Tag Archives: censorship

Comedian Louise Reay is being sued over a Fringe show about free speech

Louise Reay, has come up against a brick wall, not in China

Last year, comic Louise Reay previewed her then-upcoming Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Hard Mode at critic Kate Copstick’s increasingly prestigious London charity emporium Mama Biashara.

It was the first time I knew Louise had separated from her husband.

Beyond that fact and a lot of rather arty Chinese references, I discovered no details of why they had separated. That is relevant to what follows.

The  blurb for Hard Mode read:


“Based on a dialogue with Ai Weiwei and featuring a team of masked police, this provocative show explores censorship”

Imagine how you’d act if you were always being watched? Imagine if you couldn’t speak freely? Imagine if the Chinese government bought the BBC?

An immersive comedy show where the audience experiences life in an authoritarian regime. Yay!

Based on a dialogue with Ai Weiwei and featuring a team of masked police, this provocative show explores censorship and surveillance.

Hard Mode is the latest show from multi award-winning comedian and journalist, Louise Reay.

‘Reay can legitimately claim to be unique’ (Independent)

‘Truly fantastic, utterly out there’ (Al Murray)

**** (Skinny)


“I am being sued. It’s really happening”

Last night, I got an email from Louise. She is currently in Australia, performing at the Adelaide Fringe. Her email read:

Dear John – I am being sued. It’s really happening. 

She is being sued by her estranged husband because he objected to what he claims was in her Hard Mode show.

I can only assume her estranged husband has not heard of The Streisand Effect.

Louise has started a GoFundMe crowdfunding page. It reads:


Hi! I am Louise Beamont, my stage name is Louise Reay.

I hope you’ll forgive me – but I need to ask you something.

You see, I am being sued over one of my stand-up shows.

Not just by anyone. By my husband (now separated of course).

He has a lot more money than me and he says that I accused him of abusing me in my show. And so he’s suing me, which in my opinion is simply an attempt to silence me.

As standup comedians, I believe it’s the very definition of our job to talk about our lives and social issues.

So this has become a free speech issue – and free speech means everything to me. As a Chinese speaker, I’ve spent many years in China and experienced the social impact when people do not have this freedom. I’ve also spent many years making documentaries for the BBC with vulnerable people whose voices are rarely heard.

And, I cannot begin to tell you how difficult an experience it has been to have my Edinburgh show censored.

I think therefore it’s really important for me to defend myself in this case.

And I’m afraid I need your help please because. I need to pay lawyers you see.

Here’s a bit more detail ….

I am a stand up comedian and documentary-maker, with a particular interest in speaking out for oppressed people.  On Tuesday 30 January 2018, I was served with defamation, privacy and data protection proceedings by my husband from whom I am separated. I cannot tell you how oppressive that feels.

The claim is in relation to a comedy show that I performed last year. a few times last year. It was a 50 minute show about censorship and authoritarianism, asking the audience to imagine that the BBC had come into the control of the Chinese government.

During that show, I referred to my husband a couple of times – perhaps 2 minutes’ worth of reference in a 50 minute show. The main gist of those references was to tell the audience how sad I was that my marriage had broken down recently. He has complained about 2 performances of my show in London, and my shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

He is seeking £30,000 damages, his legal costs (which I can only assume will be massive) and an injunction stopping me from publishing statements about him. This is despite the fact that I gave him an undertaking (a sort of legal promise – without admitting liability of course) not to mention him in any further performances of the show, as soon as his lawyers complained. Indeed, all further performances of the show at the Edinburgh Fringe were without reference to him.

Defamation and privacy cases like this can be very expensive to defend. At present, I do not have the funds to defend this case. Therefore, I’d be very grateful for any assistance with costs. I have struggled greatly to pay all of my costs to date but and cannot afford to pay a barrister to prepare my defence.

I am confident I can defend the claim. However, these sorts of cases are fraught with uncertainty. It will depend on what the judge finds the words mean and possibly on whose testimony the judge prefers.

I am therefore seeking to raise an initial fund of at least £10,000. I might need to raise more as the case goes on.

