Tag Archives: James Hamilton

Naked ballet dancers, pigeons and Egg Roulette shock at the Edinburgh Fringe

Candy Gigi

Candy Gigi: one of her more reflective moments

More pigeon news. On Thursday in this blog, I mentioned the tussle performer Adrienne Truscott had with pigeons inside her flat.

Yesterday, Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judge Claire Smith of The Scotsman told me she had seen last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award winner Candy Gigi running out of a sandwich shop.

She ran out of the shop shouting: “There’s a pigeon in there!  A pigeon!  It’s a really nice sandwich shop!  Don’t let that put you off!  There are not normally pigeons in it!”

On the final Friday of the Edinburgh Fringe, the increasingly prestigious 2015 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards will be presented during the annual 2-hour variety show at the Counting House, as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

I got another message from Claire Smith this morning:

Get the naked ballet dancers. They are called The Two Wrongies. They are in Miss Behave’s show. Completely naked except for swim caps and goggles. And they lift up their legs a LOT

As normal, part of the Awards show will be the annual National Scottish Russian Egg Roulette Championships. Or, as some might say, comedians smashing eggs onto their foreheads.

Alas, it looks like the President of the World Egg Throwing Federation will not be there to supervise it. I got this message from Andy Dunlop this morning:

Andy Dunlop weighs the alternatives

Andy weighing the alternatives in happier times

John, as I’m currently lying in the cardiac care unit of Lincoln Hospital sniffing nitroglycerin like there’s no tomorrow (indeed there might not be – so it goes), I am not permitted to promise I will make the trip up to Edinburgh for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show. My deputy John Deptford is already briefed and is seeking a glamorous assistant for “his show”.

I was admitted to Lincoln Hospital last Tuesday and hope that the intended invasion via my groin into that important and but often mistreated and under-rated piece of muscle in my chest will sort out issues it has recently informed me about.

On a positive note, as per the last time I was unable to attend the show, I will donate my intended accommodation costs to Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity…. as soon as I am able via a proper machine rather than this Kindle.

The Explorer 1 payload

Explorer 1 payload lost on way to International Space Station

On another issue, you sadly missed the World Egg Throwing Championships this year, but the English Graduated Gravitational Systems project to resupply the International Space Station had a successful test flight at Swaton when we launched our payload via the Eggsplorer 1 craft to 31,500 metres before it suffered a catastrophic failure to land 60 kilometres off Hull. It came ashore in Holland last week with egg payload still intact. The discovering Dutchman broke open the capsule to find that a raw egg does go bad after 6 weeks of floating in the North Sea.

Back on the bubble that is Planet Fringe, the mystery nameless girl mentioned in my blog yesterday, was grassed-up by performer James Hamilton and others as being Emma Levin. I confronted her on Facebook:

Emma Levin (left) revealed with Kate Copstick

Emma Levin (left) revealed with Kate Copstick

Have you any explanation for the secrecy (for quoting in tomorrow’s blog)? If not, I shall just make it up and ‘out’ you as part of an Oxbridge cabal.

She replied:

I guess, like a great many people who occasionally perform, I’m incredibly shy off-stage. It’s quite a boring explanation, but at least it’s logical. I know it’s an unconventional situation – someone asking *not* to have publicity during the Fringe –  but I think there are loads of  brilliant performers who actually want and deserve a mention in your excellent blog.

Which brings us to the weird shows I saw on the Fringe yesterday. they included:

James Hamilton is So Lonely
Emma Levin’s ever-weird grasser-upper in his first even weirder solo show after several years creating the weirdness of Casual Violence. I don’t think the time-travelling goggles will save him from the wrath of Emma Levin

The Church of Malcolm
This is billed as “a live rock gig sprinkled with a Kurt Vonnegut like worldview…Like a more positive take on the Rocky Horror Show.” It is the apparently true story of Malcolm Doherty who got leukaemia, saw an angel and is preaching the power of love and music by singing songs with his son on organ, a Brazilian on guitar and guest spots for a full-throttle stand-up routine by Ashley Storrie (children were temporarily removed from the room), a man singing an apparently anti-US capitalism song and a small lady of large proportions gyrating around quite a bit. I was confused. The audience were encouraged to wave their hands around a lot and shout out: “I agree!”

Mark Dean Quinn holds a flyer for his show

Mark Dean Quinn holds a flyer for his show

Mark Dean Quinn: Observation Without Comedy
Last year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award nominee in an indescribably odd show with an unexpected monologue at the end. Apparently different audiences react totally differently each night. Last night there were a few embarrassed giggles intermingled with stunned and possibly confused reaction. The potential is there for tears, too. I liked it immensely.

