Tag Archives: children

If you see a ginger dwarf lying on the ground, would you think: “That’s odd!”

Tanyalee Davis: a big comedy talent from Canada

Last night, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I were in Covent Garden to see the Maple Leaf Trust’s annual Hilarity For Charity gig with profits going to the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund.

On the bill were Canadian comics Ryan Cull, Tanyalee Davis and Tom Stade.

Afterwards, we had a drink with Tanyalee.

“I am hopefully getting new hips in the next two years,” she told us: “I have the hips of a 90-year-old with the mentality of a 19-year-old.”

“So what’s next for you now?” I asked.

“Starting on Monday,” she told me, “for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be FaceTiming and Skyping with some disabled performers in Vancouver who are going to be doing stand-up pretty much for the first time at a three-night event in Vancouver at the end of May. On May 4th, I’m going to Vancouver and working with them in a rehearsal space.”

“May the fourth be with you,” I said.

No-one laughed.

“Why do these people wanna be stand-ups?” I asked. “All stand-ups are mad.”

“I dunno,” Tanyalee replied. “Who knows? Everybody wants to give it a go.”

“What,” Copstick asked, “is your advice going to be?”

“They have sent me some of their material,” replied Tanyalee, “and… there are no jokes… But maybe that’s the problem of seeing stuff as written words. I’m not the best writer by any means but I sell it with my performance. So I’m hoping, once I meet these people on Skype and I see them doing it, I will have advice on their writing and how they perform it. I have just seen the bare bones so far. I’ve been in the business 27 years, so I have some experience.”

“Who has chosen these people?” I asked. “Are they self-chosen?”

“They’re part of a non-profit-making theatre company called Realwheels. They got a government grant to fly over an international performer to mentor.”

“You are Canadian,” I said, “but you live in the UK in Norwich. I have lived in Norwich. For heaven’s sake, why are you living in Norwich?”

“Because I’m part of an anti-bullying campaign,” Tanyalee told me. “A self-empowerment campaign called Great As You Are. I go into schools and work with little snot-nosed kids, but I absolutely love it. It is really rewarding.”

Copstick and Tanyalee in London last night

“Are we talking children-children?” Copstick asked.

“4-7 year olds. Our programme was for a three-year pilot but we’ve already accomplished everything in two years. We’ve now done 4-11 year-olds and maybe 1,000 more kids than was intended. We are putting in another funding application with the Big Lottery Foundation. We want to expand. There are 400 schools in Norfolk and we are only doing 16.”

“Were you ever bullied?” Copstick asked.

“Absolutely. I still get bullied. Oh my God! It’s constant. The other night, some girl came up and just started pushing my (electric mobility) scooter. People yell at me in the streets: Fucking midget! Chase me. Stop dead in front of me going Ahahahaha! and laugh and point at me. And I’m like: What the fuck is your problem?”

“Is that,” I asked, “just in London?”

“In the UK.”

“Moreso than in Canada?” I asked.

“God yes. Nobody’s ever done that to me in Canada.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“I dunno. I think it is more the drink here. It’s just weird. But that’s why with me doing comedy and hopefully getting on more shows I really want to bring to light how fucking horrible people can be…”

“Yes,” Copstick agreed.

Tanyalee continued: “… and the fact I still get bullied. I’m an adult, a 46-year-old and I still get bullied. I tell the kids that and they’re shocked. I give them an example of when I was by the London Eye a couple of years ago – a tourist area, hundreds of people – I was looking up, wasn’t paying attention and I drove over the kerb and I tipped over and the scooter fell on top of me. There were hundreds of people and not one person stopped to ask me if I was OK. People are so stuck to themselves with blinders on, especially in big cities like London. Everybody’s on their phones: Oh! Ooh! That didn’t happen!

“Even what happened on Westminster Bridge last week (when a terrorist mowed-down pedestrians with a car), there are pictures of people walking past on their mobile phones and there is blood and a person lying on the ground.”

“Nobody ever looks at anybody,” said Copstick.

Kate Copstick and Tanyalee Davis – surely a future double act?

“It’s a Big City mentality,” said Tanyalee. “It’s in Vancouver and Los Angeles and New York and here. We have just gotta get to where we’re going. Get the fuck out of my way! But, I mean, if you see a fucking ginger dwarf lying on the ground with a scooter on top of her, you would surely think: That’s odd!”

Copstick said: “There is probably some kind of police code: Dwarf down!

“Like Black Hawk Down!“ agreed Tanyalee. “Yeah.”

“Maybe,” I suggested, “it is because you are ginger.”

“Yeah,” said Tanyalee. “Maybe that’s the problem. There was this kid (in Norfolk). He was 14 but super-tall for his age and his headmaster told me the boy had had to move school four times because he had been bullied because he had ginger hair. In Australia, they don’t call them ginger; they call them ‘rangas’.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Orangutans,” said Tanyalee.

Leave a comment

Filed under Disability, discrimination, Humor, Humour, political correctness

Comedian Christian Talbot is sh*te at being Irish + news of an ISIS fundraiser

Christian Talbot at Soho Theatre yesterday

Christian Talbot was drinking Coke at Soho Theatre yesterday

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Christian Talbot was in London yesterday so, before his flight home to Belfast, I had a chat with him.

I thought: There will be a blog in there somewhere.

Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe I was right.

Christian won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award last year with his 12-year-old daughter Kate because of her excellently cunning flyering for his show. I can’t be bothered to repeat the story. This year, Kate is appearing on stage herself.

“She’s been plaguing me,” said Christian, “for the last few weeks saying: I want to do stand-up. If we go to the Edinburgh Fringe, can I do a spot?

“So she’s going to be in a one-off children’s gig at the Freestival. I was also in touch with Comedy 4 Kids, who are running a gig at Assembly and Kate’s been offered a spot on one of their shows. And Bob Slayer has offered her a gig on his double-decker bus.”

“Has he got a name for the double-decker bus yet?” I asked.

“I don’t think so. I told him to call it The Folly.”

“I suggested Desmond,” I said. “How’s your wife?”

Kate Talbot (right) with mum Gayle: future comedians both?

Kate Talbot (right) with mum Gayle: future comedians both?

“Oh, Gayle’s doing a comedy course at the moment,” said Christian. “So she might be doing a gig in Edinburgh too.

“She says I’m hellbent on embarrassing myself by getting better comedians from the family on stage.”

“Didn’t she used to be a boxer?” I asked.

“She did used to work in a box factory,” conceded Christian.

“Does she not,” I asked, “realise there’s no money in comedy?”

“She just wanted to do it for a bit of fun, because she likes the writing. I don’t know that she will ever do a gig. She’s telling me she won’t. But then there’s Edinburgh in August.”

“Why,” I asked, “is she doing a comedy course but then says she’s not going to perform a gig?”

“She’s just awkward. Stubborn. That’s my wife. She’s contrary.”

“From County Contrary?” I asked.

“I’d like her to do a gig,” said Christian, ignoring me. “I think she’d be very good.”

“What is your show called?” I asked.

Christian Talbot ponders the title of his Ediburgh Fringe show

Christian Talbot ponders his Edinburgh Fringe show title

Christian Talbot is Shite at Being Irish. I’m really bad at being Irish. I can’t speak Irish and all Irish traditional music sounds the same to me It’s all Diddly-diddly-aye. I also don’t ‘get’ Gaelic Football and hurling.”

“Oh,” I said, “hurling is great. It’s beautiful! I used to make TV trailers for it when I worked in Dublin. Hurling in slow motion is like ballet – but interesting. I’m amazed people don’t get their heads sliced off. Gaelic Football’s graceful too. They were made for television slomos”

“A bit violent: all of them,” said Christian.

“Wildly dangerous,” I agreed. “But, in slow motion, graceful…”

“Like one of those martial arts films,” said Christian.

“Hurling and Gaelic Football,” I said enthusiastically, “are much more exciting than soccer and don’t let’s even mention cricket, the world’s most boring game.”

“I just never got into them,” said Christian, who was born and brought up in Dublin. “My dad wasn’t particularly Irish; he always watched the BBC, so I always liked Monty Python and I’ve never been a mad drinker.”

“Heard of any stunts for Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Well,” said Christian, “I see Bec Hill is renting out space on her body. If you give her clothes – like a teeshirt with an ad for your show on – she’ll wear them. She’ll wear a different set of clothes every day during her show: clothes that other people have given her to publicise their show during her show.

“And, it’s not for Edinburgh, but did you hear about Sean Hegarty over in Northern Ireland? He had a competition on his Facebook page for people to name his show in Belfast and he said whatever got the most likes would be the title… They picked ISIS Fundraiser, so now he has to go through with it under that title. Someone told me there were threats made against the venue.”

Sean Hegarty faces up to his publicity stunt

Sean Hegarty faces up to reaction

Christian told me that yesterday so, obviously, this morning I got in touch with Sean Hegarty.

“Yeah,” he told me. “The show’s going ahead on April 13th with that title, unfortunately. All press is good press, though, and I’m using it to my advantage. I’ve got in contact with the isis charity in England who support young people against sexual exploitation. So I’m hoping to do a collection for them at the end of my show. I’ve also been in contact with the police who are completely behind me and understand the predicament I’m in.”

I feel we may hear more of this.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Ireland

Critic Copstick on cocaine in kids’ TV + meeting Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris

Kate Copstick publicity shot for The Grouchy Club

Copstick publicity shot for The Grouchy Club

In yesterday’s blog, comedy critic Kate Copstick explained why she gave up her planned career as a lawyer because she lost faith in the legal system.

“So,” I asked, “then what did you decide you wanted to do?”

“I had always wanted to be an actress,” she told me at The Grouchy Club in Edinburgh. “So, when I got asked to do a play for no money, I said Yes. It was a piece by Pedro Calderón de la Barca with the snazzy title The House With Two Doors Is Hard To Guard. I played the comedy maid, which was when I discovered the joy of corsets.”

“Did you,” I asked, “want to be a comedy performer or an actress?”

“Oh, I wanted to be an actress,” she said. “I wanted to be Joan Crawford. I had posters on my wall of Debbie Harry, Joan Crawford and Bryan Ferry.

“But people preferred me trying to be funny. Then they kept asking me to write.”

“Why,” I asked, “would they ask you to write if you were an actress?”

“Because nobody believed I was really an actress. Also, I was so bossy that I tended to write and direct. It started off with me saying: Wouldn’t it be better if I said this…

Copstick, children’s favourite

Copstick, children’s favourite

“Then someone from Scottish Television saw me and I fronted a kids’ programme about the environment. Then I was asked down to London to present Play School for BBC TV.”

“Why?”

“They obviously just looked at me performing in my wig and my Ginger Rogers frock and thought: I would love to see this woman dressed as a penguin jumping up and down on children’s television.”

I told her: “I used to know someone who did Playbus. He went into porn.”

“Many of us did,” said Copstick.

“How long did you do Play School?” I asked.

Prim and proper Copstick

The prim, proper and always professional Copstick

“About four years, then I did a load of other kids’ programmes – Up Our Street, No 73…”

“Did you do that rude Christmas tape for No 73?” I asked.

“Everything was rude when you got behind the scenes,” said Copstick. “The very first place I ever encountered cocaine was on Play School.

“Because it was only pre-school television with small budgets, they didn’t give you any time for re-takes. Once you started recording, you had time to do two episodes back-to-back. That was it. No mucking about. No re-takes. So we rehearsed endlessly. One time, we did all the rehearsing including the songs and it was all lovely, all great, all timed to perfection. But when we recorded it, the show was a whole minute short and nobody could understand why.

Kate Copstick

Copstick first encountered cocaine in children’s television…

“It turned out that, between the rehearsals and the recording, the boys in the band had been in the dressing room enjoying some of Bolivia’s finest (cocaine) and all the songs had gone at almost twice the speed they had in the rehearsals.

“So the programmes were not just educational for the children, they were educational for me personally.

“I did this show called Whizz and got on Top of the Pops. We recorded the theme tune, released it as a single and, for some reason, it did really well in the charts. No-one could understand why until I went on Top of the Pops and somebody told me it had a massive student following because the hook line was Do the Biz, Do the Biz, With Whizz. None of the nice middle class ladies at the BBC realised Whizz/Wiz had any kind of double meaning whatsoever, but students thought it was fantastic.”

There is, sadly, no copy of this song on YouTube, but there is a video of Pulp singing Sorted For E’s and Wizz at Glastonbury.

“Was Jimmy Savile presenting Top of the Pops when you were on it?” I asked Copstick.

“No. It was Mike Read and Gary Davis. When I got to come down the chute onto the stage, there were all these girls. There were self-evidently 16-year-old girls who just went there in the hope that somebody famous would fondle their boobs.”

“You met Savile somewhere else?” I asked.

“I was doing a show called On The Waterfront up in Liverpool with Bernie Nolan (of The Nolan Sisters). She could drink more vodka on a night than anyone and get up at 7 o’clock the next morning looking like she was straight out of convent school. That girl had hollow legs. I’ve never met anyone who could drink like her.”

“You are too modest,” I said.

“She taught me everything I know!” said Copstick.

“And Savile?” I asked.

“On the show, I did a thing like Through The Keyhole, but it was called Through The Sunroof – I went into people’s cars. So I did Through The Sunroof with Jimmy Savile’s car and we had to go up to his house in Leeds and when I met him, instead of shaking my hand, he turned it over and licked the palm. Eurghh! Just loathsome. Some people you meet and you just know… And there was Rolf Harris, as well.”

Rolf Harris, much-loved children’s entertainer

Rolf Harris, former children’s entertainer

“You met Rolf?” I asked. “You must have been groped by Rolf. Everyone was groped by Rolf.”

“When he came on the show as a guest,” said Copstick, “we had a lovely young female director who used to wear trousers that had a rose trellis pattern. When Rolf came in, she was bending over to pick something up and he said: That’s a furrow I’d like to plough! He self-evidently was just a bit of a dirty old man which is not great, but I think there’s a difference between being a dirty old man and a paedophile.”

“He had a reputation for groping,” I said, “but I was surprised by the children.”

“I’ve kind of always thought,” said Copstick, “if you like grown-ups, you like grown ups; if you like kids, you like kids. It’s not really the same people. So, as an ex-lawyer, I was very surprised by the Rolf Harris verdict.

“I think, yet again, it’s the Establishment being so horrified and embarrassed that nobody did anything about Jimmy Savile or Cyril Smith or any of the other people they knew about but protected… that anybody they can now grab onto is going down because somebody has to and they can’t do anything about Savile because he’s dead.

Copstick at last month;s Edinburgh Fringe

Copstick at last month’s Edinburgh Fringe

“I’m sure all of us who are grown-up and female have had some hideous, ghastly, creepy uncle type stick his tongue in your ear before he should and you just go Ughh! but there’s a long, long way between that and being attacked. I think all the women who are lining up claiming Dave Lee Travis held their boobs are doing a terrible amount of damage to the people who really did suffer.

“It must be horrendous. I can’t imagine what it must have been like being one of these boys in the home that Cyril Smith went to. Or being in Stoke Mandeville Hospital and seeing Jimmy Savile wander across the ward towards you with his cock in his hand. Horrendous. Horrendous! But it’s not the same thing at all as a bit of a misjudgment.”

… CONTINUED HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under Children, Drugs, Sex, Television

Ex gangster drug runner Jason Cook tells me how a rat became an astronaut

Jason Cook - from crime and cocaine to children’s books and cheese

Jason – from crime and cocaine to rats and cheese

I have blogged about Jason Cook a few times before.

He became a drug addict at the age of twelve and then started to sell drugs from his bedroom and on the streets to pay off his growing drugs debts to local dealers. Then he got into trouble with Yardies and was forced to smuggle drugs in order to save his friends and family “from danger”.

At the age of 20 he was heavily involved in the drugs world and he was also taking steroids to build himself up. He reached 18 stone, with a sizeable drug habit, was arrested and spent 3 years and 9 months in Pentonville Prison where he found drugs use was also widespread.

After a second prison sentence, he realised that he needed to turn his life round for his family and – despite being dyslexic – started to write a series of four semi-autobiographical books

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Jason Cook’s first two semi-autobiographical crime books

Jason has five children. This month he published his first Kindle children’s book Rats in Space.

For each downloaded eBook or Kindle copy sold, 50p is going to be donated to the Macmillan Cancer fund. At the start of the book, it says:

Jason Cook’s book - Rats In Space

Jason Cook’s kids’ book – Rats In Space

The author, Jason Cook, would like to dedicate this book to his son, Hughie Cook, for truly being a brave boy during his chemotherapy treatment. Jason would also like to dedicate it to the other children and adults who are fighting this disease every day. Also to the doctors and nurses that help so many of the sick adults and children and thank them for the support they show the families. So thank you, all who helped support not only Hughie, but me and the others in our family at these tough times.

Rats in Space “tells the sad, very emotional yet ultimately happy story of the rats who live in the tunnels of the Underground at King’s Cross station…

“Can a rat really reach the moon? When a global cheese shortage threatens the entire rodent community, a brave group of rats come to one decision: if there is no cheese to be found on the Earth, then it’s time to look off the Earth. Hector Duddlewell has always dreamed of the stars and, when he catches a glimpse of glorious space travel, he’s willing to defy all odds to win the girl of his dreams and take his place as one of the first ever RATS IN SPACE.”

“It’s true,” Jason told me this morning. “Hector really did go into space.”

“Of course he did,” I said sympathetically.

Jason has plans to film Rats In Space

Jason has plans to film Rats In Space – the script is written

“He did,” said Jason. “Hector really did. He was flown into space.”

He showed me the Wikipedia entry. It read:

“France flew their first rat (Hector) into space on February 22, 1961.”

“My book tells the back story of Hector,” explained Jason. “How he actually became an astronaut.”

Stranger things have happened.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Children, Crime, Drugs, Writing

Sexual abuse: when women & children were seen as ‘fair game’? – in the past?

A British Rail poster ad from the past

A British Rail poster from the past, with paedophile pop star Gary Glitter

The last words of my blog yesterday were:

“The past does not exist, even though everything is interconnected by happenstance.”

Someone took exception when they read this yesterday and told me:

“You’re an idiot. Of course the past exists.”

Well, it doesn’t and it does…

Two days ago, I posted a blog headlined Rolf Harris, Jimmy Savile, Gary Glitter, Roman Polanski – and what it is like to be sexually assaulted as a child.

Yesterday, I got a response from ‘Sandy Mac’. This turned out to be someone I met at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. This is what she wrote yesterday:


I was born in 1946.

I was about seven years old or a bit younger and sometimes looked after by a neighbour with a small daughter. I rarely saw her husband but, on this occasion, he was at home.

He and I were in the front room sitting in front of the fire. Amidst the chat, I looked up to see this ‘thing’ in his hand which he urged me to touch.

I remember feeling uncertain, confused if not a bit frightened at what he was asking, although I didn’t know why.

I remember him saying: “Go on. It won’t bite.”

Then his wife called us to the kitchen to eat. I can’t remember how I felt after that as we all sat around the table.

I do know that I didn’t tell my mother, but I didn’t go to that house again.

A happy coincidence maybe, but no explanation was given.

In my early twenties, I remember working for one particular employer who was an absolute menace around women. He also wielded quite a lot of power. Not a happy combination. As well as witnessing my employer’s behaviour towards women at first hand, I heard accounts from other people too. This would have been in the mid-1960s.

That sadly was the climate of the times.

Police at that time, I remember, were loathe to intervene in cases of domestic violence. Oh how I applauded Erin Pizzey when she opened her first refuge in Chiswick in the early 1970s.

I was an ‘unmarried mother’ at sixteen and was sent to a mother and baby home, run by nuns in Stamford Hill.

The stigma was huge in 1962, only matched by my mother’s disappointment in me.

