“I don’t know why Mercedes-Benz have never used that in an advertisement,” Martin Soan said to me yesterday.
We were looking at the triple blades of a wind turbine machine in a field somewhere in the former West Germany as we passed during our 12-hour rail trip back to the UK.
It is a simple idea – seeing wind turbine blades and thinking of a ‘green’ ad image for Mercedes-Benz.
But it is a simple, obvious idea which almost no-one else except Martin would ever spot.
Which is what makes his comedy ideas on stage so original – performing Michael Jackson’s Thriller wearing five rubber bands; performing the Red Arrows’ aerial acrobatics as the Red Sparrows with giant red cardboard cut-out sparrows, choreographing the Greatest Show On Legs’ naked balloon dance with a handful (and mouthful) of balloons.
Martin is currently the official 2013-2014 ‘Fool’ at Muncaster Castle in the UK.
Which came to mind when I woke up this morning to three e-mails from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. Attached to the e-mails were three photographs of a man in a jester’s costume in Vancouver.
“Arty would like information about Jester gigs over in the UK,” Anna told me. “Are there any dry castles coming up soon? He just needs a little break from all the men in Vancouver who won’t stop trying to wine and dine him, pick him up at work or get him to pose in the nude for artistic purposes. Here is a picture of him on Denman Street, after a chilly day of performing at the aquarium. I ought to ask him if he would also consider work as a lady lifter.”
“Well,” I replied, “Martin Soan is currently Muncaster Castle’s Fool. It’s the place where Tom Fool used to be jester and is the origin of the term ‘tomfoolery’. See my 2013 blog. Their contest to find a 2014-2015 fool held is on 29th May this year.
Another e-mail in my Inbox this morning was from comedian Bob Slayer, who is running a venue – Heroes @ Hansom Hall – as part of the current Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival.
I would not dare say he is a prime candidate for Fool.
Well, OK, I would.
He told me that, last weekend, there was a good-sized audience at his venue waiting to see The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society featuring Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winning Johnny Sorrow.
Bob Blackman was a man who, in the 1970s, became famous for appearing on television and hitting a metal tray on his head while singing the song Mule Train.
Bob Slayer is not a man who is averse to drinking. Excessively.
A few days before last weekend’s show – due to extremely serious circumstances genuinely beyond their control – The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society had sent Bob Slayer an e-mail telling him they would not be able to make the show. Bob had forgotten this.
He had also forgotten he had replied to them in an e-mail, giving his genuine sympathies for their unfortunate reasons.
“This certainly highlights,” Bob told me in his e-mail to me this morning, “the dangers of me responding to my e-mails late at night after a long session ‘testing’ the Brewdog Beers for our bar…”
When Bob Slayer suddenly remembered, moments before the allotted show started, that the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society were not coming, he turned to absurdist comedian Adam Larter and “suggested that we had two options: We can either tell them that the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society has had to cancel and offer to entertain them ourselves OR we simply go on stage and show them what the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society would have done if they had been there…
There is a clip of the real Bob Blackman Appreciation Society in action on YouTube.
“I picked up the back stage microphone,” Bob Slayer told me in his e-mail this morning, “and began a prolonged introduction from behind the wings, which involved asking the room to select one person to count down from 37, then announced: You may have seen him before, but never quite like this. Please welcome the one, the only, the very real and original Bob Blackman…
“I bounded out to the closest thing Luke the sound tech could find to Mule Train – well, I think it was a Chuck Berry rock & roll song – and repeatedly banged myself over the head with a tin sign for Brewdog Beers. Adam occasionally wandered back and forth behind me in nothing but a pair of orange tights.”
Later, in what I suspect might have seemed quite a confusing show, Adam became a ventriloquist’s dummy and Bob Slayer tells me that Adam “unexpectedly pulled a bag of skittles out of his tights and ate them” (the skittles).
This seemed a bit extreme, even for Adam, until I realised Bob Slayer meant a bag of Skittles (children’s sweets) not a bag of actual skittles.
Although, on the other hand…
Anyway, Adam then announced to the audience: “I think that maybe you now all know that The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society are unfortunately not able to be here tonight…”
But, Bob Slayer told me this morning, “it seems no-one ever believes that a comedian on stage is telling the truth and the confusion continued. I fuelled the confusion further with the statement: …which is, of course, exactly what an act like The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society would say.”
There is a clip of the original Bob Blackman on YouTube. He is not to be confused with The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society.
“Adam Larter then announced: “We are Not The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society and we are not here tonight…” and, says Bob Slayer, “we continued for at least the next hour with random sound effects from Luke the sound tech.
“There was dancing, chair balancing. impersonations of the audience, complete silence and a whole host of other nonsense. I ended up dressed as a sailor while Adam monologued about the nature of comedy as a faux Jason Manford. We labelled one man The Reviewer and chastised him for his inability to understand comedy and recognise that he wasn’t even reviewing the right act. Joe Davies, Ben Target and Matt Highton joined in towards the end dressed as a builder, a cowboy and a sex god and we did a karaoke singalong of YMCA.
“I hope you will be at the next Not The Bob Blackman Appreciation Society gig, possibly next weekend at Heroes @ Hansom Hall.”
Bob Slayer. Fool? Or shrewd publicist? The jury is out. But possibly not for long.
After reading Bob Slayer’s e-mail, I opened the next one in my Inbox. It was from Juliette Burton, en route to Australia to tour her show When I Grow Up. Attached was a photograph of Juliette apparently doing an impression of the Hunchback of Notre Dame with camels behind her. There was no explanation. I think she is in Dubai. She might be on Tatooine. She is definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto.