Tag Archives: Alexander Bennett

Phil Jarvis of Consignia: “Surrealism has taken over. It’s gone mainstream.”

Pay attention now. Concentrate.

Last Sunday, I went to Lottie Bowater’s Depresstival event at The Others venue in Stoke Newington to chat to Phil Jarvis of Consignia about a gig they are performing this coming Sunday at the Bill Murray venue in Islington.

Phil had been to Highgate Cemetery the previous day.

Consignia – named after a failed attempt at re-branding by the Royal Mail – are always interesting. I went to see one of their late-night shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and, at the end, they decided to repeat the whole show. So their one-hour show turned into a two-hour show.

“So,” I said to Phil, “this show on Sunday at the Bill Murray. You told me it’s about neo-liberalism. What on earth is that?”

Phil performing at Depresstival last Sunday

PHIL: Privatise everything. Privatise the whole lot. That’s what neo-liberalism is about

ME: The whole lot of what?

PHIL: Eh… Jobs.

ME: Jobs ARE privatised, aren’t they? Unless they’re public sector jobs?

PHIL: Well, I dunno, I mean, it’s dismantling of the state.

(AT THIS POINT, COMIC ALEXANDER BENNETT ARRIVED)

ME (TO ALEXANDER): Your scarf only starts halfway up.

PHIL: It’s the Euan Blair way.

ME (TO PHIL): Alexander is going to play Tony Blair’s son on Sunday?

PHIL: Yeah.

ME (TO PHIL): You went to Highgate Cemetery yesterday. Why?

PHIL: To look at dead Marxists.

ME: So neo-liberalism is privatising everything?

PHIL: Yes. There’s lots of job insecurity. There are competing Santas because Santa is dead.

ME: It is a Christmas show?

PHIL: Yes.

ME: Did I know this?

PHIL: I don’t know. It’s a Christmas show about neo-liberalism. Santa is dead and Euan Blair has made sure there’s lots of competing Santas.

ME: So who is performing in this show?

PHIL: Consignia.

ME: Consignia changes occasionally. Is Andy Barr in it?

PHIL: Yes.

ME: But Alexander is not in Consignia.

PHIL: Yes he is. Everyone is in Consignia. You are in Consignia. The whole world is in Consignia.

ME: Could we privatise a percentage of them?

PHIL: That is what the show is about – About fighting back against that.

ME: You said it was about privatising things.

PHIL: No. And it’s coming together quite nicely.

ME: You mean it is organised? Well, that is no use. Consignia has a style to maintain. I was slightly worried you had sold out when I read on social media the word ‘script’…

PHIL: There is always a script. But it is just a guide.

ME: It was unsettling when I saw that Edinburgh show where you did it twice and the second time was pretty much the same as the first time. I thought: “There surely can’t be a script!”

PHIL: Exactly. That is how it is. A script is a prompt. It’s not something you have to religiously stick to.

ME: Like Christmas?… So, this Christmas show on Sunday, is it going to be in Edinburgh next August?

PHIL: No. It’s a special show with lots of our friends in it.

ME: Oh dear. Such as?

PHIL: Seán Morley. It’s all the talent.

ME: I have gone off the idea now. It’s the word “talent”.

PHIL: It’s gonna be a spectacle.

ALEXANDER: It’s all good people, but they’ve not abandoned what Consignia is.

ME: What is Consignia?

ALEXANDER: Phil.

ME (TO PHIL): Are you going to take your clothes off in it?”

PHIL: I’ve reined that in now. I think the way to go is to put more clothes on.

ME: I am rapidly going off this show. It has a script and you are not going to get your kit off.

ALEXANDER: I haven’t had a drink since yesterday morning.

ME: That’s hardly giving up drink…

ALEXANDER: I wasn’t claiming that. I was just telling you how long it had been.

PHIL (TO ME): Are you coming to the show on Sunday?

ME: Yes. I am seeing the Consignia show, then seeing Matt Price & Martha McBrier’s storytelling show at the Bill Murray, half an hour after you finish.

PHIL: Oh, we had better clean up for them. I am doing Dinner For One again, within the Christmas show.

ME: Your shows have a tendency to over-run – by about 60 to 90 minutes.

Phil with part of the 12-page Christmas script

PHIL: Well, the script is only 12 pages long.

ALEXANDER: There are lots of bits in the script that say something happens and then, in brackets, THIS GOES ON FOR FIVE MINUTES.

PHIL (TO ME): So, although you might slag us off for having a script, we are true to who we are.

ME: Your last show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year was a non-show, wasn’t it?

PHIL: Yeah. I had to go for a job interview.

ME: It was a gig with no performers but with an audience.

PHIL: Yeah. We can still get people in without us being there. We are making the system work for us.

ME: Well, it is a way to avoid losing money in Edinburgh. You get an audience for your show but you are not there, so it doesn’t cost you anything and you can’t lose money. It’s a win.

PHIL: It is a win.

ALEXANDER (TO PHIL): You should say who else is in the show.

ME: Who else is in the show?

PHIL: Seán Morley.

ME: Again? The Seán Morley Twins?

PHIL: Ben Target, Euan Blair, Adam Larter, Nathan Willcock, of course. Lottie Bowater. Helen Duff. She’s very good. Have you seen her?

ME: I saw her at Juliette Burton’s boyfriend’s birthday. She wasn’t performing. She was eating. But she ate very well.

PHIL: Cassie Atkinson is in it. We’ve got half the comedy scene.

ALEXANDER: The crème de la crème.

ME: You are going to have no-one in the audience. They will all be on stage.

PHIL: That’s the plan. But tickets are selling. Tickets have sold.

ME: So Adam Larter is in your Christmas show?

PHIL: Yes. He is directing it. We have three different directors.

