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Mace & Burton – UK female comedy duo who sniff sandals & love rom coms

Mace & Burton in bed (Photo by Helena G Anderson)

Mace & Burton in bed in 2012 (Photo by Helena G Anderson)

Female comedy duo Lizzy Mace & Juliette Burton are at the Leicester Square Theatre in London  tomorrow night, performing their Edinburgh Fringe show Rom Com Con.

Then, next month, they perform it at the Brighton Fringe.

They first performed the show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011. They had no money that year and had to share a bed.

“I woke Lizzy up one night,” Juliette told me in London yesterday, “because I was ‘sleep flyering’…”

“And whispering…” added Lizzy

“I woke her and myself up,” explained Juliette, “because I was sleep-talking about flyering and I was really disappointed at waking up because, in my dream, my flyering for the show in the street was going really well and the people I was talking to said they would come and see the show. I love flyering. I absolutely adore it.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because,” explained Juliette, “if you smile at someone and they say No and you don’t take it personally, that’s fine. They’ve got other stuff going on in their day. It’s not a personal attack on you. But, if they do engage with you in any way, then you can chat to them and brighten their day. Even if they don’t come to see the show, they might love your flyer and that experience of chatting to you.

“Thanks to the Cultural Enterprise Office up in Edinburgh, I have a couple of interns working for me on my new show and one of the potential interns I interviewed had a friend with her who remembered me flyering her on the Royal Mile and she kept the flyer for about three months after the Fringe because she remembered my flyering.”

Mace & Burton are performing as a duo in London and Brighton but, during the Edinburgh Fringe this year, Juliette Burton will be performing her first full-length solo show.

“Why won’t you be there at the Fringe?” I asked Lizzy Mace last night.

“I’ll be doing an intensive improv course at Second City in Chicago,” she told me. “We’ll still be working on things together after Edinburgh. At the moment, we’re writing a feature film version of our Rom Com Con show that will hopefully subvert all the conventions of the genre.”

“And,” I prompted, “you would describe the Rom Com Con stage show as…?”

“A true-life, documentary, stand-up performance,” Juliette replied for her. “It’s not really stand-up comedy.”

“We always call it comedy storytelling,” explained Lizzy, “because the comedy is not in gags. It’s in the truth of it and the situations we put ourselves in.”

Put ourselves in?” I echoed. “That sounds like doing something very consciously.”

Lizzy Mace (left) & Juliette Burton last night

Lizzy Mace (left) and Juliette Burton in London last night

“Yes,” said Lizzy. “Our shows are like Quest shows. With Rom Com Con the quest was trying to find true love by testing out the way people meet in movie romantic comedies. So we deliberately put ourselves in these ridiculous situations from the films.”

Juliette added: “We did lots of research.”

“Sounds like you just went on lots of dates and hoped it would make a show,” I said.

“Yes!” they both laughed.

“And hopefully, by doing the show,” said Juliette, “we would get more dates.”

“Which didn’t happen,” added Lizzy.

“A desperate search for love and affection,” I said. “Like all stand-up comedy.”

“Exactly,” laughed Lizzy. “We were just making that explicit.”

“Wearing our hearts on our sleeves,” said Juliette.

“So you’re basically both single and both desperate,” I suggested.

“Yes!” they both laughed.

“In fact,” said Juliette, “for Rom Com Con it was worse than that. Lizzy had been single for five years and I’d just broken up with my boyfriend of six years.”

“And,” added Lizzy, “just as Juliette’s boyfriend split up with her, three of her best friends asked her to be their bridesmaid. It was just like Uurghhh!…”

“So, for the movie version of this…?” I asked.

“We’re fictionalising things,” replied Lizzy. “We’re taking the emotional journeys we each went on but the events we’re putting the characters into are going to be more suited to film.

Mace & Burton’s Rom Com Con

Mace & Burton’s Rom Com Con stage show

“In our Rom Com Con stage show, each of us goes on our own journey and, as a result, we become closer friends towards the end of it. That’s what we’re trying to get across in the screenplay as well. The thing that’s most important at the end of it is the stronger friendship the two people have discovered through the whole journey.”

“Though not romantically,” added Juliette.

“It’s kind of a homage to rom coms,” explained Lizzy, “but also acknowledging that the traditional, standard kind of rom com might not be relevant any more. Maybe twenty years ago in a rom com, it was just accepted by the audience that the two leads would get together. You don’t have to prove why: the story was about how. But now you have to work a lot harder because there’s less of a belief in that idea of…”

“…two people being perfect for each other,” Juliette added.

“The writer has to work harder,” continued Lizzy, “to build-in those scenes that prove the couple are meant to be together and get the audience behind them. I guess we’re just looking at ideas of romance and how we can make a rom com that looks at romance but is more relevant.”

“Technically, it’s a buddy movie,” said Juliette.

“A female buddy movie,” I said.

“Yes,” said Lizzy.

“And your new solo show?” I asked Juliette.

“Is called When I Grow Up,” she told me. “I’m performing it at the Brighton Fringe and then the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s the first time I’ve done a whole hour of me standing stage alone, which is quite scary. It’s another true-life story like Rom Com Con. It’s a story about me trying to be all the things I wanted to be when I was a child… a ballerina, a baker, an artist, a princess, a pop star and a Muppet.”

“Which Muppet?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to be a specific Muppet. They were all misfits, but they belonged together and were stronger together. I just wanted to be part of that Muppet group and I wanted to marry Gonzo. He is my dream man – or thing or whatever he is. He’s awesome. He’s a risk-taker because he does exciting things like being shot out of a cannon. He ate a tyre to the tune of The Flight of the Bumblebee, showing he was cultured. He’s willing to try new things and he’s very romantic. I’m feeling quite passionate just talking about him. In all of the movies, he’s the one who sings the most poignant darkness-before-the-dawn songs. So he’s a poet. And he’s also very loyal. He was so in love with Miss Piggy, but she kept saying I’m in love with Kermit. And he just kept trying. I completely love him. And Jimmy Carr.”

“Jimmy Carr?” I asked.

“Yes,” confirmed Juliette. “If there were some way we could combine Gonzo and Jimmy Carr – someone with an appalling laugh and a very large nose – that would be excellent for me.”

“And When I Grow Up is going to be another true-life, documentary, stand-up performance?” I asked.

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

“Yes,” said Juliette. “I’ve done video interviews with the general public about what they wanted to grow up to be when they were a child… and what they do now. And what a job is and what a vocation is and whether what you do is who you are and what growing up is. And I’ve selected bits from those interviews to show universal stories. Some people have triumphed over redundancy by following their dreams. And there are people who have not followed their dreams but made active choices to do a job that allows them to have a life they love.

“But I don’t want it to be like some Edinburgh Fringe shows where they’re too much prepared-for-TV. I want it to be an interactive stage show. I will interact with what’s happening on the screen.

“I’ve interviewed Lizzy for When I Grow Up, so the show I take to the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh in August will include Lizzy, she’ll just be on a video screen. It’s similar to Rom Com Con, where we did a two-hander presenting the story and have a screen with video interludes. But this time there will also be videos of the research I’ve done.”

“And you have something unexpected and dark in the show,” I said. “An unexpected twist.”

“Yes,” said Juliette, “but I’m not sure if we should talk about it. I think laughter is the only way to get through anything.”

“It makes things less scary if we can find a way to laugh at them,” Lizzy suggested.

“Comedy,” said Juliette, “is meant to tread the borders between what’s acceptable and what’s not and confronting the tragedies of life is a relief.”

“And,” I asked, “the highlight of your comedy career so far is…?”

“One of the highlights of my life,” said Juliette, “was when we sniffed the sandal that Graham Chapman wore in Life of Brian. We were at the BFI for the London Comedy Festival’s Kickstart Your Comedy Career course.”

“And they had an exhibition,” continued Lizzy, “for A Liar’s Autobiography, the film about Graham Chapman’s life. We were talking to one of the directors and there was this little glass case which had three things from the Monty Python films. There was a shield from The Holy Grail and there was this sandal from Life of Brian.”

“I think he saw how genuine my fandom was,” said Juliette.

“So he opened up the back of this glass display case,” continued Lizzy, “and he took out the sandal and we held it in our hands and I just said I really want to sniff it and so we both took this big sniff. It smelt surprisingly fresh.”

“It did,” agreed Juliette. “My favourite things in life so far have been holding that sandal, meeting Dawn French and meeting Michael Palin.”

“Was he amiable?” I asked.

“Of course he was,” replied Juliette. “He was Michael Palin. If I ever met Stephen Fry, I think I would go to pieces.”

“What about Jimmy Carr and Gonzo?” I asked.

“Oh my god!” said Juliette. “Gonzo!… Any Muppet, really… Any Muppet.”

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How not to repel pigeons with a can of illegal CS gas and some chilli powder

Ultimate anti-pigeon spray: Lady CS gas

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a friend in South East London with pigeon problems on her balcony. There must be a lot of it about. I have another friend in North London with a similar problem. She told me yesterday she intends to take direct action.

In my previous blog, I also mentioned someone who had caught a rat with sticky paper and had ended the rodent’s life with a sharp knife attached to the end of a broom handle. Life can be violent in South East London.

“I think I saw an article in the Evening Standard,” my North London friend told me yesterday afternoon. “it mentioned a paste that would get on pigeons’ feet. It sounded like a new thing they’d just discovered that was going to be pretty well 100% effective. I imagined it to be something like a glue and it was in chillies.”

“Well,” I said, “for a long time, they’ve put stuff on the stone window sills in London buildings that burns pigeons’ toes off.”

“I know! I know!” my friend said. “I used to think they were just pigeons which had gone too near to a car.”

“After a certain age, pigeons in Central London have no toes,” I said. “They just have little stumpy legs like Long John Silver.”

“I know. I know,” my friend said. “Don’t remind me.”

“… but without parrots on their shoulders,” I added.

She did not laugh. In my experience, people seldom do when I say things.

“When looking for the wood lice thing,” my friend continued, “I did notice and thought of getting a thing that would keep cats and foxes and…”

“Catnip?” I asked.

“… and pigeons away,” she continued. “But I think it might also have repelled all birds, so that’s why I didn’t get it.”

“Tabasco?” I suggested.

“It was a peppery thing,” she said, “that was actually in chilli. So I was thinking I could use chilli powder. Surely. Maybe. I’ve sprinkled it on the floor of my balcony. I dunno where to get the paste stuff from. I wish I could find the article. Whether I should mix it into a paste or some sticky substance…”

“You’ve sprinkled chilli powder on the floor of your balcony?” I asked.

“I’ve sprinkled it on sticky paper,” she replied, “because I haven’t actually made a paste. I haven’t figured how I’m supposed to… I was going to think of something… Not honey, because that would be crazy. That would attract ants or something would go very wrong. But something sticky.”

“It would attract ants?”

“Honey. Wouldn’t it? But I’m going to try CS gas, too.”

“CS gas?” I asked.

“I have a can of mace which I usually carry in my handbag.”

“Isn’t that illegal?” I asked.

“Yes,” she agreed. “But this is London in 2012. You were telling me yesterday that story about your tour guide in North Korea who got hit on the back of the head with a baseball bat in Bristol…. I don’t know… Do you think spraying CS gas would deter pigeons?”

“It would probably surprise them,” I agreed.

“The mace spray, if it’s working, would repel them immediately,” my friend said. “But the can may not be working any more. It’s quite old. Does CS gas deteriorate over time?”

“Not my area of expertise,” I replied. “I can tell you about comedians and Charlie Chuck’s ducks.”

“They wouldn’t be able to hang out in the area,” my friend continued. “It stings your eyes and it stings your feet.”

“It stings your feet?” I asked. “I haven’t seen street demonstrators leaping in the air when the police use CS gas.”

