Tag Archives: mice

The best way to flyer for an Edinburgh Fringe show – use mice and terrorists

Sameena Zehra and husband Mike in Edinburgh yesterday

Yesterday, I went to see Sameena Zehra’s totally fascinating Edinburgh Fringe show Tea With Terrorists.

Afterwards, I got talking to her husband Mike, who flyers in the street for her show.

“I’ve been a musician all my life,” he told me. “A Blues singer. My name is Dr Blue.

“I love flyering. I love the challenge of flyering because it’s a 5 or 6 second performance. It’s the time it takes for someone to walk past you. I’ve got to get their attention in those few seconds. They need to know what the show is; where it is; and I need to get them to take one of the flyers.

“I never ever give a flyer to anybody. They always take them from me. Because, if you force a flyer on someone, they will throw it on the ground. I’ve got a patter which I use. It’s got various forms. It’s about getting someone’s attention but mostly their eye contact. As soon as I’ve got eye contact, they’re going to take a flyer.”

“So,” I asked, “why am I, a passing person, going to be interested in this show by a comedian I’ve possibly never heard of?”

“Well,” Mike explained, “the show itself has got to have a very catchy title. So Tea With Terrorists... Immediately people’s ears prick up. If I get eye contact, then I have another line – where it is, what time it’s on, the fact it’s free. But, if they’re waivering and they’re still smiling as they walk away, I’ll go:

Sameena has the full backing of her husband

No tourists or terrorists are harmed during the performance of Tea With Terrorists.

“And that’s when I’ve got them… Then you can extend that 5 or 6 second window by adding a bit more patter. Once they’ve taken the flyer, I can usually stop them and talk to them.”

“Do you say And it’s my wife?” I asked.

“I do sometimes,” he told me. “Once I’ve got them, there’s then a patter which I’ll use to talk about the show. I give them four key elements without giving anything away.”

“And they are?”

“Sameena did actually accidentally have tea with terrorists. She was nearly shot in the Green Zone in Kabul. She has got a grandmother who curses. And a friend who is frightened of sheep… Now you’re smiling,” he told me.

“If they’re not smiling by the end of those four,” he continued, “they’re probably not going to come to the show.”

“Flyering does work better,” I suggested, “if you’re a performer or a close blood relation.”

“Well, obviously,” agreed Mike, “I have a huge emotional commitment in this. I’ve watched the process develop. This show hasn’t just fallen out of the sky. It’s a writing process that’s been going on for 18 months. Sameena brought the show here to Edinburgh last year, when it was called Punching Mice.”

Punching mice?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “that was an even better title to sell. I just stood on the street corner yelling PUNCHING MICE! and people came up to me and asked What the bloody hell are you talking about?”

“It was an earlier version of this show?” I asked.

“Yes. There used to be a sequence in the old show about punching mice as a form of stress relief.”

Sameena Zehra and her good luck panda without Jon Snow

Later, I asked Sameena about this.

“It’s pretty much the same story,” she said, “but it’s changed and it’s tighter. When I did Edinburgh last year, I had no idea what I was doing; I was pissing in the wind and it was a steep learning curve, but it was brilliant.”

“There are only really three comedians who tell gags in this country,” I suggested to Sameena, vastly over-generalising. “Jimmy Carr, Milton Jones and Tim Vine. Everyone else is telling stories not gags.”

“Well, I’m not a punchline comedian,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half. I’m not a comedian yet. I am a storyteller and I will be a comedian. The new show I’m writing is much more comic, but I’ll still be a storytelling comedian.

“Tea With Terrorists is very much about fear being redundant: you have to live with joy, you have to deal with stuff. The next show I’m writing is about how we end up becoming the people we are.

“The working title is If Jon Snow Were My Dad, because I love Jon Snow and if he had been my dad instead of the emotionally incontinent parents I had, would I have been a different person? How much of our lives is inborn, how much accidental? I’m not going to say any of that directly in my show, but it will come out through the stories.

“It’s going to have lots of stories from by my boarding school days in India. I went to a school run by a Socialist headmaster and started by Henry Lawrence, who was a British army officer. He started it in 1857 for the children of British Army officers. It was very very weird.”

