Tag Archives: Joz Norris

Award-nominated Nelly Scott and Zuma Puma and the Grumpy Lettuce series

Nelly as Nancy Sanazi at the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

Nancy Sanazi at the Malcolm Hardee Awards

The last time Zuma Puma aka Nelly Scott appeared in this blog was in May last year, when she was showing her armpit hair at her weekly Lost Cabaret show.

“I’ve got an agent now,” she told me this week, “and I’m doing auditions. I did one yesterday for the lead role in a feature film. I don’t know if they’ll take me, because I think they probably want a British actor and I’m Canadian.”

Lost Cabaret continues, as do her occasional appearances as Nancy Sanazi singing Jackboots Are Made For Walking and other subtle classics in Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Nights – the next one is this Saturday at the Leicester Comedy FestivalDas Vegas 3 (Zis Time We Win).

“It’s going to be filmed by a Canadian documentary artist,” Zuma/Nelly told me, “which might be really fascinating; I don’t know how the Canadian audience will react to Das Vegas Night.”

And then there is her upcoming Grumpy Lettuce web series.

Zuma Puma with the Grumpy Lettuce logo

Jolly Zuma Puma with the Grumpy Lettuce logo (she drew it)

“It’s going to be up-and-running at the end of April or early May,” Zuma/Nelly told me. “We have something like 14 episodes already filmed and now we’re doing post-production, but it takes time. We have three editors working on it. The director Andrew Phan and I go to the editing studio every Saturday.”

“You’re not the director?” I asked.

“No. I’m the creator. Directing film is not like directing theatre; I don’t know anything about film, which is kinda why I wanted to do this project. Well, it’s not that I don’t know anything about film. I did a web series last year and some short films.”

“What was the web series last year?” I asked.

Joz Norris and Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma in The Backbenchers

Award-nominated Backbenchers Joz Norris and Nelly Scott

The Backbenchers – Joz Norris was in it as well and both of us have been nominated as Best Actors in comedy at the L.A.Web Festival in April, which they say is the biggest web festival in the world.”

“And now Grumpy Lettuce?” I asked.

“Well, we’ve been working on that since before June last year. My boyfriend Kamal and I were thinking that a lot of people have come through Lost Cabaret – We need to get these characters on film. That would be such an interesting project – So we started thinking up situations to fit characters like Dan Lees’ Jazz Prophet or Annie Bashford as The Widow or Sharney Nougher’s Australian therapist or Kamal’s Bollywood star character – he puts a wig over his dreadlocks.”

“What’s your character?” I asked.

Zuma Puma grabbed two audience members last night

Zuma Puma with two audience members at the Lost Cabaret

“I’m my Zuma Puma leopard-print character who just shows up unexpectedly and randomly. But we all play multiple characters, sometimes straight. The idea of Grumpy Lettuce is that it’s like Mighty Boosh characters put into our own real world – normal everyday situations – and then we meet these wild out-there characters, like you sometimes do in normal life.”

“Why is it taking so much post-production?”

“Because there’s 23 sketches. We probably have over 50 hours of filming and each hour we have to make into a minute-an-a-half or a 2-minute sketch.”

“Why is it called Grumpy Lettuce?

“It goes back to when I first moved to London two yeas ago. I moved here for my grandfather’s  funeral and visited Annie Bashford and started playing like the times we were back at Gaulier in Paris and we came up with this ridiculous sketch with The Widow where she got naked with the lettuce.

The Widow (left) with Nelly Scott: What What?

What What? The Lettuce? – The Widow (left) with Nelly Scott

“So we started to look up names for our double act because we were calling ourselves The What-Whats, which is a horrible name. We looked up ‘lettuce’ online and the first thing that came up was ‘grumpy lettuce’ with the Urban Dictionary meaning for ‘grumpy lettuce’.”

“Which is?” I asked.

“Unkempt vagina. So Annie and I thought: This is perfect. That’s exactly what we want to call our female double-act. 

“Then Annie and I stopped working together – we’re still good friends – and so, when Kamal and I were coming up with names for the web series, the great ones we thought of were already taken. Or, if we decided on one and got the Facebook page and started designing a logo, some of the other cast members would say: No! That’s a horrible name! And the only great name I could think of was Grumpy Lettuce.

“It’s got a double-meaning, it’s funny and you get an image in your head of an angry-looking lettuce, which is kinda cute. If you think of a grumpy lettuce, you think of a lettuce that doesn’t quite fit in, which is kinda what our web series is about – all of these characters don’t fit into our real world, even though some are based on real-life people. And, the minute I told people Grumpy Lettuce, everyone said: That’s an amazing name!”

“And Annie Bashford is in it,” I said.

“Yes. She almost got crushed during the shoot.”

“Physically?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“By a lettuce?”

“No. By a very dangerous stunt that I would have made safer if I had been there on that day. I don’t want to give away the punchline of the sketch.”

“I always find,” I said, “that it’s best not to kill the performers.”

Different Ways To Kill Annie,” said Zuma/Nelly, “Maybe that’s what the show should have been called.”

“The logo might be difficult,” I suggested.

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Show celebrated 10th anniversary of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s death

A massed Balloon Dance last night

A massed Balloon Dance climaxed the UTC show last night

Malcolm Hardee, the godfather of British alternative comedy, drowned ten years ago – on 31st January – and I think his body was found three days later. I have a shit memory, I can’t remember exactly and I think it would be lacking in respect to him to check the actual facts.

Claire Hardee (extreme right) with her Can’t Can’t Girls

Clare Hardee (extreme right) danced with Can’t Can’t Girls

Anyway, let us assume it was three days later. That would have been 2nd February. So yesterday – 2nd February – was an appropriate night to have a tribute show in his honour at his old club Up The Creek in Greenwich.

All the usual suspects were there, including Malcolm’s sister Clare who reprised her always rousing version of the can-can with her Can’t-Can’t Girls… and Malcolm’s daughter Poppy, who has just returned from Sierra Leone without (she claimed) contracting ebola.

Unfortunately, last night’s show started with a failure.

