This month saw the launch of comedian Vix Leyton’s new podcast Comedy Arcade. It’s part game, part panel show with all the guests beholden to the cast of a bingo ball. We talked to Vix about the live launch, her dream guests and how she ended up inside an arcade game…
Funny Women: Tell us about your new podcast Comedy Arcade.
Vix Leyton: Comedy Arcade is a competitive talk show where a panel of three guests compete to tell the best anecdote to a theme randomly generated by a Bingo Ball I bought from Amazon, as judged by me – I can’t publish how I score, as it varies from recording to recording, but I tend to award the most points to stories everyone has loved and got involved in. Although, we launched live on Saturday night at The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, and Rich Wilson was so cheeky about the rules not making sense that he basically started the game on negative points. The arcade element takes the form of three ‘cheats’ you can play that have the potential to put you in a better place in the game but can also leave you worse than you started.
FW: What inspired you to start this podcast?
VL: I was really bored during lockdown and desperately missed performing but found that doing specific online ‘sets’ didn’t really give me the buzz that performing live did and I most enjoyed the shows where you got to interact and share stories as much as do material. I’d been running a series of Instagram interviews with some of my comedy heroes on a Sunday afternoon where I basically just grilled them for all their secrets and I was having so much fun that I decided to combine the online comedy format I’d been experiencing with more of a chat element, so I bought a bingo ball and crowdsourced loads of topics then invited three very patient and kind pro-comedians to do the first episode with me (Jen Brister, Thom Tuck and Kate McCabe – episode here) as a pilot to see if it could be something and we all had such a brilliant time – well, I did – that I kept it going until restrictions eased under the name Comedy Roulette, with what was basically a ‘pinch me’ selection of guests including Katy Brand, Sarah Keyworth, Sara Barron, Sooz Kempner, Esyllt Sears, Bec Hill, Maureen Younger, Taylor Glenn, Hannah Dunleavy and Flo and Joan.
When lockdown eased, the interest in online shows waned a bit so I retired it, but it itched at the back of my mind and when I revisited some of the episodes, I realised it would be fun as a podcast. And, as with a lot of things I do, it escalated quickly from ‘a quick Google to see how you go about it’ to booking a studio in Kings Cross and frantically messaging my favourite comedians to see if anyone was free.
On the name change, my dad pointed out within seconds of the first episode that it was called Comedy Roulette but it actually should be called something like Comedy Bingo as no roulette wheels had been troubled in the making of this, so when it moved to a podcast, I took the opportunity to change it.
FW: Can you tell us which comedians have been on Comedy Arcade so far?
VL: Guests to play the arcade so far have included Sara Barron, Sikisa, Tiernan Douieb, Thom Tuck, John-Luke Roberts, Esyllt Sears, Esther Manito, John Robertson, Leslie Ewing-Burgesse , Sooz Kempner, Shappi Korsandi, Lulu Popplewell, Joz Norris, Sam Rhodes, Grainne Maguire & Ilayda Arden. I have 10 episodes at the moment, but I’m planning on doing a studio day at home in Cardiff to finish the series as there are some absolute superstars on the local circuit and I really want to support more Welsh talent getting into more ears.
FW: Have you got any favourite moments from recordings so far that we should listen out for?
VL: One of the biggest challenges brilliant producer, Emma Corsham, probably had, was editing down how much I’m laughing. Constantly. The topics are deliberately broad, so can be anything from ‘sharing food’ to ‘the worst thing you ever won’, and the competitive element really has brought out the best in people. Highlights to watch out for – an episode that gets completely derailed when everyone fancies Sikisa’s dad, Grainne Maguire’s adventures on her first day of lockdown, why you might not want to go to the cinema with Sooz Kempner, how John Robertson scares off local youths who congregate on his street, and why Shappi Khorsandi referred to herself as ‘someone’s Blue Nun.’ You can also play a game within a game making a note of every individual place Thom Tuck has lived – he’s a series regular, and he’s an incredibly well travelled man.
FW: Can we talk about the image for your podcast? You appear to have climbed into an arcade machine for a photo; that’s dedication!
VL: My day job is PR, and over the course of that, I met the most brilliant photographer – Jason Alden. He was the only person who has ever made me feel so comfortable during a corporate headshot shoot that I managed to avoid grimacing enough to get usable shots. I got featured in The Express last year about overcoming a fear of public speaking to do stand up comedy and had submitted a photo that a colleague took of me – grimacing again – in a Christmas jumper, that ended up being an almost full page. Despite the horror of it, I was proud of the coverage so put it on my Instagram. Jason saw it and DM’ed me to say he would do me some comedy headshots in exchange for a beer as he had a feeling I needed them.
When I decided to do the podcast, I wanted to make sure it looked as professional as possible so I asked if [Jason Alden and Studio 1440] might be up for doing that instead, which culminated in us decamping to Barry Island for a photoshoot in the arcade made famous by Nessa in Gavin and Stacey. The shoot took about five hours, and they left this shot until last because I think they knew I would object to it. Five hours of hearing the same arcade machines jingling on loop, and you lose all sense of what is appropriate. This was everyone’s favourite shoot moment. They also designed the logo and all the visuals I’ve been using on social. I was so lucky to have them, I’m not a model by anyone’s standards so coaxing me out of my awkward imposter syndrome to get me into this machine was one small step for a photographer, but a giant leap for me. I am so proud of this shoot, it represents so many things I thought I would never do.
FW: Have you got any dream guests you would love to have on The Comedy Arcade?
VL: Joe Lycett would be a dream to have, also Jayde Adams – her lockdown stuff has been phenomenal and I would totally wear a serious black jumper for her, Jessica Fostekew, Katherine Ryan, Daniel Sloss, Hannah Gadsby, Bianca Del Rio, and I recently discovered Taylor Tomlinson on Netflix and fell in love with her. I also really want Jen Brister, Bec Hill and Katy Brand, they did the Twitch show but the stars didn’t align for the podcast recordings because they’re busy being amazing.
FW: Where can we hear, like and subscribe to The Comedy Arcade?