Tag Archives: comedy

Why people really laugh at comedians…

Last month, I was interviewed by Dr Maria Kempinska, founder of the Jongleurs comedy club circuit, who was awarded an MBE for her contribution to British comedy. She is now a psychotherapist. I talked to her for Your Mind Matters, her series of hour-long chats on the Women’s Radio Station. This is a brief extract of what I said.

… Performing comedy is a bit like performing magic. It’s all to do with misdirection. In magic, you’re looking at the wrong place when, suddenly, something happens somewhere where you are not looking.

In comedy, you have the audience going along a storyline – even if it’s just a short storyline for a gag.

You have the audience going along a storyline for a gag. They’re looking in one direction. They know what’s coming next… they know what’s coming next… they know what’s coming next… and then suddenly, out of left field, from nowhere, comes the punchline… and they react to that in shock.

It’s like a big AAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!!! But, instead of gasping, they go: “Ahahahahaha!” and laughter is a sort of release of tension. It’s a reaction to something unexpected that happens…

(The full interview is HERE.)

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The authors of “Mission Most Fowl” on comedy, publishing and their duck army

John Ryan (left) and Darren Hasler-Stott

Yesterday’s blog was a chat about the new children’s book Tag Tinsel – A Mission Most Fowl by a non-existent author, Ryan Hasler-Stott. 

‘Ryan Hasler-Stott’ is actually two people – comedy person and Teletubbies insert director John Ryan and electrician Darren Hasler-Stott…

The chat continues here…


ME (TO DARREN): So you’re still an electrician?

JOHN RYAN: He’s also a musician. 

DARREN: I used to be in a band. A bit of piano. Sang quite a lot. A sort of rock band. Singer-songwriter thing. It was a long time ago.

JOHN RYAN: Thing is Darren’s like a lot of people; like how I was.

He’s a guy with a regular job. He’s very creative. And where I differed was – with his support and others’ support – I went from the regular job and took the plunge. Whereas most people never take the plunge. So I kind of dragged him a bit to go with his creativity. We’ve just come at it from different angles.

ME (TO JOHN RYAN): You don’t totally play comedy clubs. You do the cruises… This is your 20th year entertaining on the cruise ships?

JOHN RYAN: Yeah. And I’ve done the military. Went out to Afghanistan to entertain the troops. Went all round the Middle East. I’ve done police conferences, prison projects – won an award – Best Documentary at the Scottish Film Festival. I’ve done a women’s prison – tough gig.

ME: …and, during the Covid Lockdown…

JOHN RYAN: My income went down about 85%. It will slowly come back. But you know, on the circuit now, headlining is about £50, £60. Whereas, ten years ago, it was £200, £250. It’s just that the power dynamic has changed completely. You’ve got a lot of promoters filling rooms up with 200, 300 punters, charging them £15 each and paying the acts £100. 

You’ve got so many comedy courses now, just churning out hundreds of comedians, which kind of lowers the base price that people will pay. And they just live off people’s dreams basically. Whereas before there was a career path. 

“Back then… you were a career comedian: well looked-after…”

Back then, if you were with the Jongleurs circuit, you were a career comedian: well looked-after, well paid, hotels, everything. Now there’s no Jongleurs. The Glee has stepped up a bit; Hot Water in Liverpool has stepped up a bit; Alan Anderson’s gigs have stepped up.

But, other than that, it’s hard to get weekends or regular work. 

ME: I don’t know Hot Water.

JOHN RYAN: They’re basically in Liverpool and they have come up with a new business model. They’re building a 700 seater. I’ve never worked for them, but they’re packing them out. They’re going up on the energy They’re on podcasts, social media, they do gigs, touring shows. Rather than going It’s Saturday night, people pay to come in and have a laugh tonight, they’re more about seven days a week and corporate stuff an all. The North West of England is the home of comedy in the UK at the moment.

ME: Why?

JOHN RYAN: I think a hungry dynamic. 

ME: I suppose Media City in Manchester might help.

JOHN RYAN: And the same with Scotland. There’s a nice little circuit up in Scotland.

ME: London’s still important, though.

JOHN RYAN: Well, again, you see down here is where you’ll meet people. Whereas maybe when I started we gigged to get gigs, now you meet people who have half a dozen gigs and they’ve got a CV and a lot of a management. Very driven. Very much like America.

ME: Traditionally, people went to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe to be spotted by industry people from London and…

JOHN RYAN: But, getting back to our book, we see it as one of seven.

ME: Is that because it’s a lucky number? Or something to do with Harry Potter?

It’s a lucky number? Or something to do with Harry Potter?

JOHN RYAN: Number 7. Eric Cantona. (LAUGHS)

ME: What age is your book aimed at?

JOHN RYAN: I guess for the young and the young at heart. I guess 10 upwards. It’s all about understanding that there’s mischief. There’s characters. They argue with each other. But they gotta get home in time for tea. Not going to get hurt.

ME: Could that not be boring?

JOHN RYAN: Doesn’t have to be. Kids nowadays – all this whole shoot-em-up and violence… There IS violence in there.

ME: Aren’t all stories about confrontations? Confronting situations or people.

JOHN RYAN: Yeah, it’s very confrontational.

ME: There’s a villain?

DARREN: Several villains. The main villain in the first book is a guy called General Thwackeray who’s the leader of the ducks. Then, in the other books, there’ll be other villains. 

Part of the action is set around the annual Eggs Factor competition, where the ducks have a talent show. So there’s a lot of side silliness going on. There’s a paddle maker who becomes a reluctant duck hero. All he wants is some cracked corn but he keeps finding himself at the front of all the duck activity purely by chance and continually gets promoted. But all he wants is to settle down.

