Comedy preview: The Horne Section at the Pleasance

16:39 14 June 2012

Musical troupe will be one of the highlights in an impressive Edinburgh preview season at the Holloway venue

»Musical humour is a big noise in the comedy world these days. The once maligned artform is now thoroughly respectable, thanks largely to piano-playing funnyman Tim Minchin, Kiwi sitcom stars the Flight of the Conchords and Never Mind the Buzzcocks team captain Bill Bailey.

True, there are still plenty of less artful practitioners – ‘comedians’ who seem to believe rhyming rude words in a vaguely tuneful manner is the height of wit.

But that is definitely not a charge one could level at the latest musical troupe to conquer the comedy circuit, The Horne Section.

Frontman Alex Horne, who will be familiar to many from BBC panel show We Need Answers, says: “I like to think we’re a bit more inventive than that. The trouble is, you often get average musicians and average comedians combining, or you get a comedian who can just play piano a bit. Hopefully we’ve got really good musicians and that helps.”

Which is a fine thing too, because the jazzy sextet – who are fresh from a recent BBC Radio 4 series – are coming to Holloway’s Pleasance Theatre to hone their latest routine, as part of an Edinburgh festival previews season kicking off on Tuesday.

In an attempt to offer some indication of what to expect, Horne, a former Cambridge Footlight, says: “We’re often asked to describe the show and we’re currently going with ‘comedy shindig’. We quite like the word shindig, although the drummer is not so sure.”

Having seen them in action I can tell you the act is very spontaneous, with large doses of improvisation and audience participation, as people are dragged onto the stage to be manipulated like props by Horne’s dab comedy hand, the band serving as another powerful weapon in his comic armoury.

They are aided by a shifting roster of top-draw guests – Simon Amstell, Jimmy Carr and Harry Hill have all joined in – and the Pleasance gigs will be no different. “There will be a special guest,” says Horne. “We don’t know who yet, but it will be someone extremely exciting.”

Horne himself doesn’t play and can barely sing, and this sheer lack of musical ability is at the root of the act.

“I’m quite a jealous person,” he says, in describing how the group got going. “Two of my oldest friends are professional musicians and I always wanted to be a musician too, but I always failed. Then a few years ago we got together and I realised they wanted to be comedians – so we pooled our talents and grabbed a few more musicians.”

Also at The Pleasance over the next few weeks are Horne’s We Need Answers co-host Mark Watson, stand-up supremo Richard Herring, eagerly-awaited political satire Coalition, starring Phill Jupitus and co-written by Islington councillor Robert Khan, up-and-coming sketch troupe WitTank, and many more.

The previews run until the end of July, with The Horne Section on July 10 and 11. Shows start from £5, visit www.pleasance.co.uk or call 020 7609 1800.

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