Getting away with silliness, comic group The WitTank have gone from Edinburgh Fringe newbies to BBC Three sketches and tours. Richard Smirke gets caught up in the madness

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In the self-deprecating manner of a seasoned stand-up, Naz Osmanoglu pulls no punches when it comes to describing WitTank, the fast-rising comedy sketch trio in which he partners Kieran Boyd and Mark Cooper-Jones.

“We are a triumvirate of really rather lonely, desperate men looking for attention,” says Osmanoglu, tongue, I suspect, only partially in cheek. “People say that comedians are the new rock and roll stars, but we’re a threesome that goes around in a car, partying by ourselves, having a giggle and then drives home. If we were a band, we’d be the loneliest, nerdiest, most pathetic one.”

Thankfully, WitTank’s comic prowess far exceeds their musical ability. Best known for making a string of eye-catching appearances on BBC Three’s new talent showcase Live At The Electric, the six-legged act – which started in 2005 when all three members unsuccessfully auditioned for the Durham University Revue and decided to form their own stand-alone sketch group – has won praise from critics and audiences alike for its surreal, highly energetic and often ridiculously daft humour.

By way of illustration, previous skits included Osmanoglu embarking on a seedy love affair with a green wheelie bin, a dying Horatio Nelson uttering a deeply disturbing last request and a trio of office workers discussing the fallout from their boss being eaten by a gremlin.

“WitTank is very silly and very over the top,” explains Boyd. “There are a few clever bits to it, but it’s mainly just three guys onstage who know each other far too well, having a great laugh.”

“We each have certain characteristics,” adds Osmanoglu. “I’m particularly loud and sweaty. Kieran is obviously feminine and beautiful and Mark is tall and weird. It’s basically just really big, silly and fun.”

Comedy fans in the North West will get another chance to experience the silliness up close when WitTank’s first national tour makes a one-night stopover at Salford’s Lowry Studio theatre on 20 January, having previously called in at Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool last year. The response from audiences so far has surpassed all expectations, says Boyd.

“That’s not to say that our expectations were really low, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by numbers and our experiences of the shows. We’re aware that in a lot of places it’s our first time there and no one knows who we are or what to expect,” elaborates Boyd, who, like Osmanoglu and Cooper-Jones, regularly performs solo stand-up alongside being a member of WitTank.

Up until Christmas, Cooper-Jones also maintained a day job as a geography teacher, although he has since quit the classroom to concentrate full time on comedy.

“When we started the idea of just showing up in Edinburgh, doing a Fringe show and it not being total sh*t was enough,” says Boyd of WitTank’s inauspicious origins. “It’s been a slow build, but eventually you get to a point where you think: ‘Actually, maybe we can do this professionally. Maybe we can put this on TV.’”

To that end, WitTank will return to our screens later this year via a starring guest role in the second series of Live At The Electric. Following the culmination of their first tour, the three comics will, once again, make their annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Festival, where they have built a loyal following.

“We just love performing and I think that’s the most important thing,” reflects Osmanoglu. “Between the three of us, it’s a great fit because we all really get each other’s sense of humour and make each other laugh.”

“At the moment, everything is very stand-up dominated and people are starting to get bored of that a little bit. There is definitely room for more sketch or variety of character type things,” adds Boyd. “The live sketch show is in rude health. People just need to go out and see it.”

WitTank play Lowry Theatre, Salford on 20 January

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