Tag Archives: Lindsay Sharman

“This is one of the best shows I have seen in 30 years of going to the Fringe”

Performing at the Edinburgh Fringe

So what did I see at the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday?

Alice Fraser: Savage
Everything you expect a confessional Fringe comedy show to be. Laughs and tears and death and sincerity.

Cheekykita & Mr Dinner: Dead Ghost Star
Everything you expect a surreal Fringe show to be. Laughs and large white spheroid heads and things you crack open to wave about.

Richard Gadd: Waiting For Gaddot
Everything you expect a Richard Gadd Fringe show to be. Funny, surreal and he uses a baseball bat to smash things. I will be interested to see how ‘proper’ reviewers attempt to describe this show, as it cannot be described without ruining the basic premise. But the clue is in the title. It is a solo show with Richard Gadd, Ed Aczel, Ricky Grover, Ian Smith and Ben Target. I have seen this idea done before but never written with such detail. And Samuel Beckett was not angling for a TV comedy series. The audience was very happy. I was with the audience.

Al Porter strikes camp in Edinburgh

The son of Max Headroom & Leslie Crowther

Al Porter: Al Porter Is Yours
The only people standing between (amazingly only 22-year-old) Al Porter and massive mainstream TV success are Alan Carr and Graham Norton. Camp and camp Irishmen are seen as a one-per-TV-channel niche. But calling Al Porter gay and Irish is a bit like calling the bombing of Hiroshima a slight popping sound. He is like the bastard son of Max Headroom and Leslie Crowther on speed spewing out what, in the past, would have been called filth to an adoring audience. Strangely old-fashioned and thoroughly modern. There must have been 4-5 laughs per minute for a whole hour with shrieks and belly-laughs from women, men, young, old, straight and gay. He appealed to them all.

Lindsay Sharman: The Madame Magenta Big Live Podcast Show Extravaganza
(Not in the Fringe Programme and not a podcast.) This charisma-fuelled show allegedly tells the true story of Christianity and is hosted in character as OTT-turbaned Madame Magenta. But just sit back and enjoy a comedy character romp from a lover of the English language who I suspect may end up a successful novelist (she has already written two). The audience yesterday afternoon included five Norwegians only two of whom, by the look of it, could speak English. The two who understood English laughed like Norwegian maelstroms (ie more actively than drains). The other three looked stunned, as well they might. I loved it.

It might be a Silly Musical but is not a Cinnamon one

This man was married in Disney World

Laurence Owen: Cinemusical
This show directly precedes Lindsay Sharman’s at the Voodoo Rooms. Laurence Owen is Lindsay’s husband. They married this year in Disney World.

Cinemusical is one man singing comic songs about the movies. But the phrase ‘comic songs’ is nowhere near a realistic description of these brilliantly composed and lyriced multi-layered showstoppers.

He had a room full to overflowing yesterday – his first show. So the word-of-mouth must have got around about his songs and his performance before he even arrived. As much as anything is certain (which nothing is) Laurence Owen is a sure-fire cert for success in the show business. Either writing musicals for London’s West End or Broadway or (with less personal fame but more money) Hollywood. Cinemusical, as performed by Laurence Owen, is one of the best shows I have seen in 30 years of going to the Fringe.

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Laurence Owen, comedy songsmith with a marriage made in Disney World

Laurence Owen

Laurence Owen – not a deceased female skater

“You’re doing quite well,” I said to composer/performer Laurence Owen when we met for a chat.

“I suppose so, “he agreed.  “There are now two Wikipedia pages on Laurence Owen – one is me and the other is a deceased female figure skater.”

“That’s good,” I said. “Your own Wikipedia page.”

“It is absurdly detailed,” said Laurence, “but I didn’t write it and I don’t know who did. There is information on there that I feel only my mum would know and I have asked her and it’s not her. It’s maybe a little frightening.”

“You’ll be writing a hit Christmas song next,” I said.

“I did write one two years ago,” laughed Laurence. “It was a fairly cynical experiment – to see if you could write ANY Christmas song and then release it on all the channels at Christmas and get it picked up.”

“And the answer is?” I asked.

Lawrence’s album: Lullabies of Pervland

Mr Lawrence’s highly original album: Lullabies of Pervland

“No. Not really,” said Laurence. “But I quite like it. It’s a cross between Bing Crosby and Paul McCartney. Christmas songs are all that jingle bells, sleigh bells rhythm aren’t they? My song was called called Kith and Kin and I shoved it onto the end of my Lullabies of Pervland album.”

“What was it about?” I asked.

“A Quasimodo-esque hideous evil twin who lives in an attic, watching the family from the rafters, looking down, wishing one day he might be invited to sit at the Christmas table. It’s very sad.”

“Are you sure,” I asked, “that you had your finger on the genre here?”

“Maybe that’s why it never took off,” agreed Laurence.

“Although,” I said, “on the other hand, the Pogues’ A Fairytale of New York is the most-played Christmas song of the 21st Century.”

“And that’s not a cheery subject,” mused Laurence.

“But your new Edinburgh Fringe show is…?” I asked.

It might be a Silly Musical but is not a Cinnamon one

Might be a Silly Musical but not Cinnamon

Cinemusical,” said Laurence, “which everyone keeps mis-hearing as Silly Musical, which I don’t mind. But it got introduced the other day as Cinnamon Musical, which I’m not so keen on. It makes it sound even camper than it actually is.

“It’s essentially a one-man musical… a sort of adventure story that consists of music from lots of different genres and is performed by me in the guise of various stock characters.”

“So there’s not one Laurence Owen presenting it?”

“No, no. I appear at the beginning to explain what I’m going to do because, at the first preview, I didn’t do that – just launched straight into it – and no-one knew what was going on. They sort-of enjoyed it but looked quite confused for the first half.”

“What’s not to understand?” I said. “It’s a man singing songs.”

“Yes,” said Laurence, “but I play five different characters in total, plus myself at the beginning. The first is the Disney character – the only thing I’ve kept from last year..”

“That’s the song,” I checked, “where you analyse the limited career potential for females in Disney movies?”

The wrong Laurence Owen - Women's Figure Skating February 13, 1961 X 7205 (Photo: Jerry Cooke)

A photograph of the wrong Laurence Owen (Photo: Jerry Cooke)

“Yes. So she begrudgingly resigns herself to being an evil queen on the grounds that it’s the only appealing option. But there is also the bird character she talks to in that song who is now also a character in his own right. The five characters each have a problem, basically, with the limitations of their genre. That’s the framework of the show.

“The characters have a main song each and, in each of those songs, they establish they’re not happy within the rules of their genre.

“The Disney princess character just wants a normal working business life because she’s ambitious and is fed up because she’s got to either become an amicable fairy godmother or die or become evil. The bird is annoyed because he’s only ever allowed to play novelty sidekicks. So, in his song, he’s campaigning for more lead roles for avian Americans. And so on with each character…

“It all ended up, rather by accident, a bit more issues-based than I had intended. But I quite like that. It’s sort-of got a serious point… ish. And they end up quoting Gandhi…”

“Gandhi?” I asked.

“Yeah. Well, it’s actually a fake Gandhi quote: Be the change you want to see. It’s a quote often attributed to Gandhi, but I think it’s like Elementary, my dear Watson – it was never actually said.”

