Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Grubby Little Mitts: Hello, Hi

By | Published on Friday 22 March 2024

I was really pleased when I saw that sketch comedy purveyors Grubby Little Mitts were headed to the Phoenix Arts Club at the end of this month, because I have heard great things about the show they will be performing – ‘Hello, Hi’ – which won a lot of acclaim and fans at the old edfringe. 

I wanted to find out more about the duo – aka Rosie Nicholls and Sullivan Brown – and how they ended up doing sketch comedy together, as well as about this particular set. I spoke to them ahead of the upcoming show. 

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about your performance style? Is it possible to categorise what you do by a comedy genre? What should audiences expect?
RN&SB: We do fast paced sketch comedy, embellishing recognisable every day scenarios into extreme versions of themselves.

Our comedy is about relationships, power struggles, the lies we tell to seem normal and the strangeness of everyday life – concept aside, it’s about big laughs, big shocks, big dialogue and big acting. We love big acting!!

It’s the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School method. That’s probably our categorisable genre – or “domestic horror comedy”, as we like to call it.

CM: And now can you tell us what to expect from this particular show? Does it have a theme? What sort of sketches can we expect?
RN&SB: We didn’t set out to write to a theme and we cut a lot from the preview versions of this show too – but ‘Hello, Hi’ is largely about relationships.

There are enough violent twists away from this theme that there’s something for everyone – except children, please don’t bring any children, it’s not made for children! – awkwardness, fantasies, breaking up, secret crushes and anxiety dreams also feature, but rarely as you expect.

It’s also got “…a finale that has to be seen to be believed…”, said Longstaff Reviews, and features a good helping of “Uproarious idiocy…”, according to The Guardian.

CM: How do you go about creating your shows? Do you sit and write? Improvise and devise?
RN&SB: We write lists, make notes, draw pictures and mash it all together in countless sessions of non-stop talking and writing.

We write very fast and rehearse loads with our directors to make sure we are drilling all the important moments and making smooth the scene changes etc – we tread the line between theatre and comedy with “great care and attention” – that’s a quote from us!

Even though we rinse it occasionally, we both love improv, and do a bit more of this in our circuit material – particularly at our monthly sketch night show ‘Sketch Book’ at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, which we host.

CM: How did you come to be working together? And what’s it like working together? 
RN&SB: Working together involves a lot of talking and we can rarely be hushed.

We met in 2012 at Bristol Old Vic, where we were on the same acting course, and we did one comedy show together in the whole three years of our degree. Rather than taking it as a sign never to work together again, we knew it was because our teachers were jealous.

Since we left BOVTS – thanks for nothing, losers! – we have been writing, reading and performing in each other’s work on the regular, which culminated in our first magnum opus – ‘Grubbs #1’ – in 2022.

CM: You performed this show at the Fringe, didn’t you? How did that go? Do you have plans to go back? Any interesting edfringe anecdotes for us?
RN&SB: We did! The Fringe was excellent. We met so many other sketch acts and it got us thinking about how to give a platform to more sketch in a competitive comedy scene.

We sold our run at 85% last year, which we were completely thrilled with as we somehow managed to miss all the marketing deadlines and had no PR – so we got through the Fringe with two Foamex boards, 5000 flyers and lots of talking to people, as well as performing in compilation shows whenever we could.

We love the Fringe and are very open about being entirely funded by 350 generous backers on Kickstarter, without whom we would not be able to afford to go; we are in the process of planning our fundraising campaign to help us get there again this year. 

Anecdotally, in 2023 Sullivan fell over during one performance of our show and bashed his – already seriously injured – knee. He was in so much pain he forgot where he was during a scene change. But he ploughed on and a good job he did – The Guardian had secretly snuck in to review us.

CM: Do you enjoy touring? Do you get different responses from audiences in different parts of the country?
RN&SB: WE LOVE TOURING. We love meeting our audiences all over the country, visiting different venues and adapting our show to different spaces.

We have both toured extensively in our careers as actors, too, so we are well-versed in touring life. It’s almost miraculous to go to a completely new place and meet people who have come along to watch you! And we have merch this year… so it’s nice to think we’ll be leaving a bit of a mark wherever we go. 

Also, every single high street in the UK is the same, so you get into this weird tour-brain state of consciousness where all you’re looking for in every location is a Greggs and a Superdrug. When you’ve got your sausage roll and your cruelty free toiletries to hand, you don’t feel homesick at all.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your past now? Did you always want to be performers? What made you want to work in this business?
RN&SB: Delving into our pasts, Rosie is from East Sussex and went to Beacon Community College, and Sullivan is from Surbiton and went to the Brit School.

We both acted throughout our childhoods in youth theatre and at school, doing various plays – Rosie was in a lot of Shakespeare! – and the odd film – Sullivan was in ‘Harry Potter 4’! We both went to BOVTS in 2012 where we immediately became friends.

Fast forward to now, working in comedy has felt a bit like a homecoming in lots of ways. By far the most rewarding thing about Grubbs is that we had no idea how our first show was going to be received, we were just doing what we felt represented our sense of humour, and people came and kept coming and now we’re here. 

It can be a struggle to keep going at times – there is a lot of pressure on artists in our industry right now to pay to play, which is a bit scary… the routes emerging comedians and actors followed just one generation above us are simply no longer there. 

Inspiration-wise, we look to Pete & Dud, Robin Williams, ‘The Fast Show’, Vic & Bob, ‘Arrested Development’, Philomena Cunk, Mitchell & Webb, French & Saunders, Buster Keaton… and we also look to cartoons, clowning, physical theatre.

More broadly we are inspired by the creativity and artistry in all aspects of live performance! Adam Scott-Rowley, Crybabies, Ella The Great and Hot Boy’s Bath House all made shows in the last year that we absolutely loved.

CM: What have been the highlights of your working life so far?
RN&SB: We have both had tons of jobs, performing and doing other things – Rosie has worked as a decorator, bartender, English tutor… Sullivan sold memberships at the National Gallery and worked for a medical conferencing company.

We both now, however, regularly work for the YouTube channel No Rolls Barred, Sullivan as chief Content Producer and Rosie as freelance Production Manager and set designer for a variety of their monthly slate.

We both recently were involved with the creation of Season Two of their in-person series ‘Blood On The Clocktower’ – Rosie wore so many hats on the production she had to sprout an extra head and Sullivan played in every single game for four days, which was madness. It’s a fantastic show and project, and a real career highlight for us both.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
RN&SB: We are currently making our third show for the Edinburgh Fringe, directed by Dom Allen – from Belt Up – and Simon Maeder – from Superbolt Theatre – which is shaping up very nicely.

We’re continuing to develop a sketch comedy network in London through our aforementioned monthly show ‘Sketch Book’.

We are keen to work on a TV script of our material, as well as tour to the US and Australia – both things we are looking into at the moment.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
RN&SB: We can be found once a month every month at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in Haggerston alongside your favourite sketch comedians in ‘Sketch Book’ – tickets are on sale a month in advance and you’ll get around seven acts performing new material, including us.

If you are in any way interested in sketch comedy you should come along – 22 Apr, 20 May, 17 Jun, 22 Jul.

After each show we also run a mixer for sketch-adjacent creatives, which is free and open to writers, performers, promoters, technicians, filmmakers etc working in sketch – or thinking about it.

More generally, we are both moving house. Separately. We’ve never lived together. We never will.

Grubby Little Mitts’ ‘Hello, Hi’ is on at The Phoenix Arts Club on 31 Mar. See the venue website here for info and to book.

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Photo: Craig Fuller