Tag Archives: bigotry

The death of Jim Davidson – Edinburgh Fringe celebration show being planned.

Gareth Ellis may be dying from a disease caught by Victorian heroines

Ellis may have a disease caught by Victorian heroines

I bumped into someone in the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday afternoon: 2013 Malcolm Hardee ‘Pound of Flesh’ Award winner Ellis.

He was coughing more than me (a rare thing) and he had that pale, zombiefied look of a diseased man who has recently contracted bubonic plague or one of those strange indefinable diseases that the heroines of Victorian novels used to die from. He claimed to have a chest infection.

“What’s your chest like?” I asked.

“It’s green,” he told me.

Ellis is half of comedy duo Ellis & Rose who appeared at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe in the widely-commented-on Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

He/They earned his/their increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award after he got his comedy partner Rich Rose to punch him repeatedly in the face so that he could claim he had been attacked in the street by an irate member of their audience, thus gaining a black eye and several column inches of publicity for their show.

“So, after careful consideration, you are not going up to the Fringe this year?” I asked.

“We are poverty-stricken and can’t be fucked,” he replied with, I felt, unnecessary detail.

“You’re not even visiting?” I asked innocently.

“Well,” he told me, “we’re going up for one day only.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Well, (promoter) Bob Slayer was pestering us to go up and do SOMETHING, so we thought: If we can’t go up and do a full run, what can we do to make a big impact using the least possible effort?

“And your conclusion was?” I asked.

What a pair! - Two Jim Davidson goodies

Cor! What a pair! – Double whammy of Davidsons

“It is for one night only on Tuesday 12th August in the big cave at The Hive and we’re doing Jim Davidson’s Funeral. We are listed right before his own show in the Programme. It’s only been live online for a day, so I think maybe no-one has noticed it yet.”

“And it involves?” I asked.

“We just thought,” explained Ellis, “Middle England’s (allegedly) bigoted, shocking, old-fashioned comic is going to do the Edinburgh Fringe for the whole month and therefore the Fringe is dead.

“So we thought we’d do his funeral. But also it is the death of the Fringe. The funeral of the Fringe. So we’re going to get a few guests on and basically attack the Fringe and put it to rights before it gets buried once and for all and we’re going to dance on Comedy’s grave. And that’s going to be the show. It’s going to be a very upbeat, fun evening. We’re gonna sort out Jim Davidson. We’re gonna tell him what’s what. His own show starts half an hour into our show.”

“So,” I said, it’s a wake for Jim Davidson, rather than a funeral.”

“No,” said Ellis. “His corpse will be in the coffin on stage.”

“Are you playing him?” I asked. “You were Jimmy Savile last year.”

“No,” said Ellis. “We’re performing as Ellis & Rose. Jim Davidson’s corpse will be in the coffin and hopefully we will have a live camera feed from the coffin projected up onto a big screen at the back like a Big Brother figure – because he did Celebrity Big Brother.”

Gareth contemplates future Fringe punch-ups

Ellis contemplates future Fringe punch-ups

“So basically no script?” I asked. “Just meandering along.”

“There will be a narrative,” said Ellis. “We are going to tackle all the big issues of the Fringe. This is the Fringe’s funeral as much as it is Jim Davidson’s funeral. I think we’ll tackle stuff about the Big Four venues, student reviewers, the cost of things. We’ll turn it into a big roast of the Fringe.”

“Any nudity involved?” I asked hopefully.

“Probably,” said Ellis. “Every funeral should have nudity. It might end in a disco.”

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In a Soho coffee bar comic Al Murray – no longer as The Pub Landlord – gets serious about British wars and Germans

Al Murray writing at Bar Italia this week

Al Murray was writing at Bar Italia this week

When I first saw Al Murray’s comedy act, many years ago last century, during the reign of the middle-aged Queen, it was an audio act. He came on, a slim young chap, and made the sounds of assembling and dismantling Army automatic rifles and suchlike.

For the last twenty years, he has been performing comedy as the bigoted Pub Landlord.

When I arrived at Bar Italia in Soho to talk to him this week, he was writing down some comedy ideas. Or maybe not. They might have been some Pub Landlord ideas. Or maybe not. I forgot to ask. I have a bad memory. What can I say?

“So,” I said to Al, “you’re an intelligent, sophisticated man.”

“Yes,” he said.

“But,” I continued, “everyone thinks you’re a thick East End or Essex barman. You’re a young Alf Garnett.”

“Yes, isn’t that fantastic?” he replied. (He must have been asked the question hundreds of times.) “I get to be who I really am off-stage, no-one knows who I really am and I get to talk about the things I want to talk about elliptically. I think that gives me great freedom.”

“Though, as yourself,” I said, “you get to do TV documentaries on the Second World War like Road To Berlin. Was that a difficult sell to the TV company?”

AlMurray_RoadToBerlin_Wikipedia

Al’s ten-episode 2004 documentary series

“I was on Frank Skinner’s TV show,” explained Al, “and he said Oh, you’re really interested in World War Two and the woman commissioning programmes at the Discovery Channel saw it. It was a long time ago and I haven’t done one since. In TV, there’s this thing that the person who commissioned your programme moves on and you’re left high and dry and that happened then. We went back to Discovery saying We wanna do Road To Rome next, the desert campaign and then up through Italy – and the new commissioning editor said Oh, I think the whole World War Two party’s over.

“We’re British,” I said. “It’s never going to be over.”

“Exactly,” laughed Al. “For you the War is over! – It couldn’t be any the less true. We like to think we won it.”

“Did I miss something?” I asked. “I thought we did win it?”

“With a little help from our friends,” said Al. “Obviously The Pub Landlord thinks we won it on our own with no-one else.”

“Well, we almost lost the Battle of Waterloo,” I said. “It was the Prussians who won that.”

“No, no, no,” said Al. “Wellington only fought it when and where he did because he knew the Prussians were turning up at teatime. That was the bigger thinking that was going on which, essentially, Napoleon fell for.

The charge of the Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo

The iconic charge of the Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo. (But did the Prussians really win? It depends what you read.)

“Historically, that’s a real bone of contention. If you read German history, that IS what happened: the Prussians won the battle. But, if you read our history… although our army at Waterloo was probably 60% made up of German soldiers anyway…”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Al. “It was a multi-national army. Soldiers from Nassau, Hanovarians, people from all over Germany, Dutch soldiers, everything. It was a coalition army against Napoleon.”

Culloden,” I said, “fascinates me, being Scottish, because it wasn’t a battle between Scotland and England, it was a battle between Catholics and Protestants; and Highlanders versus Lowlanders and the English and their Hanovarian royal family.”

“And it was a Franco-German dust-up,” said Al. “The French Germans versus the Scots Germans.”

“And the best fighters on Bonnie Prince Charlie’s side,” I said, “were the Wild Geese, who were Irish.”

“Yeah,” said Al. “These are the kind of conversations I can have all day, to be honest.”

“And you wrote a book about…”

Al’s book: Watching War Films With My Dad

Al’s book about growing up in the 1970s

“It was a book,” said Al, “about growing up in a family where this sort of stuff got talked about a lot, where it was regarded as interesting and important. And, at the same time, about growing up in the 1970s when it’s Action Man toys, Airfix models and Where Eagles Dare type films. That very post-War part of our entertainment culture. And realising that the thing which you think is a big adventure when you’re a boy is actually a vile, disgusting thing, but nevertheless fascinating.”

“It could be argued,” I said, “that the Second World War is the only totally justifiable war – concentration camps and all that.”

“But that’s not why we went to war in 1939,” said Al. “It’s interesting now there’s this current debate about whether the First World War was justified or not. In fact, the Germans invading Belgium (in 1914) is a better traditional British casus belli than the Germans invading Poland (in 1939)… Poland is a lot further away from here and the Belgian coastline is close. Though the 1939 Germans were bigger bad guys than the 1914 ones. Arguably. It’s all very complicated. There’s a way we need to see it and there’s what probably really happened.”

“So what’s the way we feel we need to see it?” I asked.

“That we were fighting the evil nasty Nazis. What really happened in the politics of the late 1930s was the collapse of diplomacy – again – and Britain being run ragged too many times and, on a raw level, a loss of face and prestige and Britain having to do something about that. I reckon. But what do I know? I am but a humble comic.”

“But…” I prompted.

“Well, I was talking about this the other night,” said Al. “I’d managed to inveigle my way into dinner with a couple of real historians and they were saying, in Europe, World War II is regarded as the most gigantic calamity, a hideous thing… whereas we seem to regard it as character forming and it gave us all sorts of good things.”

“Well,” I said, “we’ve always been at war. There’s that statistic that, in the last 100 – or is it 150 now? – years, there’s only been one year…”

“…only one year,” said Al, “supposedly 1968, when no British soldier has been killed on active service.”

“You studied History at Oxford University,” I said. “So really you wanted to be a historian…”

Al as The Pub Landlord

Al as the Pub Landlord

“No, no, no no,” said Al. “When I got to Uni I was thinking What the hell am I gonna do? History was the subject I found easiest. But, once I got there, my academic career became very dismal very quickly, because I got involved in doing comedy.

“I thought I was going to end up playing in bands and I remember unpacking my drum kit on my first day at Uni in a music room in my college and Stewart Lee and Richard Herring were in there planning their sketch show that they were going to do the following week.

“They had been at the Edinburgh Fringe that summer and they didn’t tell anyone their sketch group had sometimes outnumbered the audience, so they came back to Oxford University in great glory and did a big sell-out run and I remember thinking This is the thing I’m looking for – doing comedy. It had never occurred to me before…”

… CONTINUED HERE ..

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