“Except possibly by Russell Brand,” I suggested.

“Possibly,” said Laurence.

“What is married life like for you?”

“Great.”

Laurence recently married comedy performer Lindsay Sharman at Disney World in Florida.

Laurence & Lindsay - a marriage made in disney world

Laurence and Lindsay have a marriage made in Disney World

“I managed to go through our entire Disney wedding,” said Laurence, “without telling anybody I had written a Disney parody. I think I told our wedding planner that I was a composer, but never mentioned Disney. My dad kept trying to tell people and I was quite embarrassed. Maybe I should have let him.”

“You also wrote the music for The Golem,” I said.

The Golem was at the Young Vic, “ said Laurence, “then went to the Trafalgar Studios in London and has been to China and Russia. I don’t know where they are now – maybe Taiwan. They’re touring it all over the place.”

“And after Edinburgh…?” I asked.

Krazy Kat

Krazy Kat – coming back to a screen with re-scored music

“Well, last year Paul Barritt, the animator, made a load of short films loosely inspired by Krazy Kat – a pre-Tom and Jerry American comic strip about a cat and a mouse. He showed these films in Germany last year accompanied by a very very serious German new music, high Art, experimental orchestra.

“It worked well, but that orchestra are very expensive. When Paul was approached by David Byrne this summer for the Meltdown Festival on the South Bank, Krazy Kat was just too expensive. But then he thought – slightly too late for Meltdown – Why don’t I just get Laurence to do a new score for four players?”

I suggested: “Laurence should have thought of Laurence doing that.”

“I wouldn’t have presumed to ask,” said Laurence. “But we are now going to do that – 90 minutes of film with a live score – after the Fringe.”


A very well-produced video of Laurence’s showstopping Disney parody Empowered is on YouTube:

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An update, 2 un-named comedy shows & a monthly comic piss-up in a brewery

AN UPDATE

Rare sight - shy Copstick - at Mama Biashara

Kate Copstick, London’s Mama Biashara shop

A couple of days ago, I blogged about comedy critic Kate Copstick and her Mama Biashara charity’s work in Kenya. It ended with a part-description of one Somali woman’s very gruesome medical condition.

Recently, Copstick has been staging some comedians’ Edinburgh Fringe preview shows at her Mama Biashara shop in London, with all proceeds going to the charity. She has now posted an update on the case I blogged about:

The good news is that a chunk of the money raised at Sara Mason‘s lovely preview at the Mama Biashara Emporium has paid for medication and stuff that I sent down to Lamu – triple header antibiotics, topical antibiotics, cleaning hooha and a big diagram explaining it all. Gloves and swabs and stuff. Now just a few days into treatment, the sores are drying up, the swelling and the fever and the sickness are disappearing and the pus has stopped. She is really getting much better very quickly! The maggots are diminishing but, as I feared, are coming from inside. I am heading to Kenya on Sunday and hope to get to the lady and start to sort that out with more meds also paid for by Mama Biashara previews at the Emporium.


ONE COMEDY SHOW WITH AN UNCERTAIN NAME

Yesterday, I blogged about character comic turned author Lindsay Sharman.

Lindsay Sharman is at the Edinburgh Fringe in a show of some title

Lindsay is at the Edinburgh Fringe in a show called something

Yesterday afternoon I realised, when I transcribed our chat, that I had not asked the actual title of her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show. I texted her a message:

I can’t find you in the Fringe programme. What’s the show title? One might have thought I would know this!

In the absence of an answer, I posted the blog. Several hours later, this little flurry of texts ensued:

LINDSAY
I’m not in it. Probably a mistake. But the whole show is potentially a mistake.

JOHN
I should, of course, have checked all this  before posting the bleedin’ blog, shouldn’t I? But I think professionalism is over-rated. So wot’s your show called? Where is it? Indeed, wot time? I might even come and see it.

LINDSAY
It has many different names. The preview is called Lindsay Sharman Gives Us The Willies – Comedy Museum, 30th July. In the PBH Free Fringe Programme, it’s The Madame Magenta Big Live Podcast Show Extravaganza, 2.40pm at the Voodoo Rooms. It’s not a podcast btw. And I sent it to Chortle, who might list it as Magenta Is The Warmest Colour. It is an exercise in ensuring low audience numbers and a miserable month. I am going to hire a flyerer.


A MONTHLY COMIC PISS-UP IN A BREWERY

Comedy accessed through a secret door

A secret comedy world suitably accessed through a secret door

After that little flurry of texts, I went to Al Cowie’s extraordinary and un-advertised monthly comedy show staged under his LLaugh! banner (yes, that’s LLaugh) in Wandsworth, which has been running for the last three years. It takes place in a brewery where the beer is free – they are not allowed to sell it and the show is advertised nowhere, therefore it is, in itself an interesting gig.

I had to follow e-mailed instructions to find the venue. This included going to a station, walking for about 10 minutes, crossing a 4-lane highway, doubling back on myself to reach a building site, finding a white door in an orange wall and waiting for a man in a white coat called John (the man, not the coat) to come and escort me to the venue inside The Old Ram Brewery.

It was worth the trip. It was Al Cowie’’s 40th birthday, the acts were Alexander Bennett, Josh Howie, Joz Norris and Stu Turner and the room was completely full.

The man in the white coat turned out to be John Hatch.

“What is this monthly comedy evening called?” I asked Al Cowie.

“The LLaugh ComedyThe Piss-up in The Brewery… I dunno… Whatever… It’s not called anything, because we’re not allowed to advertise it.”

“Why?” I asked.

Al Cowie drinks his own Laughing Juice brerw

Al Cowie drinks his own Laughing Juice brew

“Because… um… Well, we… We… We can’t advertise it bec… I… I don’t actually know why we can’t advertise it. We can say that we run comedy here monthly, but we can’t advertise… “

“We’ve survived for nine years without advertising,” said John Hatch.

“So,” explained Al Cowie, “in order for people to find out about it, people have to e-mail John – john.hatch@rambrewery.co.uk.”

“This is,” John Hatch explained, still wearing his white coat, “the longest continuously brewing site in the UK. We can trace it back to at least 1533 when a family called Ridon or Roydon owned it. There are two different spellings because, in those days, people just spelt things the way they wanted to. There is a record of there being a brewery in Wandsworth in 1512 which we assume might be the same one, but we can’t say it was continuous between 1512 and 1533. The Young family owned it from 1831 until 2006. I was with Youngs for the last 18 years.”

“What,” I asked John Hatch, “did this room the performances now happen in used to be?”

“The Tack Room,” he told me, “which was part of the stable building, built in 1896. There were 18 horses here when Youngs closed in 2006; I’m told there were at least 40 at its peak.”

“They must have been very popular with local gardeners,” I said.

Painting of John Young inside stables urinal

Painting of John Young inside a stables urinal

“John Young was a bit of an extrovert,” explained John Hatch. “The horses were kept here right to the end because he liked animals. He also had goats here, hens, a Dorset horned ram, peacocks, ducks and 17 guard geese.”

“Why?” I asked.

”Because he could,” explained John. “He was the chairman and he got his way. The geese were brought in to ‘protect the site from hostile takeovers’. The hens laid eggs for the stable staff. The goats were fire marshalls. He said they were a calming influence on horses during a fire and were more intelligent than horses. So, in the event of a brewery fire, they would direct the horses to the fire assembly points, set off the fire alarms, phone the fire brigade and do what goats do best.

