Tag Archives: Adelaide

Juliette Burton on how to perform an emotionally raw show to children in Oz

Performer Juliette Burton is in Australia. She should be arriving in Melbourne tomorrow for her When I Grow Up shows which run at the International Comedy Festival.

Juliette Burton & Frankie Lowe rehearse yesterday for her February-May tour of Australia

Juliette Burton and musical director Frankie Lowe set off for their tour of Oz last month

I talked to her when she was in Auburn, about 2 hours drive from Adelaide. She had been performing both her own solo show When I Grow Up and, with Lizzy Mace, their Rom Com Con show at the Adelaide Fringe.

“I’m going to drive the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne.,” she told me rather enthusiastically.

“How was Adelaide?” I asked.

“I live in Edinburgh,” said Juliette, and I’m missing it desperately, but Adelaide has been trying very hard to make me feel at home. It’s been raining non-stop the last few days. When we left, it was pissing down with rain and it was freezing.”

“And professionally?” I asked.

“It was a very big learning curve,” Juliette said. “It was very random. Loads of random experiences. I met Randy again.”

In Juliette’s When I Grow Up show at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, Juliette (a great fan of the Muppet Show) had a puppet called Juliuppet who talked via Skype with Randy in Australia.

“In Adelaide,” Juliette told me, “Juiliuppet and I were in the front row to see Randy’s show.”

(from left) Randy, Juliette and Juliuppet in Adelaide

(From left) Randy, Juliette and her Juliuppet

“So you and your hand puppet were watching Sammy J and his hand puppet?”

“Absolutely,” said Juliette. “I’ve seen some great shows. There were some amazing burlesque performers like Rusty Trombone.”

“Did he play a trombone?” I asked.

“No,” replied Juliette, “but he did do a lot of things with a sparkly g-string which I loved. And I got to ride a motorcycle for the first time ever.

“We’ve also been doing a lot of schools performances here, which have been real challenges. I hadn’t realised how much I enjoy performing for adults. Performing for kids is so much harder. When I Grow Up was never written for kids but, for some reason, as well as my main show, I was booked to take this show around schools. I did two shows today, one to primary school children, 8-13. I went into that thinking They’re not going to understand it at all. It will go over their heads. It will be horrible. But, actually, they were laughing along; they were loving it. They especially loved the swear words. And they were asking really intelligent questions afterwards.”

“I remember seeing you do the show in Edinburgh last year and there were three kids in the front row,” I said. “They did seem to enjoy the references to ‘shit’ in the working-on-a-farm sequence.”

“Yes,” said Juliette. “I’ve realised this is the key to having an awesome show for children. Saying swear words and having a puppet. Those two things are massive hits for kids. The ‘shit’ word goes down a storm and ‘dickhead’ goes down a storm and maybe surprisingly the ‘twist’ near the end of my show actually seems to have a massive impact on them. No matter what age they are, they all seem to shut up and listen at that point, even if they weren’t paying attention before.”

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette’s childhood show: usually for grown-ups

“It must be difficult,” I said, “to perform that part of the show to kids – the emotional twist.”

“Well,” explained Juliette, “I am learning to put myself in a protective bubble a bit when I do it, because sometimes it’s too raw for me.”

“What do you do?” I asked. “Do you say to yourself: I am being a performer – I am not being me?”

“No, I tried that and it didn’t work,” said Juliette. “Now, even if it is a group of 100 kids and 50 of them couldn’t care less, I try to find the kids in the audience who ARE making eye-contact with me and who ARE clearly invested in what I’m saying and I look at them and say the words to them.

“If I can’t find them in the crowd, then I end up looking at Frankie – who’s doing my technical stuff – and the adults in the room as well. I look at the people who understand exactly what I’m saying and that helps me get through it a lot more. Especially looking at Frankie, because he has seen this show so many times and he has seen the shows where the kids couldn’t care less and the shows where the kids come up to me afterwards.

“With the primary school kids today, we had one girl in the front row who quietly, at the end of the Q&A, said: My mummy doesn’t like herself. She just said it. I asked her Have you spoken to anyone else about this? She said No and I asked Have you got a teacher you can talk to? and she said I think so. The fact that, having seen the show, she felt able to share that with me, let alone the rest of her class… that was amazing.

Juliette defeats Richard Herring in Russian Egg Roulette at last year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photo by Keir O’Donnell)

In Edinburgh, Juliette beat Richard Herring in Russian Egg Roulette at last year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photo by Keir O’Donnell)

“So it is worth it; it’s just the hardest work I’ve ever done. And, whilst Theatre In Education is not what I want to do, I think it is making me better at performing for adults as well. I’m looking forward to the Edinburgh Fringe so much now, having done this.”

