Hyphenate comedian Steve Best hopes to get laughs out of the Kosovo War

A selfie taken by Steve Best for the book

Steve Best – a comedy hyphenate with other strings to his bow

“You are a hyphenate,” I told comedian Steve Best in the Soho Theatre Bar.

“What?” he asked.

“In Hollywood,” I said some people are called hyphenates – writer-directors or actor-producer-directors. You are now a hyphenate. A writer-comedian-photographer podcaster.

In yesterdays’s blog, Martin Soan mentioned that Steve Best had performed with him and Boothby Graffoe in a freeform existentialist theatre piece in Germany.

On sale from this week

A second Comedy Snapshot book is in the pipeline…

Readers of this blog in March this year might remember Steve published Comedy Snapshot, his book comprising 440 photographs of UK comedians.

He is currently working on a second book of photographs and, he told me, is talking to a potential sponsor for the book tomorrow.

He is also involved in Abnormally Funny People, the highy-regarded group of comics with, as our American cousins might say, physical challenges. Abnormally Funny People have just launched a third podcast in their monthly series.

“Barclays Bank are sponsoring the podcast,” Steve told me, “but they’ve given us complete editorial control.”

“What’s in it for them?” I asked.

“To attract disabled customers,” replied Steve. “I think they’re trying to reach out and be accessible. They did that ad with (blind comic) Chris McCausland about talking ATM machines.” (It is currently on YouTube.)

“So Barclays approached you?” I asked.

“Well,” said Steve, “we always wanted to do a podcast, but we probably wouldn’t have done it without them. If you like the idea of something and someone gives you the money to do it, you do it.

“It’s something slightly different and we’d tried so many other avenues – TV scripts that nearly made it. We had Jimmy Mulville script editing at Hat Trick and it got to Channel 4, but that was the time BBC2 had Life’s Too Short and we didn’t get any further in the end.”

Life’s Too Short - maybe one worthy series a a time?

Life’s Too Short – Was it the big problem?

Life’s Too Short was TV’s token disabled show?” I asked.

“You kinda felt that it was,” said Steve, “but you can’t know for sure.”

“Yours was a sketch show?” I asked.

“No,” explained Steve. “It was Abnormally Funny People on tour as a sitcom. It wasn’t gratuitous disability; it just happened to be there and it was funny.”

“Why do Abnormally Funny People need a token non-disabled person like you?” I asked.

“Well,” said Steve, “Simon Minty and I knew each other from school. He has run consultancy firms and it was his original contact with someone who worked for Sky – Kay Allen – that financed our whole first Edinburgh Fringe run. They paid for the accommodation, venue, publicity, everything.

“Kay Allen now runs RUS – Really Useful Stuff – which is the company that provides us with the products we review in the new podcast.”

“Products such as?” I asked.

A self-stirring mug in action

An admirably self-stirring mug in action – I want one now!

“There’s a self-stirring mug,” said Steve. “If you have rheumatism or you can’t stir for some other reason, it stirs itself. Then there was the shoelace that was elasticated and worked like Velcro so, once you got the shoes on, you didn’t have to tie up the laces.

“Anything in the pipeline,” I asked, “other that the next photo book?”

“I’ve finished some fiction I want to get out,” Steve told me.

“A novel?”

“Yeah.”

“About comedy?”

“Sort of. It’s a love story, but to do with comedy and Yugoslavia – Kosovo – in 1999.”

The Kosovo War took place 1998-1999.

“Why that subject?” I asked.

“My wife is from Bosnia. She came over just before the Bosnian War (1992-1995) started. She is a lecturer in Linguistics at UCL, got a PhD in Linguistics. She studied at MIT with Chomsky.”

Steve has been married for 18 years.

“Your wife is a Kosovan or a Bosnian?” I asked.

“She would say she’s Serbian. She was born in Bosnia. Her mum was a Bosnian Croat and her dad’s Montenegran.”

“The Serbs were the baddies,” I said.

“They were put across as the baddies,” said Steve. “Sthe Bosnian War started in Croatia, when they chucked out the Serbs.”

“And the Croatians rather liked the wartime Nazis,” I said.

“I learned so much about it,” said Steve.

“Not many laughs in the subject,” I suggested.

Steve Best talked to me at Soho Theatre Bar

Steve Best aims to add another hyphen to his jobs – novelist

“It is a very funny book. Hopefully,” said Steve. “It is to do with an English comedian meeting a Yugoslav woman. So it’s semi-autobiographical.”

“Have you been out there?” I asked.

“Loads of times,” said Steve. “Been to Bosnia five times, Sarajevo, Mostar, all those places. But I’ve also worked out there with the forces – in CSE shows. I did a lot of research, but I’ve kept the politics very much away from the book. It is a funny book.”

Well, it is a funny world.

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Filed under Comedy, Disability, war, Writing, Yugoslavia

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