Tag Archives: John Kearns

Ellis and Rose chat to me with Guinness hair but do not have a car made of cake

Ellis and Rose and the Guinness hair

Ellis and Rose in a Pret a Manger that is just about to close

We met at a Pret a Manger in London’s Soho.

“What are you plugging?” I asked. “Harry Hill?”

“Yup,” said Rose.

“Shall we get the plug out of the way?” asked Ellis.

“OK,” I said.

So Harry Hill is appearing in Ellis & Rose’s Brainwash Club evening at the Backyard Comedy Club in London’s Bethnal Green this coming Wednesday. The bill also includes the Birthday Girls, James Hamilton, Lipstick & Wax, Tim Renkow and Mr Susie… And Ellis and Rose.

“He’s been on before, hasn’t he?” I asked. “Harry Hill.”

“Yeah,” said Ellis, “in February.”

“I think I was there,” I said. “I have a shit memory.”

“Yeah,” said Rose, “you drew on your knee.”

“I drew on my knee?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Rose. “We got you up on stage and everyone drew on their knees during the interval.”

“Were you heavily sedated?” Ellis asked me.

“We threw felt-tip pens into the audience,” Rose reminded me.

“No,” I said. “I don’t remember any of that at all. This Pret a Manger closes in ten minutes. Give me two bizarre anecdotes and that’s the blog done and you can piss off.”

Jon Brittain (right) with John Kearns

Perhaps I HAVE met John Kearns. I have a photo of Jon Brittain (right) with John Kearns

“The other day,” Ellis said, “John Kearns told me that I should rock up for this chat with you in a car made of cake.”

“Rock up?” I asked. “Is that what the kids on the street are saying nowadays?”

“Yes,” said Ellis. “Do you want an anecdote or not?”

“I have to insert myself,” I explained, “otherwise people might think I just slavishly copy down other people’s lines.”

“You didn’t take issue,” Ellis pointed out, “with having a car made of cake. Only with ‘rock up’. What does that say about you?”

“It says,” I replied, “that I am a man who cares about words but not about you.”

“…or content,” suggested Rose.

“…or cake,” said Ellis.

“I have never met John Kearns,” I said. “I seem to have met everyone who ever went to university with him, but never him.”

“So?” Rose asked.

“Nice hair,” I told Ellis.

“I think he looks like a half pint of Guinness,” said Rose.

Gareth Ellis with his Guinness hair

It’s Ellis: a man with a Guinness hairstyle

“Do you want some style advice?” Ellis asked me.

“Yes.”

“Get a beret.”

“Are you doing the Edinburgh Fringe next year?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Ellis replied.

“And next year,” Rose added, “we have a producer and director for the first time. Can we talk about our…”

“No,” I said. “This Pret a Manger closes in ten minutes.”

“…about what has changed,” Ellis completed.

“We’ve got new suits,” explained Rose.

“Why?” I asked.

“Most people,” said Ellis, “don’t even get changed when they do their shows. They wear the clothes they have on the street. We dress up. I know how to tie a bow tie. Not a real one, but I know how to put on a clip-on. We have to be careful when we chat to you, because you edit like a bitch.”

“A bitch?” I asked.

“A sly little dog,” said Ellis.

“You take out any nuance so that it’s sensationalist…” said Rose.

“…and make us seem like actual idiots,” said Ellis.

“Actual idiots?” I asked.

“Actual,” said Ellis.

“The new suits,” explained Rose, “were because we thought we needed an overhaul.”

Ellis and Rose in their new suits

Ellis and Rose in their new suits with a new work dynamic

“So,” I said, “given the choice of writing a new script or buying new suits, you chose the suits.”

“We’re working on it,” said Ellis.

“And, to be fair,” said Rose, “the dynamic on stage has changed. It used to be kind of aggressive and shouty. Now it’s a bit more conversational and two people having fun.”

“I think it’s less stressful to watch,” said Ellis.

“When you die,” Rose told me, “we are going to carry on your blog by ghost-writing it.”

“Just stereotypical John Fleming blog posts,” said Ellis. “so one will be Lewis Schaffer repeating his name for a whole blog – or photos of him with grey hair and black hair. It’ll be: Lewis Schaffer, Lewis Schaffer…

“And then,” said Rose, “we will do one of your diary extracts from 1927 in which you had a dream…”

“…about how it reminded you of your mother,” suggested Ellis. “And then we’ll get someone from Canada to write to us and put that in.”

“And,” enthused Rose, “we’ll get Kate Copstick to say something controversial.”

“Try stopping her,” I said.

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Margaret Thatcher, Queen of gay Soho, and Princess Margaret late of the aisles

The Margaret Thatcher - Queen of Soho poster

Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Edinburgh?

I posted a blog in December last year about the stage show Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho, which next week starts a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Matt Tedford plays the former British Prime Minister and co-wrote the ‘drag comedy musical extravaganza’ with Jon Brittain.

“The show I saw at Theatre 503 last year was so complicated and so slick with such high production values – it was a fully-realised West End production – the lighting, the sound, the props – I remember thinking: They are never gonna want to take this show to the Edinburgh Fringe because it is so complicated they could never do it up there. Then I realised: Hold on! I’m sitting watching it in an Edinburgh Fringe-type venue here and they’ve done it brilliantly.

“That’s the thing about Jon as a director: props and sound and lighting cues,” Matt Tedford told me this week. “I’ve never known anybody to use so many props. He’s very dedicated. He has a writer’s mind. I faff about a bit. We complement each other very well. I’ve learned so much from him about how writing works. He says: I like the characters to all have an ending.”

Matt Tedford in Soho Theatre this week

Matt at the Soho Theatre this week

Matt studied drama with Jon and (last year’s used-to-be-called-Perrier Best Newcomer Award winner) John Kearns at UEA (the University of East Anglia). Comedian Pat Cahill was in the year above them. But, until Margaret Thatcher, Matt had not performed for five years – not since he graduated from UEA.

“I went into jobs,” he told me.

“Jobs?” I asked.

“Well, I worked for the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Now that Labour has gone, it’s just called the Department of Education.”

Bizarrely, comedian Gareth Morinan also worked there at around the same time although they seem not to have met.

“And then I worked for an alcohol training company,” Matt said.

“Eh?”

“Training bar staff,” he explained.

“Had you ever been a barman?” I asked.

“No. I used to sit in bars at 11 o’clock in the morning and make them do tests on laptops.”

“So why did they employ you?” I asked.

Matt has arms strong enough for computers

Matt’s strong arms – much in demand in the catering world

“No idea. I think because I have very strong arms and could carry eight laptops at once. Also I have a bit of a schoolmasterish thing about me: No talking! Now I work for an accounting body.”

“Do you know a lot about accountancy?” I asked.

“No.”

“So,” I asked, “after UEA, you were a frustrated thespian?”

“Yes,” said Matt. “Then, two years ago, I went to Jon Brittain’s Hallowe’en party dressed as Margaret Thatcher. Then she died and Theatre 503 asked Jon if he wanted to write a rapid-response piece for their Thatcherwrite night. That was this time last year. And it just spiralled from there.”

“For the last few months,” I said, “I’ve seen posters in the tube for another Maggie show in the West End – Handbagged. Does that mean you’re screwed for a West End run?”

“I think we’re very different types of show,” said Matt. “I’ve not seen Handbagged, but theirs is about Maggie’s relationship with the Queen.”

“Whereas your one is…?”

“About Section 28.”

Putting the hate into Section 28...

Matt & Co put the hate into Section 28…

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

“When I went to see the play,” I said, “I thought it would be a hatchet job on Maggie Thatcher and, in fact, it was a hatchet job on the MP Jill Knight (who ‘introduced’ Section 28 to Parliament). Maggie came out of it OK.”

“We didn’t set out to make Margaret Thatcher likeable,” said Matt, “but, at the end of the play, people come up and (amiably) tell us: You made her a likeable person. I hate you for doing that!

When Jon and I sat down to write a play, I said: The weird thing about Margaret Thatcher is that she has all the makings of a gay icon – the power dressing, the androgynous voice; she’s a strong woman. But, because of Section 28, she’s a very hated figure. If she’d put out an album singing a few Cher songs, she could have made it.”

“She had gays in her Cabinet,” I said, “though, admittedly, they were not out.”

“She actually voted in favour of legalising homosexuality,” said Matt. “The only thing she ever said about homosexuality was that children as young as five were being taught they had an inalienable right to be gay. That was the only thing she said. And then they all clapped at the Party Conference and said: Oh, this is terrible. We need to sort this out.”

An inspiration: Margaret Thatcher

Loveable icon: Margaret Thatcher

“So how come,” I asked, “you sat down, decided to skewer Margaret Thatcher for Section 28 and ended up making her a loveable icon?”