“Doesn’t making eye contact with the kids make it more difficult to get through performing the emotional bit?” I asked. “I would have thought you’d have to distance yourself, but you’re implying it’s better if you, in a way, shorten the distance.”

“But then it would not be real,” explained Juliette. “It would not be me. If I say the same words I’ve said hundreds of times before, I don’t want what I’m feeling to be fake. It is really difficult, but I’m finding ways to cope. In one of the Q&As today, they asked me How do you keep it fresh? and I said The fact I’m looking in new people’s eyes means it’s always fresh because it’s a new story I’m telling to each new person. It’s a lot of emotionally hard work. But I did get to see some kangaroos yesterday and got to touch a koala.”

“Aren’t they supposed to be vicious little brats?” I asked.

A koala or a Fringe performer? The choice is yours

A koala bear or a Fringe performer? –  The decision is yours.

“No,” said Juliette. “They reminded me a lot of Fringe performers, because they sat there taking their drugs – their eucalyptus leaves – scratching themselves and looking uninterested in the people who were standing in a queue waiting to have their photograph taken with them. Then they had to do a turnaround between keepers and koalas which took about the same amount of time it takes between Fringe shows and they were just like little divas waiting for the next batch of koala lovers to come in and see them with their fur coats on.”

“So,” I said. “Drugged-up but vicious underneath? That’s a pretty good description of some Fringe performers.”

“Not my words,” said Juliette.

“No,” I agreed. “So you’re having a lazy time…”

“I arrive in Melbourne on Friday,” she said, “I perform When I Grow Up there on 27th March until 20th April – just one show a day which will be bliss. So I’ve got a few days before then to start writing my new Edinburgh Fringe show Look At Me, which Janey Godley is co-writing with me.

“I’ve recorded all of the video interviews I need. The prosthetic stuff I can’t do until I get back to the UK in May. I’m doing When I Grow Up at the Brighton Fringe in May. Then I’m doing previews of Look At Me in Cambridge and Stowmarket in June – and Brighton and London in July – for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. I’m desperate to create something new. I have to create something new to move on from what I’ve learnt. I’m a different person now to who I was a year ago, so I have to write something new now.”

Juliette has a series of six shows planned-out. When I Grow Up Was the first; Look At Me is the second and, in 2015, Dreamcatcher will be the third.

Juliette Burton

A publicity shot for Juliette’s Look At Me (Photo by Helena G Anderson)

“I’m already planning Dreamcatcher with Frankie,” she said.

Frankie Lowe is her musical collaborator as well as her techie.

“Frankie,” She told me, “wants to do some live music instead of recorded music in Dreamcatcher and I think that would work well. In fact, I might end up doing two shows in 2015.

“I’ve had some exciting interest from other Fringe festivals around the world who saw me in Adelaide. I’ve had a couple of offers for this year which I can’t accept because I’m too busy, but next year maybe I’ll see a bit more of the world.”

“So you’re not being lazy,” I said.

There is a video for Juliette’s pop song Dreamers (When I Grow Up) on YouTube.

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Filed under Australia, Children, Comedy

British comedian Nik Coppin wins out-of-court settlement in Oz ‘racist’ case

Nik Coppin did not let Australia go to his head except in hats

Back in March, I blogged about a bizarre happening in Adelaide.

British comedian Nik Coppin was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. He was in the studio with Peter Goers.

Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) said he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

A few days later, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Nik took legal advice.

Last weekend, the Sunday Mail printed this in Peter Goers’ column:

Apology appeared in Australia’s Sunday Mail at the weekend

APOLOGY: On Sunday, March 4, in my column’s “What’s Not” section I referred to comedian Nik Coppin as “painfully unfunny racist Fringe comedian at the Austral Hotel: Minus four stars”. I acknowledge that my comments were false and made without foundation. In fact, I had not seen his show at the time I wrote my comments. I have no reason to believe that Nik Coppin is a racist or that his Fringe show contained racist material. I withdraw those comments without reservation and apologise for any hurt or embarrassment caused.

Yesterday, Nik told me what had happened.

This is what he said:

_______________________

Nik Coppin explains what happened….

The process involved in obtaining an apology and reparation for libellous and harmful comments printed in a newspaper is a very interesting one. In the eyes of the law, that which you feel would be perfectly reasonable to assume isn’t and that which you presume wouldn’t be, is.

The legal eagles certainly have a bewildering way of dealing with things.

A few people that I know and work with questioned whether it was worth it and warned that it could get very stressful, depending on how far I was willing to push it.

There is very little that I take too seriously, if I am honest. I mean, we’re all entertainers after all, right? Let’s just laugh it off and get some good ol’ fashioned PR out of it. But there surely must come a time in everybody’s existence on this here planet when you have to take a more solemn view of things and in some situations say to oneself, “Enough is enough”. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe is right.

In life, the press and certainly the world of comedy, all too often people take offence because they refuse to listen properly or shut off when they hear certain things said. This appears to be a natural reaction to things you might not want to hear, or that which touches a nerve, but it does not excuse what Mr Goers did and the Sunday Mail allowed to happen.

In my opinion, it was a vengeful and spiteful thing to do. Something you really would not expect from one of his years.

But, as laughable and nonsensical as this situation was, I had to take a more serious stance than to merely laugh off the bizarre and farcical comments. A half black man being accused of racism in possibly the most racist westernised country on the planet? My God, how ludicrous!

I should add, however, that I do not believe that Australians are racist. Well, not all of them anyway. I love visiting the place, doing the festivals, seeing the wildlife, having the banter and all the other delightful things that go along with being in such a beautiful country. But I think we all know that there are issues that need to be dealt with over there. The We’re too laid back to be racist or hate Aboriginals defence just isn’t good enough.

The amount of times I have heard white Australians say things like: “We give them money and offer them jobs, but they’re just lazy and want to get pissed all the time”.

Well, that says all you need to know about certain sentiments in a land where the indigenous population were slaughtered by the thousands and had their land, dignity, children and whatever else stolen from them.

I think any race that has suffered that and had their rights and entire way of life stripped away, has earned the right to ‘laze around’ and drink a few bevies if they choose to, don’t you?

I am not suggesting that they should attempt to ‘give back’ the country. Australia is predominately a white country but, in my opinion and many others, is black land. So those in privileged positions in Australia should be a bit more understanding and helpful in the future and support the Aboriginal as much as they can.

I mean, let’s face it, if you look at the table from the London 2012 Olympics and who won many of those medals for the UK and the US of A, maybe you could do a lot worse than support your black population, Australia. Then in a few years time maybe we Brits won’t be laughing at what little precious metal you took back ‘home’.

The thing about such a situation, though, is that – for one who earns his living as a comedian – the possibilities are many. I was considering writing a show about race and maybe religious issues and this story can underpin the whole thing.

So, while it was confusing, angering and frustrating having what I can only consider a foolish, arrogant Adelaidian ‘celebrity’ full of his own self-importance doing a childish, vindictive thing like calling me a “painfully unfunny racist” in a popular newspaper without even seeing my show or listening to me or doing his research properly… Was it worth it going through with the fight and standing up for what you believe in, in the face of a form of oppression?

Definitely.

And, to those who doubted whether it was the right thing to do, I say to you…

I would it again and again and again.

And so should you.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Legal system, Newspapers, Racism

Barking mad censorship continues at the Edinburgh Fringe Programme office

The censored and acceptable Edinburgh Fringe show image

Yesterday, I blogged about the insanity and inanity which has characterised the compilation of the Edinburgh Fringe Programme this year. In particular, the barking mad decision by the Fringe that the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PRICK was unacceptable and that it should be replaced by the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PR!CK which was acceptable.

Commenting on my blog, Stuart’s reaction was: “I thought this was an isolated incident, but I’m genuinely disturbed by how many people have come forward and said they’ve had copy disallowed for reasons of ‘taste’, ‘decency’ or ‘house style’. This was the Edinburgh Fringe we were talking about – What’s happened?!”

The other cracker which I mentioned yesterday was that comedian Richard Herring’s updated version of his 2002 show TALKING COCK (which was printed in the Fringe Programme under that title with no problem in 2002) had been changed by the Fringe Office – without his knowledge – from TALKING COCK: THE SECOND COMING to TALKING C*CK: THE SECOND COMING.

Quite why the word ‘cock’ (which, in this context comes from ‘cock & bull story’ – a phrase with a totally non-sexual origin and meaning) was deemed offensive but, in this context, the word ‘coming’ was deemed inoffensive is a mystery.

And it remains a mystery. And it is not alone. Australian comedian Jon Bennett is performing his first Edinburgh Fringe show PRETENDING THINGS ARE A COCK at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.

The show’s title has been printed in full without any problem in the brochures for the Adelaide Fringe, the Edmonton International Fringe, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Montreal Fringe and the Vancouver International Fringe. And, this August, the Edinburgh Comedy Festival booklet/posters/flyers will have ‘Cock’ written in full in Pretending Things Are a Cock, but the official Edinburgh Fringe Programme will not.

This morning, producer Bronwyn Hooton told me: “It’s baffling to think that the Edinburgh Fringe – the largest fringe in the world – is censoring the art forms that appear within it, when your own Commonwealth countries do not.”

The Edinburgh Fringe, this year, seems determined to become a laughing stock world-wide, not just in Britain.

