TV preview: House of Fools

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There’s often a worry when meeting comedians that it will be a disappointing affair, and they’ll be considerably less funny in real life than they are on stage or screen.

Long-standing comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, best-known for their madcap series Shooting Stars, are on traditionally silly form when we meet - but they admit that, whether they’re on stage or off, they can’t please everyone all of the time, particularly those close to home.

Take Mortimer and his two sons for example.

“I try to [make my kids laugh], but they’re not willing to,” says the 54-year-old, who worked as a solicitor before turning to comedy.

Judging by their witty retorts to their old man’s attempts at banter, the teenagers have inherited some of the family’s funny genes.

“They say ‘Bantanamo Bay’ and ‘Bantasy Island’ but with a dead face [when I tell a joke]. Like, ‘Are you trying to get into Bantasy Island, dad?’ And I say, ‘I’m sorry I was just trying to make a little joke.’”

Meanwhile Reeves, 54, who offers up his real name Jim Moir when he introduces himself, says his young family are more interested in watching teen sitcom iCarly, than any of his programmes.

Reeves and Mortimer have been working together for more than 20 years, ever since Mortimer saw Reeves performing in a room above a pub - and was impressed.

As well as Shooting Stars, their popular bonkers panel show, their credits include The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer and Bang, Bang It’s Reeves And Mortimer - and now they’re back on our screens with a new BBC Two sitcom, House Of Fools.

But just because they’re in a sitcom doesn’t mean they’re about to turn hammy any day soon. Instead, they seem to be doing their utmost to make each other erupt into peals of laughter.

“I go nude in a couple of scenes,” says Mortimer, stony-faced. “I shaved my back because it was pretty dense [with hair].”

“You don’t see his tiddlywinks,” chimes in dad-of-four Reeves, breaking into a Cheshire cat smile as Mortimer starts tittering. “It’s just his back. He has a bath you see, so you see his back.”

There may be no ‘tiddlywinks’ on set, but there are plenty of other unwanted guests.

The sitcom is set in Mortimer’s home and sees him growing more and more frustrated by his uninvited visitors, who include Reeves, Beef (played by Matt Berry, who recently appeared in Channel 4’s Toast Of London) and neighbour Julie, played by Morgana Robinson.

As well as “heavy nudity” and “acting the giddy aunt”, there’s a scene where Mortimer clambers into a coffin to “ironically, avoid certain death” after his ex-wife tracks him down and tries to kill him.

The scene proved to be quite useful.

“Bob got to keep the coffin,” says Reeves, who took part in I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! with his model wife Nancy Sorrell in 2004. “It’s actually got his date of birth and death date on it, and it turns out you’re going to die in 2014,” he adds, glancing at his co-star.

“To which I thought, ‘I’ll see the next World Cup at least,’” says Mortimer. “And that’s £169 quid saved [on a coffin].”

“They’re a lot cheaper than you think. It was previously used in EastEnders,” chips in Reeves.

While death is treated with irreverent humour, a chat about the supporting cast sees the pair slip into their surreal Shooting Stars chatter, claiming they used to pay actor Matt Berry in bacon. “That’s all he wanted, but now all he demands is gammon,” notes Reeves.

When he’s not performing, Mortimer likes to watch crime documentaries and cook. His speciality is meat and bread. “I make ham sandwiches is what I’m saying.”

Reeves, on the other hand, has no time for hobbies (other than allegedly drawing posters for his local tae kwon do class), because of his heavy domestic burdens.

“I’ve got koi carp,” says the comedian, who grew up in Leeds and Darlington and studied art. “I look after them for me uncle Geoff.”

HOUSE OF FOOLS, BBC2, Tuesday 10PM

Victoria on ITV.

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