Tag Archives: Casual Violence

Clinically depressed comedian starts monthly two-hour Happy Hour club

Juliette does not feel blue - she feels yellow

Juliette does not feel blue – she feels yellow

“The branding of the venue is yellow. The posters are yellow. So today, when I knew I was meeting you,” Juliette Burton told me yesterday, ‘I put on a yellow top. Maybe I over-think things a little bit.”

When I talked to Juliette back in February, she told me she was starting a new monthly comedy club in April – the first Tuesday of every month. Well, it is now April and the club starts this Tuesday.

She told me back in February that it is called Juliette Burton’s Happy Hour despite the fact each show will run for about two hours and is hosted by someone with clinical depression.

“It is,” she told me yesterday, “false advertising all the way.”

“How much does it cost to get in?” I asked.

“It’s pay-as-you-feel,” said Juliette, “and we hope people will feel generous. It’s a guaranteed uplifting night.”

Indeed, the posters proclaim:

HAPPINESS GUARANTEED OR YOUR MONEY BACK

Pleasant juliette at the Pleasance, London, yesterday

Juliette preparing a two-hour Hour yesterday

‘You are not really a stand-up comedian,” I said to Juliette. “You’re a performer of hour-long, highly-researched, documentary comedy shows with lots of facts. Why are you doing these shows?”

“Because,” she told me, I will be compering and I can try out material for my future docu-comedy shows. But also it will let me do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – muck about on stage and be more myself. With my docu-comedy, there’s so much research packed in that I have to be really tight on the time and there’s very little chance for me to improvise anything.

“I’m going to be trying out some new material I’m quite nervous about at the Happy Hour. I’m going to be most open about my darkest mental health problems. But it will be upliftingly dark stuff.”

“And you are having guests?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Juliette. “This Tuesday, there’s comedy mind-reader Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway is bringing all the breasts – she has lovely bosoms – and then there is James Hamilton who will provide darkness. I want the audience to leave feeling uplifted, so he is going to come along and do some comedy which will make them feel sad. He’s usually part of sketch group Casual Violence but he’s testing solo stuff out on Tuesday.’

“Is he being sad?” I asked. “Or is he being just plain weird, which is what Casual Violence is.”

“Casual Violence,” said Juliette, “is very weird and twisted and dark and wonderful and so full of pathos. When I see their shows, I always end up crying in at least one sketch. So it will be interesting to see what James does on his own.

“And we also have Matt Francis who does ‘proper’ stand-up comedy. Very bright and uplifting. He was recommended to me by Patrick Monahan.”

“Did Patrick Monahan hug you?” I asked.

“Of course he did,” said Juliette. “He is Patrick Monahan.”

“One day,” I said, “I may meet someone he has not hugged. But it could take a long time. Anyway, this new club night is at a new venue.”

The first Happy Hour guests, clockwise from top left) Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway, Matt Francis, James Hamilton

The first Happy Hour guests (clockwise from the top left) Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway, Matt Francis, James Hamilton

“Yes, The Canvas in Shoreditch. It’s London’s first Happy Cafe, which is nothing to do with drugs. They have a programme of events that actively encourage happiness, including things like free massages, which they had the other day when I went for a rehearsal. Not dodgy massages. Proper massages. The Happy Cafe is run by the same woman who is charge of Body Gossip, the charity for body confidence and body image.

“They are the reason we are able to make it a free night. It’s pay-as-you-feel. If everyone pays £5, that will hopefully cover the costs to the venue – they have to have staff in – and then we will split any profit between the charity and hopefully the costs of the acts.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Psychology

Casual Violence no-show at Ed Fringe + new Malcolm Hardee Award concept

Jams Hamilton at Soho Theatre (connoisseurs of the Malcolm Hardee Awards might want to look more carefully at what is in this picture)

James Hamilton at Soho Theatre, London (connoisseurs of comedy & Malcolm Hardee Awards might appreciate what is also seen)

“Why have you changed your hairstyle?” I asked James Hamilton at the Soho Theatre Bar.

“I’ve going for the shit Wolverine style,” he replied.

“I have a shit memory,” I told him. “Why am I meeting you?”

Casual Violence Live!” he said.

Casual Violence are one of my favourite acts at the Edinburgh Fringe. They have been twice nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

“Ah yes!” I said. “Casual Violence. How long have you been going? I’ve forgotten.”

“Fucking ages,” said James. “In our current post-studenty form, almost five years now.”

“And this is your first DVD?” I asked.

“Yes… Well, we don’t have the money to make it a DVD, but we’re putting it online as a download. It’s uploading as we speak”

I think I have seen all the Casual Violence shows – in Edinburgh, Brighton and London – except this year’s one The Great Fire of Nostril. At the Edinburgh Fringe, its show times clashed with my own Grouchy Club shows.

Casual Violence's 2014 Edinburgh show

Casual Violence’s 2014 Edinburgh show

“You’ve done four different shows and a Best Of show?” I asked.

“Yes,” said James. “But the most recent show – The Great Fire of Nostril – is not really a sketch show. So the DVD is a mix of stuff from the first three shows plus a few sketches that didn’t fit into any particular show. Well, it’s not a DVD; it’s a download. Maybe a third of the material in it wasn’t in any Edinburgh Fringe show but stuff which we’ve occasionally done out-and-about. “

“There must,” I asked, “be some sketches which work live but not on a screen?”

“Yes, we found that with the seven web series sketches we did. The one with the Human Defence League guys in a shed… We spent 16 hours in a normal-sized garden shed with five people. It was horrible and then the sketch wasn’t as good on screen as it is live. The three sketches I wrote specifically for the web work very well on screen but can’t be done live.”

There are several Casual Violence taster sketches on YouTube.

“So,” I said, “at the Edinburgh Fringe next year…?”

“Casual Violence are not going to do a new Edinburgh show next year,” said James. “But I may be doing a solo show. We’ve done five shows in a row together. We’ve basically got Edinburgh fatigue and, by developing what we do, we found ourselves… confined is probably the right word… by that particular style

Casual Violence - not appearing at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe

Casual Violence – not appearing at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe

“We love doing stories because, when it works, it’s better than doing a ‘normal’ sketch show. But it’s so much more difficult and we don’t realistically have another one in us. We could say: Oh, let’s just churn out an hour of sketches, but that’s lazy and none of us really wants to do that. So, instead, we are filling our time with all the projects we always wanted to do but can’t do because Edinburgh takes over all our time.”

“They’re solo projects?” I asked.

“Yes. But also group stuff. We’re making a podcast. You came to see the Obsoletium read-through a year ago. We’re going to do that as a podcast and we’re currently writing the second episode. We’ve re-titled it Hector vs The Future because no-one could spell Obsoletium.”

“You’re writing that alone?”

“I’m co-writing it with James Huntrods, our co-producer. He’s got a very good handle on story structure, which I tend to be weaker at.”

“Is that why you’ve done sketches within a single situation in the past, rather than a single linear narrative?”

“Pretty much, although The Great Fire of Nostril had one complete narrative even if it’s a very weird narrative – a bizarre, surrealist one. We’re performing it at the Soho Theatre in the first week of February.”

A picture painted by William Frederick Yeames in 1878

A picture painted by William Frederick Yeames in 1878

“How’s your father?” I asked. “Is he no longer trapped in the depths of the London Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane?”

“I don’t know where he is,” said James. “Since leaving the depths, he’s been gallivanting around the… I dunno… I dunno… I tend to leave him to it… He’s just working in…I dunno where he goes… Wherever he goes… God knows where he is.”

“And you?” I asked.

“It wasn’t planned,” said James, “but, over the course of the next couple of months, we have so many projects all happening at the same time. Casual Violence are doing the podcast and the Soho run and I’m developing my solo project and there’s the Casual Violence Live! DVD… erm download. We filmed it at the Brighton Fringe in May which was advantageous, because we won an award specifically for the show we filmed.”

“Which award?” I asked.

Argus Angel Award

Argus Angel Award

“The Argus Angel Award. I think they used to do trophies, but now they just e-mail you a PDF of the award certificate, so it’s an award that actually costs you, because you have to print it out yourself if you want a physical version.”

“That’s quite a good idea,” I said. “Perhaps I should do that with the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. In 2007, I had trophies made for every year up to 2017. After that, I could just send people PDFs of photos of the trophy they might have won if I had bothered to have one made.”

“Or,” suggested James, “part of the prize could be that the winners this year have to design and make trophies for next year’s winners.”

“It would be in the spirit of Malcolm,” I said, “that the winners lose money. I did originally have the idea that part of the prize for each winner would be that they had to buy the judges drinks. But, as I don’t drink alcohol or spirits, it seemed a rather pointless idea… and it doesn’t really work as a concept if they have to buy the judges tap water. It would somehow diminish the award. Although there did used to be the Tap Water Awards. Perhaps I should reconsider the idea.”

On YouTube, there is a trailer for Casual Violence Live!

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Theatre

Why comedy writers and performers are different and clowns are not clowns?

James Hamilton at the Soho Theatre bar yesterday

James Hamilton – Soho Theatre bar yesterday

So yesterday afternoon I went to the Soho Theatre bar to talk to Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma about her weekly – always unique – Friday night Lost Cabaret shows in London.

It never happened.

I arrived early and found multiple Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee James Hamilton sitting at a table, writing his sketch group Casual Violence’s next show for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

“How much have you written?” I asked.

“10%,” he said glumly.

“I was going to do a solo show this year,” he told me, “but I got talked into doing a Casual Violence one. Do you remember the Siamese Twin hit-men from Choose Death? I am giving them a full story. They work together as assassins until one of them decides he would rather be a baker instead. They fall out and decide to go their separate ways.”

Casual Violence 2014 Edinburgh show

Casual Violence: new 2014 Edinburgh show

“The Siamese Twins?” I asked.

“Yes,” said James. “It’s about the brotherly dynamic.”

Then Nelly arrived.