Martin Soan attempts to piss on a member of the audience with help from Dan Lees

Martin Soan last night attempted to piss on a member of the audience with auditory water-based help from Dan Lees

Malcolm’s comedy mate Martin Soan (entirely naked, of course), attempted to urinate on a random member of the audience sitting in the front row. This had the effect of emptying the front row of everyone other than that lucky, plucky punter.

Alas, Martin was unable to summon up the piss, even when fellow performer Dan Lees attempted to help by pouring water from one pint glass into another next to Martin’s ear.

Hattie Hayridge and Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Hattie Hayridge & Steve Best were among acts in the audience

Fortunately, the rest of the show was successfully staged with bizarre acts too numerous to list and a final naked balloon dance by massed naked performers.

Oh, all right – Jayde Adams, Annie Bashford, Cheekykita, Candy Gigi, the Greatest Show on Legs, Liberty Hodes, Spencer Jones, Dan Lees, Darren Maskell, Joz Norris, Owen O’Neill, Nick Revell, John Robertson and Bob Slayer.

The show was hosted by the dead Malcolm himself – well, Terry Alderton in a wig and suit.

Terry Aldertin had a ball (well two) last night

Terry Alderton had a ball (well two) last night

It is quite easy to do a cartoon imitation of Malcolm – you just mumble and shamble a bit. But Terry succeeded in doing a masterly, spot-on impression. He managed to get in all of Malcolm’s gags (well, to be truthful, Malcolm didn’t have many), his asides, habits and physical tics. You could almost say it was an admirably subtle and successful impersonation. But ‘subtle’ is not a word to use in relation to anything Hardee-esque.

I congratulated Terry in the second interval.

“I’m trying to remember all the Malcolmisms,” he told me, “but the great thing is, if I repeat anything, it doesn’t matter, cos that’s what Malcolm did anyway.”

During the first interval in the show, performer Joz Norris – a man desperate to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe – accosted me upstairs, by Malcolm’s giant painted pastiche mural of Leonardo’s Last Supper (with Malcolm as Jesus and various other comics as his disciples).

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee whiile Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks sensible

Joz Norris (centre) prepares his unusual imitation of Malcolm Hardee while Spencer Jones (left) takes off his trousers and Adam Larter looks unusually sensible backstage.

“You remember that idea I told you about at Christmas?” Joz started. “For winning a Cunning Stunt Award?”

“Of course I don’t remember,” I told him. “I have a shit memory.”

“I suggested,” said Joz, “that I just bribe you and give you some money in a briefcase.”

“It’s a good thought,” I told him.

“Maybe £50?” said Joz.

“You said a briefcase,” I carped.

“Well, just for the stunt,” said Joz, “but maybe only like £20.”

“I am going off the idea,” I told him.

“I could get a tiny, novelty, palm-sized briefcase and put a £5 note in it,” suggested Joz. “If we filmed me giving you a tiny briefcase with a £5 note in it, it would be funny. A worthy cunning stunt.”

2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Candy Gigi was quite restrained last night

2014 Malcolm Hardee main Award winner Candy Gigi performed a restrained act at Up The Creek last night

“Funny, but not a winner,” I said.

“The specifics of how much,” he suggested, “can be sorted out later. It’s the quality of the stunt itself that’s important, isn’t it?”

“Of course not,” I said. “It’s the quantity of the money and we decide after you give it to me if you’re going to win the award.”

“That’s a gamble,” said Joz. “But, then, I suppose a cunning stunt WOULD be a gamble.”

“It would be,” I said encouragingly. “We should try this out.”

Darren Maskell

Darren Maskell – instantly recognisable

“But imagine,” said Joz, “if I bribed you and then I didn’t win.”

“I am imagining that,” I told him.

“There’s a risk factor,” said Joz.

“Not for me,” I said.

“No,” agreed Joz. “You can’t lose.”

“Which is fair enough,” I said.

“You’re not obliged to give me anything,” said Joz.

“I like the way you think,” I told him.

“So,” said Joz, “I either come up with a way round that or accept the situation.”

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

Jayde Adams, 2014 Funny Women winner

“Acceptance is the way to go,” I told him. “Positive thinking is always a good attitude.”

“Accepting,” mused Joz, “ that you might end up with the money and I might end up poorer with no award.”

“There are always winners and losers in award shows,” I said.

“What sort of sum might make it work for me?” asked Joz.

“I think we are talking five figures,” I said. “That’s one more than The Beatles.”

“That’s £10,000,” said Joz. “Or more.”

“Or more,” I agreed. “Think positive. Or more.”

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

Bob Slayer relaxed in the bar after the show

“I don’t have that kind of money,” said Joz, sadly.

“You can get it,” I told him.

“I certainly can’t get £10,000 together between now and Edinburgh.”

“You work with children,” I reminded him.

“It’s not as well-paid as you think,” said Joz.

“You can get a good price for children nowadays,” I told him.

“I’m not going to sell them!” said Joz.

Adam Taffler (right) with Joz Norris under the Last Supper mural

Adam Taffler (right) & Joz Norris under Last Supper mural

“Why not?” I asked. “You have to think outside the box to get a Cunning Stunt Award. Think of the publicity. The tabloids would love it.”

The organiser of last night’s extravaganza, showman Adam Taffler, told me (and I think he was being serious) that he may organise an annual 10th Anniversary of Malcolm’s Death show.

Obviously, each year, it would continue to be the 10th anniversary. Malcolm would have wanted it that way.

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English Elf Lyons on her duck flu, Barbarella and a dog in a gimp suit

Elf Lyons at Soho Theatre in London

Elf Lyons ordered pizza this week at Soho Theatre in London

In yesterday’s blog,  I mentioned in passing that I met comedian and writer Elf Lyons at Soho Theatre in London. She ate pizza.

“I came up with this world…” she told me. “This sitcom idea. I got really excited, then realised all the tangents and all the character layers couldn’t really exist in a one hour play, so I’ve written lots of different episodes. And I’m doing the first 45-minute pilot, as it were, next Thursday for three nights at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

“It’s based around me and my sister – two siblings stuck in a country farm. There’s this flu – Duck Flu – which turns people into ducks, but human-sized ducks. The only way you can tell if you have not got it is to drink tea. If your body can cope with tea, then you clearly have not got it. If you don’t want tea, then you have got the infection and you are going to have to be killed.”