ME: It’s selling well to kids?

JOHN RYAN: Most of the people who’ve bought it seem to be adults. 

DARREN: They love it. And a few people in Sweden for some reason.

ME: When was it actually published?

JOHN RYAN: July 7th this year?

ME: Self-published?

JOHN RYAN: I spoke to two publishers who liked it and they were very interested and offered us the glorious sum of 7%. Net. So I said, “Okay, and do we do anything?” 

They said: “You do your publicity, your PR, your marketing.” 

ME: They weren’t going to do anything themselves?

Traditional publishing is not a green and pleasant land… (Image by Mystic Art Design via Pixabay)

JOHN RYAN:  No. Not until it gained traction. And we’re talking established publishers. So we thought: We’ll self-publish, get some traction. We’ve got a couple of animation production companies sniffing around with a view to turn it into… Well, we would like it to be a feature film. Maybe a TV series, but it lends itself very much to film because each character has a backstory. 

Because of the nature of it, because it’s comedic, no one’s allowed to get killed. So we’ve got a team of superheroes who don’t kill anyone.

The main thing about the story though, is that it’s a stand-alone. There will be seven stand-alone stories. The next one basically involves a couple of penguins. They are childless and they find what they think is an egg. They think it’s an egg – a gift from heaven – because it fell from the sky. But it’s actually a nuclear timer.

ME: Have you got an elevator pitch?

JOHN RYAN: We have a mighty duck army hell-bent on taking over the world. The only thing standing between them and world domination are a team of…

DARREN: …misfits.

JOHN RYAN: Yeah. Wind in the Willows meets Dad’s Army,.. 

ME: The Dirty Dozen with ducks?

JOHN RYAN: It’s a harmeless, mischievious adventure of what we would have seen on Saturday morning cinema back in the day. It’s basically about how you overcome obstacles by working together. Just a glorious romp.

ME: …with ducks.

JOHN RYAN: With ducks and crazy characters. And badgers.

DARREN: Yeah. Badgers are like…

JOHN RYAN: …jobsworths.

DARREN: They know all the rules.

JOHN RYAN: They issue the permits.

DARREN: Our four genetically-modified characters are our superheroes and then Waldo, who’s a bee, they kind of pick-up along the way.

JOHN RYAN: He’s basically been kicked out of his hive for being annoying.

ME: Is he based on anyone?

JOHN RYAN: Sort of loosely based on us, really… Me. An annoying, buzzing feller. 

ME: Oh, come on now!

JOHN RYAN: The thing is I don’t socialise with comics. My social network is mostly people like Darren, who are what you could call ‘real people’.

It’s an interesting game I challenge all comics to do. Go through your WhatsApp messages, look at the last 5 or 10 people you’ve contacted. See how many are NOT comedians. Because then you’ll see where your friends are. I think you have to maintain your feet in the real world. Most comedians live in an abstract world surrounded and reinforced by other comics. Consequently, they don’t understand why they can offend or upset people.

We are all about inclusivity.

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An East End child, my mum and Dean Martin – Colin Copperfield (2nd of 3)

In yesterday’s blog, actor, dancer, singer and songwriter Colin Copperfield talked about his time performing in London’s West End in Jesus Christ Superstar

He started in showbiz aged 14 and, as well as multiple stage appearances, appeared in over 900 TV shows in 26 countries. His autobiography It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Zing! was recently published.

Colin was born in Forest Gate in the East End of London. 

He told me: “I had a bit of a tough upbringing…”


JOHN: You did 25 years performing with Wall Street Crash but you’ve worked solidly all over the place as an actor, dancer, singer and songwriter because you’re a hyphenate. You can turn your voice and your feet to everything. 

COLIN: I could do it all well enough. I was never the best singer; I was never the best dancer; I was never the best actor. But I could do it all pretty well – not bad.

JOHN: More than not bad, I think, given your career…

COLIN: You’re very kind. 

Early band rehearsal – Colin is centre, behind microphone

JOHN: You started in a band at 14.

COLIN: Well, we did a lot more rehearsing than we did gigs. It was a good little band, though. A couple of the others went on to be session musicians.

JOHN: At 14, you wanted to  be a rock star?

COLIN: I wanted to get out of school, basically. I was so bad at school academically.

JOHN: So was Churchill. 

COLIN: That makes me feel better. I only found out about ten years ago I was dyscalculic (difficulty understanding or learning maths).

I can remember very long Shakespeare speeches but I can’t add anything up. Numbers are a complete blur.

COLIN: Before I was in Jesus Christ Superstar. I had done my bands and a solo cabaret act. I’d done the ships and then I was doing the clubs. I went and worked on the cruise ships and round the Mediterranean for three years. And I did the Superstar cast album before I went to Australia.

The ships were fantastic. We did one-hour versions of West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma! As an actor, it was the equivalent of doing Rep. It was a different show every night.

The guy who directed the shows – Jeff Ferris – also worked for Cameron Mackintosh.

Colin’s inspirational mum and dad (at the start of WWII)

JOHN: Your family background was theatrical?

COLIN: My dad Wally worked at the Theatre Royal in Stratford (London) as a ‘stooge’. He was a dustman during the day and a stooge at night. When visiting comedians – all the top comedians – people like Max Miller in those days – used to come in… he worked with a lot of the top comedians just by being a straight-man – a ‘stooge’. 

JOHN: The comedians didn’t have their own straight men touring with them?

COLIN: No. Especially the American comics who’d come over. He’d give them the local references to make.

