Leo Moynihan speaks to two comedians who are embarking on a madcap voyage to this summer's World Cup...
We all love a road trip, right? Right. Well, flick on the telly and you might see a new one involving two comedians making their way through South America in a small Kia en route to Rio.
The Road to Rio (found on Dave, and no, it's not a re-run) stars England’s Mark Watson (Mock The Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks) and Germany’s Henning Wehn (Have I Got News for You, 8 Out of Ten Cats – oh, and he once worked in the marketing department at Wycombe Wanderers).
The trip takes the duo through Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia before reaching Brazil. Along the way they face hair-raising capers, from hand-gliding off Rio’s mountains to seeking out Diego Maradona in Buenos Aires, via some serious male waxing in Brazil. None of those, however, will demand as much bravery from an intrepid explorer as agreeing to a night on the town with Faustino Asprilla.
“Henning didn’t make it out with me that night,” recalls Watson. “By then he was exhausted and felt that going to a Salsa club with Tino Asprilla might be the hair that broke the camel's back. Just how exhausted would you have to be to miss that, though? Surely doing that is on everyone’s bucket list.”
Wehn not only missed out on the fun, but also had to put up with the fall-out as Watson and the small crew suffered having gone toe-to-toe with one of football’s greatest party fiends. “I needed a night off,” says Wehn. “The next day our assistant producer spent the whole drive vomiting out of the car window. We basically left a trail of puke across Colombia.”
So just what had Tino done to them? “Well he was just as you would expect: bonkers,” says Watson. “I think we basically got him to appear on the show with the promise of all the Mojitos he could drink. He had me up dancing Salsa, which I was s*** at, and then he grabbed the microphone and started to sing, much to the whole club’s approval. He’s a legend and everyone buys him drinks. Everyone.
“He told us he had a fairly good time off the pitch in Newcastle. Les Ferdinand seemed to be his drinking buddy and you haven’t lived until you have heard Tino say ‘Les Ferdeeeeeenand’ in his Spanish accent.
“I went to bed late but our assistant producer tried to keep up for the whole night. We were shooting the next day and had to drive through some windy Colombian roads. That was that for him.”
And so the adventure continued, but for one of them there was a lot more driving to be done. “Mark can’t drive so what he is doing on a road trip show I have no idea,” laments Wehn. “It can be scary on South American roads, they drive like they dance.”
Watson did feel a pang of guilt for his lack of a driving license, but not for long: “Henning made up for it with his grumbling.” Despite the front-seat fall-outs, Wehn and Watson continued with their trip. In Uruguay they tracked down Luis Suarez's mother’s address, hoping to get a feel of what the Liverpool striker is really like. “All we could gauge is that he is generous,” says Wehn. “He bought his mother a bakery which we found, but it must have just been her hobby as she never opened it while we were there. We did chat to his mother’s neighbour, though. She was nice.”
From Uruguay – “They like a fight,” says Wehn, “basically it’s Scotland but they’re good at football” – they went to Argentina, where they had the same sort of luck tracking down Maradona. They did, though, get a taste for the deity that he has begun. With Watson and Wehn from England and Germany respectively, the locals enjoyed bringing up the 1986 World Cup. “They like to talk about the quarter-final much more than the final,” says Wehn. “That suited me, as the final is a sore point. They have murals everywhere devoted to Maradona’s Hand of God goal. Winning it seemed of less importance than beating England.”
They also tracked down Antonio Rattin, the villain of the 1966 World Cup. “That was really annoying,” says Watson. “You want someone like that to be nasty because of what you have always read, but he was charming. So nice.” Wehn got a slightly frostier reception. “I didn’t know this, but the referee who sent him off in 1966 was German. He quickly brought that up.”
And so, via Chile, the pair headed onto Brazil where they hooked up with a few familiar faces. “We met Pele’s young son, who is a dead ringer for his dad and playing professional football,” says Wehn. Was he good? “I’m not sure but he was good at fishing. He took us out and caught a fish.” What kind? we ask. “Er, a silver one.” Cool.
Pele’s silver-fish-catching-son was just the start, though: an invite to former Middlesbrough trickster Juninho’s home was a bonus. “He was great,” says Watson. “He’s now the director of football at his local second division club and has a beautiful villa befitting of a former Premier League footballer. We sat by his lovely pool sipping drinks while surreally chatting about life at the ‘Boro.
“He told us about how much he loved his time there and actually liked the weather because the cold suited his all-action game. The cold was good. Basically he liked how shit it is.”
There were also meetings with Carlos Alberto, Zico, former West Ham and Chile defender Javier Margas, Argentina and Tottenham Hotspur hero Ricky Villa, former Aston Villa and Reading full-back Ulises de la Cruz. Not to mention a trip to the impressive Maracana. “That was great,” says Watson. “I tried to get the locals’ memories of that John Barnes goal there in 1984 but they just nodded politely. I guess what was amazing to us was just another goal to them.”
When it came to discussing who might win the tournament, Watson got used to those polite nods and smiles. “Yeah, when we talked about it with locals, Henning would get loads of interest and the talk would lead to how it might be an Argentina-Germany final or a Brazil-Germany final. Then I’d pipe up with how England might fare and they’d just smile and tell me how much they liked the Premier League.”
Road to Rio airs Mondays at 7pm on Dave - click here for more details