Frisky & Mannish

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Frisky & Mannish
Frisky & Mannish studio shoot April 2012 by Rosie Collins.jpg
Frisky & Mannish portrait by Rosie Collins
Background information
Origin England
Genres Cabaret, Comedy,
Pop music,
MTV Generation
Years active 2008-present
Website friskyandmannish.co.uk
Members Laura Corcoran, Frisky
Matthew Floyd Jones, Mannish

Frisky & Mannish is a British musical comedy cabaret double act, formed in London in March 2008 by Laura Corcoran (vocalist) and Matthew Floyd Jones (pianist and vocalist).

Well known for a style of parody that consists of "shrewdly crafted, expertly delivered and rapturously received observations"[1] on pop music, Corcoran and Jones portray themselves as "pop educators." They have been called "the mad scientists of pop, mixing unlikely solutions from incompatible artists and distilling entire genres into their separate elements"[2] with "the tenacity of a Rottweiler and the charm of a Disney prince."[3]

In 2009, Corcoran and Jones’s highly acclaimed début, Frisky and Mannish’s School of Pop, met with significant critical and commercial success,[4] and was described as the "undisputed hit of the Edinburgh Fringe."[5] Their subsequent work has been performed at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, the Sydney Opera House, the Melbourne Comedy Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the New Zealand International Arts Festival, the Fringe World in Perth, and venues in Berlin, New York and Singapore, as well as across the United Kingdom. The act has been featured on BBC2's The Culture Show, and in several guest appearances on BBC Radio 1. They reached the final of the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition in 2010, and have won fringe festival awards at Brighton and Adelaide, as well as receiving nominations for a Chortle Award, a Loaded LAFTA Award, and four London Cabaret Awards.

The act has been identified in The Guardian as a rare example of a successful mixed-gender comedy duo: "from Flight of the Conchords to French and Saunders, single-sex double acts are everywhere – but Frisky and Mannish show that more should cross the gender divide."[6]

Frisky and Mannish are represented by United Agents.

Origin of the name[edit]

Frisky & Mannish are named after two characters who appear in one line of Byron's Don Juan:

Lady Fitz-Frisky, and Miss Maevia Mannish,
Both longed extremely to be sung in Spanish.

—Byron, Don Juan, Canto the Eleventh, LIII.[7]

Background and early career[edit]

Frisky & Mannish on the South Bank, portrait by Rosie Collins

Corcoran was born in March 1985 in Manchester, and grew up in Timperley, Altrincham, attending Loreto Grammar School. Her father is musical theatre actor Christopher Corcoran, and her great-grandmother was one of the original Tiller Girls.[8] Jones was born in March 1985 in Kingston-upon-Thames, and grew up in Fetcham, Mole Valley. He was a student at the Howard of Effingham School, and a member of the National Youth Music Theatre.[9]

In 2003, Corcoran and Jones both matriculated at Oxford University, with Corcoran reading English literature[10] and Jones reading Classics and English.[11] They met after being cast as Miss Adelaide and Nicely-Nicely Johnson in a student production of Guys and Dolls.[9] Following this, they collaborated on their own theatrical productions, including Godspell and Assassins, and wrote comic songs for the Oxford Revue.[9] Corcoran subsequently trained on the postgraduate musical theatre course at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating in 2007.[9] Jones was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2008, but deferred the place in order to focus on the double act.[12]

In March 2008, having been asked to perform a short set of music hall numbers at a fundraiser on the Battersea Barge, Corcoran and Jones decided instead to "mess around with a few songs."[10] Surprised by the positive reception, they began to develop the concept more fully, and mounted two solo showcases, the first at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in April, and the second at the Canal Café Theatre in July.[13] They went on to establish themselves on the cabaret scene with guest performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2008 and the Brighton Festival Fringe 2009,[14] appearances in Berlin and New York,[15] music festival gigs at Lovebox and Camp Bestival,[16] a comedy debate at the Oxford Union,[17] and guest appearances with the Olivier Award-winning variety show La Clique at the London Hippodrome.[17] They reached the final of the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition in January 2010, and eventually achieved third place.[18]

