Category Archives: Racism

My true, vile, anti-Semitic nature is revealed by the Twitter Trollosphere

As far as I am aware, I only have two prejudices, both totally indefensible.

One is because I really have never met a nice white South African. I think it may have been caused by the education system under apartheid trying to instil self-confidence. In my experience, they really have all been a bunch of arrogant bastards. But, of course, that is blind prejudice.

The other genuinely indefensible prejudice I am aware of is that I am unthinkingly prejudiced when it comes to Jews.

If I know I am going to meet someone called Peter Smith, I have no pre-judgments about him.

If I am going to meet someone called David Bernstein (presumably Jewish) then I assume he will be highly intelligent, highly educated, sophisticated and I will probably get on well with him.

That is blind, unthinking prejudice partly fuelled by my childhood and partly by history. And it partly (but not wholly) transfers from Jews as people to Israel as a state.

Vile, anti-Semitic Copstick & Fleming of the Grouchy Club

Vile, anti-Semitic Copstick & Fleming of the Grouchy Club

In my erstwhile impressionable youth, the Israeli Foreign Minister was Aba Eban (who sounded like an English public schoolboy) and the Prime Minister was Golda Meir (who had an American accent). The Palestinians and Arabs on TV always had representatives with harsh-edged ach-ach-ach accents. So the Israelis were “like us” and the Arabs were clearly foreigners “not like us”. Blind, unthinking prejudice.

As for Jews, I went to a grammar school near Gants Hill in Essex/London which had a very high percentage of Jews. I can’t really remember, but I think my year had A, B, C and D streams. Almost all the Jews were in the A stream with only a few stragglers in the B stream.

When there were Jewish holidays, a lot of lessons in the A stream were effectively replaced by general knowledge tests or similar.

I do remember that, in Latin lessons, there used to be three rows in class. But, when there was a Jewish holiday, there was only half a row,

So my impression was that Jews were intelligent.

That is blind, unthinking prejudice, just as bad as the opposite would be.

And that prejudice sort-of transfers to the Arab-Israeli/Palestinian situation. Look, don’t hassle and troll me (as if that would stop them!) but I think, if the IRA had been sitting in fields south of Dublin lobbing shells and missiles over into Liverpool, Blackpool and Macclesfield, the British Government would have done something even more active than sending the SAS into the south of Ireland to sit in fields and occasionally assassinate people.

Which brings us to this week and Kate Copstick, my Grouchy Club co-host and one of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judges.

Copstick has never been known to mince her words or necessarily to think too long and hard before speaking. It is a good quality if you want to be a controversial journalist, TV producer and comedy critic.

We disagree on several things, including Palestine. I would say she has a bee in her bonnet about it. She would no doubt say I am an ill-informed idiot.

The offending and offensive anti-Semitic piece

The offending and offensive anti-Semitic piece posted on Facebook

This week, she posted a link on Facebook to an article. I notoriously don’t much look at Facebook or Twitter but, after the link started getting mentioned, I took a look at it and gave up after 3 or 4 paragraphs and seeing the first picture. The article basically was pushing a particularly stupid conspiracy theory in which the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was behind ISIS. The picture was what I can only describe as a 1936-style Nazi cartoon Jew replacing Jihadi John in a pre-beheading hostage still. I am told that, later on, the conspiracy theory being pushed was that Israeli-backed ISIS was doing its dark deeds to kill off all the Catholics in Europe. Apparently Copstick, in classic style, had posted this WHY ARE ISIS NOT KILLING JEWS? piece without reading the whole thing on the basis it was an interesting concept. (My paraphrase not hers.)

And, indeed, no-one can say it is not an interesting concept!

On Wednesday (or was it yesterday? – it’s been a complicated week), I became slightly aware of this posting because @cliffordslapper was suggesting to Twitter followers: “Maybe try via her podcast co-host, @thejohnfleming”.

This led me to @TracyAnnO’s Tweet: “Maybe we should all ask John if he endorses her views?”

and

@londonette – how do u suggest contacting her? They are employed to represent her.They should at least act as a conduit

@lucyinglis – That’s true. Or through the paper? Or facebook?

@londonette – both have been attempted. Agents are there to deal with this sort of enquiry. End of.

As I was looking after a somewhat active 4-year-old at the time and don’t live on Twitter, the next time I looked, there was a positive flurry of Tweets along the lines of:

@BennettArron – I too have known John a long time. Perhaps he will respond.

