Tag Archives: Daphna Baram

The Women’s Equality Party, sexism, Dapper Laughs and very bad or good PR

Women’s Equality Party website

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God, if he or she exists, is a comedy scriptwriter.

Last week, a friend of mine joined the Women’s Equality Party, which writer and presenter Sandi Toksvig co-founded back in March this year. Two days ago, my friend was filling in a survey email from the party and was finding one question a bit tricky:

What do you think would help most to free our streets, workplaces and public spaces from harassment abuse?

She asked me what my answer would be. I replied:

I guess better social education at school age.

Now we jump to yesterday, when the Chortle comedy website reported a story under the headline:

DAPPER LAUGHS; I’M A FEMINIST
‘I’d say yeah, equal rights’

There was a storm in the comedy and television teacup earlier this year over Dapper Laughs’ unacceptably sexist material. As a result, Daniel O’Reilly (the real name of Dapper Laughs) went on Newsnight, the BBC TV current affairs show, to give a contrite apology, claim he was misunderstood and say he was going to ‘kill off’ the Dapper Laughs character.

A few months later, he ‘revived’ the Dapper Laughs character and just carried on as before.

Both decisions were terrible pieces of PR because they both implied or exposed blatant insincerity and rampant cynicism.

Yesterday’s Chortle piece reported an equally mis-begotten PR decision. It is an excellently written piece of journalism, so I feel justified in nicking the copyright material. It is balanced yet shows an opinion.

Steve Bennett of Chortle pointed out that “In several of his (Dapper Laugh’s) online videos he filmed himself yelling sexual comments at women in the street or from his car as he drives past. One of his tweets said that he was so annoyed with his girlfriend that he’s gonna ‘pull out his Chris Brown moves’, referring to the rapper who assaulted his girlfriend Rihanna. And his chat-up lines included: ‘Just show her your penis. If she cries, she’s just playing hard to get.’…”

The meat of the Chortle report was an interview Daniel O’Reilly gave to women’s rights campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez for On Demand News. In the video of the interview, the new Dapper Laughs DVD cover is very prominently displayed.

O’Reilly said:

“If you ask me if I consider myself a feminist, I’d say yeah – Equal rights… A big one for me is I didn’t realise… I didn’t realise how much women have to deal with sexual advances and sexual harassment on just an average day-to-day basis… I’d hate to say I was naive to do it but I didn’t know how much of a problem it was until my content about it… that I was trying to take the mick out of men being like it… until it come under so much fire I was like Really is it this bad?. I matured cos I learned about it.”

Steve of Chortle then tellingly and admirably added in the line:

“Dapper Laughs’s next gig is hosting the PRP awards for the porn industry in London tomorrow night.”

In my opinion, the On Demand News interview shows an astonishing level of PR stupidity. Apart from trying to be contrite – which is unconvincing – O’Reilly ‘explains’ his about-turn on the Newsnight interview – that he would abandon the Dapper Laughs character – by dragging in his dad having had cancer and his post-cancer-scare dad persuading him to continue with the character. All the while sitting in front of the giant DVD cover.

This is a PR miscalculation on such a vast scale in every direction – he thinks it will make him look like an OK bloke whereas the effect (rightly or wrongly) is to make him seem even more appalling.

I posted a link to the Chortle article on my Facebook page with the comment: The boy needs serious PR guidance.

Comic Daphna Baram commented:

Dapper Laughs in the interview

Dapper Laughs’s words are rather undercut by commercialism

Why? His fame and infamy and the number of tickets he sells for his show and the numbers of pieces written about him and the number of people getting their knickers in a twist about him have way exceeded whatever potential of talent he will ever ever have. He is a PR genius. What journalists need is a “how to know they’ve been fussing about a PR queen for too long”, that’s what.

… which is a very valid point.

Connected to all the above in a way that is closer than it might at first seem is that, this week, I was also told by an acquaintance that his (the acquaintance’s) friends intended to heckle a comedian whose shows espouse political views they find obnoxious.

I was asked: “What do you think?”

My texted-back reply was:

It is always a bad idea to heckle someone whose views you disagree with, especially if the rest of the audience has paid to see the person. You are always going to be seen as the bad guy, whether your opinion is right or wrong. Because it is against freedom of speech. Anyone is entitled to say anything within the law. Anyone is entitled to say most Frenchmen eat babies. If you argue with them before or afterwards, that is OK but, if you try to stop them expressing their legal opinion, that is inherently anti-democratic bordering on Fascism. Objecting to a book is OK. Burning all copies so no-one can read it is preventing freedom of speech. Freedom of speech includes the right to say repugnant but legal things. The path from interfering with someone speaking their views out loud by attempting to shout them down and the Charlie Hebdo attack is not actually that far logically.

Which, as I said, is more connected to what is above than might first appear.

From the little I have seen of Dapper Laughs, I have no opinion which I would strongly argue. But he seems appallingly, unacceptably sexist and tries to excuse it with rampant, naive insincerity.

On the other hand, I would defend his right to say anything he wants, defend his right to make comedy out of anything he wants.

Going back to the beginning of this blog…

What do you think would help most to free our streets, workplaces and public spaces from harassment abuse?

I guess better social education at school age.

The perfect way to heckle something you don’t agree with

The perfect way to heckle something you don’t agree with??

But not censorship.

Freedom of speech includes the right to say repugnant but legal things.

The irony of course – as you will have noticed – is that, in saying I think Dapper Laughs has done bad PR, I have publicised him. So Daphna Baram may be right.

We live in an imperfect world.

God, if he or she exists, is a comedy scriptwriter.

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Politics

Comic Daphna Baram, the alien police, the Fringe & a Royal in a Croydon disco

An Irishman, a scotsman and a Jew...

An Irishman, a Scotsman and an Israeli…

In yesterday’s blog, Cassandra Hodges mentioned applying for a visa to work in the US.

But, of course, several people working on the UK comedy circuit are not British.

Daphna Baram – an Israeli – has been here for several years and has two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in August – Bombs, Booze and Haggis Strikes Back and Something to Declare.

This is the second consecutive year for Bombs, Booze and Haggis – “We are flyering it as a Scotsman, an Irishman and a Jew,” she told me.

“But not in that order,” I suggested.

“No,” agreed Daphna.

“I have hay fever,” I warned her when we started talking.

“I have a sore back,” she countered.

“From what?” I asked.

“I was just carrying a heavy bag. I’m generally broken.”

Daphna had a heart attack several years ago.

Daphna Baram has got Something To Declare

Daphna Baram has got Something To Declare

“I think,” she told me, “for the first few years after a heart attack, you are very healthy because you had the scare, you quit smoking, you go to cardio rehab. You want to get back to your glory. A year after the heart attack, I was super-fit: I could run for 45 minutes, I was quite thin, I was on top of things. But then comedy happened. It’s more of a struggle keeping fit when you spend every night in pubs.”

“Have you,” I asked, “explored the option of not spending every night in pubs?”

“I am a comedian?” answered Daphna. “What am I supposed to do?”

“So what’s your solo show about?” I asked, sneezing.

“This is my fifth Fringe year and third solo show. Something To Declare is a show about me immigrating to this country – stories about my efforts to integrate into British society. Partly successfully… No. I think wholly successfully… I think it will be interesting to do it in Scotland. It is a bit of a different premise in Scotland.”

“You now,” I said, blowing my nose, “have an indefinite leave to remain in Britain.”

“Yes,” said Daphna, “finally.”

Matt Roper,” I said, “just got a visa for America which says he is an alien with extraordinary abilities.”

“I tried to get that here a few years ago,” Daphna told me. They called it a Highly Skilled Migrant at the time. I had been under a year in the country and I had published a book in English, I was writing for national newspapers, I had a Fellowship at Oxford University…They said: Listen, madam, you are not a Highly Skilled Migrant. So I had to register myself with the alien police for a few years.”

“The alien police?” I asked. “What? Slanted-Eyed Greys?”

A grey alien, as depicted by Wikipedia

A ‘grey’ alien in Wikipedia

“No. I was the alien. They were the police. Then they changed the name to something else.”

“Probably couldn’t take the laughter,” I suggested.

Daphna’s show Something To Declare is partly about The Britishness Test which aliens have to take.

I sneezed, then asked: “That’s the one with questions no British person can answer? Like What year did Richard II ascend the throne?

“They’ve got a particular obsession with Henry VIII,” Daphna told me, “which I ascribe to the fact the Home Office is in Croydon and he was a bit of a lad.”

“Eh?” I asked, startled. “What has Croydon got to do with it? Did he go down the disco there?”

“Yeah,” said Daphna. “He was a player. I can see him do that.”

“I think,” I said, “you have failed the Britishness test here.”

“I passed!” she insisted.

Daphna is one of the orphans of Cowgatehead. After the chaos caused by the Free Fringe take-over of the venue, she is now performing at Just the Tonic at the Caves. The Cowgatehead fiasco lost her £600. She is currently crowdfunding.

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The best comedy compère I have seen

Yesterday’s blog

Yesterday’s blog complaint

Yesterday, I wrote a blog complaining about some comedy club compères who namecheck the next comic on-stage after encouraging a rising tide of applause, with the result that the name is inaudible under the final crescendo of noise. I also suggested that comics should end their act by namechecking themselves to the audience.

I thought one of the more interesting responses to my blog came from Raymond of the comedy act Raymond and Mr Timpkins. He commented:

Raymond without Mr Timpikns

Compère fan Raymond without Timpkins

“It seems common sense to structure the introduction so the act’s name is audible but, in reality, no-one will remember the act’s name anyway wherever it’s said. More important is the attitude from some promoters that the least experienced act will do as compère where in fact, at its best, it is a specialist role that really sticks the night together. Being funny enough to get the audience’s attention though disciplined enough to not take too much out of them – because that laughter is for the acts – is a rare talent especially in the world of inflated egos comics inhabit. A good compère is like a good goalie: no glory but takes a hell of a battering for the team. I say Hurrah for the good compère. Let’s appreciate them more and criticise less!”

Daphna Baram as ‘Miss D’ - Does she deserve to be killed off?

Daphna Baram: “Out-doing comedians is not a good thing”

Daphna Baram, who compères at several clubs, suggested to me yesterday: “A good compère can not make a night sparkle if the comics are all bombing, nor is he or she likely to completely destroy a gig that is going well otherwise, but they are holding the steering wheel of the gig, and they can make it hard or easy for the next comedian on the bill.

Ivor Dembina once told me that the compère’s only job is to be liked and make the audience feel they are in the good hands of someone who knows what he/she is doing. I tend to agree.

“It is also the MC’s job to keep the atmosphere in the room on the up so, if an act bombs, you need to tell a few jokes and get the laughter back into the room. If an act was just offensive or aggressive towards a member of the audience, it is your job to calm things down, to bring the friendly and hospitable atmosphere back into the room. If the audience was heckling or breaking the unwritten rules, it is the MC’s job to deal with it. In short, it is a pretty thankless job because, despite all this, the MC needs to aspire to be not too memorable and avoid being the funniest person in the room. Out-doing the comedians is not a good thing for a compère to do.”

It is maybe worth remembering that the French word compère can translate as ‘accomplice’ and com-père or comme-père comes from the medieval Latin ‘com-pater’… together-with-father. In Latin, it can also mean ‘gossip’. So there is an element of amiable paternal (or maternal) chatting in the origin of the word.

Malcolm Hardee presents Pull The Plug!

Malcolm Hardee sometimes took 20 minutes to end a show

The late, iconic club owner Malcolm Hardee was always, I thought, much-under-rated for his compèring skills. If the final act of the evening had stormed it, Malcolm would come on stage, say: “Oy! Oy! That’s it! See you next week!” and get off immediately.

If the final act had gone badly, he would spend up to twenty minutes (I saw him do it once) getting the audience back ‘on-side’ so that they left happy, content, fulfilled and feeling they had had a good night out.

On the other hand, he often used to introduce performers new to his audiences by saying: “Here’s the next act, (INSERT NAME OF ACT) Might be good. Might be shit. Dunno.”

I suggested to Raymond of Raymond and Mr Timpkins that his act was probably one of the few that Malcolm did not introduce in this way.

Up The Creek comedy club in 2009

Malcolm Hardee’s Up The Creek club in Greenwich, in 2009

“Oh he so did, “Raymond told me yesterday. “When we did our first ever open spot in London at his Up the Creek club, he introduced us in his usual style and Mr Timpkins used as our opening line Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We are shit – to get in first with the punters, who in those days were terrifying.

“We got away with it and we kept that line in our act. Malcolm came from the time before career comics, suits and any concept of comedy as a business. He was the real alternative, a naturally funny man. His funeral was one of the funniest and saddest things I’ve ever experienced. Like the speciality acts he always encouraged to perform, there are few, if any like him left in comedy. Shame.”

Lewis Schaffer, shoeless man

His name? It is Lewis Schaffer

The comparatively alive and undeniably unique Lewis Schaffer told me yesterday:

“Yes, comics could do well to repeat their names. That is why I repeat my name Lewis Schaffer so often before I start and during the show. And after the show. I also repeat my name Lewis Schaffer because I find it soothing. I often joke about my name Lewis Schaffer, which helps people to remember it. But there is only one sure way to get someone to remember your name and that is to borrow money from them. HSBC knows who I am.”

I have seen many excellent stand-up comedians do a shit job compèring shows, because, as Raymond says, it is a specialist role that needs careful handling – not just spewing out chunks of your stage act.

David Mulholland, house compère at Soho Comedy Club told me yesterday: “If a compère does more than 5 minutes – 10 minutes max – of stand up material, it is either not going well or they’re a stage hog. Personal glory is not the role of the compère: it’s warming up the audience and making the night work as a cohesive whole.”

Janey Godley was untagged in Edinburgh yesterday

Janey Godley knows what she’s talking about

Probably the best compère I have ever seen is Scots comedienne Janey Godley, which is why she has compèred two of my annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Shows at the Edinburgh Fringe – and why she is (unless she gets an offer that pays a shitload of money) going to compère next year’s Awards show (with Miss Behave).

Inevitably, Janey got in first with her wise words about compèring before I ever mentioned it. Six years ago, the comedy website Chortle published a piece by Janey headlined Compèring? – It’s War…

“A comedy MC,” she said, “is someone who holds the gig together… who sets the tone and gets the room ready for the big event. A funny fluffer, if you will – rubbing the audience into a height of comedy readiness, the foreplay of fun.

“The MC is not supposed to be the big hitter of jokes on the night… No MC worth their wages should eat the show, bask in the headlights or try to out-do the big name coming on; the MC is a scene setter – not scene stealer.

“The MC can also be the front line defence on the coal face of live comedy… Knowing that the comics are sitting watching the crowd, hoping you can educate them in the art of listening within ten minutes can be nerve racking but really rewarding when you get the heaving mob to sit back and relax.

“In the event of an aggressive rowdy audience, you are sent out as the scout. It’s your impression on them and your consequential conquering of the ensuing enemy that will secure the safe passage of the acts that grace the stage.

Janey Godley in suitcase

Janey Godley reaches out to nuns, priests & drunk sports fans

“Being defensive and shouty doesn’t always work; it can serve to aggrieve the men who are not used to a woman speaking out loudly. Though a good funny put-down followed by some witty charm directed at the growlers usually works. I know this from my past life as a pub landlady. When a huge gang of antagonistic men descended on my bar, I always made it my point to find the ‘leader’ and recognise his management qualities.

“I would make sure he knew that I was aware of his influence over ‘his men’ and played on the power conflict within that dynamic. Basically, if he couldn’t contain his troops, then he was a weak man and I would make sure that the watching public were aware of his flaws.

“Men also assert themselves quicker when you relate to them as the female figure in their lives. Emotionally remind of them of their mother, sister or daughter and the mood can change… usually for the better. The same applies with mixed groups and females who seem to be getting out of hand.

“Mutual respect and acknowledgement of status can level most playing fields. Undermining people will always serve to fan the flames of anger.”

Wise words from a comedienne and comic who can play to and control any audience (literally) from the Glastonbury Festival to Jongleurs clubs and from nuns & priests to drunken football & rugby fans.

Now THAT is beyond compère.

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Jewish Israeli comic identifies with Irish Catholics and wants to kill her alter ego

Daphna Baram as ‘Miss D’ - Does she deserve to be killed off?

Daphna Baram as ‘Miss D’ – Does she deserve to be killed off?

Daphna Baram is an Israeli living in the UK. Formerly a lawyer in Israel, she is now a freelance journalist who writes for newspapers such as the Guardian. She also performs as a comedian under the name Miss D. Until this year, she has always kept her Daphna Baram and Miss D personas separate.

But her Edinburgh Fringe show this year was called Killing Miss D.

I saw it in London last week and she is about to tour it round the UK.

“In the past,” I said to her, “you’ve had members of the Palestine Solidarity Group coming in to see your shows.”

“Yes,” agreed Daphna. “In Edinburgh and in Glasgow, I was calling on people to join the Palestine Solidarity Group. Though when they do come – a lot of them are serious political activists – they like the political bits in my shows but I’m not sure how comfortable they are about the Miss D bits. I think that is the thing with my shows. Nobody ever gets everything what they expect; they always get more than they bargained for.

“I’ve been an activist on Palestine for many years and it comes into my writing and my comedy and journalism and everything I do. But I can’t do only political material.”

“Which,” I said, “is the divergence in your shows between Daphna Baram and your comedian persona Miss D.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “So Killing Miss D is about the gap between Daphna Baram, the good conscientious political journalist and ex-lawyer who wants to liberate Palestine… and Miss D… and how I try to kill Miss D because you and all sorts of people kept saying: Stop performing as Miss D; start performing as you.

Miss D - pushy, sassy, rambunctious?

Miss D – pushy, sassy, pretty rambunctious?

“I tried and tried to be solely myself, but Miss D kept pushing me off the stage. So, in the end, the division of labour on Killing Miss D is this: Daphna has written the show but Miss D says she is performing it because she is the better performer. And, the way Miss D sees it, she performs it because she is pretty and I’m not.

“Instead of trying to eliminate each other off stage, we are talking together about how we tried to kill each other. Miss D by giving Daphna a heart attack, by living a wild life, by taking all sorts of risks and misbehaving. And… well, in the show, Miss D explains how Daphna is trying to kill her.”

“So,” I said, “it’s just a comedy show. Not therapy.”

“Massively therapy,” replied Daphna. “Very Gestalt. But I don’t like shows that are therapeutic in the sense that the act is falling on the neck of the audience and asking them for salvation. I think it’s good to do a show that is therapeutic after you’ve already done the therapy and done the process of integrating your characters. I could not have done this show while Daphna Baram and Miss D were very acrimonious to each other.”

“What’s the difference between the two?” I asked.

“Miss D is funny.”

“But Daphna Baram is funny too,” I said.

“Daphna’s funny,” admitted Daphna, “but she also knows irony and has political jokes. Miss D is… Well, reviewers always say she’s sassy and vivacious and loud. One word someone suggested on Facebook was ‘rambunctious’ and I like the sound of that. I guess she’s most often called ‘sassy’.”

“I instinctively feel you are,” I said, “but I’m never too sure exactly what ‘sassy’ means when referring to comedians.”

Daphna at the Fringe in August

Daphna was at the Fringe this August

“I think it means ‘has big tits’ doesn’t it?” replied Daphna.

“That would be it,” I agreed.

“My act is difficult to describe,” said Daphna.

“You were,” I said, “in a ‘Best of Irish’ show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Despite the fact you’re an Israeli Jew.”

“I think it’s easier for people from the Eastern Mediterranean,” she said, “to gel with the Irish than for us to gel with the English. I don’t know if it’s a Celtic thing. Maybe it’s a bit of a Catholic thing.”

“You gel with them because you’re Catholic?” I asked.

“I think all Jews are kind of Catholic.”

“Maybe it’s the guilt,” I suggested,.

“I think,” said Daphna, “it’s something to do with the sense of… I think… I think when I met Irish people, I mainly thought They’re Arabs.”

“You are an Israeli,” I pointed out to Daphna. “You’re not supposed to get on with the Arabs.”

“But we ARE kind of Arabs.”

“Semitic, yeah,” I said.

“We’re similar in our traditions,” explained Daphna, “in the way we view the… We have big families… We have a strong sense of friendship… Our friends become part of our extended family… You can very quickly become someone’s Best Mate after three hours of drinking.”

“So this is an Israeli admitting the Arabs and Israeli are actually all the same Semitic people?” I asked.

“It’s not a race thing…” said Daphna.

“You may be right,” I said. “The Irish like killing each other… just like the Arabs and Israelis like killing each other. It’s like supporters of two football teams in the same city hating each other.”

“This is not what I’m trying to say,” said Daphna. “Maybe I just like the Irish cos they’re great guys.”

Daohna Baram in Dublin last week

Daphna Baram looking surprisingly Irish in Dublin last week

“So how,” I asked, “did they explain on stage that, in a show billed as ‘Best of Irish Comedy’, there was suddenly a Jewish Israeli woman performing.”

“They didn’t explain,” said Daphna. “They just introduced me.”

“That’s very Irish,” I said.

“I had to go on stage and explain which part of Ireland my accent stems from. I said I was from the Eastern Colonies.”

“Well, to look at you,” I said, “I suppose you could be Spanish and there’s lots of Spanish blood in southern Ireland from the Armada when the sailors got washed ashore from the ships that sank.”

“It’s not a race thing,” said Daphna.

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Filed under Comedy, Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Politics

Chris Dangerfield cancels his Edinburgh Fringe shows after death threats… Matt Price replaces him with show about his own death threats from Turkish mafia

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

Matt Price’s new show at Edinburgh Fringe

Matt Price: suddenly-scheduled show at the Edinburgh Fringe

The last time comedian Matt Price was mentioned in this blog, it was about the time he asked a Glasgow gangster for a gun and about performing comedy inside Broadmoor hospital for the criminally insane. He meets interesting people and interesting things happen to him.

Yesterday afternoon, I heard from comedian Daphna Baram – the woman with her finger on the pulse of rising comics – that comedian Chris Dangerfield had pulled out of his show at the Edinburgh Fringe. His show had been billed as Chris Dangerfield: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.

Chris Dangerfield’s slot at The Hive, Daphna told me, had been taken up by Matt Price with his interestingly-titled show Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia.

I looked up Matt’s website and it said he was in Turkey throughout August. No mention of the Edinburgh Fringe.

So I asked him what was up.

“I was supposed to be in Turkey for four and a half months,” he explained, “but it went horribly wrong after six weeks. Chris Dangerfield dropped out because of death threats from some very bad people and so I’m taking his time slot in Edinburgh – 6.30pm at the Hive from August 1st to 26th.

“I have only had a week in which to prepare my show, so it should be interesting… It’s been a very strange few months, but it’s quite a story. I could tell you more, but I don’t really know quite where to begin and I don’t want to give away what’s in my show.

“My concern at the moment is for Chris Dangerfield. I was dealing with some bad people myself, hence why I’m going to Edinburgh. The difference is they are in Turkey. The bad people Chris knows are in Britain.”

The billing for Matt’s new show says it “features fake Ralph Lauren polo shirts, holiday reps, the Turkish Mafia, Jason Manford’s brother and the bloke who played Tinky Winky (yes, the Teletubbies).”

Unexplained photo of Colin Manford in Turkey

Colin Manford: unexplained important photo

Yesterday, Matt told me: “The photo that stands out most for me from the trip is one of Colin Manford. It was in the stage area at one of the gigs. We did the last show there and were planning our escape via Rhodes. A plan that didn’t quite work out…”

As Tinky Winky from Teletubbies was involved – the ever creative Dave Thompson – I asked him what on earth had happened out in Turkey.

“The situation,” Dave told me, “was that an Englishman who spends a lot of time in Turkey saw what he thought was a gap in the market for stand-up comedy in the Turkish resorts around Ölüdeniz. This was a year ago last June.

“He decided to go full steam ahead with promoting comedy out there this year, with no experience of it whatsoever.

“Instead of trying out a few shows last year to see if there really was a demand for them, he went into full-scale production. He booked nine comedians to work in three packages, all of which would be doing twelve shows per week for the entire summer of this year… His preparations were highly inadequate.

“We were booked for the Englishman’s shows through a British promoter and the British promoter was superb in every aspect. They were completely open with us, giving us the contact details of the Englishman so we could meet him and judge for ourselves if he was worth dealing with.

“I met him in Leeds, when I arranged for him to come to see me in Harry Hill’s show Sausage Time (which was being recorded for the live DVD).

Harry Hill’s Sausage Time became involved

Harry Hill’s Sausage Time DVD became involved in the saga

“I noticed he didn’t buy one drink, allowing me to buy them all in the pub afterwards or drinking the beers from the rider in the dressing room. I got the feeling he didn’t have any money and that the entire project depended on the shows in Turkey being nearly sold out from the start. But, as I love travel and he paid for my plane ticket out there and arranged for us to be accommodated in a villa with a shared pool, I went out there just in case the project was a success.

“I was with Matt in the first group booked and I went out there anticipating the whole thing might collapse fairly soon, but prepared for it not to.

“The first show we did was in front of tour reps and their managers, for no money. The venue had been refurbished at the expense of the Turkish club owner, but there had been no consultation with anyone who had ever promoted comedy.

“Consequently, lots of money had been spent to build a dedicated comedy room that was totally inappropriate for comedy. The sound desk was in a separate room and had no communication with or view of the comedy room. There was no microphone stand. The sight-lines were appalling. The stage was too high and at the end of a long narrow room.  There were no seat backs on the seats, which had been specially made and installed, even though he expected the shows to last for over two hours.

Dave Thompson - no room for comedy

Dave Thompson – no room for comedy

“The room could have been superb for comedy – if the English guy who initiated all this had bothered to consult someone who had run comedy shows before – or even consulted comedians.

“As a result, the large amount of money spent on the room was totally wasted.

“I don’t normally swear onstage, but the show was such a fiasco – with a few fat, thick tour reps who hadn’t paid to see the show – that I did swear on this occasion.

“After the show, the English promoter was euphoric about it, saying it was going to be a huge success. The next day, though, it turned out the tour rep managers were not keen on the show and I was singled out as having sworn. I was sacked a few days later, having only done one unpaid show.

“As I always knew it was a strong possibility the whole project would collapse, I had continued booking work elsewhere for the summer. So I stayed in a different resort in Turkey for a few days and returned to Britain after having had a pleasant week swimming in the sea and the pool every day.

“But it had become clear while we were out there that the owner of the hotel and nightclub where the performances were happening was connected to the Turkish mafia.

“Mafia is maybe rather an umbrella term. But it was obvious that, in certain ways, they were not concerned about the law or the police. We did not have work permits and we were told that, if the police came to the show to enforce the law, as soon as they saw a certain person who would be in the audience, they would leave without interfering.”

I asked Matt Price yesterday what happened after Dave Thompson left.

Matt Price in London last week

Matt Price, armed, waiting for the Mafia to arrive

“For the five weeks that followed Dave’s departure,” he told me, “things really went downhill. Every day was more and more tense. The Englishman was, shall we say, ‘a fantasist’. He was drink driving every day and there were daily talks of ‘killing Tinky Winky’.

“I took the gigs in good faith thinking that it was the trip of a lifetime – and in so many ways it was, but not the way I expected!

“When I said goodbye to Dave Thompson, I never expected to end up on the last night sleeping in my clothes, holding a kitchen knife and wondering if was capable of killing anyone. Cole Parker and me locked ourselves into a luxury villa with weapons waiting for the Mafia to arrive.”

“Weapons?” I asked Matt. “Was that just the kitchen knife or something more substantial?”

“I would prefer not tell you?” said Matt. “The weapons will be explained in my Fringe show. It’s a huge part of the story, as is our escape.

“I’d like to create as much intrigue as possible really, John. You’d laugh if you heard some of the rumours going around about how we had to be rescued in the middle of the night by helicopter, we stole a car and drove to Istanbul, came home via Europe on the train, the SAS were sent in. The list goes on.

“I’ve had to get my show together at such short notice – one week – I’m hoping the mystery behind the story will get people in. All I want to say is that Chris Dangerfield and I have both been involved with some bad people. I just hope that none of the bad people confuse me for him.”

At this point, obviously, I asked Chris Dangerfield why he had cancelled his Edinburgh shows just one week before the Fringe began.

The logo for Chris Dangerfield’s cancelled show

The logo for Chris Dangerfield’s cancelled show

“Due to the sensitive nature of my situation,” he told me with unusual care, “I have decided to explain the situation myself on a podcast which will be aired this week. I apologise to anyone negatively affected by my cancellation, I wouldn’t have done it if I had any other options. Have a good festival and see you next year!”

“What about your sponsors?” I persisted.

“I’ve already had more press than I had last year,” said Chris, “and last year was a great success in this area. My Edinburgh sponsors this year sorted me out with 100 syringes, 100 x 27 gauge 25mm spikes, 100 2ml bottle ampoules of sterile water and 100 alcohol swabs. They are over the moon because of the coverage I’ve already had.

“They are wonderful people – Exchange Supplies. They were set up by drug workers to improve the harm reduction response to drug use. They developed the nevershare syringe – the world’s first syringe designed specifically for injecting drug users – and they also supply injecting paraphernalia. They are involved in harm reduction on the front line of a society that usually prefers to turn its back on its less palatable creations – usually causing a cultural sciatica we all have the pleasure of feeling.

