Tag Archives: Joz Norris

David Mills, chic gay comic with a nose for pussy, gets chatty about PrEP etc

Next Wednesday, American comic David Mills starts The Mix – the first in a monthly series of chat shows at the Phoenix Artist Club in London.

“You’ve got a bit of previous with chat shows,” I said, “with Scott Capurro and then with Jonathan Hearn.”

“And,” David told me, “I had a chat show with another comic in San Francisco maybe 20 years ago – Late Night Live – with this hilarious woman called Bridget Schwartz.

“She has since given up comedy. A great loss.

“We had big local San Francisco politicians, some of the big newscasters and drag queens – the same sort of thing I’m trying to create here. Not just people from the comedy world, but people from politics and culture and newsmakers.”

“So The Mix will not be all comics?” I asked.

“No. That’s why it’s called The Mix, John. Next Wednesday, we will have comic Jo Sutherland and the writers of Jonathan Pie – Andrew Doyle and Tom Walker who plays Jonathan Pie – and London’s Night Czar Miss Amy Lamé who will be talking about the night-time economy.

“For the second show on 19th April, we are currently negotiating to get a controversial politician and we already have comic Mark Silcox and Daniel Lismore, who is the current reigning Leigh Bowery of the world – like a crazy creature who has come out of some couture closet. A sort of Art Scenester. I don’t want it to be all comics. It’s The Mix.”

“Are you taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe this year?”

David Mills in his photograph of choice

“No. I won’t be playing Edinburgh this year. I’ve been going back to the US a lot – more regularly – so I haven’t been spending time writing a new show. I’ve been gigging in LA, gigging in New York, also I have family out there. Trying to make my way. But it’s a bit of a challenge to make your way in LA if you’re only there for two weeks every three months.”

“You could,” I suggest, “get a position in the Trump administration. He’s running out of people to nominate. Do you know any Russians?”

“There was Denis Krasnov,” said David.

“He seems,” I said, “to calls himself Jack Dennis now.”

“He’s the only Russian I know,” David told me. “He used to be on the circuit in London, then he went to New York. but I don’t think he can get me into government. Well, I don’t want to be in the Trump administration, but I’d work for Milania – perhaps as a stylist or a gay best friend.”

“You are in bigtime Hollywood movies now,” I said. “Florence Foster Jenkins. What part did you play?”

“The gay friend.”

“A lot of acting involved?” I asked.

“It was a real stretch for me, John, because… I don’t have friends. For research, I had to hang around with people who have friends and let me tell you – I don’t know if you know anything about friends, but – they’re a lot of work. There’s a lot of lying involved. Lots.”

“Where was Florence Foster Jenkins filmed?”

“All over. North London, West London…”

“It was supposed to be New York?”

“But filmed in the UK, which is why I got the job. They needed an American gay friend in London. So there’s basically me or Scott Capurro and Scott wasn’t around.”

“Stephen Frears directed it,” I said. “Very prestigious. So you might appear in other films.”

“Well, I’m in the short Robert Johnson and The Devil Man directed by Matthew Highton and written by Joz Norris. Guess who plays The Devil Man.”

“Joz Norris?”

“No. They needed someone with a suit. Who looks good in a suit?… I always get those parts. When Tim Renkow did the pilot for A Brief History of Tim, they thought: We need some guy in a suit… Who?… David Mills! – so I played the part of ‘Guy in a Suit’.”

David Mills & Tim Renkow in BBC3’s A Brief History of Tim

“Yes,” I mused. “Who wears a suit? So it’s either you or Lewis Schaffer. Strange it’s always you that gets the sophisticated parts and not him.”

“That’s because he doesn’t wear a sophisticated suit,” said David. “I love Lewis Schaffer – I’m not tearing him down, right?…”

“But?” I asked.

“…he would tell you as well,” said David. “It’s sort of a shabby suit.”

“Though he would be less succinct telling me,” I suggested.

“…and shiny,” David continued. “The suit. He’s had that suit for about 15 years. I try to keep mine up-to-date.”

“What else is happening in your life?” I asked.

“I’ve got a solo show – David Mills: Mr Modern – at the very chic Brasserie ZL near Piccadilly Circus on 23rd March.”

“Why is it called Mr Modern?

“Because it’s about modern life… and about me.”

“You do have your finger in a lot of pies,” I said. “If you see what I mean.”

“I find myself increasingly on TV talking about cats,” replied David.

“Why?” I asked.

“I did a thing called LOL Cats on Channel 5. They show videos of cats, then turn to a comedian who tells jokes, then they go back to the video and then back to the comedian. It’s a ‘talking head’ thing.”

“Are you an expert on cats?” I asked.

David admitted: “I know very little about pussy…”

“No,” said David. “I know very little about pussy. But I seem to have a nose for it. And LOL Cats went well, so they had me come back to do LOL Kittens.

“The guy at the cafe I go to every morning asked me: What were you doing on TV talking about kittens? And someone at the gym said: Why were you on TV talking about cats?”

“Cats then kittens,” I said. “They will have to diversify into other species.”

“There are still big cats,” David suggested.

“Have you got cats?” I asked.

“No.”

“Too difficult in London?” I asked.

David shrugged. “I’ve lived in London longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my entire life. 17 years I’ve been here. Sometimes, I have lived in London longer than most of my audience have been alive. Often they are students or other people aged under 22.

“There’s a risk with younger audiences that they won’t get my references, they may only have been in London six months and they may tend to be scared of anything remotely edgy.”

“Student audiences at the moment,” I said, “are very right-on PC.”

“It’s something,” agreed David, “that’s endemic across a lot of clubs where young people are the primary audience. They are very nervous about jokes that touch on any sort of identity issues – unless you are taking the ‘accepted’ position. I always try and tweak my audiences a little bit. Having come from a world of identity politics and having been through certain battles and marched on certain marches, I feel I have some justification to joke about that shit. But these people don’t have a sense of humour about sexuality or gender or race or…”

“Surely,” I suggested, “YOU can do gay jokes in the same way an Indian comic can do Indian jokes.”

“I do think it’s more charged when it comes to sexuality right now,” says David.

“You can,” said David, “if the target of your punchline is heterosexuality. But not if the target is homosexuality. Even if you ARE gay.”

“So,” I asked, “if I were a Scots or a Jewish comic, could I not safely joke about the Scots or the Jews being financially mean?”

“I think you can,” said David, “but I do think it’s more charged when it comes to sexuality right now. Particularly around gender. Gay comics invariably wave the rainbow flag.”

“You’re saying they can’t make jokes about,” I floundered, “I dunno, retro jokes about…”

David said: “It’s not retro to be critical, to have a critical take. It IS retro to be calcified in your position and unable to hear any criticism.”

“So you couldn’t,” I asked, “do a cliché joke about camp gays?”

“I wouldn’t want to. What I would want to joke about is the oversensitivity of the gay world and there is not a lot of interest in that at the moment.”

“What sort of jokes would you want to tell and can’t?”

“I do jokes about a drug a lot of gay men take – PrEP. They take it in order to then have un-safe sex – they don’t have to use condoms. It’s sort of a prophylactic for HIV. So I say: Of course I’m on PrEP. I am a gay white man. I demand a portable treatment for my inability to control myself. And You’re not getting your money’s worth on a gay cruise unless you come back with at least one long-term manageable condition. I try to collect them all.

“With those sort of things, people are thinking: Hold on! Are you making fun of people with HIV? It’s as if there is no ability for people to laugh at themselves.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Gay, Humor, Humour

Yesterday at the Edinburgh Fringe I saw and heard the strangest things

Cassie Atkinson - Supernumerary Rainbow

Ex-stalker Cassie Atkinson has a Supernumerary Rainbow

At last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, performer Cassie Atkinson and I seemed to be stalking each other. Almost every day, we seemed to bump into each other at least once. This year, she seems to have been replaced by Joz Norris and Scott Agnew. I keep meeting Joz in other people’s shows and Scott on street corners.

Surprisingly, neither were there when I saw Cassie Atkinson’s own new show Supernumerary Rainbow yesterday – in which she interestingly alternates between her on-stage fictional American showbiz character and her real-life Bolton-accented self, explaining why she hides behind characters.

Fringe comedy shows have moved on from gag-telling to storytelling and genuine autobiography over the years and I think it’s interesting when character comedy cracks slightly to reveal (or appear to reveal) the real performer while continuing with the character. Whatever Cassie is doing, it certainly attracted a full audience.

Frizz Frizzle - Ditty Fiddler

Frizz Frizzle – highly popular Ditty Fiddler

Which Friz Frizzle did too.

Attract a full house audience.

Apparently he writes jokes for other comedians. I have no idea what his own act is because, when I arrived at the Globe venue it was so overflowing with punters I could not squeeze in in any way. Ye Gods – that is some underground following he has there. I gave up any attempt to get in and went and had a bun.

On the way to my next show, Joe Davies’ Who’s The Daddy? I bumped into trombonist Faye Treacy who told me she had possibly booked herself into a performance room that was too small – at Cabaret Voltaire.

When she plays her trombone, the front row is in physical peril from her extended slide.

Faye Treacy

Faye Treacy – musical bag lady of Edinburgh

She told me she used to perform with a piano but the trombone was easier to carry. I suggested she look into the possibilities of a piccolo.

“In my room,” Faye told me, “my trombone is in people’s faces and I then loop up my trombone so it’s twelve times the volume.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I do a spoken word piece at that point and, obviously, I can’t speak and play at the same time. I hand out ear plugs at the start of the show. I had the trombonist from Madness turn up and watch my show yesterday. And, last year, I had the entire double bass section from the Philharmonia Orchestra.”

“How many people are in the entire double bass section from the Philharmonia Orchestra?” I asked.

“Twelve,” Faye told me. “I have a ukulele in my show this year as well, so Kate Copstick may hate it. Next year, I was thinking of putting a bass drum on my back and being a one-man band.”

Joe Davies prepares for his show Where’s The Daddy?

Joe prepares for his show Where’s The Daddy?

Joe Davies’ Who’s The Daddy? is about how he discovered, in his 20s, that his father was musical performer Hank Wangford, a man whom most of the audience had never heard of, but whom I almost met when I was working on children’s TV show Tiswas back when the world was young. I travelled all the way from Birmingham to London just to see him perform at a club where he had ‘left my name on the door’ to get in. Except he had not and the club was (like Friz Frizzle’s) so full it was impossible to get in. More about Joe Davies in a future blog.

Hank Wangford was/is a comic Country & Western singer by night – I recommend his  Jogging With Jesus – and a practising gynaecologist by day. He also apparently (Joe has a photo) went on holiday to Morocco with Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and Roger Waters. Now THERE is a story I would like to hear.

The Raunch

The Raunch – aerial acts, nipple tassels and a thematic misfire

In the evening, I saw The Raunch, a would-be risqué Wild West themed variety night in the circus area on The Meadows. Think aerial acts, naked breasts with nipple tassels, a carnival feel and an attempted Western narrative. Nothing wrong with nipple tassels and sword swallowing nor with any of the acts, but the attempt to theme the whole thing misfired and it needed a visible ringmaster-type person throughout instead of mostly voice-over commentaries.

Then it was Jo Coffey, highly professional and mystifyingly under-used on TV, who bills herself as “the comedy circuit’s fourth shortest comic” – and who seems to have worked on the production teams of more TV shows than I ever did.

Then I saw Femmetamorphosis – a play (in the Theatre section of the Fringe Programme) based round a lingerie party. I went to see it because I accidentally travelled up from London to Edinburgh sitting next to its author and star Sharron Spice. More in a future blog.

Late night at the Fringe is where you often get the really bizarre shows.

Bob Slayer tells tales in his double decker BlunaBus

Bob Slayer tells ad lib tales in his big double decker BlundaBus

Bob Slayer is doing 24 Hour Shows, a great title which means he is doing not day-long shows but a different hour-long show for 24 nights on the top floor of his double decker BlundaBus

And Hate ’n’ Live is always unexpected and interesting with Darius Davies, Leo Kearse and three or four guest comics improvising around why they ‘hate’ various things suggested by the usually-packed-to-gasping audience. Last night one of the comics was the inescapable Lewis Schaffer strangely yet successfully out of his comfort zone.

He had to talk about something other than himself.

You see and hear the strangest things at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The courtyard of the Free Sisters on a Saturday night - one of the seven gateways to hell

The courtyard of the Free Sisters on a Saturday night resembles one of the seven gateways to hell

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy

The comeback of comic Joz Norris and his ex-wife after that wild wolf incident

“What do you want for the photo? I can cross my eyes.

“I can cross my eyes,” Joz said. But he was in shadow.

“Why am I talking to you?” I asked Joz Norris.

“Because I have all sorts of new things I’m doing. This year, I’m trying to do something interesting with context.”

Pay attention, dear reader, because – in this context – often when comics talk about a particular ‘year’, it starts when the Edinburgh Fringe ends in September and ends with their Fringe show in August.

Anyway…

“I think,” Joz said, “that it’s more fun to do a show against an unfamiliar context. So, for the Leicester comedy festival (in 2016) I’m going to do a solo comedy show that takes place in two venues at the same time, both performed by me. I would run from one venue to the other and there would be screens which show each audience in each venue what’s going on in the other one. I’ve got no idea how I’m going to do it. It may fail. But I think it’s an interesting backdrop for a show.”

“You could,” I suggested, “have another comic in the other venue and you keep swapping over.”

“Well there is,” said Joz, “going to be a bit where my ex-wife turns up and we keep missing each other.”

“I feel obliged to point out,” I told him, “that you do not have an ex-wife.”

“But,” argued Joz, “within the canon of Joz-Norris-on-stage, he does. In my show in 2013 I had an ex-wife who, by the end of the show was revealed to be fake. I quite like the idea of bringing her back.”

“A comeback for the fictional wife?” I asked.

The Joz Norris Xperience

It’s The Joz Norris X-peerionce

“Yes, I’m doing a lot of comebacks this year. I’m doing a show on Monday called Joz Norris & Friends Present: The Joz Norris X-peerionce. I billed it as a ‘comeback gig’ and Time Out did a listing that said: We don’t understand why Joz Norris is doing a comeback gig, because he hasn’t been anywhere – So I went to live in the wilderness for about three days.”

“Which wilderness?” I asked.

“A wood in or near Wales. I made an art film there about facing death in the wilderness. Because I really faced death. I was on top of this hill and I thought I had enough food to last me a day-and-a-half and get me over Offa’s Dyke and get me to Hay-on-Wye and then I would stock up on food in Hay-on-Wye. But there was fog. I was on the top of Offa’s Dyke and I remembered it was where they filmed An American Werewolf in London. So suddenly I got very scared and then I found wolf tracks in the ground.”

“How,” I asked, “did you know they were wolf tracks?”

“They might have been very big dog tracks,” admitted Joz. “But they were the big tracks of a big animal. Just claws, really. Claw tracks. So I got very scared. I could only see six feet in front of me because of the fog and then a wild horse came looming out of the mist and I really thought it was a wolf and I was going to die and I ran and then I pitched my tent. I had a pop-up tent. I was so scared I just ate all my food and the next day I had to go home. So I didn’t even make it to 24 hours.”

“You filmed all this?”

“Yes, I thought: If I die there, I might as well do one of those video blogs they find on bodies. But, in the end I was fine, I just slept in a tent, then woke up and went home. So I posted the film online.”

Joz used music from the Incredible String Band in his film, so he gets bonus points from me.

“It was a weird metaphor.” said Joz.

