Tag Archives: Ian Cognito

Comedian Paul B.Edwards on the UK’s crisis in comedy and The Helsinki Bus Station Theory of how to build a career

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Tomorrow, Paul B.Edwards’ Last Minute Comedy Club in Hitchin celebrates its 20th anniversary. He also runs comedy clubs in Letchworth, Luton and Baldock.

“People have been complaining about a ‘crisis’ in comedy,” I said to him yesterday, “with people not going to live clubs.”

“Well, my clubs are part of a huge squeezed middle,” he told me. “People at the very top are doing very well with their tours on the back of TV appearances. Michael McIntyre made more money than the Rolling Stones last year touring. But TV is making famous other people who aren’t ready.

“If people go and see ‘the funniest bloke they’ve ever seen on the telly’ live in a theatre and he actually isn’t very funny and he’s ‘the funniest person’ they’ve ever seen, what is the point of them going to a comedy club where they’ve never heard of anybody? It’s stopped new people coming to see live stand-up comedy.

“My single biggest problem is the falling number of people under the age of 30. Audiences are getting older, certainly in the sort of provincial clubs I’ve got.

“The comedy circuits are diverging. There’s a whole young Daniel Sloss audience who have never heard of Ian Cognito and vice versa. You’ve got kids going to see shows performed by kids. And adults seeing shows with adults in. And party types going to see Jongleurs-style shows. And people who really believe in stand-up comedy going to see shows in rooms in the back of pubs, like it always was and is supposed to be.

“You have five or six diverging circuits and very few people can work on all of them, which means all of our audiences have gone down as the number of clubs has expanded. There are more and more clubs around, but there are less and less people suitable for each type of club.

“Add to that an economic recession when existing audiences have tightened their belts and, instead of coming once-a-month or once-a-week, they come once-every-other-month or once-a-fortnight… You’ve halved the audience straight away and you’re not getting new people.

“It used to be that, when I got an article in the local Hitchin Comet newspaper, I would get 30 extra people at my club. Now it make no difference whatsoever unless the photograph is of someone people have seen on the telly.”

“So you have been affected by the economic recession?” I asked.

“My Hitchin show halved in numbers,” said Paul, “but I didn’t really know why. The audiences had always been great to the point they’d queue out into the car park to get in. Suddenly it was down to just over 100 people and I didn’t know why.”

“Did this happen in 2008 with the economic recession?” I asked.

“It took a little while to drop – maybe 2009,” replied Paul. “But now, to the current recession, you have to add the ‘Michael McIntyre’ effect, the big arena tours, the TV panel game effect. I think any one of those the comedy circuit would have survived but the fact they all happened at the same time halved audiences. Clubs shut. Anyone who says they didn’t suffer or aren’t suffering is a fucking liar.

“Every time one audience member doesn’t go to a comedy club, they may save themselves £10 but, collectively, if 100 people save themselves £10, the club loses £1,000.

“I didn’t know what to do until Peppa Pig showed up.”

“Peppa Pig?” I asked.

No, no… Not that Peppa Pig

No… Not that Peppa Pig… The one with a computer database

“Peppa Pig is this girl who came to my show in Letchworth. The audience there used to be 120; but it had dropped to 80. That was alright. I figured it was a newer club and a smaller drop – though still a 33% drop.

“At all my clubs, I always go down to the the pub afterwards with the audience – from the minute they get to the gig, I’m their mate as well as their host. She came up to me afterwards and we got talking. Peppa Pig said: Is there anything I can do to help? I market local events for people putting things on. At the weekend, she gets dressed up as Peppa Pig and goes round children’s parties. She works in schools, all sorts of things.

“I asked What do you want? She said: I don’t want anything at all. I want the club to keep going and I can help.

“I had no idea what she could do to help. But she has a database that I’ve never heard of and they’ve never heard of me – namely young parents… Young people who had not been to my comedy clubs, who don’t get out very often but who plan a babysitter for once a month and go out. She told them: Come to comedy.

