ED2017 Chris Meets ED2017 Comedy ED2017 Interviews

Next Best Thing: How To Be Good At Everything

By | Published on Wednesday 5 July 2017

Next Best Thing are sketch comedy duo Jay Bennett and Katie Davison. And they really are a sketch comedy duo. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Especially Next Best Thing.
In their Pleasance show this August they are promising to tell you ‘How To Be Good At Everything’. Everything! It sounded like there was lots to talk about, so I threw some questions in their general direction.

CC: How did you guys start working together?
K: We made our stage debut together in 1995. In a dance show at age four. Looking back, we were destined for stardom from a young age.
J: I played a pig.
K: We were staging a piece called ‘Down On The Farm’. I made my opinion very clear at the time that I thought the whole concept was rather twee and a tad obvious, but as is always the case – no one listened to the pre-schooler.
J: I did a cartwheel and kicked one of the other pigs in the bum.

CC: How would you describe your style of sketch comedy?
K: Sketch comedy? We’re knowledgeologists and life haxperts, not comedians. But if we had to describe our style of teaching it would be clear, concise and –
J: Sexy.
K: No, not sexy. You can expect two geniuses to give you great advice on how to make your life better. Sure, you might laugh, you may even fall in love –
J: I can be very persuasive.
K: But ultimately, it’s a straightforward show –
J: With no disasters.
K: Why’ve you said that? Now they’re going to expect everything to go wrong.
J: Nothing will go wrong.

CC: You’ve both done plenty of improv, does that make it hard to stick to the script?
K: I don’t think so. Yes, we’ve trained in five levels of improvisation with various schools and trainers, performed all over London, at the Edinburgh Fringe and in New York, but that was CPD – that just means Career Person Developing – to help us in our real work, which is delivering knowledge to the people.
J: I think improv is awful. They’ve got no idea what they’re doing. But I guess that means you can hit on the audience members and no one will know it’s not the script…

CC: What can we expect from ‘How To Be Good At Everything’?
K: What it says on the tin: a one-hour spectacuganza where you learn how to be good at everything. Therefore, it is imperative that audience members arrive at the show switched on and ready to learn. Notepads, pens, but no mobile telephones because we know you’re just texting your Mum. There’s a lot to cover – we really are teaching you everything – and we won’t slow down if you’re too stupid to take it in.
J: Will you slow down for me?
K: You know how to be good at everything!

CC: And you’ll definitely cover everything?
K: Look, Sheila – can I call you Sheila? I’ve just said it’s everything. We have one hour, and in that hour, we really squeeze out every morsel of teaching, training, lecturing and workshopping that an audience can take; covering topics they know, topics they don’t, abstract ideas, intangible ideas, ideas for how to use fuzzy felt to brighten up a school backpack – we’ve got it all, and I simply do not have the time to list everything we’re going to cover, Sheila.
J: Katie gets really defensive because she’s been single for eight years.

CC: People can check you out pre-Fringe via the online videos. Why did you start making those?
J: Katie made me.
K: That’s a great question. So I’ll give a great answer. We began filming the videos every Saturday morning because we saw a gap in the market – that just means no one else was clever enough to think of the idea – and we thought we’d fill it. Nobody out there, anywhere, was helping people to turn their lives around using simple knowledge, broadcast onto YouTube. We post the videos every Wednesday because it gives people enough time to really go away, absorb the information, and prepare themselves for another dose of practical life tips a week later.
J: I miss my lie-ins.

CC: How do the videos compare to the live show?
K: Sheila – that’s like asking me to compare the Mona Lisa and another piece of art – they’re both pieces of art! The videos and the live shows, I mean, but the same applies for the art.
J: I prefer the shows because we get to go outside Katie’s bedroom and meet cool guys. Katie gets really shrill when we do the videos and her room is too small for it.
K: If I had to say, which I feel like you’re making me do, the videos offer a pithy insight into the knowledge zeitgeist – I think I’m using that word correctly. In that, if the weather’s hot, we’ll teach you how to stay cool; if it’s Mothers’ day, we’ll teach you how to arrange flowers…
J: Or if you’ve got a double ended dildo, we’ll show you how to use it to indicate the countries across the globe.
K: Or – Jay’s right, you can watch our video on how to decorate your bedroom…

CC: Why did you decide to bring the show to Edinburgh?
K: In many ways, I don’t think we did decide to bring the show to Edinburgh. I think the show decided to bring Edinburgh to us.
J: No – we applied to the Pleasance, then you panicked and made us send a begging video to the man who programmes all the shows.
K: You’re welcome.

CC: A full Fringe run is famously hard work. How are you preparing?
J: Oh, WHAT?!
K: Jay – I think I’ll handle this question. Sheila, as the old saying goes, you can bring a show to Edinburgh but you can’t make it drink.
J: We’re going to drink!
K: NO! No drinking, unless it’s coconut water or berocca. What you’ve got to remember is that Jay and I are not afraid of hard work.
J: Or ghosts.

CC: Who are your sketch comedy heroes?
K: Again, with the sketch comedy, Sheila – you’re obsessed! Our heroes include Tony Robbins, Paul McKenna and Gwyneth Paltrow. Particularly Gwyn, because she showed that absolutely anyone can rise up out of obscurity and become an authority on how to live your life.
J: My sketch comedy heroes are The Beta Males, Max And Ivan and Lazy Susan.
K: Ssh now, Jay.

CC: Are there any sketch comedy groups you’re hoping to check out while at the Fringe?
K: I guess we have to, now you’ve gone on about sketch comedy so much! We’ve heard the Thunderbards are brilliant, so if you want to be good at picking shows at the Edinburgh Fringe you should go see them. Same goes for Sam & Tom – you can’t miss them because in their poster they have tongues for eyes.
J: We’re also looking forward to seeing Kat Bond. Her show is called ‘Loo Roll’ and that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a show.

CC: And finally back to the improv. Are there any improv shows you’re hoping to check out while in Edinburgh? Will you be doing any improv-like things yourselves?
K: We owe a lot to improv; our winning off-the-cuff charm for one thing. We’ll definitely see the Free Association’s ‘Jacuzzi’ and ‘The Committee’.
J: Yeah, there’s a load of sexy people in both those shows. I’m up for it.
K: Unfortunately, we won’t be doing any improv ourselves this year. But come up and speak to us after the show, and we’ll totally chat to you unscripted.

‘How To Be Good At Everything’ was performed at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2017.