Tag Archives: end of the world

The comedy girl who is planning what to do when the world ends in 2012

(This was also published in the Huffington Post)

Throughout my life, whenever I have met people at parties and suchlike, they have always eventually asked that terribly British question: “What do you do?”

I am buggered if I have ever been able to give a sensible answer.

Most of my money has come from producing/directing/writing on-screen TV promos. But no-one knows what the hell they are.

“Oh, does someone do that?” people ask in disbelief if they do start to understand.

I fare better with “I worked on Tiswas, Game For a Laugh, Surprise Surprise and Jonathan Ross and various other things,” but then there are all the times when I was writing film reviews – except they were mostly features and interviews. And comedy reviews. Briefly. And writing other people’s autobiographies (which is understandably confusing). And let’s not even get into the area of what I might or might not do with comedians or the phrase that brings fear into the eyes of my accountant: Killer Bitch.

But the tables have now been turned.

I have now met Leila Johnston and Sara Williams at Made By Many a couple of times. They run an event called Storywarp which was held at Made By Many but will now be held elsewhere and they both worked for Made By Many except Sara has moved on.

“So what does Made By Many do?” a friend asked the other day.

“I have no idea,” I said. “It’s a sort-of agency that does things or thinks up things connected to social networking and the internet or something. I have no idea. I suspect they don’t know either, but they seem to be quite good at whatever it is they do.”

“And what does this Leila woman do?” I was asked in a foolish follow-up question.

“I have no idea,” I said. “She seems to write for things like Wired magazine as well as work for Made By Many and she seems to be a powerhouse of creative something-or-other but I’m not quite sure what.”

“I see,” my friend said. “Perhaps you should ask her.”

So I did.

“I write and produce all kinds of stuff,” Leila told me. “and I’ve always been into comedy. If not trying to write it, then trying to see how other people do it. I’ve met a lot of comedy people over the years and they’re a strange bunch.”

So at least Leila is a good judge of character.

“I went up to the Edinburgh Fringe with my family in 1994 and it blew my mind,” she told me. “Comedy heroes everywhere! The writer/performer Ben Moor, whom my brother and I knew from some of our favourite radio and TV shows, was up there with a very strange, rather good one-man show called A Supercollider for the Family. Ben’s show had some great gags being projected on a screen behind him… In the Kingdom of the Deaf, the one-eared man is king. But his crown is askew...

“A decade later, like half of London, I became actual friends with Ben and I couldn’t resist quoting some of those jokes back to him. That must have been a bit strange for him, now I think about it. But he has got an even better memory for these details than me, which partly explains how he once got five gold runs on Blockbusters on ITV. We’ve since worked together on Radio 4 pilots and Star Trek TNG parties, and I still make a point of remembering all his jokes.”

Star Trek TNG parties???

It is no wonder I do not know what Leila does. What on earth are Star Trek TNG parties? I feel I have slipped through a temporal wormhole into a parallel universe.

Go back a bit, Leila. Go back a bit. I am old and, as comedienne Janey Godley would say, my skin no longer fits me.

“In 2003,” Leila tries to explain, “I was in my final year at York University, while doing bits of writing work for a communications company. People were beginning to see stand-up comedy would never be the new rock ‘n roll, but it was holding its own as the new drum ‘n’ bass. So the company decided to put on a comedy festival for the area.

“They appointed me their PR officer, which involved a bit of filling in spreadsheets and a lot of going to comedy gigs and propping up the VIP bar. I met Rhod Gilbert on the terrace. No-one knew who he was then, but everyone in the bar was magnetically pulled to his table, because his act had been the stand-out hit of our festival.

“If you’ve seen his manic domestic-appliance-themed act in recent years, you wouldn’t recognise him then. He was downbeat and immobile in the middle of the stage, spinning surreal stories about his Welsh family though, even then, it was all excellent.

Norman Lovett was compering one of the Fringe shows, and did a strange improvised routine involving balancing his spectacles on different parts of his body. I remember, in the bar that evening, being introduced to him as a Red Dwarf fan. He was very sweet and told us that, these days, he’s mistaken for Victor Meldrew almost as often as he is recognised for his own characters. I haven’t seen him since, but he was so nice that I remember his jokes.

“I flyered for Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe show through the monsoons of 2004. I was homeless at the time and living in a tent on a campsite just outside Edinburgh. Richard took a small amount of pity on me, made me a cup of tea, and allowed me to stay over on the sofa in his flat for one night. Chris Addison was there that night, too. It might have been his breakthrough year, but at that point he was just an energetic lad going round the room telling everyone their face was the shape of either a plate or a dragon. I might be mis-remembering, but I don’t think I am.

This is showbusiness! I thought. This is glamour! I went back to my tent-home and it had been flooded.

“I think I have met everyone I want to, so the world might as well finish.

“I am now preoccupied with ways the world could end in 2012, to the extent that I am hosting a series of events called The Event in February, in a basement in London where I think we will be safe. There will be talks, performance, science, a geiger counter, gas masks, and readings. Bunker space is limited.”

Oh… she may also go up to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012 or 2013.

If the world does not end.

Which all sounds great.

But what DOES Leila actually DO?

“Well,” she says, “all that Edinburgh Fringe stuff makes it sound like I’m just a crazed celebrity anecdote generating machine. I usually describe myself as a digital copywriter, because that tends to end the line of questioning. But I feel strongly that writing is just a by-product of trying to find out about things and being addicted to audiences, so it’s not enough to say ‘I’m a writer’. In addition to the day job, I constantly write things for publications, performance and broadcast.”

That really doesn’t help me.

I still have no idea what you could say Leila Johnston does.

But, then, I still have absolutely no idea what ‘thing’ I do either.

If anyone can tell me or even give me a few hints, I would appreciate it.

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Filed under Ad industry, Comedy, Internet, Marketing, Television, Writing

The End of the World is nigh… though we might need a wee re-calculation

On the second and final day of this year’s Fortean Times UnConvention, former BBC Religious Affairs correspondent Ted Harrison gave a talk about the end of the world.

He has previously written a novel King Clone about how to start your own religion – worshipping Elvis Presley. And he is currently writing a non-fiction book Apocalypse When about various End of The World scares throughout history.

Well, it’s mostly non-fiction.

Scares about the Apocalypse being imminent have thus far proved to be wrong and crop up with alarming regularity throughout history – sometimes when there is a cluster of natural disasters or astronomical abnormalities; sometimes when people are starting up religions and need a strong selling point to grab people’s attention.

When Joseph Smith started the Mormon church, he expected the Apocalypse to be within his lifetime.

The Seventh Day Adventists were a splinter group of the Millerites, who had expected the world to end on 22nd October 1844 and who had to re-calculate when it did not. Understandably, they called what did not happen on 22nd October 1844 “The Great Disappointment”.

More recently, Harold Camping, boss of the Family Radio network proclaimed that Jesus Christ would return to Earth, the righteous would fly up to heaven and there would be five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011 with the end of the world.

When this appeared not to have happened, on re-consideration, he re-calculated that, in fact, it had indeed happened, but “on a spiritual level” and that the physical apocalypse when God would destroy the universe was actually going to happen on 21st October 2011.

On that day, I was quite busy.

I went filming with Mr Methane, had a drink with comedian Paco Erhard and then went to the launch of Silver Road Studios in Shepherds Bush. The party in Shepherds Bush was quite noisy and I may have missed something; but I am writing this blog on 14th November 2011 and I suspect I would have noticed the end of the Universe if it had happened.

How Harold Camping has coped with the irritating non-appearance of the Four Horsemen, I do not know, but one of my fondest semi-religious memories is of attending a talk by Benjamin Creme in Holborn around 1984.

In the Spring of 1982, he had paid for ads in the London Times, the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers worldwide. The ads said:

“The Christ is now here”

They announced that Jesus Christ – or, more correctly, the Maitreya – was already walking the Earth and would telepathically reveal himself to the people of the world via television on 21st June 1982.

Alas, this failed to happen and I went to the blessed Benjamin’s talk to see how he had come to terms with this.

Jesus, by the way, was working at this time within the Indian/Bangladeshi community in the Brick Lane area of East London.

Apparently he had been going to reveal his identity in the telepathic television broadcast. Really he had.

The reason Jesus had not kept his appointment with destiny, it turned out, was because the world’s media had not taken that extra small step of trying to find him.

Call me cynical, but I had thought there might be – just perhaps – some financial scam involved in this saga.

When I attended Benjamin’s lecture, though, I realised I was wrong. He was an amiable, totally sane and clear-eyed middle-aged man with no particular financial axe to grind. From memory, the talk was free.

