Tag Archives: Ellis

Changing worlds: Drugs confusion in Canada. Amazing gay night in London.

Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

Anna Smith, woman with her finger on pulse of Vancouver

Two days ago, I got a message from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who lives on a river in Vancouver. The message said:

Having an oil spill in Vancouver right now!

Everybody here is furious about it. The oil is on the beaches. I am too disgusted to even look at it. It hasn’t arrived in the river yet but it will. Vancouver likes to call itself The World’s Greenest City. Now there is an oil spill in our water. We are dirtier than we think.

In New Westminster, the movies have been replaced by strippers. Cinemas that once screened Cleopatra and Cecil B. DeMille movies have been supplanted by 2 FOR 1 DANCES SUNDAY ALL NIGHT.

Anna also sent me a photo of what she described as “a bear dressed as a rabbit standing very close to a chicken laying marijuana eggs across the street from a 24 hour drugstore, which is not to be confused with the ubiquitous weed dispensaries which have been popping up like mushrooms all over town,” and added:

Bear dressed as rabbit standing by a chicken laying marijuana eggs

Bear dressed as rabbit standing by a chicken laying some marijuana eggs

There are now at least eighty storefront dope dispensaries in Vancouver and new ones are opening every week. None of them have business licences because the city council can’t make up their minds what to license them as.

The laws about dope are so complicated that most people are totally confused and have to smoke a joint to relax and get over the confusion. Different provinces deal with it differently. I think the Federal government has tried to keep it illegal but grows it for people who require it during chemotherapy. This is known as chemo weed.

A pizzeria in Vancouver is now serving slices with marijuana in them for $10 extra – provided you are over 18 and have been prescribed marijuana by a doctor.

A former British Columbia Solicitor General has predicted that Canada will make marijuana totally legal within five years.

And 24 Hours has a picture of a pregnant woman smoking a joint with the headline: Is Pot Safe For Pregnant Women? The article inside says that pot advocates claim it helps reduce nausea and morning sickness.

Neon marijuana leaf advertising a " clinic " on Granville Street

Neon marijuana leaf advertising a ‘clinic’ on Granville St, Vancouver

This morning on the radio I heard a man saying that women should be put on a pedestal because they have to endure things such as childbirth and morning sickness and I thought WHAT? The worst morning sickness experience I ever had was having to throw up out of the window of a bus.

Nauseating, yes. But it’s not as if morning sickness is an actual illness. It’s not a reason to take drugs when pregnant.

There will be more weed news from here on the 20th of this month when the pot heads have a huge festival at the art gallery and there will be a plaza of official booths where helpful young people selling it will suggest which strain is most suitable for you.

Gareth (left in sunglasses) outside shop with tourist & confectionary materials and Thai Sauna

Ellis (left in sunglasses) outside shop mixing tourist and confectionary merchandise and a Thai massage

Meanwhile, back in London, I met comedy performer and stuntmeister

Ellis at Soho Theatre for a blog about a stunt which I posted two days ago. As we walked along Oxford Street towards Tottenham Court Road station, two new confectionary shops appeared to have opened up, both offering massage parlours in their basements. This seems a new development in retail on Oxford Street.

Also, in England this week, I was sent the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series of communiqués from this blog’s new South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith. (No relation to Anna Smith). She too had paid a visit to Soho in London:

Sandy Mac - So It Goes’ new South Coast woman of mystery

Sandra Smith – So It Goes’ new Englishwoman of mystery

I have just seen LoUis CYfer, the only ‘drag king’ in the UK, at the Admiral Duncan pub. She won the title in June. I thought she was male. But she is, in fact, female. I thought she was fabulous. She used to work behind the bar at the Admiral Duncan.

There was also an Elvis, in a cardigan and a dreadful wig, who even at my advanced age seemed very old indeed. He had quite a powerful voice though – so much so that I thought he was miming. But I was told he wasn’t.

There was also a girl. Well, looked like a girl – could’ve been a fella – who knows? Did a number and a duet with Louis.

There is a clip on YouTube of LoUis CYfer performing at the Admiral Duncan.

And I met a man with an amazing quiff, who was in the Admiral Duncan at the time of the nail bomb in 1999.

He pointed to where he was sitting at the time, which was along the right wall at the very back of the bar. Unusually for me, I did not ask him more about it. It would have been interesting to have heard his experience of the event. I must have been distracted by something else. The front of his white blond hair was pointing skywards, so less of a quiff, but amazing hair nonetheless.

There were a nice bunch in last night, though I did have to try and persuade a couple of them that dancing with me was not a good idea.

LoUis CYfer as she wants to be seen: Facebook profile picture

LoUis CYfer as she wants to be seen: Facebook profile picture

They were filming for a documentary called Queens & Kings, due for release in 2016. (Well, there was a man with a camera anyway). They are following LoUis CYfer in the lead-up to her visit to the International Drag Festival in Austin, Texas, at the beginning of May. I should have asked her more, but didn’t, as I was just enjoying the experience. It was an interesting evening.

LoUis CYfer asked if me and the lady sitting next to me were together.

“Oh yes,” I replied, “we’ve known each other since we were fourteen.” 

There was a collective Aaaah… from the room, and even Paulo the barman from Brazil, stretched across the bar, beaming encouragingly.

I thought to myself: That’s not what I meant at all.

Returning to Canadian drug affairs, there is a clip on YouTube of a Russian newsreader failing several times to keep a straight face while reporting a particularly detailed story from Canada.

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A racist blog featuring three taxi drivers, PR Max Clifford, a BBC DJ and gorillas

Potential Edinburgh Fringe legends Ellis & Rose

Malcolm Hardee Award winners Ellis & Rose aka Alison Rose

Yesterday, at Soho Theatre, I accidentally bumped into Malcolm Hardee Award winning comedy duo Ellis & Rose.

Rose told me they had once been billed by a hard-of-hearing comedy promoter as ‘Alison Rose’.

Ellis told me he had just realised that, when I have no material for my blog, I simply paste-in sections from my old diaries.

In fact, he is only half right. I also do it when I have no time to transcribe (let us say) three long interviews.

So here are some Guy Fawkes Day extracts from my old e-diaries.


November 1999

DJ Chris Evans (very big in radio) with Joss Stone (Photograph by The Admiralty/Wikipedia)

DJ Chris Evans (very big in British radio) with Joss Stone (Photograph by The Admiralty/Wikipedia)

In the evening, I went with a French girl to a Guy Fawkes night party at an ex-Radio 1 DJ’s home. We arrived a little late and the French girl asked someone: “Have you already burnt the gay?”

This week the press have been carrying a story about Spice Girl Geri Halliwell having an affair with disc jockey Chris Evans.

“Well, I don’t know if they are or they aren’t,” the ex-Radio 1 DJ told me, “But I’ve been told by one who’s been there that he’s got the most enormous knob.”

PR Max Clifford told this ex-DJ a few years ago, when she was at Radio 1, that, if she gave him £50,000, he could make her massively famous by fabricating an affair.


