Category Archives: Television

The decline of British television comedy. The elitist iceberg of Brexit and Trump.

The Grouchy Club Podcast

Below is a short extract from the 100th Grouchy Club Podcast in which the (yes she certainly is) controversial comedy critic Kate Copstick and I ramble on about anything that takes our fancy, occasionally stumbling into the subject of British comedy. Occasionally, too, we stumble into cyber-trouble.

This may be one such example.


JOHN: There is a sort of bizarre snootiness in comedy where the Oxbridge elite…

COPSTICK: Oh yes…

JOHN: …who, by-and-large, don’t get (big) ratings for their shows – are very snooty about people who do get ratings. For example, Benny Hill.

COPSTICK: Yep…

JOHN: …who at the height – the height – of his fame and his ratings success and his foreign sales for Thames Television – He must have been churning money out like nobody’s business for Thames Television – was dragged into – was it Brian Tesler’s office? Someone’s office… and told they were getting rid of him because he was in bad taste.

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: He was staggeringly popular. I heard that when he died – I dunno if this is an urban myth – Chinese television broke into their broadcasts to announce it as a newsflash.

COPSTICK: I’m sure that’s absolutely true.

JOHN: But I mean he was staggeringly popular. They didn’t like him because they said he was sexist.

COPSTICK: But I think that… I’m going to get a bit political here, John…

JOHN: Oh God! We’re going to be in trouble!

COPSTICK: Only mildly…

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: …and fleetingly.

JOHN: Oh dear.

COPSTICK: Just fleetingly.

JOHN: That’s never stopped her before.

COPSTICK: I think that is exactly the same thing – talking about the Oxbridge elite and all that running TV, so they say what gets dumped because they don’t like it – They are the ones whose voices are out there but Benny Hill had gazillions of viewers – I think that’s exactly the same thing we got with Brexit and the Trump vote – because the people at the top…

JOHN: This is Copstick!

COPSTICK: …the people at the top are completely unrepresentative of the mass of the voting iceberg that is underwater. And somehow, when the bottom mass of the iceberg rises up and votes for Brexit or Trump, it’s all Oh! Shock! Horror! How can this have happened? Well, it happened because it was always there. You just weren’t listening to it.

JOHN: Also, I was talking to someone the other day and said that, in my erstwhile youth, when they had sitcoms, they used to have them on at 8 o’clock or 8.30 at night or 7.30 at night. Nowadays, sitcoms are on at 10.30 or 11.00…

COPSTICK: Yes, yes.

JOHN: … because, in my youth, the sitcoms got massive ratings and now the humour, the comedy is not getting big ratings because it’s being scheduled and programmed and decided on by people who don’t like what the public like.

COPSTICK: Which is why Mrs Brown’s Boys is the highest rated…

JOHN: Yes and that’s only on at 10.30 because he keeps saying Feckin’ or something, doesn’t he?

COPSTICK: People are very snotty about it: Ooh! Mrs Brown’s Boys!

JOHN: I saw one episode and thought: Oh, that’s not really for me. But, of its type, it’s well done. I mean, Mrs Brown’s Boys and My Family must be, recently, the biggest sitcoms on…

COPSTICK: Absolutely. And surely somebody somewhere in some television company must see that.

JOHN: There is a lot of Emperor’s New Clothes going around.

COPSTICK: Ooh!

JOHN: I have to say Vic & Bob – sorry – I never ever thought they were funny. There was one pilot for, I think, Granada, which I saw and liked: it never got made into a series because no-one else liked it, but I have never ever ever thought Vic & Bob were funny. They were always in minority slots and, when the BBC I think it was tried them at peak time on a Saturday night they came a phenomenal cropper. With good reason. Because they ain’t funny… (LAUGHS) …in my populist opinion! (LAUGHS) But what do I know?

COPSTICK: I have almost stopped watching comedy on TV because there is very little that appeals to me and makes me laugh.

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Lynn Ruth Miller reveals what it is like to be on TV reality show “First Dates”

Lynn Ruth and John on First Dates

Over the summer, the people producing Channel 4’s First Dates series were desperately keen to have comedian Lynn Ruth Miller on as their first 82-year-old lady. But they were having a lot of trouble finding someone of an appropriate age. She and I even talked about trying to get me dating her on the show, although the format is blind dates with strangers.

Eventually, though, the TV company found a suitable date for her and the result was screened on Channel 4 last night. Coincidentally, her date was also called John. At the end, a caption said that, after meeting up for the date, John (from Milton Keynes) had gone down to meet Lynn Ruth (in Brighton) for fish & chips.

“Fish and chips?” I asked her in an e-mail last night.

This morning, she replied: “Not chips”.

“Tell me more,” I said. 

So she did. And here it is.

923597_first_dates_john_and_lynn_00f1fe90c1723516f6ffa5ef7675a21a

I have to say this was a beautiful example of what a reality show is.

The editing and the filming were excellent. The people co-ordinating each interview were marvellous and helpful. They made everyone feel very at ease. The truth is I was so at ease I said a few things I should have censored, but there you are.

This programme is all about selective perception. We see what we want to see and the editors at First Date are experts at piecing together a very deceptive encounter where absolutely nothing is not true but everything is out of context.

We had a pre-interview first to see if we were suitable and would make good television, then a recorded interview that was really lovely because they did not film anything you asked them to omit. After all, most of the questions are very personal.

However I am very open about my life since I do cabarets about it, so I was not bothered.

The actual date is really lovely but people should know it is completely orchestrated.

We met in a restaurant that was near the First Dates restaurant and the staff let me put on some make-up. I did not want to look like they resurrected me, after all. I have my pride.