Bronwyn continued: “The welcome video on EdFringe.com says: The Fringe was created 65 years ago when eight companies who hadn’t been invited to take part in the international festival, in the true show-business tradition and in a flash-mob style decided to stage their work anyway. On a tradition of open-access and freedom, to have censorship issues from the Edinburgh Fringe Office themselves seems to go against this ethos they claim to abide by.”

The word ‘cock’ in Pretending Things Are a Cock had to be censored (to ‘c*ck’) on the image used in the Fringe Programme because the word was deemed to be offensive, though the image itself (see above) was not.

I could barely believe my eyes when I saw this censored image.

But it is a very nice asterisk and, obviously, it has made a big difference.

Has the Fringe Office got their kn*ckers in a twist and gone completely mad this year?

Well, yes, apparently it has.

The Chortle comedy website yesterday pointed out that, printed in the upcoming Fringe Programme will be “a show called Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, which has escaped the blue pencil, comic Chris McCausland has been allowed to use the quote from a Chortle review ‘balls-out funny’ and a show called Sex Ed: The Musical contains the blurb: Have you ever tried hand-to-gland combat? Playing the clitar? Spelunking? Have you ever been vaginally tardy?

Writing in his blog yesterday, Richard Herring pointed out that Kunt and The Gang’s name is acceptably print-worthy to the Fringe Office, as is Reginald D.Hunter’s show title Work in Progress… And Nigga (Reg has a tradition of putting Nigga in his titles) and that, indeed, in Richard’s own Programme entry, the Fringe Office took no exception to the phrase “the yoghurt-spitting sausage” but, somehow, ‘cock’ was too much for them to swallow.

Comedian Jody Kamali commented that the Fringe Office “said I couldn’t use three dollar signs in a row ‘$$$’ in my Fringe entry, as it didn’t fit their ‘house style’.”

Also, following my blog yesterday, Chortle phoned the Fringe Office and reported that “when asked why certain words are deemed offensive and others not – and how Herring’s title was changed without him knowing until now – the Fringe office said they did not wish to comment.”

No surprise there. But there was a surprise that – several weeks after the final deadline had past – the Fringe Office told Richard Herring yesterday that his very expensive quarter page ad in the Fringe Programme was suddenly also unacceptable. He was told that he would have to disguise the word ‘cock’ by removing the letter ‘O’.

In his blog yesterday, Richard wrote: “I wonder will the Fringe brochure people object if the “O” of cock is… hidden behind a big splurge of dripping white liquid… (it) might be allowed because a splurge of white liquid is not on the list of rude words.”

The two substitute censored versions he submitted to the Fringe are below:

“Talking Cock” – censored with an asterisk

“Talking Cock” – censored with a splurge

Presumably, the Fringe Office objected to Richard Herring’s ‘cock’ because of what they perceived as the use of a genital word (even though the common phrase Talking Cock is not sexual in origin).

However, they had no objection to a review quote on the ad, which says:

“Man’s answer to the Vagina Monologues – The Guardian”

So, apparently the word ‘cock’ (in the context of the non-sexual-origined phrase Talking Cock) is unacceptable but the word ‘vagina’ (which has a solely genital meaning) is completely acceptable.

Richard Herring, in his blog yesterday, wrote:

“Whilst I acknowledge there is a point where some choice has to be made over what is suitable to go into a general publication, I am concerned about the draconian level of censorship that is occurring here and what it says about what the Fringe is turning into. This should be the last place where freedom of expression is clamped down on.”

Or, as Richard said to me: “Underneath the silliness and twatdom it’s a very important issue”.

What on earth is going on?

One thing is certain. There is no point asking the Fringe Office.

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Language, PR

Chinese cupping, some Australian wet comedy, a doctor and a baby on stage

Should I turn my back on Chinese medicine after this result?

I was hit by a truck in 1991. It pulverised two parts of my shoulder which still occasionally hurts; I also hit the back of my head on the edge of a brick wall and have not been able to read books since and the base of my spine is slightly damaged, causing me occasional pain.

The bottom of my spine is painful as I write this.

In my apparently never-ending quest to try and stop this occasional pain, a friend and I tried a cut-price offer from the Daily Telegraph this week – three Chinese techniques, one of which was cupping.

Certainly interesting. But, three days later, we still have giant red-and-brown blotches on our backs. My friend likes to swim but can’t go to the pool with these blotches – “I will look like a mobile art installation!” she says.

I tried to cheer her up by suggesting she could sell herself to Tate Modern, but this only made things worse. One problem, I think, is that she believes the blotches on her back look “very Sixties”. There is nothing worse than being scarred in an outdated style.