ALEXANDER: Andy Barr is the director…

PHIL: …in Consignia.

ME (TO PHIL): Are you a director?”

ALEXANDER (TO PHIL): Well, you are the main driving force behind all of this.

PHIL: I am the project manager of it. We basically have a show about neo-liberalism which mirrors neo-liberalism, because it has lots of competing… eh… sort of things… going on within the actual show.

ME: Structured.

PHIL: Structured.

ME: So it has 12 pages with three directors.

PHIL: Joz can be in it if he wants.

(JOZ NORRIS WAS SITTING ACROSS THE ROOM)

JOZ: I’ll be there.

PHIL: We have to have some punters in the audience.

ME: I’ll be there.

JOZ: I could play a hat stand.

PHIL: Who else is in it? There’s Cassie Atkinson.

ME: Again?

PHIL: Seán Morley is in it.

ME: The Seán Morley Triplets and the Cassie Atkinson Twins?

PHIL: Mark Dean Quinn’s in it. Alwin Solanky. Michael Brunström is in it. He is playing Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. The show is basically about dead Marxists come to save Christmas from neo-liberalism. That’s the basic thrust of it.

Phil with one of the Karl Marx Twins (Photo by Adam Larter)

ME: And this is why you went to Highgate Cemetary yesterday? To see Karl Marx’s grave?

ALEXANDER: There are two Karl Marx graves there.

ME: What? Like all the people in your show? There are two of them?

PHIL: Seán Morley is in the show.

ME: So have they divided him up?

PHIL: Seán Morley?

ME: Karl Marx. Are there two graves in different places?

PHIL: Yes there are. They’ve got the original grave, when he wasn’t famous. And then, in the 1950s, the Communist Party of Great Britain got some money together and made a bigger thing for him.

ME: Ah.

PHIL: Jeremy Beadle is in the show. George Michael is in the show. And Kat Bond. She is also in the new the new WeBuyAnyCar.com advert. She’s in the advert with Mark Silcox about building a statue to Philip Schofield.

ME: You are joking.

PHIL: No. Surrealism has taken over. It’s gone mainstream.

ME: So, this show on Sunday at the Bill Murray. You told me it’s about neo-liberalism. What on earth is that?

Phil performing at Depresstival last Sunday

PHIL: Privatise everything. Privatise the whole lot. That’s what neo-liberalism is about

ME: The whole lot of what?

PHIL: Eh… Jobs.

ME: Jobs ARE privatised, aren’t they? Unless they’re public sector jobs?

PHIL: Well, I dunno, I mean, it’s dismantling of the state.

(AT THIS POINT, COMIC ALEXANDER BENNETT ARRIVED)

ME (TO ALEXANDER): Your scarf only starts halfway up.

PHIL: It’s the Euan Blair way.

ME (TO PHIL): Alexander is going to play Tony Blair’s son on Sunday?

PHIL: Yeah.

ME (TO PHIL): You went to Highgate Cemetery yesterday. Why?

PHIL: To look at dead Marxists.

ME: So neo-liberalism is privatising everything?

PHIL: Yes. There’s lots of job insecurity. There are competing Santas because Santa is dead.

ME: It is a Christmas show?

PHIL: Yes.

ME: Did I know this?

PHIL: I don’t know. It’s a Christmas show about neo-liberalism. Santa is dead and Euan Blair has made sure there’s lots of competing Santas.

ME: So who is performing in this show?

PHIL: Consignia.

ME: Consignia changes occasionally. Is Andy Barr in it?

PHIL: Yes.

ME: But Alexander is not in Consignia.

PHIL: Yes he is. Everyone is in Consignia. You are in Consignia. The whole world is in Consignia.

ME: Could we privatise a percentage of them?

PHIL: That is what the show is about – About fighting back against that.

ME: You said it was about privatising things.

PHIL: No. And it’s coming together quite nicely.

ME: You mean it is organised? Well, that is no use. Consignia has a style to maintain. I was slightly worried you had sold out when I read on social media the word ‘script’…

PHIL: There is always a script. But it is just a guide.

ME: It was unsettling when I saw that Edinburgh show where you did it twice and the second time was pretty much the same as the first time. I thought: “There surely can’t be a script!”

PHIL: Exactly. That is how it is. A script is a prompt. It’s not something you have to religiously stick to.

ME: Like Christmas?… So, this Christmas show on Sunday, is it going to be in Edinburgh next August?

PHIL: No. It’s a special show with lots of our friends in it.

ME: Oh dear. Such as?

PHIL: Seán Morley. It’s all the talent.

ME: I have gone off the idea now. It’s the word “talent”.

PHIL: It’s gonna be a spectacle.

ALEXANDER: It’s all good people, but they’ve not abandoned what Consignia is.

ME: What is Consignia?

ALEXANDER: Phil.

ME (TO PHIL): Are you going to take your clothes off in it?”

PHIL: I’ve reined that in now. I think the way to go is to put more clothes on.

ME: I am rapidly going off this show. It has a script and you are not going to get your kit off.

ALEXANDER: I haven’t had a drink since yesterday morning.

ME: That’s hardly giving up drink…

ALEXANDER: I wasn’t claiming that. I was just telling you how long it had been.

PHIL (TO ME): Are you coming to the show on Sunday?

ME: Yes. I am seeing the Consignia show, then seeing Matt Price & Martha McBrier’s storytelling show at the Bill Murray, half an hour after you finish.

PHIL: Oh, we had better clean up for them. I am doing Dinner For One again, within the Christmas show.

ME: Your shows have a tendency to over-run – by about 60 to 90 minutes.

Phil with part of the 12-page Christmas script

PHIL: Well, the script is only 12 pages long.

ALEXANDER: There are lots of bits in the script that say something happens and then, in brackets, THIS GOES ON FOR FIVE MINUTES.