Mark had flyered me in the street before the show. It was a tiny flyer.

“Drawing attention to yourself again?” I asked. “Any drawbacks.”

“Well,” he told me, “the main problem with tiny flyers is people lose them very easily. So, although it drums up loads and loads of interest, it doesn’t necessarily generate an audience. I suppose a tiny flyer generating a tiny audience is appropriate, but I will be making new, bigger flyers next week.”

Mr Twonkey brought along some stinking bishop cheese

Mr Twonkey brought along some Stinking Bishop cheese to the Grouchy Club…

Oh…

Yesterday was also the first in Kate Copstick and my daily live hour-long Grouchy Club shows at the Fringe.

23 people turned up: not bad for a minor Fringe show – one which did not appear in the Fringe Programme and had no flyers and no posters publicising its existence.

Possibly a lesson there.

Yesterday’s Grouchy Club included discussions of mass murder in Kenya, awful audiences/performers in Edinburgh, making porn films in Europe and an explanation of the term ‘stunt cock’.

And that is just in the brief 11-minute extract I posted online:

http://thegrouchyclub.podomatic.com/entry/2015-08-15T16_52_14-07_00

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What is it like to expose your psychotic hallucinations, live on a comedy stage?

Juliette and I talked at King’s Cross station

Some say you can never be too intrusive when recording…

In the absence of comedy critic Kate Copstick, who is cyber-trapped in Kenya by a malfunctioning computer and an eccentric mobile phone, I recorded our weekly Grouchy Club Podcast in London yesterday with comic performer Juliette Burton at King’s Cross station.

Last month, Juliette started a ‘new material’ comedy club in London – Juliette Burton’s Happy Hour. It is billed as “a night of positivity and happiness guaranteed to leave the audience uplifted”. She is the compere and, in the first show, she described what she saw when, as a teenager, she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and had psychotic hallucinations.

Although she has mentioned these in this blog, she had never before described them on stage in front of a live audience.

Here is a brief extract from this week’s 39-minute Grouchy Club Podcast:

John
Whenever comedians expose themselves, as it were – psychologically – they feel very nervous about doing it. But I always tell them the person doing it feels empowered and the audience feels uplifted in some way – because someone else has survived something worse that they have experienced. At the first Happy Hour, you did a piece about your hallucinations, didn’t you…

Juliette
Yeah.

John
… and you had never done that before. I think you said you felt nervous about it, didn’t you?

Juliette
I felt terrified.

John
What is it like to, as it were, expose yourself? Because all comedians, by and large, are insecure and there’s nothing more insecure than exposing your actual deep psyche when people may reject you. People may laugh at you rather than with you. So what was it like to expose yourself or know you were going to expose yourself… and then do it?

Juliette
Yeah, I went naked in my last show and this time I’m actually going psychologically naked.

John
When you say you went naked in your last show, that was a magazine thing, wasn’t it?

Juliette
A magazine thing, yeah. I did a body confidence naked shoot for Cosmopolitan magazine.

It (the recent Happy Hour show) was weird. It was the first time ever that I had stood on stage and said: Right, this is what I hallucinated and I’ve spoken to friends about it and actually this whole experience (the hallucinating) was what eventually, I think, led me to comedy. Because I realised, if I wanted to talk about these hallucinations, the only way people would listen was if I could get them to laugh about it – because conversations with laughter last longer.

I was really nervous because they are very ‘out there’. I talk about seeing God and the Devil and these are big words that are terrifying anyway – I don’t know if I even believe in God and I’ve seen him – him/her, whatever.

You are right inasmuch as the audience seemed to really, really like it. I would say that actually it turns out that people want to talk about these things or want to listen about them now. It took me 13 years since the experience to want to stand on stage and talk about it, but it took Society about 300 years to want to listen.

Somebody came up to me after the show saying they, too, had been sectioned. Somebody else e-mailed me saying they, too, have had hallucinations – and that was in a relatively intimate audience. It was a packed-out room, but it’s not a huge room and, out of those people, already two of them had felt able to open up to me about their experiences and they had had similar ones.

I think people want to listen now; it’s just we need to be brave enough to actually stand out there and be more honest and truthful and I think the comedy I like most is the daring stuff – talking about things that people might not want to talk about in everyday conversation. I think it’s the most real and most truthful and the most raw and the most interesting because it’s honest and people respond to honesty.