“He had peacocks and hens and geese but, one day he decided he wanted an ostrich. Then he did research and found that ostriches can jump very high and, to raise the perimeter wall around the entire site would be very expensive. So he decided not to get an ostrich and thought: What can’t jump? I know! An elephant!

“So he ordered a baby elephant to go in the stables to keep the horses company. After a few weeks, he got a bit impatient when the elephant didn’t arrive. After a few months, he got very, very impatient and phoned up the suppliers of the elephant and shouted: Where’s my elephant! 

Joz Norris discovered the brewery’s royal connections

In a dark corner of the brewery, Joz Norris discovered the Queen Mother pulling pints

“They were surprised and told him: Oh, Mr Young, the order was cancelled months ago.

“What? he said. Who by?

“By your brother, they told him. Didn’t you know?

“So he didn’t talk to his brother for over a year. He was very, very angry about the lack of an elephant.”

“Did he,” I asked, “ever get an elephant?”

“Sadly not.”

“Was there,” I asked, “a practical reason for wanting either an ostrich or an elephant? I would not have thought they could serve the same function.”

“Most breweries need an ostrich or an elephant sometimes,” said John Hatch, without explanation.

“In later years,” said Al Cowie, “the company’s shareholders wanted to sell this place because the land was valuable. But John Young didn’t want to. So, at one company AGM, he turned up in a beekeeper’s outfit just to ‘keep the pests away’. Another year he had boxing gloves around his neck and said he’d fight anyone who wanted to sell the place.”

John Hatch reads the fire regulations to the audience amid birthday balloons

John Hatch reads the fire regulations to the audience last night, amid birthday balloons

John Hatch told me: “We do birthday parties, stag parties, quiz nights, any excuse for a party and, because I can produce 70 pints at a time, we can brew whatever you want.

“I need to brew the stuff and it has to condition for a couple of weeks but, if people want me to brew a funny beer with a funny colour or a funny flavour, I can do that. whereas a bigger brewery can’t afford to produce 1,000 barrels of specially-commissioned beer.”

The next comedy night will be on 5th August. The beer will be free. There will be no elephant in the brewery.

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Lindsay Sharman: comedy character and multiple adventure thriller author

Lindsay Sharman, comic and multiple author

Lindsay contemplates doing stand-up

“How well did your first book sell?” I asked character comic Lindsay Sharman.

“I broke even at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe,” she told me, “so everything since then has been pure profit. Edinburgh is great for offloading actual physical books. People can still go on my website for a hard copy of the first one (now re-titled Magenta is the Warmest Colour), which I will happily smear my musky scent all over, should they want. But I can’t afford to print actual physical books this time, so it’s just on Kindle and people are a bit more reluctant to go onto Kindle. ”

“So why are you doing a second book? It’s all hassle for very little profit.”

“You could say that about performing comedy. Why do we do any of this? We must be mental.”

“Are you hooked on the writing?” I asked.

“Yes, I do I enjoy it,” Lindsay told me. “And I do enjoy long-form rather than writing short sets or articles.”

“What’s this second book called?”

Madame Magenta and the Arcati Killer.”

“And you’ve written it, again, in your persona of Madame Magenta, the psychic?’

“Yes.”

Lindsay Sharman’s second book

Lindsay’s second Madame Magenta

The blurb says: Magenta and the Arcati Killer is a comedy detective novel told from the point of view of its eponymous heroine, a woman of flexible morality, an array of tasteful turbans.

“So this is an adventure thriller?” I asked.

“A murder mystery comedy adventure thriller,” explained Lindsay. “Basically, it crosses as many genres as possible so it’s entirely unmarketable.”

“That,” I suggested, “should surely make it more marketable?”

“You would think so,” said Lindsay, “but apparently sitting on several fences at once is uncomfortable.”

“Your influences?” I asked.

Tom Sharpe and his Wilt adventures and maybe a bit of Tom Holt. Anyone called Tom.”

“And,” I asked, “you are being Madame Magenta at the Edinburgh Fringe in August?’

Lindsay Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Lindsay Sharman performs as Madame Magenta

“Yes. It’s a story. It’s a bit risky. I’ve done it like the book. I’ve plotted it as a full narrative arc with Madame Magenta telling the story, taking the audience on a journey. It’s not as joke-heavy as a club set. I have no idea if it’s going to work.”

“What’s it about?”

“The true origins of Christianity and the conflict in the Middle East.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes. And it’s also going to be about gender politics.”

“Mmmm…” I said. “Are you doing previews?’

“One. I decided doing previews doesn’t help me. By the time you have an audience, it should already be in a state that’s alright. None of that writing-it-as-you-go comedian bollocks for me. I think comedians rely a bit too much on audiences telling them where they’re going wrong in the early stages.”

“People,” I suggested, “preview because they’re insecure?”

Lindsay Sharman compered last night

Lindsay does not like holding a piece of paper

“Yes, but there’s this bizarre thing with comedy where you’re supposed to develop quite a lot of your material on the hoof in front of audiences. When I first started, I found that really bizarre because you’re getting away with it on charm a lot of the time and the type of laugh you will get when you are holding a piece of paper and being self-deprecating about the fact it’s not entirely working is a totally different type of laugh to the one you will eventually get when you’ve honed that joke. It doesn’t work for me. What works for me is using my own comedic intuition to get it as good as possible and then presenting it.”

“That’s more of a writer’s approach,” I suggested. “Writers don’t show potential readers their draft versions. Are you becoming a writer more than a performer?”

“I’m not getting the same buzz out of performing,” Lindsay admitted. “It used to be massive highs and massive lows. Now it’s all: Oh, alright. OK… I don’t know what it was I was getting out of it before that I’m not getting out of it now.

“Maybe part of my problem is I don’t necessarily want to appeal to a bunch of people who’ve had a few drinks and who would probably actually prefer to chat to each other because I am just part of their night out. It doesn’t bother me that much if they don’t like me – and that’s not good. I need to care if they like me and I don’t know if I do any more.

Lindsay Sharman

Lindsay decided not to do stand-up

“Actually, about two years into performing comedy, I utterly lost interest in doing stand-up. So then I switched to doing characters, got a new burst of life and then it was almost the same amount of time after I started losing excitement in that too. I’ve had some really boring jobs where, for the first six months, I thought: This is alight. I don’t mind this. and then, one day, I just couldn’t be fucked with it any more.”

“You just married Laurence Owen last month,” I said. “Bad news for him in 2017.”

“Yesterday’s potatoes,” laughed Lindsay.

“Potatoes?” I asked.

“Isn’t that an expression?”

“I don’t think it is.”

“Oh.”

“You were saying you lost interest in stand-up.”

“I don’t like it to be about me, because I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business. I don’t want to have to explain myself. I prefer stories about made-up stuff – though I don’t like the storytelling show stuff.”

“Why?”

Lindsay performed  in London last night

Lindsay’s glass seen as half fool or half empty?

“Because, again, it’s focussing on ‘real’ stuff and I find reality boring and depressing.”

“Boring and depressing?”

“Yeah. Although some comics manage to make it funny and uplifting. Only a few people can do that well, though. Know your own limitations. It’s not me. I’ve always preferred to live in a realm of fantasy. When I was a kid, I mainly read science fiction and fantasy. For a long time I sat down and tried to write ‘real’ stuff about me. That’s what supposedly works as a stand-up. But it’s not me.”

“Perhaps,” I suggested, “fantasy stand-up could be the new comedy.”

“I like John Henry Falle,” said Lindsay.

“The Story Beast…” I said.

“That’s sort of fantastical ludicrousness,” said Lindsay. “It’s much better than all that Oh, I’ve really suffered but it’s funny because now I can be self-deprecating but still cool. I think I like escapism.”

(Updated HERE)

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Two comedy performers to have fairytale marriage in Disneyland

Laurence Owen & Lindsay Sharman

Laurence Owen and Lindsay Sharman at last night’s party…

Last night, I went to the engagement party for performers Lindsay Sharman and Laurence Owen. They are getting married at Disneyland.

“Yes,” said Laurence. “We’re taking ourselves off to Florida as a… erm… sort of… a…”

“Marriage?” I suggested.

“Yes,” said Laurence. “We’re getting married. That’s the main gist of it. For ten days in May.”

“That,” I said, “is a long marriage by American standards.”

“Well,” he replied, “if we get through ten days, we know it’s going to be alright.”

“Why get married at Disneyland?” I asked. “Have they heard your song?” (Laurence has a wonderful humdinger of a Disney pastiche song.)

“That’s the thing,” he explained. “Disney looms very large in our lives. As a kid, I used to go to Paris Disneyland with my dad. And, about this time last year, Lindsay and I had a week with no gigs in and I was temporarily homeless – between flats – so we went to the Paris Disneyland and we had a really amazing time there. Then we went again in September, immediately after last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

“I had this idea that, in January this year, I would pop the question to Lindsay. Then she sort-of beat me to it. Cos we were chatting by text late on Christmas Eve – Christmas Day early morning – and we just got talking about Disney weddings and decided to go on from there, pretty much. So that was it.”

“Proposal by text?” I asked.

“Proposal by text. We’re thoroughly modern.”

“I didn’t realise,” I told him, “that Disney do marriage packages.”

“Oh yes,” said Laurence. “For your basic package, you get a location for a ceremony. We have a gazebo next to a big lake and there’s a pirate ship by the lake and it’s themed like a 1920s boardwalk-type thing; it’s all very nice.”

“And it’s more expensive to have the castle?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Laurence. “And, if you pay $3,000, you can arrive in the Cinderella pumpkin coach and you have two footmen.”

“Frogs?…” I started.

“For that price,” said Laurence, “you would hope so.”

“… or English?” I concluded.

“Maybe,” said Laurence. “And, as well as those guys, you get two buglers who will announce your arrival on long trumpets with flags hanging off them. You have to pay through the nose for that, though. And, if you want to have Mickey Mouse present, you have to pay another $900.”

“Are Mickey, Donald and Goofy all the same price?” I asked.

“Any costume characters,” explained Laurence, “you have to pay $900 each. So, if you want Mickey and Minnie together, that’s $1,800.”

“I wondered if maybe Goofy was relatively cheap.,” I said. “Who wants Goofy officiating at their marriage?”

“Possibly,” said Laurence. “On a sliding scale of Disney characters, maybe if you only want Pluto, you could get him for fifty quid.”

“You’re getting married on May 6th…” I said.

“Yes. We tried to get May the Fourth because that’s Star Wars Day, but they were full up on that day.”

“Of course!” I said. “Disney now own Star Wars. So you could have Stormtroopers in attendance. The ultimate white wedding.”

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A comedy performer, an entrepreneur and a desperate blogger talk about sex

Adam shows off his lady lifting skills in Soho

Adam Taffler is good at picking up women

Yesterday’s blog was a chat I had with comedy performer Lindsay Sharman at the Soho Theatre Bar. By coincidence, also sitting at the table, was showman/promoter Adam Taffler. After I had finished chatting with Lindsay, Adam joined in.

“It would be great,” said Adam, “to have a pop-up venue to encourage new artists and to have a place where people like Lindsay can do her shows.”

“Not a money-making venue, then,” mused Lindsay.

“You could have one floor,” suggested Adam, “where you just have people coming in to freelance and type. Hot desk spaces. And, for some shows, people could come in and wear blue overalls and they get in there and throw grunge at each other. And you could have Bob Slayer in one room, Martin Soan in another room and John Robertson down in the basement doing some crazy shit. Great fun.”

Lindsay asked: “Can you find anything like that place Bob Slayer found for his Christmas Grotto in the City of London?”

“Well, I’ve got something up my sleeve,” said Adam. “But we’ll see. I’ve got some ideas. I want to start a little hot tub cinema in my basement in Fitzrovia.”

An irrelevant film poster for Fifty Shades of Grey

An irrelevant movie poster for a sex film in a desperate bid to get blog hits

“So,” I asked Adam, “you would have Hot Tub Cinema presents Fifty Shades of Grey?

“No,” said Adam. “Something like Ghostbusters and we would have marshmallows and stuff.”

“How many people can you fit into a hot tub?” I asked.

“Depends how big it is. Six to eight?”

“And I suppose,” I said, “it depends how friendly you want to be.”

“Yes it does,” agreed Adam.

“You should,” suggested Lindsay, “do what you did with Doctor Brown – take people off to the Welsh countryside but do it in whatever weird format you want to try-out.”

“It’s going that way,” Adam told her. “I’m doing one next weekend called The Winter House Party.”

“A bit like the Summer House Party?” I asked.

“Except in the winter,” explained Adam. “And I’ll be doing some interesting things there.”

“Wasn’t there an orgy involved in the Summer House Party?” I asked. “Everything you do involves orgies.”

“It wasn’t an orgy,” Adam corrected me. “It was about sexual liberation.”

“I’m a child of the 1960s,” I said. “I said it was Free Love and you said: Oh no, it’s not Free Love. It’s something else. I think you said it was about £55 a throw.”

“It’s Sex Positive,” said Adam. “The 1960s probably weren’t the best time for women’s liberation.”

“Sex positive,” Lindsay pointed out, “sounds a bit too much like HIV Positive.”

John Knox, a Scots Presbyterian

John Knox, revered Scots Presbyterian with beard

“I was brought up as a Scots Presbyterian,” I said. “That’s all about sex negative.”

“I think it’s the next big thing in London,” Adam said.

“Scots Presbyterianism?” I asked.

“Sex Positive. Sexual liberation.”

“Well,” I said, “the cultural impact of Fifty Shades of Grey…”

“That is not a cause,” said Adam. “It’s a symptom of the thing that’s…”

“I actually wonder,” said Lindsay, “if people are becoming more prudish. Apparently teenage pregnancies are down.”

“That’s good,” said Adam.

“I was reading something,” continued Lindsay, “saying that the amount of really quite alarming porn that’s out there is actually turning youngsters off sex. And, if you look at history, it’s prudish – backlash against prudery – prudish – backlash against prudery.”

Fifty Shades of Grey,” I suggested. “There’s a backlash there.”

“It’s a wheel, a circle,” said Lindsay.”

