On my radar: Rachel Parris on her cultural highlights

The comedian and Mash Report star on Lemn Sissay’s memoir, Tank and the Bangas’ mindblowing hip-hop, and a very weird podcast

Comedian and musician Rachel Parris was born in 1984 in Leicester. She stars in BBC Two’s satirical news show The Mash Report, for which she received a Bafta nomination last year. She lives in London with her husband, the comedian Marcus Brigstocke, and will appear at the outdoor Drive-In Club, in Brent Cross, London on 24 July.

1. TV

Middleditch & Schwartz, Netflix

Middleditch & Schwartz.
Middleditch & Schwartz. Photograph: Jeffery Neira/NETFLIX © 2020

You don’t see that much pure improv on TV. You see sitcoms that use it, like Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, but you don’t see actual shows where they get a word or an idea, and just go. These two guys are amazing together. You can tell when two improvisers have been working together for donkey’s years, because they’re just so good at riffing off each other. In this country, commissioners are so scared of improv, but I really hope this is the start of something… that people watch this and go: “That’s really funny every time – there’s no risk.”

2. Art

Marek’s Mediocre Masterpieces, YouTube

Marek Larwood’s 15-minute take on Constable’s The Hay Wain.
Marek Larwood’s 15-minute take on Constable’s The Hay Wain. Photograph: Marek Larwood/YouTube

Marek Larwood takes famous works of art and tries to recreate them in 15 minutes. It’s really pure. I like that he’s not an expert at it. He did The Hay Wain by Constable and has done some modern and some really classical stuff. They’re not always good, and at the end of every one he goes: “Oh Christ, this is appalling.” He invites people who have watched him to send in the ones they’ve done in 15 minutes. So there is a sort of gallery at the end. It’s really well meaning and quite wholesome.

3. Music

Tank and the Bangas

Tank and the Bangas at this year’s Grammy awards.
Tank and the Bangas at this year’s Grammy awards. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

I first came across this New Orleans group a few years ago, when they won an award called the NPR Tiny Desk. On YouTube, you can find a 15-minute set that they do in an office that is unbelievably good. It blew my mind. It’s hip-hop, mainly, with a bit of jazz woven in and even a bit of classical ballad. They have so many different influences and they’re so talented. I like their latest album, Green Balloon, which came out last year.

4. Book

My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay

Lemn Sissay documents his time in foster care.
Lemn Sissay documents his time in foster care. Photograph: Hollie Fernando/The Observer

I met poet Lemn Sissay through my husband. Lemn wrote this amazing and heartbreaking book last year, which I have only just read. It’s about his journey through the social care system in the 70s and 80s. He publishes the official records of what happened to him when he was a child. It’s incredibly page-turning. The racism that Lemn faced even from his own foster family… you can’t believe what you’re reading. I was prompted into reading it with everything that’s happening with Black Lives Matter.

5. Podcast

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

Podcaster John Green.
Podcaster John Green. Photograph: WNYC

This podcast is so weird. John Green reviews things ranging from tuberculosis to the remote control. He reads these beautifully written essays and at the end gives the thing marks out of five. Things that he’s reviewed include the qwerty keyboard, the human capacity for wonder, the Notes app. The board game Monopoly was an interesting one, because its origins are actually a really damning indictment of capitalism. It was invented by a woman years before it was later released by Parker Brothers, after a man stole the idea and got a patent for it.

6. Film

Captain Fantastic

Captain Fantastic
‘Uplifting and beautiful’: Captain Fantastic. Photograph: Allstar/Electric City Entertainment

Viggo Mortensen stars in this film. It’s about a dad raising a family in the middle of a national park in America with no electricity and no contact with the outside world. It starts off being really idyllic, but then begins to explore the reality of what happens when the kids need to go out into the real world. Mortensen plays a very hands-on dad, but you begin to find out the backstory – what happened to his wife, why this life means so much to him. It all gets complicated, but it’s really uplifting and visually beautiful. I thought about it for ages afterwards.

• For tickets to the Drive-In Club, visit drivein.ticketline.co.uk


Kadish Morris

The GuardianTramp

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