Tag Archives: Grouchy Club podcast

Chris Dangerfield, political correctness in comedy and recurring fishnet tights

Fishnet stockings (not tights)

Fishnet stockings – not tights. (Photograph by RJFerret)

Chris Dangerfield in Dean Street, Soho

Chris with shopping bag in Soho

When I met performer Chris Dangerfield in London’s Soho last week, he wanted to talk about how political correctness has gone mad and I wanted to talk about fishnet tights.

“I thought you were leaving the country,” I said.

“I did plan to go travelling for a couple of years,” he told me, “maybe forever. But my problem, John, is connection and going travelling is almost giving up connecting with people and having nothing permanent. I would just be a wanderer and get old and end up one of those blokes on a beach in Thailand with no hair.”

“That seems to be what I’ve done,” I said, “except for the beach.”

“This is the concern,” Chris said, “ending up like you. But business is going so well that, if I commit to work for the next couple of years, I’ll probably be able to retire well.

“This,” I asked, “is your lock-picking business?”

“Yeah. I just got a warehouse in America and we’re thinking of maybe doing something in Hong Kong. But what I wanna talk to you about is Gazza and his joke.”

We then talked about various subjects.

“I can’t post that,” I said. “It is not going to read well in print. It will make you look bad.”

“What?” asked Chris. “As in ‘bad’ not interesting or ‘bad’ meaning I look like a cunt?

“Yes,” I said. “I…”

Glasgow Police being uncharacteristically sensitive on Twitter

Glasgow Police being uncharacteristically sensitive on Twitter

“I don’t care,” he told me. “Put it all in. I’m done with caring about all that bullshit. The Glasgow police have got a Twitter account and they Tweeted – This is 100% true – They Tweeted We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything illegal – that’s fair enough – unnecessary and unkind. The police Tweeted this! We may pay you a visit if you Tweet anything unnecessary and unkind. This is actually happening! It’s absurd!

“The Canadian comedian Mike Ward made a joke about some spastic kid and was fined $42,000. It’s bullshit. What is happening not just to comedy but to the world?… How was the Edinburgh Fringe this year? You’ve watched it go downhill for the last 16 years. Be honest now. It’s shit, isn’t it?”

“I don’t really see that much difference,” I replied. “You were supposed to be coming up for a few days this year. I was looking forward to that.”

“I thought about visiting for a few days,” Chris explained, “but I’ve just got too much work on. Hardeep sorted out a room for me with another friend, but her Facebook had fishnets and I thought: Oh shit!

“Fishnets?” I asked.

“Not Hardeep. His friend. I thought: I’ll be sitting in a room working and then only going out for a couple of hours. So I didn’t get up there. I’m thinking of doing a show next year.”

“Fishnet tights?” I asked.

“No, stockings,” Chris replied. “Stockings. No-one wears tights any more in my bedroom. I can’t be doing with them. They remind me of my mother. I would find my mum’s tights with her knickers rolled up in them at the bottom of the stairs. Eugh! Dark tan. Not black, not white, not pink, nothing sexy. But, nonetheless, if a woman arrives in my bed with tights on, they have to be removed. That’s a game changer as much as no hair on a woman.

“Where were we? My Edinburgh show maybe next year. I’ve been quite outspoken about the political correctness movement that is gaining so much power at the moment and I’ve lost a lot of friends through that. And some of them were my media contacts that I’d spent eight years building up. And they’ve become arsehole virtue social justice warriors. Really. A lot of them have gone. All just disappeared from my Contacts list.”

“So will you do a show next year?” I asked.

Rare sight - shy Copstick - at Mama Biashara

Kate Copstick might be involved with Chris

Copstick said to me: For fuck’s sake do a show up here – which was very nice of her. I said: If I do, I’ll need your help and she said something along the lines of Alright. You interrupted her on the Grouchy Club Podcast. She was about to market me as part of the… But you interrupted, mumbling something about biscuits…”

“Well,” I said, “that’s my role.””

“Let’s get back,” Chris insisted, “to political correctness being poison.”

“Net stockings?” I tried.

“I think this is going to snowball,” Chris persisted. “People are taken to court for really shitty jokes that are not racist, that are not harassment. It’s happening. There are lots of examples. There’s Guy Earle in Canada. A load of people heckled him. They introduced themselves into his show. They were the vampires at his door. He welcomed them in. He shouted back at them and they took him to court and won. This is madness.

“When I read the Top Ten Jokes in Edinburgh, they are lollystick jokes aren’t they? They are good for families. But that’s nothing to do with me. And that’s alright. I don’t expect it to all be about me. Far from it. But that’s what gets the Awards. Lollystick acts. The awards have the odd inoculation – a small amount of acknowledged evil that will make them feel better. It works like an inoculation. They take on a few people who are a bit risky to protect themselves against the generalised evil and generalised subversion.”

“You realise,” I asked, “that this blog is going to have nothing in it about political correctness – just fishnet tights?”

“Stockings!” said Chris. “The other thing, of course, is I’ve just finished writing a novel. The story is there. But it’s not long enough and it needs a lot of work on it.”

“That’” I told him, “is what women constantly say to me.”

“It needs as much editing as you do,” said Chris, “which is a helluva lot. At the moment it’s 58,000 words; I’m aiming for around 75,000. The book is the story of a man who goes to Thailand to get clean (of drugs) and gets a lot less than he bargained for.”

Chris Dangerfield in Thailand yesterday morning

Chris Dangerfield had some laughs  in Thailand

“Does he,” I asked, “try to kick his heroin addiction in a brothel?”

“Yes.”

“That always seemed a very bad idea,” I told Chris. “Doing it for real.”

Chris told me: “I set out to write it thinking it was about a man getting clean in a brothel. But it isn’t. It’s about childhood, nostalgia and connection. When you set out… When you define your enclosure and say It’s about this and contrive something, it doesn’t work. It’s not creative.”

“So,” I asked, “it has ended up being about the man and how he got to be who he is?”

“Yeah. To an extent. Or how he didn’t become what he should be. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done. It would be really nice if I got it published before next August and I would do a reading (at the Edinburgh Fringe). Then I can present it as fiction and avoid a lot of trouble.”

“How can you present it as fiction?” I asked.

“Well,” said Chris, “I mean, some of it’s fictional; it just has to be.”

“The more unbelievable something seems,” I suggested, “very often the more true it is. You have to tone down reality to make it believable.”

Coming soon – the last ever performance of his 2012 show

Chris had to downplay the actual reality to make it believable

“Absolutely,” said Chris. “That’s what happened with (Edinburgh Fringe show) Sex Tourist. I had to play it down. That was totally insane. I bought a gun. They’re plastic.

“When I finally came out of that methamphetamine binge, I took the gun back to the shop and said: Mate, I’m done with the gun. I really don’t need it.

“And he was all No, no, no. You can take it back to England and he took it all to pieces and said I’ll send it back to you in parts. I asked What do I do for bullets? and he said I can send you them as well.”

“Not plastic bullets?” I asked.

“No. Do you know blank keys are made out of spent bullet shells? They use a lot of bullets in practising and they collect them all, melt them all down and make keys in America.”

“Have you written a novel before?” I asked.

“I had one vanity publishing thing in my early 20s – Tired etc. It done quite well, got some good reviews, was in i-D, Loaded.”

“What’s the new one called?”

“A friend suggested Last Exit To Patong… You know, John, I don’t think you’re going to have a coherent blog here.”

“It’s never worried me before.”

“What? When I was smoking crack in Brown’s? Do you remember? I had to run to the chemist. I read that blog back and thought: Who is this? I was reading it, really excited, wondering: Oh shit! What happens next? And it was me.

“Tights,” I said.

“They’re horrible things,” Chris replied.

“Fishnet tights?” I asked.

“There’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with anything. Nothing’s good; nothing’s bad. But I have a relationship with them that I don’t want to re-live with a sexual partner… Look, when I’m coming down my stairs as a toddler on my hands and knees, at the bottom, I end up with my face in my mum’s gusset. That’s a phrase I never wanted to say. I can’t stand them. They’re a proper party-killer. Tight round the waist, gonna leave a mark and there’s a thread and a seam that goes round the fanny.”

“You know,” I said, “when you realise you shouldn’t have said something?”

“No,” said Chris. “No, I haven’t got to that stage yet.”

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Advice on Edinburgh comedy shows?

Performing at the Edinburgh Fringe

What is the point of having a blog if you can’t use it for blatant self-publicity?

In this week’s Grouchy Club Podcastcomedy critic Kate Copstick and I talk about the end of the comedy section in Time Out. The end of my daily blog. The last live Grouchy Club meeting. Performer Nina Conti joining a porn film set. Will and/or Sarah Franken deciding to teach satire. My suggestion that Copstick should teach how to be aggressive in a Scottish accent. Free Fringe boss Peter Buckley Hill’s thoughts on an award. More chaos at the Edinburgh Fringe. The dead owners of Cowgatehead. Plus Lewis Schaffer, Juliette Burton, Bob Slayer, Mark Watson… and it all ends with an orgasm from Copstick. 