If I am successful in defending this case, I hope to secure the recovery of some of my legal expenses from him (around 70% is typical I’m told). If I am able to recover some of my legal expenses, I will reimburse all those who have contributed to my defence fund in proportion to what each party has contributed.

Funds raised in this crowdfunder shall be used solely for my legal expenses. If I lose the case and damages and costs are awarded to my husband, I shall be personally liable for those. I’m told that, if this happens, it could be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, and I will be bankrupt.

In any responses to this message can I please ask that you don’t post any negative comments about my husband. I’m not trying to embarrass him with this plea. I’m desperate. I need help. It’s about free speech … just like my show was.

Thank you very much for reading.


The link to the GoFundMe crowdfunding page is HERE

MORE ON THIS STORY HERE

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How to think up a title for your very first Edinburgh Fringe comedy show

First of all, think of it not from your viewpoint but from the viewpoint of the punters and the reviewers.

In my opinion, you should have a title which starts in the first half of the alphabet.

ZEBRA JOKES FOR FOLKS may seem like a good title, but punters looking through the Fringe Programme start at the front and work through looking for attractive shows. So they go A-B-C-D-E etc etc.

By the time they get to M or N, after literally hundreds of shows, they are starting to skim the listings, their eyes are glazing over and the time slots they want to fill-up already have multiple shows vying for their attention. By the time they get to Z, they probably wish they had never had the idea of going to the Edinburgh Fringe in the first place..

For this reason, the late Malcolm Hardee used to start his titles with Aaaaargh!… increasing the length of the Aaaaaaaarghs year-by-year to out-manoeuvre copycats.

He was almost always first in the Fringe Programme’s comedy section listings.

In Edinburgh in August, you are not the only show in town…

Don’t go for Aaaaaaargghh! The market for it is already full. But I suggest you have a first word which starts with a letter between A and M.

Using the title A ZEBRA SHOW probably will not work because A and THE tend to be ignored by the Programme’s alphabetical listers.

Also, in my opinion, you should have your name in the title because, ultimately, the reason you are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe is to sell yourself and awareness of yourself to punters and to the media – NOT primarily the show.

Jonathan Ross first became famous on the Channel 4 show THE LAST RESORT WITH JONATHAN ROSS.

No-one knew who the fuck Jonathan Ross was when it started (not the punters; not TV industry people) but, because the show was good, they inevitably got to know his name. Every time the show was mentioned or printed, his name was publicised because it was in the title.

Another important thing is DO NOT BE TOO CLEVER with a title. Achieving impact is more important than being seen to be clever-clever. The more clever a title is, very often the more confusing, obscure and – when glimpsed for 1½ seconds on a flyer or in the very cluttered listings page in the Programme – possibly the more incomprehensible it is – especially to people from the US, Oz, Europe etc. The dividing line between being intriguing and confusing & annoying is narrow.

Your self-explanatory title has to stand out without an image

You only have 1 to 1½ seconds at very most for the title to register in people’s brains as they skim through listings, see your flyer among many or see your poster among many 15 feet away across a street.

KISS – Keep It Simple, Sucker.

The other thing to remember is that, in lists of “Today’s Shows” – either in The Scotsman newspaper or on a board at the venue or elsewhere – the punters only see the title in isolation – they may well NOT have read your 40 carefully-crafted words in the Fringe Programme. So your sole sales pitch to the punters who have never heard of you and who have no idea what your show is about is the title.

My inclination would be to figure out what TYPE of comedy show it is going to be.

Then figure out three words which make that obvious.

Then make them jolly and attractive (no easy feat).

And mix your name in there somehow.

I know that, when the Fringe Programme deadline comes, you will almost certainly have very little idea what is actually going to be in your show. But is it satire? Quick fire gags? Stories? Autobiographical? Physical comedy? Gay? Variety? Sketch? Surreal? Rude? Clean? Cutting-edge? Clowny? Family?

As a punter, if I see a general show title from a performer I have not seen, I have no idea what the show is like. It could be any of the above categories. If it is in a simple Daily Listing in a paper, in a magazine or on a board, there is not even a flyer or poster image. Just the title.

So the title on its own has to tell the punters – or at least hint – what TYPE of comedy show it will be.

Someone like Jimmy Carr does not need to do this. Because people know what to expect. They know who Jimmy Carr is and they know he is not a comedy magician or a juggler or a drag act.

Janey Godley is unusual in that her name will bring in punters

Someone like Janey Godley can get away with titles using puns on her name because she has a big existing audience in Edinburgh. So For Godley’s Sake! will work for her. The word GODLEY will get in her dependable audience.

But, the punters probably have no idea who you are – it is your first Fringe show. Remember that, defying expectations, a large percentage of your audience is likely to be local NOT from London. All the Fringe Office research I have ever seen seems to confirm this.

Another bonus to a clearly-defined title is that the title – as well as helping the punters know roughly what your show is about – will actually concentrate your own mind on exactly what the show is about and will stop you whizzing off in all sorts of irrelevant directions. Everything in the show should relate directly to the title.

And don’t use meaningless words – every word has to actually mean something. This is more important in the text rather than the title, but…

“Hilarious” and “rib-tickling” mean bugger-all.

Your show is in the Comedy section fer feck’s sake. Every show can say it is “hilarious”. What is your show’s Unique Selling Proposition? Why is it better and more interesting that the other zillions of comedy shows yelling for attention?

Do not even THINK about being zany!

Meaningless words like “wacky” and “zany” are actually suicidal. If any experienced reviewer sees those words in the description, it screams “18-year-old University student wankers who think they are funny and want to be famous and fêted”. It is like people putting up signs saying: “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps”.

These “wacky” and “zany” shows are almost guaranteed to be laughter disasters. I would personally avoid like the plague seeing any show describing itself as “wacky” or “zany” and I would be more likely to go see a comedy show calling itself “Satanic” than one claiming it is “hilarious”.

In my opinion.

But that don’t mean a thing.

The other vitally important factor to bear in mind is the oft-repeated refrain from William Goldman’s book Adventures in The Screen Trade – “Nobody KNOWS anything”.

However experienced or knowledgable anyone is, they don’t KNOW what will work.

You have to ultimately go on your gut instinct, have self-confidence and ignore any advice you think is wrong.

Don’t forget you can probably change the name of your show either until you submit it or until the final deadline for the Fringe Programme (both have been the case in past years) or until some arbitrary date that the Fringe Office may conjure up.

Because, just as this may be your first year at the Fringe, so it is for a lot of the people working for the Fringe Office, many of whom change from year to year.

Richard Herring had to splurge out his ‘O’

There was one inglorious year – 2012 – when a completely barking mad person was in charge of the printed Programme. I blogged about it at the time – here and here and elsewhere.

2012 was the year poor Richard Herring had his show asterisked TALKING C*CK despite the fact that the origin of the word ‘cock’ in that phrase is not sexual (it comes from ‘cock & bull story’) and despite the fact that his original show TALKING COCK had been printed in the Fringe Programme with impunity ten years before, in 2002.

In 2009, I staged a show which the Fringe Programme had happily printed as  AAAAAAAAAARRGHHH! IT’S BOLLOCK RELIEF! – THE MALCOLM HARDEE AWARD SHOW. They would never have allowed that in 2012 and that had nothing to do with changing public taste but with individual stupidity in the Fringe Office.

Never assume anyone anywhere in Edinburgh in August is sensible.

2012 was the year the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PRICK was UNacceptable by the Fringe Office but the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PR!CK was totally acceptable (with an exclamation mark replacing the I)… and Australian comedian Jon Bennett intended to perform his first Edinburgh Fringe show: PRETENDING THINGS ARE A COCK.

The show’s title had been printed in full without any problem in the brochures for the Adelaide Fringe, the Edmonton International Fringe, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Montreal Fringe and the Vancouver International Fringe. But the Edinburgh Fringe Office that year insisted the word COCK had to be changed to C*CK.

Mindless Fringe Office censored the word but not the image

To make matters even more ludicrous, the word had to be printed C*CK in the Programme listings, but the image for the show (also printed in the Programme) had the word COCK rising erect from a man’s groin.

