Tag Archives: Charmian Hughes

Tis the season to be jolly – now comic Lewis Schaffer converts to Christianity?

Steve Frost caught in flagrante delicto with capitalist caviar

Frost caught in flagrante delicious with capitalist caviar

Yesterday, I went to the annual Christmas party thrown by comic Charmian Hughes and husband David Don’t. On reflection, ‘annual Christmas party’ might be tautology. Anyway, a good time was, as always, had by all the tight-packed throng including writer and troublemaker Mark Kelly who insisted I take a photo of esteemed thespian Stephen Frost eating caviar and thus demonstrating he had given up his youthful ambitions to change the world and abolish elitism.

I should point out that the caviar was from Lidl, apparently retails for less than the cost of a Big Mac and comes not from sturgeon but from capelin, a small forage fish found in the Arctic.

I have no idea what a forage fish is, but its slimy bits can apparently legitimately be classed as caviar.

Charmian Hughes offers me her bras

Charmian Hughes shows me her bras last night

As I left the party, Charmian Hughes gave me a plastic bag filled with bras which, I was told, I had to give to comedy critic Kate Copstick for her Mama Biashara charity. I asked no questions, but I can only assume they are destined for some bemused and heavily bosomed Kenyan women.

Tomorrow, with Kate Copstick chairing, the last live Grouchy Club meeting of this year (all welcome) involves comedy industry chat + some OTTness from Ada Campe + mulled cider + nibbles provided by the aforementioned Copstick. Usually, she bites.

There is an oft-used but admittedly here irrelevant Scots saying: “Many a mickle maks a muckle”.

“Many people make mulled wine,” Copstick tells me, “but I’m Scottish, therefore I’m cheap, therefore I make mulled cider, but it’s lovely and it’s still alcoholic and it is absolutely delicious. There will be nibbles and chocolate in almost every conceivable form, plus crispy things, possibly dippy things and cakey things.”

Lewis Schaffer’s flyer image for his Leicester Square shows

Lewis Schaffer in erstwhile  youth. Once seen, never forgotten

Tonight, I am off to see Lewis Schaffer’s final 2015 performance of a show at the Museum of Comedy – a show that was billed as Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, £10… until about five hours before the first performance when, with cavalier disregard for any rules of publicity – like what name is actually on the posters, flyers and listings – he changed it to Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful… a title which could arguably see him in court charged with breach of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

Lewis Schaffer says there will be an after-show party and, as he does not care what is written about him provided the words ‘Lewis Schaffer’ are inserted at regular intervals, I can exclusively reveal that Lewis Schaffer will be at the party naked, draped in nothing but a Stars & Stripes flag and he will be singing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, having last week converted to Christianity.

LewisSchaffer_PinkHair

A Goy or a Doll? – Which is worse?

To consolidate this, in the New Year, Lewis Schaffer will be appearing in a stage production at the National Theatre of Goys and Dolls. He may be playing one of the female leads, judging by a photo of him in publicity for Martin Besserman’s Jewish Xmas Eve Matzo Ball Special in which he (Lewis Schaffer) sports pink hair.

We live in a time of flux and this morning I got a Christmas e-card from Arthur Smith comprising a giant picture of himself either as Scrooge or a mullah. If the latter, he – like Lewis Schaffer with his conversion to Christianity – may be hedging his New Year bets.

ArthurSmithChristmasCard

Arthur Smith – the ghost of Christmas Bahs?

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“Levity is an absolute necessity in what can be considered a very dark subject”

The number of unknown unknowns is unknown

Yesterday’s blog revolved around a blog posted two days ago in which Kate Copstick had described the terrible plight of teenage brides in Kenya but finished with a lighthearted reference to the size of a kitten’s testicles.

Reader ‘Glenda’ had commented that “unfortunately, the witty remark about a cat’s balls is what registers on the reader’s mind and the serious issue concerning these African women is simply forgotten.

In yesterday’s blog, I wondered if jokes in serious pieces demeaned the subject. A few of the comments on this were:

No, perception & timing & intent.  A lot like robbing a security van John. (comedian Del Strain, via Twitter)

Yes and make them affordable to the masses. (Griff, via Twitter)

Depends on the quality of the joke. (Andrew Fox, via Facebook)

I had almost completely forgotten the kitten balls. But not the women. (Anna Smith, via WordPress)

Glenda’s comment is absolute bollocks (coincidentally). The levity at the end of the blog if anything throws the serious content into relief. Why do people have to be needlessly disparaging and superior, i.e: “It’s all very worthy and honourable, Kate Copstick blogging about the plight of these African women . . .” (comedian Janet Bettesworth, via WordPress)

Actually, I think Glenda has a point and I can see both sides.

I did think, when I posted Copstick’s diary piece, about chopping off the end bit re the kitten for the very reason Glenda gives. But I did not because I thought it would misrepresent what Copstick wrote, plus it did add a bit of jollity, plus it gave a plug to Malcolm Hardee and would mean something extra to a section of the blog readership. Other responses have been:

It’s oversimplifying to say the piece ends with an “adolescent remark.” It actually ends with some quite melancholy paragraphs about the late friend’s number being changed and the consolation of symbolically “making order from chaos”. The final details of the cats provides a beautiful counterpoint to this melancholy. It’s a very well written piece and anyone who forgets the main point so easily is probably going to forget it in a few moments away. (Cy, via WordPress)

Life goes on. In the midst of difficulty and death the small humorous things still raise their heads, ask to be observed as part of our reality. To help people effectively and constructively, I assume you have to be pragmatic and matter of fact, not hand-wringing which wouldn’t help anyone but which is easy enough to do from the comfort of our armchair viewing. (comedian Charmian Hughes, via WordPress)

Levity is an absolute necessity in what can be considered a very dark subject and I agree with Katie in her opinion regarding light and shade. It does raise the question regards what subjects can humour be added to and where we, as a society, draw the line. 

Take the very dark subject of paedophilia. Many jokes have been told by comedians about the Catholic Church and their approach towards priests who have abused vulnerable youngsters for decades, yet similar jokes about such showbiz individuals as Jimmy Savile face a barrage of criticism.

Perhaps it’s related to proximity or maybe the identification of individuals makes something much more personal and intense than an organisation. It is probably a very big discussion about what subjects are taboo amongst comedians and at what point a particular subject is deemed acceptable. (Alan Gregory, via WordPress)

Once I went to see Mark Thomas and I was really impressed by the combination of sincerely-felt idealism on one hand and irony on the other. After the show, I had a brief chat with him and he explained that the secret is taking the cause seriously while never taking seriously you fighting the cause. It’s a form of dissociation. On the other hand, people who are not able to do so and cannot poke fun at their idealism often become unintentionally ridiculous. Think of Don Quixote. Or Peter Buckley Hill. (comedian Giacinto Palmieri, via email)

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Comedian and comedy critic in fist fight at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday

CopstickGodleyFight2

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian’s show about early comic days

Comedians and critics tend to have a love-hate relationship. Critics tend to love comedy and comics tend to hate critics.

Yesterday morning, I bumped into comic Charmian Hughes. She told me she gets nervous when critic Steve Bennett of the influential Chortle comedy website comes to see her shows, but not for the reason you might think.

“My show (When Comedy Was Alternative) has been going well and getting huge laughs,” she told me, but I’ve always had a phobia about Chortle, because Steve Bennett reminds me of my dead mother. She used to wear a big hat and gatecrash my gigs when I was seven.”

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

“But Steve,” I pointed out, “does not wear a big hat – or any hat.”

“He wears a metaphorical hat,” said Charmian. “It’s a spirituality thing. I would see my mother in the school concert, making her notes. She was a very difficult woman. Steve reminds me of my first boyfriend too – He wore glasses.”

“Wasn’t your first boyfriend disgraced politician Chris Huhne?” I asked.

“You’re going to ruin my life with this blog,” said Charmian. “And everything’s been going so well so far. It’s a new show, but it’s getting better and better… except when I see my dead mother in the audience.”

Joz Norris in a freezer last night

Joz Norris in his inexplicable freezer last night

According to Alexander Bennett’s highly inventive late-night gameshow Hell To Play, all comedians end up in hell. Alexander – all hail to him – could be a wonderfully effortless, reassuring and self-assured mainstream TV gameshow host, but I suspect might not want to be.

Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunström

(From left) Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunstrom

Last night, Joz Norris and Archie Maddocks were competing, with Michael Brunström in a black, backless dress as Countess Elizabeth Báthory aka Countess Dracula. It was a role to rival Mary Quant on a whaling ship.

Inexplicably, when I arrived at the building early (it is the Cowgatehead, so you have to allow extra time to actually find any venue within it) Joz Norris was in what looked like a glass-and-metal coffin. In fact, it turned out to be a freezer. This had nothing whatever to do with the show. And it was not an attempt to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. I have no explanation that seems at all likely.

I had seen Joz earlier when he sat behind me at Michael Brunström’s unique and wonderfully absurdist The Golden Age of Steam. Later, we bumped into each other at the late-night ScotMid grocery store. It seems possible Joz Norris may be stalking me.

Last night, I also saw the Papa CJ: Naked show in which Papa CJ almost stripped physically and did strip psychologically. Voted Asia’s Best Stand-up Comedian last year, he is off back to India tomorrow with no immediate plans to return. Our loss. VERY smoothly professional, great audience control and, with stories of his marriage, divorce and child, very touching.

You may have noticed I have not mentioned yesterday’s Grouchy Club, the daily chat show I am co-hosting with comedy critic Kate Copstick.

Peter Michael Marino- Late With Lance

Peter Michael Marino in his showbiz romp Late With Lance!

Yesterday, I was not co-hosting it, because Michael Brunström’s Golden Age of Steam, here for a limited run, overlapped. But I turned up to see the show which precedes us – Peter Michael Marino’s Late With Lance, a staggeringly energetic showbizzy romp starring his OTT alter ego Lance. I saw it with my comedy chum Janey Godley.

Janey is not a woman to mess with. She was once arrested when the police found a whole cache of firearms hidden in her family home.

After Peter Michael Marino’s show, she and I went into the lounge bar of the Counting House where Kate Copstick was waiting to go in for The Grouchy Club. The two of them got into conversation and pretty soon a fist fight erupted. I took photographs. It seemed the right thing to do.

Copstick (left) and Godley face off to start the fight yesterday

Kate Copstick (left) and Janey Godley face off to start the fight in the Counting House bar yesterday

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of Bronston Jones

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of American comedian Bronston Jones

There are two things to be learned from this, both relating to my blog a couple of days ago when I discussed the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

One is that, of course, you should never believe the announced context of the pictures you see.

The other is that, as I have said before, during the Edinburgh Fringe, self-publicity is everything.

The Grouchy Club is at The Counting House, 3.45pm daily until next Saturday.

Janey’s show Honest To Godley! is at The Counting House, 7.45pm daily until next Sunday 30th August.

The increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show is in the Counting House on Friday 28th, 11.00pm-01.00am.

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Edinburgh Fringe: 5-stars, fake breasts, deaf squirrels, iScream and Hokum

BethVyseA lot of Edinburgh Fringe acts do not need publicity in this blog any more. They are doing too well.

This morning, on my way back from the laundrette – oh, the glamour of the Fringe – I bumped into comedian Beth Vyse who, two days ago, had a full half-page article about her in the Guardian.

As a result, she told me, the audiences for her show As Funny As Cancer have changed for the better. Instead of (my phrase) drunken passing Scots, she is now getting more women interested in the actual subject of her show. The Guardian piece was headlined: Fake breasts, ping-pong balls and tears in a comic exploration of cancer. 

We will return to this morning at the end of this blog.

Tom Binns’ characters

Tom Binns’ characters need no help from me after that review

Yesterday, I went to see Tom Binns. He had just got a 5-star review from Kate Copstick in The Scotsman for his Club Sets show – hardly surprising as it showcases his three characters and himself and he does a genuine psychic trick, a card trick, ventriloquism and a plethora of sharp verbal and musical jokes.

Then I went to the Italian Cultural Institute where they were showcasing Italian-related acts and shows linked by comic Luca Cupani who surprised me – I have no idea why – by being a very very good MC.

Amy Howerska - allegedly

Amy Howerska – the word of mouth will deafen squirrels

Then Amy Howerska Sasspot – she really DID grow up in a family of trained killers – had her room so packed to the rafters with appreciative punters (on a day when, traditionally, audiences drop off) that she needs no publicity from me and the word-of-mouth on her energetic show will be so loud it will deafen squirrels at 200 yards.

Coming down the Gilded Balloon’s spiral stairs after seeing Amy’s show, I bumped into Charmian Hughes whose daily show When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs and Loves of a She-Comic) actually names names, including ex-boyfriend Dave Thompson (Tinky Winky in TV’s Teletubbies).

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian Hughes knew how to get booked

“I’m doing two of Dave’s jokes,” she told me, “to portray his part in my life. He said I could do it only if I told his jokes right, but I can get very muddled up. So he’s coming up from Brighton next week and he will have a walk-on part in my show next Tuesday or Wednesday, when he will do his own two jokes.”

“When did you two meet?” I asked.

“When he ran a show which included an open spot. My open spot went really badly and I thought: How can I get another booking? I know! I’ll get off with him, become his girlfriend and then emotionally blackmail him throughout the relationship so he has to give me gigs… And it worked!

I then went to see Adrienne Truscott’s a One-Trick Pony!

Yesterday morning, Adrienne had posted on her Facebook page:


Adrienne Truscott

Adrienne Truscott is not a one-trick pony

In the States they say that, if a pigeon shits on you, it’s good luck. 

I went out for coffee at the corner and came upon a 2-star review of my not-yet-ready-for-prime-time second show by a very thoughtful and fair writer.

I agreed with his observations heartily and went directly home to continue working on it and, in my lounge room, came upon 2 trapped pigeons! One for each star?!! They were flying everywhere and nowhere, mayhem back and forth, all around me, smashing into the windows, smashing into the walls, swooping past my head, feathers and wings everywhere.

They shat everywhere!!

Neither shat on me. Not one ounce. 2 terrified trapped pigeons and one shit-free me!

I am not yet an experienced stand-up comedian but I have a hearty sense of humor. I’ve cleaned up the shit. I’ve made my show better. I love it now and can’t wait for tonight.


She was still shit-free last night and the show was as she hoped.

PhilJarvis

Phil Jarvis’ Hokum. Don’t ask… Just don’t ask

The last show I saw yesterday was Malcolm Julian Swan Presents Hokum at the Freestival’s new venue in the New Waverley Arches. The repeated cry was: This is not a show. It’s an album!” And, indeed, it was not really a show, more a time trip to some deranged 1967 Happening which involved kazoos, pipes, much banging and chanting of random phrases like Human Detritus! plus a bit of nudity, projected computer screens, bits of cardboard and the repetition of phrases through a loud-hailer. Oh – and Phil Jarvis, whose admirably shambolic show it really was.

Hokum (if it really was called that) is highly recommended as a one-off which was really a two-off (it was only on for two days) but you can’t see it – last night was the final show.

So back – or maybe forward – to this morning.

This morning, comic actress Jo Burke was flying up to Edinburgh for her show iScream, which starts on Sunday.

Texts and e-mails flew, because she has also written a book iScream – now available – to go with the show.

Jo Burke with her physical book

Jo Burke with one of her physical books

“The show is new,” she told me, “but I wrote the book about ten years ago – It was a book about internet dating and a year in my life with a brief history of me to set it up. At that time, it was called From Strangers with Love – like in the subject heading of an e-mail.

“This year’s Fringe stage show was called iScream and I did a preview in London and someone – well, you, John – told me it should be more about me. So I took some stuff out that was not about me and thought: What shall I put in to fill the gaps that’s about me? And then I realised: Y’know what? I already have a whole book of stuff that is ‘me’ and, when I looked at it again, I found two little things from the book which I added to the stage show and I then thought: This is a perfect opportunity to release the book as well. So the book is now called iScream too.”

“Did you re-write bits?”

“No. It was written ten years ago and now I am a completely different person to the one who wrote the book.”

“So are the book and the stage show about the same thing?”

“No,” replied Jo. “The book is maybe only under ten minutes of the hour-long show, which is the abridged version of me. The stage show is very personal to me and it does end on what could be considered a downbeat note, but it’s actually not; it’s a very positive note. Like everyone else, you trolley through the shit and come out the best you can.”

Jo Burke iScream designed by Steve Ullathorne

Jo Burke’s show poster, by Steve Ullathorne

“You must be happy the book is out,” I said.