Adam Taffler appears to attempt a bad demonstration of Fleming’s Left-Hand Rule while chatting this week

Adam Taffler appears to attempt a bad demonstration of Fleming’s Left-Hand Rule while chatting last week

“It was worth having Oliver Cromwell,” said Adam, “just to have the Restoration afterwards, where things were filthy.”

“But then,” said Lindsay, “the Victorians were very prudish.”

“But I do think,” said Adam, “that every time you come to a new level of understanding. The great thing about the Sex Positive scene is about embracing sexuality in a healthy way and exploring it and you can’t limit your sexuality to the bedroom.”

“The pavements,” I suggested, “are going to get slippy. There will be accidents.”

“It sounds unhygienic,” said Lindsay. “You’d have to carry wet-wipes everywhere. It’s because whatever the previous generation did you don’t want to do, so you do the exact opposite. So, actually, we might be due a prudish period.”

“There’s loads I want to say,” mused Adam, “but I don’t want to open my mouth.”

“Well,” I said, “you grew up living the hippie life in the fields of the West Country.”

Lindsay Sharman makes her point this week

Lindsay Sharman makes her point last week

“You don’t like being called a hippie, do you?” Lindsay asked Adam.

“His parents were hippies,” I told her.

“No they weren’t,” said Adam sharply.

“They certainly were when they got mentioned in my blog,” I told him.

“My mum started a community in Wales…” Adam started to explain.

“Hippies,” I said.

“…and we lived in canvas structures,” Adam continued.

“Hippies, I said.

“It’s not a bad thing,” Lindsay suggested to Adam, “labelling someone a hippie.”

“But,” he argued, “a label sometimes defines something in a way that isn’t useful, because then you can’t understand all the nuances of it. But an audience can understand a generalisation, so…”

“Do you think,” asked Lindsay, “the word ‘hippie’ has negative connotations?”

“For me it does,” explained Adam. “I fucking hate hippies. I used to do all these festivals with them. All these people wafting around…”

“You grew up in a community living in wigwams,” I asked, “but you weren’t hippies?

Adam Taffler, underground entrepreneur (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

Adam prefers Bohemians to hippies (Photograph by Kirsty Burge)

“Not in my understanding of it,” replied Adam. “The word ‘Bohemian’ is one thing. But ‘hippie’ to me has connotations of someone who doesn’t really do anything and complains about everything and thinks they’re really kind-of right-on. The people I hang around with now do loads of stuff. They’re intelligent, creative, they’ve got an open mind…”

“So they’re not drop-outs from Society,” said Lindsay.

“That’s right,” agreed Adam. “And, for me, ‘hippie’ does have that connotation.”

“I think of hippie,” explained Lindsay, “as someone who integrates a bit of Eastern mysticism with a Western way of life but in alternative lifestyles.”

“I think Sex Positive,” said Adam, “is interesting people who are trying to do something, looking at ways of re-inventing culture, having new ways of relating to each other which are not always sexual.”

“But,” asked Lindsay, “is polyamorousness quite prevalent in your…”

“Well,” Adam told her, “when I first came across that at hippie festivals, everyone who said I am polyamorous sounded to me like a complete arsehole who just wanted to have sex with lots of people. Whereas, in the Sex Positive scene in London, I’ve met some pretty cool couples who I really respect who do have multiple relationships and it comes from a very strong core of love for each other and I think it works well for them… Though so much can go wrong in those situations.”

“How long have those wonderful relationships lasted, though?” I asked. “Five years?”

The "love outside the box" symbol, sometimes used to represent non-monogamy, polyamory, and LGBT relationships,

Love Outside The Box symbol, sometimes used to represent non-monogamous, polyamorous and LGBT relationships.

“Yeah, four, five years at most.”

“Yes,” said Lindsay, “I don’t know that it’s a long-term strategy.

“The thing is,” argued Adam, “we’re all different and all have different boundaries. What’s good is just to be adult and to communicate with each other what those boundaries are and to explore them. So for some people it might be right; for other people it might never be right.”

“Well, some people,” I said, “think buggering badgers is wrong, but we’ve all been there, haven’t we?”

There was a slight pause.

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Lindsay Sharman, baptised with a head hunter, is writing a play for Edinburgh

Lindsay Sharman, ex-Christian

Lindsay Sharman, ex-Christian, remembered headhunter this week

“I got religious when I was in Brunei,” comedy performer Lindsay Sharman told me a couple of days ago. “I went to a Chinese Baptist church and they were very nice people.”

“How,” I asked, “do the Chinese Baptists differ from the British Baptists?”

“They speak Chinese,” Lindsay replied. “Though they also spoke English, which helped. I got baptised at the same time as a head-hunter in his nineties. Well, he was an ex-head-hunter. He didn’t hunt heads any more, because he was now a Christian and ancient.”

“What turned you on to Christianity?” I asked.

“Jesus seemed like a nice chap and I thought the world lacked a bit of mystery and magic and I was looking for that.”

“Your father worked for the Shell oil company?” I asked.

“Yes. My parents were agnostic, though my mum suddenly got religious about ten years ago. I stopped believing when I was about 14.”

“Why?”

“I was kind of going off it for a while, In fact, as soon as I got baptised, it was kind of like TICK! Done that! – I think I expected some kind of change and nothing happened and then my father died when I was 14 and I think that tested me a bit more as I was getting no comfort from the idea that he had gone to heaven because I found the whole idea faintly ludicrous.”

“What age did you go to Brunei?”

Lindsay Sharman

Lindsay Sharman was once younger

“We went out when I was 8 and returned to England when I was 14. At that time, it was Moslem in the same way England is supposedly Christian. Although not any more, because the Sultan’s now gotten Islamic. He’s turned super-Moslem. Women are getting stoned for adultery out there now. There was none of that in my time. No-one covered up when I was there: it was all shorts and T-shirts and vests. Although, two years into us being there, the country did go ‘dry’ and they banned karaoke. I was very upset because I had been going to have a karaoke birthday party. I was 9; it was a big thing to me.”

“And now,” I said, “you’re writing a play about religion for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. What’s it called?”

Lindsay Sharman Gives Us The Willies. It’s not really a play. It’s one of those weird Edinburgh things that can only exist in Edinburgh. It’s a play insomuch that it’s not going to be stand-up comedy and it’s going to have a narrative. But don’t ask me details. Everything might change by August.”

“What,” I asked, “was the original, basic idea?”

Mel Brooks once told me to open my mouth when being photographed

Mel Brooks once told me to always open mouth in photos

“The Gospel according to Mary Magdalene, done as a New York Jew: a bit Joan Rivers-esque. I thought I would link the fact they were all Jewish to comedic Jews and the immediate thought for me was Mel Brooks style fast-talking.

“I tried that out and it did go quite well, but then I thought it could be a play-within-a-play. What I don’t like about the Edinburgh Fringe – or what I feel I have to be flexible about in Edinburgh – is that the audience comes into a room which is not actually that suited to performance and you don’t necessarily acknowledge it. I don’t like that. I don’t like watching a show where they haven’t acknowledged they’re in a room in Edinburgh at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

“So I wanted to fit it into something which allowed her not to be at The Jerusalem Head tavern in wherever. I wanted to acknowledge the fact it was a show in Edinburgh. So then I had the idea of a play-within-a-play about Mary Magdalene but everyone’s buggered-off because it’s the most offensive play there has ever been. All the actors have fucked-off, so it is an audition for new actors and all the audience are potential actors and I am going to audition them. This is my current idea. But it might change out of all recognition in the next few months.”