Sounds ideal for Edinburgh.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ad industry, Comedy, Marketing, Performance, Terrorism

How to inhumanely kill rats, mice, pigeons and people from France

Me - at one with nature

Yesterday I was in Greenwich, talking to someone who lives in a wonderful home up an alleyway with its own open back yard. In reasonable weather, she leaves the door from the living room to the courtyard. This is fine, except mice can wander in. Once, a rat came in.

Her dog, a Jack Russell terrier, went mad running round and yapping. The rat took refuge behind a kitchen cupboard. The Jack Russell refused to leave the kitchen for two days and two nights, occasionally barking through the night.

Eventually, the two humans could stand it no more. They bought some sticky paper specially designed to catch rats. (Yes, there is such a thing. It is like fly paper but for mice and rats.) They hung it down the back of the cupboard overnight and, sure enough, in the morning, when they pulled the paper up, the rat was stuck to it, squealing.

But this provided a quandary. How to get rid of the rat.

I think I would have thrown it in an outside rubbish bin, still alive. Instead, the husband attached a sharp knife to the end of a broom handle and stabbed the rat to death.

The couple still have traumas at the thought.

I have never encountered an indoor rat, only mice.

Apparently, when I was a small child in Campbeltown, living in a makeshift flat above the storage room of a shop, there were mice around.

As an adult, I have only encountered a mouse once.

I was walking to the kitchen about five years ago. As I turned from my living room to the hall, I saw a mouse in the doorway of the kitchen. It looked at me, surprised. I looked at it, surprised. It then literally leapt up the stairs.

It paused; half-climbed, half-leapt up the vertical of the first step. Stopped momentarily. Ran the few horizontal inches to the next vertical; half-climbed, half-leapt up it. Stopped momentarily. Ran the few horizontal inches to the next vertical. And so on.

I was mesmerised by the speed and agility of the small creature. By the time I moved towards the stairs, the mouse was halfway up and beat me to the top, running into the spare bedroom.

I ran in, shutting the door behind me, but I could not find the mouse.

Eventually, I decided to lift everything off the floor. I still couldn’t see any mouse.

I left the room, carefully shutting the door. The next day, I bought a humane mouse trap cage and put some cheese in it.

A week later, the mouse had still not taken the cheese. Two weeks later, the mouse had still not taken the cheese. I cleared the room of furniture, piece by piece. When I lifted a box of books off the bed and lifted the sheets, there was a flattened mouse underneath the bedclothes, a little leg sticking out at each corner.

How it got up the smooth wooden legs, round the bed base under the mattress, up onto the bed and under the bedclothes, I do not know. But I remembered lifting a heavy box of books off the floor and dropping it heavily onto the bed when I had cleared the floor. It had flashed though my mind What if the mouse were in the bed? but I dismissed it out of hand as being impossible.

I was talking to my eternally-un-named friend about this today.

“You’ve freaked out and never opened your doors since,” she said. “Considering you’re a man whose great grandmother came down from the hills speaking Gaelic and hunting haggis, you’re not a man at one with Nature, are you? Nature is not allowed to poke its head in. It was a mouse. It wasn’t a rat. Get over it.”

“I just think bubonic plague,” I said.

“As I did,” she replied, “with the two pigeons who were busy dying on my balcony in a hysterical manner. I came home and they were just huddled-up; they looked really mangy and grey and black and moth-eaten and were flapping madly if I went near them. I wasn’t going to pick them up with my hands and there was no way to get them out of my balcony.

“Whether they’d been attacked by a fox or were just old and on the way out or even were very young… It was ghastly.

“I actually ask wasps to leave and they do. But you can’t do that with pigeons or mice.”

“You can’t?” I asked.

“You can’t,” she said. “I had to put a plastic bucket over the top of the pigeons and shove cardboard underneath it, so that I could turn the bucket over.”

“What did you do with them?” I asked.

“I don’t like to say,” she replied. “It was pretty adrenaline-rushing. Oh, alright. I put them – and the bucket – the whole lot – into the communal bin at the bottom of the rubbish chute and shut the door. I figured they were not my problem after that. They had come onto my territory. I didn’t invite them. It was all very frightening and probably negative karma.”

“Can you rid us of the French?” I asked.

“I like the French,” my friend said. “They admire the older woman in France. They dress well. Older women are still seen as sexual there. I would have studied French a lot harder at school if I’d realised all this. Now it turns out that was the one subject I should have really concentrated on. And, of course, they have nice food.”

1 Comment

Filed under Death, Mice, Rats