“It is doing extremely well and has been as high Number 17 on Amazon in Comedian Biographies. But I’m actually terrified people will read it and never speak to me again – I have been ridiculously honest. Friends read early drafts of it and told me to take things out and I refused. I’m already writing the second book.”

“The story continues?”

“No. I’m easily bored. I like to try my hand at different things.”

“With luck, money might roll in,” I said.

Jo Burke with butterflies and Prosecco a London City Airport

Jo – butterflies and Prosecco at City Airport

“If money was the prime motivator,” said Jo. “I wouldn’t have done all the things I’ve done in the last ten years. Unfortunately, money doesn’t motivate me; but doing stuff I can feel proud of or which makes other people happy or think… I enjoy that. Just a living. I’d just like to make a living out of it.

“If you’re money-motivated, you gravitate towards the City and almost no-one I know is a City suit person. I don’t want to meet City suit people. I don’t like them. They lost everyone’s money and are still rich and it makes me sad.”

“Where are you now?”

“Currently at London City Airport awaiting lift off. I have butterflies and Prosecco…”

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Edinburgh Fringe: suicide & drugs for breakfast, laughter & tears for comedy

So which, I hear you cry, Edinburgh Fringe shows did I see yesterday?

Pasta la vista - Ali Price

Pasta la vista – Ali Brice as his Fringe show alter ego Eric Meat

Ali Brice Presents: Eric Meat Has No Proof, Only Memories of Pasta
Everything you would expect from one of the absurdist Weirdos collective. Plus the chance to take a bite out of an apple.

Liz Fraser: Lifeshambles
Perfect example of a new Fringe genre: attractive, intelligent women (usually not circuit comedians) of around 40 impeccably performing shows about the arrival of their mid-life years.

The Gilded Balloon press show

The Gilded Balloon press show last night

Abigail Schamaun: Post-Coital Confessions
Does what it says on the label and is pitch-perfect. Sexy enough not to disappoint, presented to a mostly middle class audience without them being offended.

The Gilded Balloon Press Launch Show
30th anniversary taster of this year’s shows by arguably the Fringe’s most technically proficient venue. Standout comedy acts yesterday were both Irish – Al Porter and Aisling Bea.

No swinging cats in this shower

No swinging cats in this small shower room


So now today’s blog…

The flat where I am currently staying during the Edinburgh Fringe has no bath, only a cramped shower. This is a drawback for me, as I find it comforting to lie back in hot bathwater and wallow in grains of my own dirt. It is a bit like watching dust particles float in the air through shafts of sunlight – you are literally watching the world decay around you.

Yesterday morning’s shower was interrupted by a phone call from BBC Radio Wales at 10.10am asking me if I wanted to take part at 10.30am in a discussion on learning foreign languages. Well, that is not quite true. I missed the call and picked up an answerphone message at 10.45am, too late to take part in the show. The offer was a tad bizarre, as I speak no foreign languages of any kind. Apparently I was on their list because, a couple of years ago, I slagged-off the frankly unnecessary Welsh language on some BBC Radio Wales show.

Highly prestigious comedy critic Kate Copstick and I are sharing the flat this year. She, of course, is not phoned-up by the likes of BBC Radio Wales. She gets phoned up to do 4 minute interviews on Sky News. This morning, she was dragged out to the Royal Mile at 8.15am to be asked if Dicing With Dr Death was a suitable show for the Fringe.

Kate Copstick on Sky News this morning

Kate Copstick expressed her views on Sky News this morning

In the show – billed as comedy – Philip Nitschke of the controversial suicide advice group Exit talks about suicide. I blogged about the show back in January and February this year when comedian Mel Moon was to co-present it. She and Philip subsequently split over creative differences and she is now in her own show Sick Girl.

This morning on Sky News, Copstick said: “I think everyone ought to have the right to die. We have lots and lots of rights nowadays. I have the right to become a man tomorrow, more or less. But I don’t have the right to be assisted to end my life with dignity and without pain. And I think that’s something we should be talking about… This is comedy to help people. He’s not making fun of anything; he’s not making light of anything. He is putting his information in a more accessible place.”

Kate Copstick’s breakfast yesterday morning

Kate Copstick’s breakfast yesterday morning

Copstick came back to the flat in agony last night.

When I first heard she had the disease lupus, I thought it meant she turned into a wolf on a regular basis. Some of the acts she reviews may have suspected the same thing.

