Heydon Prowse & Jolyon Rubinstein: 'We do The Revolution Will Be Televised because we're super-intense ourselves; we're a bit mad'

The duo behind the Bafta-winning BBC3 series first met at primary school

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The Independent Online

Jolyon Rubinstein, 33

Rubinstein (right in picture) is a comedian, documentary-maker, and one half of the team behind the Bafta-winning BBC3 series 'The Revolution Will Be Televised'. He lives in London

I first met Heydon at primary school [King Alfred School, pictured above]. It was a great place, quite small, and free-thinking. The teachers encouraged us to question authority, which made us confident – or, more likely, pretty precocious. Heydon's mum was the French teacher, and was really cool. She used to let us use the dressing-up box during class, and do what we liked, mostly, as long as we did it while speaking French.

I suppose you could say the first time we worked together was when we were eight, singing songs in French at a school assembly. Not our best performance, probably, but we've all got to start somewhere.

Heydon had a unique, indefinable energy; people were drawn to him. We became good mates. We loved the same things: football, basketball and, later, girls and parties. We did GCSE drama together and I remember vividly doing a version of the Jez Butterworth play Mojo. We probably chose it because it meant we could smoke on stage, and we liked the idea of smoking at school. We also had to do a solo piece; Heydon performed this incredible bit he'd written, almost like Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I remember it involved peeling a banana very slowly. It was surreal, but it had everybody captivated.

He was a bit of a genius, had a magic quality to him. I mean, who else do you know would dig up an MP's garden into the shape of a £ sign in order to protest against his outlandish expenses claims, then make a video about it? Or attach £5 notes to fishing lines, then film City bankers chasing them? Of course, since then, we've made such stunts into a TV programme, but back then, Heydon was doing it all on his own. That takes courage, guts.

We shared a similar taste in comedy: Monty Python, Rik Mayall, Chris Morris, but I think it was Heydon who realised that Ali G added something else, a sort of cringing-behind-the-sofa element that would benefit from the risk we could put ourselves in: infiltrating the BNP to expose their racism, for example.

We give each other confidence, but of course we have our ups and downs. How could we not? We spend an unbelievable amount of time in each other's company. If we argue, we do so in a positive way, but that's what makes our friendship so great. We know each other inside out, and we know instinctively what's funny. Nothing kills something more than trying to explain to somebody else why it is funny, and we have never had to do that with each other. We're that close, we're best buds.

Heydon Prowse, 33

The other half of 'The Revolution Will Be Televised', Prowse lives in north London

Jol arrived at our primary school a little late, but I remember him well. He had a lot of, shall we say, enthusiasm for things. For example, he was the most enthusiastic football guy in the world. He'd come to school in the morning wearing his entire football kit for a game we had planned that evening. He was obsessed.

I used to go round his house and watch Star Trek with him. He had all the episodes, and was probably more of a Trekkie than me. We both had a love of comedy, and loved things like Harry Enfield, The Fast Show, The Day Today, but we also bonded over politics. We both ended up at Sussex University – him studying Politics, me Philosophy, Politics and Economics – and we were there at a very political time. It was just after 9/11, the Afghan and Iraq wars were under way, and I was busy organising anti-war events, helping to raise money for the movement.

After university, I began working for Don't Panic! magazine, creating viral videos and staging pranks to expose the bad behaviour of MPs and bankers. A lot of the work we did ended up getting a lot of public attention, which was what brought us to the BBC.

Jol is a brilliant performer, and is so great on screen. Personally, I didn't really want to be on camera so much; my approach was much more journalistic. So, though both of us came up with the characters on The Revolution Will Be Televised, it was Jol who had to persuade me to step in front of the camera alongside him. I suppose we helped each other mutually, him helping me with the performance side of things, me helping him with the issues side. We wanted to highlight all sorts of current affairs, then to satirise corrupt factions.

The show is a lot of work, and requires a lot of research. It's stressful, because it mostly involves undercover stuff, us creating weird characters – dodgy coalition MPs, South African racists – so that we can infiltrate places like the House of Commons or, in America, the Ku Klux Klan. When we're away filming, we often have to stay in character for hours and hours a day. Spending five hours in a prison in Arizona with a warden who chained his prisoners up, or with hardcore racists, a lot of them carrying guns, is not easy. It's intense.

I guess we do it because we're super-intense ourselves; we're a bit mad. We must be, because we wouldn't have done half the things we have otherwise. Once we infiltrated City Hall for the London mayoral results. We were playing our coalition MP characters, James Twottington-Burbage and Barnaby Plankton, rubbing shoulders with – and trying to avoid – endless prickly PR people and the Secret Service. That was really tough. You can't let your mask slip, or crack up when someone says something outrageous. But the elation afterwards was huge. I still remember when we left, both of us running through the streets of London for five minutes screaming, at the tops of our voices, "Wooooooooo!"

'The Revolution Will Be Televised: The Best of Series 1-3' is on BBC2 at 10pm on 8 and 15 March

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