@TracyAnnO – Silence as we know in all forms of bullying,are complicity

The latter was much liked and ReTweeted which, I thought, was a bit rich in the circumstances.

The Tweets continued unabated and unseen by me until later as in, for example:

@londonette – Hi John – I really do hope you’ll distance yourself from raging antisemite Kate Copstick

@TracyAnnO – Denying Holocaust isn’t good look is it @theJohnfleming  @Copstick.Even for #clickbait self promo.

@londonette – I’m shocked u didn’t challenge her more at the time – podcast is a truly horrible listen

Where on earth a podcast came into it, I had no idea. But comedian Bennett Arron very sensibly emailed me, saying:

“Hi John, You might have missed the backlash about Kate Copstick on social media. Just wanted your thoughts on what she said on the podcast. Hope all’s well.”

My reply was, by now having belatedly scrawled through seemingly endless Twitter bollocks:

“I’ve seen the Twitter stuff. Podcast I don’t know. She’s going to talk about Twitter on the Grouchy Club Podcast recorded this Friday – possibly not posted until Saturday as I’m busy. As far as I understand it, she didn’t read the whole thing she posted. I only read the start. I’m looking after a 4-year-old, which is all I care about. If anyone has any objection to anything Copstick says or posts, that’s between them and her, not me. If anyone wants to have a go at me about things I haven’t said or thought, they can go fuck themselves.”

Bennett came back with: “Fair enough. Enjoy being with the 4 year old. Great age :)”

I then read, Tweeted by @londonette: “In case you haven’t heard it. Includes antisemitic rant by The Scotsman’s Kate Copstick AUDIO: The Grouchy Club Podcast: Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke

At this point I realised they were referring to a Grouchy Club Podcast posted on 6th December 2015 headlined JEWISH HOLOCAUST JOKES (a legendary routine by Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer) and with the description:

Kate Copstick talks to John Fleming about the Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke, trans-gender comic Will/Sarah Franken, Lewis Schaffer, The World of Pain, British TV censorship, how BBC TV executive Alan Yentob re-cut controversial comic Jerry Sadowitz, the power of TV advertisers and Noel Gay TV.

At this point, the podcast had been online for over three months, had 258 hits and had had no complaints.

Around 11 hours later, @londonette Tweeted to me: Hi @thejohnfleming have you taken this podcast down? Is it because of this? http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/155767/anger-comedians-daesh-post

This refers to a Jewish Chronicle piece headed ANGER AT COMEDIAN’S DAESH POST mentioning, in passing: “Ms Copstick, who was a regular guest on BBC comedy show Chucklevision”.

In the only Twitter reply I have so far made to any of all this, assuming @londonette had had the podcast removed, I replied:

“No I have not taken it down. If it HAS been censored, I will repost it on multiple sites. Fuck off.”

Obviously highly sensitive, despite a Twitter profile describing herself as: Freelance Journalist & comms, after an astonishingly long time at BBC News, @londonette replied:

“No need for expletives. You posted a ragingly antisemitic rant by @copstick for public consumption. It’s now gone.”

In fact, when I checked later, it turned out she was wrong. The podcast, should you want to listen, remains online at:

http://thegrouchyclub.podomatic.com/entry/2015-12-06T17_56_46-08_00

Reactions (among many) to my Tweet included:

@stephenpollard: This man posted an appalling antisemitic rant. When asked why it’s now down he says ‘Fuck off’. Nice

@brendancommins: What a tosser!

@BigotedIslamism (an account calling itself Humiliate Hamas): bigoted pig

The account Islamists Exposed @JailNaziScum simply posted my Twitter address: @thejohnfleming

Other responses included:

@TracyAnnO: Horrible  response Mr Flemming. The pressure of collusion getting to you.?

@Kaztastic: heard the one about the bearded anti Semite posing as a comedy blogger? Shame on you Fleming.

@ziegfieldstar: Why is it that these anti Semitic vermin are always physically ugly as well as psychologically.

I then got an email from my blog’s South Coast correspondent saying: “I am getting tweets from this woman, @londonette, hell bent on what I don’t know. I was going to reply telling her that no way is Copstick racist or anti Semitic. It’s OK that they want to challenge and express distaste for something. That is everyone’s right. It’s the stoking of the fire that I object to. Saying ‘Fuck off’ isn’t always the best way forward.”

I replied:

“Nah. Fuck ’em. The origin of their hatred is fair enough. But they’re now just mindless trolls. As bad as the Fascists they hate.”

That remains my view.

No doubt there will be further comments on social media. Welcome to the 21st century.

Copstick will have her say in the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast being recorded tonight and possibly at the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club Live in London on 12th April.

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Filed under Jewish, Racism

Is a Japanese comic doing their act in English with a Japanese accent racist?

Louise Reay Chinese

Image for Louise’s Chinese language show It’s Only Words

Last night, I went to see the final of the Leicester Square Theatre’s New Comedian of The Year competition, rightly won by character act LJ Da Funk (aka Zak Splijt).

One of the acts was the highly esteemed Louise Reay.

In a previous So It Goes blog, about her Edinburgh Fringe show, she explained to me: “I’ve always been interested in communication. People have a real mental barrier about languages and the way we communicate.

“But just one look can mean so much. We communicate all the time. Look at my hands. I can’t stop them moving. There’s so much more than language going on. That’s what my show’s all about. There was a very spurious 1960s experiment which proved that only 7% of communication was verbal. So my whole show is an experiment in the 93%. If I did it in French, it wouldn’t work, because most people maybe understand enough.”

Today, one review of last night’s show said: “Louise Reay was the first oddball of the night, coming on speaking Chinese and then explaining, via placards, that her whole act would be in Chinese. It could easily have been seen as racist, but Reay was more of an absurdist. I didn’t think it was offensive, maybe if I was Chinese – and very sensitive –  I might have felt differently.”

Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri is currently conducting a three-year PhD research project for the University of Surrey at Guildford. It is on the self-translation of stand-up comedy – comedians who translate and adapt their own material from one language to another.

On Facebook, his response to the review was “I don’t understand why the possibility of considering Louise Reay’s act racist is even entertained (although, fortunately, rejected). She does not even pretend to be Chinese; she just plays on the absurdity of using a language the majority of the audience cannot understand.”

The reviewer (alright, it was the admirable Bruce Dessau) came back to Giacinto with: “As you say, I did consider it before rejecting it. But I still wonder if a Chinese person would be OK with it, though I don’t like the idea of being offended on other people’s behalf so I won’t be offended on behalf of the entire Chinese population!”

Giacinto, responded: “Indeed. But I think we need to go a step further: even if they were offended, they wouldn’t be justified in being so. Offence, even when real and not hypothetical, cannot be its own justification.”

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during the BBC2 TV series The School that turned Chinese

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during filming for her BBC2 documentary series The School That Turned Chinese

At this point, Louise pointed out: “My Edinburgh show was sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Edinburgh, which is funded by the Hanban, the culture department of the Chinese government. This would appear to indicate that my act is generally supported by both the Chinese and the academic community of Chinese speakers. I would add as a general point that it is not remotely racist (for a white English person) to speak real Chinese. A Chinese person speaking English is never questioned on the matter. The Independent wrote an article about it all in case of interest.”

Interestingly, by a quirk of scheduling at last night’s show, Louise Reay’s act (an English woman performing in Chinese) was immediately followed by Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani speaking English with a Japanese accent. She won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award last week.

There has never been any suggestion that her act could, in any way, at any time, be considered racist.

Louise Reay is currently working on her next solo show, titled Que Sera, 些拉 

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Filed under Comedy, Racism

Other people’s lives partly overheard

Two men talk by a bus stop in Watford yesterday

Two men talk by a Watford bus stop yesterday

Not that I would like you to think I am obsessed with blogging, but…

… occasionally, I hear things which sound like they might fit into a blog…

… and they almost never do.

I do not write them down. I text them to myself.

It is a mild obsession. I can control it.

It does not control me.

At least, I do not think it does.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a train near Hendon, going to St Pancras in London, and, in the next set of seats, four very dull-looking people were talking about their upcoming holidays and other equally (to me) uninteresting things. I was not really listening, but then my ears told my brain that one of their voices had said, in a casual, conversational way:

“That’s really the wrong question. The question is Has God found YOU?

By the time my brain adjusted to listening to them properly, they were talking about hotels.

How did God get into that conversation?

Yesterday, I was waiting at a Watford bus stop (don’t ask) when an ageing hippy type turned up with two Sainsburys shopping bags. I thought he was possibly homeless. He had a long light-brown coat, long greying hair, a long grey beard and a dark grey woollen cap. He looked like some cut-price Gandalf.

Shortly afterwards, a middle-aged black man arrived. They knew each other and started talking.

I reconsidered the first man’s status. He probably was not a tramp, just some left-over hippy from the early 1970s. The black guy looked like he had just come from work.

Again, I was not really listening to them until my ears heard the black man say:

“I was working like a bloody nigger.”

Whaaaat??? my brain told my ears.

Again, by the time my brain had adjusted to listening to the conversation, it was inconsequential. It had just been a casual phrase in a casual conversation.

You can’t really say it was racist: the guy was black and was talking to a white guy. You can’t really say it was offensive: the guy could only offend himself.

But Whaaaat??? my brain thought.

Whaaaat???

It was much like Boxing Day last week.

I was in the shopping centre in Borehamwood on Boxing Day. I had just bought myself  two pints of milk. I like milk.

Two men passed me. One said to the other:

“Your best bet is to put the guy’s body in a freezer and then cut him up later.”

Whaaaat???

That is exactly what he said:

“Your best bet is to put the guy’s body in a freezer and then cut him up later.”

The fascination of other people’s lives, partly overheard.

It is like reading only one paragraph on one page of a 500-page novel.

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Filed under Racism, Sociology

“I will sometimes be racist. Sometimes be sexist. Sometimes be homophobic.”

Chris Dangerfield looks over his shoulder yesterday

Chris Dangerfield looks over his shoulder occasionally

Sometimes… Sometimes…

Sometimes there are days when I know I will have to write a daily blog or – more accurately – have no time to transcribe some interesting blog chat I have had with people. Today is such a day.

So I thought I would quickly copy-and-paste a section I had not included (for space reasons) in a previous blog, quoting comedy performer Chris Dangerfield.

It is about his Theory of Sometimes.


“I’ve got this theory of sometimes, he told me.

“I, Chris Dangerfield, sexually objectify women. Sometimes. It’s not all I do. And they are sex objects. Sometimes. They are treating me as a sex object sometimes and I’m treating them as a sex object. Sometimes. That’s not all they are – obviously. This mad thing about Oh, you sexually objectify women. Yes I do. Sometimes.”

“What about your girlfriend?” I asked. “Is she happy with all your screwing around?”

“I don’t do it when I’m in a relationship,” he told me. “I am totally monogamous then. That’s the deal, isn’t it? We give each other a gift and that’s monogamy.”

“What other sometimeses are there?” I asked.

“Well, racism,” he said. “I’ve grown up in a culture where we have this crazy media; we have an education; we have people’s agendas fed to us from a young age. I grew up in a school where we had to praise the lord. He who would valiant be. I didn’t know what the words meant.

“I have learnt behaviour. And it wasn’t learned from choice; it was stuff that was pushed on me. So I will sometimes be racist. I will sometimes be sexist. I will sometimes be homophobic. That doesn’t mean I am racist, sexist and homophobic all the time. It means I’m in a continual battle with who I am, who I want to be and what I’ve heard or read. That’s just reality.”


Chris makes his money – perfectly legally – by running a legitimate lock-picking company. He designs the devices himself. Apparently some of his best customers are government departments. I seem to remember MI6, the police and an American agency were mentioned.

Online, he gives instructions. Not just on his own site but also with clips on YouTube.

It may be my imagination, but there seems something strangely sexual about this video.

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Filed under Gay, Racism, Sex

A racist blog featuring three taxi drivers, PR Max Clifford, a BBC DJ and gorillas

Potential Edinburgh Fringe legends Ellis & Rose

Malcolm Hardee Award winners Ellis & Rose aka Alison Rose

Yesterday, at Soho Theatre, I accidentally bumped into Malcolm Hardee Award winning comedy duo Gareth Ellis and Rich Rose, who perform as Ellis & Rose.

Rich told me they had once been billed by a hard-of-hearing comedy promoter as ‘Alison Rose’.

Gareth told me he had just realised that, when I have no material for my blog, I simply paste-in sections from my old diaries.

In fact, he is only half right. I also do it when I have no time to transcribe (let us say) three long interviews.

So here are some Guy Fawkes Day extracts from my old e-diaries.


November 1999

DJ Chris Evans (very big in radio) with Joss Stone (Photograph by The Admiralty/Wikipedia)

DJ Chris Evans (very big in British radio) with Joss Stone (Photograph by The Admiralty/Wikipedia)

In the evening, I went with a French girl to a Guy Fawkes night party at an ex-Radio 1 DJ’s home. We arrived a little late and the French girl asked someone: “Have you already burnt the gay?”

This week the press have been carrying a story about Spice Girl Geri Halliwell having an affair with disc jockey Chris Evans.

“Well, I don’t know if they are or they aren’t,” the ex-Radio 1 DJ told me, “But I’ve been told by one who’s been there that he’s got the most enormous knob.”

PR Max Clifford told this ex-DJ a few years ago, when she was at Radio 1, that, if she gave him £50,000, he could make her massively famous by fabricating an affair.


November 2000

A black cab racing through London with no sign of a glove

London black taxi cabs are a hotbed of anecdotes and racism

I met three taxi drivers and someone who ran a facility house in Soho.

An Asian taxi driver told me he had taken a computer studies course at Reading University but hated computers and so was now driving. He said he had played second team for one of the County Cricket clubs, but could have played for Pakistan.

“Are your parents Pakistani?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, “But I know influential people.”

A Nigerian taxi driver told me he spent three months of every year driving cabs in New York. He lamented the fact the British government had no control of the country. “People are allowed to demonstrate and cause chaos,” he told me. “Britain needs stronger leadership.”

A white cab driver took me to Soho for my daily video edit. He told me he lived in the East End near Canary Wharf. He was a disillusioned racist who, of course, started: “I’m not racist, but…”

He said he was going to leave London where he had been born and bred because “it’s no longer my city. Me and my kids are foreigners in it”. His local mayor (in Tower Hamlets) was an Asian and, whereas his kids’ school had no religious assembly in the morning because that would be unfair on non-Christians, they had to observe Ramadan (he claimed).

“All I want is a level playing field,” he said. “The council’s building 4-bedroom flats now. That’s not for the likes of me. They’re building them for their own kind because they breed. And round my way, the Bengalis run the heroin trade and, if you get in their way, they just kill you.”

Ironically, he was talking of emigrating to Grenada in the Caribbean.

A silverback gorilla in its natural environment, not in England

Irrelevant yet strangely relevant picture of an African  gorilla

At the editing facility in Soho, the audio suite was run by 32 year-old woman with an English accent, but who had been born in Edinburgh.

Aged 6, she had gone with her family to Zambia for four years. While she was there, she and her classmates were held hostage by Zairean guerrilla rebels for a period. She did not know how long. The teachers told the children the men outside were just stopping by on their way somewhere else and, when she was told they were guerrillas, she was very impressed because she thought they must be very educated gorillas.

Her father piloted the local Flying Doctor plane and, returning to the UK, flew executive jets chartered by celebrities and businessmen. He was friendly with Edinburgh-based pop group The Bay City Rollers at the height of their fame. She remembered travelling with them in cars – they were lying on the floor or bent down covered with coats to avoid being seen by their fans. Knowing them gave her prestige at school and fans offered her money for the bathwater the boys had used.

Later, in her teens, she went through a Goth phase with bleached blonde hair and now, aged 32, her boyfriend is a 25 year-old freelance gardener who was adopted. He has no interest in finding out about his real parents, but knows his father was olive-skinned and his mother was a lifeguard.

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Filed under Racism, Radio, UK

Edinburgh Fringe: How the banned “Racist Joke Show” was a cunning stunt

Last night at about 8.45pm, I had a half hour snooze. When I woke up, it was 6.55am this morning. Einstein was right. Time warps. Especially at the Edinburgh Fringe. Well, to be honest, most things are odd at the Fringe.

Jay Islaam was at yesterday’s Grouchy Club

Jay Islaam was at yesterday’s Grouchy Club

At yesterday’s eventually crowded Grouchy Club show (people keep wandering in willy-nilly and then don’t leave – which is good), Jay Islaam talked about his Racist Joke Show.

This had been billed as part of the Freestival, the new free show organisation at the Edinburgh Fringe which got a reported £25,000 in sponsorship from La Favorita pizzas matched by £25,000 sponsorship from Arts & Business Scotland.

When Jay Islaam’s Racist Joke Show poster/flyer was brought to their attention, Arts & Business Scotland decided they did not want to have their name associated with the show.