“Can’t you,” I suggested, “just look in a mirror to see if you are a duck?”

“No,” said Elf, “because it starts with a sneeze, then a cough, then a quack…”

“Not a waddle or a quack, but a glide and a whistle and a snowy white back?” I suggested.

Duck Flu - Elf Lyons

Duck Flu – a simple tale of humanoid ducks

“Basically,” said Elf, “the two sisters are together and they’re slightly psychopathic. They are going to kill their mum. They have killed their dad – not because they had to, but because they needed to, because they would turn into ducks.”

“So it’s written as social realism,” I suggested.

“Yes,” said Elf, “Me and my family have this conversation all the time about what we would do in an apocalypse if someone died. On my computer, I have saved everyone’s funeral songs and what readings we would want. I want to make sure, if anything did happen, I would have it already organised. That may be a bit perverse, but in a nice way.”

“Where do you come from?” I asked.

“Crookham Hill in Kent. We have lots of horses and sheep and we were thinking: Oh no! If there were an apocalypse, who would look after the horses? And the sheep? And we’ve got dogs. Where would we move everybody? And what weapons would you use? Duck Flu spawned from that. And there are also some evil vegans in it.”

“Why evil vegans?” I asked.

“I don’t trust vegans,” explained Elf. “I remember when I joined my Vegan Society at Bristol University they were lovely but I sort-of expected the Tales of The Unexpected music to play any second.”

Tales of The Unexpected is before your time,” I said.

“My mum,” explained Elf, “when she was little, used to watch Tales of The Unexpected on TV and you know the woman who dances in the titles? My Granddad Squeak, who’s my mum’s dad, told my mum that it was her mum dancing – that it was Nanny Squeak.”

“You have a granddad called Squeak?” I asked.

“Yes. Because they had a cat called Squeak and my Nanny and Granddad Station – my dad’s mum and dad, they…”

“Station?” I asked.

“Yes. They always came down to visit us by train.”

“So we have a family here,” I said, “who have a daughter called Elf, and grandparents called Squeak and Station. What does your dad do?”

“He’s an economist – He’s the Economic Advisor to Boris Johnson.”

“But he’s not attached to Boris as such?” I asked. “He’s attached to whoever the Mayor of London happens to be?”

“Yes. He’s politically neutral.”

“But mildly eccentric?” I asked.

Afternoon tea with Elf includes interesting conversation

Afternoon tea with English Elf from a ‘quite’ eccentric family

“My family are quite eccentric,” said Elf. “Well, they ARE eccentric.”

“Siblings?” I asked.

“I have a little sister called Lulu. Her real name is Marie-Louise Kezia, but everyone calls her Lulu. She used to be a horse rider.”

“Professionally?”

“Yes. She was always away horse-riding but she had an epiphany after she had an accident and realised she wanted to help people. So now she is 21 and at university doing bio-medicine. My brother Gerard is 17 and at school doing his A-levels. He looks like a young George Michael from Wham.”

“Gerard seems to be a very normal name for your family,” I said.

“Well, he likes to be nick-named Chat.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s so witty.”

“Interesting family,” I said. “You were called Elf as a child?”

“No. I was just Emily-Anne but, when I went to university – when I first went to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009, when I was 18 – I was volunteering at the Forest Fringe as an usher and loads of the guys who would come and buy tickets would say: Oh, you’re very elf-like.”

“Loads of them?” I asked.

“Loads,” replied Elf. “Because I had very short hair and I was sitting down. People always assume I’m going to be really short when they meet me.

“The Fringe was mind-blowing and I was staying on my own. I remember sitting in the Underbelly garden and then going up to somebody and saying: I’m really sorry, but do you want to be my friend? I don’t know anyone and I don’t know where to start.

“Then I met this really lovely Australian comic called Daniel Walmsley who was working on Mark Watson’s 24-Hour Show, so I got to sneak in and watch that and I met all these people and you know all those films where the kid gets the job at the Amusement Park and he meets all these kookie characters?”

“Your hair is slightly red,” I observed.

“I’m naturally a brighter ginger, because my dad is Irish. But I like dying my hair every now-and-again just to… to do something exciting.”

“And you have another show you are preparing…?” I said.

Being Barbarella. My new solo show.”

“But you are going to need a blonde wig for that?” I suggested.

“Yeah, you know the opening of the film? She takes off all her clothes. She takes off her spacesuit and her helmet and her hair just flows everywhere and I’m going to re-create that. I will take off my spacesuit quite slowly.”

Being Barbarella -  Elf Lyons

Being Barbarella – Elf Lyons, possibly in a wig

“Still my beating heart,” I said.

“The whole show,” explained Elf, “is about me trying to be sexy, but getting it wrong. And I talk a lot about sharks.”

“Why?”

“Because I love sharks. The first book I ever read was about sharks. I think they’re amazing.”

“But you wouldn’t want one for a pet,” I suggested.

“My family adopted a bluetip reef shark for me for Christmas.”

“Where does it live?” I asked.

“In the sea.”

“Which sea?”

“I don’t know. I have a certificate on my wall. I need to re-adopt it. I have got a pen pal and we have been swapping advice and she has told me I should adopt a donkey and I told her to adopt a shark.”

“Do you like donkeys?” I asked.

“I think you can’t be too judgmental,” said Elf.

“So…” I said, “Being Barbarella…”

“It’s basically about me trying to be my own idol and trying to be a sexy comedian.”

“Was Barbarella your main teenage fantasy?” I asked.

“No. My fantasy was Jane Eyre. Nanny Squeak took me to see a 4-hour production of Jane Eyre: The Musical – at the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham. Mr Rochester’s dog was a man dressed as a gimp. In a gimp suit. It had nothing to do with the show. I’m pretty sure it was Jane Eyre: The Musical. It might have been a really weird pantomime. Do you want a bit of pizza?”

