Tag Archives: Electric Eel Shock

Comedy genes in one Irish family?

Kate Talbot with her 2014 Cunning Stunt Award

Kate Talbot with 2014 Cunning Stunt Award

A month ago, I blogged about Irish comic Christian Talbot and his now 13-year-old daughter Kate who jointly won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award last year and who are both performing at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. Christian is currently doing previews.

“How’s your daughter?” I asked him.

“She’s now booked in for I think it’s two – might be three – dates for Comedy4Kids and Bob Slayer sent me a message:

Hey! The good show you talked about on Fleming’s blog – Let’s do it on the bus! We have Grace the child (11) and Robin (3) who are both performing on the bus.

Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus

Bob Slayer BlundaBus currently in Croydon; soon Edinburgh

Bob Slayer has a double decker bus – the BlundaBus – as one of his Edinburgh Fringe venues this year.

“I sent him dates when Kate was over,” Christian told me, “but then he didn’t reply. I think he’s got caught up touring with Electric Eel Shock (Bob’s Japanese rock band) and then with the BlundaBus. I must email him again and refresh his memory.”

“So are you encouraging Kate to be a comedian?” I asked.

“I don’t really want my daughter to be a comedian though, if she’s good, I’ll happily take the money. She’s interested in doing it and, if she wants to do it, then… It just really depends on whether she enjoys it. We’ll just have to see.

“She can write phenomenally well. Her teachers are just blown away by her writing. The only trouble is she gets distracted by doing that to the detriment of anything else – her maths, her languages and the other stuff. She just wants to read books and write stories. She did this thing for school where she had to describe what it was like to be a cliff.”

Kate and Christian Talbot

Christian Talbot – not an éminence grise, just a proud dad

“A what?” I asked.

“A cliff. And she was talking about the weeds coming up out of it, like the dead fingers of sailors who had crashed against the rocks. I’m very proud of her. And some of her stuff’s quite dark.”

“Got her parents’ genes, then?” I asked.

“Gayle and myself went to Queen’s (University, Belfast) and we were the only two people to do the same degree. We both did English and Anthropology – social anthropology. Kind of learning about cultures. But I started off doing chemistry and physics and computer science and then I changed because I didn’t like it. I was good at chemistry; I just didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life.”

I told Christian: “I think my chemistry master emigrated to New Zealand because he couldn’t face teaching me any more. I always came last – except once when I came next-to-last in the class – and he wrote on my report: A fair try. He emigrated shortly afterwards. He probably thought his teaching career had peaked.”

“I remember,” said Christian, “going to the Head of Chemistry at university when I finished my first lot of exams and asked: Is this what it’s going to be like? Just doing titrations and bunsen burners and beakers and working in a lab? And he said: Yup, pretty much, unless you’re very lucky and you get into petrochemicals and work for somebody like Exxon or Esso or BP or Shell. That didn’t really appeal to me, so I changed courses.”

“Has your wife Gayle got any performance genes?” I asked.

Gayle Hayes with Christian Talbot

Gayle Hayes with Christian Talbot – a showbiz couple or not?

“She did stand-up a couple of weeks ago in Belfast. She did a course on stand-up with a load of other new people and wrote a thing but she had no interest, really, in performing it. She enjoyed the writing and the creating part of it. So she got up and read it off the sheet. Her heart wasn’t really in it and I asked her: Do you want to do it again? She said: No. She just doesn’t have that need – that void – that comedians have… I have to get up and say something!

“Gayle doesn’t admire it particularly. She just thinks there’s something lacking in people who want to get up and show off and talk about themselves. She’s right, of course!”

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Filed under Comedy, Family, Ireland

Comedian and self-promoter Bob Slayer – Talking Cock and Sex With Children at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe

A ‘selfie’ taken by Bob Slayer at the Soho Theatre

A ‘selfie’ by Bob Slayer at the Soho Theatre

Comedian/manager/promoter/former rock band manager Bob Slayer has his fingers in many artistic pies. I was going to say he has his fingers in many artists, but Bob thought this might be mis-read in 20 years time and he might get a knock on the door from the police.

At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, he is going to be running two venues: The Hive and his Bookshop (co-hosting it with Miss Behave in a different location from last year).

