Tag Archives: magic

Yesterday: magic mushrooms, two comedians and a night to remember

Yesterday, it was reported that the government’s former ‘drug tsar’ – the interestingly-named Professor David Nutt –  was suggesting that “a clinical trial of ‘magic mushroom therapy’ could take place in the UK within a year following two ground-breaking studies” which seem to show that the hallucinogenic active ingredient in magic mushrooms can help the treatment of serious depression.

Well, it might not make people actively happy, but I would think it is a racing certainty that a dose of hallucinogenic mushrooms would tend to take the person’s mind off whatever was depressing him/her in the first place. There’s nothing like fifteen goblins armed with antelopes emerging from a banana to distract you from what you thought were your previous troubles.

Yesterday was not quite that interesting for me but had increasing levels of unexpectedness. My blog yesterday morning was titled Guess The Name of the Comedian and the clue was that the un-named comic “does just sometimes use prostitutes. Mostly in Soho”. Interestingly, two other comedians suggested the self-same name to me. But they were wrong. This other now-famous TV comic whom they named clearly needs to do something about his image among his peers.

Things got curiouser and curiouser last night. I went to Oli and Janet Bettesworth’s interesting Painted Grin comedy club in a basement in Bethnal Green – a bit like going down Alice’s rabbit hole – where entry is free and they have a free raffle every show with five or six prizes. How does that work? Last night, one of the acts gave money away to the audience. How does that work?

They had six open spot acts last night, five of which were good. The odd thing was that the other act was not funny and failed in every possible way but, strangely, was the most interesting of them all. If he ever figures out what his act, what his schtick, is… he will be fascinating to watch. I think I am quite good at talent spotting. There was talent in his eyes and talent in the way he said what he said but, sadly not in what he said.

I did toy with the idea of naming him but, as he was not funny, decided against it.

But it was at this point – in the Painted Grin cellar – that I think my day and reality started to get out of control.

I am trying to give up chocolate. But I had a Crunchie.

When I got home, I went straight to bed.

I rarely remember my dreams but, for some reason (I think a weak bladder which woke me up) last night I did remember. I do.

It was a very long, intricate night. I was in a 21st century British town in which, for a few days, everyone was dressed and behaved as if they were 18th century North American Colonials. Triangular hats. The whole caboodle.

No tea was involved.

Everyone knew they were in a 21st British town and everyone knew they were only role-playing for a limited time.

I have no idea what all this means. All suggestions gratefully received.

Who needs magic mushrooms?

Not me.

Just chocolate.

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Filed under Comedy, Dreams, Drugs, Psychology

If Bernard Manning had told these Jerry Sadowitz jokes, he might have been arrested – with good reason

(This blog was also published in the Huffington Post)

The comedian Jerry Sadowitz’s schtick is that he is highly offensive.

Last night, I saw his full-length stage show for the first time in a few years. The latest show is called Jerry Sadowitz: Comedian, Magician, Psychopath which, I think, pretty much covers all the angles – though it did not demonstrate any of the sheer genius of his actual magic act. He is a world class magician.

I have blogged before about Jerry’s early comedy career in the 1980s, how he was managed by the late Malcolm Hardee and how I produced a TV show in 1990 in which Jerry did not swear.

When I produced that show, Jerry spotted two lesbians in the audience (do not ask) and zeroed-in on them for particular comic attention. After the show, they were outraged and complained. Jerry was genuinely perplexed.

“They are just jokes,” he said, nonplussed.

My attitude was that, if you knowingly go to a Jerry Sadowitz show, you cannot complain afterwards about being offended. It is a bit like letting your small child watch Doctor Who and then complaining afterwards that he or she shat behind the sofa with fear.

That is almost the show’s raison d’être.

Doctor Who can sometimes scare the shit out of children.

Jerry Sadowitz’s comedy show is highly offensive.

The only reason to complain would be if Jerry were NOT offensive.

It was good to see last night that he can still go beyond highly offensive. All other so-called offensive comedians pale into insignificance compared to him. They are like a little pile of sugar four inches high in comparison to the Himalayas.

