When our Zoom call connects, Dom has his arm wrapped around the back of Dick’s chair. The pair are sitting in a normal-looking front room with muted green walls, dark wood furniture and a healthy plant in the far-left corner. A metaphor for a pair of grown-up kids finally grown up? Maybe not. In the middle of the room there is a giant DJ mixer covered in flashing LEDs set up in the space where the sofa should be.
‘We have an online gig tonight,’ Dick tells me.
‘We’ve been trying to get really good at DJing,’ adds Dom, ‘just practicing and practicing and practicing so that we can broaden our DJing not just to the student scene, but to other places too. Creamfields maybe. […] I think it surprises people that we can do this, they don’t expect us to be able to do that kind of thing, they just expect us to be able to shout BOGIES.’
The game, like the double act, needs no introduction. Anyone who watched Saturday morning TV between 2002 and 2006 is familiar with the unparalleled joy of yelling “BOGIES” in public places to your parents’ and teacher’s dismay. Throughout our conversation, I’m half expecting one of my flat mates to barge into the room and yell it down the webcam.
I ask if they ever feel disappointed that they are only associated with BOGIES and their other Bungalow shenanigans. ‘No, not at all. We’re incredibly proud of it.’ says Dom. ‘I want to know what it feels like again. Working on Dick and Dom in da Bungalow (a phrase which they both invariably pronounce as one word ‘dickanddomindabungalow’) was this complete synergy of a group of people moving forward together. It was like an army. Everyone was in sync with each other. Everyone knew exactly what the next person would do. The sound person was in sync with the light person who was in sync with the camera person who was in sync with the director and the floor manager.’
‘And there wasn’t even a script,’ Dom continues, ‘there was just a list of bullet points and the kids were given complete free reign. Everything was off the cuff. […] And all you had to do was ask a kid “What’s wrong?” or “Why are you upset?” and all of a sudden someone would be playing sad violin music. The lens would go out of focus. The lights would suddenly go blue and you’ve got this complete shift mood compared to a second ago. And then just as quickly it would all go back to normal. It was so special, and I’ve only seen it done on a few different shows.’
Back when Dick and Dom first started at the BBC in 1996, the kid’s TV slot was 3 hours long and would receive about 5 million views every day. Nowadays, they tell me, you’re lucky if you can get 70,000. I ask them what they think has changed.
‘The rule book has got bigger,’ replies Dick, ‘you wouldn’t see a program like dickanddomindabungalow on TV anymore, which is really sad, because it was something different, anarchic and unique at the time. […] Everything nowadays is produced properly into well formatted TV shows. Kids do still have free reign to make their own content, but they’re making it on YouTube instead. It’s a shame they can’t do that on TV.’
‘Everyone worries too much these days,” adds Dom, “back then there was definitely a kind of revolution: there was Chris Moyles doing the Breakfast Show, there was TFI Friday with Chris Evans. […] Then suddenly it all clamped down. I think it was around the time of the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross controversy, I think that was when the rule book got bigger.’
In 2008, Russel Brand and Jonathan Ross prank called Andrew Sachs BBC Radio 2, leaving rude messages on his answerphone about Brand’s relationship with Sachs’ granddaughter. 18000 complaints were made to Ofcom and both Brand and Ross were suspended from the BBC. The affair led to a huge public debate about public service broadcasting and a much stricter set of regulations at the BBC.
‘Dickanddomindabungalow’ has been subject to its own fair share of critical attention. Dick and Dom received complaints that ranged from the pair’s inaccurate use of grammar to appearing near-nude on the show. Dom was once criticised by Ofcom after wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘Morning Wood’ and Dick received numerous complaints following a skit in which he gave birth to a dozen babies covered in creamy muck muck.
‘When we got complaints like that, we pushed it harder to try and generate some more. There were groups of mums out there who were trying to get together to get the program taken off air,’ says Dick, with a proud smile. ‘And we were the second program in the history of children’s TV to be mentioned in the House of Commons. A lot of people think the BBC took us off air, but it was our decision in the end. We felt it was best to leave while the show was at its peak.’