But our mild medical traumas are minor compared to British comedian Eric’s financial problems at the Adelaide Fringe in Australia, where he had his credit card stopped after a company tried to take over $4,000 from it for a hotel bill which should have been $640. Being on the other side of the world with his wife Helen and newish-born baby ‘Little E’  but without access to credit, he is struggling a bit.

And it never rains but it pours.

Eric, Helen and ‘Little E’ were eating a pizza under a tree when a leaf fell off the tree onto the pizza, signalling, Eric presumed, the arrival of autumn.

He tells me:

__________

It appears the change of seasons are very marked here. I wasn’t able to finish my pizza as I had to go see Gordon Southern’s show A History of History. As I walked away, the sky darkened quickly and I heard a clap of thunder, followed by the inevitable lightning. “Crikey,” I thought. “It was 31 degrees when we went to the restaurant!”

Then it started to rain. I was wearing only shorts and a shirt – I have not worn a coat or carried an umbrella since I got here in October. The trees on my side of the road provided some cover, but spotting an awning outside a pub over the road I made a dash for it. This was a big mistake. I got as far as the median strip and it absolutely fell down and, as the traffic slowed dramatically at the onset of the downpour, the gap I had anticipated in the cars closed up and I was stranded in the middle of the road with no cover whatsoever… And this was no light shower – it was bucketing it down! Within seconds, the rainwater overwhelmed the drainage system (which is probably only designed to cope with about four inches of rain a year) and great puddles formed by the kerb.

By the time I reached the awning, I was already soaked to the skin and the shelter it offered was of no use to me now. I continued in the pouring rain to see Gordon’s show. I arrived but had missed the start – he was already up to the Greeks (not the financial bail-out, but Aristotle). I sat on a stool at the back of the room and wrung my socks out into an empty glass on the windowsill.

When I had finished, I did not know whether my glass was half full or half empty (of sock juice).

__________

Eric started his comedy career when the late Malcolm Hardee dragged him out of the audience and up on stage at Up The Creek and, ever afterwards, encouraged him to become a performer. It seems Eric’s baby daughter ‘Little E’ may follow in his footsteps (when she learns to walk):

__________

Helen and I have been taking ‘Little E’ to shows at the Adelaide Fringe and she has seen quite a few now, though we suspect that some of the more subtle stuff has gone over her head and a lot of her dinner has certainly gone over Helen. Nevertheless she seems to be having fun.

We went to see the legendary (almost wordless) Dr Brown’s show. I first saw him at the Edinburgh Fringe and he ejected me from his audience, because my mate Charlie Saffrey clapped in the wrong place and Dr Brown thought it was me.

‘Little E’ was silent all the way through his show and, when it came to the part where Dr Brown was miming a baby onstage, I whispered to Helen that, for once, the little one’s cries might actually have fitted in with the proceedings, instead of proving a distraction.

No sooner had the words left my mouth, than Dr Brown left the stage as part of his continued mime and, when he got to the back of the room, he spotted our silent ‘Little E’ perched on Helen’s lap. So he whisked her onto the stage to the delight of the whole audience and ‘Little E’ made her stage debut at 11 weeks and 12 hours old.

Afterwards, Dr Brown said that “it was an honour to be working with such a professional.” Well, actually he said “playing with” but I felt I should change the wording.

My first stage performance was as a result of being dragged up onstage by one comedy legend. Now Erica has followed in her father’s footsteps, but at a much younger age.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Health

Life in Adelaide after comic Bob Slayer leaves: audiences collapse with laughter

Eric, ex-Navy, now comedy lifeguard (photo by Alex Brenner)

I saw Oscar-winning silent movie The Artist last night, where the dog has all the best lines. After getting home and taking my NightNurse cold remedy, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought today’s blog should be an update on what has been happening at the Adelaide Fringe in Australia.

Which might be why, when my coughing woke me during the night, I was in mid-dream about getting off a bus near Victoria station in Manchester. Packs of feral dogs roamed the near-empty streets, barking at and harassing anyone who got off a bus. And, in an empty street, idle dogs of various breeds watched two Alsatians sliding along the roadway on their stomachs and taking run-ups then bouncing in the air like kangaroos, rising maybe ten feet high with each bounce.

British comedian Bob Slayer – whose exploits in Australia were the subject of many a blog these last few weeks – has now returned to the UK with his explanations of what happened to him there mostly ending with the phrase “because I am an idiot”.

Meanwhile, Italian-born British comic Giacinto Palmieri arrived in Adelaide last week from Sydney and emailed me: “It is just like arriving in Southern Italy from Milan. Everybody is suddenly chatty and eager to tell you how much better the weather and the food are and how much friendlier the people. Although, just like with the Southern Italians, it is friendliness with a double edge: Ah! they say here, You are an Italian Pom! And you are going to the backpackers hostel? Aren’t you the wrong age for that?

