Tag Archives: English language

A fancy man at the Edinburgh Fringe confused by the English language…

Katsura Sunshine in London in his self-made denim kimono

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Katsura Sunshine – Canadian comic teller of traditional Japanese Rakugo stories, who starts playing his last eight shows at the Leicester Square Theatre in London this week and then hightails it for New York shows in November.

Sunshine lives half his year in Tokyo and half in Camden Town in London. He always wears a kimono in the street and, usually, a bowler hat.  He tells me:

Sunshine at the Edinburgh Fringe

“I remember the first time I tried to get into a pub in Edinburgh wearing my kimono after a show and they refused me entry, saying: No fancy-dress!

“The guy was wearing a kilt, which looked pretty fancy to me.

“In Canadian English, we say ‘costume’ not ‘fancy dress’, so I actually didn’t know what he was talking about until later.

“To Canadians, ‘fancy’ just means ‘special’, so I thought he was asking me to wear something more boring.”

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What happens when you ask people you have never met to make up memories?

My bedcover: it seems relevant

My bedcover at night somehow seems relevant

I like the English language. Even – or perhaps especially – when it approaches the abstract.

Yesterday, there was a message meandering around Facebook which people were re-posting and which said:

If you’re reading this, even if we barely talk, comment with a memory you have of us. After you’re done, post this on your wall. You’d be surprised with what people remember about you.

It seemed fairly pointless, so I posted a version which said:

If you’re reading this, especially if we have never met, comment with a completely fictional memory you have of us. You will be visited by angels and small woodland creatures wearing corduroy culottes.

Below is the result: a series of unconnected, often surreal, almost abstract thoughts which I find strangely comforting and mesmerising.

I have partially anonymised the respondents, all of whom are highly admirable people. A few of them I have actually met, but they have not let that get in the way of their literally fantastic free-flowing thoughts…


MIKE: We met when I caught you giving my unicorn a hand job. Things went steadily downhill from there.

PAUL: Fight Club.

DARREN: You looked better dressed as Mary Poppins than I did as Batman.

ALEX: You used to steal my tuck shop money at school. You also taught me Geography.

ANIL: Remember when we got really pissed and killed that copper?

KEARA: I am so happy about that time I never slept with you. I will treasure that moment forever. Thanks for the memory.

ROBERT: Do you remember that time we got stuck on the train outside Bognor Regis? They wouldn’t open the doors until the engineer came and everyone sat around singing Abba songs. I think your dancing went a bit far, mind you.

ALI: We had booked you for the wedding reception but you were not what was expected. Tracey thought it was Bob Fleming from The Fast Show. We are indeed divorced just as you predicted.

STEPHEN: Imagine my surprise, when but a small orphaned boy in Calcutta, your family would take me in and bring me up as one of their own. I didn’t mind sleeping in the wardrobe and was an honour to polish your shoes. I even came to enjoy the beatings. The handcuffs didn’t chafe much at all.

PETER: I lent you £7,075. Are you ready to pay it back yet?

ANDREW: Our eyes met… what the rest of me was doing I don’t recall.

KERRY: I was the getaway driver when you and Jeremy Paxman robbed that Kardashian bint. I was dressed as a badger and you wore black… Ah yes, I remember it well.

LINDA: Auditioning for Girls Aloud. You joined the Spice Girls. I joined Take That.

RODERICK: Meeting you in person.

DOIREANN: I was an unwitting and rather stupid rodent stuck down a well and you fished me out and gave me some food. I briefly acknowledged your help then ran away and continued my stupid rodent life. Sorry about that. I developed a sense of remorse, uncharacteristic of rodents, so that may be my comeuppance!

STEFANIA: I still have your corduroy culottes….

MARTIN: It wasn’t my only homosexual experience, but it was my last.

ALEXIS: Why don’t we see culottes anymore?

JONNY: We had a Star Wars themed wedding, I was the butch, you were the bitch and Mr and Mrs John Fleming lived happily ever after in a galaxy far far away.

TRIONA: I remember the teeth.

KATE: Don’t beat me again with your meatstick, daddy!! Sorry, just had a bit of a flashback there…

A.J.: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times; we were fighting a battle for good against evil. On the Sega Mega Drive in 1992.

IAN: …and then you brought out the handcuffs and I said: “Unless you’re a cop you can forget it.”

ALIAS: Remember that time in the late nineties when we were testing out those prototype virtual reality goggles and we got trapped inside the elk hunting simulation after the computer became self aware? Good times.

ANDY: As my slightly older alter ego YOU need to post the fiction stuff as you only exist as my plausible deniability.

ROSIE: When Barbra Streisand didn’t know when to go home.

KENNY: I did actually meet you once, but you were too busy filling Les Dennis’ trousers with Marmite in the lobby of Yorkshire Television.

JANE: Crikey, I remember that time in Goa when we trod on a snoozing python… but it didn’t seem to mind it was so doped, thankfully.

EVELYN: So glad you told me there was loo roll flowing from my skirt tail. Complete gentleman. Thank you.

SIMON: You went all improv. We had to leave the scenes on the cutting room floor. Shame, as I thought that your SpiderBat look was something the audience of today would want to see.

COLIN: ‘Nam ’67.

JEZEBEL: We’ll always have Paris. One day, we may be forced to take it back.

JAMES: You were an extremely tender lover and taught me so much. I’d certainly never considered doing THAT with THOSE before.

KEV: I was the one who nudged your petri dish and helped you discover penicillin.

HENRIK: It was in an earlier life. You were one of Napoleon’s generals, I was a bumblebee who just happened to fly by.

GEOFF: There was that time in Bogota when some local dropped mescaline into our drinks and we lost a weekend in dreams.

DONNA: Now I just want a cute woodland creature!

JACKIE: I taught you the meaning of the word respect, then I barked like a dog…

ALASTAIR: We were both competing at the Annual Cherry Pit-Spitting Championships. There was a lot of phlegm flying about!! (I give Ariane Sherine some credit for that – not the flying phlegm, I mean me getting this idea – I remember her calling you John Phlegming in one of her Adventures Of A Stand-up Comic.)

ZHURONG: I only added you because I thought you wrote James Bond.

NOEL: That time we used to run guns for the Zapatistas into Chiapas. Crazy times!

ZUMA: That time you gave birth to a creepy baby and said: “It’s not mine”. Hah so funny!

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George Egg is cooking at the Edinburgh Fringe. But Andy Zapp won’t be there.

George egg irons out some problems

George Egg irons out some problems with his upcoming show

George Egg started performing when he was still at school. Now he is 42 and he could win the Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Fringe this year because he has never ever performed there before.

“I’m an Edinburgh virgin,” he told me last week. “I’ve never even been there as part of a show. I went up to visit maybe ten years ago, but I’ve never even been part of a package show.”

“You did your first paid comedy gig at Malcolm Hardee’s club Up the Creek in Greenwich?” I asked.

“Yes. When I was 19, in 1992. I had been doing street entertaining by the Cutty Sark in Greenwich for about three years before that. I started doing street entertaining when I was still at school. I did my first show when I was doing my GCSEs. Then I did an Art foundation course at St Martin’s in London, while doing street entertaining in Covent Garden. Then I moved to the University of Brighton, but I would come back to London at weekends to play Covent Garden to pay my way through my degree, which was in Visual & Performing Arts.”

“So,” I checked, “you never had to do anything other than performance because you were always able to support yourself?”

“That’s the thing,” said George. “I came out of university without any debt and never had to do an office job or anything like that. Do you remember Brian?”

“What?”

“Do you remember Brian?”

“As,” I asked, “in used-to-live-in-Malcolm-Hardee’s-house Brian?”

George Egg mask

You too can become your own George Egg

“Yes. I saw him last month, backstage at Glastonbury. He still does Covent Garden and does the new street entertaining pitch in front of Tate Modern. He was an absolute inspiration to me when I started – surreal, prop-based. He had a chicken on a pump-up rocket… You know when you get a Coca-Cola bottle, fill it with water and then pump it up with a bicycle pump and it flies up in the air?”

I nodded as if I did know.

“Brian’s finale was that,” explained George, “but with a rubber chicken on it. And he used to attack a music stand with nunchucks and just smash it to the ground. Really surreal stuff.”

“And this,” I asked, “inspired you to even better things?”

“Yes. He told me I should play at Up The Creek and, for about three years, I only got booked there because other clubs said my act was too odd. But I was earning so much doing street entertaining it didn’t matter. When I was working at Covent Garden, I knew loads of people who went up to the Edinburgh Fringe for the summer and came back loaded with money – while all the comedians who went up there lost loads of money.”

“What was your street act?” I asked.