In fact, it is not. It just means she is in pain almost all of the time.

Yesterday was our first breakfast. I had toast. She had six tablets: she needs hyper-strong painkillers for her lupus.

Lewis Schaffer manages to promote one of his while still talking to Ivor Dembina

Lewis Schaffer (left) manages to promote one of his shows while continuing a conversation with Ivor Dembina

After this, yesterday morning, I bumped into comedian Lewis Schaffer in the Fringe Central building and then we both bumped into comedian Ivor Dembina. There is a lot of bumping in Edinburgh at this time of year. I will only repeat one sentence from the ensuing conversation – when Ivor Dembina said to Lewis Schaffer:

“The last thing I want is a lecture on ophthalmics from Lewis Schaffer.”

I think the quote gains from having no context.

Alex Dallas’ Edinburgh fringe flyer

Alex Dallas’ subtle Edinburgh Fringe flyer

Shortly afterwards, Canada-based comic Alex Dallas came and sat with us. Ivor asked for her first impression of Lewis Schaffer, whom she had never met before.

“He is a silver fox with dimples,” she said. “He’s a ladykiller.”

“Dimples?” I asked. “It’s like flying over Cambodia and seeing the bomb craters left by B-52 bombers in the Vietnam War.”

No-one laughed.

Charmian Hughes spots Alex Dallas

Charmian Hughes spots Alex Dallas yesterday

At this point, comedian Charmian Hughes arrived. Conversation soon turned (I did not introduce the subject) to late comedian Malcolm Hardee. Alex had memories, when she lived in London, of him paying her £40 after a performance, then asking her to loan him £20 to pay another comedian; Charmian said she had untold stories of her relationship with Malcolm in her current show When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs And Loves Of A She-Comic).

Before she moved to Canada in the 1990s, Alex had been in the female comedy group Sensible Footwear.

“There were,” she reminisced, “a whole lot of women’s troupes back in the 1980s. There were the Scarlet Harlots, the Frank Chickens, Spare Tyre, the Cunning Stunts…”

Alex Dallas with Ivor Dembina yesterday

Alex Dallas with her old(-ish) friend Ivor Dembina yesterday

“That,” said Charmian, “was the first workshop I ever went with. I had to go in a corner and be a rock for an hour. It was my first dramatic experience. It was the happiest hour I’ve ever had in my life.”

“The 1980s were good,” said Alex.

“That’s what my show is about,” said Charmian. “My tagline is now: Did I get off with you in the 1980s? Did I stalk you in the 1990s? If so, you are in my show.”

Lewis Schaffer and Ivor Dembina left. Then Alex Dallas and Charmian Hughes left. Just as I was about to leave, I got an e-mail from TV producer Danny Greenstone. It was headed: The Phantom Raspberry Blower. It read:


Danny Greenstone

Danny Greenstone – blowing phantom raspberries

Believe it or not (and I couldn’t blame you if it’s “not”) I have been asked to direct my first ever London West End stage play. It’s a staging of a radio performance of what was the last ever written – but unperformed – Goon Show. So it will be a bit like the way Round The Horne Revisited was staged.

The producers have launched a Kickstarter project to raise additional funds for the show – There’s absolutely no pressure and no obligation and no dead fish wrapped up in newspaper will turn up at your door… it’s an opportunity if you’d like it.

Kickstarting for extra funds Goon Show

The un-performed Goons show: Kickstarting for extra funds

If you wish to investigate further, here’s the link.

And there we have it. You, too, can be part of The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town which opens its cloak at the St. James Studio Theatre in London on 30th October 2015.


Alice Fraser - a law unto herself

“…all the horrible things that had been happening in my life”

After reading this, I tried to leave Fringe Central again, but I was accosted by someone I did not recognise. It turned out to be Australian comic Alice Fraser, about whose preview show, Copstick raved in last weekend’s Grouchy Club Podcast. Alice had recognised me from the (occasionally videoed) Podcast.

“That show Copstick saw,” Alice told me, “was less of a try-out than she thought it was.”

When Copstick saw Alice’s Savage preview – the one she raved about – Alice had just flown from Australia with a 45-minute stopover in Singapore, got off the plane in London and virtually gone straight to perform the show in Shepherd’s Bush.

Alice Fraser: Copstick raved about the show

Alice Fraser: Copstick raved about the show she previewed…

“I was incredibly jet lagged,” Alice told me yesterday, “so the show was more of a mess than it would normally be, but all the bits were meant to be there. It was like doing it in a dream. The audience were mostly my friends from ten years ago. All these faces from my past, smiling dimly at me while I told them all the horrible things that had been happening in my life.”

Alice’s show has audiences both laughing and crying.

“You were here ten years ago?” I asked.

“I went to university here in 2007.”

“Which university?”

“Cambridge.”

“What did you study there?”

“English Literature. Rhetoric.”

“Specifically rhetoric?” I asked.

“Specifically rhetoric. I did a Masters.”

“What was your BA in?” I asked.

Alice’s show has had audiences both laughing and crying

Alice’s show has had audiences both laughing and crying

“My BA was at Sydney University in English and Law. I used to be a lawyer – I was in corporate real estate – and I quit it to become a comedian. The thing about Law is how do people believe that one thing is a crime and something else is not a crime? How do you make them really believe that?”

“You wanted to be a public speaker?” I asked.

“No. I was just interested in how people communicate and more how people get ideas.”

“What is Rhetoric?” I asked. “Just learning about Greek people and a few politicians?”

“Anything. Comedy is really interesting when it comes to rhetoric. You can break it down in incredibly nerdy ways if you want to. Comedy is persuasive speech in itself. You are persuading people (A) that you are funny and (B) that they should laugh at any given joke. Any joke is persuading you of a number of things both of the content of the joke and that the joke itself IS a joke and that it’s funny and worth laughing at.”

A street poster for Alice’s Savage show

A street poster for Alice’s Savage show

“So,” I said, “you are an ex-lawyer and you are interested in rhetoric and therefore you are very together and therefore you are not the normal sort of mad comedian.”

“I AM the mad comedian,” insisted Alice. “I’m just projecting a shield of togetherness.”

“And your show?” I asked.

“I don’t want easy answers. The show is about somebody offering me an easy answer and how infuriating I found it – to be offered an easy answer to an incredibly complicated situation.”

As I said, Alice’s show has audiences both laughing and crying. Copstick raved about it. I have not yet seen it. I am going to see it. It is titled Savage.

That’s life.

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“One of the men tried to remove his rival’s testicles with a bottle opener”

After yesterday’s blog, in which Louise Reay told the true story of a man banging a nail into his penis – as is the way when I have no time to write a considered and/or transcribed blog – today we have a hodge podge of glimpses into human life in 2015.

  • World Naked Gardening Day

    If you cultivate roses, you should always beware of little pricks

    On Facebook, comedy fan Sandra Smith informed me that today is the 10th annual World Naked Gardening Day. According to NBC’s Today programme in the US, the event “celebrates weeding, planting flowers and trimming hedges” naked. The event’s own website suggests: “freehikers can pull invasive weeds along their favorite stretch of trail. More daring groups can make rapid clothes-free sorties into public parks to do community-friendly stealth cleanups.”

  • Yesterday, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge Claire Smith told me that, at the Brighton Fringe, feisty 81-year-old Californian cabaret act and comic Lynn Ruth Miller has a new double act going with the owner of a fish and chip shop in Brighton. – “He supplies the fish and chips, she supplies the customers with wit and repartee. She is also holding an exhibition of her paintings in the chip shop.”
Anna Smith - Bobby The Duck

Bobby The Duck  + bandaged foot

  • From Vancouver, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith e-mailed me with her news: “Today I saw Bobby the Duck (previously mentioned in this blog back in October last year) and he has a sore webbed foot. Meanwhile, the fraud trial of Mike Duffy has started. He is a senator accused of crimes like spending too much public money on makeup. And Conni Smudge is hosting a weekly gay bingo night at Celebrities night club on Davie Street. Conni’s full name is Convenient Smudge and she seems to have a preference for blue balls. We have also been warned that planes are going to be spraying us with insecticide this morning.
  • Meanwhile, in London last night, I went to see a run-through of Charmian Hughes’ new show – When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs and Loves of a She-Comic) – which, in its present form, is a smörgåsbord of previously untold comic tales of Malcolm Hardee’s Tunnel Club, Teletubbies’ Tinky Winky, Arthur Smith, Sean Hughes and the Glastonbury Festival.
  • At Charmian’s read-through, I chatted to comedy scriptwriter Mark Kelly. He told me that, at a recent South Coast gig, he had seven copies of his most recent book of poetry stolen. Neither of us could figure out if this was a bad or (in publicity terms) a good thing.
  • “Sandra

    Sandra Smith (right) on QE2 ocean liner about 45 years ago

    Then, this morning, back home in Borehamwood, I got another e-mail from comedy fan and this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith about her days working on cruise ships. She told me: “I used to work in the dining room with a waiter called Billy. One morning, towards the end of service, he asked me to give him the very heavy silver coffee pot that I was holding. I watched him pour out the coffee, then saunter across the dining room to where the Assistant Head Waiter was having breakfast. Billy hit him around the head with the coffee pot several times, until he fell forward unconscious. Billy then came back to where I was standing transfixed and said: Sorry if I scared you, Sandy, but he’s been on my back. Within moments, several Masters at Arms appeared and Billy picked up a knife, but he was eventually overpowered and taken away. I never saw him again. On another occasion, two men were in competition for the attentions of a third. So one of the men tried to remove his rival’s testicles with a bottle opener.

And this is the final version

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Last night, everything was normal… Or was it?

Charmian Hughes: The ghost of parties yet to come

Charmian Hughes: The ghost of parties yet to come

Yesterday, my blog was about surreality.

Last night, some reality returned. But only some.

I went to comedian Charmian Hughes’ Christmas party. in South London.

Passing through Blackfriars station, I heard a woman sitting on a metal bench with a younger man (possibly her son) say: “I want to have a proper chat and I can’t with you because you don’t drink.”

It was like a flat stone skimming across the surface of water. Briefly touching a few seconds of other people’s lives.

Comedian Lewis Schaffer met me at Peckham Rye station with his bicycle. We walked to Charmian’s. Lewis did not ride the bicycle. We talked of heart attacks, lungs and cholesterol levels. At one point, he said: “This is old men’s talk.” I had to agree. It is wise to agree with Lewis Schaffer. It saves time.

David Don’t at the party last night

Magic David Don’t at the party last night

At the party, Charmian’s husband, magician David Don’t, told me he had recently been asked to perform at a charity gig. As it was for a charity gig, he quoted a low fee. After the show, they sent him a cheque for triple the amount agreed because they had enjoyed his act so much. I do not know what this demonstrates in terms of charities, but it must demonstrate something.

Before I left, I was talking to very amiable Polish lady Ewa Sidorenko and to Karen O Novak’s equally amiable husband Darren. We talked of toilet bowls and taps. Charmian Hughes and David Don’t do own a genuine Crapper toilet.

Conversation turned from that to the consistency of ceramics and, from there, to the fact that the British – unlike Europeans – have a separate hot tap and cold tap in sinks, rather than have a logically more sensible mixer tap.

Karen O Novak & David Mills did NOT talk of Crappers & taps

Karen O Novak & David Mills did NOT talk of Crappers & taps

I think (though I may be wrong) that Ewa Sidorenko and I came to the conclusion that having two separate taps, with the risk of scalding one’s hand with piping hot water, fulfilled the triple traditional British benefit of identifying foreigners, humiliating them and maiming them.

On my way home, at Blackfriars station again, a young man who looked a little like Prince Harry asked me if he was on the correct platform for King’s Cross. I said he was, although the train actually passed through St Pancras not King’s Cross. We got on the train together and had a long conversation about his university course and job prospects.

StPancrasChristmasTree2013

This is St Pancras station last year not this year and is definitely not King’s Cross station

I told him I had once been on the same Thameslink line and heard a Japanese lady ask, as the train pulled into St Pancras if she was on the correct train for King’s Cross. To her increasing confusion, as she looked at the signs on the walls clearly stating ST PANCRAS INTERNATIONAL, three people told her: “This IS King’s Cross”.

Last night seemed to be a slightly strange evening, but I could not quite put my finger on why. Everything was normal.

But normality can be slightly abnormal.

During the evening, on trains, I saw two people with reindeer antlers on their heads. That is perfectly normal in London at Christmas.

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Filed under Humor, Humour, London, Surreal