German comic Paco Erhard’s computer has broken down which, in the 21st century, is almost a trigger for psychological counselling. He writes: “I’ve definitely been more boring than Bob Slayer. But hopeful I have proper stories to tell after/while travelling and doing the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Hope my computer gets fixed soon, then I can write down some stuff.”

The Nik Coppin “racist” row with radio host/journalist Peter Goers is still in the hands of lawyers.

And English comedian Eric tells me of his constant hassles with late-night Adelaide transport and his new(-ish) daughter ‘Little E’, whose milk seems to come in leaking bottles. He also tells me that history has, in a way, repeated itself.

He is currently performing his show Eric’s Tales of the Sea in Australia.

When he was performing the same show at London’s Soho Theatre last year, a woman got up halfway through, left the auditorium and collapsed outside. Eric rushed off stage and, remembering First Aid Training from his 17 years in the British Navy, put her into the recovery position.

At the time, he was quoted as saying:

“I was just getting to the part of my show which is particularly emotional and often has the audience shedding a tear, but the reaction has never been as extreme as this before.”

A couple of days ago in Adelaide, Eric says: “Nik Coppin sent me a text message asking me to be a guest on his show. Unfortunately, he sent it while I was doing my own show, so I didn’t see it until after I had finished. I then texted him back. But, by that time, Nik had already started his show. So I thought I would wander over to the Austral venue to tell him that I was available if he needed me.

“When I got there, Nik had sorted out a guest but he bought me a beer. Just then, Alan Anderson walked by and asked me if I would be a guest on his show. Just before Alan’s show started, Nik and I were stood in the corridor leading to the Red Room, which was filled with punters eagerly awaiting entry to Alan’s show, when there was a loud thud.

“A man was prostate on the floor.

“As this was Australia, after 10.00pm at night and it was a public holiday (Adelaide Cup Weekend), everyone assumed the man was drunk – and he was with a friend, who helped him up.

“A few seconds later, though, the man collapsed again and this time it was clear to me that he was unconscious.”

Eric’s British Navy training kicked in again. He put the guy in the recovery position and got a nearby woman to call an ambulance. Eric says he “instructed the man’s friend as to what position to put his friend’s legs in, as I could not reach them in the narrow corridor, while I attended to him at the head end.”

I remember in the very dim and distant past – 1975 – someone had a heart attack while laughing at The Goodies on British TV. Newspapers quoted his wife saying, “He died happy.”

In comedy, there is The Rule of Three.

Having had two people collapse, I just hope Eric is not practising for a publicity stunt in which he can say his audiences really do die laughing.

Although, if that happened during this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, he might well be in the running for a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

PS… The man in Adelaide recovered fully.

PPS… For regular readers of this blog I have, alas, no further news of Juliet Meyers’ bottom-watching exploits.

I live in hope.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy

UK comedian Nik Coppin accused of racism in Oz by white Peter Goers who “couldn’t tell” the colour of Nik’s skin

Nik Coppin not wearing a baseball cap and not looking down

(This was also published by Indian news website WSN – We Speak News)

British comedian Nik Coppin wrote to me last night:

__________

This situation in Adelaide has really hit me for six. Not because I can’t handle the shit that Peter Goers has sent my way, but I really can’t believe that an interesting and amusing story about Australian history and sport was met with such closed-mindedness, rudeness and ignorance!

It’s not just the way he verbally abused me in the studio and tried to get me to bow down on the phone, but to actually put in print that I am racist????”

__________

Last week, Nik was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) told Goers he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

Laughing Horse boss Alex Petty, who is partly staging Nik’s show, was also part of the radio interview.

“It was one of the most bizarre radio interviews I have ever been involved with,” he told me yesterday. “The interviewer even thought Nik was a Canadian. The next day, he said to Nik: “I couldn’t tell that what colour your skin was, as you had a baseball cap on and looked down a lot”For telling an anecdotal story about the change of racist attitudes in Australia, a middle-class, out-of-touch and unprofessional white man calls mixed-race comedian Nik Coppin racist! It is completely unjustifiable.”

I occasionally have my blogs printed in the Huffington Post.

It is a fairly automatic routine. If I submit ‘em, they get published. But there was one which I sent them which was noticeably not printed. It discussed and used the word ‘nigger’.

I asked a black chum of mine whom I have known for over twenty years what she thought. “Love the article,” she said, “Interestingly, I have to say that I hate it more when I hear one black person call another a ‘nigger’, probably because it‘s being used when another adjective or noun would do.”

