You probably remember David Wickenden from his weekly TV appearances on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross with his house band, 4 Poofs and a Piano, adding a rapturous gaiety to the entrance of the various celebrities who walk through the doors of the BBC Green Room. The show’s cancellation in 2010 left 4 Poofs without a stage, arguably making them the most tragic victims of the Brand-Ross-Sachs debacle. When asked about the most recent furore made over Channel 4’s controversial broadcast, Big Fat Quiz of the Year, he said that there was nothing on the show that really offended him.
“Having worked for nine years with Jonathan, I have to say that I think he is an incredibly talented broadcaster. One of the roles of comedy is to challenge and subvert the status quo, and you can never please everyone. […] I think certain quarters of the press are always just waiting for the slightest excuse to attack comics and artists who don’t conform to their moral or political viewpoint.”
When the three other members of the group made the decision to leave, Wickenden was left the prospect of either “getting a real job” or taking on a brand new troupe of Poofkateers. He chose the latter and, though he still has “a huge amount of affection for the old Poofs”, he says that the most recent additions to the band are “a breath of fresh air”.
Their UK tour begins this February, starting with Oxford, hitting 20 different towns with a view to take the show to the Edinburgh Fringe. The act will include “upbeat party numbers […] parodies and original comedy songs with the odd dance number thrown in, including a spoof of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake [called] Swamp Lake.”
As a professionally trained dancer and musician, Wickenden tries to incorporate the music of those he admires into the act. Getting to sing a chorus of Thank You For the Music with Benny of ABBA is a major highlight for him. He jokes that Bobby (another Poofkateer) “would look great in silver high heel boots and purple eye shadow”.
Wickenden seems unphased by the change from medium to medium. Stage or TV, he says that he is happy to continue doing what he loves. He hopes that the choice of performance group name has helped “de-toxify” the word ‘poof’.
“I make no apologies for being camp, that’s how I am… but I don’t see the group as being […] one-dimensional[…] We largely operate within the broad mainstream of light entertainment, but I think that within the group, we each have quite different personalities and at times challenge our audience with the style and content of the show.”
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