Then we waited in a little room and they told me exactly the path I was to walk to the restaurant where the Maitre D’ welcomed me and sent me to wait for my Romeo at the bar.

Had I seen the programme before, I would have known that I was being recorded since we were miked up before we entered the place, but I did not. Again, I was my usual blunt, untactful, filthy self.

John First Dates

“Then my paramour came into the restaurant and kissed me…”

And then my paramour came into the restaurant and kissed me (even though we had NOT been introduced!) and BOUGHT  me a drink. They gave each of us £25 towards our meal – enough to actually pay for a serviette and a toothpick at this place.

After we were seated, they called each of us out at least twice to ask us to ask a question about something or discuss something they wanted in the programme.

After the meal, my little darling paid the difference between the £50 we were allowed and the total. Since he had had a couple beers and quite a substantial lunch I hate to think what the total was.

They interviewed us alone and then together. Then we were told to say goodbye and get into a pre-arranged cab that took us about a yard away to the corner.

We had to make our own way home.

John, despite what he said, did not call me. He definitely thought better of it when he got away from the heady atmosphere of being filmed for TV.  Please remember he said that he still had feelings (you might remember the kind?) and all he needed was a little blue pill to get him up and ready for action.

I believe he realised that, if I had to wait four hours for a cuddle, I would find better ways to spend my time… a movie perhaps… or doing it myself.

I e-mailed him after the director asked if he had contacted me.

We made a date to meet in London but, when he realised this would keep him out after dark (mercy me!) he broke the date.

A month or two passed and Vic the director asked again if I had heard from him, so I e-mailed again.

I told John when I was free but, for some reason I attribute to meagre grey matter, he did not bother to give me a specific date. He just appeared in Brighton.

We did not eat fish and chips

Since he came unannounced, I just took him along with me on my previously-arranged lunch date.

What I did not realise was that it was not my immense charm and hot little body that brought him to Brighton.

THEY PAID FOR HIM TO COME TO BRIGHTON.

Lynn Ruth Miller First Dates

“Horrified… It was a side of life he had never encountered.”

I had a pre-arranged lunch date with Melita Dennet, a very lovely lesbian lady I love very much, and I just brought him along. We went vegetarian. I think he was horrified. It was a side of life he had never encountered. All he did the entire time we were together was stop people on the street to tell them we were going to be on television.

As you should know by now, my mind is definitely my erogenous zone and he didn’t get anywhere near it.

He was, of course, very very kind and just a tad insipid.

Perfect person for an old lady.

I like to think that is not me

The sad thing is that people think we fell in love when there was absolutely no chemistry between us. His greatest joy is changing his grandchildren’s nappies and mine, as you well know, is throwing them into an audience – the nappies not the grandchildren.

And this brings me to my main point.

People do not instantly fall in love and cement forever relationships in 30 minutes any more than someone who thinks he can sing can be an opera star if Simon Cowell decides he has talent.

Things that are worth achieving take time and effort.

Anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of real relationships needs to come to my show I Love Men at Leicester Square Theatre, November 20 & 27 @ 5pm and 29th @ 9:30pm.

That tells is like it is (I hope).

First Dates tells it like we wish it could be.

lynn_ruth_miller

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Jody Kamali on what happened at the “Britain’s Got Talent” audition

Jody Kamali

Jody Kamali – a performer with bags of talent, taken aback

Yesterday, comic Jody Kamali was auditioned for TV series Britain’s Got Talent. Here is his description of what happened:


It was an experience I’ll never forget, but hope to forget.

It has never been my life’s ambition to audition for Britain’s Got Talent. I have always groaned at the format, the treatment of acts and choice of acts they put through.

So why did I do it? I really don’t know. And I still don’t. Occasionally I get these Fuck it! moments in life and, when the producer of BGT asked if I would do it, after a lot of persuading, I squirmed and said: “Er… OK then”.

My plastic bag act has always been a winner. It impresses quickly and can really win over an audience. Even Steve Bennett liked it in his 2-star scathing review on Chortle back in 2014. Harry Hill saw me do the act and, as a result, cast me in his TV pilot. The only time it flopped was in front of an audience of pensioners aged 65+ in Bristol, who stared at me blankly while I whizzed around the small stage joyously flinging plastic bags in the air.

“You do get the act, right?” I said to the producer. “Even though I am flinging those bags in the air as serious as I am… it’s supposed to be daft and silly, right? I don’t want you making me out to be a weirdo and edited to make out that I really believe I think my bag act is genuinely amazing… Please put across the irony?”

“Yes, yes, Jody. We totally get it. We love that act and think you’ll do great.”

Of course, I didn’t believe him.

I had my doubts.

I saw on Facebook that many comedians had been contacted but refused in fear they would be mocked on stage. It seems the producers were targeting the alternative acts. Really? So they can champion alternative comedian acts? Or to mock them for entertainment purposes? But maybe they really did want to find new talent other than the usual dog, dance, old folks rapping and 5-year-olds doing stand up.

Maybe – just maybe – the cards have turned.

“Do it, do it,” said blogger John Fleming. “It’s exposure. You never know who might see it.”

So I officially committed.

I arrived at the Dominion Theatre at 3:30pm, an hour late as I forgotten my passport.

I immediately got into costume and began tons of tons of non-stop interviews for BGT and BGT Extra – two different shows. There were your usual BGT wannabes there. The dance troupe featuring at least one guy with a huge Afro and also a young boy. A choir. An old couple in their 80s who do rap. A man in a lederhosen who plays an electronic accordion to rock music. An operatic transgender Filipino. And ME. Amongst others. What a bunch of oddballs we all were.

