Tag Archives: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Comedian Jorik Mol wants a real life but is performing for dogs this week

Jorik Mol in London last week

Jorik Mol faces a possibly operatic future

When I talked to comedian Ellis of Ellis & Rose recently, he told me he was going to write Raoul Moat: The Opera about the recent multiple murderer. He told me the music would be written by London-based Dutch comic Jorik Mol.

So, obviously, when Jorik and I had tea in London last week, I asked him:

“How is Raoul Moat: The Opera going?”

“We haven’t met about it so far,” said Jorik.

“Do you intend to meet?”

“We do.”

“And the philosophy of Raoul Moat: The Opera is…”

“There isn’t one so far. I really don’t know what Ellis is planning. I’ve been listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music recently in the same way I listen to Wagner. You cannot listen to that music and not look on it as being anything other than completely and utterly soul-destroyingly manipulative. When you listen to the intro to Tristan und Isolde, it is like coitus interruptus without the coitus. This chord is never released – never released – never released – slightly released – and – the tension is only released four hours later, when the fat lady sings.”

Jorik is now living back in England again after a break at home in Holland for a couple of years. He is doing a Masters in Comparative Literature at University College, London.

“It sounds impressive,” Jorik told me, “but it just means I will never be able to get a job. I’m doing the Masters full-time; I’m doing extra tutorials; I’m doing translations for UCL; I’m trying to gig three or four times a week; I’m trying to write. This week I gigged five times which is a bad idea on all levels. I do not have a life.”

That was last week. This week Jorik is doing four gigs, including one totally in French tonight at the Comedy Cafe for the International Comedy Club (which is run from Zürich). And, on Thursday, he is performing in Streatham at a benefit for dogs in Romania organised by Danish comedian Sofie Hagen.

“Have you ever gigged for non-humans before?” I asked.

“I’ve gigged before for audiences in Holland that didn’t seem to be human,” replied Jorik.

“And next?” I asked.

“I’m writing an essay about Kafka and laughter.”

“I read somewhere,” I said, “that The Trial – which is always billed as the ultimate paranoid novel… Kafka and his friends thought it was phenomenally funny, like a comedy piece.”

“Yes,” said Jorik. “It’s the way it’s been translated into English and the way it’s been appropriated into English. It’s been made to serve a purpose in English culture. The word Kafkaesque does not really apply to Kafka. I want to do a PhD on Comedic Devices and Cognitive Stylistics – two terms I’ve made up.

Jorik in my Edinburgh Fringe chat show this year (Photograph by Brian Higgins)

Jorik in my Edinburgh Fringe chat show this year (Photograph by Brian Higgins)

“When a comedian goes on stage,” explained Jorik, “one of the common stupid opening lines is I know what you’re thinking. But that is actually what all comedy is about.

“Comedy is about leading the lines of cognition in a certain way, from a certain perspective. You are resolving issues that shouldn’t be resolved, you are duplicating narratives, you are leading people up the garden path.

“The cognitive system is in the pre-frontal cortex and it’s basically the thing that asks the questions Where? What? Who? Why? How? and Which?

“If that part of the brain – the cognitive system – doesn’t function, it’s very difficult for you to engage with humour in any way, because humour is about asking the questions Where? What? How? and Why? and those questions being subverted, inverted or converted.

“So I’m going to write about the 18th century: Immanuel Kant, Laurence Sterne, Voltaire and a guy from Austria called Johann La Roche who wrote puppetry plays. It was like Commedia dell’artePeople improvised what was happening in the room, in the street, in politics. It was topical jokes – boom boom boom.

“My interest is in joke shapes: the linguistic shapes that textual humour takes. It’s a linguistic notion of doing something or transgressing boundaries on a physical or social level.

“In Britain, it’s normal for people to say He’s a funny guy, She’s a funny girl, You ARE funny – which is bullshit. Being funny – using those joke shapes and tropes – is learnt behaviour.

“I was talking to people in the German Dept at UCL and someone told me: I can’t really say to students – especially First Year undergrads – This is funny, because their capacity to read German is just not good enough yet. Same thing with French. You can’t say This is funny because they’ll go No, it’s not, because they don’t yet fully understand the language.

