How I got ripped-off and my iMac was messed-up by a computer repair man

This is a longer-than-normal blog. Only embark on it if you want to share my trauma… Though I do think the piece builds to a fairly strong climax – not written by me but by one remarkably plain-speaking Alan Evans… At the start, though, this is me…


It is embarrassing to admit, but, one day couple of weeks ago…

I found I could not access WiFi on my Apple iMac although, on the same desk in the same room, my iPad and iPhone COULD access the WiFi. So it was not a WiFi signal problem; it was an iMac problem. The iMac was working perfectly well otherwise; there was just a problem getting online via WiFi. I could not solve the problem – I tried all the normal things – so I succumbed to getting a repair man in via what seemed to be a safe website – bidvine.com

Via them, I was approached by a guy called Jon Draper who, again, sounded plausible. He quoted £55 as an estimate.

A simple problem. He sounded plausible. My big mistake.

On arrival, he said he had meant to quote his normal £80 but would do it for the £55. 

Without telling me in advance and without asking my permission, while I was out of the room, he added four programs to my computer which he claimed would stabilise my computer and which cost £95 – so total price £150. 

They were CleanMyMac, IDFrag and Onyx. Plus MalwareBytes – which he only told me about after I queried it. He also told me the inbuilt Apple Disk Utility was “useless”.

As far as I am aware, none of the four non-Apple programs he installed are designed to specifically and solely target a WiFi problem. They are designed to mess around with the internal workings of the Operating System.

The WiFi, of course, now worked, he told me. I paid him by credit card. He was very plausible. And then he tried to show me the computer working.

It took forever to even start. He tried to solve the problem – “I don’t know why it’s doing that,” he said. It took perhaps 6-9 minutes to get it going. Getting online took similar minutes. “I don’t know why it’s doing that,” he said. I began to think this was his mantra. The picture was unstable. It rolled. “I don’t know why it’s doing that,” he said for a third time after Googling on his phone to see how to sort the problem. None of these problems had happened before.

He talked about wiping the hard drive and reinstalling everything from my back-up. I said, “No.” I was not letting him anywhere near my previously working hard drive.

After maybe half an hour, he left because he had to go to another appointment saying, as he went through the door, that to solve the problem, he could sell me a £150 hard drive for £100. I said No… Obviously.

He claims he has a “No Fix – No Fee” policy so I suppose, pedantically, that is true. The WiFi problem had been fixed. But he had buggered up the computer by – without my permission – installing four programs for which he charge £95.

After he left, I removed (as I told him I would) two of the four rogue programs – CleanMyMac and IDFrag – and got the computer working perfectly well again – except that I cannot now access my Network Preferences panel and the hard disc icon on my desktop has been replaced with a Network icon. The third program – MalwareBytes – I removed, but an icon for it remained in the MenuBar.

I sent a message asking Jon Draper how to remove this and asking where the fourth program he installed – Onyx – was. He said he would find out and get back to me. I had to find a MalwareBytes uninstaller on the internet which I downloaded and got rid of the rogue MalwareBytes icon.

I still have been unable to find the Onyx program he charged me for (it is Freeware). I also sent a message asking for a refund for the cost of him supplying and (without my foreknowledge or permission) installing software which collectively buggered-up my previously working computer. I got no reply.

He left the computer in an unusable state, installed software I did not ask for without my foreknowledge or permission and charged £95 extra to make a working computer slow and, in practical effect, unusable. Appalling. I got the computer working again myself.

I complained to Bidvine who, basically, said, “Not our problem, mate.” They put people who require service in touch with people who provide service and it is nothing to do with them if the service is shit.

“At Bidvine, our goal is to successfully connect you to professionals and we aim for everyone to have a positive experience in using the platform. We value your feedback as this serves to inform us.”

Interestingly, Bidvine’s website showed Jon Draper had been hired only 4 times via Bidvine, but had received 6 reviews for jobs done on different dates.

I looked more into Jon Draper (which, of course, I should have done earlier).

I noticed that, on his website, it claims he is part of an organisation with multiple technicians covering six counties. Yet, when I looked at the different counties’ details they all seemed to have his own telephone numbers. And the only name in alleged testimonials from satisfied ‘members of the public’ in different areas was his name.

The company “HQ” – that’s what it said – is an unremarkable suburban house in Woodstock Avenue, Golders Green, NW11 9SG, if you want to Google Streetview it.

The ‘company’ is said to be managed by a mysterious Tony Hawkins who “has been involved in the computer repair business for many years” and is “well trained to oversee the company, having previously worked for computer data services… We can GUARANTEE your business first page of Google!… So, for example, type in ‘pc repairs’ followed by any town in London, Surrey or Hertfordshire, and you’ll see our website on the first page.”

Obviously I tried this and it is a load of bollocks.

I enjoyed cowboys when I was a young boy watching movies. I do not appreciate them as much as an adult.

