Peter Serafinowicz rarely puts a fact on Twitter when he can make a joke instead. But one of his latest Tweets – “Getting ready to be Rocky in my music video shoot tomorrow. Am in training to fight a 2-ton robot” – was actually true.
SevenStreets was in the middle of a phone interview when Serafinowicz was pulled away for a session with his fight co-ordinator. “I’ve really got to go,” he apologised. “I’m really sorry. I’m in the street right now and… oh, he’s clocked me. Sorry. Got to go, bye, bye, reallyhavetogo, sorrybyelotsoflovebye”.
Disappointed wasn’t the word. We hadn’t even begun to discuss his ridiculously dazzling international comedy career. In fact, in the Peter Serafinowicz life story, we’d had hardly made it out of his teenage years before we were very publicly ditched for a pending robot fight scene.
For Serafinowicz, star of successes from Spaced to Fox sitcom Running Wilde, is currently directing and starring in the latest video for the Swedish House Mafia, a “super ambitious” Rocky pastiche, as he describes it. The man has form – having previously directed a much lauded video for Hot Chip’s ‘I Feel Better’.
Still, there will be time for more questions when he returns to Liverpool for In Conversation with Peter Serafinowicz, the latest in the series by Club Geek Chic. Their special night, which sees subjects interviewed, intercut with live performances of their five favourite songs, as interpreted by Liverpool musicians, features Serafinowicz on April 1.
There must have been something in the water in the Serafinowicz’s Liverpool home. His brother James is now a successful comedy producer and director on both sides of the Atlantic (including on many of Peter’s own shows and sketches), and sister Helen married Father Ted writer Graham Linehan, and is working on her own comedy writing.
Comedy was always Peter’s passion, caring little for The Beatles or football as he was growing up, and only eventually discovering the Fab Four through spoof movie The Rutles.
He ponders what his parents made of his – and his siblings’ – success in the world of comedy. “I don’t know what my dad made of it all,” he laughs. “What I do isn’t that indistinguishable from mucking about, and dad was quite strict about me going to school and doing well – which I didn’t. I was always in trouble. On parents’ night the teachers would just assault my mum and dad. I never did any homework and I was lazy.
“But, once I’d had a bit of success he couldn’t have been more proud. Mum has always supported me from when when I was really young, and she’s dead funny as well.”
Known as much for his distinctive, deep voice as his comedy chops – Serafinowicz voiced Darth Maul in the Star Wars prequels and played it for laughs as Howell Granger, the shipping forecast newsreader, in a memorable episode of Black Books among other vocal work – in reality, on the phone, you’d be hard pressed to recogise him. Answering in a jovial and well-spoken TV voice with a bit of a southern twang, it’s only after a few minutes’ chat that Serafinowicz slips further and further into the tell tale rhythm and pitch of his original Scouse accent.
Then again, the man’s a bit of a professional Scouser too – his uncanny Beatles impersonations helped land him the role of Paul McCartney in a 3D Hollywood remake of Yellow Submarine. On the morning we spoke, internet rumours were rife that the project had been ditched by the studio – a fact Serafinowicz confirmed: “I think Disney have pulled the plug, but [director] Robert Zemeckis is so hugely influential I think he’ll get it made somewhere else and I just hope that happens.”
If it does, it’ll be another career high for the Gatecare lad who moved to London in the early 90s, aged 20. A brave move that paid off when a demo he sent to Radio 4 landed on the right desk, at the right time. His work was commissioned, and the rest is history. He still works with the producer who took him on to this day.
Gateacres’s loss was comedy’s gain, as Peter went on to take roles in episodes of How Do You Want Me? I’m Alan Partridge, 15 Storeys High, Little Britain, his own Look Around You and The Peter Serafinowicz Show among others. His voice has been heard in Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and The IT Crowd, and film credits include Shaun of the Dead and Run, Fatboy, Run. His Hollywood internet spoofs got him noticed in the States, and a friendship with comedian Will Arnett led to US prime time show Running Wilde and a part in the long-awaited Arrested Development movie.
The 38-year-old former St Francis Xavier school pupil doesn’t often return to his home city, which is part of what makes the In Conversation event such an interesting prospect. So what piqued his interest?
“It was just a combination of harrassment on their part, and fatigue on mine,” he says. For Club Geek Chic – run by Gemma Aldcroft and Karen Podesta – have had their sights trained on him since their series began, with Janice Long, last year.
“I thought it was kind of a weird thing – it sounded very prestigious, and I don’t feel I merit it at all,” he says. “I don’t particularly like talking about myself, so when I agreed it was because I thought people want to hear from me, there seems to be a demand, so let’s do it and try and make it as entertaining as possible.”
In Conversation with Peter Serafinowicz, £15
St George’s Hall small concert room, April 1