“It was?” I asked.

“Sometimes I feel a bit like an outsider.”

“Only a bit?” I asked.

“Not all the time,” explained Joz. “But sometimes I feel like I can’t get to grips with things that you’re supposed to get to grips with. So I was lost and I’m being chased by a wolf. It wasn’t: it was a horse. But I’m panicking and there’s the mist and then it gets dark and then a black sheep wanders out of the mist and leads me to this stand of trees where I can put my tent up.”

“Leads you?” I asked.

“Well, I followed it. If you wanted to read meaning into it, you could.”

“I could?”

“The black sheep turned up,” explained Joz. “A metaphor for me. And led me to a place where I would be safe.”

Joz Norris – Sheep Whisperer?” I suggested.

“That could work,” said Joz. “The Girl Whisperer came out yesterday and it’s doing very well.”

The Girl Whisperer?” I asked.

“The first in a three-part web series,” said Joz. Ralf Little helped me write it and he’s in it and Matt Lucas and Dara Ó Briain really like it… It’s about me going on dates with girls and getting advice from Ralf Little. So it’s slightly blokey. The next two will be less male-centric.”

“Who are the ‘friends’,” I asked, “in Joz Norris and Friends Present: The Joz Norris X-peerionce?”

“Adam Larter of the Weirdos, Marny Godden, Pat Cahill and Lou Sanders.”

“You won’t make money splitting the money five ways,” I told Joz.

“I’m not in it for the money,” he replied. “I’m just doing it for creative growth. Kurt Vonnegut said that doing anything creative is a reward in itself: you can make a face in your mashed potato and you’ll have made your soul grow a little bit.”

“Well-targeted for me with the reference to Kurt Vonnegut,” I said, “but I find it difficult to believe Kurt Vonnegut ever mentioned mashed potato in a creative context.”

Mashed potato = Kurt Vonnegut? Apparently so.

Mashed potato = Kurt Vonnegut? Apparently so.

“He did,” insisted Joz. “In a letter to some school kids asking him for creative advice. He said: Just do stuff. Make things. Draw a picture of your teacher or write a poem and then destroy your poem and throw it in the bin because, merely by writing your poem, you’ll have experienced something worth experiencing.”

“Ah,” I said.

“I heard today,” Joz told me, “that there is a brand of hot dog that they found human DNA in.”

“Is this,” I asked, “because they chopped up a human being to make it?”

“I dunno,” said Joz.

“America,” I suggested, “is full of psychopathic, serial killer, vampire cannibals.”

“Exactly,” said Joz. “One of them must inevitably slip through into the meat-packing industry.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy

At the Edinburgh Fringe: a financial bribe to win a Malcolm Hardee Award

Joz Norris

Shameless Norris tries to sway my principles

Yesterday, with the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominations announced, I bumped into performer Joz Norris in the street, who tried to persuade me it was not too late for him to win for a Cunning Stunt Award.

“What’s your cunning stunt?” I asked.

“Although the nominations have been announced and I’m not in them, you could give me the Award on Friday anyway. That would be a cunning stunt.”

“Why should I?” I asked.

“Because I can give you £10 right now.”

“Times are tough,” I said. “It is a tempting offer. Let me think about it.”

Keep your eyes out for the Awards announcement on Friday and see what my conclusion was.

This morning, I got a Facebook message about the Awards from performer Ashley Frieze. He wrote:

Is there room in the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards for the “luckiest Fringe venue company”? – It has to go to the Freestival for losing one venue, then another, then all their acts, then having their poorly-attended venue broken into and set on fire… surely… I just wanted to nominate them for something, but “biggest clusterfuck of 50 years of the Fringe” seemed unkind.

I almost regretted the Award shortlist had already been announced on Monday because of some of the shows I saw yesterday.

Not quite… If any of the judges DID see a worthy show, it COULD in theory win because, as a fitting tribute to Malcolm Hardee, the rules are whatever rules we make up along the way.

(R-L) Johnny Sorrow, Richard Drake and possibly deaf sound man

(Right-to-left) Johnny Sorrow, Richard Drake and their possibly deaf sound man yesterday

The shows I saw yesterday started with former main Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Johnny Sorrow, performing with a man in a balaclava who used to be known as Sir Richard Swann and who is now known as Richard Drake. the last couple of days, he has been coming in to The Grouchy Club and sitting in the corner of the room in his red knitted balaclava saying nothing. He could grow to be an elephant in the room.

He and Johnny Sorrow are performing this year as Bob Blackman’s Tray. they previously performed as The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society.

Yesterday, when I came into the Three Sisters venue, I bumped into performer Ian Fox who, last year, was helping out the Bob Blackman duo as their sound technician.

“You’re not doing it this year?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “This year, they have a deaf sound technician.”

I think this was literally true. It would be par for the brilliantly surreal course.

While waiting to go into the Bob Blackman show, I just had time for a half hour chat with Irish-born writer Ian Smith, whom I blogged about last month. He lives in Sri Lanka, has just been working in Algeria and is over in Scotland for a week. But we were interrupted. He only had time to tell me that he once opened a Cuban bar in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, and that, in 2012, the current Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad had his iTunes account hacked into and it turned out he was a massive fan of camp novelty group Right Said Fred. Ian wrote about it in his own blog Blood and Porridge.

“I am a big Heavy Metal fan,” Ian told me, “and you never get murderous dictators who are into Heavy Metal.”

Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl in Auld Reekie

Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl in Auld Reekie

At this point, we got interrupted by an American girl dressed as a showgirl. She was flyering for her show Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl which, annoyingly, I don’t think I can fit-in in Edinburgh (though I will see it in London).

The show sounds fascinating because it is the story of how she – Amelia Kallman –  went to Shanghai and opened China’s first burlesque nightclub. The Chinese authorities and the Triads were not amused.

Since relocating to the UK, she has lectured at Cambridge University, written a graphic novel, scripts for television and a book also called Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl.

Equally interesting was her husband Norman Gosney who was born in Bristol but lived, for 25 years, in the penthouse of the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York (where he and Amelia ran an illegal speakeasy The Blushing Diamond). It was a conversation we had no time to have, but Norman, Ian Smith and I have all been to North Korea at various points and, when you have, you always want to talk to fellow travellers about it.

There is a promo video for Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl on YouTube.

Other stand-out shows I saw yesterday included Patrick Monahan’s extraordinarily entertaining and energetic audience-thrilling romp The Disco Years. It is his first show where autobiography creeps in but, yet to come, there is still what I suspect will be a humdinger of a future autobiographical Edinburgh show.

Then I was able to catch the end of Spencer Jones’ show as The Herbert in Proper Job – wildly inventive prop-based comedy.

And, when I got back to my Edinburgh flat, there was a message from this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith, currently roaming the streets of Edinburgh.

David Mills with a misunderstood flag behind him (Photograph by Sandra Smith)|

David Mills with a misunderstood flag behind him (Photograph by Sandra Smith)|

We are both enormous fans of gay (it becomes relevant in the next paragraph) American comic David Mills.

“During his show, “Sandra told me, “I said: Oooh look. The ISIS flag is behind you. It really did look like it.”

Actually, on closer inspection, it turned out to be a black flag with a PBH Free Fringe logo.

Equally confusing is a video that has appeared today on YouTube.

On Monday, we nominated Miss Behave for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for putting brown cardboard signs up around town with the hashtag MBGS (tangentially promoting Miss Behave’s Game Show). She claims that it is not her putting up these signs and now this bizarre semi-hidden-camera video has appeared on YouTube.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy

Comedian and comedy critic in fist fight at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday

CopstickGodleyFight2

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian’s show about early comic days

Comedians and critics tend to have a love-hate relationship. Critics tend to love comedy and comics tend to hate critics.

Yesterday morning, I bumped into comic Charmian Hughes. She told me she gets nervous when critic Steve Bennett of the influential Chortle comedy website comes to see her shows, but not for the reason you might think.

“My show (When Comedy Was Alternative) has been going well and getting huge laughs,” she told me, but I’ve always had a phobia about Chortle, because Steve Bennett reminds me of my dead mother. She used to wear a big hat and gatecrash my gigs when I was seven.”

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

Steve Bennett, owner and editor of Chortle website

“But Steve,” I pointed out, “does not wear a big hat – or any hat.”

“He wears a metaphorical hat,” said Charmian. “It’s a spirituality thing. I would see my mother in the school concert, making her notes. She was a very difficult woman. Steve reminds me of my first boyfriend too – He wore glasses.”

“Wasn’t your first boyfriend disgraced politician Chris Huhne?” I asked.

“You’re going to ruin my life with this blog,” said Charmian. “And everything’s been going so well so far. It’s a new show, but it’s getting better and better… except when I see my dead mother in the audience.”

Joz Norris in a freezer last night

Joz Norris in his inexplicable freezer last night

According to Alexander Bennett’s highly inventive late-night gameshow Hell To Play, all comedians end up in hell. Alexander – all hail to him – could be a wonderfully effortless, reassuring and self-assured mainstream TV gameshow host, but I suspect might not want to be.

Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunström

(From left) Eleanor Morton, Joz Norris, Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunstrom

Last night, Joz Norris and Archie Maddocks were competing, with Michael Brunström in a black, backless dress as Countess Elizabeth Báthory aka Countess Dracula. It was a role to rival Mary Quant on a whaling ship.

Inexplicably, when I arrived at the building early (it is the Cowgatehead, so you have to allow extra time to actually find any venue within it) Joz Norris was in what looked like a glass-and-metal coffin. In fact, it turned out to be a freezer. This had nothing whatever to do with the show. And it was not an attempt to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. I have no explanation that seems at all likely.

I had seen Joz earlier when he sat behind me at Michael Brunström’s unique and wonderfully absurdist The Golden Age of Steam. Later, we bumped into each other at the late-night ScotMid grocery store. It seems possible Joz Norris may be stalking me.

Last night, I also saw the Papa CJ: Naked show in which Papa CJ almost stripped physically and did strip psychologically. Voted Asia’s Best Stand-up Comedian last year, he is off back to India tomorrow with no immediate plans to return. Our loss. VERY smoothly professional, great audience control and, with stories of his marriage, divorce and child, very touching.

You may have noticed I have not mentioned yesterday’s Grouchy Club, the daily chat show I am co-hosting with comedy critic Kate Copstick.

Peter Michael Marino- Late With Lance

Peter Michael Marino in his showbiz romp Late With Lance!

Yesterday, I was not co-hosting it, because Michael Brunström’s Golden Age of Steam, here for a limited run, overlapped. But I turned up to see the show which precedes us – Peter Michael Marino’s Late With Lance, a staggeringly energetic showbizzy romp starring his OTT alter ego Lance. I saw it with my comedy chum Janey Godley.

Janey is not a woman to mess with. She was once arrested when the police found a whole cache of firearms hidden in her family home.

After Peter Michael Marino’s show, she and I went into the lounge bar of the Counting House where Kate Copstick was waiting to go in for The Grouchy Club. The two of them got into conversation and pretty soon a fist fight erupted. I took photographs. It seemed the right thing to do.

Copstick (left) and Godley face off to start the fight yesterday

Kate Copstick (left) and Janey Godley face off to start the fight in the Counting House bar yesterday

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of Bronston Jones

After the fight, Janey looked for solace in the arms of American comedian Bronston Jones

There are two things to be learned from this, both relating to my blog a couple of days ago when I discussed the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

One is that, of course, you should never believe the announced context of the pictures you see.

The other is that, as I have said before, during the Edinburgh Fringe, self-publicity is everything.

The Grouchy Club is at The Counting House, 3.45pm daily until next Saturday.

Janey’s show Honest To Godley! is at The Counting House, 7.45pm daily until next Sunday 30th August.

The increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show is in the Counting House on Friday 28th, 11.00pm-01.00am.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy

Edinburgh Fringe: some shows, a man dangling from a bridge and a romance

Passing performer Richard Gadd prepares to punch comic Joz Norris yesterday

Performer Richard Gadd (right) appeared to be preparing to punch comic Joz Norris in an Edinburgh street yesterday

My yesterday at the Edinburgh Fringe started with a Danish man playing the bagpipes and ended with a policeman.

There were stunts along the way, but none of them cunning stunts.

I saw seven shows yesterday. Five of them were:

Claus Reis: Return of the Danish Bagpipe Comedian
The show works, but there’s a presentation problem. If your USP is confounding expectations by being a Danish bagpiper and you dress up in a kilt and traditional Scots piper costume and you look fairly Scottish, then there is no real visual USP. Naff as it may sound, you should be wearing Viking horns or some equally stock cliché Danish costume while playing the pipes.

Candy Gigi: Award-winner with a new face this year

Candy Gigi: Award-winner with a new face this year

Candy Gigi: Chicken Soup
Last year’s Malcolm Hardee Award winner for comic originality. This year, she has developed the madness, adding in more glimpses of her acting and great singing voice and, yesterday, picked a perfect punter to unleash her insanity on. She handled him so well, I thought he might be a plant. He wasn’t. It was like watching a mescaline-crazed Cilla Black. Her shows tread a narrow line between sunshine and darkness.

Joz Norris: Hey Guys!
Always talented and charismatic, Joz’s new show now holds together as an entity. Tremendously enjoyable, with hints of a genuinely interesting autobiographical back story. If he has the nerve to increase the true stories while retaining the surrealism, he could break through massively. Perfect TV face.

Martha McBrier: Pigeon Puncher
It is easy to think she is ‘just’ a naturally very, very funny storyteller, but there is a lot of preparation and an enormous talent in audience control behind this show and her performance. Very very very funny indeed.

Bob Slayer conducting business on his BlundaBus

Bob Slayer conducting his BlundaBus show

Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus: Never Mind the BusStops
With anyone else, this unplanned rambling shambles of comic chattery in a double decker bus would be a car crash. With Bob (nominally) in charge, it still is – but that is the point of it. It’s a success! Not so much as a show but as an event.

Nathan (right, in red) with his de Lorean

Nathan (right, in red) with DeLorean before the wind came


In among all the above, I also went to the Three Sisters pub in the Cowgate, where Nathan Cassidy had managed to get hold of and park a DeLorean car to plug his Back To The Future trilogy of shows.

People could wear the hero’s red jacket and get photographed in the car and the bonnet was covered in flyers for Nathan’s shows: a good stunt undercut by the fact this is eternally-windy Edinburgh and occasional gusts blew the flyers off the bonnet into the street.

On second thoughts, though, perhaps that was not a negative factor. That was publicity. This is the Fringe.

John Robertson: The Dark Room in the underbelly

John Robertson: very Dark in The Underbelly

Walking away from that, I bumped into John Robertson in a rubber suit (no change there, then) plugging his Dark Room show… and then photographer Garry Platt, who has been wandering round photographing shows and events.

As Garry and I wandered off, I looked up. The Old Town of Edinburgh is built on two levels. Above out heads was the George IV Bridge from which a giant trapeze was dangling and a young gent was climbing down a rope towards it.

I said to a girl standing on the pavement: “He has eleven minutes to kill himself.”

“What?” she said, slightly surprised.

“I have to leave in ten minutes,” I explained, “so he only has eleven minutes to fall onto the road and plug whatever show it is by killing himself.”

It turned out she was doing the PR for the show.

The dangling Dolls duo above the Cowgate (Photograph  by Garry Platt)

Dolls duo dangling dangerously above the Cowgate yesterday (Photographs by Garry Platt)

The young man dangled and was followed by a young woman who dangled. They both dangled. By the time I left, a fair crowd had gathered on the bridge above and on both the pavements below to watch them dangle.

The traffic slowed as drivers looked up and small flyers were handed out to publicise the show Dolls.

But I think, to be truly effective, it needed a banner dangling from the bridge itself, above the two dangling trapeze people risking their lives for a line in The Scotsman.

Semi-ironically, the next event I went to was a 90-minute event publicising Death on the Fringe, an umbrella organisation which I blogged about last month.

It aims to stimulate discussion of death, end-of-life issues, bereavement and grief.

It was held in the Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre in the Medical School building of Edinburgh Universally.

All the talk was of death, terminal illnesses and mortality, but it seemed strangely refreshing amid the incestuous atmosphere of egos swirling around in the streets outside.

There have been sadly few cunning stunts so far this year.

Mark Dean Quinn - King of Fringe Flyerers

Mark Dean Quinn – King of Fringe Flyerers

But I bumped into Mark Dean Quinn yesterday. Last year, he got a Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt nomination for his flyering techniques.

This year, he is mostly plugging his own show More Observation Without Comedy Is Not On Today about which he was strangely quiet, perhaps because it does not start until ten days time and is only on for two days. But he is also plugging Ben Target’s show Imagine There’s No Ben Target (It’s Easy If You Try) by handing out imaginary flyers and paper bags which say:

A BAG IN WHICH TO PLACE
YOUR IMAGINARY FLYER FOR
IMAGINE THERE’S NO BEN
TARGET (IT’S EASY IF YOU TRY)

3pm
THE HIVE
WEAR SENSIBLE SHOES

“How does Ben Target pronounce Ben Target?” I asked.

“Well,” explained Mark, “he pronounces Target as target and Tarjay as tarjay

“Each day,” Mark told me, Ben has given me a precise number of people he wants me to get into his show by flyering.”

“A different number each day?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Mark.

“What,” I asked, “happens if you miss the target for Ben Target?”

“Well, I don’t intend to fail on any particular day, because I’m sure there will be serious ramifications and I have seen what he carries in his suitcase.”

Janey Godley in suitcase

Janey Godley in a suitcase. There is no Ben Target on view

“What does he carry in his suitcase?” I asked.

“I have signed an actual written document to say I can’t say what’s in it, but it’s quite special.”

“Is the penalty different,” I asked if you are over or under on the audience numbers?”

“If you want to find out what the penalty is – and see what’s in the suitcase – come to the show at 3.00pm at The Hive daily, you’ll actually see the inside.”

Now THAT is effective promotion with a hint of cunning stunt.

As I walked back to my flat at around 2.00am last night/this morning, I turned down a side street. On the other side, walking in the opposite direction, back into the centre of Edinburgh, were a ballerina and a policeman hand-in-hand. They were not publicising anything. Just happy to be with each other.

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy

Lovely Laura Lexx and pig-faced Joz Norris: comics who won’t tell me things

Laura Lexx

“Why is this going to be your first Edinburgh Fringe show?” I asked comedian Laura Lexx yesterday.

“Because I’ve never wanted to do one before.”

“What’s it called?”

Lovely.”

“What’s it about?’

“It’s about not really having any problems to write an Edinburgh show about, because my dad’s not dead and I don’t come from a shit-hole with a high pregnancy rate. So I can’t write the usual Edinburgh Fringe debut show jokes about being from a chavvy area.”

“No heroin, rape or other traumatic personal stories at all?” I asked.

Laura Lexx. Is the cup half full or empty?

Laura his week – Do you see the cup half full or half empty?

“Never happened to me,” lamented Laura. “My parents are still together; they don’t have a regional accent that’s hilarious; and I don’t look like the love child of anybody and anybody else. So, in Fringe terms, I don’t have anything to write about. My show is really about being quite happy and being quite fortunate. I feel like I’m breaking all the Fringe rules.”

“So instead?” I asked.

“It’s about comparing my life either to other people in the world or to animals and realising that whatever is kind of difficult for me is really not much to complain about if you put it into context.”

Laura and I then talked at length about some of the content of her show.

“But,” she then said, “you can’t talk about that bit in your blog. Because the whole show hinges on that, although you can mention me shitting myself at Disneyland in Paris. Then I meet a tiny bird that has an even harder love life than me. You can talk about the tiny bird. Do you want to see the poster?”

“Can I mention the poster in the blog?”

“Yes”.

Laura Lexx poster with the flying whale cut off

Laura Lexx poster with the flying whale cut off for no reason

“Can I say what your name is?”

“Yes.”

“Look,” said Laura. “The poster has penguins, owls and a killer whale.”

“A killer whale?” I asked. “Where?”

“There.”

“Oh yes,” I said. “It is a very small killer whale and it is flying. Lovely.”

“Yes,” said Laura.

“Why is there an airborne killer whale on the poster?” I asked.

“Because sometimes I talk about killer whales.”

“In the show?”

“No.”

“The poster says you are sponsored by Imodium, the relief for diarrhoea.”

“Yes. Because of my story about pooping myself at Disneyland. And because I talk about irritable bowel syndrome.”

“Is that,” I asked, “not going against the general flow of happiness in the show?”

“There is,” said Laura, “no ‘against the flow’ when you have irritable bowel syndrome. I do have IBS but, when you put that up against something like leukaemia or brittle bone disease…

“… or being French…” I suggested.

“I like France,” said Laura.

“Are there songs in the show?” I asked.

“No.”

“How am I going to write a blog about this?” I asked. “Are you absolutely sure you have never been addicted to heroin or run off to Syria to be a member of ISIS?”

“Sorry, no… I even like my mother,” lamented Laura.

There was a long pause, then Laura brightened up.

Laura Lexx at the Comedians’ Cricket Match in 2011

Laura at the Comedians’ Cricket Match in 2011

“l tell you,” she said. “Here you go… Here’s something… I’ve finished writing my novel – it’s taken four or five years and, as soon as I get back home from the Fringe, we’re filming a taster scene of it, so I’ve got a cast together to do a 5-minute preview and I’m working on the pilot for a sitcom pitch and then I’m gonna do a radio equivalent for it. That’s probably going to take up my main focus after the Fringe.”

“Why didn’t you mention this before?” I asked.

“I forgot.”

“You forgot?”

“I forgot.”

“What is the novel about?”

“It’s about the end of the world, but nobody has died.”

“Surely,” I said, “the end of the world, by definition, involves a certain amount of collateral damage?”

“You would think so,” said Laura. “Except it turns out not to be the end of the world. It is just that Jesus has paused things in this particular village, because it needs work.”

“But,” I said, “I am guessing I can’t mention this because that’s the end of the novel?”

“It’s the beginning of the novel,” said Laura. “It’s about a hapless group of West Country villagers who are dealing with the end of the world… And then Jesus turns up and has to try and fix things before the Devil wins.”

“Is the Prophet Mohammed involved?” I asked.

“No.”

“There could be publicity value in it,” I suggested.

Laura Lexx insisted on the teapot shot - nothing to do with me

Laura Lexx suggested this teapot shot – nothing to do with me

“He might be in the illustrations,” Laura mused.

“There are illustrations?” I asked.

“No. But if you want to do any… I am looking for a publisher.”

That conversation took place yesterday at the Soho Theatre Bar in London.

Today in the Soho Theatre, I talked to comedian Joz Norris.

Joz Norris (left) in Shambles

Joz Norris (left) shows acting talent in Shambles, Series 2

“The reason I got in touch with you,” he explained, “was to mention the Shambles web series that I’m in. “Harry Deansway made it. He told me: Plug it, Joz. Get people to see it.” And I thought I would talk to you about it, because you are increasingly prestigious. So I told Harry: Good news, Harry, I’m going to talk to the increasingly prestigious John Fleming about it. And Harry immediately banned me from saying anything about it. He says he doesn’t want any discussion of it at all.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Harry says he doesn’t want any spoilers. He says he thinks there is too little mystery in comedy these days. He says everyone’s so busy trying to plug everything and reveal all the secrets going on in it, it spoils the product. He says I can mention it and ask people to watch it, but you are not allowed to say anything about it.”

“About what?” I asked.

“You can’t trick me into talking about it,” said Joz. I think I am allowed to tell you the title Shambles and then hopefully people will just Google that. But Harry insists there should be no actual discussion of it at all. So the main thing you and I were going to chat about I am not allowed to.

Jox Norris trying to please everyone all of the time

Jox Norris tries to please everyone all the time

“Harry also said he was sad I had not recommended a show of his in a Q&A I did with the British Comedy Guide, so I thought maybe we could just talk about Harry’s show instead. That way, I’m still helping him out and giving him some good buzz, but I am not spoiling the secrets of his web series that he doesn’t want spoiled.”

“So what are you doing at the Edinburgh Fringe in two weeks?” I asked.

“I’m doing a show called Hey Guys!”

“If,” I said, “we are not going to talk about your web series and we’re not going to talk about your Edinburgh show…”

“Why can’t we talk about my Edinburgh show?”

“We have already, haven’t we?”

“Not really.”

“OK,” I said. “What are the forty words that sell it in the Fringe Programme?”

“I think it says something about being a pig-rat. The children I work with call me Pig-Rat.”

“Why?”

Joz displays his nostrils

Joz proudly displays allegedly porcine nostrils

“I have the nose of a pig – I have quite flared nostrils – and I have quite a weird, ratty mouth. But what I don’t like about my face is the combination of my mouth and my eyes. I think it’s jarring.”

“If,” I asked, “you have the nose of a pig and the mouth of a rat, where are your eyes from?”

“I have my dad’s eyes.”

“Which one of us is going to say it?” I asked.

“What?”

When does your dad want them back?

“Oh,” said Joz, “that will be one of the witty quips you throw into your blogs.”

There was a pause.

“It’s a very good show,” said Joz.

“What is?” I asked.

Joz’s Edinburgh poster image

Joz apparently has cheeks which are over-sensitive to lights

Hey Guys!,” said Joz.

“Have you seen it?” I asked.

“I filmed a preview and then I watched that… I admit I have not seen it live.”

“Are you going to see it live?”.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to because, every time I’m performing it, I’m always tied-up working and can’t get time off to be in the audience.”

“It is one of the eternal crosses a performer has to bear,” I said.

“I suppose so,” said Joz.

“Do you want another tea?” I asked.

“Not really,” said Joz. “Shall we just have a chat, as I can’t talk about anything?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour