Tag Archives: funny

This blog: Funny Peculiar, Funny Haha?

Funny Peculiar or Funny HaHa?

Funny Peculiar or Funny HaHa or possibly just criminal?

Normal blogging should be resumed tomorrow.

Today, as yesterday, because of lack of time to actually write a blog, here is a copied-and-pasted extract from my e-diary – another fleeting slice of ordinary, normally un-recorded life, this time from exactly 15 years ago.


THURSDAY 23rd MARCH 2000 – PARIS

I phoned my mother in the UK. Yesterday, she had the injection which was supposed to kill off the nerve. It was VERY painful and had no effect except to give her even more pain for a while. The pain has not stopped at all. She said she would not go back to the doctor, presumably because of the pain of the injections.

I got an email from someone working at the Bloomberg TV station in London. It said: Being here’s one of the weirdest experiences you can ever have in a TV career.  I mean, where else can you be part of a real American cult in action?

He gave no explanation.

Another e-mail arrived from a female friend in London:

Well, egg retrieval was bloody painful, really astonishingly so (apparently I have ‘bouncy’ ovaries and it took quite a bit of stabbing to get follicles out! One ovary had hidden behind the other!) but other than being very period-pain-y afterwards, I felt OK. Great after an afternoon nap – got up & exercised. Do hope I can keep this strength and positivity during chemo.

Jim Morrison’s grave sans cigarettes (Photo by Suzanne GW)

Jim Morrison’s grave sans cigarettes at Père Lachaise (Photograph by Suzanne GW)

FRIDAY 24th MARCH – PARIS

While visiting Père Lachaise cemetery, someone (French) blithely walked up to a sad old lady watering flowers at the front of her husband’s grave and asked where Apollinaire’s grave was. The old woman sadly shook her head and, with Bambi eyes, said she didn’t know. The death date on her husband’s grave was 1984, so she had been mourning him for 16 years.

Jim Morrison’s grave had lots of cigarette butts on it (oddly all filter-tipped) and, standing atop it, an empty bottle of Jack Daniels whisky and some folded papers: presumably poems left by a fan.

The most popular grave – awash with new flowers – was a 19th century spiritualist’s. One mother and teenage daughter came along; the mother touched the side of the grave with both hands then turned and clasped her daughter’s head in the hands, presumably transferring the power or spirituality of the dead man.

On the back of the grave was a notice in French saying this sort of thing was specifically discouraged because, throughout his life, the man had fought against superstition and believed in reincarnation and the transient nature of death.


So It Goes.

As the Tralfamadorians say.

Today is the last day to vote for the UK’s Funniest Blog – This blog has, I think slightly oddly, been shortlisted.

I like to think it is maybe in some Funny Peculiar category rather than a Funny Haha one.

I got an e-mail this morning from a company called Fast Locksmith in Vancouver. They attached an infographic on “the most famous burglars & thieves in history”. They thought “some of (my) website’s visitors might find it an interesting read.”

I can only assume their search engine found the words CRIME, VANCOUVER tagged to my site quite often. The infographic does not display properly. It is probably spam.

I await my nomination for Canada’s Best Crime Blog.

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At the Edinburgh Fringe, it is perfectly normal for women to wear nothing below the waist: it is cucumber season

Steve Ullathorne, photographer to the stars, outside the Gilded Balloon yesterday

Steve Ullathorne (right), photographer to the stars, doorstepped outside the Gilded Balloon yesterday

I arrived at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday to find it unchanged.

Going into the Gilded Balloon venue press party, I passed a young man who was wailing: “I just got wine on my phone! I just got wine on my phone!”

Inside the Gilded Balloon, comedian Maureen Younger, who was going in to see Janey Godley’s show Janey Godley Is Ungagged, told me people keep coming up to her in the street because they mistake her for either Janey Godley or Karen Dunbar – both of whom have Scots accents – despite the fact Maureen looks nothing like either and has an English accent.

Maureen Younger yesterday - or is it Janey Godley?

Maureen Younger – or is it Janey Godley?

On the other hand, Maureen’s own show The Outsider is about how she became the only London-Scottish, Austrian-accented German-speaking, black lesbian on the UK comedy circuit, despite being white, straight and British.

At the Gilded Balloon party, I also bumped into New York comic Laura Levites, still jet-lagged, who told me she had finished re-writing her show Selfhelpless eight minutes before her first performance yesterday, which turned out to be a good idea, as Kate Copstick (the Fringe’s most influential critic) came in to see that show.

Apparently Copstick liked it.

“What’s it about?” I asked Laura.

Laura Levites does not like puppet pigs

Laura Levites does not like puppet pigs at all

“What’s it always about?” she asked.

I can do no better than quote the blurb.

Life is shit. Drugs, shrinks, denial and the higher power of eBay haven’t helped. It took Laura three hours to get a new diagnosis – judge her in 60 minutes. ‘A straight-talking New Yorker with an upfront attitude’ (Scotsman). ‘Levites is both lovable and crazy’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com). If life were a cab it would first refuse to take her home and then hit her … wait … it just did! Laura almost let a creepy ex-neighbour photograph her in chains for this show. ‘Nuff said. Her dog needs vaginal rejuvenation. Lord knows what Laura needs.

What she did not need at the Gilded Balloon party yesterday was a rather scary pink pig puppet on the end of a man’s arm come up and try to sell his show to her while she was drinking.

Leaving by the pedestrian underpass outside the Pleasance Dome venue, I heard someone say: “He’s daubing graffiti with an invisible paintbrush,” and, indeed, a man was doing just that, while talking loudly to himself about the fact that the bees are being killed off by “them”.

But even I can be occasionally slightly surprised at the Fringe.

Adrienne Truscott and her one-woman bottomless show

Adrienne Truscott’s one-woman bottomless show

I have seen some topless comedy shows, but American performer Adrienne Truscott’s show is the first time I have seen a female comic’s show performed bottomless.

Her show was an eye-opener in that I now know the projected faces of several pop stars look even weirder with a lady’s pubic hair added to their chin. Her show is called  Asking for It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring Her Pussy and Little Else! 

As someone said to me afterwards, it seems perfectly normal, at the Edinburgh Fringe, for a performer to wear nothing below the waist.

Bob’s Bookshop bar - where everything costs £3

Bob Slayer’s new Bookshop bar – with Cat the lovely manager

The show took place in Bob’s Bookshop – a new venue run by comic Bob Slayer which unsurprisingly (for those who know Bob) has a public bar selling beers and sundry other drinks.

Before and after Adrienne’s show, I was chatting to comedian Ian Cognito. He was wearing a hat. He said he had a song about the late Malcolm Hardee. I invited him to perform it at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe. He said Yes.

The last time I saw Ian Cognito was when he, Jenny Eclair and I shared a funeral car at Malcolm Hardee’s funeral at Greenwich in 2005 – an event that was ‘reviewed’ by the Daily Telegraph with the words “Rarely can there have been so much laughter and irreverence at a funeral service and rarely can it have been more appropriate”.

Ian Cognito and Pam Ford at Bob’s Bookshop last night

Ian Cognito and Pam Ford (holding up the wall) last night

Last night, Cognito told comic Pam Ford and me a very funny series of stories about his own dad’s funeral and what happened to the ashes afterwards.

Alas, I don’t think I can repeat them, because I was harassing Cognito that he should do death stories as an Edinburgh Fringe show in 2014.

“You would make it funny, sad and odd,” I told him. “You should call it Four Funerals and a Funeral.”

He did not seem persuaded, but you never know.

When I got back to my Edinburgh flat, zonked, an e-mail was waiting for me from Alexander Frackleton, a Scot living in the Czech Republic, occasionally mentioned in this blog.

He told me: “Please gonnae no’ refer to me as an ex-pat. I hate ex-pats and avoid them like the plague cos they are always complaining about how things are not like Britain, America, Canada, Australia etc. And I’m not a comedian – and don’t want to be. Ye know that. I’m a Scots Poet in exile. Don’t look at me like that, yer a writer, ye can work with that idea.”

His real reason for writing, though was to tell me that a report he had spotted in yesterday’s Daily Mail online was not a wind-up.

“It is true,” he told me, “cos it was reported here in the Czech Republic a few days ago.”

Pastafarianism lives! - in the Czech Republic at least...

Pastafarianism lives! – in the jolly Czech Republic at least…

The report was about a Czech man who claims his religion forces him to wear a sieve on his head. He says his religion is ‘Pastafarianism’ and the authorities have now given him permission to wear a sieve on his head on his official Czech ID card picture.

Perhaps it is NOT just Edinburgh which is eccentric.

“Do ye know what the Czechs call the ‘silly season’?” Alex asked me. “They call it the cucumber season.”

