Tag Archives: Charlie Dinkin

Edinburgh’s Fringe and Montreal’s Just For Laughs: the same but very different

Luca Cupani yesterday in Edinburgh

Luca Cupani was back in Edinburgh yesterday

Yesterday I chatted to Italian comedian Luca Cupani. He had just come back from representing the UK at Canada’s Just For Laughs festival in Montreal.

He – Italian comedian Luca Cupani – had been officially representing the UK along with Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani. Although he had not actually encountered Yuriko over there but had seen Danish comedian Sofie Hagen.

“Perhaps Danish comedian Sofie Hagen,” I suggested, “was representing the UK instead of Japanese comedian Yuriko Kotani.”

“That could be,” said Luca.

“How was Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“I feel like a nun who goes to an erotic fair who comes back to the nunnery with a bag full of dildoes and she doesn’t even know if they are dildoes. I realised only at the end how big it was.”

“Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Luca.

“Just checking,” I said.

“I met this person,” continued Luca, “and these people and that person and they were approachable. I found out that the more important they are, the more easy they are to talk with because they are resolved: they are happy.”

“It was different from the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

Luca’s current show at the Fringe

Luca’s current Confessions show at the Fringe

“Well,” said Luca, “the Fringe is all on the shoulders of the performers. You do your show and, among the punters, there might be some industry people. But the industry it is hidden; you don’t see them. In Montreal it is more visible – the industry. The companies, they promote the shows, they invite people and then the punters come. It is on the same level as Edinburgh but different.

“And they are Americans and Canadians, so the least experienced comedians there have maybe had sold-out tours across the USA. If you have a sold-out tour in the UK, you have maybe been to 10 or 12 cities. There, they have filled arenas across 40 or 50 cities. It gave me a sneak-peek into the real world and the fact there is a chance to make a living out of comedy.”

Luca’s current Fringe show is The Admin of Death and Other Confessions in the 40-seat BlundaBus.

Yesterday was a normal day for me in Edinburgh. It spat with rain occasionally and, in the streets, I bumped into perhaps 10-15 people I knew. Plus 3 people with whom I had longish conversations and whom I have clearly met in the past but I had no idea who they were. Not even after longish conversations. It is difficult to probe too deeply without asking outright: “Just who the hell exactly are you?”

I blame a combination of a lack of sleep and too much Red Bull.

Many Godden as Moses

Marny Godden, as Moses, met Japanese John

All I know clearly is that I saw Marny Godden’s multi-character-based show Where’s John’s Porridge Bowl? in which she starts dressed as Moses with beard, staff etc and riskily but successfully kept picking on three Japanese punters in the front row as audience participants despite the fact two had limited English. One of them went into such extended giggles at one point that Marny rightly just looked at her for around ten seconds. The main picked-upon Japanese was a triumph of unlikely audience-choice who joined-in enthusiastically while one of his chums videoed it on a smartphone.

Charlie Dinkin

Charlie Dinkin – with tales of headless snails and swastikas

Good punters also helped Charlie Dinkin’s show Can’t when one member of the audience volunteered that her mother enjoys killing snails by drowning them in beer then cutting their heads off. Charlie fought back with the real-life surreality of a night she spent with a member of the Bullingdon Club involving swastikas.

Who said 1960s-style events were dead?

Highlight of the day, though, was seeing Candy Gigi’s show If I Had a Rich Man.

Candy Gigi (with carrots) and a meaty comedy show

Candy Gigi with carrots and a meaty comedy show

Last week, I booked her to sing on the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe – on the basis that, from previous shows I had seen, I knew she could sing and it would be unexpected.

When I first saw her perform a few years ago doing 10-minute spots involving hysteria and desperate vegetable-eating, I thought she was wonderfully original.

Once seen, forever remembered. But I did wonder how on earth she could develop the act beyond 10 minutes.

She proved me wrong when she did a half hour Fringe show two years ago, still based heavily around hysteria and vegetables but which was held together by force of personality. For that, she won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award for Comic Originality.

She is now back at the Fringe with an extraordinarily original full-length show which holds together and, indeed, has a climax. I can only describe it as a surprisingly dark and surreal autobiographical Jewish musical. Because, unknown in advance to me, this show turned out to be a part-belted-out-with-full-force comedy with blow-your-head-off songs. Whether her voice will last to the end of the Fringe, I don’t know.

Because of the singing and the occasionally quite dark mostly autobiographical narrative it is a different act, though vegetables do make a late and always-welcome appearance.

If I were a hack and desperate writer, I would say there is now comedy meat among her vegetables.

But I am, of course, not.

So I won’t.

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Edinburgh Fringe myths and Lou Reed

There were two notable shows which I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday, both about myths. One was Charlie Dinkin’s Child Star, in which she is a (fictional) eponymous and now slightly twitchy former stellar performer.

The other was Transformer, a tribute to Lou Reed. I am a big fan of Lou Reed.

Last night’s show – supposedly a performance at Max’s Kansas City in New York in (I think) the 1970s – was like a re-imagined Las Vegas version of Lou Reed. Loud, rocking, lively, hard-edged, professional. Everything you want in the West End or Broadway production of a rock star tribute.

On a bizarrely anal website which lists 776 gigs Lou Reed played over 44 years (1970-2013), someone who saw him perform live on a pier in Baltimore, a Bowling Alley in Dallas and at a club in Washington the night before he played the White House describes him as “an artist that created the ‘Punk’ ethos if not the music itself.”

Quite right. “If not the music itself”. When I think of Lou Reed, I think of quiet, cold melancholy. Last night, Lou Reed was turned into Meatloaf. There was a loud, rocking version of the Velvet Underground’s song Heroin. A loud, rocking version? Yup. I think someone, somewhere took the wrong drugs.

But the audience mostly seemed to love it. Even if they mostly seemed to think an acting-out of Andy Warhol being shot by a banana was a random irrelevant oddity. If it introduces Lou Reed to a new audience, then maybe it is worth it. And Pretty Miss Cairo as Candy Darling – not an easy part to cast – sang and stripped well: he was excellent.

Frankly, I prefer Lou Reed’s Berlin album to his Transformer album anyway.

On YouTube, there is a video of him singing Take a Walk on the Wild Side from the Transformer album. This is not a hard rock song.

YouTube also has a video of him singing Caroline Says II from the far more interesting Berlin album.

Meanwhile, Kate Copstick and I are not getting ready to start our live Grouchy Club shows at the Counting House Lounge tomorrow (15th-29th August). They are intentionally not advertised in the Fringe Programme because we are not really interested in random passing punters. It is more a chance for performers and media people to have a chat with the most influential comedy reviewer in Edinburgh (her) and a fat, slaphead daily blogger (me, although I see my blog hits are nearing a million and all publicity is good publicity).

The live Grouchy Club costs us nothing and costs the people who come nothing (not on the way in; not on the way out; no Free Fringe ‘bucket’). If people come along, we will have an interesting chat; it might turn into a podcast; it might even be streamed live on Periscope (via @thejohnfleming) – 3.45pm-4.45pm.

If no-one turns up, Copstick and I will have an interesting chat which will almost certainly be a podcast and might be live streamed on Periscope.

The reason we are not preparing for this in any way is that what happens totally depends on what happens… if you see what I mean.

Other people have to prepare for their shows.

Stu Turner

Stu Turner: “I’ve decided to use this photo for publicity to try and grab some attention with it”

I got an email from comic magician Stu Turner:

“Hope you’re well and it’s not pissing down with rain up there. I’m organising a big charity gala to raise funds for Autism Initiative’s Hermitage Garden project after it was vandalised twice last month. I’m organising it next Wednesday. It’s two hours (2100-2300) at the 400-seater New Empire Bingo Hall in Edinburgh and we’d love to fill it.”

On the ‘free’ principle, it is free to enter the charity show and there will be contribution buckets at the end on exit.

The bare image promoting the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show

Much like the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at The Counting house on Friday 28th August, then – free to enter; bucket at the end; 100% of all money goes to the Mama Biashara charity.

This is the Edinburgh Fringe. It is all about self-publicity.

And, on that note, an update on how my toenail – which fell off after a tragic shelf-falling incident – is re-growing. The last time I posted a photo of it, there were complaints from cutting-edge comedians who felt this crossed the line of acceptability. You know who you are.


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A semi-naked man poses an old LSD riddle to comics in trendy Shoreditch

Two days ago, the London Evening Standard ran a double-page spread about someone they called THE NAKED COMMUTER.

In fact, the story was less spectacular: the pictures showed a man in perfectly-respectable boxer shorts and the sub-heading said: When he stripped off in protest at the sweltering Tube, he was hailed as a hero.

Today’s blog is not about the semi-naked man nor about his exploits, but keep them in mind.

Yesterday, I went to Rivington Street in Shoreditch to chat to Comedy Cafe Theatre owner Noel Faulkner about his future plans. Noel is always outspoken and, at the Chortle Comedy Conference last Friday, launched into a spectacular verbal attack on Jongleurs’ boss Marios Lourides for not paying several comedians for months – Marios claimed the apparently financially frail Jongleurs chain paid £2.5 million yearly to comedians and the backlog owed to comedians was “only” £60,000.

But this blog is not about that.

The final version of The Tunnel screened in Shoreditch last night

The Tunnel screened at the East End Film Festival last night

After our chat, Noel and I went to the Red Gallery (also in Rivington Street) for a screening to a very full venue of what is claimed to be the final version of The Tunnel documentary about the late Malcolm Hardee’s iconic and infamous comedy club. It was screened as part of the East End Film Festival.

Following the screening, there was what turned out to be a humdinger of a live comedy show but, in the interval between the two events, I went outside for a chat because I bumped into Miss Behave who had, earlier in the day, lost her appointments diary. I share her pain. It once happened to me and I virtually needed psychological counselling until a man found it in a gutter outside a Chinese takeaway, phoned me and I got it back.

Miss Behave thought we would have a chat

Miss Behave thought we could have a nice quiet alley chat

Miss Behave had to rush off and so we went outside to talk about her plans and her compering of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

But we never managed to do that.

Stick with me, dear reader.

“So you lost your diary today…” I started.

“It’s like I’ve lost my brain,” said Miss Behave.

“I have to take a photo of this man,” I said.

There was a man standing on the other side of the road, naked apart from a pair of underpants, putting on a leather vest. It was the man mentioned in the Evening Standard.

“He looks like one of your acts,” I told Miss Behave.

At this point, Noel Faulkner emerged from the Red Gallery.

“This is why the comedy clubs are in a mess,” I told Noel, “because people are doing their acts out on the streets.”

“He’s a local lad,” said Noel. “He may be on Ecstasy.”

The man came across to talk to us.

“Have you seen a pair of glasses lying on the floor anywhere?” he mumbled at us.

“They’re on top of your head,” Miss Behave and I said simultaneously, like a Greek chorus.

“The reason I couldn’t find them is because I never put them there,” said the man.

“Someone else put them there?” I asked.

Charlie Dinkin tries to mimic Gareth Ellis’ hay-fevered state

Charlie Dinkin tries to mimic Ellis’ hay-fevered state

At this point, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Ellis emerged from the Red Gallery.

He looked at the man with spectacles on his head and said to me: “You always make the best friends.”

I raised my camera. “Don’t take a picture of me right now,” said Ellis. “I’ve got hay fever and my eyes are all puffy.”

“Do you remember pounds, shillings and pence?” the semi-naked man no longer with spectacles on his head but on his nose asked Noel Faulkner.

“Of course I can,” Noel told him.

“Did you hear what he said?” the man said to me in a throaty voice. “He said he can remember pounds, shillings and pence with confidence.”

“I think you’ve taken some,” said Noel.

The man looked at him.

“LSD,” said Noel.

“You can remember pounds, shillings and pence?” the man persisted.

“Yes,” said Noel. LSD. Where are your fucking trousers?”

“In 1963,” said the man, “someone walks into a bank and says: Here’s a pound note. Kindly change it into twenty pieces of silver. And the bank teller says: Certainly, Mr Jones, because she knew him. And the man says: But I want those twenty pieces of silver to be made up of half crowns, sixpences and two bob bits. What quantity of each coin did the bank teller give him that equals twenty pieces of silver and adds up to a pound?”

“Our chat is going well,” I told Miss Behave.

“Absolutely,” she agreed.

As Noel and the man discussed the mathematics of 1963 coinage, Miss Behave and I arranged to meet again at the Pull The Other One comedy club on Saturday.

“We could try not talking to each other there as well,” suggested Miss Behave.

David Mills (right) with Gareth Ellis

David Mills (right) being unusually reticent with Ellis

At this point, American comic David Mills came out of the Red Gallery.

“Great to see you,” he said to Miss Behave and kissed her on the cheek.

“Are you on the turn?” I asked him.

“I’ve got to run,” said Miss Behave. “I wasn’t supposed to have to run, but all this happened.”

I took a photo of David and Ellis.

“I’ll take another one,” I said. “Ellis had his eyes closed.”

“I’m keeping them closed,” he said, “because they’re all red from the hay fever.”

“Not on a computer! Not on a mobile phone!” Mungo 2 was saying.

A 1963 UK shilling, as in Mungo 2’s riddle

A 1963 UK shilling, as in Mungo 2’s riddle

“Listen,” said Miss Behave. “I’m doing something new, but I haven’t figured it out yet.”

“It’s probably in your diary,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“You didn’t listen,” the semi-naked man told me.

“I didn’t listen,” I admitted. “What was the answer?”

“Oh,” said the semi-naked man, “I couldn’t give you the answer. I’d have to give you the challenge.”

“I’m not a challenge sort of man,” I said.

“But you are challenged,” said Miss Behave.

“I am Scottish,” I tried. “I don’t care about your English money.”

“See,” said the semi-naked man, “this is where you walk into a pile of computers. I’m a Border Reiver.”

Painting of the infamous Scottish Reiver Auld Wat of Harden

Painting of the infamous Scottish Reiver Auld Wat of Harden

“You are?” I asked. “Cows? You’ve stolen cows?”

“Carlisle,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed should clearly be in Scotland. Clearly Scottish cities.”

“Is your history between Scotland and England any good?” asked the semi-naked man.

“I’ll see you on Saturday,” said Miss Behave, wisely deciding to leave.

“I’ll leave you two to…” said the semi-naked man, starting to say something, then turning away and leaving himself.

“Play your cards right and you’re in there tonight,” I told Miss Behave.

She set off towards Old Street station, following the semi-naked man at a distance.

“He’s been round here for about a year,” an unknown and unseen voice said, like unto the Voice of God in the wilderness.

“I used to work down the road. I came out of work one night at eleven o’clock at night and he had a deckchair. You know those deckchairs that have got a beer holder in the arm? He was just in his pants in a deckchair, just berating people as they passed by.”

“It seemed strange,” Ellis told me, “that he could afford hair dye but not trousers.”

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‘Celebrity Paul’, comedy and fame in Charlie Dinkin’s visual anthropology

Charlie Dinkin & Gareth Ellis in Soho yesterday

Ellis stares at Charlie – Old Compton Street, Soho, yesterday

So Ellis introduced me to his girlfriend Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Dinkin.

Ellis won a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award last year for deciding to get repeatedly punched in the face by his stage partner Rose to publicise their Edinburgh Fringe shows. He still seems surprised by the fact people remember this. Charlie is not surprised.

Charlie finished an MA at Goldsmith’s College, part of the University of London, last August.

“What was it in?” I asked.

“Visual Anthropology.”

“What on earth is Visual Anthropology?”

“Documentary film making,” replied Charlie, “but with a research priority to it.”

“What on earth is a research priority?” I asked.

“That’s not an official phrase; that’s just me struggling for words,” explained Charlie. “In a standard documentary, maybe you’d go in with a sense of the narrative you’re trying to create and you find people who fit that story. But, in an anthropological documentary, you find the person and see what story emerges from it. Which is what everyone should be doing in all documentaries, really.”

Charlie did her BA course in anthropology at Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia University in New York. It is for women only.

“That sounds terribly un-PC,” I said. “I can’t believe they’re allowed to have a women-only university college in right-on New York.”

“Someone did come into Barnard as a woman and then become a man,” said Charlie, “and then wasn’t allowed to graduate because you have to be a woman to graduate. That was before I got there. I think they had to transfer to Columbia and graduated from there. Barnard’s a bastion of  old-fashioned values. But it was great, actually. Super fun.”

She then did the six months Comedy Studies program in stand-up, writing and improvisation at Second City in Chicago – which British universities do not recognise as an academic subject.

Then an MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths College in London, which she finished in August last year.

“I did a film about how much I love Woody Allen,” Charlie told me. “Well, I like Manhattan and Annie Hall and I’m not mad about the rest, to be honest. And a ten-minute one about Rory & Tim, a now defunct comedy sketch duo. It’s on YouTube.

“And I made Celebrity Paul… another 10-minute film. I edited that while I was doing two separate shows at the Edinburgh Fringe last August.”

Charlie in Upstairs Downstairs

Charlie Upstairs Downton at Edinburgh Fringe 2013

She was in the improvised parody show Upstairs Downton and a kids’ show The Takeaway Story Show. She is now half of double act Glove Box (with Amy Hydes), an improvisation group Music Box and an improvised puppet show group Glitch.

