Tag Archives: Ashley Storrie

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 8: These shows are all far too good and then Consignia

Pitch perfect, beautifully written and paced

It has been a bad Fringe for me in the sense that, so far, I have not seen a truly terrible show. Where have all the shit shows gone?

I started today with Katharine Ferns in Stitches – about domestic abuse. Well, it starts off about domestic abuse and then gets more and more horrific. It is a pitch perfect performance and a beautifully-written, perfectly-paced comedy script.

Absolutely wonderfully done. A perfect Fringe show. Laughs. Tears. Jaw-dropping. It deserves a (formerly-known-as) Perrier Award but the (formerly-known-as) Perrier Awards are possibly in terminal decline.

Then there was Giants’ sketch comedy show For an Hour with Ian Hislop’s son Will Hislop and his friend-since-childhood Barney Fishwick. The former is in the unenviable position of facing 3-4 years of being called “Ian Hislop’s son” and the latter is facing 2-3 years of being called “the other one”. Nothing can be done about this. That’s life. As Oscar Wilde did not say, the only thing worse than being labelled is not being noticed.

(L-R) Will Hislop succeed? Yes he will, with Barney Fishwick

That’s the downside. The upside is that they are supremely self-confident, highly professional and write and perform impeccably. There is a humdinger of a ‘door’ gag and a very clever ‘Israeli’ reference which are worth the price of admission on their own. And they will have their own TV series within 3-6 years tops. Probably in some BBC2 double-billing with Ruby Wax’s equally well-connected daughter duo Siblings.

The next two shows I saw were Ashley Storrie’s and then Janey Godley’s.

Janey is probably the most talented creative all-rounder I have ever met. Her autobiography Handstands in the Dark was a bestseller in Scotland and England; she had a column in The Scotsman; her shows are masterclasses in audience control and performance; and this year’s Fringe show was preceded by a two-day shoot in a part specially-written for her in an upcoming Julie Walters feature film. If she did not live in Glasgow, she would be a major star.

When you know Ashley is her daughter, you can spot the inherited performance skills, though their on-stage personas and schtick are different. I saw their shows (in different venues) consecutively and it was fascinating to see how they dealt with overlap material (particularly the recent death of Janey’s father) differently.

Janey’s act mentioned the time she and I were sitting in her living room in Glasgow and an entire building blew up across the road.

Consignia – Phil Jarvis (left) & Nathan Willcock

Which brings me to Consignia’s intentionally shambolic late-night Panopticon show.

This is one show which should create a sense of nervous anticipation in any audience and where Malcolm Hardee’s intro “Could be good; could be shit” resonates. And, in the case of Consignia, he might have added: “Good and shit could be the same thing here. Fuck it.”

This is the traditional spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe.

I had very little (possibly no) idea what was going on during the show but neo-Dadaism might be the best description. I was dragged out of the audience, a pink tutu put on my head to represent a bride’s veil and I was told to wave my hand while repetitive music played for I guess around 4-7 minutes. Might have been 47 minutes. Meanwhile, Nathan Willcock stood with (what I think was) a fake TV screen on his upper body and Mark Dean Quinn repeatedly hit Phil Jarvis in the face with a mop while he (Phil) yelled out “No!”.

Eventually, in its repetitiveness, this became quite reassuringly mesmerising and I felt sadly empty when it ended.

I think Stockholm Syndrome may have kicked in.

Either that or my green tea was spiked with some hallucinogenic substance.

On my short walk home, I passed three people sitting chatting and drinking on the edge of a building.

Nothing unusual there.

This is Edinburgh in August.

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William Shatner becomes matchmaker for Janey Godley’s daughter + goat foam

Sometimes, some questions are better left un-asked.

Yesterday, I saw a Tweet from William Shatner (yes, he of Star Trek fame) to his 2.04 million Twitter Followers about my chum Janey Godley’s daughter Ashley. It read: Wanted: One decent boyfriend for @ashleystorrie. Aristocrats preferred. Enquiries and credentials to: @JaneyGodley

WilliamShatner_JaneyGodley_Tweet_CUT

The thought of Janey Godley’s bloodline entering the British aristocracy has its good points and its bad points.

Yesterday evening, I had to take my eternally-un-named friend to the Accident & Emergency Unit at Lewisham Hospital. Nothing life-threatening: just a bad fall and possible rib fracture. This was bad news and good news.

No X-ray. They don’t do anything for rib fractures. Just muscle damage presumed and it takes maybe six weeks of pain before it mends itself.

There have been stories of the breakdown of the British A&E system and waiting “only” four hours to be seen if you are lucky. In fact, it only took 50 minutes to see the first medical person and 70 minutes to see the main doctor. So around two hours in all. Either we were lucky or my standards are falling. Presumably if my eternally-un-named friend’s arm had been hanging off and pouring blood, it might have been faster.

