Tag Archives: cafe

The awesome Juliette Burton’s first Grumpy review and why I will be multi-award winning at the Edinburgh Fringe

I talked to performer Juliette Burton in Australia this morning. After awesome reviews for her show When I Grow Up at the Adelaide Fringe, she has now had her first awesome review at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival after only three performances. The reviewer was there on the first night thanks – Juliette says – to me.

Juliette Burton outside the Little Cafe of Awesome today

Juliette Burton outside the Little Cafe of Awesome today

“The closest cafe to where we’re staying,” Juliette told me this morning, “is called The Little Cafe of Awesome. The first time we walked past it, I said to Frankie (Juliette’s musical director): We have to go in there, because John Fleming thinks I say ‘awesome’ all the time and I do.

“So we went in there on our first day here and it’s run by Lee Bemrose and his wife Ann, but their actual names are Grumpy and The Dreaded One.”

“Their actual names?” I asked.

Writer Lee Bemrose aka Grumpy

Writer & Awesome cafe owner Lee Bemrose

“Yes,” said Juliette. “That first day we went in and I read the menu, which has Lee’s comedy column on it. He’s really funny. I was laughing out loud. He writes a blog. He also writes reviews for the Australian Stage, so I told him about my show and he came along last Friday – the first night – and the review was published yesterday. So I have my first Melbourne review out because of a very chance meeting and because of John Fleming’s blog.”

(A tenuous link, but I’ll grab it.)

The Scottish Comedy Awards 2014

NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT

As it happens, tonight my increasingly prestigious blog is also up for an award at the Scottish Comedy Awards in the category of Best Online Contribution. I do not quite know how it got nominated in the established prestigious company of Darren Connell’s Twitter, Joe Heenan’s Twitter, Scottish Comedy FC and Limmy’s Twitter, but I reckon I should milk this presumably doomed nomination for all the short-term self-publicity I can get.

When I am inevitably shamed tonight, I think my best course is to bitterly complain to organiser Alan Anderson that I think all the other nominees are Lowlanders and they should have been disqualified as Sassenach Hanovarian scum.

NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT, as it says on the edge of a Scottish pound coin.

Campbeltown and the non-loch not made of whisky

Campbeltown – known for its whisky – and, in my day, its fish

I am a proper Teuchter (Highlander) born in Campbeltown on the West Coast of the Highlands and brought up in Campbeltown and Aberdeen, so I clearly outrank them. Indeed, I was brought up within smelling distance of Highland fishing boats. (My father serviced marine radar on the fishing boats.)

Throughout my life, I have maintained an unhealthy diet involving lots of sugar, confectionery and generally fried fatty things.

Does good breeding and bad eating habits count for nothing in the new Scotland?

My award as Best Awards Founder

My award as Best Awarder of Awards

Anticipating shame at tonight’s Scottish Comedy Awards, I am quietly consoling myself with the fact that, in 2010, I won a Fringe Report Award as ‘Best Awards Founder’ for starting the highly coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in 2005. All three Malcolm Hardee trophies were designed by mad inventor John Ward… so, in 2010, I won an award as best awarder of awards by a Ward.

When I was around 11 years old, I also won a Brooke Bond Tea Award for handwriting so, from now on, I am gong to bill myself – especially at the Edinburgh Fringe – as “the multi-award-winning John Fleming”.

Hear me roar.

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When I went to bed with comic Janey Godley and club owner Noel Faulkner

Bob Slayer yesterday in Leicester - not changing his spots

Bob Slayer in Leicester yesterday – not turning over a new leaf

I went to Leicester yesterday to see Bob Slayer‘s new show, which is perhaps over-optimistically titled: Bob Slayer: Turning Over a New Leaf.

It did, of course, not live up to the title because the 60-minute show went on for 90 minutes but never actually started due to four disruptive drunks in the audience.

However, keeping to the billed or intended subject has never been one of Bob’s priorities, so it turned out to be one of the most entertaining shows I have seen recently.

You just can’t dislike a show which includes shutting one of the audience drunks in a hidden cupboard behind a mirror, insulting the Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival judge who was in the room to rate the show and taking leave of absence from the stage to go watch a lady pee in the nearby toilet.

Strangely Bob Slayer, when sober and often even when not, is one of Britain’s most entrepreneurial comedians – something probably gained from his days as a rock band manager – and he has a couple of highly-original, laterally-thought-out but sadly as-yet-unprintable ideas for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Another comedian with original ideas is my chum Janey Godley.

In 2004, she started blogging and, at its height, her blog was getting at least (I saw the figures) 500,000 hits per week worldwide. She has since been mostly seduced away from blogging by Tweeting.

As I recently mentioned, she looked into live streaming her 2005 Edinburgh Fringe show from the original Underbelly building in Edinburgh. It was her daughter Ashley Storrie who came up with the idea, Janey told me when I was in bed with her (Janey) and Comedy Cafe Theatre owner Noel Faulkner a week ago.

Noel Faulkner in bed with Janey Godley a week ago

Noel Faulkner in bed with Janey Godley at the Comedy Cafe

“Ashley decided,” Janey told me, “that, if you can live-stream porn and people will pay for it, why can’t you use the porn pay-per-view platform for comedy?”

Alas, at that time, it proved technically impossible in the Underbelly’s original bizarre building. The next year, I think it was, she persuaded the Pleasance Dome venue to have a giant projected video screen promo for her Fringe show in their front window – something unheard-of at the time.

Last year, Janey’s live Twitter tale about a couple called Tim & Freya arguing on a Virgin train went viral and triggered media soul-searching about social media privacy. So she then turned it into a one-off performance as a short play at the Edinburgh Fringe (written by her daughter Ashley).

And now, from tomorrow, she is running radio ads on Real Radio XS (formerly Rock Radio) for her weekly podcast with Ashley, which has been running since 2010.

“Ashley wrote the ad and I get to interrupt her, which is what I get to do in the podcast,” Janey told me. “It’s the first time an ad for an independent podcast is going on commercial radio – and all because the listeners of my podcast donated enough money for us to make an advert.

“You know,” Janey told me, “now you can actually make payments with your phone. You can actually just bang your phone to pay – and that will revolutionise prostitution.”

“The other night,” Noel Faulkner added, “I saw an ad that said Text this number: £3 will buy a blanket for a kid. And I thought What’s three quid? and donated. The fact you could text the number made it easy.”

“In Glasgow,” said Janey, “we now have children who steal McDonalds’ sachets of tomato sauce and make a pot of soup with them because they’re so poor. We should get those two fucking lazy pandas out of Edinburgh Zoo and they’ll feed the kids. We need more original thinking.”

Then she carried on watching the act on stage.

The Comedy Cafe Theatre provides a large bed in the corner of its auditorium for acts to rest on while the shows progress across the room.

Original thinking.

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Comedy audiences “haven’t had a good night out unless they’ve thrown-up a few times and punched their girlfriend”

(This was also published by the Indian news site WSN)

NealeWelch_16feb2013

Neale Welch at the Comedy Cafe sound desk on Saturday

I was at London’s Comedy Cafe Theatre at the weekend, talking to outspoken owner Noel Faulkner and his business sidekick Neale Welch who, with a marketing background, perhaps promotes the club in less controversial style.

“Why is the Comedy Cafe moving to single-artist shows after August?” I asked Neale.

“Partly,” Neale explained, “because of a decline in the demand for mixed-bill shows – an MC and three acts. Plus increased competition. And it’s costing us more in marketing to get the same amount of people in for those shows. It costs more to get people in than it did previously.

Say goodbye to the logo

Say goodbye to the old Comedy Cafe  logo

“We’re also re-designing our logo, moving it from the smiley face of the 1990s and refurbishing the room again – we only did it 18 months ago… Lots of little tweaks to make a big over-all change.”

“Are comedy club audiences really declining?” I asked.

“If you look on Google Trends,” Neale told me, “at the graph of Google searches for comedy… live… stand-up between 2004 and 2012 it declines steadily. If you look at live… comedy… London it shows the same decline. So there’s less people searching for live stand-up comedy and, if that’s going down then, probably, the demand is going down too.”

“Did anything happen to the search graph in 2008 with the financial crash?” I asked.

“Not particularly,” said Neale. “It’s not a fiscal cliff. It’s a steady decline.”

“So,” I said, “you’re going to be changing the type of shows you put on.”

“At the end of this month,” Neale explained, “we’ll be booking acts up until August for normal club shows and then, after that, we’ll be booking single-artist shows to run on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays after August.”

“It was over a year ago,” Noel Faulkner reminded me, “that we decided to turn the old Comedy Cafe into more of a theatre-type venue – the Comedy Cafe Theatre – and attract a theatre-type audience and now that’s actually happening.”

“What’s the difference between the theatre audience and the comedy audience?” I asked.

NoelFaulkner_16feb2013

Noel Faulkner at the Comedy Cafe Theatre

“The theatre audience,” replied Noel, “can actually all read and write and they have an IQ of some level. The comedy audience are feckin’ brain dead and don’t know why we’re not giving them Michael McIntyre.”

“But this is the audience you’ve been catering to for years,” I prompted.

“Well,” said Noel, “we’ve all been catering to them for years. Poor old Jongleurs and the Comedy Store Late Show too. Of course you have to cater to the masses. We all have to suck the corporate cock, whether we’re gay or not.”

“So what different type of comedy will these theatrical comedians be doing in their one-person shows?” I asked Noel.

“It’s not a difference in comedy,” explained Noel. “Comics do what they do, but it’s better if you have a sophisticated audience. The other problem, though, is that sophisticated audiences don’t spend money. They have a couple of drinks and they’re happy. They don’t have to get shit-faced, because their lives aren’t horrible. Whereas your average comedy audience – their lives are so horrible that they go crazy at weekends and they feel they haven’t had a good night out unless they’ve thrown-up a few times, had a fight and punched their girlfriend.”

“In that case, surely,” I suggested, “as a businessman, you should be appealing to the drunken comedy audience who throw money around and not to the more sophisticated audience who don’t spend money.”

“If that’s what I wanted to do for a living,” said Noel, “but, if I just wanted to make a living, I could deal crystal meth or run a lap-dancing club.”

“So,” I asked, “the comedians are going to do the same things but longer in their one-person shows…?”

“Well,” said Noel. “Comedians doing these one-person shows are not compelled to come out with a gag every thirty seconds. It’s going the way I planned it. I want a theatre.”

“You always wanted a theatre?”

“I always wanted a feckin’ audience that would sit down and appreciate the effort that’s gone into it,” said Noel.

The Comedy Cafe is also expanding into producing comedy shows as downloadable MP3s. Soon they are going to release shows recorded at the Comedy Cafe Theatre by Steve N Allen, Anil Desai, Robin Ince, Michael Legge and Eric McElroy.

The sound of comedy from the Cafe

Expanding Cafe laughter – from live shows to mp3 downloads

“When’s that happening?” I asked Neale Welch.

“It’s just being cut now,” he told me. “I’m sorting out the webpage, the hosting and the PayPal and the functionality, so I’m thinking in the next two weeks; something like that. They’ll be released under the individual artists’ names; there will be a standalone page linked-to from our website; the Comedy Cafe will just be a footnote; we’ve just facilitated it.”

“And the appeal of the audio recordings to you is…?” I asked.

“They give us interesting live shows,” Neale told me. “And a bit of legacy. They will still be there in a few years time. We can build the business into more than one arm. We already have the club, the talent agency, a casting agency. It just gives us another arm.”

“And it means you have content beyond live shows,” I suggested.

“Exactly,” agreed Neale. “And we are looking into other content formats.”

Set List - shows coming to Comedy Cafe

Set List comes to Comedy Cafe Theatre

Neale told me the Comedy Cafe is also having Paul Provenza’s superb Set List comedy improvisation shows coming in for a run every Monday from March 11th for six weeks.