In a piece for The Guardian in August 2014, Corcoran and Jones recounted the early part of their career: "Frisky & Mannish is an accidental act. We walked into a friend’s fundraising event in 2008 with four musical pastiches we’d thrown together in idle silliness. We walked out with a firm booking for an hour-long show. So, to make it appear intentional and ingenious, we jotted down all our scraps of song parodies – everything from 10-minute medleys to tiny fragments, simple swaps (Noël Coward and Lily Allen) to surreal associations (Kate Bush and Kate Nash), not to mention a completely ludicrous version of Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller' as a Highland fling. Then we reverse-engineered some sort of coherent act into existence."[19]

Major productions[edit]

Frisky & Mannish's School of Pop (2009)[edit]

From February 2009, Corcoran and Jones began a monthly residency at the Leicester Square Theatre with a full-length show entitled Frisky & Mannish's School of Pop. The school concept emphasized the "educational" aspect of their song parodies, touching upon subjects as varied as British history (TLC's 'No Scrubs' as an example of Tudor foreign policy), English literature (Wuthering Heights from the perspective of Kate Nash), and existentialism in the work of Chesney Hawkes.

Frisky & Mannish with Kate Nash at the Edinburgh Fringe 2009

In August 2009, the School of Pop was performed at the Underbelly as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[20] The sell-out show received thirteen five-star reviews, from publications such as Time Out,[21] Chortle,[22] The Herald,[5] Edinburgh Evening News and The Mail on Sunday, and was described as "the undisputed hit of the Edinburgh Fringe."[5] One performance was attended by Kate Nash, who was herself the subject of one of their parodies.[23] The School of Pop transferred to Soho Theatre in London for a sell-out limited run in January 2010,[24] and the following month, Corcoran and Jones began an international tour of the show, performing at the Sydney Opera House during the Mardi Gras festival in February,[25] the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington in March,[26] the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April,[27] and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June.[28] Back in the United Kingdom, the pair embarked upon their first national tour, performing at such venues as the Komedia in Brighton[29] and the Lowry in Salford.[30] As a result of the wide-ranging success of the School of Pop, Corcoran and Jones were nominated for a Chortle Award in the category of 'Best Music or Variety Act',[31] and featured as 'talents to watch' in both The Independent and The Sun.[8][32]

Frisky & Mannish: The College Years (2010)[edit]

Frisky & Mannish at Latitude Festival 2010

Corcoran and Jones wrote a sequel to the School of Pop, entitled Frisky & Mannish: The College Years. Their new parodies, largely based on a central theme of "collision theory", included an in-depth analysis of the vocal duet, an exposé of Florence and the Machine's musical inspirations, and an up-tempo club dance remix of Radiohead's 'Creep'.[33] The new show was premièred to a "packed out Cabaret tent" at Latitude Festival in Suffolk,[34] followed by official previews at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith in July 2010.[35]

At the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2010, Corcoran and Jones enjoyed further success with The College Years, and received a number of five-star reviews from various publications, including Chortle, The List, Edinburgh Spotlight and Fringe Review.[33][36][37][38][39][40][41] The Edinburgh Festival Guide published a list of 'Top-rated shows' at the end of the 2010 festival, in which Frisky & Mannish: The College Years was placed second out of nearly 2500 productions.[42][43] Corcoran and Jones were singled out by comedian Shappi Khorsandi in The Telegraph as one of her favourite acts at the festival.[44] The show then toured the United Kingdom during the autumn, culminating in a performance at the Bloomsbury Theatre,[45] before travelling to Perth, Western Australia, to take part in the inaugural Fringe World festival.[46]

Frisky & Mannish: Pop Centre Plus (2011)[edit]

Frisky and Mannish at Bestival

Corcoran and Jones's third full-length show, entitled Frisky & Mannish: Pop Centre Plus, was structured as a careers advisory service. Among other subjects, the show dealt with the genre of grime, analysed Madonna's gift for trend application, and revealed that the Bee Gees have been writing songs for Rihanna.[23][47] The duo described this show as the final instalment in their "pop-parody trilogy."[48]

After a season of previews on the South Bank, Pop Centre Plus was presented at the Udderbelly during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2011.[49] Amid considerable media interest, including being featured on the cover of The List’s Edinburgh Festival Guide,[50] and a mention in The Independent as Ruby Wax’s must-see show,[51] Corcoran and Jones again enjoyed a sell-out success, despite a somewhat mixed critical reception.[4][52][53] They were also featured in the Edinburgh Comedy Award Panel Prize-winning The Wrestling at the Pleasance Dome.[54] Following the Fringe, Corcoran and Jones toured to the Absolut Fringe Festival Dublin in September 2011, and across the United Kingdom once more during the autumn, culminating in their highest-profile London engagement to date, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, on 7 December 2011.[55] In February 2012, they returned to perform in The Famous Spiegeltent at the Fringe World festival in Perth, receiving critical acclaim[56] and a nomination for the Best Cabaret award.

Frisky & Mannish: Extra-Curricular Activities (2012)[edit]

Frisky and Mannish at Koko in Camden, December 2012

Having completed their trilogy, Corcoran and Jones created a fourth show entitled Frisky & Mannish: Extra-Curricular Activities, featuring updates of their most successful earlier work, alongside new parodies of Kelly Clarkson, Lana Del Rey and Made in Chelsea.[57] Described in The Sun as a "no-holds-barred, full-throttle, take-no-prisoners hit of pure F&M,"[57] Extra-Curricular Activities previewed at the Udderbelly on the South Bank before a limited run at the Assembly Hall during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012.[58] The show was critically well-received,[59][60][61] with one reviewer stating that "every bit of positive praise that they've got, every ticket they've sold and every standing ovation they've received is absolutely, 100% justified."[62]

In 2013, Corcoran and Jones toured the show to the Fringe World in Perth once more, and performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival for the first time, in the Garden of Unearthly Delights.[63] They received a five-star review in the Adelaide Advertiser,[64] and won a Fringe Weekly Award in the category of Best Comedy.[65]

Frisky & Mannish: Just Too Much (2014)[edit]

Following a year's hiatus, during which they focused on individual projects, Corcoran and Jones announced a new show entitled Frisky & Mannish: Just Too Much, which premièred on the South Bank before a month's run at the Udderbelly during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014.[66] Moving away from the "educational" tone of their previous work, Corcoran and Jones took inspiration from Miley Cyrus and Sinead O'Connor in staging a "perfect meltdown."[67] Tackling issues of gender and celebrity in contemporary music, and featuring surreal theatrical devices such as a dream ballet and a deus ex machina,[3] The Sunday Times described Just Too Much as "blisteringly acidic," while a number of publications awarded the show five stars.[67][68][69][70] Just Too Much transferred to The Forum, London in September 2014, and subsequently toured to Hull, York, Leeds, Manchester, Cambridge and Norwich. In 2015, the show will embark upon an Australian tour of Perth and Adelaide.

Critical reception[edit]

Frisky and Mannish with Harry Hill

Corcoran and Jones have received numerous rave reviews for their work; among the plaudits, they have been described as "wildly talented," (The Independent)[71] "fully blown superstars," (Time Out)[21] "extraordinary," (New Zealand Herald)[72] "unbelievable," (The Sun)[14] "a constantly evolving force of musical nature," (Metro)[52] "clever, inventive, polished, prodigiously talented and extremely funny," (Time Out Sydney)[73] and a "global phenomenon." (The Times)[74] Their material has been termed "skilfully layered and musically surprising," (The Guardian)[15] "one of the most upbeat hours of comedy I've seen this year," (The Observer)[75] "a gold-star masterclass," (The Mail on Sunday),[76] "devastatingly clever," (Arts Hub)[56] and "pure exhilarating brilliance from start to finish." (Chortle)[22] They have been called the "King and Queen of the Fringe Festival,"[59] where their act was once described as "the most fun you can have without chemicals."[33] The Evening Standard asserted that "Simon Cowell would struggle to fault Frisky and Mannish."[53] Negative criticism of Frisky and Mannish has tended to focus upon a perceived lack of depth, identifying their work as "hardly groundbreaking stuff,"[77] "a sing along without having to work your brain,"[78] and "a bit of a one note samba."[79]

"Our style of comedy is way older than us. John Gay was doing it in The Beggar’s Opera (1728) when he lampooned popular tunes of the day for a dribbling mass of unwashed peasants (to make no inference about our own lovely audiences...) We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel here. We just try to make a really good wheel."

Corcoran and Jones in The Guardian[19]

Erotic Review wrote of the duo: "Despite the widely heralded post-Meow Meow, post-La Clique phenomenon of cabaret’s big-time explosion, large venue engagements are still few and far between in London’s perennially underground variety scene. Frisky and Mannish’s brash in-your-face irreverence makes a bold crossover statement, shamelessly seizing the mainstream spotlight with an unmistakable brand of humour both popular and defiant."[80]

Many reviewers have found Frisky and Mannish difficult to accurately describe.[81][82][83] Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph wrote that "on paper, it’s next to impossible to do justice to what happens during a Frisky and Mannish gig - and gig feels the operative word... the atmosphere is more redolent of a flashy turn by Lady Gaga than your average comedy club night."[11]

Other shows[edit]

Frisky & Mannish with Davina McCall

Corcoran and Jones have enjoyed a fruitful association with the Underbelly, and have taken part in numerous udderBELLY seasons in association with the Southbank Centre.[84][85][86] They have also headlined two West End variety nights at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. The first, entitled A Frisky and Mannish Christmas in December 2009, featured The Puppini Sisters and Angelos Epithemiou,[87] and the second, entitled Frisky and Mannish's Christmas Mess...age in December 2010, featured Miles Jupp and Abandoman.[88]

During the Edinburgh Fringe 2012, Corcoran and Jones presented a sell-out three-night run of a new show entitled Frisky and Mannish: 27 Club, concentrating on the lives and works of members of The 27 Club such as Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. This darker, more experimental work received some rave reviews, and was described as "blistering evidence of their talent."[89] Time Out called it "ambitious, often analytically shrewd, and disarmingly self-reflexive... progressive and insightful."[90]

Television, radio and online[edit]

In January 2011, Corcoran and Jones appeared in the third episode of BBC Two's children's comedy programme, Dick and Dom's Funny Business, performing a Strictly Come Dancing skit featuring Vincent Simone partnered with Lady Gaga.[91] During the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe, they appeared on BBC Three's Live at the Fringe programme, and BBC2's The Culture Show, for which they wrote a new piece looking at the art of the comic song.

In March 2011, a number of Frisky and Mannish songs were featured on The Scott Mills Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 1.[92] The songs proved so popular that the duo were invited to appear in person on the show; they were interviewed by Scott Mills and performed live.[92] The video edit of their live performances on the show made the Most Popular list on the BBC Radio 1 website that week.[93] They have also been featured on BBC Radio 2's The Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman,[94] BBC Radio 3's The Verb, BBC Radio 4 with Sketchorama and Ali McGregor,[95] BBC 6 Music with Lauren Laverne,[96] BBC Radio 7, BBC Radio Scotland,[97] and STV.[98]

In October 2011, to coincide with the eighth series of The X Factor in the United Kingdom, Corcoran and Jones began filming and uploading a series of "VidBlogs" to their YouTube channel, presenting their humorous thoughts on each live final. After a positive response to the first video, the magazine Heat started to sponsor and host the duo's weekly blog, which appeared on the Heatworld website.[99] The X Factor VidBlogs were revived in October 2012 at the beginning of the ninth series in the UK, again hosted by Heat.

Cabariot[edit]

Frisky Mannish Cabariot.jpg

In October 2012, following the judges' houses episode of the ninth series of The X Factor, Gary Barlow described his finalists in the over 28s category as "relevant" people, who didn't "sound like cabaret artists."[100] Taking issue with the continued use of "cabaret" as a derogatory term, Jones wrote a satirical short film that Corcoran directed, featuring numerous performers from the UK cabaret scene.[101] The video, entitled Too Cabaret: A Message For Gary Barlow, was an instantly successful "YouTube hit," accumulating over 23,000 views in 24 hours.[102] Barlow himself posted the video on Twitter and described it as "amazing."[102] Lyn Gardner, writing in The Guardian, deemed it a "hugely entertaining video riposte" by a "glorious array of disreputable types." Gardner went on to make the following statement: "Cabaret is not for the has-beens but for those forging the future. No wonder it's attracting some of our brightest, most entrepreneurial and most talented producers and performers."[103] At the 2nd Annual London Cabaret Awards in February 2013, Cabariot was one of three finalists nominated by public vote for the 'Audience Award'.[104]

The Perfect Christmas Single[edit]

In December 2012, Scott Mills enlisted Corcoran and Jones to write an enduring festive hit, to be made available as a free download from BBC Radio 1's website.[105] The finished track, 'The Perfect Christmas Single', was ineligible to chart due to the involvement of the BBC and the unique way it is funded, but was later revealed to have been downloaded over 170,000 times, which would have made it a contender for the official UK Singles Chart Christmas number one.[106]

Controversies[edit]

Britain's Got Talent[edit]

On Saturday 23 April 2011, Scottish drama teacher Edward Reid performed a version of Leona Lewis's cover of 'Run' on the fifth series of the television programme Britain's Got Talent, replacing the original lyrics with 'Old McDonald Had a Farm' and other nursery rhymes.[107]

"We'd like to make the point that we by no means believe we 'own' the idea of performing twisted versions of pop songs. We were not the first, and won't be the last. But the strong links and similarities in this instance have been slightly disconcerting."

Corcoran and Jones's statement in The Sun

[108]

Immediately afterwards, Twitter users began accusing Reid of plagiarising the Frisky and Mannish song 'Wheels on the Bus', a version of Girls Aloud's 'Sound of the Underground' which also features a nursery rhyme medley and begins with 'Old McDonald Had a Farm'.[109] Corcoran and Jones, initially unavailable for comment, then released a statement to The Sun on 25 April 2011,[108] revealing that they had performed alongside Reid at the Glasgow Cabaret Festival in 2009, at which time his work was "very different" from theirs, and that he had seen their version of 'Wheels on the Bus'.[108]

Following the statement, Corcoran and Jones were reported to have "played down" the situation on their social networking sites, posting a tongue-in-cheek claim that they were "now being counter-sued by Old McDonald."[109] On their official website, the duo made the following observation: "We do not believe we are the first people to do pop parodies. Nor is the irony of the event lost on us, considering our repeated pilfering of the back-catalogues of Britney, Bieber and Busted. Only certain interpersonal exchanges made this an unusual event."[110]

The Scott Mills Show[edit]

In January 2012, prior to their fourth Australian tour, Corcoran and Jones wrote a parody of Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used to Know', re-imagining the song in the style of Dannii Minogue. The track was sent to Scott Mills, who subsequently played it on BBC Radio 1 and mistakenly claimed that the recording was proof that Gotye's was a cover version of Dannii's original song.[111] Mills caused a small internet furore, with Twitter users and various online blogs either taking the claim to be truth, or vehemently denying it.[111] Comments ranged from "i hope all the people quoting gotye lyrics on here [Twitter] realize they're actually quoting dannii minogue lyrics as its a cover," to "Feel as disappointed as the time I realised 'Hounds of Love' was a Kate Bush original." Eventually, Mills discovered that the song was a Frisky and Mannish recording, and apologised for the confusion.[111]

Awards and nominations[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

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