The two things which struck me last night were that he seems to be talking more about death than he used to. No surprise there, I guess. He is older. And, in among the bile and vitriol spewed at almost every target under the sun, there is an occasional unspeakable truth spoken.

I find it is always good for my blog to mention the late ‘old school’ comedian Bernard Manning because it annoys people. It is like saying “mint sauce” to a lamb.

If Bernard Manning had told almost any of the jokes Jerry told last night, people would have been even more outraged than the people who are currently retrospectively outraged by Manning’s live act although most of them never saw it.

If any other comic had told some of the jokes Jerry told last night, I think there is a high possibility he would risk being arrested.

And not without reason. Some of the Muslim jokes were so close to stirring racial hatred that there could be a nice philosophical discussion on where the line lies. Though, interestingly, some of the jokes were so unsettling because they said out loud some normally unsayable truths.

If comedy, like trouble, can be said to brew, Bernard Manning told comparatively mild gags. With Jerry, motormouthing for well over an hour at about three times the speed of any other comic, the gags are more bitter.

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Terrorists and psychopaths: standing on the shoulders of creative giants

I was watching Penn & Teller: Fool Us on ITV last night and they did a trick in which a long ribbon-like sheet was wrapped round and round a 9-year-old boy’s neck. Penn on one side and Teller on the other then stood apart and pulled the opposite ends of the sheet tightly and… of course, the sheet unravelled and came away from the boy’s neck.

A variation on the cutting-the-knot-out-of-a-rope trick.

I was amazed this had been screened – presumably the defence is that it was after the nine o’clock watershed.

The possibility of children doing this to each other – wrapping a sheet or length of material or rope around another child’s neck and pulling it, killing the child, seems quite high to me.

I once interviewed the British Film Censor John Trevelyan. He was highly important in Britain, because he was in charge of British film censorship 1958-1971 when everything changed.

He told me that, as Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification, he had had a panel of psychologists advising him and, as a result, he had made slight cuts to the 1968 movie The Boston Stranger. He had cut the sound of ripping fabric which was heard as the leering strangler’s face was seen while attacking a victim. He had been told the sound of ripping fabric was a ‘trigger’ and a stimulant to would-be rapists.

He also cut scenes where sex acts were immediately followed – or were interrupted – by murder, especially involving knives or sharp instruments. Again, this was because he was told it was a turn-on for psychos. These scenes are now almost de rigueur in slasher movies… A teenage couple are having sex in a bunk in an isolated cabin; one or both of them are then immediately skewered by a deadly sharp implement.

Generally, though, I don’t believe that violence on the movie or TV screen really affects ordinary, non-psychopathic adults. And you can’t fully run your culture by making concessions in case a psycho gets an idea from a movie or TV show.

It is the Nature v Nurture debate.

Or, more correctly, Nutter v Nurture.

If 50 million people see a movie and one person copies it, the cause lies within the person not the movie

When news of the bomb explosion and island massacre in Norway started coming through yesterday – particularly the island massacre – a friend said to me: “It’s like some movie” and, increasingly, over the last 50 years, psycho and terrorist attacks have been getting like what you see in the movies.

When the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11 everyone was saying, “Ooh – It’s just like a disaster movie.”

Maybe psychos and terrorists are being made more creative by access to other, more creative minds.

Novels, movies and sometimes even episodic TV series are written by more-than-averagely-creative minds. To get a movie script, a novel or a TV series made and out there and available to a mass market, you often – well, sometimes – have to have a spark, perhaps even a giant flame, of originality.

Rod Serling, who created The Twilight Zone, reportedly died still blaming himself for writing a 1966 TV movie called The Doomsday Flight which was a then-highly-original story about a bomb on board an airliner which has an altitude-sensitive trigger device. Unless a ransom is paid, the bomb will explode when the plane descends to land.

Apparently Serling blamed himself because, after this TV movie was screened, the PLO and others started a spate of airliner hijackings and bombings. He blamed himself because he thought they might have seen or heard of the plot and decided to target planes.

To me, this does not sound likely – the plot is too far removed from what became an ordinary terrorist attack – though it does make me wonder where the idea for the 1994 movie Speed may have come from.