“I want to look at texts and how they produce comedy. Was it you who wrote you can’t watch five stand-ups in a row because you get exhausted after a while?”

“Possibly,” I said, “I do think that’s one problem with current comedy clubs – you’re just watching stand-ups doing much-the-same thing – just standing there saying words – with no variation whereas, in the 1980s, the stand-up was interspersed with visual variety acts and bizarre acts.”

“Yeah,” agreed Jorik, “like Mr Methane and The Iceman.”

“Ah!” I said. “The Iceman! He lives in Bournemouth.”

Jorik laughed, as well he might.

“I want to work with Dr Steve Cross who does Bright Club,” said Jorik. “He works at UCL but is sometimes a stand-up.”

“You do an awful lot of gigs,” I said.

Coming back here, said Jorik, “I have to re-establish myself so I have to play the circuit. But I’m really struggling with life-work balance: that’s why I listen to podcasts all the time – to drown out my inner monologue.”

“I can blank my mind out to relax.” I said.

“I can’t,” said Jorik.

“That’s why you have trouble getting to sleep at night,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Jorik. “That’s why I need the mirtazapineI find it very difficult, because my mind’s racing constantly. The first month I was here in London was rough as fuck. I’d basically been waiting to come back to Britain for two years and I’m the kind of person who wants everything done straight away and that just doesn’t work over here. It took me six weeks just to register with a GP.”

“Your persona on stage is not anxious,” I said.

“Yes, it’s quite friendly,” said Jorik, “and sweet and flirty but occasionally bitchy. When I was 20, I wanted to be an angry comic, but I’m the opposite of an angry comic on stage. It’s weird. I feel I have been lowered down into this persona and, with age – I’m 25 and have been performing since I was 17 – I’m only starting to get away with it now.”

“You may have already peaked,” I joked.

Jorik in London last week - Mozart has a lot to answer for

Jorik Mol in London last week – Mozart has a lot to answer for

“Yeah,” laughed Jorik. “It can only go downhill from now! I’ve always felt like that. I wake up like that every morning. When I was 4, I read a book about Mozart and that he had composed his first symphony at the age of 3 and my brain shouted out: YOU’VE LOST!

“It’s unlikely I’m ever going to achieve anything in comedy. There are so many people doing comedy right now. It doesn’t matter how original you are. It does not even how matter how good you are. You will not succeed. Success is only what other people talk about when it’s over and done with and you’ve come out the other side.

“It sounds lame, but I now cannot function without doing stand-up at least once a week.”

“Because…?” I prompted.

“It’s just me and my life,” said Jorik, “I was always seen as the weird one. I envy my brother because he is able to go to work then go out at the weekend and have a nice time and live. He runs the supply department for care homes for children with severe disabilities. He’s really happy and is able to function. I have to pretend to be a person. When you do comedy you can sometimes take a step back and just observe: OK. This is functional behaviour. That’s why I want to get into academia as well.

“I could never envisage a life for myself in Holland. I don’t mean being happy – because that’s never going to happen – but just to be functional, just to be working…”

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Filed under Comedy, Holland, Mental health, Music, Psychology, UK

Ignore the new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, this is how the Profumo political sex scandal really happened

John Profumo, the UK’s Minister for War

John Profumo, the UK’s disgraced Secretary of State for War

A couple of days ago in my blog, there was a discussion between one of my Facebook Friends and writer Harry Rogers about whether people accused of sex crimes should be named in the press before they are prosecuted.

There is another interesting angle to this which Harry Rogers knows a bit about. Not a sex crime but a sex scandal… The Profumo sex scandal of 1963 which ultimately brought down Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.

But this blog is really about Johnny Edgecombe, whom I think I probably met at Malcolm Hardee’s Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich in the 1990s. By then, he was known as Johnny Edge. I have a vague recollection that Malcolm introduced me to Johnny Edge once; but I can’t be certain.

What interests me about Johnny is how small incidents in apparently insignificant individuals’ lives can change history.

For those too young to remember, the Profumo Affair involved ‘good-time party girl’ Christine Keeler having sex with John Profumo, the UK’s Secretary of State for War. This was not good, given that he was married to actress Valerie Hobson. Worse though, given that Profumo knew Britain’s entire defence secrets and this was the height of the Cold War, was that Christine Keeler was also having sex with Yevgeni Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in London. All military attachés are assumed to be spies.

In October 1962, the United States and the USSR almost stumbled into a nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis.

At the same time, in London, Johnny Edgecombe was Christine Keeler’s boyfriend and allegedly her pimp. Before that, Keeler’s boyfriend had been drug dealer ‘Lucky’ Gordon. When she split from Gordon, he attacked her with an axe and held her hostage for two days. She then became Johnny Edgecombe’s girlfriend.

Just before Christmas 1962, she split from Johnny Edgecombe. What happened then resulted in a court case in which John Profumo’s name was mentioned in open court and the whole Profumo scandal became public knowledge.

Johnny Edgecombe went to prison for what happened in the mews.

I had a drink with Harry Rogers last night.

Harry Rogers in Greenwich last night

Harry Rogers remembers Johnny in Greenwich last night

“I met Johnny Edge just after he came out of prison,” Harry told me. “I think the intelligence services knew very well what was going on with Christine Keeler: that she was having an affair with Profumo and was also seeing Ivanov.”

“What had Johnny done before the Profumo thing?” I asked.

“He’d been friends with lots of jazz musicians in London,” Harry told me. “And he’d worked for Peter Rachman.”

“The dodgy slum landlord?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Rachman bought a lot of properties up and, when he had trouble getting people out of a property, he would get Johnny Edge and a couple of others to go and take over the basement in the building and set up a shebeen. A shebeen is an illegal drinking establishment with lots of loud music pumping all night. So Johnny’s role was to set up the shebeen and get musicians to come in there and party. They had a great time and the people got so fed up with the noise they left. It was like constructive dismissal – constructive eviction, really.”

“But eventually,” I said, “he met Christine Keeler, she left him and that triggered off the whole thing.”

“Yes,” said Harry. “When Christine Keeler left him – he was kind of pimping her in a way; he was living off her earnings, anyway – he wanted money and he needed money and also Johnny was in competition with Lucky Gordon, who was out to get Johnny. He saw him as the person who had taken ‘his Christine’ away from him – cos he’d been pimping her too.

“Lucky Gordon had caught up with Johnny in the Flamingo club in Wardour Street in Soho and there had been a big running fight through the club. They were chasing each other about all over he place. Lucky Gordon was going to beat up Johnny, but Johnny pulled a knife and ‘striped’ his face.

“After that, Lucky Gordon was really, really angry and so he got a machete and he was threatening to cut Johnny Edge’s head off. And that’s why Johnny got a gun. And the gun that he got was Christine Keeler’s. She had a Luger pistol.”

“Why did she have a gun?” I asked.

“I think for protection,” Harry replied. “Anyway, Johnny took her gun and he was carrying it because he knew that, if Lucky Gordon did catch up with him – if he wasn’t protected – Lucky was going to kill him.

1964 book on the scandal

A 1964 book on the Profumo Scandal

“When Christine left Johnny and went to Stephen Ward in the mews, Johnny got a taxi to the house. Christine was there but wouldn’t come to the window. Mandy Rice-Davies came to the window and told Johnny Christine doesn’t want to speak to you – Here’s some money – Go away! – and threw a handful of fivers out the window.

“That made Johnny angry, so then he decided he was going to go in and talk to Christine. So he tried to do what they do in the movies. He tried to shoot the door open by blowing the lock off the door with the gun.

“That didn’t work, so then he got back into the taxi…”

“The taxi driver,” I asked, “had just been sitting there twiddling his thumbs through all this?”

“Yes,” said Harry. “The cab driver was still waiting. Johnny got back in the cab. And they drove off.

“Meanwhile, the police had been phoned. They caught up with Johnny and arrested him and charged him with attempted murder. They said he’d actually tried to shoot Christine Keeler from the street through the window. He never did that. But they needed a court case to break open the whole thing so they could officially look into everything that was going on. And, from that point onwards it all came out.

