You know the Fonejacker. He is that guy in a bobble hat phoning up victims disguised as a fey African and demanding their account numbers in return for one million Ugandan dollars. He is funnier than a cock-shaped cattle prod.
The Fonejacker is Kayvan Novak, a 28-year-old London born actor of Iranian descent. He voices every single character in Channel 4’s hilarious show, has appeared in the BBC spy series Spooks and even acted across from George Clooney in award-winning film Syriana. In short, he is about as up-and-coming as you can get, and we’ve got him.
Kayvan Novak does not look much like the Fonejacker. Or, being as we never actually see more of the Fonejacker than his lips, he does not look like you would expect him to look. Frustratingly handsome, but above all normal, Novak is a comedy actor first and foremost. His characters are grotesques and, while you get the feeling that he does not exactly hide behind them, they do offer a pleasing veil of anonymity. Being a man of mystery never hurt anyone. Just ask Chris Morris. Though you can’t, because nobody can ever get him on the phone.
With the release of Fonejacker series one on DVD, Novak was in a relaxed mood. He had this to say…
How much preparation do yourself and director Ed Tracy put into a Fonejacker ‘set-up’?
With the live stuff or animation?
We just find targets and keep on going until one of them bites. Like an estate agent or something. We might try two hundred of them until we get it.
Don’t most people just hang up?
A lot do hang up, yeah. I just do my thing. The best ones are when people get really angry. I like to leave them not knowing which way they are going.
Ever get any tears?
Some people do get upset, but I never, ever break character. It’s comedy at the end of the day, a joke. If someone has gotten upset I try and get off the phone as quickly as possible and have a researcher ring them back and clear things up.
In one episode you got a call from a guy complaining that George Agdgdgwenge had just asked for his bank details. You answered the call as Terry Tibbs. Did you know this guy was going to phone back, or did you respond on the fly?
I get a lot of calls back. I just launch into whoever I am doing then. I was doing Terry Tibbs at the time so just went into him.
Who is the hardest character to do?
The mice, probably, simply because of the strain on my voice. The telephone answering machine is hard because it’s so boring waiting. You wait hours for someone to phone up that just wants to rent a flat, then they hang up straight away.
How do you rebuke criticism that Fonejacker is a one-joke idea?
I don’t see how it can ever be a one-joke idea. It’s ten months work. I mean it is what it is. You are always going to get some haters. It seems to be pretty much split between those who love (it) and hate it.
Got any new characters planned for series 2 yet?
I wish I had! I get a lot of my ideas in the shower. I'm always writing things down, everywhere, on anything. I’m working hard on the Christmas special, but a second series has been commissioned, yeah.
Will you bring back Terry Tibbs (attempts lame impression), as he is quite well known now?
(sympathetic laugh) You know, someone said to me that the total people that watch the show are only the size of Croydon or something. It’s a success, but…
People just don’t remember?
Yeah, that’s it.
Which characters perhaps didn’t work out as well as you would have liked?
Some of the characters started out as something else and changed. I was doing one sketch as an airline pilot and it went on for four minutes. It was just too long.
The now instantly recognisable image of you in the bobble hat has made Fonejacker a brand. Was that your intention?
The suits are keen to encourage that stuff. I don’t mind. I’m more concerned with the comedy.
Looking at your serious acting work, you were in Syriana with George Clooney. How on earth did that come about?
I had played bad guys in the UK. I got a call, nailed the audition, nailed the callback. We shot for eight days out there.
In Hollywood terms, yourself and Omid Djalili (The Mummy, Spy Game) are the only two British/Iranian actors working today. What type of offers do you find you are getting?
I’ve played my share of Turkish pimps and got some suits out of it. It’s what you do. I’m not working in Hollywood though. I’m into comedy first – fonejacking.
So, have you ever actually heard of hecklerspray?
We are a biting, satirical entertainment news website; we have a go at celebrities. You’re not on our shit list though.
Comedian Adam Buxton said of you: ‘I feel another Sasha Baron Cohen coming on’. How do you feel about that?
Cool. I’ve got no problem with that. I like Adam. He’s cool. It doesn’t mean anything, though I am very flattered.
Tell us then, Britney Spears: nice girl or mad as a hatter?
She’s becoming what everyone thinks she is, if you know what I mean? I feel sorry for her. I think they should all leave her alone.
Oh. Well it is good to have some love on here.
Thank you for your time, Kayvan.
With that, he was gone. Despite clearly suffering from interview fatigue, Kayvan was chatty and interesting. One thing is definitely clear though, if you are stuck on the end of the phone with George Agdgdgwenge one day, he is not going to take any prisoners. Better have a spare sort code handy.
‘Fonejacker Doovdè Series One’ is released on DVD Monday 8th October.