A few weeks ago, he mentioned to them that he had invented a tunnel.
The Daily Mail has always had a keen eye for the bizarre…
“I was getting fed up,” he told them, “with constantly hearing the hackneyed expression: ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel’. So I made my own tunnel with a switch to put the light on and off as required.
“It could be an executive stress device for those who want total control or like to think they have.
“I have updated it because, due to Brexit, the light is now central. Before it was adjustable from right to left, depending on what country it might be used in and what side of the road they drove on.
“Never let it be said we are kept in the dark. Being British, we are streets ahead of the game. Work is progressing on a solar-powered model.”
John tells me: “Some hours later, after the Daily Mail hit the newsstands, a researcher for BBC Three Counties Radio got in touch to see if I could do an interview over the phone and describe how my tunnel works.
“I told him: ’It’s purely visual. It’s something to be seen. The light is very quiet.”
And the line went very quiet.
The next day, a lady contacted John about the cost of making one for her husband’s birthday.
“I quoted,” John told me, “depending on size, between £150 and £250 as being I hadn’t made it and it would be individual to them but would come with a certificate of authenticity. She said she would be getting back to me as she and her daughter were going to buy it if her daughter agreed…”
That was ten days ago. Now John has had another brainstorm.
No stranger to the media, he has his own weekly column in the increasingly prestigious Spalding Guardian newspaper – and he has come up with a new cracker of an idea which has now been featured in a lengthy piece on their esteemed sister website Spalding Today.
He has created a board game based on the number of potholes in the roads of South Holland in Lincolnshire.
The game has been designed for two players – who throw dice from an upside-down miniature traffic cone.
How did he get the inspiration for this?
Players throw dice from an upside-down miniature traffic cone
“I was driving down the A17 road last Easter time,” he explains, “when I ‘hit’ two such holes, both within a few yards of each other, then felt the car really jar but the more I thought about it this is a right old game – three such jarrings and your left front wheel falls off crossed my mind.
“From a personal viewpoint,” continues John W, never short of words, “Lincolnshire is blighted with potholes from major roads to side streets and they are a constant talking point, with forever debate about when or if they will be repaired. Although once repaired there is a very good chance the situation will return almost as soon as it’s been ‘repaired’ as the repair possibly was not as it should have been or rather it appears that way to the common layman.”
Players have the option of picking a sports car, pick-up truck or a tractor as a marker.
Realistic detail: “a fly-tipped pile of rubbish left on the grass”
“Realism,” explains John, “comes in the form of a fly-tipped pile of rubbish left on the grass.
“Each player starts with a set of ‘hole fillers’ or plugs, each colour-coded, to use to fill a pot hole when landing on one. Although it is not that straightforward – much like reporting a pothole and expecting it to be attended to.
“If you land on a square with a coloured star on it, you then pick a card from a pile with that co-ordinating star to find out if you can progress through to the next square or miss a go, forfeit a go to your opponent and so on.
“I am in the process of registering the design and copyrighting it at the moment. However, as these real life pot holes affect many millions of motorists, the possible potential for this game could – I stress ‘could’ – be very interesting.”
Last year, the Lincolnshire Free Press reported: “A woman from Lincolnshire is spray-painting potholes around the county in a protest surrounding the state of the roads. Karen Holland, 55, is decorating the roads with different bugs – and even the occasional cheeky genitalia – to warn other motorists about the potholes and show just how many there are around Lincolnshire.”
This story, I think, has more mileage in it.
The art of Lincolnshire potholes in 2020 – as decorated and photographed by Karen Holland
JOHN: Doesn’t this go with my idea that politics is a circle not a line? Extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing eventually meet in the same place.
ANDREW: I get this a lot. Comedians hate Spiked and people who self-identify as Left hate Spiked. I say “self-identify” because I don’t believe they ARE Left. Unless you care about class consciousness and the redistribution of wealth, you are not left-wing.
JOHN: And you care about them.
JOHN: So you ARE left-wing.
Spiked – “believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote”
ANDREW: Of course. Everything I write is left-wing. Everything. Spiked is pro-freedom of speech, no ifs and buts as an indivisible liberty; pro democracy; believes in Brexit and sustaining the Brexit vote, because the European Union is essentially undemocratic and pro-corporate. Spiked is pro-migration with no such thing as borders; it does not believe in any form of borders whatsoever. It is anti-Trump, anti-New Labour, anti the Tories. It is anti-racism; anti the alt-right; anti men’s rights activists. It is pro-freedom, pro individual liberty, sceptical about climate change.
JOHN: Sceptical about climate change?
ANDREW: Yes. I am not. But, with Spiked, I agree with more than I disagree.
JOHN: The one thing you did not mention there about Spiked views was the current Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party.
ANDREW: It is very anti-Corbynistas. Hugely. Hugely.
JOHN: It seems very anti everything. What is it pro?
ANDREW: It is pro-freedom, pro-liberty, pro-democracy, pro the human race.
JOHN: Who else is supporting liberty that Spiked likes?
ANDREW: Well, there are so few people doing that.
JOHN: Is it pro any other organisations?
ANDREW: You mean party political affiliations? I don’t think it is pro any of them. There is not a political party it supports, which is sort of where I am at the moment.
JOHN: But, as a Marxist…
ANDREW: I never said I was a Marxist. I don’t think of myself as a Marxist.
JOHN: So what are you?
Living Marxism in its heyday…
ANDREW: I would say I am… I dunno… a Socialist? Somewhere between Socialism and Social Liberalism. Do you really want an answer?
ANDREW: I dunno. I think that’s where I am. I don’t trust any ideology. Why should you just choosean ideology and stick to every point that ideology represents? Why can’t you say This element of Socialism is good and This element of Conservatism is good? Ultimately, I oppose identity politics in whatever form it takes.
JOHN: What is identity politics?
ANDREW: That the way you perceive people is through their particular demographic or group. Seeing people collectively rather than as individuals.
JOHN: Isn’t that inevitable? There’s a man over there in a T-shirt and another one is wearing a tie. I am going to have immediate pre-conceptions about them.
ANDREW: You are talking about prejudice. I am talking about self-identification. What I resist is that, just because I am in a particular demographic, then I should identify myself with that demographic. Everyone is an individual.
JOHN: So you think certain things are wrong. Why are you not into active politics? You are very, very bright, very thought-filled, very fluent.
ANDREW: You are very kind. No. I don’t want to be a politician.
JOHN: But all these people you disagree with are in control of the world and you think they are making wrong decisions.
ANDREW: I would rather just complain about it on the fringes. Every time you write any polemical piece, you are trying to effect some kind of change or, at least, trying to persuade people of the validity of your point of view. That is a valuable exercise, but I am not naive enough to think I have any type of clout.
JOHN: Is being a writer more influential than being a politician?
ANDREW: Maybe. I would not want to be a politician because, for a start, you have to adhere to the Whip and you sort of surrender your integrity to an extent. You have to compromise to get anything done and I am not a compromiser. I am not suggesting compromise is a bad thing, just that I am not very good at it.
JOHN: You studied English at Aberystwyth University. Why Aberystwyth?
Aberystwyth University – accidentally alphabetically lucky
ANDREW: Because it was first alphabetically in the list. I went to a shitty comprehensive school where we didn’t really have any guidance about where to go. Had Aberdeen University been there, I would have applied there. It wasn’t in the list.
So I went to Aberystwyth and, after that, I wanted to do a Masters in Renaissance Literature but they didn’t do one, so I went to York and then I wanted to do a doctorate in Renaissance Poetry and work with manuscripts so then I went to Oxford University and I became a part-time lecturer at Oxford, teaching the Shakespeare module to undergraduates. At that point, I was going to be an academic.
JOHN: Why the specific interest in manuscripts?
ANDREW: Because I was very interested in early modern literature – Renaissance. I developed a particular interest in a poet called Richard Barnfield. My thesis was on Richard Barnfield, Shakespeare and Philip Sydney. Shakespeare and Richard Barnfield are the only two poets of that era in England who wrote love sonnets from one man to another.
JOHN: Are you just interested in Elizabethans?
ANDREW: I’ve written introductions of republished versions of a novelist called Forrest Reid,who died in 1947. I’m writing a biography of him. Up until the 1970s, it would have been accepted he was the best novelist to emerge from Northern Ireland but, because of the fickle nature of literary trends, he was forgotten. They are a very specific type of novel. He was a pagan; he worshipped spirit gods; he was an animist. All of his novels are set in Belfast, but infused with this sense of another world lurking beneath the surface, centred on male adolescence.
JOHN: Why are you not still lecturing?
ANDREW: It’s quite lonely.
JOHN: I saw one of the Jonathan Pie live stage shows at the Apollo Hammersmith and the first third or more of it took pot-shots at what I thought was the easy target of the Conservative government, but then you turned it on the audience.
“…Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs…”
ANDREW: That’s why we have to have the first third in that way. So many of Pie’s targets are his fanbase’s beliefs. The fanbase is predominantly the liberal Left – Guardian readers – so, in order to have a show that essentially attacks the fundamental principles that they represent, you need to get them on-side. It’s a strategy. The first third of the show is exactly what you would expect.
JOHN: Is that the ultimate idea? To attack the liberal Left?
ANDREW: No. It’s not as confrontational as that. As with all satire, it is exposing the excesses and deflating the pretensions of those in control.
JOHN: Equal offence to everyone?
ANDREW: The character does not just scatter-shot attack everyone. The character believes certain things.
JOHN: What IS the character? A left winger who hates the Right but has doubts about the Left?
ANDREW: Yes. Basically he is an old school Bennite Leftie who is pro-Corbyn, Socialist, hates the Right, hates the Tories, hates what they are doing to the NHS, but also thinks the Left need to do a whole lot better in order to beat them… and that the Left keep losing because of their own shortcomings. And that’s where the frustration comes.
JOHN: Sometimes the phrase ‘Guardian readers’ is used as a put-down.
ANDREW: Well, the Guardian and Daily Mail are very similar.
ANDREW: They are both explicitly partisan and misrepresentative; they push an agenda relentlessly; and they are not to be trusted.
JOHN: Is Jonathan Pie risking his fanbase – the liberal Left – by attacking them?
Jonathan Pie’s 2017 book Off The Record
ANDREW: Sometimes. And sometimes you get your ideological opponents supporting what you say, which is a bit weird. But I think we have retained the sensible people who can stand having fun being poked at them. The people who think.
JOHN: So where do you go with the character?
ANDREW: That’s up to Tom. I just go along with it.
JOHN: Do you feel overshadowed by the fame of Jonathan Pie? No-one knows who you are.
ANDREW: No-one knows who I am, but that doesn’t matter, does it? I’m not hungry for fame.
JOHN: Not doing anything new?
ANDREW: I am working on a couple of musicals at the moment. One is about Archibald McIndoe, a pioneering plastic surgeon in World War II for airmen who were surviving their terrible burns and had to reconstruct them.
ANDREW:Paperboy. It was recently staged at the Lyric, Belfast, based on Tony Macaulay’s memoir of being a paperboy on the Shankill Road at the height of The Troubles. But it’s really a coming-of-age story. Another musical I wrote is an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s book Soul Music. He specifically asked us to do that book. Youth Music Theatre UK put it on in Kingston with 40 kids – but it has not yet got a producer to take it forward.
The last Jonathan Pie live stage show has just been released to download.
When I heard about this, I told her: “I associate Montenegro with that poker game and international intrigue in Casino Royale.”
This morning, she replied:
“No casinos, darling. Just a lot of fish and vodka. Yesterday I went on a bus ride to see the sights. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain and the non-stop narration of what we were supposed to be seeing through the fog spoke only in Russian.
“I sat next to a woman with a bad hip who pole dances because all she has to use to hoist herself up is her arms. This is why she can only take baths, not showers. She says she is 65 and gluten-free which explains why she has such powerful arms.
“She is traveling with her crazy sister who is a graduate engineer and a veteran of the US Navy, who insisted on singing Beatles’ songs to the Russians who joined in because they love our music and cannot understand why they can’t get a visa to come to London to sing-along.
“At least I think that is what they told me but I am not sure because it was all in Russian. They might very well have been discussing the crisis in Afghanistan (There is one there, isn’t there?) or that it is impossible to buy a decent avocado in this god forsaken place.
“The bus finally stopped when it ran out of gas and we all piled into boats (in the pouring rain) and the pilot of the boat plied us with doughnuts and honey, feta cheese and plenty of vodka, since the coffee here is like motor oil. This on an empty stomach.
“Within seconds, we were happily romping around the boat knocking up vodka and anyone else who would have us. When we landed, drenched, at a restaurant for traditional Montenegran food which is very fishy, we were fighting exploding bladders.
“There is another bus trip today where we get to buy souvenirs. I am not sure what the souvenirs will be but, by God, I intend to buy one to remind myself that this whole experience was not the result of ingesting rich food late at night.”
Now, as I said, I pride myself in taking an interest in quirky real-life events and Lynn Ruth in Montenegro qualifies, I think, as being a tad quirky – especially if you know Lynn Ruth.
But this all pales into normality compared to the doings of actor Randy Quaid, about which I was shamefully ignorant until yesterday.
SANTA BARBARA D.A. VOWS TO BRING RANDY QUAID TO JUSTICE DESPITE LEGAL SETBACK
which started: “Prosecutors say they ‘remain hopeful’ after Independence Day actor and his wife were released from a Vermont jail… Quaid and his wife are considered fugitives, wanted in Santa Barbara, California, to face felony vandalism charges from 2010. Authorities said they were found squatting in a guesthouse of a home they previously owned. The couple fled to Canada, where Evi was granted citizenship but Randy was denied permanent residency.”
This may have been because he claimed he was being pursued by assassins paid by Hollywood studios.
I had somehow missed the back-story on this completely. On Facebook, Matthew Wilkes pointed me to an explanatory report from February this year headlined:
RANDY QUAID RETURNS BY HUMPING HIS WIFE WHILE SHE WEARS RUPERT MURDOCH MASK
Randy Quaid and his wife Avi in the oddly mesmeric video clip
And, indeed, that headline did not overstate the case. The report says: “As his wife Evi watches silently, clad in just a bikini and sunglasses, Quaid declares that they’ve been through ‘a hell of biblical proportions’… Quaid reserves his most cutting words for Rupert Murdoch, first noting that he’s wearing ‘the very same shirt that I wore in ’94 when I saved the world’ in the Fox movie Independence Day… Since Murdoch has tried to fuck him, now it’s his turn. He hands Evi a Rupert Murdoch mask, bends her over, spits in his hand, then proceeds to take her from behind while a trembling dog barks nervously at them, like a nation personified.”
At the time of writing, Randy’s video – taken down from YouTube but re-posted elsewhere – has had at least 3,584,231 plays – as it well deserves, despite potential claims of sexism.
The extraordinary thing about the Daily Mail – much-read by the middle-of-the-road middle classes of Britain and much reviled by liberal Guardian-readers for its reactionary conservative views – is that it is extraordinary prurient and loves a bit of sleaze and eccentricity.
I got turned-on to the half-hidden glories of the Daily Mail when I was working at Anglia TV and we got all the national daily newspapers each morning. It was at the time Cynthia Payne – nicknamed ‘Madame Cyn’ by the tabloids – was being prosecuted for running a brothel in the unlikely locale of Streatham, in south London.
The tabloid ‘red top’ papers gloried in the sex aspects of the case, but the Daily Mail, alone in Fleet Street, seemed to zero in on the fact that the case was not about sex but about quirky British eccentricity.
The current Wikipedia entry on Cynthia wisely describes one of the highlights of the story as: “Elderly men paid in Luncheon Vouchers to dress up in lingerie and be spanked by young women”. The key quirky words here are not “spanked by young women” but “paid in Luncheon Vouchers”. Cynthia’s defence seemed partly to be that she was providing a valuable public service to retired Army majors in wheelchairs et al. She was found innocent by a possibly amused jury.
Personal Services was promoted with the selling-line: “From the Director of Monty Python’s Life of Brian”
The true reportage of quirkily eccentric lives in Britain used to appear in the Daily Telegraph’s obituary column and on their page three, which used to be their court report page. They have sadly long-since toned-down their obituaries and abandoned their old page three jollities after people in other publications started writing articles about the wild eccentricities held within. I still remember a short paragraph on page three of the Telegraph last century saying that a man had been prosecuted for leaping out of country hedgerows and scaring passing women horse-riders; he did this by dressing from head-to-toe in a rubber frogman’s outfit including snorkel and flippers. There was no more detail than this and no context. That was their full report.
The British press is less colourful since the Daily Telegraph reined-back on its quirkiness. But the Daily Mail now out-tabloids the tabloids with quirky stories and astonishingly widespread often salacious features on celebrities accompanied by pictures of curvaceous young women with prominent bosoms.
Those who diss the Mail for reactionary greyness don’t read it or look at its circulation figures.
Meanwhile, Randy Quaid’s video currently remains online HERE.
Beware – it contains a probably simulated but possibly real sex scene.
I am surprised the Daily Mail did not run the video online it in full.
“The whole show from title to poster to planned flyering was going to be deliberately provocative. It is a shame I could not do my cunning stunt for the flyering. The plan was to have me dressed as a slave master, holding a whip and a chain that went around the neck of a (paid) white flyerer ‘slave’, who would be in blackface (but not blacked up anywhere else) and I would drag them around the Royal Mile overseeing them handing out my flyers. They would shout Racist Joke Show meekly at people passing by and I would berate them with the phrase Louder again and again before whipping them. Maybe next year…”
Flyering is an overlooked vital art at the Fringe.
Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award
Meanwhile I am still looking for plagues of locusts on the horizon. Their scouts have been steadily arriving.
Yesterday afternoon, I lost a third sound techie for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.
“To lose ONE sound techie…” as Oscar Wilde might have said if he had ever played the Edinburgh Fringe in August.
Anyway, I have lost my third sound techie. Around three o’clock yesterday afternoon, I got the message:
“One of my Fringe acts has been offered a space for a late show on the 22nd and I am contractually obligated to tech for them. This means that I can no longer tech for the Awards. I can only apologise for the short notice and the inconvenience this may cause you – I am afraid there is nothing I can do as they are paying me under the assumption that I stick to the contact I signed before the Fringe and we were only informed of the slot time an hour ago.”
Which is fine – although a sign that not just swarms of locusts but plagues of frogs may be imminent.
Also leading on from yesterday’s blog, I got another e-mail from my farter chum Mr Methane.
Today’s Daily Mail front page
Yesterday, he shared a message he received from an advertising agency encouraging him to take out an ad in the online version of the Daily Mail – which has a readership surely not known for their love of speciality fart acts. They are more into Michael McIntyre, a very fine act whom I much admire but who is not known for farting darts from his bottom at balloons attached to people’s heads.
In response to the advertising agency’s e-mail, Mr Methane had written back:
“I am sure Paul Dacre (the Mail’s editor) and his readers would love not to see an advert for Mr Methane ‘The Worlds Only Performing Flatulist’ on the Daily Mail website. I am just not their bag and they are not my customers either. So thanks but no thanks, though it made me chuckle.”
Yesterday, Mr Methane got another e-mail from the unrelenting advertising agency Web Windows.
“They still want my ass in Mail,” he told me. Their e-mail read:
Mr Methane farts a dart at a balloon on a worried man’s head. Is this what Daily Mail readers want to see over their teacake?
I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch again, but I emailed yesterday about a special offer for a banner ad: One month Daily Mail banner campaign just £480.
Did you get a moment to have a look?
I’m around for most of the day, so let me know if it’s of interest – I might even be able to sweeten the deal!
Mr Methane tells me: “I am really everyone’s favourite at the moment. Either that or the economy has never really pulled out of recession.”
Meanwhile, back at the Edinburgh Fringe, I still have slight toothache… Kate Copstick still has her arm in a sling, going “Owww!” if she moves it too much… and comedy actor Brian Simpson, appearing out of his stage persona, was seen in the exclusive Underbelly Abattoir VIP area sitting in an armchair, wearing a silk smoking jacket and puffing on an electronic cigarette like some latter-day Noël Coward.
Last night at about 8.45pm, I had a half hour snooze. When I woke up, it was 6.55am this morning. Einstein was right. Time warps. Especially at the Edinburgh Fringe. Well, to be honest, most things are odd at the Fringe.
Jay Islaam was at yesterday’s Grouchy Club
At yesterday’s eventually crowded Grouchy Club show (people keep wandering in willy-nilly and then don’t leave – which is good), Jay Islaam talked about his Racist Joke Show.
This had been billed as part of the Freestival, the new free show organisation at the Edinburgh Fringe which got a reported £25,000 in sponsorship from La Favorita pizzas matched by £25,000 sponsorship from Arts & Business Scotland.
When Jay Islaam’s Racist Joke Show poster/flyer was brought to their attention, Arts & Business Scotland decided they did not want to have their name associated with the show.
“I have a confession to make,” Jay told us yesterday. “I put out this very provocative poster with just the words RACIST JOKE SHOW – BANNED FROM 100+ VENUES.”
“It hadn’t been, had it?” I asked.
“Well, I have,” said Jay.
“Why?” I asked.
“For a lot of reasons,” he replied.
“And the poster had a golliwog on it,” I said.
Jay and his much-loved golliwog, as seen on his own website
“It was my own personal golliwog,” explained Jay. “But I had no intention of using that on the final poster, though I was thinking of using it on the flyers. It was a publicity stunt. I sent it to the media knowing it would get a reaction.
“(The comedy website) Chortle picked up on the poster and sent it to Arts & Business Scotland, who issued a statement without checking what the show was. I won’t comment on whether that was right or wrong, but that’s what they did.
“On the back of the flyer, it asked a series of questions:
Are we all racist?
Is political correctness an effective way of tackling the Far Right?
Is positive discrimination patronising and therefore intrinsically prejudiced?
“But, sadly, the show did not happen.”
“I know this is racist in itself,” I said, “but surely the name Jay Islaam would imply you are not – let’s say 500 years ago – of white British origin.”
“Well,” said Jay. “this is the thing. Part of the Racist Joke Show was about the fact it should not matter whether you are black or white or Indian if you want to discuss issues of culture or race or religion or sexuality. There should not be restrictions on someone just because they are the ‘wrong’ minority or majority.”
“Your name was on the poster?” I asked.
One of Jay’s characters: decidedly odd Michel de Fromage
“No. It was on the back of the flyer – as was my photo – but in tiny writing. I did not want to be given a free pass to do the show because I was part of a minority – because the point is the things that I say about race and religion and sexuality and different types of prejudice should be something that anybody can say because they have a logical basis to them. You should not be censored because you are white or male or Chinese so you can’t talk about Indians. That was the point of not putting my name or picture on the poster.”
“I have never understood the argument,” I said, “that a black person can say the word ‘nigger’ but a white person can’t. The word is either offensive or it is not.”
“This is one of the things I was going to discuss,” said Jay, “and why I was using the golliwog as a symbol. People talk about ‘reclaiming’ offensive words, reclaiming insults like the Americans did with the word ‘Yankee’, which was supposed to be an insult.
“The show was wanting to do the same thing with words like nigger or Paki or Chink. You can say: I am black and I am going to reclaim the word nigger. But, if a white person says it and you are upset by it, then you have not reclaimed it because the word still has power over you. The show was going to be about taking the power away from these words and symbols.
A piece on Jay in this month’s Eastern Eye
“The poster was a blatant publicity stunt using the golliwog, but the upshot was the controversy snowballed to a certain point where the show was cancelled. That was not my intention.
“My intention was to create enough controversy that people would come and then I could preach to them. Get them in the church and then you can preach to them. But the church was knocked down before I was allowed to proselytise views.
“Hopefully next year I will be able to bring the show to Edinburgh. I have already been asked by some promoters in the North of England if I will come and tour it at their theatres.”
Meanwhile, back in what passes for the real world outside the Edinburgh bubble, this morning (when I eventually woke up) I read an e-mail from my farting chum Mr Methane – the world’s only professional flatulist act – whose company is called BO Productions. Yesterday, he received this e-mail:
This is the first time I’ve been in touch and I wanted to find out whether you’d be interested in the idea of running a banner ad for B O Productions Limited on the Daily Mail website?
Web Windows is an advertising agency who are occasionally able to pick up some amazing late-availability banners. This is one of those occasions and you can find all the details of the offer on this link: One month Daily Mail banner campaign just £480.
If you’re not sure whether online advertising is right for you we’ve put together a Video Review: Why Online Advertising.
I appreciate this offer has appeared out of the blue, so if you’d like me to explain things in more detail, I can be contacted on the number below. Or maybe you’d just like to go ahead?
Today’s front page of the Daily Mail
It is good to know that the Daily Mail is obviously trying to expand and subtly alter its brand image andthinks its readers would appreciate a banner ad for a farting act and is actively courting Mr Methane. Meanwhile…
In other, more tragic, showbiz news, the increasingly time-constricted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday seems increasingly UNlikely to include a string of comedians doing impressions of iconic Lewis Schaffer (though we did try it out to great success at yesterday’s Grouchy Club).
Perhaps our final Grouchy Club show should be devoted (as, of course, we all are) to Lewis Schaffer.
A show or event? Who knows? But it is happening this Friday
There is even worse news, though – I am told by his agent that Jim Davidson is unable to accept my invitation to take part in the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championship during the aforementioned increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show this Friday.
I tried my best.
We will just have to soldier on with what we have.
Have we got a show for you?
Well, it is certainly going to be an event.
Now I must go away and figure out a running order.
Liberal Democrats rate my blog above normal education
My blog three days ago about the Have I Got News For YouJimmy Savile transcript faked by SOTCAA continues to get a large number of hits. This can only be helped by the fact that, this morning, it is oddly recommended by the Liberal Democrat Voice website as one of its 8 Must-Read Articles for Liberal Democrat Party members and supporters.
It comes in as No 2 in a list of Must-Read Articles, above Free Schools: The Research Lab of State Education, Debunking the Myths Around School Choice and David Cameron’s Inflexible, Thatcherite Party is Being Exploited by Ed Miliband. I will be fascinated to read what is in the Liberal Democrats’ next election manifesto.
I am very grateful for the recommendation, though confused at the political importance or implications of my finely-compiled piece or, indeed, any political significance in Jimmy Savile.
The Daily Mail today seems to disagree.
I am a great admirer of the Daily Mail’s professionalism – something that has brought me a lot of criticism, not all of it constructive…
When I was a student, my main lecturer in Journalism was the Production Editor of the now-closed-amid-shame News of the World. He pointed out to us that, when a question mark was used in a newspaper headline, it often meant that the newspaper itself did not believe the story, but it was just too good a story not to run.
Two scumbags connected by a dodgy caption in the Daily Mail
Today’s Daily Mail article claims an un-named BBC person (who denies it) introduced girls to Jimmy Savile for sex and had sex with them himself. There is also a photo of disgraced Gary Glitter with a caption saying Rocker Gary Glitter has already been implicated in the alleged sex ring. But there is no mention anywhere in the article itself of Gary Glitter.
Now, there may well have been a ‘sex ring’ inside the BBC in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but I severely doubt it. Rampant randiness abounded and I’m sure still does. But an organised sex ring? Unlikely.
The Daily Mail article starts “The Mail has been told that a BBC employee was allegedly given the task of procuring girls for the presenter and other men to molest…”. But there is no mention of any “other men” in the article. It is journalistic ‘bigging-up’ of a slender story.
The article talks of “a former beauty queen” who claims she had sex with Savile because “I just thought this might make me famous” and, a week later, was raped by his ‘accomplice’. The Mail says this beauty queen is “named only as Sandra” but then publishes a full-length photograph of her. The “named only as Sandra” reference is intended to sound mysterious and protective of a victim’s privacy but is bollocks when they print a clear, identifiable picture of her.
I have no reason to suppose her rape did not happen and take place in a BBC office and it is appalling, but the Daily Mail does not help its/her case by quoting her as saying: “There must have been people around because I could hear radio shows going on”.
She could hear more than one radio show being transmitted from some nearby soundproof studios?? That seems unlikely to me, bordering on the surreal. But it is a detail some hack journalist might add in to make the story more vivid.
In today’s newspaper, a second woman who worked as a “waitress at a drinking club in Marylebone” tells the Mail about Jimmy Savile “trying to have sex” with her. The Mail then says it put the “rape allegation” to Savile’s alleged accomplice.
This “rape allegation” can only refer to the beauty queen rape but, by putting the reference immediately after the waitress’ story, the Mail article by implication subtly heightens her groping/sexual assault (which is bad enough) into a full rape.
The ‘accomplice’ told the Mail “he could not remember a drinking club in Marylebone” and the Mail does not name it. No reason why it could not if it existed. This is sloppy reporting.
The Mail says the BBC is now conducting “a forensic examination of documents relating to BBC programmes going back for more than 40 years”. I really doubt that what the Mail says is true.
We could have a long debate about the word’s Latin origin, but ‘forensic’ in everyday speech means “the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime”. I really doubt that the BBC is employing forensic scientific techniques to examine the physical composition of the documents themselves.
It is sloppy journalism and sloppy witch-hunting.
It simply muddies the clear waters around the vileness of Jimmy Savile. The clue was in the name – Jimmy sa vile.
Meanwhile, the So It Goes blog’s Canadian correspondent Anna Smith tells me: “I don’t know if anyone in Vancouver has heard of Jimmy Saville.”
Maybe they have other things on their minds.
She tells me her neighbours include “a mysterious sailor from Manchester who lost his ability to speak… a pair of evangelist Vikings who distilled moonshine from mango peelings… an Australian plumber who has spent time in jail in Afghanistan… and there is the story of a luxury yacht stolen by a renegade tuna fisherman and his wife… that story also involves a midget and his mother….”
Life goes on. The world spins, not yet totally out of control.
After reading the blog, Mervyn e-mailed me: “It reminds me that I wrote a song about the Greatest Show on Legs for BBC TV. Looking for it now…..”
Mervyn has been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe for 26 years – 5 years doing solo shows, then (including this year’s) 21 annual Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of The Fringe shows in which other acts (very carefully chosen by Mervyn) perform highlights from their own Fringe shows.
Yesterday afternoon, by coincidence, I had to take a friend to see a solicitor in Bournemouth. (Don’t ask.) Mervyn lives in Christchurch, just beside Bournemouth. So, of course, the lure of hearing a song about The Greatest Show On Legs and the possibility of getting a free meal and drinks was too much to ignore and Mervyn and his wife Moira fell for our “we haven’t eaten” ruse.
What he told me perhaps gives a glimpse into another, different social era.
“In the mid-1980s,” Mervyn told us, “I had to write songs for the first ever BBC daytime television programme, Open Air. The two presenters on the pilot were Pattie Coldwell and Alan Titchmarsh and the series itself was presented by Pattie and a very thin Irishman, just off the boat, called Eamonn Holmes. It was in the days when the topical song was popular and wasn’t ridiculed, as it has been a lot since.
“Pattie put me up for it and I had to send a tape in of several topical songs so the producer knew I could do it.
“In the Daily Mail that week – Tuesday 26th July 1986 – was an article headlined Anger Over BBC’s Nudes.”
Daily Mail outraged at nudity
The article started: Outraged people in a TV audience walked out of a show hosted by an MP when three naked men danced on the set with only balloons to protect their modesty.
The pilot show for a new TV discussion programme called Day To Day had been chaired the previous Sunday by Robert Kilroy-Silk. The show had been about nudity and audience members had included ‘moral campaigner’ Mary Whitehouse, the streaker Erika Roe, Page Three girl Linda Lusardi and, according to an outraged Daily Mail, ‘teenage girls’ .
The Greatest Show on Legs performed their naked balloon dance to – again according to the Daily Mail – great outrage.
The report claimed that “Clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse has registered a formal complaint with BBC Director General Alasdair Milne, demanding ‘that the people responsible for this outrage should be disciplined’.”
Publisher Ian Critchley’s wife, the article continued, was in the audience and he “was considering legal action against the BBC for shocking her”. In those far-off golden days, ladies had to be protected by their husbands and were unable to cope with such manly things as taking legal action to protect their own modesty. Mr Critchley warned, possibly echoing the Daily Mail’s own outaged thoughts: ‘The BBC are on the slippery slope to depravity’.”
The presenter of the Day To Day pilot, Robert Kilroy-Silk, was always a staunch defender of the arts and bravely told the Daily Mail: “I was simply helping some friends at the BBC and had nothing to do with the balloon men. They were not my responsibility.”
However, in their final sentence, the Daily Mail quoted the BBC as pointing out: “Most of the audience thoroughly enjoyed it”.
“So,” Mervyn told me yesterday, “I wrote a song called One Little Prick about how outrageous it was, which ended:
If the audience did get up and leave, of course.
It would be The Greatest Show on Legs
“I did it on the audition tape for Open Air, but whether it was ever broadcast, I can’t remember.”
I saw Kunt’s penultimate Fringe show in Edinburgh last week and afterwards I thought maybe, as well as the Cunning Stunt Award, we should have nominated him for the Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award.
Bob Slayer was very keen on Kunt last year.
He harassed me into seeing the act upstairs at the small and cramped Meadow Bar as part of the Free Festival. I remember I was very impressed by Kunt’s talent, but thought there was an inevitable potential professional cul-de-sac ahead.
If you are called Kunt and you sing very explicitly about sex – however amusingly – you just ain’t going (at this moment in time) to get on BBC Radio, let alone TV; and you are not going to get signed by any major record label in the current economic climate, if at all.
I suggested to Kunt last year that, parallel to his Kunt and the Gang act, he could start to develop a second songwriting career not involving explicitly sexual lyrics; I thought he could make a fortune writing equally clever lyrics to equally compulsive pop tunes – whereas, with Kunt and the Gang’s songs, he would only make a decent, if steady, living playing to Chav and Torremolinos type audiences and he would be limited forever to that niche market.
He was not convinced.
And now, well…
I think I was wrong.
Watching his penultimate show in Edinburgh this year changed my mind.
I remembered Kunt had genuinely clever lyrics but they really are wonderfully clever. Not just the lyrics, but the vast use of populist names. And the songs have wonderfully bopalong tunes. He tells me the tunes are highly-influenced by 1980s TV ads. Whatever their origin, I sat through an hour of songs and every one was a can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head top pop tune.
His show as part of the Free Festival this year, at The Hive, had no weak spots – the songs were fascinating, the presentation he managed to vary – and he unleashed some kitsch 80s pop video choreography which last year’s Meadow Bar show had been too physically restricted to show off.
It was a 5-star show; a 100% Heat magazine crowd pleaser.
And it was the audience which changed my mind about Kunt.
For one thing, the venue was overflowing; it was an amazingly over-full house.
Then there were the smatterings of people in the audience who were singing along with the lyrics. They knew the songs well and not just the choruses – they knew every word of the verses too. This was a real pop music gig. Kunt has a solid fan base.
They had clearly watched the videos (which oddly have less energy and impact than his live performances) and/or downloaded the albums (which equally oddly are on iTunes – a particular shock to me as iTunes surreally removed the Killer Bitch DVD within three days for being distastefully OTT).
A few years ago, Kunt and the Gang would have had very limited potential but now everything is changing fast.
People are recording Andi Neate gigs on their smartphones.
Sales of books, newspapers, magazines, CDs and DVDs appear to be in unstoppable free-fall because of internet viewing and downloads.
Most of Kunt’s songs may still be currently utterly untransmittable on radio or TV and he may never get a recording contract from a major record label, but who buys CDs any more? Increasingly fewer people. They go to iTunes instead.
Kunt is potentially a major cult internet download target for the World of Warcraft and iPod generation and word of mouth could turn Kunt and the Gang into a high-grossing name.
In the current maelstrom of rapidly-changing media, who really knows what is going on and what may happen? Not me.
“I know who my audience is and they find us naturally through the internet or word of mouth. They are proper people like bricklayers, carpet fitters, shop workers, central heating engineers, students and drug dealers.”
There is a lot of truth in that and what is being described is a mass-market British audience.
There is the Daily Mail audience and there is the Chav audience.
Both are massive.
Guardian-readers? A tiny if vocal minority.
Never underestimate the Daily Mail readership.
Never underestimate Essex man and woman.
Kunt and the Gang is potentially massive with one of those two audiences.
Meanwhile, on a more domestic front, my MacBook Pro laptop does not work, my Hoover does not work and the kitchen has partially flooded one drip at a time during the four weeks I have been away in Edinburgh, despite the fact the water supply was turned off…
But I think many anti-Bernard Manning sentiments are knee-jerk reactions. People dislike him because they know they are supposed to dislike him.
The comedian, musician and writer John Dowie contributed a very interesting short story to the Sit-Down Comedy anthology which the late Malcolm Hardee and I commissioned and edited for Random House in 2003. His Help Me Make It Through the Night is basically a fictional story about a right-on early Ben Elton type alternative comedian and an old school Bernard Manning style comedian… written sympathetically from the point of view of the Bernard Manning character.
The story was written for the book by John Dowie after he and I had a discussion about Bernard Manning and surprisingly found a lot of common ground. Indeed, I think we agreed that we both admired him as a technically brilliant comedian; and it helped that we had both lived through the period when Manning was having his greatest success.