But in many ways, Dick and Dom have never really left the Bungalow. During our conversation, I come to realise that for them, all of history exists on a timeline that runs from ‘Before The Bungalow’ to ‘After The Bungalow’. Every story they tell me is invariably framed by its proximity to the golden era of ‘dickanddomindabungalow’. This time between 2002 and 2006 was a unique moment in history when their lives consisted entirely of baby races, musical splatues and creamy muck muck. There’s a lot to be nostalgic about.
During their early years (a time described to me as ‘4 or 5 years Before The Bungalow’), Dick and Dom worked on separate projects for the BBC and lived together in a basement flat share in London. They tell me how it was home to many (self-proclaimed) legendary parties for the TV stars of the early 2000s.
‘We used to have these big old-school vinyl decks and big speakers,’ explains Dick. ‘People used to say: “Have you ever been to a Dick and Dom party?”, because people would always end up in a right mess. Chris Moyles would be face-down over there, Alex Davis face-down over there. It was all going on. […] The landlord upstairs used to find it hilarious.’
‘I don’t think he found it hilarious at all,’ interrupted Dom. ‘He phoned us up once asking us to turn down the music because his pot plants were leaping all over the floor. And then we had the audacity to ask him to stop his kids running around at seven o’clock in the morning.’
Eyes wide and leaning forward in their chairs, Dick and Dom launch into story after story about their memories of what can only be described as their own real-life bungalow. ‘We used to just go into the kitchen, a bit drunk, and just start having food fights, completely trashing the kitchen,’ says Dick. Without missing a beat or seemingly noticing that it was his other half who had spoken, Dom continues: ‘And when I say food fights, I mean proper food fights. […] Literally every single thing that you could find in the cupboard. I’m talking eggs on the ceiling…boxes of eggs…flour everywhere…ketchup. It was an absolute tip.’
‘But we’ve grown up now. The party days are over,’ says Dom, somewhat unconvincingly considering their evening plans consisted of a D&B gig for Sunderland and Nottingham Trent universities.
‘The TV relationship is all based on our real-life friendship,’ explains Dick. ‘It’s no more than that. And I think the fact that we’re still best mates after 25 years is a testimony that you can’t forge onscreen relationships. We know many double acts who have tried to stay friends just to keep the career going – but it ultimately falls apart. We’ve been through our own personal problems over the 25 years, it’s impossible not to have ups and downs, but we’ve always been there to support each other. And we’ve gone through our lives together, not just our careers together. It’s been a great 25 years. And we’ve got many more ahead.’
I ask them what fans should be expecting next from Dick and Dom. ‘We have ideas,’ replies Dick, ‘it’s been a bit bad over the last year, you know, a bit different. Last March we were booked up to do loads and loads of stuff. Our podcast Cash for Chaos was going to be made as a TV pilot, but all that stopped and everything in our diaries was cleared out; all the festivals, all the live tours, everything. It’s been weird transitioning into this online area. We’ve been coming up with as many ideas as we can for when everything reopens to come back with a bang. Because I think everyone’s going to be ready to party.’
After we hang up the call, I’m left feeling nostalgic for the world that they described, a world full of food fights, house parties and Saturday morning TV. But my overriding impression of Dick and Dom is not their sentimentality or even their devoted friendship, it is the total seriousness with which they speak about their career. Although I would still be hesitant to accuse the pair of behaving like full-blown grown-ups, their knowledge of TV broadcasting is insightful, and they speak about the last 25 years of pop culture with profound clarity. DJing and podcasting are not clumsy side hustles for Dick and Dom, they are deliberate strategies to recapture an ageing fanbase; because Dick and Dom have never really given up on their mission to bring happiness to a generation of kids who, somewhere along the line, turned into adults.