The same Programme happily printed the show title MOLLY WOBBLY’S TIT FACTORY, a show by KUNT AND THE GANG and Reginald D Hunter’s show WORK IN PROGRESS…AND NIGGA while banning another comedian’s show title because it included three dollar signs in a row –  $$$ – which, it was claimed, did not fit ‘the Fringe’s house style’.

Always assume that everyone in Edinburgh in August is on some hallucinogenic drug or has a severe personality disorder. This assumption has served me well.

Never assume anything at the Fringe is easy or anyone is sane.

Most importantly, do remember that the title of your show is all about self-promotion, not necessarily about the show itself.

One template which I do recommend for any Edinburgh Fringe show title is:

AAAAAAARGH! I LISTENED TO JOHN FLEMING AND THAT IS WHY I, (INSERT YOUR NAME HERE), HAVE THIS CRAP TITLE FOR MY (INSERT YOUR GENRE HERE) COMEDY SHOW.

Trust me.

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Fringe Day 4: a ferociously funny comic & a Fringe legend returns

Becky Rimmer was celebrating her Bat Mitzvah

Today, I saw the ferociously funny – and I do mean ferocious – Candy Gigi Present Becky Rimmer’s Bat Mitzvah!

Then the incongruity of Pat Cahill expertly controlling a full room with a fishing rod and stories intermittently about being The Fisherman

Other highlights were The Incredible Joz Norris Locks Himself Inside His Own Show, Then Escapes, Against All The Odds!!

The Fringe Office tried to ban him from using two exclamation marks in that title, but he claimed the second one was artistically vital and they backed down. In this show, his surreal creativity continues to inch towards the more personal material which I think may eventually break him Big, as our American cousins might say…

Over ten years in casinos and dry vegetables

I rounded off the evening with a large audience and a small dog listening to impressive storyteller Matthew Harrison explain what his show title Fuck Me Like Dry Vegetable has to do with his ten-year career in the UK casino business.

In fact, the censorious Fringe Office has insisted his show be called F*ck Me Like Dry Vegetable. That’s really disguising the word, good ’n’ proper!

With over 3,500 shows and around 50,000 performers in town during the Fringe, flyering to get audiences is vital and, very often it ends up with performers flyering other performers.

I bumped into Italian comic Luca Cupani at Fringe Central this morning.

Luca Cupani with the surprising flyer today

“I was flyering in the street,” he told me, “and there was this beautiful girl. She gave me her flyer and I gave her mine. I asked her: When is your show? She said: From seven to one. Which I did not understand but, when she left, I looked at her flyer and it took me a while to understand it was not normal. I thought she must be a very clever comedian telling jokes half-naked to challenge sexism. You know those kind of things they do. But no. Then I realised the truth.”

Highlight of my day, though, was to receive an email from 2007 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds. The last I heard of him, he had sold his canal boat in Nottingham or somewhere similar and disappeared off the face of the earth. His e-mail read:


The great Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds

I am still alive. Just.

I have a sister.

Foolishly, she has decided to become a stand up comedian.

It will end in tears.

She is like me. but better.

She is playing at Edinburgh Fringe.

She is called Jeanette Bird-Bradley.

Her show is Context, People! at the Bourbon Bar, 5th-13th August.

Thank you for the good memories. I still treasure my Malcolm Hardee Award.

I hope the last decade has treated you well.

Your humble servant

dokctor cocacolamcdoanlds


Kate Copstick’s chip price was an unPleasance surprise

I returned to the Edinburgh flat to find Copstick complaining. No surprise there.

She had had a small plate of chips at the Pleasance Courtyard at lunchtime which cost her almost 10p per chip. Par for the course in Edinburgh at Fringe time.

But not even that diminished the joy of hearing again from the great Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds…

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Cunning comic Becky Fury, banned by Facebook, is to go into sexy wrestling

Becky Fury was at Mama Biashara last night

Yesterday’s blog was partly about the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award given at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Last night, I saw last year’s award-winner, Becky Fury, preview her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show at Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara emporium in London.

Becky has been having a run of bad luck.