JOHN: So your dad was a dustman who really wanted to be a showbiz star but he had to support a wife and two children…

The banjo uncles (centre front) with their East End mates

COLIN: Yeah. My dad was REALLY frustrated. My two uncles were very famous buskers.

By day, they were crane drivers around Silvertown Docks, Canning Town Docks, that area. 

But they were also the most amazing banjo players and they played all the local pubs at night – often outside the pubs.

If they were playing inside, my dad would sometimes go along and play the piano with them… which would have been fabulous if he could have played the piano. (LAUGHS) He used to do this technique called ‘vamping’

His fingers could land anywhere. There was no technique to it at all, but it seemed to work.

JOHN: So he wasn’t off-key, but he…

COLIN: He wasn’t OFF-key, but he wasn’t IN-key. It was his own way of doing it. I think my uncles (LAUGHS) played even louder just to drown him out.

JOHN: To play ‘badly’ but entertainingly is really difficult – You have to be a very good piano player, like Les Dawson.

“We worked (safely) with Rolf Harris a lot…”

COLIN: Yes. He was a lovely guy. I worked with him. I used to dance with this group called The Young Generation. We worked with Rolf Harris a lot – on The Rolf Harris Show. After us, with Dougie Squires, they turned into The Second Generation.

I was rehearsing the Les Dawson television showwhen he was massive. We were doing this dance routine and I was waiting for my cue to enter; the door opened and it was Les Dawson.

He went: “You a’right?”

I said: “Yeah. You awright?”

He went: “Naw. I got terrible diarrhoea.”

That was my introduction to Les Dawson. He was a really lovely bloke.

JOHN: He didn’t seem to have a big ego.

COLIN: I was so lucky to work with all the people I did, because I got to work with the end of ‘showbisiness’, really.

Lots of zingy gossip in Colin’s autobiography

The most miserable git we ever worked with was Dean Martin. Miserable sod. We were supporting him at the Victoria Apollo Theatre in London. We were there for ten nights with him. He never used the theatre at all. He would come up to not even the stage door; he would come up to a pass door in his limo and walk straight onto the stage. Afterwards – straight off the stage into his limo and off. He had a little bar made by the side of the stage with curtains round it with all the optics in it and everything.

JOHN: So he did drink a lot? I thought it was just his schtick.

COLIN: Well, no, I don’t think he did drink. Or, if he did, not the nights we were with him. We’d be waiting to go on first. We’d do 15 minutes, then it’d be Dean Martin. He went on straight after us and he never once went into this little bar.

Straight onto the stage. Sing. Mock drunk. And walk straight past this bar to his car.

JOHN: Your mother… Was she in showbiz?

COLIN: No. My brother THOUGHT he could sing and he REALLY wanted to be in show business but he was completely tone deaf. 

JOHN: So, when you were 14, you were a music person. In the rock bands, you were the singer?

COLIN: Yes. I could play the guitar but didn’t: I just purely sang. 

JOHN: But then you got into dance…

Young musical Colin with his encouraging mum

COLIN: Only because my mum – she was a real Cockney – said: “‘Ere. You gotta lose yer accent,” she said, “and you gotta ‘ave more than one string to yer bow if you’re gonna go into showbusiness.”

So the dancing is down to my mum. 

I played with some show bands and dance bands. I did a bit of everything coming up. Then my singing teacher said: “It’s all very well doing all this but you need to get some theatre stuff… They’re auditioning tomorrow at the Prince of Wales Theatre (in London) for the Harry Worth stage show in Great Yarmouth.”

Summer seasons were big business then. They would last three or four months. You could almost go from Summer Season into (Christmas) Panto. I was singing with a show band at the time.

It was an open casting. Number One in the Hit Parade was Tom Jones: Love Me Tonight. I went along and didn’t really know anything and all these hundreds of guys before me in the audition, they were all singing (COLIN SINGS) “My boy, Bill! He’ll be tall and tough as a tree, will Bill. Like a tree he’ll grow…” (a song from Carousel).

At the audition, I gave my Love Me Tonight music to the pianist who was doing the accompaniment and he said: “Are you really gonna sing this?” and I said “Yeah…??”

So I started singing (COLIN SINGS) “I know that it’s late and I really must leave you alone…”

Immediately they said: “Thankyou, Thanks very much, Colin…”

The pianist told me: “Wrong type of song.”

I rang my singing teacher and told him: “One line and they said Thankyou very much…

“What did you sing?”

Love Me Tonight.

“You prat; come round here now…” 

And he told me: “Learn this… (COLIN SINGS) On a wonderful day like today, I defy any cloud to appear in the sky… Go back tomorrow. They won’t remember you.”

So I went back the next day. Same rehearsal pianist. “Thank God, mate,” he said. “You got more of a chance with this one…”

Harry Worth was a very big name in Great Yarmouth…

I sang: (COLIN SINGS) “On a wonderful day like today, I defy any cloud to appear in the sky…” and they said: “Do you want to do three or four months with Harry Worth at The Britannia Theatre in Great Yarmouth?”

JOHN: They didn’t recognise you from the day before?

COLIN: No. And that was my start in proper showbiz.

JOHN: Were you called Colin Copperfield at this point?

COLIN: Yes. Back in the rock bands I was still Colin Satchell but then I started doing my own cabaret act and, for that, I turned into Colin Copperfield. Everybody at the time was called something like that.

JOHN: You did 900 TV shows in 26 countries, 5 albums, 11 singles, 3 Royal Command Performances. 

COLIN: Yes. I was almost as busy as my dad. I was so lucky. A lot of times I was just in the right place at the right time.

JOHN: Well, it’s talent AND luck, isn’t it? You can get just so far with luck. There has to be some talent to last. You have multiple talents and you’re still working. Your mother gave you good advice.

COLIN: Luck is so important in everything in life. Like after I finished on Tommy

JOHN: This was the musical based on the Who album…

COLIN: Yes. Tommy at the Queen’s Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. I played the Pinball Wizard.

JOHN: Tell me more…

…CONTINUED HERE
with The Who’s “Tommy” and a brand new musical

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RIP Jeanette Cousland… So it goes…

Jeanette (right) with Scotsman critic Kate Copstick after a Grouchy Club show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014

I got a shock phone call this morning to tell me of the death of the always lively and bubbly Jeanette Cousland – aka ‘Machete Hettie’ or sometimes ‘Machete Hetty’ – who appeared in this blog over the years.

She died 15 days after being told she had cancer.

On 21st September, on Facebook, her son Barry Martin posted:


Hi folks,

2 weeks ago my mother Jeanette was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given weeks rather than months to live. She had been in good health until then apart from a bad back the last few weeks. She was just 54 the day before. 

We are at home now and keeping her at peace. She has a great support team with me, my brother and Kirsty.

She is still with it and I can pass on any messages that would cheer her up. The family is still in shock and we are pretty devastated. Please do not call my mother just now: she is sleeping a lot of the time. Also not too many questions for me or Ricky as it can get a bit much. Please, she would not want people to be sad and always tries to make people laugh.

She is still with us now and we are trying to keep her at peace as much as possible.

Thankyou,

Barry, Ricky and Kirsty, my mum’s best friend


The next day, her son Ricky Fyffe posted:


It is with a heavy heart myself and my brother Barry Martin have to announce the passing of our one-of-a-kind mum, granny and sister, Jeanette Cousland.

After an all too short battle with lung cancer, she passed away peacefully this afternoon at home with her family by her side. 

After a period of mourning, we will update everyone on the funeral arrangements in due course. 

Our mum will forever be in our hearts.


Jeanette’s last post on Facebook was on 12th September.

She lived in Leith, Edinburgh…

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The Edinburgh Fringe blame game: a guide to the usually accused culprits

The Edinburgh Fringe is held every August. It ended almost a month ago.

After every Edinburgh Fringe, there is a blame game played about how the experience was awful and the Fringe is deteriorating. Usually, this revolves around the spiralling cost of accommodation and/or the physical and/or organisational chaos. But, for performers, mostly it’s the cost of the venue hire and/or the accommodation.

For beginners, here is a simple guide.

The locals blame the Council or the number of performers; the performers blame the venues and the Fringe Office; the venues blame the Council and the University (who temporarily rent a lot of buildings to venues); the Council blames the Fringe as an overall event and tries to appear to support the ratepayers; the Fringe Office tries to hide; the landlords, the shops, the Council and the University take the money gratefully.

Repeat annually.

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The making of The Comedians’ Choice Awards at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe

I have mentioned the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in the last couple of blogs. The actual trophies were designed and made by mad inventor John Ward who is particularly keen (via an email this morning) that I mention he lives in or near Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire.

If you go to Wikipedia, you will find there is an article on Moulton-Seas-End currently illustrated with  a sole photograph (below).

John Ward clearly is, indeed, a man out standing in his own field.

Moulton-Seas-End, home of John Ward  (Photograph supplied by Kate Jewell via geograph.org.uk)

I suspect he may be trying to drum up tourist trade for Moulton-Seas-End, which is nowhere near the sea.

Having established specifically where he lives, onwards more generally to this year’s Comedians’ Choice Awards.

These, like the Malcolm Hardee Awards, are currently organised by the British Comedy Guide with trophies designed by John Ward but, in this case, there is sponsorship from London’s Museum of Comedy.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards were founded in 2014 and aim to help highlight “the amazing work of those at the Fringe who may well otherwise go unrecognised, as judged by those who understand their efforts the best: their peers.”

Every comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe is eligible to both cast a vote and to be voted for.

There is no panel of judges, no industry specialists. The performers themselves decide who wins. Voting is conducted during August via an online form administered by the British Comedy Guide.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards are presented in three categories:

BEST SHOW at the Fringe.

BEST PERFORMER – The best individual comedy performer at the festival.

BEST PERSON – “A person who the voter feels should get recognition for their contribution to this year’s Fringe. This does not need to be a performer; it can be anyone associated with the comedy industry at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from reviewers to producers and venue staff.”

The Best Performer and Best Show winners and the Best Show shortlist nominees get invited to take part in a special Comedians’ Choice showcase season at London’s Museum Of Comedy in October.

This year, as a bonus, streaming platform NextUp Comedy will also record some of the Museum Of Comedy nights, with the performer receiving a revenue share.

The actual trophies, as I said, are designed and made by John Ward, who lives in or near the village of Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire. He tells me:


John Ward, from Moulton-Seas-End, with the original Award

Before the Covid, if you recall we met up at Milton Keynes with the then ‘new’ Award that – unbeknown to me at the time – was then given in three classes and not one as I first thought.

Trying to replicate that one this year has been slightly chaotic… Since the Covid malarkey, things have been a bit fraught in acquiring the same materials in the making of.

The materials that went into making that Award are not readily available nowadays – blame the Ukraine business, the 3 Day Week, fluoride in toothpaste, wotever.

John Ward, resident of Moulton-Seas-End, crafting an Award

The new design is more handy for standing on a bookshelf, fireplace or to use as a door stop.

It’s in a mask configuration with the now standard ‘red nose’ being central, with a slanted ‘comedic eye’ on one side with the Comedy Guide emblem opposite making the twin ‘eyes’ as such with raised eyebrows.

