Tag Archives: Australia

Comic Nathan Lang: “Self-loathing is not normal unless you are a comedian”

Nathan Lang is from Melbourne. He used to appear in the Australian TV soap Neighbours. But I know him from the London stand-up comedy circuit.

I got an email from him:

“For better or worse, I’m back in the UK. Yes I managed to have a baby in Perth and survive the existential breakdown that comes with living in the most isolated city in the world and now I’m back. 

“I’m running a Comedy Cabaret in aid of Hackney Winter Night Shelter again this year on Tuesday 3rd December. The line up is fantastic. Last year we sold out and raised much more money than expected, it’s a really wonderful night deep in the heart of artsy Hackney Wick.

“It’s not stand-up. The line-up a beautiful, colourful, lighthearted, crazy, unique acts that don’t do stand-up.”

So we had a chat. About two weeks ago.

And I have only just transcribed it.

I got severely side-tracked.

The charity cabaret is tomorrow. Mea Culpa. But, as with many of my blogs, we went way-off subject anyway…


Nathan, baby Chilli and Shelley Lang in Australia

NATHAN: My wife Shelley and I went to Perth on 25th November 2018 to have a baby. Shelley’s family live there. They emigrated from Scotland.

JOHN: I remember I was terribly impressed by your wife when I met her ages ago. Perhaps because she’s Scottish.

NATHAN: Because she’s Scottish, she is a radiant beauty and just the most exhilarating person. That’s definitely what impresses me about her.

JOHN: How long were you back in Australia?

NATHAN: Eight months. We came back on the 9th September 2019. Our daughter is ten months old now.

JOHN: Shelley must have been well-progressed in pregnancy when you got there.

NATHAN: We just scraped in. We really needed the family support and the health care in Australia is really amazing. 

JOHN: And the comedy?

NATHAN: The comedy scene in Perth is stand-up. A very small scene, but the standard is really high. The quality really pushed me to improve quite a lot. It’s similar to a Brighton crowd. They go out; they want to have a really good evening of laughs. Great audiences and one pro comedy club. Just stand-up. It’s stand-up or cabaret there and their version of cabaret is really highly-skilled circus acts who take their clothes off.

JOHN: I want to go there.

NATHAN: Then it’s probably worth that 30-hour journey. 

JOHN: Australia is a faraway place.

NATHAN: And Perth is the most isolated city in the world and it feels like it too.

JOHN: So what are you doing on 4th December, the day after your Hackney charity gig?

NATHAN: That’s my day with chilli.

JOHN: With what?

NATHAN: That’s my day with Chilli – my daughter – Her name is Chilli Bobcat.

JOHN: She’s going to get hell in school with those names.

NATHAN: I was going to call her Strawberry until a friend said: “Remember she’ll go to school one day.”

JOHN: So Bobcat is better?

NATHAN: My middle name is Luke.

JOHN: Biblical?

NATHAN: No, my father used to work for a company that distributed cutlery and our cutlery drawer was full of knives and forks that had ‘Luke’ printed on them… I am named after kitchen cutlery.

JOHN: But, basically, you think Bobcat is a more feminine name than Strawberry?

NATHAN: No, Strawberry was going to be her first name but Shelley came up with the brilliant idea of calling her Chilli – after the pepper – which is a cool name.

JOHN: So why Bobcat…?

NATHAN: On Christmas Day, Shelley and I were sober. She was heavily pregnant. Her Scottish family, obviously, were steaming and we said they could choose a middle name. We had not told them whether it was going to be a boy or girl, so they chose a unisex middle name – Bobbie. But then, knowing her first name, we obviously couldn’t call her Chilli Bobbie.

JOHN: Why?

NATHAN: The rhythm of that and the two double consonants…

JOHN: So Chilli Bobcat is better than Chilli Bobbie?

NATHAN: We squeezed Cat in because my grandmother’s name was Kathleen.

JOHN: Just to recap… You had thought Strawberry was a good name…

NATHAN: Just for a while… Do you know it’s illegal to call your kid ‘Strawberry’ – ‘Fraise’ – in France?

This would be illegal in France if a child (Photo: Irene Kredenets via UnSplash)

JOHN: Why?

NATHAN: Bullying. There is a list of names you cannot call your kid in France – ‘Hitler’ is one of them.

JOHN: Strawberry is on a level with Hitler in France?

NATHAN: It’s child protection. Social Services. For the welfare of the child. They care about their children’s future in France.

JOHN: They don’t want a future generation of fruits?

NATHAN: Who knows. But Chilli Bobcat Lang: it has a nice ring to it.

JOHN: I think the surname lets it down. It’s a bit ordinary after Chilli Bobcat.

NATHAN: She might just call herself CB. Or she might go by a symbol like Prince did for a while. It might be her first squiggle on a piece of paper. Or she might change her name from Bobcat. She might prefer Caracal.

JOHN: Caracal?

NATHAN: It’s a type of cat that lives in the savannah desert. They jump really high and catch birds in mid-air.

JOHN: Anyway, so what ARE you doing after the Hackney charity gig?

NATHAN: I’m always pursuing my acting career.

JOHN: You seem happy.