Nik told me last night:

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The word ‘nigger’ is a very interesting one. Powerful, perhaps the most powerful in the language, but I feel that it exists in a very strange and grey area. It’s not a swear word as such, like ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ – words that can’t really be used in any context without being deemed offensive – but, aimed as a term of abuse, it is far worse than any other.

However, in the context of a story, especially an historical one, why can it not be used? To not use it at all, even to outline a point or tell an anecdote is surely like brushing racism or certain aspects of it under the carpet, is it not?

I have experienced racial abuse from both sides of the black and white coin, so I, too, exist in some ways in some kind of grey area, in that I get it from both sides and could also be seen as racist against both sides, again depending upon the context. The British comic Ian Cognito ironically went on stage after me, years ago, when I was a new act and said: “If your mum was white and your dad was black, surely you would be grey? That amuses me to this day.

A story I have told that has actually sparked some degree of controversy was when I tried to stop an African man from sexually abusing a drunk young girl in the Meadow Bar in Edinburgh and, after repeatedly and politely asking him to stop, he told me that I was nothing to him – not a true black man – so to stay out of it. He repeatedly called me a “worthless half cast bastard”. He racially abused me to exert some kind of power over me in light of me not letting him have his way with a vulnerable young female friend of mine.

I have been there before with being called ‘hybrid’, ‘mongrel’, ‘half cast’, by black people (as well as ‘nigger cunt’ by white people) so, given that I had given him so many chances to play nicely with the girl and retract his racist abuse of my heritage, which he refused to do, I dropped the N-bomb on him. He, like many I have told the story to, became offended. After what he had done and said? Where is the sense in that? Even less sensical, he told me that I shouldn’t call him that because he had mixed race children! WTF????

I am not proud of myself for dropping that N-bomb on him and I should have perhaps taken the moral high ground, but I feel he deserved it in that instance. I make a wee joke of the story when I tell it in front of audiences by saying that all the Scottish locals in the Meadow Bar were looking at a black man and mixed race man racially abusing each other and thinking “I thought WE were racist!”

The really interesting thing about this story is that most people only flinch at the use of the word ‘nigger’. Him attempting to sexually molest a young girl – that’s OK – him calling me a worthless half-cast bastard – ooh, strange and not nice – but you called him a WHAT????

‘Nigger’ is a terrible word to use, especially when using it offensively or aggressively, but is it worse that being called a ‘hybrid, ‘mongrel’, ‘worthless half cast bastard’? It seems that it is in most people’s eyes. And should we really be banning it from everything and everywhere, even stories of the past? I don’t think so and we certainly should not jump to conclusions about someone being racist just for using the word if relevant and in context… should we, Mr Peter Goers?

Racism is a horrible and backward thinking way of life, but there are massive differences between race hate, a joke about a race, a racist joke, a story about race etc. People seem all to quick to lump anything to do with race in one basket, which is totally wrong in my opinion. By all means stamp out racism, but don’t do it by way of brushing it under the carpet.

True racists and race-haters are terrible, nasty people that have no place in modern society, which is why they whisper and meet in places on the quiet so often. When your ’cause’ makes you have to do that, then surely you must realise that your plight has failed. And since intelligent and forward-thinking people know that these people are to be looked down upon and shunned, I like to use the term, ‘Racists are the new niggers’.

Which is why I simply can’t let Mr Goers off the hook if I can help it. He has by calling me a racist, in effect, called me a nigger himself. I am not that stupid or ignorant to think or feel that way about any race of people with derision, scorn or hate. I simply don’t have that capacity within me.

I will be using these stories, examples and opinions and many more in my shows next year. Not necessarily at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, but certainly at all the festivals in 2013.

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Yesterday, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Alex Petty told me yesterday: “The implied accusations of racism by Goers (on the radio) have been put in print by the same person and this is going to be taken to solicitors, the Australian press complaints process and the editors and owners of ABC Radio and the Sunday Mail.”

This story may well have some way to run. And with good reason.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Racism

British ex-Navy comedian Eric and Bob Slayer’s banning bother in Australia

Bob Slayer at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe

On the day Malcolm Hardee Award winning British comic Bob Slayer was thrown out of his Austral venue at the Adelaide Fringe this week, I received this e-mail from his fellow British comic Eric, whose show is running at the Tuxedo Cat venue in Adelaide.

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As I walked through the Tuxedo Cat on the way to do my show this evening, I was surprised to see Bob Slayer stood by the bar. We exchanged pleasantries and Bob told me that he was going to come and see my show tonight. I must admit to being a little confused by this, as Bob had previously told me that he was unable to see my show in Adelaide because our shows’ times clashed – and, of course, he was unable to see my show in Perth as he had been banned from the venue…

Seeing the quizzical look on my face, Bob solved the mystery instantly by informing me that he had cancelled his ‘entire run’ simply so that he could see my show. Seeing my expression had now changed from ‘quizzical’ to ‘incredulous’ (I was eighteen years in the Royal Navy, an organisation that runs on bullshit, so I can smell BS at forty paces) he relented and told me that he had once again been banned from the Festival and all his shows had been cancelled.