The ‘grinning’ mouth has been chiselled out and filled with red ‘sparkly ripple’ type finish inserted and is not symmetrical but, as you look at it, there is a small curl on the left hand side at the top of it.

It is secured to the base with twin screws and a central wooden dowel so, in theory, there is not much chance of it falling apart… but, then again, they said the Titanic was unsinkable..

I have made nine of these: three for 2021 to give to the winners from then, three for this year 2022 and three for next year 2023, with each year being designated its own colour scheme.

The colours per year are: Gold, Silver and Bronze. This year, for 2022, it’s Silver.

Three years’ worth of The Comedians’ Choice Awards


THE COMEDIANS’ CHOICE AWARDS

2022 WINNERS

BEST PERFFORMER

Jordan Gray …performing in Jordan Gray: Is It a Bird?

Sharing the news on social media, Gray said: “This means EVERYTHING to me.”

BEST SHOW

Rob Copland: Mainstream Muck (Gimme Some of That)

In a nod to his unconventional show, when asked what it felt like to win, Copland supplied this statement: “\m/”.

BEST SHOW SHORTLIST

Ali Brice: I Tried To Be Funny, But You Weren’t Looking
Chelsea Birkby: No More Mr Nice Chelsea
Colin Hoult: The Death of Anna Mann
The Delightful Sausage: Nowt but Sea
Elf Lyons: Raven
Luke Rollason: Bowerbird
Siblings: Siblage
Shelf: Hair Stuart Laws – Putting Zoo

BEST PERSON

Martin Willis

He is managing director of show production company Objectively Funny. The company also produces and distributes the Small Book on Mental Health at the festival, to support performers.

Martin Willis said: “It is a massive honour to win an award like this, one that’s voted for by people involved in shows here. It means the world to be recognised by a community that I care so dearly about, and I’m incredibly grateful.

“That being said, it cannot go unmentioned that in the history of this particular award the winner has always been a man. That fact speaks both of the demographics of the voters but also of what we actually see from behind the scenes. For an industry that is historically male-dominated onstage, there is a vast array of brilliant women that have made so much work possible in so many ways – technicians, producers, agents, venue programmers and people that do whatever job needs doing with care and gusto.

“I would like to accept this award on behalf of the Objectively Funny team that has worked so hard to make excellent things happen at this festival: Ellie Brayne-Wyatt, Maddy Bye, Kathryn Higgins, Olivia Phipps and Lois Walshe.”

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This year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards: It all ended in tears and a fight by a bus.

Highly unlikely to ever want to rest in peace…

Yesterday’s blog was about the travails of this year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. The show was cancelled on the day (by the Award organisers) at The Counting House venue and then suddenly moved to another venue, Bob Slayer’s Blundabus: a double-decker bus. No reflection on the highly-esteemed Counting House.

Yesterday’s blog sort-of encompassed my philosophy of organising things… 

Anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong. 

And anything that cannot possibly ever go wrong WILL STILL go wrong.

The best thing is to prepare everything in advance to the last detail, organise everything with fallback positions and then, when the whole thing suddenly starts to go arse-over-tit despite all that, it is easier to manage the new chaos caused by one single unexpected disaster than have to sort-out this new and impossible-to-predict problem AND all the sundry could-have-been-foreseen-and-planned-for potential multiple problems.

You should plan for the foreseeable-knowns; you can’t plan for the unforeseeable-unknowns.

Malcolm Hardee also had a philosophy about First World problems: 

“Fuck it! It don’t matter do it? There are people starving in Africa. Not all over though. Round the edge – fish.”

I am in London. Three people have told me anonymously what happened in Edinburgh on Friday night/the early hours of Saturday morning .

One person, who had arranged to see the 11.30pm show at The Counting House with a group of people from London said: “I saw that the show had been cancelled and assumed that was the end of it. Wish I’d known that Bob had stepped in. Small venue though.”

Someone else, comic Giacinto Palmieri (who actually attended the re-scheduled 01.00am Blundabus presentation), opined: “A show that was so alternative that there was no show… Malcolm Hardee would have appreciated that.”

Apparently the awards were announced from a small stage in front of the double decker bus. When Jerry Sadowitz was announced as winner of the ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, there was, I’m told, “a noticeable but small Boo! from the crowd”. 

After the Awards, a vivid verbal contretemps then ensued between two of the people involved in the show which, it seems, can best be described as a non-meeting of minds between, on the one side, ‘very tired & emotional’ and, on the other, ‘very irritated and Woke’. It all ended in tears, as such things are prone to do.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote that an email sent to me at 02.59 on Saturday morning told me: “The news announcement (of the Award-winners) might be a little delayed… One bit proved quite controversial, so the judges are going to need a chance to decide on the wording first.”

It turns out this referred not to the decision on winners of the Awards but on the wording of the press release mentioning comedian Jerry Sadowitz. 

The press release was eventually issued yesterday afternoon. Here it is (I have added pictures):


For immediate release

MALCOLM HARDEE AWARDS 2022 RESULTS

The results of the Malcolm Hardee Awards 2022 have been announced during a ceremony at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The awards – handed out in the memory of comic, agent, manager, club-owner and prankster Malcolm Hardee – celebrate and promote the spirit of anything-goes comedy anarchy at the Edinburgh Festival.

This year’s winners are:

COMIC ORIGINALITY

Two thirds of The Flop: Dan Lees (left) and Cammy Sinclair (Photo: Stephen O’Donnell)

The Flop: A Band Of Idiots (Dan Lees, Tom Penn, Cammy Sinclair)

Comedy trio The Flop – Dan Lees, Tom Penn and Cammy Sinclair – performed their show at The Banshee Labyrinth at 10:10pm between the 6th and 20th August.