“And then,” Noel Faulkner told me, “we’ve another big production company coming in as well. I can’t name them yet. But they’ll come in weekly or monthly with their acts to prepare them for their TV programmes. A lot of people in the comedy business are suddenly realising there’s a small 120-seat space that is really keen to do good theatre. There’s room for three cameras. A tiny stage, but it works: it’s cosy, it’s intimate and it’s what I always wanted to do.”

“In a recent blog,” I said, “I mentioned how, in the future, streaming live club comedy on the internet might affect club business. And Don Ward’s Comedy Store is doing feature films of its shows.”

The Comedy Store film - "It won't work"

The Comedy Store film. “It’s a great idea… It won’t work”

“It won’t work,” said Noel. “It’s a great idea and I asked him why the cinemas are doing it. He told me it’s on the slow movie nights and I thought Well, on the slow movie nights – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – people don’t want to go out. Why go see a movie on a Tuesday night when you can see it on a Friday or Saturday night? So it’s a Tuesday night and there are comics on the big screen? Well, first of all, you don’t need to see a comic on a big screen, because there’s not a lot to look at. And what? You’re going to go all the way down town to a movie theatre and pay top dollar when you can just nip over to the Comedy Store for the same price on a Tuesday night?”

“But punters can’t pop down to the Comedy Store if they live in Plymouth or Aberdeen,” I suggested.

“Well,” replied Noel, “all they have to do is flip over to YouTube or the Dave TV channel and they can see the exact same comedy on a screen.”

“I can’t see the feature film idea working,” I said, “but, in the future, if you did live streaming from the Comedy Store or the Comedy Cafe and it cost a punter only 99p to watch it in Norwich or Belfast or the Outer Hebrides instead of coming to London to see the same acts…”

“Yes,” said Noel. “If, for £5, you could catch the Late Show at the Comedy Store on the internet outside London, that would be great. But the Comedy Store isn’t doing that. They’re trying to fill a cinema. Also, if you’re in a cinema, are people really going to laugh? If there’s only 100 people spread out over 600 seats, you don’t get the atmosphere of a live club.”

“But what happens,” I asked, “when there is live streaming of good acts from a good club at a cheap price? Janey Godley looked into live-streaming her Edinburgh Fringe show from the Underbelly in, I think, 2005 and they couldn’t do it technically from that building at that time. I’ve never understood why no-one has live-streamed their Edinburgh shows so people can see them in Los Angeles and Adelaide. In a few years time, you could have the Comedy Cafe doing a live show to people in London and live-streaming it on a 99p pay-per view so people can see it in Newcastle or Cardiff.”

“Make it £1,” said Noel. “Don’t do this 99p shit.”

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Comedian Luisa Omielan is targeting young girls, gays and Beyoncé fans

(A version of this piece was also published by India’s We Speak News)

Luisa Omielan after her show at the Comedy Cafe last night

Is there life after the Edinburgh Fringe for a Free Festival show by a relatively unknown comedian? Well, judging by last night, Yes.

I went to the first night of Luisa Omielan’s eight-week run at London’s Comedy Cafe Theatre and she got a standing ovation from a full house whooping for a show which had played to full houses and multiple 5-star reviews throughout the Edinburgh Fringe.

The show is called What Would Beyoncé Do?

“It’s about how Beyoncé songs have helped me,” Luisa told me last night. “How I think I should be a diva but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. I showcase Beyoncé songs to highlight how very different my life is to what Beyoncé has.”

My eternally-un-named friend saw the show with me. She (admittedly off-colour and with a possible ear infection) thought the pre-show music was much too loud. So did I. But, after the show, Luisa told me:

“It was to get the audience hyped. It’s not a show where you just sit down and don’t get involved. It’s very much a Yeeeaaahhhhh!!! Paaaarty!!!! show.”

She has performed in various shows at the Edinburgh Fringe for nine years, but What Would Beyoncé Do? was her debut solo show there and last night was her first ever full-length solo show in London.

The Beyoncé poster/flyer designed by Luisa

“From the first day in Edinburgh,” Luisa told me, “it had a full house of 12o people in the audience. About a week in, the fire brigade came and said: You can’t have this many people in the room! and they capped it at 75 and, after that, I was turning away maybe 20 or 30 people a night. They came because of the title and because I got listed as One To Watch and it was a good poster. Title and poster count for a lot.”

“You’ve done a lot of improv and been in other full-length shows at the Fringe,” I said to her. “You are very experienced. But doing a full-length solo show is different. Have you found it scary?”

“Yes,” she replied. “I cried twice before I went on tonight. Petrified. When I went to Edinburgh, I went completely by myself. I planned and dealt with every aspect of the show myself including the poster and the PR. But I was quite confident because I thought I’ve done the Fringe before. This’ll be fine. Whereas here tonight… I’ve never done a London show. I felt I had a lot to prove. There are 99 seats in the Comedy Cafe. How am I going to fill friggin’ 99 seats?

But my Twitter followers went up by 400 during Edinburgh and, because it’s a free show (on the Free Festival/Free Fringe model) people feel ‘invested’ – they really support with the social media networking. So I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter to promote this show.”

“Are you an improviser or a stand-up?” I asked.

“I’m both” said Luisa firmly. “I see them both as my strengths, both as my art forms and I want a show which combines the two.”

“And you want to be an actress…” I said.

“No,” Luisa corrected me. “I want to be what you just saw. I’m doing what I want to be. I’ve never wanted to be anything else but a comedy performer, since I was about four or five. I did do acting at college (she studied Performing Arts) but my thing was always I wanted to be famous for being me. I wanted to be like Whoopi Goldberg or Robin Williams – where they’re a personality. Whoopi Goldberg gets booked as Whoopi Goldberg. I wanted that.”

“When I was watching the show,” I told Luisa, “I was impressed by the audience control.”

“Well,” she said, “over a year ago, I went to Chicago for three months, to the big improv school at Second City and studied clowning over there, which I loved. And clowning’s all about raising and lowering and raising… it’s all audience control.”

“You wanted to move there?” I asked.

“I would have done,” Luisa said. “If Edinburgh hadn’t gone well, my plan was to go back. But Edinburgh went amazing.”

“So you’re going back to Edinburgh again next year?”

“Yes, with the same show at the Free Festival.”

“The same show?” I asked.

Luisa singing – and dancing – at the Comedy Cafe last night

“Yes,” she replied. “Because this show is perfect for my target audience. The people who come to my comedy show are people that wouldn’t necessarily go to a comedy show normally. So there’s a lot of my target audience out there who need to know I exist.”

“And your target audience is…?” I asked.

“The young girls and the gays, because they identify with what I say and what I talk about.”

“You had a significant scattering of black people in that audience,” I said. “That’s strangely unusual in a normal comedy club, though I’ve never known why.”

“But that’s who I want to appeal to,” explained Luisa. “An urban crowd. Absolutely I want to appeal to that audience because it’s all-encompassing. The show is a party. In so many comedy shows you see the same old thing. I don’t fit into that environment. So I did my own thing and they came and, now I’ve found that niche, it’s very important that I build an audience and a following from the bottom up.”

“Where does that go if you’re stuck with young girls and gays?” I asked. “Doesn’t that mean you don’t hit the mainstream audience?”

“I think you’ll find they are the mainstream audience,” said Luisa. “If you get the girls and the gays, then the rest of the world follows.”

“Aren’t comedy audiences mainly young males, though?” I asked.

“People say they are, but there’s actually lots more women coming to comedy now and I want to try and encompass more women in comedy and get more women to go. You look at Jessie J or Beyoncé… Men didn’t pay for that. Women paid for that.

“Women pay for entertainment, not men. Men might pay for football. Women will decide what film you watch, where you go, what you go see. Women will decide that. Women are spending the money. This old men v women thing is bullshit. I have no time for that. Women will pay for a show. I want women in my show. End of. There’s no What about the men? Fuck ‘em. They’ve got Jongleurs. Go to that.”

“So Young heterosexual males piss-off?” I asked.

“No, not piss-off. But there’s plenty of comedy out there. This is my comedy for my target audience which I have found. There’s enough of them there.”

“Have you based your stage persona on someone else?” I asked.

“Who?”

“That’s why I asked,” I said.

“No,” said Luisa firmly. “I’ve based myself on me.”

“Who were your idols?”

“Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Cher, Beyoncé.”

“Steve Martin’s different,” I suggested.

“Yeah, but in his films, he’s very physical and clowny.”

“You dance very well in the show,” I said.

“You’re joking,” laughed Luisa. “I can’t dance at all. I just dance with conviction. Improv is all about conviction. If you’re pretending to die, do it with conviction. If you’re dancing and you’re nervous about it, you dance harder and that’ll get you through.”

“I saw an interview with Fred Astaire,” I mused, “where he said Ginger Rogers actually couldn’t dance… but she could act dancing brilliantly.”

“Exactly,” said Luisa. “You do it with enough conviction and people will believe you. And dancing is a big thing with Beyoncé.”

“But what if people don’t know a lot about Beyoncé?” I asked. “That excludes them from the show?”

“No, because they just see someone dancing silly and enjoying it for dancing silly’s sake.”

“But why should I – if I’m a 26 year-old comedy-goer – go see a show about Beyoncé with Beyoncé in the title if I don’t know about or like Beyoncé?”

“Well, there’s plenty of other shows for you to go and see!” laughed Luisa. “I’m not the only choice, God bless you!”

“Maybe you are the only choice.”

“For my audience, yeah.”

“So you are playing the Comedy Cafe here every Tuesday for eight weeks,” I said, “and then…?”

“I want to tour with it next year. So it’s me building a following and attacking it from different angles, making a good comedy show free and making it accessible. When I got 5-star reviews in Edinburgh, the next day I got comedy-savvy-goers who would come and be boring and sit there and think Oh, this is very interesting blah-blah blah-blah blah. My audience was alright those days, just a bit dead.

“But when I had groups of girls – black, white, Asian – dressed up to the nines coming in for a night out, that’s when I’d have that big reaction you saw tonight where it would blow the roof off. They’re the people that I’m trying to get. The people who don’t normally go to comedy and especially wouldn’t go to Jongleurs on a Friday or Saturday night. They’re the people I want to come to my comedy show and it’s a show that’s honest and truthful and relevant and it’s not pretentious, pretending to be something else or being clever with wordplay. If it’s not for you, by all means don’t come. But, if you want a bit of a party with jokes in, you’ll love it.”

“You don’t need a PR,” I told Luisa, “You are your PR. Have you seen Beyoncé perform live?”

“Yeah,” said Luisa. “She’s amazing. I nearly died. The way she performs – I thought I wanna perform like that… but with stand-up.”

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I felt my heterosexuality under threat at Bob Slayer’s Edinburgh Fringe preview show in London Comedy Cafe last night

Yesterday: Do I look like I’m Topping?

Do I look gay?

Last night, for the second time in my life, I was mistaken for Michael Topping of the gay comedy duo Topping & Butch. This time, the culprit was comedian Nick Sun who, in an admittedly dark corner of London’s Comedy Cafe mistook me for Michael.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being gay and certainly nothing wrong with being mistaken for either Topping or Butch. They are both very very nice people. I first met them a few years ago at the monthly gay club they ran in Brighton.

Look – I was there because I was giving my Glaswegian comedy chum Janey Godley a lift from London to Brighton, alright?

Does Michael Topping look like he’s suave John Fleming here?

I was at the Comedy Cafe last night to see the first of anarchic Bob Slayer’s Edinburgh Fringe previews/tryouts for his Heroes of Alternative Comedy acts. He is running the Hive venue in Edinburgh this year, as part of his Alternative Fringe under the banner of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

The Hive hosted an eclectic bunch of performers last year, from Phil Kay to Kunt and The Gang. This year, Phil Kay will be back at the Hive with the likes of “internet-sensation” Devvo, the much blogged-about Lewis Schaffer and last year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards co-host David Mills. The line-up was announced yesterday.