“Magic. I used to do the razor-blade eating, then bring it all out threaded on cotton. And the nail-up-the-nose trick. Then, when I started getting more contract stuff and festivals abroad, I did the thing with the coat hanger, which Malcolm mentioned in his autobiography.”

“Remind me,” I said.

“For my finale,” George explained, “I used to put a coat hanger through my ear lobe and hang everything on it – my pants, socks, the works. So I am naked. But they’re all hanging down the front, so it’s quite modest. As I walked off, people would catch a sight of my back naked.”

“But your Edinburgh Fringe show this year,” I said, “is not that?”

George’s Fringe poster for Anarchist Cook

George’s Fringe poster for Anarchist Cook

“No. The show is called Anarchist CookI’m genuinely passionate about cooking and, doing the comedy circuit and staying in hotels for weekends all over the place, I never wanted to spend money on hotel food – it’s overpriced and rubbish quality – so I started seeing what I could cook in hotels using just their irons, kettles, trouser press and so on.”

“What did you do with the trouser press?” I asked.

“You’ll have to come and see the show,” said George. “It stimulates every sense. You can smell the show when I’m cooking it. You can see it. You can hear me talking. You can touch and taste when you eat the food I cook.”

“Any sixth sense?” I asked.

“It stimulates your sense of humour,” George suggested.

“You could be in line to be a TV chef?” I asked.

“Well,” said George, “I do a food blog online. I got an agent about a year ago and she’s set me up with loads of meetings about TV things, but there’s always this sense I’m not normal enough for them. They’re friendly and then nothing comes of it. They want it all to be conventional and accessible.”


That was George Egg, surprisingly doing his first ever show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

Andy Zapp

Andy Zapp finds himself in London’s Regent Street last week

Andy Zapp, musician-turned-comedian has performed at the Fringe before, but is not going this year. Instead, he going on a Center Parcs holiday with his grandchildren and daughter.

“I took out my one-man show in January,” he told me. “That went alright. It was a work in progress. Didn’t have a title. I need to get more on the emails and do more schmoozing, but I’m a bit too old for that at 67. I gig a lot. I’m still trying to get a sense of who I am on stage. Been doing bits of writing, connecting with who I am, but it’s a slow old game. I’ve been doing comedy four years now.”

“Are you still doing music gigs?” I asked.

“Yeah. I’m struggling with how you incorporate the music into the comedy; trying to get a club set together – you can’t sing with a harmonica in yer mouth.”

“I see you,” I said, “as an ageing Mississippi Blues man. Pity about the colour, but you can’t have everything.”

“Well,” said Andy, “an ageing Polish Mississippi Blues man born in Wales. That’s maybe my unique selling point. I’m still working towards pushing the boundaries.”

“You should,” I suggested, “do the autobiographical heroin show.”

“Yeah, but it’s more than that, isn’t it?” said Andy. “If the audience likes me, I can get away with murder. A couple of weeks ago, I was doing stuff around fisting. It just came out of the conversation and got quite ridiculous, really. It went from I’m a GILF – Good In Lots of Fings – to Grandad I’d Like to Fist and we were on a roll after that. About 23 minutes of ad-lib there, so that was good.

“I did the Palace Theatre with Russell Brand – where Les Misérables used to be – 1,400 people – and that was a really lovely gig. It was a fundraiser, a really great experience. When the jokes land, the laughter comes rolling down. He’s a nice bloke, Russell. Helpful. Puts his money where his mouth is. Helps people. Very kind. Very approachable. And the shit they write about him in the papers is just that – shit. He just tries his best.”

“I’ve never met him,” I said, “but I like the way he seems to love the English language.”

Andy Zapp - the current man in my bed at Edinburgh Fringe

Andy Zapp – surprised by the changes in the English language

“Though words change,” said Andy. “I was on-stage in Southend and I mentioned ‘plating this bird’ – cunnilingus – and they’re all looking at me and loads of them got their iPhones out and are looking up the definition of ‘plating’. And they go Earghh! Because, on Google, ‘plating’ is now squatting down on a sheet of glass and doing a crap while someone is looking up from underneath the glass. So no wonder they thought I was disgusting.”

“That,” I suggested, “could be your angle. You are old enough to have seen the language change.”

“I’m just trying to be more consistent, really,” said Andy. “I’d like to get better; I think I’ve got something to offer; I’m enjoying it.”

“Edinburgh next year,” I said.

“Definitely,” said Andy.

 

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