myself, Owen and Nigel carried on sedan chairs through the city. Failing that, a pale ale and a slap-up fish supper at the Grosvenor Fish Bar.
15) How do you go about writing new sketches?
Often they start with me putting the word ‘Norfolk’ in front of a concept and seeing what it spawns. The Norfolk Karma Sutra sketch from last year started off as exactly that. It’s a good rule of thumb that if you can think of five funny ideas in the first splurge of writing notes, there’s usually a lot jokes more to be mined with a bit more thought. I collate the news throughout the year and some of the stories immediately suggest jump-off points and angles. The opening of a new IKEA is one example. What would Norfolk people think about that? The angles are: it’s foreign, it’s trendy, you have to put the stuff together yourself, you get meatballs. All those are things that a Norfolk mindset can rub against and create jokes.
16) Do you think the Nimmo Twins would have worked in a different part of the country?
Not literally, no. I’m guessing that jokes about Norfolk County Council would simply baffle and enrage the people of say, Exeter. But you could certainly have a similar show in the right sized town/city, where there are enough shared references: a Normal for Grimsby, for example. In fact, I’d pay to see that. I had a lot of friends from London see the show last year and they all laughed. I think the jokes are universal, even if the references aren’t.
17) If you could choose anyone, alive or dead, to guest star in a Nimmo Twins show, who would it be?
Ronnie Barker would be incredible. I was too young for Python first time round, so for me, The Two Ronnies were Gods. The fact that Barker was performing Arkwright in Open All Hours and Fletcher in Porridge at the same time and that they’re both totally unique and totally realised characters is astonishing. I was lucky enough to meet him a few years before he died and have a chat with him. His autographed photo looks down at my writing desk. Leonard Rossiter would be great too. Spike Milligan would also be amazing, but you’d go off-piste a great deal.
18) Which is the Nimmo Twin sketch that people ask you to perform the most?
I think Puppet Man has had the greatest longevity. I wrote it ten years ago and it still gets a big reaction. Newmarket Road Blues always lands as well. To be honest, people usually just want me to do She Go’s voice.
19) Where is your favourite place in Norfolk? North Norfolk is beautiful isn’t it?
The coast, those big beaches and skies. Failing that, either the bar at Norwich Playhouse or The Theatre Royal about half an hour after we’ve done a show. There is no better feeling and therefore, no better place.
20) How would you describe the Nimmo Twins’ shows to someone from outside the county?
It’s two men, who really should be old enough to know better, laughing at the place they grew up in and making other people who grew up in the same place laugh as well. One is bald, the other’s not. Plus, the lovely Nigel on sound and lights.
•The Nimmo Twins: The Country Members Normal For Norfolk 20th Anniversary Show will be at Norwich Theatre Royal from August 10 to 13. Tickets cost from £7 to £18 and are on sale today to Gold Friend members and the Corporate Club and online to Friends from tomorrow at 9.30am. From Monday, Friends can book in person and by telephone and tickets go on sale to the public by post, fax and online on December 8 and then on December 14 in person and by phone. For more details, contact the Box Office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.
•Grab another chance to see Karl Minns’ sell-out solo show Raining Diamonds, which premiered at Norwich Playhouse in April when it revisits the St George’s Street venue on Friday December 18 and Saturday December 19 at 8pm. A funny, tender and surreal show suitable for audiences aged 16 and over, tickets for the 90-minute show cost £15. Call 01603 598598 or visit www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk for details.
•And Owen Evans will be delighting local audiences when he takes on the role of Bottom in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Play for the Nation at Norwich Theatre Royal from April 26 to 30. For more details, contact the Box Office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.