“And Celebrity Paul is…” I said.

“…about a man called Celebrity Paul – self-named,” replied Charlie. “He is based in Retford in Nottinghamshire and he is a local celebrity. He has worked as an extra in a few films including Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.”

“What was he in that?” I asked.

“Well, he would say he was a French businessman,” said Charlie, “but maybe that’s a character he made up for himself. He was a businessman-esque extra.”

At this point, Ellis interrupted:

“Before he became a self-made local celebrity in Retford, Celebrity Paul squatted in the gardeners’ hut in the middle of Soho Square – the mock-Tudor thing – and he lived there for quite a while, maybe a year or two. Like Marty Feldman.”

Comedian Marty Feldman lived in this gardeners’ shed

The comedian Marty Feldman lived in this gardeners’ shed?

“Marty Feldman lived in the mock-Tudor gardeners’ shed in the middle of Soho Square?” I asked.

“He did,” said Ellis.

“Is Celebrity Paul a sad wannabe?” I asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Charlie. “He has decided that fame is a worthy thing to pursue and he is pursuing it. I don’t know how successful that is, but fair play to him. He’s stuck in Retford.”

“Do local people believe he’s a celebrity?” I asked.

“The interesting thing about him,” said Charlie, “is that he HAS quite successfully become a local celebrity through force of will. I think it’s a good lesson for us all about how fragile image is and how you can convince people around you of anything. He believes and behaves as if he is a celebrity, so people treat him as a celebrity.”

Ellis interrupted: “He has a special pen that he wears round his neck to sign autographs with.”

“Does he have a day job?” I asked.

“I think,” said Charlie, “that he does various jobs as is necessary. He doesn’t necessarily like to talk about it that much. He’s been a driver in the past and various other bits and bobs and – of course – he sells his autographs and appears at events.”

“Of course,” I said. “How much for a Celebrity Paul autograph?”

“I think around £5 or £10 for a printed photo.”

“He must be mad,” I said, “to let you make a film taking the piss out of him.”

“I definitely wasn’t taking the piss out of him at all,” said Charlie. “It was an academic exercise and I never overlaid a story onto it. It’s absolutely all his own words and I think he comes out of it relatively well, He loved the film. I really wanted him to like it and he did like it; he showed it to his friends. He Tweeted it.”

“So you’re interested in failure?” I asked.

“Only to the extent that it’s life,” said Charlie. “Everyone has their struggle. I don’t want to make a commissioned documentary about how brilliant things are. Justin Bieber had a film made about himself and Katy Perry had a film made and they’re just so engineered. Why would you not be more interested in normal people and in real life? In the end, movies are mostly trying to capture a ‘slice of real life’ but they’re Hollywoodised. Why not watch the real thing?”

“That’s the way I look at a lot of character comedy,” I said.

“Also,” Charlie continued, “when people actually become a success, I slightly suspect their life becomes about that. They have to be doing one thing all the time to be good at it and then they’re not really that interesting because they’re only about one thing. Better to look at more complex characters. I’m more interested in ‘real’ people, but I don’t know if any TV company is going to be interested.”

“Well,” I said, “TV reality shows are just a new formatted version of TV documentaries and Britain’s Got Talent is only a spin on old-style variety shows.”

“Except a TV variety show in the past,” said Charlie, “would have had people showing their talents but now part of the fun of the first rounds of those talent shows is seeing people who are terrible and laughing at them and…”

Gareth interrupting Charlie at The Toucan in Soho

Ellis interrupting Charlie downstairs at The Toucan in Soho

“In the 1970s,” Ellis interrupted, “what you saw was just the act. You never saw them as themselves. You would never have a clue their life was awful and they’d get through on merit based on their act. Now their back story is worth more than their performance.”

“The shows are edited,” said Charlie, “to make you laugh at them but, at the same time, there’s something deeply charming and lovely about a person who just loves something enough they’re prepared to get up and do it even if they’re maybe not that good at it.”

“Have you pitched the Celebrity Paul film to TV stations as the basis of a series?” I asked.

“I had a stab” said Charlie, “at pitching it as part of a series about people who wanted to achieve fame and maybe haven’t quite got there yet or who have found their own version of it. The feedback I got was that these sort of people hadn’t done enough stuff to be interesting. But what Celebrity Paul HAS done IS the interesting part: what he has made of himself.”

Charlie’s 10 minute film on Celebrity Paul is on YouTube.

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