“I don’t know. I don’t like any of her politics at all. But she’s a really interesting character. Every now and then in the show, we’ve had a heckler and it’s just so good to shout them down as Margaret Thatcher.”

“I never want to meet people I admire,” I said. “People who seem admirable turn out to be shits and people who seem awful turn out to be nice.”

“My aunt did meet Margaret Thatcher quite a few times,” said Matt, “and had dinner with her and said she was just crazy.”

“In what way?”

“There was something just a bit unbalanced about her. So focussed on stuff without any human side. I don’t think there was any sort of empathy there. Eleven years at the top, with no-one really around you saying No. A very interesting person. But thank god she died, otherwise I would still be sat working in the office.”

“Why did your aunt meet Margaret Thatcher?” I asked.

“She worked high up in the Civil Service. It wasn’t anything personal. My aunt met people as part of her job. She met Princess Margaret, who would open supermarkets and they’d have to be careful which aisle they walked her down because you couldn’t have her walk past the tobacco or the drink. They would have someone pushing the trolley for her.”

“The thought of Princess Margaret opening supermarkets,” I said, “had never crossed my mind.”

“If they were trying to encourage job creation in an area, they would sometimes wheel out Princess Margaret.”

“Is your aunt still in government?”

“Oh yes. She likes Prince Charles.”

“Anyone who talks to plants is OK with me,” I said. “Did your aunt hate Margaret Thatcher?”

Matthew Tedford as Margaret Thatcher

Matt makes Maggie the gay icon she always deserved to be

“Oh yes,” said Matt. “We’ve always been a very political family. A family of civil servants.

“My parents are very much left wing Socialists, but my granddad is a really staunch Conservative. I used to do the voice just to wind him up.”

“Did he enjoy being wound up?”

“Yeah. He’s very open-minded.”

“Are you going to walk up and down the High Street in Edinburgh in character to publicise the show?” I asked.

“Oh yeah.”

“That sounds dangerous,” I said. “You could get stoned.”

“If I’m lucky,” said Matt. “Actually, I’m going up to Edinburgh in the train dressed as Margaret Thatcher.”

I must have looked surprised.

Matt had a kebab in Soho

Matt/Maggie roamed Soho for a kebab

“Why not?” asked Matt. “I’ve been out in Soho dressed as Margaret Thatcher. I’m not a cross-dresser but, at every opportunity at the Fringe…”

“Three-and-a-half weeks dressed as Margaret Thatcher?” I asked.

“If I have to walk around supermarkets dressed as Margaret Thatcher to publicise the show, I will do it.”

“What’s it like to have people think of you as Margaret Thatcher?”

“People come up and talk to me after the show and it’s almost like therapy for them. People come up and say: I didn’t like you, I didn’t vote for you, but I really enjoyed the show. It’s just weird. In Ireland, they went mad for the fact they could meet me after the show, dressed as Margaret Thatcher, and shake my hand.

“Have you ever been curtsied at?”

“Yes. In Ireland. And people do kiss your hand every now and then, which is weird.”

“After a while,” I said, “the Thatcher voice must do your throat in.”

“Yes it does,” said Matt, “and I have had a lot of conversations with my mother about tights.”

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Comic Joz Norris is vague on counties & studied Russian as English Literature

Joz Norris (left) met John Ryan at the Soho Theatre

Joz Norris (left) chatted to John Ryan at the Soho Theatre Bar

Yesterday, because of a recent blog-jam, I posted the second part of a chat I had with comedian John Ryan two weeks ago. We talked at the Soho Theatre in London and, straight after him, I chatted with comic Joz Norris.

In fact, they overlapped and John Ryan did part of my work for me.

“How long have you been doing comedy?” John Ryan asked Joz.

“I’ve only been doing it for about three years,” Joz told him. “Mainly things like Pull The Other One and Weirdos and ACMS and Lost Cabaret – the more alt nights – I think ‘alternative’ is a weird word.

“I started off doing stand-up as myself but got bored with what I was saying cos I think I was copying other people I’d seen. So then, last year, I did characters just to try to force myself to do something I liked. And, since then, I’ve gone back to being me now I know what I want to perform. It’s more like actual stand-up this year, but trying to do it in a way that is more interesting for me at least.”

“Do you have a day job?” John Ryan asked.

“I work in a bakery,” Joz told him. “I’m a barista in a little artisan bakery. It’s just down the road from where I live and you get free bread. You get a lot of free coffee and you can just chat to people. I play games with the babies, because it’s mostly mums that come in. If babies work out there is a pattern, they start to really enjoy it. One baby dropped its spoon, I picked it up and gave it back to him and that was half an hour of fun: he just kept dropping it and I got £1 from the mum for entertaining the baby.”

After John Ryan left, I asked Joz, perhaps less interestingly: “Where were you born?”

Joz Norris grew up in a small English village

Joz perhaps grew up in a small English village called Petworth

“I grew up in Petworth,” he replied. “It’s a tiny village in… is it Sussex?”

“You don’t know which county you were brought up in?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he said. “People always say Where are you from? and I don’t really feel tied to anywhere. But there is this little village of Petworth which is now all antique shops. Very sad. It used to be a proper little village. A Postman Pat type village. It had things like a butcher and a librarian. Now everything is an antique shop.”

“Is it near somewhere more interesting?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Joz. Then he thought. “Oh! Bigner. Bigner Park. I think there was something like a Roman dig there. That’s not antiques, though. That’s archaeological.”

“Why do all these antique buyers want to come to Petworth?” I asked.

“I have no idea.”

“You went to university?”

“UEA in Norwich.”

“What did you study?”

“English Literature. I didn’t know what to do. Well, I knew I wanted to write, so I thought: Oh – I’ll study English. That’s writing.

“So you studied Chaucer?” I asked.

“Never did Chaucer,” said Joz. “Studied Bulgakov. I did a lot on Bulgakov.”

Mikhail Bulgakov - not known for his English literature output

Mikhail Bulgakov – not known for his English

“Is he known for his English literature?” I asked.

“You’re right,” said Joz. “It was a bit of a left field choice. But I got to the third year in the course and you could do a dissertation on anything you wanted. I had read Bulgakov when I was 15 because I got into anything with creatures in it.”

“And,” I asked, “the UEA people never spotted Bulgakov did not write in English?”

Well,” replied Joz, “I said Can I do this? and they said they only had one expert on Russian in the entire teaching staff and she was on maternity leave. So they got me someone who knew a bit about German literature because they thought that was the closest to Russian and she shepherded me through it. But most of it, I was just teaching her stuff – Oh, this is another thing about Russia – Oh, cool, great. I didn’t know that – Mostly I could just write what I wanted. It was brilliant.”

“You can read Russian?” I asked.

“No,” said Joz. “I read it all in translation.”

“I did two years of Russian at school,” I said. “I’m shit at languages. I got confused between similar sounding words for a young girl, a country cottage and porridge.”

“Though,” said Joz, “there’s not many situations where they’re all gonna be used in the same context.”

“Goldilocks,” I suggested.

“Mmm…” said Joz.

Joz and I had a cop of tea in Soho Theatre

Joz and I enjoyed a large cup of tea at the Soho Theatre Bar

“So,” I said, “having caused confusion in the UEA English Literature Department, you thought you would carry on in comedy?”

“I did acting and writing all through my teens,” explained Joz, “and thought I would be a serious writer. Then I met John Kearns when we were at UEA and he and another guy (John Brittain, last heard of in this blog co-writing Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho) ran a local comedy club and when I wrote a sitcom for the local student radio station they said: Come and do a spot at the club.”

“So now you’ve been performing comedy for three years.”

“Yes, three years in London, after university.”

“If you went from being yourself on stage to doing characters and then back to yourself, it implies you’re still trying to find yourself on stage.”

“I think when you start out, you think Who do I like? I’ll do sort-of what they do. I grew up watching sitcoms a lot: Alan Partridge and Marion and Geoff and Peep Show. Lots of comic actors. For a while I was trying to do things I’d see people I’d admired do, then realised I was doing that and found it a bit boring and thought doing a character that was not me would be a route to doing whatever I wanted.”

“Last year,” I said, “you did a character show at the Free Festival in Edinburgh called Joz Norris Has Gone Missing…” (There is a promo on YouTube.)

“And I’m going up this year doing a pay show, which is a daunting thing – at the Underbelly.”

“Where did you get the money?”

“It’s not me. Live Nation – who usually do music – I think they promote Aerosmith at the moment – are branching out into comedy. I was kind of wary of it. There’s a weird leap you have to make in your head between getting people in off the street to see free comedy and suddenly saying Pay me £8 or £10 of your money just to come in.”

“And the show is called?”

Joz (centre) rehearses his Awkward Prophet show

Joz (dress) rehearses Awkward Prophet

Awkward Prophet. (There is a promo on YouTube.) It’s mainly about relationships and girls and love. Obviously, that has been done a lot, but I’m doing it more from this attitude of being a weird, slightly alien asexual man-child thing who doesn’t get anything.