There were cameras everywhere. Hundreds of crew. I felt like I was in The Truman Show or something.

“Let’s film your entrance and exits,” said the production assistant. “Let’s have you walk in the theatre and you fall onto the BGT sign and it falls over… cos you do comedy.”

“Ah, yes. That’s comedy, of course, yes,” I said.

“Actually, let’s first film you walking up to the BGT sign there and wave ecstatically,” she said.

“Erm… That’s not really me. Can I do my own thing?”

So I settle for the ‘comedy fall’ on to the sign.

“Let’s not make it look set up,” I said. “You know, it will look cheesy otherwise?”

“Oh, we love set ups on BGT,” said the young Scottish camera girl.

So I enter the theatre, walk up the stairs and turn back and fall on the BGT sign. I actually lost control and crashed onto the sign and tumbled down the stairs, ripping my trousers, right in my crotch.

“Ahhhhh!” screamed a bunch of elderly ladies. “Help him! Help him!”

A paramedic runs over, who happens to be in the foyer.

I’m fine, I’m fine… but I need a new pair of trousers ASAP,” I groaned, covering the hole in my crotch, while the elderly ladies stood over me, concerned.

After finishing off my ‘set up’ entrances and exits, I’m whizzed up several flights of stairs to do an interview with Stephen Mulhern for BGT Extra for ITV2.

BGT Extra is fun; we can have a laugh,” said a production assistant.

After a slightly awkward interview with Mulhern, messing about with my bags, I head to do my ‘pre-interview’.

“Is this the biggest gig of your life?” asked the presenter.

“No, it’s not. When you spend thousands of pounds and work year round on a solo show, then present it at the Edinburgh Fringe in front of critics, producers etc… That is the biggest gig,” I said.

“Oh no no, like um, the biggest crowd,” she replied.

“Well, yeah,” I said.

“Well say that you do small gigs to a tiny crowd and then here you are… the biggest gig of your life,” said the girl, goading me into saying what she wanted.

It was a long interview and strange in the way that they kinda manipulate your words into creating a story that they want. I didn’t bring any family or friends with me or give them a sob story which, as we all know, they love so much.

“Don’t say you’re a comedian; say your are going to do something amazing,” said the interviewer. “We don’t want to give it away.”

I got so bored of the interview and felt the girl wasn’t even listening as her gaze drifted to the left every time I spoke. I could have literally said I suck cows’ udders for a living and she would’ve nodded with her fixed grin. I started to entertain myself by being extremely confident – “I’m definitely going to win BGT”… “I’m going to get a golden buzzer”… “The judges will be blown away”… “It’s THE most original act ever seen.”

After the interview, I started to have cold feet. I had this intense feeling come over me – like a warning sign or something. They are going to make a mockery of me, I know they are. They are not going to get it. I considered just walking out. I rang my wife, concerned, and she recommended I call my best buddy who is ‘in the business’.

After a pep talk from Andy and the fact that his friend ‘Keith Teeth’ auditioned once and didn’t get shown, I got my confidence back, knowing full well this could go either way. FUCK IT. I am going to do it. And do it with full confidence! 

Down I went to the backstage area for… yes… more interviews.

They filmed me ‘warming up’ – I was playing up to it but warming up like I meant business, doing cheesy poses, dancing, boxing – like I was about to have a bout with Tyson. I had my final interview with Ant and Dec who were lovely. And off I went….

The stage was huge – 3,000 people in the audience. A family audience. Like an audience you might see at a panto.

“Hello!” I yelled.

“Hello,” says Amanda Holden.

“What’s your name?” says Cowell.

“Jody”

“What’s your day job? Says Amanda.

“I work part time at the Royal Academy of Art.”

“Whoooooooooooo!” whooped the audience, assuming I was some hot shot impressionist or the next Damien Hirst.

“No, no I’m not an artist… I just charm affluent people into signing up to their membership scheme, where they get to see unlimited exhibitions,” I said in a cheesy ‘salesman’ voice. The audience laughed. The judges didn’t.

“What are ya gonna do?” asked Aysha Dixon.

“Something amazing and unique,” I said.

I said this because the producers told me to beforehand.

“Don’t say you’re a comedian, otherwise it will give it away,” said a producer, moments before I went on.

Alarm bells rang but I trusted them. Ah, I thought, the judges will get the irony and stupidity of the act and will get that I’m obviously taking the piss.

The music kicks in.

I run to the left and right waving my arms to get the audience to cheer. They did. 3,000. The sound was electric. Cowell looked at Amanda with a Look at this prick! expression.

I pulled out a bag.

I threw it in the air.

I could see Cowell in the corner of my eye looking at the judges unimpressed.

BUZZ.

Cowell had buzzed. No surprise there.

5 seconds later

BUZZ.

1 second later

BUZZ.

5 seconds later

BUZZ.

I lasted 25 secs, if that! I was shocked. I couldn’t believe they didn’t let me at least do one minute! I walked off stage thinking that’s what I had to do. Ant and Dec were waving at me saying “No, no” and pointing. I thought that they meant I should exit stage right, not stage left… So I did. I walked over to stage right, straight into cables and a tight corner.

“Fuck!” I muttered.

“Not that way” barked the sound guy.

I walked out from stage right and went upper stage right to another exit.

“No, no, no!” cried a production assistant. “Go back to the centre on the cross. The judges want to talk to you!”

“Ohhh… OK. Shit.”

The audience started to boo me a little bit but stopped.

Cowell was shaking his head with a Who is this idiot? expression. Even David Walliams looked unimpressed. I was surprised as I actually thought David would like my act.

“Jody, are you serious?” said Cowell.