November 2000

A black cab racing through London with no sign of a glove

London black taxi cabs are a hotbed of anecdotes and racism

I met three taxi drivers and someone who ran a facility house in Soho.

An Asian taxi driver told me he had taken a computer studies course at Reading University but hated computers and so was now driving. He said he had played second team for one of the County Cricket clubs, but could have played for Pakistan.

“Are your parents Pakistani?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, “But I know influential people.”

A Nigerian taxi driver told me he spent three months of every year driving cabs in New York. He lamented the fact the British government had no control of the country. “People are allowed to demonstrate and cause chaos,” he told me. “Britain needs stronger leadership.”

A white cab driver took me to Soho for my daily video edit. He told me he lived in the East End near Canary Wharf. He was a disillusioned racist who, of course, started: “I’m not racist, but…”

He said he was going to leave London where he had been born and bred because “it’s no longer my city. Me and my kids are foreigners in it”. His local mayor (in Tower Hamlets) was an Asian and, whereas his kids’ school had no religious assembly in the morning because that would be unfair on non-Christians, they had to observe Ramadan (he claimed).

“All I want is a level playing field,” he said. “The council’s building 4-bedroom flats now. That’s not for the likes of me. They’re building them for their own kind because they breed. And round my way, the Bengalis run the heroin trade and, if you get in their way, they just kill you.”

Ironically, he was talking of emigrating to Grenada in the Caribbean.

A silverback gorilla in its natural environment, not in England

Irrelevant yet strangely relevant picture of an African  gorilla

At the editing facility in Soho, the audio suite was run by 32 year-old woman with an English accent, but who had been born in Edinburgh.

Aged 6, she had gone with her family to Zambia for four years. While she was there, she and her classmates were held hostage by Zairean guerrilla rebels for a period. She did not know how long. The teachers told the children the men outside were just stopping by on their way somewhere else and, when she was told they were guerrillas, she was very impressed because she thought they must be very educated gorillas.

Her father piloted the local Flying Doctor plane and, returning to the UK, flew executive jets chartered by celebrities and businessmen. He was friendly with Edinburgh-based pop group The Bay City Rollers at the height of their fame. She remembered travelling with them in cars – they were lying on the floor or bent down covered with coats to avoid being seen by their fans. Knowing them gave her prestige at school and fans offered her money for the bathwater the boys had used.

Later, in her teens, she went through a Goth phase with bleached blonde hair and now, aged 32, her boyfriend is a 25 year-old freelance gardener who was adopted. He has no interest in finding out about his real parents, but knows his father was olive-skinned and his mother was a lifeguard.

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Punchlines: comics getting beaten up

Comedy critics face fragile egos and non-comedic reaction

Yesterday, someone drew my attention to a copy of The Stage dated 26th April 1990. One article was headlined:

ARTISTS FEAR HECKLERS’ REVENGE

and started:

“Alarmed entertainers fear violence from rowdy club audiences may be on the increase after a series of ugly scenes which have put artists at risk on stage.”

Apparently comedian Paul Ramone had got a black eye and swollen nose after being head-butted by a member of his audience during a gig in Twickenham.

Manchester hypnotist Paul Nyles claimed he had had to abandon his act after 15 minutes when an audience member bit through his microphone cable. There were no details of what happened to the heckler when he did this.

Comedians getting beaten-up seems to be a non-uncommon phenomenon although biting through the microphone cable to stop an act is uncommon.

Off the top of my head, I remember three Edinburgh Fringe stories. One is told in Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake:


Ian Cognito - nothing is unexpected

Cognito maybe forgot Ricky Grover is an ex-boxer

An excellent performer called Ian Cognito was there and he was very drunk, as is his wont. When he’s drunk, he gets aggressive. Part of his Italian upbringing, I think. 

Ricky Grover had worked with him before, so said hello to him and Cognito grabbed him by his collar and said: 

“You’re a fat cunt!” 

Ricky doesn’t mind that sort of thing at all. He’s used to it.

So, not getting a reaction, Cognito continued: 

“You’re a fat cunt and you’re not funny!” 

Ricky still didn’t react, so Cognito added: 

“And your wife’s a fat cunt as well!”

This upset Ricky, because he’s one of those traditional people.

“Did you mean that?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ian Cognito said.

“Can you repeat it?” Ricky asked.

Cognito said: “Your wife’s a fat cunt”. 

And, with one blow, Ricky just knocked him out. Unconscious. Displaced his jaw a bit. The lot. Ricky’s a professional, so he knows exactly where to hit someone.

Standing three or four yards away was Jon Thoday, who runs the Avalon agency. I looked over at Jon and said: 

“Oh, have you go that £500 you owe me?”

Funnily enough, the cheque arrived in the post about two days later.


Police said Ian Fox suffered “a small cut to his nose”

In 2012, comedian Ian Fox was randomly attacked in the street during the Edinburgh Fringe. The local police, who allegedly knew quite a lot about beating people up, told the Edinburgh Evening News: “The victim suffered a small cut to his nose during the incident,” but Ian’s face looked more like he had had an argument with a rhinoceros.

And, of course, most infamously, in 2013, comedy performer Ellis got beaten up in an Edinburgh street by an irate member of the public who was annoyed by Ellis & Rose’s appearance in Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

Gareth Ellis suffers for his art (photo by Lewis Schaffer)

Comic Ellis claimed he suffered for his art (Photograph by Lewis Schaffer)

Except it never happened. In fact, Ellis had repeatedly hit himself in the face with the blunt end of a milk whisk so he could tell the being-beaten-up story to get publicity for Ellis & Rose’s Fringe show. When the blunt end of a milk whisk did not have the required effect, his comedy partner Rose punched him four times in the face to give him the required black eye. For this, they won a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

To me, the most bizarre part of the 1990 Stage article, though, was a paragraph towards the end which said:

“Alternative comedian Malcolm Hardee, who was knocked unconscious by a heckler at a Glasgow club, claims attacks are on the increase because comedy has become more aggressive.”

That this had happened to Malcolm seemed very unlikely – although admittedly Malcolm’s Tunnel Club had to become membership only after beer glasses were thrown at Clarence & Joy Pickles (Adam Wide & Babs Sutton) during their act.

Throwing beer glasses at acts was not uncommon at the Tunnel but, on this occasion (when Malcolm was NOT the compere) a glass hit Babs Sutton in the face and drew blood, after which several acts refused to play the Tunnel unless Malcolm reined-in his audience a bit.

MalcolmHardee_Diners

Malcolm Hardee – a comedian not unacquainted with alcohol

Anyway… Malcolm Hardee being knocked unconscious by a heckler at a Glasgow club sounded unlikely, so, yesterday, I asked Malcolm’s chum Martin Soan.

“This sounds unlikely,” I said. “Have you heard this story? Did he make it up?”

Malcolm making-up stories was not unheard-of, but Martin said surprisingly:

“Yes I do remember this. It is true after a fashion. The heckler sort-of pushed Malcolm in a friendly sort of way. Malcolm had drunk 13 pints of beer and some buckets of rum-and-coke and sort-of fell asleep for a bit… Talking of which, I had a knife pulled on me… twice. Once at the Old Tiger’s Head in Lee and once on the Glastonbury stage.”