But the late A&E visit and an early-ish start today means a quick blog.

Luckily, when I got home at 2.00am last night, an unprovoked e-mail from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, was waiting for me. Here it is:


Hi John,

The Penthouse, Vancouver

Penthouse strip club,  Vancouver

This isn’t really a story, but the marquee in this picture – SOMEONE HAS GOT TO DIE – caught my attention yesterday. (Today it has gone back to normal.) The Penthouse was the best strip club in Vancouver for many years. It is now one of the only ones left. I enjoyed working at The Penthouse in the late-1970s and mid-1980s. The owner, Joe Filippone, was shot to death. There is a good book about the place by Aaron Chapman called Liquor, Lust and The Law. They sell the book at the club. I liked working there – good food, good dressing room, good stage, good money… and Italians are good to work for in that capacity. They have plenty of women around, so they don’t act like there’s a shortage.

Adam Taffler, underground entrepreneur (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

Adam, the object of Anna’s admiration… (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

I have never met Adam Taffler (whose grandfather was a strongman and who has occasionally appeared in this blog) but I can relate to him. Especially the lady lifting. I used to lift up ladies all the time when I was 17. I don’t know why. I enjoyed grabbing women around the hips or waist and lifting them a few feet off the ground. Of course I asked them first. Most of them said Yes, and they thought it was fun,. Nobody had ever done it to them before. But, until I read about Adam”s grandfather, I had no idea that I could have made a career out of it.

And the fact that Adam’s granddad was in those sea spectacles… My first job in a club involved sitting on a swing that came down from the ceiling on chains. A bouncer would lower the swing, I would get on and then he would push a button and the swing wound up, up, up. I would pretend to be tipsy and everyone would wonder if I would fall off. I like those basic things like lighting and machines and costumes. I have always had an enjoyment of that kind of stuff… fake waves, hoisting machinery, mermaid tails lying around in dressing room closets…

Anna Smith - Does Adam Taffler have any helpful hints on how to keep my mouth shut ?

Photo of a previous incarnation of our Canadian correspondent  Anna Smith Her suggested caption is: Does Adam Taffler have any helpful hints on how to keep my mouth shut? (Adam runs silent dating events)

I found a mermaid tail on the floor of  the closet of the dressing room at the Gargoyle Club in London. Nobody used the closet because the centre of the room had long rails made of plumbing pipe to hang our costumes on. There were hundreds of empty hangers dangling on the plumbing pipe rails with shreds of 1960s and 1970s costumes trailing off them. This was in the 1980s. Our costumes were more minimal of course.

Also, didn’t Adam Taffler do things with goats?

Goats are very clean and intelligent. I thought a pygmy goat would be good for sailing – so I could make foam for the espresso. It’s just a fantasy of mine. I spent my entire adult life avoiding that white powder people put into coffee because I thought it was poisonous and made out of petroleum. But, a couple of years ago, I tried it and it’s delicious. It’s like ketchup. I didn’t know what it was and it looked so bloody. I had no idea what it tasted like.

Goats are like actors. They delight in the sound of their own feet, so they would like running around the deck of a wooden boat.


I have little-to-no understanding of how Anna would extract foam from pygmy goats but, as I said at the start of this blog, sometimes, especially with Anna, some questions are better left un-asked.

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Let me tell you an Ashley Storrie…

Ashley Storriw

Ashley Storrie wrote Conundrums My Dad Says

Ashley Storrie has a sitcom pilot Conundrums My Dad Says transmitted on BBC Radio Scotland at lunchtime tomorrow.

She has a bit of previous.

She got her first acting part at the age of three as ‘the wee girl in the metal tea urn’ in the movie Alabama.

At five, she was playing the lead child in a TV ad for Fairy Liquid soap powder – directed by Ken Loach.

By 1996, aged ten, she was cast in the lead role of the independent film Wednesday’s Child, which screened in the British pavilion at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

She was a stand-up comedian from the age of 11 to 14. She performed her first ever stand up comedy routine at the International Women’s Day celebrations in Glasgow and went on to perform stand-up in London supporting the likes of Omid Djalili and Donna McPhail

Ashley's Edinburgh Fringe show when she was 13

Ashley’s Edinburgh Fringe show, aged 13

In 1999, still only thirteen, she wrote, produced and performed her own show What Were You Doing When You Were 13? at the Edinburgh Fringe, becoming the youngest ever stand up in the history of the Festival. She was guest presenter on the Disney Channel that same year.

She was offered a chance to appear on the Jay Leno TV chat show in the US, but decided she preferred to go on a school trip to the Lake District.

Then she decided she did not want to do stand-up any more.

But, just under two years ago, she returned to stand-up and, just before that, started writing for radio and TV.

