Tag Archives: HTV

Jody Kamali has learned from mistakes like being in the worst Edinburgh show

Jody Kamali with some flowers yesterday

Jody Kamali sat with some flowers yesterday

I have never had a good memory.

A good visual memory, yes.

But, for facts, no. A shit memory.

This can cause problems and embarrassments… like yesterday afternoon.

I met up with character comedy performer Jody Kamali whom – as it turned out – I wrongly thought I had first encountered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012.

It started off well enough.

He wanted me to mention his Hallowe’en show this Friday in Sydenham.

Jody Kamali’s House of Horror

Fernando’s House of Horror Comedy Variety Show

“It’s called Fernando’s House of Horror Comedy Variety Show,” he told me. “It’s my shambolic through-character from Spectacular! (his 2015 Edinburgh Fringe show) but more dark – with Marny Godden, Cheekykita, The Hoover Lady, a man who is half-human half-walrus and Dan Lees as a jazz-singing Freddie Krueger and a Half-Frog Half-Matthew McConaughey.”

“I saw the half-human half-walrus last week,” I said, “at the Spectacular Spectrum of Now. What is The Hoover Lady?”

“She’s got Hoovers,” explained Jody. “Giant Hoovers. Very dark and strange. She goes around sucking people up.”

“There used to be a man with a talking Hoover,” I said.

“Yes,” said Jody. “I saw him busking years ago on the tube.”

“Wrong place,” I said. “I saw a band of seven Romanian gypsies busking on a tube train the other day in the rush hour. They hadn’t thought it through. It is not a good idea in the rush hour and also they would have to divide any money seven ways. Wrong time; wrong place; wrong act.”

“I’m doing my solo Edinburgh Fringe show Spectacular! in Chippenham on 26th November,” Jody prompted.

Jody Kamali - half Iranian

Iran comics: the new rock ’n’ roll

“That’s very wise,” I said. “You’re part-Iranian, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” said Jody. “Half Iranian.”

“British comedy seems to be awash with part-Iranians,” I said. “There’s you, Patrick Monahan, Omid Djalili, Shappi Khorsandi…”

“Iranian comedy in the States is rock ’n’ roll,” said Jody. “They fill stadiums.”

“Iranians?” I said.

“American-Iranians,” said Jody.

“And you’re from Bristol,” I said.

“My mum is from Bristol. She’s half Irish and apparently we also have black ancestry, which makes sense, because Bristol was a big slave trade area. I’m told ‘Jody’ as a name in the black slave community meant someone who went off with other people’s wives.”

“No thespians in the family?” I asked.

“No. No. But, in Bristol, HTV had a drama centre. They used to put the kids on local TV shows. There was money going around in local ITV in the 1990s. I guess that’s how I got a taste for performing.”

“So,” I asked, “you wanted to be an actor?”

Jody Kamali - Not a stand-up comedian – a levitated character one

Not a stand-up comedian – he’s more of a levitated character one

“I got obsessed with musical theatre for some reason,” said Jody, “but I don’t sing very well. When I was at university in 1999, I did a comedy course called The Tut and Shive and on the course was Patrick Monahan, Steve Carlin – it was Carling with a G then – Steve Williams and I think, the year before me, Josie Long had done that course.

“It was very stand-up. It was 90% persona, 5% material and 5% the bollocks to get up and do it. I think I’m addicted to it. A compulsion to do it, no matter what. When I was 6 or 7, the teacher asked who wanted to be in the Nativity play and I remember that feeling of wanting to do it.”

“Who did you play?” I asked.

“I think it was Joseph’s dodgy brother who betrayed him”

“Are you sure? I asked. “All I ever got was stories about sheep and the Virgin Mary. Was there was a dodgy brother lurking around?”

“I’m sure there was an evil brother,” said Jody.

Jodi Kamali - money man 2012

Jody was Dirty Filthy Rich at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2102

“And now you’re a character comedian,” I said. “When I first met you in Edinburgh, your character was that red-braces, inspirational business speaker guy.”

“Shall we,” Jody asked, “go back to when you first reviewed me? Do you remember that?”

“Oh dear,” I said. “No I don’t. Did I review you? This sounds like it is going to be bad. What did I say?”

“You were reviewing for Chortle in 2004,” Jody reminded me.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“I particularly remember it…” Jody started.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“…because you called the show an omelette without an egg.”

“Oh dear,” I said. “Really?”

“But, weirdly,” said Jody, “it’s gone from Chortle.”

Jody Kamali - An Audience With Dominguez

“We devised the show a week before we did it,” he admits now

“Sounds rather vicious,” I said. “Dear me. That’s why I don’t do reviews any more. Now I just blog about people I like doing interesting things well. Like you.”

“I was young,” said Jody. “There were three of us. We devised the show a week before we did it, which we thought was enough. It was about a Latin-American pop star.”

“The next year, we did the Sally Swallows show.”

“Oh God,” I said. “Is that Londonian?”

“Yes. Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian.“

“Oh shit!” I said.

“That was in 2005. So, John,” said Jody, “we do have a history.”

“I still,” I said, “bear the mental scars of having to sit through an hour of Londinian.”

“The guy,” said Jody, “who was in my 2004 show AND in Londinian is now a very, very successful children’s television presenter. But we had no creative control over Londonian. The woman behind it just wanted it to be gross and was obsessed by The League of Gentlemen. As performers, we did not have any input. Not anything.”

A 2005 photocall in Edinburgh for the Sally Swallows show

This seldom seen publicity shot from a 2005 photocall possibly shows what Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian was trying to achieve

“I have a vague memory,” I said, “of thinking: Three of these people are far too good to be in this show. There was so much work put into that show, but I think it was the worst thing I have ever seen at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Yeah. She put a lot in it,” said Jody.

“The design, the music, everything,” I said. “Loads of work. All excellent. All except the script and the idea.”

“She was amazing at selling it,” said Jody. “She got lots of BBC people in. She got a centre spread in the Scottish Sun. there was a big spread in The Scotsman. The amount of press she got was unbelievable. She hyped the thing up because she believed in it so much as the next big thing. It was so over-the-top. My role was basically that I was an ice-cream seller and, when I ran out of ice-cream, I had to masturbate into a cone and give it to the kids.”

“There were kids?” I asked.

“One of the guys,” Jody reminded me, “played a kid going: Hello! Do you have any ice cream, please? and, as I climaxed, I had to sing as an operatic tenor: Eeaauuugh!!!”

“I went to see it,” I told Jody, “because the reviews were so catastrophic. There was so much anticipation in the audience before the show, because we had all come knowing it was a catastrophe. There was real excitement in the air.”

“I remember your review,” said Jody.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“That is exactly what you said,” Jody told me: “Oh dear… Where do I start?… I remember The Scotsman review was: Avoid like the plague.”

In fact, Jody’s memory is faulty. The Scotsman’s review read (in its entirety):

Complete revulsion is too pleasant a summary of my feelings for this sketch show. Not one ‘joke’ leaves the listener feeling anything less than soiled. Avoid like death.

“What’s the woman behind it doing now?” I asked.”

Jody Kamali - “and all because the lady loves supermarket bags

“…and all because the lady loves plastic supermarket bags”

“She’s now in wildlife presenting,” Jody told me. “She does things with Bill Oddie. She had a part in EastEnders years ago and wanted to do comedy, but I think she…”

“…realised the error of her ways?” I suggested.

“I’ve wiped all evidence of it from my CV,” Jody said. “My agent told me I should put it in, ‘because they’ll see how you’ve progressed’. But I said: No way. I can’t be associated with it. It was the worst show… For me it was like How not to do an Edinburgh Fringe show, but I did learn how hype can really sell a show.”

“You can learn a lot more from a failure than from a success,” I suggested. “What is your Edinburgh show next year?”

“At the moment, I’m toying with… As a performer you toy with: Do I take it the next level now?

“Which is?” I asked.

“Really push yourself to do something even more risky, more personal, but blend it…”

Jody |Kamali with the same flowers yesterday

Jody Kamali sat with the same flowers yesterday

“It’s easier,” I said, “for a reviewer or a feature writer to do a piece about a personal, autobiographical show. Stand-ups telling gags are just doing the same things in not-very-different ways. Variety acts are more interesting because they fall into different areas. But all autobiographical shows are, by definition, unique and have more meat to write about. My Ten Years of Heroin Hell or whatever.”

“But why are we doing shows at the Fringe?” asked Jody. “Just to get noticed? Or to do a really entertaining show?”

“The eternal question,” I said. “And not just in Edinburgh.”

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One of the legendary characters of ITV

ITV used to be made up of separate commercial companies.

In Cardiff last night, I had a chat with some people I used to work with at HTV.