Elf Lyons - pizza

Elf Lyons before realising her pizza mistake

“You don’t like the crusts?” I asked.

“They’re not fun. If they gave me butter I would eat them, but it’s too late now.”

“You met up with Joz Norris the other day,” I said.

“We went back to my flat and just sat in my room and we ate Magnum ice creams and drank non-alcoholic beer and talked about Socrates. I’ve been reading about Socrates in The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton. It’s really good.”

“You should do a show with Joz,” I suggested.

“I like Joz’s comedy,” said Elf, “because he allows himself to be vulnerable. There is that thin layer that’s so fragile between… You know when people talk about something that’s slightly dark? If you put too much pressure on it, it turns away from being funny to putting the audience in a difficult position.

“We were talking about the difference between comics who write specifically to get a laugh and those whose by-product of what they are talking about is the laugh. Because, when I write, my objective isn’t always that there is the laugh at the end, but the laugh will come because the things I’m interested in talking about are funny in themselves.”

I will be going to see Elf’s shows.

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Karl Schultz with Joz Norris – Two UK weirdo comics talk about women etc

Karl Schultz (left) and Joz Norris yesterday

Karl Schultz (left) and Joz Norris chatted over tea yesterday

So I said I would do a blog chat with comic Karl Schultz about a charity gig which he is organising in London on Monday. Karl brought along Joz Norris, who is co-organising the gig. Somewhere along the way, the conversation went off course.

“What’s the show?” I asked them yesterday.

“It’s Karl & Joz’s Over The Top Christmas Love-In at the Bloomsbury Theatre,” said Karl.

“For Karl’s charity,” added Joz.

“You have a charity?” I asked Karl.

“Oasis. It’s the one I run in Barking and Dagenham. It basically gives somewhere to go in the week to homeless people, unemployed people, people trying to come off drugs – recreational, free meals and stuff.”

On YouTube, Karl tells a story about his charity.

Monday’s charity show at the Bloomsbury Theatre includes comics Bridget Christie, John Kearns, Tim Key, Josie Long and Sara Pascoe.

“When did you start the charity?” I asked Karl.

“Last December. About 75% of the money from the gig is going to that charity, but I’m also going out to South Africa with my dad for a couple of weeks and we know some projects out there which could do with money.

“When I told someone I was going out to South Africa, someone said: Oh, you’re going on ‘holiday’ are you? ‘Holiday’. Apparently South Africa where people go with sex addictions. There’s a clinic or something. But I’m going out with my dad, who’s a Salvation Army major.”

Joz said: “I had some kids from a South African township stay with me in 2007. My mum did the African premiere of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man Mass for Peace. She had breakfast with Desmond Tutu twice and the choir came over here and stayed in my room and I had to stay in the shed all week. I taught them about iPods.”

“Did they have iPods?” I asked.

“No,” admitted Joz.

Karl Schultz: one of his more understated stage performances

Karl Schultz: one of his more understated stage performances

“I,” said Karl, “was seeing a girl from Sierra Leone a couple of months ago, but she got sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Three women I’ve seen have got sectioned.”

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Joz. “That’s your taste. I think you’re drawn to eccentrics.”

“I get approached by depressed women,” said Karl.

“I’m always attracted to mad women,” said Joz, “and they’re always either very short or very tall. But Karl hates short women. He says their bottoms are too close to the ground.”

“I do have a thing for tall women,” admitted Karl.

“Why?” I asked.

“My mum is 5’1”, so there’s no Oedipal thing. But I was brought up in Ghana from the age of 11-14 – the most formative time – and all the Ghanaians hit puberty before me. So, when I went back after the summer holidays, I had grown an inch but, in Ghana, they had grown six inches. So all the girls I was in love with in my class were all tall.

“Earlier this year, I was trying to be a better person and took a short woman on a date – I thought If I can survive it, I will be a better person for it – so we were walking on the South Bank in London drinking our chai lattes and she burnt her tongue on her chai latte and started hopping on the spot and I was looking at her thinking: Is this what it is going to be like?”

“Karl’s got a thing about chai,” said Joz. “He loves taking women – usually tall ones – to drink chai.”

“Well,” said Karl, “you can always see women, but how often can you have a South Bank chai latte?”

Joz Norris grew up in a small English village

Joz Norris is not always seeing women; Karl joined Tinder

“I’m not always seeing women,” said Joz.

“I joined Tinder,” said Karl, “mainly because I felt bad about not doing enough out-of-town gigs. I got into comedy to travel, but I don’t really travel much, other than Edinburgh and China.”

“China?” I said, surprised.

“I went to China a couple of years ago. Did a cabaret out there. In hindsight, I should not have been invited.”

“Anyway,” I said, “on Tinder…”

“I’ve been to Southampton and Penrith,” said Karl. “When I went to Southampton, I got to see where Craig David went to school. I had to do it at the weekend. You can’t do it in the week, because they will move you on.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well you can’t,” said Karl, “just go snooping on Craig David’s former secondary school during the week. People will say: What’s he doing?

“Fair point,” said Joz.

“What happened in Penrith?” I asked. “Did you get a booking at a local comedy club?”

“Free lodgings and a lovely breakfast,” said Karl. “I had curry for breakfast.”

“The other day,” said Joz, “I had left-over lamb biryani for breakfast.”

“So you got into comedy to travel?” I asked. “But there were other things you could have done. Like become a bus driver.”

“We went to Lake Windermere,” said Karl. “Dove Cottage: Wordsworth’s cottage. You know they always had tiny beds…”

“Yeah,” said Joz.

“Did you really?” I asked him.

Joz shrugged.

“But,” continued Karl, “the part where your head would be was at 45 degrees. That’s why beds were shorter. They believed that demons or ghosts might visit you in the night and, if they saw you almost upright, they might think you were awake and go away.”

“It stops acid reflux too,” I said. “Sitting up in bed.”

“Yesterday,” said Karl, “I thought I was having a heart attack.”

“I had it for the first time about a year ago,” I said. “Acid reflux. It really is like you have acid inside your tubes.”

“Is that how you spontaneously combust?” asked Joz.

“No,” I said.

“Too many eggs,” said Karl.

“The Elephant Man had to sleep sitting up,” said Joz, “because of his huge head… Seriously. I was in the play in 2003; I played the man at the fair.”

“I was intending to do a fairly serious chat with you,” I said.

Karl as his character 'Matthew Kelly’ with some Chinese fans

Karl as his character ‘Matthew Kelly’ with some Chinese fans

“We could do that,” said Karl. “Someone said watching me be happy as my Matthew Kelly character was like watching a crocodile. The character has a calm exterior, but my eyes were very violent. So it was like a crocodile smile.”

“You can hold a crocodile’s mouth shut,” said Joz. “The muscles that open its mouth are very weak, so you can touch the sides and hold the mouth shut.”

“Or use a rubber band,” said Karl.

“Aren’t you supposed to hit them on the nose?” I asked.

“That’s sharks,” said Joz.

“Lick its eyes,” said Karl. “That’s what a zebra does. I saw a video of a crocodile being licked by a zebra. A crocodile hasn’t evolved a natural defence against having its eyes licked.”

“Nor have I,” said Joz.

There is a video on YouTube of a zebra briefly licking a crocodile’s eyes then escaping.

“That’s how you can get away from Joz,” suggested Karl. “Lick his eyes.”

“No-one’s ever tried that,” said Joz. “Mostly, they just say No… I heard that the way to get away from a crocodile is to run in zig-zags, because they can’t move in zig-zags.”

“Or just keep out of Africa and away from the water,” I suggested.

“And Asia,” said Joz. “And America.”

“And zoos,” I suggested.

“London Zoo is so depressing,” said Karl. “They haven’t even got the grey animals now; they’ve moved them all up to Whipsnade Zoo.”

“Grey?” I asked.

“The elephants and rhinos,” said Karl.

“Do they only keep all the colourful ones in London?” I asked.

“They’ve still got the tiger,” said Karl.

“Earlier this year,” said Joz, “I went to London Zoo on a date and I made the girl film me doing an impression of Nelson Mandela all the way round  the zoo.”

“Sounds questionable,” I said.

“It was for a sketch,” explained Joz.

Never ever take ketamine wearing a lion mask at London Zoo

Never ever take ketamine wearing a lion mask at London Zoo

“The first time I went back to London Zoo since I was a kid,” said Karl, “I went with my mate and bought some masks and took ketamine. It was a terrible afternoon. I was in a really bad place.”

“It’s terrible stuff,” agreed Joz.

“He was a giraffe and I was a lion,” said Karl. “Ketamine is the worst drug ever.”

“Well don’t take it,” I said.

“I don’t any more. Have you heard of K-holing? It describes the completely stark, cataclysmic trip of… It’s awful…”

“What’s your idea of heaven?” I asked.

“Taking a tall Ghanaian woman to Lake Windermere,” said Karl.

… CONTINUED HERE

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The Grotto of Comedy, blood in Bahrain and a British comic who might not exist

Bob at the bar of his Grotto last night

Bob Slayer at the bar of his merry Christmas Grotto last night

Last night I went to the media launch for promoter Bob Slayer’s December pop-up venue Heroes Grotto of Comedy in the City of London, just round the corner from the Bank of England.

It is in a building which apparently used to be one of the flagships of J.Lyons restaurants. In the course of the evening, I discovered I am the only person in Britain who did not know late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to work for J.Lyons as a research chemist and came up with a new process for storing Lyons Maid ice cream. “And she invented the Mr Whippy ice cream,” added comic Lindsay Sharman.

The pop-up venue came about because Bob Slayer and Weirdos Comedy chap Adam Larter were trying to find somewhere to stage the annual Weirdos’ panto.

A busy list of comedy acts at the nightly Grotto

A busy list of comedy acts at the nightly Grotto

Having found a temporary venue, they then decided to add more shows. So now there are nightly shows 3rd-18th December, including charity shows in aid of Shelter and the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

“In the first week,” said Bob Slayer, “we will be having Stompy, The Half-Naked Chef cooking up a festive show out in the street. You’ve seen the police out there. I think a man running around in his pants accosting City workers from 5.00pm is going to be…”

The assembled throng for the media evening included comedian Joz Norris pretending to be a reporter for the Horse & Hound magazine. No, I have no idea either.

Bob Slayer asked the assembled throng: “What did Adam Larter say to get you all here?”

“I told different people different things,” said Adam. “Some people were told it’s a party.”

John Robertson tied his wife Joe Marsh into her corset at theGrotto of Comedy last night

John Robertson tied his wife Jo Marsh into a corset before the Grotto of Comedy last night

I got talking to various people who will be performing at the Heroes Grotto, including performer John Robertson, recently returned from Australia, who told me he had met a man in the Middle East who asked him: “How are things in Brighton?”

“But I don’t live in Brighton,” John told the man.

“Yes you do,” the other man replied. “I read it in John Fleming’s blog.”

“Oh lord,” I said. “I should have recorded you saying that. It will sound good in my blog tomorrow. International readers.”

So I tried to get John repeat the story. But he got sidetracked.

Firstly by magician David Don’t (who will be appearing on the fringe of the Grotto shows most nights). He told me he had submitted a video to Objective Productions which may possibly be appearing on a TV show in January. It involves a trick that went wrong and burst into flames when he performed it at Pull The Other One comedy club. There is a clip of it online:

“And my house just caught fire last night,” he added.

“What?” I asked.

David Don’t checking nothing else has caught fire

David checking nothing else has caught fire

“We went away for the weekend and left the children in charge of the house,” he told me. “Florence, our daughter, phoned us and said: Don’t worry, dad, everything’s OK, but there’s been a fire in the house. The dishwasher burst into flames, but I put it out by pouring water all over it. The fire engines have come and taken it away and Clifford (the family dog) bit the firemen because he saw people rushing into the house with axes and big helmets and got frightened. But they had protective clothing on, so he didn’t manage to damage them too much.

“I was in Bahrain recently,” said John Robertson. “The promoters who booked me quite desperately tried to play down the fact it is a war zone.”

“A war zone?” I asked.

“Well,” admitted John, “Civil unrest… But ‘civil unrest’ is where only one side has an army and the other side is made up entirely of civilians who are being murdered routinely.”

Placid John Robertson at the launch last night

Placid John Robertson at the launch last night

“Are you sure you want to be quoted saying that?” I asked.

“I do. Well, they’re having me back in May.”

Inshallah,” said David Don’t.

“Yeah, Inshallah,” said John Robertson. “God willing. We were in a 5-star hotel. We were completely insulated from the entire world and then me and comic Liam Malone were walking down the street just trying to get anywhere that wasn’t a car park, because no-one walks in Bahrain, mostly because they’re being murdered…”

“Are you sure about saying this?” I asked.

“Yes. All we were told was: Don’t insult the King. Don’t insult the government. And we didn’t on stage. But I found their internet filter doesn’t filter out articles about dissidents being kidnapped and beaten. So I just hung out in the 5-star hotel room. I do want to go back to Bahrain.”

Brighton in England is probably safer than Bahrain

Brighton is safer than Bahrain but has considerably less sand

“Someone thought you lived in Brighton,” I prompted him. “You did used to.”

“Yeah,” said John. “And I also got in trouble last year because of your blog.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Last year,” said John, “I was on at Spank! at the Edinburgh Fringe and I was getting ready to completely die because my motormouth screaming was not quite endearing me to this audience of pissed-up scumbags and I found a little person actor – a dwarf – who wanted to crowd surf and we crowd surfed him around the room and he was told that, when he landed, his girlfriend would then remove one item of clothing to her comfort level. So she took off a sock. And, as they surfed him round the crowd, they chanted: Positive body image! Positive body image! and then I mentioned this to you in passing and you put it in your blog:

The blog that caused the aggro

A very offensive blog

“So then I got a text at 3.00am from a really gung-ho, socially-aware guy from Sydney saying: John! You can’t use the word dwarf! And I thought: But we’ve already thrown him! He really wanted to do it! Why are you so upset?

“Well, even without the Brighton story, there’s a blog there,” I said.

“You write a blog?” asked John. “I always thought that was not a phone in your hand. I thought it was a taser you liked to hold while people assaulted you with information.”

“All I wanted,” I told John, “was a little story about someone thinking you lived in Brighton. It wasn’t much to ask.”

“Well, you’ve got that,” said John, “and the future and, if we come over to this bar and order a drink, I will eventually de-materialise and we will never know if I was here or not.”

“I have saved so much money,” I said, “by not taking drugs and just hanging around comedians.”

Joz Norris having a reality check last night

Joz, with a cinnamon stick, having a reality check last night

A little later, I was talking with 25-year-old comic Joz Norris who said:

“I went to Cambodia and I had an epiphany that, if it turned out I was imaginary and everybody I knew had collectively imagined me 25 years ago, I think a lot of them would accept that. Which is not to say that I think they wouldn’t be sad. I do think they would be sad that I was not real. But I do think they would very quickly go: Yeah. It figures. The signs were there. That’s an interesting thing to think and to try to deal with in your head. Ooh! What if I AM imaginary?

“Maybe,” I suggested, “you just imagined you thought that.”

“What?” asked Joz. “The holiday in Cambodia?”

“Everything,” I said.

“Exactly,” said Joz. “It is difficult to prove any of this. The only place you really exist is in your own mind. Except possibly not.”

“Where else could you be?” I asked.

“Well,” said Joz, “if you are imaginary, then you don’t have a mind, so you can’t exist there. Maybe I only exist in your mind. Maybe people only exist in the pages of your blog.”

I imagine Bob’s Grotto will be ready in time for the first show

I imagine Bob’s Grotto will be ready in time for the first show

“But,” I said, “if you are imaginary, some person must be imagining you.”

“And that does imply it is you,” said Joz, “seeing that you are the person recording this.”

“But what if my blog does not exist?” I asked.

And perhaps it does not. It could be all in your fevered imagination, dear reader. Try to remember if you woke up this morning. Did you really awaken? Can you remember that exact moment when you regained consciousness?

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Just some of the many oddities I tripped over at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday

Joz Norris doing a passable impression of Hunter S Thompson

Joz N doing a passable impression of Hunter S Thompson

Publicity is difficult at the Edinburgh Fringe. Acts hand out flyers to people in the street. And try to get articles and photos in the press.

Two days ago, I went to a photoshoot for clowns performing at the Fringe. Apart from the clowns, I was the only person there.

Yesterday, on my way to the Grouchy Club, I had a chat with ever jolly japester Joz Norris who told me about a photoshoot held two days ago for clowns performing at the Fringe.

These were two separate photoshoots. Clowns should talk to each other more.

The one I went to involved clowns sitting on a taxi and running through it as if they were all coming of it.

“What was the one you went to like?” I asked Joz.

“The idea,” he told me, “was to see how many clowns we could fit in a car. There was supposed to be loads of press interest with loads of photographers but, when we turned up, there was nobody. Only about four of us bothered to turn up, so the answer to the question How many clowns can you fit into a car? was The normal number – four. We grabbed some random flyerers in beekeepers’ outfits and got a man in dressed as a tent and pressed our faces against the glass.”

“I went to the other one,” I said, “and I think I was the only non-clown there. People just looked at me as being a bit under-dressed.”

“Did you wear one of your bright shirts?” asked Joz.

“I was still out-coloured,” I admitted.

There is a video on YouTube of Joz’s clown video shoot

At the Grouchy Club yesterday, extraordinarily OTT New Zealand Maori cabaret act Mika was reunited with Scotsman critic Kate Copstick, who saw and raved about his show around a decade ago and has emotionally never been the same since.

Kate Copstick and Mika at The Grouchy Club

Copstick & Mika at Edinburgh’s Grouchy Club show yesterday (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Mika told her: “I’ve brought a show here this year – Salon Mika – because I’m going to make it into a feature film.”

Bizarrely, the New Zealand Arts Council did not fund his trip to Edinburgh. All the acts they funded were white non-Maoris. But Mika’s show has already got a 5-star review and – surely only by coincidence – Mika told us: “The entire Arts Council of New Zealand and the Minister are meeting me a 5 o’clock tonight, here in Edinburgh.”

Mika was strangely not really complaining; he was more bemused.

Bemusement is not something common in Scotland. But protesting is. Though badly.

Copstick pointed out: “Scotland doesn’t do protesting very well. We have all-purpose Scottish Labour Party moaners. You get the feeling they’re just professionally disgruntled moany Scottish people waiting for the next protest to come along.

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

Looking on with interest from Grouchy Club Towers yesterday

“On one of the first days of the Fringe, there was a big group of them outside the Gilded Balloon protesting about an Israeli play that wasn’t even on there. It was on at the Underbelly.

“I went and said to them: Do you know you’re outside the wrong venue? Plus, if you’re really smart, you would stop with the moaning and the shouting that nobody can make out because you’re all broad Glaswegians and most of the people walking past have no idea what you’re saying. Play nice, get near the upside-down inflatable cow, get somebody with a knife and puncture it. I did not think that would escalate anything.”

At this point, Miss Behave walked in and took her shirt off.

You had to be there to understand.

She is co-running nearby venue Bob and Miss Behave’s Bookshop as well as putting on her own show.

Miss Behave and Mika compare tongues (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Miss Behave and Mika compare tongues at the Grouchy Club (Photograph by Garry Platt)

“I have,” she told us, “been Mrs Cabaret for a really long time, wandering round being very slick, so this year I’m doing a very silly game show – Miss Behave Gameshow – involving mobile phones.

“I have a wonderful assistant – Harriet – and he is becoming the star of the show. He is wonderful. It’s very silly and fun. I’m starting with an idea, it’s evolving and, by the end of this month, it will be absolutely amazing. At the moment, it is an exciting, fun work in progress, very entertaining.”

At this point, multi-award-winning Adrienne Truscott arrived. As well as winning the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award for her solo show last year (and some lesser Edinburgh prizes), she is half of the Wau Wau Sisters.

Adrienne Truscott not standing on her head (Photo by Garry Platt)

Adrienne Truscott not standing on head (Photograph by Garry Platt)

“Stand on your head!” I said.

“No,” said Miss Behave. “You have to leave her alone. She’s got a bad back.”

“I,” said Copstick, “have been dangled upside-down on a trapeze by the Wau Wau Sisters.”

“What are you doing this year?” I asked.

The Wau Wau Sisters’ Death Threats (and Other Forms of Flattery),” said Adrienne, “about doing a show that got death threats from religious fundamentalists. They sent us three letters and we had to do our whole show with armed guards in the house.”

“Moslems?” someone asked.

“No,” said Adrienne, “We had done a show which was a very cheap re-interpretation of the Last Supper.”

The Grouchy Club did not live up to its name yesterday. Everyone seemed to be laughing rather than being grouchy.

Blanche Cameron, Lewis Schaffer, Heather Stevens

Blanche Cameron, Lewis Schaffer and Heather

But then I went over to Niddry Street, home of what seems like a hundred free venues, and I bumped into Lewis Schaffer and two of his entourage. I occasionally get text messages from Lewis Schaffer saying simply: Mood black.

I tried sending him a text message once saying: Mood black – to see what his reaction was. He never replied.

His main entourage – Heather Stevens – continues to spend most of her time with her face in her hands. This is understandable.

Lewis Schaffer has branded Blanche’s bosoms

Lewis Schaffer has branded Blanche’s bosoms

But he seems to have rebranded another of his entourage – Blanche Cameron – as his personal stalker with a naked picture of himself across her bosoms.

To cheer myself up, I chatted to Chris Dangerfield, who was out on the cobbles promoting his show Sex With Children to innocent passers-by.

“I got here yesterday,” he told me. “My posters had gone missing. No posters, no flyers. Ten minutes before my first show, I was about to cancel it. Suddenly, sixty people turned up. I took £120.”

At this point a happy-looking couple approached.

Chris Dangerfield demonstrates with finger

Chris Dangerfield demonstrates with finger

“When you’ve finished with the show you wanna see,” Chris told them, “come and see Sex With Children.”

They looked slightly startled.

“Look!” he told them. “You can put a little penis on the flyer!”

He has flyers with a full-length photo of a man. They have a hole at groin level just big enough to put through and wiggle your little finger.

“There you are,” he told the couple. “Nine o’clock – in there – Sex With Children. You’ll love it.”

At this point – and this is true – I noticed the anonymous flyerer about whom I blogged two days ago.

At that point, he was handing out strips of blank paper to publicise Ben Target’s show.

The Anonymous Flyerer yesterday @markdeanquinn

The Anonymous Flyerer for ACMS yesterday

Yesterday, he told me: “I’m flyering for ACMS (the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society). It involves me standing with a cardboard box over my head and holding up a sign that says FLYER so people can take their own flyers. I do it for two hours every day and can’t see anyone who takes the flyers because I have my head in a box. But I am sure they’re the right people for the show.

“With ACMS, we also exit flyer them. As they leave, we give them flyers for the show they’re just.seen.”

“I admire originality,” I said.

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Edinburgh Fringe: How NOT to flyer + act goes nude in Cosmo to plug show

My shirt (Photographed by Giacinto Palmieri)

My shirt becomes relevant later. Trust me.(Photographed by Giacinto Palmieri)

So, yesterday I was rushing (oh yes I was) round the edge of Bristo Square to get to a comedy show when this young and rather dodgy-looking bloke came at me. He looked coked-up and aggressive and I thought was going to ask me for money. In fact, he grabbed me strongly by the arm, did not tell me about any show but told me I had to take a flyer for the undescribed and un-named show he was pushing. Apparently I had to take the flyer, I had to touch fists with him and I had to tell him that 100% I was going to go to the show.

This is NOT a good way to flyer for a show in Edinburgh – intimidation only a hair’s breadth away from physical threat – especially when you do not say what the show is.

90 minutes later, I was back in Bristo Square, sitting looking at my iPhone messages, when a voice said: “Have you swapped shirts with Milton Jones?”