“Nooooo!” I cried. “It’s meant to be daft. It’s meant to be so serious, it’s funny!”

All the judges faces had dropped. They ACTUALLY believed I genuinely thought that my act WAS amazing with NO irony.

“But I fought ya went to Academy Royal.. Art or summink,” said Alesha Dixon.

“That’s just a job. I’m a comedian. I’ve performed many times at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

David Walliams shuffled.

“It’s not good, Jody,” barked Cowell in way that reminded me of doing a clown workshop where the teacher would say you are awful.

“How can you not like it? Floating bags are amazing,”  I said sarcastically. “Look…”

I floated a bag. The audience cheered. I pulled another bag out of my pocket. The audience roared. I pulled another out. They roared loudly. And another. And Another. The audience were going nuts, cheering me. The judges looked stony faced.

“You see,” I said, “the audience like it!”

“Well I don’t,” said Cowell. “It’s a No.”

The rest followed suit. Four Nos. I left the stage to big applause.

I was gutted. I wasn’t given the chance to do the full act but was pissed off that I was told not to say I was a comedian. I felt set up. I believe the producers knew the judges would smash me down. If I had said I was a comedian, it might have been different.

I was rushed up stairs for more interviews. I sat down in a bit of a daze.

“What’s your name?” said the presenter.

I had repeatedly said my name and occupation, where I lived so many times… I’d had enough.

“Sorry, but I have had enough now. I’m leaving. I am fed up. I’m so tired. I’m done.”

I packed up and left, being chased by the crew, trying to persuade me to have my ‘final say’ so that I could say: “The judges were wrong.”

“No no no…” I said in a huff, “cos it will only mean I would criticise the producers for building me for up for the judges to bash me down… and you’ll edit it the way you want.”

And off I went… crew still trying everything they could to get my ‘final reaction’.

I was so happy to leave.

It was a bizarre experience.

It wasn’t me at all.

I did chuckle to myself on the way home though.

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Hell created by half of a comedy duo, a rollerskating pop star & 108 Jaffa Cakes

Rich rose - the man who put the lit into clitoris

Rich Rose. The Man who put the lit into clitoris

So I got an email from Rich Rose of comedy duo Ellis & Rose.

“A friend of mine and I,” it said, “have written the pilot for a sitcom. It’s called Hell and is set in a grubby Soho sex shop. It’s being filmed from 5th-9th January at 3 Mills Studios and we were wondering if you would like to pay a visit to the set.”

So that was why, yesterday afternoon, I was in East London surrounded by dildos and accidentally walked through a vagina.

“It’s a full-length 25 minute sitcom pilot,” Rich told me yesterday, “divided down into five 5-minute webisodes which we are going to put online this summer.”

“So five climaxes,” I said.

Rich looked at me and said nothing.

“And potentially a series,” said Rich’s friend and co-writer David Ralf.

“Are you both appearing in Hitchcock-type cameos?” I asked.

“David’s cameo,” explained Rich, “is him standing in the shop scratching his nuts in a tracksuit.”

“So good clean stuff,” I said.

“In it’s current incarnation,” said David, “I’m not sure that any mainstream television studio would, eh…”

The crew look at a playback on the first day’s shooting

The crew look at a playback during the first day’s shooting

Ofcom would shit a brick,” said Rich.

“Are you going to have any nudity?” I asked hopefully.

“There’s a lot of doll nudity,” David told me. “I’m not sure how doll nudity goes over.”

“And you walked through the giant vulva,” Rich added.

“I did?” I asked, surprised.

“The curtains,” explained David.

“I feel soiled,” I said. “If you want vaginas, you want Martin Soan, supplier of large scale vaginas to stage and screen. Some of them sing.”

“Really?” asked Rich.

“Really,” I told him. “So what’s the plot of Hell?”

“A hopeless romantic,” explained David, “finds himself working in a Soho sex shop, a grubby little den which is subject to all the pressures and changes in the area. And he embarks upon a sexual odyssey.”

“Well,” said Rich, “he is forcefully coerced into a sexual odyssey by the assistant manager of Hell.”

“The message is very wholesome,” said David.

“No it isn’t,” said Rich.

“Yes it is,” said David.

11889691_10153688371917652_8095588971395795554_n“So what’s the message?” Rich asked.

“Well,” replied David, “what does the central character learn at the end?”

“Don’t slip on lube?” suggested Rich.

“I think,” said David, “we may have taken different things away from this whole writing process.”

“What do you think the message is?” I asked David.

“The central character learns about himself. He is a very repressed individual and his only outlet for intimacy is idealised rom-com romance and I think he learns about other ways to express himself.”

“Also,” added Rich, “there are loads of dildos. Try to emphasise that, John. Loads of dildos.

“Yes,” agreed David, “maybe go with that.”

“You crowdfunded it,” I said.

“We assumed we could make it for £8,000,” said Rich.

“Which we raised,” said David. “Then we went to Koto Films who raised more and now the budget is more than twice that, with Jack Plummer of Koto Films directing. We are doing it at a level that I think has surprised us. A higher quality level. A huge number of people have given a huge amount of time and energy.”

Producer Holly Harris with writer David Ralf

Producer Holly Harris with writer David Ralf

Producer Holly Harris of Koto Films told me: “A friend of a friend has lent us some fetish wear she collects. So many of our props are quite expensive and we just would not have been able to get such an amazing variety of different things on set if it wasn’t for her generosity.”

“How – indeed, why –  did you come up with the idea?” I asked Rich. “Just because sex always sells?”

