This morning I was having an e-mail conversation with superb performer John Williams.
I missed his show My Son’s Not Rainman at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, but saw it recently at London’s Canal Cafe Theatre.
It is about life with his autistic son.
John did not put a creative step wrong in it anywhere. Writing, delivery, intonation, pacing, laughter, tears. All absolutely 100% spot-on for 100% of the time.
I mentioned to him this morning that he is difficult to find online because his name is relatively common. He told me:
“I did stand-up comedy years ago and had a stage name then – John Lauren – it became a bit of a thing to hide behind. I didn’t gig much, I got to the final of Laughing Horse’s New Act of The Year in 2002 after eight gigs, was completely out of my depth, got a bloody awful review and ran away for ten years… I always said if I was coming back I’d use my proper name so there was no safety net – it certainly makes me difficult to find, though. It has been handy over the years for dealing with credit reference agencies, less so for publicity.”
I told him:
“My full name is John Thomas Fleming (I don’t think John Thomas meant anything to my parents) and, when I first applied for my National Insurance number it took about six months to get because there were six – SIX – John Thomas Flemings all born on exactly the same day and they thought I was the one in Newcastle trying to pull some scam. Who would have thought? SIX! It tends to keep your ego in check at a sensibly early stage about your own uniqueness.”
John Williams’ reaction was:
“Christ Almighty, I’m another John Thomas – I thought I was the only one whose parents managed that stunt. I kept my middle name top secret after years of stick at school then realised on my wedding day that I would have to come clean as the vicar would declare in front on the congregation: Do you take John Thomas… So, I suffered the indignity of finally confessing my true name only for the vicar to just refer to me as John.”
In this blog a couple of days ago, I posted two chats with comedian/executive business coach Neil Mullarkey.
In the 1980s, he was in a double act with Mike Myers who went on, in 1997, to make the first of his three Austin Powers movies (in which Neil Mullarkey appeared).
Back in 1985, Mullarkey & Myers were founder members of The Comedy Store Players and both were at the start of their careers.
Neil Mullarkey was 24 and Mike Myers was 22.
They wrote a list which I had been going to include in my Neil Mullarkey blogs this week, but which I regretfully cut for reasons of length. On second thoughts, though, it is maybe worth posting as a comment on the nature of time and fame and humility.
Most people born after a certain date will not know who most of the people mentioned in this list are… or were. Fame is fleeting. Names and people and their lives are quickly forgotten.
Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas.
This is Mullarkey & Myers’ 1985 list of…
AMBITIONS FOR ’86 AND BEYOND
- to meet Reg Varney (On The Buses)
- to meet Doug McClure (Trampas in The Virginian)
- for Reg Varney to meet Doug McClure
- to be asked to do a prestigious benefit gig
- to perfect their Mexican accents
- to bring happiness to people who are sad
- to meet Bob Todd (the tall bald bloke on Benny Hill)
- to visit East Finchley
- to write a sketch set in ancient Greece, so they can wear sheets as if they were togas and do their hair in a funny way and wear laurel leaves round their heads and also sandals
- to travel
- oh, and be happy
- to make it big
- to punish Hawaii for the brutal slaughter of Captain Cook
- to meet Roger Ramjet
- to be in one of the Brylcream adverts
- to release a hit single, get on Top of the Pops and ask the people on it why they dance in such a funny way, also to meet Dave Lee Travis
- to make it really big