My daughter will be 52 this year with three boys of her own. She was reunited in Canada with her father and his lovely wife. She and her dad had about ten years to get to know one another. She was with him when he died a few years ago now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sex

Juliette Burton on how to perform an emotionally raw show to children in Oz

Performer Juliette Burton is in Australia. She should be arriving in Melbourne tomorrow for her When I Grow Up shows which run at the International Comedy Festival.

Juliette Burton & Frankie Lowe rehearse yesterday for her February-May tour of Australia

Juliette Burton and musical director Frankie Lowe set off for their tour of Oz last month

I talked to her when she was in Auburn, about 2 hours drive from Adelaide. She had been performing both her own solo show When I Grow Up and, with Lizzy Mace, their Rom Com Con show at the Adelaide Fringe.

“I’m going to drive the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne.,” she told me rather enthusiastically.

“How was Adelaide?” I asked.

“I live in Edinburgh,” said Juliette, and I’m missing it desperately, but Adelaide has been trying very hard to make me feel at home. It’s been raining non-stop the last few days. When we left, it was pissing down with rain and it was freezing.”

“And professionally?” I asked.

“It was a very big learning curve,” Juliette said. “It was very random. Loads of random experiences. I met Randy again.”

In Juliette’s When I Grow Up show at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, Juliette (a great fan of the Muppet Show) had a puppet called Juliuppet who talked via Skype with Randy in Australia.

“In Adelaide,” Juliette told me, “Juiliuppet and I were in the front row to see Randy’s show.”

(from left) Randy, Juliette and Juliuppet in Adelaide

(From left) Randy, Juliette and her Juliuppet

“So you and your hand puppet were watching Sammy J and his hand puppet?”

“Absolutely,” said Juliette. “I’ve seen some great shows. There were some amazing burlesque performers like Rusty Trombone.”

“Did he play a trombone?” I asked.

“No,” replied Juliette, “but he did do a lot of things with a sparkly g-string which I loved. And I got to ride a motorcycle for the first time ever.

“We’ve also been doing a lot of schools performances here, which have been real challenges. I hadn’t realised how much I enjoy performing for adults. Performing for kids is so much harder. When I Grow Up was never written for kids but, for some reason, as well as my main show, I was booked to take this show around schools. I did two shows today, one to primary school children, 8-13. I went into that thinking They’re not going to understand it at all. It will go over their heads. It will be horrible. But, actually, they were laughing along; they were loving it. They especially loved the swear words. And they were asking really intelligent questions afterwards.”

“I remember seeing you do the show in Edinburgh last year and there were three kids in the front row,” I said. “They did seem to enjoy the references to ‘shit’ in the working-on-a-farm sequence.”

“Yes,” said Juliette. “I’ve realised this is the key to having an awesome show for children. Saying swear words and having a puppet. Those two things are massive hits for kids. The ‘shit’ word goes down a storm and ‘dickhead’ goes down a storm and maybe surprisingly the ‘twist’ near the end of my show actually seems to have a massive impact on them. No matter what age they are, they all seem to shut up and listen at that point, even if they weren’t paying attention before.”

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette’s childhood show: usually for grown-ups

“It must be difficult,” I said, “to perform that part of the show to kids – the emotional twist.”

“Well,” explained Juliette, “I am learning to put myself in a protective bubble a bit when I do it, because sometimes it’s too raw for me.”

“What do you do?” I asked. “Do you say to yourself: I am being a performer – I am not being me?”

“No, I tried that and it didn’t work,” said Juliette. “Now, even if it is a group of 100 kids and 50 of them couldn’t care less, I try to find the kids in the audience who ARE making eye-contact with me and who ARE clearly invested in what I’m saying and I look at them and say the words to them.

“If I can’t find them in the crowd, then I end up looking at Frankie – who’s doing my technical stuff – and the adults in the room as well. I look at the people who understand exactly what I’m saying and that helps me get through it a lot more. Especially looking at Frankie, because he has seen this show so many times and he has seen the shows where the kids couldn’t care less and the shows where the kids come up to me afterwards.

“With the primary school kids today, we had one girl in the front row who quietly, at the end of the Q&A, said: My mummy doesn’t like herself. She just said it. I asked her Have you spoken to anyone else about this? She said No and I asked Have you got a teacher you can talk to? and she said I think so. The fact that, having seen the show, she felt able to share that with me, let alone the rest of her class… that was amazing.

Juliette defeats Richard Herring in Russian Egg Roulette at last year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photo by Keir O’Donnell)

In Edinburgh, Juliette beat Richard Herring in Russian Egg Roulette at last year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photo by Keir O’Donnell)

“So it is worth it; it’s just the hardest work I’ve ever done. And, whilst Theatre In Education is not what I want to do, I think it is making me better at performing for adults as well. I’m looking forward to the Edinburgh Fringe so much now, having done this.”

“Doesn’t making eye contact with the kids make it more difficult to get through performing the emotional bit?” I asked. “I would have thought you’d have to distance yourself, but you’re implying it’s better if you, in a way, shorten the distance.”

“But then it would not be real,” explained Juliette. “It would not be me. If I say the same words I’ve said hundreds of times before, I don’t want what I’m feeling to be fake. It is really difficult, but I’m finding ways to cope. In one of the Q&As today, they asked me How do you keep it fresh? and I said The fact I’m looking in new people’s eyes means it’s always fresh because it’s a new story I’m telling to each new person. It’s a lot of emotionally hard work. But I did get to see some kangaroos yesterday and got to touch a koala.”

“Aren’t they supposed to be vicious little brats?” I asked.

A koala or a Fringe performer? The choice is yours

A koala bear or a Fringe performer? –  The decision is yours.

“No,” said Juliette. “They reminded me a lot of Fringe performers, because they sat there taking their drugs – their eucalyptus leaves – scratching themselves and looking uninterested in the people who were standing in a queue waiting to have their photograph taken with them. Then they had to do a turnaround between keepers and koalas which took about the same amount of time it takes between Fringe shows and they were just like little divas waiting for the next batch of koala lovers to come in and see them with their fur coats on.”

“So,” I said. “Drugged-up but vicious underneath? That’s a pretty good description of some Fringe performers.”

“Not my words,” said Juliette.

“No,” I agreed. “So you’re having a lazy time…”

“I arrive in Melbourne on Friday,” she said, “I perform When I Grow Up there on 27th March until 20th April – just one show a day which will be bliss. So I’ve got a few days before then to start writing my new Edinburgh Fringe show Look At Me, which Janey Godley is co-writing with me.

“I’ve recorded all of the video interviews I need. The prosthetic stuff I can’t do until I get back to the UK in May. I’m doing When I Grow Up at the Brighton Fringe in May. Then I’m doing previews of Look At Me in Cambridge and Stowmarket in June – and Brighton and London in July – for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. I’m desperate to create something new. I have to create something new to move on from what I’ve learnt. I’m a different person now to who I was a year ago, so I have to write something new now.”

Juliette has a series of six shows planned-out. When I Grow Up Was the first; Look At Me is the second and, in 2015, Dreamcatcher will be the third.

Juliette Burton

A publicity shot for Juliette’s Look At Me (Photo by Helena G Anderson)

“I’m already planning Dreamcatcher with Frankie,” she said.

Frankie Lowe is her musical collaborator as well as her techie.

“Frankie,” She told me, “wants to do some live music instead of recorded music in Dreamcatcher and I think that would work well. In fact, I might end up doing two shows in 2015.

“I’ve had some exciting interest from other Fringe festivals around the world who saw me in Adelaide. I’ve had a couple of offers for this year which I can’t accept because I’m too busy, but next year maybe I’ll see a bit more of the world.”

“So you’re not being lazy,” I said.

There is a video for Juliette’s pop song Dreamers (When I Grow Up) on YouTube.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Children, Comedy

Last night a 6-year-old who looked like comic Michael McIntyre told me jokes

Eric looked a bit like Michael McIntyre

Little Eric looked a little bit like Michael McIntyre last night. Unlike Michael, he has temporary trouble with wobbly teeth.

My eternally-un-named friend has a six-year-old nephew.

I shall call him Eric (not his real name) because, in the movie Get Carter, Michael Caine tells Ian Hendry’s character Eric that he still retains his sense of humour.

“Do you like jokes?” I asked Eric last night.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Do you want to tell us a joke?” I asked.

“Why did the gorilla go to the shops?” asked Eric.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Why did the gorilla go to the shops?”

“To get a new pair of drums,” replied Eric.

There was a pause while my eternally-un-named friend and I looked at each other.

“Is that to do with the TV advert?” I asked.

“No,” said Eric.

“Is that the end of the joke?” asked my eternally=un-named friend.

“Yes! Gettit? shouted Eric. “Drums! He had to buy another one – like this!”

He started to beat his chest with his fists and to laugh loudly.

My eternally-un-named friend and I looked at each other.

“Look!” shouted Eric. “Your arms!” He started beating his chest with his fists again. “He had to buy another one!”

“Nice visuals,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“What,” I asked optimistically “is your second favourite joke?”

“Why did…” asked Eric.

“I’ve heard this one,” I told him.

He ignored me.

“Why did Jack Sparrow buy a new sword?” he asked.

“Because the gorilla had stolen his sword?” I tried.

“No,” said Eric. “Because he didn’t have a gun.”

“We could try the best of five,” I suggested to my eternally-un-named friend.

“Another one,” she told Eric.

“Oh!” he said enthusiastically. “Why did the banana cross the road?”

“I don’t know,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “Why did the banana cross the road?”

“To do the splits!” shouted Eric, bursting into laughter.

“He could have done the splits on this side of the road,” suggested my eternally-un-named friend.

“He didn’t feel like it,” said Eric and laughed loudly again. “Do you get it? The splits!”

“OK,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“The best of seven?” I asked her.

“Come on. Another one. Another one,” she said to Eric. “Have you got a longer one?”

“What do you call a deer with no eyes?” he asked.

“No eye-deer,” replied my eternally-un-named friend. “I’ve heard that one. Go on – another one.”

“If a rabbit popped and it was invisible,” tried Eric, “what smell would you smell?”

There was a long pause while we thought about this. Eventually, Eric could wait no longer.

“A square!” he laughed loudly.

“A square?” I asked.

“Yeah!” he laughed. “It’s something funny that don’t make sense, right? A popping square!”

“Is he on drugs?” my eternally-un-named friend asked me. “Maybe it’s the chocolate.” She turned to Eric: “Have you got one about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman going into a pub? Do you know anything about someone going into a pub?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“What happened?” she asked.

There was a long, long pause.

“Once upon a time,” he said, “three little pigs went to a pub. One wanted for their starters a meatball sub…”

“A what?” I asked.

“A meatball sub,” said Eric.

“I think it’s a big sandwich,” my eternally-un-named friend told me.

“Someone,” continued Eric. “asked for water. And someone asked for meatballs… and then what did they want for their main dinner? Someone wanted water and one wanted pasta and one wanted chips. And they wanted something for their pudding. One wanted water, one wanted cake and one wanted an ice cream. Now, at the end, they both talked about why the pig was having too much water. So they made a joke about a pig going like this: Wee wee wee all the way home.

There was a brief pause and then Eric burst into a sharp, piercing laugh.

“You’re right,” I said to my eternally-un-named friend. “It’s drugs in the chocolate.”

“Oh!” she said encouragingly to Eric: “He went wee-wee-wee because he’d drunk too much water!”

Eric burst into another sharp, piercing laugh.

“It WAS a joke,” my eternally-un-named friend reassured me.

“Oh no, no!” shouted Eric. “I’ve got it! Why did a car cross the road?”

“Why?” I asked.

“It turned into a Transformer!” Eric laughed.

My eternally-un-named friend and I looked at each other.

Michael McIntyre beaten for Perrier Best Newcomer Award

Comic Michael McIntyre 5 years ago

“Oh,” she said eventually. “I think maybe he should have said Why did the car turn into a road.

“Ah, yes,” I agreed. “Because it was a Transformer. He said all the right words… but not necessarily in the right order.”

“What do you call…” Eric started.

“The strange thing,” I said, “is he looks very like Michael McIntyre. Perhaps all six-year-olds do.”

“What do you call a sheep with no arms and no legs?” asked Eric.

“I don’t know.”

“A cloud,” said Eric.

He will go far.

2 Comments

Filed under Children, Comedy, Humor, Humour, Psychology

Can comedian Bob Slayer – infamously Edinburgh Fringey – turn into a cuddly grey-bearded children’s entertainer?

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that comedians often have another ‘day job’.

Around seven years ago, Bob Slayer was managing Japanese rock group Electric Eel Shock when they made a Christmas video in which he appeared as Father Christmas. It was posted on YouTube.

Now Bob has become a real Santa Claus. He started the job yesterday in a grotto under a giant Christmas tree at Whiteley’s department store in London’s Queensway and he will be donning his red-and-white robes there throughout December.

BEFORE...

BEFORE…

AFTER...

AFTER…

“You have to respond to the audience that’s in front of you,” says Bob

‘Santa’ Bob with helper elves ‘Ruthy Boothy’ Sarah (left) and ‘Wilma Words’ Christine

I talked to him last night after he finished his Ho Ho Ho duties. He told me he was going to have to think up some more Christmas stories, because some children had come back a second time on this his first day in the role.

“I’d been telling them how reindeer fly and how they have to go to Tromsø in Norway,” said Bob, “and I could see some of the parents looking at me thinking I don’t know this story; this isn’t a real Santa, so I told the children You see, mummies and daddies don’t know about reindeer.”

Happy Drunk illustration by comedian Rich Rose

One Happy Drunk illustration by Rich Rose

And that’s not all.

Tonight, at the Chortle Comedy Book Festival, Bob launches a children’s book he wrote, with illustrations by Rich Rose of comedy duo Ellis & Rose (last referred-to in this blog yesterday a propos their Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show).

“Rich is a brilliant illustrator,” said Bob.

“Remind me what the book is called?” I asked.

The Happy Drunk,” confirmed Bob.

He financed it by crowdfunding and reached 169% of his target. The title was originally Calpol Is Evil but he changed it – allegedly after he received an alleged letter from solicitors representing the manufacturers of Calpol. Never forget that Bob Slayer won a much-coveted Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award in 2011 for his ‘Cockgate’ stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“What’s the premise of The Happy Drunk?” I asked.

“It’s a children’s book for adults. It’s for Big Kids.”

“Would 14-year-olds enjoy it?” I asked.

HappyDrunk

Bob’s new book is for Big Babies everywhere – but not lawyers

“I don’t know,” replied Bob. “I think they would, although whether their parents would want them to read it… I’d say it should have a PG rating.

“Actually, I should have put that on the cover!” he laughed. “I’ve only printed 50 so far – as a proof to check they’re OK – so I think I might put PG Rated on future covers.”

“Are drunks happy?” I asked.

“Drunks in comedy clubs,” explained Bob, “get a bad name due to the alcopop drunks that the Jongleurs and Highlight comedy chains get in, whereas the sort of people I like doing gigs to are genuinely happy drunks: people who know what they’re drinking.

“When I do gigs in breweries, they’re drinking nice drink. They’re lively, but they don’t get out of hand; they’re good audiences. They’re people who are in for their drink but also in for their comedy. In the comedy club chains, you get big groups of people and some of them do want to see comedy, but others had wanted to go to the cinema or go bowling; they’re not all committed to watching comedy.

“I’m going to print 1,000 copies of The Happy Drunk initially. Rich Rose is having 300, I’ll put some online and sell the rest at gigs. Writing it was a stopgap, because it’s taking me longer to write my How To Out-Drink Australia book than I thought it would. It’s taking longer to edit.”

Bob Slayer - too hot to handle in Australia

Turning a tour into a book is complicated

“You have a problem with people’s perception of you,” I said. “People think you’re always going to be the OTT Edinburgh Fringe Bob Slayer character.”

“Well,” said Bob, “you have to respond to the audience that’s in front of you. I like to think that I can mirror whatever audience is there. If you put me in a golf club, then I’m not going to end up naked – well, unless that’s what they want. There have been occasions when it’s gone out of control and perhaps I have gone the wrong way, but they’re one-off incidents like in Norway, where I got banned from that theatre.

“But, look, the fact was that they had five members of The Cumshots band there. So I’m going to perform to my mates The Cumshots, aren’t I? And they’re a band that invite you to come onstage and ‘fuck for forests’ – I HAD to come off the balcony on a rope. Though the reason I was actually banned was because I opened a bottle of Jägermeister on stage and had a drink and I was unaware how strict the licensing laws are there.”

“Ironically,” I said, “you got a Scottish licence to run your own bar at Bob’s Bookshop during the Edinburgh Fringe. Are you going to do other comedy club bars?”

Bob Slayer: no entry for the easily offended

Comedian; promoter; licensed venue manager; looney?

“Well,” explained Bob, “The reason I could be Father Christmas here was because I had a mostly-free December. And that was because I was going to do a pop-up comedy venue and bar in London – like Bob’s Bookshop in Edinburgh. I looked at a couple of places in Hackney and round East London, but I just ran out of time to get the licensing sorted. So I had kept December free and, when the pop-up club didn’t happen, I put a few club gigs into my diary then this Father Christmas offer came along.”

“So you will be doing other pop-up comedy venues and bars?” I asked.

“I’m doing one at the Leicester Comedy Festival in February,” said Bob. “The programme’s out tomorrow and I’m doing three long weekends, putting on about 30 shows – people like Tom Binns, Devvo, Brian Gittins, Stuart Goldsmith, Phil Kay, Adam Larter, Doug Segal, Ben Target. We’ve got an old chapel in Leicester – Hansom Hall, named after the guy who invented the hansom cab. He designed the building.

“I’m working with a new brewery – BrewDog who are Aberdeen-based. They’re the fastest-growing food and drink company in the UK in the last three years. A really interesting independent brewer. They’re funding themselves by crowdfunding: you can invest in BrewDog. The moment they heard about Cockgate at the Edinburgh Fringe, they said We want to work with you.”

“And then?” I asked.

“I’m trying to be quiet in January to finish writing my Australian book. I’ve got to get the book done for the next Edinburgh Fringe.”

What???

Bob Slayer “trying to be quiet”?

This does not compute.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Children, Christmas, Comedy, Drink

Sick British comedy critic Kate Copstick living in Kenya with a tiny black pussy

(A version of this piece was published on the Indian news site WSN)

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick

La Copstick squatting in Kenya

British comedy critic Kate Copstick set up the Mama Biashara charity in Kenya to fund health care projects and help poor people (especially women) set up their own small businesses. What is perhaps not generally known is that Copstick suffers from lupus, a disease in which the immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues.

Copstick is currently in Kenya. These are extracts from her diary over the last week. She lives in the slums of Nairobi with a small kitten.

TUESDAY 16th APRIL

To be honest, I am not feeling that well. NO, this is not a hangover. Just lupusy crap.

I stay in bed all morning, asleep. I am not missing much as the torrential rain that generally falls through the night is falling through the day now. The whole place is a mudbath. This is monster rain and it precludes movement in slum areas as roads become impassable and impossible. People are patching up their homes, rescuing animals and children from the flood and generally wondering where a friendly neighbourhood Noah is when you need one.

I awake at around 3pm to the sound of lashing rain and a phone that says 22 missed calls. I agree to meet up with Doris (a) to prove I really am still alive and (b) to buy a dongle for the Mama Biashara notepad and a dedicated Mama Biashara telephone line. Doris has a penchant for second-hand smartphones and they are a disaster. There are species of mayfly with a longer life expectancy than the battery on a second-hand Samsung smartphone. We will be buying the BASIC Nokia (like wot I have… well the current version. Mine is seven years old and still going strong).

We also need to send the boys from the workshop (the ones who want to sell duck meat) their start-up money. And meet and talk to the firewood group who need a chainsaw. And I have to send some money to Sammi Njoroge, a great guy who is looking after four orphans (with Mama Biashara’s help).

WEDNESDAY 17th APRIL

Some of the Kenyan children helped by Mama Biashara

Some of the local Kenyan children helped by Mama Biashara

I have agreed to meet Felista to discuss DECIP (the Dagoreti Early Child Intervention Program, an AIDs NGO), why it looked like such a disaster area and why it is unlikely that she could make a go of working with Childfund. Also to talk about why it is now ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for her to find other people to help fund DECIP.

The talk is pointed. Not to the point of heated. Warm maybe. Simmering.

I ask why DECIP looked like such a disaster area. It turns out that the work demanded by the City Council (and funded by Mama Biashara) was only half done. Everything was stopped because of the rain. The two flooded classrooms were being prepared for new flooring when the flooding came and now they have to wait for the flooding to abate before going ahead with the work.

At the end of that, DECIP should be back on track. On track to what, I am never sure, but on track.

We put together a budget to help with funding the school (100 destitute, orphan pupils, no visible means of support). The money being used to pay the teachers a 50% salary each month has been diverted from buying food and food is being bought by the money from CWAC (the Children With AIDs Charity) and collected in donations from visitors.

The rain is, once more, torrential.

THURSDAY APRIL 18th

I am awoken by the kitten licking my eyelids. As its tiny tongue makes its way across my temples to my ears, the sensation is worryingly sensual. I pick the tiny black pussy off my face and get up. Good grief ! Is this how the slide into utter depravity begins? Alone in a shipping container, with no form of entertainment other than picking one’s scabs and scratching one’s lumps, and a small black furry thing presents itself…

What would Mother Theresa do? I ask myself.

Undoubtedly beat the kitten until it converted to Catholicism.

Undoubtedly… So THAT is no help…

Luckily I have loads to do.

My prototype raincatcher in the Rift Valley outside Maai Mahiu is a huge success. On the first night (Monday), although there was only a light rain, it filled the 250 litre drum. On the Tuesday, with heavier rain, people were lining up with their tanks and getting them filled by Mama Biashara’s Raincatcher. And so we are on to roll the model out as far as we can on this trip.

It is pouring down again.

FRIDAY 19th APRIL

Group of former prostitutes who now make shag pile carpets

Group of former prostitutes who now make shag pile carpets

Mama Biashara is really operating at a different level now, largely thanks to Doris and her endless, wonderful work in the furthest reaches of Nairobi’s slums (and beyond). Her ability is to mentor and support and suggest and get big groups of people to band together with a truly viable business, showing not just proper product knowledge but research and a swathe of orders set up in advance. These businesses have a serious success rate. The members keep each other on their toes. It really is a huge step in the right direction. And this is a woman struggling to survive herself – a single mum with 3-year-old triplets. She is a glorious human being.

Some time ago, we did a workshop for a community of first and second generation Zimbabwean refugees. We did a business workshop but also gave cod liver oil, multi-vitamins, ibugel etc.

Now some of the women have come to Doris with a problem. Their children are being beaten at school because their homework is not being done properly. This is because the mothers cannot help their children with homework (as they are meant to do) because the mothers themselves are wholly illiterate and innumerate – because educating women is against the culture of the community which has settled here.

In a massive breakthrough, Doris has persuaded the Elders to allow some university students to come and help the kids with homework.

But the women want to learn. They feel really bad that their kids are being beaten.

But the Elders are dead against the women learning.

So we plan Mama Biashara’s Secret School. I know there are issues about interfering with other people’s cultures, but this has been driven by the women and we are hardly going to be teaching them the Complete Works of Andrea Dworkin – just ABC and 123 and how to write their names.

We (I say we, I mean Doris) are going to make a last-ditch attempt to persuade the Elders to allow the school. Fingers crossed.

SATURDAY 20th APRIL

It has to be admitted that I awoke feeling less than chipper. Plan A had been to get up early and get to the bank before it closes at 12 noon. This doesn’t happen. I hit the ATM for some of the necessary readies I need to collect stuff at the market. Lucia’s bags are getting more beautiful every time I see her. I get armloads of stuff and get on the bus back to Corner. We have an irritating onboard preacher who shouts a lot about covering us all in the Blood of Christ and insists we all pray.

Now it is pouring rain. I cannot sell rain-soaked raffia bags and so I negotiate a decent cab fare and get a ride home.

I am feeling dodgier by the minute and now appear to be pissing out individual drops of sulphuric acid. This has happened before in Kenya and I go to the lovely ladies at the (fairly) nearby chemist and get a pack of a combination of antibiotic, anti-everything bombs that should nuke whatever it is and, if it is more kidney grit, make sure there is no following infection. I drink mugs of Bicarbonate of Soda solution which helps a bit. I don’t sleep well.

SUNDAY 21st APRIL

I spend twenty minutes in the loo in quite some pain. I come out and almost immediately go back in again. I get a taxi home. It is not a good day.

I appear to be weeing tiny blood clots. And now have hilariously explosive (and LOUD) diarrhoea. Even the cats go outside.

I take another dose of the combination bombs and drink loads of water.

MONDAY 22nd APRIL

I am much better than expected. I feel a little like I have been through the boil wash and the spin dry but much better. And this is a Big Day !!!

The Mama Biashara Patent Raincatcher Water Harvesting Project is being rolled out across a (very small) part of the Great Rift Valley. The tanks are there, the taps are fitted into the tanks. It is all going so well. Until we discover that the hardware shop owner who had agreed to take the tanks out to the Maasai meeting place in his big lorry for just the cost of the fuel, has buggered off to Limuru with said big lorry. I get a bit stompy and moody when his wife (an irritating woman in a bad wig) just shrugs and sniggers when I ask what we should do.

TUESDAY 23rd APRIL

Kate Copstick cares in Kenya

Kate Copstick pictured up against the wall, Kenya

We hear that the Zimbabwean Elders have said that Mama Biashara CAN run a school for members of the community, but only for the men.

Meanwhile Doris has a handful of university students on break teaching the kids and helping them with their homework in the hope that they won’t get beaten senseless at school for doing it badly.

The Elders are allowing the children to learn at school and with the students (a BIG leap of faith for them) but they won’t allow the women to learn even ABC and 123 so that they can help their own children.

Doris thinks that The Elders believe we are going to teach the women about contraception, independence and other Western Ways. They have also heard that I don’t believe in God and so this makes me The Tool Of The Devil. Such Tool, of course, is not to be allowed near their women.

We head off to do a medical workshop.

Unfortunately, by the time we get there, I have come over a bit funny (it’s the way I tell them) and am sweaty and sleeping on the back seat. It seems the nasties are back – even after being zapped with a double dose of what is basically Agent Orange for the human insides.

Doris insists I go home to bed. I am a bit, to be frank, worried myself. We stop by the chemist.

I ask for industrial-strength antibiotics. The lovely girl there, usually so helpful, offers me many things, most of them with names starting with ‘Gyno-‘.

“No no no,” I say.

Finally, she offers me clotrimazole.

“I do not have thrush!” I say very loudly and much to the amusement of the two gentlemen in the queue behind me. They smirk knowingly. I can see they think this obviously slutty mzungu is in denial.

“Ciprofloxacin?” I beg.

“Ah !” she disappears and comes back with a box. “I feared to offer you antibiotics,” she says. “I know you hate antibiotics.”

Ah… Hoist by my own tirades against the universal prescription of Amoxil and Piriton for everything short of sudden death.

I swallow two antibiotic bombs and take the rest of the course with me.

“It is a good medicine,” says an old bloke appearing from upstairs. “Generic. From India. Never use the Kenyan medicines. They are useless.” And he is a doctor, it transpires.

At £1.50 for a course, I am willing to let India do what it can for me.

And it does well. By the time the little kitten who stays with me wakes up, has what is undoubtedly a feline epileptic fit, pukes into my open hand and shits all over the floor, I am feeling quite well enough to clean everything up. My temperature is normal (I forgot what a difference that makes). The pains are going … All good.

** Mama Biashara is financed solely by donations; Kate Copstick receives no salary and takes no money to cover any of her personal expenses nor her travel costs

1 Comment

Filed under Charity, Health, Kenya, Medical

The last day of Tiswas, the custard-pie-filled anarchic UK children’s TV series

This Is Saturday - Watch And Smile

T-I-S-W-A-S – This Is Saturday Watch And Smile 1974-1982

Today was the day – in 1982 – that ITV transmitted the last edition of Tiswas, the anarchic Saturday morning children’s TV show.

I worked as a researcher on the last series of the show. It is a series that people tend to have forgotten, because it was not presented by Chris Tarrant.

He was preparing and producing his late-night ‘adult’ version of TiswasOTT, now mainly remembered for the Greatest Show On Legs’ naked balloon dance.

Central Television, being slightly incompetent, had failed to arrange a production office for Tarrant and his team so, for the first few weeks of pre-production on his show, they squatted in our office (which we were happy with), refusing to leave in a successful effort to force the Central bureaucracy into giving him an office.

The script for the last edition of Tiswas

The script for the last edition of Tiswas

In the middle of our series of Tiswas, the ITV franchise-holder who produced the series changed from ATV to Central Television. In fact, this was a cosmetic change.

It was the same company – same building, same people, same executives and mostly the same programmes – but theoretically it was a different company.

Tiswas started each show with clips from the previous week’s show. On the Saturday after the change-over, the accountants at ATV told the show’s producer, Glyn Edwards, that he would have to pay hundreds of pounds to buy the rights to screen clips from his own previous week’s ATV show at the start of this week’s Central show.

I do not know exactly what happened, but I think he told them to fuck off and, if they didn’t like it, to sue themselves.

Tiswas was an interesting introduction to TV research for me. The show was live and the series lasted 39 weeks. It varied in length but, from memory, it was often up to three hours long comprising (as it was for kids with short attention spans) items that sometimes only lasted 20 seconds.

It was somewhat hectic during the live transmissions, the only respite coming during 7-minute cartoons or 3-minute rock band performances.

After this, my Saturday mornings never smelled the same.

On a Saturday morning, the Tiswas studio smelled sweet: a combination of the shaving foam used in the ‘custard’ pies and the talcum-powder-like smell of the little ‘explosions’ that were set off.

After all the colour and the sound. I used to come home, dead tired on the mid-afternoon train from Birmingham to London and just plonk myself down on my sofa and mindlessly watch Game For a Laugh on ITV. I later worked on that show, too. The production of Game For a Laugh was surprisingly more hectic and pressurised than Tiswas because Tiswas had been running for about seven years and was a very smooth operation.

A studio floor pass for the show

A floor pass for children and adults taking part in the show

The trick was, in the week leading up to transmission, to have two large production meetings which the lighting, sound supervisors, floor managers etc attended.

The producer ran through what was intended and any obvious major problems were ironed-out or allowed-for with contingency plans. Because everyone knew what might go wrong, it seldom did… to such an extent that the producer Glyn Edwards once discussed how to add more chaos into the show because almost nothing went wrong.

This, he felt, was not in the spirit of Tiswas.

It was a big lesson I learnt: to stage anarchy effectively, you have to be very organised in your preparations.

Of course, things did go wrong.

I remember a child writing in saying he wanted to sit between the two humps of a camel. I phoned up a circus owner, explained this and booked a camel. When the beast arrived, about half an hour before the show started, it only had one hump.

“I paid for two humps,” I told the circus owner.

“It’s got two humps,” said the circus owner.

“It clearly has one hump,” I said. “I can see it only has one hump.”

He then tried to argue that the dromedary was, in fact, a Bactrian and that sometimes a camel’s two humps looked as if they were one hump. I think the phrase “think of saggy tits” came into his argument at one point.

We never booked an animal from his circus again. But the child was happy just to sit on a camel and may have had mathematical problems.

I think I must have encountered the comedian Charlie Chuck in a previous incarnation on Tiswas.

Director Bob Cousins (left) and producer Glyn Edwards

Director Bob Cousins (left) with producer Glyn Edwards

The producer, Glyn Edwards, wanted a German ‘oompah band’.

I found The Amazing Bavarian Stompers for him and booked them but, while they were performing in the studio, I was off somewhere setting-up the next item on the show. In the canteen afterwards, I remember hearing people talk about the ‘mad drummer’ leaping over his drum kit and being generally anarchic – a good thing on Tiswas.

Charlie Chuck, at that time, was drummer for The Amazing Bavarian Stompers and, when I became chummy with him a decade or so later, he mentioned having been on Tiswas. So we probably met in passing. One of the strangenesses of TV.

I also distantly remember some Tiswas party in a Birmingham restaurant.

It had been difficult to book the party, because Birmingham restaurants were wary of Tiswas parties. On a previous occasion, a fire extinguisher had been let off during a Chris Tarrant celebration and word had got round the restaurant trade.

On this occasion, everyone was well-behaved… though, halfway through, I looked up from my meal and presenter Den Hegarty decided, at that moment, to start eating the flowers decorating the middle of the table.

It did not seem odd at the time.

On Tiswas, few things did.

YouTube has a clip of the last two minutes of the final Tiswas show.

2 Comments

Filed under Children, Television