John Dowie is (in my opinion) a notable left-wing thinker; we are not talking a Daily Mail reader here.
RACIST OR SEXIST JOKES? IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THEY’RE FUNNY!
It is perhaps not the most original of ideas for a debate, but it is never not irrelevant and I felt it still has a lot of proverbial mileage left in it. The phrasing and punctuation of the debate’s title can be taken to represent either viewpoint:
RACIST OR SEXIST JOKES? IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THEY’RE FUNNY!
I did invite Jim Davidson to take part in this debate (through his agent) without payment. He is taking part in the Guardian-sponsored Edinburgh International Television Festival at the end of the week reflecting, according to the programme, “on the industry that loved him, supported him but ultimately rejected him, as he discusses the changing nature of acceptability in comedy and television as a whole”.
His agent said Jim was unable to be in Edinburgh on Tuesday 23rd for the Malcolm Hardee Debate because he is on tour – playing Great Yarmouth on the Monday night and Weymouth on the Wednesday night.
I have no idea if it is just impractical (it sure ain’t easy) or because there was no money in it or because he just did not fancy doing it. All are perfectly reasonable.
It is a pity – but much in life is, like the fact choc ices are fattening.
I have never met Jim Davidson and have never seen his live act (television, in this case, does not count). I have asked people who have worked with him what he is like and opinion is varied. I have no personal opinion on him.
Prejudice is not something I admire and, by that, I mean judging people without really genuinely knowing what you are talking about. It is a comic irony that people who say you should never believe what you read in newspapers and magazines nor on the internet – and you should never believe edited video clips out of context – often do.
So I am prepared to believe Jim Davidson is a shit; but I am also prepared to believe he is misunderstood and misrepresented. Jimmy Carr, a brilliant comic whom I have seen and whom I do admire, has also been accused of telling racist jokes. To which I say Bollocks.
Admittedly, even if I did think Jim Davidson were a shit, I would put him on to get bums on seats and to let him defend himself (equal factors in my mind).
I think the line-up on 23rd August without him is still very good:
Simon Donald, co-founder of Viz magazine, who has now re-invented himself as a stand-up comedian.
Hardeep Singh Kohli, sometime presenter on BBC1’s The One Show and columnist for Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
It is good to know the Daily Mail reads my blog, even if a little belatedly.
Yesterday’s column by Richard Kay carried a piece using a quote from my blog last week about increasingly embattled government minister Chris Huhne. I am not quite sure if it is intended to support or undermine him. Who can understand the Machiavellian machinations of Fleet Street where politics are concerned? Or maybe it’s just printed because the quote is quite sweet. Let’s assume it is that:
Chris Huhne’s reputation as a ladies man has been enhanced by zany stand-up comedienne Charmian Hughes, who recalls a romantic encounter with the priapic Lib Dem Cabinet minister when they were teenagers in West London.
Convent school-educated Charmian says her first snog came courtesy of Huhne, who used to drive around in a London taxi, when she was 15 and he 17.
‘He was a very glamorous and sexy figure. We all adored him. He was brainy and cool and sophisticated. I think he only snogged me to put me out of my misery.’
It is a pity the Daily Mail calls Charmian “zany” as that is one of those words which sometimes sit uneasily as a quote on an Edinburgh Fringe poster – and anyone performing at the Fringe in August is currently poring over possible quotes for posters, flyers and press releases.
“Zany” is one of those words which student revues use on their first trip to perform at the Fringe – it’s only one step down from the much-dreaded word “wacky”.
I wrote comedy reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe for a couple of years. One comic still calls me a “cunt” on sight because of one rather mild review I wrote of her performance. But, if I ever saw publicity for a comedy show billing itself as “wacky”, I would run a royal mile and try to find a group of limbless orphans performing a play about the Moors Murders. More chance of comedy in that.
The other problem is that the “zany” quote comes from the Daily Mail.
The Mail is like a red (or should that be blue?) rag to a bull for many comics because of its perceived too-far-to-the-right-ness. What this knee-jerk reaction misses, of course, is that it has built up its massive circulation because it knows what Middle England likes and thinks. (Its sales in Scotland, interestingly, are negligible.) I wrote an unloved blog about this which got me e-mails saying I’m a prat with neo-Fascist tendencies. But beware of ignoring the selling power of the Daily Mail.
A quote from the Daily Mail will not get you loved by mostly Guardian-reading reviewers, but it may well get you more bums-on-seats.
Whether a very good stand-up like Charmian Hughes can put “zany” on her poster (I think she can) and can use a quote from the Daily Mail (I think she should) even if it’s out-of-context because it is not actually a review of her show (everyone does that at the Fringe) will be one of the many interesting things to see in August.
When I told her about the Daily Mail quote, Charmian’s reaction was:
“OMG, how do they know I am zany? Do you think they were secretly in my audience at the Brighton Fringe?… I’m using ‘hilarious’ Guido Fawkes as a quote.”
This could turn out to be a battle of the quotes. The Guido Fawkes political website – which deals in Westminster gossip – tweeted that my blog is a “hilarious read” and that the specific Chris Huhne blog in question was “a brilliant post”.
Now I just have to figure out how to spread the news that I am a “hilarious read” before news of Charmian’s “hilarious” zaniness spreads to Edinburgh.
Or could Charmian’s surprising and, to me, suspicious schmoozing of politicians, websites and the Daily Mail be a devious early ploy in a campaign to win the much-coveted and increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award?