About a week ago, in the course of one day, she lost both her Edinburgh Fringe venue and her Edinburgh accommodation. And, when I saw her last night, she had just finished a 24-hour ban by Facebook. She remains unbowed, though, and has plans for making money in wrestling.

Everything was settled for her Edinburgh Fringe show Molotov Cocktail Party – including her paying the exorbitant fee to be listed in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme. She was due to perform at the exotically-named Bar Bados Complex which, apparently, is the new name for the Cowgatehead building, a legendarily cursed comedy venue at the Fringe.

Becky’s expensive but now incorrect Edinburgh Fringe listing

But, around a week ago, well after the Fringe Programme was published, the Fire Brigade refused to allow two rooms in the venue to be used for performance and Becky was moved to another new venue in a different location though mercifully at the same time – 10.45pm – 6th-26th August. (EDIT! This changed two days later: See HERE.) The new venue, the Black Market, beside Waverley Station, was still being built when last heard-of.

Simultaneous with her venue loss, she lost her free accommodation in Edinburgh but was able to get some temporary accommodation for the first few days of the Fringe.

It never rains but it pours.

Particularly in Edinburgh.

“And,” I said to her last night, you have just been banned from Facebook for 24 hours. How did you manage that?”

Becky’s temporarily-banned non-cummunity standard Facebook

“Two jokes I wrote,” she explained, “included the word ‘Paki’. So I am on my third warning from Facebook. If I say anything else that ‘does not adhere to Facebook community standards’, the Facebook Thought Police will come, detain me, detonate my profile and ‘disappear’ me.”

“What were the objectionable jokes on your Facebook page?” I asked.

“The first joke was about genuinely meeting a racist at a train station who was talking about the three ‘P’s – Poles, Pakis and Paddies.”

“So,” I checked, “what got you into trouble was the reported speech of another person which happened in a real situation?”

“Yes. The joke was that I said I agreed with ‘no platforming’ so I pushed him off the platform under a train. That was the joke.”

“So,” I checked again, “Facebook had no objection to you saying you pushed a man under a train but they did object to the fact that, in objecting to his racism, you quoted him using the word ‘Paki’?”

“Yes,” said Becky. “That got me a ‘First Warning’. This second time, I got banned for 24 hours because there was a discussion around Daniel Kitson’s use of the word ‘Paki’ in his show and I don’t like the other politically correct words like POC or BAME so I suggested we might compromise and use the word Poci instead. I was agreeing with the idea of political correctness but I got banned because, again, the word ‘Paki’ was in there.”

“So what’s next after Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Wrestling,” she replied.

“Wrestling what?” I asked.

“Probably existential questions.”

Wrestling with existential questions?

“Fury is a good name for a wrestler,” I said.

“I’m not sure,” she replied, “if it’s a good idea for my actual, real name to go up on the internet and be immortalised as a sexy wrestler. So I am going to be Minerva, the goddess of war.”

“What sort of wrestling?” I asked.

“I’m going to be a sexy wrestler…a bikini wrestler.”

“In front of crowds in stadia?”

“No. Mostly one-on-one.”

“Wrestling men or women?” I asked.

“I don’t mind. It’s obviously mainly men, because they are…”

“Stupid?” I suggested.

“Stupid perverts,” Becky laughed. “Yeah.”

“Define one-to-one wrestling,” I said.

“It’s wrestling with a guy – usually a guy – for money. That makes it sound like marriage, I suppose. But you basically play-fight with them for an hour and they pay you for it and you wear a bikini.”

“What do they wear?” I asked.

“Usually a teeshirt and a pair of shorts. Them wearing clothes is a pre-requisite. You are alone in the room with them. They could just attack you in that situation and fuck you. But there is always someone else in the building.”

Becky wants to get a head in wrestling

“How much?” I asked.

“£150 a session. There’s about three different centres in London do it.”

“If it’s wrestling,” I said, “it’s a competition. Someone must win.”

“Usually the woman wins,” said Becky. “As always in Life.”

“This is not really wrestling,” I suggested. “It’s hugging and stroking.”

“There’s no fondling going on,” replied Becky. “It’s sensual, semi-competitive wrestling.”

