The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.
The first rule of showbusiness is you never perform on the same bill as animals or children.
Last night, there was a very good line-up in the New Variety Lives! show at the Shaw Theatre in London. But what can you do when, also on the stage, unbilled, is ‘Sid Russell’, a small Jack Russell terrier who has bafflingly had over 1,730,000 hits on YouTube in a month – for just running up and down steps –
and who, last night, kept a blue balloon in the air by death-defying leaps upwards to bop it with his cute nose?
On any other night, top-of-the-bill US comedian David Mills, one of the smoothest new acts on the UK comedy circuit – indeed, he was New Act of the Year 2011 – would have been a difficult act to follow, but even a highly charismatic comedian is no competition for a leaping Jack Russell.
Compere Jo Brand, excellent new female comedian Tania Edwards, Nathaniel Tapley as cast-iron-TV-show-prospect ‘Sir Ian Bowler MP’ and New Zealand comic Javier Jarquin who had an excellent street-theatre-type act which I have never seen before and which built to a cracking climax – all those and more were trumped by an acrobatic Jack Russell terrier…
But then, earlier in the day, I had learned with others at the Fortean Times UnConvention all about the species superiority of Canine Intellectuals and Celebrated Talking Dogs.
Jan Bondeson was plugging his new book Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities and, if his book is anything like his one-hour lecture, it must be a cracker.
We had tales of Rolf, the militaristically-inclined German dog who could discuss religion and philosophy but who, at the outbreak of World War One, demanded he should join the German Army despite the fact he was a Yorkshire terrier.
And we had Don, an alleged talking dog who was so intelligent he was earning 12,000 marks per month in German music halls even before he went to the US in July 1912 to perform at Oscar Hammerstein’s famous Roof Garden theatre in New York, where he shared the bill with a man with a 9-foot beard and a troupe of dancing midgets. Don was insured for $50,000, kept profitably touring the US until August 1914 and met Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini and Buster Keaton.
At my school, I never got taught any of this in history lessons.
Apparently Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, taught a dog to say, “How do you do, grandma?”
And even the Nazis took an interest in super-intelligent dogs. When they transported Jews, any ‘innocent’ pet dogs were given to ‘good’ Aryan families and there were even Nazi research institutes for educated dogs.
All this came as enough of a shock to me yesterday without It being topped by ‘Sid Russell’ and his acrobatic, balloon-bopping antics.
I think I need to lie down.