So, we were sitting in the bar of the Soho Theatre in London…

“In Scotland,” he told me, “this year is all about 2014: The Year of Independence. Last year, it was all about women at the Fringe. This year the Fringe is going to be all about the independent promoter, the independent artist – The Year of Independents at the Fringe.”

There was much more in this vein and about 10 minutes of ranting about the big Fringe venues from which I will save you, dear reader. I kept trying to get him to tell me eccentric anecdotes about his interesting travels. He kept trying to get me to print a long list of the shows on at his Edinburgh venues.

Eventually, I got him round to his recent visit to Japan for a friend’s wedding. He used to manage the Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock.

Bob Slayer managed Electric Eel Shock

Electric Eel Shock managed by Bob Slayer

“I’d been to Japan a bunch of times with Electric Eel Shock,” he told me, “but this was the first time I could go just for fun. And I met up with all the members of Electric Eel Shock and I’ve booked a tour for them, which is the first time I’ve done anything with them for a while. They start in Holland at the end of this month. Then London on 2nd May.

“I pretty much worked on Electric Eel Shock 24/7 for about six years. We were doing 250-300 shows a year round the world.”

“Hellfire,” I said. “That’s a lot.”

“Yeah,” said Bob. “When newspapers interviewed them, the Number One question was How do you cope with all the touring? and their answer was: That’s what we do. We cope by being absolutely ecstatic that we’re doing what we want to do. “

“300 shows a year is still going it some,” I said.

“But,” Bob pointed out, “if you look at the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s British Music Hall scene, some acts might do 500 or 600 shows a year, because they would have matinée and evening performances… You know, don’t you, that I was the first Westerner to be Karaoke Champion of Japan?”

“Is this true?” I asked.

“Of course it is,” said Bob. “Google it. It’s on a lot of websites.”

“Yes,” I said. “But I know the Wigan Evening Post and the Chortle comedy news website printed that you’re the great-nephew of George Formby.”

“Yes. It’s all true. The thing about the Big Four at the Fringe…” he started to say.

“Have you got Chris Dangerfield at the Hive during the Fringe?” I asked, trying to veer him away from The Big Four.

“Yes,” said Bob. “And the Big Four venues would never…”

Chris Dangerfield photographed in Thailand last month

Chris Dangerfield in Thailand last month

“Are you certain you have Chris Dangerfield?” I asked.

“Well,” said Bob, “you know what his show’s about…”

“His show is OK,” I said, “It’s just a case of will he be physically capable of doing it?”

“Did you say his show’s OK??” Bob almost spluttered. “What? Sex With Children is OK?”

“He might still be in a brothel in Thailand come August,” I said. “That might be a logistical problem.”

“Oh yeah yeah yeah,” agreed Bob. “But some people might think it’s a plus he might not make it to Edinburgh with a show title like that.”

“As far as I’m aware,” I said, “it’s about his own abuse as a child.”

“Yes, you asked him the question I never actually asked him,” said Bob. “He told me Right, the title is Sex With Children and I just went Erm…Right… OK and I thought Right, I’m not going to do him the dis-service of asking him if this is the right direction…”

“…for his career?” I asked.

“No, not for his career,” explained Bob. “I didn’t want to ask Are you the perpetrator or the victim? … I didn’t exactly want to HOPE he was the victim, but then I really really didn’t want to hope he was the perpetrator.”

“I almost fear what he’s going to say on stage on the first night of the show,” I said.

“There is an element of…” said Bob. “He came to me with that title… and I thought…”

“As a venue owner,” I suggested, “you can’t really say No to a title like that.”

“Well,” Bob replied, “you could if you thought it was going to be horrible bit of hate speech or… I would not not book it on the grounds that I wouldn’t like it myself; and I wouldn’t not book it on the grounds I don’t think that should be a title. Though people WILL say: That shouldn’t be a title! But he has got a responsibility in what he does with the creative freedom. And I trust him to use that responsibility well.”

Chris Dangerfield’s 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show

Chris Dangerfield’s threatened 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show

“You are a foolish person,” I said.

“I am possibly very foolish,” said Bob.

“The Fringe have not batted an eyelid about printing the title?” I asked.

