We talk to comedian Peter Serafinowicz ahead of his Theatre Royal gig in June

Words: Ian C Douglas
Wednesday 01 May 2024
reading time: min, words

Ahead of his gig at Theatre Royal Nottingham, the creative genius behind Brian Butterfield sheds some light on his alter ego...

1 Nat Saunders

Peter, welcome to Nottingham. And what can we expect from Brian's upcoming gig?

Well, if you attend the gig, you automatically become a graduate of Butterfield University. There's an opportunity to have your diploma signed, and a picture with Brian after the show. It's quite a thing, you know, because doing a meet and greet afterwards, in character, is the most fun I've ever had.

It's really weird. People just sat through two hours of me on stage, and hopefully enjoyed the show. And then over 200 people queue up after the show. And they're excited when they meet Brian, because the makeup is so realistic. I don't break out of character, for example, getting slightly annoyed with my assistants who are showing people the wrong side of where we're supposed to be taking the photograph, and that kind of thing. It's just a freaky experience. And especially as I look like a 68-year-old, overweight businessman. Anyway, it's funny, because really they know it's me underneath, but everyone goes along with it. Everyone treats Brian as if he were real. Everyone plays along with it. And that's kind of magical.

Also, we've got this section called Brian's Den. When the audience come into the theatre, there's a QR code where they can suggest an invention or an idea that they want me to invest in. People have really funny ideas. You know, like an ice cream van but for toast.

How are you adapting to the stage after years of TV and film?

Before I did this show, I'd hardly any live experience. I mean, I was getting gigs that were way above my station, because I was getting on well as a comedy actor, writer and stuff, and spots came up that I just did not deserve. It's always dazzled me when I see Stewart Lee, right? When he has to deal with somebody in the audience, the confidence he has in himself and I guess his persona. So that's the thing, I never got a chance to develop a persona. You need years of experience, before you even start to get any good. But anyway, I was apprehensive about dealing with hecklers and stuff as Brian especially as I don't want to do anything that would shatter the illusion of his character. You know, there's definitely ways for the character to tackle those things. But the actual shock of being chucked into the pool and I've got to do it! But that's the way you learn to things. Because, you have no choice. You got to do this. And for me, it's great to have that discipline, to get me learning how to do something.

Brian’s cheeks are starting to flap off, which was a problem we had on the first few nights

Is there any danger of Brian taking over your life? Is he your Frankenstein's monster?

I'm gonna say no, but there's always probably a small danger. Yeah, we've got some interesting ideas for him. And, I love putting him into lots of different situations. I guess broadly, the target is the modern world of people trying to sell you shit. Just that flipping modern bullshit. And, because Brian’s got this sort of sweetness and this honesty about him, we can get away with some really risky stuff, with real teeth as well. And you know, he's a really enjoyable character to perform. And a big thing we got doing the tour last year was that people were expecting a much thinner show, like a novelty kind of show, because they know this character from just a handful of sketches. It hasn't been on TV for like 15 years. Yet it's had this enduring appeal. And so he's not going to take over my life.

Do you enjoy being onstage?

Well, there's a rush of adrenaline. And whenever I work, I learn every single thing I do. Because I had such little stage experience. You know, I've done guest things in people's shows. But with this, It's got quite an energetic start to the show. And how people react at the beginning of the show, tells me how up for it everybody is. And then, I've got the first bit of the show, where I’m just keeping the momentum going, just enough for over the first crest, to where we can stop and properly start the show. It's like, surfing all these laughs, and also it's like, I've just been jogging around for five minutes, and dancing and stuff. If I've overdone it, I'm going to be out of breath and not get this line out, so there's loads of physical stuff. It's like you're onstage and you do a joke or, because I've ran out of breath, I've messed up the punch line. And I'm sweating so much Brian’s cheeks are starting to flap off, which was a problem we had on the first few nights until we'd sorted the costume out. You've got this cerebral exercise going on, the parallel tasks of performing the show and trying to be in it as much as possible. You've got physical problems to solve, and trying to drink some water. So really, all these fires you've got to put out, it's really exciting, and then it's really satisfying. And, putting these fires out means I haven't had time to worry about the audience. And then, because of the experience during shows, I learned so much that now I am totally confident with people and I know what Brian would say in any situation. So, I know when to put on the brakes.

Peter High Res Headshot (Credit Chris Pizzello,Invision,AP)

Any advice for young people wanting to get started in comedy?

For me the stuff I like, there's not that much that comes my way. I just don't think there's that much stuff like 20 years ago. There was like a real creative explosion of satire, like modern cultural satire, which I love, but I just don't see a lot of that nowadays. You see occasionally good stuff, but people seem to be more complacent with bullshit.

Well, thank you very much Peter for spending time with Left Lion today. And good luck with the show!

To get Brian’s version of events, please visit the May 2024 edition of LeftLion for an exclusive interview, or read here

Brian Butterfield’s Call of Now appears at the Theatre Royal on Sunday June 9th 2024.

We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.