PHIL (TO ME): So, although you might slag us off for having a script, we are true to who we are.

ME: Your last show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year was a non-show, wasn’t it?

PHIL: Yeah. I had to go for a job interview.

ME: It was a gig with no performers but with an audience.

PHIL: Yeah. We can still get people in without us being there. We are making the system work for us.

ME: Well, it is a way to avoid losing money in Edinburgh. You get an audience for your show but you are not there, so it doesn’t cost you anything and you can’t lose money. It’s a win.

PHIL: It is a win.

ALEXANDER (TO PHIL): You should say who else is in the show.

ME: Who else is in the show?

PHIL: Seán Morley.

ME: Again? The Seán Morley Twins?

PHIL: Ben Target, Euan Blair, Adam Larter, Nathan Willcock, of course. Lottie Bowater. Helen Duff. She’s very good. Have you seen her?

ME: I saw her at Juliette Burton’s boyfriend’s birthday. She wasn’t performing. She was eating. But she ate very well.

PHIL: Cassie Atkinson is in it. We’ve got half the comedy scene.

ALEXANDER: The crème de la crème.

ME: You are going to have no-one in the audience. They will all be on stage.

PHIL: That’s the plan. But tickets are selling. Tickets have sold.

ME: So Adam Larter is in your Christmas show?

PHIL: Yes. He is directing it. We have three different directors.

ALEXANDER: Andy Barr is the director…

PHIL: …in Consignia.

ME (TO PHIL): Are you a director?”

ALEXANDER (TO PHIL): Well, you are the main driving force behind all of this.

PHIL: I am the project manager of it. We basically have a show about neo-liberalism which mirrors neo-liberalism, because it has lots of competing… eh… sort of things… going on within the actual show.

ME: Structured.

PHIL: Structured.

ME: So it has 12 pages with three directors.

PHIL: Joz can be in it if he wants.

(JOZ NORRIS WAS SITTING ACROSS THE ROOM)

JOZ: I’ll be there.

PHIL: We have to have some punters in the audience.

ME: I’ll be there.

JOZ: I could play a hat stand.

PHIL: Who else is in it? There’s Cassie Atkinson.

ME: Again?

PHIL: Seán Morley is in it.

ME: The Seán Morley Triplets and the Cassie Atkinson Twins?

PHIL: Mark Dean Quinn’s in it. Alwin Solanky. Michael Brunström is in it. He is playing Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. The show is basically about dead Marxists come to save Christmas from neo-liberalism. That’s the basic thrust of it.

Phil with one of the Karl Marx Twins (Photo by Adam Larter)

ME: And this is why you went to Highgate Cemetary yesterday? To see Karl Marx’s grave?

ALEXANDER: There are two Karl Marx graves there.

ME: What? Like all the people in your show? There are two of them?

PHIL: Seán Morley is in the show.

ME: So have they divided him up?

PHIL: Seán Morley?

ME: Karl Marx. Are there two graves in different places?

PHIL: Yes there are. They’ve got the original grave, when he wasn’t famous. And then, in the 1950s, the Communist Party of Great Britain got some money together and made a bigger thing for him.

ME: Ah.

PHIL: Jeremy Beadle is in the show. George Michael is in the show. And Kat Bond. She is also in the new the new WeBuyAnyCar.com advert. She’s in the advert with Mark Silcox about building a statue to Philip Schofield.

ME: You are joking.

PHIL: No. Surrealism has taken over. It’s gone mainstream.

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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 9: Good comedy shows and advice from Max Bialystock

My disappointment in this year’s Fringe continues apace. Today I again saw nothing but successful, well-crafted and perfectly-performed comedy shows.

WHERE IS THE SHIT???

I can’t take much more of this excellent entertainment!

Alexander Bennett’s Terrifying Smile (I went back a second time to see it properly) delivered exactly what you would expect from an experienced 37-year-old veteran of the Fringe with 20 years in the business. The fact that Alexander is actually still only 24 is extraordinary and makes it a near-certainty he has made a blood pact either with Satan or the Illuminati.

Sophisticated Thom Tuck: When you got it, flaunt it. Flaunt it!

Thom Tuck, following him at the Dragonfly, is also sickeningly skilled beyond his years.

His involvement with The Penny Dreadfuls and the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society must surely mean he is older than Alexander Bennett.

But, then, who could be younger than Alexander Bennett apart from the baby who won one of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards last year?

Individual, unique, hand-crafted Tuck flyers

Rule No 1 in Edinburgh is Always plug your own event(s) even if you are talking about something else.

In the immortal words of the great Max Bialystock: “Baby, when you got it, flaunt it. Flaunt it!”

Thom Tuck’s shows are sophisticated, intellectually clever. And, this year, he stuck a cigarette in his belly button.

He is – as per the title of his show – An August Institution.

Another tradition in Edinburgh is that Thom will create individual flyers – well, pieces of paper in lieu of flyers – to hand out to promote his show.

Why both Alexander and Thom are not regularly on television in Python-style ensemble shows is beyond our ken.

Jollyboat with their rousing, mass-appeal piratical jollity

Likewise unlikely-looking but actual brothers Jollyboat, drawing large queues in the Cowgate with their Why Do Nerds Suddenly Appear? show and delivering crowd-pleasing OTT comic songs and disco/festival type entertainment for the masses of whooping Yoof.

And that is a genuine compliment. Their audience-appeal and audience-control is extraordinary.

Lovely and now loved-up Archie Maddocks

In the evening, I saw two other assured performers and audience manipulators in the best sense of the word.

I first blogged about Archie Maddocks in 2013 and now he has, he says in his IlluminArchie show, fallen in love for the first time – with his accidentally racist girlfriend.