“What Johnny told me was that not only was Stephen Ward supplying various members of the Establishment with women… There were a number of them: Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, Rona Ricardo and two or three other girls were involved in this circle, this kind of call girl ring that he was running… They would all go down to Lord Astor’s place (Clivedon in Buckinghamshire) and have the swimming pool, the weekend orgies, all the rest of it… not only was Stephen Ward doing that, but he was also supplying lots of Members of Parliament and the aristocracy with marijuana.”

“Which would be a big thing then,” I said.

“Which was a big thing then,” Harry agreed. “And which Johnny Edge was supplying to Stephen Ward.”

“How did the Russian get involved?” I asked.

The Daily Mirror reports Profumo’s resignation

Profumo resigned because he lied to MPs

“Well,” explained Harry, “Stephen Ward would host parties which diplomats and all sorts of people would attend – He was just a military attaché. I don’t think there was any attempt to screw information out of Profumo. There’s no way that Christine Keeler was pumping Profumo for information to give to Ivanov, who she called her ‘Russian teddy bear’. It was all just sex and drugs, really. But spooks, being what they are, often read a lot more into the situation than is there.

“Profumo was a pretty honourable man. He just liked screwing.”

“You’ve heard about the new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical that’s being written about Stephen Ward?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Johnny Edge told me Stephen Ward was a great guy and it was terrible the way he was vilified out. Really, he was just serving a need.”

“And was driven to suicide,” I said.

“And,” said Harry, “Johnny was sent to prison. He spent about six years inside. The Labour Party – Bessie Braddock in particular – said, as soon as they got into power, they would ensure he was released. But, of course, what happened when the Wilson government came in? They left him there to rot. He kept writing to them from prison trying to get them to honour what they had said they were going to do, but they left him there.

“He’d been sent to Dartmoor! For a while he shared a cell with Frank Mitchell.”

“The Mad Axeman?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Everybody was really frightened of Frank in there. Not just the prisoners, but all the Screws. He was like an animal. But he took a liking to Johnny so, consequently, life was easy for Johnny inside because he had total protection. In those days, it wouldn’t have been easy being a black West Indian like Johnny in prison.’”

“And you met him soon after he got out?” I asked.

“When he first came out of prison,” explained Harry, “he didn’t go back to Notting Hill, he moved to a flat in Blackheath, then later he moved to a flat on a council estate by what’s now the Up The Creek comedy club.

“His aim was, if he could ever make enough money, to go out to the West Indies and buy a boat like his dad had had. Of course, it never happened.

“He would wake up in the morning and smoke a joint. Then he would get washed and dressed. Smoke another joint. Have breakfast. Smoke another joint. Then he was set up to go out for the day. He was always stoned. Always.

Johnny Edge in later life

Johnny Edgecombe in later life + one of his cigarettes

“He decided he was going to make money from selling chess sets. He met somebody who had access to a whole load of reproduction fancy chess sets: the Lewis chess set, the Reynard The Fox one, a Mexican carved crystal one and an erotic chess set – pornographic, basically – the bishops had little boys sucking them off. They weren’t cheap. He made a good mark-up on them.

“Also, if you wanted to buy half a pound or a pound of dope, Johnny knew where to go. In 1971, you could probably get a pound of dope for £500 and he’d charge you £550. He wasn’t a big dope importer or anything, but he was big mates with Howard Marks, who was.

“After the chess sets, he got into buying VW camper vans in Amsterdam and filling them up with Second World War leather jackets and overcoats he bought in a warehouse near where he bought the VWs. They looked like Nazi overcoats but weren’t – most were actually Dutch motorcycle police coats, but they looked the business.

“So Johnny would fill the camper vans with these coats, bring them back to Britain and sell them. The rock singer Chris Farlowe used to run a Nazi militaria shop and Johnny Edge used to sell him these Dutch police overcoats as genuine Nazi wartime overcoats at a massive mark-up.

“Needs must when the Devil drives. There was no way he was ever going to get employed in a straight job; he was so stoned all the time.

“He was a very likeable guy. He was a great guy.”

“And he died just over two years ago,” I said. “What did he die of?”

“Lung cancer,” said Harry.

So it goes.

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Filed under Crime, Drugs, Politics, Sex, UK

Fear of flying for cult comedian Charlie Chuck?… Only ducks and pianos fly…

Charlie Chuck was feeling under the feather...

“Your mission, should you accept it” I said, “is to think up something for my blog tomorrow. I’m off out to get milk, eggs and baked beans.”

It was around midnight and Charlie Chuck was staying at my eternally-un-named friend’s flat behind Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich, which was founded by comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee.

The club, not Greenwich.

So I left Charlie Chuck and my eternally-un-named friend with my hand-held tape recorder, embarrassingly like the one occasionally used in I’m Alan Partridge.

When I got back from the Sainsbury all-night supermarket, I listened to what was on the tape recorder:

“Malcolm Hardee,” Charlie Chuck was saying, “used to book me to go over to play the Laughter Lounge in Dublin. I used to go over in the ferry with him. He used to come back by plane; I used to catch a boat. I wouldn’t get on a plane.”

“Have you never flown?” my eternally-un-named friend asked, slightly surprised.

“Once,” said Charlie Chuck. “In 2007. Canada. I went to see Notre Dame in Canada. It’s a replica of the one in Paris. When we went to Notre Dame in Paris, I were disappointed because it wasn’t as beautiful as the one in Canada.”

“You only went over to Canada to see Notre Dame Cathedral?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“No, to perform in a stage show,” he replied.

“Ah,” she said.

“If it hadn’t been for John,” said Charlie Chuck, “I wouldn’t have gone. He went to the airport with me. It were a big thing for me to fly. There were quite a bit of money involved – around £20,000 – and, if I hadn’t gone, they would’ve sued me. They wanted me out there for six months, but I were only there for three weeks.

“They offered to pay me to go to Canada on the QE2 liner; it would’ve cost ‘em £3,500. It would’ve taken about three weeks, but I looked up about the QE2 and it were in a hurricane once with 90 foot high waves and I thought I don’t want three weeks of this. So I flew out but I were terrified.

“On the plane going out there, people recognised me and they were saying Tell us a joke, but I were nearly crappin’ meself.

“I were out there to play the part of Jean Lapointe, a Canadian senator, eighty years old, who had done the Ed Sullivan Show and about 30 films. The routine I did were his routine when he were a younger man.

“The tour people told me that, on the show, I’d be on wires and I ‘d probably be 10 or 20 feet above the stage. But it ended up I was playin’ this piano that were lifted 30 feet high in the air and upside down. I were strapped to it. I were playin’ Moonlight Sonata and In The Mood and talking to the piano. It were a routine I did. I climbed across the piano but kept the arpeggio going. I sneezed and the sheet music went three-quarters of the way across the piano. It were a bit like an Andrew Lloyd Webber production.

“It were for Franco Dragone. He’s big. He does Cirque du Soleil and Las Vegas and makes elephants disappear like David Copperfield. He books acts from all over the world. It were a big thing.

“So, after I sneeze and the sheet music flies away, I start playing again and the piano turns over and the moon comes out. And the piano goes up and tips over upside down and back again and the big band kicks in. It were on hydraulics but you couldn’t see them; you only saw me and the piano.

“It were going to be filmed and be on national television in Canada. But, when the piano were upside down, there were technical problems,. It banged into me leg and nearly broke me ankle. It bruised all me leg and they had to take it away to sort it out and they called the whole routine off. I’d rehearsed for a week but they didn’t do it. It were too risky.

“Because they knew I played drums, they brought in a brand new £2,000 drum kit for me to wreck, because that’s what I do in me show. I talk to me drums and wreck the kit and bite me hands and all that. I used to do a forward somersault off me drums when I were younger.

“They’d have to get me a lot of money to get me on a plane again.”

“Why?” my un-named friend asked.

“I just think of Jim Reeves,” said Charlie Chuck. “He died in a plane crash. Otis Redding. Buddy Holly. They all went down in plane crashes.

“But I’m not bothered about going anywhere either. I’m not bothered… I’m just not bothered. Where’s John?”

“He’s gone to buy some milk,” my eternally-un-named friend said.

“Milk?” asked Charlie Chuck, “It’s past midnight.”

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Filed under Canada, Comedy, Theatre