********

On YouTube, Juliette has started to post a monthly video called BAHH – Backstage At Happy Hour.

In the first, she talked to performers Doug Segal and James Hamilton:

She also posts a weekly blog called TWIL – This Week I Love. The latest is HERE.

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Malcolm Hardee Award winners Ellis & Rose rumbled in Soho Theatre ruse

Jams Hamilton at Soho Theatre (connoisseurs of the Malcolm Hardee Awards might want to look more carefully at what is in this picture)

The original James Hamilton photo with the rogue photograph directly above his head

In this blog back in December last year, I ran a chat with writer/performer James Hamilton. Included in the blog was a photo which had the (I thought) intriguing caption:

James Hamilton at Soho Theatre, London (connoisseurs of comedy & Malcolm Hardee Awards might appreciate what is also seen)

No-one asked why.

In fact, I had photographed him at the Soho Theatre Bar in London, sitting beneath one of the photos on a wall dedicated to the great and good acts who have performed at Soho Theatre.

The photo directly above his head was of Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winning double act Ellis & Rose. But they have never appeared at Soho Theatre.

So why was it there?

Because they put it up themselves.

I spotted it in November last year. I told Gareth Ellis and Rich Rose that, if they managed to keep the picture on the wall until the start of the Edinburgh Fringe in August, I might well give them a special Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

The Soho Theatre’s Tweet yesterday about Ellis & Rose

The Soho Theatre’s Tweet yesterday

Alas, yesterday, Soho Theatre spotted the rogue photograph and took it down. The esteemed London theatre Tweeted:

HA! This lot have skipped the Soho show & put themselves ont’ photo wall regardless. 5* for Effort. (@jameshamilton).

Why was James Hamilton mentioned? Because the caption on the photo said:

Ellis & Rose (2014)
Photo J Hamilton

In fact, James had not taken the photo and had not even known about it until I told him last December when I, as it were, shot him underneath it. (The spoof photograph was actually taken by Charlie Dinkin.)

Obviously, today I had a chat with Gareth Ellis about all these shenanigans.

“We put the picture up in October last year,” he told me. “We met Steve Marmion (the artistic director of Soho Theatre) once at a party and he knew about our Edinburgh shows but said he didn’t think we were ready to appear in the Soho Theatre.

Gareth shocked by Soho Theatre’s removal

Gareth, shocked earlier today, with Wall of Fame behind him

“So we decided we would appear but we would skip doing a show and just go straight to appearing on the Wall of Fame. We had a bigger picture than Tim Minchin.

“We sat in the booth one day and, just out of curiosity, decided to see if we could take the pictures off the wall. We took Lady Rizo’s picture off the wall and measured up the photo using the Soho Theatre’s laminated menu.

“We had access to a photo studio rig and we took pictures and then they were edited to look like we were performing in a ‘black box’ studio theatre space and then we copied the style of the captions and got one printed.

“We went to Soho Theatre with it in a bag, ready to put it up but then realised they had replaced Lady Rizo’s A4 picture with an A3 one. So we grabbed another performer’s picture and replaced his photo.”

“Why,” I asked, “did you put James Hamilton on the caption as the photographer?”

Gareth, stunned at the loss of a Malcolm Hardee Award

Realising loss of a potential Malcolm Hardee Award

“We just wanted to put on the name of someone who would find it amusing. We told him he should go to the Soho Theatre and have a look around, but apparently he didn’t see it for a month.”

“Not until I showed it to him,” I said. “But, judging from their Tweet yesterday, Soho Theatre seem to have taken it all in good spirit.”

“Yes,” said Gareth, “And I see from their photo on Twitter that they’ve actually re-framed our picture in another frame. So they must rate it. Are they going to put it up somewhere in their office or what?”

“Probably what,” I told him.

The rogue photograph. The face of Soho Theatre’s artistic director Steve Marmian is dawn on the balloon.

The rogue photograph with face of Soho Theatre’s artistic director Steve Marmion drawn on balloon. (Photograph by Charlie Dinkin.)

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Clinically depressed comedian starts monthly two-hour Happy Hour club

Juliette does not feel blue - she feels yellow

Juliette does not feel blue – she feels yellow

“The branding of the venue is yellow. The posters are yellow. So today, when I knew I was meeting you,” Juliette Burton told me yesterday, ‘I put on a yellow top. Maybe I over-think things a little bit.”

When I talked to Juliette back in February, she told me she was starting a new monthly comedy club in April – the first Tuesday of every month. Well, it is now April and the club starts this Tuesday.

She told me back in February that it is called Juliette Burton’s Happy Hour despite the fact each show will run for about two hours and is hosted by someone with clinical depression.

“It is,” she told me yesterday, “false advertising all the way.”

“How much does it cost to get in?” I asked.

“It’s pay-as-you-feel,” said Juliette, “and we hope people will feel generous. It’s a guaranteed uplifting night.”

Indeed, the posters proclaim:

HAPPINESS GUARANTEED OR YOUR MONEY BACK

Pleasant juliette at the Pleasance, London, yesterday

Juliette preparing a two-hour Hour yesterday

‘You are not really a stand-up comedian,” I said to Juliette. “You’re a performer of hour-long, highly-researched, documentary comedy shows with lots of facts. Why are you doing these shows?”

“Because,” she told me, I will be compering and I can try out material for my future docu-comedy shows. But also it will let me do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – muck about on stage and be more myself. With my docu-comedy, there’s so much research packed in that I have to be really tight on the time and there’s very little chance for me to improvise anything.

“I’m going to be trying out some new material I’m quite nervous about at the Happy Hour. I’m going to be most open about my darkest mental health problems. But it will be upliftingly dark stuff.”

“And you are having guests?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Juliette. “This Tuesday, there’s comedy mind-reader Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway is bringing all the breasts – she has lovely bosoms – and then there is James Hamilton who will provide darkness. I want the audience to leave feeling uplifted, so he is going to come along and do some comedy which will make them feel sad. He’s usually part of sketch group Casual Violence but he’s testing solo stuff out on Tuesday.’

“Is he being sad?” I asked. “Or is he being just plain weird, which is what Casual Violence is.”

“Casual Violence,” said Juliette, “is very weird and twisted and dark and wonderful and so full of pathos. When I see their shows, I always end up crying in at least one sketch. So it will be interesting to see what James does on his own.

“And we also have Matt Francis who does ‘proper’ stand-up comedy. Very bright and uplifting. He was recommended to me by Patrick Monahan.”

“Did Patrick Monahan hug you?” I asked.

“Of course he did,” said Juliette. “He is Patrick Monahan.”

“One day,” I said, “I may meet someone he has not hugged. But it could take a long time. Anyway, this new club night is at a new venue.”

The first Happy Hour guests, clockwise from top left) Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway, Matt Francis, James Hamilton

The first Happy Hour guests (clockwise from the top left) Doug Segal, Eleanor Conway, Matt Francis, James Hamilton

“Yes, The Canvas in Shoreditch. It’s London’s first Happy Cafe, which is nothing to do with drugs. They have a programme of events that actively encourage happiness, including things like free massages, which they had the other day when I went for a rehearsal. Not dodgy massages. Proper massages. The Happy Cafe is run by the same woman who is charge of Body Gossip, the charity for body confidence and body image.

“They are the reason we are able to make it a free night. It’s pay-as-you-feel. If everyone pays £5, that will hopefully cover the costs to the venue – they have to have staff in – and then we will split any profit between the charity and hopefully the costs of the acts.”

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Casual Violence no-show at Ed Fringe + new Malcolm Hardee Award concept

Jams Hamilton at Soho Theatre (connoisseurs of the Malcolm Hardee Awards might want to look more carefully at what is in this picture)

James Hamilton at Soho Theatre, London (connoisseurs of comedy & Malcolm Hardee Awards might appreciate what is also seen)

“Why have you changed your hairstyle?” I asked James Hamilton at the Soho Theatre Bar.

“I’ve going for the shit Wolverine style,” he replied.

“I have a shit memory,” I told him. “Why am I meeting you?”

Casual Violence Live!” he said.

Casual Violence are one of my favourite acts at the Edinburgh Fringe. They have been twice nominated for a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.

“Ah yes!” I said. “Casual Violence. How long have you been going? I’ve forgotten.”

“Fucking ages,” said James. “In our current post-studenty form, almost five years now.”

“And this is your first DVD?” I asked.

“Yes… Well, we don’t have the money to make it a DVD, but we’re putting it online as a download. It’s uploading as we speak”

I think I have seen all the Casual Violence shows – in Edinburgh, Brighton and London – except this year’s one The Great Fire of Nostril. At the Edinburgh Fringe, its show times clashed with my own Grouchy Club shows.

Casual Violence's 2014 Edinburgh show

Casual Violence’s 2014 Edinburgh show

“You’ve done four different shows and a Best Of show?” I asked.

“Yes,” said James. “But the most recent show – The Great Fire of Nostril – is not really a sketch show. So the DVD is a mix of stuff from the first three shows plus a few sketches that didn’t fit into any particular show. Well, it’s not a DVD; it’s a download. Maybe a third of the material in it wasn’t in any Edinburgh Fringe show but stuff which we’ve occasionally done out-and-about. “

“There must,” I asked, “be some sketches which work live but not on a screen?”

“Yes, we found that with the seven web series sketches we did. The one with the Human Defence League guys in a shed… We spent 16 hours in a normal-sized garden shed with five people. It was horrible and then the sketch wasn’t as good on screen as it is live. The three sketches I wrote specifically for the web work very well on screen but can’t be done live.”

There are several Casual Violence taster sketches on YouTube.

“So,” I said, “at the Edinburgh Fringe next year…?”

“Casual Violence are not going to do a new Edinburgh show next year,” said James. “But I may be doing a solo show. We’ve done five shows in a row together. We’ve basically got Edinburgh fatigue and, by developing what we do, we found ourselves… confined is probably the right word… by that particular style

Casual Violence - not appearing at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe

Casual Violence – not appearing at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe

“We love doing stories because, when it works, it’s better than doing a ‘normal’ sketch show. But it’s so much more difficult and we don’t realistically have another one in us. We could say: Oh, let’s just churn out an hour of sketches, but that’s lazy and none of us really wants to do that. So, instead, we are filling our time with all the projects we always wanted to do but can’t do because Edinburgh takes over all our time.”

“They’re solo projects?” I asked.

“Yes. But also group stuff. We’re making a podcast. You came to see the Obsoletium read-through a year ago. We’re going to do that as a podcast and we’re currently writing the second episode. We’ve re-titled it Hector vs The Future because no-one could spell Obsoletium.”

“You’re writing that alone?”

“I’m co-writing it with James Huntrods, our co-producer. He’s got a very good handle on story structure, which I tend to be weaker at.”

“Is that why you’ve done sketches within a single situation in the past, rather than a single linear narrative?”

“Pretty much, although The Great Fire of Nostril had one complete narrative even if it’s a very weird narrative – a bizarre, surrealist one. We’re performing it at the Soho Theatre in the first week of February.”

A picture painted by William Frederick Yeames in 1878

A picture painted by William Frederick Yeames in 1878

“How’s your father?” I asked. “Is he no longer trapped in the depths of the London Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane?”

“I don’t know where he is,” said James. “Since leaving the depths, he’s been gallivanting around the… I dunno… I dunno… I tend to leave him to it… He’s just working in…I dunno where he goes… Wherever he goes… God knows where he is.”

“And you?” I asked.

“It wasn’t planned,” said James, “but, over the course of the next couple of months, we have so many projects all happening at the same time. Casual Violence are doing the podcast and the Soho run and I’m developing my solo project and there’s the Casual Violence Live! DVD… erm download. We filmed it at the Brighton Fringe in May which was advantageous, because we won an award specifically for the show we filmed.”

“Which award?” I asked.

Argus Angel Award

Argus Angel Award

“The Argus Angel Award. I think they used to do trophies, but now they just e-mail you a PDF of the award certificate, so it’s an award that actually costs you, because you have to print it out yourself if you want a physical version.”

“That’s quite a good idea,” I said. “Perhaps I should do that with the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. In 2007, I had trophies made for every year up to 2017. After that, I could just send people PDFs of photos of the trophy they might have won if I had bothered to have one made.”

“Or,” suggested James, “part of the prize could be that the winners this year have to design and make trophies for next year’s winners.”

“It would be in the spirit of Malcolm,” I said, “that the winners lose money. I did originally have the idea that part of the prize for each winner would be that they had to buy the judges drinks. But, as I don’t drink alcohol or spirits, it seemed a rather pointless idea… and it doesn’t really work as a concept if they have to buy the judges tap water. It would somehow diminish the award. Although there did used to be the Tap Water Awards. Perhaps I should reconsider the idea.”

On YouTube, there is a trailer for Casual Violence Live!

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Why comedy writers and performers are different and clowns are not clowns?

James Hamilton at the Soho Theatre bar yesterday

James Hamilton – Soho Theatre bar yesterday

So yesterday afternoon I went to the Soho Theatre bar to talk to Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma about her weekly – always unique – Friday night Lost Cabaret shows in London.

It never happened.

I arrived early and found multiple Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee James Hamilton sitting at a table, writing his sketch group Casual Violence’s next show for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

“How much have you written?” I asked.

“10%,” he said glumly.

“I was going to do a solo show this year,” he told me, “but I got talked into doing a Casual Violence one. Do you remember the Siamese Twin hit-men from Choose Death? I am giving them a full story. They work together as assassins until one of them decides he would rather be a baker instead. They fall out and decide to go their separate ways.”

Casual Violence 2014 Edinburgh show

Casual Violence: new 2014 Edinburgh show

“The Siamese Twins?” I asked.

“Yes,” said James. “It’s about the brotherly dynamic.”

Then Nelly arrived.

James and Nelly had never met before, but it transpired they had both been on Dr Brown/Phil Burgers‘ clown workshops.

Clown workshops seem to be trendy for performers at the moment but, as far as I can see, have nothing to do with clowns as any normal person would recognise the word. They are actually improvisation workshops under a ‘sexier’ title.

Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly, James (a writer who performs) found the workshops more difficult than Nelly (a performer who can write).

“The people who could be themselves or a version of themselves on stage,” said James, “were the people who did best in the workshop and I wish to god I could do it. I loved the workshop and got so much out of it but I also really struggled. It was so difficult.”

“It is really difficult,” agreed Nelly. But those people had probably been to loads of these workshops and practised a lot of dropping it and ‘being with themselves’. Or hadn’t been to anything at all.”

“Yes,” said James, “a lot of people who did best in that workshop had never done any performing of any kind.”

“The people who find it hardest, I think,” said Nelly, “are people like actors or stand-up comedians. With actors, there’s always this mask: that they never want to show themselves. With comedians, they’ve always got to have a punchline. Stand-up is very wordy; it’s always about what they’re saying, not what they’re doing. Whereas, in clowning, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it and how you do it. It’s all about How not What.”

Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma with James Hamilton

Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma with James Hamilton yesterday

“It’s a very performance-driven thing,” said James, “whereas I tend to approach stuff from a very writery point of view. Writing is very introverted and thinking about ideas and not letting go. All the clowning stuff is very counter to that. Not in a bad way. But it’s the opposite of what you’re taught as a writer.

“I remember at the workshop,” James continued, “being told off because I had an idea before going on stage. So what I did for the rest of the workshop was every time I had an idea ahead of going on stage I would immediately dismiss it because I knew if I went ahead with that idea he would pull me up on it. He wanted people to go on stage with nothing and then find something.”

“Well,” said Nelly, “it’s OK for you to come on stage with an idea, but you have to be ready to drop it in a split second if the audience hate it. People who come on stage with an idea can be more in love with their idea than they are with the audience. It’s not necessarily that he wants people to come onto the stage with nothing, because some people literally don’t have anything and it’s boring. You need to have something. What’s your impulse? What are you thinking? But, if it doesn’t work, you just throw it out the window. You do whatever it takes to make the audience love you.”

“I think, when I do more solo things,” said James, “it will be more of an even balance but the way it works at the moment is I’m the sole writer for a group of people, so I need to bring stuff in. It doesn’t need to be perfectly finished. We play with it and develop it. But it does come from a very scripted starting point.”

“When I go on stage,” said Nelly. “I always have an idea of something. I’ll have a character and a costume or I’ll come up with a game and go on stage and play with that.”

“The fact people can do that is amazing,” said James. “It just terrifies me. Though in an appealing way. It makes me want to do it.”

“It doesn’t matter if you flop at some point,” said Nelly, “provided you bring the audience eventually to this place of magic and then they forget about the bit that flopped.”

James had told me earlier that he had been “talked into” doing a Casual Violence show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe and, in a sense, the same thing had happened with Nelly and Lost Cabaret.

Zuma Puma (centre bottom) + her collective

Zuma Puma (centre bottom) + her collective

“I wasn’t going to go to the Fringe this year,” she told us. “I thought: I need a break. I’m going to be in Spain for the month lying naked on the beach or hitchhiking to Morocco and singing on the top of mountains until five in the morning. But then (regular performer) Dan Lees applied for a spot for Lost Cabaret at the Fringe and told me about it after we had been accepted.”

“So,” said James, “you will have to defer your month of naked hitchhiking to the top of mountains at five in the morning.”

“I’ll still do that,” said Nelly. “Maybe before I go to the Fringe.”

