Category Archives: Twitter

Comic Janey Godley on the benefits of social media but not of Turkish men

Janey Godley recorded the Grouchy Club podcast yesterday

Janey recorded the Grouchy Club Podcast with me yesterday

This may not be for the easily offended.

As comedy critic Kate Copstick is still in Kenya, yesterday I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with comic Janey Godley

We talked about strange acts, swearing, David Cameron’s penis and the pig, the Moth’s storytelling, free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and UK comedy in general.

Janey published her jaw-dropping best-selling autobiography Handstands in The Dark in 2005 and also started blogging regularly in early 2005. So, during the podcast, we talked about her widespread social media presence. Here is a short extract:


JOHN
You stopped blogging regularly. Why? Were you just going with the trend.

JANEY
Yeah, well, I use Twitter, I use Instagram, I use Vine and people have got access to lots of different… And I Periscope! I was one of the first British comics to use Periscope.

JOHN
Well, you were one of the first bloggers. The sad thing is now you are very Twittery and Periscopey and they’re all transient. They don’t last at all. So people, in two years time, will never see what you’ve done whereas, when you used to blog, there’s something there. But I suppose that’s like live comedy as opposed to recorded comedy.

JANEY
I like the fact that I can Tweet and Periscope. One of the amazing things about Periscope was that, as soon as I started Periscoping, my book started selling (even more) because people all over the world were watching me. Periscope’s a great medium for comedians and people who aren’t worried about folk being abusive online. You get all these beautiful women that go: I’m going to be doing a make-over online and you can talk to me and I’ll be in my bikini. And then you get all these men who go: You’re an ugly bastard! And she’s: Oh my Gawd! I can’t believe you said that! Whereas, if you say that to me, I’ll say : Shut up! Away and fuck yer mother and get burnt in a caravan! I don’t care, y’know?

JOHN
Whenever I see tags for your Periscope, they seem to include things like Kim Kardashian.

JANEY
Yeah, sometimes I dress up as… What I do is sometimes I’ll put on loads of make-up and put on a big hairpiece and I’ll say KIM KARDASHIAN – LIVE ON PERISCOPE! – VIP ACCESS ONLY – There’s no such thing as VIP Access on Periscope. But, immediately, the whole of Turkey… cos Turkish men really love Periscope and they’re really, really abusive and misogynistic on it… I know that sounds like I’m racially profiling, but I can back it up by news reports. Other people have had to ban the majority of men in Turkey who come on Periscope and go: Open boobs! Open boobs! We have a hashtag Open Boobs. They’re asking you to show them your breasts, as opposed to heart surgery.

JOHN
I know. Open boobs! doesn’t quite compute, does it?

JANEY
And we have a song:
Open boobs!
Open boobs!
Open boobs and anal!

They sometimes ask for anal.

JOHN
On Periscope?

JANEY
Abso-fuckin-lutely. If your opening gambit is Open boobs! Anal sex – and sex is spelled SEXCT, which is bizarre… They want sex; they want anal. They want open boobs… So the minute they do that, I abuse them back. It’s a really weird thing that some people think they can abuse you if you’re in the public eye but, if you immediately say: Go fuck yourself! (and sing)

Go fuck your mother
And if your mother’s dead
Dig her up and fuck her instead

… they’re horrified you say that.

But it’s OK for them to say Anal.

JOHN
And this sells books.

JANEY
It does. All my Periscope followers will say: Sing the song, Janey! So, as soon as someone says SEXCT! OPEN BOOBS! I say: Go and fuck your mother! – And there’s a dance – And if your mother’s dead Dig her up and fuck her instead – They’re like: That’s horrific! and I say: You started this, ya cunt!

JOHN
This is a serious point: Periscope is selling your books, but Twitter isn’t?

JANEY
Twitter does as well, but it’s mostly Periscope.

JOHN
And you’re still in print, which is a rare thing, because it’s ten years old, isn’t it?

JANEY
Yeah, yeah. It is still in print and it’s going great.

JOHN
I still think there should be a sequel, but there we go.

JANEY
Yeah, shut the fuck up about the sequel. I don’t want to hear about that any more.

JOHN
You could self-publish the sequel. That’s where the money is.

JANEY
John, there’s nothing to talk about.

JOHN
There is.

JANEY
So…

JOHN
Janey Godley: My Rise To Infamy… I can see it now.

JANEY
Shut up.


The full 22-minute podcast can be heard on Podomatic and downloaded from iTunes.

Janey Godley’s bestselling autobiography

Janey Godley’s bestselling autobiography

Leave a comment

Filed under Periscope, Podcasts, Sex, social media, Twitter

Would Malcolm Hardee have HATED the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show?

I don’t know exactly what the etiquette is for exposing the identities of people on social media, but let us hope I am not breaching it in this blog.

This morning, the normally infallible mind-reader Doug Segal made an error when he re-Tweeted a message from itinerant comedian Matt Roper to me. The re-Tweet read:

@johnfleming RT @MrMattRoper: Too late for a Hardee Award? > “@doug_segal: Ian Cognito did 20 mins. Got his cock out then stormed off stage”

Ian Cognito - nothing is unexpected

Ian Cognito – comic originality comes as standard

My initial reaction was that, if Ian Cognito did NOT get his cock out and storm off stage then THAT would – for him – be comic originality.

But then I received another Tweet from Doug Segal. It read:

@MrMattRoper @johnfleming Whoops! Wrong @thejohnfleming

My Twitter address is @thejohnfleming NOT @johnfleming and Doug had accidentally Tweeted about Ian Cognito getting his cock out to a completely innocent other John Fleming who lives in Florida and who apparently is a “company builder, marketing and social media practitioner, clean tech advocate, country music fan and stumbling but dedicated parent”

Media people and performers – especially people in the comedy industry – do not live in the normal world as other people know it. So I do not even want to think what the other John Fleming made of the unsolicited Tweet about a cock.

Nudity, farting and sticking fingers up people’s bottoms (I refer you to yesterday’s blog) are perhaps not everyday occurrences in the world of entertainment, but they do not raise an eyebrow. Standards are different.

Anal entertainment: Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart

Arty anal entertainment? Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

For example, the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe last Friday had farting from Mr Methane and a man with bacon draped on his head and a singer who looked like Adolf Hitler crooning Frank Sinatra songs and giving the Nazi salute.

There was, as far as I am aware, only one complaint – which was that the show was too middle class.

On Facebook, just a few hours after the show finished, Bob Walsh posted:

The Awards Show was a rally for the middle classes

The Malcolm Hardee Awards Show was a middle class rally? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

I hope y’all enjoyed the MH awards whilst the people that actually worked with him DIDNT GET INVITED! The people that headlined his shows ARE NOT INVITED! And his whole ethos has been ignored by middle class cunts who he would have HATED enjoyed yourselves. Goodnight!

Comedian Keara Murphy replied: What you on about? It wasn’t an ‘invite’ situation. Janey, who hosted it, did work with him.

Bob Walsh responded: Wow there was one then… He would have hated it.

Patrick Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette

Pat Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

Keara argued: You don’t know what he would have hated. Fact! Loads of people who were there last night knew and worked with him. The organiser knew him personally. The performers were chosen for their reflection of his spirit – of who he was and the kind if acts he would have booked. Your rant is misinformed and misjudged.

Bob’s reaction was: I knew him well, he is the reason I am in comedy and I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT! An opinion not misinformed!

Keara replied: You said his ‘ethos was being ignored by middle class cunts’ – in what way, exactly? And exactly to whom are you referring? And who exactly are you calling ‘middle class’? John Fleming? Kate Copstick, Bob Slayer? Janey Godley? The audience?

Keara has something of a point here. I do not think former railwayman Mr Methane from Macclesfield would label himself middle class.

Do not call Janey Godley middle class

Janey Godley on a quiet day

And anyone calling Janey Godley middle class risks an unfortunate end, as she occasionally points out in her act that she can get someone killed for the price of a packet of chips. She is only joking, of course.

She could get someone killed for free, as a favour… and, indeed, she has half-joked in past shows that her uncle was killed one year as a birthday present to her.

But, by this point in the Facebook postings, I was a bit confused and I posted to Bob Walsh:

The GSOL as they are today (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

Greatest Show On Legs (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin

I’d be interested to know who didn’t get invited. Martin Soan of the Greatest Show On Legs was booked to appear but, at the last minute, could not come up. Steve Bowditch and Dickie Richards, the other current two members of the Greatest Show on Legs, were invited to appear, decided to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller then decided they did not want to do it without Martin.

As for the middle class cunts in the audience, Malcolm discovered, when he was forced to turn the Tunnel Palladium into a members-only club, that a lot of his audience came from middle class areas. 

Malcolm ran his Tunnel comedy from 1984 to 1988. He told me that, to his surprise, a lot of his best hecklers worked in the City of London. I think (though I may be wrong) that his most legendary heckler – The Pirate – was a stockbroker who retired early on his mega-earnings to Spain.

Bob Walsh confused me even further, by saying: I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT and the whole middle class comedy industry and my drunken rant stands as my opinion. (Great line up tho Malcolm would have put some completely unknown acts on that HE liked)

The Silver Peevil from planet Venus

Would Malcolm have approved the Silver Peevil from Venus? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

It is, of course, impossible to know which unknown acts Malcolm would have liked because he drowned in 2005.

But I would lay bets that he would have liked The Silver Peevil in what I think (I could, again, be wrong here) was only his fourth performance.

And then there is the (in England, Scotland and Wales) unknown comedy harpist Ursula Burns, who performed her ditty I’m Your Fucking Harpist.

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp

Alas, because of the sightlines in The Counting House ballroom, I did not ask her to perform her climactic opus in which she sings and plays the harp lying on her back, legs apart, with the harp on top of her. Trust me, Malcolm would certainly have appreciated that part of her talent.

With great respect to Ursula, I’m sure his outro to her act would have been: “I’d fuck her…”

On Facebook, though, I told Bob Walsh I was Still a bit vague. What would Malcolm have hated specifically and specifically why? I’m not arguing with your opinion, just interested in it.

Bob told me: Its just opinions of his regulars at Tunnel that I still associate with. They are NOT happy

I asked: Were they there?

Bob replied: I wasn’t but 2 were. The main gripe seems to be the lack of risks and how the show has become a cool thing for trendy comics to network at.

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring & Juliette Burton

Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring and Juliette Burton? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

There are several points here.

One is that three acts did not appear on the show at the last moment. The act which had been going to climax the show phoned to cancel about 15 minutes before the show started. Two others (one a regular at Malcolm’s comedy clubs) simply did not turn up.

The other, more important point, is the incessant criticism of people being middle class.

Is that, in itself, a bad thing?

I think there is a worrying level of reverse snobbery going on here.

Yes, there is a comfortable Oxbridge elite of (especially BBC) producers who make programmes for audiences they do not understand. But there is no God-given rule of comedy that a so-called working class person from Liverpool can be funny and a middle class person from Surbiton cannot.

Tunnel Arts - Malcolm’s early management company

Malcolm’s early management business

If I booked a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show starring acts of which Bob Walsh’s ‘middle class cunts’ who read the Guardian and watch TV panel shows might approve, then Keith Allen, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Jules Holland, Stewart Lee, Sean Lock, Paul Merton, Vic Reeves and Johnny Vegas might appear on it. Malcolm booked, helped and sometimes even managed some of those acts.

He also booked bizarre odd acts and gave chances to new acts, which I always try to do.

As for “a cool thing for trendy comics to network at” – if only.

If only…

I would love that to be the case.

Those there last Friday – appearing on stage – if they hung around to see the show, that is not necessarily networking – included Baconface, Ursula Burns, Juliette Burton, Kate Copstick, Tim Fitzhigham, Janey Godley, Richard Herring, Lady Carol, Stewart Lee, Laura Levites, Mr Methane, Patrick Monahan, Frank Sanazi, Lewis Schaffer, Nelly Scott, Bob Slayer and Ewan Wardrop

Now, I am not specifying names, but I would not say all or even the majority of those names come into the liberal middle class elite of paranoid trendiness. And I may look like a fat, if shabbily-dressed, bank manager but, if forced to socially classify myself, I would say my upbringing was lower middle class and Malcolm Hardee’s was a step above me.

Malcolm was a grammar school boy who very nearly went to a public school. (American readers will have to translate that into their own native tongue.)

But, to steal Malcolm’s catchphrase – Fuck it!

Enough with all this class bollocks.

The so-called working class have no more right to own comedy than Oxbridge or the so-called middle class.

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Facebook, Twitter

Scots comic Janey Godley to present Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards in July

I tell Janey a joke last night (photograph by MEU-NF)

I tell Janey Godley a joke last night, which she finds hysterical

My chum Scots comedian Janey Godley rarely performs her one-hour shows in London. That is London’s loss.

Last night, she was at the Comedy Cafe Theatre performing a preview of her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show Janey Godley Is Ungagged and afterwards, outside, what appeared to be a police helicopter was hovering, static, overhead.

A complete coincidence, I am sure.

Janey’s show was recorded by new audio outfit Just The Greatest (who are also sponsoring The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Fringe this year). So her show will soon be available as an audio download.

“Will you also be selling physical CDs after your shows at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh?” I asked. “I dunno what percentage the venue takes.”

“Nobody takes a percentage from me, John,” said Janey. “Nobody.”

I asked: “Why are you doing a show at the Fringe again, after three years away?”

“I’m just doing the first two weeks,” said Janey, “and my daughter Ashley is going to support for the first 15 minutes, then I’ll do the new material I did tonight all about Twitter and Facebook and being ungagged. People are getting death threats; people are being not allowed to speak. I do nothing but fight like fuck on Twitter with people like Donald Trump and 50 Cent and there was that Tim & Freya situation.”

A series of live Tweets which Janey made last year, recording an argument between a couple on a train, went viral and triggered articles in the press about invasion of privacy.

“Ask about something else,” said Janey.

“The Duke of Edinburgh thing surprised you, didn’t it?” I asked.

Janey Godley’s bestselling autobiography

Janey’s bestselling UK autobiography

A fortnight ago, Janey was asked if she could present the awards (with HRH Prince Edward) to the 30 gold winners of this year’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards – in the gardens of Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, on 3rd July.

She was told: “The Awards are given out to young people who have gone through a rigorous programme to achieve their award and we invite people of note from Scotland to present them with their certificates… It would make this special occasion even more memorable for the young people.”

“I did write back to them,” said Janey, “saying You do know it’s me you’re asking? You’ve not got me mixed up with someone else? They said they’d chosen me because I work for several children’s charities. I’m a bit flummoxed. Those poor kids are expecting a celebrity and they’re gonna get me.”

“But you are a celebrity to them,” I argued. “Former Scotsman columnist, best-selling author, award-winning comic…”

“My ass I am a celebrity,” said Janey.

“You’re ideal for them,” I argued. “What was that ‘scum’ thing Ned Sherrin said about you?”

“He said I was educated scum,” replied Janey.

“Didn’t he say you were Glasgow scum made good?” I asked.

“No,” said Janey, “Educated scum.”

“Well, he should have called you Glasgow scum made good,” I said. “And Ned adored you. You’re zero to hero. Inspirational. All that stuff. Ideal for presenting the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.”

At this point, the helicopter overhead came lower and drowned out our conversation.

I find paranoia can be very distracting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Royal Family, Twitter

I fleetingly half-understand how to use Twitter, but East Coast Trains in the UK are still a technological disaster area

Random visual plug for my Fringe show

Random visual plug for my chat show at Bob’s Bookshop

I have just about got the hang of using Facebook, but I have not yet got the hang of using Twitter. It seems to work on the basis of short, inconsequential conversations with people who wander into the Twittersphere.

But yesterday, for a very brief time, I think I half understood it.

I made a day trip from London to Edinburgh and back, to see what will become Bob’s Bookshop – the venue my Edinburgh Fringe chat show is being held in.

I think intimate is the word.

Rather than drive up, taking about 16 hours (return) when I would be able to do nothing else, I got a train up, taking around 10 hours at around half the cost of the petrol. This meant (I thought) I could use my computer.

But the techno-anarchy on the currently government-run East Coast Trains became distracting. These are some of a series of Tweets:

– I am currently travelling in an East Coast train from London to Edinburgh which has two carriages where the heating can’t be turned off…
…‘Luckily’ I am in a carriage where the only problem is the power sockets don’t work and the internet connection is as fast as…
…three dead dodos floating in syrup. Welcome to 21st century rail travel on Britain’s East Coast…

This elicited a reply from Aaron Weight of Xtreme Productions:

– Wow, as fast as that? You obviously don’t frequent train services by Greater Anglia!

To which, as someone who has lived and worked in Norwich, I had to reply:

– They have trains in East Anglia now???

and Aaron replied:

–  Apparently, though I’m still waiting for them to turn up

Comedian Del Strain then cheered me up with:

– Oh dont worry you will be freezing in a few hours.

which developed into this exchange:

JF – I feel I have stumbled into a below-par episode of Doctor Who

DEL – Tom Baker not in it, I’d say – More McCoy then  🙂

JF – Dr McCoy from Star Trek, yes… It’s life, but not as we know it…

There was then a loudspeaker announcement telling us that our carriage had no power in the electricity sockets. Then there was another loudspeaker announcement and I Tweeted …

– They appear to be now evacuating one of the coaches

After a minute or so, something else happened and I Tweeted:

– A loudspeaker announcement throughout the train has now said: “Is it just me, or is it odd?” That was whole announcement.

After a minute or so and another burst of sound from the loudspeaker, I then Tweeted:

– We have now had 20 second burst of loud disco music and a voice in panic saying: “Carriage C is not working!”

The wheels turn but the electricity and WiFi stall

Wheels turn on the East Coast but the electricity & WiFi stall

At this point, Bex Lindsay Tweeted:

– I use East Coast all the time, so your tweets are sadly ringing many bells. Hope you get to Ed soon!

I replied:

– 3rd time I’ve travelled on @eastcoastuk in last 3 months and 3rd time power sockets don’t work
… Two young Japanese opposite me can’t understand concept of sockets with no power and look as if they think it’s a joke by Brits

Bex responded:

– Ah, the British. Well known for the royal family, red buses, and pointless electricity sockets.

I Tweeted:

– I feel a blog coming on. I just need a naked man to run through the carriage with balloons…
… I fear East Coast are developing a sitcom pitch for Sky and are trialing it on us…
… Still needs a naked man with balloons to run through carriage, but we’re only at Durham, so…

In lieu of any streakers, I gave up Tweeting at this point but, about 15 minutes later, five slightly drunk women with spray-on tans and Liverpudlian accents, dressed as if for a hen party (and one wearing a short bridal veil), glided into our carriage – refugees from one of the over-heated carriages. Each of them had a glass of champagne in her hand.

“Sorry, luv,” one said, sitting down opposite me, ”it’s hotter than a fire fight in Syria in the next carriage.”

By now I had reverted to one-to-one text messaging, which I understand more than Tweeting.

MacBook near dead, I texted ahead to Edinburgh. iPhone 35%. iPad OK. Train sockets all dead. Woe is me.

Later, I discovered I had a new Twitter follower, one Caroline Hicks.

Who is she? I thought.

I looked her up and she is a “Wireless Networks & VSAT Researcher” – I found these Tweets from her yesterday…

– On train to Newcastle in carriage with broken air con. @eastcoastuk Giving away tiny bottles of free H2O does not make this okay, FYI…
… Am also trying to buy WiFi from @eastcoastuk. 25 mins later, still can’t pay as only country option avail for my address is Afghanistan.
@eastcoastuk Given that I could fly to Spain return 4 the £ you charge to get to Newcastle, unimpressed.
… Have paid £9.95 for a service that doesn’t work.

It sounds like I was comparatively lucky on my trip yesterday.

When I arrived in Edinburgh, I had a drink with comedian Juliette Burton. Her first question was: “Were there any hen or stag parties on the train?”

She often travels on the route and tells me hen and stag groups often join the train at Peterborough, getting off at Newcastle, presumably to go wild. Then other hen and stag parties get on at Newcastle to go to Edinburgh. She gave me the impression she thought the hen and stag parties heading from Newcastle to Edinburgh are slightly classier.

As we crossed the Royal Mile, I saw the group of Liverpudlian women from the train buying what appeared to be sausages from a stall. One was still wearing her short bridal veil. I was mystified by the fact sausages were being sold in the Royal Mile from a stall.

“Princess Anne is visiting Edinburgh today,” Juliette told me.

“If you spot her,” I said, “ask her if she’ll do a chat for my blog.”

I have heard nothing back yet.

Miraculously, both the power sockets and the very slow WiFi worked on the return trip to London. It must have been an error.

I have a feeling the two young Japanese men who had sat opposite me on the journey up to Edinburgh probably still think it was a joke on them by the wacky Brits.

Leave a comment

Filed under Railway, Twitter, UK

UK comic Tiernan Douieb is becoming more political and is going to Iceland

Tiernan Douieb in London this week

Tiernan Douieb in Piccadilly Circus, London this week

A few years ago, the comedian Tiernan Douieb was at risk of having the Michael Palin problem: people just thought he was too nice.

I had a feeling Tiernan decided to change his persona sometime around 2010, by bringing politics into his act, so I asked him about it this week:

“Oh, I think I’m still quite friendly on stage,” he said. “I’m trying to do the politics in my own voice, by saying I’m an idiot but this is how I understand things and this is why I’m upset. I’m not trying to get on my high horse and say I know more than the audience. But, yeah, I did want to get away from just doing silly gags.”

“Why were you worried about being loveable?” I asked.

“I wasn’t so worried,” Tiernan laughed. “But, at the moment, I’m just generally very angry with the government and I thought I want to talk about this because, for the first time, it’s really bothering me. I felt what I was saying on stage – the gags – didn’t really… I didn’t care about it any more.

“My family – my dad and brother and mum – are all quite political and I’ve generally been the crap one who didn’t care really care enough until a couple of years ago. I did start doing political stuff a little before the Coalition came in – about the financial crisis. It felt like a good challenge and I quite enjoyed getting my teeth into it – saying to myself: How do I make this horrible situation funny?”

“So how do you make a horrible situation funny?” I asked.

“If you look into a subject enough, there will always be something ridiculous, but you’ve got to research it. I’m learning. I’m still learning. I’m finding that there are gigs I can’t really do the political stuff at, especially on a Friday or Saturday where people seem to just switch off. People have the automatic assumption that, if you start to talk about politics, they won’t enjoy it. They just think: This is going to be boring. I’ve just finished work. This is the last thing I want to hear. I want to hear dick jokes.”

“So,” I asked, “you perform one type of routine Sundays to Thursdays and another type Fridays and Saturdays?”

“That’s almost it,” agreed Tiernan. “Also if I’m compering, I don’t do political stuff very much then because, selflessly, I’ve got to set it up for the other acts and, if I do something that changes the opinion in the room…

“The other problem with doing topical or political stuff is that it changes every week. I have bits of material I have where I go: Argh! I can’t do that any more! because they’ve changed that policy or whatever.”

“Did you also start writing for the Huffington Post because it gives you more gravitas?” I asked.

“Well,” said Tiernan, “much like you, I used to write a daily blog on my website. The object was to force me to get up and write something each day. Then, because my blog was about all sorts of things, I thought I’d write one for the Huffington Post which was just political stuff. And then I gave up writing my blog because I got bored with writing something every day.”

“I find,” I said, “that writing a daily blog does force me to do things. But I still don’t understand how to use Twitter effectively. Performers love it, though: possibly because they want constant attention.”

“Personally,” said Tiernan, “I like using Twitter because it helps me to generate jokes. I can write a topical joke very quickly and then it’s out there immediately.”

“But doesn’t that also mean,” I suggested, “that you’re giving away good jokes for free and, if you then use that joke in your act, it feels like a stale joke because people who follow you on Twitter will have heard the joke already?”

Tiernan disagreed.

“I don’t use a lot of jokes I Tweet,” he explained, “because they are so topical. If I do three short jokes based on the news, they won’t be relevant tomorrow. I do Twitter for the same reason I used to do a blog: I find it keeps me really sharp. I get up every morning and think What gag can I get from that?… And what gag can I get from that?… Bam-Bam-Bam… I need to start my brain in the mornings, otherwise I can sit there aimlessly for hours. And often I put on Twitter a short joke that, later, I find is a theme I can develop. If it gets ReTweets, I know people have found it interesting. If I do a couple of jokes and they work, then I Tweet I’m gigging there… and that does work as self-promotion. At the Edinburgh Fringe, I sold 4 or 5 tickets a day, just as the result of Tweets.”

“And your next big project?” I asked.

“I’ve got a director friend and we’re talking about doing a video-cast every week – 5 minutes on YouTube of political humour, really topical. We’re both very sick of the fact there’s so much that dictates what’s on television and radio. We both have a lot of projects turned down because everything needs to be changed: You’re not allowed to say that on television or whatever.

“Sod it! We want to do an angry political rant every week. We might call it The Partly Political Broadcast and make it as funny as possible but with a point.”

“So you’re going to carry on down the political path, then?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m enjoying it. But I’m not a big Labour Party fan either. I think they’re awful as well. I don’t think anyone really speaks for the people or really cares. It’s mostly about earning money and I think, while that’s the case, there’s a lot to say.”

“What about Boris Johnson (the Mayor of London)?”

“I hate him,” said Tiernan. “I got booed at a gig for saying I hated him. He’s awful. He’s terrible.”

“But he makes people laugh…” I said.

“That’s the thing about being funny,” said Tiernan. “You can get away with everything. Comedians are dangerous.”

“And Boris is a comedian…” I said.

“No, he’s a clown.”

“What’s the difference?”

“He’s more farcical,” said Tiernan. “He’s more slapstick. His scripts are well-written. I’d love to know who writes his speeches. I think he improvises parts of them. I went to one of the Mayoral Debates and I didn’t really like any of the candidates. Brian Paddick was reading a script…”

“He was the gay policeman?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Tiernan. “And he was just so wooden and boring… but Jenny Jones and Boris came over as being very normal. If you watch enough performers and performance, you can tell when people are being ‘real’ and they just seemed genuine. But Boris ‘mugged’. Any time anyone else spoke, he would pull faces and distract the audience, so people were giggling. It was so cruel.”

“But effective,” I said.

“Incredibly so,” said Tiernan. “I just hated it.”

“Perhaps you should be a politician,” I suggested.

“I couldn’t do that,” said Tiernan instantly.

“The problem,” I said, “is that, to be an effective politician, you have to be two-faced and have adjustable morals to deal with all the shits you have to negotiate and compromise with.”

“I’m going to Iceland on Monday,” Tiernan said. “for my first holiday in two years. I like their ethos. Not their eating ethos – sheep’s heads and putrified shark – but the Mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr, was a stand-up comedian and went in to the election for a bit of a laugh. He formed a party called the Best Party and some of their policies were We’re definitely going to get a polar bear in the zoo and Free towels at all the swimming pools and all the voters went Yeah, We’re so sick of everyone, we’ll vote you in and he ended up being Mayor and now he’s going to run for Prime Minister.

“Their whole ethos is just Peace. They want to be a peaceful nation. They don’t want an army. They’ve got these lovely ideas. I mean, they still eat puffins, but… I dunno… the whole place appeals to me.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Iceland, Politics, Twitter

Twats and Tweets at London lawyers’ comedy show trial in a pub last night

Judge Norman Lovett, looking the part
(photograph by Bob Slayer)

Two days ago, I lost my voice. Yesterday it was back though slightly weak and I coughed a lot. This morning I have no voice again.

At 5.00am this morning I woke, coughing, with my throat razor-blade raw from a dream in which I had been transcribing the ornate language of a medieval court case.

This was because, last night, I went to the Lamb Tavern, first built in 1309 in London’s Leadenhall Market over the Basilica at the centre of Roman Londinium.

I was there to see a sold-out try-out of This Is Your Trial, a comedy show in which three comedians are the judge, prosecutor and defence counsel in the ‘trial’ of an accused person who (as in real English court cases) is presumed guilty unless proven innocent.

The paying audience were mostly lawyers. The accused (on a rather vague charge of identity fraud and making over 100,000 Tweets) was legal blogger Charon QC, aka Mike Semple Piggot. Last night’s judge was the suitably bewigged Norman Lovett, with American Luke Capasso as prosecutor and sober Bob Slayer as the defence counsel.

When I started writing this blog today, I searched around for an adjective to describe members of the English legal profession and the best one I could come up with was ‘smug’. I suppose that is what comes of building your careers and high earnings on the back of so many innocent people being imprisoned by a system which does not even present a credible pretence of seeking to deliver justice. On the other hand, when I meet people involved in the game they are almost always intelligent, sophisticated, good company and have a sense of humour. So I guess the two words ‘amiable’ and ‘amoral’ cover the English legal profession.

And, last night, a legal eagle sitting in the same row as me did offer me a free sausage and a chip, so the profession may not be totally uncaring.

The evening started with Judge Norman Lovett saying he was looking forward to appearing at a gig on Saturday night – the Madness Weekend at Butlins, Minehead – though lamenting the fact he would “miss X Factor, the jungle programme and Match of the Day – three programmes on the trot… but the money’s good and so are Madness”.

An excellent piece of advertising – something which could perhaps be added to real court cases to lower legal fees.

Last night was also like a dream product placement plug for Apple, as the room was awash with iPhones, a few iPads and, behind me, even a Macbook laptop. Throughout, people were Tweeting while still managing to pay attention and laugh.

Bob Slayer, Norman Lovett and Luke Capasso last night

This Is Your Trial is a wonderful format. It would transfer seamlessly to TV as a sort of comedy Crown Court – and it could make a fortune on the corporate circuit.

Putting the case for the Prosecution, Luke Capasso’s opening line was “Charon QC… Charon? Isn’t that the ferry man of Hades?… Do you worship the Devil, sir? Do you suckle at the teat of Beelzebub?”

It turned out that Charon QC turned down a place at Cambridge because he had fallen in love with a girl and went instead to Leicester University. He had also, in his youth, mysteriously been approached by a member of MI6 “whilst wearing a skimpy pair of speedos” with an invitation to “work for her Majesty”.

“I wasn’t wearing the speedos,” argued Charon QC in his own defence.

“Her Majesty was wearing them?” asked an incredulous Luke Capasso.

“Her Majesty wasn’t,” explained Charon QC, “but the Commercial Attaché was. It was a surreal experience and, needless to say, I had little difficulty in turning the offer down.”

The prosecution argued, unfairly I think, that “bloggers are a subversive breed”.

Quoting the Daily Telegraph, it was suggested they have an annoying habit of pointing out when journalists make mistakes, that they are “disturbing creatures” who publish “any old thing they find on the internet” and “they engage in their activities for accuracy, for truth, for their own enjoyment and for the enlightenment of others rather than for money”.

Bob Slayer rather unexpectedly, given that he was arguing for the Defence, said: “Those who can, do… Those who can’t, teach… And those who can’t teach, blog…”

In a clever end twist to the evening, Charon QC was found guilty by a card magician.

In the bar afterwards, Bob Slayer was saying how disconcerting it was to have members of the audience Tweeting throughout the event on their iPhones.

“It’s a new dynamic you have to deal with somehow,” said one Paul Bernal.

“This audience,” he continued, “is made up of people connected with the law in various ways who Tweet – #tweetinglegals. I’m a law lecturer; I teach law. I have 2,950-something followers and I was Tweeting to them. They knew what was going on here tonight. We had the hashtag #TrialofCharonQC – I Tweeted maybe 20 times during the event…. These are the people who have re-Tweeted me,” he said, showing us his phone. “He’s in San Diego. These guys are in London. He’s in Canada.”

Another man at the bar, dressed in what appeared to be an orange Guantanamo Bay outfit, said: “I teach lawyers how to do social media like Tweeting.”

Paul Bernal said to Bob: “I Tweeted your joke about Those who can’t teach, blog and it has been re-Tweeted by three people around the world… @legalaware has got 6,366 followers. The other two are not quite so big but, even so…”

“Could you add @BobSlayer on it quickly?” Bob Slayer asked.

“It’s gone, I’m afraid,” said Paul Bernal.

“You should sue them for plagiarism,” I suggested to Bob, but my weak voice went unheard.

“I’ve got 650 followers and I’ve barely Tweeted,” Bob told Paul Bernal.

“But they’re all brewers,” I suggested.

“They are, yes,” agreed Bob.

“The thing that Tweeters want to do more than anything else,” said the Guantanamo Bay social media teacher, “is not get obsessed by numbers.”

“I’ve got this new phone,” Bob said, showing off his unimpressively non-Apple smartphone, “to specifically get into the Tweeting game.”

“The first thing,” the Guantanamo Bay man told him, “is to have fun.”

“Oh,” said Bob,”I have a lot of fun but, when I wake up in the morning, I can’t remember it.”

“You’ve broken the first rule of Tweeting,” he was told. “Never Tweet after you drink.”

“But I am constantly drinking,” explained Bob.

“In that case, you have to invent your own different rules for Tweeting. Do you know when you’re drunk?”

“Always.”

At that point, I left and went home.

This morning when I awoke, coughing, I found an e-mail from Bob:

“I learnt a lot about Tweeting from these lawyers tonight.”

I continued coughing. My voice is now returning a bit.

And now David Gilroy has Tweeted me to say he is Guantanamo Bay Man.

We live in interesting times.

1 Comment

Filed under Blogs, Comedy, Legal system, Twitter

I don’t mind being called a lady, but I am not English, despite the Italian slur

Does this chin make you think I am an English lady?

Last night, I flew back to the UK to what seems to be a tsunami of publicity – on BBC Radio 2, on French TV, in UK newspapers and online about my fellow Scot Janey Godley’s ‘Train Tales’ Twitter saga.

I myself wrote about Janey’s allegedly public-privacy-invading Twitters (soon, perhaps to become an Edinburgh Fringe show) in this blog and in the UK edition of the Huffington Post two days ago… and the US edition of the Huffington Post re-visited the story in a second article yesterday.

Janey is very good on publicity. And she is not alone.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned some of the stories in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

Italian-born, mostly British-based comedian Giacinto Palmieri commented:

“I think what is missing in Italy is the newspaper market ‘segmentation’ between broadsheets (most of which nowadays are tabloid-size) and tabloids. So, Corriere della Sera and Repubblica are a mix of ‘serious’ articles of the type you could find in the UK in the Guardian or the Telegraph but also the kind of gossip you mentioned. Having said that, it’s also true that politics in Italy is often about personalities, so political reporting tends to be quite gossipy in nature.”

I prefer to think of it all as admirable Italian eccentricity.

Yesterday, in a shopping centre in Milan, I spotted a tanning salon where people go to get fake tans. The temperature was 102F and sun is not an unknown phenomenon in Italy.

“A tanning salon? Is this some new thing?” I asked my English friend who has lived in Italy for almost 25 years.

“No,” she told me. “They’ve been here as long as I have.”

“Why would Italians want fake tans?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” she said. “It’s a mystery.”

Giacinto Palmieri was born and grew up in Milan. I asked him what he thought of my view of Italians as ever-so-slightly eccentric – in an admirable way.

“I’ve been following your reports from Milan with great interest,” he told me. (He will go far.) “They remind me a bit of what I’m trying to do with my own comedy as an Italian in Britain: showing how things that are too familiar to be noticed in the eyes of the ‘natives’  can be shown as surprising, weird and (hopefully) funny in the eyes of an outsider.

“Having said that,” he continued, “I have also enjoyed observing the observer and I need to confess a mental association you might not find very flattering.

“There is this comedian in Italy called Enrico Montesano who, a long time ago, had a character called La romantica donna ingleseThe romantic English lady. She was a comedic equivalent of the mother in A Room With a View. Her catchphrase (uttered in a strong mock English accent) was ‘Molto pittoresco’ – ‘Very picturesque’ – a comment she found suitable for almost everything she saw.

“I don’t know what Montesano’s source was, but the character was spot on. It really seemed to capture something true about the English visitors’ view of Italy. Please don’t take it as a criticism: your remarks are, indeed, very interesting and often funny. Besides, nobody can be held responsible for his free associations.

“By the way, I tried to find a seamless link into a casual mention of my Edinburgh Fringe show Giacinto Palmieri: Pagliaccio at the Newsroom, 2-26 August, 7.00pm… but I couldn’t find it.”

Relentless publicity is a vital thing for any comedian: which is unfortunate, as an awful lot of comedians – Pagliacci indeed – are ironically so lacking in self confidence that they are terrified of the self-exposure in print and in the media that they confusingly crave on stage.

But Giacinto Palmieri, like the unstoppable force of nature that is Janey Godley, is different and will clearly go far.

Well, he will in this blog.

But not if he calls me English again!

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Italy, Marketing, Newspapers, PR, Twitter