Comedy can be a dangerous business.

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Edinburgh Fringe: Jim Davidson (the C word is a term of affection in Scotland)

At the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon, conversation between me, my co-host Kate Copstick – doyenne of comedy reviewers – and comedians in the audience turned to comic Jim Davidson.

Jim Davidson’s current Edinburgh Fringe show

Davidson’s current Edinburgh Fringe show

Copstick said that a non-British comedian who did not know anything about the great entertainer had seen his current show at the Edinburgh Fringe and had told her it was fantastic.

“He loved it,” said Copstick. “He said Jim Davidson was a great comedian and was just like a normal bloke, doing blokey comedy.”

“Maybe…” said audience member/comedian Matt Price. “I think he’s technically good, but…”

“Have you seem his show this year?” asked Copstick.

“No,” said Matt.

“Well don’t judge,” Copstick told Matt.

“I can’t avoid judging,” said audience member/comedian Paul Ricketts, “because I’ve worked with him. I know he’s a cunt.”

“But half the comics on the alternative scene,” said Copstick, “are cunts…”

“I know,” said Paul.

Matt Roper (left), Copstick, Paul Ricketts at Grouchy Club

Kate Copstick with Paul Ricketts (right) outside Grouchy Club

“I’m sorry,” Copstick said, apologising to two ordinary members of the public from Tasmania who were inexplicably in an audience otherwise filled by comedy industry people. “Cunt is a term of…”

“It is,” I explained, “like an Australian calling someone a ‘bastard’ – It is a term of affection in Scotland.”

“A lot of comics start a bit cuntish,” said Copstick, “but it takes many, many years…”

“A lot of hard work,” agreed Paul.

“…to become a total cunt,” concluded Copstick. “I think it is a very dangerous thing to judge what somebody is like on-stage by what they are like off-stage. If I did that, most people at the Fringe would be getting one-star reviews from me, because they are arseholes.”

Jim’s panto Sinderella - see what he did there?

Jim’s Sinderella – See what he did there?

“It is though,” said Paul, “very hard to divorce the art from the person when that person has annoyed you so much. I worked on Jim Davidson’s panto Sinderella at the Cambridge Theatre – I was a wood-pusher – I was working backstage – and I was on the verge of getting off with this wardrobe mistress, who was a very good friend of his.

“I went back to her place – gorgeous blonde – and she put on a video of the previous Jim Davidson pantomime and, after 20 minutes, I just thought No! I had to pretend to go to sleep – and turn down the sex – because I couldn’t stand it. That is real punishment and he doesn’t even know he’s done it.”

“What was wrong with watching the video?” I asked.

“It is a well-known fact,” said Copstick, “that Jim Davidson appears in very few comedians’ wank banks.”

“What about Jim Davidson’s Funeral?” I asked.

Jim Davidson’s Funeral - put the ‘ham’ into shambolic

The show that put the ‘ham’ into shambolic

“Well,” Copstick said, “among the many things I loathe – because I have lived long and every year the list of things I loathe gets longer – quite high up is performers who come up to the Fringe and only do one day.”

A couple of nights ago, I saw the terrifically funny one-off show shambles that was Jim Davidson’s Funeral, perpetrated by comedy double act Ellis & Rose. They won an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award last year for a publicity stunt in which Rose punched Ellis in the face causing actual bodily harm simply so they could get publicity by claiming he was attacked in the street by a punter outraged by their performance of Jimmy Savile: The Punch and Judy Show.

Kate Copstick failed to see Jim Davidson’s Funeral this week but, no matter, Ellis & Rose wrote a 5-star review of their own show claiming it was her review and posted it all over the internet. It read:

Ellis & Rose have cemented themselves as arch-villains of the Edinburgh Fringe… I’m now quitting as head critic at The Scotsman, as nothing is worth reviewing after this  – Kate Copstick

Another fake Broadway Baby hits the stands...

Another fake Broadway Baby hits the stands

I can’t see this fake review making it to the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award short list.

Nor the fake issues of Broadway Baby – another one appeared yesterday – as Barry Ferns got an award for the original idea last year.

A more obvious attempt to get a Cunning Stunt Award happened a few days ago when Frankie Boyle fans were enticed to the Pleasance Dome by the implied promise of a ‘secret gig’ by their comedy hero.

At the gig, comic Luke McQueen walked out on stage, said “Give me a cheer if you’re excited about seeing Frankie Boyle”, then explained that he (McQueen) could not get an audience for his own show, so he had to lie to draw a crowd.

McQueen told the Chortle comedy website: “They weren’t very happy. But I was confident, once they heard my comedy, the mood would change. To my surprise, it didn’t. They seemed quite upset that I wasn’t Frankie Boyle and began to leave. I offered to do a bit of Frankie’s material if they stayed but they weren’t interested. Some people said some pretty mean things as they left.” He told Chortle that the response was ‘demoralising’ but said he might try again: “Maybe I’ll try a bigger venue like the O2 and saying it’s Michael McIntyre. I think his audience will be more patient.”

As I told the Grouchy Club audience yesterday afternoon: “There is a heated debate to be had next Monday about whether stupidity is any barrier to being nominated for or indeed winning an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. It is arguable that it may be a positive advantage.”

“I love cunning stunts,” said Copstick, “that are done by people who are clearly idiots… Ellis & Rose are clearly idiots.”

Gareth Ellis (left) & Rich Rose at Jim Davidson’s Funeral

Ellis (left) & Rose at the Funeral. Jim Davidson allegedly criticised them as “intellectuals” – but are they merely idiots?

“They’re not idiots,” I remonstrated. “They’re just mentally deranged.”

“No,” argued Copstick. “It’s a fine line, John, but I think they’re idiots.”

“I think it’s desperation,” isn’t it?” said Matt Price. “Everyone’s desperate to get…”

“Desperation is good for comedy,” I suggested.

“Why not spend ten years learning how to be a comedian, though,” asked Matt, “rather than thinking about fame?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” I asked. “If you had the choice – ten years at the coalface or come up for one day and do Jim Davidson’s Funeral for self-publicity?”

“Oh no,” said Matt. “I’m not knocking those two…”

“Well obviously, if you were a cunt,” said Copstick, “you would do Jim Davidson’s Funeral.”

“And remember,” I pointed out to the two Tasmanians, “that the word ‘cunt’ is a term of affection.”

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A semi-naked man poses an old LSD riddle to comics in trendy Shoreditch

Two days ago, the London Evening Standard ran a double-page spread about someone they called THE NAKED COMMUTER.

In fact, the story was less spectacular: the pictures showed a man in perfectly-respectable boxer shorts and the sub-heading said: When he stripped off in protest at the sweltering Tube, he was hailed as a hero.

Today’s blog is not about the semi-naked man nor about his exploits, but keep them in mind.

Yesterday, I went to Rivington Street in Shoreditch to chat to Comedy Cafe Theatre owner Noel Faulkner about his future plans. Noel is always outspoken and, at the Chortle Comedy Conference last Friday, launched into a spectacular verbal attack on Jongleurs’ boss Marios Lourides for not paying several comedians for months – Marios claimed the apparently financially frail Jongleurs chain paid £2.5 million yearly to comedians and the backlog owed to comedians was “only” £60,000.

But this blog is not about that.

The final version of The Tunnel screened in Shoreditch last night

The Tunnel screened at the East End Film Festival last night

After our chat, Noel and I went to the Red Gallery (also in Rivington Street) for a screening to a very full venue of what is claimed to be the final version of The Tunnel documentary about the late Malcolm Hardee’s iconic and infamous comedy club. It was screened as part of the East End Film Festival.

Following the screening, there was what turned out to be a humdinger of a live comedy show but, in the interval between the two events, I went outside for a chat because I bumped into Miss Behave who had, earlier in the day, lost her appointments diary. I share her pain. It once happened to me and I virtually needed psychological counselling until a man found it in a gutter outside a Chinese takeaway, phoned me and I got it back.

Miss Behave thought we would have a chat

Miss Behave thought we could have a nice quiet alley chat

Miss Behave had to rush off and so we went outside to talk about her plans and her compering of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

But we never managed to do that.

Stick with me, dear reader.

“So you lost your diary today…” I started.

“It’s like I’ve lost my brain,” said Miss Behave.

“I have to take a photo of this man,” I said.

There was a man standing on the other side of the road, naked apart from a pair of underpants, putting on a leather vest. It was the man mentioned in the Evening Standard.

“He looks like one of your acts,” I told Miss Behave.

At this point, Noel Faulkner emerged from the Red Gallery.

“This is why the comedy clubs are in a mess,” I told Noel, “because people are doing their acts out on the streets.”

“He’s a local lad,” said Noel. “He may be on Ecstasy.”

The man came across to talk to us.

“Have you seen a pair of glasses lying on the floor anywhere?” he mumbled at us.

“They’re on top of your head,” Miss Behave and I said simultaneously, like a Greek chorus.

“The reason I couldn’t find them is because I never put them there,” said the man.

“Someone else put them there?” I asked.

Charlie Dinkin tries to mimic Gareth Ellis’ hay-fevered state

Charlie Dinkin tries to mimic Ellis’ hay-fevered state

At this point, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Ellis emerged from the Red Gallery.

He looked at the man with spectacles on his head and said to me: “You always make the best friends.”

I raised my camera. “Don’t take a picture of me right now,” said Ellis. “I’ve got hay fever and my eyes are all puffy.”

“Do you remember pounds, shillings and pence?” the semi-naked man no longer with spectacles on his head but on his nose asked Noel Faulkner.

“Of course I can,” Noel told him.

“Did you hear what he said?” the man said to me in a throaty voice. “He said he can remember pounds, shillings and pence with confidence.”

“I think you’ve taken some,” said Noel.

The man looked at him.

“LSD,” said Noel.

“You can remember pounds, shillings and pence?” the man persisted.

“Yes,” said Noel. LSD. Where are your fucking trousers?”

“In 1963,” said the man, “someone walks into a bank and says: Here’s a pound note. Kindly change it into twenty pieces of silver. And the bank teller says: Certainly, Mr Jones, because she knew him. And the man says: But I want those twenty pieces of silver to be made up of half crowns, sixpences and two bob bits. What quantity of each coin did the bank teller give him that equals twenty pieces of silver and adds up to a pound?”

“Our chat is going well,” I told Miss Behave.

“Absolutely,” she agreed.

As Noel and the man discussed the mathematics of 1963 coinage, Miss Behave and I arranged to meet again at the Pull The Other One comedy club on Saturday.

“We could try not talking to each other there as well,” suggested Miss Behave.

David Mills (right) with Gareth Ellis

David Mills (right) being unusually reticent with Ellis

At this point, American comic David Mills came out of the Red Gallery.

“Great to see you,” he said to Miss Behave and kissed her on the cheek.

“Are you on the turn?” I asked him.

“I’ve got to run,” said Miss Behave. “I wasn’t supposed to have to run, but all this happened.”

I took a photo of David and Ellis.

“I’ll take another one,” I said. “Ellis had his eyes closed.”

“I’m keeping them closed,” he said, “because they’re all red from the hay fever.”

“Not on a computer! Not on a mobile phone!” Mungo 2 was saying.

A 1963 UK shilling, as in Mungo 2’s riddle

A 1963 UK shilling, as in Mungo 2’s riddle

“Listen,” said Miss Behave. “I’m doing something new, but I haven’t figured it out yet.”

“It’s probably in your diary,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“You didn’t listen,” the semi-naked man told me.

“I didn’t listen,” I admitted. “What was the answer?”

“Oh,” said the semi-naked man, “I couldn’t give you the answer. I’d have to give you the challenge.”

“I’m not a challenge sort of man,” I said.

“But you are challenged,” said Miss Behave.

“I am Scottish,” I tried. “I don’t care about your English money.”

“See,” said the semi-naked man, “this is where you walk into a pile of computers. I’m a Border Reiver.”

Painting of the infamous Scottish Reiver Auld Wat of Harden

Painting of the infamous Scottish Reiver Auld Wat of Harden

“You are?” I asked. “Cows? You’ve stolen cows?”

“Carlisle,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed should clearly be in Scotland. Clearly Scottish cities.”

“Is your history between Scotland and England any good?” asked the semi-naked man.

“I’ll see you on Saturday,” said Miss Behave, wisely deciding to leave.

“I’ll leave you two to…” said the semi-naked man, starting to say something, then turning away and leaving himself.

“Play your cards right and you’re in there tonight,” I told Miss Behave.

She set off towards Old Street station, following the semi-naked man at a distance.

“He’s been round here for about a year,” an unknown and unseen voice said, like unto the Voice of God in the wilderness.

“I used to work down the road. I came out of work one night at eleven o’clock at night and he had a deckchair. You know those deckchairs that have got a beer holder in the arm? He was just in his pants in a deckchair, just berating people as they passed by.”

“It seemed strange,” Ellis told me, “that he could afford hair dye but not trousers.”

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The death of Jim Davidson – Edinburgh Fringe celebration show being planned.

Gareth Ellis may be dying from a disease caught by Victorian heroines

Ellis may have a disease caught by Victorian heroines

I bumped into someone in the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday afternoon: 2013 Malcolm Hardee ‘Pound of Flesh’ Award winner Ellis.

He was coughing more than me (a rare thing) and he had that pale, zombiefied look of a diseased man who has recently contracted bubonic plague or one of those strange indefinable diseases that the heroines of Victorian novels used to die from. He claimed to have a chest infection.

“What’s your chest like?” I asked.

“It’s green,” he told me.

Ellis is half of comedy duo Ellis & Rose who appeared at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe in the widely-commented-on Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

He/They earned his/their increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award after he got his comedy partner Rich Rose to punch him repeatedly in the face so that he could claim he had been attacked in the street by an irate member of their audience, thus gaining a black eye and several column inches of publicity for their show.

“So, after careful consideration, you are not going up to the Fringe this year?” I asked.

“We are poverty-stricken and can’t be fucked,” he replied with, I felt, unnecessary detail.

“You’re not even visiting?” I asked innocently.

“Well,” he told me, “we’re going up for one day only.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Well, (promoter) Bob Slayer was pestering us to go up and do SOMETHING, so we thought: If we can’t go up and do a full run, what can we do to make a big impact using the least possible effort?

“And your conclusion was?” I asked.

What a pair! - Two Jim Davidson goodies

Cor! What a pair! – Double whammy of Davidsons

“It is for one night only on Tuesday 12th August in the big cave at The Hive and we’re doing Jim Davidson’s Funeral. We are listed right before his own show in the Programme. It’s only been live online for a day, so I think maybe no-one has noticed it yet.”

“And it involves?” I asked.

“We just thought,” explained Ellis, “Middle England’s (allegedly) bigoted, shocking, old-fashioned comic is going to do the Edinburgh Fringe for the whole month and therefore the Fringe is dead.

“So we thought we’d do his funeral. But also it is the death of the Fringe. The funeral of the Fringe. So we’re going to get a few guests on and basically attack the Fringe and put it to rights before it gets buried once and for all and we’re going to dance on Comedy’s grave. And that’s going to be the show. It’s going to be a very upbeat, fun evening. We’re gonna sort out Jim Davidson. We’re gonna tell him what’s what. His own show starts half an hour into our show.”

“So,” I said, it’s a wake for Jim Davidson, rather than a funeral.”

“No,” said Ellis. “His corpse will be in the coffin on stage.”

“Are you playing him?” I asked. “You were Jimmy Savile last year.”

“No,” said Ellis. “We’re performing as Ellis & Rose. Jim Davidson’s corpse will be in the coffin and hopefully we will have a live camera feed from the coffin projected up onto a big screen at the back like a Big Brother figure – because he did Celebrity Big Brother.”

Gareth contemplates future Fringe punch-ups

Ellis contemplates future Fringe punch-ups

“So basically no script?” I asked. “Just meandering along.”

“There will be a narrative,” said Ellis. “We are going to tackle all the big issues of the Fringe. This is the Fringe’s funeral as much as it is Jim Davidson’s funeral. I think we’ll tackle stuff about the Big Four venues, student reviewers, the cost of things. We’ll turn it into a big roast of the Fringe.”

“Any nudity involved?” I asked hopefully.

“Probably,” said Ellis. “Every funeral should have nudity. It might end in a disco.”

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‘Celebrity Paul’, comedy and fame in Charlie Dinkin’s visual anthropology

Charlie Dinkin & Gareth Ellis in Soho yesterday

Ellis stares at Charlie – Old Compton Street, Soho, yesterday

So Ellis introduced me to his girlfriend Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Dinkin.

Ellis won a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award last year for deciding to get repeatedly punched in the face by his stage partner Rose to publicise their Edinburgh Fringe shows. He still seems surprised by the fact people remember this. Charlie is not surprised.

Charlie finished an MA at Goldsmith’s College, part of the University of London, last August.

“What was it in?” I asked.

“Visual Anthropology.”

“What on earth is Visual Anthropology?”

“Documentary film making,” replied Charlie, “but with a research priority to it.”

“What on earth is a research priority?” I asked.

“That’s not an official phrase; that’s just me struggling for words,” explained Charlie. “In a standard documentary, maybe you’d go in with a sense of the narrative you’re trying to create and you find people who fit that story. But, in an anthropological documentary, you find the person and see what story emerges from it. Which is what everyone should be doing in all documentaries, really.”

Charlie did her BA course in anthropology at Barnard College, which is affiliated with Columbia University in New York. It is for women only.

“That sounds terribly un-PC,” I said. “I can’t believe they’re allowed to have a women-only university college in right-on New York.”

“Someone did come into Barnard as a woman and then become a man,” said Charlie, “and then wasn’t allowed to graduate because you have to be a woman to graduate. That was before I got there. I think they had to transfer to Columbia and graduated from there. Barnard’s a bastion of  old-fashioned values. But it was great, actually. Super fun.”

She then did the six months Comedy Studies program in stand-up, writing and improvisation at Second City in Chicago – which British universities do not recognise as an academic subject.

Then an MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths College in London, which she finished in August last year.

“I did a film about how much I love Woody Allen,” Charlie told me. “Well, I like Manhattan and Annie Hall and I’m not mad about the rest, to be honest. And a ten-minute one about Rory & Tim, a now defunct comedy sketch duo. It’s on YouTube.

“And I made Celebrity Paul… another 10-minute film. I edited that while I was doing two separate shows at the Edinburgh Fringe last August.”

Charlie in Upstairs Downstairs

Charlie Upstairs Downton at Edinburgh Fringe 2013

She was in the improvised parody show Upstairs Downton and a kids’ show The Takeaway Story Show. She is now half of double act Glove Box (with Amy Hydes), an improvisation group Music Box and an improvised puppet show group Glitch.

“And Celebrity Paul is…” I said.

“…about a man called Celebrity Paul – self-named,” replied Charlie. “He is based in Retford in Nottinghamshire and he is a local celebrity. He has worked as an extra in a few films including Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.”

“What was he in that?” I asked.

“Well, he would say he was a French businessman,” said Charlie, “but maybe that’s a character he made up for himself. He was a businessman-esque extra.”

At this point, Ellis interrupted:

“Before he became a self-made local celebrity in Retford, Celebrity Paul squatted in the gardeners’ hut in the middle of Soho Square – the mock-Tudor thing – and he lived there for quite a while, maybe a year or two. Like Marty Feldman.”

Comedian Marty Feldman lived in this gardeners’ shed

The comedian Marty Feldman lived in this gardeners’ shed?

“Marty Feldman lived in the mock-Tudor gardeners’ shed in the middle of Soho Square?” I asked.

“He did,” said Ellis.

“Is Celebrity Paul a sad wannabe?” I asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Charlie. “He has decided that fame is a worthy thing to pursue and he is pursuing it. I don’t know how successful that is, but fair play to him. He’s stuck in Retford.”

“Do local people believe he’s a celebrity?” I asked.

“The interesting thing about him,” said Charlie, “is that he HAS quite successfully become a local celebrity through force of will. I think it’s a good lesson for us all about how fragile image is and how you can convince people around you of anything. He believes and behaves as if he is a celebrity, so people treat him as a celebrity.”

Ellis interrupted: “He has a special pen that he wears round his neck to sign autographs with.”

“Does he have a day job?” I asked.

“I think,” said Charlie, “that he does various jobs as is necessary. He doesn’t necessarily like to talk about it that much. He’s been a driver in the past and various other bits and bobs and – of course – he sells his autographs and appears at events.”

“Of course,” I said. “How much for a Celebrity Paul autograph?”

“I think around £5 or £10 for a printed photo.”

“He must be mad,” I said, “to let you make a film taking the piss out of him.”

“I definitely wasn’t taking the piss out of him at all,” said Charlie. “It was an academic exercise and I never overlaid a story onto it. It’s absolutely all his own words and I think he comes out of it relatively well, He loved the film. I really wanted him to like it and he did like it; he showed it to his friends. He Tweeted it.”

“So you’re interested in failure?” I asked.

“Only to the extent that it’s life,” said Charlie. “Everyone has their struggle. I don’t want to make a commissioned documentary about how brilliant things are. Justin Bieber had a film made about himself and Katy Perry had a film made and they’re just so engineered. Why would you not be more interested in normal people and in real life? In the end, movies are mostly trying to capture a ‘slice of real life’ but they’re Hollywoodised. Why not watch the real thing?”

“That’s the way I look at a lot of character comedy,” I said.

“Also,” Charlie continued, “when people actually become a success, I slightly suspect their life becomes about that. They have to be doing one thing all the time to be good at it and then they’re not really that interesting because they’re only about one thing. Better to look at more complex characters. I’m more interested in ‘real’ people, but I don’t know if any TV company is going to be interested.”

“Well,” I said, “TV reality shows are just a new formatted version of TV documentaries and Britain’s Got Talent is only a spin on old-style variety shows.”

“Except a TV variety show in the past,” said Charlie, “would have had people showing their talents but now part of the fun of the first rounds of those talent shows is seeing people who are terrible and laughing at them and…”

Gareth interrupting Charlie at The Toucan in Soho

Ellis interrupting Charlie downstairs at The Toucan in Soho

“In the 1970s,” Ellis interrupted, “what you saw was just the act. You never saw them as themselves. You would never have a clue their life was awful and they’d get through on merit based on their act. Now their back story is worth more than their performance.”

“The shows are edited,” said Charlie, “to make you laugh at them but, at the same time, there’s something deeply charming and lovely about a person who just loves something enough they’re prepared to get up and do it even if they’re maybe not that good at it.”

“Have you pitched the Celebrity Paul film to TV stations as the basis of a series?” I asked.

“I had a stab” said Charlie, “at pitching it as part of a series about people who wanted to achieve fame and maybe haven’t quite got there yet or who have found their own version of it. The feedback I got was that these sort of people hadn’t done enough stuff to be interesting. But what Celebrity Paul HAS done IS the interesting part: what he has made of himself.”

Charlie’s 10 minute film on Celebrity Paul is on YouTube.

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Two Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winners plan Magikal Mystery Tours

So yesterday I met comedian Ellis in the basement bar of The Toucan pub off Soho Square in London. He did not have a black eye.

Ellis says he does not want to be forever remembered as the man who got his stage partner Rose to punch him in the face so Ellis & Rose could claim Ellis had got beaten up by an irate objector to their Edinburgh Fringe show last year (Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show), get some publicity in the press and win a highly coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

The video excerpt of him being repeatedly punched in the face is still on YouTube. He should be proud of how he suffered for his art. But, for some reason, he seems unwilling to milk it.

Now Ellis & Rose have come up with another new idea.

Over the summer, they intend to run monthly Magikal Mystery Tours.

Potential mystery and mayhem coach masters Ellis (left) & Rose

Potential mystery & mayhem coachmasters Ellis (left) & Rose

“We will get a luxury coach,” Ellis told me, “fill it with people and a few acts and drive out of London to weird, random towns and do bizarre town tours and scavenger hunts for weird items and the audience will be split into two teams. It will be like me and Rose taking a bunch of people on a school trip gone wrong.

“Before the people get to the bus, they will have filled out an online survey and we will split them into Red and Blue teams and they will have to come wearing predominantly one colour.

“We’ll stop off at weird museums and things and end up in the evening at a weird small venue where the headline act will do a show.

“Essentially, it’s going to be a very strange but fun full-day comedy show. We’ll stop off at a few places, acts will do bits and pieces but, if they’ve got a stage persona, the acts won’t necessarily be in that persona the whole day; they’ll be themselves, just part of the group. There will be about 45 people – the number we can get on the coach.”

“How are you going to sell tickets?” I asked.

The Kickstarter page through which tickets are bought

Magikal Kickstarter page

“Through a Kickstarter page,” said Ellis. “People will pledge money to get a ticket, so we will know how many people want to come and we will hire the right-sized coach for that number of people. It also means our audience knows exactly what they are letting themselves in for and they are invested in the whole experience. We need to get the right audience for the trip: a comedy-savvy audience, the Soho Theatre audience.

“I think this is the perfect antidote to our Jimmy Savile show – another string to our bow – showing that we can do something big and organised.

“We’re thinking of doing it monthly over the summer. We could do it at the Edinburgh Fringe as a one-off.”

Their Kickstarter campaign has just gone online. It ends on 25th April, with the first coach trip exactly one month later, on Sunday 25th May. Tickets cost £40, leaving London at 10.00am and arriving back no later than 10.00pm.

Gareth Ellis, coach master, at the Toucan bar yesterday

Ellis, at the Toucan bar yesterday, has a Speedy idea

For the first Magikal Mystery Tour, Phil Kay will be ‘Chief Tour Guide Extraordinaire’ and Miles Lloyd, billed as ‘the most accident-prone Welsh comedian ever’ will be the coach’s ‘House Band’.

“How are you going to publicise this?” I asked. “Apart, obviously, from having it mentioned in my increasing-prestigious blog?”

“Maybe,” mused Ellis, “me and Rich should go on a bus and say we’ve put a bomb on there so the driver can’t slow down below 31 miles an hour otherwise the bomb will go off unless 45 people buy tickets for our own coach trip.”

“It’s a thought.” I said. “A good thought.”

Ellis & Rose’s appeal is on Kickstarter and on YouTube:

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Comedian Jorik Mol wants a real life but is performing for dogs this week

Jorik Mol in London last week

Jorik Mol faces a possibly operatic future

When I talked to comedian Ellis of Ellis & Rose recently, he told me he was going to write Raoul Moat: The Opera about the recent multiple murderer. He told me the music would be written by London-based Dutch comic Jorik Mol.

So, obviously, when Jorik and I had tea in London last week, I asked him:

“How is Raoul Moat: The Opera going?”

“We haven’t met about it so far,” said Jorik.

“Do you intend to meet?”

“We do.”

“And the philosophy of Raoul Moat: The Opera is…”

“There isn’t one so far. I really don’t know what Ellis is planning. I’ve been listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music recently in the same way I listen to Wagner. You cannot listen to that music and not look on it as being anything other than completely and utterly soul-destroyingly manipulative. When you listen to the intro to Tristan und Isolde, it is like coitus interruptus without the coitus. This chord is never released – never released – never released – slightly released – and – the tension is only released four hours later, when the fat lady sings.”

Jorik is now living back in England again after a break at home in Holland for a couple of years. He is doing a Masters in Comparative Literature at University College, London.

“It sounds impressive,” Jorik told me, “but it just means I will never be able to get a job. I’m doing the Masters full-time; I’m doing extra tutorials; I’m doing translations for UCL; I’m trying to gig three or four times a week; I’m trying to write. This week I gigged five times which is a bad idea on all levels. I do not have a life.”

That was last week. This week Jorik is doing four gigs, including one totally in French tonight at the Comedy Cafe for the International Comedy Club (which is run from Zürich). And, on Thursday, he is performing in Streatham at a benefit for dogs in Romania organised by Danish comedian Sofie Hagen.

“Have you ever gigged for non-humans before?” I asked.

“I’ve gigged before for audiences in Holland that didn’t seem to be human,” replied Jorik.

“And next?” I asked.

“I’m writing an essay about Kafka and laughter.”

“I read somewhere,” I said, “that The Trial – which is always billed as the ultimate paranoid novel… Kafka and his friends thought it was phenomenally funny, like a comedy piece.”

“Yes,” said Jorik. “It’s the way it’s been translated into English and the way it’s been appropriated into English. It’s been made to serve a purpose in English culture. The word Kafkaesque does not really apply to Kafka. I want to do a PhD on Comedic Devices and Cognitive Stylistics – two terms I’ve made up.

Jorik in my Edinburgh Fringe chat show this year (Photograph by Brian Higgins)

Jorik in my Edinburgh Fringe chat show this year (Photograph by Brian Higgins)

“When a comedian goes on stage,” explained Jorik, “one of the common stupid opening lines is I know what you’re thinking. But that is actually what all comedy is about.

“Comedy is about leading the lines of cognition in a certain way, from a certain perspective. You are resolving issues that shouldn’t be resolved, you are duplicating narratives, you are leading people up the garden path.

“The cognitive system is in the pre-frontal cortex and it’s basically the thing that asks the questions Where? What? Who? Why? How? and Which?

“If that part of the brain – the cognitive system – doesn’t function, it’s very difficult for you to engage with humour in any way, because humour is about asking the questions Where? What? How? and Why? and those questions being subverted, inverted or converted.

“So I’m going to write about the 18th century: Immanuel Kant, Laurence Sterne, Voltaire and a guy from Austria called Johann La Roche who wrote puppetry plays. It was like Commedia dell’artePeople improvised what was happening in the room, in the street, in politics. It was topical jokes – boom boom boom.

“My interest is in joke shapes: the linguistic shapes that textual humour takes. It’s a linguistic notion of doing something or transgressing boundaries on a physical or social level.

“In Britain, it’s normal for people to say He’s a funny guy, She’s a funny girl, You ARE funny – which is bullshit. Being funny – using those joke shapes and tropes – is learnt behaviour.

“I was talking to people in the German Dept at UCL and someone told me: I can’t really say to students – especially First Year undergrads – This is funny, because their capacity to read German is just not good enough yet. Same thing with French. You can’t say This is funny because they’ll go No, it’s not, because they don’t yet fully understand the language.

“I want to look at texts and how they produce comedy. Was it you who wrote you can’t watch five stand-ups in a row because you get exhausted after a while?”

“Possibly,” I said, “I do think that’s one problem with current comedy clubs – you’re just watching stand-ups doing much-the-same thing – just standing there saying words – with no variation whereas, in the 1980s, the stand-up was interspersed with visual variety acts and bizarre acts.”

“Yeah,” agreed Jorik, “like Mr Methane and The Iceman.”

“Ah!” I said. “The Iceman! He lives in Bournemouth.”

Jorik laughed, as well he might.

“I want to work with Dr Steve Cross who does Bright Club,” said Jorik. “He works at UCL but is sometimes a stand-up.”

“You do an awful lot of gigs,” I said.

Coming back here, said Jorik, “I have to re-establish myself so I have to play the circuit. But I’m really struggling with life-work balance: that’s why I listen to podcasts all the time – to drown out my inner monologue.”

“I can blank my mind out to relax.” I said.

“I can’t,” said Jorik.

“That’s why you have trouble getting to sleep at night,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Jorik. “That’s why I need the mirtazapineI find it very difficult, because my mind’s racing constantly. The first month I was here in London was rough as fuck. I’d basically been waiting to come back to Britain for two years and I’m the kind of person who wants everything done straight away and that just doesn’t work over here. It took me six weeks just to register with a GP.”

“Your persona on stage is not anxious,” I said.

“Yes, it’s quite friendly,” said Jorik, “and sweet and flirty but occasionally bitchy. When I was 20, I wanted to be an angry comic, but I’m the opposite of an angry comic on stage. It’s weird. I feel I have been lowered down into this persona and, with age – I’m 25 and have been performing since I was 17 – I’m only starting to get away with it now.”

“You may have already peaked,” I joked.

Jorik in London last week - Mozart has a lot to answer for

Jorik Mol in London last week – Mozart has a lot to answer for

“Yeah,” laughed Jorik. “It can only go downhill from now! I’ve always felt like that. I wake up like that every morning. When I was 4, I read a book about Mozart and that he had composed his first symphony at the age of 3 and my brain shouted out: YOU’VE LOST!

“It’s unlikely I’m ever going to achieve anything in comedy. There are so many people doing comedy right now. It doesn’t matter how original you are. It does not even how matter how good you are. You will not succeed. Success is only what other people talk about when it’s over and done with and you’ve come out the other side.

“It sounds lame, but I now cannot function without doing stand-up at least once a week.”

“Because…?” I prompted.

“It’s just me and my life,” said Jorik, “I was always seen as the weird one. I envy my brother because he is able to go to work then go out at the weekend and have a nice time and live. He runs the supply department for care homes for children with severe disabilities. He’s really happy and is able to function. I have to pretend to be a person. When you do comedy you can sometimes take a step back and just observe: OK. This is functional behaviour. That’s why I want to get into academia as well.

“I could never envisage a life for myself in Holland. I don’t mean being happy – because that’s never going to happen – but just to be functional, just to be working…”

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Comedy duo Ellis & Rose: beefing-up Jimmy Savile, looking for other work

Worth a punt? Saturday’s Big Comedy Conference in London

Worth a punt? Saturday’s Big Comedy Conference in London

On Saturday, I am on one of the panels at the Big Comedy Conference in London.

Yesterday night, I got a message from a starting-out stand-up comedian based outside South East England:

Hi john,

Do you think I would benefit from the Comedy Conference?

My answer was:

No idea. It’s a bit pricey – £149 – but good value for money. It runs 09.00am to 11.00pm and there are over 40 top names giving advice, from Big Name comedians to BBC bosses, writers, agents and the whole gamut down to the likes of me.

But, if you have free accommodation in London, I say go for it. The only way to get on in anything is to be in the right place at the right time. There is no way of knowing where or when that is, so you just have to put yourself about a bit as much as possible. If you don’t go, you can be 100% certain nothing will come of it. If you do go, there is at least a chance something might.

I think you should go not expecting to LEARN anything specific as such, but it would give you a wider, non-local, professional view of the business and I suspect you can schmooze well (something I’m shit at).