“No,” said Bob. “I think it’s a very valid subject.”

“There’s nothing objectionable as such in the title,” I said. “It could be a show about the history of sex education in schools.”

“Also the Fringe,” said Bob, “in the last couple of years has been a bit battered by being stupid. I mean, insisting on putting an exclamation mark in PR!CK instead of an ‘I’ or putting an asterisk in Richard Herring’s TALKING C*CK.”

“Especially as they had printed TALKING COCK in a previous year,” I said, “and the actual phrase itself doesn’t have a sexual origin.”

“At the end of the day,” said Bob, “the Fringe are a conservative body. They like to think they’re all liberal thinkers, but there’s a clash between doing artistic things and getting sponsors. They’re not creatively free. It’s like the Big Four, who…”

At this point, we were mercifully interrupted by a man who is going to walk to the Edinburgh Fringe from London but who has not yet planned his route.

There is a 13 second video of Chris Dangerfield on YouTube.

… and also on YouTube there is a 4’18” video of Electric Eel Shock singing My Favourite No 9.

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Comedy’s future in London and what is happening in Canada, Japan and Kenya

PTOO last night - Zuma Puma as ‘The Colonel’

PTOO last night – Zuma Puma as ‘The Colonel’

Last night, I got three interesting e-mails and saw the best potential TV series not yet on TV – Vivienne & Martin Soan’s monthly live comedy show Pull The Other One in South East London.

The PTOO format is bizarre acts plus one token stand-up comedian, which I think might be the next step in the future of comedy in the UK.

Call me obsessed but, with the apparent decline of straight comedy clubs and the rise of the Cabaret Section at the Edinburgh Fringe, something feels likely to change.

Lindsay Sharman compered last night

Lindsay Sharman did it by the book last night

Last night at PTOO, the ever-TV-friendly-faced Lindsay Sharman hosted Cheekykita, who harassed the audience in a crash-helmet, then turned into a black hole… wonderfully acerbic (OK – viciously bitter) musical comedian Kate Lucas (who, last month, was crowned Mercury Comedian of the Year at the Leicester Comedy Festival)… the always wonderfully intense Zuma Puma aka Nelly Scott as a wildly OTT Russian colonel… the Greatest Show on Legs with Martin Soan as a psychotic gay sergeant major… Simon Munnery being superbly funny as the token stand-up (You know, when Simon Munnery is the token normal comedian, everything else has to be SERIOUSLY weird!)… and Darren Walsh being extraordinarily punny (last month he won the first UK Pun Championhips) with lots of surreal visual and audio gags meaning he kept well to the bizarre variety act side of normal stand-up.

Peter Morey drawing as Simon Munnery performed

Peter Morey drew; Simon Munnery performed

While all this went on, artist Peter Morey was drawing his live visual interpretation of the show on the door of the venue as he listened to the acts perform.

The audience included Comedy Store improviser Stephen Frost and new comedy entrepreneur and showman Adam Taffler.

For once in my life, I felt trendy.

Then I went home.

I have no idea who this man is

This man is in Vancouver. I do not know him.

There was an unexplained e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She is currently working in a bookshop in Vancouver. There was no text in the e-mail, just an attached picture. The e-mail was titled Finns and Doukabors have visited the shop. I have no idea what this means.

According to Wikipedia, the Doukabors were a Russian religious sect who emigrated to Canada in the 19th century to escape persecution by the Tsarist authorities. And, according to the 2001 census, over 131,040 Canadians claim Finnish ancestry.

I have no idea what relevance either of these facts may or may not actually have to anything else.

Then I opened an e-mail from British comedian Bob Slayer who, among many other things, used to be a horse jockey (unlikely but true) and managed Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock (who are descending on Britain next month).

They provided some of the music for the movie Killer Bitch, in which one of them got killed by having a fish rammed down his throat. One of the movie’s online samplers uses their music. (Do not view this adult material if you can ever be offended by anything and – really – NB do not buy from the website named at the end, only from reputable retailers.)

A week ago, Bob Slayer flew to Japan. I had no idea why. Last night’s e-mail explained:

The reason why we are here is our friends Kaori and Jamie are getting married. Kaori was in a London-based Japanese two-piece band called Yumi Yumi. They both helped me out lots in the early days of managing Electric Eel Shock. After that band, Kaori joined Mercury Award nominated The Go Team as guitarist, keyboardist and occasional vocalist. Jamie was the bass player.

DAY 1 – We arrive in Kumamoto after 24 hours travelling. We took a flight from London to Tokyo then several bullet trains. Some of them were even the right ones. The highlight of the wedding food is a plate of raw horse meat, a local delicacy. I will never watch the Grand National in the same way again.

Day 3 – Where did day 2 disappear? A booze and a jetlag fug?

Day 5 – Today we are in Settsu-shi, near Osaka, at the house of Aki Morimoto otherwise known as front man of Electric Eel Shock. He has produced a little boy since I saw him last and Taira (3 years old) and I bond over sword fighting and cartoons of Anpanman, Japan’s most popular anime for kids, where all the characters have heads made out of different flavoured breads. I also build a 7 foot Lego tower.

Day 6 – Osaka’s speciality food is takoyaki and okonimaki – octopus batter balls and a savoury pancake made with chopped cabbage. Both are covered in mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. It seems that, although Japan spent a lot of its history closed off from the outside world, some imports had a big influence 150 years ago. Barbershop poles are red and white and the Japanese word for suit is ‘Savillrow’.

After this, I opened an e-mail from comedy critic Kate Copstick, currently in Kenya. She told me:

Hoping to be boarding a plane to Britain this time next week, barring any intervening ghastliness.

I am on one crutch and reasonably mobile.

All in all it could be worse.

I think – unusually – she may be under-stating the case.

But that is another story.

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

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

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

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

BEFORE...

BEFORE…

AFTER...

AFTER…

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

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

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

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

Happy Drunk illustration by comedian Rich Rose

One Happy Drunk illustration by Rich Rose

And that’s not all.

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

“Rich is a brilliant illustrator,” said Bob.

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

The Happy Drunk,” confirmed Bob.

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

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

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

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

HappyDrunk

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

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

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

“Are drunks happy?” I asked.

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

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

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

Bob Slayer - too hot to handle in Australia

Turning a tour into a book is complicated

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

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

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

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

Bob Slayer: no entry for the easily offended

Comedian; promoter; licensed venue manager; looney?

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

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

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

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

“And then?” I asked.

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

What???

Bob Slayer “trying to be quiet”?

This does not compute.

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Filed under Books, Children, Christmas, Comedy, Drink

Comic capers and calamities on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Eric with “Tales of the Sea” - and now Adelaide

Two days ago, I got an e-mail from Bob Slayer – the day before his comedy show opened at the Adelaide Fringe:

__________

I am in Adelaide stopping at the house of a man called Matthew who I met on couchsurfing.org.

I have stopped at many random people’s homes in my life but never one I met through an online service that did not involve the prospect of sex. I once topped-and-tailed with singer-songwriter Beth Ditto – the big girl in The Gossip – in Portland, Oregon, when they supported Japanese band Electric Eel Shock, which I was managing. Did I tell you this recently? I also have an early demo I was sent by a band called the Arctic Monkeys who were, at the time, looking for a manager… Anyway I digress…

Matthew seems cool. He took me straight to the bottle shop and we bought beers. Jimbo came around to introduce Gary the Goat.

Oh! How I have missed Gary the Goat in the last few days!

Jimbo and he stayed in Port Kenny on the Eyre Peninsula with a girl while I went to visit an old tour manager friend of mine in McLaren Vale and ended up shoveling grapes and making wine for a couple of days. They paid me in my weight in wine.

I have lots of new things to talk about in tomorrow’s gigs like killing and eating the Australian national emblem but I might also pop into the hospital and see if I can visit strangers just to add their story to the mix.

__________

I got that e-mail from Bob two days ago. Then, yesterday, I received this e-mail from comedian Eric about his (Eric’s) show on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe.

__________

As last year, I am doing my show at the Tuxedo Cat venue. Last year it was ‘Adelaide Fringe venue of the year’. It is run by super cool Cass & Bryan who, every year, take over a derelict building and make it into something wonderful.