Like several good performers in Edinburgh this year – the Siblings sisters,  Will Hislop of Giants and Ashley Storrie – Archie comes from a solid bit of showbiz breeding. His father Don Warrington became famous in the TV series Rising Damp and his mother, Mary Maddocks, was in The Rocky Horror Show in London’s West End.

Alex Martini – style maestro never knowingly underdressed

Meanwhile the (I’m sure equally well-bred) Italian comic Alex Martini – one of the pack of talented Italian comics based in London – shared his love of both Britain and (even more surprisingly) British food in an assured English language show Martini Dry – his solo Fringe debut show.

His show is entirely family-friendly and there was a lift in the building but I think the age-restriction on some Fringe shows should be linked not to sexual content and language but to the number of stairs and near-vertical cobbled streets you have to climb to get there. I can only hope the trek to some of these shows is strengthening rather than buggering-up my heart.

Tony Green out shopping in the Grassmarket

While leaping around betwixt venues in Edinburgh, I was having a welcome breather walking through the horizontal Grassmarket when I bumped into comedy font of anecdotes Tony Green, who spends half his year in Edinburgh, half in London and half in the 1980s.

Well, I thought, at least this means I won’t have to talk for the next half hour.

He told me that he would be performing in the Edinburgh Horror Festival later this year – 27th-31st October.

“Will you be performing as Sir Gideon McVein?” I asked.

“I’m to quite sure yet,” Tony told me..

Some might say, as they climb the stone stairs to some third storey venue atop a cobbled hill, that the horror festival is already in full swing.

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Edinburgh Fringe Day 6: A terrifying smile and a lack of terrorism security

Yesterday’s blog ended with a mention of believable and unbelievable anecdotes.

Alexander Bennett’s bloody battle to perform

This morning, I had a long conversation with comedian Alexander Bennett – to whom all hail – in which we discussed the idea of simply making up some bizarre – completely false – event which allegedly happened during his Terrifying Smile show today… simply to promote the fact that he is performing at 2.00pm in the Dragonfly venue.

He, like Becky Fury, has been hit by the Curse of Cowgatehead, having previously been booked into the Opium venue, then Cowgatehead (re-named Bar Bados this year presumably to mask the Curse of Cowgatehead) and finally having to leave the Free Fringe venues altogether with no Fringe Programme listing and eventually, happily, ending up in the Heroes of Fringe Dragonfly venue.

We discussed making up a completely false event – well, OK, I tried to foist the idea on him – in order to publicise where he was actually now appearing… But how could we tell an untruth to this blog’s readers?

Alexander Bennett freshens his mouth today

Clearly we couldn’t.

A pity, as I was rather looking forward to writing about two members of his audience: one dressed as a dragon; the other dressed as a fly. Such a thing would not necessarily be unbelievable in Edinburgh during the Fringe. I remember years ago seeing the then-unknown Piff The Magic Dragon waiting at a pedestrian crossing on Nicholson Street. No-one gave any attention to a man dressed as a green dragon.

Truth and reality can vary depending on your viewpoint.

For example, in a Scotsman piece I read today, Kate Copstick describes me as “aged but still sentient”.

I would disagree with this very strongly indeed.

I certainly do not feel sentient.

Mike’s Frank Carson: If I Didn’t Laugh, I’d Cry

‘Aged’… fair enough, because I am so old I remember life before the iPhone 6S and things like a Blackpool lunch in the 1980s with stars of Granada’s TV series The Comedians where Frank Carson just never switched off and Bernard Manning (with some justification) seemed to think he was a bit ‘above’ the others. And I remember Saturday mornings on Tiswas with Frank Carson at ATV Birmingham where, again, he was constantly being Frank Carson.

Spike Milligan famously said that the difference between Frank Carson and the M25 was that you could turn off the M25.

In this blog a couple of weeks ago, fellow comic Mike McCabe said: “For someone to go on and on and on like that, there had to be some problem deep down.”

Mike’s current show about Frank Carson If I Didn’t Laugh, I’d Cry, tries to figure out Frank’s mindset and benefits from the fact Mike actually worked with him.

Steve Best amid his photos at the Stills centre this afternoon

I also felt slightly old going to the current exhibition of Steve Best’s photos of comedians at the Stills Centre For Photography in Edinburgh, designed to promote Joker Face, his second book of photos, quotes and quirky facts – featuring over 450 comedians.

And then I bumped into Gill Smith, the inspiraton for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

She is in Edinburgh for a week, reviewing shows for one4review. She was with her daughter Pippa, now aged seven. I think the last time Pippa and I were in the same room together was when she was a bump in her mother’s tummy.

Gill Smith and her 7-year-old daughter Pippa

In 2008 Gill, as a stand-up comic, sent me an email telling me she was nominating herself for the Malcolm Hardee Award on the basis that, by nominating herself, she could legitimately put on her posters MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD NOMINEE. She added that she thought Malcolm would have approved of this.

I had to agree with her and created a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award before she could give herself one. Ooh missus. Since then, of course, all the Malcolm Hardee Awards have become increasingly prestigious.

Today it was confirmed that Malcolm’s sister Clare Hardee is coming up to Edinburgh to sing on the final Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on 25th August.

Becky Fury’s Molotov Cocktail Party curse

Which brings us to terrorism and last year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner Becky Fury (her suitably real name).

In the High Street and elsewhere in Edinburgh, giant obstacles have sprouted to deter and prevent  random lorry attacks on the Fringe crowds, but none of the venues seem to make even cursory checks on bags going into shows.

Becky is another victim of the Curse of Cowgatehead and has been thinking of ways to promote the fact she is now in a different venue at a different time (10.00pm in the Black Market) to her billing in the Fringe Programme.

There was her appearance in a London riot the other night.

And she decided today that fire-blowing in the streets or wherever might attract attention. So she bought some paraffin.

