Giant spiders, a hapless nail salon turned hapless tattoo parlour, and shoes exactly one-metre-long all play a big part in Ellie White and Natasia Demetriou’s new sketch series, Ellie & Natasia. And if that sounds bonkers, it’s because it is.
With this collection of oddballs, perfect parodies and strange obsessions, the Stath Lets Flats co-stars (who’ve been performing as a double-act for years) breathe new life into the floundering sketch show format. “I want this to be the first very important sketch show,” Ellie explains during a gag-filled chat with NME. Here’s why they’ve absolutely pulled it off (and you’d be stupid to miss out).
It’s pure escapism
The show’s pilot aired in June 2019, with a series commissioned in March 2020. The pandemic, of course, then stuck a mighty dent into production. For all the influence it had on writing and filming the series, it’s been studiously avoided in the comedy
“A joke about the pandemic would creep into a sketch, and then when we did a read-through in January this year, those jokes clanged so much because they felt so dated,” explains Ellie. “We just want the show to be funny and silly, rather than reminding people of that awful time.”
Stath Lets Flats fans will be pleased
Ellie and Natasia, who play Katia and Sophie in the multi-BAFTA award-winning sitcom, are joined by some of the Stath crew, including Kiell Smith-Bynoe, Katy Wix, Dustin Demri-Burns, and Natasia’s brother Jamie, who exhibits his singing ability in a spoof music video as DJ Big Boy.
“We wanted Jamie to sing ‘Universal Pussy’ in the first episode because he actually does have an amazing voice,” says Ellie. “That actually worked out quite well.”
Adele gave them a dark day
Some episodes end with parody music videos which cover, and nail, a range of genres: “Ending an episode with a song and dance number feels satisfying. We like the idea of having a high-production value number to take it home,” says Natasia. They decided they needed an Adele-style ballad in the show, but disaster struck.
“When we got to the studio both of us realised we can’t sing,” says Ellie. “Not being able to sing your own song is a humiliating experience.” Natasia adds: “You can’t be throwing the name Adele around and never once stopping to think, ‘Can I actually hold a tune?’ That was quite a dark day.”
Would they consider inviting Adele, a fellow north Londoner, to sing on the show? Natasia jokes: “I don’t think she’s big enough, to be honest, and we’ve got to be working with the best on this. I’m sorry.”
Online trends are savagely skewered
You’ll immediately recognise the sort of videos and channels which Ellie and Natasia send up with excruciating accuracy, one of the sketches presenting ‘The Brothers Pomodoro’. Here they don prosthetics to play a pair of posh ‘Hooray Henrys’.
“There’s definitely a trend of posh people setting up restaurants and saying, ‘It’s just traditional food from the East End of London, which I know so well. You’ve got pie and mash, proper British food, it’s really simple, and it costs £17 per portion’,” jokes Ellie.
Then there’s ‘Special Moments with Special People’, where we meet artists, musicians and more oddballs, like Pia Clock and Tom Bombadil, whose pretentiousness is only matched by their lack of self-awareness.
“Ellie and I aren’t on social media so we’re not fully in the thick of what’s going on, but there are definitely certain trends which become part of the conversation,” says Natasia. “It feels like there are endless videos of people talking about how incredible they are. One thing Ellie and I constantly find funny – and we find it funny about ourselves and we do check ourselves – is being overly sincere and taking yourself very seriously.”
You’ll be ‘Coffee Spotting’ in no time
Soon you’ll be awarding yourself 10 points for using whole milk in a coffee, as we’re introduced to a pair of ‘coffee spotters’ who a-Costa people leaving coffee shops to find out what they’re drinking, the spotters then awarding themselves points depending on the combination of coffee and milk. Are they prepared to spark such a craze?
“We’re just piggybacking on it,” admits Natasia. “Coffee spotting has been around for a long time. The more love for coffee, the better the world’s going to be.”
“We find coffee culture very funny,” says Ellie “I’ll always take a photo of signs in coffee shops that say things like, ‘A yawn is a silent scream for coffee.’ It’s a dream.”
There’s room for a spin-off
Sketch shows have a long history of producing stand-alone characters – Ellie and Natasia both cite how Absolutely Fabulous was born in a French & Saunders sketch – so might any of their creations develop into larger characters?
Natasia taps her nose, then says: “Obviously there are characters we feel have a world around them, but our minds have been focused on the sketch show and making it as good as we possibly can. Those conversations are for later…”
‘Ellie and Natasia’ airs on BBC Three at 10pm tonight (June 21) and will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer