Tag Archives: Giacinto Palmieri

Is a Japanese comic doing their act in English with a Japanese accent racist?

Louise Reay Chinese

Image for Louise’s Chinese language show It’s Only Words

Last night, I went to see the final of the Leicester Square Theatre’s New Comedian of The Year competition, rightly won by character act LJ Da Funk (aka Zak Splijt).

One of the acts was the highly esteemed Louise Reay.

In a previous So It Goes blog, about her Edinburgh Fringe show, she explained to me: “I’ve always been interested in communication. People have a real mental barrier about languages and the way we communicate.

“But just one look can mean so much. We communicate all the time. Look at my hands. I can’t stop them moving. There’s so much more than language going on. That’s what my show’s all about. There was a very spurious 1960s experiment which proved that only 7% of communication was verbal. So my whole show is an experiment in the 93%. If I did it in French, it wouldn’t work, because most people maybe understand enough.”

Today, one review of last night’s show said: “Louise Reay was the first oddball of the night, coming on speaking Chinese and then explaining, via placards, that her whole act would be in Chinese. It could easily have been seen as racist, but Reay was more of an absurdist. I didn’t think it was offensive, maybe if I was Chinese – and very sensitive –  I might have felt differently.”

Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri is currently conducting a three-year PhD research project for the University of Surrey at Guildford. It is on the self-translation of stand-up comedy – comedians who translate and adapt their own material from one language to another.

On Facebook, his response to the review was “I don’t understand why the possibility of considering Louise Reay’s act racist is even entertained (although, fortunately, rejected). She does not even pretend to be Chinese; she just plays on the absurdity of using a language the majority of the audience cannot understand.”

The reviewer (alright, it was the admirable Bruce Dessau) came back to Giacinto with: “As you say, I did consider it before rejecting it. But I still wonder if a Chinese person would be OK with it, though I don’t like the idea of being offended on other people’s behalf so I won’t be offended on behalf of the entire Chinese population!”

Giacinto, responded: “Indeed. But I think we need to go a step further: even if they were offended, they wouldn’t be justified in being so. Offence, even when real and not hypothetical, cannot be its own justification.”

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during the BBC2 TV series The School that turned Chinese

A warm welcome for Louise in Nanjing during filming for her BBC2 documentary series The School That Turned Chinese

At this point, Louise pointed out: “My Edinburgh show was sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Edinburgh, which is funded by the Hanban, the culture department of the Chinese government. This would appear to indicate that my act is generally supported by both the Chinese and the academic community of Chinese speakers. I would add as a general point that it is not remotely racist (for a white English person) to speak real Chinese. A Chinese person speaking English is never questioned on the matter. The Independent wrote an article about it all in case of interest.”

Interestingly, by a quirk of scheduling at last night’s show, Louise Reay’s act (an English woman performing in Chinese) was immediately followed by Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani speaking English with a Japanese accent. She won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award last week.

There has never been any suggestion that her act could, in any way, at any time, be considered racist.

Louise Reay is currently working on her next solo show, titled Que Sera, 些拉 

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Coprophilia: Kate Copstick in Kenya

Copstick with Jägermeister and cake last night

Copstick with Jägermeister and cake last night

Last night was the first in a series of Grouchy Club events live in London.

I say ‘events’ because they are not really shows and not really meetings. They are chat shows in which the audience chat with comedy critic Kate Copstick and me about anything that comes into any of our heads.

The subject(s) is/are vaguely supposed to be about the comedy business, but the conversations can meander. Copstick and I have run the Grouchy Club at the Edinburgh Fringe for the last two years.

Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri was there in London last night and, this morning, commented on Facebook:

“The Grouchy Club in London is even more shambolic than it was in Edinburgh… particularly the post-shamble shamble… I loved it.”

Arlene Greenhouse commented: “I had such a good, unadulterated, solid five minute walrus laughing session. I needed that. Thank you to the porn caster and eye roller. You know who you are!”

(L-R) Andrea Gordon, Luca Cupani, Giacinto Palmieri and KateCopstick

The post shamble shamble (L-R) Andrea Gordon, Luca Cupani, Giacinto Palmieri and Kate Copstick

There is a 12-minute audio extract from the two hour event/show/meeting online which includes a typically shambolic discussion about successful middle-class white comedians, Michael McIntyre, Mrs Brown’s Boys, Jimmy Logan, Italian comedy and Christopher Biggins.

Luca Cupani performed

Luca Cupani performed

The extract features the voices of Kate Copstick, Andrea Gordon, me, Arlene Greenhouse, Jo Palermo, Neil O’Rourke, Luca Cupani and Giacinto Palmieri.

Last night also included performances by 2015 So You Think You’re Funny? winner Luca Cupani and finalist Neil O’Rourke.

At the start of last night’s Grouchy Club, the subject of kittens’ bollocks was brought up – as mentioned in last Sunday’s blog.

Copstick explained more of the reality of her life in Kenya to the audience of Canadian/English/Irish/Italian/Scottish performers, which included Grouchy Club newcomer, actress Andrea Gordon.


COPSTICK
Living in my hovel…

JOHN
…in Nairobi

COPSTICK
…with hot and cold running rats, no toilet, the only good thing… Well, one of the only good things about using a bucket to shit in is that I just had explosive trots for about two of the weeks I was there. And, when I got back to Britain, there was the absolute joy of having a fart with no follow-through. Ooooh! My God! I was terrified to fart for two of the three weeks I was there.

I don’t know how many of you have experience of having really explosive trots, but y’know normally, when you’re pooing – generally speaking – when one thinks of pooing, one thinks of a… I was going to say… a downward motion.

Well, you think of a downward motion. But with the terrible trots, I don’t know if it’s just my arse but, especially when you’re sitting down, the pan contains it. But when you’re in a long-drop toilet and half standing-up, it’s everywhere. It’s unbelievable. It’s not even near where it’s supposed to go. It’s right up the back, on the sides, it’s down my legs, it’s absolutely everywhere. One of the good things about using a bucket to shit and pee into is that, once again, the horror of it all is contained within the plastic.

ANDREA
I’m just waiting to hear how this shit relates to the cat’s testicles.

JOHN
She needed to wipe her bottom, so she found a kitten.

COPSTICK
No. Apart from the termites, the hot and cold running rats, the people shooting immediately outside my door…

JOHN
It’s just like Glasgow isn’t it…

COPSTICK
…the one thing that made it almost fun was these two lovely little cats…


The remaining Grouchy Club events live in London are:

Tuesday 10th November
Tuesday 8th December
Tuesday 22nd December

Details on the Grouchy Club website.

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“Levity is an absolute necessity in what can be considered a very dark subject”

The number of unknown unknowns is unknown

Yesterday’s blog revolved around a blog posted two days ago in which Kate Copstick had described the terrible plight of teenage brides in Kenya but finished with a lighthearted reference to the size of a kitten’s testicles.

Reader ‘Glenda’ had commented that “unfortunately, the witty remark about a cat’s balls is what registers on the reader’s mind and the serious issue concerning these African women is simply forgotten.

In yesterday’s blog, I wondered if jokes in serious pieces demeaned the subject. A few of the comments on this were:

No, perception & timing & intent.  A lot like robbing a security van John. (comedian Del Strain, via Twitter)

Yes and make them affordable to the masses. (Griff, via Twitter)

Depends on the quality of the joke. (Andrew Fox, via Facebook)

I had almost completely forgotten the kitten balls. But not the women. (Anna Smith, via WordPress)

Glenda’s comment is absolute bollocks (coincidentally). The levity at the end of the blog if anything throws the serious content into relief. Why do people have to be needlessly disparaging and superior, i.e: “It’s all very worthy and honourable, Kate Copstick blogging about the plight of these African women . . .” (comedian Janet Bettesworth, via WordPress)

Actually, I think Glenda has a point and I can see both sides.

I did think, when I posted Copstick’s diary piece, about chopping off the end bit re the kitten for the very reason Glenda gives. But I did not because I thought it would misrepresent what Copstick wrote, plus it did add a bit of jollity, plus it gave a plug to Malcolm Hardee and would mean something extra to a section of the blog readership. Other responses have been:

It’s oversimplifying to say the piece ends with an “adolescent remark.” It actually ends with some quite melancholy paragraphs about the late friend’s number being changed and the consolation of symbolically “making order from chaos”. The final details of the cats provides a beautiful counterpoint to this melancholy. It’s a very well written piece and anyone who forgets the main point so easily is probably going to forget it in a few moments away. (Cy, via WordPress)

Life goes on. In the midst of difficulty and death the small humorous things still raise their heads, ask to be observed as part of our reality. To help people effectively and constructively, I assume you have to be pragmatic and matter of fact, not hand-wringing which wouldn’t help anyone but which is easy enough to do from the comfort of our armchair viewing. (comedian Charmian Hughes, via WordPress)

Levity is an absolute necessity in what can be considered a very dark subject and I agree with Katie in her opinion regarding light and shade. It does raise the question regards what subjects can humour be added to and where we, as a society, draw the line. 

Take the very dark subject of paedophilia. Many jokes have been told by comedians about the Catholic Church and their approach towards priests who have abused vulnerable youngsters for decades, yet similar jokes about such showbiz individuals as Jimmy Savile face a barrage of criticism.

Perhaps it’s related to proximity or maybe the identification of individuals makes something much more personal and intense than an organisation. It is probably a very big discussion about what subjects are taboo amongst comedians and at what point a particular subject is deemed acceptable. (Alan Gregory, via WordPress)

Once I went to see Mark Thomas and I was really impressed by the combination of sincerely-felt idealism on one hand and irony on the other. After the show, I had a brief chat with him and he explained that the secret is taking the cause seriously while never taking seriously you fighting the cause. It’s a form of dissociation. On the other hand, people who are not able to do so and cannot poke fun at their idealism often become unintentionally ridiculous. Think of Don Quixote. Or Peter Buckley Hill. (comedian Giacinto Palmieri, via email)

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Yesterday was a good news, bad news day – from the Beatles to Cowgatehead

The Beatles musical at the Garrick Theatre

Beatles tribute musical at the Garrick Theatre

So yesterday, with performer Matt Roper, I went to see the Beatles musical Let It Be in London.

A man was handing out flyers to ingoers at the theatre for a Mozart concert. This was either very enterprising or very foolish audience targeting. Good news or bad news.

Afterwards, we went to Bar Italia in Soho and, as we were about to go in, performer Chris Dangerfield came out.

Chris Dangerfield & Matt Roper outside Bar Italia

Chris Dangerfield (left) & Matt Roper outside Bar Italia in Soho yesterday

“I’ve forgotten my keys,” he said, turning back to pick them up off a table.

“You run a lock-picking business,” I said. “Why do you need keys?”

He ignored this, I think valid, point and he and Matt Roper degenerated into conversation about Bangkok. I have only overnighted at Bangkok in transit. All I remember about it is that I was told a military coup there once failed because the tanks got stuck in the traffic jams.

As Chris left, he told us: “I’m off to get some ice cream.”

“Ice cream?” I asked. “What does ‘ice cream’ mean?”

“It means ice cream,” said Chris and left.

I said to Matt:

“I hadn’t realised Let It Be was just the songs. I assumed there would be a story, like the Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon.”

“I have never,” replied Matt, “been drawn to tribute acts and tribute shows. If I want to hear the Beatles, I’ll play one of their albums. I would rather go and see four musicians covering 1960s songs in their own way than just trying to be carbon copies. The trouble with that sort of show is the Beatles are so famous that… well, I know the casting of the musicians and actors and all those dynamics have to work and that’s kind of more important than what their faces look like. But I would not cast performers who look like other familiar figures. They got away with John and Ringo, but Paul McCartney looked like a young Kenny Dalglish and George Harrison, poor bugger, looked like Rose West, the serial killer wife.”

“The only trouble with the Kinks’ musical Sunny Afternoon,” I said, “was that the actor playing Ray Davies looked like Paul McCartney.”

Matt Roper at Bar Italia

Matt Roper phones Bob Slayer for a Download

“Do you know any strange acts?” Matt asked. He was trying to fill a spot at the Download music festival today which he himself was unable to appear at. He tried comedy/music chap Bob Slayer. This, too, was good news and bad news.

Bob Slayer, when Matt phoned, was already AT the Download Festival… but he was leaving.

The good news and bad news continued.

Comic Mel Moon phoned me.

Her Edinburgh Fringe problems have been sorted out.

But she is going into hospital on Sunday for a very serious 9-hour operation.

I left Bar Italia.

On my way home, passing through St Pancras station, I met Italian comic Giacinto Palmieri.

“Where are you off to?” I asked.

“I’m coming back from the British Library,” he replied. “I was reading about the philosophy of humour.”

“Because of your academic stuff?”I asked. “Remind me.”

“My search is about the translation of humour, particularly stand-up comedy.”

Giacinto Palmieri - an academic at St Pancras

Giacinto Palmieri – an academic at St Pancras

“Anything about nudity?” I asked.

“In Freud, of course,” said Giacinto. “Just as background knowledge, I am reading about the philosophy of humour. I found a good quote: Good wit is a novel truth as the good grotesque is a novel beauty.

“Said by?” I asked.

George Santayana.”

“Ah, Indian,” I said knowledgably.

“Spanish-American,” said Giacinto. “Before I went to the British Library, I was interviewing Francesco De Carlo, who belongs to Comedy Sans Frontières a group formed by Eddie Izzard.”

I had never heard of them.

I realised my finger was somewhere other than on the pulse of what was happening.

When I eventually got home, there was a message from Mark Davison, who quit the PBH Free Fringe yesterday on a matter of principle losing, as he thought, £800 in the process.

That had been bad news. This was good news.

“It’s been a busy day,” he told me, “full of messages coming in from Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

“I’ve had offers of guest slots and, more importantly, have accepted an offer from Darrell Martin to take a 9.00pm slot for my full hour’s show at Just The Tonic’s Just Up The Road venue for the duration of the festival – and to run it as a free venue.

Mark Davison has a bunch of friends

Mark Davison and a bunch of friends hope for genuine change

“I hope the whole thing has stirred something up that will lead to genuine change and performers being treated with full respect… and I hope Let It Be was good. Part of my show this year is Mr Susie doing an inappropriate ‘Jukebox’ musical, so I may need to see Let It Be myself to fine-tune what I’m planning.

“PS Mike Leigh also offered me a slot but this was at Frankenstein’s and I knew my show would not work there, for technical reasons. Still very much appreciated the offer though.”

I went to bed early last night and probably dreamt of bananas and Frankenstein and the Cowgatehead.

But, this morning, as always, I remembered nothing.

Except that Christopher Lee had died.

Or did he?

Is he one of the undead in his black Count Dracula cloak?

Life is probably like a bunch of bananas.

I have no idea why.

So it goes.

 

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81-year-old Lynn Ruth Miller’s love letter to comic Michael Legge, aged 46

Yesterday’s weekly Grouchy Club Podcast featured not just comedy critic Kate Copstick and me but London-based Italian comics Giacinto Palmieri and Luca Cupani. We recorded an audio version – available on Podomatic and iTunes – and a video version posted on YouTube – at Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in London.

Below is a brief extract.


JOHN
Some performer did a love letter to you this week. who was that?

Giacinto’s passionate missive

Giacinto’s passionate missive

COPSTICK
Giacinto. Well, it wasn’t a love letter. It was a wonderful, wonderful piece of writing.

JOHN
She’s going coy.

GIACINTO
I just shared my ideas on why Copstick is so important – to remind us of the need to be passionate about comedy – The fact that comedy and the arts in general should be about passion. So the passion that she’s bringing to her criticism I think is very important. It is very important to remind us of that. And (speaking to Copstick) also the original way of thinking you are bringing to it and that you apply to this one as well – to the way you approach problems in Africa. I really see…

JOHN
This is the Mama Biashara charity?

GIACINTO
Yes.

COPSTICK
It was just… (a) it was absolutely glorious and (b) it was really well written.

GIACINTO
Thanks.

LUCA
Your English is so good.

GIACINTO
Somebody posted a link to that article with the comment: Who is that cunt? And I was really offended by that little, vile word.

JOHN & GIACINTO (together)
Who!

GIACINTO
After six years in comedy! Come on! Hopefully this will get me a bit more known.

COPSTICK
Yeah, absolutely.

GIACINTO
Hopefully, the next time I do something like this, they will say: Oh! I know that cunt!

COPSTICK
Exactly.

LUCA
You could put on your posters That Cunt.

COPSTICK
Giacinto has spawned, really, what is turning into an entire genre because, the author of that brilliant interrogative Who is that cunt? followed it up with – well, it wasn’t really – a satirical take on…

Michael Legge’s parody

Michael Legge’s parody

JOHN
Who is this?

COPSTICK
Michael Legge.

JOHN
A comedian.

COPSTICK
I would have expected something better from him. It was a kind of vicious but not particularly well-written parody of Giacinto’s

GIACINTO
I’m a parodied author now. It’s amazing. I feel like I’ve done a Bruno Ganz.

COPSTICK
Exactly. And now, just before we went on… iPhone or…

JOHN
…or whatever we’re on…

COPSTICK
… I got an email from the inimitable, indomitable Lynn Ruth Miller and she has, in turn, written a letter parodying Michael Legge’s

GIACINTO
We don’t know if Steve Bennett has accepted it yet. I hope he will.

COPSTICK
We hope that Steve…

JOHN
Who is Steve?

COPSTICK
Steve Bennett of Chortle. You’re really just here as a footnote, aren’t you.

JOHN
I am.

COPSTICK
Any time someone mentions anything, it’s Who’s that?


This is the parody letter Lynn Ruth wrote…


A LOVE LETTER TO MICHAEL LEGGE

This is a Tinder message to Michael Legge whom I do not know and who is young enough to be my grandson but it is a Tinder message nonetheless.

I read his message to the lovely Steve Bennett and I must say I wouldn’t mind a bit of a to-do with Steve as well but for the fact that my vagina resembles the Sahara Desert during a drought and Steve still has a bit of juice left in him, or so he thinks……and I make it a policy not to disillusion the young.

Lynn Ruth Miller wants to rub some matzo balls

Lynn Ruth Miller wants to rub some matzo balls

As I read Michael Legge’s overwhelming desire for coitus with an innocent like Steve Bennett, I realized that what he needs is a tryst with a woman of a certain age to teach him how true sexual satisfaction is achieved.

I would like to dunk us both in a chicken soup bath and rub Michael Legge’s matzo balls in my kishke.

He would experience a kosher sensation that would set his holishkes afire because MY horseradish has such a sizzle, you wouldn’t believe. It is after all,  home-made.

I do not expect to feature at his next show or anything like that but I assure you he will lust after my k’nadles and thirst for a bit of my particular, sensual brand of borscht so much he will forget his punch lines. It was my mother’s recipe and reduced my father to a pile of gribenes, every time she flaunted it. I will become an irresistible red-hot chotchke to Michael Legge and he will succumb, And who can blame him?

I will massage him with layer after layer of hot schmaltz to push his boundaries.  I promise he will be overwhelmed with schpilkes that only I can ease with my adorable little latkes even as I butter his bagel.

Ah, Michael! Once you have tasted my sparkling little shalota and savored the intense pleasure of my gedempte fleisch, all those traife peccadillo’s you thought were the real thing will fade into oblivion and you will discover a passion only a kosher maidle with a luscious kugel can provide.

I must admit I have not worked in a morgue but I assure you that I will be in one far before you will and I will make sure there is a soft, velvet little babka to warm the cockles of your heart or your cock whichever you prefer. You can count on me.

I have not compared notes with Kate Copstick and of course I will move aside for her if she prefers to smother you with greibenes or give you a good bublitchke in your nether region. But always remember that it only takes one taste of the American brand of gefilte fish to make a man out of you.

I hope you will forgive the phonetic spelling in this Tinder message to you but I am so overwhelmed with the urge to schtup your brains out that I cannot be bothered to consult a dictionary.

So what do you say, Michael? Are you as temped by my offer as you are by Steve Bennett’s bum? Do you honestly think that your letter to Steve was half as creepy as that lovely idealistic young man’s accolade to Kate Copstick or my delectable offer to you?

There are still some of us who believe in hearts, flowers and a bit of charoset to give life the flavor it deserves. If you do, too, I’m your little girl.

La Chiam to you darling with a bit of a schmear.

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Serious comedy – Why this blog was mentioned in an academic bibliography

A serious publisher is desperate for comedy

A serious publisher is desperate for comedy

It is a cliché that comedy is getting to be a serious business. But that won’t stop me writing it again.

This morning, I got an e-mail from Brunel University’s Centre For Comedy Studies Research saying  that Palgrave Macmillan publishers are actively looking for academic comedy books. By coincidence, yesterday afternoon, I had a chat with Italian comedian Giacinto Palmieri.

He is in the first year of a three-year PhD research project for the University of Surrey at Guildford. It is on the self-translation of stand-up comedy – comedians who translate and adapt their own material from one language to another – and he had sent me a short section he had written which was centred on a blog I wrote in December about going with comedy critic Kate Copstick to the fortnightly Italian-language London comedy show Laboratorio di Cabaret – Il Puma Londinese.

“We must meet up and do a blog about it,” I told Giacinto. “It will seem like I am increasingly prestigious because my blog is in someone’s bibliography. Also, it’s the perfect academic thing – where you are studying the act of studying.”

“Well,” said Giacinto, “your blog entry was partially about the experience of watching my set. So I wrote about your blog’s reaction as part of my research and now we are discussing, for another of your blogs, my act of writing about your blog. I love circularity.”

Giacinto and I chatted at King’s Cross

Giacinto & I chatted at King’s Cross station. I don’t know why.

“I think,” I said, “when this conversation becomes part of a new blog, you should write about that too in your research.”

“I will,” said Giacinto. “It will be like Escher. Mirrors inside mirrors inside mirrors.”

“And,” I suggested, “when you write some more research about this new blog, I can write another blog about that… Anyway… Why did you decide Copstick and I were worthy of inclusion in your academic research?”

“Because you were observing bi-lingual comedy and that gave me the idea of observing you observing it and analysing your perspectives and expectations.

“Copstick said of me: In Italian, it’s like someone has lit a fire under him. In English, he is black and white; in Italian, he is in colour.

“Of course there is something objective there; I am not saying it is all a projection of expectations. But comedy is not just a performance. It is always an interaction: a projection of something meeting an expectation of something. It’s a dialogue. Why is she experiencing me as more in colour? Is it because I am performing differently? Or her expectations are different? Or because she likes Italy? It is probably a mixture of all these things.

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after a Puma show

“All of us regulars at the Puma Londinese are sort-of developing our material in parallel in both languages. Some routines are born in English and translated into Italian. Some the other way round. Some stay in one language and are never translated.”

“So,” I asked, “have you done some of your English material in Italy?”

“Yes, but only in English. I want to do it in Italian now, because it’s interesting for my research. But, of course, comedy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. So, if I do material in Italian in Italy, I’m also dealing with different expectations and different types of audiences, different types of comedy clubs. That bit scares me the most, because I don’t really know the comedy scene in Italy.”

I said: “You told me sometime that Italy didn’t have a tradition of stand-up, gag-telling comedy… that the tradition was character comedy…”

“and sketch comedy,” added Giacinto. “Yes. Stand-up comedy is emerging now as some sort of alternative.”

“Why research this idea of translating comedy?” I asked.

Giacinto Palmieri costumed

Giacinto in a previous Edinburgh incarnation as Pagliacci

“First of all to describe the phenomenon,” explained Giacinto. “It is a subject that has never been studied: I found a gap in the scientific literature and it’s a gap I can fill because I have direct experience of it and I can observe other comedians doing the same.”

“No-one has ever done this research before?” I asked.

“Not as an oral form. There has been research about sub-titles and dubbing but none, as far as I know, about adapting stand-up comedy from one type of oral form to another. The Guardian recently published an interview with Eddie Izzard, but I don’t think the phenomenon has been studied academically.”

“Even dubbing is bizarre,” I said. “I always wonder what happens with the James Bond films, which are full of English language puns. There’s a bit in Diamonds Are Forever where a girl says her name is Plenty O’Toole and Bond says: Named after your father, perhaps? Now that must be impossible to translate because it revolves round O’Toole being a surname. I mean, in Goldfinger, presumably Pussy Galore must have had no double-meaning outside English. What was it in the Italian version?”

“I think it is kept as Pussy Galore,” said Giacinto. “In Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, the character is called Alotta Fagina.”

“But translating puns in Bond films must be impossible,” I said.

“You look for a way to replicate the same kind of wordplay,” explained Giacinto. “In a way, puns are the easiest jokes to translate, because you don’t have to keep the meaning, you just create a new pun in the other language.”

“So,” I said, “it doesn’t matter what the joke is, provided there is a line which provokes a laugh at the same point in the action?”

Giacinto at the Christmas Puma show

Giacinto at the Christmas Puma show

“Yes,” said Giacinto. “Some are so brilliant in Italian, you wonder what the original was. In Young Frankenstein, there is a brilliant pun in Italian but I have no idea what the original was. A lot of things are lost in translation, but a lot of things are also found in translation. Translation is a creative activity and if it is done by creative people – by comedians and so on – it is a great chance to express new comedy ideas.”

“Have you delved into this before?” I asked.

“A few years ago, the comedian Becca Gibson organised a literary festival in Earl’s Court and invited Delia Chiaro from the University of Bologna, one of the biggest experts on the translation of humour. Becca booked me to do stand-up comedy during the event, because she knew a lot of my material was based on language. As a result, Delia invited me to do the same during a conference about translation at the University of Bologna. So I discovered there were these two fields – Humour Studies on one hand and Translation Studies on the other which, of course, overlap in Humour Translation. And I realised, if I researched the way comics translate their own material, it could be a way to bring together all these threads of interest.”

“It’s the ideal research for a stand-up comic,” I suggested. “You can write about yourself.”

Giacinto’s image for his Leicester show

Giacinto’s image for his Leicester Comedy Festival show

“Yes,” agreed Giacinto, “I am doing research which is partly about me doing comedy, but I can also do stand-up comedy routines about me doing research about me doing comedy. I am performing my Ride of The Wagnerian show at the Leicester Comedy Festival this Saturday. I am probably skipping this year’s Edinburgh Fringe because I will be too busy with my research. But I am planning to do a show at the Fringe in 2016 about my research. My plan is to call it Giacinto Palmieri needs a PhD For It.

I laughed.

“You see?” said Giacinto, “The show is working already.”

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In order to speak and perform Italian language comedy, you have to live it

Romina Puma

Romina Puma, creator of fortnightly shows

Last night, in London’s Soho, I went to fortnightly Italian language comedy night Laboratorio di Cabaret – Il Puma Londinese. They usually have at least one English language act.

This is the fourth of their shows I have been to and I understand about a quarter of one percent of what is going on in the Italian parts. But the atmosphere is hugely enjoyable and, to illiterate me, the shows are like watching abstract comedy performance. I watch the visual performance and can appreciate the structure of the emotional delivery of the words and feel the emotional meaning of the words, even though I don’t understand the words.

Last night I went with comedy critic Kate Copstick, who is multilingual – she can speak English, Italian, Swahili and Glaswegian. She has written guidebooks to Italy.

“Did you understand 100%?” I asked.

“Maybe 90%,” she told me. “But, in Italian, people take a lot more words to say stuff so, in a way, to get the gist, you only need to understand 90%. One of the wonderful things about Italian conversation is it’s ‘Big’. You maybe say things twice or in three different ways. You just say more than you would in English.”

“Earlier today,” I said, “I was talking to someone about Irish English and it’s often more meandering than most English English and Irish people have told me it’s because the Gaelic is not a succinct language: it, too, needs more words.”

“There is just such fun in saying things in Italian,” said Copstick. “Alex Martini (the compere) was terrific – great energy and quintessentially Italian – which is a GOOD thing. Really, really likeable. But a night like tonight also proves there is an element to comedy that goes beyond the words. I didn’t understand 100% but I laughed more than I do in a lot of good English language gigs. It’s the feeling of fun and enjoyment and laughter.

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

“Those two girls – Romina Puma and Giada Garofalo – warm, funny, confident and out there – they really brought the audience into it all. Very warm, very female, very anecdotal.

“If you translated their set into English, it’s just very anecdotal, chatty, kinda Sarah Millican-ish. But the energy and the whole character of doing it in Italian just pulls you in so much more.”

“I have an English friend,” I told Copstick, “who worked in Tokyo then married an Italian and now lives in Milan – so she’s good at languages – and she told me the only way to speak Italian is to ‘live’ the language. You can’t just say Italian words with English speech rhythms: you have to almost perform Italian. Saying the plain words just doesn’t work.”

“Absolutely,” said Copstick. “Giacinto Palmieri is warm and wonderful when he performs in English but, in Italian, it’s like someone has lit a fire under him. In English, he is black and white; it Italian, he is in colour.

“What your friend said about ‘living it’… the minute you translate the Italian words into English in your head, it’s not as funny. The whole approach to the story and the whole way of telling stories in Italian is just different. Literally – to coin Frank Carson’s old phrase – it’s the way they tell ‘em.”

Kate Copstick enjoyed my lively wit (Photograph by Giada Garofalo)

Copstick found herself unable to resist my captivating wit last night (Photograph by Giada Garofalo)

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