Their brochure blurb explains: “60 minutes, 12 notes and three idiots. Musical mayhem and expert clowning from the greatest band in the whole world… ever.”

Mr Chonkers was also nominated in this category.

Ivor Dembins without Edinburgh Council’s rubbish men (Photograph: Stephen O’Donnell)

CUNNING STUNT

Ivor Dembina

The 2022 Cunning Stunt prize goes to comedian Ivor Dembina, for his reaction to the Edinburgh bin collection strike, promoting the growing piles of uncollected rubbish as performance art.

 

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID

Sadowitz: offensive future millionaire?

Jerry Sadowitz

Originally scheduled to play just two shows at the Pleasance’s EICC venue as part of his national tour Not For Anyone, cult comic and former Hardee protégé Sadowitz made national headlines when his show was unceremoniously axed after its first night, with Pleasance claiming both “[we are] a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material,” and “the material presented at his first show is not acceptable… this type of material has no place on the festival”. Coherent, much?

Judges explained: “Ironically, after being cancelled, Sadowitz is seeing a huge increase in ticket sales for the show’s tour, and is now adding a date at the 3,600+ seater Hammersmith Apollo in November.

“The Million Quid is getting closer for the most unlikely of reasons.”

*** *** ***

The usual, anarchic awards show was not able to take place this year, but a results ceremony was held at Bob Slayer’s infamous BlundaBus venue at 1.00am this morning.

The winners each receive a specially made trophy designed by inventor John Ward.

This year’s judging panel was Marissa Burgess, Kate Copstick, Bruce Dessau, Jay Richardson, Claire Smith and Ian Wolf.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards have run since 2005, the year of Malcolm Hardee’s death. They ended in 2017, however having been ‘much missed’ at the 2018 festival, they have now been revived by British Comedy Guide, with the blessing of original organiser John Fleming and the Hardee family.

Find out more about the awards and previous winners at:
https://www.comedy.co.uk/hardees/

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Bye Bye Baby: Hello thrills and comedy and two new British movie talents…

Recently, for the third year, I sat through (most of) the annual London Film School graduates’ short film screenings.

This year, I saw the best film I have seen in those three years – Bye Bye Baby. It was a joy.

Jessie (left) and Maria in London’s Soho…

So I had a chat with its writer/director – Jessie Barnett – and its co-writer Maria Pawlikowska, who also played the part of Jemima, a pill-popping housewife, in Bye Bye Baby.

Embarrassingly, one of the few films I missed at the screenings was the one Maria had directed – So Far So Good.

I have since seen it.

I was equally impressed.


An appeal for a “coming-of-age bloodbath” on Kickstarter

JOHN: Jessie, I stumbled online on a wonderfully enjoyable Kickstarter appeal for Everyone Wants to Kill Me which was going to be your graduation film. It was billed as “A coming-of-age bloodbath”.

JESSIE: Yes, we changed the idea.

MARIA: Everyone Wants to Kill Me was before my time, but we started working on that script together. Then we gave up because it was such a big number and there were about a hundred extras for this idea.

JESSIE: It became Strawberry Fields after that.

MARIA: …a virgin sacrifice movie.

JOHN: So Bye Bye Love started as a slasher movie, then became a virgin sacrifice movie and then ended as… How do I describe Bye Bye Baby without giving away what happens towards the end? “The heroine goes a bit looney and there’s blood involved”?

JESSIE: She has a quarter-life crisis, I would call it.

JOHN: At the beginning of the film, there is a caption saying it is based on…

JESSIE & MARIA (TOGETHER): …real insecurities.

JESSIE: I’m from North London. The North London bubble. It’s a very high-pressure community. Competitive. Get married young.

MARIA: Keep up with the Joneses.

Bye Bye Baby – billed as “A Killer Party”…

JESSIE: Yes. Keeping up. And I was going through this phase during Covid where I was single and depressed and unemployed and a lot of my best friends were getting married. I was only 24 and they were 24 too and I’d have to constantly go to these stupid ‘bridal showers’ and ‘baby showers’.

JOHN: What’s a bridal shower?

JESSIE: You don’t know? It’s a global thing. They do it in the UK a lot.

JOHN: I’m very old. We didn’t have them in the 19th Century.

JESSIE: I had to leave one because I had a panic attack and I had to go to Maria’s flat and I told her: “I don’t know why I’m reacting like this. It is so ridiculous. But I’m reacting so badly to all of this and I feel so angry.”

JOHN: Ah! I can see the Bye Bye Baby link.

JESSIE: I had been brought up a certain way.

JOHN: What way?

JESSIE: Once you get to 25, then you marry, have a family. I didn’t want that. I had a panic because I felt all my friends didn’t understand me. My friends from the world I had grown up in. I felt they didn’t take me seriously. They are all amazing people and I love them now. But it was just one of those moments: They don’t care what I care about. And it looks like I’m doing something wrong because I don’t want to co-operate. That’s what I felt.

JOHN: Why were they not treating you seriously? Because you were in the Arts and they weren’t?

JESSIE: It was all in my head. You just feel like you’re behind. They’re all getting married and doing all the things we’ve been told are the right way to live your life… I felt a bit lost.

MARIA: That’s how I felt too.

JOHN: But your family is already arty-farty so they must understand you.

MARIA: Well, my dad is a film director, but he is embarrassed about it. Mortified that he’s not a doctor or that I’m not a doctor. It seemed like every day I was told: “How nice it would be if you ended up being a doctor…”

I was supposed to be a doctor.

JESSIE: I guess we wrote the original script sort-of as a joke to let off steam then thought: No! There’s something in this!

JOHN: There’s humour in the film. You have the same sense of humour? 

JESSIE: Yes.

JOHN: Dark humour?

MARIA: Yes.

JOHN: Maria, your own film So Far So Good is a gangstery thing, so it’s necessarily dark.

MARIA: Very dark. It’s funny, but it’s not a comedy. There are some moments.

JOHN: And, Jessie, you’re doing comedy and violence too.

JESSIE: Yes, definitely. I want to definitely focus on that. Definitely, moving forward. Especially comedy.

JOHN: Would you do a comedy-comedy movie?

JESSIE: Maybe. But usually comedy with something else.

JOHN: Are you interested in doing comedy with horror and violence? Or horror and violence with comedy?

JESSIE: Both.

MARIA: Obviously both.

JOHN: And you are interested in…?

MARIA: I’m interested in… I think my stuff is less funny than Jessie’s. I’ve done three and none of them are (pure) comedy.

JESSIE: And a very different type of comedy, I’d say. More nuanced. It’s not in-your-face.

MARIA: Very different from Bye Bye Baby, which was just pushing as far as it would go.

JOHN: Pushing in which way?

JESSIE & MARIA (TOGETHER): To the extreme.

“…with Bye Bye Baby, we did get away with a lot…”

MARIA: Just because you have a good joke doesn’t mean it should go in. Often, joke-joke-joke-joke doesn’t actually amount to a good film. In my stuff, there’s always something else going on, so you have to be very careful with the jokes. Whereas, with Bye Bye Baby, we did get away with a lot.

JESSIE: Yes! Though we did cut a lot of jokes… and we cut out a lot of horror.

“There was much more horror involved…”

There was much more horror involved.

There was this whole scene with the girl who gets her head smashed with a bottle… She wakes up and then there’s this last fight and Rosie finds the e-cigarette and stabs her in the throat with it… Blood everywhere…

And then the woman who owns the home comes back; that was going to be another murder. There was a quick strangle; a quick break-neck.

JOHN: Neither of your films are pure comedy. What’s the quotable synopsis of So Far So Good?

MARIA: It’s about a Bulgarian girl who is hired to honeytrap a juror during a trial and she starts to fall for him and is unsure of what to do. I love film noir and I love femmes fatales and always wanted to do a story from the perspective of a femme fatale. 

There’s a lot of absurdity and humour that comes from this clash of worlds. This very English, sweet software developer who is honeytrapped by this exotic bird.

JOHN: You both always wanted to go into the film industry?

MARIA: Well, I didn’t want to go into the film industry. I was a theatre nut. I was the same as Jessie; a musical theatre freak. I just wanted to go to Jacques Lecoq in Paris and I wanted to sing. I had my band. 

JOHN (TO JESSIE): You were a musical theatre freak?

JESSIE: Very much so. I actually went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School. I wanted to be ‘in the West End’ as a performer but, y’know…

JOHN: Family background in showbiz?

JESSIE: No. I guess my uncle was once an actor.

JOHN: You guess?

JESSIE: He was, but it didn’t go anywhere. He almost made it in New York and then it just got too much, the acting industry.

JOHN: The people?

JESSIE: The people. The environment.

JOHN: Why did you both go to a film school, not just try to get jobs straight into the industry and work your way up?

MARIA: I was already working in the film industry before. I did English Literature at university and then I was working in film for a couple of years as the development executive for a producer. Then I made my first short A Little Death. 

I was born into it. My dad is a film maker: a writer-director. So I tried NOT to make films.

JOHN: Your university was…?

MARIA: Cambridge.

JOHN: You said that with a tinge of embarrassment.

MARIA: Because it’s very embarrassing. I did English and did all the theatre stuff and I was really into it and film happened kind of by accident.

JOHN: You didn’t go into Theatre because…?

MARIA: The thing that I found really difficult about theatre, especially here, is that you really seem to have to have ‘permission’ to do stuff. You can’t just walk into a room and put-on a play. With a film, you can literally just go out and make a film.

JOHN: Can you?

MARIA: If you shoot it on an iPhone.

JOHN: With theatre, surely you can just rent an upstairs room in a pub and put on a play?

MARIA: I suppose. But I think theatre is very cliquey. You need to be in the ‘in crowd’. I just felt alienated from that whole world. At university, obviously, there were a lot of cliques and, let’s say, children of big names. It all felt like a mini-real-world.

JOHN: Were you in The Footlights at Cambridge?

MARIA: I was a Footlights princess.

JOHN: Yer wot?

MARIA: There’s a Footlights panto every year. People take it very seriously. I remember causing a bit of a stir: Who the fuck gave THIS girl a lead roll? 

JOHN: Which panto? 

MARIA: The Princess and The Pea. I was the princess.

JOHN: Who was the pea?

MARIA: It was just a pea.

Cambridge Footlights’ production of The Princess and The Pea

JOHN: So you had a family background in film and, after university, you were IN the film industry… So why the hell did you decide you had to go to a film school?

MARIA: You really have to LEARN how to make films. 

JESSIE: And I felt I needed to learn a lot too. I’d worked on adverts and event videos before film school. I was working as a video editor and just decided I really wanted to make films and I thought: Now’s the time to do it while I’m still young.

MARIA: I’d done costume and running and production assisting and whatnot.

JESSIE: And I felt I needed to learn a lot.

JOHN: Now that’s in the past. You, Jessie, have started Jessie B Films… Is that both of you?

JESSIE: Currently yes.

MARIA: We want to start a company that’s just the two of us, but we need to come up with a name ASAP.

JOHN: ASAP Films. There you are. 10%. Are you actively working on scripts together again?

MARIA: I’ve got this film that I’m obsessed with. There are funny elements, but it’s not a comedy. It’s a horror romance set in Mexico.

JOHN: You should get finance for that. They love a bit of blood in Mexico.

MARIA: Jessie has also come up with this idea for a very morbid rock musical. We are constantly concocting.

JESSIE: Always, always.

MARIA: She needs to write songs. She’s a real songwriter. She wrote all the songs in Bye Bye Baby (except the title song).

JESSIE: They were meant to be trashy pop songs. Not the score. 

MARIA: No. The pop songs that play diegetically in the scenes.

JOHN: Die-a-wot? I should have gone to film school. I feel emasculated.


Jessie Barnett’s current director’s showreel is on Vimeo: 



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Who/Where on Earth reads my blogs?

45 minutes ago, someone asked me if all my blog readers were in the UK, which is an interesting question and the answer is No.

This is often called a “comedy blog” but not by me. I see it as just whatever takes my fancy. I have, in the past, called it a blog mostly but not exclusively “about interesting people doing interesting (often creative) things”.

I am sometimes approached by performers who want a specific comedy show mentioned/plugged… for example at the Edinburgh Fringe or in London.

And I sometimes (not always!) point out that the blogs may be read way after the show has finished and certainly not exclusively in London or Edinburgh or any-pinpoint-where.

If an interview is involved, I record it so that I cannot misquote people. I do make some edits to what people tell me, mostly to clarify what is being said. I take out the umms and erms and general linguistic ramblings which everyone does. Including, very much so, me.

And I try to clarify details for non-UK residents. For example, when “Soho” is mentioned, I usually expand this to “Soho, London” to avoid confusion with Soho in New York.

Most of my readers are in the UK, followed by the USA, then by the native English-speaking countries. There is also a TRANSLATE button on the blog. Who knows what gibberish that may create?

But, as a public service – and as a crass piece of self-promotion – here are four graphics showing where my blogs are read.

The first shows the hits on the blog today… up to 3.00pm… so there are still another nine hours to go in the day.

 

As you can see, most of the hits ARE in the UK, with a strong secondary following in the USA.

The next image shows the hits received in the last seven days:

I find it a tad unsettling that I appear to be read in Russia.

By whom I dare not guess.

The next graphic shows the hits in the last 30 days:

This one is even more worrying because it shows people reading me in China and, as far as I know, all Western blogs are blocked (to ordinary people) in China.

The good news is that I appear not to be read in North Korea.

Finally, a map showing the origin of hits on my blog in the last 12 months.

Clearly I have much work to do in the Faroe Islands, Iran, Yemen, Tajikistan, Honduras, Madagascar and chunks of Africa. I will continue to try to avoid drawing the attention of anyone or, rather, any organisation in North Korea.

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What happened when I produced a Jerry Sadowitz TV comedy special…

WARNING! THERE ARE MULTIPLE USES OF THE ‘F’ WORD AND THE ‘C’ WORD IN THIS PIECE… PROCEED AT YOUR PERIL IF YOU ARE OF A NERVOUS OR EASILY-OFFENDED DISPOSITION… OTHER BLOGS ARE WIDELY AVAILABLE TO READ ELSEWHERE…

The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz in September 1990


Yesterday’s blog was an extract from the late Malcolm Hardee’s 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake in which Malcolm recalled being, for a time, Jerry Sadowitz’s manager/agent in the 1980s.

I encountered Jerry through Malcolm during that time and later, in 1990, I produced a couple of TV shows for BSB (the precursor to BSkyB) via Noel Gay Television.

One was Malcolm Hardee: 25 Years in Showbiz, a variety show interspersed with various people, including Jerry, paying tribute to Malcolm.

The other was an episode of Noel Gay’s series The Last Laugh.

The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz was recorded to be a 55-minute show though it was later transmitted as a 45-minute show (for general scheduling reasons, not because of content).

BSB had a fairly liberal remit for comedy content. 

Comedians were allowed to swear, within reason, and could use the words ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ if they were an integral and essential component of the routine – ie if removing or changing the words would weaken the gag.

However, as Jerry tended to have a high level of expletives in his act – and, indeed, at one time used to say, with some justification, that “The word ‘cunt’ is a term of affection in Glasgow”, I thought trying to bar him from using the F and the C words altogether would damage the flow of his delivery of the lines.

So I told him in advance something like (I can’t remember the precise words nor the exact number):

“Try not to swear but we can probably cope with a couple of ‘cunts’ and four or five ‘fucks’. We won’t cut them out or bleep them but, if you try not to use them at all then, if a few slip through in the nature of the act… that’s OK.”

Imagine my surprise when he did the whole comedy and magic act, full-on for 55 minutes without a single ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’. And he was still able to maintain the offensiveness of the act.

There was one, not really surprising, problem though.

During the show, there were two lesbians in the audience whom Jerry spotted and, inevitably, he started making them the butt of some of his material.

Afterwards they made clear to me and others how outraged they had been by all this “offensive” material aimed at them.

I can’t remember whether Jerry was there when they complained or whether I told him afterwards.

But he was, in my opinion, genuinely taken aback that anyone would or could be actually offended and complain about the content of his comedy show. His reaction was – and again I paraphrase here – “But it’s a comedy show!” 

I tend to agree with him. 

(The lesbians were cut out of the transmitted show for flow-of-the-programme reasons, not for offensiveness reasons.)

The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz but without lesbians, for time reasons…

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