NATHAN: It’s the anti-depressants.

JOHN: You’re on them?

Nathan Lang at St Pancras station, London

NATHAN: Yeah. You have obviously never lived in Perth.

After my daughter was born, I had a psychological breakdown and was put on very strong anti-depressants immediately and entered into depth psychotherapy analytic psychotherapy – which was well overdue.

JOHN: Because of Perth?

NATHAN: Well, I can’t blame Perth any more than I can blame my parents, really.

JOHN: Why was it long overdue?

NATHAN: It’s not like I had a psychosis or anything. I had a very sudden intensification of what turned out to be a pre-existing condition of depression and anxiety that I had been living with for so many years I just thought it was normal.

But, after speaking to a GP and a therapist, I was led quite quickly to realise it’s not normal to wake up every day under a huge weight, a huge pressure of knowing that everything you do all day is never going to be good enough and you are going to punish yourself for everything at the end of the day as you run through every single thing you’ve said and done in your mind or just drink yourself to sleep.

It’s not normal to exist in every waking – and sleeping – moment in a state of constant self-loathing and believing you’re a worthless piece of shit… unless you are a comedian, in which case of course (LAUGHS) it IS normal.

So… yes… anti-depressants are wonderful… I feel like I got myself back… and I got my joy back.

JOHN: And you are OK now?

NATHAN: I’m able to be an engaged and joyful father. I was really, really worried about what Chilli would absorb. And it was so hard on Shelley. The first few months of being a new mother AND having me falling apart was… I tried my best to hold together but your most intimates see what’s happening.

JOHN: Men are not supposed to get post-natal depression.

NATHAN: Well, they do, though I have never met one who will admit he has. But I don’t think that’s what I had. It was not a sudden, acute affliction. It was just the exacerbation of a feeling that I was already quite familiar with.

JOHN: I guess women get post-natal depression because they suddenly realise the full enormity of what they’ve let themselves in for.

NATHAN: I heard some interviews with British women who suffered postpartum psychosis and they were sectioned immediately after their children were born and those stories were horrendous.

JOHN: Why did you come back to the UK?

NATHAN: Our careers.

JOHN: What is Shelley?

NATHAN: A trainee psychotherapist.

JOHN: That’s useful.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Mental health, Mental illness, Psychology, UK

The Australian pop artists, a Canadian A&E and tripping over steaks for dogs

This week, my blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith, has been in the Accident & Emergency Department of St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

She sent me an email headed:

An unusually quiet night at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver

THE POLICEMAN AND HELEN OF TASMANIA

The e-mail read:

Happy Aortic Dissection Awareness Day.

Today is a good day.

and then there was a description of what had happened.

Sort of.

Well, not really.

Well, not at all.

She preceded her description with the comment: “It’s pretty disconnected. I am too sleepy to make sense. It is about a man in uniform with Helen of Tasmania – the doctor and the cop.”

This is what Anna wrote:


It was an unusually quiet night at St. Paul’s A&E. A weird Sunday night. I was the only patient in the ward where I was and most of the doctors were dealing with a patient in the trauma ward. The nurse said it had been more interesting the night before… “Lots of drunk people with facial injuries,” she said.

It was very cold and a young newly graduated nurse was pacing back and forth wearing a flannel sheet like a shawl to keep warm, which obscured her identification, so I wasn’t quite sure whether she was staff or perhaps a mentally distressed patient.

Policeman & Helen of Tasmania, seen from Anna’s bed

And there was a lady in a yellow gown.

When I asked her name, she said “Helen”… though it appeared to me that she was my doctor. I asked if she was English because I didn’t catch her accent. She said she was from Tasmania. 

So I said: ”Oh, the Franklin River…”

She said: “You have got a good memory.”

I didn’t correct her but, actually, it wasn’t a matter of memory. My friend Harold The Kangaroo painted hundreds of banners for the environmentalists (including himself) who prevented a dam from being built on the Franklin River, which was being maligned at the time as a “leech ridden ditch”. So it was not something I am likely to forget. I am not against all development, but calling the Franklin River a leech ridden ditch was too much.

Harold The Kangaroo also made a very interesting painting – a portrait of Dr Bob Brown combined with a documentation of the protest. 

The painting is fantastic. It is called Dr Brown and Green Old Time Waltz and it now hangs in The National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

Dr Brown and Green Old Time Waltz – the 1983 paining by Harold (The Kangaroo) Thornton

I met Harold (The Kangaroo) Thornton and his fiancée Ms. Bean the first time I visited the artist Martin Sharp’s grand home, Wirian, in Sydney. When he was a kid, Martin’s route to school was to walk across his own garden, which would have taken about ten minutes.

Martin Sharp, who was described as “Australia’s greatest pop artist” by the Sydney Morning Herald

Martin let Harold The Kangaroo and Ms. Bean stay at Wirian whenever they wanted. 

When I was staying at Wirian, I could always tell when Harold and Ms. Bean were there because they bought huge steaks for Martin’s dogs and I would trip over the steaks in the dark when I came home from working in Kings Cross (in Sydney) at five in the morning. They used to just throw the steaks out on the doormat outside the kitchen entrance. It was a little weird, tripping over steaks, but I didn’t mind because it was a signal that my friends Ms. Bean and Harold had arrived.