..so she bought some paraffin…

It is relevant to point out here that her show is titled Molotov Cocktail Party.

Tonight, she and I went to see the always brilliant Milton Jones perform in the giant main Assembly Hall on The Mound.

In her back pack she had paraffin in a bottle – in essence, a Molotov cocktail. And, low on battery, I had a fairly large re-charger in my inside jacket pocket with a wire to the iPhone in my shirt pocket.

Just as well we were not given any cursory search. Or was it?

I look old and far from sentient with Becky Fury at tonight’s Milton Jones show in the Assembly Hall

 

 

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Hell To Play: Alexander Bennett on Gaulier, DeLarge and hypnotising frogs

Alexander Bennett - Hell to Play as the Devil

Alexander Bennett – Hell to Play as Devil

So I met comedy performer Alexander Bennett because he wanted to publicise his show Hell To Play, which is on at the Backyard Comedy Club next Tuesday, 8th December, featuring comics Bec Hill and Andrew O’Neill.

Alexander plays The Devil.

“OK,” I said, “remind me of the elevator pitch for Hell To Play?”

“It is,” he replied, “a gameshow set in Hell hosted by the Devil. Two comedians compete to save their souls and all of the games revolve round people who live in or are destined to go to Hell.

“In Edinburgh, at the Fringe, it was a genuine underground success. We had people coming two or three times to see the show and we filled the room nearly every night. We’re trying to find a London home for it, so we’re doing a Christmas show at the Backyard where, for Christmas, the Devil is going to give people their souls. There’s the potential that I would write a new one every month.”

“Alright,” I told him, putting my iPhone on the table between us. “You know how this works. You get to plug something but you also have to tell me a humorous anecdote about something irrelevant and I will effortlessly blend the two together in an increasingly prestigious way.”

“You’ve got a formula now?” he asked.

“Same as it always was,” I said. “I get other people to come up with ideas for me.”

“I don’t like this at all,” Alexander told me. “You’ve streamlined the process and made it awful. You walk in, you sit down,  you throw a mobile phone at somebody, you get them to do the thing and you say: Right! Were you raped or have you ever been addicted to heroin? and then that’s a blog.”

“That’s it,” I admitted. “And your point is?”

“I went to the University of Westminster,” said Alexander.

“I’d forgotten that,” I said. “That’s a good link. That’s where you, I and Jihadi John, the ISIS beheader, went.”

“Yes,” said Alexander. “And Trisha and Jon Ronson, Charlie Brooker, several members of Pink Floyd…”

“This isn’t getting us anywhere for the blog,” I said.

Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael , Brunstrom

Alexander in Edinburgh this year with Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris and Michael Brunström

“I’m going to do something different in Edinburgh next year,” suggested Alexander. “I haven’t been brave enough before now to do what I think my solo character should be like.”

“That sounds promising,” I said. “Any heroin or mental homes involved? Are you going to talk about your life?”

“No,” said Alexander. “No heroin or mental homes involved. Sorry. There are various things I would not talk about on stage yet, but I don’t have a problem opening up on stage. I just don’t think it’s particularly interesting. There are a whole streak of comics who think the best way to be a comedian is to really expose your own psychology. “

“Would you go study under Gaulier in Paris?” I ventured.

“If I had the money, I would,” Alexander told me,“because I think it’s interesting. There are some people I really like who have benefitted by going to Gaulier.”

“Well I think,” I told him, “it’s mostly just going on stage, staring at people and waiting for something to happen. I could do that. I suspect he’s destroyed some talented comedians because he tells them to go on stage unscripted and to live in the moment. I think going to Second City in Canada to study improvisation is probably better.”

“That’s probably more up my street,” said Alexander. “But it’s horses for courses. Different things work for different comedians. Gaulier has made some people better; it’s made some worse. It’s the same with the whole opening-up on stage and being yourself. It’s made some comedians better and some worse. The amount of comedians I still see in Edinburgh using it as therapy! That annoys me. Comedy is meant to be an entertainment, even if you’re making a serious point.”

“Have you heard of Stinker Murdoch?” I asked him.

“No. It sounds like a Johnny Sorrow reference.”

(R-L) Johnny Sorrow, Richard Drake and possibly deaf sound man

Johnny Sorrow (right) at the Edinburgh Fringe

“Ah!… “ I said. “Johnny Sorrow!”

“I love Johnny Sorrow,” said Alexander. “Was it you told me he had an audience of Japanese schoolgirls?”

“No.”

“They thought he was brilliant and were trying to take photos of him in action but, every time they raised their cameras, he would stop what he was doing and do a silly pose. Eh? Clifton? The Guv’nor?… Me mother!… It’s a bloody big house!

The best piece of improvisation I’ve ever seen was Johnny Sorrow in the Manchester Comedy Festival at a gig where there were three people in the audience, one of whom was French and Johnny was screaming, standing on a table: You’ll never see this at Jongleurs!”

“You had to be there,” I suggested. “As is often the case with Johnny.”

“Yes. The first time I went to the Edinburgh Fringe,” Alexander continued, “I sat with Richard Rycroft and various people in the flat, doing THAT Johnny Sorrow joke in the way other comedians might tell it. Like Chris Rock.”

“Did you ever see Johnny Immaterial?” I asked. “Great act. Though he didn’t actually HAVE an act. Hello. the name’s immaterial. Johnny Immaterial.

“There’s another interesting guy in the Midlands, “ Alexander told me, “called Lozi Lee, who wanders into punchlines occasionally. These are the strange and interesting people.”

“Did you say you had an interest in hypnotism?” I asked.

“I was afraid of hypnotism,” said Alexander. “It was the only phobia I had. I was afraid of being hypnotised. When I was at film school, I wrote a short film about a hypnotist who did psychic things as well.”

