Recommended second chance
He may be best-known for his hidden camera show, Trigger Happy TV, but Dom Joly is taking the genre to the next level with his new ITV1 prime-time entertainment series, Fool Britannia. Not only does he capture unsuspecting Brits – and tourists – around the UK, but he also hoodwinks some of us while we’re abroad, by using a variety of characters…
How did you come up with the idea for Fool Britannia?
I was working on ideas for a hidden camera film when I suddenly thought, ‘This is crazy. This is the one thing I’m really good at, and why am I not doing it?’ I got the hunger again, and I went to ITV because I had some connections after doing I’m A Celebrity, and said I’d really like to do a big, family Saturday night show. And I came up with the idea for Fool Britannia.
How did you avoid getting recognised when you were filming?
I spent about two hours in make-up every day, getting made up as various characters with wigs and fake noses. In a way, Fool Britannia is probably more like a sketch show - but involving real life action. What annoys me about some hidden camera shows is when people call them prank shows. Those are essentially just pouring water over people, which is fine and that has its place. But what I like doing is becoming a weird character that people believe, and then spinning a yarn.
Why did you decide to film all around the UK, as well as abroad?
Londoners have been hammered by every hidden camera show in the world, so they’re savvier now. Plus, when we were filming Trigger Happy, we got some great, natural reactions from people outside of London. I was really determined to go all round Britain because I really wanted it to look amazing. I want it to be an advert for Britain, so we’ve gone to Stonehenge, Lands End, Cardiff, John O’Groats, Edinburgh, York, Clacton… I’ve been everywhere. Then I thought about trying to catch people abroad. Benidorm just seemed the perfect place, because maybe there were less-experienced travellers there, who might believe the Spanish stereotypes.
Did you have any trouble persuading the authorities to allow you to film?
Benidorm seemed completely happy. I couldn’t really believe what had happened to this lovely, old Spanish fishing village. It’s now been turned into a minor British town, with the only road signs showing you the way to burger stalls. I had a sneaking suspicion that when we rang the Spanish authorities and said we were going to come and take the p***, they were quite sympathetic [laughs]. That was only my feeling though - I didn’t get any confirmation of that.
You rely on the public being duped. Were there any shoots that didn’t work?
I never have a problem getting the public to believe it. I’m always astonished at how trusting and gullible the British public are. Sometimes you have an idea and you don’t know if it’s going to work until you film it. Occasionally, it’s terrible. For Fool Britannia, we were in Stratford-upon-Avon and I was wearing a full Shakespeare outfit, with ruff collar and beard. I think I got lazy and thought the costume was so good that it would be funny. The idea was to take tourists on a tour of Stratford, but obviously without knowing anything about it. Normally, that’s enough. But it was deeply unfunny so we decided to knock it on the head.
Tell us about some of the characters…
My favourite character is a vicar, who really sums up the show. We filmed it in Bourton-on-the-Water, which is described as the Venice of the Cotswolds. Welcoming the tourists who flock there is this gap-toothed vicar. He’s very pleasant, but has clearly never left the village and thinks London is a den of vice, hates the north, and has something very ignorant to say about every country. But he’s very charming – although as he walks away from an encounter with