“Overnight, Letchworth was sold out, Hitchin was selling out… This was in January.”

“Last year?” I asked.

“This year,” Paul said. “It’s only just happened. The numbers had dropped virtually overnight. Now they recovered virtually overnight – simply by someone reaching a group of people I couldn’t reach. Full houses. Paul’s happy again.”

And now Paul has expanded into Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Paul’s Oslo Comedy Club

Paul has been expanding into Scandinavia

He has opened comedy clubs in OsloGothenburg and, as of next month, Copenhagen.

“I take two comics out there,” Paul told me yesterday. “It’s 100% English-speaking-as-a-first-language at the moment, but that may change as there are quite a lot of local comics who want to do comedy in English. At the moment, there’s quite an exciting comedy scene in Oslo of people who can’t get booked because the main club there has made themselves a sort-of closed shop. So there’s all these new comics coming through who have hit a glass ceiling and have nowhere to play.”

“Much the same thing happened in Scotland,” I said. “But making a career out of comedy has never been easy.”

“Do you know the Helsinki Bus Station Theory?” Paul asked me.

“No,” I said, mystified.

“If you want a successful creative career,” explained Paul, “you have to understand the timetabling and bus routes of Helsinki Bus Station.

“Helsinki Bus Station has about 25 or 26 different routes going to 25 or 26 different destinations, but there’s only one road into Helsinki Bus Station and only one road out. For the first kilometre, all the buses are on the same road.

“When you first start off, you start off thinking you’re having creatively original ideas, but you’re not having creatively original ideas because you don’t realise everyone’s having the same ideas as you. If you look out of the window, there are 25 other buses going along exactly the same road.

“But, after one kilometre, the buses start to move off in different directions. The the only way you can have a successful career is to Stay on the fucking bus. The longer you stay on the bus, the more likely you are to eventually reach that unique place that only you are going to.

“Other people are getting off the bus too early until, eventually, there’s only you and the driver.

Stay on the fucking bus – That’s the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

“As a stand-up comic, I’m not famous yet and I may never be famous, but I’m staying on the fucking bus.”

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Filed under Comedy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden

UK comedian Nik Coppin accused of racism in Oz by white Peter Goers who “couldn’t tell” the colour of Nik’s skin

Nik Coppin not wearing a baseball cap and not looking down

(This was also published by Indian news website WSN – We Speak News)

British comedian Nik Coppin wrote to me last night:

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This situation in Adelaide has really hit me for six. Not because I can’t handle the shit that Peter Goers has sent my way, but I really can’t believe that an interesting and amusing story about Australian history and sport was met with such closed-mindedness, rudeness and ignorance!

It’s not just the way he verbally abused me in the studio and tried to get me to bow down on the phone, but to actually put in print that I am racist????”

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Last week, Nik was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) told Goers he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

Laughing Horse boss Alex Petty, who is partly staging Nik’s show, was also part of the radio interview.

“It was one of the most bizarre radio interviews I have ever been involved with,” he told me yesterday. “The interviewer even thought Nik was a Canadian. The next day, he said to Nik: “I couldn’t tell that what colour your skin was, as you had a baseball cap on and looked down a lot”For telling an anecdotal story about the change of racist attitudes in Australia, a middle-class, out-of-touch and unprofessional white man calls mixed-race comedian Nik Coppin racist! It is completely unjustifiable.”

I occasionally have my blogs printed in the Huffington Post.

It is a fairly automatic routine. If I submit ‘em, they get published. But there was one which I sent them which was noticeably not printed. It discussed and used the word ‘nigger’.

I asked a black chum of mine whom I have known for over twenty years what she thought. “Love the article,” she said, “Interestingly, I have to say that I hate it more when I hear one black person call another a ‘nigger’, probably because it‘s being used when another adjective or noun would do.”

Nik told me last night:

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The word ‘nigger’ is a very interesting one. Powerful, perhaps the most powerful in the language, but I feel that it exists in a very strange and grey area. It’s not a swear word as such, like ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ – words that can’t really be used in any context without being deemed offensive – but, aimed as a term of abuse, it is far worse than any other.

However, in the context of a story, especially an historical one, why can it not be used? To not use it at all, even to outline a point or tell an anecdote is surely like brushing racism or certain aspects of it under the carpet, is it not?

I have experienced racial abuse from both sides of the black and white coin, so I, too, exist in some ways in some kind of grey area, in that I get it from both sides and could also be seen as racist against both sides, again depending upon the context. The British comic Ian Cognito ironically went on stage after me, years ago, when I was a new act and said: “If your mum was white and your dad was black, surely you would be grey? That amuses me to this day.

A story I have told that has actually sparked some degree of controversy was when I tried to stop an African man from sexually abusing a drunk young girl in the Meadow Bar in Edinburgh and, after repeatedly and politely asking him to stop, he told me that I was nothing to him – not a true black man – so to stay out of it. He repeatedly called me a “worthless half cast bastard”. He racially abused me to exert some kind of power over me in light of me not letting him have his way with a vulnerable young female friend of mine.

I have been there before with being called ‘hybrid’, ‘mongrel’, ‘half cast’, by black people (as well as ‘nigger cunt’ by white people) so, given that I had given him so many chances to play nicely with the girl and retract his racist abuse of my heritage, which he refused to do, I dropped the N-bomb on him. He, like many I have told the story to, became offended. After what he had done and said? Where is the sense in that? Even less sensical, he told me that I shouldn’t call him that because he had mixed race children! WTF????

I am not proud of myself for dropping that N-bomb on him and I should have perhaps taken the moral high ground, but I feel he deserved it in that instance. I make a wee joke of the story when I tell it in front of audiences by saying that all the Scottish locals in the Meadow Bar were looking at a black man and mixed race man racially abusing each other and thinking “I thought WE were racist!”

The really interesting thing about this story is that most people only flinch at the use of the word ‘nigger’. Him attempting to sexually molest a young girl – that’s OK – him calling me a worthless half-cast bastard – ooh, strange and not nice – but you called him a WHAT????

‘Nigger’ is a terrible word to use, especially when using it offensively or aggressively, but is it worse that being called a ‘hybrid, ‘mongrel’, ‘worthless half cast bastard’? It seems that it is in most people’s eyes. And should we really be banning it from everything and everywhere, even stories of the past? I don’t think so and we certainly should not jump to conclusions about someone being racist just for using the word if relevant and in context… should we, Mr Peter Goers?

Racism is a horrible and backward thinking way of life, but there are massive differences between race hate, a joke about a race, a racist joke, a story about race etc. People seem all to quick to lump anything to do with race in one basket, which is totally wrong in my opinion. By all means stamp out racism, but don’t do it by way of brushing it under the carpet.

True racists and race-haters are terrible, nasty people that have no place in modern society, which is why they whisper and meet in places on the quiet so often. When your ’cause’ makes you have to do that, then surely you must realise that your plight has failed. And since intelligent and forward-thinking people know that these people are to be looked down upon and shunned, I like to use the term, ‘Racists are the new niggers’.

Which is why I simply can’t let Mr Goers off the hook if I can help it. He has by calling me a racist, in effect, called me a nigger himself. I am not that stupid or ignorant to think or feel that way about any race of people with derision, scorn or hate. I simply don’t have that capacity within me.

I will be using these stories, examples and opinions and many more in my shows next year. Not necessarily at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, but certainly at all the festivals in 2013.

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Yesterday, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Alex Petty told me yesterday: “The implied accusations of racism by Goers (on the radio) have been put in print by the same person and this is going to be taken to solicitors, the Australian press complaints process and the editors and owners of ABC Radio and the Sunday Mail.”

This story may well have some way to run. And with good reason.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Racism