But creative thinkers have always driven reality. The skylines of modern cities were clearly inspired by decades of science fiction films dating back to Metropolis and beyond. We are now building what we were once told would be our future. The fictional thought of flat screen TVs has been around for maybe 50 years. The concept of the hovercraft was surely partly inspired by endless hovercraft in sci-fi comics and novels. And famously, of course, sci-fi novelist Arthur C Clarke wrote an article in Wireless World in 1945 proposing the concept of communication satellites.

Martin Cooper, who developed the first hand-held mobile phone, said that he had been inspired to do it by seeing the hand-held communicators on Star Trek.

Irish novelist Robert Cromie’s 1895 book The Crack of Doom described a bomb which used the energy from an atom. I do not know if anyone on the Manhattan Project had ever read it – perhaps the idea would have come about anyway – but the idea of an atomic bomb was around for 50 years before it became a reality.

Of course, conspiracy theory thinking and making links where none exist is always a dangerous temptation.

Iconic international terrorist Carlos The Jackal was given that nickname by the press after a copy of Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal was found in a London flat he had rented. It was said he had copied details from the book. In fact, it later turned out it was not his book and he had never read it.

But the cliché nutter is a loner with a grudge against something or someone. By definition, a loner – “Ooh, he was a quiet one,” neighbours traditionally tell newspaper reporters – has access only to his own deluded psychopathic ideas. Over the course of the 20th century, though, nutters had increasing access through books, TV, movies, DVDs etc to the more creative ideas of other, better minds. Now, in the 21st century, almost all human knowledge and the creativity of the best of human brains past and present is a mere click away on the internet.

On Friday night, as first reports of events in Norway were still coming in, one commentator on the BBC News channel said that, if the Oslo bombing and the island shootings turned out to be linked, that would point to al-Queda because they had a track record of linked attacks. As it turned out, he was wrong. But presumably the Norwegian killer was ‘inspired’ by al-Queda’s publicity-seeking methodology.

When I first heard details of the 9/11 terrorist attacks back in 2001, I thought to myself, “I’ve heard this before. I read about this maybe a year ago in the Sunday Times.”

I can’t find the relevant article now but it turned out I had read about it before. Because the 9/11 attacks were based on someone else’s much better idea – the Bojinka plot which was conceived in Indonesia and suggested to al-Queda, who adapted and downgraded it.

The Indonesian-originated plan was a three-tiered concept.

1) assassinate the Pope

2) blow up at least 11 passenger jets simultaneously over the Pacific

3) fly a single light aircraft laden with explosives into the CIA headquarters or several aircraft into buildings across the US, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon

The 9/11 attacks were not an original idea. They were inspired by someone else’s idea.

I imagine the lone Norwegian nutter was inspired by the methods of al-Queda.

I suspect we will get increasingly creative and increasingly paranoia-inducing terrorist attacks.

The internet allows even nutters to stand on the shoulders of giants.

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Filed under Crime, Internet, Movies, Politics, Psychology

The death of an unknown man who was a “legend”

Mij Currie, died in Colchester on New Years Eve.

He was the older brother of Scots comedienne Janey Godley. He was born Jim Currie, but was always known as Mij (their father’s name Jim spelled backwards).

He was unknown except to his family and friends, but he was the person who first persuaded his friend Jerry Sadowitz to perform as a magician then as a comedian – Jerry’s first shows were at Janey’s pub in the East End of Glasgow.

According to a Tweet yesterday, Jerry’s reaction to Mij’s death was “he was a fucking legend”.

Mij had been addicted to heroin for years, then addicted to methadone… then he became HIV Positive… then he got cancer… he pretty much beat them all. When he was given chemotherapy for his cancer, they told him to expect nausea and for his hair to fall out. Neither happened. Presumably he had abused his body so much previously in his life that chemotherapy was a mere gnat’s bite.

The last time I met him, we walked along Frinton seafront, chatting. He was a nice, gentle man whenever I met him, though he had been very violent when younger (there are horrifying tales in Janey’s autobiography Handstands in the Dark).

He once believed he was the rock star Bryan Ferry.

Everyone has an effect on everyone else. The butterfly effect.

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Drugs, Magic