Tag Archives: Amy Howerska

Edinburgh Fringe: 5-stars, fake breasts, deaf squirrels, iScream and Hokum

BethVyseA lot of Edinburgh Fringe acts do not need publicity in this blog any more. They are doing too well.

This morning, on my way back from the laundrette – oh, the glamour of the Fringe – I bumped into comedian Beth Vyse who, two days ago, had a full half-page article about her in the Guardian.

As a result, she told me, the audiences for her show As Funny As Cancer have changed for the better. Instead of (my phrase) drunken passing Scots, she is now getting more women interested in the actual subject of her show. The Guardian piece was headlined: Fake breasts, ping-pong balls and tears in a comic exploration of cancer. 

We will return to this morning at the end of this blog.

Tom Binns’ characters

Tom Binns’ characters need no help from me after that review

Yesterday, I went to see Tom Binns. He had just got a 5-star review from Kate Copstick in The Scotsman for his Club Sets show – hardly surprising as it showcases his three characters and himself and he does a genuine psychic trick, a card trick, ventriloquism and a plethora of sharp verbal and musical jokes.

Then I went to the Italian Cultural Institute where they were showcasing Italian-related acts and shows linked by comic Luca Cupani who surprised me – I have no idea why – by being a very very good MC.

Amy Howerska - allegedly

Amy Howerska – the word of mouth will deafen squirrels

Then Amy Howerska Sasspot – she really DID grow up in a family of trained killers – had her room so packed to the rafters with appreciative punters (on a day when, traditionally, audiences drop off) that she needs no publicity from me and the word-of-mouth on her energetic show will be so loud it will deafen squirrels at 200 yards.

Coming down the Gilded Balloon’s spiral stairs after seeing Amy’s show, I bumped into Charmian Hughes whose daily show When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs and Loves of a She-Comic) actually names names, including ex-boyfriend Dave Thompson (Tinky Winky in TV’s Teletubbies).

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian Hughes knew how to get booked

“I’m doing two of Dave’s jokes,” she told me, “to portray his part in my life. He said I could do it only if I told his jokes right, but I can get very muddled up. So he’s coming up from Brighton next week and he will have a walk-on part in my show next Tuesday or Wednesday, when he will do his own two jokes.”

“When did you two meet?” I asked.

“When he ran a show which included an open spot. My open spot went really badly and I thought: How can I get another booking? I know! I’ll get off with him, become his girlfriend and then emotionally blackmail him throughout the relationship so he has to give me gigs… And it worked!

I then went to see Adrienne Truscott’s a One-Trick Pony!

Yesterday morning, Adrienne had posted on her Facebook page:

Adrienne Truscott

Adrienne Truscott is not a one-trick pony

In the States they say that, if a pigeon shits on you, it’s good luck. 

I went out for coffee at the corner and came upon a 2-star review of my not-yet-ready-for-prime-time second show by a very thoughtful and fair writer.

I agreed with his observations heartily and went directly home to continue working on it and, in my lounge room, came upon 2 trapped pigeons! One for each star?!! They were flying everywhere and nowhere, mayhem back and forth, all around me, smashing into the windows, smashing into the walls, swooping past my head, feathers and wings everywhere.

They shat everywhere!!

Neither shat on me. Not one ounce. 2 terrified trapped pigeons and one shit-free me!

I am not yet an experienced stand-up comedian but I have a hearty sense of humor. I’ve cleaned up the shit. I’ve made my show better. I love it now and can’t wait for tonight.

She was still shit-free last night and the show was as she hoped.


Phil Jarvis’ Hokum. Don’t ask… Just don’t ask

The last show I saw yesterday was Malcolm Julian Swan Presents Hokum at the Freestival’s new venue in the New Waverley Arches. The repeated cry was: This is not a show. It’s an album!” And, indeed, it was not really a show, more a time trip to some deranged 1967 Happening which involved kazoos, pipes, much banging and chanting of random phrases like Human Detritus! plus a bit of nudity, projected computer screens, bits of cardboard and the repetition of phrases through a loud-hailer. Oh – and Phil Jarvis, whose admirably shambolic show it really was.

Hokum (if it really was called that) is highly recommended as a one-off which was really a two-off (it was only on for two days) but you can’t see it – last night was the final show.

So back – or maybe forward – to this morning.

This morning, comic actress Jo Burke was flying up to Edinburgh for her show iScream, which starts on Sunday.

Texts and e-mails flew, because she has also written a book iScream – now available – to go with the show.