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Filed under Comedy, Czech Republic, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour

UK comedy roundup: How Malcolm Hardee made his trousers fall down & why Bob Slayer was naked in Norway

With my eternally-un-named friend and Martin Soan

With my eternally-un-named friend and Martin Soan (photograph by saxophonist & compere Vivienne Soan)

Yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend and I went round to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s back garden. It has Astroturf on it to stop weeds coming through.

Vivienne said she was thinking of speaking in German when she introduces one of the acts at this Friday’s Pull The Other One comedy club. As I mentioned in a blog last time she compered Pull The Other One, I am confident this German language thing will explain itself in a few months.

In the meantime, Martin Soan seems to have put together his very complicated Village Hall Experience show for Peckham, sponsored by Southwark Council and supporting The Fostering Partnership. He told me he is also building a large carrot for some comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“How is your penis going?” I asked him as we left.

“Very smoothly,” he replied. As previously mentioned in a blog, he is building a giant male member for another comedian’s Edinburgh show. It is not the first time Martin has been involved with genitalia at the Fringe, both carefully-crafted handmade ones and real. Not least because he and the late Malcolm Hardee used to perform the Naked Balloon Dance as the Greatest Show On Legs up there over many years.

My eternally-un-named friend and I then went to visit Jacki Cook and Jonathan Hale, who run the Emporium vintage clothes shop in Greenwich.

But not for much longer.

In less than two weeks time, they are closing their shop after 27 years.

“I don’t know,” said Jacki, “what all those scruffy old comedians are gonna do. Malcolm Hardee used to buy a new suit from us every week – sometimes two a week, depending what capers he got up to. He liked to roll around in a Savile Row suit. That was Malc. He never bothered to clean them; he just bought a new one from us every week.”

My eternally-un-named friend (who used to work for Malcolm) told me:

“Malcolm used to ‘distress’ jackets when he got them. I remember he undid the stitching round the arm of one jacket when he got it.”

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in Up The Creek office

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in his Up The Creek office last century (photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

“Why?” I asked.

“It just gave it a dishevelled look,” she told me, “and that’s the way he wanted people to see him. But the actual clothes he wore were really nice.”

“He liked to wear trousers that were slightly too big for him,” said Jacki, “so that, if he breathed in, he could make them fall down.”

Jacki & Jon’s shop is closing, but they are going to continue their business online – they have rented costumes in the past to television companies and big scale movies – everything from Mission Impossible I & II and Steven Spielberg’s Munich to Dagenham Girls.

When I got home to Borehamwood last night, waiting for me, inevitably, was a bizarre message from comedian Bob Slayer. He has just come back to the UK from Norway.

Bob Slayer (left), naked atop a Norwegian caravan

Bob Slayer (left), naked atop a Norwegian caravan – of course (photograph by the Norwegian comedian Christer Torjussen)

“They said at Oslo Airport,” Bob told me, “that I couldn’t take a bottle of wine onto a plane. I disagreed. I showed them I could take it onto a plane in my tummy. I opened it up and drank it at airport security. It is quite a nice place to hang out and have a tipple.

“I am now trying to get back from Leicester, but I got on the wrong train. thus turning a one hour journey into a three hour journey…  In other news, I can report that the Corby trouser press in my Holiday Inn room was less effective at re-heating last night’s kebab than I thought it would be.”

The great and the good of Edinburgh have allowed him to run a bar in his new Bob’s Bookshop venue at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. I am not necessarily convinced this is a good idea.

In the title of this blog, I included the words: WHY BOB SLAYER WAS NAKED IN NORWAY.

In fact, I have no idea why he was pictured naked, standing on top of a caravan in Norway. I suspect neither does he – nor does the good Lord.

Some things have – and, indeed, require – no sane explanation.

They just are.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Norway, UK

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” reveals critic Kate Copstick

Last night, Funny People at Soho Theatre

Since coming home from the Edinburgh Fringe exactly one week ago, I keep waking up at 7.22am.

Last night, I got to bed around 3.30am. I set my alarm for 8.30am. I woke up again at 7.22am for no reason. Someone must make a noise in the square outside my house at around 7.22am, but I hear nothing when I wake up.

Getting back to sleep was confused by the fact that, at 3.30am, I had taken a Vicks Medinite cold cure to help me sleep; but, last night, doyenne of comedy critics Kate Copstick had bought me a Red Bull energy drink.

We had been at the Soho Theatre to see the Abnormally Funny People comedy show.

And they were.