“I think,” I told him, “I would be difficult to hypnotise.”

“The easiest people to hypnotise,” he replied, “are intelligent, imaginative people…”

“Exactly,” I said.

“…because, basically, the person who is being hypnotised is doing all the work themselves, so they need both those qualities to do it. I had a book at university about stage hypnotism.”

“Called?” I asked.

“I can’t remember the title, but it was by Ormond McGill and it gave me a little peek into how the world works. The implications of those things are gargantuan.  How people influence themselves without realising it. “

“Have you used that in your comedy?” I asked.

“The direction I’m trying to take the solo show next year,” he explained, “is that the experience is a little bit like being hypnotised. But it’s not going to be like the stuff I read in the book. You cannot be genuinely funny if you’re a hypnotist, because, for it to work, you need to have a sort of doctorly demeanour – that’s all part of the psychology which makes it work.

“There are comedy hypnotists, but the comedy and the hypnotism are very separated. It’s all presentation. There ARE certainly things like speaking softly: things you would associate with calmness. There are certain tropes like using the word ‘sleep’. Sleep is the wrong word for people who are hypnotised. It looks like they’re sleeping but they’re not.  People who are hypnotised are not unconscious. But, using that word – ’sleep’ – their brains know what to do.

Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge in Clockwork Orange

Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge in Clockwork Orange

“My solo show is hopefully going to be a bit like when Alex DeLarge has his eyes open in Clockwork Orange. That’s what I’m going for.”

“Have you tried to hypnotise people?” I asked.

“No, because learning how to do it it would take ages and, when I was reading the book, I was reading it at university, so the only people I was interacting with were fellow students or comedians and I couldn’t come across to any of those people in a doctorly, mysterious way. You couldn’t hypnotise a wife or partner or a parent.”

“What about a chihuahua?” I asked.

“There is,” replied Alexander, “a section in the book on how to hypnotise animals.”

“You’re joking.” I said.

“No.”

“But they don’t understand what’s going on,” I said.

“Animals are odd,” explained Alexander, “because they have physical things. The way you hypnotise a frog is you hold it flat, between your two hands, turn it upside down and it will stay there. So it gives the impression of hypnosis. You must know the way to hypnotise a chicken?”

“Must I?” I asked.

“You hold it on the ground so its neck and head are pointing along the ground. Then you get a piece of chalk and draw a white line away from its beak and it will just stay there. You can pick it up and it will be limp and it will take a couple of moments to come to… There is a way of doing rabbits.”

Alexander Bennett and dog

Alexander Bennett with unhypnotised dog

“Are we still talking about hypnotism?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Other animals?”

“A lot of it is just turning them upside down.”

“I tried that with a woman,” I said. “It didn’t work.”

Alexander looked at me.

“No,” I said, “I don’t know what it means either. That’s why I am not a comedian.”

I left soon afterwards.

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Comedian and comedy critic in fist fight at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday

CopstickGodleyFight2

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian’s show about early comic days

Comedians and critics tend to have a love-hate relationship. Critics tend to love comedy and comics tend to hate critics.

Yesterday morning, I bumped into comic Charmian Hughes. She told me she gets nervous when critic Steve Bennett of the influential Chortle comedy website comes to see her shows, but not for the reason you might think.

“My show (When Comedy Was Alternative) has been going well and getting huge laughs,” she told me, but I’ve always had a phobia about Chortle, because Steve Bennett reminds me of my dead mother. She used to wear a big hat and gatecrash my gigs when I was seven.”

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

“But Steve,” I pointed out, “does not wear a big hat – or any hat.”

“He wears a metaphorical hat,” said Charmian. “It’s a spirituality thing. I would see my mother in the school concert, making her notes. She was a very difficult woman. Steve reminds me of my first boyfriend too – He wore glasses.”

“Wasn’t your first boyfriend disgraced politician Chris Huhne?” I asked.

“You’re going to ruin my life with this blog,” said Charmian. “And everything’s been going so well so far. It’s a new show, but it’s getting better and better… except when I see my dead mother in the audience.”

Joz Norris in a freezer last night

Joz Norris in his inexplicable freezer last night

According to Alexander Bennett’s highly inventive late-night gameshow Hell To Play, all comedians end up in hell. Alexander – all hail to him – could be a wonderfully effortless, reassuring and self-assured mainstream TV gameshow host, but I suspect might not want to be.

Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunström

(From left) Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunstrom

Last night, Joz Norris and Archie Maddocks were competing, with Michael Brunström in a black, backless dress as Countess Elizabeth Báthory aka Countess Dracula. It was a role to rival Mary Quant on a whaling ship.

Inexplicably, when I arrived at the building early (it is the Cowgatehead, so you have to allow extra time to actually find any venue within it) Joz Norris was in what looked like a glass-and-metal coffin. In fact, it turned out to be a freezer. This had nothing whatever to do with the show. And it was not an attempt to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. I have no explanation that seems at all likely.

I had seen Joz earlier when he sat behind me at Michael Brunström’s unique and wonderfully absurdist The Golden Age of Steam. Later, we bumped into each other at the late-night ScotMid grocery store. It seems possible Joz Norris may be stalking me.

Last night, I also saw the Papa CJ: Naked show in which Papa CJ almost stripped physically and did strip psychologically. Voted Asia’s Best Stand-up Comedian last year, he is off back to India tomorrow with no immediate plans to return. Our loss. VERY smoothly professional, great audience control and, with stories of his marriage, divorce and child, very touching.

You may have noticed I have not mentioned yesterday’s Grouchy Club, the daily chat show I am co-hosting with comedy critic Kate Copstick.

Peter Michael Marino- Late With Lance

Peter Michael Marino in his showbiz romp Late With Lance!

