Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

Behind the scenes of Ariane Sherine’s “Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn” video

Yesterday’s blog was about Ariane Sherine’s comic music video of her Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn. I play the UK Labour Party leader. In just over a day, the YouTube video had been seen by over 2,000 people.

There has been feedback.

Ian Dunt, editor of the politics.co.uk website Tweeted: @ArianeSherine‘s deeply disturbing sexual obsession with Jeremy Corbyn continues. Profoundly NSFW.

After Ariane Tweeted: “Joking aside, I am going to vote Labour on June 8th, and I urge you to do the same,” one annoyed woman Tweeted: “I am wondering quite genuinely what would move you to compose such a vituperative piece of video.”

When I pointed out that ‘humour’ was involved, the lady replied sic in three Tweets (too many letters for one): “Assuming your epreiteration affirms your claim that this was purely ‘humour’ rather than malice emitting flatus or being urinated on by dogs it seems to be pitched at those who would laugh as easily at people falling over.”

So I think this shows both that the video has hit a wide audience and proved that a little linguistic learning is no guarantee of coherence.

Kate Copstick, doyenne of UK comedy critics and never one to overstate the case, commented from Kenya: “John Fleming is a revelation. Part sex god and part tragic hero. A vastly untapped dramatic potential.”

She has a point.

The top reviews are in: “Part sex god and part tragic hero”

On Facebook, Mervyn Stutter, the talent-spotting equivalent of Simon Cowell at the Edinburgh Fringe for over a quarter of a century, appeared to want to book me on his Fringe show this year but, on further probing, backtracked, saying: “We only want the bed scene. Can you do 5 minutes?”

I find that both sexist and ageist.

A more heartwarming response was from Mysterious Mark who runs the British Comedy Guide website. He is nicknamed ‘Mysterious Mark’ because he does not like photos being taken of him and, a couple of people have told me, he seems not to cast reflections in mirrors.

He e-mailed me:

“I’m not sure if this is flattering or not to say John, but I honestly didn’t recognise you until about half way through watching the video. Then I remembered you mentioning, the last time we met, that you were about to play the Labour leader and it all came together in my mind and I went “WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! IS IT? YES, IT IS JOHN!”. It wasn’t until the credits rolled I was 100% sure though. It really is a fantastic video… well, apart from the bit where we get to see your thrusting behind,”

Ariane preparing for a sad part of the video

I told him that Ariane has great attention to detail.

She downloaded four headshots of Jeremy Corbyn from the internet (different angles) and then had them blown up and combined onto what I guess was an A2 photograph.

She then booked me into a top hair stylist and they cut my beard to the correct shape with those photos as reference. My eyebrows are bushier than Corbyn’s, so they lessened the depth (front to back) of my eyebrows and re-shaped them. He also has a pointier chin than me but the shaping of the beard helped change my apparent jaw shape.

We were going to add hair on top (Corbyn is not bald on top; I am) but this didn’t work properly, so she bought a Lenin hat and a Panama hat – both of the exact type and colour Corbyn has worn – (the Panama hat band is of a colour type he has worn). So the top of my head is covered at all times. Interesting aside – a Lenin cap and a Lennon cap are the same thing, which I had not consciously twigged.

The suit colours are as per Corbyn and the spectacles were replicas of the type Corbyn has appeared in (The bastard now seems to not wear specs!!!)

It is the beard and me looking over the top of the specs (which Corbyn does) which confuse the look of my face. If I looked over the top of the specs and kept my chin down, it looked more Corbyny.

Morning Star front-page; the back is even better

There are two jokey fake Morning Star covers and back pages in correct type style. And much more.

The props, hair and beard trims and extras appearing in crowd scenes cost Ariane over £1,000 combined.

The video was shot and edited by the unnecessarily tall Graham Nunn, Ariane’s best friend of 20 years whom she married for real last month.

He gave Ariane £50 worth of ASOS vouchers for Christmas and she spent them on a wedding dress for the Corbyn video – not knowing that she and Graham would fall back in love and she would end up marrying him for real in the Corbyn dress in Las Vegas.

Love Song for Jeremy Corbyn is only the second script she has done since leaving television writing in 2008. The last television series she worked on was the BBC1 primetime sitcom My Family.

Ariane has been involved in various videos since then, including one for her Hitler Moustache song in which Charlie Brooker (creator of Black Mirror) and her now-husband Graham Nunn both appeared.

Love Song for Jeremy Corbyn is the first video she has ever directed.

“At times,” she says, “I got frustrated with the process, but I think I got the best out of John Fleming and he’s actually a really decent actor, given that I cast him for his looks rather than his acting!”

That is one of the crosses I have to bear. Women just want me for my body, not for my mind. In fact, Ariane had tried to hire a professional Jeremy Corbyn lookalike to cavort in bed with her. There were plenty available, but the going rate – for example at the Susan Scott Lookalikes agency – was “£600 for up to three hours plus expenses plus VAT” which, Ariane says, “made me think it might be cheaper to hire the man himself.”

She settled for me because although I would nor work for peanuts (I don’t like them) I would work for green tea and Tesco baked beans.

Ariane plied me with Tesco baked beans

She also brought in various extras for crowd scenes, including comics Kayleigh Cassidy, Siân Doughty, Henrik Elmer, Angelo Marcos, and Tommy West.

“The extras,” says Ariane, “were all brilliant and I couldn’t have asked for more professional, easy-to-work-with, punctual supporting actors. It could have been stressful, but I totally loved the day of the ensemble shoot.

“It was hard to simultaneously act and direct. The scene where John is singing to me (the singing voice is actually her husband Graham’s) and taking the engagement ring out of his pocket was the hardest to get right. In contrast, the sex scenes were surprisingly easy!”

It has been often said that I am surprisingly easy, bordering on the desperate.

Ariane’s favourite scene is the one in which Jeremy Corbyn looks at a framed photo of Diane Abbott during sex and has an immediate orgasm. I suggested I should twitch my toes at this point, which Ariane thought worked well.

I am available for roles in any upcoming porno foot fetish films.

Ariane has said in print: “John’s house, used for the shoot, is still cluttered with Jeremy Corbyn video props. At some stage, he will get his house back.”

I am not so sure. As with my house, so with my sanity.

There is a clause in my contract with Ariane saying that I will have my house back but, as all Marx Brothers fans will atest, everybody knows there ain’t no Sanity Clause.

And yes, obviously, my threshold of shame is high.

Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn is one of 13 tracks on Ariane’s album Beautiful Filth, which is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc.

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Jeremy Corbyn’s lover Ariane Sherine is not eating dog food & wants your money

In recent months, I have married Ariane Sherine twice.

The first was in the recording of a music video of her sophisticated Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn.

I ‘marry’ the unfeasibly tall Graham Nunn and Ariane Sherine (Photograph by Michael Ashley)

The second was a couple of weekends ago, when I played the part of a vicar/priest at her second wedding or (it depends on your viewpoint) wedding party in the London borough of Neasden.

She had actually been married for real to the unnecessarily tall Graham Nunn a few weeks before in the suitably glamorous world of Las Vegas.

The Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn music video has been released today, exactly one week before the UK’s General Election. 

I prepare to give my all in ‘Property of Ariane Sherine’ red underpants. (Photo by Arlene Greenhouse)

In the video, I play Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

The video was shot at my home. I do not know why Ariane chose to shoot it there but, towards the beginning of the shooting script, these descriptions appear:

SCREEN 2: JEREMY CORBYN IS STILL LABOUR LEADER, HAVING SURVIVED 14 LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS.

SCREEN 3: HE IS NEWLY DIVORCED FROM WIFE NUMBER 3, AND IS LIVING ALONE IN SQUALOR.

I have already said on social media that I only agreed to strip off for the video because Ariane claimed it was artistically necessary… and because she assured me I could expect big things once casting directors saw my handiwork… and I do mean handiwork.

Beef curtains are prominently mentioned in Love Song.

Creativity is a world of smoke and mirrors where success is in the eye and ear of the beholder.

Ariane has started a Patreon page to finance future comedy videos.

Why? 

Below is Ariane’s explanation.


“Why are you eating dog food?” my friend John asks.

“It’s cake,” I say, “newly-defrosted cake, so it’s still very cold, and I’m not so much eating it as smooshing it into my face.”

I thought long and hard before setting up a Patreon. The thing is, when you have a public profile, things look good on paper and people think you’re doing well. You have a Wikipedia, you’re verified on Twitter and Facebook, you get articles published in national publications…

But you earn zero, zilch, nada. And you can’t feed your kid your Wikipedia page.

For ages, I’ve lived this sort of lie. When people ask how I make my living, I say airily, ‘Oh, I’m a comedy writer and comedian and journalist.’ Which I am, of course. But I’ve actually stayed above the breadline by renting out space in my home and sleeping in the same bed as my daughter. I share a wardrobe with her, her toys are jumbled up with my make-up, and she asks why she has her own bedroom at Daddy’s house but not at mine.

Now she’s six years old and needs her own room, my new husband’s leaving his job of 20 years to move in with me, and we’re trying for a kid (I’m nearly 37, he’s 40). And suddenly we need space, so I can’t rent out my place any more. There’s virtually nothing coming in each month, and it’s scary, and I’m like: “Don’t look down, I’ll make a crazy video and maybe we can hold hands and inch our way across this bridge over the Grand Canyon of Bankruptcy!”

People might say: “But you live in London. Why not sell your place and move out?” The thing is, Mr Hypothetical Person, I already have. I had a tiny flat (under 500 square feet) in North London in 2013, and I moved out to dilapidated almost-Essex in the wilds of the Central Line in 2015 for more space.

I have ‘shared residency’ (the jazzy new term for joint custody) with my daughter’s dad, who lives in North London, and my daughter’s at school there, so when I have to take her to school she has to wake up at 7am. (You try waking my daughter up at that hour. “But WHY do I have to go to school?!?!?!” – ‘To learn things, sweetie.” – “I ALREADY KNOW ENOUGH!!!!!!”) Moving to Scotland or Devon isn’t a practical option, and nor is downsizing – because with (hopefully) four of us, it’s already going to be a squeeze.

I am not a very successful journalist. I’m a decent writer and have written for pretty much everyone, but not consistently. I’m easy to work with and tenacious, and have lobbied editors with pitches until I feel like a mad stalker, and a few of them have capitulated, but it’s a bit soul-destroying battering down doors every day and being perpetually stonewalled. And, with an average payment of £75 per online article, one piece published per month doesn’t add up to much.

My kind, gentle and patient husband has worked for the same building firm for the past 20 years. He’s had to get up at 5.55am and work from 7.30am until 6pm every day. He’s now leaving sleepy Suffolk for a better life in sexy London. He’ll get work in the building trade if he has to, but he’d rather be a video editor or graphic designer, because he’s extremely talented and genuinely loves creating videos. So he’s going to give it a try and apply for jobs, which may be a long shot as he’s 40 with no experience of full-time work in the media.

But fuck it, you live only once for a very short time, and what’s the point of being a human being if you don’t follow your heart and at least TRY to live out your dreams? To live a big, brave, beautiful life and end it with no regrets, because at least you’ve tried your best to make things work?

So this is why I am smooshing my face into what is apparently dog food, and pretending to make a sex tape and do a poo on camera. Because, if this crazy stupid Patreon page is successful, for the first time in my life I won’t need commissioning editors to say they love me. Because I will have friends and supporters who do – and that will be enough.


The Beautiful Filth album by Ariane Sherine

Ariane’s album Beautiful Filth, on which Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn appears is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc etc.

The 13 track album also includes such self-penned singalong classics as Hitler Moustache, Cum Face, Don’t Have Sex With a Goat, Thankyou For Not Smelling of Fish and I Think His Penis Died.

Reviews for her music include: Wonderfully clever lyrics and very funny” (The Scotsman), “Articulate, imaginative and very funny. If you enjoy clever, knuckle-shredding, ribald humour, you’ll wallow in this” **** (music-news.com) and “Quite brilliant… funny in anyone’s book” (The Erotic Review).

The Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn music video can be viewed on YouTube:

More information – behind the scenes on the video shoot – HERE.

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The Brexit vote to leave Europe was a lie. Percentages were more like 10/90.

The pencil is more powerful than the pen?

The pencil is more powerful than the pen or the sword?

Yesterday, I was travelling in an Overground train in London and got chatting to someone who works as a plumber. Let’s call him Peter (not his name).

Peter the Plumber is maybe in his late twenties. I could be way out. He could be in his early thirties but, if I had to guess, I would put him at maybe 29 years old.

We bonded on a lot of things, though not everything.

He thought the police were corrupt from bottom to top. He thought the court system had nothing to do with justice and was a game for lawyers and judges. He thought the drug laws were ridiculous – it is legal to willy-nilly prescribe variations of heroin and cocaine for medical purposes but not marijuana.

He said he did not vote in elections because the whole political and ruling system was corrupt. If he were to vote for anyone, he told me, he supposed it would be Jeremy Corbyn. I suggested maybe the Green Party and he was not averse to that but, as he thought the whole system was unworkable, there was no point.

I suggested, if there were a candidate or a party he thought had the correct policies and beliefs, then, by voting for them and increasing their majority even by one, he was giving them more profile and more visible backing – he should vote for them even if he believed they had no chance of winning.

“Like Jeremy Corbyn,” he suggested.

But he is not going to vote in elections because he believes the whole system is corrupt.

“Why do they give you pencils to mark the ballot paper in voting booths?” he asked me. “The people who mark you down as having voted and the people sitting outside the polling stations have pens. Why do they give you pencils to vote with? Pencils are more expensive than pens.”

I said I thought it odd that, as far as I know, when policemen write down statements, they are required to do it in pencil not pen. (I could be wrong that it is a requirement.)

brexitmapbbcHe said he did not believe the Brexit vote to leave the European Union was correct. The vote was 52% to leave. “I think the real vote,” he told me, “was more like 90% to 10%.”

“In which way?” I asked.

“To leave,” he said. “No-one I know wants to be in Europe. The Scots have it right. They want to leave the UK because they don’t want this other place making decisions for them. They want to make their own decisions.”

Let’s leave aside the fact that a high percentage of Scots voted to remain in the European Union.

Given the fact that many people who voted ‘Remain’ in the Brexit referendum find it unacceptable that there was a ‘Leave’ vote because everyone they know voted ‘Remain’… I thought it was interesting that youngish Peter The Plumber, who shows all the signs of being a true Corbynite and an anti-Establishment Left-Winger could not believe that the ‘Leave’ vote was as low as 52%.

Everyone thinks they are ‘normal’ and average and that their mostly self-chosen circle of friends and acquaintances are the norm. Everyone thinks they know what the majority of ‘normal people’ think.

Everyone is almost always wrong because they see and hear in their own bubble of ’normality’.

And, yes, I know if I write ‘everyone’ I should not write ‘they’ and ’their’ – I should write ‘he or she’.

But let’s not be pedantic. It is normal to use ‘they’ to mean ‘he or she’. Isn’t it?

Well, it seems that way to me.

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Jeremy Corbyn & my beard and the link to Martin Soan’s new free comedy club.

Jeremy Corbyn? Daniel Craig? John Fleming?

Jeremy Corbyn? Daniel Craig? John Fleming? A combination?

I am probably going to be Jeremy Corbyn. In a music video for Ariane Sherine’s Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn.

The London Evening Standard’s opinion is that this “steamy tribute” to the great man is “one of the most stirring”. But that “most of the verses are too graphic to be printed in a family newspaper”. The song includes the stirring lines:

One poke from the leader
And you’ll be in Labour

I was conned into saying I would appear in this video, to be shot in July, on the basis it would include “topless” scenes. Alas, these turned out to be not Ariane Sherine topless but the Jeremy Corbyn clone – me – and, because of this, I have been trying to slim down to something more approaching Jezza than Dumbo.

It has also meant I have kept my beard, which I had intended to shave off.

Now, though, the video shoot is going to be in September not July. So I was going to chop off my beard and re-grow it during the Edinburgh Fringe in August. (This has the added bonus I could get up later in the mornings).

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan's hair

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan’s hair on stage in 2013

My eternally un-named friend then suggested I should get Martin Soan to cut it off or, at least, cut one half of it – perhaps the left half – and half my shirt and possibly half my trousers.

Thus it is going to happen on the opening night of his new comedy club this Friday night. There is a bit of ‘previous’ here. In 2013, comedian Stephen Frost cut off half Martin Soan’s hair on stage at Pull The Other One.

For over ten years, Martin and his wife Vivienne have run the very successfully bizarre Pull The Other One monthly comedy club in Nunhead (Peckham to you and me, but don’t say that to the natives). Now they are also going to be running another monthly comedy night in Nunhead called It’s Got Bells On.

“So,” I asked him, “you’re going to do this new one monthly and carry on doing Pull The Other One monthly? What’s the difference going to be?”

“Well,” said Martin, “It’s Got Bells On is free and Pull The Other One is pay-to-enter.”

Martin Soan promoting new night It’s Got Bells On

Martin Soan promotes his new It’s Got Bells On

“Why is It’s Got Bells On free?” I asked.

“Because I’m very lucky. Someone who is really into comedy is sponsoring me. He wants to remain anonymous. He’s fronting the cash for it – not a lot of cash, but it means I can pay the acts and have a bit for myself as well. Basically, everyone will get expenses.”

I asked: “When you say ‘free’ it will have a bucket at the end for voluntary audience donations?”

“Yeah. But there will also be 30 tickets behind the bar which you can buy for £1 each in advance to guarantee a seat.”

“So it’s the Bob Slayer ‘Pay What You Want’ model from the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said. “Is there any difference in the type of act or the headliners at the two clubs?”

“I don’t know what you call headliners now. I’m moving against ‘celebrity’ because it muddies the water yet again. Comedy should be whether you like it or not – nothing to do with whether people have been on TV or not. But everything still hinges on whether they are ‘famous’ or not.”

“Your Pull The Other One shows,” I said, “are usually full up and the format, as I understand it, is that they are all variety acts plus one stand-up comedian who is usually a ‘Name’.”

“That’s the way it works out normally, “ said Martin, “but it’s not a rule. Variety is the key. I wanted to put on a free night and now I’ve had this glorious offer of it being funded by an anonymous sponsor.”

Dr Brown and an audience member at PTOO

“I want to edge the club back towards being far more anarchic” (Photo of Dr Brown at Pull The Other One)

“Why did free-to-enter shows attract you?” I asked.

“With it being free,” explained Martin, “we don’t have to fulfil any audience expectations. Acts can be more free with the type of material they do. I want to edge the club back towards being far more anarchic – as it used to be. I am going to feature a slot a bit like The Obnoxious Man (Tony Green). I have Brian Sewer to fulfil that role in the first week. He’s an art critic.”

“Ah,” I said, “a piss-take on Brian Sewell? Who is doing that?”

“Ed At Last.”

“So the idea with It’s Got Bells On,” I asked, “is that you would not have one big name?”

“Well,” said Martin, “if Stewart Lee wanted to try out 10 minutes of new material, he would be just the same as anyone else on the bill. He would get 10 minutes and his expenses.

Stewart Lee (left) behind-the-scenes with Martin Soan at Pull The Other One

Stewart Lee (left) and Martin Soan, backstage at P.T.O.O.

“I’ve got Stewart Lee booked on at Pull The Other One on the 9th September and I must be getting two e-mails a day saying Can I get tickets? Can I get tickets!

“I’m getting frustrated by this celebrity-bound comedy and the way comedy is being used yet again.”

“It seems now,” I suggested, “that people will pay to see an act they have seen on TV, but lots of venues are doing free shows with unknown acts who do not get paid to perform.”

“Yes,” agreed Martin. “It’s not that I disagree with free venues, but I think people need to get paid for what they do.

“Now venues are starting to refuse to pay artists, basically. We have gone backwards. I remember the days in the 1980s when bands used to have to pay to play. I was involved with bands through my wife Vivienne. There was one particular pub which was absolutely notorious. They charged all the bands something like £50 to use the PA.”

“In the 1980s?” I asked.

Vivienne and Martin Soan

Vivienne and Martin Soan – Campaigning comedy couple

“Yeah. And the band would get some percentage of any tickets. But, basically, very few people bought tickets. You were allowed two guests and the audience was just other bands. So the poor band that went on last played to no-one.

“I got quite political about it and helped start an organisation called Community Music and basically the practice was stamped out over a few years.

“Now with comedy, though, that seems to be happening again. Venues not paying the acts.

“There are very few venues where you have to pay to play but, nonetheless, considering it’s such a small business compared to bands – it’s just people coming along alone or with props – they just need a microphone and the overheads are cheaper – the venues are not passing the profits on to the performers. I know the overheads of venues are high. But, if they didn’t have this comedy going on in their pub, then they would be down on their takings. At one place I ran a comedy night, on my average night, the bar was taking maybe an extra £3,000.

Martin Soan (left): “I know the business from all sides now."

Martin Soan (left): “I know the business from all sides now.”

“I know the business from all sides now. The first guy who ran the Old Nun’s Head where Pull The Other One ran shows – Daniel – was very open about how he made his money and how much he needed to get. He was dead straightforward, put his cards on the table and I knew exactly where I was, which I appreciated. That enabled me to project a plan to make the club viable. And the new guy running the Old Nun’s Head is very straightforward too.”

“So you will be running monthly pay-to-enter Pull The Other One shows at the Ivy House in Nunhead… and monthly ‘free’ It’s Got Bells On at the Old Nun’s Head in Nunhead.”

“Yes.”

“Any more shows in Leipzig?” I asked.

“Yes, in November. Bartushka, who is from Berlin but you saw her in Leipzig, wants to work with us over there.”

“Remind me of her act?” I asked.

“She is…” Martin started. “She… It is very difficult to categorise her. She is cabaret-inspired, very charismatic…”

“Much like Pull The Other One,” I suggested. “And, I guess, It’s Got Bells On.”

I may revise my opinion after I get half my beard, hair, shirt and possibly trousers chopped off on Friday.

It’s Got Bells On - free comedy

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Ariane Sherine tells backstage tales of comedy amid rampant multi-tasking

ArianeSherine_AdventuresStandUpComicYesterday, ‘new’ musical comic Ariane Sherine sent out to her subscribers the first edition of her weekly e-mail Adventures of a Stand-Up Comic. The comedy industry website Chortle will be running monthly highlights from it.

“So,” I asked Ariane, “Adventures of a Stand-Up Comic will end up as a book?”

“I hope so,” she told me. “It’s so much fun to do a gig and write it up, even if it’s been a bad gig. It’s quite cathartic.”

“Except,” I said, “you will be hated by all the other stand-up comics, because you will grass them up.”

“No,” she laughed. “I’m not going to mention people’s names or dates or places or gig names. Anybody who was at the gig will know what happened, but it’s no different from posting on Facebook saying: Did a gig here and blah-di-blah. I will anonymise it.”

It is a rare thing for someone who has been working as a musical stand-up comic for only three weeks to get a regular piece on the Chortle website. It is also very unusual to get booked for a paid gig after being seen in the first week; and another paid gig after being seen in the second week. But Ariane does have a bit of previous.

She was a stand-up act 13 years ago for around six months. Back then she got into the Laughing Horse New Act Final but quit stand-up before the event to focus on comedy writing for TV shows, including BBC1’s My Family, BBC2’s Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Channel 4’s Countdown.

Beautiful Filth by The Lovely Electric - do not try this at home

Beautiful Filth – Ariane’s 2014 album as ‘The Lovely Electric’

She has also written regularly for The Guardian, as well as The Sunday Times, the Independent, the Independent on Sunday, NME and Esquire, appeared on BBC1’s Breakfast, BBC London News, ITV1’s The Alan Titchmarsh Show, Radio 2’s The Jeremy Vine Show, Radio 4’s iPM and Sunday, released a 2014 album of songs called Beautiful Filth and duetted with Tim Minchin at London’s Palace Theatre.

It is also very rare for a ‘new’ comic to have recent quotes like “Quite brilliant” (critic Kate Copstick)… “If she’s not a huge success, it’ll be an absolute travesty” (Charlie Brooker)… She could be a female Tom Lehrer.

Which is why she was on the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club Podcast last week.

Afterwards, I asked Ariane something I had forgotten to ask her on the podcast (a vivid reflection of my limitations):

“Why go back on the comedy circuit after 13 years?”

“Because it’s the truest form of comedy,” she told me. “People can’t fake laughter – not belly laughter. And you get instant feedback on your work. Whereas, if you write for telly, you might only get feedback on your work from the producer and the script editor.

“What you’re saying on stage is: I find this funny. I think this is funny. And then the audience has the most visceral emotional reaction to what you’ve said. They say: Yes, I agree. This is funny. I am laughing. And that’s wonderful. It just makes you feel so… loved.”

“So,” I said, “performing comedy gives validation to insecure people.”

“Yes,” said Ariane. “I would agree with that.”

“Punters,” I said, “think all comedians must be extroverts to get up there on stage, but almost all the comedians I know want to hide in a cave. There’s that dichotomy between wanting to hide away and getting up on stage and exposing yourself to potential rejection. Actors can hide behind a character, but comedians are more exposed.”

“Yes,” said Ariane. “Unless they’re character comedians.”

Richard Dawkins publicising the Atheist Bus Campaign which Ariane created in 2009

Richard Dawkins helped publicise the Atheist Bus Campaign which Ariane successfully created in 2009

“In 2009,” I prompted, “ you compiled The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas – with contributions from 42 atheist celebrities, comedians, scientists and writers. And now you see The Adventures of a Stand-Up Comic as a book. You are also simultaneously writing two other books at the moment?”

“Yes.”

“What are they about?”

“One is a funny look at trying to lose a load of weight. Another is a book about mental illness – which is a novel.”

“Any particular mental illness?” I asked.

“Pure O.”

“Isn’t that,” I asked, “an Agatha Christie detective?”

“No,” laughed Ariane. “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s about the intrusive thoughts that people get which they can’t shake. Pure O is meant to denote only the Obsession part of OCD. So people with Pure O don’t carry out compulsions to the same extent. They don’t take action. They just get very, very upset by the thoughts in their head.”

“Why are you writing a novel about that?” I asked. “Is it autobiographical?”

“Not entirely autobiographical, no. But I’m very familiar with the thought processes.”

“Because?”

“Because I have OCD.”

“I just assume,” I said, “that OCD is arranging all your books and albums in alphabetical order.”

“No, I think that’s an unhelpful portrayal by the media.”

“So what is it?”

“It’s when you have a thought that really scares you and you place too much importance on that thought. So you might think: I’m going to walk down this bridge and throw myself off it. And instead of doing the normal thing and walking down the bridge anyway, you avoid bridges. Or you will only walk down the bridge while holding somebody’s hand. That kind of thing.

“You take action because of this awful thought in your head and, when people are perfectionists and do arrange everything in order, it’s because they think something terrible will happen if they don’t do that. When people clean or wash their hands repeatedly, it’s because they think they’re going to get a terrible disease or contract a terrible virus and die.”

“So why do this as a novel and not something more autobiographical?”

“Because I think it will reach a lot more people as a novel.”

In her first week back on the comedy circuit, Ariane sang about Jeremy Corbyn and Adolf Hitler.

To sign up for Ariane’s weekly email Adventures of a Stand-Up Comic, send a message to ariane.sherine@gmail.com with ‘subscribe’ in the subject line.

 

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Will Franken wants to return comedy to the art form it was intended to be

Will Franken and Charles I in Soho Square today

Will Franken and Charles II in London’s Soho Square today

The last time Will Franken appeared in this blog was on Christmas Day, when he and Lewis Schaffer were talking about being comedy failures.

This afternoon, I talked to Will about the 4-hour ‘satire workshop’ he is hosting at comedy critic Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara emporium in London, on Sunday 17th January – promoted by the ever-entrepreneurial Arlene Greenhouse.

The workshop is titled: From The Classics To The Clubs: Bringing The Rebellion Of Satire Back To Comedy.

“There is a continuum,” Will told me. “There is a link between Jonathan Swift on up through to, let’s say, Chris Morris.”

“What do you know about satire?” I asked him.

“Well, I have my degree in Restoration and 18th Century British Literature. My thesis was on Juvenalian Satire Within Swift and Pope.”

“Where was this?” I asked.

“The University of Missouri. I had some good instructors.”

“So, in your satire course, you will include what?” I asked.

“One thing I will slip in will be Obvious versus not-so-obvious enemies. If you are going to be a satirist, you have to have an enemy of some sort. Horatian satire, for example, is very lighthearted – like You know, the people at Starbucks, who make the coffee – But Juvenilian satire is like Swift – Oh, you want to stop the starvation problem in Ireland? Here’s a recipe for eating babies – It’s got this viciousness.”

“What are the satire targets today?” I asked.

Donald Trump or Jeremy corny? The choice is yours

Choose Donald Trump or Jeremy Corbyn…

“Well,” said Will, “if people come to the workshop and say I want to do something about Donald Trump, I would caution them by saying: First you have to look at supply and demand. Do you think that the market will be saturated with Trump jokes? I presume it will be. However, are there any Jeremy Corbyn jokes? So how can you look at Corbyn and try not to be obvious? Is there anything in Corbyn that you can see is worthy of ridicule? If you can, you might be on your way as being able to stand out as a satiric voice, 

You don’t want to perform in an echo chamber. You need to be able to stand out. When I got started in San Francisco, everybody had George Bush jokes – It was Bush Bush Bush Bush. I realised the only way I could stand out was to add a layer to that and make fun of the people who were making fun of Bush. So I had to observe them, learn their mannerisms, learn their hyperbole and make it even more exaggerated.”

“Why did you choose Restoration satire for your university course?” I asked.

“Well, I had been a fan of Swift before that. I had read stuff like Directions to Servants and Modest Proposal, of course. I was just intrigued by the fact somebody could have that idea of biting against the Establishment that long ago – and even before that, with Juvenal and Horatio.

“What I’m really good at is satire and being able to make a point of moral indignation but couch it in humour to make it a bit more palatable.”

“That’s your definition of satire?” I asked.

“Yeah. When I originally put the posting about the workshop up on Facebook, a lot of people confused satire with sarcasm.”

“So how,” I asked, “is your workshop on satire going to change comedy for the better in Britain?”

“At the very least, it will add a bit of intellect,” will replied. “When I first sent Arlene Greenhouse my pitch, she said: I dunno if they’re gonna get it. And I said: Well, the thing with comedians is that they all want to be clever. So, even if they don’t get it, they will pretend that they get it.”

“If I print that,” I said, “it will sound like you are knocking your market.”

Will/Sarah Franken - "I didn’t know when to make the move"

Will Franken – for intellectuals, pseudo intellectuals & ‘others’

“Well, the thing about my comedy,” said Will, “is it works with intellectuals AND with pseudo-intellectuals. Even if they only pretend to get it, I win. And other people love it because it’s just weird and politically offensive.”

“That,” I warned him, “will read as if you have a superiority complex.”

“It’s because I’m a failure,” replied Will. “All I have is my ego.”

“You reckon you will be a good teacher?” I asked.

“Well, I did it before and quite enjoyed it. I taught World Literature and Creative Writing.”

“Where?”

“At North Carolina for a couple of years and at the University of Missouri for a year. I used to dress up as Jonathan Swift and get a powdered wig and an 18th century outfit in Springfield, Missouri. I memorised the entirety of Modest Proposal and had a PowerPoint presentation on the recipes for the children.”

“Are you going to wear a powdered wig in Shepherds Bush?”

“My wig days are over, man.”

“British alternative comedy’s great days,” I suggested, “were when Margaret Thatcher was in power in the 1980s.”

“Margaret Thatcher,” said Will, “had a debate with William F Buckley around 1980/1981. She said: There was a time when people had conviction. Now, you see, it’s all consensus. Who can argue with that? It’s a paraphrase, but…”

“I suppose yes,” I said, “if you want to rule by constant consensus, you must be against people who rule by conviction.”

“Yes,” said Will. “There is an assumption that, if a lot of people agree with something, it is therefore correct and good. How stupid can you get?

“There is a dearth of satire nowadays and I think that’s because people largely don’t know what it is – and I think that’s largely due to being inundated with political correctness. If you have a politically correct comedy establishment, there’s really not much you can do in the way of satire.

“When people come in and they say Sensitivity… sensitivity… they are basically saying Don’t do comedy. There is a hyperbolic feeling which people have that, if you come out and say Political Correctness is stupid. Of course you should make fun of whoever you want to make fun of… then there will be black people hanging from trees.

“A satirist is an artist, right? A comedian fills a function. That’s another thing I hope to bring across to people in the workshop: How to transform comedy from something that’s just a means to get a pay check from Jongleurs… Because it’s always the bookers, not the audience.

Will Franken

“Throw something out there and it’s good… they will grasp it”

“It’s the bookers who are the gatekeepers, who say: I get it, but the audience will be too stupid.

“As pessimistic as I am, I always believe that people in this country will innately veer towards the intelligent. That, if you throw something out there and it’s good, they will grasp it.

“I say in the marketing stuff for my workshop: I can’t guarantee you a string of gigs at Jongleurs, but I will veer you towards being able to go after comedy as the art form it was originally intended to be.”

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Hilary Clinton in drag. Warwick Davis on shortlist. “The Best Sex of Our Lives”

SimonJayThe last time I met Simon Jay, he talked about How To Survive Being Attacked With a Miniature Flame-Thrower For Being GayIn other words, he was plugging his autobiography – Bastardography.

“Remind me,” I asked him yesterday in the Soho Theatre Bar, “why are we meeting up?”

“I dunno,” replied Simon.

“Neither do I… How’s your book going?”

“Very well, It’s coming out in paperback next year. I have to go to Belfast to finish it. I’m writing two new chapters for the paperback edition.”

“Why?”

“I don’t ask these questions. I’m getting a free trip to Belfast. Who could say No to that?”

“They’ve started killing each other again,” I told him. “But you really want to tell me about the play you’re doing.”

“Do I?”

“Yes. I saw some Event thing on Facebook.”

Simon Jay - Universally Speaking

Simon Jay – Universally Speaking next month in London

Universally Speaking,” said Simon. “It’s five monologues. Originally it was written for IdeasTap. They asked me to direct these prize-winning plays, but then they went out of business. But I’m directing and producing them anyway in October for charity – for the UN Refugee Agency.