Chris Dangerfield: addicted to strong stories

Chris Dangerfield not surprisingly gets enquiries daily

“I’m also getting enquiries daily,” he continued. “The British Comedy Guide just contacted me, asking about my cancellation and about hosting a podcast about the announcement. I’ll be using such platforms to raise the entire censorship debate as well as the ugly negative gender politics that seem to be doing their best to strangle the last breath from the weary lung of stand-up.”

I presumed this meant Chris did not want to talk to me about the alleged death threats and why he cancelled the show.

“So where are you going to perform it now, if not at the Fringe?” I asked. “It was a good title: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.

“This show will not be performed now – ever,” said Chris. “Mainly because it didn’t exist in the first place and it seems pointless to bother making the effort now. Much like last year’s show Sex Tourist, I was just going to wing it and cross my fingers.”

That doesn’t quite explain everyone’s reference to death threats and Chris clearly did not want to tell me any more details, but I look forward with interest to the explanatory podcast.

In the meantime, the whole sorry saga does have some good resulting from it.

Matt Price will be performing his show Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, even if I do not approve of the spelling of ‘Program’. And Dave Thompson tells me:

Dave Thompson (centre) the fake vicar

Dave Thompson (centre) was a fake vicar at a real wedding

“Shortly after returning from Turkey, I was offered a role in Harry Hill’s forthcoming feature film and did five days work on it. I have also had a lucky streak of work since, including being a fake vicar at a TV executive’s wedding and I will be relaxing on a beach in Croatia during August, a long way from Edinburgh and the Scottish weather. Be sure to mention I will also be handling the almost overwhelming surge in orders for my book The Sex Life of a Comedian.”

Roll up! Roll up! Promotion! Promotion!

Everyone even remotely connected to the Edinburgh Fringe in August is promoting their product(s).

See you at my chat show.

THERE IS A PROMO FOR MATT’S SHOW ON YOUTUBE:

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Gay love hopes of two Celtic comics dashed at Israeli killer’s comedy gig

Daphna Baram providing killer last night

Daphna Baram – killer comic last night

I went to Miss D’s Silver Hammer last night – the weekly London comedy night run by Israeli comic Daphna Baram who tends to successfully deter any potential hecklers by pointing out in advance that she has diabetes and has been trained to kill by the IDF. Not, as I at first thought, the International Diabetes Federation but the Israeli Defence Forces.

Next Monday, she has an entirely Irish group of comedians performing her day-after-St-Patrick’s-Day show, but she did pretty well on the Celtic line-up last night too.

I was there to see Irish podcast supremo Christian Talbot perform and also because he and Daphna Baram had mightily pushed to me the talents of camp-ish Dubliner Al Porter.

Also performing were two Glaswegians – non-gay Gary Sansome (soon to de-camp to Australia) and extremely talented and gay-in-both-senses-of-the-word Larry Dean.

Al Porter - ooh yes, missus, t’be sure

Al Porter last night, ooh missus, t’be sure

Al Porter was, indeed, as good as Christian and Daphna had told me. Both reckon he will become very successful very soon and he well might do, though one can never tell.

Talent is usually never enough but sure Al has the gift of rapid patter in depth, great audience controlling charm and very good clothes sense (never something to underestimate with this sort of act).

He claimed on-stage that the only reason he had accepted the gig was to meet the afore-mentioned gay Glaswegian Larry Dean who tragically, between booking and performance, had become tied-up in a monogamous relationship, thus scuppering Al’s cherished hopes.

In other circumstances, I might have thought this was part of the act.

Sadly, I fear the wreckage of Al’s shattered dreams may have been a reality.

I had been told there was an element of Frankie Howerd in Al’s act. I could see very faint traces, but only because the idea had been planted in my mind. The delivery was so fast, so smooth and so overwhelming that the act was nothing like the blessed Frankie.

Oddly, what last night reminded me of was seeing an early-ish stage performance by Steve Coogan at Manchester University Students’ Union in what, I guess, must have been 1992.

There was something about the self-confidence of the delivery and movements, something about the sharpness of the costume and something of the ambitiousness behind the eyes which reminded me of that 1992 Steve Coogan both on and off stage.

Christian and Daphna may be right.

Al Porter may well be very successful very fast.

But, as I say, you can never tell.

Sometimes talent – and even sharp, driving ambition – are not enough.

On the other hand, if I were being superficial – “perish the thought” as my dead father used to say (before his death) – a flamboyantly gay, brightly dressed, highly-self-confident Irish comedian with strong audience empathy is a good starting point and a good selling point for English and American audiences.

I expect to see him on the David Letterman show within five years.

Or maybe Al will have his own chat show in Ireland or the UK.

But my comic expectations are often dashed.

And, as I oft quote: Nobody Knows Anything (Saying © William Goldman, 1983)

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Irish comedy podcaster Christian Talbot laments the state of current British TV

Christian Talbot

Christian Talbot does not take his clothes off

Yesterday afternoon, I was interviewed at the King’s Head in Crouch End, London, by Irish comedian Christian Talbot for his weekly podcast Seven 2 Ten.

It should appear online in two or three weeks.