Jo Burke with her physical book

Jo Burke with one of her physical books

“The show is new,” she told me, “but I wrote the book about ten years ago – It was a book about internet dating and a year in my life with a brief history of me to set it up. At that time, it was called From Strangers with Love – like in the subject heading of an e-mail.

“This year’s Fringe stage show was called iScream and I did a preview in London and someone – well, you, John – told me it should be more about me. So I took some stuff out that was not about me and thought: What shall I put in to fill the gaps that’s about me? And then I realised: Y’know what? I already have a whole book of stuff that is ‘me’ and, when I looked at it again, I found two little things from the book which I added to the stage show and I then thought: This is a perfect opportunity to release the book as well. So the book is now called iScream too.”

“Did you re-write bits?”

“No. It was written ten years ago and now I am a completely different person to the one who wrote the book.”

“So are the book and the stage show about the same thing?”

“No,” replied Jo. “The book is maybe only under ten minutes of the hour-long show, which is the abridged version of me. The stage show is very personal to me and it does end on what could be considered a downbeat note, but it’s actually not; it’s a very positive note. Like everyone else, you trolley through the shit and come out the best you can.”

Jo Burke iScream designed by Steve Ullathorne

Jo Burke’s show poster, by Steve Ullathorne

“You must be happy the book is out,” I said.

“It is doing extremely well and has been as high Number 17 on Amazon in Comedian Biographies. But I’m actually terrified people will read it and never speak to me again – I have been ridiculously honest. Friends read early drafts of it and told me to take things out and I refused. I’m already writing the second book.”

“The story continues?”

“No. I’m easily bored. I like to try my hand at different things.”

“With luck, money might roll in,” I said.

Jo Burke with butterflies and Prosecco a London City Airport

Jo – butterflies and Prosecco at City Airport

“If money was the prime motivator,” said Jo. “I wouldn’t have done all the things I’ve done in the last ten years. Unfortunately, money doesn’t motivate me; but doing stuff I can feel proud of or which makes other people happy or think… I enjoy that. Just a living. I’d just like to make a living out of it.

“If you’re money-motivated, you gravitate towards the City and almost no-one I know is a City suit person. I don’t want to meet City suit people. I don’t like them. They lost everyone’s money and are still rich and it makes me sad.”

“Where are you now?”

“Currently at London City Airport awaiting lift off. I have butterflies and Prosecco…”

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Amy Howerska, the sassy comedian raised by a family of trained killers

Amy Howerska - allegedly

Amy Howerska really was “raised by a pack of trained killers”

Comedian Amy Howerska’s Edinburgh Fringe show in August will be called Sasspot. The publicity blurb for it says she was “raised by a pack of trained killers”.

This understates the truth quite considerably.

I had tea with her.

What this blog does not and cannot represent is the amount of laughter in the recordings. There was a LOT of laughter.

Halfway through, I asked her: “You are allowed to tell me all this, aren’t you?”

“I don’t know,” she said,

“I think when they get married,” I mused, “they are not allowed to have any photos of themselves in the local newspapers?”

“There are no pictures of my dad anywhere on the internet,” said Amy. “You can’t find him online.”

“Is your dad’s surname the same as yours?”I asked.


“It’s probably OK, then,” I said. “There was something recently about three people dying on the Brecon Beacons while training. But that’s happening all the time, isn’t it?”

“That’s in my show,” said Amy. “I almost died on the Brecons when I was seven. My dad used to take us camping. Re-living his glory days. With his kids. Climbing the highest point in the Brecon Beacons in the worst weather recorded in over forty years. He set up a sky-diving centre after he left the… military. He had very limited skills.”

“What?” I asked. “Like overthrowing regimes?”

“I think he did do that to get the money to buy a house,” said Amy. “He went and… I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say.”

“When I have met SAS men…” I started to say, “allegedly-ex SAS men… they were…”

“Short!” laughed Amy. “They’re all short and Cockney! I tried to get a quote off Andy McNab for my Edinburgh Fringe poster, but he wasn’t up for it.”

“You know Andy McNab?” I asked.

“I’ve met him at a… at a few funerals,” she laughed. “He’s very charismatic. He’s very short.”

“Were you born into the SAS?” I asked. “When you were an embryo, was your dad in the SAS?”

“No. Let’s call it The Regiment. I asked my dad for some stories the other day. I asked him what his favourite gun was. He told me all these stories of all these fuck-ups. All these training exercises, hostage situations that all went wrong.