Bob Slayer – beyond compere at the Comedy Cafe last night

Last night’s Hive headliners at the Comedy Cafe were Trevor Lock and the seemingly short-sighted Nick Sun. Next Monday night, it’s the Greatest Show on Legs strutting their stuff.

Bob’s Alternative Fringe at the Hive is an interesting combination of the ‘free’ show and the ‘paid’ show models. Unlike traditional venues in Edinburgh and elsewhere, the PBH Free Fringe and the Laughing Horse Free Festival do not charge acts to rent their venues and the audiences do not pay to get in; they can pay what they like (or nothing) at the end of the shows, depending on how much they enjoy them.

With his Alternative Fringe at the Hive, Bob will be promoting £5 shows in the evening and free shows in the afternoon.

He says:

“If you want to pay £12 to see a show where the artist is more than likely going into debt while the promoter and venue make a profit and there’s no bar and the sweet smell of desperation coats the walls all sponsored by Richard Branson, then you have plenty of Fringe venues to choose from. However, if you want to see a Fringe show where the artist is actually getting paid and happy, where the price to get in is either £5 or free, where there is a well-stocked bar and in place of a Virgin Bank sign there is condom vending machine… well, we’re your alternative.”

It all sounds very gay.

In the original meaning of the word.

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Shock jock Howard Stern backs farter Mr Methane for “America’s Got Talent”

Mr Methane, caped crusader of farting

If you read yesterday’s blog, you will know that British comedian Bob Slayer is apparently too outrageous for Australia. But what about the world’s only professional flatulist – British farter Mr Methane – on an American television network?

As of this week, infamous US shock jock Howard Stern is a judge on the TV show America’s Got Talent.

The producers of the show contacted my chum Mr Methane about appearing way back in 2008.

“They were very excited to get me over for the 2009 season,” says Mr M, “but unfortunately we couldn’t work the visa requirements for the show out, so it all came to nothing. I guess it’s really got to be an American show with American acts otherwise there’s no point in calling it America’s Got Talent“.

However, Mr Methane did appear on Das Supertalent – Germany’s Got Talent in 2010-2011 and got through to the semi-finals.

On Howard Stern’s Sirius radio show on Tuesday this week, Howard was asked by co-presenter Robin Quivers: “What would you do if Mr Methane showed up?”

“I’d put him through,” Howard replied. “I would. I think Mr Methane is fantastic. I think Mr Methane could be on Broadway. But they would never put him on NBC. That’s the problem. He couldn’t audition. But he’s funny. He’s got an act.”

When told Mr Methane was planning a book, Howard said: “Keep me out of that book!”

Then he mused: “I wonder if he could audition?… I guess they couldn’t show that on… Maybe network TV is… I was watching The Voice and that judge Blake said Kiss my ass! and they put that on NBC. Remember when they wouldn’t even less me even say Ass on radio?”

Told that Mr Methane auditioned on screen for Britain’s Got Talent, but did not get through, Howard said: “Oh I would let him through. In a minute, I’d let him through.”

At the 2009 auditions for Britain’s Got Talent, Simon Cowell called Mr. Methane “a disgusting creature,” but the video of the audition on YouTube has currently had over 17 million hits.

“To me,” said Howard Stern, “that guy’s a superstar. I’d make him a star on that show (America’s Got Talent). I’d put him through… I bet you he’d win. People love farting, but it’s not just farting – he’s funny. I told you, I would back that guy to go on Broadway more than those fucking Cirque du Soleil.

“Honestly… Honestly I’m saying this. I happen to think Mr Methane’s a genius. I told you I thought he’s funny and I would back him; I certainly would.

“I’m not making a joke. If we were in Vegas… I really would go over see the Mr Methane show… I’m not saying he’s everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s enough people’s that he could have a successful career there.