But there is also this brief section in the 32 minute podcast:


COPSTICK
Now I heard a rumour…

JOHN
Ooooo…

COPSTICK
…Mr Fleming… that you were thinking of offering your services as a director for people taking shows up to the Edinburgh Festival.

JOHN
Except, as we both know, a director doesn’t really do anything. So I thought the word ‘consultant’  might be vague enough.

COPSTICK
Oh. Consultant.

JOHN
For tax reasons, ‘Consultant’ is probably good as well.

COPSTICK
Consultant. Yes. With your how many years experience? Thousands of years of entertainment in London Weekend Television and elsewhere.

JOHN
Well, to be wholly truthful, it covers two centuries, doesn’t it?

COPSTICK
Yes. And, to be fair, it looks like it’s taken its toll.

JOHN
… on the industry.

COPSTICK
So somebody could actually…

JOHN
I did hear Time Out was closing its comedy section because it couldn’t actually compete with my increasingly prestigious blog.

COPSTICK
Maybe they will open it again, now your increasingly prestigious blog is closing. But you could take anyone’s…

JOHN
I can make them. I can break them.

COPSTICK
…embryonic Edinburgh show and turn it into something very close to Lewis Schaffer, could you? that successful? Is that what you’re offering? I can make you Lewis Schaffer!

JOHN
If I can make Lewis Schaffer successful, anything is possible.

COPSTICK
Exactly. think what you could do for a talented person!… No! I don’t mean that!

JOHN
Lewis Schaffer is still available at the Museum of Comedy until probably Monday. My influence is so great that I have actually made Lewis Schaffer a museum exhibit.

COPSTICK
Yes… But, seriously, you’d consult on people’s shows and…

JOHN
Well, the thing about me is that I’m not a performer, so you have to opt out of…

COPSTICK
Well, I think you’re doing pretty well here, I have to say.

JOHN
… but I am a keen observer of the scene…

COPSTICK
And a seasoned producer.

JOHN
A seasoned everything, yes – radio, TV, journalism, advertising. I’ve done them all. So I could give a… a… We haven’t thought this through as a marketing exercise, have we…

COPSTICK
No, we haven’t.

JOHN
I can give an objective view from years of experience of watching really awful acts. So, if anyone has a really awful act, I am very experienced in watching them.

COPSTICK
Yes, that’s fantastic. You’re not going to judge. I think that’s what you’re saying.

JOHN
I did, for a couple of years, do reviews for Chortle, the comedy website.

COPSTICK
Did you?

JOHN
I did. But I never liked it. You have to be honest if you’re reviewing and therefore you get hated by the comedians.

COPSTICK
I know the feeling.

JOHN
So my blog never actually criticised anyone, because I could pick and choose interesting people doing interesting things whom I admired and who were worthy of promotion and I could ignore any old trash. Although, admittedly, I have promoted Lewis Schaffer quite a lot.

COPSTICK
Indeed… Now, I want you to answer completely honestly here, John. Would the fact that you are consulting on a show give it a better chance of winning the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards?

JOHN
Ah. Now this is what’s worrying me. I haven’t actually thought this one through. One possibility is I say: If I consult for you, you can’t possibly win or be considered.

COPSTICK
But all the kind of shows, surely, that would benefit from your particular and extensive expertise are exactly Malcolm Hardee type shows.

JOHN
Exactly, yes.

COPSTICK
I think we’d have to say that the Malcolm Hardee Award is just going to be my decision next year. Lovely. Job done.

JOHN
The reality would be that, if I consulted on a show that was seriously considered for the Malcolm Hardee Award, I wouldn’t take part in the decision making.


The whole 32 minute podcast can he heard HERE.

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Grouchy Podcast extract: Will Franken’s lack of commitment to being a woman

Copstick and Fleming and a world of Pain

Copstick & Fleming trapped in a not totally comedic podcast

In this week’s 38-minute Grouchy Club Podcast, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I discussed The Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke ever, Lewis Schaffer (no surprise there), how BBC TV executive Alan Yentob re-cut controversial comic Jerry Sadowitz’s TV series, the power of TV advertisers, Noel Gay TV and, in this brief extract, trans-gender comic Will Franken aka Sarah Franken and a TV series with horrendous visuals. (You will have to listen to the Podcast to hear details of the visuals… that’s how teaser extracts work.)


COPSTICK
So, are Will and Sarah dividing and going their separate ways; are they alternating; or what’s happening?

JOHN
I think they’ve had a creative difference with each other… No, no. I think he might be phasing out Sarah. It was in my previous blog – worth reading.

COPSTICK
If you can’t remember what’s in them, why should I read them?

JOHN
I can’t remember what’s in it, no. I don’t read them. You know I don’t write my blogs, don’t you? I farm them out to some Filipino children who are going blind in the dark with candle light.

COPSTICK
I did say I didn’t… possibly to you in a blog but, then, you wouldn’t have remembered… that it was… not exactly a phase – ‘phase’ always makes it sound…

JOHN
Star Trek.

COPSTICK
…trite

JOHN
Phasers.

COPSTICK
…trite. I never really felt Will to be like a… There was never a woman in there fighting to get out.

JOHN
There clearly was.

COPSTICK
No.

JOHN
He never wanted to have ‘the snip’, but…

COPSTICK
It’s a little bit more than a snip I think you’ll find, John. A little bit more than a snip.

JOHN
A snip and an excavation.

COPSTICK
A snip and a scoop and a flip…

JOHN
A flip?

COPSTICK
…and a turning-outside-in and…

JOHN
Ooh! what’s the flip?… Oh! the turning outside-in.

COPSTICK
Mmmm.

JOHN
Do you have pictures?

COPSTICK
I actually do. I have an entire video which I made for a television series which I produced called World of Pain…

JOHN
World of Pain?

COPSTICK
…and we were allowed to follow a sex change. Well, ‘gender re-assignmment’ surgery.

JOHN
What was in World of Pain apart from this? It was a 6-part series, was it?

COPSTICK
No.

JOHN
Ooh! What was it?

COPSTICK
It was three 15-part series.

JOHN
Ooh, wow, ooh. And do you remember what was in them? – Because you have a better memory than me.

COPSTICK
I remember everything that was in them. Every episode had a different theme.

JOHN
As I expect from you. What was the most painful bit in the World of Pain?

COPSTICK
Well, it depends. I mean, we did people who got hooks through their skin and dangled from the ceiling. We did branding. We did…

JOHN
Sarcasm?

COPSTICK
We did shark bites.

JOHN
Intentional shark bites?

COPSTICK
John, I am not going to talk to you any longer if you continue to be obtuse.

JOHN
I’m not used to the world of pain. I try to avoid it, myself.

COPSTICK
There were some horrific sporting injuries. I mean, where you see in slow motion a leg bending backwards and forw… Yes, fairly horrific.

JOHN
So it wasn’t all self-inflicted or a welcome World of Pain?

COPSTICK
No. Of course not. What I found interesting was the way the television censors looked at it. There was a really very nice little bit of film that we did in Russia and it was called Ice Babies. Because, in certain areas of Russia, what they do with fairly new born babies is take them out, cut a hole in the ice and dunk the baby in.

JOHN
For why?

COPSTICK
To kick-start their immune system.

JOHN
Like Sparta?

COPSTICK
Yes. I mean there’s a person in there. There’s a nurse and somebody else…

JOHN
In a hole in the ice?

COPSTICK
Well, it’s bigger than a hole. It’s a huge hole. And they throw the babies in and the babies are not massively distressed. Then they pull them out and swaddle them up and it’s kind of a kick-start to their immune system. In the rural villages where they do it, the kids don’t get colds and flus and whatnot and it seems to work in terms of being a bit of a smack in the face for your body’s reactions.

The babies were not distressed. the babies were not crying. None of that. And ITV would not let us show it at all. AT ALL.

JOHN
What is the nurse’s uniform in this? Is she wearing a frogman’s outfit?

COPSTICK
No. she’s wearing a bathing costume. You are being obtuse again, John.

JOHN
It’s very icy. Anyway, ITV wouldn’t show it because…


You can hear the full 38-minute Grouchy Club Podcast HERE.

Tomorrow’s blog will include a more jaw-dropping piece about Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer.

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his arms round Will Franken at St Pancras station

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his arms round Will Franken at St Pancras station – more tomorrow

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The Grouchy Club Podcast: a tad surreal

THIS BLOG WAS WRITTEN AND WAS INTENDED TO BE POSTED ON FRIDAY 23rd OCTOBER. IT IS BEING POSTED ON SUNDAY 25th OCTOBER BECAUSE I WAS UNABLE TO POST IT.

THE MORAL TO THIS IS: DON’T START A BLOG WITH WORDPRESS.

NOW READ ON, AS IF IT WERE LAST FRIDAY…

Copstick (left) and me (on the right)

Copstick & me: It was not just the hair that was out of control


This evening, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I recorded our 36th weekly Grouchy Club Podcast.

Copstick had bumped into someone this week who told her that, last weekend, he had got unbelievably drunk, booked into a hotel from Friday to Monday and, still drunk, simply listened to the previous 35 Grouchy Club Podcasts one after the other. 

This sounds made-up, but is true.

I can only worry for his mental well-being.

Copstick and I usually do not discuss in advance what we are going to talk about but we usually stumble into some subject. 

That was going to change this evening.

I thought it would be interesting to talk about How to interview someone.

So we actually had a topic.

But, as it turned out, we never discussed it.

The podcast recording ended 24 minutes later.

This is a short extract. If anyone understands what was going on, do let us know… I think printing a conversation, word-for-word without editing, can have its own type of surreal splendour…


COPSTICK
Talking of Richard Gadd…

JOHN
… and who isn’t?

COPSTICK
Well we are. Spencer Jones, who was also up in Edinburgh, with a show that…

JOHN
… tragically I should have nominated and didn’t…

COPSTICK
It should have been nominated for all manner of loveliness… I’m just wondering… It crossed my mind… he’s doing terribly well on the old television advert front. He did a credit card advert where he was getting married, which was all lovely and very sweet. And now he’s doing something for dentists, where he’s grinning and clowning into camera with a set of ghastly fake teeth, encouraging people to go and get their teeth fixed for their selfie – Do it for your selfie!

JOHN
I dislike him now. It’s the part I was born to play. (RATTLES TEETH)

COPSTICK
That looked every bit as gross as it sounded, people of the ether. I just wonder, if you are trying to be taken seriously as a Gaulier-inspired, trend-setting…

JOHN
Train set?’

COPSTICK
…free-thinking, creative, clowning comic of the one-hour show format… I wonder if it makes it more difficult to be taken seriously when people are going: Oh, you’re the bloke from the advert, with the bad teeth, aren’t you?

JOHN
I don’t think so, because Dr Ryegold…

COPSTICK
George Ryegold

JOHN
… he’s in lots of adverts. He’s in about three adverts.

COPSTICK
Ah, yes, but his character in those adverts…

JOHN
… is the character, yes.

COPSTICK
… is really quite George Ryegold.

JOHN
Yes.

COPSTICK
The SpecSavers one with the dead cat.

JOHN
Yes, he’s George as opposed to Toby.

COPSTICK
He’d kind of George-ish. He’s not quite as rancid and humanity-loathing and drunk and perverted as George, because it’s difficult to do that in an advert…

JOHN
I’d buy the product!

COPSTICK
… for SpecSavers.

JOHN
I’d buy it.

COPSTICK
SpecSavers?

JOHN
I dunno. there’s something about a dead cat. Yeah, dead cats…

COPSTICK
Yeah. The dead cat. Should’ve gone to SpecSavers.

JOHN
Indeed. How we laughed.

COPSTICK
It’s quite ‘him’ – I mean it’s quite George. this… I dunno… If you’re meant to be… I don’t know… It was just that, last year, Spencer did say it did quite get to him a bit that he was constantly being stopped and asked if he was the one that was getting married.

JOHN
That’s OK. It’s recognition.

COPSTICK
Yes, but…

JOHN
I was trying to think of other people who…

COPSTICK
… is there the wrong kind of recognition? Look, this is a topic, John. we have hit on a topic!

JOHN
Can I point out…

COPSTICK
Is there the wrong kind of recognition?

JOHN
Can I point out that, although she’s a bit further along in the process, Nicole Kidman is now appearing with meerkats.

COPSTICK
I know!

JOHN
Very impressive.

COPSTICK
How badly must her career be going? Or How much money must they have?

JOHN
Well, I did think how much money because, well, Hollywood stars do do lots of ads in Japan, don’t they, and…

COPSTICK
Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger did it before her…

JOHN
… with the meerkats, yes.

COPSTICK
… with the meerkats AND now Sylvester Stallone is advertising Warburton’s bread.

JOHN
You’re joking!

COPSTICK
No! Sylvester Stallone is advertising Warburton’s bread.


The full 24-minute podcast can be heard HERE.

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Edinburgh Fringe: suicide & drugs for breakfast, laughter & tears for comedy

So which, I hear you cry, Edinburgh Fringe shows did I see yesterday?

Pasta la vista - Ali Price

Pasta la vista – Ali Brice as his Fringe show alter ego Eric Meat

Ali Brice Presents: Eric Meat Has No Proof, Only Memories of Pasta
Everything you would expect from one of the absurdist Weirdos collective. Plus the chance to take a bite out of an apple.

Liz Fraser: Lifeshambles
Perfect example of a new Fringe genre: attractive, intelligent women (usually not circuit comedians) of around 40 impeccably performing shows about the arrival of their mid-life years.

The Gilded Balloon press show

The Gilded Balloon press show last night

Abigail Schamaun: Post-Coital Confessions
Does what it says on the label and is pitch-perfect. Sexy enough not to disappoint, presented to a mostly middle class audience without them being offended.

The Gilded Balloon Press Launch Show
30th anniversary taster of this year’s shows by arguably the Fringe’s most technically proficient venue. Standout comedy acts yesterday were both Irish – Al Porter and Aisling Bea.

No swinging cats in this shower

No swinging cats in this small shower room


So now today’s blog…

The flat where I am currently staying during the Edinburgh Fringe has no bath, only a cramped shower. This is a drawback for me, as I find it comforting to lie back in hot bathwater and wallow in grains of my own dirt. It is a bit like watching dust particles float in the air through shafts of sunlight – you are literally watching the world decay around you.

Yesterday morning’s shower was interrupted by a phone call from BBC Radio Wales at 10.10am asking me if I wanted to take part at 10.30am in a discussion on learning foreign languages. Well, that is not quite true. I missed the call and picked up an answerphone message at 10.45am, too late to take part in the show. The offer was a tad bizarre, as I speak no foreign languages of any kind. Apparently I was on their list because, a couple of years ago, I slagged-off the frankly unnecessary Welsh language on some BBC Radio Wales show.

Highly prestigious comedy critic Kate Copstick and I are sharing the flat this year. She, of course, is not phoned-up by the likes of BBC Radio Wales. She gets phoned up to do 4 minute interviews on Sky News. This morning, she was dragged out to the Royal Mile at 8.15am to be asked if Dicing With Dr Death was a suitable show for the Fringe.

Kate Copstick on Sky News this morning

Kate Copstick expressed her views on Sky News this morning

In the show – billed as comedy – Philip Nitschke of the controversial suicide advice group Exit talks about suicide. I blogged about the show back in January and February this year when comedian Mel Moon was to co-present it. She and Philip subsequently split over creative differences and she is now in her own show Sick Girl.

This morning on Sky News, Copstick said: “I think everyone ought to have the right to die. We have lots and lots of rights nowadays. I have the right to become a man tomorrow, more or less. But I don’t have the right to be assisted to end my life with dignity and without pain. And I think that’s something we should be talking about… This is comedy to help people. He’s not making fun of anything; he’s not making light of anything. He is putting his information in a more accessible place.”

Kate Copstick’s breakfast yesterday morning

Kate Copstick’s breakfast yesterday morning

Copstick came back to the flat in agony last night.

When I first heard she had the disease lupus, I thought it meant she turned into a wolf on a regular basis. Some of the acts she reviews may have suspected the same thing.

In fact, it is not. It just means she is in pain almost all of the time.

Yesterday was our first breakfast. I had toast. She had six tablets: she needs hyper-strong painkillers for her lupus.

Lewis Schaffer manages to promote one of his while still talking to Ivor Dembina

Lewis Schaffer (left) manages to promote one of his shows while continuing a conversation with Ivor Dembina

After this, yesterday morning, I bumped into comedian Lewis Schaffer in the Fringe Central building and then we both bumped into comedian Ivor Dembina. There is a lot of bumping in Edinburgh at this time of year. I will only repeat one sentence from the ensuing conversation – when Ivor Dembina said to Lewis Schaffer:

“The last thing I want is a lecture on ophthalmics from Lewis Schaffer.”

I think the quote gains from having no context.

Alex Dallas’ Edinburgh fringe flyer

Alex Dallas’ subtle Edinburgh Fringe flyer

Shortly afterwards, Canada-based comic Alex Dallas came and sat with us. Ivor asked for her first impression of Lewis Schaffer, whom she had never met before.

“He is a silver fox with dimples,” she said. “He’s a ladykiller.”

“Dimples?” I asked. “It’s like flying over Cambodia and seeing the bomb craters left by B-52 bombers in the Vietnam War.”

No-one laughed.

Charmian Hughes spots Alex Dallas

Charmian Hughes spots Alex Dallas yesterday

At this point, comedian Charmian Hughes arrived. Conversation soon turned (I did not introduce the subject) to late comedian Malcolm Hardee. Alex had memories, when she lived in London, of him paying her £40 after a performance, then asking her to loan him £20 to pay another comedian; Charmian said she had untold stories of her relationship with Malcolm in her current show When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs And Loves Of A She-Comic).

Before she moved to Canada in the 1990s, Alex had been in the female comedy group Sensible Footwear.

“There were,” she reminisced, “a whole lot of women’s troupes back in the 1980s. There were the Scarlet Harlots, the Frank Chickens, Spare Tyre, the Cunning Stunts…”

Alex Dallas with Ivor Dembina yesterday

Alex Dallas with her old(-ish) friend Ivor Dembina yesterday

“That,” said Charmian, “was the first workshop I ever went with. I had to go in a corner and be a rock for an hour. It was my first dramatic experience. It was the happiest hour I’ve ever had in my life.”

“The 1980s were good,” said Alex.

“That’s what my show is about,” said Charmian. “My tagline is now: Did I get off with you in the 1980s? Did I stalk you in the 1990s? If so, you are in my show.”

Lewis Schaffer and Ivor Dembina left. Then Alex Dallas and Charmian Hughes left. Just as I was about to leave, I got an e-mail from TV producer Danny Greenstone. It was headed: The Phantom Raspberry Blower. It read:


Danny Greenstone

Danny Greenstone – blowing phantom raspberries

Believe it or not (and I couldn’t blame you if it’s “not”) I have been asked to direct my first ever London West End stage play. It’s a staging of a radio performance of what was the last ever written – but unperformed – Goon Show. So it will be a bit like the way Round The Horne Revisited was staged.

The producers have launched a Kickstarter project to raise additional funds for the show – There’s absolutely no pressure and no obligation and no dead fish wrapped up in newspaper will turn up at your door… it’s an opportunity if you’d like it.

Kickstarting for extra funds Goon Show

The un-performed Goons show: Kickstarting for extra funds

If you wish to investigate further, here’s the link.

And there we have it. You, too, can be part of The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town which opens its cloak at the St. James Studio Theatre in London on 30th October 2015.


Alice Fraser - a law unto herself

“…all the horrible things that had been happening in my life”

After reading this, I tried to leave Fringe Central again, but I was accosted by someone I did not recognise. It turned out to be Australian comic Alice Fraser, about whose preview show, Copstick raved in last weekend’s Grouchy Club Podcast. Alice had recognised me from the (occasionally videoed) Podcast.

“That show Copstick saw,” Alice told me, “was less of a try-out than she thought it was.”

When Copstick saw Alice’s Savage preview – the one she raved about – Alice had just flown from Australia with a 45-minute stopover in Singapore, got off the plane in London and virtually gone straight to perform the show in Shepherd’s Bush.

Alice Fraser: Copstick raved about the show

Alice Fraser: Copstick raved about the show she previewed…

“I was incredibly jet lagged,” Alice told me yesterday, “so the show was more of a mess than it would normally be, but all the bits were meant to be there. It was like doing it in a dream. The audience were mostly my friends from ten years ago. All these faces from my past, smiling dimly at me while I told them all the horrible things that had been happening in my life.”

Alice’s show has audiences both laughing and crying.

“You were here ten years ago?” I asked.

“I went to university here in 2007.”

“Which university?”

“Cambridge.”

“What did you study there?”

“English Literature. Rhetoric.”

“Specifically rhetoric?” I asked.

“Specifically rhetoric. I did a Masters.”

“What was your BA in?” I asked.

Alice’s show has had audiences both laughing and crying

Alice’s show has had audiences both laughing and crying

“My BA was at Sydney University in English and Law. I used to be a lawyer – I was in corporate real estate – and I quit it to become a comedian. The thing about Law is how do people believe that one thing is a crime and something else is not a crime? How do you make them really believe that?”

“You wanted to be a public speaker?” I asked.

“No. I was just interested in how people communicate and more how people get ideas.”

“What is Rhetoric?” I asked. “Just learning about Greek people and a few politicians?”

“Anything. Comedy is really interesting when it comes to rhetoric. You can break it down in incredibly nerdy ways if you want to. Comedy is persuasive speech in itself. You are persuading people (A) that you are funny and (B) that they should laugh at any given joke. Any joke is persuading you of a number of things both of the content of the joke and that the joke itself IS a joke and that it’s funny and worth laughing at.”

A street poster for Alice’s Savage show

A street poster for Alice’s Savage show

“So,” I said, “you are an ex-lawyer and you are interested in rhetoric and therefore you are very together and therefore you are not the normal sort of mad comedian.”

“I AM the mad comedian,” insisted Alice. “I’m just projecting a shield of togetherness.”

“And your show?” I asked.

“I don’t want easy answers. The show is about somebody offering me an easy answer and how infuriating I found it – to be offered an easy answer to an incredibly complicated situation.”

As I said, Alice’s show has audiences both laughing and crying. Copstick raved about it. I have not yet seen it. I am going to see it. It is titled Savage.

That’s life.

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Homosexuality and how Cilla Black almost did not present “Blind Date”

this week’s increasingly prestigious podcast

This week’s increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club Podcast…

This week’s Grouchy Club Podcast mainly involves some recommendations of shows to see at next month’s Edinburgh Fringe. But it also includes Kate Copstick talking about Irish entertainer Patrick Kielty, why Copstick – the doyenne of Edinburgh Fringe comedy reviewers – does not like preview shows… and this little exchange:


John
Can you imagine what it would be like to be married to Lewis Schaffer?

Copstick
No.

John
I don’t know why you keep bringing up Lewis Schaffer in these podcasts.

(LONG SILENCE)

Copstick
For those who are listening, my jaw has just hit my knees – because I’m very flat-chested and there was nothing to stop it on the way down.

John
Hey. Hey.

Copstick
Right. So.

John
Why has your jaw hit your knees?

Copstick
You’re the one who’s obsessed with a comedian who will now be nameless.

John
Who’s that?

Copstick
A comedian who will now be nameless. You’ll have to re-wind this podcast and find out.

John
That would be the man with no voice, surely, who would be nameless. Or is that tasteless?

Copstick
I didn’t know Lost Voice Guy… He…

John
… is worth seeing.

Copstick
…It was a birth thing, wasn’t it.

John
Yup. Yeah.

Copstick
He says he keeps getting asked. Well, he doesn’t say – he communicates – He keeps getting asked if he can actually speak.

John (laughing)
What? They think it’s a…  a… That would be a somewhat bizarre angle…

Copstick
I know! It’s slightly… If you’re going to go for the sympathy vote, that would be quite an odd one to go for… Very few people know that Tanyalee Davis is actually 6ft 1in. She just squashes herself into a corset and flat shoes for every show.

John
It’s all done with mirrors, is it?

Copstick
Absolutely.

John
I was shocked when… If lawyers are listening, I don’t want anything to do with this, but I was very shocked when I was told Duncan Norvelle was heterosexual – Ooh! Chase me! Chase me! – That’s a very strange… Well, he lost Blind Date because of that, if it is an act. I think he did two pilots for Blind Date and the IBA decided they didn’t want a gay guy presenting a dating show.

Copstick
What the fuck?

John
I have no explanation for this. Apparently that’s the case. And therefore they had good old Auntie Cilla (Black) do it instead. But he was the first choice before Cilla.

Copstick
Oh my God!

John
I would have thought a gay guy was ideal for a heterosexual dating show.

Copstick
Totally.

John
Because he’s totally safe.

Copstick
Oh absolutely.

John
That’s the truth as I know it.


The full 39-minute Grouchy Club Podcast can be listened-to at Podomatic and downloaded from iTunes.

The Grouchy Club with Kate Copstick and John Fleming will be live daily at the Edinburgh Fringe 14th-29th August.

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Comic critic Kate Copstick on a wibbly

Kate Copstick remembers an incident...

Kate Copstick remembers when she got on her bike…

Today is the last in Mental Health Awareness Week.

Coincidentally, this week’s Grouchy Club Podcast includes my co-host Kate Copstick talking about depression:

COPSTICK
Your brain or your mind just becomes detached from everything else and you can’t make it work any more. I was a bit like that for a while. I had a couple of wibbly times when I was in my teens and my twenties and my thirties – I’ve been wibbly quite a lot. It’s the kind of thing that, when it gets bad, you would sit there and, if somebody came and just punched you in the face, you would just sit there and let them punch you in the face and, inside your head, you’d be going: “He’s going to punch me in the face”.

In The Bell Jar, I think Sylvia Plath’s description is pretty fucking good.

Anyway, this night after that – and there were a couple of other incidents – I don’t know… I had a bit of a moment and I wanted to sort of feel something. So I got on my bike .

JOHN
A motor bike?

COPSTICK
No. Push bike. Dressed in black, of course. No surprise there.

JOHN
Of course.

COPSTICK
And I cycled down to Shepherd’s Bush Green and Shepherd’s Bush roundabout.

JOHN
That’s the big roundabout with almost a motorway spur going up to Westway.

COPSTICK
Correct. And I cycled round it the wrong way, into the headlights of cars.

JOHN
And this is a serious roundabout. It’s almost a motorway spur.

COPSTICK
I had no lights or anything on my bike and they all swerved and everything. It was about one o’clock in the morning. The cars were going a bit faster and I think I just wanted to see if I could be frightened or panicky or that something would click and I’d go Oh, good grief! I’ve come out of it now and it’s all marvellous!

And what happened was it was a white van man who screeched to a halt in front of me: “What the fuck? Wah! Wah! Wah!

FULL 29-MINUTE GROUCHY CLUB PODCAST IS ONLINE HERE

Shepherd’s Bush roundabout from Google Maps

Shepherd’s Bush roundabout from Google Maps

 

 

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