Caro Meets Comedy Interview Music Interview

Alex Horne: The Horne Section

By | Published on Friday 14 October 2016


We’ve known and loved The Horne Section for quite a long time now, as you might possibly expect, given that they, like Team TW, are Edinburgh Festival regulars. Having witnessed their live work, it’s been great to hear them on the radio and see them on TV as the years have passed.
Next week, they’re having a special celebration at Shoreditch Town Hall, so it seemed a very good excuse to have a chat with Mr Alex Horne himself, about The Horne Section, his TV show ‘Taskmaster’, and his appearances on Countdown and Mastermind…

CM: Just in case there is anyone reading that doesn’t know what happens at a Horne Section show, can you explain?
AH: Of course. It’s like a normal stand up show except there’s a five piece band at the back providing backing music to the jokes and occasionally there are full songs, dances and boardgames. Equally, it’s like a normal music gig except there’s a comedian at the front providing jokes to go with the music and there are full routines, costume changes and five actual jokes.

CM: It’s been going for a few years now, hasn’t it? When did it begin and how did it all come together?
AH: In February, about seven years ago, my two best friends from primary school and I booked a room for 8 days at the Edinburgh festival. We then had to fill those shows with something. They were jazz musicians, I was a stand up and we were all bumbling along. In the next few months we desperately scrabbled together four other musicians and a handful of guest comedians, as well as two very silly songs and those 8 shows were more fun than any of us had ever had before. There’s still a lot of scrabbling today and we’re still having as much fun as back then.

CM: What made you think a combination of jazz and comedy would work well?
AH: For me, it’s more a combination of a comedian who says he doesn’t like jazz and five jazz musicians who say they don’t like that comedian’s jokes, and the tension that comes from that ridiculous situation. If you take anything too seriously you ruin it. I really just enjoy the chance to muck about with five outlandishly talented musicians.

CM: You’ve had a number of sell out runs with the show, and it’s been on Radio 4 as well, of course – what makes you keep going? Is it something you see yourselves doing forever?
AH: We enjoy the live shows more than anything else. Television and radio can be a lot of fun but their main benefit is that they allow us to do more tours and more play to more people. I’m sure we’ll carry on as long as our wives let us.

CM: The upcoming show at Shoreditch Town Hall is described as a “special celebration night” – what’s special about it?
AH: As well as seven years together, we are celebrating the release/return of the poet and our long-time collaborator Tim Key, from five months in Asia. He’s been out there filming something or something like that (it all sounded very vague), so we’ve put on this big night of greatest hits and brand new chaos to basically give us an excuse for a fun night out.

CM: You seem to have a special connection to Countdown (yes, I’m on Wikipedia). Are you a regular watcher?
AH: I definitely was, with my mum, for many many years. I then appeared as an actual contestant on the proper programme about ten years ago. And now we’re often in Dictionary Corner in the comedy version. It’s genuinely a dream come true (although, not genuinely in the sense of ever having had that specific dream when I was younger). And yes, I still watch it with my kids nowadays. It is the best.

CM: Ooh, you were on Celebrity Mastermind too. Did you study hard in advance?
AH: I thought tactically and chose my hero, Ken Dodd, as my specialist subject. Not only is he a brilliant comedian but he also hasn’t left the country much or done anything other than his marathon shows so there wasn’t an awful lot to learn about him compared to, say, the Tudors. Also, for the general knowledge round I read all of Wikipedia.

CM: I remember you doing ‘Taskmaster’ shows at the Edinburgh Festival, but now it’s on the telly. How did it make its way from stage to screen? What gave you the idea for it?
AH: It’s a bit of a mystery how anything ends up on telly. There has to be a lot of luck involving being in the right place at the right time with the right people. It was never a TV idea – I simply came up with the idea of giving comedians silly things to do to make an Edinburgh festival more fun back in 2009. Thankfully it turns out that comics are incredibly competitive and often idiotic people and that is a great formula for a TV show.

CM: Which is best, though, TV or live performance?
AH: I’m afraid that depends. I’d always encourage people to see stand up and music live. There’s nothing like it for a night out. But a great telly show is wonderful too, especially if you watch it with friends and family. So, basically, come to our show in Shoreditch, then watch Taskmaster on telly the following week. You won’t regret either.

CM: Your books get really nice reviews on Amazon (yes, I’m on Amazon). Are you going to write any more?
AH: I’d love to but there are no current plans. I’ve started a science fiction novel and sketched out a kids story but right now I have to devise more things for comedians to do with eggs and coconuts and that takes a lot of time and effort.

CM: What’s coming up next for you?
I’m Taskmastering and Horne Sectioning for all of the foreseeable future! There are always other projects and bits and bobs but thankfully these two things continue to rumble on and that’s keeping me as busy as I’d want to be.

The Horne Section’s Special Celebration night takes place at Shoreditch Town Hall on 21 October. For more info and to book, see this page here.

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