“I had to sleep with the whole legal team”: Joe Lycett on making the riskiest comedy on TV | TV & radio


” I to feel bad for having designed uniforms for the Nazis, “sighs Hugo Boss, looking at a plate of falafel. “I certainly shouldn’t have done it. It is rare to hear Boss talk about his past with such frankness, but, during a plant-based lunch at a health food restaurant in London, he comes back clean. Kind of. “In fact, even if I’m glad you were talking about it, in my defense it wasn’t me. It was the other Hugo Boss. “

It’s a confusing time for the identity of the Birmingham-born comedian formerly known as Joe Lycett. As we meet during a break from filming Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back series two – his show Channel 4 that looks like a comic on Watchdog – it’s been a week since he changed his name to Hugo Boss by poll. The intent: a coup to protest the fashion brand, which has been accused of aggressively suing small businesses and charities that use the word “Boss” on their behalf. Execution: use his new name to liquidate the fashion house in a gloriously silly way.

“Now I’m going to make a number of statements that I really hope I don’t confuse with @HUGOBOSS ‘opinions,” the comic tweeted. “Just to clarify, these are the statements of Hugo Boss, not Hugo Boss. Hugo Boss microwaves fish in the office. Hugo Boss always asks: “What percentage are you?” Before letting you borrow its charger. Hugo Boss has a smelly tramp. “

But what started out as one of the upcoming show’s campaigns caused all kinds of difficulties. After all, what does he do now with the name of a program whose first season was called Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back? Change everything completely? Or rename a single episode, at the risk of being badly billed in the press? “I’m probably going to have to find a way to change my name between episodes,” says the actor. “Logistics is a nightmare. In addition to this, his manager expressed his wish to revert to his old name “as soon as possible” and the DVLA refused to issue him a new driver’s license because he had concerns about the calligraphy of his new signature. . “It’s a rooster and balls, so they said it could be considered offensive,” he laughs.

Richard Ayoade and Joe Lycett of Travel Man

Shady characters… Richard Ayoade from Travel Man with Joe Lycett. Photography: North One TV / Channel 4

He did not hurt his profile, however, generating some of the biggest headlines in Lycett’s career – sorry, Boss -. This is no small feat given that there is no shortage of high-level concerts: his easy presence and his eye for an ironic joke have also seen him replace Claudia Winkleman as host of The Great British Sewing Bee from the BBC. And he succeeded Richard Ayoade as the anchor of Channel 4’s Travel Man. In addition to filming the second season of his consumer show. “Things are very busy,” he sighs with simulated exasperation.

But what the comedian formerly known as Joe Lycett is best known for is his flair for the stupid ploys that pit him against institutions. In 2015, he went viral after a countdown to 8 cats out of 10 appeared in which he recounted a battle with the York Council for a parking ticket. To date, nearly 4 million YouTube users have seen his account of how he managed to escape the fine by mishandling the words “the moon” in a photo of his car and claiming that he was stationed in space at the time of the offense.

Last year, he hit the headlines with the mayor of Birmingham with the terrifying name, Yvonne Mosquito, to come over to his house and officially open his kitchen extension. And, early in his career, he took on Jim Davidson after hearing him use a racist term to refer to a Chinese man during a series while they were sharing a bill. “The next time we shared a bill, it got to that point, turned to me … and didn’t say it. I had an incredible moment when I said to myself, “Oh my God, I censored Jim Davidson! “

So it was only a matter of time before his love of the countryside went on television. The first series of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back managed to organize hilarious pranks and interventions by brilliantly strange celebrities, then associate them with astonishing revelations on bad practices of big companies. Uber Eats had to improve its restaurant food hygiene policy after Boss, born Lycett, successfully set up a dirty dumpster as a restaurant on the app. When a viewer complained that he had lost £ 8000 to a scammer who somehow had access to the intimate details of their NatWest account, the comedian flashmobed his parent company RBS until he repaid the money . It’s a format that manages to be funny while punching the establishment, even though it has caused headaches for lawyers for Channel 4.

Joe Lycett at Bristol Old Vic in 2018

Gold, standard … Lycett at Bristol Old Vic in 2018. Photography: Matt Crockett

“I had to sleep with the whole legal team,” laughs Lycett / Boss. “Really, no one has made a show like this before and many of them are quite difficult to obtain legally. There are lots of things I want to do that should keep me from [doing]. The last series, I wanted to steal a car to show how easy it was to find new ones without a physical key. And they said, “No, we can’t do that because it’s just committing a crime. »»

Crossing this legal minefield, however, seems to have paid off. Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back has captured the public’s imagination to the point where they now approach him on the street asking for help with strangely specific problems. (“Things like:” The lip on the kettle I bought isn’t working properly, what can I do? “”). There’s something really impressive about the show’s commitment to taking businesses to task. Lycett insists that they are obsessed with “journalistic rigor” when they sue companies for their bad practices. It’s hard to imagine that it still won’t feel relevant while the country is locked out: even in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic, some of the stories that really grab the public’s attention are stories of corporate wrongdoing.

Twitter is swamped with people who oppose Mike Ashley’s suggestion that the nation cannot function without anti-shock leggings. The employment practices of Wetherspoons owner Tim Martin are everywhere in the hashtag #COVIDIOTS. And the Internet keeps emphasizing that the payroll of Virgin Atlantic staff is the kind of money that Richard Branson accidentally deposits between the sofa cushions – so his request for them to take unpaid leave seems, well, a little rich.

So if anything, the coronavirus could have made this show even more urgent. There is a joke that really stays in mind in the days after our interview, which was made weeks before the total devastation that Covid-19 could do to society became clear, but that was nevertheless revealed strangely premonitory.

“I said half joking when we launched that I wanted to destroy capitalism with this program. Give us another set and capitalism will probably be destroyed by then. We’re just going to do the cleaning. ” Perhaps. But Boss / Lycett’s ironic look at holding power accountable will always be a joy to watch.

Mayor of Birmingham opens new Lycett kitchen extension

A step up… The mayor of Birmingham opens the new Lycett kitchen extension. Photography: Ollie Millington / Getty Images

Five playful moments

Bastard Registration
Harry Hill! Noel Fielding! Paul Chuckle! Lycett and his comic “friends” cram the word “bastards” into John Lennon’s Imagine 17 times in 90 seconds for joyful satire on Instagram of Gal Gadot’s performance. In total now: “Imagine all the bastards, living life like a baaasstaaarddddd!” “

Change your name to Hugo Boss
At the height of the hype surrounding Lycett’s takeover of Hugo Boss by adopting their name, an article claimed that the comic strip “represented £ 1.5 million” of the name change. Since then, a Welsh brewery threatened with legal action by the fashion giant has won a marketing award for being “courageous”. And, since Lycett has also registered a brand on a product yet to be released called “Boss La Cease en Desiste”, this cascade should improve further.

Create a fake hotel for Pat Sharp
How to emphasize that the rooms of a hotel chain are so dark that even the former host of Fun House, Pat Sharp, complained? Cheekily redecorate one of their rooms in the style of a comfortable alpine ski chalet to denounce the CEO’s non-dom status in Austria for tax reasons. Then launch it as a boutique hotel, obviously. The first Lycett guest convinced to spend the night? Pat Sharp.

Ask the mayor of Birmingham to open his kitchen extension
“Joe, this is the first kitchen extension I have ever opened”, says the Lord Mayor of Birmingham by cutting the ribbon on the room in which Lycett makes his microwave. After Yvonne Mosquito’s initial refusal because it was a “private event”, Lycett convinced her by drawing tickets on Twitter and dubbing Radio 1 her “exclusive broadcast partner”.

Exhibition of a multi-million pound work of art at the Royal Academy
The value of a wobbly clay face you drank molded around a Pringles tube? Clearly more than the Royal Academy expected, judging by the email it sent to Lycett to verify that its submission to their summer show was correctly valued at £ 10.5 million. ” My God! “He replied:” It should be £ 12.5m! How odd that when the piece entered the exhibit, it didn’t have its own stand.

Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back starts Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m., Channel 4


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