“I thought of it,” he told me, “when I was leaving university in 2011. I was being driven home back to Purley and we passed a sex shop in quite a pleasant suburban area – not in Purley. My initial thought was How funny would it be to do a sitcom set in a sex shop in a leafy, cheery, suburban area? But that didn’t really work.”

“When we first worked on the script together,” explained David, “the shops we went to – for research purposes, of course – were all in Soho.”

“We had to visit many, many shops,” explained Rich. “We are professionals.”

Development - Hell went through many script changes

Development. Hell had many script changes

“And then,” said David, “we gave Koto Films what now turns out to have been a very, very early draft.”

“It’s been taken apart and put back together again,” said Rich.

“And Koto have made it look much better than we ever imagined it,” added David.

“And the crew?” I asked.

“It was amazing,” Holly Harris told me, “to see so many people come out of the woodwork who have some kind of relationship with the adult industry. Our art director’s mother is a sex therapist who spent 18 months in Spain running a strip club. Our construction managers are also drag queens.”

“And the central female character?” I asked.

“Is Crystal Hart, the manager of the shop,” David told me. “She is an ex-pornstar turned small-business woman.”

“Played by?” I asked.

Saffron Sprackling,” said David, “who fronted the 199os band Republica. She was and is an actress. She was in Starlight Express.

“So she can roller-skate,” I said.

“Yes,” said David. “This morning she was telling me about rollerskating around Soho in the old days.”

“In the streets of Soho?” I asked.

“Yes. She knew people who owned exactly the sort of shops we are portraying in the show and they used to have police among their clientele. But the police had to raid the shops every now and then, to keep up appearances. So they would ring ahead whenever they were going to raid the shop and Saffron would leave the theatre where she was performing Starlight Express, pick up a bag which she assumed was full of cash and held on to it until they gave the all clear and then she returned it to the shop. Hence the roller-skates.”

“So she roller-skated through the streets of Soho?” I asked.

“I believe so,” said David.

“Saffron has a very strong gay and lesbian following,” Holly told me.

one of the most important items in the production...

Dissected: One of the most important parts of the production

“I will have to get more Jaffa Cakes,” David mused as I left the studio.

“Because?” I asked.

“Because the crew have eaten 108 Jaffa Cakes in two days.”

This afternoon, Koto issued their first press release about the production, saying: Hell is a grubby story with a warm heart.

David Ralf is quoted as saying: “A sex shop is the last place most people want to admit to going to for research. But we found a world of independent Soho sex shops with dedicated and friendly staff, mind-bending products, and a rich and fascinating history in an area of London that’s changing fast.”

Rich Rose is quoted as saying: “So we kept some of that stuff and crammed the rest full of dirty jokes.”

I think that pretty much covers it.

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Scott Capurro is going back to Australia despite what happened last time…

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s show Yuletide Queer

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s stage show Yuletide Queer

I have been getting a flurry of automated emails about comedian Scott Capurro’s shows in California.

So, because I think of him as being London-based, I FaceTimed him a couple of days ago in San Francisco.

“I produced a show here,” he told me, “so I’m on this thing called Eventbrite and they send out a reminder every day of the show.”

“Where are you staying?”

“I’ve had this apartment here for 25 years,” he told me. “My husband, Edson, likes it here; my family’s here; and I’m trying to decide where we should live. London is easier for me in a lot of ways. I own a home there whereas, a renter in San Francisco has fewer rights. Also, there’s so much work in London and I can work all the time. Here, I’m on a local radio show in San Francisco. I’ve been on it for 17 years; I come on once a week.”

“What sort of show is it?” I asked.

“It’s morning radio in America. So it’s Hey! Puppies! Kitties! Let’s talk about celebrities! It’s like Italian girls in the 1950s: all we talk about is celebrities and our pets. Seriously. I love these people, but we are penned-in on what we can talk about, especially me.”

“It must be difficult for you to be squeaky-clean?” I asked.

“No.” Scott told me, “I do morning TV in Britain all the time. I do The Wright Stuff a lot. I love it and I really like Matthew because he likes comics. I’ve been doing that for eight years and I know I sometimes push it, but I’ve never been in trouble, really.

Scott Capurro - a regular on The Wright stuff on UK TV

Scott Capurro – a regular on UK Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff

“Also, I started on radio in college. I kind of understand the limits of it and I can be clean if necessary. When performers perform live, the expectations are different. I was really into stand-up as a kid and I would hear rumours that these comics I saw on TV were – Oh! If you see them live! Oh my God! It’s so shocking and different! My mother would say: Oh my God! Red Foxx! The things he says about women, live! He seems so nice! and that really intrigued me. The idea that, when you perform live, it’s like Jekyll & Hyde: you are someone else.”

“So,” I said, “at the moment, you are doing radio and live stage shows in California.”

“I do my own stage show,” said Scott. “An hour or an hour-and-a-half in different venues. And I make more money per show doing that here, but the production stuff is a lot of work. I work less often and make more money here but it’s harder work than in Britain.

“In a way, if you’re a comic in London, you can be lazy and make a decent living. You just show up and do your 20 minutes. You are not expected to do anything other than hit a home run when you’re on stage.

“I have been playing the (London) Comedy Store more the last two years and it’s so hard to fail at the Store. I mean, you’re only on stage really for 18-20 minutes and people walk in there assuming they are seeing the best. So they’re on your side although, if you fuck up and lose them, it’s impossible to get them back because you’re only on stage for 18-20 minutes. It’s a bit tenuous if you mess up, but messing up there is almost impossible on a weekend.”

“It’s maybe easy for you,” I suggested, “because you are so professional.”

“It’s not easy,” said Scott. “But it’s hard to fail. If they hire you, it’s usually because you’ve been doing it for a while and can do 20 minutes without failing. And I also play a lot at The Top Secret Comedy Club on Drury Lane, where my husband runs the bar – it’s like an Edinburgh venue but well-run and clean. The guy who runs it – Mark Rothman – is a performer so he can get big names at the weekends.”

“Is Edson with you in San Francisco?” I asked.

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

“He’s in Brazil, with his family, but I’m going there in January, then we come back here and then I go to Australia from February 22nd to March 5th.

“Then I’m doing a solo show on March 25th at Blackfriars in Glasgow and hosting and appearing in other Glasgow Comedy Festival shows over that weekend. After that, I’m going to Berlin for a week. I did one show there two months ago and they’re bringing me back for a week. April 18th to the 23rd.”

“So you’re all over the world,” I said. “Do you go to Australia a lot?”

“I was banned from there 14 years ago.”

“You can probably see the excitement on my face,” I said. “Why were you banned?”

“In the 1990s, I had been going to Australia for a while and really liked it. then my management made me stop, because the trip is really long and they didn’t want me there that long.

“But I was invited back in 2001, so I went, and I was really excited because, at that time, Ross Noble was going over a lot and Stephen K Amos. I thought: Oh this will be fun because I’ll see my friends and maybe I can start spending time in Australia, because it’s pretty and it’s nice during the winter and it might be a good outlet for me writing good stuff. I could get established in Australia.

Scott Capurro: "Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal?"

“Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal?” Scott asked them.

“So I arrive in Melbourne and they say: Oh, we want you to do a live TV spot right away! OK, fine. It was a live programme called Rove, which is like their Tonight show or Jonathan Ross. There was going to be an interview, which they cut but there was also stand-up too and I said: Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal? – They said: No, we don’t want to see it. We’re fine.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“Yeah,” replied Scott. “So I sent them the script. I was just going to do the first seven minutes from my Holocaust, Schmolocaust show…”

“Oh dear,” I said.

“So,” said Scott, “I objectified Jesus and jacked-off to Jesus a bit, but I didn’t get my cock out. I just did the hand motion.”

“Were you jet-lagged from the journey?” I asked.

“I was terribly jet-lagged because I had come from England, but also I had been to a party with the TV executives right before the taping of the show. I showed one of the execs this joke and he said: You’ll be fine. It’s after the watershed.”

“And what happened?” I asked.

“They got 300 calls, which was a lot for them and they freaked out and they went to the press and it became this huge thing where they tried to pull my stage show from the Melbourne Comedy Festival and the Cardinal of Melbourne had me banned… Yeah… It became this thing where, apparently, I had made jokes about raping the Virgin Mary – which I didn’t… I mean, if I’d had them, I might have, but I didn’t have those jokes, so… It became a myth is what I mean.

“Now there is a word over there – Don’t pull a ‘Capurro’ on us on TV – Don’t go out there and do something you didn’t say you were going to do. Don’t fuck us. Apparently some people got fired. Anyway, I never got invited back.”

“It all seems a bit unfair,” I said, “if they saw your stuff on paper before the show was transmitted.”

“But did they even read it?” Scott asked. “Did they even look at it? Who the fuck knows?

Scott capurro: "“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided to run with it"

“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided…”

“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided to run with it to get press for the show and didn’t care about me. And, I think, because my management wasn’t in Australia and wasn’t there to help me, I was left to my own devices. I tried to fix it myself and I think I might have fucked it up even more.

“Soon after that, Australia went through the roof economically and everyone wanted to play there and I’m like: I fucked it up! I fucked it up!

“Then a couple of writers from Australia contacted me and said: You should come back. But I couldn’t find anyone who would produce me. Then the Comedy Store said they would, but it took three years to get a date. Now I’m going over to Sydney for two weeks to play the Store and we will see. They might hate me.”

“Well,” I told him, “the good news is you are bound to get interviewed again after that back story.”

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Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer explain the “Judge Rinder” scam trial disaster…

Will Franken (left) and Lewis Schaffer angling for Pret a Manger sponsorship

Will Franken (left) and Lewis Schaffer hoping for sponsorship?

Yesterday’s blog ended with American comics Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer about to go to Manchester for the recording of the ITV reality court show Judge Rinder last Wednesday – on the basis that Lewis Schaffer was annoyed because Will owed him £42 and Will was annoyed Lewis Schaffer had never called him Sarah when Will dressed as a woman and performed/lived as Sarah Franken.

Two Fridays ago, a car from the Judge Rinder programme delivered a ‘Witness Statement’ to me at my home, based on a telephone call I had had with one of the production team. I signed it – to be read out at the TV court appearance in Manchester the following Wednesday. The statement (with their mis-typings) read:

My statement for the Judge Rinder programme

My statement to be read out on the Judge Rinder programme


Two years ago Lewis loaned will £50. To date Sarah has only returned £8. Although the situation is unfortunate, Will still owes Lewis £42, and he should pay Lewis back. It’s is a matter of principle, and I agree wholeheartedly that Will should pay him the funds. The money was given as a loan; and it’s only right that he pays Lewis back.

Lewis has built a reputation for being quite controversial on stage – he actually has one of the best Holocaust jokes I have ever heard in my life! Lewis will say the unexpected – the things that people take offense to, but he honestly means no harm.

In regards to Will, we’ve always known Sarah as Will so I don’t believe that Lewis’ intends in any way to insult, degrade or offend Will. If I am honest, I believe that Lewis has always referred to him as Will, and as a result he continues to address him by his name.

Although it is in Lewis’ nature to be annoying, I firmly believe there is no intention on Lewis’ behalf to cause any harm to Will.

I’m sad that they have fallen out over something so menial. It’s sad that a matter such as this has affected their relationship. I hope this matter can be resolved.


I met Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer again last Sunday, at the Pret a Manger eatery in St Pancras station. I believe both may be open to offers of sponsorship by any retail chain. Lewis Schaffer was wearing a black eyepatch on his left eye for no discernible reason. I did not ask why because I suspected there was no reason.


“As far as I was aware,” I told them, “the programme was going ahead. The programme people never told me it was not going ahead.”

“I might use it in my Edinburgh Fringe show next year,” said Will. “Our attempt to defraud them.”

“You speak for yourself!” Lewis Schaffer objected. “The story is totally true! You owed me money and I wanted it back.”

“You told people you had a £250 gig,” said Will, “and you didn’t.”

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “I did not tell them a £250 gig.”

“So why did it not go ahead?” I asked.

“I got scared,” said Will, “because I was recruiting witnesses to bolster my defence and my witnesses were getting scared because the TV people wanted pieces of paper signed.”

“And your witnesses wouldn’t sign?” I asked.

“I called a guy in Birmingham,” explained Will, “and said: Hey! If somebody calls you, would you say you were there the night Lewis gave me this money and that you were there for about ten different shows across England where Lewis was calling me ‘Will’ and making people very uncomfortable? And he said: Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it.

“Then they called him and asked Would you be willing to sign a document? and he said What do you mean document? This isn’t a real court, is it? And apparently they said: Yes, it IS a real court. And he called me back and said he didn’t want to sign anything and I got scared too. They were calling my ex-girlfriend to do the same thing.”

I asked Lewis Schaffer: “You told me that they cancelled because the TV people thought the two of you were getting too aggressive towards each other. Did they?”

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “that’s not what it was. It was because you had two plonker losers negotiating at the same time. It was escalating. I thought we could get some money out of them. I told Will: Ask for some money. I could have gotten £250.”

“I liked the idea of us being grifters,” said Will. “I think the term ‘grifter’ makes it sound cool.”

“It isn’t cool,” said Lewis Schaffer, “it’s just business. We were asking for money.”

“I’ve got this guy on the phone from the TV show,” said Will, “and he’s thinking Oh, we’ve got this great little trans-gender caper and emotional distress caper! and he’s so enthusiastic… Oh, so you and Lewis Schaffer were really good friends? and I’m cupping the phone and like laughing, cos it’s so funny. It’s a prank joke.”

Lewis Schaffer said: “You took it a bit too far.”

“No, you took it a bit too far,” Will told him.

“I asked for a little bit of money,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“He asked for £250,” Will told me. “So I get off the phone and he tells me: They’re gonna give me £250. So now I get the free hotel, I get the trans-gender pity and he gets £250, cos he had the wherewithal to say: Oh, by the way, I’m missing work.”

“This is how I screwed myself,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Because I told Will I was doing £250 and I told them: Will needs £250 because of the ‘Comedy Union’.

“The what?” I asked.

“The Comedy Union,” said Lewis Schaffer and Will together, like a Greek chorus.

“We got a Comedy Union now!” laughed Lewis Schaffer. “So then Will asked for £300.”

“No,” said Will to Lewis Schaffer. “First thing I did was I said: I need you to send me a Facebook message taunting me and saying ‘Ha ha, Will, I’m getting £250 AND my £42. Ha ha ha.’ – So I could then tell them Look – Lewis is taunting me. So they don’t think we’re friends. Then I got the producer on the phone to me going: OK, well, the thing is you’ve not mentioned missing any gigs the night of the recording.”

“All you needed to do,” said Lewis Schaffer, “was say: Listen, you gotta pay us some money for this! You gotta pay us a per diem or something!

“But you told them you were missing a gig,” said Will.

“I didn’t say specifically,” explained Lewis Schaffer. “I said I might miss a gig. We could have gotten offered a gig in the two days before the recording.”

“So,” I said, “you didn’t tell them you’d miss a gig; you told them you might miss a gig.”

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“So,” said Will, “Lewis had upped the ante with the £250, so I get the TV guy on the phone and say: Look, Lewis is taunting me with the £250 he’s getting. I’m gonna lose money too.”

“We were just pushing the money,” said Lewis Schaffer. “They didn’t trust us after a while.”

“Of course they didn’t.” said Will. “We embellished the story.”

“What happened,” said Lewis Schaffer, “was it was an escalation of demands and they just thought: These people are trouble. I think they just realised that Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer is double trouble. It’s vortex of trouble. We couldn’t make money if we owned the Mint.”

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How Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer decided to con ITV out of lots of money

Lewis Schaffer videos Will Franken by a Big Mac toilet

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog conversation with London-based American comedians Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer.

A few months before, Will Franken had decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken. For the conversation I had, Will had come dressed as a man and there was some discussion about whether or not he might drop the Sarah Franken persona.

The blog continued in a post the next day, in which Lewis Schaffer mentioned that Will owed him some money and Will mentioned Lewis Schaffer had never called him Sarah Franken.

One reason this conversation was split into two blogs was to draw a little attention to the ‘he owes me money/he didn’t call me Sarah’ narrative, because there was one part of the chat we had (in a McDonalds in Holborn) which I carefully omitted from the two blogs.

In the second blog I posted, Lewis Schaffer is quoted as saying: “When I moved to England, I got an offer to appear on the TV series Wife Swap. My wife at the time did not want to do it and I didn’t want to do it either,” after which Will said: “The first thing that goes though my head now is: Is there money? I don’t think about exposure any more.”

The section of the conversation which I omitted came immediately following that.

Below is what I omitted.