As with all refurbishment projects, it takes time to complete and, as Bryan & Cass are presented with just a shell every year, the build is coming from a long way back. Time is the old enemy and, when I ask about doing a technical rehearsal on the day of my first show, I am somewhat taken aback to be told that my room has not been built yet – but a blitz is about to take place that will turn three walls and a pile of old pallets into a performance space in time for my first show at 6.00pm.

I discover that there is no projector either. Last year I borrowed Dan Willis’ projector, so I drop him a quick text. He tells he now lives in Melbourne but has left his magic lantern with a mutual friend who lives in Adelaide. Our mutual friend Alex is at work and cannot leave. I go to his place of work (30 minute drive), pick up his keys, drive to his house (20 minute drive) pick up the projector, drive back to my house (20 minute drive) pick up my family (wife Helen and baby ‘Little E’), drive back to his place of work (30 minute drive) drop his keys back to him, then drive to the venue (30 minute drive).

I eventually emerge triumphant with projector and family at the venue. We park outside and unload everything we need for the show, which now includes pram, change bag, bottles and assorted toys.

I discover that the Blue Room where I am due to perform in an hour’s time is nowhere near ready and my heart sinks. Fifty minutes later, little has changed. There is no lighting, no sound, we have done no tech rehearsal at all. There seems little or no prospect of putting on a show. And the room is now filling with punters clutching their tickets.

I inform them that the room is not ready and invite them to return to the bar. No sooner have these people vacated than another wave of punters arrive. I give these people the same advice and, as the third wave arrive, I decide this is hopeless and locate the ushers and tell them the room is not ready and ask them to hold the audience in the bar until we are ready. I obtain the customary Australian “No worries, mate” response, return to the room and do what I can.

Five minutes later, there appears to have been a shift change with the ushers as the room again starts to fill with punters.

We finally kick off nearly half an hour late. I ask if any of the audience need to be anywhere before 7:30 and offer anyone who does their money back – No-one moves and we crack on with the show.

Ten minutes into the show, we lose all power. The light that we belatedly got onto the stage extinguishes. The projector’s whirring fan falls eerily silent and we lose both sound and picture, like a faulty TV.

Then the audience, who have been so tolerant up to now, really come into their own. Many of them take out their mobile phones and light the room up with their screens. It is a joy to behold… almost literally ‘people power’.

As we have gone completely off-piste and are unable to continue with the show, we just spend the next ten minutes chatting. Cass dashes about in the shadows trying to fix the problem which, as expected, she does and we finally get on with the show – a show that, to be fair, I have actually enjoyed… And so, it seems, have the audience. Much of the credit must go to them. I resolve to have all of them come to all of my gigs.

Comic Juliet Meyers is doing the show following mine and she is none too pleased that she is starting over half an hour late (and to be honest neither am I). I tell her the only upside is that she now gets to see me change out of my seafaring show garb and into my civvies.

As I drop my trousers, she tells me that my buttocks are “surprisingly pert”. I am not entirely sure how I should take this information but eventually conclude that the only explanation is that Ms Meyers has been imagining my buttocks for some time and now – faced with the actuality of my derrière – has found them to be more pert than she had imagined…

I then go off to find the family.

As usual, Little E is found feeding on her mum and, after I get myself and Helen some of the fabulous Vietnamese salad with dumplings from the food counter, we sit and eat in quiet contemplation, until a queue unexpectedly forms beside us.

Unbeknown to us, the ‘quiet’ corner that Helen had positioned herself in to feed Little E was in fact right next to the entrance to the Yellow Room venue and, for the next five minutes, we become a living exhibit entitled ‘Feeding the Family’ for the entertainment of the waiting crowd….

I then dash across to the Austral venue to perform in Nik Coppin’s show Shaggers.

On arrival, I see Bob Slayer making his way from the bar with four jugs of beer, two in each hand.

“Oh” I innocently think, “He is getting a big round in… He must be with a large group of people.”

Then I see him go and sit at a table alone and conclude he must actually be continuing his mission to outdrink Australia and, having done battle with Perth, it is now Adelaide’s turn…

The crowd at Shaggers are also lovely and everyone has a lovely time talking filth with them.

I am second on and, as I finish my stint onstage, I get a text to say Little E has finally fallen asleep and Helen has come to the venue collect me but there is a fight in progress outside the Austral and she is sheltering around the corner.

With the time approaching midnight and the car park I abandoned our car in closing at midnight, I have no choice but to brave the crowd and the fight and collect my girls. We all go home, having had one very long day.

__________

…That was a heavily shortened version of what happened in Eric’s hectic day. And that was only Day One of the Adelaide Fringe.

I feel we may hear more anarchic tales from Down Under.

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It’s the $1 million day Comedy experienced its Radiohead moment

(This was also published in the Huffington Post)

Yesterday was a special day. Not because it was Christmas Eve, but because I had a cup of tea with jockey-turned-rock manager-turned-comedian Bob Slayer.

Any day when Bob Slayer has a cup of tea instead of 15 pints of beer is a special day.

The American comedian Louis CK had reportedly just made over a million dollars from his concert video. He did not release as a DVD through the normal channels. Instead, he released it by himself as a download. The result?

Over $1 million of income from $5 downloads in 12 days.

He bypassed the big DVD distributors, wholesalers and retailers and sold direct to his audience via the internet.

It cost him $250,000 to record the show, set up the website and pay banking fees to handle the transactions. But he grossed over $1 million in 12 days.

“It’s the day Comedy experienced its Radiohead Moment,” Bob Slayer said to me.

“Are you sure you haven’t had a few pints?” I asked.

“It’s a great headline, though, isn’t it?” he laughed.

Bob knows the independent music scene. From 2003 to 2009, he was full-time manager of Japanese rock band Electric Eel Shock, whom he constantly calls “EES” – I think because it is difficult to pronounce “Electric Eel Shock” after downing 15 pints of beer.

When they had been in previous bands, the members of Electric Eel Shock had released tracks and albums on major labels in Japan and not enjoyed the experience. Hardened by this, they became fiercely independent and – who knows why? – they let Bob Slayer manage them. Strangely, they got on well with the anarchic yet experienced Bob and his sometimes unconventional, often lateral-thinking ideas.

“In a way,” says Bob. “I was lucky. They were – and still are – an amazing live band. So good that, over several years, I toured them in over 30 countries around the world and they are still conquering new countries all the time.”

One of Bob’s bright entrepreneurial ideas was to sell one hundred fans “EES guest list for life” passes at £100 each. This created £10,000 in cash and helped the band get out of a label deal with a man called Eric. They then went for another of Bob’s bright ideas – to finance their recordings by asking fans to buy the albums in advance – before they had recorded them.

“They raised over $50,000 to record their last album,” Bob tells me. “We used to rub shoulders with other bands following similar DIY routes but we all knew that we were on the fringes of the music industry. We were looked down on a little.

“But then, in 2006, DIY went almost mainstream. Lilly Allen and the Arctic Monkeys were marketed as coming from an independent/MySpace scene… although the irony was that major labels spent millions of pounds telling us just how independent these act were.

“That was like a phony start, but it showed the promise…

“Then, in 2007, it all changed for real. Radiohead got out of their contract with EMI and released In Rainbows as a digital download. They asked their fans to pay whatever they liked for it – it is like the Free Fringe and Free Festival shows in Edinburgh, where punters pay what they like on the way out.

“The band were selling direct to their audience and cutting out the middle men. Not only did they get the cash, just as Louis CK has done, but they overnight created a huge database of fan contacts.

“Radiohead proved that ‘Independent’ could be done on a grand scale and, since then, huge parts of the music industry have turned themselves inside-out. Artists are much more central to the whole process and music is all the more healthy for it.

“My pal, who ‘found’ The Darkness and got them picked up by Warners after selling-out the Astoria as an unsigned band, did something similar but vitally different with a band called Enter Shikari a couple of years later… They sold out the Astoria (just before it was pulled down), they milked the press coverage by turning down the major labels’ offers and then they released the album themselves.

“OK, so they only sold half a million records compared to the Darkness’ five million, but they made up to £5 per CD as opposed to less than £1 and importantly – although you haven’t heard of them – they still have a huge hardcore audience several albums later.

