Tag Archives: farting

Juliette Burton (an English rose actress) & farteur Mr Methane’s burning bottom

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The highly-coveted main Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The Edinburgh Fringe takes place every August but never ends. It is only three months since this year’s Fringe finished and a whole nine months to the next one. But already performers are starting to obsess. It is like having a baby – right down to people having occasional morning sickness with a feeling of nausea in the pit of their stomach.

Fortunately, as a non-performer, I do not have to suffer any of this.

I have already booked a venue for the two-hour 2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – on Friday 22nd August – and talked to a venue owner about doing a second year of chat shows in the lead-up to it.

Elsewhere, performers’ traumas reign.

Yesterday, a young starting-out stand-up comedian asked me:

“Can literally anything – ANY experience – be turned into a Fringe comedy show?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Janey Godley’s Good Godley! was the show everyone talked about in 2004. It was very funny and it told exactly the same story as her autobiography Handstands in The Dark which is so terrifying it reads like a novel by Edgar Allan Poe. In the book, the story is horrific; on stage, it was very funny without demeaning the story. But, then, Janey’s talent is that she doesn’t tell funny stories, she tells stories funny.

“And Juliette Burton’s Fringe show this year When I Grow Up had something unexpectedly shocking in it: you could almost hear people’s jaws dropping. It was a happy, uplifting show with a coup de théâtre in it.

“If you’re having really bad time with your boyfriend and the relationship is breaking up,” I said, “write it down. It’s cathartic and it could be turned into comedy gold in a couple of years, if not sooner.”

“Should I wait a week,” asked this would-be comic, “then I write it down so I can be objective about it?”

“No,” I advised her. “The last thing you want to do is write something objective. If something horrible happens, write it down straight away while the pain is still vivid. The writing-down of it distracts you a little from the pain and, when you look at it in 12 months time, you will find you’re objectively looking at something that seems like a stranger’s writing.”

“But you’re not a performer,” she pointed out. “What do you know about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, “but I can give bullshit advice plausibly.”

What you do not write is almost more important than what you do write. It is what you cut out that can give impact to what is left in. This is something known by the twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee James Hamilton of comedy troupe Casual Violence.

Casual Violence - concentrated comedy

Casual Violence – surely everybody wants to see their sitcoms

He Facebooked a message yesterday about a one-off London show in January called Casual Violence: Nobody Wants To Make Our Sitcoms (Work in Progress). The blurb goes:

Join us for a low-key, super-informal script readthrough of two new sitcom projects that we’re working on – one for radio, one not for radio, both just for our benefit. We just want a bit of feedback so we can make them ourselves, for you. We’d like you to be our script editors. Come along, listen to our stories, have a drink with us afterwards and tell us what you think. Entry: £3 (entry fee is just to help cover the costs of the venue).

I have told them I will come along if they pay me £3.05p because, in comedy, it is seldom the performers who make the real money. It is the peripheral hangers-on.

Although, with luck, the aforementioned Juliette Burton might be an exception.

She is a combination of English Rose and whirling Tasmanian Devil type character with show ideas and promotional ideas spinning around her like a Wizard of Oz tornado. I had tea with her yesterday afternoon and most of the conversation I cannot repeat.

“What CAN I repeat?” I asked her.

“Well,” she replied, “as of today, it is confirmed that When I Grow Up is the first in a series of six live shows – and hopefully books and who knows what else? They will all be themed around identity – What makes a person? – The books depend on the interest I get from the proposal I have been asked to submit to a publishing company.”

Juliette’s new website lists her six shows as:

2013 – When I Grow Up
2014 – Look At Me
2015 – Dreamcatcher
2016 – an untitled show
2017 – Daddy’s Girl
2018 – The Butterfly Effect

“I am doing When I Grow Up at the Leicester Square Theatre in February,” she told me, “then touring it in Australia until May. There’s a new video promo for it.”

Juliette’s 2014 show Look At Me is going to be staged in association with the facial disfigurement charity Changing Faces, the body image charity B.O.D.Y. and the eating disorder charity B-eat.

Look At Me is billed as “a docu-comedy” (which is what When I Grow Up actually was) and, like When I Grow Up, will include video footage shot throughout the year – including interviews (the first is on 18th December) – and, in this case, the blurb goes:

By changing her appearance in dramatic (and hilarious) ways, Juliette will document how people react to her, how she feels and how she behaves. From wearing her glasses to being a man, from wearing a burka to dressing provocatively, from revisiting her “fat” self to being “old” and even going nude. Can we change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside? And is what we appear to be who we are?

I normally hate videos within live stage shows, but Juliette (a former BBC Radio journalist) showed with When I Grow Up this year that she can make it work smoothly and superbly.

Look At Me will also develop Juliette’s promotional blitz style with an accompanying pop song by Frankie Lowe, a pop video by Daniel Waterman, who directed her Dreamers (When I Grow Up) video, and who knows what else.

Juliette Burton seems to me to live a life of extremism.

With my chum Mr Methane, it’s a life of surrealism.

I got an e-mail from him last night.

Mr Methane pictured with Thomas Numme, Author - Jo Nesbo & Harald Ronneberg on a previous visit to the show.

Mr Methane pictured with (from left) Thomas Numme, author Jo Nesbo and Harald Rønneberg after a previous show visit

Tomorrow, he returns to the Senkveld med Thomas og Harald (Late Night with Thomas and Harold) TV show on TV2 in Norway.

He is making a special guest appearance with Robbie Williams and recently retired Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on the 10th anniversary edition of the show.

In fact, the show was pre-recorded on 22nd November in front of an audience of 8,000 at the Oslo Spektrum stadium.

Mr Methane tells me: “I had a brief chat with Robbie Williams as I came off stage and he went on – that’s right I was his warm up man. He said he had once gone to see me at a gig in Newcastle-under-Lyme in the early 1990s.

“Between us, me and Robbie had both ends covered on this gig. Although we both grew up not too far from one another and we both tread the boards, other similarities are not readily apparent. However I can now exclusively reveal that we both like oatcakes.

“Last weekend I went back to Norway again – this time to Kristiansand – where I did a 25th birthday gig for the Norwegian importer of Umbro sportswear.”

Part of Mr Methane’s much-admired yet seldom imitated stage act involves farting-out the candles on a birthday cake.

He told me:

“The Norwegian boss wanted me to wear Umbro sportswear until I explained that I came from Macclesfield where the Humphrey Brothers of Wilmslow set up their first Umbro factory. (The name UMBRO apparently obscurely comes from the words hUMphrey BROthers.)

mrmethanebends

Methane’s mate’s mum made his costume

“My mate’s mum, who made my Mr Methane costume, was an Umbro seamstress so I told the Norwegian boss that, technically, I was already wearing Umbro kit.

“He was delighted, but that didn’t stop a rather drunken member of the audience slamming the birthday cake candles into my bottom, burning my arse and rather spoiling the big moment. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or just fell over because he was so drunk.

“But that’s Northern Europe for you: long cold winter nights and large amounts of booze.

“The next day, I got food poisoning at breakfast and had a rough journey home. I am now finally getting back on track. It is a big relief as I am on my last pair of pyjamas.”

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Humanity, humour, farting, eccentricity and tragedy at the Edinburgh Fringe

Sal Monello - a creator of fringes at The Fringe

Sal Monello – cutter of hirsute fringes at The Fringe

Yesterday morning at the Edinburgh Fringe, as Irish comedian Christian Talbot was trying to get me to talk coherently for his Seven 2 Ten podcast, I got a text message from American comedian Lewis Schaffer saying:

Sal, the comic barber, is cutting hair for free during the Festival.

Thus I later found myself in Fringe Central sitting on a chair with Sal Monello standing behind me holding sharp, pointed scissors saying:

“I come from Corleone in Sicily.”

“As in The Godfather?” I asked politely.

“Yes. My surname is not Monello… Monello means ‘villain’ or ‘naughty boy’. My father genuinely did escape from the Mafia. In my comedy set, I make it funny but it was rather tragic. My father was in the Communist Party and his name was put on a hit list in 1955 and he had to leave the country. They were going to kill him.

“Ironically, my dad killed himself when he was 66. He had managed to keep his life together while he was working and brought up us seven kids. The minute he retired, he thought Fuck, my life is over.

“He did all sorts of jobs: fork-lift truck driver, railway line worker, hospital porter. The job we liked best was when he worked in a chocolate factory. He used to cut my hair with clippers to keep the cost down and I ended up being a hairdresser. I’ve only been doing comedy for three years. My marriage broke down after 25 years. We divorced two years ago, but my wife left about three and a half years ago. She ran off with a Polish taxi driver. I still love the woman, that’s the problem – fucking damaged me. In order to stay sane, I threw myself into comedy, because you can totally absorb yourself in it.

“I set up gigs, performed and got so involved in it very quickly but, one day, I looked down at my shotgun – I shoot – and thought I’m going to kill myself.

“But then I had visions of him with his arm round her saying in a Polish accent: Oh, it is terrible tragedy. Clearly he was insane. He probably better off where he is. But now we have a lovely house and business.

“So I thought Fuck you, mate – I’m not going to shoot myself. And I didn’t.

“I stayed sane through comedy.

Sal had some cutting remarks yesterday

Sal Monello shared some cutting insights with me yesterday (photograph by Lewis Schaffer)

“When I started doing comedy, I quickly found people have to believe what you say.

“I actually lost my virginity to a whole family. I fucked a whole family when I was 17 – well, not the dad. But the mother – she was a widow – and her three daughters. I screwed all of them. That’s how I lost my virginity.

“If I tell people that on stage, they don’t believe me but I’ve learned that, if a say someone in my hairdressing chair has told me the story, they’ll believe me because they know people are prepared to talk to a hairdresser. I’ve got that unique angle: I can be anybody.

“I’m not doing a show at the Fringe this year but, next year, I want to do a show called A Free Haircut. I’ll get people up on stage and I’ll do a full haircut while telling stories.”

At this point, my former temporary Edinburgh flatmate Andy Zapp passed by:

“My gorilla is arriving tonight by plane,” he told me.

“He must be a very well-off gorilla,” I said.

“Yes,” said Andy Zapp.

“Is he a gorilla-gram?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Andy. “A stripper-gorilla-gram.”

A passer-by takes an interest in Mr Methane yesterday

A passer-by takes an interest in Mr Methane’s act yesterday

Then I went to see my new temporary Edinburgh flatmate Mr Methane’s first show at Bob’s Bookshop – part memories of his life professionally farting around the world; part fart demonstrations.

He had managed to get a full audience on his first day with little publicity. The outside door was left open for ventilation; passers-by occasionally looked through the window at what was happening in the front room of Bob’s Bookshop. Oddly, they only occasionally appeared surprised.

“Farting doesn’t get any easier,” he told his audience. “I’ve been doing this since I was 15. After school, I moved on to a sensible career on the railways, followed by a bit of japing around and then into full-blown – if that’s the right word – showbusiness when I was 25.”

As he lay back on the table and splayed his buttocks under his green and purple costume, he explained: “What we do is we open the sphincter muscle – you lads from Glasgow, we’re talking about the turd-cutter here.

Bob Slayer was saying to me last night Comedy isn’t easy. There’s a crafting. Comedians can work on a joke and it might not be funny for three years then, one night, they just change a couple of words or put a pause in and everyone laughs hysterically. It’s a craft. And then they see me come on stage, I get me legs in the air, I part me buttocks and rip one off and there’s a big laugh from the audience. It seems easy.

“But it’s bloody hard after you’ve farted for a bit to carry on talking. What I do is difficult and I do train a lot. It gets harder as you get older because your body gets less and less subtle. But I do a lot of yoga and stretching the hamstrings, trying to keep the abdominals tight which, at 47, is becoming difficult. Still, I think I’m in reasonable peak farting condition.

“I used to be able to do a full lotus position in yoga, though I can’t do it any more. But, when I could, I noticed I was naturally double-jointed and, when in this position, I could breathe both fore and aft.

Mr Methane, pumping prodigy, prepares to Fart A Dart

Mr Methane, the pumping prodigy, prepares to Fart A Dart

“At school, I became a pumping prodigy in the lunch hour. We used to break into the squash courts and I used to fart How Much Is That Doggie in The Window and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in exchange for pocket money.

“As you can see, I’ve not progressed 30 years later. A lot of people want to be on stage: Come over here! Look at me! I’ve always thought I want to be a train driver. But always I get pulled back to being on stage. I’m like a reluctant farter.”

If Mr Methane is a reluctant farter, Tim Fitzhigham is a wholehearted eccentric.

Tim Fitzhigham discussed increasingly prestigious eccentricity

Tim and increasingly prestigious eccentricity

I went for a chat with him last night after his Challenger show which has had extra dates added. We were talking about him appearing on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show next Friday (23rd).

He is currently thinking about juggling ice on the show, although this may change, as I have already booked Mat Ricardo to juggle spaghetti.

We also talked about him appearing on my Fringe chat show next Wednesday afternoon, at which point he told me about an extra big charity show – only just announced – happening next Wednesday (11.59pm till late) at the massive McEwan Hall venue.

“I had a chat with Charlie and Ed who run it for the Underbelly venue,” Tim told me, “and they have given it to us for free.”

Tim occasionally does OTT gigs called Maxwell’s Fullmooners with Irish comic Andrew Maxwell. Next Wednesday’s charity gig is called PaulMooners: A Fullmooners Moontacular and co-stars Terry Alderton, Ed Byrne, Jason Byrne, Phill Jupius, Lady Carol, Glenn Wool – and John Bishop coming specially up from London for his only appearance at this year’s Fringe. Plus other names to be announced.

Why would they all appear on a Fullmooners show re-named PaulMooners?

Because the show is raising money for Paul Byrne, the highly-respected director of both Tim Fitzhigham’s Fringe show and Andrew Maxwell’s Fringe show. Paul, aged 36, has just discovered he has cancer – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“It was only diagnosed after the first Edinburgh show and we’re all more than a little bit shell-shocked,” Tim told me last night.

Paul Byrne has returned to London to embark on an intense course of chemotherapy. Tickets for next Wednesday’s Paulmooners charity show are £15 and can be bought from all five of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival box offices – Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Just The Tonic, Pleasance and Underbelly.

In the midst of comedy, real human life goes on.

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Exclusive! – Mr Methane reports from World Fart Championships in Finland

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

Mr Methane (left) and Championships presenter Phartman

Mr Methane (left) & Championships’ presenter Phartman

This morning, dramatic news from Finland via my professional farting chum Mr Methane.

Yesterday, at the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. the single and team events were won by two Russian friends, Vlad & Alex who had flown to Helsinki from Moscow and then made a five hour train journey to Utajärvi.

They had heard of the farting festival earlier this year on Mr Methane’s website and Vlad said to Alex: “There is a farting contest this summer in Finland. Shall we go ?”

Alex replied: “Yes we should.”

Vlad said: “There is more. Mr Methane is performing there.”

Alex is said to have replied: “Wow! I have already packed.”

Not unreasonably, they decided that the double whammy lure of a farting competition AND possibly meeting Mr Methane, their hero, was too good to miss.

“So,” Mr Methane told me this morning from Finland, “they came and won both prizes for Russia yesterday, establishing a new festival volume record in the bargain.”

Japanese fart battles of the 17th century

Documented air battles raged in Japan between 1603-1868

Admittedly, this was not difficult, as it was the first World Fart Championships, although the tradition of farting competitions goes back at least to 17th century Japan where, between 1603-1868 there were “He-gassens” – fart battles.

In the 199os, a collection of scrolls showing some of these bitterly-fought air battles was sold at Christie’s in London for $1,200.

At yesterday’s World Fart Championships in Finland, Mr Methane was not competing. He had been invited by the organisers as a farting icon and the inspiration to a generation of Finnish flatulists.

Before the event, presented by local entertainer Phartman, both Mr Methane and I had been a bit vague about how the organisers were going to make farting into a competition and how they were going to decide winners. All was revealed yesterday.

Winning Russian duo in the team event

Winning Russians Vlad (left) & Alex in the team event

“Contestants had to drop their trousers,” Mr Methane reported, “but they kept underpants on. There was a large egg timer and they had 30 seconds in which to fart. There was a decibel meter and a microphone in a pipe below the seat on which they sat. For team events, there was a double seat.

“Contestants had two attempts – not one after other – they went to the back of the queue. It was all about the volume.”

“How loud were the Russian winners?” I asked.

Mr Methane performed with backing from the local Utajärvi brass band

Mr Methane performed The Blue Danube to hushed crowds in Finland yesterday with backing from the Utajärvi brass band

“Sorry,” Mr Methane told me, “I can’t remember the exact decibel meter reading, but it was just under 90.”

“And the audience?” I asked.

“They were polite, enthusiastic and appreciative of my show which was the matinée intro to the Fart Championships themselves. I also closed the Championships with a long fart at the end.”

The Russians’ secret weapon

Russians’ secret weapon

“Did the Russians have any particular technique?” I asked.

“They told me they thought a particular Russian drink had helped them win the contest,” said Mr Methane. “It is non alcoholic but fizzy.”

It is called квас оцаковскии – kvass otsakovskii. Kvass is a fermented drink made from rye bread and is marketed in Russia as a patriotic alternative to cola.

Coca-Cola launched its own brand of kvass in Russia in 2008 and Pepsi has signed an agreement with a Russian kvass manufacturer to act as a distribution agent. So the kvass wars cannot be far off.

You read it first here.

Mr Methane tells me: “It tastes like fizzy Marmite. Vlad and Alex presented me with a bottle as a gift and then sang a couple of verses of my song Cut The Cheese (available to view on YouTube)”

“Did they get a prize?” I asked him.

The Russian winners and their prize

The Russian winners with part of their prize

“Yes,” said Mr Methane. “52 cans of nuclear pea soup, the fuel that Phartman uses. Their two straight event wins mean that they went back to Russia with 104 tins which could be a problem at the airport baggage drop. But the organisers put their prize in a wheelbarrow and gave them a lift to the station for the 11.00pm overnight train back to the south.

“The weather had looked a bit dodgy before the Championships – overcast and showers – but it brightened up once the farting started and the sun eventually shone.

“I stayed overnight in a disused mental asylum in middle of a forest with Phartman who turns out to be a psychiatric nurse. It is very Soviet Union. The mosquitoes in the woods around the mental hospital have bitten me nearly to death. I am now off to catch a plane. There are strong winds here at the moment.”

Mr Methane will be talking about his life farting around the world in his own full-length show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and, unless discovered by Hollywood, will be performing at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on 23rd August.

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News of Edinburgh Fringe sexual organ props & the World Fart Championships

Martin Soan, an older man, but stylish in his Nigel Hall socks

Martin Soan (right) chats on Lewis Schaffer’s radio show

“I thought I was going to get away without building a sexual organ prop this year,” Martin Soan told me yesterday. “But the first order for a cock has come in today. It’s for a comedian going up to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Your FIRST order?” I asked. “How many do you normally get?”

“I usually get about two a year,” Martin told me.

As attentive readers of this blog will know, Martin was asked in May to perform the part of a vagina in a play. He is famed for The Naked Balloon Dance he created for the Greatest Show on Legs.

“What happened to your vagina part in the play?” I asked him this morning.

“The woman sent me the script, I read it and I politely told her I was not an actor.”

Martin was once asked to build a prop for a comedian which, he said, was an “all-singing-and-dancing talking vagina. I used silk. It had hair and eyes. It was really scary.”

He may not be an actor in the traditional sense, but he walks an ever-moving dividing line between being a comedian and a performance artist, a prop maker and a creator of stage fantasies.

mrmethanebends

Mr Methane flying off to fart in Finland

And, talking of unlikely career paths and fantasies, we have the case of my chum Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing farter who is attending the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. They are being held this Saturday.

He flies off at noon today, but may arrive in Finland earlier than scheduled if there is a following wind.

“I’m surprised they’re having championships,” I said to him yesterday. “Surely it’s a talent rather than a sport?”

“I would say it could be both,” he told me. “It’s a sport in terms of my kind of farting – petomania – because performing a full show like mine is quite strenuous and it requires one to be farting fit. I think the talent is being able to control one’s emission.”

“That is always a bonus when in polite society,” I suggested.

“Sometimes,” said Mr Methane, “when I am introduced as a professional farter, the ladies do not fully take into consideration the fact that a pro can control his emissions. That is a positive over your average male, surely?”

“I certainly consider it thus,” I said. “But do foreigners really understand the joke? Indeed, is it a joke?”

“I am the man,” said Mr Methane, “who apparently blew the doors of censorship wide open for Swedish TV after my 1991 appearance on Robert Aschberg’s TV3 show.”

Mr Methane performed in front of guests including the country’s Foreign Minister.

“Things were apparently never the same again,” Mr Methane told me yesterday. “Or so I found out when I was invited as a guest on a Swedish style This Is Your Life TV show for Robert. The show’s producer wrote to Barrie, my manager:

When Mr. Methane visited Robert’s show Ikväll in the early 1990s he stunned a whole country. Some was amused and some were appalled by Mr. Methane’s talent however – it was television history. None in Sweden had before seen this kind of a show. Robert’s show was a predecessor and Mr Methane was the one guest that made it happen.

“When Martin Soan and Malcolm Hardee and the Greatest Show on Legs took The Naked Balloon Dance to Sweden in the early 1980s,” I said. “it was very popular there, but Malcolm told me he didn’t think the Swedes actually understood why it was funny.”

“I think Malcolm is partially correct but not entirely,” said Mr Methane. “If you watch the clip of Robert Aschberg crying with laughter and tears running down his face as I perform, it’s hard to believe that Swedes have no sense of humour. I think they tend to conduct themselves in a reserved fashion and this gives off that impression.

“Robert’s mate Gert Fylking, who held the microphone, could give the Greatest Show On Legs a run for their money. He was mental and did some really crazy things. But, then, he did attend a boarding school in Uttoxeter… His parents felt that an English education would be good for him and it obviously paid dividends.”

“Crazy things?” I asked.

“He had an enema-shitting contest,” said Mr Methane, “but his real party piece is jumping up and down on one leg, naked, until his cock spins round like a propeller. Both were performed on TV3 after they’d tested the limits with my act. He is a Christian Democrat politician now.”

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

“I used to work for TV3 in the UK,” I said. “It is a fine TV company. I think they screened Little House on The Prairie undubbed. Do you think any one nation more attuned to the true appreciation of your farts?”

“I guess my show is best received in Australia,” mused Mr Methane, “though some Australians are touchy about it because they feel that the world sees them as crude and rude when they are, in fact, a highly cultured nation.

“My 1997 appearance on the Channel 9 Footy Show apparently holds the record for the most complaints about an Australian TV show. People were calling in to complain from remote places out in the bush that weren’t even meant to get Channel 9’s signal. The switchboard apparently melted. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

The Footy Show panel turned to rubble, the studio audience was a mix of Animal House delight and gob smacked incredulity and the phones ran hotter than a Kate Fischer calendar.

“So what are you doing at the World Fart Championship in Finland?” I asked.

“At 47,” said Mr Methane, I’m past my competitive age, so I’m there as a The Godfather of Flatulence – an inspiration to those who follow in my footsteps – or wherever – A bit like you get the retired footballers on Match of the Day.

Johann Strauss was a fine Austrian composer

Johann Strauss II was a fine composer

“I will be doing a fully-blown show there, but I will be pacing myself. I will be going at my own speed, not sprinting to a finishing line in the shortest time and I will be accompanied by the Utajärvi Brass Band in a special rendition of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. I see my show as a mature wine that should be savoured and not rushed so one can experience the true aroma.”

“How can they judge farts at the Championships?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” admitted Mr Methane. “You could have The Longest, The Shortest, The Fattest, The Thinest… Hang on, this is beginning to sound like the theme tune to Record Breakers.”

“Whither farting contests?” I asked.

“I think it is an event that could run and run,” said Mr Methane.

“Any helpful advice for actual contestants?”

“Relax… But not too much.”

“And after your visit to Finland?”

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

“As you know,” said Mr Methane, “ I am appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, with My Life In Farting at Bob Slayer’s Bookshop venue at 3.30 every afternoon,  13th – 17th August… Ring-side seats are still available.”

“And you are staying in my Edinburgh flat for that week?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mr Methane.

“Oh dear,” I said.

As I was about to post this blog, I got a mobile phone text from Mr Methane. It read:

“I’m hearing reports of a fart on The Archers. Not sure if true but, if so, you’d think they would have brought me in to do it. We both missed some publicity there.”

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Filed under Comedy, Finland, Humor, Humour, Sweden, Theatre, UK

Casual Violence with Mr Methane farting around, plus Fringe comedy, David Icke & the Bilderberg conspiracy

Last night, I saw comedy sketch group Casual Violence performing what they called a ‘work in progress’ version of their upcoming new Edinburgh Fringe show House of Nostril.

It was slick, sick and silly, peculiar, perverse and potty – in other words classic Casual Violence weirdness.

James Hamilton, Casual Violence writer and twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee, reckons his stuff is not weird but, then, he IS weird, so what does he know about it?

Casual Violence have even put a video about hair on YouTube this morning.

After the Casual Violence show last night, I got back to relative normality at home when I received to an email about the World Farting Championships at Utajärvi in Finland.

It seems the Chortle comedy website’s Fast Fringe preview is on 11th July in London and Chortle’s Steve Bennett had inquired into the availability of Mr Methane, the farter of alternative comedy, but he was sadly unavailable because he will be off to the World Farting Championships.

When I intruded into Steve’s grief last night, he told me: “It’s a shame. Mr Methane would have added something very distinctive to the atmosphere of the gig. However, the other 28 acts who are on the bill will possibly be grateful as the dressing rooms at Leicester Square Theatre are very small.”

I asked Mr Methane about his now tragic non-appearance at the upcoming Chortle gig:

“Being invited to the Fast Fringe,” he told me, “is a significant acknowledgement for any performer who is out there working his ring off, so it goes without saying that I’m more than a little frustrated at having a Diary Clash.

“But, that said, I can’t let down my fans in Finland nor the World Farting Championships – The promoters had already booked my tickets and announced my appearance.

“I have promised them some anal japery and anal japery they will get. My word is my bond. Mr Methane always come up trumps.”

“But,” I asked him, “what if you HAD appeared at the Fast Fringe preview: what would you have shown them?”

“I would,”  he told me, “have given potential Fringe goers a taster –  if that’s the right word – of what to expect at my Edinburgh Fringe show.

“It’s not just a performance show this year. I am attempting to give audiences the ‘back story’ of my 20+ years at the ‘bottom end’ of showbusiness… the quirky, stupid stuff that to me has become everyday normal but to everyday normal people is anything but normal.”

I thought of Casual Violence at this point.

“That said,” continued Mr Methane, “I realise that many will just want to see the farting so I’m going to do that as well… All the crowd pleasers… Candle in the Wind, the cake, the talcum powder, farting the dart…

“It’s going to be tricky getting the balance between spoken word and farting right, but I’m sure that wherever the balance point ends up I will share some good crack.”

His show – Mr Methane: My Life in Farting – is at the Edinburgh Fringe 13th-17th August – at Bob Slayer’s new venue Bob’s Bookshop. It should, as Steve of Chortle said, add “atmosphere”.

Never knowingly under-promoted: my upcoming Fringe show

Never knowingly under-promoted: my upcoming Fringe show

For better or worse, I may have to inhabit some of that atmosphere, as my show Aaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! So It Goes- John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show is in the same venue 19th-23rd August. Let us hope the sweet smell of success transfers.

Mr Methane had two other little snippets of news for me.

The first was something totally unexplained in an e-mail. He told me:

“I met Bob Slayer at the weekend. The tank broke down due to fuel starvation, so he wasn’t able to arrive from out of the sea on an amphibious craft but is hoping to try again next year.”

I have absolutely no idea what this means.

The second thing he told me was in the same e-mail:

“BTW there is a Fringe Festival happening near you very soon – the Bilderberg Fringe Festival. Speakers confirmed so far include David Icke and Alex Jones, who Rolling Stone described as a giant in America’s conspiracy sub-culture.

Publicity for the Bilderberg Fringe

Publicity for Bilderberg Fringe features esteemed David Icke

“Fancy! The Bilderbergs just happening to set up shop down the road from you and then along comes a Bilderberg Fringe Festival as well. They’ve got an alternative media centre outside the hotel – That’s a whole week’s blog material right outside your front door. It’s come a long way since Jon Ronson covered them.”

I looked up the Bilderberg Fringe website after getting Mr Methane’s e-mail. It says:

“The Bilderberg conference is an annual, unaccountable, off-the-record summit attended by royalty, politicians, intelligence, Big Pharma, tech, banking and corporate CEOs plus policy-makers and media moguls from all over the world. The press are not invited, nor given any details beyond a participant list and a sketchy agenda.

“The group is run by a Steering Committee (which is the Bilderberg Group proper). The UK’s Minster of Justice Kenneth Clarke has been a member of the steering committee since at least 1998.

“Seeking to stimulate hearts and minds and unite the politically conscious, the Bilderberg Fringe Festival is an unmissable occasion for conscious citizens from all over the world to join together. We are expressing our outrage at this travesty of democracy the only way we know how. By hula-hooping in the sunshine and dancing barefoot in the grass. Except where cows have been.”

Perhaps James Hamilton and Casual Violence are not as uniquely weird as I thought.

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At what point does ‘being famous’ start? Take these three comedians… Please.

(This was also published by the Indian news site WSN)

The Fringe has reduced comedian Lewis Schaffer to this

Lewis Schaffer publicising his Leicester Square Theatre show

Is American comedian Lewis Schaffer famous? He has been performing his free show – Free Until Famous – for so long that it has become the longest-running solo comedy show in London.

He usually starts his shows by saying they will be free until he is famous.

In a fortnight, he begins an eight-week run of his new show – Lewis Schaffer’s American Guide to England – at the Leicester Square Theatre (every Sunday) at £10 per ticket. Does this, as mind-reader Doug Segal has suggested, mean that Lewis Schaffer is now famous because he is charging admission? And will his ongoing Free Until Famous shows affect or enhance audiences for his paid shows?

Who knows but, last night, he lost the shirt off his back.

Lewis Schaffer performing in London last night

Lewis Schaffer performing semi-naked in London last night

A woman in the audience told him she was disappointed he was wearing clothes because she had seen the publicity for his Leicester Square shows (in which he is seen, naked, under an American flag) and thought that was the show she had come to see.

So he took his shirt off and did half his show half naked,

I am not sure if this is a sign of successful publicity or fame or desperation or not.

Scór Encore with Aindrias de Staic (left)

Scór Encore with the newly respectable Aindrias de Staic (left)

Yesterday, I also got a publicity blurb from Irish broadcaster RTÉ which informed me that Aindrias de Staic is one of the judges on the new talent show Scór Encore starting on their TG4 channel this Sunday.

Just a few years ago, Aindrias was performing an autobiographical Edinburgh Fringe show called Around The World on 80 Quid. He had done exactly what it said in the title. When I contacted him yesterday, he told me: “You could say I’ve been appearing on all sides of the globe lately…

Aindrias de Staic - his normal look

Aindrias de Staic – his more well-known, for-him-normal look

“Last Friday, I was appearing in the UK premiere of Songs for Amy at the Glasgow Film Festival. This week I’m in Toronto, appearing in the first ever Spoken Word Symposium at the Folk Alliance Conference in Toronto – don’t forget to say I’m performing my ‘unique brand of gaelic-hiphop’ – and this coming weekend I’m back on Irish screens as a judge on Scór Encore.

“Having been up before the judge myself many times, it will be an interesting turn-around for this Galway boy to sit in a judge’s chair. I’ll tell you more soon.”

But does all this big screen/stage/small screen work mean he is famous?

At a certain level, it must mean that.

But, as yet, people are not selling or buying Aindrias de Staic face masks or costumes.

You too can buy a Mr Methane costume

Buy your own Methane costume

My chum Mr Methane – the Farter of Alternative Comedy – told me yesterday that ‘officially-licensed Mr Methane costumes’ are currently on sale at the very reasonable asking price of £14.95 – a saving of £15.04. And, for only £1.99 extra, you can also buy “a realistic-looking silver glitter microphone with a black handle” to “complete the desired look”.

Does the fact a company wants to buy a licence to sell copies of your costume to the public mean you are famous?

Mr Methane told me that it set him wondering how many other UK comics market their image via costumes. Sasha Baron Cohen’s ‘mankini’ costume seems to be out there for around £5 but, says Mr Methane, “generally people’s marketing seems to be mostly via those likelife celebrity masks as opposed to a fully-blown costume.

Alan Partridge, as work by Mr Methane

Alan Partridge mask as worn by Mr Methane

“I myself,” confided Mr Methane, “own an Alan Partiridge mask. It was on offer in a local charity shop, unused and still bagged for 50p, so my sister bought it for me with the idea that I could annoy everyone on Christmas Day with Alan Partridge impressions.”

I think everyone in the UK would admit Alan Partridge is famous.

But he does not exist. What about fame?

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What singer Phil Collins thought of Mr Methane’s offer of a farted charity single

After three blogs this week about Mr Methane – the Farter of Alternative Comedy – I thought I had got the world’s only professionally performing flatulist out of my system, but then he goes and tells me that he has the third largest number of hits on the Britain’s Got Talent YouTube channel – at the time of writing, he has had over 28 million views against Susan Boyle’s 22 million views.

Phil Collins - not a fan of flatulence in 1997

Phil Collins – not a fan of flatulent music in 1997

And he also told me about Phil Collins.

In 1994, Mr Methane performed a version of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight – suitably farted and re-titled Curry In The Air Tonight. Mr M’s manager had initially approached Phil Collins via his PA and asked if they could record and release it

“The message came back,” Mr Methane told me yesterday, “that Phil said Do what the fuck you want with it. We finished the song and sent it off to Phil who was on the road with Genesis at the time for final approval. His manager got involved and said No. Apparently the technicians were playing it at Genesis sounds checks – Whether that had something to do with the change of heart I’m not sure.”

Mr Methane tried again in 1997, contacting Phil who was, at the time, President of Comic Heritage (which later became part of The Heritage Foundation).

Mr Methane’s letter said:

__________________________________________________________

Mr Methane's letter to Phil Collins

Mr Methane tries to curry favour from Phil Collins

Dear Mr Collins,

Though mainly recognised as an international musician/composer, I note your interest and appreciation of comedy and as a result your title, Annual President of Comic Heritage 1997. This is to be applauded and now surely is the time for you to re-appraise the following issue.

I am a working comedy variety act, having performed the ability to pass wind in tune and at will. Three years ago I was refused permission by your publishers to release a comedy version of your well known hit single, ‘In The Air Tonight’. In view of the fact that you are now publicly allied with the world of comedy, I throw down the gauntlet and issue the following invitation.

Will the president of Comic Heritage grant licence for my much acclaimed parody of ‘In The Air Tonight’ entitled ‘Curry In The Air Tonight’ to be released with all royalties from this song’ sales going towards Comic Heritage or another charity of the composer’s choice?

Yours sincerely,

Mr Methane

__________________________________________________________

A fortnight later, Mr Methane got a reply from Phil’s manager:

__________________________________________________________

Reply from Phil Collins' manager

Reply from Phil Collins’ personal/business manager

As per our previous correspondence with you, this is to confirm that we will not grant permission for Phil Collins’ hit single “In The Air Tonight” to be used in the manner in which you describe.

This is a very serious song and we cannot see any reason for it to be taken so lightly.

Yours sincerely

Tony Smith

Personal & Business Manager
to Phil Collins

__________________________________________________________

Currently, the official video of In The Air Tonight has had over 24 million views.

But I can’t help but feel that Phil’s manager’s decision was Music’s – and Comedy’s – loss.

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Frank Skinner & Mr Methane TV act banned by the BBC (and Phil Spector)

Mr Methane ended up looking like a Muppet

Someone on the BBC TV show ended up looking like a Muppet

The comedy ‘Rule of Three’ and Fate have combined to decree that Mr Methane appears in my blog for the third day running.

One of his better stories can never be told because, before the performance, he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement that he would never tell anyone the performance had taken place in that location to those people…

However, yesterday he reminded me about one publishable non-appearance he made.

Mr Methane is the Farter of Alternative Comedy, a phrase I will repeat until someone else copies it.

Comedian Frank Skinner used to have a chat show on BBC TV.

One week, Frank had actor Gene Wilder on his show and the subject of Blazing Saddles came up: a movie with a famous farting scene.

Frank mentioned Mr Methane’s performances to Gene and, in Mr Methane’s words, “slagged me off in a comic fashion, said I had played a few ‘bum notes’ and then did a bad impression.”

Mr Methane, a self-publicist experienced in blowing his own trumpet, took Frank to task about slagging him off and the result was he ended up on Frank’s TV show the next week, doing a duet of Da Doo Ron Ron, the 1963 Crystals song originally produced by Phil Spector.

Mr Methane appeared with Frank Skinner, but the BBC got windy

Frank appeared with Mr Methane, but the BBC got windy

“Frank was genuinely sorry about what he’d said the previous week and meant no offence,” Mr Methane tells me. “It was just a comedy slag off.”

According to Frank Skinner’s autobiography Phil Spector was not happy about the farted version of Da Doo Ron Ron. Neither was the BBC who got windy – not because of the song but because of the references to farting in the previous week’s show and the amount of complaints it had generated.

The BBC insisted that Frank edited out the Da Doo Ron Ron performance from his show before it was transmitted.

The act was unseen on the Unseen video

Act still unseen on the Unseen video

Later, the farted version of Da Doo Ron Ron was included on a video titled The Unseen Frank Skinner TV Show, but, Mr Methane tells me, “Phil Spector’s music publishers had an injunction put in place and all the videos had to be withdrawn just before Christmas. My section was edited out and a sticker put on sleeve saying This Video Does Not Contain Mr Methane… because most of sleeve artwork was basically press cuttings about our duet being axed from the original show: Beeb Blow Out Musical Bum, etc. All the re-editing delayed the video’s release and Frank missed the Christmas sales boom. No-one was happy.”

In his highly-recommended autobiography, Frank Skinner also talks about the occasion when Phil Spector, while receiving a lifetime music award, went into a rant live on Australian TV about the farted duet of Da Do Ron Ron, saying that Mr Methane and Frank Skinner had taken his work of art and desecrated it.

In 2009, Phil Spector was convicted of murder – shooting actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. He is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life.

There is a YouTube video of the banned BBC footage which also features Ronnie Verrel (who did the drumming for Animal on The Muppet Show) on drums.

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Mr Methane lets off steam and agrees most stand-up comedians are ‘not nice’

The outstanding Mr Methane with some of his fans

The upstanding Mr Methane with some of his fans

In my blog yesterday, I quoted doyenne of UK comedy critics Kate Copstick saying, during a weekend event at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival:

“Comedy is not a nice business and it’s not got nice people in it. Really, genuinely nice people don’t go into comedy.”

Mr Methane, the Farter of Alternative Comedy, had something to say about that. And he did, to me, yesterday. This is what he told me:

_____________________________________________________________

Mr Methane is not himself a stand-up performer

Mr Methane is not himself a stand-up comedy performer

I can agree with Kate on that – and all these years I thought I was alone.

There are some very nice people in Entertainment but I have to say being in the company of some comedians when they are not on stage is like sucking shit through a straw, the most unpleasant experience. They possess all the bad Me Me Me and even more ME qualities of the politicians they then go out onstage to slag off – not that I’m defending politicians, you understand.

I remember way back in January 1994 I was just making the tea, the potatoes were boiling, the kitchen windows were steamed up and it was a critical point in the process where you just need to turn them off in time before they go too soft and this guy called Andy Nulman phones.

He says he runs a comedy festival in Montreal called Just for Laughs and can I send him a showreel. I did and thought no more about it, as 97.5 % or thereabouts of most transatlantic enquiries come to nothing. But, to my surprise, this one didn’t and that August I ended up doing two TV shows at the festival – one for Channel 4 in the UK and one for HBO in the US.

What I witnessed was basically a commercial enterprise, a huge corporate machine in full swing.

It wasn’t about the comedy for most people it was about the money – doing a screen test in front of people who could give them a sitcom or a lucrative advertising contract for a product they didn’t even believe in.

_____________________________________________________________

In yesterday’s blog, Kate Copstick also said, attacking audiences who only go to comedy shows featuring performers they have seen on TV:

“I could shit into a bag and, if some high-powered PR person stuck an As Seen on Mock The Week sticker on it, people would come and see it. They genuinely would! This is not good for comedy.”

Mr Methane says:

Gregory the polar  bear from Montreal

Gregory the polar bear – more human than most comedians

“Not being strictly career motivated and having left a large industry with a traditional corporate career structure because abandonment of my core values in exchange for money makes me very ill inside, I didn’t do any networking at Just For Laughs in Montreal but went sightseeing instead… I even bought a real life looking soft toy polar bear called Gregory, who still lives with me to this day. He is actually more memorable and human than most of the festival or its players.

“Hence you see I am still farting around in the shallows of showbusiness, unable to afford a pair of teeth like the ones that adorn the grinning face of John Bishop but I can and have shat in a bag onstage: well not actually a bag, a dustbin. It’s a long story but it got me a lot of respect from the audience at the time – improvisation – Unfortunately, the audience was made up of agricultural students and rugby players with no high-powered PR people present. Consequently it didn’t make Mock The Week.

Mr Methane caught in a rare moment of civilian dress

Mr Methane unusually caught in his civilian dress

“Having said all this I would just like to emphasise that not all comedians are in the ‘not nice’ bracket which me and Kate Copstick allude to – just a healthy majority. Off the top of my head, Australian comedians Steve Hughes and Chris Franklin are the nicest blokes I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I love them both, not in a gay way but like a Viking.

“There are many more who don’t immediately spring to mind but who will know who they are – If you still need reassurance or clarification, email me. To sum up, I think the biggest tragedy of all is that the good guys can end up falling into this negative Me Me Me world, becoming cynical and suspicious of other acts and their motives.”

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Money in comedy: Mr Methane’s problem; critic Kate Copstick’s rant

mrmethanebendsYesterday, I blogged about a discussion at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival about whether the future of British comedy lies online instead of in live comedy clubs.

After he read my blog, Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing flatulist – he’s farted around the showbiz world for years – told me this:

_______________________________

I think its already happening, at least in the case of acts like mine.

People no longer have to go out to see some weird stuff anymore. They get sent it over the net by their mates seven days of the week and so, when they go out, they don’t go out to see something bizarre or different. Also the smoking ban has played its part as has the price of beer compared to Bargain Booze & Aldi for example.

All in all, people who want to see bizarre stuff nowadays are used to getting it for free on YouTube and the like: they don’t want to pay for it.

This means I get more exposure than I’ve ever had in the 23 years I’ve been farting around – just one YouTube vid of me has over 28 million views – but it doesn’t translate into more paid gigs.

If anything, it is a declining scale and you have to look to other revenue streams and opportunities the net presents which, when you’re not a Freemason or related to someone high up in the BBC, requires all your ingenuity and a good dose of good luck – This you can only make by doing even more free, web-based, social media publicity.

Possibly I and others like me are in a slow downward spiral. But, all this said, now I’ve had a moan, these are potentially more exciting times – or is that just another word for changing times? Either way, what is happening is a doubled-edged sword.

With regard to the Comedy Store Raw & Uncut film… Remember what happened to the acts that were on The Comedians on ITV. Big exposure but, when they came to do their next gig at a working men’s club, the audience had already seen their act.

The saying Swings & Roundabouts comes to mind.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

davesleicester_logoMaking money from a comedy act was also something discussed by the panel yesterday at Dave’s Comedy Festival (Dave being the TV channel which sponsors the festival).

“I think something ghastly and toxic happened round about the early to mid 2000s,” said comedy critic Kate Copstick.

“In the 1990s, there really wasn’t very much available for comics on television. So, before they all hurtled lemming-like to the nearest 12-year-old commissioning editor with half a Media Studies degree from a jumped-up Polytechnic, they at least had a chance to develop who they were and they had something to sell.

“Then we got the industrialisation of comedy which happened in the 2000s. All of a sudden there were more TV channels and…”

“There were more opportunities,” interrupted Nica Burns, organiser of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. “There were more opportunities for comedians to get on television. There were all these channels and comedy is very cheap. A half hour of stand-up comedy is much cheaper than a half hour of sitcom and a fraction of the cost of an hour of drama. And that is the critical thing because underlying all this is money. They needed to fill up their hours, comedy was a very cheap way of doing it and the comedians were desperate to get a wider audience.”

“It took a long time for that to come around,” said Kate Copstick, “and, in one way it was wonderful when it did. I produced a TV show called The Warehouse and comics were gagging then to get a chance to do stand-up. There were very few places to go on television. Tiny bits-and-bobs. And then, all-of-a-sudden, there was a rush. It think it was something to do with (agent/management companies) Avalon and Off The Kerb not only having a foothold as managers but also as producers.”

“There were a lot of things coming together,” agreed Nica Burns, “in terms of the growth of managers who had career visions for their clients.”

“And none of that,” said Kate Copstick, “was bad until it all kind of turned toxic. Comedy is not a nice business and it’s not got nice people in it. Really, genuinely nice people don’t go into comedy. Comedy always had a career ladder. Now it’s got a bloody express elevator.

“Like I’m 18-year-old. I’m a student comic. I look right. I sound right. I’m fucking lucky. I’m possibly connected. Look! I’ve got five minutes. Good grief – I’ve won a student comedy competition! Crikey – now I’m at the Edinburgh Fringe! Woo – now someone’s picked me up and stuck me on a Stand-Up For The Pointless Pre-Written Gag of The Month TV show. Great! Now I’m back with my own one-hour show with a strap on the poster that says STAR OF the Stand-Up For The Pointless Pre-Written Gag of The Month TV show. Now I’ve won the Best Newcomer or the Panel prize because nobody can think of anybody else to give it to. Next thing you know, I’ve done five heavily-edited minutes of Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow and now I’ve got my own telly series!… and I didn’t ever actually want to be a stand-up comic. I just wanted to be rich and famous and wey-hey! Thanks to luck, ego and Addison Cresswell (of Off The Kerb) and lots of stupid audiences out there, now I am!

“What then happens is that the decent stand-up comics, the ones who do want to be stand-up comics and who want to play the clubs, aren’t getting audiences, because the audiences only go – like a comedic Pavlov’s dog – where there’s a TV sticker on the poster… STAR OF MUFFIN THE COMEDY MULE – Oh wow! That must be good!

“I could shit into a bag and, if some high-powered PR person stuck an As Seen on Mock The Week sticker on it, people would come and see it. They genuinely would! This is not good for comedy.”

(A slightly edited podcast of the panel session is on the Demon FM website.)

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