“Oh well,” I thought, “that’s Bob I suppose.”

I, of course, knew that he had also been banned in Perth, but, as he had been reluctant to talk about that (or indeed anything else in Perth), I didn’t enquire further, but simply sorted him out with a ticket and went off to set up for my show.

After the show, Bob came backstage and we chatted while he watched me get changed. I am getting used to having an audience for my backstage strip now – I am thinking of selling tickets to it rather than to my show… I understand that Bob also treated Juliet Meyers to the spectacle that is The Bob Slayer Arse when she arrived to set up for her show. Anyway that is by the by…

Bob told me that the reason he had been banned from the Adelaide Fringe was because he had blogged the story of one of his shows attended by a number of people with Fringe Festival Passes, whom he eventually ejected because of their behaviour.

This made me think: “Oh! I had better be careful about what I write about last night’s show.”

A couple of guys sat right in the front row wearing ‘Artists Passes’ spent the entire show whispering to each other and generally being a distraction and, if it wasn’t for all the trials and tribulations that we had had with the show not finishing on time, I would have quite happily taken them to task on this. But, terrified of over-running, I let it go and just hoped they weren’t proving as much of a distraction to the audience as they were to me.

At the risk of also getting myself banned, I have to say that, if someone is going to take advantage of a pass that allows them free access to a show, then it is simply common courtesy not to disrupt proceedings.

Adelaide Fringe has a policy of allowing performers free admission to performances that are not sold out. So does Perth. And certain venues at the Edinburgh Fringe have a similar policy.

But audience members who have made no financial investment in seeing a show are far less likely to invest their attention in that show. We value what we have had to work for and earned far more than anything we are given for free. I am all in favour of artists, volunteers and other contributors to any Fringe being able to sit their bum on any empty seat at the Festival that they have helped to create but – hey guys – just don’t take the piss, eh?

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I received that e-mail on the day Bob Slayer lost his show at the Austral venue. But the story has a happy ending. Well, happy for one night.

Eric asked Cass, who runs the Tuxedo Cat venue, if she would be interested in having Bob perform there. She said he was exactly the type of edgy performer that the Tuxedo Cat would welcome with open arms.

Eric then mentioned this to Bob and so, tonight, Bob is performing one last show in a late slot at the Tuxedo Car in Adelaide.

He immediately issued a press release saying:

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Just when I thought the whole comedy world was going to cast me out for being a liability… I have been thrown a lifeline by Cass @ The Tuxedo Cat.

– Hang on wasn’t he banned from the Adelaide Fringe? The Fringe itself is an open access festival… with various promoters… I was banned by one of these promoters: Ha Ha Comedy who promote at the Austral as part of the Fringe… But Cass at the Tuxedo Cat has offered refuge and redemption like the church of yesteryear…

– Is this just a press stunt?

Oh man when you come along and find out what actually happened in Perth to get me banned (which had a knock-on effect here) and how much money it cost me (current estimate $7,500 and still counting) you will know that it is not!

– Why did you get banned in Perth? Why did you get banned in Austral?

– Look, if you want to find this out then you are going to have to come along for this one off special gig which will reveal all – It will make you laugh so hard that you will wish you were wearing a nappy.

This show will incorporate Bob Slayer’s full Australian adventure including: banned in Perth, touring the outback with a goat, hanging out with the proper locals in Coober Pedy, making wine in McLaren Vale, homeless in Adelaide, banned in Adelaide etc – and a conclusion that will make you weep.

Prepare for the most exciting and hilarious one-off show of the Fringe… qwarr

(Well maybe after Sanderson Jones’ gig – Seriously that will be special – Buy your ticket off him)

FREE GIG – there will be a hat for Bob Slayer’s repatriation Fund!

Also there is a great $10 bucks curry and vegi option plus Little Creatures Beer (and other drinks!)

1 Hour show (with after party til late!)

(My flight is at 6am and I will be drinking through)

One Night Only!

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Bob may be unpredictable, but he knows how to write a press release – and how to prepare the material for one. He now calls the Tuxedo Cat venue “The home of alternative comedy and cabaret at Adelaide Fringe and the defender of idiots”.

So the story has a happy ending. Sort of. Probably. At the time of writing, the show has not taken place. So who knows what may happen? As with all things in life, it is probably a good idea to hope for the best but prepare to hear the worst…

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, PR