I also found that Jon Draper trades on Facebook as Any Distance Computer Services, on Twitter as PC & Mac Repairs and as 24 Hour PC and Apple Mac Repairs on BidVine’s competitor website freeindex.co.uk (although this 24-hour business confusingly claims that business hours are 0700-2300).

Never let it be said I fail to give credit where due.

He has done the same scam before, though not, it seems, with such disastrous consequences. The latest two 2018 reviews on freeindex.co.uk were both 1-star and the latest also mentioned in detail dodgy installation by him of unnecessary programs. (BELOW)

Suspiciously, all previous reviews (5-star) were posted before July 2017. 

Here are two reviews of “Jon Draper” on FreeIndex:


From: ALAN EVANS, Horley. Posted 26 Jul 2018

Jon rudely hung up on me during our call, but I will here summarise my complaint(s) with the nature of his service provision. The originating issue and reason for calling Jon was, and is, with regard to a slow iMac which often shows the spinning wheel for long periods. Since Jon came to address the problem, the spinning wheel persists so nothing has changed.

Very soon after Jon arrived he suggested that High Sierra was the problem. He suggested this before conducting any diagnostics but I assumed he knew what he was doing – being the ‘expert’ and all. Then the task was, apparently, to revert back to the previous software. While the computer reverted back to its previous software which takes time, Jon suggested looking at 2 other computers in my home; another iMac and a Dell laptop, to see if anything could be done there too. At the time I thought he was being helpful and service-oriented by making good use of the time I was already paying for @ £40 per 30 minutes. He had said over the phone “I charge £80 per hour but most problems can be fixed within this time”. As it turned he took 90 minutes and charged me £120. I wouldn’t have an issue with this charge. But, in fact, I do because: 

He spent the extra half hour loading ‘helpful’ apps onto all the computers. I assumed this was part of the service because he never asked if I wished to purchase any apps. He then casually announced before leaving and by pointing at each computer, that the software for that one is £45, that one £35 etc to the tune of £215 bringing the total cost to £335. I was shocked and told him that one of the computers was my wife’s work based computer and I did not want to be charged for fixing the computer of a corporation. He removed the apps from this computer and £125 from the fee but I was becoming increasingly irritated and my trust in him dropped dramatically as a consequence of his approach. 

Still reeling, I paid £210 online under duress and without having had a chance to review the outcome. Which of course I now have. Jon advertises a ‘No Fix – No Fee Policy’ but at the same time rushed me, the customer, to pay online before he had left and before I had a chance to check if anything had in fact been fixed. It hadn’t. 

The apps he mis-sold me, I have since discovered, were free and gratis anyway. He appears to have provided a month subscription and these ‘subscriptions’ then run out. They were MalwareBytes, IDFrag (I can buy memory defrag for 99p on the App Store if I wish to) Onyx, ClamXav (also free but only £19.99 to buy the full version) and CleanMyMac 1.5. CleanMyMac is now on version 3 and I am unable to upgrade to this from the software he loaded which is very old. 

I believe Jon is using customers who are experiencing computer issues as opportunities for selling old software that he happens to have on a memory stick. These unsuspecting customers do not know any better and so put their trust in him. Worse, he knowingly abuses this trust for personal gain. Jon is a highly immoral predator. 

When I eventually got hold of Jon on the phone (he failed to return my calls several times) I attempted to calmly put my thoughts to him, making the assumption that perhaps he has unknowingly made an error and just doesn’t realise how he is coming across either. Rather than listen he continuously interrupted and stated several times ‘that’s your opinion’. He rejected any attempt at providing feedback designed to help him see how his service appears to us customers. 

I used an analogy to suggest that a car garage doesn’t charge a customer for works on a car until they have explained the options to allow the customer to decide what they are and are not willing to pay for. They don’t just customise your car then tell the customer ‘You owe us £X’. Jon countered this with “Well then I want the number of your garage because mine does and all garages do…” In effect telling me I am wrong and he is right and demonstrating an inability to listen, learn and change. 

After our call I checked the reviews of his company on some review sites and such and noted that other complainers attempting to share their views are similarly attacked by Jon with attempts to discredit them and their criticisms. An open reply to one person says; ‘This customer was visiting dodgy websites’. Another customer implores us to contact them first so they can warn us of what to expect and to avoid Jon. Jon’s approach disgusts me. 

His operation represents bad customer service at best. But it is cruel, rude, bullying, damaging to both home and business and lacking in any kind of ethical business practice at worst. Jon is self-serving and money-oriented at whatever the cost. And the cost is the appropriate level of care toward the customers. Jon should serve time in prison as his activities are criminal.

I want a full refund. But I expect nothing from these sharks other than more name calling, denials and lies (see Jon’s response below!)

To state the obvious: avoid Jon and his company like the plague.