“I have a confession to make,” Jay told us yesterday. “I put out this very provocative poster with just the words RACIST JOKE SHOW – BANNED FROM 100+ VENUES.”

“It hadn’t been, had it?” I asked.

“Well, I have,” said Jay.

“Why?” I asked.

“For a lot of reasons,” he replied.

“And the poster had a golliwog on it,” I said.

Jay and his golliwog, as seen on his website

Jay and his much-loved golliwog, as seen on his own website

“It was my own personal golliwog,” explained Jay. “But I had no intention of using that on the final poster, though I was thinking of using it on the flyers. It was a publicity stunt. I sent it to the media knowing it would get a reaction.

“(The comedy website) Chortle picked up on the poster and sent it to Arts & Business Scotland, who issued a statement without checking what the show was. I won’t comment on whether that was right or wrong, but that’s what they did.

“On the back of the flyer, it asked a series of questions:

  • Are we all racist?
  • Is political correctness an effective way of tackling the Far Right?
  • Is positive discrimination patronising and therefore intrinsically prejudiced?

“But, sadly, the show did not happen.”

“I know this is racist in itself,” I said, “but surely the name Jay Islaam would imply you are not – let’s say 500 years ago – of white British origin.”

“Well,” said Jay. “this is the thing. Part of the Racist Joke Show was about the fact it should not matter whether you are black or white or Indian if you want to discuss issues of culture or race or religion or sexuality. There should not be restrictions on someone just because they are the ‘wrong’ minority or majority.”

“Your name was on the poster?” I asked.

One of Jay’s characters: Michel de Fromage

One of Jay’s characters: decidedly odd Michel de Fromage

“No. It was on the back of the flyer – as was my photo – but in tiny writing. I did not want to be given a free pass to do the show because I was part of a minority – because the point is the things that I say about race and religion and sexuality and different types of prejudice should be something that anybody can say because they have a logical basis to them. You should not be censored because you are white or male or Chinese so you can’t talk about Indians. That was the point of not putting my name or picture on the poster.”

“I have never understood the argument,” I said, “that a black person can say the word ‘nigger’ but a white person can’t. The word is either offensive or it is not.”

“This is one of the things I was going to discuss,” said Jay, “and why I was using the golliwog as a symbol. People talk about ‘reclaiming’ offensive words, reclaiming insults like the Americans did with the word ‘Yankee’, which was supposed to be an insult.

“The show was wanting to do the same thing with words like nigger or Paki or Chink. You can say: I am black and I am going to reclaim the word nigger. But, if a white person says it and you are upset by it, then you have not reclaimed it because the word still has power over you. The show was going to be about taking the power away from these words and symbols.

A piece on Jay in this month’s Eastern Eye

A piece on Jay in this month’s Eastern Eye

“The poster was a blatant publicity stunt using the golliwog, but the upshot was the controversy snowballed to a certain point where the show was cancelled. That was not my intention.

“My intention was to create enough controversy that people would come and then I could preach to them. Get them in the church and then you can preach to them. But the church was knocked down before I was allowed to proselytise views.

“Hopefully next year I will be able to bring the show to Edinburgh. I have already been asked by some promoters in the North of England if I will come and tour it at their theatres.”

mrmethanebendsMeanwhile, back in what passes for the real world outside the Edinburgh bubble, this morning (when I eventually woke up) I read an e-mail from my farting chum Mr Methane – the world’s only professional flatulist act – whose company is called BO Productions. Yesterday, he received this e-mail:

Hi,

This is the first time I’ve been in touch and I wanted to find out whether you’d be interested in the idea of running a banner ad for B O Productions Limited on the Daily Mail website?

Web Windows is an advertising agency who are occasionally able to pick up some amazing late-availability banners. This is one of those occasions and you can find all the details of the offer on this link: One month Daily Mail banner campaign just £480.

If you’re not sure whether online advertising is right for you we’ve put together a Video Review: Why Online Advertising.

I appreciate this offer has appeared out of the blue, so if you’d like me to explain things in more detail, I can be contacted on the number below. Or maybe you’d just like to go ahead?

Best regards

Today’s front page of the Daily Mail

Today’s front page of the Daily Mail

It is good to know that the Daily Mail is obviously trying to expand and subtly alter its brand image and thinks its readers would appreciate a banner ad for a farting act and is actively courting Mr Methane. Meanwhile…

In other, more tragic, showbiz news, the increasingly time-constricted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday seems increasingly UNlikely to include a string of comedians doing impressions of iconic Lewis Schaffer (though we did try it out to great success at yesterday’s Grouchy Club).