“You told me,” I said, “that you’ve been going for lots of castings recently.”

“Lots of auditions for short films,” said Nelly, “which I’m finding interesting, because a lot of writers are shit.”

“Are you cast as Girl 1 or Girl 2?” asked James.

“I’m usually cast as a femme fatale killer,” Nelly replied, “which is fun. I’m OK with that. But how many scripts are just so degrading to women?”

“Women are either in films to have sex or to be killed,” I said.

“There is a website called Casting Call Woe,” said James, “which has genuine casting calls which are horrendously sexist and awful.”

Currently on the site are these four descriptions of projected movies:

The actress would need an ‘Easy Access Skirt’ with leggings underneath so that the skirt could be lifted up and it would look convincingly like she was ‘being taken from behind. Consent to have fake vomit thrown on her. 

Please send a pic of your tongue so I can approve of your tongue length.

The egg shoots from her vagina and directly into the doctor’s mouth.

Bikinis will get this movie attention. Great acting will get it respect. 

“I got a script for a short film,” said Nelly. “Somehow they had got funding for it. I don’t know how. They were looking for an actress who could play seductive but bad and I thought Oh, I can play femme fatale no problem. But then I read the script and there is a scene where a female crime investigator is talking to me – I’m this girl who is covered in blood and freaking out – and she starts putting her hand up the girl’s skirt and fingering her. There was no conversation before the investigator starts randomly fingering the girl. And, in the next scene, her face is in the girl’s vagina – there’s a shot of the investigator’s head between this girl’s legs. What the fuck has this got to do with the investigation? And then she kills the girl. It drives me nuts. I will have to start writing.”

There is a Lost Cabaret showreel on YouTube.

and also a trailer for Casual Violence’s comedy.

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Juliette Burton (an English rose actress) & farteur Mr Methane’s burning bottom

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The highly-coveted main Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The Edinburgh Fringe takes place every August but never ends. It is only three months since this year’s Fringe finished and a whole nine months to the next one. But already performers are starting to obsess. It is like having a baby – right down to people having occasional morning sickness with a feeling of nausea in the pit of their stomach.

Fortunately, as a non-performer, I do not have to suffer any of this.

I have already booked a venue for the two-hour 2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – on Friday 22nd August – and talked to a venue owner about doing a second year of chat shows in the lead-up to it.

Elsewhere, performers’ traumas reign.

Yesterday, a young starting-out stand-up comedian asked me:

“Can literally anything – ANY experience – be turned into a Fringe comedy show?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Janey Godley’s Good Godley! was the show everyone talked about in 2004. It was very funny and it told exactly the same story as her autobiography Handstands in The Dark which is so terrifying it reads like a novel by Edgar Allan Poe. In the book, the story is horrific; on stage, it was very funny without demeaning the story. But, then, Janey’s talent is that she doesn’t tell funny stories, she tells stories funny.

“And Juliette Burton’s Fringe show this year When I Grow Up had something unexpectedly shocking in it: you could almost hear people’s jaws dropping. It was a happy, uplifting show with a coup de théâtre in it.

“If you’re having really bad time with your boyfriend and the relationship is breaking up,” I said, “write it down. It’s cathartic and it could be turned into comedy gold in a couple of years, if not sooner.”

“Should I wait a week,” asked this would-be comic, “then I write it down so I can be objective about it?”

“No,” I advised her. “The last thing you want to do is write something objective. If something horrible happens, write it down straight away while the pain is still vivid. The writing-down of it distracts you a little from the pain and, when you look at it in 12 months time, you will find you’re objectively looking at something that seems like a stranger’s writing.”

“But you’re not a performer,” she pointed out. “What do you know about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, “but I can give bullshit advice plausibly.”

What you do not write is almost more important than what you do write. It is what you cut out that can give impact to what is left in. This is something known by the twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee James Hamilton of comedy troupe Casual Violence.

Casual Violence - concentrated comedy

Casual Violence – surely everybody wants to see their sitcoms

He Facebooked a message yesterday about a one-off London show in January called Casual Violence: Nobody Wants To Make Our Sitcoms (Work in Progress). The blurb goes:

Join us for a low-key, super-informal script readthrough of two new sitcom projects that we’re working on – one for radio, one not for radio, both just for our benefit. We just want a bit of feedback so we can make them ourselves, for you. We’d like you to be our script editors. Come along, listen to our stories, have a drink with us afterwards and tell us what you think. Entry: £3 (entry fee is just to help cover the costs of the venue).

I have told them I will come along if they pay me £3.05p because, in comedy, it is seldom the performers who make the real money. It is the peripheral hangers-on.

Although, with luck, the aforementioned Juliette Burton might be an exception.

She is a combination of English Rose and whirling Tasmanian Devil type character with show ideas and promotional ideas spinning around her like a Wizard of Oz tornado. I had tea with her yesterday afternoon and most of the conversation I cannot repeat.

“What CAN I repeat?” I asked her.

“Well,” she replied, “as of today, it is confirmed that When I Grow Up is the first in a series of six live shows – and hopefully books and who knows what else? They will all be themed around identity – What makes a person? – The books depend on the interest I get from the proposal I have been asked to submit to a publishing company.”

Juliette’s new website lists her six shows as:

2013 – When I Grow Up
2014 – Look At Me
2015 – Dreamcatcher
2016 – an untitled show
2017 – Daddy’s Girl
2018 – The Butterfly Effect

“I am doing When I Grow Up at the Leicester Square Theatre in February,” she told me, “then touring it in Australia until May. There’s a new video promo for it.”

Juliette’s 2014 show Look At Me is going to be staged in association with the facial disfigurement charity Changing Faces, the body image charity B.O.D.Y. and the eating disorder charity B-eat.

Look At Me is billed as “a docu-comedy” (which is what When I Grow Up actually was) and, like When I Grow Up, will include video footage shot throughout the year – including interviews (the first is on 18th December) – and, in this case, the blurb goes:

By changing her appearance in dramatic (and hilarious) ways, Juliette will document how people react to her, how she feels and how she behaves. From wearing her glasses to being a man, from wearing a burka to dressing provocatively, from revisiting her “fat” self to being “old” and even going nude. Can we change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside? And is what we appear to be who we are?

I normally hate videos within live stage shows, but Juliette (a former BBC Radio journalist) showed with When I Grow Up this year that she can make it work smoothly and superbly.

Look At Me will also develop Juliette’s promotional blitz style with an accompanying pop song by Frankie Lowe, a pop video by Daniel Waterman, who directed her Dreamers (When I Grow Up) video, and who knows what else.

Juliette Burton seems to me to live a life of extremism.

With my chum Mr Methane, it’s a life of surrealism.

I got an e-mail from him last night.

Mr Methane pictured with Thomas Numme, Author - Jo Nesbo & Harald Ronneberg on a previous visit to the show.

Mr Methane pictured with (from left) Thomas Numme, author Jo Nesbo and Harald Rønneberg after a previous show visit

Tomorrow, he returns to the Senkveld med Thomas og Harald (Late Night with Thomas and Harold) TV show on TV2 in Norway.

He is making a special guest appearance with Robbie Williams and recently retired Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on the 10th anniversary edition of the show.

In fact, the show was pre-recorded on 22nd November in front of an audience of 8,000 at the Oslo Spektrum stadium.

Mr Methane tells me: “I had a brief chat with Robbie Williams as I came off stage and he went on – that’s right I was his warm up man. He said he had once gone to see me at a gig in Newcastle-under-Lyme in the early 1990s.

“Between us, me and Robbie had both ends covered on this gig. Although we both grew up not too far from one another and we both tread the boards, other similarities are not readily apparent. However I can now exclusively reveal that we both like oatcakes.

“Last weekend I went back to Norway again – this time to Kristiansand – where I did a 25th birthday gig for the Norwegian importer of Umbro sportswear.”

Part of Mr Methane’s much-admired yet seldom imitated stage act involves farting-out the candles on a birthday cake.

He told me:

“The Norwegian boss wanted me to wear Umbro sportswear until I explained that I came from Macclesfield where the Humphrey Brothers of Wilmslow set up their first Umbro factory. (The name UMBRO apparently obscurely comes from the words hUMphrey BROthers.)

mrmethanebends

Methane’s mate’s mum made his costume

“My mate’s mum, who made my Mr Methane costume, was an Umbro seamstress so I told the Norwegian boss that, technically, I was already wearing Umbro kit.

“He was delighted, but that didn’t stop a rather drunken member of the audience slamming the birthday cake candles into my bottom, burning my arse and rather spoiling the big moment. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or just fell over because he was so drunk.

“But that’s Northern Europe for you: long cold winter nights and large amounts of booze.

“The next day, I got food poisoning at breakfast and had a rough journey home. I am now finally getting back on track. It is a big relief as I am on my last pair of pyjamas.”

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