Giacinto’s Edinburgh Fringe poster

Giacinto Palmieri – horny in Edinburgh

It was mild-mannered Italian comic Giacinto Palmieri. He wears horns in his Fringe flyers. We wandered off in search of a cash machine.

On the way, a man flyering for a show handed me a strip of red paper.

“It is just a piece of paper,” he told me. “There is no information on it whatsoever.”

And, indeed, it had nothing written on it.

After a few steps, I turned back and asked: “What’s this all about? Why did you give me a blank piece of paper?”

“Because,” the flyerer said, “I’m flyering for Ben Target and what Ben Target wants, Ben Target gets.”

Ben Target’s publicity

Ben Target’s successfully minimalist publicity kit

He then gave me a tiny piece of orange card which, on one side, said HOORAY and, on the other blue side said in small writing:

2pm – 3pm
2nd – 24th
Banshee Labyrinth

Underneath, in a typeface so tiny it almost needed a magnifying glass, were the words:

a tiny invitation to a huge party
courtesy of Ben Target

Like the earlier, overly-aggressive flyerer, this told me nothing about the show, but was fascinating. Success.

The anonymous best Fringe flyerer so far...

The anonymous best Fringe flyerer so far…

“If I had taken the piece of red paper without coming back,” I asked, “what would you have done?”

“I would,” said the flyerer, “have let you take a blank piece of paper away and be happy for the rest of the day. I told you It’s just a piece of paper. At no point did I say it was a flyer: that would be false advertising. Please don’t drop it because, technically – as it has no information on it – that would be illegal littering.”

“What if I drop a flyer with information on it?” I asked.

“The authorities tend to let that slide,” said the flyerer, “but I think I’m in a grey area.”

Joz Norris

The ever jolly jester Joz Norris in a sober shirt

At this point, comedian Joz Norris passed by and said: “I have a very similar one to that.”

“What?” I said.

“Your shirt,” said Joz. “I have a blue, flowery, colourful thing. My sister sent it to me as a birthday present from Malaysia and, along with it, I got an alarm clock made out of a Fanta can. They’re very big on recycling in Malaysia. It’s very similar to your one. The shirt. I salute you.”

“There are a lot of sad people around Edinburgh at this time of year,” I told Giacinto.

“I have to go,” said Joz. “I am rushing.”

Because of all these jolly exchanges, I was a little late for my next show – which started at 1.30pm.

Valdemar Pustelnik

Valdemar Pustelnik – bigger horns than Giacinto

As I was rushing along Nicolson Street, a blonde girl held out a flyer which I took.

“Free comedy tonight!” she said.

The flyer was for the show I was seeing in three minutes time – 1.30pm in the afternoon – Valdemar Pustelnik’s My Demons Are Bigger Than Yours!

He was excellent. He is Danish. He wears horns on stage. His flyering was OK. But it was not night time, even in Denmark.

Promoting shows at the Edinburgh Fringe is a delicate balance between in-yer-face yelling and subtle originality.

On sale tomorrow morning around the UK is the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. It features nude pictures of performer Juliette Burton.

A less-revealing photo from this month’s Cosmopolitan

More revealing publicity photo in this month’s Cosmopolitan

“I took ALL my clothes off (apart from a flower) to promote my show,” Juliette told me. “And I didn’t even have a say in which pics they used… I can confirm it is definitely not Photoshopped!”

Cosmo headlines their article:

BODY CONFIDENCE

My Amazing Body: How my struggles have made me more confident

An extract is available online. In the magazine, Juliette explains how she struggled with anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia and compulsive eating – and went from a size 4 to a size 20 in just six months.

That is relevant to her current Edinburgh Fringe Look At Me which looks at how people’s assumptions about other people are often based on externals.

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

Will Juliette Burton clash with Copstick at our Grouchy Club?

Juliette says she is coming to The Grouchy Club at the Fringe this afternoon. The show is co-hosted by me and The Scotsman’s critic Kate Copstick who, last year, got a lot of flak for what was seen as anti-feminist comments in last year’s chat show.

The opening sequence of Juliette’s Fringe show is on YouTube.

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Stand-up comedy with Sophocles and Justin Bieber during World Cup football

Michael Brunström nails grapes on Jusin Bieber’s face

Brunström nails grapes on Justin Bieber’s face

Last night, I went to see Stand Up Greek Tragedy in Brixton, South London – one of the regular Stand Up Tragedy nights organised by Dave Pickering, a man with an obvious and commendable taste for the bizarre.

Last night’s wildly diverse show somehow included genuine Oxbridge Classics scholar Michael Brunström aka The Human Loire (recently blogged about) using a hammer to nail grapes onto Justin Bieber’s face – well, a large cut out of it – while gargling Sophocles’ Ode To Man using Listerene antiseptic mouthwash. Fears that Michael may go mainstream seem unfounded.

Joz Norris bath

Joz Norris claimed to have mis-calculated act

The show ended with Joz Norris (recently blogged about) taking his clothes off to sit in a plastic container he had brought along simply so he could do an Archimedes/Eureka gag.

Joz claimed not to have thought-through the fact that, by STARTING his act with this, he had to perform the rest of his routine disrobed with a pink plastic shower cap on his head.

Somehow, it seemed natural that the show should end with the whole audience (including Joz sitting in his plastic container) singing along to Jarvis Cocker and Pulp performing Common People.

The show will be uploaded as a podcast on the Stand Up Tragedy website but, alas, sans visual surrealism.

My night was not yet over, though, because it was the first night of the World Cup in Brazil and, outside Brixton tube station, I passed as a man holding a two-foot tall cuddly penguin was in mid-argument with a man who had one-and-a-half arms. His left arm was cut off into a stump at the elbow. I have no idea what started the argument but, when I passed by, the Penguin Man was saying:

a football

a football

“…didn’t go to a fucking interior design school.”

To which the man with one-and-a-half arms almost visibly spat: “Brazil is the fucking HOME of football.”

“IN MY ARSE!” shouted The Penguin Man.

“AND THAT’S WHY!” shouted the man with one-and-a-half arms.

The penguin remained mute and immobile throughout.

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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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