James and Nelly had never met before, but it transpired they had both been on Dr Brown/Phil Burgers‘ clown workshops.

Clown workshops seem to be trendy for performers at the moment but, as far as I can see, have nothing to do with clowns as any normal person would recognise the word. They are actually improvisation workshops under a ‘sexier’ title.

Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, James (a writer who performs) found the workshops more difficult than Nelly (a performer who can write).

“The people who could be themselves or a version of themselves on stage,” said James, “were the people who did best in the workshop and I wish to god I could do it. I loved the workshop and got so much out of it but I also really struggled. It was so difficult.”

“It is really difficult,” agreed Nelly. But those people had probably been to loads of these workshops and practised a lot of dropping it and ‘being with themselves’. Or hadn’t been to anything at all.”

“Yes,” said James, “a lot of people who did best in that workshop had never done any performing of any kind.”

“The people who find it hardest, I think,” said Nelly, “are people like actors or stand-up comedians. With actors, there’s always this mask: that they never want to show themselves. With comedians, they’ve always got to have a punchline. Stand-up is very wordy; it’s always about what they’re saying, not what they’re doing. Whereas, in clowning, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it and how you do it. It’s all about How not What.”

Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma with James Hamilton

Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma with James Hamilton yesterday

“It’s a very performance-driven thing,” said James, “whereas I tend to approach stuff from a very writery point of view. Writing is very introverted and thinking about ideas and not letting go. All the clowning stuff is very counter to that. Not in a bad way. But it’s the opposite of what you’re taught as a writer.

“I remember at the workshop,” James continued, “being told off because I had an idea before going on stage. So what I did for the rest of the workshop was every time I had an idea ahead of going on stage I would immediately dismiss it because I knew if I went ahead with that idea he would pull me up on it. He wanted people to go on stage with nothing and then find something.”

“Well,” said Nelly, “it’s OK for you to come on stage with an idea, but you have to be ready to drop it in a split second if the audience hate it. People who come on stage with an idea can be more in love with their idea than they are with the audience. It’s not necessarily that he wants people to come onto the stage with nothing, because some people literally don’t have anything and it’s boring. You need to have something. What’s your impulse? What are you thinking? But, if it doesn’t work, you just throw it out the window. You do whatever it takes to make the audience love you.”

“I think, when I do more solo things,” said James, “it will be more of an even balance but the way it works at the moment is I’m the sole writer for a group of people, so I need to bring stuff in. It doesn’t need to be perfectly finished. We play with it and develop it. But it does come from a very scripted starting point.”

“When I go on stage,” said Nelly. “I always have an idea of something. I’ll have a character and a costume or I’ll come up with a game and go on stage and play with that.”

“The fact people can do that is amazing,” said James. “It just terrifies me. Though in an appealing way. It makes me want to do it.”

“It doesn’t matter if you flop at some point,” said Nelly, “provided you bring the audience eventually to this place of magic and then they forget about the bit that flopped.”

James had told me earlier that he had been “talked into” doing a Casual Violence show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and, in a sense, the same thing had happened with Nelly and Lost Cabaret.

Zuma Puma (centre bottom) + her collective

Zuma Puma (centre bottom) + her collective

“I wasn’t going to go to the Fringe this year,” she told us. “I thought: I need a break. I’m going to be in Spain for the month lying naked on the beach or hitchhiking to Morocco and singing on the top of mountains until five in the morning. But then (regular performer) Dan Lees applied for a spot for Lost Cabaret at the Fringe and told me about it after we had been accepted.”

“So,” said James, “you will have to defer your month of naked hitchhiking to the top of mountains at five in the morning.”

“I’ll still do that,” said Nelly. “Maybe before I go to the Fringe.”

“You told me,” I said, “that you’ve been going for lots of castings recently.”

“Lots of auditions for short films,” said Nelly, “which I’m finding interesting, because a lot of writers are shit.”

“Are you cast as Girl 1 or Girl 2?” asked James.

“I’m usually cast as a femme fatale killer,” Nelly replied, “which is fun. I’m OK with that. But how many scripts are just so degrading to women?”

“Women are either in films to have sex or to be killed,” I said.

“There is a website called Casting Call Woe,” said James, “which has genuine casting calls which are horrendously sexist and awful.”

Currently on the site are these four descriptions of projected movies:

The actress would need an ‘Easy Access Skirt’ with leggings underneath so that the skirt could be lifted up and it would look convincingly like she was ‘being taken from behind. Consent to have fake vomit thrown on her. 

Please send a pic of your tongue so I can approve of your tongue length.

The egg shoots from her vagina and directly into the doctor’s mouth.

Bikinis will get this movie attention. Great acting will get it respect. 

“I got a script for a short film,” said Nelly. “Somehow they had got funding for it. I don’t know how. They were looking for an actress who could play seductive but bad and I thought Oh, I can play femme fatale no problem. But then I read the script and there is a scene where a female crime investigator is talking to me – I’m this girl who is covered in blood and freaking out – and she starts putting her hand up the girl’s skirt and fingering her. There was no conversation before the investigator starts randomly fingering the girl. And, in the next scene, her face is in the girl’s vagina – there’s a shot of the investigator’s head between this girl’s legs. What the fuck has this got to do with the investigation? And then she kills the girl. It drives me nuts. I will have to start writing.”

