Grubby Little Mitts are a sketch duo who first came to our attention with their brilliant debut show at the fringe in 2022. They are about to tour with their equally good sophomore show, ‘Hello, Hi’. They kick off the tour with two shows at Glasgow Comedy Festival: ‘Hello, Hi’, and a bonus work in progress show called ‘Trying Time’. We spoke to the ‘Grubbs’, Rosie Nicholls and Sullivan Brown, to talk about the show, overly polite audiences, and their comedy heroes. 

Can you tell us about ‘Hello, Hi’?

Sullivan: In terms of our framing, the show is relatively similar to the previous show, but I feel like we’ve taken it up a notch in terms of the consistency. But also it’s a lot weirder in parts as well. We really wanted to push the boat out a bit more on this latest show. And we did that, certainly with with the titular sketch in particular. The boat is firmly pushed. I think it has the themes of domestic horror that we had in the in the first one as well. But then again, we wanted it to be a bit more epic and bigger and, and also with wonderful props which Rosie designed. She smashed it.

Rosie: The show that we ended up with was a kind of curation of the best bits of the writing that we did as well, because we we wrote so much for this show quite quickly. So it was all kind of interweaving. And then in the rehearsal process we stripped bits out, and then we would be left with the strongest stuff. But then as a result of that, we we kind of accidentally wrote a lot of stuff on a theme of like romantic relationships, but not really as you know it. I suppose if you were looking at it critically, you might say that there is a bit of a theme there. Maybe you could have the same characters in different scenarios, and we always leave that open, and if that’s what people get from it, then that’s great. The whole idea is to have a situation that is relatable, that gets kind of extreme, and then goes even further than that. That’s kind of what we’re always setting out to do; making it kind of recognisable, and then suddenly very unrecognisable.

How’s the preparation for the tour going?

Rosie: Pretty good. We’re kind of ready to go. All our accommodation’s booked. Travel’s booked. We’ve spent a bit of time getting some merch together, which we’re really excited about. So we’ve got posters, badges, postcards, little pin badges. We’re going to have that at every location, and people can just go hog wild, which I’m really excited about. That was something that we’d discussed and really wanted to do. And hopefully help us fund the logistics of the tour as well. That’s quite an exciting thing that we’ve not done before, selling merch on the road. We’ve only ever done it through our Kickstarter. So that’s very exciting.

Sullivan: What’s really nice about this tour is that we’re going to places that we’ve never been before. We’re going to finally go to the North West. They’ve been wanting us to come there for ages, and we’ve been going we’ve been saying to people from there, ‘We will go. It’s not that we don’t want to.  We want to go!’ And it’s great because the Manchester show, for instance, was sold out. We had to release some extra tickets and that was fantastic. We’d never been to Manchester… I mean, we’ve been in personal lives, but not on as the Grubbs. We’re very excited to perform for them as well.

How did the shows at the Soho theatre go?

Rosie: We did [our first show at Soho] in January 2023. And then we did ‘Grubbs II’ at ‘Fringe II’. And then we did Soho again with this show just after that, so we haven’t done a London show of ‘Hello, Hi’, since October last year. And we’re now doing one at the Phoenix Arts towards the end of this tour. So we’re quite excited to do that. Because people – and this what we found in Edinburgh as well – people would come to the show and they would come back and bring more people. And generally we found that with all of our Grubb shows. So we’re kind of quite excited to have had a bit of a hiatus in London, and then come back in six months. But also the same applies to Glasgow, for example, because we had this incredible show in Glasgow last year, as part of our tour, and it was so fun.

It was so, so busy. There’s like 100 people crammed into the basement of Blackfriars. We have this tiny little space to perform the show. We’re tripping over people and it was just so fun, and I just want our show this year to be like that as well. But obviously [it’s] a completely different venue. It’s this massive music hall venue [the Britannia Panopticon], which is going to be amazing. But yeah, it’s I have not been in Glasgow with Grubbs for like a whole year. And I’m just really excited to be back and doing it again.

Sullivan: It’s also a music hall venue that I have an ancestor who once performed there, Harry Braham, so I’m over the moon to be performing there,  treading the boards that he trod. He was into funny faces, that that was his thing [laughs!]. He just had funny faces, and he toured the world doing that! Australia, America, he was in Hollywood, it’s great!

Did you have feel any pressure in following up your successful debut show? 

Sullivan: I think subconsciously, yes, to a certain extent because after the first one went better than I think either of us ever expected – really lovely reviews and winning the award [the Amused Moose] as well – then that alters like your perception of things. Because suddenly you’re like, ‘Wow, I should be winning the award every year!’  But actually in the writing of it because we’ve got it done so quickly, and it’s such fun to do and we wrote so much, as Rosie said. It just sort of all fell out of us in the same way that the first show did. It was it was it was when we were putting it all together; suddenly we were like, ‘Okay, now we do need to make this bigger than the previous show.

Rosie: I think we both had designs on wanting the show to just be an expansion of what we had before. But I think we had a choice of… we can either double down on the things that people were saying were really unique about the show, and kind of make that our thing. Or we could go in a completely different direction. It was sort of like this fork in the road where we were like, ‘Should we kind of forget everything that we did. Or should we try to make this our brand’? in a way. Yeah, it’s like a branding decision almost. Because we just write the way that we write.

And then it was like, ‘Okay, how do we want this to look like? how do we want this to feel as a show?’ And that’s part of the reason why we worked with John Gracey again to direct it because he helped us in this successful show the first first time, and so why would we break up the band just for the sake of of it, when we don’t know if we’re going to work with somebody who just doesn’t get us at all? And John really gets our humour. So it’s like, ‘Okay, well, that feels like the right choice’. And we thought about maybe doing a different colour scheme, but then it just felt like red… it wasn’t really ever ever about it being one colour, it was more about it just being really overwhelming. And red is just the colour for that. So that’s kind of why it’s that’s the colour scheme. And yeah, so we really thought about all of those production decisions quite carefully, I think.

I feel like now that we’re writing our third show, we’ve got the right thing. We’ve got the pillars of this show, and this double act, but we have got licence to go off in different directions. So I feel like we made a really good decision in making the show in the way that we’ve made it this time. And I’m just so excited to write our next show, because we just got so many ideas and… it’s just I don’t want to say too much!

And what drew you both specifically to do in sketch comedy, and how did the formation of Grubby Little Mitts come about?

Sullivan: When we were both at drama school together. Way back in first year of drama school, way back in 2012/2013. Rosie came to me and said we should make a show called the Sullivan Brown Show. And it was going to be essentially a sketch show, with a unifying theme where everyone was who was in the show was going to be Sullivan Brown. And then we tried to do that at one point, but we it was a huge project. We would have needed about eight people. And that was just very difficult to do. So we dropped it, and then we all worked on our own things, and then Rosie came back to me wanting to make a one woman show, which I was going to help with. I suggested we call it The Rosie Nicholls Show, and then Rosie suggested that actually we should do it together as a two and we make a proper sketch show. And thus Grubbs was born! Though it had a much more boring name at the time, and then we came up with Grubby Little Mitts.

But I think sketch was just it. I think it’s something that we had both enjoyed for a very long time. It just felt like the natural fit really.

Rosie: I don’t know if we ever really formally decided that was what we were going to do. I think we just started writing it, and we were like, ‘This is kind of a sketch show’. I’d written other things before that Sullivan was in. He was in a couple of video sketches of mine, and then Sullivan had an episodic thing that he was writing that I fed back on. And that was kind of a comedy thing as well. We always had these things that were not necessarily long form stuff, even though Sullivan’s writing a book and I’ve written like two plays, which are long form, so there’s that in there as well. But I think because of our sense of humour as well, and we’ve got improv backgrounds and things like that. I guess we just had so many ideas.

Also, it meant that we could play loads of characters, because we trained as actors, and that’s where how we got into this anyway. And besides, well, we could we could write a play, or we could just write loads of little short plays, and put them all together in a sketch show. And we did basically everything that we could possibly think of that we were good at in that first show. And that was really fun to be like ‘Okay, we should definitely do some singing. We should definitely do some silly sort of slapstick comedy. We should do some character stuff. We should do some serious drama’. And we just tried to do it all and I think that’s also a mark of Grubbs that we like doing the acting thing, rather than just doing silly punch lines. We approach it like actors do, because we are actors.

Can you remember the first sketch you ever wrote as a duo?

Rosie: I think it was ‘Eyeballs’. Oh, and ‘Film Buff’, definitely.

Sullivan: I had one of those big pads and I think ‘Film Buff’ was definitely on there. We started off with things that really annoyed us and I find it really annoying when people say, ‘What do you mean, you haven’t seen X?’ Well, I find that so irritating. So I think that definitely is one of them. For sure.

And ‘Coffee in My Mouth’. Because it was written before we even started writing the show. It was a sketch that [Rosie] brought to me. And I just went, ‘That’s genius!’ That’s a great sketch. And it wasn’t even going to be a Grubbs sketch necessarily.

Rosie: I remember sitting in a pub in Surbiton and reading that. And also, talking about the ‘Film Buff’ guy, I think I’d written a version of that, which had him getting shot at the end, or him shooting someone. Someone got shot, and then we were like, ‘No, it should be the other way. Like, they get together’.

You mentioned the Blackfriars show earlier as a stand-out. What are your other favourite, least favourite, or at least memorable venues that you’ve played?

Sullivan: I think the Glasgow show is actually one of my favourite shows we’ve ever done. For sure. It was so memorable. Doing De Montfort Hall was amazing. In front of one and a half thousand people. That’s an amazing memory.

Rosie: I can’t think of a least favourite.

Sullivan: We had a couple of ones in the [London] Vaults that were a bit that were a bit… [tails off into laughter]

Rosie: It’s very sad. It’s just closed, which is an absolute travesty for the arts. It was this incredible, big sprawling festival in the tunnels under Waterloo station. And they offered very, very cheap performance spaces for early career artists with a really good box office split. So you could actually make money on your early career, work in progress show and you would actually get an audience. The advertising was great and you were basically guaranteed to make some money from it. It was a really good grassroots thing that was going on in London for 11 years, I think. And then they got kicked out of their venue by the landlord, and they’ve now just announced that they’re not going be able to return. It’s really very sad because there is just nothing really like it around now.

We did that in 2023 with our first show, We’re in these tunnels and the trains are going over every 5-10 minutes, but at completely irregular intervals. So we decided that every time the trains would go over, we would stop what we were doing, look at each other sternly, and then get up and go to the front of the audience and put our hands on our hearts, and just wait for the train to pass. And then as soon as it passed, we turn to each other, shake hands, and just go immediately back into the scene from wherever we’d stopped. And it was really fun. And the first time we did it, the audience were so up for it and they joined us and it was raucous. The second time we did it, for some reason the audience were just really quiet that day. And I think they were just inside laughers. We did that whole thing stood at the front of the stage with our hands on our hearts, but I have my trousers fully down because it happened during the ‘Sit on My Face’ sketch. And there was tumbleweed and I’m just committing so hard to this bit.

Sullivan: It was horrendous. I spoke to these members of the audience afterwards and they were all like, ‘Oh, I held in my laughter so many times!’ I was like, ‘What are you doing? It’s a comedy show. It’s a comedy show!’

Who are your comedy heroes?

Sullivan: Vic and Bob, I think we both share. We share most of these, I think. Pete and Dud, Fry and Laurie, and French and Saunders are the ones that come to mind in terms of comedy duos.

Rosie: Victoria Wood. Mitchell and Webb. I think also, for physical comedy a hero of mine is Lee Evans. I think we would probably take inspiration from TV shows as well like Arrested Development. I feel like it’s the perfect example of my sense of humour. Also The Fast Show.

Sullivan: And Big Train.

Rosie: I always tried to think about people that are doing stuff now that I really love like, I love Adam Scott-Rowley. He’s amazing. He’s so funny but he’s so tactful of character. Love the SpitLip guys. What they’re doing is so great. So funny, so slick. Crybabies. I love Crybabies. So funny. And there’s a fantastic all-female sketch group coming from Newcastle called Your Aunt Fanny who we love and there’s seven of them. And they’re amazing.

Sullivan: It’s unbelievable. Going to the fringe with seven people! Big, big, big, big, big fans of them.

Rosie: And Ella the Great as well. I love Ella the Great. She’s so good. So good.

Hello, Hi‘ is at Britannia Panopticon, Glasgow on Sun 24 Mar 2024 as part of Glasgow Comedy Festival

Trying Time (WIP)‘ is at August House on Sar 23 Mar 2024 as part of Glasgow Comedy Festival