“Why,” I asked, “did you call the sitcom Conundrums My Dad Says?”

“Everything I ever write,” she explained, “has a hidden reference to William Shatner in it.”

Ashley considering William Shatner as a bra rack

On Facebook, Ashley considered using famed and admired actor Shatner as a bra rack

“William Shatner?” I asked. “Conundrums?”

“He had a show called Shit My Dad Says.”

“Ah!” I said.

“It’s not meant to be a blatant, shout-out William Shatner reference,” said Ashley.

“No other references to William Shatner in it?” I asked.

“No. It’s about a man and his son and the dad has got Asperger’s. It’s about their relationship and his relationship with other people.”

“Your dad,” I said, “has got Asperger’s.”

“Yes.”

“How did the pilot happen?” I asked.

“The BBC had a commissioning round,” said Ashley. “I put in two pitches and I tried to make one of them tick every box I thought they wanted. I knew the demographic for Radio Scotland was mainly older men, so I wrote a comedy about fishermen, about a small fishing village in Scotland and a woman turns up to take over a boat and, you know, they don’t believe women should be on boats because it’s bad luck. So I submitted that, but I also had this thing I had kind of worked on when I was younger – I probably wrote the original treatment about six years ago – it was about a man with Asperger’s. And that was the one they picked. No-one really liked the proposal about fishermen, apart from me.”

“Why did you write about fishermen?” I asked.

“I really like programmes about fishermen. I watch a lot of Deadliest Catch and Wicked Tuna.”

Fishermen with oilskin jacket (left) and high trousers (right).

Fishermen with oilskin jacket (left) and high trousers (right).

“Didn’t you get the hots at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago,” I asked, “for some group of young men dressed as fishermen, roaming round the streets singing sea shanties?”

“That was in Adelaide,” said Ashley.

“Wasn’t it Edinburgh?”

“They might have been in Edinburgh as well… Bound. They were called Bound. There was a woman with a squint eye who really liked them and she kept going: I looov Bound! Me and Bound have been owt! She didn’t refer to them individually; they were just Bound.”

“But,” I said, “Conundrums My Dad Says is not about fishermen but about a father with Asperger’s Syndrome.”

“The whole point,” said Ashley, “is that the father is the one with a syndrome but he is probably the most normal person in his circle, even though he’s the one with autism. He sees the world more clearly and that’s important to me and I think it’s important especially in this day and age where so many people – because Asperger’s is such a ‘new’ thing – so many people who for years thought they were strange or socially abnormal or couldn’t make friends – they’re all just autistic.”

The cast of Conundrums My Dad Says (Ashley 3rd from left)

The cast of Conundrums My Dad Says (Ashley 3rd from left)

“You’re in it but not in a major role,” I said.

“I’m in a supporting role.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I wrote it about a man and his son. I thought it would be more interesting to see the dynamics between a man and his son rather than a man and his daughter. I think that would have been a completely different story.”

“Would that have been too autobiographical?” I asked.

“A wee bit. I didn’t want it to be This Is Your Life in a radio show. When I handed in the first draft, that was questioned a lot.”

“That you had not done it as a man and his daughter?”

“Yes. I genuinely just thought the dynamics between two men would be funnier. As a female, there is a certain amount of… especially on screen and in the media… women are always more understanding and have a little bit more compassion… and it’s harder. When you see women on TV and in films who are less compassionate and colder, they’re less well-received. I wanted there to be that friction of somebody not quite being able to deal with their dad and I think that comes better off a man. I just think it’s funnier. Especially as that man is his role model.”

“So,” I said, “it’s more of a comedy drama than a traditional sitcom which is there simply for the laughs.”

“It is not gag-gag-gag,” said Ashley, “but I don’t think it could be. I don’t think you would do Asperger’s any service by just being gag-gag-gag. It’s warm and its loving and it’s funny. It’s not dark. It’s the least dark thing I’ve ever written.”

“If it were a traditional sitcom,” I suggested, “you would be laughing at them rather than with them.”

“Yes,” said Ashley. “And this is more subtle. I want people to feel warm. You remember old sitcoms? They had a warmth to them, especially in British sitcoms. They weren’t like The Big Bang Theory which is joke-joke-joke. I wanted that warmth to be evident in mine. A lot of people have Asperger’s and it should be discussed and it should be accepted. We should be able to laugh about it. But not at it.”

“Have you 15 other sitcom ideas lined up?” I asked.

Janey Godley Ashley Storrie

Ashley Storrie with her mother, comedienne Janey Godley

“I’m always jotting shite down and telling mum, then watching her stare blankly at me as I tell her my idea of a sitcom set in space or for a drama about people who make clothes for animals.”

“Is that a real one?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you going to have your own solo show at the Fringe next year?”

“Yeah.”

“On the Free Festival?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you have a title for the show yet?”

“Well, it’s easy with my name. I’m spoiled for choice. I could have Never Ending Storrie…or The Storrie of My Life Featuring One Direction.”

“You own a toy action figure of William Shatner,” I said.

“I do.”

The Storrie of William Shatner?” I suggested.

“No,” said Ashley.

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My egg throwing goes into a new text book and financial provocateur Max Keiser launches his own currency

My blog yesterday was about giving a speech at comedian Chris Luby’s funeral.

An earlier choice for speaker had been juggler Steve Rawlings, who toured the UK with Chris. But it turned out he was in Berlin. He had got scouted by Cirque du Soleil, gone out to meet them and become part of their artist list.

Last night (still in Berlin) he told me:

“One of my favourite memories of Chris was when he was struggling to get gigs and I’d got him one in a club down in the South of England and had picked him up at his house and taken him to the gig.

“He did a great show, of course, and afterwards went off to the bar to celebrate while I went off to do my act.

Chris Luby R.I.P

Chris Luby recreated movie Zulu in the UK

“At the end of the night, after the gig, I found him at the bar totally drunk doing his impersonation of the songs and chants of the Zulu army – as in the movie Zulu – when they attacked Rorke’s Drift, complete with spear and shield motions.

“He was performing this to two very large and very angry-looking black guys.

“I managed to drag him away before someone killed him, but the funny thing was – being Chris – all the sounds and words of the chants would have been 100% accurate and it would never have occurred to him that sharing this knowledge with two big black guys would have caused offence.”

Steve also remembered: “Playing Trivial Pursuits with Chris was a bit pointless as he knew all the answers and would only stop going around the board when he got one wrong on purpose so you would keep playing with him”.

If you are reading this blog on the day it was posted, there is a high likelihood I will still be making my own way to Germany. I am travelling to Leipzig with comedian Nick Revell (unless something goes wrong with the trains) for the first gig at Vivienne and Martin Soan’s new Leipzig club – a sort of Pull The Other One East – at Noch Besser Leben (which translates as Still Better Living). Obviously, Nick is performing and I am not. Martin and Vivienne are not that experimental nor mental.

Going to Leipzig seemed like a good idea when it was first suggested and still seems a fairly good idea despite the fact it is a 12-hour train trip.

When this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith heard I was going to Leipzig, her reaction was: “Not Leipzig, Saskatchewan, I hope!”

“Why?” I asked. So far, there has been no response.

The wonderful world of sexist, slobbering Wilfredo

The wonderful world of sexist, slobbering Wilfredo

Comedian Matt Roper’s response was: “I’m in San Francisco, showering them with spittle tonight (as his character Wilfredo), then off to Los Angeles tomorrow. Nothing really much to write about here, except that I finally managed to make it coast to coast across the US without flying!”

This seemed mildly eccentric – and then I opened three bizarre e-mails one-after-the-other.

The first was from publishers Pearson Education, asking if they could use 79 words from one of my 2012 blogs about the World Egg Throwing Championships in a new educational textbook they are producing titled Skills For Writing. They said: “We would like to request permission to include the material, within the electronic components of our publication.”

I have no idea what this really means nor why they want to use 79 words from the blog, versions of which were re-published both in the UK edition of the Huffington Post and by the Indian news site WSN (We Speak News).

John Ward smashes the losing egg on his forehead

John Ward loses to me as he smashes an egg on his forehead

The blog’s headline was World Egg Throwing Championships: Cheaper and Funnier Than the Olympics and the words Pearson want to use are:

I triumphed in the Russian Egg Roulette heats in face-offs with two small children, who seemed to be the only children in the contest. I faced John Ward in the semi-final. I triumphed again.

In the grand final, I unfortunately faced a large man called Jerry Cullen, dressed in black and wearing sunglasses. The first four of the six eggs we smashed on our foreheads were hard-boiled, leaving only two more eggs – one for each of us…

The fact that Pearson Education wanted to use this in a textbook entitled Skills For Writing was a little surprising. But not as surprising as the next e-mail I opened, which told me that Max Keiser – whom I like to describe as an American financial provocateur who appears on Russian and Iranian TV and who has occasionally appeared in my blog… was launching his own currency last night, not totally dissimilar to Bitcoin. It is being called Maxcoin.

Max, in Paris, gives his opinions to Al Jazeera English

Max, in Paris, gives his opinions to Al Jazeera English channel

I asked Max to tell me more. He sent me an e-mail saying:

“Maxcoin is being developed at the University of Bristol which has some of the best crypto talent in the world. Anybody looking to get into a fast growing industry that pays incredibly well should look into their programs.”

This doesn’t help me much, but then he sent me an even more jaw-dropping e-mail detailing something that I am not allowed to talk about for another couple of weeks.

We live in interesting times, but then we always have.

Ashley Storrie, the daughter of my chum Janey Godley, has been nominated as Best New Scottish Comedian by Capital FM. The awards are being announced on 22nd March and you can vote here.

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Chasing pussy at Edinburgh Fringe + Lewis Schaffer develops terminal cancer

Lewis Schaffer (left) , Lach and Phil Kay last night

Lewis Schaffer (left in white), Lach and Phil Kay last night

It was 01.40am this morning, when I left Bob Slayer’s first Midnight Mayhem show which has no structure and simply has performers and members of the (if they want to) paying public doing pretty much whatever comes into Bob Slayer’s head – a risky concept at the end of the day, given Bob’s proclivity for drink.

Frank Sanazi croons “It’s Auschwitz" last night

Frank Sanazi crooned about Auschwitz craft

The show was still going strong with Phil Kay just about to start his second musical set.

Earlier, Frank Sanazi had performed one song to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s Witchcraft which he told us he now no longer sings in public (because of too many complaints) – Auschwitzcraft. And Lewis Schaffer had refused to perform his legendary three-part Holocaust joke.

A punter called Sally said it was her third visit to the Fringe over the years and she and her man had seen three shows at the major venues over the course of the day, two of which she said were “shit”. She asked what were the requirements for performing on the Fringe.

Kate Copstick, there to review Midnight Mayhem for the Scotsman newspaper, told Sally that it was a free-access festival and if you paid (one particular major venue) £5,000 up-front, then that was your qualification for performing.

Midnight Mayhem was happening in Bob’s Bookshop which, as a Pay What You Want show within the Free Festival within the overall Edinburgh Fringe, is in a rather different league but it was one which Sally seemed to say was what she had thought she was going to experience when she came to the Fringe for the first time. The earlier shows had not been this anarchic.

Andy Zapp - the current man in my bed at Edinburgh Fringe

Andy Zapp – the current man in my bed at Edinburgh Fringe

My day had started oddly, having breakfast with Lewis Schaffer at midday. Also at the meal – well it was a snack, really – were Ivor Dembina and the man currently sleeping in my bed, Andy Zapp. (I should point out I am sleeping in the living room next door.)

“What’s your best advice to young new comedians?” Ivor Dembina asked Andy.

“It’s good to make money while you’re still shit,” replied Andy.

Lewis Schaffer told us that his Fringe show next year would be called Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer and would contain details of his battle with a life-threatening form of cancer.

“What sort of cancer?” I asked.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he replied. All Lewis Schaffer knows so far is that his show will have to be life-affirming and he says he feels he has to establish the title Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer early, in case someone else uses it.

In a press release later in the day, he wrote:

I have never had cancer, nor do I have cancer, but I hope someday to have cancer. Cancer worked for comic greats Andy Kaufman, Bill Hicks and Tig Notaro – why shouldn’t it work for me? My apologies to everyone who has cancer and everyone who hasn’t had cancer.

Has anyone seen Kitler? Lost in Edinburgh.

Anyone seen Kitler? Allegedly lost by F.Sanazi

At around the same time I received this press release, Frank Sanazi phoned me up with news that he was sticking up posters all over Edinburgh about the tragic loss of his pet cat Kitler. The feline was not, as far as he knew, dead but (he claimed) had gone missing in action on Thursday.

He told me he would give me more information if I came to see his show Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II (which I had already arranged to do.)

Yesterday was a day I had chosen to see shows by other acts I already knew. For example, I saw two shows by previous winners of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.

Johnny Sorrow (left) in The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society

Johnny Sorrow (left) – Bob Blackman Appreciation Society

The first was Johnny Sorrow, appearing as 50% of the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society. I laughed out loud throughout, something I rarely do. The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society Bonanza show included tap-dancing fleas and ‘the man with no act’ and – suitably for a show steeped in showbiz nostalgia and kitsch – it also included the soundtrack of an ITV trailer of the type I used to make for 20 years.

After the show, I chatted briefly with increasingly prestigious award-winning Johnny Sorrow and he told me:

“A couple of weeks ago in Stockport, Bob Blackman’s grand-daughter Abbie came to see our show. She lives in Macclesfield.”

“Poor woman,” I said. “How did she hear about you?”

“She saw us our name on the internet and thought What the hell’s this? and got in contact with us.”

Bob Blackman used to appear on TV hitting his head with a metal tray to the tune Mule Train. It was a memorable act, now sadly and unjustly forgotten by most subsequent generations of thrill-seekers.

“We found out where Bob Blackman actually started the act,” Johnny Sorrow told me yesterday. “It was at the Waterman’s Arms pub on the Isle of Dogs in London. At first, he used to do the act just by hitting the tray on his knees but then, one day, the Watermans Arms was so packed the tray couldn’t be seen, so he started hitting himself on the head with the metal tray and his fame just took off. His son Raymond told me that. You know you can get plaques put up on walls where cult comedians did famous things? We want a plaque up for Bob Blackman.”