The name Malcolm Leach came up and the general consensus was that he was dead. I have heard this too, though no-one seems to know the exact details.

I asked, “Didn’t he die before?” which is not as silly a question as it sounds, given his past.

He used to freelance around the then ITV network, mostly in Promotion Departments, making trailers for forthcoming programmes. The last time I heard of him – in 2003 – he had been staying with a long-term friend of his from Yorkshire Television, but he had been asked to leave after two days because he was scaring his friend’s children – he had developed a tendency to get up without warning or provocation and start talking to the wall.

Whereas other people might drink a few cups of tea during the course of a day, he replaced each cup of tea with a bottle of wine.

I only worked with him once, at Granada TV, and was amazed that he was so apparently charming.

I should not have been surprised – that is how he got away with so much.

If he really is dead, the word “plausible” should be inscribed on his tombstone.

His exploits were many, including an attempt to buy an ITV franchise to broadcast. Many people lost money. The most definitive Malcolm Leach story I every heard, though, was one which, depending on the telling, either happened at Granada or at BBC TV.

As a freelance, he had either managed to get Granada to provide him with a company car or got the BBC to provide him with a hire car.

After he left the company, they realised the car was missing.

He had sold it.

Men and women die. Legends live on and this story sounds entirely in character.

In fact, it sounds quite low-key for him.

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The Welsh language is just plain silly and is a clear sign of national insecurity

So, tell me, what is the point of having a blog if you can’t write bigoted pieces based on truth, half-truths and misunderstandings?

For the last couple of days, I have been staying on Cardigan Bay in West Wales.

When you walk in the streets and go into shops in Cardigan – or Aberteifi as it is now pointlessly half-re-named – people are sometimes speaking Welsh not English to each other. It was not until I worked in Ireland that I started to think the propagation of the Welsh language is ridiculously pointless.

If a language is dead, let it die. If it is still alive, it will survive without heavy-handed insistence that it must be used.

What is very relevant to this blog is the fact I am Scottish not English. Remember that my mother’s grandmother did not speak English until, in her late teens I think, she came down from the hills. The image of my grandmother coming down from the hills is one a friend of mine finds peculiarly funny but, anyway, my mother’s grandmother originally spoke Scots Gaelic as her native tongue, not English.

I once spent some time in the Outer Hebrides where I admired and was fascinated by how, in shops, people would speak to each other in sentences that meandered almost randomly between English and Gaelic words and phrases. They used whichever words and phrases came more naturally and fitted better. Sometimes the words were Gaelic, sometimes English; all within the same sentence.

I once had an interview for a job with Grampian Television in Aberdeen which basically transmitted to the Highlands while Scottish Television transmitted to the Lowlands. The conversation came round to starting a number of Gaelic-language programmes transmitted on Grampian (part of ITV) and on BBC Scotland. I said I thought it was silly because such a relatively small percentage of Scottish television viewers – by then almost entirely in the Western Isles with a small smattering in the Highlands – actually spoke Gaelic as their natural tongue.

The Grampian TV executive interviewing me was highly miffed.

“Ah! But you’re English!” he said to me.

“I was born in Campbeltown and partly brought up in Aberdeen,” I told him. “Where were you born?”

“London,” he said.

I did not get the job.

Later, I did a lot of freelance work over many years for HTV in Cardiff – or Caerdydd as it is now pointlessly half-re-named. It’s a bit like re-naming Saigon as Ho Chi Minh City when most of the inhabitants continue to call it Saigon.

As far as I remember, when I started working in South Wales, almost all the local signs were in English. I mean the road signs and the general retail shop signs.

At some point, almost imperceptibly, dual language signs started appearing, usually with the Welsh version first.

At around this time, or maybe a little later, there was an extended period where my full-time freelance work alternated between working for HTV in Cardiff and Tara TV in Dublin.

In Dublin, I could see old, rotting, rusting and ignored street signs in Irish Gaelic. All the current signs were in English. This was the period when the ‘Celtic Tiger‘ was on the rise and the Irish Republic had re-discovered its self-confidence.

It is very relevant that I was once sitting in an edit suite at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, directing a trailer for an RTE television programme which included an interview in which someone said a couple of sentences in Irish Gaelic.

“What did he say?” I asked the Irish videotape editor sitting with me.

“No idea,” he told me.

We had three other Irish people come into the suite. None of them knew what the Gaelic words meant. They had all had to ‘learn’ Gaelic at school but, just like British schoolkids who do five years of French at school, they could not speak and could barely understand the language because it was bugger-all use to them in everyday life.