Harold (The Kangaroo) Thornton in front of The Bulldog coffee shop in Amsterdam. He painted the facade of the building,

I loved Martin Sharp (we all did, because he was so kind and generous) but I thought it was kind of funny, the way his former school and neighbour, the elite Cranbook School, was inching towards his Wirian mansion. He was determined that they would not get their hands on the rambling house and grounds in one of Australia’s most affluent postcodes. I am not certain but, as I recall, when Martin had to pay property tax, he would sell a couple of inches of land to the school. 

When I dislocated my shoulder and broke my humerus, I was in St Vincent’s Hospital (in Sydney) for a month. About three weeks into my recovery, Ms. Bean and Harold liberated me from the hospital for an afternoon and brought me to some apartment to watch the Mae West/W.C.Fields film My Little Chickadee.

After I got out of St Vincent’s I went back to stripping in Kings Cross, with my arm in a sling. I dressed as a friendly sexy clown and wore hats by Mr Individual when I stripped.

I had three hats which were by far the finest hats I have ever owned. 

Anna Smith on her release from hospital in Vancouver this week

Ms. Bean was a visual and performance artist. She also designed clothing sometimes: one-off pieces for herself and her friends.

She told me that, if I was going to be seen in Sydney, I needed to be seen in something sexy. So she made me a cute little punky miniskirt out of artist’s canvas with a matching top and I wore it everywhere, on stage and off. 

I would ride home from Kings Cross on my bicycle in it.

The top had no sides, just a front and a back and it tied at the waist with stringy shreds of pink Lycra. The top and the skirt had splattered paint patterns – orange, pink, black and droplets of neon green on the unfinished canvas. 

It looked like maybe someone had thrown a birthday cake against a wall. 

It was very beautiful.

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Filed under Art, Australia, Canada

Scott Capurro is going back to Australia despite what happened last time…

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s show Yuletide Queer

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s stage show Yuletide Queer

I have been getting a flurry of automated emails about comedian Scott Capurro’s shows in California.

So, because I think of him as being London-based, I FaceTimed him a couple of days ago in San Francisco.

“I produced a show here,” he told me, “so I’m on this thing called Eventbrite and they send out a reminder every day of the show.”

“Where are you staying?”

“I’ve had this apartment here for 25 years,” he told me. “My husband, Edson, likes it here; my family’s here; and I’m trying to decide where we should live. London is easier for me in a lot of ways. I own a home there whereas, a renter in San Francisco has fewer rights. Also, there’s so much work in London and I can work all the time. Here, I’m on a local radio show in San Francisco. I’ve been on it for 17 years; I come on once a week.”

“What sort of show is it?” I asked.

“It’s morning radio in America. So it’s Hey! Puppies! Kitties! Let’s talk about celebrities! It’s like Italian girls in the 1950s: all we talk about is celebrities and our pets. Seriously. I love these people, but we are penned-in on what we can talk about, especially me.”

“It must be difficult for you to be squeaky-clean?” I asked.

“No.” Scott told me, “I do morning TV in Britain all the time. I do The Wright Stuff a lot. I love it and I really like Matthew because he likes comics. I’ve been doing that for eight years and I know I sometimes push it, but I’ve never been in trouble, really.

Scott Capurro - a regular on The Wright stuff on UK TV

Scott Capurro – a regular on UK Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff

“Also, I started on radio in college. I kind of understand the limits of it and I can be clean if necessary. When performers perform live, the expectations are different. I was really into stand-up as a kid and I would hear rumours that these comics I saw on TV were – Oh! If you see them live! Oh my God! It’s so shocking and different! My mother would say: Oh my God! Red Foxx! The things he says about women, live! He seems so nice! and that really intrigued me. The idea that, when you perform live, it’s like Jekyll & Hyde: you are someone else.”

“So,” I said, “at the moment, you are doing radio and live stage shows in California.”

“I do my own stage show,” said Scott. “An hour or an hour-and-a-half in different venues. And I make more money per show doing that here, but the production stuff is a lot of work. I work less often and make more money here but it’s harder work than in Britain.

“In a way, if you’re a comic in London, you can be lazy and make a decent living. You just show up and do your 20 minutes. You are not expected to do anything other than hit a home run when you’re on stage.

“I have been playing the (London) Comedy Store more the last two years and it’s so hard to fail at the Store. I mean, you’re only on stage really for 18-20 minutes and people walk in there assuming they are seeing the best. So they’re on your side although, if you fuck up and lose them, it’s impossible to get them back because you’re only on stage for 18-20 minutes. It’s a bit tenuous if you mess up, but messing up there is almost impossible on a weekend.”

“It’s maybe easy for you,” I suggested, “because you are so professional.”

“It’s not easy,” said Scott. “But it’s hard to fail. If they hire you, it’s usually because you’ve been doing it for a while and can do 20 minutes without failing. And I also play a lot at The Top Secret Comedy Club on Drury Lane, where my husband runs the bar – it’s like an Edinburgh venue but well-run and clean. The guy who runs it – Mark Rothman – is a performer so he can get big names at the weekends.”

“Is Edson with you in San Francisco?” I asked.

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

“He’s in Brazil, with his family, but I’m going there in January, then we come back here and then I go to Australia from February 22nd to March 5th.

“Then I’m doing a solo show on March 25th at Blackfriars in Glasgow and hosting and appearing in other Glasgow Comedy Festival shows over that weekend. After that, I’m going to Berlin for a week. I did one show there two months ago and they’re bringing me back for a week. April 18th to the 23rd.”

“So you’re all over the world,” I said. “Do you go to Australia a lot?”

“I was banned from there 14 years ago.”

“You can probably see the excitement on my face,” I said. “Why were you banned?”

“In the 1990s, I had been going to Australia for a while and really liked it. then my management made me stop, because the trip is really long and they didn’t want me there that long.

“But I was invited back in 2001, so I went, and I was really excited because, at that time, Ross Noble was going over a lot and Stephen K Amos. I thought: Oh this will be fun because I’ll see my friends and maybe I can start spending time in Australia, because it’s pretty and it’s nice during the winter and it might be a good outlet for me writing good stuff. I could get established in Australia.

Scott Capurro: "Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal?"

“Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal?” Scott asked them.

“So I arrive in Melbourne and they say: Oh, we want you to do a live TV spot right away! OK, fine. It was a live programme called Rove, which is like their Tonight show or Jonathan Ross. There was going to be an interview, which they cut but there was also stand-up too and I said: Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal? – They said: No, we don’t want to see it. We’re fine.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“Yeah,” replied Scott. “So I sent them the script. I was just going to do the first seven minutes from my Holocaust, Schmolocaust show…”

“Oh dear,” I said.

“So,” said Scott, “I objectified Jesus and jacked-off to Jesus a bit, but I didn’t get my cock out. I just did the hand motion.”

“Were you jet-lagged from the journey?” I asked.

“I was terribly jet-lagged because I had come from England, but also I had been to a party with the TV executives right before the taping of the show. I showed one of the execs this joke and he said: You’ll be fine. It’s after the watershed.”

“And what happened?” I asked.

“They got 300 calls, which was a lot for them and they freaked out and they went to the press and it became this huge thing where they tried to pull my stage show from the Melbourne Comedy Festival and the Cardinal of Melbourne had me banned… Yeah… It became this thing where, apparently, I had made jokes about raping the Virgin Mary – which I didn’t… I mean, if I’d had them, I might have, but I didn’t have those jokes, so… It became a myth is what I mean.

“Now there is a word over there – Don’t pull a ‘Capurro’ on us on TV – Don’t go out there and do something you didn’t say you were going to do. Don’t fuck us. Apparently some people got fired. Anyway, I never got invited back.”

“It all seems a bit unfair,” I said, “if they saw your stuff on paper before the show was transmitted.”

“But did they even read it?” Scott asked. “Did they even look at it? Who the fuck knows?

Scott capurro: "“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided to run with it"

“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided…”

“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided to run with it to get press for the show and didn’t care about me. And, I think, because my management wasn’t in Australia and wasn’t there to help me, I was left to my own devices. I tried to fix it myself and I think I might have fucked it up even more.

“Soon after that, Australia went through the roof economically and everyone wanted to play there and I’m like: I fucked it up! I fucked it up!

“Then a couple of writers from Australia contacted me and said: You should come back. But I couldn’t find anyone who would produce me. Then the Comedy Store said they would, but it took three years to get a date. Now I’m going over to Sydney for two weeks to play the Store and we will see. They might hate me.”

“Well,” I told him, “the good news is you are bound to get interviewed again after that back story.”

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Filed under Australia, Censorship, Comedy, Radio, Television, US

Comic Matt Price: hypnotherapy, sperm, Australia and marijuana

Matt Price in Camden Town last night

Matt Price, natural born storyteller, in Camden last night

Last Sunday’s increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club Podcast was supposed to be recorded with Kate Copstick et moi talking to comic Matt Price before the second Best of Natural Born Storytellers shows at the Lost Theatre in Stockwell, London. Alas, Copstick was ill, so it was done from her flat.

Matt Price runs monthly Natural Born Storytellers shows with Michael Kossew in Camden Town and, last night, I went along to see this month’s show. As always, true stories told straight: extraordinary, revealing, cathartic, sometimes funny, sad, empathic. Matt had just returned from performing at the Perth and Adelaide comedy festivals.

“Was it was your first trip to Australia?” I asked.

“Yes,” Matt told me, “My friends were running a book on whether I would get deep vein thrombosis. But I wore the deep vein thrombosis socks and took an aspirin. The other problem was I used to have a phobia about flying. But Martha (his partner, comic Martha McBrier) is a qualified hypnotherapist. She tried to hypnotise me and it kind-of worked.”

“She’s a qualified hypnotherapist?” I asked, surprised.

Martha McBrier

Martha McBrier encountered a major problem as a sperm

“Yes,” said Matt. “As part of her training, she had to be hypnotised herself and she did past-life regression. They regressed her and asked: Who are you? And she said: I’m a sperm.”