“I could only pray he’d be the winner of my first year on America’s Got Talent. I’d be so honoured. America’s gonna vote and I think America would vote for him. I do. I really do.”

Two clips from Howard Stern’s radio shows this Tuesday and Wednesday (total 5min 36sec) are online here

Meanwhile, back in the UK, I currently have a cold which includes a hacking cough which keeps waking me up at night. When I get woken up, I can remember my dreams, something I never normally do.

Last night, I woke up and I had been dreaming I was walking with a friend through a shopping mall in the Far East when we bumped into Comedy Cafe owner Noel Faulkner and a friend. The four of us went and had a chat in a telephone box while other people made phone calls. I was lying on the shelf.

What does this mean?

This is the second time I have woken up from a dream about Noel Faulkner.

Perhaps it is a nightmare.

I am scared.

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I do not know why five people fired guns at the owner of the Comedy Cafe

I never remember my dreams. I wish I did.

Well, maybe I remember them once every couple of years.

I got to bed at around 3.45am this morning. Don’t ask.

The alarm went off at 8.30am.

I remember a dream if I am woken up during one.

This morning, when the alarm woke me, I was dreaming that an act had fired a gun past Noel Faulkner’s head. He owns the Comedy Cafe in London and was auditioning potential performers. He ducked, rushed off sideways and said: “They’re deafening me!”

“That’s very insensitive,” I told the man with the gun. “You’re the fifth person who has shot at Noel today.”

Five performers had walked in and shot at him, thinking it was a good attention-grabbing opening to their act. I partly know where this dream comes from.

It is partly connected with custard pies.

I used to work as a researcher on the children’s TV show Tiswas, which was known for custard pies and slapstick. When I went to see potential acts, they often thought it would be hilarious to ‘pie’ the man from Tiswas. They were, they thought, bound to get on the show that way. To tell the truth, it was a bit wearisome.

I used to smile appreciatively when it happened.

But there are worse things.

Auditioning children near puberty is one of them.

One year, too many – far too many – children –  especially slightly-off-key girls – were singing the song Tomorrow (from Annie) at me in auditions. It was appalling. They were well-meaning and enthusiastic. But that made it all-the-more ghastly. It was like having your teeth drilled while someone sticks a screwdriver in your ear.

And we all know what that feels like.

Presenter Chris Tarrant told me he had had a worse year, when lots of twelve-year-old boys with their voices in the process of breaking were singing Bright Eyes at him – because it was the song of the moment and because their parents thought it was cute.

“It was horrible,” he told me. “You never, ever want to hear a boy, at puberty, sing Bright Eyes.”

Getting repeatedly shot at with blanks in a small room by people trying to impress you would probably run this pretty close in a contest, though.

I did once try to persuade the producer of Channel 4’s The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross that, just to get publicity and to create what I thought would be an Andy Kaufman-esque moment, during an interview and immediately before a commercial break, someone should run on-set with a blank gun and shoot Jonathan in the chest. He would have exploding blood capsules under his jacket.

The shots would be fired, blood would spurt from holes in his jacket and the director would cut to the commercial break. After the commercials, Jonathan would re-appear in a duplicate jacket without any bullet holes and make no reference to what had happened.

“The regulators would not like it,” I was told.

The producer was probably right.

I was telling this story to someone yesterday.

Which must be why guns with blanks made an appearance in my dream.

How poor Noel Faulkner got involved, I have no idea.

There was a smell of cordite in the air, mixed with the smell of highly-whipped shaving foam.

On Tiswas, the ‘custard’ pies were actually made of highly-whipped shaving foam and other ingredients. The little bubbles of air in the highly-whipped shaving foam made the ‘pies’ stick to people, but it could be wiped-off quickly and cleanly.

People never used that formula when they ‘pied’ you as the visiting researcher from Tiswas, though. They used real custard pies.

Dreams are less messy.

You can wipe the blood away.

I wish I could remember them.

A whole world of surrealism is passing me by.

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