Tag Archives: Jo Marsh

Faking publicity quotes and why you don’t want to sit in a chair in Perth, Oz

In June last year, John Robertson and Jo Marsh got married in a chicken shed in Australia. I blogged about it at the time and there is a video on YouTube:

John Robertson is a comedian and originator of the extraordinary stage show The Dark Room.

Jo Marsh worked as Programming Director at the Wild West Comedy Festival in Australia for two years, then got head-hunted by a businessman who owned the title Perth International Comedy Festival. She started that from scratch and built it into a multi-million dollar business in two years.

Last August, they were at the Edinburgh Fringe. Then they moved to Britain. First Brighton. Now London.


John and Jo join Sir John Betjamin in London

John & Jo join Sir John Betjeman in London

“The opportunities here are so vast,” Jo told me at St Pancras station (don’t ask – I just like it). “When you get an Arts job in Australia,” she explained, “you literally sit in your chair at your job and you make a little bum-crease in it and you never leave. In Western Australia, the only way people get Arts jobs is if other people die, because there are so few in Australia. The opportunities are greater here in Britain. The pubs are nicer. And real culture is being made in London.”

“So you moved to Britain to…” I prompted.

“To mess up your culture,” suggested John.

“Perth is lovely,” said Jo. “It’s a great place if you want to retire or make babies and it’s well-lit.”

“It’s incredible what the sun can do,” agreed John.

“In Perth,” explained Jo, “I learned as much as I possibly could but, if I stayed there, I would just be doing the same thing over and over again and I wanted to come here and learn more and do more and experience more than I would in Perth, which is the most isolated city in the world.”

“You managed, though.” John said, “in that isolation to create a beautiful boutique festival that was a huge commercial success.”

“But, having done that,” explained Jo, “I would just be…”

At that point, a man with no legs glided past us on a skateboard.

“Hello,” he said as he passed our table and then he was gone. It somewhat threw the conversation.

“I’ve got a follower on Twitter,” I said rather distractedly to Jo, “who claims he has had five Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominations. I’ve never heard of him. I think he’s a fake person. But Malcolm would have approved.”

“In Australia,” Jo told me, “people just say they’ve won an award because no-one’s going to check up. They’ll win the Least Most Annoying Song award and suddenly they say they’ve won the Best Comedy Song in Western Australia award. There was a Best Local Act award which got put on posters as Best Comedian, Western Australia. There are quotes like Amazing… Entertaining and the original quote was actually It’s amazing how un-entertaining this show is.”

Jo and John remembered publicity scams

Jo and John – Would you trust this man in a Dark Room?

“Just like the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said. “Do you know the Jason Wood story? He got a one-star review from Kate Copstick in The Scotsman and the next day Copstick is walking round Edinburgh and, on all his posters, Jason has put A STAR! (The Scotsman).”

“Someone we know,” said John, “uses the press quote A natural comedian… which is actually from a slightly longer quote which said Not a natural comedian. That’s a work of publicity genius.”

“There’s a story about Alan Carr,” I said, “which I think is true but might be apocryphal. In his early days, he is supposed to have put on his Edinburgh Fringe posters: Carr is the future of British comedy – which was an absolutely correct quote. It was not mis-quoting anything in any way. Except the quote was from a review of a show by Jimmy Carr not Alan Carr. Even if it’s not true, it’s an admirable example of lateral publicity thinking.”

“I was on BBC Radio Scotland,” said John. “I rocked up to do their Comedy Cafe. It was me, a little American woman ventriloquist and a really grumpy huge Irish guy who hated both of us. It began with the presenter saying: So, John, you’ve been named as one of Australia’s top comics and I think I’m not going to correct him. – The quote was actually One of Austrialia’s Top Ten young comedians and it’s from Zoo magazine and I’m on the list because the guy who wrote the list is a friend of mine and it came after an article – which he also wrote – that say’s he is the best comedian in Australia.”

“Should I plug The Dark Room?” I asked.

The Dark Room - could be bound to please

The Dark Room – some time in time in Holland

“Probably,” said John.

