A couple of weeks ago, Vivienne Soan phoned me up to tell me she had been certified.
She is now a certified teacher of Laughter Yoga.
In the Laughter Yoga movement, yesterday was the 17th annual World Laughter Day.
Yesterday Vivienne and her husband Martin Soan – who run the monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in London – came to my home for dinner because they had been to a laughter workshop in nearby St Albans.
Shortly after they arrived, Martin and I went out to buy him some beer. When we returned, Vivienne and my eternally un-named friend had built a wigwam in my back garden.
“Didn’t you have one as a child?” Vivienne asked me.
“No,” I replied.
“I thought everyone had one,” said Vivienne.
“Not me,” I said.
My eternally un-named friend said she had not had a real wigwam as a child and had had to make-do with some cardboard boxes.
I did not even have cardboard boxes.
Life can be a trial.
In a couple of weeks, Martin is going up to Muncaster Castle in Cumbria. Last year, Martin was chosen as Muncaster Castle’s Fool for a year. This year’s Fools festival is being held 25th-29th May. So he has to drive up to Cumbria, attend the choosing of this year’s Fool on 29th May, then drive overnight back down to London to set up the regular monthly Pull The Other One on 30th May.
“Then the next morning,” he told me, “I have to pack up the set and travel out to Leipzig where I do a week’s pre-publicity with Vivienne for our Pull The Other One show on 7th June.”
“And that’s now going to be a regular show in Leipzig?” I asked.
“Bi-monthly until we live there.”
“You are still thinking of moving to Leipzig?” I asked.
“Definitely,” said Martin.
“Martin,” said Vivienne, “I keep getting people come up to me and saying Oh! You’re still here, are you? I thought you were moving to Leipzig. It’s a long-term plan.”
“Definitely,” said Martin.
“It’s the end intention,” I suggested.
“Well, said Martin, “not the end. The beginning.”
“You can speak German?” I asked.
“Of course not,” said Martin. “Nein. Einen Aschenbecher danke.”
“What does that mean?”
“An ashtray, thankyou.”
“It just shows,” said Vivienne, “how long he’s taken to learn that phrase. He gave up smoking five years ago.”
“It’s handy, though,” said Martin. “I intend to live in Leipzig sooner rather than later. Viv will be able to get work out there.”
“Well,” said Viv. “If I could, that would be great.”
“We WILL be able to get work out there,” said Martin.
“I hope so,” said Vivienne.
“We ARE going to get work out there,” said Martin.
“Gizza job,” said Vivienne. “Put that in your blog, John. Has anybody got any work for us out there?”
“What I intend,” said Martin, “is to create an annual Festival of The Surreal and get funding for it in Leipzig. The Greatest Show on Legs have always had an element of popular appeal but always with an edge of the surreal.
“I want to get away from all these absurdists and de-constructionists and surrealists and just get back to proper good old-fashioned British eccentricity. I think the continent – and especially Leipzig – is going to open their arms to us, because they seem to have lost that appeal in their cabaret.
“They have very strict, skill-based cabaret. Which is very good. But very much like Cabaret the movie. Great compere. Lovely song and dance routines. And all the artists are very skill-based – contortionists, magicians. But the absurdist side of things – though I don’t want to use words like that – the eccentric side – is lost.”
“What’s the distinction between absurdist and surreal?” I asked.
Vivienne suggested: “Absurdism is like big, big, big. Surrealism is more cerebral and pictorial.”
“If you take it literally,” said Martin, “surrealism is real things taken and given extra meaning. Absurdism is real things with no meaning whatsoever. The one common denominator in comedy between absurdism, surrealism and deconstructionism is it has got to be entertaining and funny. That’s what I want to get back to. It’s easy to be absurd and not funny. Are you going to Glastonbury this year?”
“No,” I answered forlornly.
“We are doing a Pull The Other One Glastonbury Festival Special on Friday 27th June – Glastonbury weekend. Basically, people can save themselves a shedload of cash, come to our show in Nunhead and experience exactly what they would at Glastonbury. We’re going to have a very frightening, naked person walking around drunk and shouting, installations, top-notch comedians, very high profile bands…”
“Such as?” I asked.
“Oasis are headlining this year,” said Martin.
“And…?” I asked.
“Boothby Graffoe,” replied Martin.
“I’ll be coming then,” I said.
“I have The Poet For Hire booked,” added Martin.
“He’s one of those installation guys. I’ve got a juggler, a face-painter, everything you would experience at Glastonbury – including a really shitty toilet and the audience will sit in little tents.”
“How will people see over the tent in front of them?” I asked.
“I’m building levels,” said Martin. “It will be tiered tenting.”
“And all this,” I asked, “is going to be in the upstairs room of the Old Nun’s Head pub?”
“Yes,” said Martin.
“And you’re going to have Oasis playing?” I asked.
“Definitely,” said Martin. “I’m going to have one of their record covers on stage and play a track of their music and that’s exactly what it would be like at Glastonbury – just like you would see them very, very far away.”
“What about the rain and mud at Glastonbury?” I asked.
Martin ignored this, but I think it is a very valid question, although maybe surrealism would insist on no rain and no mud at a re-imagining of Glastonbury.