FEATURE: Them Off The Viz | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s been an unbelievable thirty years of filthy fun, near-the-knuckle satire, and of course, quality knob gags, since the Geordie institution that is The Viz became a national publication. That being surely something to celebrate, founders Simon and Chris Donald are heading out on the road with a smorgasboard show groaning with comedy, music, magic and more.

Them Off The Viz at Tyne Theatre & Opera House will not only be unique, with special artwork and merchandise on sale and up for auction, but will also benefit local charity St. Oswald’s Hospice, close to many a North East heart. “Our brother Steve died of cancer in 2008, he was cared for by St Oswald’s and their invaluable support will never be forgotten by our family. Many more families still need their help, as will many more in the future, anything we can do to help is a pleasure.” Simon tells me.

Joining Simon and Chris is someone who’s become something of a local legend in his own right, magician Chris Cross – so how did he get involved with Them Off The Viz? “Chris Cross was a huge fan of Viz as a boy and at school he took part in a cartoon a workshop by my brother Steve.  Later, I met him when he began working at comedy clubs in and around Newcastle and he told me how much Steve had inspired him. He’ll be doing a load of close-up magic, card tricks, escapology, ‘and shit’ as I believe the youth would have us say.”

“I insist on nothing more than a framed photo of Judith Chalmers and a ton of cocaine”

As for Simon’s own comedy influences, many of his heroes can be found right here in the region. “My stand-up act is influenced very much by things I’ve witnessed and people I’ve seen on the streets of Tyneside. Likewise my work in Viz had much the same kind of birth, so the heritage is pretty much identical. Anyone seeing my shows who has read Viz will be familiar with the territory. Two of my Viz characters were based on my brothers, Simon Lotion, Time and Motion Man was based on Chris and Mr Logic was inspired by my late bother Steve.

As a child I listened to The Goons on records and watched Monty Python on TV – I wanted to be in Monty Python. My family were all huge fans of Laurel and Hardy. Nowadays I love watching stand-ups that many people might not know; the likes of Gavin Webster, Seymour Mace, Daniel Kitson and the now hugely popular Stewart Lee.”

Cross and the brothers Donald will also be joined by the, ahem, enigmatically named band, The Purest Green – so what can we expect from them? ‘The band play a lot of late seventies and early eighties stuff, covers of what we now call the post punk era. Very fitting for the time of Viz’s origins. Their singer and bassist is Rich Lyst, who I like to call ‘Sunday Times’ Rich Lyst. He’s our cousin so it’s very much a family affair. The name? I assume it’s about the purity of the traditional English village green. Or top drawer weed, one or the other.”

And will the traditional 8 Ace be on the rider? Nah, says the ever-humble Simon: “I insist on nothing more than a framed photo of Judith Chalmers and a ton of cocaine.”

Them Off The Viz is at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre & Opera House on Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th August.

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