Comedy rockstars Jollyboat, otherwise known as brothers Ed and Tommy Croft, are perhaps best loved for their signature pirate pop song parodies. Previous winners of the Musical Comedy Awards, the critically acclaimed duo’s infectious energy has “rocked the boat” at countless music festivals including Glastonbury 2013 and Download. We chatted to them about The Secret of Monkey Island and bringing out the musical big guns ahead of their latest run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014.
How would you describe your act?
Ed: Energetic musical comedy with a lot of jokes in it. Like a much more energetic Flight of the Conchords.
How did you get into comedy?
Tommy: We started off playing music at open mic nights. We found that funny songs went better than serious songs, so we started doing that more. Eventually Ed needed a show for his graduation at LIPA, so I stepped in to save him! It was called Jollyboat.
Ed: It included two of the songs we do now.
Jollyboat are known for a pirate theme. Why pirates?
Ed: Because of the computer game, The Secret of Monkey Island, which informed our youth considerably.
Tommy: And our sense of humour.
Ed: I’m a massive game making geek. When I was about 14, we were going to make a comedy pirate adventure game which was just the most shameless rip off.
Tommy: We sort of knew that, we just wanted to make our own and update it.
Ed: Tommy had an idea that in the game there would be a bar with musicians singing pirate versions of pop songs.
Tommy: I wrote a load for the game, and then one week at the open mic night we had nothing to perform so we just grabbed these lyrics.
Ed: We kept doing it for eight years!
Tommy: There’s been a lot of rewrites since. These days the writing is almost exactly fifty-fifty.
Who influences your comedy?
Tommy: John Otway.
Ed: He was the first gig we ever saw. When we started off we basically imitated what he does, so that was our foundation for everything we do. He’s not even a comedian, he was a rockstar who rebranded himself as the failed rockstar and takes the piss out of himself in the best way. Also, all the classic musical comedians like Jake Thackray, Victoria Wood, Tom Lehrer.
Tommy: Jake Thackray definitely, that’s why we use an acoustic guitar. And Monty Python.
Ed: We were pretty much doing what we’re doing now before Flight of the Conchords happened, but they’ve influenced us because they’re so good at it.
Tommy: They’ve influenced how we present ourselves. They’re like a template for how to brand a musical comedy act. Before, we thought of ourselves as an old school variety act.
Ed: Acts like Flight of the Conchords or Tim Minchin are like stand ups. They’re very honest and straight. They’re connected to their audience, just real people doing a show for you.
Tommy: We don’t do scripted bits of dialogue or anything that’s fake between us.
What’s the best thing about musical comedy compared to stand up?
Ed: Personally I’m a huge musical comedy fan and not particularly a stand up fan. I get bored unless someone is entertaining me, unless there’s stuff going on. If someone is just talking they better be talking about something really good to deserve my attention.
Tommy: We like acts that can do the cabaret circuit and the comedy circuit. It’s like bringing the big guns.
What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Ed: Something we saw recently that was incredible was The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue.
Tommy: Abandoman and Phil Nichol always make us laugh out loud.
Ed: Those are actually the best comedians. When your really into comedy you see stuff and you either think “Nah” or you think “Oh my god, everything I’m doing is terrible” and you’re jealous.
Tommy: Wallasey Village. As with all worst gig stories, it wasn’t a regular comedy gig. They had a DJ and a comedian, then the DJ went, “That last guy was quite funny so we won’t be glassing him in the park… these guys reckon they’re funny too, let’s see if they can do it.” Then the landlady of the pub started heckling us, and she runs the place! We couldn’t have made that gig good. No matter what happens we won’t ever have a worst gig than that.
Ed: We left that show not knowing if we were going to get attacked on the way out.
Ed: Download Festival. People were shouting Jollyboat before we went on stage and just generally losing their shit over us. That was amazing.
Follow Jollyboat on twitter @JollyboatBros.
Jollyboat will be at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 2-23 August, 5pm daily at Beat (Cowgate). More information here.