“That’s not strictly a past life,” I suggested. “That’s more the beginning of her current life.”

Ignoring this – I thought valid – point, Matt continued: “They asked her: Are you OK?”

“Was it,” I suggested, “a bit crowded in among all the other sperm?”

“No,” said Matt. She told them: Everybody wants to go swimming and I’m not really into swimming and they’re all so competitive – That’s a true story.

“She did encourage me to do hypnotherapy, though, so I got some tapes and listened to them. The first thing I did afterwards was fly over to Hungary and normally I would have been really frightened but I wasn’t. And then I flew to Australia and back again without any bother. I even really enjoyed it.”

“Australia,” I observed, “is just a big desert with bits round the edge.”

“But,” said Matt brightly, “I found that banter and taking-the-piss is a universal thing. And some of the heckles were very helpful. You would ask What’s a bogan? (the equivalent of a chav in England or Ned in Scotland) and they would explain it in depth because they really want you to know about their culture.”

“Their culture?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Matt. “One guy got up and left after I’d been doing my act for about 30 seconds and he came back in about two minutes later saying: Oh sorry, mate, I was thirsty. I got me and me missus a beer and I got one for you as well. Australia must be the only place in the world where you can be heckled with generosity.”

I asked Matt: “What was your show called?”

A British Bloke’s Guide to Being a Man.

“And,” I asked, “your Edinburgh Fringe show this year?”

“I don’t want to tell you the title,” replied Matt. “Not until it is in the Programme. What I do have is story I’m finally able to tell, because the person involved in it is no longer involved in illegal activity. Basically, in December 2005, I received a package through the post and that package was illegal…”

“Not something wrapped in another stab vest?” I asked.

Matt Price demonstrates in a Camden street that the stab vest does not fit

Last year, Matt Price demonstrated in a Camden street that his stab vest did not fit

“No. It was 10 oz of marijuana sent to me by someone very close to me as a present and, because that person had not given me many presents before and because I’m not really involved in that world, I did not really want to… I didn’t know what to do… I didn’t want to give it away. Giving away weed when you’re not involved in that world is very hard. And I didn’t want to throw it away. And I didn’t want to sell it, because that would make me a drug dealer. So it’s all about what I did in order to get rid of this weed and find it a good home. I am going to promote the show as Cornish Breaking Bad meets Only Fools and Horses. It is as ridiculous as it sounds.”

“You have met some dodgy people,” I observed. “I know you know dodgy people in three countries – Scotland, England and Turkey.”

“Yes. Someone I know bought a car at an auction and pretended it was a police car.”

Pretended it was a police car?” I asked.

“Yeah. He wrote POLITE on the side of the car and he and his friend were driving around with a radio, listening to what the police were saying and then following cars. They ended up stopping a police car just for a bet.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“They got arrested,” said Matt.

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Filed under Comedy, Crime, Drugs

Luisa Omielan, the million quid woman, on touring comedy without a boyfriend

A selfie by Luisa Omielan at Soho Theatre yesterday

Selfie by Luisa at the Soho Theatre yesterday

“What did you want to be when you were 15?” I asked Luisa Omielan yesterday at Soho Theatre in London.

“I‘ve always wanted to be in comedy,” she told me. “Always wanted to perform, always wanted to be funny. Since I was about seven or eight. I liked showing off and getting clapped-at. I would say: Hey Grandma! Look at my interpretive dance! – She would laugh and clap and I loved it. I wanted to be a professional show-off.”

At last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, in the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, Luisa won the Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award.

Yesterday, I told her: “Of course, no-one can tell who is actually going to make a million quid, but you seem very self-assured, you’re very talented, the shows are well put together, you’re phenomenally hard-working and you pay attention to the marketing.”

Hard-working is the word.

Or two words.

Luisa Omielan - Am I Right Ladies

Luisa’s second show – Am I Right Ladies?!

Luisa’s second full-length show Am I Right, Ladies?! is playing at Soho Theatre 2nd-8th February and she is presenting  A Single Ladies Valentine’s Ball at Islington Assembly Hall on the 14th of February.

“It’s Am I Right, Ladies?! followed by a party,” she told me. “If you’re single, you can come down and it’s ballgowns and trainers. I want everyone to get dressed up and really glamorous, like they’re Cinderella but without the Prince.”

“The girls will be wearing ballgowns and trainers?” I asked.

“Hopefully.”

“And then, also in February, you’re going on a three month tour of Australia.”

“Yes. Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth. That should be exciting.”

“Except you look slightly worried,” I said.

“Because I’m petrified.”

“Australia,” I said, “is just British people living round the edges of a big desert.”

“But I find it really scary doing my shows abroad,” said Luisa. “It sounds excellent, but it’s really daunting. Going abroad is amazing if you have someone to share it with and you’re going around saying: Isn’t this weird? to them. But, when you’re on your own, it’s Isn’t this weird; help me, I’m drowning. Great opportunities but scary. People don’t realise there’s no money in touring, especially when you’re not known.”

“So you hate touring abroad?” I asked.

“No, I don’t hate touring. I’ll be fine once I’m there. It’s just the anxiety of going somewhere new is a bit un-nerving. I’m not complaining. Going abroad to do my shows is amazing, but it is scarier than it sounds.”

“But you’ve taken shows abroad before…” I said.

“With What Would Beyoncé Do? (her first show) I’ve travelled the world. I’ve been to Los Angeles, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Singapore, Belfast, Dublin, Helsinki…”

“Helsinki?” I said.

“Helsinki.”

“Did you have to make adjustments to the show?” I asked.

The Beyoncé poster/flyer designed by Luisa

Edinburgh Beyoncé art designed by Luisa

“In London,” explained Luisa, “they’re very comedy savvy, so they know when to get up and dance and enjoy it, whereas other places aren’t used to seeing solo hours – they’re used to 20 minute or 10 minute spots within a show, so it’s a different dynamic. In Montreal, they’re used to packages of comics unless you’re massive like Jimmy Carr. But, when you’re an unknown like me, with no TV or radio profile…”

“You’ve been talking to people about that?” I asked.

“Yeah. Chats. But it’s slow to get anything off the ground. I didn’t realise how long it takes. There’s lots of boxes to tick and hoops to jump through.”

“Are you,” I asked, “taking a new, third show to the Edinburgh Fringe this August?”

“Hell… No…” said Luisa. “Why would I? It takes so long to write a show. I think people who have a break do come back with excellent shows, But year after year after year after year is too much pressure.”

“Have you got another show in the back of your mind?”

“No way. Stop asking me for a new show. It’s not coming. Alright, my third show is going to be called Famous With a Baby. It’s going to have to write itself. Until I am famous with a baby, you don’t get another show.”

“Are you working on that?” I asked.

“I’m working every day on it.”

“You’re a very lucky woman,” I laughed.

“Every day,” said Luisa. “Every day. I think it’ll be a couple of years yet before I do that show.”

“At least nine months,” I said.

“Longer than that. I have to find a boyfriend first.”

“How’s that going?”

“It’s not.”

LuisaOmielan_KateCopstick

Luisa with judge Kate Copstick wins her Malcolm Hardee award at 2014 Fringe

“But you’re a potential millionairess,” I said. “Highly successful; two shows.”

“Maybe he’ll be in Australia,” said Luisa. “It’s a trilogy…

What Would Beyoncé Do? was: Why aren’t my dreams coming true? I’m really heartbroken.

Am I Right, Ladies?! is: My dreams are starting to come true and I’m doing alright now, but I’m single.

Famous With a Baby is: Guys! Everything’s worked out! I’m famous with a baby!

“That show will come when it’s ready.”

“But you said,” I pointed out, “that you’re working on it every day.”

“I’m not going to even think about it for another 18 months.”

“Do you care if the baby is male or female?”

“No. Provided it’s healthy and happy and it has a nice dad who loves its mum.”

“Just the one baby?” I asked. “Famous With Twins would be quite a good title. The father would have to be a rich man?”

“No,” said Luisa, “I’d be quite happy to provide for a man. I’d quite happily have a kept man. It would be nice if he’s got equal money, but I don’t mind if he hasn’t. It’s more important he’s a good egg.”

“A good egg?” I asked.

“Yes,” confirmed Luisa.

“You would get lots of replies,” I suggested, “if you advertised for: KEPT MAN WANTED.”

“But I would still want him to be an Alpha kept man,” explained Luisa. “Sure of himself, knows what he wants, is happy where he is in life, comfortable in himself, not put off by somebody else maybe making more money than him. If he earns more money, great. But, if I do, also great. I’ve never wanted a rich man. I think it’s weird. I’ve never wanted to rely on somebody else for money – apart from the bank and an overdraft.”

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Award-winning comedy performer John Robertson: Blood and Charm and S&M

John Robertson - 17th December 2014

John Robertson in Dean Street, Soho, yesterday afternoon

Comedy performer John Robertson was brought up in Perth, Australia and now lives with his wife Jo Marsh in London. He is probably best known as creator of The Dark Room show. I had tea with John yesterday afternoon in Soho. He was on his way to the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society’s British Comedy Awards to receive an award.

“What is tonight’s award for?” I asked.

“The awards which are being given out,” he told me, “are not for anything. People were booked for the evening on the basis of whether they wanted to present or receive an award. I quite like the idea of going to an un-real awards ceremony to not receive an award. So I have to go and say Thankyou for something that isn’t occurring.”

“Have a pen,” I said and gave him a pen. “It’s an award from my blog.”

“I always take the title of your blog – So It Goes,” said John, “to be a Kurt Vonnegut reference.”

“Yes,” I said. “Also, in my erstwhile youth, Tony Wilson – you know the movie 24 Hour Party People? – he used to present a Granada TV music programme from Manchester called So It Goes. Presumably also a hommage to Slaughterhouse-Five.”

“Manchester,” said John, “is a place I never end up in.”

“At that time,” I said, “it was nicknamed Madchester. I had the chance to go to Tony Wilson’s Hacienda club a few times but never went because I thought it was probably some naff disco. It wasn’t, of course. I should have gone.”

“In Perth,” said John, “I used to go to a Goth club called Sin and everyone there was crapping on about how much better it was when it was called Dominion.

“But I really preferred Sin cos Dominion I just associated with… Dominion was where my really dumb 14-year-old friends were getting in without being carded and then coming back having done some dull, faint half-S&M with each other.”

“S&M?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said John. “A little bit of the old bondage. The third time I went to Sin, I took a crucifix and all the girls kept trying to sit on it to prove a point. They were trying to do The Exorcist.”

“How old were you?” I asked.

“About 18.”

“Aged 16,” I asked, “what did you want to be?”

John Robertson

Aged 16, John Robertson wanted to be lawyer

“I wanted to be a lawyer, because I understood that’s where the money was. But, at school, someone’s dad was a very well-known barrister. He came in, gave us a talk and just revealed himself to be the most dull man on the planet. So I gave up on that dream. It was a bit dry and boring.”

At this point, I started to take some photographs of John.

“Let me see?” he asked. “Oh, can you send me that one? I like the crucifixion imagery behind me.”

“What am I going to write a blog about?” I asked. “What have you been up to?”

“Last week,” said John, “I went down to the face-sitting protest outside Parliament.”

“That was,” I checked, “something about protesting against restrictive new pornography laws?”

“Yes.”

“Did you sit on a face or were you sat on?”

“I watched,” said John. “I defaulted to my usual position. There was some Dutch TV talk show host running around inviting people to penetrate themselves with his microphone. But the whole thing was really deeply charming. All these very English people: We’re here to protect our rights. We’re being quirky and eccentric. It was the most English style of protest I can imagine. There was a woman wearing jodhpurs and tweed sitting on someone’s face while drinking a cup of tea.”

By this time, John was drawing with the pen I had given him.

John’s drawing of a man with a tie

John’s drawing of a man with a tie & big nose

“All I can do is just variations of men in a tie,” he told me. “That’s all I do. Men in ties.”

“Looks a bit like a dodgy Fagin,” I said.

“When I was a kid in Perth and used to draw people,” said John, “I was always roundly criticised because I gave everyone a nose that looked like a dick. Just a big phallic nose. And I still do. Everyone ends up with this distended, bulbous thing.”

“What was growing up in Perth like?” I asked.

“When I was a boy, there was a news report which started: If you were to take a rifle and fire it down St George’s Terrace at midnight, you would normally hit nothing. Except last night, when you would have hit a stolen Army personnel carrier. A guy had broken into the barracks, stolen an Army personnel carrier and just driven it through the completely empty middle of Perth.”

“Nowadays,” I said, “that would go viral on YouTube.”

“I once watched a documentary,” John continued, “where a porn star was asked: What do you like? And she said: Well, I like stuff in my mouth. Because, since I was a child, people have been shoving things into my mouth. The interview didn’t take it any further than that but she said to cope with it she fetishised it.”

“Shoving things into her mouth?” I asked.

“Whether she meant dummies or dentists or abuse I don’t know,” said John. “I hope it wasn’t abuse. I took it to be more of a dental thing. Perhaps she just had a particularly bad reaction to oral dental work and needed to build something to cope with it. Strange, isn’t it?

This morning’s newspaper headline in London

This morning’s newspaper headline in London

“I woke up this morning to news of the massacre in Pakistan and I thought: That’s too difficult. 132 schoolchildren have been murdered. That’s too hard to process. But imagine the luxury of being able to say: That’s too hard to process. I mean, Life is too hard to process.

“I also just read the note points – the summary – of the CIA torture report and, as someone who’s into S&M, that makes very uncomfortable reading. You’re thinking Oh, that’s dreadful, but getting a faint tingle. S&M is a combination of the things that horrify you and sex.”

“Are you into S&M?” I asked.

“Hugely,” said John. “Hugely. I’m a bondage man.”

“Is it OK to quote that?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said John. “I went to the face-sitting demonstration. I wasn’t there for no reason. I’m fascinated because, since coming to London, through all this ‘British repression’, you just have to say You know what I like? Bondage and other people will say Oh, yes, actually, I do too… and everyone comes out.”

“It’s not my thing,” I said. “I’m into M&S not S&M. I think it may be an English rather than a British thing. The cliché explanation is that it’s the English public school system does it…”

“I’ve been to a Scottish bondage club,” said John. “They were playing The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ The Impression That I Get, which is a great song for a bondage club.

“But the thing about English public schools… I went to an all-boys school in Australia and, on the first day of being in the ‘big school’, we were not given lockers, we were given these cages that were roughly the size of a boy. Within about an hour, a kid called Cayden had been shoved in and locked in one. He ended up getting stabbed with various things.”

“You should do an Edinburgh Fringe show about it,” I suggested.

“I did,” said John. “In 2012. It was called Blood and Charm.”

“Well,” I said, “that destroys any pretence I might have that I know what’s happening or happened at the Fringe. Why Blood and Charm?”

“I saw a show done by a very dear friend of mine and the opening line was: The things in this show didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean they’re not true. So I thought: What if I take a whole bunch of true stuff and I complement it with real fantasy nonsense – a lot of bloodthirsty fairy tales and things like that – and treat both with the same disdain? So I started with: My father killed himself.

