Tag Archives: final

What was it like to be a finalist in the New Act of The Year Comedy Awards show last night in Bloomsbury, London?

I told comedy act Candy Gigi I was likely to go to the final at the Bloomsbury Theatre last night but, at the last minute, could not go. So this text correspondence ensued late yesterday afternoon:

Last night in London, the final of the contest

Last night in London, the final of the contest

Candy Gigi: I’m shitting it. That’s what I’m feeling now. Literally SHITTING IT. Can you tell I’m nervous? I’m gonna make a mess of every loo that I walk past today. My bowels are OK now actually. Later they’ll let rip no doubt. Anyway, out of the 550 people in the audience tonight, 549 of them are going to be my mum’s friends so, if nothing else, I know there will at least be support from people. Loud Jewish people too. The best kind of audience, really.

John: All that chicken soup. No wonder you’re on the loo.

Candy Gigi: Ha. You can put this in your blog. My mum said to me this morning as soon as I woke up: “Candy, why DO you hold a celery like it’s a baby and put it to your breast? Do people ACTUALLY find that funny? Do you HAVE to do that tonight? I don’t understand it.” – As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, now I have to think about how I can make breast-feeding celery make sense. I didn’t ask to be born.

John: I should Google for some knob gags ASAP. After the show, tell my answerphone what happened. I will get back home very very late.

Candy Gigi: My dad’s driving so I’ll do it in the car home.

John: Get your dad to shout things out while he’s driving. It may not get in the blog, but it will scare the shit out of pedestrians on zebra crossings.

Candy Gigi: He probably would do that anyway. When I was younger, I used to walk him down the road on a dog lead and he would bark and pretend to be a puppy. Welcome to my life.

John: Now THAT’s an Edinburgh Fringe show. Or a career for you in certain parts of Soho.

Candy Gigi: All true. Explains a lot, really, doesn’t it?

John: Still doesn’t explain breast-feeding the celery. But that’s probably for the best.

Candy Gigi: You’re probably right. Would it not be a fair argument if I just put it down to me not wanting the celery to wilt?

John: I think an explanation of how and why you keep a stick of celery in a non-flaccid state is probably something for an entirely different type of show. If you actually explained it in any way, of course – ironically – it would lose its point… not that there is one.

Candy Gigi: I couldn’t explain it as I don’t understand it myself. It’s like an out-of-body experience and I’m watching someone else do it.

John: You mean an out-of-body in-body experience.

Candy Gigi: Yeah. Except I don’t put it in as it isn’t circumcised and my mum would kill me. If I’m going to go for celery, it had bloody better be Jewish.

John: Kosher celery? There might be a market for that.

Candy Gigi: Celery is good for chopping, so could easily be converted. That’s why I chose celery. Out of all the vegetables, it’s the closest to marriage material.

John: The normal vegetative material for comedy is cucumber. The word is funnier than celery, though not as funny as banana.

Candy Gigi: Yeah, but cucumber is everybody’s cup of tea, whereas celery is the underdog. And I love an underdog.

John: I will take some time to find a double meaning in that. Bananas are always funny in any context.

Candy Gigi: Yeah, bananas are OK. But not as useable as celery.

This morning, I woke up to this text message:

Candy Gigi

Candy Gigi – Different. And “different is unsafe”

Candy Gigi: I’m so sorry I didn’t call your answerphone last night. I ended up getting the train home late as I needed to ‘network’ but basically I didn’t win. I think it’s because I genuinely scare the shit out of everyone, including myself. I get up there and literally lose the plot for five minutes and people don’t know what to do with that.

I’ll never be a winning act and I’ve realised that’s OK. What I do is different and different is unsafe and I like not being safe. It makes me feel safe. I can find my own little audience who know what’s going to happen when I get up there and who enjoy that.

That’s all I want. A little group of kooky people who like vegetables and unhinged women. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.

John: Now you join the ranks of those other New Act of The Year losers including Harry Hill and Eddie Izzard. It ended their careers in much the same way. They were too niche. Who has ever heard of them now?

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A man with Tourette’s Syndrome and an FBI file… Plus how comedian Ricky Grover insulted me.

So, the story goes like this…

On Monday night, I went to the New Act of the Year auditions at the Comedy Cafe in Shoreditch, one of the jolliest and most brightly-coloured comedy clubs in Britain. A film crew was coincidentally filming scenes for an upcoming movie called The Comedian.

The Comedy Cafe’s owner, Noel Faulkner, has had a ‘colourful’ past which he revealed in his astonishing 2005 Edinburgh Fringe show Shake, Rattle & Noel. I first met him when we were both helping-out our mutual chum Ricky Grover by appearing in an early pilot/showreel for his planned movie Bulla, which Ricky has recently completed as a ‘pucka’ feature film with Steven Berkoff, Omid Djalili, Peter Capaldi etc.

Noel has Tourette’s Syndrome which doesn’t mean he swears uncontrollably but does mean he occasionally twitches uncontrollably… except, oddly, he doesn’t do it when he’s performing on stage or on film. This non-twitching while performing caused surreal problems during the autobiographical Shake, Rattle and Noel show, as he was talking about how he twitched uncontrollably without actually twitching uncontrollably.

Noel has lived a life-and-a-half and he isn’t through with it yet.

After being brought up in Ireland by the Christian Brothers and working on fishing trawlers and having some peripheral encounters with the IRA, he was in Swinging London at its height where he got involved with the young Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood and sold Gary Glitter his first glitter suit. Noel’s twitching made him a wow in discos – people thought he was a great disco dancer – and it was assumed to be drug-induced, so he fitted perfectly into the very Swinging London scene.

Then he went to hippie San Francisco before Haight Ashbury turned into Hate Ashbury and became a friend of the young, before-he-was-famous Robin Williams. Noel ended up on the run from the FBI, went to New York as an actor and comic, dealt directly with and smuggled dope for the early Colombian drug cartels, was caught and deported from the US, returned to London and set up the Comedy Cafe, one of the few purpose-built comedy venues in the capital.

So this – the Comedy Cafe – was where I found myself on Monday night for the New Act of the Year comedy auditions, the 28th year of the contest – it used to be called the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year (Eddie Izzard came 12th one year). The final used to be held a the Hackney Empire, which organisers Roland & Claire Muldoon ran. This year, the final takes place at The Barbican on Saturday 19th March.

It was well worth going because I saw for a second time the promising up-and-coming stand-up Pat Cahill and, for the first time, the very interesting indeed Duncan Hart who had a dark and very well-crafted set about a heart problem in a hospital, a drug overdose, a mugging at gunpoint and much more. Not obvious comedy subjects and potentially difficult to tailor for comedy in a 5-minute spot, but he performed it flawlessly.

The only downside was that, looking around the Comedy Cafe’s full room, I was, as usual, almost certainly the oldest punter in the room. This depressing scenario is even more depressing when I am up at the Edinburgh Fringe and street flyerers ignore me without a second glance because – clearly, at my age – I can’t possibly be interested in comedy.

Ricky Grover cast me as a bank manager in his Bulla showreel because he has always said I look like a banker (and I don’t think he was using Cockney rhyming slang). After the financial meltdown, I should take this as an insult. And I will. But I won’t tell him.

It would be far too dangerous.

It will be our little secret.

Just you and me.

OK?

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