Lewis Schaffer (left) and Will Franken concocted a comedy idea in a McDonalds

Lewis Schaffer (left) and Will Franken concocted a comedy idea in a McDonalds

“I don’t give a fuck about exposure,” Will continued. “I got an email from the Judge Rinder people.”

[Judge Rinder is a British reality court show. It stars criminal barrister Robert Rinder as the judge, who oversees disputes between two real members of the public in a mock-up of a small claims courtroom. It is similar to the US TV show Judge Judy]

“It was Friday afternoon,” Will explained, “and I got an e-mail and it was somebody from ITV studios in Manchester saying: We may have an opportunity for you. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now and I’ve never learned my lesson. The first thought that goes to my hayseed, Missouri hick brain is always: They’re going to give me my own show! Thankyou, God!

“You deserve it, too,” Lewis Schaffer told him.

“So I go back home,” Will said, “and, of course, the terrorist thing happened in Paris. So I called the guy the next day and he said: OK. Do you know this show called Judge RinderWe are looking for people who have a funny story, like maybe somebody took your laptop but didn’t bring it back? Something like that. Do you have any stories?

“I asked: Is there any money for this? And he said: No, but we will give you money for a nice hotel in Manchester. I said: Do you have any idea what the fuck happened last night, man? What kind of whorehouse is this?

“And then today, he e-mails me again and says: OK, have you had some time to think? Do you have any friends? And I said: No, we would all need a fee. every one of the people I know would need a fee.”

“No money?” said Lewis Schaffer. “I wouldn’t do that, because that’s not comedy. You would have to do some actual work before it. The thing is, you’ve got to get two insane people to be on that programme.”

“Why don’t WE do it?” Will asked Lewis Schaffer. “I would do it if you and I could do it.”

“THAT would be funny,” agreed Lewis Schaffer.

“But what,” I asked, “could you sue each other over?”

“I could e-mail the guy right now,” said Will, “and we could say, if he gets Lewis and me each a hotel room in Manchester and covers our travel…”

“…and food,” added Lewis Schaffer. “And we want a per diem of some kind.”

“Were you serious,” I asked Lewis Schaffer, “when you said you lent Will some money?”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Well, that’s the basis,” I said.

“He needed money,” explained Lewis Schaffer, “and I said to him If you come down and come on my radio show – because I needed a guest and I’m very last-minute – I was desperate for a guest and I said to Will: Come down and I’ll loan you the £50.”

Will said: “I thought you said: I’ll GIVE you £50.”

“I’m not gonna GIVE you £50!” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Say it’s £150,” I suggested. “It’s sexier.”

“But,” replied Lewis Schaffer, “then the judge will ask: Did you fuck him?

“I think it will be funny,” said Will.

“It will be funny,” agreed Lewis Schaffer, then said to me: “He’s given me a total of £8 back.”

Will, laughing and adopting a hick mid-Western accent, said: “He took my catchphrase, which was Cheerio, Yankees! Let’s just make up something.”

“If,” I said, “you’re going to tell a lie on TV about anything, base it on reality. He lent you £150.”

“What’s the difference?” asked Lewis Schaffer.

“It sounds better,” I said. “For £50, you wouldn’t go on TV; for £150, you might.”

“Maybe I’m just angry at the guy,” said Lewis Schaffer. “It’s payback time.”

“This is kind of funny,” said Will. “Shall we do this?”

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“It’s a good idea,” I agreed.

“Do it tomorrow,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“No,” I said. “Do it now.”

Will started composing an e-mail.

This guy Lewis Schaffer…” he started.

Comedian Lewis Schaffer…” Lewis Schaffer corrected him.

“Say he’s another American,” I suggested, “because then they get two Americans having a go at each other.”

“… another Yank…” said Will, “says I owe him…”

“We can just ‘Yank it up’,” laughed Lewis Schaffer.

“£50?” asked Will.

“£42,” said Lewis Schaffer. “And this Lewis Schaffer guy is angry. And he wants to embarrass me.”

“You both want to embarrass each other,” I suggested. “Do they know about the cross-dressing? Do they know about Sarah?”

“When he was on the phone,” explained Will, “he said Sarah. Well, that’s obviously not your REAL name and I thought: Well, this is some guy who’s not into the PC thing!

“Your angle,” I suggested, “is that Lewis Schaffer was the only guy at the Edinburgh Fringe in August who did not call you Sarah and that really annoyed you.”

“I could ask for damages,” said Will. “I owe Lewis £42 but I want £1,000 from him for emotional damages.”

“But,” said Lewis Schaffer, “there isn’t a pool where one of us will get the money.”

“I don’t know,” said Will, “I’ve never watched the show.”

“Maybe we should ask for £250,” said Lewis Schaffer, “and we split the money.”

“They don’t pay you the £250,” said Will. “They expect me to pay you.”

“No they wouldn’t,” Lewis Schaffer told him. “They can’t. It’s not a court. It’s a TV programme.”

“It’s not a court?” asked Will.

“It’s not a court,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“How about £242?” suggested Will. “That sounds more believable.”

I said: “Keep it simple. He hates you because you owe him money. You hate him because he didn’t call you Sarah.”

“Exactly,” said Will. “We could use this as a showreel. These two guys dicking around in McDonalds with John Fleming hatched a plot…”

I said: “Two comedians. Two Yanks. They’re both vocally fluent. They’re bitching at each other. And one is in a dress. The TV people will love it. If you say ‘trans-genderism’, they’re going to have an orgasm on the spot. They’ll go for it.”

And they did.

Will sent the e-mail.

The Judge Rinder producers arranged the recording date for the following week in Manchester.

…CONTINUED HERE

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his arms round Will Franken at St Pancras station

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