Tag Archives: Madame JoJo

Martin Besserman brings Alternative Variety to the London comedy circuit

It’s Camden Cabaret and the man behind it…

Martin Besserman, host of the long-established London comedy club Monkey Business is starting another night on Friday this week at his regular venue – the Pembroke Castle in Primrose Hill/Chalk Farm… It is not altogether comedy, though there will be some.

So we had a chat about it in his car, because it was raining. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? It was bloody wet.


JOHN: So, your new Camden Cabaret night. It involves burlesque. Will you be getting your kit off?

MARTIN: (LAUGHS) The most I’m likely to do is show a nipple. Those days of me showing a bit of my body – which I used to do at Speaker’s Corner – are long gone.

JOHN: You’re a long-time comedy venue runner. So why are you starting it? Bottom fallen out of comedy?

MARTIN: Well, all businesses are challenging. I was once a market trader. Before that, I was in a band and this is part of my journey in life. I’ve always been attracted to providing entertainment.

JOHN: So from band to street market to comedy to stripping.

MARTIN: I think stripping is an exaggeration. These days, stripping completely naked is rare. The emphasis is more on the creative aspect. I have gone through something like 150 different clips to identify the more creative and funny burlesque performers.

JOHN: How you suffer for your art…

MARTIN: (LAUGHS) But the shows are not just burlesque. It’s a real variety show.

“I was in a band” – Martin was performing in the mid-1980s…

JOHN: You know I have this obsession that, when Alternative Comedy first started in the mid-1980s, you would see a magician, a juggler, a comedian, all sorts of bizarre acts on the bill. Now you go to a comedy club and it’s six 24-year-old white blokes talking about wanking and how they watch porn.

MARTIN: And variety was on the bill before the 1980s as well. Bruce Forsyth and Ken Dodd and all those people. Our shows will have burlesque and drag artists and comedians and magicians. The character of the night will be one of unpredictability.

JOHN: Ironically, a lot of those old-school comics learnt their trade dying terrible on-stage deaths to apathetic audiences in between strippers at The Windmill.

MARTIN: Well, the new type of burlesque has really taken off in a big way. It is huge. Once there was an awareness that I was going to host this kind of night, a lot of performers – more than I had ever envisaged – were sending me their clips and wanting to get on the night. Perhaps in recognition that Monkey Business has been hugely successful over many, many years.

JOHN: Will you be having comics like (I NAMED A SPECIFIC COMIC) on the Camden Cabaret bill?

MARTIN: Well, we are living in a completely different political environment and it’s a dilemma for me to allow people to be a little bit rebellious on stage without offending customers who you want to return.

JOHN: So the punters won’t be offended by tits and bums, but they might be offended by (THE SPECIFIC COMIC I NAMED).

MARTIN: And you know why also? Because the burlesque performers are primarily feminists.

JOHN: Really?

Martin starts to prepare for the big night on Friday

MARTIN: Well, you gotta understand there would certainly be feminists opposed to the idea of women taking their clothes off and potentially turning men on. But – again – I have to say this is not about women taking their clothes off. This is about Art and we have some really, really creative performers. There’s a marvellous hula-hoop girl. Not all of the burlesque performers take their clothes off. 

On the night that Stephen Bailey is hosting – because I’m taking a back seat on some of these – he has an act on called Soul Illusion, a wonderful magic dance act.

What I’m trying to bring to this night is unpredictability. And it’s all about costumes as well. I’m trying to create a combination of old fashioned AND new entertainment. By doing that, we will hopefully cater for all.

It’s a cabaret night that happens to have a bit of burlesque in it. And comedy. And drag. But not always drag and not necessarily always burlesque.

It will cater for the straight AND the gay community. I should point out that The Black Cap in Camden closed about five years ago. It was a gay pub before homosexuality was even legal. (Homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK in 1967) It did temporarily relocate to another venue in Camden, but it was very very short-lived.

I am not saying that Camden Cabaret will be a replacement for The Black Cap, but I hope Camden Cabaret will cater for that community as well.

JOHN: A bit like the late lamented Madame Jojo’s in Soho, then…?

MARTIN: Yes.

JOHN: And Camden Cabaret is not replacing Monkey Business but is running in tandem…

“I’m trying to create a combination of old fashioned AND new entertainment…”

MARTIN: Yes. Monkey Business is at the Pembroke Castle on Thursdays and Saturdays… and Camden Cabaret is on Fridays.

JOHN: You have President Obonjo appearing on your second Camden Cabaret show – presumably not stripping – and the wonderful Malcolm Hardee Award winning Candy Gigi compering your third and fourth nights.

MARTIN: Yes. For what I want to achieve with this kind of night – unpredictability – she will be fantastic. I want it to be a crazy kinda night.

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Filed under Burlesque, Cabaret, Comedy, Drag, Gay, London

Singing Hitler act Frank Sanazi now to perform as gay dictator Vladimir Putin

Frank Sanazi performs at yesterday’s party

Pete at yesterday’s non-Communist party

Yesterday afternoon, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to the annual charity garden party thrown in Bromley by Frank Sanazi’s mother.

Frank Sanazi (real name Pete) sings like Frank Sinatra, but looks and acts like Adolf Hitler.

There were songs at the garden party from Elvis Presley impersonator Pete Storm and by our Pete (he has multiple surnames) – out-of-character as himself – singing straight Frank Sinatra songs.

Pete Perke aka Pete Sinclair aka Pete Cunningham aka Tom Moans aka Frank Sanazi etc etc told me: “I’ve been looking for a new character, because I’ve been doing Frank Sanazi for twelve years now.”

“That’s longer than the original Hitler,” I said.

Vladimir Putin - macho man incarnate

Vladimir Putin – a man who should be able to afford a shirt

“Just about,” said Pete, “I kept seeing photos of Vladimir Putin with his chest bare or coming out of the sea with a spear in his hand like he’s just caught a massive fish and he looks a little bit camp, to say the least.”

Vladimir, with a love of horses worthy of the wild Wild West

Vladimir, with a love of horses worthy of the wild Wild West

I said: “Putin’s forever riding stallions in forests with his shirt off.”

“So I thought,” said Pete, “after the whole furore about him being – excuse the phrase – hard on the gays and lesbians and his persecution of Pussy Riot, I thought I wanted to do a send-up of Putin because he obviously bats for the other side.

Headline on  today’s Daily Mirror

Headline on today’s Daily Mirror

“So I got this idea where I come on in a lovely suit as the iron man of Russia and deliver this speech in Russian and have it translated into English.

“And it’s welcoming Ukraine back into the old Soviet motherland and It’s going to be so nice now, because we are going to outlaw homosexuals and it will be a crime for them to be on the street and we will lock them all up. There will be a law against them, so we will have no lesbians or gays in Russia at all…

“And then the music starts playing It’s Raining Men and I start singing…

Tensions are rising
Gas supplies running low
According to my sources
Kiev’s the place to go
Tonight for the first time
Just about half past ten
For the first and the last time in history
It’s gonna start raining men

Ukrainian men!
Hallelujah!
Ukrainian men!
Ah, men!

Nazi but nice - Frank last night

Frank Sanazi rallies his audiences

…and I rip my shirt off and I have two tit-tassels underneath and I start swinging them around as I sing. I haven’t got a six-pack, but I bought a six-pack to go over the top of my normal chest and I bought these pants which have a bum added in the back and I’ve put a hammer & sickle there so, when I drop my pants…”

“You seem,” I said, “to be getting overly-excited telling us about the pants.”

“Yes,” agreed Pete, “because I didn’t think you could buy pants like that with a fake arse actually built into the bum. They were only £4.”

“What about your hairline?” I asked.

“I’ll put a load of talcum powder on my head and flatten my hair down and my face can look a little like Putin. I tested it out for the first time at Cabaret Roulette in Madame JoJo’s in Soho – Vivacity Bliss runs it – and it seemed to go down a storm, so Putin will be with Frank Sanazi as part of my new Dictators of The World show.”

Pete sniffs a 4711 face wipe

Pete sniffs a 4711 face wipe yesterday

At this point, my eternally-un-named friend said I admire Putin and gave Pete a packet containing a 4711 facial wipe.

“Think of it as a 9/11 wipe,” I suggested. “Keep calm and carry on. What’s your Edinburgh Fringe show this year?”

Das Vegas Night 3 – Zis Time We Win!. It’s all about if the Germans had won the Second World War and what would Las Vegas have been like? I’ve got Baghdad’s Got Talent coming to join us in their burkhas and they’re going to do some magic for us and a bit of puppetry with a little doll – that’s got a burkha on as well. It’s perfect for Das Vegas, because it’s wrong… but it’s right… and I’ve got Gay Jesus coming to finish the show.”

“Oh, he’s great!” I said. “Does he still live in Glasgow?”

“Yeah,” said Pete. “I have to go now. I have to sort Elvis out.”

And off he went.

Later, on the way home, my eternally-un-named friend said: “Do you think you should warn him It’s Raining Men might be in bad taste because of the plane exploding and all the bodies falling out of the sky onto the Ukraine?”

“Well,” I said, “Frank Sanazi sings Sinatra’s Witchcraft as Auschwitz-craft. So the body parts of men, women and children raining down onto fields and farms in the Ukraine won’t be a problem.”

You can see Frank Sanazi singing Third Reich on YouTube.

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Filed under Comedy, Politics, Russia, Ukraine