“Pigeons have bare feet,” my friend explained. “It’s quite a widely-known fact. Pigeons don’t wear shoes. Not even flip-flops. No animals like CS gas. It’s not just humans.”

“Giraffes are above such things,” I suggested.

“It depends on the wind,” my friend said.

“I had an email from Mr Methane today,” I said. “He said he’s recorded a…”

“Look,” my friend said. “There is a pigeon problem on my balcony and, if I can make them not like where they’re landing or think Fucking hell! My toes sting!, then I… Of course, a lot of the chilli blows away. I poured the powder on the floor of my balcony and some of it blew away. That’s why I stuck it on sticky tape, but the sticky tape isn’t exactly sticking for some reason.”

“Will the pigeons not stand on the sticky tape and fly away with the sticky tape on their afore-mentioned bare feet?” I asked.

“Well,” my friend said, “that might make them think twice about staying as well. That’s a terrible vision: coming back and finding a load of pigeons stuck to the floor and to each other, half-dead.”

“This is like the rat story, isn’t it?” I suggested. “Where the rat has to be killed by a broom handle with a sharp knife on the end.”

“Yes. I wish I could get the same sticky stuff that the rats had. That would do it, wouldn’t it? And it would stick.”

“You think the anti-rat fly-paper would work?” I asked.

“I had a newly cleaned and painted balcony,” my friend said. “Nice and bright and spotless. The pigeons shit on it. I don’t want to have to clean the balcony if people pop by.”

“But you would have to clear the sticky tape and chilli powder anyway,” I pointed out. “And the people might go barefoot and go Ooh Oooh Ooh with the CS gas.”

“You mustn’t touch things like bird shit, pigeon shit,” my friend said, “because they have all those illnesses that are very bad for you and kill you.”

“Illnesses?” I asked.

“Oh I don’t know,” she said. “E-coli or something. Something really bad, anyway. People could be dropping dead. You could be blinded or something. There are things that can blind you, like dog shit can blind you.”

“Well it can,” I agreed, “thrown with the right momentum.”

“No, no,” she said, “the bugs that are in things like shit. The bacteria can get into your body and cause all sorts of ailments.”

“Dog shit can send you barking mad?”

My friend gave a big sigh.

“Look, I am trying to sort out this pigeon thing,” she said, “and I would like to get this sticky paper for the rats. I don’t know where to get it from. But I swear something came to my mind. Gela… something. Gelatinous?”

“Gelegnite?” I suggested.

“Gelatinous.”

“Gelegnite would do it, too.”

“Only if you had the bloody pigeon to hand at the time. I mean gelatinous stuff you could mix in with the chilli stuff and it would stay there as a blob. Then I have to take into consideration things like the wind which is going to blow some of the chilli powder away – or rain, which is going to wash it away. But I could mix it into a little watery paste. I just need to have it so it will stick there in a little mound of something that irritates them and they think Oh! this isn’t very nice. I’m off!

“What about putting a little pile of dog shit on the floor of the balcony?” I suggested. “That might blind them.”

“Yes, but it would also blind me, wouldn’t it,” my friend replied. “Chilli is not going to blind me.”

“Dog shit won’t blind you either,” I said, “unless you roll in the dog shit. Just put it down so it…”

“Birds would be highly sensitive to chilli,” my friend interrupted. “As would you, if it was rubbed on the sensitive parts of your body.”

“People pay good money for that in Soho,” I said.

“The sticky tape isn’t sticking,” my friend continued. “The chill isn’t sticking either.”

“The next time you come home,” I said, “you’re going to find six pigeons stuck together on sticky paper, unable to fly.”

“It would be awful, wouldn’t it?” my friend said, “But the sticky tape isn’t sticking.”

“Mmmm…” I mused.

“Of course,” my friend said, “when they get stuck or trapped or in one place, they just shit and…”

“It would be counter-productive,” I said.

“Exactly,” my friend said.

“It is a problem,” I agreed.

“Yes it is,” my friend agreed.

We sat down and ate spaghetti.

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