It is rare to see a comedy show where there is not one duff act. But, last night, every act on the show was excellent. Don Biswas, Liz Carr, Tanyalee Davis, Steve Day and Stella Young, compered by Mat Fraser. All excellent.

Because of what comes later in this blog, it is worth pointing out that all these comics have worked exceptionally hard under exceptionally challenging circumstances to become exceptionally good comedy performers. Each one is wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

At Soho Theatre last night, Copstick talks to Bronston Jones and Will Franken. In background, in green, Tanyalee Davis.

After the show, Copstick and I had a meal at Soho Theatre with the lovely Tanyalee Davis and American comics Will Franken and Bronston Jones. All three are wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

Both the guys had played their first Edinburgh Fringe this year and both, to varying extents, said they were thinking of moving to the UK. Will Franken, in particular, seemed especially Anglophile as he had been to William Blake’s grave earlier that day, recited an entire Blake Poem (NOT Jerusalem or Tiger, Tiger) and sang Roxy Music songs with Copstick without the urging of excessive amounts of alcohol.

He is returning to San Francisco in three days time. Copstick is returning to the slums of Nairobi in two days time. She will be there for 18 days. She spends four months of every year in Kenya, working for her Mama Biashara charity. I have blogged about it before. If you want to know more, use the Search facility.

“You were telling me,” I said to Copstick when Will Franken and Bronston Jones had gone outside to smoke, “that, when you go to Kenya, within one day, it’s like none of this glittery Soho comedy stuff exists at all.”

“Especially,” said Copstick, “when you go out to a night like this, see the show and then you hang out with creative people and you have all these amazing ideas. It’s exciting that Will Franken is hanging around in London and half of me wants to go Oh! Before you go, we could meet up again and discuss ideas! and Tanyalee’s going to Liverpool but then she’s coming back and you think…”

“There must be a TV series in tonight’s show,” I interrupted.

“Well,” said Copstick, “the Abnormally Funny People had an idea for a sitcom involving the whole cast touring round the country. They had been pitching it for about two years, gradually crawling up the echelons of the BBC and, just as it got to the top, the BBC commissioned Life’s Too Short and, of course, television thinks it can only have one disabled-centric sitcom or programme of any sort at any one time. So the BBC didn’t commission the idea.”

“But, when you go to Kenya…” I said.

“As soon as I’m in Kenya,” said Copstick. “it’s like life in London doesn’t exist. Not Soho, not the Soho Theatre, none of this. Then, once I’ve been in Kenya for a few weeks, up to my nipples – my lovely nipples, as indeed remarked upon by a lovely man in Shepherd’s Bush only the other week – up to my nipples in sewage and poverty and despair and death – I come back and it takes much longer to adjust to life here in London. It takes me weeks not to be irritated by almost everything that I see and everyone I meet.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because we have so much and we don’t care and it would be so easy for us to help and do more and because my two totally different alternative universes are the Mama Biashara work in Kenya and comedy and performing here and most performers are, by their very nature, shallow, meaningless, pointless, self-obsessed people.

“It’s very difficult to get back to this from people who are absolutely up against death by starvation and malaria every day. People in Kenya say things to me like I had a touch of typhoid, but it’s fine and Let’s do the workshop; I only have a touch of malaria.

“Whereas, over here, you have people weeping into their cups because the audience didn’t like them as much as they thought they ought to. That culture clash is hard.”

“You’ll have to soften that They’re all shallow bastards implication,” I suggested. “Some comedy performers are wonderfully creative people.”

“Some of them are creative and wonderful, like the ones tonight,” Copstick agreed. “But some of them are just shallow ego-centric bastards. I’m not going to name names, but I may do in one of your future blogs!”

“That’s softer?” I asked. “So where do you live when you’re in Kenya? Last time I mentioned you in Nairobi, you were eating goats’ innards and jelly babies. The jelly babies sounded a bit luxurious.”

“Well, you can get jelly babies there,” said Copstick. “They’re not Bassett’s jelly babies. But you can get Maynards’ over there. That last time was the night I had this fantastic sausage made by a lovely, lovely man who stokes up a barbecue in the middle of the slum and he grills a sausage called mutura, made from goat intestines. It’s a cousin of the haggis but there’s no oatmeal. They just mash up the intestines and the blood and coil it up and roast it on the barbie and chop it up and you can buy yourself a good six inches for a couple of pence.”

“And that’s something you like,” I prompted.

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” Copstick agreed. “So that night I think I spent about 10 pence on a good six inches, which I took home and set about with my usual enthusiasm and, afterwards, I had half a dozen jelly babies.”

“You live in the slums of Nairobi,” I said.

“I live in a slum,” said Copstick, “among the people we work with.”

“I’ve never lived in the slums and seen real poverty and death like you,” I said, “but when I’ve come back from seeing abject poverty in places like Nepal, I walk around the streets of London and total nihilism sets in for a couple of weeks. Doesn’t it make you terribly nihilistic?”

“I get…” said Copstick. “I get angry because we waste so much and it’s all so easy and nobody thinks about anything and we’re all so obsessed about tiny, pointless things. We have no idea how hard life can be. With performers, the ego-centricity is a necessary part and parcel of the whole thing, but we get obsessed with tiny, pathetic things.”

“Maybe that’s the difference between us,” I said. “I get nihilistic; you get angry.”

“One of the things that spending all that time in Kenya has done for me,” said Copstick,  “is that… you certainly don’t sweat the small stuff when you spend four months there every year… Things that used to drive me crazy in London, I just now think Yeah, whatever… I don’t get so upset about things. I really don’t and it’s entirely Kenya which has done that to me. I have absolutely – apart from the fact that bin seems to be on fire in the street outside – I have absolutely nothing to complain about.”

“The bin appears to be smoking along with Will Franken,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Copstick.”

“It’s like a New York street scene with smoke coming up through the road,” I said.

“Will Franken – the brilliant Will Franken,” said Copstick, “has set a bin on fire.”

“I feel I should photograph it for my blog,” I said, “not that I want you to think the blog controls my life. Perish the thought that I should be so shallow.”

“That is quite a serious amount of smoke,” Copstick said. “You should go out and get a picture. This could be the second Great Fire of London.”

“I can’t shoot a picture through the window,” I said, “because of the reflections. I will have to go out.”

The not-now-smoking bin outside the Soho Theatre last night

And I did go out but, before I got to the bin, a security man from Soho Theatre had got there with two glass jugs of water and had poured them into the bin.

“It happens quite a lot,” he said to me. “There were flames last time.”

“Bastard thing!” I said to Copstick, more in nihilism than in anger, when I came back inside. “He doused the smoke before I could get a decent picture for my blog.”

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Filed under Charity, Comedy, Kenya, Poverty, Third World

BBC Radio women + a woman wearing only a lettuce at the Edinburgh Fringe

The BBC are giving away plastic pints

I woke up this morning to two things. One was the sound of comedian Janey Godley trying but failing to vomit in my toilet. I fear, dear reader, that you and I may hear more of this in the days to come.

The other thing was an e-mail which started:

Hi John,

 Just writing to say how much I enjoy reading your site. We at Lifeinsurancequotes.org recently published an article “8 Ways Funeral Homes Will Try To Rip You Off”, that we think is tailor-made for your readers.

Either their computerised spam system is totally out-of-control (surely not!) or I must be mis-targeting this blog.

I have little good advice on funeral homes.

Janey Godley once told me that, if you are going to murder someone, the best hiding place for the body is in a graveyard – the police will not look in a graveyard for a dead body and, if they are tipped-off, they will be wary of causing a public outcry by potentially digging up a body which may not be the missing victim.

That is my only funeral tip for today, but it may prove useful for Israeli comic Daphna Baram.

Whoever killed Jesus, it wasn’t Daphna

Yesterday, she told me: “There was a very drunken guy in the audience at my Frenemies show (it’s only on until Saturday) – Yuri from the Czech Republic. At some point during my set, the idea that I was Jewish – at least nominally – penetrated through the layers of beer in Yuri’s mind and he started heckling: You killed Jesus! You killed Jesus!

“I remembered I had a routine from my first Christmas as a comedian. Clearly this was a good moment for resurrection.

“In my most authoritative voice (I do authoritative well) and with, I regret to say, a certain degree of c-word usage, I informed Yuri that the whole 30 shekel story is highly non-credible as no Jew I’ve ever heard of would sell a hippy to the italian mafia for the equivalent of a fiver…

“He kept silent for a while but, in a later section about my military training in Israel, he started heckling again. I told the audience. I saw Yuri outside and invited him to the gig and thought Great! I’ve pulled!… But now all I can think about is where I am going to hide his body…

Well Daphna now knows, courtesy of Janey Godley, she can actually do this with little comeback.

But back to the Edinburgh Fringe proper…

Three Weeks – on the streets of Edinburgh now

In my first weekly column for Fringe magazine Three Weeks today, Mervyn Stutter criticises the BBC for putting on too many free shows at this year’s Fringe, to the detriment of hard-working performers who are already having a bad enough time with the big TV names and the Recession. You can read the Three Weeks piece by picking it up in Edinburgh or clicking here or you can download the whole issue here. I will post my golden words here on this blog in one week’s time (when the paper is no longer on the streets of Edinburgh).

I had another BBC-bashing angle punted to me last night, when I got chatting to someone who had better remain nameless. He works for a radio production company and has a lot of dealings with the BBC.

“It’s an odd thing,” he told me, “because, in America at the moment, there’s a huge flowering of female-driven comedy. You’ve got 30 Rock, Girls, the Mindy Kaling Project – loads and loads of female driven comedy – and people say part of the reason for this is the influx of women into US TV production. But, in Britain, we are not having that same increase in female-driven comedy.”

“Maybe because most producers here are male,” I suggested.

“Not now,” he corrected me. “Not in radio. Most of the level entry producers at the Beeb – the ones who comics new to radio would be working with – are female.

“At the BBC, there’s actually a big influx of women into radio production but, as yet, that doesn’t seem to be translating into a flowering of female comedy – certainly not at Radio 4 which has traditionally been a proving ground for comics before they get onto television. Radio 4 does not have many female-led, female-driven, female-written, female-fronted shows.

“That’s a generalisation, of course,” he said, “Jane Berthoud is top dog there and she’s tremendously supportive of women, but the increased number of female producers has not helped women in comedy.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he said. “All I’m saying is it’s an interesting area. There are now lots of female producers, which is good. Maybe the heterosexual ones are more interested in and more physically attracted to the male acts and therefore female comics are getting an even bummer deal that they were before.”

“You mean the female producers want to screw the male acts?” I said. “Now there’s a dangerous idea to say out loud. But surely, traditionally, there were more male producers and they would have wanted to cop off with female acts so there should have been lots of female shows around in the past. In theory, female comics should have always done better than men because there were more male producers. But that’s not the case.”

Possibly realising he was on dangerously non-PC ground, he continued: “It’s very difficult to un-pick because, statistically, if you looked at the number of shows made by men over all… Maybe there are more shows made with male stars because there are more men pushing to get in. Maybe sometimes there’s a lot of schmoozing and, rather than being about talent, it’s about who gets on with people and who people want to sit in a pub and chat and get drunk with.”

It is certainly an interesting idea and there must be something psychological going on beyond my fathoming.

Checkley & Bush’s Comedy Riot is just that

Last night, I was at a party thrown to celebrate ten years of the Funny Women organisation. Very hard-working. Very effective in raising the profile of female comedy, But still British TV and radio shows are generally skewed-away from female performers.

I left the party to see excellent character comedy from Checkley & Bush. They’re better than a lot of the under-experienced new male comics who pop up on TV and in radio.

And, earlier in the day, I had attended a ‘knittathon’ – a publicity stunt organised by Charmian Hughes at which the audience was invited to knit throughout her show to create something she could use in her climactic and erotic ‘Dance of the Seven Cardigans’… Charmian was listed at No 7 in the Chortle comedy website’s Ten Most Underrated Comics – the only woman in the list.

Lewis Schaffer, a masterclass in offending

No 8 in the list is American comic Lewis Schaffer, whom I had been chatting to even earlier in the day. There was a lot of chatting yesterday.

As I came out of Checkley & Bush’s show, I got a text message from Lewis which said simply:

I had 65 punters at tonight’s show. There were 40 walkouts.

I texted back:

Tell me more and I may blog about it.

He later told me what he had said.

“I can’t put that in my blog,” I told him. “You will get lynched.”

Perhaps being truly offensive is one thing women comics cannot get away with. As if to prove this, later I was walking down Niddry Street, and found comedian Bob Slayer standing in the street outside his Hive venue.

“I had to get naked in my show,” he told me. “I think it was the worst show I’ve ever done so I had to get naked. Jamie the sound guy sees my show every year and he told me: You failed on so many levels there, but it was definitely my favourite show. I had to get naked and there was a lady in the audience who turned up just wearing a lettuce.”

“Just a lettuce?” I asked.

“Just wearing a lettuce on her fanny,” said Bob.

Bob Slayer has his nipples tweaked

“She had nice tits,” a female staff member added, tweaking one of Bob’s nipples. Passers-by ignored it. This is the Edinburgh Fringe.

“The lady with the lettuce was a friend of Frank Sanazi’s,” said Bob.

“That might go some way to explaining it,” I said.

“Well,” said Bob, “Frank came and then that happened and then I had to get naked. It depends how you rate a show. It was the most avant-garde show I’ve ever managed to do. Apparently there was a reviewer for The Skinny in there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they made of it. I hope it was the guy who refused to get on stage. There’s no way I’m going to get a good review but I hope it was that guy because he HATED it.”

At the Fringe, being loved or being hated are good. Being ignored is bad. Oscar Wilde was born before his time.

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Filed under Comedy, Racism, Radio, Sex

How to organise a comedy competition without ever actually meeting people

...but nothing is funnier than organising in cyberspace

In 2005 or 2007 (it depends how you define it) I started the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. So I am interested in how other people start such things.

Funny’s Funny, for example, is “an organisation run by comedians and promoters to provide links between funny people and the comedy industry” and, last year, they started the Female Comedian of the Year contest.

Last year, the Malcolm Hardee Awards were decided in Edinburgh with one of the judges, comedy critic Kate Copstick, on the end of a mobile phone in a train hurtling through some Godforsaken part of England.

So I was interested when Ashley Frieze told me the organisers of Funny’s Funny “manage to run it without ever being in the same room.”

Funny’s Funny started a year ago when news broke that the long-running Funny Women comedy contest was going to start charging £15 to entrants.

“As comedians,” says Ashley, “the idea of pay-to-play was abhorrent. I ended up in a Facebook discussion thread with comedians Okse and Jane Hill and we agreed something should be done about it. Okse set up a Facebook group. That’s activism in the modern age. Get some people to join a group and bitch about it.

“It didn’t really seem like we were changing anything, so I suggested that we should beat Funny Women at their own game – run a comedy competition without it being pay-to-play. I excitedly called up Okse and said: We really could do this and he seemed to believe me. After a handful of other phone calls to some people who immediately started talking about the subject in the ‘we’ person rather than the ‘you’, it became clear that we had plenty of people who could do a bit, but that nobody could do the whole thing.

“I took on the role of facilitator. I would enable the major organisers to work closely together, network-in our comedy club friends somehow and draw it all together via some sort of website.

“At that stage Bob Slayer‘s website WhatComedy was just starting out and they could nearly provide the infrastructure to run a competition, but it wasn’t there yet. So I decided that I’d have to use my real IT skills and build something. The Funny’s Funny website represents a few thousand lines of code that I rattled out in a hurry to ensure that our IT was always one step ahead of what we needed to do with it.

“As such, it enabled us to gather 250 entrants and spread them across 20 or so gigs that we were also providing listings for. Our ability to keep track of what we’d offered, who had accepted and who was going where was all done by using a website that the whole team could access.

“We had no opportunity to get into the same room as each other. Jane Hill was working as a newsreader as well as doing stand-up, so her day started at about 4.00am when she’d do some admin. Then she was out of touch except for a couple of hours at night when usually I was on the way to a gig. Her partner, comedian and promoter Rob Coleman, was working normal hours and he was coordinating with the venues. I was travelling a huge amount during the period and was in the States for a few days.

“I remember waking up one morning, checking the website and discovering that Jane and Rob had booked 50% of the entrants ‘overnight’. It was a real Elves and The Shoemaker feeling.

“Okse was producing artwork for the various show posters and these would be saved on his computer and get magically transported via a nifty technology called DropBox to mine. I would then click on a few buttons here and there to convert them for print using a Cloud-based printing service called FilePrint and they would magically appear on the doorstep of the recipient within a couple of days. I even produced a few posters myself this way, while sitting at the side of a
pool in Spain, where I was attending a family wedding.

“I think this is the magic of the internet, really. You don’t have to be in the same room as the action: you can bring it to you, wherever you are.

“After a while, the whole event took on a sort of surreal quality. It almost didn’t seem real. I couldn’t personally attend all of the shows – none of us could – but we got judging results in from them, via the Funny’s Funny website.

“I did start to wonder if the whole thing was real or if it was just an elaborate wind-up, born of about 250 people pretending they were doing a competition and sending me emails about it. Luckily, I managed to get to a few of the shows and see it happening for myself.

“The truth was that Funny’s Funny is really an ethos – We didn’t make it happen so much as define what was needed and get everyone to do it together through goodwill.

“You tell a bunch of people that it’s going to work and then it does.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was unable to get to the final… but the others made it along. So we were nearly all in the same place at the same time – if it hadn’t been for my prior commitments, I would have been there.

“This year’s team is using the same technique – lots of emails, lots of documents shared via the Cloud – and the same ethos… We will make a network of people to enable a huge event that we all believe in.”

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The Green Party diversifies into comedy Newspeak & Doublethink over women

Lindsay Sharman tries out diversity

(This also appeared in The Huffington Post)

In her blog yesterday, 2010 Funny Women Awards finalist Lindsay Sharman wrote:

____________________

A chap from The Green Party contacted me last week to offer me a 10 minute slot on a bill headlined by Alistair McGowan, for a Green Party fundraising event. I accepted, and we started exchanging e-mails to finalise details.

This morning, I received this –

Hi Lindsay,

I’m really sorry but I am going to have to withdraw our offer. It’s nothing personal, I was asked if I could increase the diversity of comics on the night. So we’ve got a 63 old transexual comic instead of a second female artist. Sorry you have been usurped in this case for a transexual

Best Regards,

Chris

____________________________________________________________________

I am a great admirer of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, especially the Appendix – on The Principles of Newspeak – which is why I have always been extremely opposed to so-called “positive discrimination”. It is pure Orwellian Doublethink. There is no such thing as “positive” discrimination; it is simply discrimination… It is an attempt to prevent discrimination by discriminating… Pure Doublethink.

The Green Party has managed to mess up their gig – and their PR – on all fronts. They had a good female comic in Lindsay Sharman. They then bizarrely tried to make the bill more ‘diverse’ by getting rid of not one of the male comics but one of the two female comics on the bill. AND they managed to belittle the (extremely good) transsexual comic (whom I know and admire greatly) by treating her as if she is not a woman but a separate ‘quota’.

As comic Karen O. Novak said, when hearing about this, the Green Party thought it had “achieved ‘diversity’ by replacing a white female comic with… a white female comic”.

Comic Charmian Hughes said: “I think the Green Party insulted both comics! They insulted the trans-sexual comic even more than the person they cancelled! I think it was actually more insulting to her than to Lindsay!!!”

Women have it bad enough already without the Green Party muddying the waters.

Janey Godley, a superb comic and possibly the best all-round creative I have ever encountered, tells me: “There is a booker in northern England who won’t have women on the bill… and I have had bookers say to me Sorry – We had a woman before and they were shit.”

Comedian Kate Smurthwaite tells me: “A London promoter once said to me: I can’t book you that week, Kate – I’ve already got Angie McEvoy on the bill and you’re too similar. Anyone who has seen both our acts would know we are very different in terms of style and content. The only obvious thing we have in common is gender.  Five minutes later, in the same conversation, the promoter said: I do want to book you, though, cos I think you’re really pretty – Do you want to come for a drink with me?

Comedian Laura Lexx tells me: “I have been introduced as The very pretty young lady Laura Lexx, which obviously doesn’t make an audience think particularly highly of you… but I very rarely gig on bills with other women outside of London so I suppose it often feels like it’s a ‘one in one out’ system for ladies and bills.”

Kate Smurthwaite tells me: “I once saw a male promoter say, as a female comic left the stage: I normally kiss the female acts, but I won’t kiss her. Then he said: If you want to drink alcohol, use the bar downstairs but (pointing at a busty woman in the front row) if you want to drink milk – ask her.”

Lindsay Sharman tells me: “A West Country promoter once introduced me to the stage with I only gave her this gig cos I fucked her! (I certainly hadn’t) and then mimed humping me from behind.”

But the sexism is not even restricted to men. Another female comic said to me: “CSE, who book gigs for the British Army, rarely book women – maybe one every four years – and they have a sexist website where all the men hold mics and the women are sexy dancers – and it’s women who run it!”

Lindsay Sharman used yesterday’s Green Party PR own-goal as part of her comedy act last night. “But,” she told me, “one of the other comics actually thought I was making it up, as the crassness of Sorry you have been usurped in this case for a transexual just sounds too unreal, like a shit punchline.”

I guess it is a bit like writing fiction. Novelists have told me they can’t write the actual truth because it’s so utterly OTT no-one will believe it. People will only believe the truth if it is watered-down. In comedy, I think people have a tendency to believe the made-up bits if they are skilfully interwoven and think the real bits are made-up because they are just too incredible.

Like this case in point.

The Green Party ‘diversifies’ into comedy Newspeak & Doublethink over women.

You could not make it up.

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Filed under Comedy, Politics, PR, Sex