“The comedy business has always trailed behind the music business a bit. Alternative comedy arrived maybe five years after punk had imploded.

“Here we are in 2011. Bo Burnham in 2010 could be seen as the Arctic Monkeys of comedy. And Louis CK could be seen as the equivalent of Radiohead.”

I have been thinking of releasing a couple of books as downloads – one of them comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

It would avoid the publishers, wholesalers and retailers and the royalties would be around 80% instead of 7.5%.

So Bob’s enthusiasm for a new method of selling music and comedy recordings to the public interests me.

“So what happens next?” I asked him.

“Well, with any luck,” he told me, “we have an independent comedy revolution and it gets a lot more interesting again… I think I fancy a beer…”

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The music business is evil; the comedy business is double evil

Doyenne of Edinburgh Fringe comedy critics Kate Copstick has an interesting piece published in Scotland on Sunday today in which she says:

“What is that sound you hear? Ah yes, it is the Spirit of the Fringe being throttled by Big Business. Not a nice sound.”

When Copstick presented the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards on Saturday night, she attacked the large comedy promoters and four ladies who may or may not have been from one of those large promoters (the one Copstick had just named a few seconds before) walked out.

There has been a lot of talk this year, as in many recent years, of the Fringe being destroyed because comedy has become Big Business. But, this year, it seems to have had more urgency. People are openly talking of alternatives, while the two young whippersnapper alternatives to the big paid venues – the Free Fringe and the Free Festival – seem to gain in strength each year. Why, there is even now an established alternative to the large corporate-sponsored comedy awards!

Comic, promoter and Malcolm Hardee Award nominee Bob Slayer, who performs as part of the Free Festival, tells me he was inspired to become part of the comedy business when he read Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. I think what may have attracted him was another excuse for excess.

At the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on Saturday, his trouserless crowd-surf and unexpected contribution to Puppetry of the Penis’s ‘hamburger’ routine was not out of character.

For ten years before comedy, Bob was in the music business under various guises, latterly managing Japanese band Electric Eel Shock. They and he appeared in the movie Killer Bitch, which may or may not be categorised as comedy, depending on the extent of your taste for oddity.

But Bob’s straddling of the music and comedy business – he likes a bit of a straddle, does Bob – has given him an interesting insight into the way the comedy industry functions in the UK and particularly in Edinburgh:

“The music industry, we all know,” he told me yesterday, “is evil, evil, evil.”

“What the music industry does is sign a band who sell loads of records and then the industry cleverly accounts so the band gets none of it. They steal your money, but at least they help you make it first; they steal money they have helped to create. Whereas the comedy industry dips directly into your pocket before you have done anything. The comedy industry is double evil.

“They have the same horrible accounting ways as the music industry. But the difference is that at least the music industry make the money before they steal it, whereas the comedy industry and in particular the Edinburgh Fringe industry – and it is an industry – steals it before the performer even makes it and there’s no guarantee you’ll make it back.

“They call themselves promoters but they’re not. They rent rooms. They’re rack-rent landlords. They rent their rooms by the hour and the minimum to get an hour in one of those rooms is £100… ten shows in a day and that’s £1,000 a day and that’s a minimum for a small broom cupboard and then that money is spent on propping up an unnecessary PR, propping up unnecessary posters. All of the Edinburgh Fringe is paid for by the performers.

“I think it’s institutionally evil. The individual people doing it believe Oh, we’re doing the right thing. They’re able to justify it to themselves because nobody’s making absolute masses of money. But they are taking money from people before the money is made.

“Comedy lags behind music. You had punk in 1978 and you had alternative comedy in 1981/1982… I spent the last ten years watching the music industry change because artists realised Whoa! We’re being treated really badly! We’re propping this up but we’re being ripped off.

“The music industry has turned itself inside out… Universal, Sony, BMG still exist but they’re more in service to the artists who say No. We want a better deal. You’ve had it really good for a long while but been really inefficient.

“The music industry used to sign ten acts, throw money at the wall and one of the bands might work. The comedy industry model is Let’s have ten acts give us all their money up front, then we’ll throw their money at the wall and one of them might work.

“Comedians are accepting this. What dickheads we all are!

“Music is evil but comedy is double evil.”

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