It is a financial decision really. If you can afford to go, look on it as a weekend holiday with potential benefits; expect nothing; hope for the best. It is a bit like the Edinburgh Fringe. Toss money away and pray.

I think the comedy-going public assume when they see a comedian on stage that he/she is a full-time comedian. The truth, of course, is that for maybe the first five or six or more years of their professional lives, comedians tend to have ‘day jobs’ because they cannot survive financially on their comedy work.

Coincidentally, I had a chat on Friday with award-winning comedians Ellis & Rose.

I say “award-winning” because they won a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, when Rose repeatedly punched Ellis in the face so they could – as a publicity stunt – claim he had been beaten up in the street by an irate punter who was offended by their show Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

That is REAL dedication to your art. They videoed the punching and it is on YouTube.

I met them on Friday in a pub in London’s Soho.

I paid for the single round of drinks. After all, let us not go mad on spending money. I am a Scot brought up among Jews.

“So,” I said, “you performed Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show in Norwich, while I was safely out of the country in Nuremberg. How did it go?”

“It was the first time we’ve done the beefed-up Jimmy Savile show,” replied Ellis.

The Norwich poster

Ellis & Rose – beefed-up show in Norwich

“Beefed-up?” I asked.

“Now with real puppets,” explained Rose.

“Glove puppets or string puppets?” I asked.

“Muppet-sized puppets,” said Ellis.

“Foam and felt,” said Rose.

“With people in them?” I asked.

“Well, me,” said Rose.

“The audience in Norwich really liked it,” said Ellis. “I think because we’ve added more stuff. It’s become something.”

“What have you added?” I asked. “A plot?”

“Not necessarily a plot,” admitted Rose.

“It started off as nothing in Edinburgh,” said Ellis, “but, by the end of the Fringe, it was consistently hitting… erm… the hour mark. So we’ve added in extra nonsense like Rolf Harris.”

“That was what it was lacking,” said Rose.

“They all really enjoyed it in Norwich,” said Ellis. “Not one of them really hated it,” he added with a hint of surprise in his voice.

“I think you should tour old people’s homes,” I suggested. “You need to find people who will be really offended.”

“You didn’t help us,” said Rose, “with your Raoul Moat headline (Jimmy Savile comedy duo banned from Norwich pub. Now they plan a musical based on a murder maniac rampage). I’m never gonna get a job now.”

“Excuse me,” I said, “am I the person who beat up his comedy partner in Edinburgh just to get a couple of lines of publicity in The Scotsman newspaper?”

“One line,” said Rose.

“Anyway,” I added, “What did I say about Raoul Moat, the infamous murderer?”

Police photo of Raoul Moat

Police photo Raoul Moat

“You said it was a musical,” Ellis told me, “but it’s an opera.”

“And I’m not involved in it,” added Rose warily.

“You made it seem like a frivolous entertainment,” complained Ellis. “It’s going to be a real work of art. It’s going to be a departure from what we normally do.”

“I didn’t think you actually intended to do an opera,” I explained. “I assumed it was a cheap publicity stunt.”

“I’m meeting up with Jorik Mol,” said Ellis, “and we’re going to write material for it… It’s going to be a genuine opera. It’s going to be a serious tragedy.”

“I believe that,” I said. “I have seen your previous work.”

“John Kearns has agreed to play a sniper lens,” said Rose.

“Karl Schultz has agreed to be a fishing rod,” said Ellis, “and Adam Larter is going to play a startled deer.”

“So when is this seriously tragic opera going to be staged?” I asked.

“2016,” said Ellis. “It’s only an idea so far.”

“What gave you the idea?” I asked.

“The story,” explained Ellis, “is just incredible… unprecedented in terms of the media interaction: the week-long narrative that developed around it.”

“The problem now,” said Rose, “is that partly due to you, John, if you type my name into Google followed by the words Raoul Moat or Jimmy Savile… well there goes any chance I have of getting a job.”

Seeking any employment: Gareth Ellis (left) and Richard Rose

Seeking any employment: Ellis (left) and Rose

“That’s why we’re unemployed,” said Ellis.

“Yeah thanks, John,” said Rose.

“I’d like to say in your blog,” emphasised Ellis, “that I’m looking for a job.”

“As what?” I asked.

“Well, I’m good at organising gigs,” replied Ellis.

“That’s not a job,” said Rose.

“Surely you could earn a good living as a gigolo?” I asked.

“I’ve got a licence for bar management,” continued Ellis. “I can manage a venue.”

“There must be money in being a gigolo,” I said. “Women were throwing themselves at you in Edinburgh.”

“I want a job and a girlfriend,” insisted Ellis.

“You’re asking too much from life,” Rose told him.

“I’d just like some money,” said Ellis.

“Have you never seen The Producers?” I asked. “You just find some old women, get them to finance your shows, leech onto them and get loads of money.”

“But we’ve already produced one of the worst shows of all time,” said Rose, “and it didn’t make us loads of money.”

“Tell me about it,” I said. “I financed Killer Bitch, the movie… I think Raoul Moat: The Opera could be equal to Springtime For Hitler.

“What I like about your blogs with us,” said Rose, “is that they manage to be even less coherent than the ones with Chris Dangerfield.”

“So plug something,” I said.

Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show

Ghost of Jimmy Savile pursues comedy duo

“We’re doing our Ellis & Rose show on Tuesday and Jimmy Savile on Thursday,” said Rose.

“Is there a point to the Jimmy Savile show?” I asked.

“It wasn’t satire in Edinburgh,” said Rose, “but now it is.”

“It’s a satire on the nature of performers,” said Ellis.

“No, don’t give it away,” said Rose. “It’s not that.”

“Is it a post-modern comedy?” I asked, trying to help.

“It’s not even comedy,” said Ellis.

“It’s definitely not comedy,” agreed Rose.

“It’s genuinely a work of art,” said Ellis. “I don’t think it’s classifiable. It’s funny, but it’s not a comedy. It’s a kind of tragedy.”

“It’s poignant,” suggested Rose. “Actually, Ellis did have a kind of revelation…”

“…during the show in Norwich,” explained Ellis. “I just stopped.”

“The whole show stopped,” said Rose.

“We had this beautiful moment with the audience,” said Ellis.

“The audience stopped laughing,” said Rose.

“And we actually realised why we were all there,” said Ellis, “watching this show about Jimmy Savile.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well,” said Rose, “we’re not going to give it away.”

“You’re going to have to come along and see it,” said Ellis.

“And we’ll cynically try to recreate that revelation,” said Rose.

Potential Edinburgh Fringe legends Ellis & Rose

Is it original art? Is it comedy? Is it a post-modern revelation?

“I was talking to someone the other week,” I said, “and he suggested we should have an annual beating-up of Ellis at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“I’d be happy with that,” said Rose.

“It could become a Fringe tradition,” I suggested.

“I think someone every year has to get punched in the face,” agreed Ellis.

“It could make you a star,” I suggested.

A sparkle appeared in Ellis’ eyes, but I am not sure what caused it.

Maybe it was a tear.

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