“Where does the ‘semi’ come into it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to think about that.”

“Why do they pay to do it?” I asked.

“I think part of what’s going on is that these guys are submissive, so they normally have a control issue in their life. They are normally guys who are in control, maybe OCD, very obsessive-compulsive. What they like is that, in the ring, they have to maintain control over their own lustful desires while you are asserting yourself over them. So it’s like very, very light BDSM.”

“It’s in a wrestling ring?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Why have a proper ring?”

Becky with her 2016 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

“It’s the theatricality of it. Makes it more fun.”

“With most theatrical experiences, there’s a build-up, development and a climax,” I prompted.

“There’s no happy endings,” said Becky. “It’s about maintaining a level of eroticism.”

“You seem to know a lot about it.”

“I did it for a couple of months a few years ago, but I’m a lot stronger now. I’ve been doing loads of yoga and going to the gym. If you’re not strong enough, they don’t want to wrestle you. They don’t put up a great deal of resistance, but you do need to give them a proper fight. The women fighting women are really going for it, though. You really have to fight, until you get your arm ripped off by some psychotic Ukrainian.”

“Women fighting women?” I asked.

“If you just want to go and watch girls wrestle each other competitively,” said Becky, “that goes on for a few hours, so that might cost £70 for a ticket.”

“Are you going to do that as well?”

“Yeah. But they tend to be really hardcore Eastern European women, much more interested in beating-up other women for money than I am. It’s the women that I’m scared-of, not the men. I may get my arse kicked by some big fuck-off scary Russian female shot-putter. The men are little, weedy, runt-boy men.”

“When you were involved in it before, how old were the men?”

“Generally in their 40s.”

“Is it a fetish?”

“It’s just something people want to pay for. People pay for all sorts of nonsense. One time, I did a filming session. The guy was wearing a Santa Claus hat with a little white ball dangling on it and the woman was riding around on his back half the time. At the end, she got the hat and shoved it into his mouth and, when he took it out, he told us: I’ll be wearing this for Christmas dinner when I go and visit my family. People have got all sorts of really bizarre fantasies and, if they want to spend money realising them, they can.”

“What was Father Christmas wearing apart from his hat?”

“Shorts and a teeshirt.”

Becky Fury’s Molotov Cocktail Party show

“What is the attraction to you?”

“Money.”

“So, basically,  these people are like the Medicis to your struggling artist? Supporting the Arts with their cash.”

“Exactly. Because I can’t be bothered to fill-out Arts Council grant forms…” She paused. “I don’t know how this blog will come out. I don’t want to sound like a whore.”

“Would I do that to you?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“No,” I tried to reassure her. “You will come out as a lover of eccentricity. A worthy Malcolm Hardee Award winner.”

“Well,” she said, “it’s just more fun than working in McDonalds, isn’t it?… And also you get to kick men in the testicles and not get sacked… again.”

“Will you be wrestling up in Edinburgh?” I asked.

“If anyone wants to wrestle me in Edinburgh,” she said, “it will be £200 – or mates’ rates, which will be £250.”

Becky also appeared in this 2016 music video

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Sachsgate & the Mail on Sunday – How people became offended second hand

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Yesterday, I was at Brunel University in London, where their Centre For Comedy Studies Research had a panel discussion on Comedy, Class and Offence.

Mark Boosey, esteemed and eternally mysterious British Comedy Guide boss, brought up the 2008 ‘Sachsgate Affair’ in which vast offence was reported after a BBC Radio 2 edition of The Russell Brand Show.

On the show, Russell and guest co-presenter Jonathan Ross had phoned up actor Andrew Sachs (Manuel in Fawlty Towers) to invite him on as a guest. When he did not answer the phone, four messages were left mentioning that Russell had had sex with Sachs’ granddaughter, who was one of the performers in a ‘baroque dance group’ called Satanic Sluts.

Some extracts from the messages are below:

Sachsgate - BBC picture

MESSAGE ONE
Jonathan Ross: ”He fucked your granddaughter… “

MESSAGE TWO
Russell Brand: “I wore a condom.”

MESSAGE THREE
Jonathan Ross: “She was bent over the couch…”

This caused a furore. And Ofcom fined the BBC £150,000.

However, yesterday, Mark Boosey gave the timeline for the public’s outrage:

SATURDAY 18th OCTOBER 2008
The pre-recorded show was transmitted.

SUNDAY 19th OCTOBER
The BBC noted two complaints in its log of listeners’ views. One referred directly to the Andrew Sachs section.

Mail on Sunday - Sachsgate

The Mail on Sunday’s trigger for Sachsgate

SUNDAY 26th OCTOBER
Eight days after the broadcast, the Mail On Sunday ran a main story on the Andrew Sachs answerphone messages.

MONDAY 27th OCTOBER
The BBC received 1,585 complaints.

TUESDAY 28th OCTOBER
The total number of complaints rose to 4,772.

WEDNESDAY 29th OCTOBER
By 10.00am, the number of complaints had reached 18,000 and, at 11.30am, the BBC suspended Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. At 5.45pm, Russell Brand quit his show.

THURSDAY 30th OCTOBER
By 11.30am, the number of complaints had reached 30,500. At 5.50pm, BBC Controller of Radio 2 Lesley Barber resigned. At 6.21pm, with complaints now at 37,500, the BBC announced Jonathan Ross was being suspended without pay for 12 weeks.

FRIDAY 7th NOVEMBER
Radio 2’s Head of Compliance, David Barber, resigned.


Mark Boosey yesterday pointed out that only two people who heard the broadcast on transmission had been offended (perhaps only one) and it had taken eight days for 1,583 other people to have been offended second-hand.

What it all proves I do not know, but it must prove something. I personally thought what was broadcast (which I have listened to) was way-way-over-the-line into unacceptable offensiveness.

Yet, on 9th November 2008, Russell Brand told the Observer that what had been broadcast had been “toned down”: that “the worst bits” were cut out before the broadcast – presumably they believed the new version was not offensive.

I guess it also shows that, in a world of instant TV, radio and internet, newspapers still have a big effect. And it had a lasting effect even after it ‘ended’.

On Friday 21st November 2008, after publishing a report on the incident, the BBC Trust said that a list of “high-risk radio programmes” should be put together to prevent a repeat of what happened.

That is simultaneously sensible and unsettling and the BBC have, arguably, been running scared ever since.

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

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s show Yuletide Queer

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s stage show Yuletide Queer

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

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

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

“Where are you staying?”

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

“What sort of show is it?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

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

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

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

“I was banned from there 14 years ago.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh dear,” I said.

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

“Oh dear,” I said.

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

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

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

“And what happened?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Women’s Equality Party, sexism, Dapper Laughs and very bad or good PR

Women’s Equality Party website

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God, if he or she exists, is a comedy scriptwriter.

Last week, a friend of mine joined the Women’s Equality Party, which writer and presenter Sandi Toksvig co-founded back in March this year. Two days ago, my friend was filling in a survey email from the party and was finding one question a bit tricky:

What do you think would help most to free our streets, workplaces and public spaces from harassment abuse?

She asked me what my answer would be. I replied:

I guess better social education at school age.

Now we jump to yesterday, when the Chortle comedy website reported a story under the headline:

DAPPER LAUGHS; I’M A FEMINIST
‘I’d say yeah, equal rights’

There was a storm in the comedy and television teacup earlier this year over Dapper Laughs’ unacceptably sexist material. As a result, Daniel O’Reilly (the real name of Dapper Laughs) went on Newsnight, the BBC TV current affairs show, to give a contrite apology, claim he was misunderstood and say he was going to ‘kill off’ the Dapper Laughs character.

A few months later, he ‘revived’ the Dapper Laughs character and just carried on as before.

Both decisions were terrible pieces of PR because they both implied or exposed blatant insincerity and rampant cynicism.

Yesterday’s Chortle piece reported an equally mis-begotten PR decision. It is an excellently written piece of journalism, so I feel justified in nicking the copyright material. It is balanced yet shows an opinion.