There is a Lost Cabaret showreel on YouTube.

and also a trailer for Casual Violence’s comedy.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Performance, Theatre

Juliette Burton (an English rose actress) & farteur Mr Methane’s burning bottom

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The highly-coveted main Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The Edinburgh Fringe takes place every August but never ends. It is only three months since this year’s Fringe finished and a whole nine months to the next one. But already performers are starting to obsess. It is like having a baby – right down to people having occasional morning sickness with a feeling of nausea in the pit of their stomach.

Fortunately, as a non-performer, I do not have to suffer any of this.

I have already booked a venue for the two-hour 2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – on Friday 22nd August – and talked to a venue owner about doing a second year of chat shows in the lead-up to it.

Elsewhere, performers’ traumas reign.

Yesterday, a young starting-out stand-up comedian asked me:

“Can literally anything – ANY experience – be turned into a Fringe comedy show?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Janey Godley’s Good Godley! was the show everyone talked about in 2004. It was very funny and it told exactly the same story as her autobiography Handstands in The Dark which is so terrifying it reads like a novel by Edgar Allan Poe. In the book, the story is horrific; on stage, it was very funny without demeaning the story. But, then, Janey’s talent is that she doesn’t tell funny stories, she tells stories funny.

“And Juliette Burton’s Fringe show this year When I Grow Up had something unexpectedly shocking in it: you could almost hear people’s jaws dropping. It was a happy, uplifting show with a coup de théâtre in it.

“If you’re having really bad time with your boyfriend and the relationship is breaking up,” I said, “write it down. It’s cathartic and it could be turned into comedy gold in a couple of years, if not sooner.”

“Should I wait a week,” asked this would-be comic, “then I write it down so I can be objective about it?”

“No,” I advised her. “The last thing you want to do is write something objective. If something horrible happens, write it down straight away while the pain is still vivid. The writing-down of it distracts you a little from the pain and, when you look at it in 12 months time, you will find you’re objectively looking at something that seems like a stranger’s writing.”

“But you’re not a performer,” she pointed out. “What do you know about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, “but I can give bullshit advice plausibly.”

What you do not write is almost more important than what you do write. It is what you cut out that can give impact to what is left in. This is something known by the twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee James Hamilton of comedy troupe Casual Violence.

Casual Violence - concentrated comedy

Casual Violence – surely everybody wants to see their sitcoms

He Facebooked a message yesterday about a one-off London show in January called Casual Violence: Nobody Wants To Make Our Sitcoms (Work in Progress). The blurb goes:

Join us for a low-key, super-informal script readthrough of two new sitcom projects that we’re working on – one for radio, one not for radio, both just for our benefit. We just want a bit of feedback so we can make them ourselves, for you. We’d like you to be our script editors. Come along, listen to our stories, have a drink with us afterwards and tell us what you think. Entry: £3 (entry fee is just to help cover the costs of the venue).

I have told them I will come along if they pay me £3.05p because, in comedy, it is seldom the performers who make the real money. It is the peripheral hangers-on.

Although, with luck, the aforementioned Juliette Burton might be an exception.

She is a combination of English Rose and whirling Tasmanian Devil type character with show ideas and promotional ideas spinning around her like a Wizard of Oz tornado. I had tea with her yesterday afternoon and most of the conversation I cannot repeat.

“What CAN I repeat?” I asked her.

“Well,” she replied, “as of today, it is confirmed that When I Grow Up is the first in a series of six live shows – and hopefully books and who knows what else? They will all be themed around identity – What makes a person? – The books depend on the interest I get from the proposal I have been asked to submit to a publishing company.”

Juliette’s new website lists her six shows as:

2013 – When I Grow Up
2014 – Look At Me
2015 – Dreamcatcher
2016 – an untitled show
2017 – Daddy’s Girl
2018 – The Butterfly Effect

“I am doing When I Grow Up at the Leicester Square Theatre in February,” she told me, “then touring it in Australia until May. There’s a new video promo for it.”

Juliette’s 2014 show Look At Me is going to be staged in association with the facial disfigurement charity Changing Faces, the body image charity B.O.D.Y. and the eating disorder charity B-eat.

Look At Me is billed as “a docu-comedy” (which is what When I Grow Up actually was) and, like When I Grow Up, will include video footage shot throughout the year – including interviews (the first is on 18th December) – and, in this case, the blurb goes:

By changing her appearance in dramatic (and hilarious) ways, Juliette will document how people react to her, how she feels and how she behaves. From wearing her glasses to being a man, from wearing a burka to dressing provocatively, from revisiting her “fat” self to being “old” and even going nude. Can we change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside? And is what we appear to be who we are?

I normally hate videos within live stage shows, but Juliette (a former BBC Radio journalist) showed with When I Grow Up this year that she can make it work smoothly and superbly.

