So yesterday I met comedian Gareth Ellis in the basement bar of The Toucan pub off Soho Square in London. He did not have a black eye.
Gareth says he does not want to be forever remembered as the man who got his stage partner Richard ‘Rich’ Rose to punch him in the face so Ellis & Rose could claim Gareth had got beaten up by an irate objector to their Edinburgh Fringe show last year (Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show), get some publicity in the press and win a highly coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.
The video excerpt of him being repeatedly punched in the face is still on YouTube. He should be proud of how he suffered for his art. But, for some reason, he seems unwilling to milk it.
Now Ellis & Rose have come up with another new idea.
Over the summer, they intend to run monthly Magikal Mystery Tours.
“We will get a luxury coach,” Gareth told me, “fill it with people and a few acts and drive out of London to weird, random towns and do bizarre town tours and scavenger hunts for weird items and the audience will be split into two teams. It will be like me and Rich taking a bunch of people on a school trip gone wrong.
“Before the people get to the bus, they will have filled out an online survey and we will split them into Red and Blue teams and they will have to come wearing predominantly one colour.
“We’ll stop off at weird museums and things and end up in the evening at a weird small venue where the headline act will do a show.
“Essentially, it’s going to be a very strange but fun full-day comedy show. We’ll stop off at a few places, acts will do bits and pieces but, if they’ve got a stage persona, the acts won’t necessarily be in that persona the whole day; they’ll be themselves, just part of the group. There will be about 45 people – the number we can get on the coach.”
“How are you going to sell tickets?” I asked.
“Through a Kickstarter page,” said Gareth. “People will pledge money to get a ticket, so we will know how many people want to come and we will hire the right-sized coach for that number of people. It also means our audience knows exactly what they are letting themselves in for and they are invested in the whole experience. We need to get the right audience for the trip: a comedy-savvy audience, the Soho Theatre audience.
“I think this is the perfect antidote to our Jimmy Savile show – another string to our bow – showing that we can do something big and organised.
“We’re thinking of doing it monthly over the summer. We could do it at the Edinburgh Fringe as a one-off.”
Their Kickstarter campaign has just gone online. It ends on 25th April, with the first coach trip exactly one month later, on Sunday 25th May. Tickets cost £40, leaving London at 10.00am and arriving back no later than 10.00pm.
“How are you going to publicise this?” I asked. “Apart, obviously, from having it mentioned in my increasing-prestigious blog?”
“Maybe,” mused Gareth, “me and Rich should go on a bus and say we’ve put a bomb on there so the driver can’t slow down below 31 miles an hour otherwise the bomb will go off unless 45 people buy tickets for our own coach trip.”
“It’s a thought.” I said. “A good thought.”