Perhaps our final Grouchy Club show should be devoted (as, of course, we all are) to Lewis Schaffer.

Malcolm Hardee Show 2014

A show or event? Who knows? But it is happening this Friday

There is even worse news, though – I am told by his agent that Jim Davidson is unable to accept my invitation to take part in the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championship during the aforementioned increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show this Friday.

I tried my best.

We will just have to soldier on with what we have.

Have we got a show for you?

Well, it is certainly going to be an event.

Now I must go away and figure out a running order.

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, PR, Racism

Two views of British & Italian comedy (+ racism, sexism & women with horns)

Luca Cupani: a man not likely to lose his bottle

Luca Cupani: a man not likely to lose his bottle

London-based Italian comic Giacinto Palmieri told me I should meet Luca Cupani from Bologna. So I did. Yesterday afternoon. With Giacinto.

Luca moved to London at the end of January this year to be a comedian.

“In Britain,” Luca told me, “comedy is a huge thing, so I looked for an Open Mic night online and I found this King Gong night at the Comedy Store. They gave me a spot at the end of February. They seemed to think I might be frightened, but I had never heard of the King Gong night or the Comedy Store.

“I would like to also be an actor, but it’s not that easy because of my accent and because, when they look for an Italian actor, they want someone who looks like an Italian, not like me. At Twickenham in November, I did an open audition for the new Star Wars movie…”

“I don’t mean to be rude,” I said, “but you do look a bit like an alien.”

“I thought,” said Luca, “if they chose Chewbacca and Yoda, they can’t be too fussy about looks. I queued at Twickenham Studios at five in the morning along with 15,000 other people for six hours and the audition was just entering a blue tent and exiting the other side in three seconds.”

“Why couldn’t they just look at pictures?” Giacinto asked him.

“I dunno,” shrugged Luca. “They just wanted to meet someone. But I thought: The Comedy Store can’t be worse than this.”

“And was it?” I asked.

Luca right have been crucified on his first UK gig

Luca took the risk of being crucified at his first UK gig

“There were about 400 people in the audience,” he replied, “and they were not nice and, listening to the comics on before me, I didn’t get half of the jokes because of the cultural references.

“Someone said something I didn’t understand and people laughed. Then someone said something I didn’t understand and they sent him off. I didn’t know what was the secret to stay on stage.

“When it was my turn in the second half, maybe I was helped because they were a little… I wouldn’t say drunk, but they…”

“I think you can say drunk,” I told him.

“Well for some reason,” said Luca, “they liked me. I started talking about everything. I would have sold my mother to stay on stage. I did not sell her, but I stayed on stage and I won the show, the King Gong. It was my first time and I was so scared and I survived and won.

“So they gave me another five minute spot in June that I did and that went not so bad. At the end the owner, Don Ward, told me I have funny bones. I had to look it up in the Urban Dictionary. He told me to keep doing it and I would have another spot in November but just five minutes again because he told me: Your English is not that good.

Luca’s first performance at the Comedy Store is on YouTube.

“I was improvising,” explained Luca. “I can’t write jokes in English so, if I want to find new material, I have to go on stage. In my room, I can’t find any joke. I need to be on stage and under pressure or under fear and I start saying something funny and people laugh and that gives me energy.”

“You’re a very good improviser,” Giacinto told him.

“I find it difficult to translate the jokes I say in Italian into English,” explained Luca, “and it is different the things that trigger laughter here. In Britain, I realised there are some subjects or topics you should not mention: if you talk about things like cancer.”

“Are cancer jokes OK in Italy?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Luca. “You can make a joke about anything.”

Giacinto disagreed: “Romina Puma (organiser of Il Puma Londinese Lab) always tells me it’s easier for her to talk about disability in London than it is in Italy. She tells me people here are more ready to mix comedy and tragedy. I don’t know the Italian comedy scene now. But it is true there is more sensitivity here about racism and sexism.”

Luca Cupani 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show

Luca’s upcoming improvised Fringe show

“I did some jokes about cancer at the Comedy Store,” Luca added. “They laughed. But, if you talk to other comedians, they say: Don’t say this; don’t say that.”