From: AARON, Amersham. Posted 22 Jan 2018 

Very disappointed with the service from Jon. The initial contact was ok, but it took me following up on 3 separate occasions for him to come out to pick up my hard drive for data recovery. Post pick up I had to follow up with him on a number of occasions before he did the work I had asked him to do. I would respond to his questions within minutes but then he wouldn’t communicate back for days.

When he completed the work he sent me my data but kept my hard drive, which we had never discussed and which I had never given him permission to do. After following up with him about it he told he had destroyed it to get the data, which he had also not communicated to me before doing it. 

I requested he send it back to me, destroyed or not, as the SSD hard drive of a MacBook is worth more than his service. He said he would, but has since avoided my calls and text messages. I can only imagine he is trying to reuse the part to sell to someone else. I would take the old adage that you get what you pay for, but he wasn’t that much cheaper than a corporate level data retrieval service in the end. Use at your own peril. 


From: DEREK EMBLEM, Royston. Posted 12 Jul 2017

Jon came to my house to repair two faults on my pc, one he did cure, the other one is a dropdown advert which is still doing the same, he sold me a anti-malware package which expired one day after he left and charged me a lot of money, yet his advert states “no fix no fee”. I am a very elderly person and don’t fully understand how these machines work that’s why I contacted this person.


Meanwhile, back at bidvine.com, they appear to be harbouring rogue traders rather than rooting them out. Obviously this is unacceptable.

Bidvine’s current directors appear to include Ghaith Yafi of Bdd 1082, Beirut Digital District, Bechara El Khoury, Beirut, Lebanon. But they are unwilling to confirm this,

For those with a steely determination, a masochistic love of rough rides and a love of people who openly claim to  be certified, never let it be said I don’t promote improvisational comedy performers. Jon Draper advertises thus…

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Lynn Ruth Miller, 84-year-old, on her striptease act at the Edinburgh Fringe

“Audiences screamed, cheered”

In the past few months, globe-trotting American comic Lynn Ruth Miller, based in London, has blogged here about her recent gigs in PragueDublinBerlin and Paris.

Now, as this year’s Edinburgh Fringe enters its final week, she tells us about her most recent gig in Scotland’s capital…


Lynn Ruth in the Best of Burlesque show (Photograph by Carole Railton)

I spent three exhilarating evenings in Edinburgh as part of Chaz Royal’s Best of Burlesque production. My audiences screamed, cheered, whistled and yelled… but I could not hear them.  

I had left my hearing aid at home.

Women often say that doing burlesque empowers you and I have always questioned that until those three stellar nights when I rocked the house in the beautiful Palais du Variété tent at George Square Gardens.  

As I removed one layer after another singing my song about women and courage, I listened to the kind of adulation I never got when I removed my nightie for either of my husbands.  

No-one ever cheers for me when I manage to climb the stairs and emerge from the tube station.

I don’t get people stamping their feet when I pay for my groceries and use my own bag to carry them home.  

But, when I take off a pair of overalls at a burlesque show, the crowd goes mad.

That, my friends, is POWER.

By the time I had completed my run for Best of Burlesque I was certain I could march into Parliament and clean up that Brexit mess or hurry over to the White House to put Donald Trump in a corner until he came to whatever senses he has left. 

I had the balls to do ANYTHING.

I went to North Berwick to do an hour’s cabaret at The Fringe by the Sea Festival the Sunday after my Edinburgh triumph and was so super-charged and confident that I managed to sing ten songs almost in tune and only forget half the words. I was a success.

The bravado, the hubris, the sense of self-importance I got from prancing around in silk and tulle during that North Berwick hour to 28 sympathetic senior citizens carried me through as if I were a shooting star illuminating the universe instead of talking about all my failed attempts at love.

I was empowered. The audience clustered around me afterwards and one lovely woman said: ”It was so refreshing to hear someone your age talk about sex.”

I told her: “Darling I was talking about THE ABSENCE of sex… Didn’t you get it?”

But, of course, she didn’t and I haven’t either… not for years.

All those failures to impress, to make a mark, to show my mettle… all those empty moments when I hoped my charm would be noticed…  are now in the past.  

I have become a burlesque sensation. I have stripped and emerged triumphant. 

Eat your heart out Mae West 

I know a hard man is good to find, but I don’t need one.

I have balls…

Oh, and…

The trick to stripping is to come on with so many clothes that no matter how many things you take off, you still are fully covered when the music stops.

I proved that you don’t have to be naked to make people think you are taking your clothes off. 

Surprise!

(Photograph by Paul Adsett)

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Govia Thameslink Rail and the complaint about the chiropodist’s bill

Cattle never had it this bad… travelling by Govia Thameslink

The appalling Thameslink rail franchise run by Govia (who also currently have the equally appallingly-mismanaged Southern and Northern English franchises) is notorious for cancelling trains at the last moment.