“You could say it’s won a Tony Award,” I suggested.

“Perhaps an Antonio Antonioni Award as best non-Spanish Spanish play by a non-Spaniard?” suggested John.

So?” I asked.

“It looks like we’re going to do The Dark Room weekly in a pub in London,” John told me, “and there’s a place in the Netherlands – Harlingen where we might do it sometime between this year and 2016.”

“At any point between those two dates?” I asked.


“Why such a wide window of possibility?”

“No idea. I’m also doing The Dark Room at the Edinburgh Fringe again this year and possibly at a London theatre after that.”

“And probably,” I checked, “in Holland, but it could be any time between 2014 and 2016?”


“But the exact date or dates is or are unknown.”


“I feel I am in a dark room,” I said.

The Dark Room is also on YouTube:

On the subject of fakery, the bit about the legless man on a skateboard did not actually happen at St Pancras while I was talking to Jo and John.

It actually DID happen when I was talking to Gareth Morinan outside Bar Italia in Soho last week. It did not fit comfortably into that blog, but I felt it deserved to appear somewhere and it seemed to fit here. I needed a ‘bridge’ between unconnected quotes and the legless man seemed to fit. So it is true and yet untrue simultaneously.

Which seems apt here.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Theatre

Australian comic John Robertson gets married in a chicken shed after a coma

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Well, here’s to you, Mrs Robinson...

Well, here’s to you, Mrs Robinson…

I was distracted this week by being on jury service and then being in bed for two days, sweaty and coughy and generally drippy from various parts of my body.

So I forgot that Australian performer John Robertson got married last Saturday to his girlfriend Jo Marsh in Perth (the Australian one) after eight years together.

Jo is Festival Director of the Perth International Comedy Festival.

“How did you two meet?” I asked.

“Jo was in a massive car accident,” explained John, “and ended up in a coma. At the same time, I auditioned on Australian Idol. There’s a clip of it on YouTube.

“Jo awoke from her coma in a hospital bed and turned on the TV – and saw that. She loved it.

“Months later, I went to see a play that her then-boyfriend was in. I didn’t think he was very good. The next day I ran into him in KFC and said I thought you were very good. He then went Australian Idol guy! My girlfriend loves you! and he put me on the phone to her. We had a great conversation. She can’t remember it, because she was high on morphine. I can, because I was high on recognition. A bit later, he left her. She met me at a party, recognised me from Australian Idol and, while she denies this, I said Hello. There are a lot of unattractive people about to fuck in that hot tub. I would like to go home. So we did.”

“Did you plan a traditional white wedding?” I asked John yesterday.

“Hell, no,” he told me. “That was the first thing we got rid of. We just smashed everything we loved into one big, beautiful clusterfuck. She’d always loved an urban farm covered in graffiti and chickens – so we thought we’d get married in their shed. We spent the first third of this year playing the video game Skyrim and said Look at those rusty cages holding those bones! Let’s make some and fill them with lights! Look at these black-and-white wall hangings covered with eyes. Could a priest stand in front of those and scare the shit out of everyone?

The chapel, says John “before we lit the joint"

John’s layout for the fake cathedral – “before we lit the joint”

“So we were married by a priest in a fake cathedral made of lights and netting, inside in a shed, inside an urban farm with chickens and graffiti everywhere.

“Usually your groom and his mates are clustered in an awkward line somewhere near the celebrant and smiling nervously.

“My crew came through a door at the back of the room holding sparklers and marching to Motorhead. I’m a massive wrestling fan, so me walking about became two wrestling entrances – Triple H (Lemmy screaming It’s All About The Game And How You Play It!) and Shawn Michaels.

“Upon reaching the front, my crew formed a line behind me with the priest and wedding MC. When I dropped down to flex my biceps, they let off party poppers.

“Once we’d finished our ludicrous funsies, Tom Jones’ She’s a Lady rang out and comedian-turned-Mars One-astronaut-applicant Josh Richards walked out, performing some manner of dance with a Japanese fan.

“Soon after that, he was joined by another bridesmaid, doing the same thing.