“You can,” I said, “make a joke about anything if you deliver it in the right way. What can you not say in Italy?”

“In Italy,” said Luca, “we don’t have something like stand-up comedy in the Anglo-Saxon way. It’s more like you have to portray a character maybe like Commedia dell’arte… You have to be the lazy postman or the rich businessman. You create this character like a stereotype and you do some jokes around this. In Britain, you are yourself and you talk about your vision of the world.

“In Britain, everyone who is black plays the race card; he talks about being black. Everyone who is Indian talks about being Indian. Women: We are women. But, if you are not one and you say a joke about them, you are sexist or racist. If you are a white man, you cannot talk about black people or make a joke about women.”

“But,” I asked, “in Italy you can talk about North Africans arriving in Sicily by boat?”

“If it is disrespectful, no,” said Luca. “But you can…”

“In Britain,” I said, “the Scots joke about the English, the English joke about the Welsh, people from the north of England joke about southerners…”

“Though not on stage now,” said Giacinto. “That’s more in the pubs. The butt of the jokes in Italy are the Carabinieri – the military police.”

Luca (left) and Giacinto pose for me in Camden yesterday while an attractive lady casually picks her nose behind them

Luca (left) and Giacinto pose for me in Camden yesterday while an attractive lady casually picks her nose behind them

“Yes,” agreed Luca.

“So,” I said, “in England, jokes about stupidity are about the Irish; in the US, they are about the Polish; in Ireland, I think they are about people from Kerry…”

“And,” said Giacinto, “in Italy they are about the Carabinieri. Yes.”

“So not about people from other areas?” I asked.

“Italian history,” said Giacinto, “is so localistic. People were for centuries closed inside very small communities. Probably the Carabinieri used to be from the South traditionally so maybe there is a bit of anti…”

“People from the South,” said Luca, “tend to represent people from the North as stubborn and Yes, they work but they’re not that smart. The South portrays themselves as We know how to live. We are smarter, brighter. In the North they are slow.”

“The impression I get,” I said, “is that people in the North of Italy think people in the South are animals and people in the South think people in the North are Germans.”

“Yes,” said Luca. “People in the North think they are like the Germans and are perfect, but they are not. Part of my family is from Sicily.”

“I have got myself off-subject,” I said. “Back to you, Luca. You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. You’ve never been to the Fringe before. Never been to Scotland before. And it’s an hour-long improvised show…”

“What ,” Giacinto asked me, “did you think of the preview of my Wagner show the other week?”

“I thought it was very good,” I said. “I didn’t have any misgivings about it because I thought: If the worst comes to the worst, there will be talk of women with horns on their heads.”

Giacinto’s Edinburgh Fringe poster

Giacinto: enthusiastic Wagner Fringe show

“Wagner,” suggested Luca, “helps you connect with your inner hero.”

“You are my personal hero,” said Giacinto, “because what you are doing – improvising an hour show – is crazy.”

“I would do a show about my sex life,” said Luca, “but basically nothing happens. I dated a woman who works in a bank and she just asked me about the Mafia for three or four hours.”

“One day,” said Giacinto, “I am going to do a show called All The Women Who Didn’t Sleep With Me (Abridged). The unabridged version would be too long.”

Your Wagner show,” I told Giacinto, “is actually ideal for the Fringe because it is a show performed by an enthusiast. In Edinburgh, the big thing is to latch on to a subject, then make it personal in some way.

“If the punters are sensible,” I continued, “even if they don’t give a shit about Wagner, they’ll think: Oh! Women with horns and a man with a sense of humour! That’s worth seeing! If someone’s an enthusiast, you know he’s going to be excited about the subject and will try everything to enthuse you and the hour is going to be interesting and, in this case, funny.”

“I know you don’t do reviews,” said Giacinto, “but, if you can manage to squeeze these words into your blog…”

“Did I not mention it before?” I asked.

“No,” said Giacinto, “you never mentioned my preview.”

“Oh fuck,” I said.

“But I’m still going to invite you to parties, don’t worry,” Giacinto told me.

“Parties?” asked Luca.

“John,” explained Giacinto, “says he doesn’t do reviews because he wants to be invited to parties by comedians.”

“You might have just managed to get into my blog,” I told him.

There is an award-winning short film featuring Luca Cupani on YouTube. (It is in Italian)

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Filed under Comedy, Italy, Racism