Its recent catastrophic timetable change caused such chaos that they had to bring in a new changed timetable to the changed timetable and then another timetable with changes to the changes to the timetable and the current ‘ interim’ timetable under which they have reportedly withdrawn 200 scheduled trains per day.  

Thameslink is also notorious for not stopping at the scheduled and announced stations and for changing platforms (especially at West Hampstead) roughly 20, sometimes 10, seconds before the train arrives without any warning nor announcement with the result that passengers have to race over the footbridge and sometimes miss the train.
 
At St Albans station, apparently, they DO sometimes inform passengers. Someone who works for Thameslink Customer Services tells me of this complaint by a passenger (possibly but not certainly at St Albans):

A lady wrote in, enclosing an invoice from a chiropodist. She said:

“I arrived last Tuesday at the station to take a train to London. The signage said it would come in on Platform 4. So up I went over the bridge down onto the platform. Two minutes later, the announcer said: “Sorry, but the train to London will now arrive on Platform 1.”

“I ran up the stairs, over the bridge, down onto Platform 1.

“Two minutes later and, yes, the train was now going to arrive back on Platform 4.

“Up over and back down again.

“Therefore please find enclosed a bill from my chiropodist and, as evidence, a zip lock bag containing the hard skin from the bottom of my feet.”


Thameslink did not reimburse her.

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Micky Fawcett remembers the gay Kray Twins and their talkative mynah bird

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

Micky Fawcett, a close associate of UK gangsters the Kray Twins, pops up every now and then in this blog.

He wrote arguably the definitive ‘inside’ story about Ronnie and Reggie – Krayzy Days.

So we were having a chat in Stratford, East London, yesterday…


MICKY: Did you know the Twins had a mynah bird?

JOHN: I don’t think I did.

MICKY: They were given this mynah bird and it was very good at imitations.

“Mum! Mum!” it used to say and COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH. – it used to take off their dad’s cough – Old Charlie. 

“Some money! Some money!” it used to say; “Get some money!” and “What’s YOUR name?”

It frightened the life out of people. They used to have it in the corner of the kitchen.

The best one was when Old Charlie ‘outed’ Ronnie.

There was me and Dukey Osbourne and Ronnie, who was sitting at the table with a basin of stew and a bull terrier laying at his feet. 

JOHN: What was the dog’s name?

MICKY: Dunno. Don’t know if it had one. Anyway, this was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and there was a bit of noise in the hallway. And it’s their old man, Old Charlie, coming home pissed.

Ronnie squawks like his mynah bird and says: “Mum, mum! The drunken old bastard’s here!” 

And the mynah bird goes: “Drunken old bastard! Drunken old bastard!”

Old Charlie Kray – the Twins’ father

Old Charlie comes in, straightening his shirt cuffs and his tie – he was always straightening himself up – and he says: “Shuddup, son! What I’ve heard about you today, you’re gone! You’re GONE! You’ve completely gone! That’s what you are. What they’re saying about in the pub, in the 99 (a pub in Bishopsgate) is disgusting! You make me sick!”

Ronnie says: “Shuttup, you old cunt! Shuttup! Fucking shuttup!”

He got up, rushed over to Old Charlie and he’s got hold of him by the collars and he’s still got the knife and fork in his hands and the dog was attacking Old Charlie’s leg, but not fiercely. And, with the knife in his hand, Ronnie – he hadn’t actually meant to, but he – scratched Old Charlie’s cheek by his nose – a little trickle of blood.

And Old Charlie’s shouting out: “Violet! He’s cut me! He’s cut me!”

At that point, I took my leave and was out the door. I was gone.

Next day, I went round to see Reggie and he was limping slightly. I asked what was wrong and he said: “Ronnie kicked me up the bollocks.”

JOHN: Why?

MICKY: I dunno why. I didn’t ask. You didn’t ask questions like that.

JOHN: Surely everyone always knew Ronnie was gay from the beginning? From when he was a teenager or whatever.

MICKY: No. I don’t suppose so. Well, people didn’t want to know. Nobody used to say it, did they? Not in them days. I remember the first time anybody told me.

JOHN: About Ronnie?

MICKY: Yes. Well, about the pair of them. It was a close friend of mine. I don’t think ‘gay’ was a word then. ‘Poof’, maybe. He said: “They’re poofs” or whatever. 

I said: “Yeah?” 

He said: “Course they are. Why do you think all them young boys are coming round? Can’t you tell?”

Micky Fawcett (left) first met Ronnie Kray around 1956

JOHN: How long had you known them at that point?

MICKY: A couple of years, I guess. About 1956 maybe. They were quite young. (The Kray Twins were born in 1933.) It was billiard hall days. I remember we were outside this billiard hall. I think Ronnie had done his famous escape from Long Grove mental hospital.

JOHN: Which was?

MICKY: Reggie went in to visit him and Ronnie walked out.