“Did he?”

“Yes, my dad hung himself. So I thought I’ll weave that through and do this Hansel & Gretel thing and then this thing that sounds like it’s real and which ends with this zombie vagina and then…”

“What’s a zombie vagina?” I asked.

John Robertson - Blood and Charm

John Robertson – Blood and Charm at the Edinburgh Fringe

“The vagina of a zombie. It kills you. It’s the end of a story where this man looks at this woman and then suddenly this hand shoots out of her vagina and gouges out his eyes and pulls him in and eats him, really chomps on him.”

“Well,” I said, “I could say We’ve all been there… but…”

“All I ever wanted,” said John, “was to be isolated and left with my thoughts that may or may not be real.”

“Eh?” I asked.

“I thought, if I said that, it would make a good end to your blog.”

“It possibly needs explanation,” I suggested.

“I just wanted to be left alone with the people I love and the people I want to do strange and terrible things to and have a great time and make a great deal of money telling you what I think.”

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How do street artists make money and who is this trendy DRB matchbox guy?

DRB (left) and Ben Oakley at the exhibition yesterday

DRB (obscured left) & Ben Oakley at the exhibition yesterday

Yesterday, I went to the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich, to see the last day of artist DRB’s exhibition Firestarter – basically matchboxes custom-made by DRB.

But we are not talking normal matchboxes here, we are talking Art.

Some of DRB’s matchboxes are now in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection in London. The boxes are being displayed at a gallery in Hong Kong in about a week and DRB has a duck with hands for ears which is in Boston in the US at a liquid arts venue.

“When I trained as a printmaker,” DRB told me, “there were no computers – well, there WERE but they weren’t on my radar – and then, just as I graduated, computers basically made me redundant. All of my printmaking skills were irrelevant and I had to learn how to use computers.”

“And you do now?” I asked.

“Yeah. All of my creative career has been computers, so I’ve done websites, videos and all that. I had a creative career but, twenty years later, I’m doing printmaking again.”

“Though the world is different…” I prompted.

Ceci nest pas un Magritte - c'est un DRB

Ceci n’est pas un Magritte de Belge… C’est un DRB de Sarf Eest Londres.

“I trained to be a gallery artist,” DRB said. “I expected to be represented by a gallery and paid by a gallery. Whereas now a lot of my friends are street artists. They essentially represent themselves – on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – and they don’t even show in galleries because their work is selling before it even hits a wall. Whereas I’m still a gallery artist. I do put things on the streets but, essentially, I think of whole shows whereas those guys will do just one piece and it sells before it hits the wall.”

“How does that street art thing work?” I asked.

“They have maybe 20,000 followers online,” explained DRB. “They have huge followings. They’re like rock stars compared to traditional painters. What they’re doing is they record every stage of the journey – their ideas, their sketches, their preliminary, everything – and people engage them on their social media.”

“So,” I asked, “I say I’m going to paint a giraffe on a wall next week and someone buys it before it hits the wall?”

DRB looks at a wall of his boxes

DRB looks at a wall of his boxes in Greenwich

“No,” explained DRB. “They call themselves street artists in the sense that they put something on the street first. So, if they make something, it has to go on the street first – that’s their own rule – and then they’ll make a print edition of it and sell it to people who liked it on the wall.”

“Do you do street art?” I asked.

“I put things on the street,” DRB replied, “but that’s just me being playful. I’m not really a street artist, I’m a gallery artist.

“I did study fine art, so I was a gallery artist for about four years, I had a residency in Norway for a year and there’s work of mine in Australia all up the west coast. I painted walls there when I was in my twenties in the 1990s and they’re still touching them up. Not graffiti. More like murals… They don’t know who I am.”

“So they maintain your artworks, but they don’t know you originated them?” I asked.

DRB’s publicity for the Ben Oakley exhibition

DRB’s publicity for the Ben Oakley exhibition

“There’s a town – Carnarvon in Western Australia,” said DRB, “where there’s a 20 foot wall with a mural. I was in the papers for that. I got run out of town by the police. I was about 20. I’ve had a creative career but, in terms of recognition it’s been this last year. I had my first solo show in Hoxton last summer and I’ve had about 20 shows since then.”

“Are DRB the initials of your real name?” I asked.

“No. It stands for Dirty Rotten Bleeder…It’s a play on words with the printing term ‘bleeding’ – printing that goes over the edge of another image or the edge of the displayed area. I call myself Dirty Rotten Bleeder like I could call myself a Messy Print Maker.”

DRB, the faceless artist at his Firerstarter yesterday

DRB at the last day of his Firerstarter yesterday

“Have you got a website?” I asked.

“I’m making one,” said DRB. “I find it hard to write. I have a blog, but what I tend to do is get really wrapped up in paradoxes and all of that and it doesn’t read in a way I would want someone to read it. “

“But you said you know how to design websites,” I said.

“Well” replied DRB, “there’s a difference between designing the look of something and populating it with content – actually putting words in there. And it’s harder to write words about yourself; I could probably write something about somebody else.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

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