The Rubberbandits at the Gilded Balloon yesterday

The rousing Rubberbandits at the Gilded Balloon yesterday

The second Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winning act I saw yesterday was Ireland’s Rubberbandits, regaling a packed Gilded Balloon venue with their greatest hits including Spastic Hawk and Up The RA (including the appearance on stage of two balaklava-wearing fake IRA members).

I rather enjoyed the particularly bad taste of their Spoiling Ivan,

The Gilded Balloon seems to be on a roll this year. Earlier, I had seen two other shows by top-notch acts.

Janey Godley was untagged in Edinburgh yesterday

Janey Godley happily ungagged in Edinburgh

My chum Janey Godley has returned for two weeks only to the Edinburgh Fringe – after a break of a couple of years – with a stonkingly good show Janey Godley Is Ungagged mostly about social media.

But it also has one of the most interesting anti-police stories I have heard and Janey’s barnstorming performance occasionally teetered on the edge of successful rabble-rousing.

When she said she was thinking of standing as an MP (I think she was joking – although the late Margaret Thatcher once suggested Janey should enter politics) she was loudly cheered and, by the end, she was telling the audience to be ungagged and to realise words are just words and had them chanting along with her Cunt! Cunt! Cunt! which – as everyone knows – is a term of endearment in Glasgow.

Ashley Storrie with mother Janey at the Gilded yesterday

Ashley Storrie and mother Janey Godley at the Gilded Balloon

As always, Janey did the whole show unscripted and, for these particular Edinburgh shows, she is preceded by a 15-minute warm-up performed by her daughter Ashley Storrie.

I had never seen Ashley perform stand-up before. She got 4-star reviews at the Fringe when she performed as a 13-year-old in 1999, but lost interest in it shortly after that. A couple of years ago, she performed at the Fringe with sketch show Alchemy but, this year, she started doing pure stand-up again. I talked to her about it in January.

On-stage, she has her mother’s self-confidence and audience-controlling charm. Astonishing.

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette Burton in her first grown-up solo show

As is Juliette Burton’s show When I Grow Up, also at the Gilded Balloon.

“I was walking round today flyering people,” Juliette told me after the show, “and I remembered the first time I came up to the Fringe in 2005, just as a punter. Back then, I was really, really jealous of all the performers and now I am one.”

“Which is what your show’s about,” I said. “realising dreams. Though the one thing you do not say in your show is that, as a kid, you wanted to be a comedian when you grew up.”

Juliette Burton gets a dream Fringe pass

Juliette gets her dream performer’s pass

“Not a stand-up comedian,” replied Juliette. “And that’s not what I am now. Why does comedy have to be stand-up? Why do you have to necessarily adhere to one specific form of comedy to be considered a comic performer? If you’re billed as a comedian, everyone assumes you’re going to do stand-up.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I saw Janey Godley earlier this evening and she’s called a comedian, but she’s really not a traditional comedian – she’s a brilliant storyteller who gets laughs.”

“I don’t see,” continued Juliette, “why comedy has to be set-up/punchline/gag. Why can’t comedy take different forms? Mine is very mainstream storytelling, but it would not fit in the theatre section of the Fringe Programme: it would be too comedic. On the other hand, it’s not stand-up comedy.”

“The videos are very funny,” I said. “I normally don’t like videos plonked into live shows to attract TV producers. But your videos and recorded interviews are a seamless part of the live show.”

“I guess,” said Juliette, “that it’s poking fun at some of the social boundaries that we’ve enforced upon ourselves in ways that – I don’t want to give away what’s in the show, but I like to do things that might seem absurd and crazy and like a nutcase, but actually the real crazy thing is not to enjoy what you’re doing with your life.”

“I suppose,” I said, “that your enthusiastic presenting style says to the audience that it’s a showbiz, comedic piece, but it’s not actually..”

Juliette foregrounded by either arms or legs

Juliette (right) sings at rockfest T In the Park

“How can you define comedy?” Juliette interrupted. “I’m very honest on stage. In a way, a stand-up comedian’s routine is more dishonest than what I’m saying. Several people have told me in the last couple of days that they are tiring of stand-up because it’s so predictable. They actually want something a bit different, something to surprise them.

“Stand-up – however shocking it might be – swearing and taboo subjects – is no longer pushing any boundaries. So maybe redefining what a comedy show is might be the next boundary to push.”

“I cried at one point in your show,” I said. “Not from laughter. From sadness. Despite the fact I had seen the show before and knew what was coming. It has shades and the audience don’t see what’s coming. Sometimes comedy is best when you laugh AND cry”

Juliette’s pop promo for her song Dreamers (When I Grow Up) – recorded specially for her show – can be seen on YouTube and the song can bought online. All money made during the Fringe will be donated to Children In Need.