“I’m also developing another play – a one-man Titus Andronicus written by Peter John Cooper – possibly at the Southwark Playhouse and we’re looking for funding, because we’re going to get a ‘Name’ to star in it. Our money limit is Martin Clunes. We know we can afford him. Do you want to hear who else is on the short list? Warwick Davis, Matt Lucas, David Mitchell.”

“Warwick Davis is on the shortlist for Titus Andronicus?” I asked.

“It’s seen from the clown’s perspective,” explained Simon. “He only has about six lines in the original, but everything in this new play is seen from his perspective. It’s a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. All the bits we haven’t seen.”

“You could see if the Soho Theatre is interested,” I suggested.

“I don’t think they’d touch it with a barge pole.”

“Why?’

“Because it’s intellectual with a small ‘i’ – it’s harking back to a sort of different, older kind of one-man show. It’s more in the tradition of when John Gielgud used to do The Seven Ages of Man… but this time it’s with Martin Clunes.”

“Would you take it to the Edinburgh Fringe?”

“No. I’m doing three shows at the Fringe next year. I’m doing Mr Twonkey’s Jennifer’s Robot Arm, which I’m directing and acting in. And a show about Hilary Clinton.”

“A serious one?”

“Semi-comedy-serious. It’s satire, but it still tells a story, like Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho.”

“Hilary Clinton,” I asked, “would be played by…?”

“Me,” said Simon, “obviously.”

“Obviously,” I said.

“I suggested it to Battersea Arts Centre,” Simon told me, “and they rejected it. I think people are a bit worried about doing a big, prominent American politician. The whole impetus behind the show was…

Hilary Clinton

“…You wanted to dress up as a woman?” – “Obviously”

“…you wanted to dress up as a woman,” I suggested.

“Well, that, obviously,” agreed Simon. “But also I don’t think UK audiences have a very good engagement in American politics. They don’t understand Primaries; they don’t understand how to win states; they don’t understand how she could still be with Bill after he’s shagged half the world. It’s a good fun story.”

“Do you have a title for the show?”

“Yes… It’s Hilary, Bitch!”

“What’s the poster going to be?”

“A big picture of Hilary, maybe astride a bomb or having a Wikileak. It’s going to be very camp.”

“Surely not?” I said.

“…and she sings as well,” Simon added.

“It’s a musical?”

“They do all manner of stupid things to get elected. She danced on a show with Ellen DeGeneres… I’m not against Hilary per se. I want to assassinate her at the end, but I think that might be a bit…

“It’s the American way,” I said.

“The reason Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho worked so well,” said Simon, “is it’s not just a drag Thatcher. There’s a good story as well: about Section 28. I’m not copying. It’s SO different, because it’s about  American politics and it’s a living figure, so it will be updated. I’m really worried Hilary might not win the Primary. If she doesn’t, then the idea might change to Jeremy Corbyn: The Musical.”

“And your third show next year,” I asked, “is…?”

cThe Best Sex of Our Lives

Coming soon? – the poster artwork

“It’s called The Best Sex of Our Lives. I’ve been commissioned to write and direct it by a man called Rich in Sussex who came and saw my show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in 2013 and said I want you to write me a drag act and he paid me a couple of grand to write a full-length drag show but, once I had finished writing it, he was like: It’s really good, but I don’t want to do that any more. I want you to edit a novel I’m writing. Another couple of grand. Edited the novel. He said: I’m not writing the novel any more. Can you write an Edinburgh Fringe show? Cost everything for me and I’ll pay it. So I’ve written it. but now he’s being iffy again. So it might not happen but, if it gets to the point where we put it in the Fringe Programme, then we’ll do it.”

“What’s it about?” I asked.

“The A-Z of sex. All the different sexual practices.”

“What’s Z?” I asked. “Zebra?”

“It IS zebra. Do you know what ‘furries’ are?”

“Not necessarily,” I said.

“People who dress up as their animal alter egos.”

“A whole new world opens up to me,” I told him.

“I could tell you some things that would make your nose bleed,” Simon said.

“Provided,” I told him, “it’s only my nose.”

“You could be a butterfly,” Simon suggested. “You go to a party and people might put nectar on you. It’s basically weird, dress-up bestiality without the animals… Anyway, so I thought Sex sells in Edinburgh and I want to do a commercially popular show.”

“Perhaps,” I suggested, “a furry Hilary Clinton.”

“Oh God!” said Simon. “People put her face on porn. There’s a lot of that on there.”

“Where?” I asked.

“On the internet.”

Wikipedia’s illustration of Furries (Photograph by Laurence ‘GreenReape’ Parry.

Wikipedia’s illustration of two Furries (Photo by Laurence ‘GreenReaper’ Parry)

“Is The Best Sex of Our Lives a musical?” I asked.

“No. It’s vignettes.”

“A one man show?”

“No. Three actors.”

“Any animals?”

“No. They dress up as animals; they don’t fuck animals.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” I asked.

“Sorry, John,” said Simon.

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