Benjamin came across as a kindly uncle trying to do his best although I was a little taken aback when he told us he was going to electrically charge us.

I think this was to increase our powers of understanding and/or awareness.

His eyes went into a wide-eyed staring trance, he stretched both his arms out towards us with his all his fingers sharply pointing forwards and, standing erect, his body slowly moved in an arc round the room, the invisible power source presumably pulsing into each of us.

After he had helped us thus, his eyes returned to their amiable Uncle Benjamin state and, presumably, I was in a higher state of consciousness though, alas, too stupid to realise it.

Benjamin has occasionally given other dates for what I like to think of as the Second Coming of Christ. So far, this has not happened, though I live in hope of good news.

Benjamin would, I think, disagree with me on the use of the phrase “the Second Coming of Christ”.

In April last year, he wrote in the Guardian that he has “never presented Maitreya as a messiah figure who comes to make all things bright and beautiful for a supine humanity” and (I think rather relevantly) he revealed “I am not a betting man”.

We are, by the way, not yet out of the woods on the End of the World being nigh.

The long-dead Mayan civilisation allegedly calculated the End of The World would take place on 21st December 2012.

That is good news for the London Olympics, but bad news for Christmas card manufacturers and for the organisers of Edinburgh’s 2012 Hogmanay celebrations.

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Filed under Eccentrics, Religion, Strange phenomena

World War 3, dead Australians, America’s wars, Randy Newman and God’s plan

Because the world, like the cafe in the famous Monty Python sketch, is full of spam, my preferences on this blog are set up so that I have to approve all comments before they appear.

When I woke up this morning, I was notified of a new comment on my blog of yesterday about Painting a New York fart, Tony Blair and Jo Brand. I would have approved the new comment this morning, but it seems to have been un-submitted. This is very sad. It told me:

“The crazy part is, World War 3 is not the most Earth shaking event to come within the next 4 years, The Pole Shift will cause even more damage and destruction, but in the case of the Pole Shift it will be for a Good cause with Divine purpose and for humankind to experience the 1,000 years of peace it has been promised for decades.”

Now, I watch the BBC News channel, Sky News and Al Jazeera regularly, some might say addictively, but this particular news had passed me by and I’m all for learning about new things and hearing original thought.

The comment came with a link to a webpage and perhaps may not be unconnected to the fact my Twitter account is now being followed by @ProjectJesus, the “Global Christian Community Appeal” which is “seeking one million fellow Christians to join (them) in a 21st century pilgrimage for Jesus.”

I presume @ProjectJesus is the same as www.projectjesus.com unless there are two competing projects – always a possibility as divine multi-tasking is not unknown.

I’m saddened this morning’s new comment was un-submitted not just because I enjoy original thinking, but because the concept of World War 3 is quite interesting. I think we may not know it has started until after it has finished.

The 1914-1918 war was originally called The Great War. (Note to Americans: that’s the 1917-1918 War, as far as you are concerned.)

So at what point did The Great War start being called World War 1?

Was it before or after the 1939-1945 war started? (Note to Americans: that’s the 1941-1945 War, as far as you are concerned.)

Surely you could not have had a so-called World War 1 until you had a World War 2… and it is only journalists, historians or political speechwriters who can declare World War 3 has started or happened.

Perhaps World War 3 started on 11th September 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked. Good ol’ George W Bush (never primarily known as a great linguist) decided that this had precipitated what he called The War on Terror. He could just as easily have said it had started World War 3, though the economic effect of that name on stock markets around the world might not have been too good.

The so-called War on Terror and its ramifications and outbursts over the last ten years have definitely been worldwide. We may already be living through the mid-point of World War 3. Perhaps we won’t know until some clever historian or influential TV pundit  decides to re-name The War on Terror as World War 3, just as The Great War was re-named World War 1.

But, getting back to World War 3 Predictions, the web page says – without explanation – that World War 3 “would result in countries like Australia almost getting wiped out from the face of the Earth”.

This seems a little harsh. Even Randy Newman in his wonderful song Political Science in which he wants to nuke all countries which hate America, writes:

We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin’ too

What has poor Australia done to get wiped off the map in World War 3?

I think we should be told.

I want to hear more.

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Filed under History, Politics, Religion, Theatre