Think "supergroup" and what comes to mind? Cream? The Traveling Wilburys? Johnny Depp pretending he can sing?
Well, collaboration isn’t just for ageing rock stars with too much spare time. Sketch comedy stars Massive Dad, Lazy Susan and Birthday Girls have joined forces to create a mammoth skittish supergroup, Massive Lazy Girls. Three troupes, eight performers, one high-energy, party-vibe sketch show.
It all started as a tweet, explains Tessa Coates of Massive Dad. "I was watching Birthday Girls’ wonderful show, and mid-way through I thought: 'what is the most amusing amalgamation of all of our names? Massive Lazy Girls or Susan’s Dad’s Birthday?’ Coates tweeted her witty thought, adding ‘let’s form a supergroup!’ and pretty soon it was a reality."
"I really went for the idea," says fellow Dad, Stevie Martin. "She really did," adds Rose Johnson, of Birthday Girls. "We saw the tweet and went, 'Ha ha, funny!' and the next thing we knew Stevie had booked the Soho Theatre."
Martin’s excitement has paid off. So far, the supergroup has sold out every show, including one at the 400-seat Udderbelly in London. With so many members, though, finding time to get together and rehearse is a challenge in itself, and Johnson says when they do get together, "it’s remarkable how much of that time we’re able to waste."
"The first hour of the first meeting was just us trying to figure out who would take authority," says Liz Kingsman of Massive Dad. "No one wanted to be the leader."
So who has ended up taking control? "Celeste" comes an echo of replies. But Celeste Dring—half of Lazy Susan—brushes off her supposed authority. "As we all know, 'natural leader' means 'glory hog'," she says. "What happens is I turn up a bit late and then over-compensate."
With so many voices and opinions, is it difficult to reach a compromise? "We don’t actually have to compromise much," says Birthday Girls’ Beattie Edmondson. "Because we have our own separate sections in the show, we allow our different styles to shine anyway." Johnson, though, admits she has to moderate herself. "If it’s just us Birthday Girls, I’m probably really rude and shout over them," she says, "because we’re comfortable with each other. This has actually been a good lesson in listening and being more polite."
In fact, Johnson’s over-familiarity is a big talking point during our chat. "I remember you squeezing Tessa’s boobs in one of the first rehearsals and it being a real shock," laughs Edmondson. "And you high-fived my vagina," adds Martin, "do you remember?"
"I forget that that isn’t normal," Johnson shrugs.
Has working together (and getting to know each so intimately) helped them improve as individual sketch troupes? Have they learnt much from each other? "From Lazy Susan, I think we’ve all learnt basic stagecraft," says Kingsman. "They’re proper theatre-makers. And Birthday Girls have definitely made Massive Dad less prudish." Freya Parker, the other half of Lazy Susan, says Birthday Girls are "a lesson in commitment with a capital C. Whereas the Dads are all over those sexy details."
And what about Birthday Girls? What have they learnt from Massive Dad? There’s a long silence. "Err…" replies Edmondson, eventually. "We have learnt… We’ve learnt to… be… kind." Johnson saves her from digging any further. "Birthday Girls are very very lazy. Massive Dad always rehearse everything properly, they have amazing attention to detail, and that’s a really great plan."
Massive Lazy Girls are only playing five shows in Edinburgh—Lazy Susan and Birthday Girls are also bringing brand new shows to the Fringe for the full run—but this is only the beginning for this supergroup. "At the moment we’re just trying to make it as fun as possible," says Martin. "But the actual aim is to get it to a point where there are more people in Massive Lazy Girls than not."
"So that we’re then recognised as a state," adds Coates. "And then parliament have to listen to us!" says Edmondson.
So, could this be the latest trend on the sketch comedy circuit? Surely other troupes must be eyeing up Massive Lazy Girls’ success and thinking of forming their own supergroups. But, as these eight talented performers did it first, any other chancers will have to abide by MLG’s rules. "Their name must be really good and they have to run it past me first," says Coates. "If I agree it’s a good name, they can do it."