“I’ve always been disastrous in relationships by not understanding how they’re supposed to work so i thought If I can actually find a way to talk about it which I think is still optimistic and feels like I’m saying something I want to say, then…”

“… then you might pull?” I suggested.

“Yes, I might start being successful. And also it feels like I’ve found a way of talking about myself on stage that is more naturally me and maybe different-ish for the audience.”

That was the conversation Joz and I had at the Soho Theatre a fortnight ago.

Last night, I asked him if there were any updates.

“I went to Tesco today,” he told me, “to buy a packet of McCoy crisps as a snack during the interval of a gig… When I got back to the venue, the MC put them on a plate and passed them round the audience. It was very disappointing.”

“Any new work?” I asked.

“I’ve been cast as the villain in a TV sitcom pilot called Film School written by Matt Silver which is filming a teaser later in June and it marks a break from the ‘naive idiot’ parts I usually play. This time I get to scowl and look threatening and shout abuse at the protagonists, which is a dream come true.

“Also, I’ve been cast as Bertie in a kids’ magic and puppetry show called Bertie & Boo about a brother and sister who learned magic from their grandparents and now they can make scarves change colour and the like. I think I got the part because of my colourful jacket, as I can’t actually do any magic… but they’ve told me we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

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Gay Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho, Now Linked To Sight Gags for Perverts

Jon Brittain without Margaret Thatcher in Soho yesterday

Jon Brittain without Margaret Thatcher in Soho yesterday

“It’s not a play. It’s not a musical. What is it?” I asked writer Jon Brittain at Bar Italia in London’s Soho yesterday afternoon.

He co-wrote and directs Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho, which this week starts a 4-week run at Theatre 503 in Battersea.

“Well,” replied Jon, “we describe it as a drag comedy Christmas musical extravaganza. The idea behind it is that Margaret Thatcher, played by a man, has become a cabaret singer and she tells you the story of how she went from being Prime Minister to cabaret singer.

Matthew Tedford as Margaret Thatcher

Matthew Tedford stars as Margaret Thatcher, queening it up

“Basically, we tell the story of Section 28 – the law that stops councils funding the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It’s Margaret Thatcher, played by my friend Matt Tedford (who co-wrote the show) and two dancers in hot pants and moustaches who dance along to songs and play all the other parts in the show while never really wearing anything more than hot pants and moustaches – including when they play women and children.

“My girlfriend Laura was very confused about the whole thing. We rehearsed in our living room and I think having to hear the voice of Maggie Thatcher all the time got a bit grating for her.”

Jon also directed John Kearns’ award-winning Sight Gags For Perverts show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

Jon Brittain (right) with John Kearns

Jon Brittain (right) with comic John Kearns

“John and I did a double act together at UEA – the University of East Anglia,” explained Jon, “and he’d been in a lot of plays I’d directed.”

“Was there,” I asked, “much difference between directing Sight Gags For Perverts and Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho?”

“Not much,” replied Jon. “John and Matt are both really spontaneous. John knows where he wants to get to and, if something happens in the room, he will respond to it… and Matt’s very much the same, even though Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho is a much more rigid script and much more about the story.

“John’s Edinburgh show was much more about the experience and he could go off in different directions. His show was deceptively stupid, but he’d thought about it loads and it was very intricately layered and worked-out. There was a really powerful emotional feeling behind it: a real sadness and loneliness and desperation behind the very silly, seemingly stupid, surreal stories he was telling.”

“But you have directed straight plays as well,” I said.

“Yes,” said Jon. “Directing comedy is different from directing a play… With a play, you’re saying Stand here… Do this… As the director of a comedy show, you go in and suggest There is a problem here: how are you going to solve it? and the performer is the one who has to come up with the solution.

John Kearns in Sight Gags For Perverts

John Kearns in the award-winning Sight Gags For Perverts

“During my time in Edinburgh with John, we had a lot of conversations about the end of his show and how to tie together the loose ends. I made a lot of suggestions as to how he could do that and then I went away and came back at the end of the run and he had solved the problem in a way that was entirely different to any of my suggestions. But I think my useful function was asking the questions and pointing out the problem.

“I think there’s a temptation in theatre plays to say everyone has assigned roles – the actors do this; the writer does this; the director does this – and no-one crosses-over into other people’s fields. Whereas I do a lot of crossing-over. I direct my own stuff and do the sound design and, in Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho, Matt acts and writes and there’s a lot of crossing-over.”

“How did the idea for Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho come about?I asked.

The Margaret Thatcher - Queen of Soho poster

Margaret Thatcher – Queen of Soho poster

“Matt hadn’t performed in about five years – not since university. He’d been a civil servant and other things. I held a Hallowe’en party in 2012 and he came along dressed as Margaret Thatcher – in the same costume he uses in the play – with a wig. He looked amazing. He had a pint of milk in his handbag that he would pull out and say: Would you like some? No, it’s not for sharing.

“Then I was asked if I wanted to write something for a night of short plays – Thatcherwrite – a few months after Margaret Thatcher’s death. So I asked Matt to write something with me.

The original night

The original night when Margaret Thatcher first appeared

“We wrote a 15-minute version which he performed on the Thatcherwrite night. Most of the other plays were, by-and-large, quite serious. A play about the Falklands War. A play about the housing bubble.

“So we thought it would work if, at the end of the night, suddenly an announcer went: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for your headline act of the evening – Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho! – and she comes out and sings YMCA with two backing dancers in hot pants. Just make it, on the surface, as stupid and silly and ridiculous as possible. Though there is a point underneath, because it is about Section 28 and gay rights and what she could have done if she’d chosen to.

Two dancers who always keep their moustaches

Margaret Thatcher + 2 dancers never without the moustaches

“From our research – which we pretend not to have done but which we did do – it sounds like she had gay friends and was OK with them as individuals, but she supported this legislation and so, with our play, we imagine what might have happened if she’d actually supported gay causes. That’s underlying it, but we try to do it in the most ridiculous, stupid way possible so that any kind of message is buried deep down.

“Even during the most po-faced emotional monologue we have in it, in the background there are dancers doing the most disgusting dance moves, grinding and slapping their arses in slow motion.

“One of our male dancers plays Jill Knight, an MP in the 1980s, but in a bright pink cardigan still wearing his moustache and we have Peter Tatchell as if played by Ray Winstone.”

“You are not interested in performing yourself any more?” I asked.

“I’d be really interested in doing some story-telling,” said Jon. “About five years ago, I did stand-up very loosely for about a year and then very often for about a year and, at the end of that, I just wasn’t having fun. The reason I stepped away from it was I didn’t really have a ‘voice’. I could write stuff, but there was no unified point of view when I performed and I didn’t feel I could find it.”

“I suppose,” I said, “that a writer of plays can change into different voices, but a stand-up comedian can’t switch from warm-and-cuddly one moment and Frankie Boyle the next.”

Jon Brittain - a working playwright

Jon Brittain – a working playwright who knows his Ps and Qs

“Yes,” agreed Jon. “And I felt confident writing dialogue for stage plays and more confident of the worth of it. When I was writing jokes, almost every single one I thought: I don’t know if this is going to work. When I write a story, everything in that is working towards the telling of the story. I felt much more confident and comfortable with that. So I would quite like to return to standing up on a stage – but telling a story not jokes.

“I don’t really subscribe to the barriers between comedy and storytelling and theatre anyway. It’s people in the industry who like to put the barriers up so they can figure what section of the Edinburgh Fringe Programme it goes in and what person from what TV Department should go and see it.”

“If they still had such things,” I asked, “what would you write in your passport – writer, director or performer?”

“I don’t really act at all, though I do the voice of Winston Churchill in Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho – I do the voice and someone else operates a portrait where the mouth moves.”

“Like Captain Pugwash,” I said.

“That was the aesthetic we were going for.”

“But obviously without Seaman Staines…”

“Only backstage,” said Jon.

I think I’m a writer first and the directing comes out of that. I’d really like to direct more stand-up comedy and direct in different media – film, stage, live comedy. But I think I’m going to take a year off theatre and just write television scripts, because I’ve started making a bit of headway. Me and Suzi Ruffell have written a sitcom script that’s in development.”

“You’ve worked in TV already haven’t you?” I asked.

“I did six months at Cartoon Network,” replied Jon, “which was like in a writers’ room. It was called The Amazing World of GumballI worked with James Lamont and Jon Foster who wrote The Harry Hill Movie.”

“Do you get repeat fees on the Cartoon Network programmes or was there a buy-out?” I asked.

“Oh, there was a total buy-out. When my agent sent me along, the first thing said was: Whatever you do, do not create any characters!

“Wise advice,” I said. “When people are dead like Margaret Thatcher, it’s always comforting.”

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