“I have quite a dark sense of humour – obviously. When I have been previewing the show, people have been pissing themselves laughing but some have gone Oh my God!

“I did a preview of the show to 100 Marines on a Royal Marine base and there are loads of jokes about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which I think is probably the funniest thing in the show. It’s a bit that goes consistently well.

“All the young Marines’ wives were pissing themselves laughing because now, if someone comes back with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, they send them off for CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – so they found it quite funny. And the young men were laughing as well. But the older wives were: Ooooh! Is she talking about that? It split the room a bit. But I always think you’re doing something right in comedy if you’re splitting the room – maybe 50% howling with laughter, 25% who are confused and 25% who are angry.

“When I was talking to my sister about writing the show and trying to gather memories, she said: Do you remember when dad used to get out his machete and cut an apple up like he was still living in a hole in the desert? 

“Some of it is so outlandish it sounds made-up but, actually, it’s watered-down to make it more believable and less mental. I just accepted everything as normal and it wasn’t at all.

One day he came in and found me and my sister throwing knives at a dart board when we were about eight years old. He said: What you doing??!! What you doing??!! – and then he taught us how to do it properly. He ran a sky diving centre – a drop zone – for years. He’s 66 now and he still sky dives.”

“So,” I said, “you decided to do a comedy show about your dad and his top secret exploits…”

“Well,” said Amy, “it wasn’t like that. I decided to do my first hour-long show about growing up in a sky-diving family – three generations. My parents met at my granddad’s drop zone. My granddad was also in… in The Regiment.”

“When was that?” I asked. “The Second World War?”

“No. He was only six or seven when the Second World War broke out.”

“So he was in Oman?” I asked.

“No, my dad was in Oman and Dhofar..”

I switched the recorder off at this point.

I like to tease.

When I switched the recorder back on again, Amy was laughing…

“When I started talking about my childhood, people were like: That’s fucking batshit! And I thought: Oh, yes, it is! So it has been quite a challenge to make it relatable. the core of the show is really about people’s family relations.”

“So,” I said, “it’s about life in a family. A bit like The Godfather.

“But with more sky diving.” laughed Amy. “And death. And guns. The show is not about my father. He is in it, but my sister and dad are in it equally; my mum features; Evil Dwarf features; and…”

“Evil Dwarf?” I asked.

“My mum’s father. He’s an ex-sergeant major. That was his nickname in…”

“In what?” I asked.

“The Regiment. The show is about my family, my upbringing.”

“And grassing-up your dad,” I said.

“I’m not grassing him up. He gets off very lightly in it.”

“And in your family…” I asked. “What does your sister do?

“She runs a drop zone. She’s married to a sky-dive champion. My mum’s brother is the Ozzy Osbourne of sky diving: he’s just had so many head injuries. And we call my mum ‘Peggy’ after Barbara Windsor on EastEnders: she’s really sassy and little with big boobs and big opinions and not afraid to say ‘em. It’s all about that, really.”

“So you grew up wanting to be a comedian?” I asked.

“I wanted to be a nun. My family is a bit Jewy, but they thought, to confuse me, they would send me to a convent school when I was little. The nuns were lovely: I think I’m one of the few people with a positive experience of Catholicism and I think I wanted…”

“Why,” I asked, “did your parents send you to a convent school?”

“Because they weren’t very Jewish. Only a bit Jewy. So I wanted to be a nun. I liked the accessories. Madonna was very big at the time. They used to let me swing my rosary around in the playground.”

“Was one of your parents Jewish?” I asked.

“My dad’s father was Jewish. and my mum’s grandmother.”

“So,” I said, “after you got over wanting to be a nun, what did you want to be?”

“A journalist, an actress or a comedy writer. I remember watching Blackadder and thinking: Who writes that? Who’s that Richard Curtis bloke? I loved reading and I loved comedy.”

“Then you should,” I suggested, ‘have become a comedy reader.”

“I came to comedy arse-backwards,” explained Amy. “I came in as a writer. I was writing for an act. I’ve been doing all this for five years, building my way up.”

“And now,” I asked, “you don’t want to write any more? You want to get the orgasm of applause?”

“The most fun you can ever have,” said Amy, “is when there’s a group of you writing something together.”

“If you had to put one thing on your passport as a profession,” I asked, “would it be Writer or Performer?”

“Writer probably,” said Amy.

If, dear reader, I die unexpectedly in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris or a random domestic animal falls fatally on my head in Soho, please draw this blog’s existence to the attention of the police.

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