Reviewer: Lizz Clark
True crime podcasts are now so popular that the satirical website The Onion recently sent up the genre with six-part spoof A Very Fatal Murder. But All Killa No Filla, hosted by comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean, isn’t a typical example of the form. While it covers all the serial killer stories that aficionados might expect – Brady and Hindley, the Wests, Ted Bundy, the Zodiac Killer – the hosts take a characteristic sideways look at the mythology surrounding these now-famous figures. And somehow, they make it laugh-out-loud funny.
In their live show, which takes the form of an unedited podcast episode, the two women sit in armchairs flanking a framed photograph of the Gallagher brothers (Fairburn is a fan) and discuss the American serial killer Rodney Alcala. They refer to notes about the man’s life and the murders he committed, in between unscripted jokes and references to British pop culture.
If it seems bizarre that comedy and real-life murder could coexist in one show, it’s even more surprising that Fairburn and Pritchard-McLean are, on the whole, very respectful of Alcala’s victims. As well as their disclaimer that ‘this is not hero worship’, the pair move quickly through the gory details of his killings, focussing instead on the man himself, and the aftermath of his crimes.
That’s when they get around to talking about him. Much of the show is taken up with digressions and wildly irrelevant stories about the lives of the hosts (and friend of the show, comedian Will Duggan, who appears with a keyboard to play the podcast theme). The audience is drawn into a compelling chat between the friends, covering Fairburn’s Mancunian family, Pritchard-McLean’s celebrity gossip, and the dating failures of Duggan, who charmingly withstands the women ribbing him every time he speaks.
This is the art of All Killa No Filla: its hosts seamlessly interweave the most serious topic with the strangest references and the funniest anecdotes, never forgetting the respect they owe to the women and children whose deaths are at the centre of their story. Pritchard-McLean and Fairburn know that many of us are drawn to the darker side of human experience, even as it repels us, and they aren’t afraid to explore that contradiction. There’s something comforting about a silly internet dating joke when it comes as an interjection to a chilling murder story. Little bites of normality and perspective help us to face the darkness and fear it less.
Many of the tangents, like the subject of the show itself, are not for the faint of heart. Jokes about Jimmy Savile and references to various bodily fluids are thrown around amid Pritchard-McLean’s uproarious laughter. But, as they establish at the start of the show, most or all of the audience are fans of the podcast and know what to expect. It’s not a detailed psychological investigation of a damaged man, but an exploration of a murder story by two very particular hosts. While they bring in clips of Alcala and research written in notepads, what makes the show unique isn’t its fixation on the facts of the case, but the personality that only these two talented women can bring to discussing it.
Reviewed on 25th February 2018 | Image: Barry Mellor