JOHN: Being twins.

MICKY: Yeah. I knew Reggie but not Ronnie then.

I remember the first time I met Ronnie. I saw him from the back and thought he was Reggie. He was walking up to the billiard hall and I come up behind: “Hey! Reg!” 

And he said: “I think you want my brother.”

JOHN: But they looked different. Reg had a narrower face and Ronnie’s was wider.

MICKY: In the pictures when they were younger, they don’t look so different.

The Kray Twins in their younger, boxing, days

JOHN: Of course. The boxing pictures.

MICKY: But they didn’t look quite the same. Ronnie was scruffier the first time I met him. Not scruffy intentionally.

He had just come out of a mental hospital.

The bottom of his trouser leg was roughed-up a bit and his boots were a bit… You know how you can imagine someone who has just come out of a…

Reggie was very, very smartly dressed.

JOHN: Was that always the case?

MICKY: Later on, towards the end, Ronnie was a very smart-dressed feller who went to Savile Row tailors for his clothes. Reggie dressed very smart, but went to Wood’s in Kingsland Road. It was like East End boy and West End girl.

JOHN: Ronnie being the West End girl.

MICKY: Yeah.

JOHN: You always dressed very smart yourself.

MICKY: You had to be. It was part of the thing. I was five years younger. Reggie was very impressive when Ronnie was away. Reggie was running the Double R club. You always get trouble in clubs. He was very smart. You can imagine the rest, can’t you?

Maybe it played a part in their hatred for the rest of the world.

JOHN: What did?

MICKY: Being gay at that time. Although it worked for them as well because the stars – a lot of them were gay – used to come to see them in the Kentucky club or the Double R.

When they were younger, they didn’t want anybody to know.

JOHN: Did they get picked-on at school for being gay or did no-one know?

MICKY: Well, I think they were frightening everybody. I imagine that. Reggie didn’t want anyone to know. He wanted to be one of the boys.

JOHN: He didn’t ‘come out’ at all, did he?

MICKY: Not totally, no. He did when he was in the nick. I don’t want to… People talk about them when they were away in the nick; what they did. But it’s too… distasteful.

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Jonathan Pie, Spiked magazine and why the Guardian and Daily Mail are similar

Andrew Doyle co-writes the satirical Jonathan Pie character with actor Tom Walker. In yesterday’s blogAndrew talked about free speech.

I had not originally intended to ask him about that.

Now read on…


Andrew Doyle ponders existential question

JOHN: What I was originally going to ask you, before you started on free speech was What are you?

ANDREW: That is an existential question.

JOHN: Well, you write theatre performance, Jonathan Pie, musicals, run comedy nights, do stand-up comedy, write radio plays. What are you?

ANDREW: I suppose I am a writer, comedian and I write political articles for Spiked and I do literary research.

JOHN: Spiked is thought-of as being right wing, isn’t it?

ANDREW: Yeah. By people who don’t read it. But its origins are Marxist. It used to be called Living Marxism until the ITN libel case in 2000. Then it lost all its money and rebranded as Spiked. (It had been launched in 1988 as the journal of the British Revolutionary Communist Party until re-branded as Living Marxism in 1992.)

JOHN: Doesn’t this go with my idea that politics is a circle not a line? Extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing eventually meet in the same place.

ANDREW: I get this a lot. Comedians hate Spiked and people who self-identify as Left hate Spiked. I say “self-identify” because I don’t believe they ARE Left. Unless you care about class consciousness and the redistribution of wealth, you are not left-wing.

JOHN: And you care about them.

ANDREW: Yes.

JOHN: So you ARE left-wing.

Spiked – “believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote”

ANDREW: Of course. Everything I write is left-wing. Everything. Spiked is pro-freedom of speech, no ifs and buts as an indivisible liberty; pro democracy; believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote, because the European Union is essentially undemocratic and pro-corporate. Spiked is pro-migration with no such thing as borders; it does not believe in any form of borders whatsoever. It is anti-Trump, anti-New Labour, anti the Tories. It is anti-racism; anti the alt-right; anti men’s rights activists. It is pro-freedom, pro individual liberty, sceptical about climate change.

JOHN: Sceptical about climate change?

ANDREW: Yes. I am not. But, with Spiked, I agree with more than I disagree.

JOHN: The one thing you did not mention there about Spiked views was the current Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party.

ANDREW: It is very anti-Corbynistas. Hugely. Hugely.

JOHN: It seems very anti everything. What is it pro?

ANDREW: It is pro-freedom, pro-liberty, pro-democracy, pro the human race.

JOHN: Who else is supporting liberty that Spiked likes?

ANDREW: Well, there are so few people doing that.

JOHN: Is it pro any other organisations?

ANDREW: You mean party political affiliations? I don’t think it is pro any of them. There is not a political party it supports, which is sort of where I am at the moment.