Comedian Daphna Baram was sitting in on the conversation.

As I was recording Christian recording me – just in case there was a blog in it somewhere – I managed to ask him a few questions.

“You said you didn’t think your act was bizarre enough for Bob Slayer to book you at The Hive during the Edinburgh Fringe last year,” I said. “Why?”

“I don’t take my clothes off,” Christian laughed.

“So how would you describe your act?”

“Cheerily grumpy,” suggested Daphna Baram.

“Grumpy, introspective, confessional,” suggested Christian.

“Why do your podcast?” I asked.

“It’s a blatant rip-off of Marc Maron’s WTF in America,” replied Christian.

“So,” I started to say, “you’re doing it to be famous…”

Christian Talbot at the King’s Head yesterday (Photograph by Daphna Baram)

Christian recorded his podcast in London yesterday (Photograph by Daphna Baram)

“No, no,” interrupted Christian. “Not at all. I just thought I’d like to hear a version of WTF for Irish comedians, because I’m interested in comedy. I’m like yourself, John. I’m really interested in comedy and I’m really interested in comedians. How they tick and how they go about the process of writing, performing. The different personalities. I’m just a big fan. I enjoy talking to the guys who’re just starting out doing open mic spots, talking to seasoned guys who’ve been doing it for years, the promoters, the writers. I get a huge amount of personal enjoyment out of it.”

“Is it going to get you anywhere?” I asked.

“No. I wouldn’t imagine it will.”

“You seem fairly sane,” I told Christian. “This is not good news for a comedian.”

“I’m quite sane, but I’m quite…A lot of comedians are quite sane.”

I raised an eyebrow as far as I could. You will not hear it on the podcast.

And, after the podcast was recorded, Christian and I had another chat.

“People like Dara Ó Briain,” I said to him, “had to come over here to England to succeed in Britain. They couldn’t stay living in Ireland and do it.”

“You have to travel,” Christian agreed. “There’s Dylan Moran, Dara Ó Briain… and now Jason Byrne is starting to make inroads over here. No, I don’t think you can make it big over here without being over here.”

“So you’re going to have to move,” I suggested.

“Well,” Christian mused, “it depends what your ambitions are. I don’t know if my ambitions stretch that far. I like coming over here and doing gigs, maybe getting a little bit of recognition. But I’m 40, I’ve got a wife, a 10-year-old daughter. Unless something amazing was going to happen… and, realistically, the chances of that happening are very very slim at this stage…”

“When did you start performing comedy?” I asked.

“About two and a half years ago,” Christian told me. “I’ve always been a comedy fan. I really don’t understand why I didn’t do it sooner. I should have. It’s always been in the back of my mind that I’d like to.”

“And the trigger was…?” I asked.

“I think it was the late 2000s,” said Christian. “I looked around and saw what was on the TV – and there were comedians that I liked – but you looked at some and thought How has this guy got on the TV? I can be funnier than that.

“The public seemed to want really very bland stuff then… and maybe now.

“My first comedy stand-up heroes had been people like Billy Connolly and Ben Elton – I thought Ben Elton was wonderful on Saturday Live and Friday Night Live – Fry & Laurie, Jo Brand… I don’t think you could have called any of them bland.

“I mean, Julian Clary – how could you have Julian Clary on TV now doing what he was doing then. There’s no place for him to do that. Or even Harry Enfield doing Loadsamoney or Stavros. They simply would not put him on television now.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I think people are much too afraid of… Everything now is being scrutinised for being sexist, racist, homophobic… And, don’t get me wrong, I would be fervently anti-racist, anti-homophobic and anti-sexist too… But they want to put on television only those shows which will appeal to the most amount of people, which is not necessarily a good thing.

“Their thinking is Now we’re going to cater for the audience rather than Hey, let’s do this and, you never know, this might become their new favourite thing.

“I think if I was a teenager now, looking at what’s out there, I don’t think I would have a favourite comedian. I don’t think there would be anybody out there that really, truly excites me on the television. I think they’re OK. I’d go Yes, he’s on the TV, he’s famous, he must be quite good but there would be nobody out there that would have me going Wow! I want to BE him!

“There are comedy shows on BBC3 which don’t have to get big ratings,” I suggested.

“There is some good stuff,” admitted Christian. “Live at the Electric is good. People like Nick Helm. OK, OK, I’ve just gone against my argument. People like Doktor Cocacolamcdonalds and Nick Helm. Russell Kane’s alright.

“But just think how hugely influential things like Saturday Live and The Comic Strip were on a whole generation of people. Not only did they inform your comedic sensibilities but also politically and socially as well. Those were comedians who were saying things about politics, particularly Ben Elton, but even Fry & Laurie. Even if it was subtle, there was a message there. There was a social message there. They got involved in things like Comic Relief and Live Aid.

“Even though programme like Friday Night Live didn’t get huge ratings, the people it got to were teenagers and young people and the influence they had was huge and immeasurable and I think we’re still getting the repercussions.

“But we don’t have anything like that in comedy at the moment. There’s nobody sticking their head above the parapet.”

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Ireland, Television