Look At Me will also develop Juliette’s promotional blitz style with an accompanying pop song by Frankie Lowe, a pop video by Daniel Waterman, who directed her Dreamers (When I Grow Up) video, and who knows what else.

Juliette Burton seems to me to live a life of extremism.

With my chum Mr Methane, it’s a life of surrealism.

I got an e-mail from him last night.

Mr Methane pictured with Thomas Numme, Author - Jo Nesbo & Harald Ronneberg on a previous visit to the show.

Mr Methane pictured with (from left) Thomas Numme, author Jo Nesbo and Harald Rønneberg after a previous show visit

Tomorrow, he returns to the Senkveld med Thomas og Harald (Late Night with Thomas and Harold) TV show on TV2 in Norway.

He is making a special guest appearance with Robbie Williams and recently retired Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on the 10th anniversary edition of the show.

In fact, the show was pre-recorded on 22nd November in front of an audience of 8,000 at the Oslo Spektrum stadium.

Mr Methane tells me: “I had a brief chat with Robbie Williams as I came off stage and he went on – that’s right I was his warm up man. He said he had once gone to see me at a gig in Newcastle-under-Lyme in the early 1990s.

“Between us, me and Robbie had both ends covered on this gig. Although we both grew up not too far from one another and we both tread the boards, other similarities are not readily apparent. However I can now exclusively reveal that we both like oatcakes.

“Last weekend I went back to Norway again – this time to Kristiansand – where I did a 25th birthday gig for the Norwegian importer of Umbro sportswear.”

Part of Mr Methane’s much-admired yet seldom imitated stage act involves farting-out the candles on a birthday cake.

He told me:

“The Norwegian boss wanted me to wear Umbro sportswear until I explained that I came from Macclesfield where the Humphrey Brothers of Wilmslow set up their first Umbro factory. (The name UMBRO apparently obscurely comes from the words hUMphrey BROthers.)

mrmethanebends

Methane’s mate’s mum made his costume

“My mate’s mum, who made my Mr Methane costume, was an Umbro seamstress so I told the Norwegian boss that, technically, I was already wearing Umbro kit.

“He was delighted, but that didn’t stop a rather drunken member of the audience slamming the birthday cake candles into my bottom, burning my arse and rather spoiling the big moment. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or just fell over because he was so drunk.

“But that’s Northern Europe for you: long cold winter nights and large amounts of booze.

“The next day, I got food poisoning at breakfast and had a rough journey home. I am now finally getting back on track. It is a big relief as I am on my last pair of pyjamas.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy

More injured and bloody comedians cause chaos at the Edinburgh Fringe

Casual Violence - concentrated comedy

Casual Violence – injured minds, bloody strange, very funny

James Hamilton of comedy sketch group Casual Violence has been nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award in two consecutive years for his bizarre writing. This year, Casual Violence are performing not one but two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

When I first saw one of Casual Violence’s shows, I wrote of  James: “I think he might need psychiatric help. Though not creative help. There’s something very original in there – I just don’t know what the fuck it is”

My opinion has not changed.

Yesterday afternoon, I was heading to see the new Casual Violence show House of Nostril at the Pleasance Courtyard when a tall young man handed me a flyer for Alexander Bennett’s Afraid of the Dark with Jorik Mol.

For some reason, I asked: “Are you Jorik Mol?”

“Yes, John,” he replied.

“People keep telling me I should meet you,” I said.

“We met a couple of years ago,” Jorik said.

“I have a shit memory,” I told him, “Where have you been?”

“I was in Amsterdam for a year,” said Jorik.

“I’m not surprised,” I said, “You’re Dutch.”

Jorik Mol up against a wall at The Pleasance

Jorik Mol – very pleasant at The Pleasance yesterday

“I was convalescing from clinical depression,” continued Jorik, “I basically spent a year in a haulage container doing voices to myself.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because what else is there to do in a haulage container? I also read Tolstoy’s War & Peace.”

“You mean the big metal containers they transport on ships?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“You need money to afford a haulage container,” I suggested.

“You don’t,” said Jorik. “I was given one. I was a student at the University of Amsterdam and they give them out to people who either live very far away from Amsterdam or who are strange. The containers have all been turned into flats. There’s a window at the front and a window at the back.”

“When did you stop living in a container?” I asked.

“I’m still officially living in a container in Amsterdam,” Jorik told me. “But I’m moving to London next month, going back on the comedy circuit and starting to study a Masters in Comparative Literature at University College, London.”

Jeremy Bentham sits, stuffed, at UCL

Jeremy Bentham sits, stuffed, at UCL

“Is that where Jeremy Bentham sits stuffed?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Jorik.

“And you’ll be gigging on the side?” I asked. “Comedy is difficult.”

“No,” said Jorik. “People say comedy is easy but, when you’ve been through severe clinical depression and hospitalisation, maybe everything is easy.”

