Saturday, August 8

Interview: Rob Kemp

- April 23, 2018


Rob Kemp’s show Elvis Dead was the breakout underground success of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, gathering a nomination for Best Newcomer in the Edinburgh Awards, winning accolades and rave reviews, celebrity fans and more. He speaks with Victoria Nangle about it all.

What first drew you to the idea of merging Elvis with The Evil Dead? 
I have a long-standing love of both things thanks to my dad, but the kernel of the idea arose after watching another Bruce Campbell film, Bubba Ho-Tep. This led to a chat with some comedy mates where one of them commented that I bore a resemblance to Bruce. After that, it made all the sense in the world.
Does an audience have to be familiar with The Evil Dead series to appreciate the show?
I don’t think so. In fact, some folks have told me that despite a dislike of horror AND the King, they thoroughly enjoyed it, against all odds.
Saying that, there are things that the unfamiliar might miss.
There’s a meta element to The Elvis Dead, with your asides to the audience. Who or what inspires you when you put together your stage personas?
I recognise that it’s all a bit absurd, and the fourth wall abuse is in there to assure the audience that I know so, and we’re all in it together. A number of those moments grew organically from performing the show.
They’re the bit of me that I can sneak in without ruining the flow. There’s probably something of the Bottom Live Shows at work too. I dunno, I’m sorry, I haven’t really stopped to think of where, who, what, or why.

You really throw yourself into the show physically – do you need to factor in ‘recovery time’ between shows to keep your voice and let the
bruises recover?

You’d think so, wouldn’t you. Turns out, I’m not that smart.
I’m not sure I’d have made it so physical had I realised I was going to be doing it so frequently, or that I’d end up with purple hips and misshapen elbows.
The bruises (and I’m not trying to sound like a hero here) I just tend to struggle on with. Everyone deserves the same commitment to the performance, right?
I may regret that in a year or two.
I was starting to struggle voice-wise at a few points last Edinburgh, so I had to limit my speaking, alcohol consumption, and worst of all, tea.

I’m not sure I’d have made it so physical had I realised I was going to be doing it so frequently…

The Elvis Dead has been described as a one-man Rocky Horror Show. Would you ever consider licensing it out to other performers to play up and down the country, whilst you continued writing and hosting the occasional episode of The Crystal Maze? 
Eventually, if there’s a call for it.
I’ve got to make sure I’m the definitive Elvis Dead guy first though. I don’t want to be usurped by a better singer/actor/comedian!
I am certain that my body won’t put up with the abuse for too long, so maybe in 20 years! Being conservatively optimistic.
I have started learning the harmonica for the last bit, just in case.
How has the incredible success of the show changed your life?
Probably only in a change in my belief that I can maybe actually make comedy my life.

How did it feel when you realised you had famous fans of the show?
Very satisfying, but oh so strange. It was very odd, looking out on the audience and recognising faces – to the point where I forgot my words a time or two in shock. You can’t help but second-guess their expressions. One comedian who came, didn’t (to my eyes) appear to be enjoying it on the night, but then sent me a message the next day saying how engrossed he had been.

Have you heard any response to the show from Bruce Campbell or the Elvis camp?
Not so far. I understand some people have tweeted him (Bruce Campbell) – which is good, cos it seems a bit desperate to tweet him myself. Nothing from the Elvis estate either.
The producer of Evil Dead: The Musical got in touch, with a ‘cease and desist’ order. No, he was really nice, offering help should I need it.

What are your future plans with The Elvis Dead show?
Vegas, baby!
I’ll happily take it as far as it will go, maybe with bigger production values (where appropriate for a B-movie homage). A soundtrack album would be fun, if there was enough call for it, and if the rights could be sorted out.
Doing it with a live band, my own TCB, no! TCD!
(Taking Care of Deadites, of course) would be amazing.

And what wild whim would you like to follow next, if money was no object and time never a factor?
I had the idea for a puppet show version of all of the Toho Godzilla movies, and if money was no object, they’d be full-size puppets, with the audience members’ faces digitally mapped onto the extras faces in real-time!
The other one was CSI: Jaws, with a shark investigator looking into the murder of an innocent shark in Amity.
Or maybe I’ll just tell some jokes. Who knows?

Rob Kemp: Elvis Dead, Komedia, Monday 7 & Monday 28 May, 8.30pm, £12/10

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