It was at this time – alternating my time sometimes one week here/ one week there/ one week here/ one week there between Cardiff and Dublin – that I began to think the Welsh language was just plain silly.

It was silly because it was a mostly dead language being revived and imposed by a clique on a predominantly non-Welsh-speaking population.

One week, I returned to Cardiff from Dublin to find that the local Tesco store had changed all its signs to dual-language Welsh and English signs. Someone (Welsh) told me in near-disbelief that all the signs at the Tesco store in Abergavenny, where she lived, had also been changed.

“I swear to God, no-one bloody speaks Welsh in Abergavenny!” she told me.

By the time I stopped working at HTV, Lloyds Bank was calling itself Banc Lloyds (it has since re-re-branded itself simply as Lloyds TSB) and other shops and businesses were doing the same: making up their own names in Welsh. Mostly, I suspect, they were English companies trying to be politically correct and liberal, much like that English executive at Grampian TV trying to be so ‘right-on’.

Shortly before Tesco started changing its signs to dual-language Welsh & English, I had been on holiday to Cambodia and, in Phnom Penh, there was a street of hovels and shacks which were all English language ‘schools’. At that time, no-one had any money and there was a very real possibility that the homicidally extreme Khmer Rouge might regain power in the next month or two. But, as in almost all other parts of the world, people wanted to learn English because it was and is the ‘international’ language. If you are an outward-looking country with outward-looking thoughts, you learn English.

My understanding is that, after most of Ireland gained independence from Britain in the early 1920s (let us not get into any pedantic details of dates in Ireland: it will all end in many tears and much wailing), the republicans who ran the country wanted to encourage self-confidence and national pride.

So they called the new country Eire instead of Ireland, painted the red pillar boxes green, changed a few of the royal crests on stone buildings to harps and tried to get everyone to speak Gaelic. The country rotted in inward-looking isolation for decades, admittedly not helped by the fact successive UK governments had every reason to dislike American-born Eamon de Valera and his blindly Brit-hating chums.

But, by the time I worked in Dublin in the mid and late 1990s, the Irish Republic had regained its self-confidence and, although civil servants had to know Gaelic, the English language had taken over all everyday usage except in the extreme west of the country. The few Irish language signs in Dublin were faded and/or rusting.

Irish, like Scots Gaelic, was then and is now effectively a dead language naturally spoken by few people. Though long may they speak Gaelic in Ireland and Scotland. I have nothing against the natural rise and fall of any – indeed, all – languages.

But I am told by Welsh friends that, except in the West and sparsely-populated central highlands of Wales, the Welsh language had pretty-much died out by the late 19th century.

It was re-imposed rather than re-grew in Wales in the late 20th century.

My memory is that extreme Welsh nationalists got publicity in English newspapers by setting off some minor explosions and burning down occasional second homes owned by ordinary English people in Wales.

Then some second-rate people who could not get jobs in media, politics and the local civil service had the bright idea of looking to what their USP was – they could speak Welsh – and they pushed for Welsh-language TV programmes, an entire Welsh TV channel and the use of the Welsh language in the local civil service because, that way, they would have a positive advantage in getting jobs.

The Welsh language was, to an extent, partially revived not by natural growth and usage but by xenophobia and the self-interest of a small clique.

Yes, that’s a very personal view of what happened, but not necessarily totally untrue.

English politicians, frightened of alienating the Welsh, went along with it for electoral gain and you now have a country where people have a TV channel –  S4C – which most of them don’t understand and dual-language signs only half of which most understand – the English language half.

While the rest of the world was moving towards internationally-understood English, a group of self-serving xenophobes in Wales (where English was already established) were pushing for the renewed use of a mostly-dead language known only by some in Wales and nowhere else except some obscure area of Patagonia.

Looking inwards in an increasingly international world is not a good idea. An insistence on trying to spread the Welsh language more widely in Wales is not a sign of national identity. It is a sign of national insecurity.

Right or wrong, that’s my viewpoint. Like I said at the start, What is the point of having a blog if you can’t write bigoted pieces based on truth, half-truths and misunderstandings?

Oh – Abergavenny has now been pointlessly half-re-named Y Fenni.

Really! Give me a break, chaps or – as Google Translate claims that would be said in Welsh – yn rhoi i mi egwyl, chaps.

What sort of sensible language doesn’t have a word for “chaps”?

Dim sense.

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