“Ah…” I said. “Stand-up comedians and mental hospitals…”

“Mental hospitals are great,” said Jorik. “I was punched in a mental hospital. People in the mental hospital really fucking hated me.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because,” said Jorik, “I’m young, I can speak and I can read novels. There was a guy in the mental hospital who was like the alpha male – he was like a white van man. He thought I was threatening his position in the ward. There were seven completely inert people there, three of whom had regular ECT treatment. So there wasn’t a lot of pride to rule over as the Lion King he thought himself to be.

“One day I woke up late, because I was on a lot of medication, and I was about five minutes late for finger painting or whatever I was supposed to do and the guy just came up to me and just knocked me out.

“I am pretty proud that I am so viscerally annoying that I annoyed someone out of severe inert depression.”

“It sounds like good training for playing comedy to British audiences,” I said.

“Absolutely,” said Jorik.

It turned out he and I were both at the Pleasance to see Casual Violence’s House of Nostril, as was uber-mindreader Doug Segal (he, of course, already knew in advance that we were going to bump into each other).

It was a full house as, indeed was Casual Violence’s other show – Om Nom Nominous at the Voodoo Rooms. It is their ‘greatest hits’ show which I also saw yesterday and, inevitably, it was very weird, very funny, strangely dark, strangely melancholic and the full house pissed themselves laughing.

PekkaStrangeboneComedyShowpiece

Pekka & Strangebone’s accident-prone Fringe show

I also saw Pekka & Strangebone’s Comedy Showpiece at the Voodoo Rooms – another odd sketch show with a dash of darkness added to basic (this is a good thing) silliness. There were three cast members. One had twisted his ankle – the bone had popped out then popped back in again. He had had to go to A&E earlier in the day. Another of the trio had fallen onto a piece of broken glass in the Meadows and gouged a great bloody hole in his hand. He had had to go to A&E earlier in the day.

When I came out of their show, I told them they should try to get publicity on the basis of being the most accident-prone show in town – or the show with most accidents soonest. Then (this is true) I checked my iPhone for e-mails and there was one from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. It was headed:

PLEASE, NO MORE INJURED AND BLOODIED COMEDIANS…

I thought I started to hear the theme music from The Twilight Zone.

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards disasters

The increasingly medically challenged Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show

Then I opened another message. It told me that Miss Behave – who broke her heel in Dublin a few weeks ago and is compere of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday 23rd August… is NOT.

The message read:

“Not possible for me to stay without cutting my foot off and clubbing myself to death with it.”

Miss Behave, rightly, is going back to London to recuperate rather than continuing to damage herself by leaping around Fringe shows in Edinburgh.

I asked Janey Godley – the comedienne who can handle any situation – if she could compere the Malcolm Hardee show instead. She said Yes. Yippee!

Then I opened another e-mail…

It was from Andy Dunlop, the President of the World Egg Throwing Federation. He will be supervising the Scottish national Russian Egg Roulette Championships at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday 23rd August. Except that he will not be…

The e-mail said:

Andy Dunlop in happier days

President Andy Dunlop in happier days

I am meant to be in Australia right now but I am not…..

My wife is unwell and starts Iodine 131 radiotherapy on Friday. Currently she is exhausted, can’t sleep, faints a lot, is over heated and very very grumpy.

As from this Friday she will also be radioactive for some considerable time and in quarantine at home for at least 14 days. This prevents her from being left alone, cuddling cats or sleeping with husband. She is upset about item 2.

My suggestion that I bugger off to Edinburgh for a few days may lead to suffering from a beating and probably divorce although it would reduce my risk of cross contamination by gamma and beta emitters.

I am unable to predict her recovery and thus am unlikely to make it for the 23rd but John Deptford, our World Vice President, is available due to his Russian Visa not coming through.  He is better than I at compering. Can he crash at yours?

I said Yes.

But it is going to be a crowded night in my Edinburgh flat on Friday 23rd August.

There will be me, John Deptford, Martin Soan, Mr Methane.

Four men and one bed.

It could be a Richard Curtis comedy.

If Mr Methane farts, he may die.

Perhaps all of us will.

So it goes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh, Holland, Humor, Humour

Casual Violence with Mr Methane farting around, plus Fringe comedy, David Icke & the Bilderberg conspiracy

Last night, I saw comedy sketch group Casual Violence performing what they called a ‘work in progress’ version of their upcoming new Edinburgh Fringe show House of Nostril.

It was slick, sick and silly, peculiar, perverse and potty – in other words classic Casual Violence weirdness.

James Hamilton, Casual Violence writer and twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee, reckons his stuff is not weird but, then, he IS weird, so what does he know about it?

Casual Violence have even put a video about hair on YouTube this morning.

After the Casual Violence show last night, I got back to relative normality at home when I received to an email about the World Farting Championships at Utajärvi in Finland.

It seems the Chortle comedy website’s Fast Fringe preview is on 11th July in London and Chortle’s Steve Bennett had inquired into the availability of Mr Methane, the farter of alternative comedy, but he was sadly unavailable because he will be off to the World Farting Championships.

When I intruded into Steve’s grief last night, he told me: “It’s a shame. Mr Methane would have added something very distinctive to the atmosphere of the gig. However, the other 28 acts who are on the bill will possibly be grateful as the dressing rooms at Leicester Square Theatre are very small.”

I asked Mr Methane about his now tragic non-appearance at the upcoming Chortle gig:

“Being invited to the Fast Fringe,” he told me, “is a significant acknowledgement for any performer who is out there working his ring off, so it goes without saying that I’m more than a little frustrated at having a Diary Clash.

“But, that said, I can’t let down my fans in Finland nor the World Farting Championships – The promoters had already booked my tickets and announced my appearance.

“I have promised them some anal japery and anal japery they will get. My word is my bond. Mr Methane always come up trumps.”

“But,” I asked him, “what if you HAD appeared at the Fast Fringe preview: what would you have shown them?”

“I would,”  he told me, “have given potential Fringe goers a taster –  if that’s the right word – of what to expect at my Edinburgh Fringe show.

“It’s not just a performance show this year. I am attempting to give audiences the ‘back story’ of my 20+ years at the ‘bottom end’ of showbusiness… the quirky, stupid stuff that to me has become everyday normal but to everyday normal people is anything but normal.”

I thought of Casual Violence at this point.

“That said,” continued Mr Methane, “I realise that many will just want to see the farting so I’m going to do that as well… All the crowd pleasers… Candle in the Wind, the cake, the talcum powder, farting the dart…

“It’s going to be tricky getting the balance between spoken word and farting right, but I’m sure that wherever the balance point ends up I will share some good crack.”

His show – Mr Methane: My Life in Farting – is at the Edinburgh Fringe 13th-17th August – at Bob Slayer’s new venue Bob’s Bookshop. It should, as Steve of Chortle said, add “atmosphere”.

Never knowingly under-promoted: my upcoming Fringe show

Never knowingly under-promoted: my upcoming Fringe show

For better or worse, I may have to inhabit some of that atmosphere, as my show Aaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! So It Goes- John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show is in the same venue 19th-23rd August. Let us hope the sweet smell of success transfers.

Mr Methane had two other little snippets of news for me.

The first was something totally unexplained in an e-mail. He told me:

“I met Bob Slayer at the weekend. The tank broke down due to fuel starvation, so he wasn’t able to arrive from out of the sea on an amphibious craft but is hoping to try again next year.”

I have absolutely no idea what this means.

The second thing he told me was in the same e-mail:

“BTW there is a Fringe Festival happening near you very soon – the Bilderberg Fringe Festival. Speakers confirmed so far include David Icke and Alex Jones, who Rolling Stone described as a giant in America’s conspiracy sub-culture.

Publicity for the Bilderberg Fringe

Publicity for Bilderberg Fringe features esteemed David Icke

“Fancy! The Bilderbergs just happening to set up shop down the road from you and then along comes a Bilderberg Fringe Festival as well. They’ve got an alternative media centre outside the hotel – That’s a whole week’s blog material right outside your front door. It’s come a long way since Jon Ronson covered them.”

I looked up the Bilderberg Fringe website after getting Mr Methane’s e-mail. It says:

“The Bilderberg conference is an annual, unaccountable, off-the-record summit attended by royalty, politicians, intelligence, Big Pharma, tech, banking and corporate CEOs plus policy-makers and media moguls from all over the world. The press are not invited, nor given any details beyond a participant list and a sketchy agenda.

“The group is run by a Steering Committee (which is the Bilderberg Group proper). The UK’s Minster of Justice Kenneth Clarke has been a member of the steering committee since at least 1998.

“Seeking to stimulate hearts and minds and unite the politically conscious, the Bilderberg Fringe Festival is an unmissable occasion for conscious citizens from all over the world to join together. We are expressing our outrage at this travesty of democracy the only way we know how. By hula-hooping in the sunshine and dancing barefoot in the grass. Except where cows have been.”

Perhaps James Hamilton and Casual Violence are not as uniquely weird as I thought.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour

Comedy writer James Hamilton tries and fails to persuade me he is not weird

I only just discovered this morning, when inserting a link into this blog, that James Hamilton has put a very large quote from me on his website. James is the writer and begetter of the Casual Violence comedy sketch troupe. The quote on his website reads:

“I think he might need psychiatric help. Though not creative help. There’s something very original in there – I just don’t know what the fuck it is.”

That pretty much covers it.

Over lunch yesterday, I asked James:

“How’s you father? Is he still living that odd Hobbit-like subterranean life in those strange Silver Vaults in Holborn?”

Gollum honestly does not live in the Silver Vaults in London

Gollum honestly does not live in the Silver Vaults in London

“He’s not in there any more,” said James.

“WHAAAAT?” I reacted.

“Did I tell you that my father and his brother fell out?” James asked me.

“No,” I said, smelling the hint of bloggable weirdness.

“He and his brother used to be in business together,” explained James. “But they fell out. They both had businesses in the Silver Vaults and…”

“In those strange, metal-and-stone, cell-like caves,” I interrupted.

“They both had businesses in the Silver Vaults,” repeated James, “and my father had to walk past my brother’s shop every day.”

“Like Gollum,” I mused.

“Your skin does changes colour down there,” James agreed.

“Do people down there call each other My precious?” I asked.

“No,” said James firmly.

“So your father and uncle don’t talk?” I said.

“This Monday,” replied James, “was my grandmother’s 80th birthday and that was the first time in 15 years or so that we managed to get the two of them to the same table for a meal. They sat at opposite ends of the table and did not talk.”

“How long was the table?” I asked.

“Long enough,” replied James. “Anyway, my uncle is still working down in the Silver Vaults and my father recently left. So now he’s… I don’t know what he’s doing… He’s off… He’s just trying to make money doing stuff… I don’t keep track.”

“How long was he toiling down in the Silver Vaults?” I asked.

“25 years or so.”

“And he sold the entire business?”

“No, he just sold the premises. He’s still keeping the business going.”

“So where’s all the silver?” I asked. “Everyone down there has things like giant silver ostriches and small Regency pepper pots and extravagant pheasants.”

James does not know where the family silver is

James honestly does not know where the family silver is now

“I genuinely don’t know where it all is,” said James. “I presume it’s still in Britain.”

“He could have sold it and bought some country,” I suggested. “Perhaps Greece.”

“That’d be good, wouldn’t it?” said James.

“Not Greece,” I said.

“No, not Greece,” James agreed.

“There’s the basis of a sitcom there,” I suggested.

“Well,” said James, “If you do comedy, the one thing you do hear a lot is, if something ridiculous happens in your family, people say: Oh! There’s a sketch in it! or That’s a sitcom!

“Oh,” I said, rather deflated.

“They tend,” said James, “to be people who’ve never seen my comedy. When they see what I do, they tend to stop saying that.”

“I’ve seen your comedy,” I said, slightly crestfallen.

“It’s really rather sad,” said James. “As a result of the falling-out, my dad has had no contact with that other side of the family. I have got little cousins between the ages of 8 and 13 and they were chatting away about their lives at my grandmother’s birthday party on Monday and that was simultaneously lovely to see and quite sad. My grandmother was really happy and was hopeful that, at some point in the future, my dad and his brother might be able to do that again.”

“What?” I asked. “Not talk to each other?”

“Yes,” said James, “not talk to each other, but in the same room rather than being in different places… Have you met Jorik Mol?”

“Alas,” I said, “no.”

“He has this running joke, when he sees my Edinburgh Fringe shows, that they are all about my daddy issues.”

“But you don’t particularly have dads as characters in your shows,” I said.

“Well, we kind of do,” said James. “In Kick In The Teeth, the only one was in the battleship sketches where we had the father who dies at the beginning and the son who goes out to avenge him. But, in Choose Death there was Roger & Charlie in the taxidermy house, which is like a whole father/son relationship. And I’m returning to it this year in our new show House of Nostril. The main storyline is a father & son relationship.

“When I do my solo show next year – at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 – it’s going to be the first time I’ll have consciously mined my own experience to write stuff. The Casual Violence shows are not about me.

James will not be playing the Dyslexic Goblin

James will not be playing the part of Conk, Dyslexic Goblin

“In this year’s show, House of Nostril, the character of Conk, The Dyslexia Goblin came from two separate ideas. I wanted to have a carer/caree relationship where the guy who’s being cared for can see a goblin but the nurse can’t.

“And there was a play we’d all done years ago about using face cream to cure illnesses. So we started talking about curing dyslexia with face cream. And that became Conk, The Dyslexia Goblin and there’s a lot of cream being rubbed on people’s faces while the goblin makes sandwiches.”

“Not at all weird,” I said. “It’s social realism, really.”

“That’s the only weird part in the new show,” said James warily.

“What else is in it?”

“We’ve got a series of sketches about chimney sweeps. The premise is that one has retired at the age of 10 and this other 8-year-old sweep is trying to convince him to come out of retirement, but he doesn’t want to do it because he’s on the wrong side of 10.

“Our director said to me: Oh, I see – it’s a metaphor for the coal mining thing! and I said No and he got really annoyed with me, because apparently that’s what I had written: I just didn’t know I had.

“And it was the same with Conk, especially with what happens in the storyline, which I won’t spoil. Somebody at the last rehearsal told me that Conk, The Dyslexia Goblin was actually all about Alzheimer’s and dementia… No, it’s not about dementia; it’s about goblin dyslexia cream and loneliness and that’s all it’s about.

“Loneliness?” I asked.

“He is a lonely goblin,” explained James. “Only the old man can see him. If nobody can see you, it must be quite lonely and depressing. I don’t think that’s actually where the story is going now, but we were playing with that idea. We’re still trying to have characters end up miserable and alone… because that’s the Casual Violence way.”

“Are they always miserable and lonely?” I asked.

“They were last year,” said James. “Our last show was very bleak. This one is less bleak. It’s sillier, it’s like our previous one Choose Death. It’s less oppressively horrible.”

“But still weird,” I said.

“Only the dyslexia goblin part,” said James.

I am still not convinced James has not got a strong weird gene in him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour