On Saturday, I am on one of the panels at the Big Comedy Conference in London.
Yesterday night, I got a message from a starting-out stand-up comedian based outside South East England:
Do you think I would benefit from the Comedy Conference?
My answer was:
No idea. It’s a bit pricey – £149 – but good value for money. It runs 09.00am to 11.00pm and there are over 40 top names giving advice, from Big Name comedians to BBC bosses, writers, agents and the whole gamut down to the likes of me.
But, if you have free accommodation in London, I say go for it. The only way to get on in anything is to be in the right place at the right time. There is no way of knowing where or when that is, so you just have to put yourself about a bit as much as possible. If you don’t go, you can be 100% certain nothing will come of it. If you do go, there is at least a chance something might.
I think you should go not expecting to LEARN anything specific as such, but it would give you a wider, non-local, professional view of the business and I suspect you can schmooze well (something I’m shit at).
It is a financial decision really. If you can afford to go, look on it as a weekend holiday with potential benefits; expect nothing; hope for the best. It is a bit like the Edinburgh Fringe. Toss money away and pray.
I think the comedy-going public assume when they see a comedian on stage that he/she is a full-time comedian. The truth, of course, is that for maybe the first five or six or more years of their professional lives, comedians tend to have ‘day jobs’ because they cannot survive financially on their comedy work.
Coincidentally, I had a chat on Friday with award-winning comedians Ellis & Rose – Gareth Ellis and Richard ‘Rich’ Rose.
I say “award-winning” because they won a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, when Rich repeatedly punched Gareth in the face so they could – as a publicity stunt – claim he had been beaten up in the street by an irate punter who was offended by their show Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.
That is REAL dedication to your art. They videoed the punching and it is on YouTube.
I met them on Friday in a pub in London’s Soho.
I paid for the single round of drinks. After all, let us not go mad on spending money. I am a Scot brought up among Jews.
“So,” I said, “you performed Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show in Norwich, while I was safely out of the country in Nuremberg. How did it go?”
“It was the first time we’ve done the beefed-up Jimmy Savile show,” replied Gareth Ellis.
“Beefed-up?” I asked.
“Now with real puppets,” explained Rich Rose.
“Glove puppets or string puppets?” I asked.
“Muppet-sized puppets,” said Gareth.
“Foam and felt,” said Rich.
“With people in them?” I asked.
“Well, me,” said Rich.
“The audience in Norwich really liked it,” said Gareth. “I think because we’ve added more stuff. It’s become something.”
“What have you added?” I asked. “A plot?”
“Not necessarily a plot,” admitted Rich.
“It started off as nothing in Edinburgh,” said Gareth, “but, by the end of the Fringe, it was consistently hitting… erm… the hour mark. So we’ve added in extra nonsense like Rolf Harris.”
“That was what it was lacking,” said Rich.
“They all really enjoyed it in Norwich,” said Gareth. “Not one of them really hated it,” he added with a hint of surprise in his voice.
“I think you should tour old people’s homes,” I suggested. “You need to find people who will be really offended.”
“You didn’t help us,” said Rich, “with your Raoul Moat headline (Jimmy Savile comedy duo banned from Norwich pub. Now they plan a musical based on a murder maniac rampage). I’m never gonna get a job now.”
“Excuse me,” I said, “am I the person who beat up his comedy partner in Edinburgh just to get a couple of lines of publicity in The Scotsman newspaper?”
“One line,” said Rich.
“Anyway,” I added, “What did I say about Raoul Moat, the infamous murderer?”
“You said it was a musical,” Gareth told me, “but it’s an opera.”
“And I’m not involved in it,” added Rich warily.
“You made it seem like a frivolous entertainment,” complained Gareth. “It’s going to be a real work of art. It’s going to be a departure from what we normally do.”
“I didn’t think you actually intended to do an opera,” I explained. “I assumed it was a cheap publicity stunt.”
“I’m meeting up with Jorik Mol,” said Gareth, “and we’re going to write material for it… It’s going to be a genuine opera. It’s going to be a serious tragedy.”
“I believe that,” I said. “I have seen your previous work.”
“John Kearns has agreed to play a sniper lens,” said Rich.
“Karl Schultz has agreed to be a fishing rod,” said Gareth, “and Adam Larter is going to play a startled deer.”
“So when is this seriously tragic opera going to be staged?” I asked.
“2016,” said Gareth. “It’s only an idea so far.”
“What gave you the idea?” I asked.
“The story,” explained Gareth, “is just incredible… unprecedented in terms of the media interaction: the week-long narrative that developed around it.”
“The problem now,” said Rich, “is that partly due to you, John, if you type my name into Google followed by the words Raoul Moat or Jimmy Savile… well there goes any chance I have of getting a job.”
“That’s why we’re unemployed,” said Gareth.
“Yeah thanks, John,” said Rich.
“I’d like to say in your blog,” emphasised Gareth, “that I’m looking for a job.”
“As what?” I asked.
“Well, I’m good at organising gigs,” replied Gareth.
“That’s not a job,” said Rich.
“Surely you could earn a good living as a gigolo?” I asked.
“I’ve got a licence for bar management,” continued Gareth. “I can manage a venue.”
“There must be money in being a gigolo,” I said. “Women were throwing themselves at you in Edinburgh.”
“I want a job and a girlfriend,” insisted Gareth.
“You’re asking too much from life,” Rich told him.
“I’d just like some money,” said Gareth.
“Have you never seen The Producers?” I asked. “You just find some old women, get them to finance your shows, leech onto them and get loads of money.”
“But we’ve already produced one of the worst shows of all time,” said Rich, “and it didn’t make us loads of money.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “I financed Killer Bitch, the movie… I think Raoul Moat: The Opera could be equal to Springtime For Hitler.”
“What I like about your blogs with us,” said Rich, “is that they manage to be even less coherent than the ones with Chris Dangerfield.”
“So plug something,” I said.
“We’re doing our Ellis & Rose show on Tuesday and Jimmy Savile on Thursday,” said Rich.
“Is there a point to the Jimmy Savile show?” I asked.
“It wasn’t satire in Edinburgh,” said Rich, “but now it is.”
“It’s a satire on the nature of performers,” said Gareth.
“No, don’t give it away,” said Rich. “It’s not that.”
“Is it a post-modern comedy?” I asked, trying to help.
“It’s not even comedy,” said Gareth.
“It’s definitely not comedy,” agreed Rich.
“It’s genuinely a work of art,” said Gareth. “I don’t think it’s classifiable. It’s funny, but it’s not a comedy. It’s a kind of tragedy.”
“It’s poignant,” suggested Rich. “Actually, Gareth did have a kind of revelation…”
“…during the show in Norwich,” explained Gareth. “I just stopped.”
“The whole show stopped,” said Rich.
“We had this beautiful moment with the audience,” said Gareth.
“The audience stopped laughing,” said Rich.
“And we actually realised why we were all there,” said Gareth, “watching this show about Jimmy Savile.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Well,” said Rich, “we’re not going to give it away.”
“You’re going to have to come along and see it,” said Gareth.
“And we’ll cynically try to recreate that revelation,” said Rich.
“I was talking to someone the other week,” I said, “and he suggested we should have an annual beating-up of Gareth at the Edinburgh Fringe.”
“I’d be happy with that,” said Rich.
“It could become a Fringe tradition,” I suggested.
“I think someone every year has to get punched in the face,” agreed Gareth.
“It could make you a star,” I suggested.
A sparkle appeared in Gareth’s eyes, but I am not sure what caused it.
Maybe it was a tear.