JOHN: But, as a Marxist…

ANDREW: I never said I was a Marxist. I don’t think of myself as a Marxist.

JOHN: So what are you?

Living Marxism in its heyday…

ANDREW: I would say I am… I dunno… a Socialist? Somewhere between Socialism and Social Liberalism. Do you really want an answer?

JOHN: Yes.

ANDREW: I dunno. I think that’s where I am. I don’t trust any ideology. Why should you just choose  an ideology and stick to every point that ideology represents? Why can’t you say This element of Socialism is good and This element of Conservatism is good? Ultimately, I oppose identity politics in whatever form it takes.

JOHN: What is identity politics?

ANDREW: That the way you perceive people is through their particular demographic or group. Seeing people collectively rather than as individuals.

JOHN: Isn’t that inevitable? There’s a man over there in a T-shirt and another one is wearing a tie. I am going to have immediate pre-conceptions about them.

ANDREW: You are talking about prejudice. I am talking about self-identification. What I resist is that, just because I am in a particular demographic, then I should identify myself with that demographic. Everyone is an individual.

JOHN: So you think certain things are wrong. Why are you not into active politics? You are very, very bright, very thought-filled, very fluent.

ANDREW: You are very kind. No. I don’t want to be a politician.

JOHN: But all these people you disagree with are in control of the world and you think they are making wrong decisions.

ANDREW: I would rather just complain about it on the fringes. Every time you write any polemical piece, you are trying to effect some kind of change or, at least, trying to persuade people of the validity of your point of view. That is a valuable exercise, but I am not naive enough to think I have any type of clout.

JOHN: Is being a writer more influential than being a politician?

ANDREW: Maybe. I would not want to be a politician because, for a start, you have to adhere to the Whip and you sort of surrender your integrity to an extent. You have to compromise to get anything done and I am not a compromiser. I am not suggesting compromise is a bad thing, just that I am not very good at it.

JOHN: You studied English at Aberystwyth University. Why Aberystwyth?

Aberystwyth University – accidentally alphabetically lucky

ANDREW: Because it was first alphabetically in the list. I went to a shitty comprehensive school where we didn’t really have any guidance about where to go. Had Aberdeen University been there, I would have applied there. It wasn’t in the list.

So I went to Aberystwyth and, after that, I wanted to do a Masters in Renaissance Literature but they didn’t do one, so I went to York and then I wanted to do a doctorate in Renaissance Poetry and work with manuscripts so then I went to Oxford University and I became a part-time lecturer at Oxford, teaching the Shakespeare module to undergraduates. At that point, I was going to be an academic.

JOHN: Why the specific interest in manuscripts?

ANDREW: Because I was very interested in early modern literature – Renaissance. I developed a particular interest in a poet called Richard Barnfield. My thesis was on Richard Barnfield, Shakespeare and Philip Sydney. Shakespeare and Richard Barnfield are the only two poets of that era in England who wrote love sonnets from one man to another.

JOHN: Are you just interested in Elizabethans?

ANDREW: I’ve written introductions of republished versions of a novelist called Forrest Reid, who died in 1947. I’m writing a biography of him. Up until the 1970s, it would have been accepted he was the best novelist to emerge from Northern Ireland but, because of the fickle nature of literary trends, he was forgotten. They are a very specific type of novel. He was a pagan; he worshipped spirit gods; he was an animist. All of his novels are set in Belfast, but infused with this sense of another world lurking beneath the surface, centred on male adolescence.

JOHN: Why are you not still lecturing?

ANDREW: It’s quite lonely.

JOHN: I saw one of the Jonathan Pie live stage shows at the Apollo Hammersmith and the first third or more of it took pot-shots at what I thought was the easy target of the Conservative government, but then you turned it on the audience.

“…Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs…”

ANDREW: That’s why we have to have the first third in that way. So many of Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs. The fanbase is predominantly the liberal Left – Guardian readers – so, in order to have a show that essentially attacks the fundamental principles that they represent, you need to get them on-side. It’s a strategy. The first third of the show is exactly what you would expect.

JOHN: Is that the ultimate idea? To attack the liberal Left?

ANDREW: No. It’s not as confrontational as that. As with all satire, it is exposing the excesses and deflating the pretensions of those in control.

JOHN: Equal offence to everyone?

ANDREW: The character does not just scatter-shot attack everyone. The character believes certain things.

JOHN: What IS the character? A left winger who hates the Right but has doubts about the Left?

ANDREW: Yes. Basically he is an old school Bennite Leftie who is pro-Corbyn, Socialist, hates the Right, hates the Tories, hates what they are doing to the NHS, but also thinks the Left need to do a whole lot better in order to beat them… and that the Left keep losing because of their own shortcomings. And that’s where the frustration comes.

JOHN: Sometimes the phrase ‘Guardian readers’ is used as a put-down.

 ANDREW: Well, the Guardian and Daily Mail are very similar.

JOHN: Really?

ANDREW: They are both explicitly partisan and misrepresentative; they push an agenda relentlessly; and they are not to be trusted.

JOHN: Is Jonathan Pie risking his fanbase – the liberal Left – by attacking them?

Jonathan Pie’s 2017 book Off The Record

ANDREW: Sometimes. And sometimes you get your ideological opponents supporting what you say, which is a bit weird. But I think we have retained the sensible people who can stand having fun being poked at them. The people who think.

JOHN: So where do you go with the character?

ANDREW: That’s up to Tom. I just go along with it.

JOHN: Do you feel overshadowed by the fame of Jonathan Pie? No-one knows who you are.

ANDREW: No-one knows who I am, but that doesn’t matter, does it? I’m not hungry for fame.

JOHN: Not doing anything new?

ANDREW: I am working on a couple of musicals at the moment. One is about Archibald McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon in World War II for airmen who were surviving their terrible burns and had to reconstruct them.

JOHN: The Guinea Pigs. And the other musical?

“…but it’s really a coming-of-age story…”

ANDREW: Paperboy. It was recently staged at the Lyric, Belfast, based on Tony Macaulay’s memoir of being a paperboy on the Shankill Road at the height of The Troubles. But it’s really a coming-of-age story. Another musical I wrote is an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s book Soul Music. He specifically asked us to do that book. Youth Music Theatre UK put it on in Kingston with 40 kids – but it has not yet got a producer to take it forward.


The last Jonathan Pie live stage show has just been released to download.

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Jonathan Pie co-writer says: “A lot of comics are not in favour of free speech”

Jonathan Pie is a fictional UK TV news reporter, played by Tom Walker, in satirical political videos posted online and in stage shows. The scripts are written by Tom Walker and Andrew Doyle.

Andrew Doyle on his return from Scotland

Andrew Doyle and I met in London just after he had come back from Scotland, where he had filmed a half hour TV documentary about a man who had been prosecuted and found guilty of training a pug dog to give a Nazi salute. The man – calling himself ‘Count Dankula’  – then posted a video of the dog on YouTube; he said he had done it as a joke for his girlfriend. 

Probably all my blogs should come with the warning that I do not necessarily agree with all the interviewee’s opinions. And, equally, I do not necessarily disagree with all of them.

Make of that what you will.

Just saying…


JOHN: Why the interest in the pug dog?

ANDREW: Because it is such a landmark case in terms of free speech. Lots of people have been found guilty of telling jokes in this country, but we don’t hear about them very often: they’re mostly just unemployed teenagers on Facebook. It’s the first case of its kind that has got widespread attention and it has caused a real division within the comedy community, which I think is fascinating.

JOHN: And that division is?

ANDREW: Well, when I wrote a Jonathan Pie video about it with Tom Walker, we fully expected comedians to be up in arms about the case. There were a few who were annoyed about it – Shappi Khorsandi, Ricky Gervais, David Baddiel – but most comedians were silent about it and quite a few sided with the court’s decision. It was the opposite reaction to what I would have expected.

It has really illuminated the fact that actually a lot of comics are not in favour of free speech at all. And that fascinates me.

JOHN: Any particular type of comedian? Left wing or right wing?

ANDREW: Well, virtually all comedians are left wing.

JOHN: But the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ wing are just a quirk of French history, aren’t they? If you take both to extremes, they end up in the same place. It’s a circle not a straight line.

ANDREW: Well, most comedians are middle class Blairites who call themselves ‘left wing’ but they don’t really know what ‘left wing’ means. I think because they identify as left wing and because the Left is often so hostile to free speech and has not done a very good job defending it, you now see people like Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins defending free speech and that makes the Left even more suspicious of free speech. It’s a really dangerous situation.

The Left needs to reclaim free speech – I am passionate about that, although I have been called a misogynist homophobe neo-Nazi.

A misogynist homophobe neo-Nazi??

JOHN: But you are gay. Why are you allegedly a homophobe?

ANDREW: Some of the jokes I make, apparently.

JOHN: So the Left are not very good on free speech?

ANDREW: No. They used to be. If you go back to the New Left in the 1960s and 1970s, they understood that free speech was at the heart of any…

JOHN: So you’re saying the New Left and the Blairites were OK but the Corbynistas are a bit Fascistic?

ANDREW: I wouldn’t go so far as to say Fascistic. And I don’t think the Blairites were particularly strong on free speech. There have been increasing attempts at press regulations and Hate Speech laws are now enshrined in our way of life. That is not a free speech position.

JOHN: But it’s not opinion, only incitement to violence, that is criminal.

ANDREW: No. The 2003 Communications Act deems that anything you send online that could be ‘grossly offensive’ is a criminal offence.

JOHN: Virtually anything Jerry Sadowitz says is offensive to someone.

ANDREW: Yes. That’s his schtick. If some of that were to go online, then theoretically he could be arrested.

JOHN: Do you think PC has gone too far?

ANDREW: I don’t use the term PC. I associate political correctness with a different thing. To me it is a good thing. It is about a general, shared, agreed discourse that we have in public, in work, where we basically agree to be polite to each other and agree not to say certain things. It’s a social contract.

Andrew writes regular articles for Spiked magazine

Obviously I am not in favour of enforcing any type of speech law but, say, if you agree to work in an office, part of that is an obligation not to use the word “faggot”. That’s not a free speech issue. You can say it elsewhere but not in the office you have chosen to work in. I don’t think the idea of society encouraging people to be polite is a bad thing – and that is all I see political correctness as being.

What is happening now is not political correctness. It is a transformed, perverted version of political correctness, creeping into authoritarianism.

JOHN: You seem to be saying you are not in favour of any restriction of speech laws.

ANDREW: That’s right. I am not.

JOHN: But someone should not be allowed to say: “I think you should go out and kill all black people…”

ANDREW: Yes, that is a terrible thing to say.

JOHN: Surely saying that should be illegal?

ANDREW: No.

JOHN: Is it not an encouragement to commit a crime?

ANDREW: No, because whoever commits the crime should be held responsible for the crime. I am really uncomfortable with the idea of diminishing the responsibility of someone who breaks the law.

JOHN: But, by that logic, Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust because other people did the killing.

ANDREW: He explicitly ordered and orchestrated it so, yes, he is responsible. He was not trying to persuade the SS to do it for him, he was ordering the SS to do it. They are responsible too – the people who did it – but he is too, because that is part of a military chain of command. That is not the same as someone standing at Speaker’s Corner shouting out that gay people should be castrated.

Just because he shouts that out, does not mean that people are going to go out and castrate gay people and, if they did, they would be responsible. It is not the same thing.

JOHN: But, if someone goes out and does something criminal as the result of hearing a speech, that speech was incitement to commit a crime, isn’t it? Which is illegal.

Andrew’s stand-up comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017

ANDREW: Yes, but the problem I have with this is that, on balance, I do not think it is safe to allow the state to have the power to criminalise speech – even if that means some really horrible people are going to try to persuade people to do horrible things. On balance, I think that is deeply unpleasant but it is not as frightening to me as the state having the right to lock people up for what they say and what they think.

We cannot trust the state. We know that now. They have convicted in a court of law a man for making a joke video about a pug dog giving a Nazi salute. And they call that Hate Speech. We cannot trust them to distinguish between a joke and some psychopath in a park shouting and inciting murder.

JOHN: The pug dog video case was in Scotland. Would it have been illegal in England?

ANDREW: Yes, The Communications Act applies to all of the UK.

JOHN: This is all a bit serious.

ANDREW: Do you want to talk about something flippant?

(… CONTINUED HERE …)

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Comic Becky Fury, who married comic Arthur Smith, has won multiple Awards

Last year’s Edinburgh Fringe saw the last Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, but it is good to see former winners upholding Malcolm’s  penchant for creative inexactitude.

There is an admirable piece of not-altogether incorrect publicity on display in Edinburgh courtesy of Malcolm Hardee Award winner Becky Fury…

She won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award in 2016 for seeming to claim in her publicity she was a finalist for the main Last Minute Comedy Award in Edinburgh… In fact, she had been a finalist for a totally different award from a similarly-named but totally different Last Minute lot (a small club no-one had heard of). She also put her Fringe poster on the Tinder dating site on the basis that she would either get additional audience members or a steady supply of young men or both.

After the Fringe was over, a mate of Malcolm’s then saw her perform in a pub in South London and gave her something which he also called a Malcolm Hardee Award.

So, on her posters and flyers this, year, Becky is honestly, if misleadingly, claiming again (arguably truthfully) that she was a 2016 Last Minute Comedy Finalist while adding that she won two Malcolm Hardee Awards in 2016.

She also has, on her posters and flyers, laurels for winning – this year – the ‘Arthur Smiffy Award For Show That Is Probably Very Good But I Haven’t Seen Yet’.

This Arthur Smiffy (for which, read Arthur Smith) Award might or might not be true as she ‘married’ Arthur Smith in Cumbria this year as part of a comedy show. Note that she ‘married’ him not married him.

In publicity, punctuation can make all the difference.

It is good to see traditions being upheld.

I think Malcolm would have approved of all this.

After all, with Arthur Smith, he did once write a review of his own comedy show, submitted it to The Scotsman newspaper under the name of their esteemed comedy critic… and they published it.

Cunning Stunts are to be encouraged and cherished in Edinburgh and elsewhere in the show business.

Becky’s show is titled The Apocaloptimist.

And, strangely, Fury is her real name.

I think.

That’s what she says, anyway.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, publicity stunts