Last night was the monthly Grouchy Club meeting in Shepherds Bush, London. There was a new attendee. This morning, she sent me a message starting: “What an extraordinary evening!”
“Not extraordinary at all,” I replied. “It was a fairly ordinary Grouchy Club… A bit of comedy, a bit of venomous slander, a bit of talk about sex (I am still unclear what specifically Italian BDSM entails – possibly getting tied up in complicated political knots and have knots) and a bit of shouting and a lot of gesticulating from Kate Copstick… All par for the course.”
Then I got an email about Puff The Magic Dragon.
At the weekend, on my social media, I posted a piece about Fox Animation’s plans to turn Peter, Paul and Mary’s song Puff The Magic Dragon into a hybrid live action/animated feature film to be made by Mike Mitchell, director of Trolls.
As a result, I got an email from Alan Shaw whom I know better as Al Mandolino, tunesmith to the Pear Shaped comedy club.
“Just saw your post,” he wrote, “and thought maybe (Malcolm Hardee Award winner) Becky Fury put you on to that. A couple of years ago she was getting stuff together for her Dragon Bubble show and she wanted to use a version of the Peter Paul and Mary song but the only cover she had was a hardcore thrash punk version which was going to be a bit oblique for the kids.
“So she asked if I could make something short as an intro to it, just to get them on side. So I came up with a ‘ jingle’. I decided any tune called Puff The Magic Dragon really needs to have the chorus playing backwards if it is going have any gravity. The banjo part is just one note and there’s some dragon breath. I was trying to make a version that sounded like it was science fiction medieval music. Here it is.
Alan told me: “Ask Becky if you want to know more.”
I had not got the Puff The Magic Dragon movie story from her, but I did ask her about Alan’s music.
“Yes,” she told me. “I am going to use it for my new kids show – George and The Dragon. I am thinking of doing it at the Edinburgh Fringe next year. I have had it on the back burner for a while now. That I told you about. I tried to do it as a street show this year but it was too exhausting. I devised ‘the script’ with input from Jon Richardson, who is doing his PHD in clowning! A PHD in clowning! What does that involve? A thesis on tripping over your own shoe laces? You and I chatted about it in Bar Italia. You might have forgotten. I remember you overdid it on the tiramisu.”
I asked Alan Shaw if he was going to the Fringe next year.
“I am expecting to take a nice Jazz guitar and portable amplifier to the Fringe,” he replied. “Hopefully Pear Shaped might be there so I will do the tunes I’ve always done at that, but I will also be looking for other shows where it would work with me playing while the audience come in/intervals/change-overs – or maybe someone wants some live music backing for a section of their show. I have been advised if I get a permit I could even play in the street.”
“Any news of Pear Shaped’s return to London?” I asked.
“Better ask Brian Damage,” he told me.
Brian runs the Pear Shaped comedy venue for years but had to leave The Fitzroy Tavern in London’s West End because it was being renovated.
The tavern, not the West End.
“Recently,” Brian told me, “I went to have a look at the new Fitzroy and hated it.
They have turned it into claustrophobic cubby holes and the people in those holes already look happy enough without us pissing them off with our comedy.
“There is another pub nearby which we thought could be a possibility but it is on a separate floor (not a separate room) so I have kind of decided maybe that’s not suitable either. What made the Fitzroy special for us was the landlord Peter, who is a very nice man who gave us the room and left us to it for 15 years. I really cannot be bothered explaining to another landlord how comedy works, so I’m not really looking. I am not all that sure the comedy circuit needs Pear Shaped anymore. There are hundreds of them now. However, as Mr Micawber would say, maybe something will turn up.”
That was rather sad, so I asked Alan Shaw what he was doing now.
“I spend my days,” he told me, “doing painting and carpentry for the the great and the good. Recently, I have started a sideline as a rocking horse vet and I have learnt how to to paint for hours holding someone’s poodle.”