Yesterday, I was not co-hosting it, because Michael Brunström’s Golden Age of Steam, here for a limited run, overlapped. But I turned up to see the show which precedes us – Peter Michael Marino’s Late With Lance, a staggeringly energetic showbizzy romp starring his OTT alter ego Lance. I saw it with my comedy chum Janey Godley.

Janey is not a woman to mess with. She was once arrested when the police found a whole cache of firearms hidden in her family home.

After Peter Michael Marino’s show, she and I went into the lounge bar of the Counting House where Kate Copstick was waiting to go in for The Grouchy Club. The two of them got into conversation and pretty soon a fist fight erupted. I took photographs. It seemed the right thing to do.

Copstick (left) and Godley face off to start the fight yesterday

Kate Copstick (left) and Janey Godley face off to start the fight in the Counting House bar yesterday

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of Bronston Jones

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of American comedian Bronston Jones

There are two things to be learned from this, both relating to my blog a couple of days ago when I discussed the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

One is that, of course, you should never believe the announced context of the pictures you see.

The other is that, as I have said before, during the Edinburgh Fringe, self-publicity is everything.

The Grouchy Club is at The Counting House, 3.45pm daily until next Saturday.

Janey’s show Honest To Godley! is at The Counting House, 7.45pm daily until next Sunday 30th August.

The increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show is in the Counting House on Friday 28th, 11.00pm-01.00am.

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Is the award-winning comic Joz Norris really Eleanor Rigby or Robin Williams?

Joz Norris in birthday hat yesterday

Joz Norris in his birthday picnic hat yesterday

It was comedian Joz Norris’ birthday yesterday. I went to his picnic party in a South London park.

He and I met in a toilet a few weeks ago. Accidentally.

We tried to meet up for a blog chat after that, but only managed on the third attempt. By that time, I had forgotten why we were meeting.

’Why am I talking to you?” I asked.

“It started in the toilet,” he told me, “and I just thought it would be nice to have a catch-up with you. Your blogs are often just general chit chat. I thought we’ll certainly discuss some interesting things. I’ve got some good things to say about sadness and existence and I could tell you about a film I made.”

“Is there a clip on YouTube?” I asked.

No,” replied Joz. “I’ve not seen any of it yet. I wrote it and it was made and I’m in it and I play me but I haven’t seen it.”

“Who made it?”

“Some nice TV people. Well, not TV. It’s not going to be on TV. It will be on YouTube. It’s not proper. but it might be in film festivals. I don’t know how that works. I just went: Right! That’ll do! Sounds fun.”

“What’s it about?” I asked.

“I go to a friend for dating advice because I was writing a lot about that last year cos I was feeling lonely. You saw my show last year: it was just a lonely person bleating for an hour. With some jokes. Anyway, this friend gives me a lot of cynical manipulative stuff like in The Game.”

“The 1997 David Fincher film starring Michael Douglas?” I asked.

“No. It’s a book with tips about how to pick-up women. This friend gives me tips and then I try to interpret them. I think I’ve talked about it more than I want to. I actually want to tell you my cool theory about Eleanor Rigby.

Joz Norris grew up in a small English village

Joz Norris; a single guy and all his flatmates are moving out

“Today, a friend of mine asked me Do you ever get unhappy? and I thought about it and then I thought about Eleanor Rigby and it never says in the song if she’s happy or not. It is implied that she’s not because it’s a sad-sounding song but, actually, all it does is describe her life.

“Then I thought if somebody described my life it would sound pretty sad. A single guy and all his flatmates are moving out and he’s going to be stuck in the flat on his own. He doesn’t get to see his family very much. Does comedy. Sometimes reads stories to children for money.

“You could recite that over violin music and it might sound tragic. But I feel quite happy. So part of me wondered if I am really Eleanor Rigby. I was talking to Alexander Bennett about it today…”

“He is a comedian much-hailed by all,” I said.

“Yes. He’s got all sorts of theories on everything and he told me: You’re not Eleanor Rigby. You’re Mork from Mork & Mindy. But I’ve not seen the show, so I don’t know what that means.”

“It means you are like Robin Williams on coke,” I said.

“Alexander,” said Joz, “told me it was specifically the alien bit. I think he was implying I don’t belong.”

“Your flatmates are moving out?” I asked.

Joz norris last week

When he was 5, Ick-Ack moved to Thailand

“Throughout my life, there has been a pattern of my best friends moving to the other side of the world. Two years ago, my best friend Emily moved to Vietnam. When I was five years old, Ick-Ack moved to Thailand.”

“How do you spell that name?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t spell at the time. He was from Thailand.”

“So,” I suggested, “it is not so odd that he moved to Thailand.”

“That was fair enough,” agreed Joz. “I didn’t hold it against him. But, when I was nine, Stephen Opie moved to Australia. Throughout my life, people who I think of as close friends move as far away as it is physically possible to get. Now all my flatmates are off. One’s off to Sheffield. One’s moving to Battersea.”

“There are trains,” I pointed out.

“But this is the point,” said Joz. “Does your life count as a sad life if it looks like it from the outside?

“That sounds,” I said, “like a variation on Schrödinger’s cat. Logically, you must be sad because you’re always going on about wanting to date girls.”

“Not any more,” replied Joz. “I thought: Oh, who cares about that? I’ve written about that. I fall out of love with every bit of work I’ve done as soon as I’ve finished it. The minute they’re done – shows – I think Right! Done with that! I’m moving on! I feel like everything I wanted to communicate with it is done. I never look back on them and think: What an amazing show that was! I just look back and think: Oh, I’m done with that.

“That’s good,” I told Joz.

“I think so,” he agreed. “It’s better than always obsessing over your own mythology. If I were to pretend I had a mythology, then I think there would be something wrong with me.”

“I think,” I told him, “that maybe you should have a mythology. Women with snakes in their hair.”

“That would be nice,” he replied. “I wouldn’t mind that.”

There is a clip on YouTube of Joz fantasising about divorce.

“Have you given up dating?” I asked.

“I certainly haven’t done it in a long time. I think I’m gradually ruling out all the things people can achieve in their life and I don’t know what I’m leaving for myself. Though I’ve not ruled out marriage. That one’s still there.”

“What,” I asked, “are the other things you have said No to?”

“I don’t think I’m going to buy a house. Mainly cos of the money. Though I made a lot of money this year. I did an advert for Tuborg – the Dutch beer – in Cape Town.”

“Is it for the South African market?” I asked.

“No,” said Joz. “The weird thing is it’s for Eastern and Central Europe and Russia and The Balkans but made by a French advertising agency for a Dutch company – Tuborg – and filmed in South Africa with British actors and an American director. It was great. I got to climb Table Mountain with a stomach bug. It makes you feel you’ve achieved something when you’ve done it feeling that ill.

Joz Norris and Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma in The Backbenchers

Joz Norris and Zuma Puma in award-winning Backbenchers

“Oh – and do you remember in February you blogged about a web series that Zuma Puma and I were in – The Backbenchers? Well, I’ve won an award for it – I won Best Supporting Actor at the LA WebFest.”

“Congratulations,” I said. “Did you get a trophy?”

“No,” said Joz. “They’re going to send me a certificate in the post. At the moment, they’ve given me a picture of some leaves with the word WINNER written in-between.”

“Sorry,” I said, “I think I just accidentally spat at you.”

“Do you ever,” asked Joz, “do that thing where you yawn and just spit comes out?”

“No,” I told him.

“Oh,” said Joz.

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Is Alexander Bennett a cock, the Devil or “witty, weird and dark” (Harry Hill)

Alexander Bennett at King’s Cross station yesterday

“Dark” Alexander Bennett at King’s Cross station yesterday

Alexander Bennett runs a regular first-Tuesday-of the-month comedy show in London – This Is Not a Cult in Camden.

Yesterday, I met him at King’s Cross station. I do not know why. We had thirteen minutes to talk.

“This chat is for quoting in my blog,” I told him, “so I have to ask if you have had any nervous breakdowns, long periods of heroin addiction, run-ins with prostitutes and gangsters, visits to Thailand or recent experiences with enemas?”

“For your blog,” Alexander told me, “everything except Thailand, because I can’t afford to go on holiday.”

“What are you doing at the moment?” I asked.

“I’m preparing for the Edinburgh Fringe in August – I’m possibly doing two shows. One will be my stand-up comedy show and the second one is a gameshow set in Hell where I play the Devil.”

“Type-casting?” I suggested.

“Possibly,” admitted Alexander. “Two audience members have to play to keep their soul. Each rounds in the gameshow will be hosted by a different historical character – Watercolour Challenge hosted by Adolf Hitler; What’s My Organ? hosted by Jeffrey Dahmer…”

“I had forgotten about your fascination with serial killers and mass-murderers,” I said.

“…and so on and so forth,” concluded Alexander. “I wanted to do something with lots and lots of other comics.”

“What happens,” I asked, “if the two members of the audience lose in their attempt to keep their souls?”

“Something unexpected,” said Alexander. “Nobody at the moment is doing…”

“Hellish shows?” I asked. “That’s a matter of opinion.”

“… fun bad taste shows,” concluded Alexander. “You get your brutal Frankie Boyles or Andrew Lawrences, but nobody’s doing stuff that’s bad taste but fun – as in the specific meaning of bad taste – taking the subject too lightly.”

“Are gameshows with the Devil really bad taste?” I asked.

“Well, if you put Jeffrey Dahmer and Hitler in them, yeah. And a few others.”

“And your other Fringe show?” I asked. “The stand-up comedy one – the non-bad-taste one. That is…?”

Alexander Bennett – I Can Make you a Moron, which is making people stupid for their own sake.”

“Do you think people might avoid sitting in the front row for that one?” I asked.

“I’ll make them. The idea is the world is too complicated and the only way to be happy is to be stupid.”

“You are still developing that?” I asked.

“Well, I’m doing a show – Your Beloved Alexander Bennett – at the Leicester Comedy Festival this Saturday. It’s sort-of halfway between last year’s Edinburgh Fringe show and this year’s one. So I get to try out new material without massively pissing-off anyone in Leicester.”

“That’s for them to judge,” I suggested.

“I’ve got quotes from Chortle and Harry Hill and the Guardian on my publicity,” said Alexander, “so I hope that will lure them in.”

For the record, the Harry Hill quote is: Witty, weird and dark, the one to watch out for: at the spearhead of a wave of great new comics. All hail Alexander Bennett!

Your beloved Alexander Bennett likes to be hailed.

And quite right too.

“Anything bizarre happen to you on the way here?” I asked him.

“I think you’re clutching at straws for your blog,” he told me.

“You’re a comedian,” I said. “Things always happen to comedians on the way to anywhere.”

Alexander Bennett yesterday in London’s Chinatown

The beloved and clothed Alexander Bennett

“I was in Chester at the weekend,” he told me, “performing to a hen party.”

“Did you keep your clothes on?” I asked.

“Yes. But, during the show, one of the hens just started shouting out the word Cock!”

“Was that,” I asked, “because she thought you were one or she wanted to see one?”

“These were details,” admitted Alexander, “that needed clarification. She just shouted out the word Cock! at regular intervals. Then, after the show, a slightly older woman came up to me and said: I’m really sorry that my daughter kept shouting out the word Cock! during your performance. She is really drunk. I wouldn’t mind, but she’s a fucking lesbian.”

“That will do,” I told him.

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