“So it has continuity of time and place…” I said.

“Yes,” Lindsay replied. “But, at the same time it will be dipping in-and-out of this ‘most offensive’ play about religion.”

“And it’s called Lindsay Sharman Gives Us The Willies…?”

“Yes. Though it might bear no relation to… Well, it might do… There’s going to be stuff about circumcision in there.”

“Cutting edge…” I said.

A Penitent Mary Magdalene by Nicolas Régnier,

Jewish Mary Magdalene by Nicolas Régnier

“Because it’s a play-within-a-play,” Lindsay continued, “it’s going to look at all the issues in the world at the moment. So, for once, I’m going to do something topical. Usually I don’t do anything topical.”

“Burning Moslems?” I asked.

“I might tip-toe around that a bit.”

“Is there a serious kernel to it?”

“Maybe. Who knows? Don’t ask me details. Maybe. I don’t know if there is a way of avoiding the seriousness of the topic. Though you can take any serious topic and give it a light treatment. It will still be totally absurd. And the play is partly going to be about social control and how religion forms part of that. If one person has a beard, everyone has to have a beard. Except the women, of course.”

“Why of course?” I asked. “Will it have multiple characters?”

“It will have… Maybe. Who knows?… Don’t ask me too many details at this point, because it could all change.  I’ve got other things to think about: I’m trying to write a book at the moment.”

Lindsay Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Lindsay Sharman performs as Madame Magenta

“Another one?”

“Yes. I’m almost there. I’ve got about four more chapters and then I’m finished.”

“What’s the pitch?”

“It’s a whodunnit, a murder mystery. It’s really complicated, whereas the first one was just ridiculous, so I could vomit that out in no time. “

“A whodunnit in the traditional drawing room sense?”

“Sort of. Yeah. I guess so.”

“Featuring Madame Magenta?”

“Yes.”

“Written in the first person…”

“No. It’s got different perspectives. It switches perspective every couple of chapters.”

“When is this being unleashed on the nation?”

“In about a week and a half.”

“But you haven’t finished it yet!”

The cover of Lindsay Sharman’s novel

Lindsay Sharman’s first Magenta novel

“I’ve got about 10,000 words to do. I can do that in a week and a half. I did the first book in about three and a half weeks.”

“What’s the new book called?”

Magenta 2: The Reckoning.”

“It’s not, is it?” I asked.

“Why not?” I think titles are over-rated.”

“What about My Night of Sex With Tom Cruise and an Armadillo?”

“That’s probably my third book,” said Lindsay.

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Comics, bankers & surgeons: Sociopaths

Lindsay Sharman with some quiet opinions (Photo by Tigz Rice)

Lindsay Sharman expresses some opinions on comedians (Photograph by Tigz Rice)

“So you are telling me all comedians are sociopaths?” I asked comedian Lindsay Sharman.

“Not all,” she said. “Just some.”

“I never know,” I told her, “the difference between psychopaths and sociopaths.”

“I think it’s the level to which they have violent impulses,” said Lindsay. “Shall I go through the symptoms?”

“Simpsons?” I asked.

“Symptoms,” said Lindsay. “The main one is a lack of empathy: an inability to understand other people’s emotions. Hence a lot of them become mimics, so they can move throughout society easily. They become excellent mimics of what they think other people want to hear and see. So a lot of them are very charming and have very close relationships which, at some point, break down because the other person ends up getting mistreated by them. The sociopath will emotionally manipulate people in order to go for their weaknesses and vulnerabilities to bond them closer to them.”

“Just sounds like men with women and vice versa,” I suggested.

“There are other things that tie them to the comedy community,” said Lindsay. “They’re very promiscuous, because they don’t necessarily form very close bonds. And there’s a high incidence of bi-sexuality…”

“I’ve not noticed that in comedians,” I said, surprised. “I mean the bi-sexuality.”

“Yeah, well, maybe not all comedians,” said Lindsay.

“I was reading the other day,” I said, “about a high incidence of promiscuity among people in a particular bank branch in Regents Street. Someone who worked there was saying everyone was bonking everyone else.”

“That’s just them self-aggrandising their workplace,” said Lindsay. “Look at us! We’re all bonking all the time!

Sociopaths are also,” she continued, “constantly observing – to understand human behaviour so they can absorb it. It’s this outsider position while desperately trying to be an insider and there’s also an element of game playing to the whole thing. They seem to go through life like a video game – like it’s all about levels and achievements.”

The City of London - home to sociopathy and promiscuity?

The City of London – a hotbed of promiscuity and sociopathy?

“But bankers are the same aren’t they?” I asked.

“Yes,” agreed Lindsay. “And the reason why there’s a lot of sociopathic behaviour among financiers and CEOs is because they’re not risk averse. The things that would scare the crap out of us, they just do. If it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter: they’ll just try another thing. They’re accumulating power and points and they don’t care if other people are adversely affected.

“The people who brought down banks and wiped out people’s pensions probably are not kept awake at all at night by that. They’re probably just planning their next move to get back on top of the heap.”

“But comedians are terrified of everything,” I said. “I’ve seen comics virtually shit themselves before they go on stage.”

“There’s adrenaline,” countered Lindsay. “A lot of sociopaths will create difficult situations for themselves because they enjoy the challenge and the adrenaline associated with getting out of those situations. I’m not saying all comedians are sociopaths but, in a lot of the different problems which different comedians have, I think there might be an element of it. Sociopaths have also got a very high regard for themselves. Quite narcissistic.”

“But,” I said, “comedians have got terrible problems of self-doubt.”

“They say that,” agreed Lindsay, “but they think that’s what people want to hear. It’s that duality of thinking you’re constantly screwing it up while thinking you’re the best thing in the world. They’ve got rock-solid self-esteem while knowing they can screw up quite a lot.”

“So comedians have simultaneous low self-esteem and high self-esteem?” I asked.

“I think that’s a very comedian thing,” said Lindsay. “There’s an arrogance in even trying it in the first place. And part of sociopaths’ charm is that they’ll use humour as a mechanism to hide the fact they have no feelings. They know people are attracted to humour.

Surgeons - are they a bunch of sociopaths too?

Surgeons. Are they also a bunch of sociopaths or psychopaths?

“Some other industries do attract sociopaths. The financial world. Any world which can bestow prestige and in which it’s helpful to not have too many empathic feelings. Top surgeons who carve into bodies all the time and have to see the body as just a collection of tubes. Anyone who climbs to the top of the heap.”

“But surely,” I said, “everyone is trying to climb to the top of some heap, even if it’s small and parochial.”

“Well,” replied Lindsay, “it has become a bit hip to say you’re on the autism scale. It might make more sense to say we’re somewhere on the empathy scale. I like to think of myself as an empathic person but, if I was really empathic, I would be a vegetarian. I am quite happy to eat animals which have been slaughtered.

“Intelligent sociopaths who have been raised in empathic environments will try and replicate what an empath does, though they might only go for free range eggs or something. Whereas a lot of people who are empathic use their emotions as a terrible excuse for atrocities – like blowing up an anti-abortion clinic. That’s all about emotions and nothing about logic. In fact, either end of the scale is not great, really.

“Maybe comedy commissioners should be recruited from fallen financiers who have taken too many risks. The trouble with the current UK comedy commissioning scene is that is seems to be populated by a load of scared people. They all seem scared to lose prestige, to lose their job, to look like an idiot. They don’t take any risks.

“There have always been people scared in their jobs, not willing to risk things, but I just think it’s getting a bit endemic. And now they’re all thinking: Oh! We’ve got to be relevant because apparently this thing called ‘the internet’ is taking over. So now they do things like look at YouTube hits and go: Oh! Let’s give him a programme! Hence Dapper Laughs. He wouldn’t have got a programme if it hadn’t been for panicked TV commissioners. It’s idiotic. If they did what the internet does, they’d have wall-to-wall pandas on slides and kittens falling off tables.”

“When you say comedians are sociopaths, though,” I said, “you’re describing any person really. Dustmen probably want to get to the top of their profession.”

“No,” said Lindsay. “I think a lot of people are very happy doing what they’re doing. They have different priorities. I’ve had quite a few different jobs in my time and the majority of the people I’ve worked with outside comedy are happy doing what they’re doing and they’d prefer not to have the stress of extra responsibility. I don’t think everyone is hungrily ambitious. You’ve probably spent too much time around comedians, John. You’re starting to think most people are ambitious.”

“No. I think most people are barking mad,” I told her, “and that’s the good side of them. I think most comedians are terrified.”

“Like I said earlier,” replied Lindsay, “I don’t think all comedians are sociopaths, “just that there might be a high incidence. The incidence of sociopaths and psychopaths among the top tier of financiers is supposed to be much higher than in the general population. And I think that might be the case with comedians too.”

Don’t blame Lindsay - she’s only giving an opinion

Don’t blame Lindsay – she’s only giving her opinion!

“Other comedians,” I said,  “are going to hate you implying they might be sociopaths.”

“Some of them definitely are. Some of the ones who are a bit more ruthless and careerist – maybe they have an element of it? That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with being ambitious. I find the more successful comedians think: I know exactly what works. I know my schtick. And they do it with such conviction and belief in themselves that audiences can get swept up in it.”

I said: “It sounds like being a sociopath might help in career terms.”

“Probably,” Lindsay replied. “If you’re not so bridled by morality and guilt, then you…”

“Guilt?”

“If you have absolutely no remorse for anything, if you don’t care about the pain you might cause others, then you probably will be incredibly successful in business. And comedy. And you won’t be hung up on artistic integrity – Screw you! I’m going to do this because it will give me greater exposure and more money and that’s what it’s all about.”

So are you a sociopath?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Lindsay.

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Comedian Lindsay Sharman is a greater writer than William Shakespeare.

Lindsay performed  in London last night

Magenta was performing in London last night

Comedy stage performer Lindsay Sharman is a greater writer than William Shakespeare.

I do not actually think that.

She is good, but she has just this week published a novel Magenta with a quote from me on its back cover and I want to try to be quoted again as a supposedly authoritative source.

Last night I saw Lindsay perform a preview of her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Madame Magenta: Libros Mystica.

It was in a double bill with her boyfriend Laurence Owen’s music-based comedy show Laurence Owen: Lullabies of Pervland.

“I know one couple who are both comedians and they never get involved in each other’s work,” I told them after the show. “Do you ever work together at home?”

“We bounce a lot of stuff off each other,” said Laurence.

“Oh we do all the time,” said Lindsay.

A selfie of Lawrence and Lindsay at home last night

A ‘selfie’ of Laurence and Lindsay’s homelife taken last night

“Quite often,” said Laurence, “we’ve set aside nights where we go to a cafe in Waterloo that stays open late. When we were talking about our Edinburgh shows this year we went there. It’s very useful to have Lindsay talk sense to me.”

“And it helps,” I suggested, “that you’re not really performing the same type of material.”

“I’m not really musical at all,” said Lindsay.

“The music’s covered,” said Laurence. “I can deal with that because my day job is composing bits and bobs for theatre and films.”

“He’s currently,” said Lindsay, “doing something for the theatre group 1927. They’re going into the Young Vic and he’s doing the soundscape.”

Lawrence’s album: Lullabies of Pervland

Another thing to sell after the gigs: Laurence’s musical album

In the preview I had just seen, Laurence had not yet written the music for the final song, though he had written the words, so he read them out.

“I was amazed,” I told him, “that you could write the words first when the rhythm and presumably the melody keeps changing.”

“I have to write the lyrics before I know what the song is all about,” Laurence explained. “The lyrics dictate the music. But I’ve got the melodies in my head for that final song.”

“It’s going to be a little bit Zorba The Greek, isn’t it?” said Lindsay.

“Yes,” agreed Laurence, “a little bit like Zorba and a little bit like Offenbach’s Can-Can. That’s kind of what I’m hearing.

Lawrence Owen (Photograph by Plainview Media)

Laurence Owen prepares for his Fringe show (Photograph by Plainview Media)

“I tend to write the songs as a sort of poem first of all and, while I do that, I’ll probably be hearing a sort of vocal melody in my head which I’ll be using to help shape the lyrics. I might sometimes cheat and base it on another song and change all the music after I’ve finished.”

“This is like people asking Where do you get your ideas from?” said Lindsay.

“And then, when you tell ‘em, they don’t give a shit,” said Laurence.

“But it does interest me,” I pleaded. “What’s your book about, Lindsay?”

“Oh, no,” she said. “Now I feel like I have to be coherent.”

“Why?” I said. “Let’s not spoil things.”

I had driven down to London from Leeds the previous night, went to bed at 5.00am and got up again at 8.30am. I was blabbering from an empty head.

The cover of Lindsay Sharman’s novel

The cover of Madame Magenta’s novel

“It’s a novel,” said Lindsay.

“In character as Madame Magenta,” I said. “Who is a psychic and medium and white witch and who wears a rather fetching red turban.”

“The turban is hot under stage lights,” said Lindsay. “The book is written from the point of view of Magenta. She goes off on an adventure.”

“Why write it?” I asked.

“To sell after gigs,” she replied.

“But it wasn’t totally money-driven…” I said.

“It was a sort of personal challenge,” explained Lindsay. “Everyone thinks they have a book inside of them and I thought: Let’s see if I actually am capable of it. Also I felt that my comedic voice or my ability to communicate with an audience might translate into the written word.”

The blurb on the back says:


Renowned psychic and medium Madame Magenta has two husbands. Fortunately, one of them is dead. Less fortunately, death has turned him into a massive pain in the arse.

Magenta has three days to return husband no.1 to the Other Side, or she’s stuck with him for good. Only dubious doings, dark magic and dealings with the criminal underworld can help her now.

“A Joyce Grenfell for the 21st Century” – John Fleming, founder of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards


Lindsay Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Madame Magenta on stage at Pull The Other One

I think that last quote will be the thing that sells the book.

“I’ve read voraciously since I was a kid,” Lindsay told me last night, “and I thought: If I’ve absorbed all these books and I’ve started developing my voice comedically then surely I’m capable of forming some kind of decent novel?

“Why written by Madame Magenta and not Lindsay Sharman?” I asked.

“Because I started writing and didn’t know where I was going to go,” explained Lindsay. “She was an already-formed character, so I knew how she thought and what she’d do and I had a vague idea of her family life and context.”

