The Legion of Doom are more than a sketch troupe, they’re a Liverpool institution. Rob Bond, Oliver Bond and Lee Hithersay host one of the city’s longest running and best loved alternative comedy nights, the Comedy Knight at MelloMello, and have a fearsome reputation for providing high concept silliness; sketch comedy that ranges from the intense to the absurd. We caught up with the trio ahead of their brand new Edinburgh Fringe show, Fear and Laughter…
How would you describe your act?
Oliver: Dark farce.
Lee: I think we’ve changed. Originally we coined our own little phrase which was urban surrealism. It was mental but it was always supposed to be about something quite mundane.
Rob: It was supposed to be just round the corner, you could kick a ball over the fence and find yourself in this weird world. But, we do a high and low cultures thing at the moment, that’s what we are about now. Playing it completely straight when what we’re playing is absolutely stupid. It comes a theatre background.
How did the Legion of Doom form?
Oliver: Me and Rob met when we were about 12 minutes old.
Rob: Dad came in and said you’ve got a baby brother.
Lee: Me and Rob met at an inter-year Uni football match. We made really dark jokes at each other. Then he cast me in a play as an extra and quickly realised he should have cast me as one of the leads. When Rob left Uni he started doing MelloMello’s Comedy Knight.
Rob: I used to write fairly bad sketches and Lee was in my pool of actors.
Lee: In school me and my friend used to go into the hall at dinner time and just improvise. We started showing people stuff and some of it was funny. I got told quite early on that I had a natural propensity for comedy at Uni and it stuck in my head.
Who are your comedy influences?
Lee: We’ve got different ones, because Rob and Ollie grew up in a house with the same kind of comedy.
Rob: Ours would be the alternative comedy of the 80s. The Young Ones and Blackadder. A lot of Vic and Bob in our house as well.
Lee: I’m more from the Armando Iannucci school. I’ve always loved Vic and Bob but I like the darker stuff… Brass Eye, Time Trumpet, Day to Day, Partridge, The Office. I think when the two styles come together is when the genuinely good stuff forms.
What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Lee: Rob does a really good impression of me, it’s really funny.
Which one of you would win in a fight?
Rob: I reckon I could take him actually, I don’t think he knows how dirty I am.
Lee: The best one was in Edinburgh. There were only three people there, and we had the best time ever. It was just so relaxed, we played the moments and it felt like real drama.
Rob: Also that year, a coach load of 60 year olds turned up. We thought it was going to be a tough gig, but they put ten pound notes in the bucket and said that it was the best thing they’d seen!
Lee: We’ve learnt now not to judge people, not to think about a demographic.
Lee: We did two nights in Preston and they just did not get it at all. It was going really badly, and I was quite ill, and as I was doing a physical bit, some phlegm flew and caught the man on the front row.
Rob: It escaped from Lee, and it just caught the light so brilliantly…
Lee: What’s brilliant is, as soon as that happened, the audience were on side! They just completely changed, they were laughing at everything. I think they realised we were just like them because we had to break character to say sorry for spitting on you!
Rob: The Comedy Knight in MelloMello can be difficult too but I like that about it. It’s molded us into what we are. When we go into spaces that are difficult, it doesn’t put us off, we can adapt. You’ve got to go out and seek out difficult audiences to know that it’s good. Edinburgh teaches you many lessons and the best thing you can take from it is audiences that don’t know you. You learn to perform your show and it’s a fair reaction.
Other sketch group recommendations?
Rob: They’re not quite a sketch group but The Brethren of Levity. I find them inspiring because what they do is very brave, there’s no limits on it.
Lee: I like Gein’s Family Giftshop. They’ve got their own style, they couldn’t just do any sketch. It makes you go watch them because you won’t get it anywhere else.
Rob: They’re really natural and they play the awkwardness really well.
Catch Legion of Doom’s Fear and Laughter at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2nd – 24th August, Wee Red Bar, 6.15pm. Full details here.
Not heading to the Fringe? The Legion of Doom will be performing a preview of the show at 81, Renshaw, 25th July, 8pm, £3 on the door, more info here.
Legion of Doom host the Comedy Knight at MelloMello on the first Monday of every month, details of which can be found on our gig listings page here.