John and Jo dance at the wedding in Perth

John and Jo dance at their truly not unusual wedding in Perth

“And then they were both grabbed by Jo’s sister and hauled to the front – whereupon YEAAHHH! – the opening scream from Tom Jones’ If I Only Knew rang out… And out walked my father-in-law – a 6′ 3” grey-mulletted Texan in full black formal cowboy gear with a ten gallon hat on.

“He gestured and BOOM – there stood Jo, pale and lovely in a white and blood-red corset, massive hoop skirt and five-mile long train. She marched up the aisle as the whole crowd clapped and danced to It’s Not Unusual.

“Then we cried a bit which, for a man in a striped suit with cowboy boots and anime hair, is a fun thing to do.

“The sermon was performed by comedian-turned-priest Chris Bedding. The MCing and crowd-threatening was done by comedian Werzel Montague. The Flaming Lips’ song Do You Realize?? was sung and strummed on ukulele by comedian Don Smith, who forgave me for singing along off-key and weeping, staring into my new wife’s eyes.”

“And the reception?” I asked.

“It was held,” John told me, “inside the same fairy-lights and netting area, with the false chapel raised up into the ceiling. Seats were arranged medieval-style for the convenient access of dancing girls and we had a sword fight instead of a bridal waltz.

Time for bridal waltz – Everybody stands up, Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On breaks out, everybody giggles… Jo starts saying, What is this? I say You love Celine Dion! YOU LOVE CELINE DION! and we’re pulled apart by our groomsmen and bridesmaids respectively.

“Werzel then brings us our ceremonial swords – What’s that? – The fight music from Star Trek comes on and we hack away at each other as only two completely hammered and ill-practised people can.

“After I refused to stay down for the part where she (all Errol Flynn-like) pins my sword to the ground and punches me in the head, she snogged me.

“It’s a good way to end, no? The video is on YouTube.

“Then it was time for music. So what comes on the speakers immediately? Too Drunk To Fuck by The Dead Kennedys. Too late to do anything about that, we jitter around the floor. As it turns out, we were.”

“Why marriage?” I asked.

“We understand each other,” John told me. “She’s tolerant and feisty and brainy and pretty and we’ve come a long way from driving around in her car, hunting for pastries at three in the morning. We’ve been together eight years – you learn a lot about a person in that time – and they can still surprise you. Also, when she gets too soppy, I cheer her up by joking about death – and when I get too soppy she cheers me up by telling me I’m being an idiot.”

“What are you doing at the moment?”

“I’ve been tinkering with lights and making all manner of unspeakable horrors happen for The Dark Room at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Hiding secret things in secret places. Practising my punishment voice. Wondering if it’s possible to build an enormous hand with which to stroke audiences. Raiding IKEA.”

“Are you developing The Dark Room in any other media?”

“I’m still working on making it a proper video game and I want it to be a book.”

“Or a major feature film with Spielberg directing?” I asked.

“Ah,” said John, “I stopped returning Spielberg’s calls after he asked if the room could be not really dark at all, and played by Tom Cruise“.

And beyond that?

“I’ve been working on a YouTube series The White Room for Hat Trick Productions. Unlike The Dark Room, you’re not trying to escape anything, but you might be trying to find something – it’s a parody of open world games, so there’s the ostensible freedom to do anything, but combined with I’ve lost my beard! Go and find it for me! and then the quest is really quick and easy, like every quest in every one of those games, you know what I mean?”

“Is Jo coming with you to the Edinburgh Fringe this year?” I asked.

“Oh, God yeah and we’re moving to the UK. Australia’s great, but I’m done now. I want to come to where I first saw well-dressed surrealists in suits causing real trouble. So we’re moving to Brighton! It’s coastal! It’s cold! Australian Goth icon Nick Cave lives there! Then I travel! TRAVEL! I do a preview show of The Dark Room at Leicester Square Theatre on July 24th. Then the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Do I take it?” I asked, “that now you are married you are not going to settle down with pipe, slippers and a koala?”

“Koalas carry syphilis,” said John, “and I have never settled down.”


Filed under Australia, Comedy, Weddings