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Janey Godley’s daughter Ashley returns to comedy & tells of lugs, bear & gangrel

(This was also published by the Huffington Post and on Indian news site WSN)

Ashley Storrie in Edinburgh's Waverley station yesterday

Ashley Storrie at Edinburgh’s Waverley station yesterday

Scots comedienne Janey Godley’s daughter Ashley Storrie has decided to take up comedy again, after a gap of about 11 years (depending on how you calculate it).

Ashley got her first acting part at the age of three as ‘the wee girl in the metal tea urn’ in the movie Alabama.

At five, she was playing the lead child in a TV ad for Fairy Liquid soap powder – directed by Ken Loach.

In 1996, aged ten, she was cast in the lead role of the independent film Wednesday’s Child, which received enthusiastic reviews when screened in the British pavilion at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

Aged eleven, she performed her first ever stand-up comedy routine at the International Women’s Day celebrations in Glasgow and went on to do stand-up in London supporting, among others, Omid Djallili.

Ashley's Edinburgh Fringe show when she was 13

Ashley’s Edinburgh comedy show, aged 13

In 1999, still only thirteen, she wrote, produced and performed her own show What Were You Doing When You Were 13? at the Edinburgh Fringe, becoming the youngest ever stand up in the history of the Festival. She was also offered a chance to appear in the Jay Leno chat show on US TV but decided she preferred instead to go on a school trip to the Lake District in England.

She lost interest in performing live comedy when she was around fifteen.

She did appear in a sketch show Square Street with her mother at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe and in an another sketch show Alchemy, staged by Brown Eyed Boy at the 2011 Fringe. And she records a weekly podcast with her mother. But, as I understood it, she had lost her appetite for live comedy performing.

She once told me: “I can smell a comedy promoter from a mile off: they smell of cocaine, alcohol and self-doubt.”

“So why have you got an enthusiasm for performing again?” I asked her when we met in Edinburgh yesterday.

“Well,” she said, “I enjoy making people laugh. I think the reason I stopped was mainly because of fear, but you come to a point where you decide you’ll either be scared your entire life or just do it and stop being a pussy.”

“But you weren’t scared when you were thirteen,” I said.

“You’re not scared of anything when you’re thirteen,” she told me. “I was fearless.”

“But you did get a bit worried when you were fourteen?” I asked.

“I did a bit.” she said. “That’s when puberty struck and I started to worry about  a lot of stuff. When puberty hit, I grew out of my comedy material and it stopped being fun and all I started to do was worry about boobs and the like. I had more important things to worry about, John, like menstruation and breasts.”

“I worried about the same things around the same age,” I told her.

Poster for The Stockholm Syndrome

Glasgow poster for Stockholm Syndrome

“I’m part of a sketch group now,” Ashley continued, “called The Stockholm Syndrome. I started working with some of them a couple of years ago in Alchemy at the Fringe and we just got together after that and they got me more stage time and the more time I spent with them the more I think I did get Stockholm Syndrome. And I started to think I’m going to do this properly.”

“So you’re performing with them at the Glasgow Comedy Festival…”

“Yes, at The Garage on 23rd March. We’ve done The Garage a few times and there’s a comedy collective type of thing where sketch groups get together. It’s called Lip Service or Tongue Service or something. We do bits there. But a lot of it’s really surreal and I don’t get it. So I bring to the table a level-headedness…”

“You?” I asked. “But you are surreal.”

“I don’t think I’m surreal. I think I’m mainstream.”

“But you’re always doing bizarre characters,” I insisted.

“I don’t think they’re surreal,” said Ashley, “I think they… I… I did the Russian gypsy lady who thinks everybody’s got a tiny vagina.”

“You’re always going into character voices,” I said.

“Well, this is a tip,” Ashley told me. “When you get cold calls trying to sell you things, just pick up on a character and see how long you can get these people to engage with you… I had a man on the phone from India asking me if I had a whirlpool washing machine and he asked me how old it was.

“I told him (Ashley adopts an old woman’s voice) Oh! I’ll have to cut it open and count the rings… and this went on for ages and I think I ended up singing him a song. It went on for about half an hour and he eventually hung up the phone on me. He cottoned-on that I was just being annoying.

“And then sometimes I do scary (she adopts a rasping, throaty voice) Hell-oh!… Hell-oh! and I just do that over and over again until they hang up. And sometimes I do ‘crying baby’ and that really freaks them out. And once I did (she makes harsh, screeching sounds like a demented seagull) for ages and the man asked Are you singing or are you laughing? I just kept doing it until he hung up. I think they just phone me to wind me up.”

“I think,” I suggested, “that maybe your fame has gone round the Indian call centres and they’ve heard you’re entertaining to phone up.”

“You think I’m huge in Indian call centres?” laughed Ashley.

“But not yet in the UK,” I said. “Why aren’t you doing the Edinburgh Fringe this year, you idiot?”

“I think the Fringe is over-rated now,” said Ashley. “Too many big name acts coming and doing their big shows with just the same shite they do on their DVDs and people only want to see what they’ve seen on the telly. We’ve become a frivolous race of people who don’t want to try new things. The Fringe is wasteful.

“I spent my youth doing other people’s shows. Working for PR at the Underbelly and working for mum. I have no interest putting myself through that for myself. I’ve seen it first-hand and… och!”

“But now you are going back on stage again,” I said.

“I do like being back on stage,” said Ashley, “I just don’t want to do the Edinburgh Fringe, unless somebody else is going to produce me and I don’t have to worry about it. Maybe if one of those cunty big management/promoter companies put me on somewhere I’d do it. Then I wouldn’t have to flyer.”

“You could flyer in a bear costume,” I suggested, “and no-one would know.”

“When I was researching Glasgow history for the comedy bus tour I did with mum at the Merchant City Festival,” said Ashley, “I found out that, in the Trongate, there’s been two notable incidents of bear attacks.”

“Bear attacks?” I asked. “When?”

“Oh, the 1800s,” said Ashley. “One of them was a dancing bear from Russia who attacked a man and was put on trial and was killed on the gallows and the people of Glasgow felt so bad for his owner, who wept over the bear’s corpse, that they let this man carry his dead bear’s corpse over his shoulders like a giant rug through the streets in silence… Which was really rare, because hangings were very popular in Glasgow… They had to stop the hangings because people were skipping work to go to these hangings and to go to the lug-pinnings.”

“Lug-pinnings?” I asked.

“That was when they nailed people’s ears to the walls,” she explained.

“Why?” I asked.

“It was a punishment for annoying people,” said Ashley matter-of-factly. “There was a nasty, gossipy bitch who lived in the East End of Glasgow and they grabbed her tongue and dragged her by the tongue through the town to teach her a lesson about not being a gossipy bitch.”

“How long did people have their lugs pinned back for?” I asked.

“A day,” said Ashley. “They just pinned your lugs to the Tron. You got your lugs pinned to the door. They had to stop doing it, though. They didn’t stop doing it because it was inhumane. They stopped doing it because people would skip work to come and throw shit at these people.

“On the days of hangings or lug-pinnings, the bosses would come in to work and none of the weavers would be there, because they’d all be down at the gallows or at the lug-pinning to go and mock.

Hawkie's autobiography

Hawkie’s autobiography of a gangrel

“One of the biggest selling-points was an old man called Hawkie… He was a book hawker. He used to tell the stories of the criminals written about in the little books he sold. And this guy became famous because his stories were always more interesting than what was in the books. He was like the original Billy Connolly. He would have hundreds of people gathered round him as he told the woeful tale of some Irish settler or whoever had come in and been hung. And people would buy the book and it was nowhere near as interesting as this old guy had made it out to be.

“During hangings, there was a lot of tension because Irish immigrants were being hung and there was a lot of tension between the Irish immigrants and the Glasgow Justices of the Peace.”

“Because of religion?” I asked.

“No, just because they were tinkers,” said Ashley. “And Hawkie would make jokes and defuse the situation and make everybody laugh at times when tensions were rising. This old, smelly book-hawker would stand up and say something inappropriate to the hangman and get everyone laughing and everything would be fine.”

“Just like a stand-up comedian,” I said.

“He was Billy Connolly before Billy Connolly existed,” said Ashley. “You should look up Hawkie. He wrote an autobiography. (Hawkie: The Autobiography of a Gangrel, 1888) He was one of the first paupers to write a book.”

“Did he make money out of it?” I asked.

“No, because it got published posthumously.”

“There’s no money in books,” I said. “Except for your mother’s, of course. You should write a surreal one.”

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Comic Janey Godley’s daughter Ashley Storrie collapses in a Glasgow street

Mother and daughter team Janey Godley and Ashley Storrie

As I’m mentioned in it in passing…

To hear Janey Godley‘s weekly podcast Episode 109, CLICK HERE

Janey talks with daughter Ashley Storrie about her collapse in a Glasgow street this week.

Plus Janey on BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute + interviews with writer Neil Gaiman and musician Dean Friedman + Fringe shows to catch. And Ashley reads from her 2001 teenage diary.

The one-off, one-night-only performance of #timandfreya dramatised by Ashley from Janey’s viral Twitter tweets about an overheard argument on a train from Glasgow to London is being staged at the Pleasance venue in Edinburgh on Monday (20th August) at 7.15pm.

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