“Yes,” I said, “I had no idea until he was mentioned in the show tonight that she had a husband.”

Lindsay Sharman as herself in a selfie

Lindsay Sharman being herself in a recent selfie

“Oh,” said Laurence, “he’s very well explored in the book.”

“The book is a bit of a different animal to the stage show,” said Lindsay, “but it’s still recognisably her.”

“And it’s a comic novel,” I checked, “not a deep exploration of the human psyche?”

“I don’t think I’m capable of writing that kind of thing,” said Lindsay.

“I suspect you are,” I said.

“I think,” said Lindsay, “I’d have to take everything a bit more seriously than I probably do. I think I deal with everything through humour and that’s why I became a comedian.”

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“What happened to your cancer?” I asked comedian Lewis Schaffer

Tony Green (left) as The Pompous Man & Martin Soan as Hercule Poirot (part of the show Lewis Schaffer did not see)

Tony Green (left) as The Pompous Man and Martin Soan as Hercule Poirot at the 10th anniversary Pull The Other One

Occasionally I get asked to see shows by people in the hope that I might mention how wonderful they are in my increasingly-prestigious blog. I usually accept the free ticket. I am, after all, a Scot brought up among Jews. But, really, I tend not to review shows – I prefer to preview upcoming events with blog chats.

This has the advantage that I appear to have a bigger finger on the pulse of what is about to happen than I perhaps do… plus I get to drink tea and eat cake with some interesting people… and I do not have to give my detailed opinion on shows.

If I actually review shows, I risk being hated over a period of limitless years and being thrown out of parties to which I have been accidentally invited. This is not a good option for someone who likes tea and cake.

There is also the problem that, if I see a really superb show, there is very little I can say.

Martin Soan, filmed before the show Lewis Schaffer didn’t see

Martin Soan, being filmed by Ravensbourne before the show

If I were to write a blog full of extreme adjectives praising the brilliance of the performance, writing and chair upholstery at the venue, it would read – even when it is entirely justified – like the worst luvvie puff imaginable and too much of this would lose me any credibility I might or might not have. So…

If I see crap and say so, I am a bastard.

If I see genius and praise it to the full extent it deserves, I am a luvvie puffball.

As a result, I prefer to talk to interesting people and enjoy quiet conversations over tea and cake.

Having said that…

Lindsay Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Superb Sharman last night, as Madame Magenta

Yesterday’s alleged 10th anniversary Pull The Other One comedy show in London’s strangely-increasingly trendy Nunhead was even more wonderful than normal, boosted even moreso by Lindsay Sharman hosting as three characters. Suffice to say, the show opened with Martin Soan’s Riverdance routine (a show-closer anywhere else) and ended by opening The Gates Of Hell.

Look, you had to be there.

(Comedian Lewis Schaffer was not.)

There were so many people on the bill – each one excellent – that there is no point me listing the names without going into extreme detail of why they were so good.

Not listing them will get me a black mark from each of the acts.

Listing just the names would lose reader interest.

Yesterday’s PTOO cast as listed on a poster

Yesterday’s PTOO cast as listed on a poster

Describing only some would get me disliked by the un-described.

It is an eternal trap for a critic.

Which, thankfully, I am not.

I am a mentioner of occasionally colourful background.

So I will just mention that the whole preparations for the night as well as the show itself were shot on five cameras by a crew from Ravensbourne College directed by a man who used to direct Cannon and Ball for ITV.

During the afternoon, club runner Martin Soan also took phone calls from various showbiz chums for various props they wanted him to create for them (including yet another giant vagina, which is becoming his speciality)… and comedian Lewis Schaffer wandered in.

David Crossman (left) interviews Lewis Schaffer

David Crossman (left) interviewed Lewis Schaffer yesterday

Lewis Schaffer was not on the bill for the show, though Martin Soan had asked him to come along in the afternoon.

Lewis Schaffer wandered in and started saying Hi. I’m Lewis Schaffer to anyone who would listen. He is, after all, Lewis Schaffer and this is what he does.

One of those who listened was David Crossmanthe aforementioned director from Ravensbourne, who wisely or unwisely chose to ask Lewis Schaffer questions in front of the cameras.

 Frost and Ireland in the show Lewis Schaffer slept through

Frost and Ireland had very stiff upper lips in yesterday’s show

I fully expect the eventual half hour documentary to be about Lewis Schaffer with little mention of Pull The Other One.

Obviously, I chatted to Lewis Schaffer too. He makes it difficult not to.

“What happened to your cancer?” I asked him. “You were going to call your Edinburgh Fringe show Lewis Schaffer Has Cancer.

“I WAS going to develop cancer for my show,” said Lewis Schaffer, “but then I developed a boil on my back.”

I sympathised with Lewis Schaffer.

“I suppose it hasn’t got the same publicity value,” I said.

“No,” agreed Lewis Schaffer glumly, “and you’d be surprised how slowly those things go away.”

“Cancer?” I asked.

“Boils,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I don’t want to talk about this. It’s disgusting.”

“And cancer isn’t?” I asked.

“It was in the long line of show titles I have almost used but didn’t,” he replied, perking up. “Lewis Schaffer Is Jimmy Carr. Do you remember that one? The thing is people suggest show titles to me and then they’re mad when I choose my own show title,” he added glumly.

“What have you eventually decided to call your show this year?” I asked.

Lewis Schaffer: Success Is Not An Option… I don’t have a plan for the future, John. I’m SO tired.”

“Why are you tired?” I asked.

“Because I’ve got sleep apnea.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You know, John, when you’re old…”

“I know,” I told Lewis Schaffer.

“… your body gets flabby,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You probably don’t notice because you’ve never looked in a mirror, John: I can tell by the way you dress… Your body gets flabbier. But also your body on the inside gets flabbier too. You get all sorts of floppy-flop bits that are going on inside…”

“You’re thinking of women,” I suggested.

“…and what happens with old men,” said Lewis Schaffer, ignoring me, “is – like me – When I’m trying to fall asleep, I fall asleep and then my internal flaps…”

“What internal flaps?” I asked.

“Your glottis, your adenoids… In your throat, there are things that close.”

“Like bad shows?” I asked.

“They close,” said Lewis Schaffer, ignoring me, “so you don’t drown.”

“I think your ear lobes keep growing,” I mused. “They keep growing. My mother had big ear lobes when she died. The Queen Mother must have had ear lobes down to her knees.”

“They probably caught up with her tits,” said Lewis Schaffer. He pondered this for a few seconds and then asked me: “Is that funny?”

Shortly afterwards, Lewis Schaffer left the building because he was feeling exhausted and had to go home to bed. It was about 6.00pm.

About ten minutes later, I looked out the first floor window and saw him talking animatedly to three men in the street. He had found another audience.

About five minutes later, I went out and joined them. He talked for another ten minutes.

Usually, audiences seek out good comedians.

Lewis Schaffer seeks out good audiences.

Sharnema Nougar fell for four audience members in the PTOO 10th anniversary show which Lewis Schaffer missed

Sharnema Nougar fell for four audience members in the PTOO 10th anniversary show which Lewis Schaffer missed

He never turned up for the show.

Heather, one of his entourage, said he was asleep.

That was a pity. He would have enjoyed the show.

He could have talked to the audience afterwards.

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