Steve Bennett of Chortle pointed out that “In several of his (Dapper Laugh’s) online videos he filmed himself yelling sexual comments at women in the street or from his car as he drives past. One of his tweets said that he was so annoyed with his girlfriend that he’s gonna ‘pull out his Chris Brown moves’, referring to the rapper who assaulted his girlfriend Rihanna. And his chat-up lines included: ‘Just show her your penis. If she cries, she’s just playing hard to get.’…”

The meat of the Chortle report was an interview Daniel O’Reilly gave to women’s rights campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez for On Demand News. In the video of the interview, the new Dapper Laughs DVD cover is very prominently displayed.

O’Reilly said:

“If you ask me if I consider myself a feminist, I’d say yeah – Equal rights… A big one for me is I didn’t realise… I didn’t realise how much women have to deal with sexual advances and sexual harassment on just an average day-to-day basis… I’d hate to say I was naive to do it but I didn’t know how much of a problem it was until my content about it… that I was trying to take the mick out of men being like it… until it come under so much fire I was like Really is it this bad?. I matured cos I learned about it.”

Steve of Chortle then tellingly and admirably added in the line:

“Dapper Laughs’s next gig is hosting the PRP awards for the porn industry in London tomorrow night.”

In my opinion, the On Demand News interview shows an astonishing level of PR stupidity. Apart from trying to be contrite – which is unconvincing – O’Reilly ‘explains’ his about-turn on the Newsnight interview – that he would abandon the Dapper Laughs character – by dragging in his dad having had cancer and his post-cancer-scare dad persuading him to continue with the character. All the while sitting in front of the giant DVD cover.

This is a PR miscalculation on such a vast scale in every direction – he thinks it will make him look like an OK bloke whereas the effect (rightly or wrongly) is to make him seem even more appalling.

I posted a link to the Chortle article on my Facebook page with the comment: The boy needs serious PR guidance.

Comic Daphna Baram commented:

Dapper Laughs in the interview

Dapper Laughs’s words are rather undercut by commercialism

Why? His fame and infamy and the number of tickets he sells for his show and the numbers of pieces written about him and the number of people getting their knickers in a twist about him have way exceeded whatever potential of talent he will ever ever have. He is a PR genius. What journalists need is a “how to know they’ve been fussing about a PR queen for too long”, that’s what.

… which is a very valid point.

Connected to all the above in a way that is closer than it might at first seem is that, this week, I was also told by an acquaintance that his (the acquaintance’s) friends intended to heckle a comedian whose shows espouse political views they find obnoxious.

I was asked: “What do you think?”

My texted-back reply was:

It is always a bad idea to heckle someone whose views you disagree with, especially if the rest of the audience has paid to see the person. You are always going to be seen as the bad guy, whether your opinion is right or wrong. Because it is against freedom of speech. Anyone is entitled to say anything within the law. Anyone is entitled to say most Frenchmen eat babies. If you argue with them before or afterwards, that is OK but, if you try to stop them expressing their legal opinion, that is inherently anti-democratic bordering on Fascism. Objecting to a book is OK. Burning all copies so no-one can read it is preventing freedom of speech. Freedom of speech includes the right to say repugnant but legal things. The path from interfering with someone speaking their views out loud by attempting to shout them down and the Charlie Hebdo attack is not actually that far logically.

Which, as I said, is more connected to what is above than might first appear.

From the little I have seen of Dapper Laughs, I have no opinion which I would strongly argue. But he seems appallingly, unacceptably sexist and tries to excuse it with rampant, naive insincerity.

On the other hand, I would defend his right to say anything he wants, defend his right to make comedy out of anything he wants.

Going back to the beginning of this blog…

What do you think would help most to free our streets, workplaces and public spaces from harassment abuse?

I guess better social education at school age.

The perfect way to heckle something you don’t agree with

The perfect way to heckle something you don’t agree with??

But not censorship.

Freedom of speech includes the right to say repugnant but legal things.

The irony of course – as you will have noticed – is that, in saying I think Dapper Laughs has done bad PR, I have publicised him. So Daphna Baram may be right.

We live in an imperfect world.

God, if he or she exists, is a comedy scriptwriter.

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Politics