Tag Archives: Michael McIntyre

The difference between comics and comedians. Some are born; some made.

Penny Dreadfuls audio book

Penny Dreadfuls’ audio book

This week’s guest on the increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club Podcast was comedy performer Thom Tuck, whose idea was to come on and plug the two new Penny Dreadfulsaudio book releases. This seemed perfectly simple.

But, as always, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I got sidetracked. For example, in this section…


Kate Copstick and Thom Tuck at the Grouchy Club

Kate Copstick & Thom Tuck eat at the Grouchy Club in London

JOHN: What did you want to be when you were 16? Did you want to be a stand-up comedian and Doctor Who acolyte?

THOM: I’m pretty sure I wanted to be funny. I was always a performer and, in school plays, it was always: Well, you be the funny one.

COPSTICK: Oh good! Well, that’s a good sign! The great Mark Steel said to me that the great comics are the ones who could never have been anything else.

THOM: Yes.

COPSTICK: You say to them: So, what did you want to be?… Comic!… What would you have been if you hadn’t been a comic?… I’ve absolutely no idea. I couldn’t NOT be a comic.

THOM: With people like (Doug) Stanhope and Patrice O’Neal, that’s unavoidable. You ARE a comedian. There’s no…

COPSTICK: Michael McIntyre.

THOM: I think Michael McIntyre is born to be a light entertainer.

JOHN: Ah well, yes…

COPSTICK: (GROWLS)

JOHN (TO COPSTICK): That’s OK.

THOM: He’s very good. He’s a very good comedian, but he’s not a ‘comic’ in the same way. I think there’s a distinction.

JOHN: You mean stand-up…

THOM: Yes, a stand-up comic on the road. Inescapable. There’s no destiny beyond the road.

COPSTICK: Oh, I see what you mean. So, once you’re on telly doing a ‘shiny floor’ show, you are no longer a stand-up comic…

THOM: No, not necessarily. But I don’t think he’s…

COPSTICK: What about John Bishop?… Oh… He obviously wasn’t born to be a comic, because he spent most of his life not being a comic but…

THOM: He was in marketing, wasn’t he?

COPSTICK: Correct.

JOHN: Or whatsisname…

COPSTICK:Jimmy Carr.

JOHN: Yes.

THOM: Well, Jimmy Carr is classically not a born comedian. Not a born comedian in any way.

JOHN: He is a made comedian.

THOM: Yeah.

COPSTICK: He’s a brilliant…

JOHN: …brilliant…

COPSTICK: … a brilliantly made comedian, yes.

THOM: There are people who, if they hadn’t found work being stand-ups would have been just drunks in a corner.

COPSTICK: Exactly. Stanhope would have been an ugly drunk and drug addict.

JOHN: You can be both, Thom. You can be both.

THOM: Yes… I mean, I don’t think Stewart Lee is a natural comic.

COPSTICK: No.

THOM: He’s a comedian and he has made himself a comedian and he has made himself battle-hardened, but he’s not a natural… If he had ended-up not finding stand-up and becoming a writer, a novelist…

COPSTICK: Well, that is what he wanted to do. He wanted to be a writer.

THOM: I don’t think I am a natural comic either.

JOHN: Actually, I suppose Stewart Lee is a writer who performs, isn’t he?

COPSTICK: Yes, I think Richard Lee is a more natural.

THOM: Richard Lee?

COPSTICK: Not Richard Lee – Richard Herring. Oh my God! I’ve just come up with the perfect comedian! We are going to put them both in test tubes and meld them!

JOHN: Richard Lee and Stewart Herring.

COPSTICK: That sounds like a job for Doctor Who.

THOM: Fist of Fun crossed with The Fly.

COPSTICK: Stewart Lee will just get progressively hairier and hairier and hairier. That’s a recipe for some very interesting…

JOHN: …composite comedians.

Thom Tuck

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Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner attacked after Edinburgh awards show

So, last night, the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show was held at the Counting House in Edinburgh as part of the Free Festival at the Edinburgh Fringe. The award winners were:

  • for Comic Originality – Candy Gigi
  • for best Cunning Stunt – Christian Talbot and 12 year-old daughter Kate
  • for Act Most Likely To Make a Million Quid – Luisa Omielan

You can find more details about them in the blog I posted when the nominations were announced.

Miss Behave co-hosted Malcolm Hardee Awards (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

Miss Behave: co-host of Malcolm Hardee Awards (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

Most unexpected parts of the evening for me (apart from co-compere Miss Behave dragging me on-stage and setting the top of my head on fire (true) were a whole series of random comedians doing worryingly realistic 20-second imitations of comic Lewis Schaffer’s on-stage persona. In the ensuing chaos, Lewis Schaffer appeared to award himself a fish.

And, in the Scottish national Russian Egg Roulette Championships (basically smashing eggs on your forehead), co-compere Janey Godley’s daughter Ashley Storrie (who agreed to compete a few weeks ago) withdrew because she remembered only yesterday afternoon that she is allergic to eggs… and Janey was (reluctantly and genuinely loudly protesting) forced to stand in and actually won the increasingly prestigious Scottish Egg Roulette title.

I will not mention exceptional singer Danusia Samal, Maori singer/dancer Mika with his gay haka, Doug Segal doing a Boy With Tape On His Face mind-reading act, Sharnema Nougar being almost dropped by three literally supporting comedians while she sang and played a ukelele, Lindsay Sharman as a Scottish poetess, Vladimir Putin singing gay anthem Ukrainian Men with a line about shooting planes down, Johnny Sorrow and his balaclava mystery man and Tim FitzHigham drinking a pint of lager through a bugle then playing The Last Post for Malcolm Hardee and Comedy in general.

Kate Copstick with Richard Herring last night (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

Kate Copstick (arm in sling) with Richard Herring last night (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)

But I will mention that other Russian Egg Roulette contestants included Richard Herring and Juliette Burton. For the second year running, Juliette (a farmer’s daughter who reckons she can spot raw eggs from the aura round their shells) trounced Richard but came second – this year to Janey Godley.

The show probably finished around 1.30am, so lasted its normal two hours.

At 3.01am, I had a text message from worthy Cunning Stunt Award winner Christian Talbot.

Relevant to this might be the fact that, at yesterday afternoon’s Grouchy Club, critic Kate Copstick said another Edinburgh Fringe performer (surprisingly not Lewis Schaffer) had contacted her about a 3-star review she gave their show. The performer said they thought it deserved 4-stars. Her reaction was: Well, I did not and I am the reviewer. He told her bitterly: I think you took one star off me because of the content.

Well, yes, reviewers do tend to award stars and write their reviews on the basis of the perceived quality of the content. The same thing goes for giving increasingly prestigious awards.

Bear this in mind, dear reader.

Christian Talbot (centre) with his award, me & Kate Copstick

Christian Talbot (centre) with his award, me & Kate Copstick

Now back to award-winning Christian Talbot’s text to me at 3.01am this morning.

One of the other nominees in the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award category had been comedian Luke McQueen.

Christian Talbot’s text read:

Had Luke McQueen’s girlfriend grab my trophy off me in Brooke’s Bar (the Pleasance Dome venue’s bar for performers) and try to smash it. It’s not too damaged. What a lovely person she is.

I texted back: Are you sure it was his girlfriend?

She was with him and drunk, Christian replied. Not positive it was his ‘girlfriend’. Could have been a friend that is a girl. I can’t remember what he called her. She was very aggressive.

How did you know it was McQueen’s girlfriend or friend? I asked.

Christian replied: She was with him talking when I came in. I went to talk to him as I kind of know him. When I did, she grabbed the trophy from me. I assumed girlfriend as she was so aggressive with me.

How did McQueen react when she tried to smash the award? I asked.

He told her: “Oh, don’t do that.” He said congratulations to me, but that honestly he felt he should have won. Then I went home.

I forwarded Christian’s first message to fellow Malcolm Hardee Award judge Kate Copstick.

She texted back: Bloody hell! We made the right choice!

Christian Talbot’s increasingly prestigious Cunning Stunt Award

Christian’s increasingly prestigious Cunning Stunt Award

I wholeheartedly agree. (Only one of the four Malcolm Hardee judges had initially voted for Luke McQueen, then changed their mind and went with Christian Talbot too.)

Meanwhile, outside the Fringe bubble…

Anyone who read my blog two days ago may remember a passing mention of my farting chum Mr Methane being invited (under his own name, so the sender would not have known he was Mr Methane) to a Christmas gig by Michael McIntyre at the Tower of London.

Yesterday, I received a very polite e-mail from Michael McIntyre’s agent Off The Kerb, saying: “I hope you’re well. I just wanted to drop you an email to let you know that the information posted on your blog re. Michael McIntyre performing at The Tower of London is completely false (blog post 21st August). Michael is not performing at this event.”

I have removed the reference from my previous blog.

Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart from his bottom

Mr Methane at a previous Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

When I forwarded the news to Mr Methane, he was gobsmacked.

“An elaborate scam,” said Mr Methane, “that seeks to ruin the good name and reputation of Michael McIntyre with fake offers for non-existent tickets starting at £1,500 for a non-existent Christmas gig? Keep me posted!”

Mr Methane is currently on his holidays away from showbiz and continued:

“I’ve been staying at Hartington in the Peak District where I’ve been trying out different makes of electric bicycles on the Monsal, Tissington & High Peak trails, I have now moved on to the Ramada Consort budget hotel at Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, which is ideally situated to visit the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft which houses the world’s largest collection of historic trolleybuses.

“But its not an all-electric vacation, as finally I’m moving on to stay at Adlington, Cheshire, which is where my mum used to live during the war with grandad before she got married. It is also conveniently placed for a visit on Monday to the Anson Engine museum for a bit of diesel, steam and gas-powered stationary engine action.”

I can only dream of such a life.

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Racism, farting and the Daily Mail in/out of Edinburgh Fringe

Jay and his golliwog, as seen on his website

Jay & his golliwog. Further Racist Joke Show stunts planned

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about how comedian Jay Islaam’s cunning stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe went slightly wrong. Publicising his Racist Joke Show led to it being cancelled.

After I posted my blog, he told me more:

“The whole show from title to poster to planned flyering was going to be deliberately provocative. It is a shame I could not do my cunning stunt for the flyering. The plan was to have me dressed as a slave master, holding a whip and a chain that went around the neck of a (paid) white flyerer ‘slave’, who would be in blackface (but not blacked up anywhere else) and I would drag them around the Royal Mile overseeing them handing out my flyers. They would shout Racist Joke Show meekly at people passing by and I would berate them with the phrase Louder again and again before whipping them. Maybe next year…”

Flyering is an overlooked vital art at the Fringe.

This year, two of the three nominees for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards are for flyering stunts.

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Meanwhile I am still looking for plagues of locusts on the horizon. Their scouts have been steadily arriving.

Yesterday afternoon, I lost a third sound techie for the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

“To lose ONE sound techie…” as Oscar Wilde might have said if he had ever played the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Anyway, I have lost my third sound techie. Around three o’clock yesterday afternoon, I got the message:

“One of my Fringe acts has been offered a space for a late show on the 22nd and I am contractually obligated to tech for them. This means that I can no longer tech for the Awards. I can only apologise for the short notice and the inconvenience this may cause you – I am afraid there is nothing I can do as they are paying me under the assumption that I stick to the contact I signed before the Fringe and we were only informed of the slot time an hour ago.”

Which is fine – although a sign that not just swarms of locusts but plagues of frogs may be imminent.

Also leading on from yesterday’s blog, I got another e-mail from my farter chum Mr Methane.

Today’s Daily Mail front page

Today’s Daily Mail front page

Yesterday, he shared a message he received from an advertising agency encouraging him to take out an ad in the online version of the Daily Mail – which has a readership surely not known for their love of speciality fart acts. They are more into Michael McIntyre, a very fine act whom I much admire but who is not known for farting darts from his bottom at balloons attached to people’s heads.

In response to the advertising agency’s e-mail, Mr Methane had written back:

“I am sure Paul Dacre (the Mail’s editor) and his readers would love not to see an advert for Mr Methane ‘The Worlds Only Performing Flatulist’ on the Daily Mail website. I am just not their bag and they are not my customers either. So thanks but no thanks, though it made me chuckle.”

Yesterday, Mr Methane got another e-mail from the unrelenting advertising agency Web Windows.

“They still want my ass in Mail,” he told me. Their e-mail read:

Mr Methane farts a dart at a balloon on a worried man’s head

Mr Methane farts a dart at a balloon on a worried man’s head. Is this what Daily Mail readers want to see over their teacake?

I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch again, but I emailed yesterday about a special offer for a banner ad: One month Daily Mail banner campaign just £480.

Did you get a moment to have a look?

I’m around for most of the day, so let me know if it’s of interest – I might even be able to sweeten the deal!

Kind regards,

Alex

Mr Methane tells me: “I am really everyone’s favourite at the moment. Either that or the economy has never really pulled out of recession.”

Meanwhile, back at the Edinburgh Fringe, I still have slight toothache… Kate Copstick still has her arm in a sling, going “Owww!” if she moves it too much… and comedy actor Brian Simpson, appearing out of his stage persona, was seen in the exclusive Underbelly Abattoir VIP area sitting in an armchair, wearing a silk smoking jacket and puffing on an electronic cigarette like some latter-day Noël Coward.

The world is a strange place.

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Last night a 6-year-old who looked like comic Michael McIntyre told me jokes

Eric looked a bit like Michael McIntyre

Little Eric looked a little bit like Michael McIntyre last night. Unlike Michael, he has temporary trouble with wobbly teeth.

My eternally-un-named friend has a six-year-old nephew.

I shall call him Eric (not his real name) because, in the movie Get Carter, Michael Caine tells Ian Hendry’s character Eric that he still retains his sense of humour.

“Do you like jokes?” I asked Eric last night.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Do you want to tell us a joke?” I asked.

“Why did the gorilla go to the shops?” asked Eric.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Why did the gorilla go to the shops?”

“To get a new pair of drums,” replied Eric.

There was a pause while my eternally-un-named friend and I looked at each other.

“Is that to do with the TV advert?” I asked.

“No,” said Eric.

“Is that the end of the joke?” asked my eternally=un-named friend.

“Yes! Gettit? shouted Eric. “Drums! He had to buy another one – like this!”

He started to beat his chest with his fists and to laugh loudly.

My eternally-un-named friend and I looked at each other.

“Look!” shouted Eric. “Your arms!” He started beating his chest with his fists again. “He had to buy another one!”

“Nice visuals,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“What,” I asked optimistically “is your second favourite joke?”

“Why did…” asked Eric.

“I’ve heard this one,” I told him.

He ignored me.

“Why did Jack Sparrow buy a new sword?” he asked.

“Because the gorilla had stolen his sword?” I tried.

“No,” said Eric. “Because he didn’t have a gun.”

“We could try the best of five,” I suggested to my eternally-un-named friend.

“Another one,” she told Eric.

“Oh!” he said enthusiastically. “Why did the banana cross the road?”

“I don’t know,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “Why did the banana cross the road?”

“To do the splits!” shouted Eric, bursting into laughter.

“He could have done the splits on this side of the road,” suggested my eternally-un-named friend.

“He didn’t feel like it,” said Eric and laughed loudly again. “Do you get it? The splits!”

“OK,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“The best of seven?” I asked her.

“Come on. Another one. Another one,” she said to Eric. “Have you got a longer one?”

“What do you call a deer with no eyes?” he asked.

“No eye-deer,” replied my eternally-un-named friend. “I’ve heard that one. Go on – another one.”

“If a rabbit popped and it was invisible,” tried Eric, “what smell would you smell?”

There was a long pause while we thought about this. Eventually, Eric could wait no longer.

“A square!” he laughed loudly.

“A square?” I asked.

“Yeah!” he laughed. “It’s something funny that don’t make sense, right? A popping square!”

“Is he on drugs?” my eternally-un-named friend asked me. “Maybe it’s the chocolate.” She turned to Eric: “Have you got one about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman going into a pub? Do you know anything about someone going into a pub?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“What happened?” she asked.

There was a long, long pause.

“Once upon a time,” he said, “three little pigs went to a pub. One wanted for their starters a meatball sub…”

“A what?” I asked.

“A meatball sub,” said Eric.

“I think it’s a big sandwich,” my eternally-un-named friend told me.

“Someone,” continued Eric. “asked for water. And someone asked for meatballs… and then what did they want for their main dinner? Someone wanted water and one wanted pasta and one wanted chips. And they wanted something for their pudding. One wanted water, one wanted cake and one wanted an ice cream. Now, at the end, they both talked about why the pig was having too much water. So they made a joke about a pig going like this: Wee wee wee all the way home.

There was a brief pause and then Eric burst into a sharp, piercing laugh.

“You’re right,” I said to my eternally-un-named friend. “It’s drugs in the chocolate.”

“Oh!” she said encouragingly to Eric: “He went wee-wee-wee because he’d drunk too much water!”

Eric burst into another sharp, piercing laugh.

“It WAS a joke,” my eternally-un-named friend reassured me.

“Oh no, no!” shouted Eric. “I’ve got it! Why did a car cross the road?”

“Why?” I asked.

“It turned into a Transformer!” Eric laughed.

My eternally-un-named friend and I looked at each other.

Michael McIntyre beaten for Perrier Best Newcomer Award

Comic Michael McIntyre 5 years ago

“Oh,” she said eventually. “I think maybe he should have said Why did the car turn into a road.

“Ah, yes,” I agreed. “Because it was a Transformer. He said all the right words… but not necessarily in the right order.”

“What do you call…” Eric started.

“The strange thing,” I said, “is he looks very like Michael McIntyre. Perhaps all six-year-olds do.”

“What do you call a sheep with no arms and no legs?” asked Eric.

“I don’t know.”

“A cloud,” said Eric.

He will go far.

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Jimmy O: a ‘blackballed’ comic inspired by Jerry Sadowitz & Bernard Manning

Jimmy O yesterday in Wigan via Skype

Jimmy O chats in a Wigan internet cafe yesterday via Skype

A couple of months ago, I saw Waves of Laughter, an episode of BBC2 TV documentary series Funny Business. It was about comedians performing on cruise ships.

According to the BBC publicity blurb: “This film follows the fortunes of Jimmy O – a virgin water-borne comic, as he makes his very first cruise, and tries to learn the ropes in a hurry when he is thrown in at the deep end.”

He sank, so I was interested when he contacted me about a charity single his band Clown Prince are releasing for online download on 3rd May.

“What sort of music is it?” I asked.

“I always say it’s sugar-coated pop with a twist of melancholy,” He told me yesterday. He was in Wigan. I was on Skype.

“Comedy happened by accident,” he said. “Me main passion in life were music. It’s a cliché, but I were the class clown at school. People were always telling me I were funny. So, when the band originally broke up and I had no creative outlet left, I never thought I’ll be a comedian, I just thought I’ll stand on stage to test just how funny I actually am.

“Me band’s doing stuff again now, but I thought we’d do it online rather than live. To test it. And we’ll give the proceeds to a local stroke charity in Wigan and Leigh – Think Ahead

“I lost me mum to a stroke two years ago, which is a harrowing experience. It puts a lot of this entertainment bullshit into perspective.”

“How are things after the BBC documentary?” I asked.

“I’m on the dole,” replied Jimmy. “I live in a council house in Wigan with no carpets, paper hanging off the wall, a broken fridge and a broken telly. I’m basically a tribesman. I wonder what Michael McIntyre’s doing this morning. He’ll be sat in his £8 million house.

“I have problems getting booked.

The glitz and glamour of showbiz

Jimmy O amid the glorious glitz and glamour of showbiz

“When I first started out, Jerry Sadowitz was me idol. When I ran a club, I’d love to have booked him, but he’s always telling me to Fuck off on Twitter. He was the first comedian I felt passionate about. But I grew up with the pre-conceived idea of a real professional comedian being Bernard Manning. I used to watch the show The Comedians on telly.

“I actually supported Bernard Manning once. I was quite lucky. When I started out and was only ten gigs old and I were shit, I got the chance to support Bernard Manning. After that, I thought I don’t understand this Political Correctness. It’s such a middle class bar.

“You can make jokes about the poor. You can make rape jokes. You can make cancer jokes. You can make all the disabled remarks like Ricky Gervais does. But, as soon as you mention something like an asylum-seeker…

“When I went onto the alternative Manchester circuit, I told a gag which got me blackballed effectively. I said:

“I’ve got a friend. He’s a Kosovan asylum-seeker. I invited him round our house and said Make yourself at home. So he raped me wife and ate the dog. 

“I had another one:

“My girl said she wanted some smellies for Christmas, so I got her a tramp and a gypsy.

“Just a silly one-liner.

“But, as soon as I done that, I was known as ‘the racist’ and I was blackballed on the Manchester comedy scene and it’s kinda carried on. The vilification has carried on in the six years I’ve been doing stand-up. I’ve had promoters tell me We’ve had discussions. I’ve heard other promoters talk about you and because of ‘The Gypsy Joke’ you won’t get bookings. I have this reputation that precedes me.”

“Political correctness is an interestingly variable thing,” I said.

‘It’s a class thing,‘ said Jimmy. ‘If a middle class student had gone on stage and delivered that gag, it would be post-modern irony. If I go on stage – I look like a hod-carrier – I’m seen as a piece of racist BNP poster-boy filth.

“They’re just gags and it shouldn’t be that way. You shouldn’t have to police yourself. It’s comedy. Is it a George Carlin quote? It’s the job of the comedian to cross the line and offend. The nature of comedy is a dark art. It comes from a dark place. Most comedians are mental. The best ones are.

Jimmy like Total Abuse from Jerry Sadowitz

Total Abuse inspired

“I first saw Jerry Sadowitz on an ITV morning show called The Time, The Place when I was 15 years old. This episode was about swearing and they had Jerry Sadowitz and his manager sat in the audience. This is a clip from your show… and it was like Beep… beep… beep… beep… Being 15, I thought This is great! so I got me mum to buy me his Total Abuse DVD and I loved it. It was amazing! When I started doing comedy, he was the man I wanted to be like. That’s why I did asylum-seeker jokes. I thought: Well, he’s doing it…

“I grew up on a council estate in Wigan. I had a loving mother and a cold, distant, cruel father. He never beat me, but he was always putting me down so I’ve been instilled with this fucking Grimaldi complex – you know – the tortured clown. Most entertainers are dysfunctional to varying degrees and they stand on a stage to say Please like me.

“Other ‘normal’ people go out on a weekend and go for a dance and that’s their showtime. But the more twisted of us go stand on a stage and get shouted at.”

“And a TV documentary about cruise ship entertainers is a bigger stage,” I said.

“I’d been on television before,” Jimmy replied. “A show called Living With Kimberly Stewart: a reality TV show with Rod Stewart’s daughter on Living TV. Twelve contestants. The premise was Kimberly Stewart had no friends in the UK, so she had to find two flatmates to live with her. This was 2007 and Kimberley was in her late twenties.

The world of Kimberly Stewart on the cover of Hello!

Kimberly Stewart’s world: the cover of Hello!

“I fill out the application form and I’m brutally honest. I’m an unemployed comedian. I have a battered old Astra car. I live with me mother. I guess because I was raw and different, they invited me down to auditions at Endemol in London and it was full of girls who looked like they’d just come off an FHM shoot and guys in scarves and pointy-toed boots who looked like they’d been in Duran Duran and I’m a bloke from Wigan with a flat cap on and a pair of £7 jeans from Asda.

“There were tasks every week and, because I had been involved in music, there was a music task. Donny & Dirk Tourette were on the show doing the music task as well – Donny Tourette was on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.

“The producer took us to the London School of Music. Donny & Dirk Tourette were sat down with loads of Stella beer cans round them. Having a comedic slant, if you’re in a strange situation, you tend to fall back on comedy. Dirk Tourette’s hair were bright blond, with a straight fringe and straight down the sides.

“I said: I know you off the telly… It’s Jim’ll Fix It!

“And he said: You cunt! You Northern cunt! It were like something out of Grange Hill. He actually said: I’m gonna put your ‘ead dahn the toilet! There’s footage of the fight on YouTube, but they’ve edited all this bit out.

“So it started a push-and-pull. His brother Donny ran over with a full can of Stella and smashed it in me face – the footage is on YouTube.

“Donny Tourette scratched me eye. I had to go to Moorfields Eye Hospital. One of me regrets is I didn’t punch him; I just grappled him to the floor because, at the time I was green and thought Well, I don’t want to get thrown off this show. I thought it could be me ticket to the chocolate factory. But it turned out to be me ticket to the fucking meat counter in Tesco.”

“When I saw you on the BBC2 cruise ship show,” I said, “I thought He’s playing a professional Northerner on-and-off stage and I can’t see what the guy’s really like.”

“Well,” explained Jimmy, “I had a dichotomy that had been bothering me for a while. I had developed this dopey, Northern, Ken Goodwin type character. I’d shuffle onto the stage looking bewildered and get laughs.

“I had developed this act which was very old school: dead-pan one-liners. But I’d got bored with it and me delivery had become so slow and dragged-out… My goal now is to become more like myself on stage, but there’s something very scary about that. It’s like going on stage naked.

“People told me: You’re funnier as yourself. But it’s like when someone tells you something and, deep down inside, you know it too and you’re in a state of comedic denial.

“I’m not a cruise ship entertainer. I’m not from a world of cheesy smiles and Come on, Beryl, let’s have a dance; it’s Beryl’s birthday, everybody! Comedically, that’s not what I want to do. My goal is to be myself now. That BBC cruise ship documentary put the final nail into the coffin of my old act.”

There is an extract from the upcoming Jimmy O/Clown Prince charity single Cradle Me on SoundCloud:

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Comedian Paul B.Edwards on the UK’s crisis in comedy and The Helsinki Bus Station Theory of how to build a career

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Paul B.Edwards in Borehamwood yesterday

Tomorrow, Paul B.Edwards’ Last Minute Comedy Club in Hitchin celebrates its 20th anniversary. He also runs comedy clubs in Letchworth, Luton and Baldock.

“People have been complaining about a ‘crisis’ in comedy,” I said to him yesterday, “with people not going to live clubs.”

“Well, my clubs are part of a huge squeezed middle,” he told me. “People at the very top are doing very well with their tours on the back of TV appearances. Michael McIntyre made more money than the Rolling Stones last year touring. But TV is making famous other people who aren’t ready.

“If people go and see ‘the funniest bloke they’ve ever seen on the telly’ live in a theatre and he actually isn’t very funny and he’s ‘the funniest person’ they’ve ever seen, what is the point of them going to a comedy club where they’ve never heard of anybody? It’s stopped new people coming to see live stand-up comedy.

“My single biggest problem is the falling number of people under the age of 30. Audiences are getting older, certainly in the sort of provincial clubs I’ve got.

“The comedy circuits are diverging. There’s a whole young Daniel Sloss audience who have never heard of Ian Cognito and vice versa. You’ve got kids going to see shows performed by kids. And adults seeing shows with adults in. And party types going to see Jongleurs-style shows. And people who really believe in stand-up comedy going to see shows in rooms in the back of pubs, like it always was and is supposed to be.

“You have five or six diverging circuits and very few people can work on all of them, which means all of our audiences have gone down as the number of clubs has expanded. There are more and more clubs around, but there are less and less people suitable for each type of club.

“Add to that an economic recession when existing audiences have tightened their belts and, instead of coming once-a-month or once-a-week, they come once-every-other-month or once-a-fortnight… You’ve halved the audience straight away and you’re not getting new people.

“It used to be that, when I got an article in the local Hitchin Comet newspaper, I would get 30 extra people at my club. Now it make no difference whatsoever unless the photograph is of someone people have seen on the telly.”

“So you have been affected by the economic recession?” I asked.

“My Hitchin show halved in numbers,” said Paul, “but I didn’t really know why. The audiences had always been great to the point they’d queue out into the car park to get in. Suddenly it was down to just over 100 people and I didn’t know why.”

“Did this happen in 2008 with the economic recession?” I asked.

“It took a little while to drop – maybe 2009,” replied Paul. “But now, to the current recession, you have to add the ‘Michael McIntyre’ effect, the big arena tours, the TV panel game effect. I think any one of those the comedy circuit would have survived but the fact they all happened at the same time halved audiences. Clubs shut. Anyone who says they didn’t suffer or aren’t suffering is a fucking liar.

“Every time one audience member doesn’t go to a comedy club, they may save themselves £10 but, collectively, if 100 people save themselves £10, the club loses £1,000.

“I didn’t know what to do until Peppa Pig showed up.”

“Peppa Pig?” I asked.

No, no… Not that Peppa Pig

No… Not that Peppa Pig… The one with a computer database

“Peppa Pig is this girl who came to my show in Letchworth. The audience there used to be 120; but it had dropped to 80. That was alright. I figured it was a newer club and a smaller drop – though still a 33% drop.

“At all my clubs, I always go down to the the pub afterwards with the audience – from the minute they get to the gig, I’m their mate as well as their host. She came up to me afterwards and we got talking. Peppa Pig said: Is there anything I can do to help? I market local events for people putting things on. At the weekend, she gets dressed up as Peppa Pig and goes round children’s parties. She works in schools, all sorts of things.

“I asked What do you want? She said: I don’t want anything at all. I want the club to keep going and I can help.

“I had no idea what she could do to help. But she has a database that I’ve never heard of and they’ve never heard of me – namely young parents… Young people who had not been to my comedy clubs, who don’t get out very often but who plan a babysitter for once a month and go out. She told them: Come to comedy.

“Overnight, Letchworth was sold out, Hitchin was selling out… This was in January.”

“Last year?” I asked.

“This year,” Paul said. “It’s only just happened. The numbers had dropped virtually overnight. Now they recovered virtually overnight – simply by someone reaching a group of people I couldn’t reach. Full houses. Paul’s happy again.”

And now Paul has expanded into Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Paul’s Oslo Comedy Club

Paul has been expanding into Scandinavia

He has opened comedy clubs in OsloGothenburg and, as of next month, Copenhagen.

“I take two comics out there,” Paul told me yesterday. “It’s 100% English-speaking-as-a-first-language at the moment, but that may change as there are quite a lot of local comics who want to do comedy in English. At the moment, there’s quite an exciting comedy scene in Oslo of people who can’t get booked because the main club there has made themselves a sort-of closed shop. So there’s all these new comics coming through who have hit a glass ceiling and have nowhere to play.”

“Much the same thing happened in Scotland,” I said. “But making a career out of comedy has never been easy.”

“Do you know the Helsinki Bus Station Theory?” Paul asked me.

“No,” I said, mystified.

“If you want a successful creative career,” explained Paul, “you have to understand the timetabling and bus routes of Helsinki Bus Station.

“Helsinki Bus Station has about 25 or 26 different routes going to 25 or 26 different destinations, but there’s only one road into Helsinki Bus Station and only one road out. For the first kilometre, all the buses are on the same road.

“When you first start off, you start off thinking you’re having creatively original ideas, but you’re not having creatively original ideas because you don’t realise everyone’s having the same ideas as you. If you look out of the window, there are 25 other buses going along exactly the same road.

“But, after one kilometre, the buses start to move off in different directions. The the only way you can have a successful career is to Stay on the fucking bus. The longer you stay on the bus, the more likely you are to eventually reach that unique place that only you are going to.

“Other people are getting off the bus too early until, eventually, there’s only you and the driver.

Stay on the fucking bus – That’s the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

“As a stand-up comic, I’m not famous yet and I may never be famous, but I’m staying on the fucking bus.”

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Filed under Comedy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden

Money in comedy: Mr Methane’s problem; critic Kate Copstick’s rant

mrmethanebendsYesterday, I blogged about a discussion at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival about whether the future of British comedy lies online instead of in live comedy clubs.

After he read my blog, Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing flatulist – he’s farted around the showbiz world for years – told me this:

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I think its already happening, at least in the case of acts like mine.

People no longer have to go out to see some weird stuff anymore. They get sent it over the net by their mates seven days of the week and so, when they go out, they don’t go out to see something bizarre or different. Also the smoking ban has played its part as has the price of beer compared to Bargain Booze & Aldi for example.

All in all, people who want to see bizarre stuff nowadays are used to getting it for free on YouTube and the like: they don’t want to pay for it.

This means I get more exposure than I’ve ever had in the 23 years I’ve been farting around – just one YouTube vid of me has over 28 million views – but it doesn’t translate into more paid gigs.

If anything, it is a declining scale and you have to look to other revenue streams and opportunities the net presents which, when you’re not a Freemason or related to someone high up in the BBC, requires all your ingenuity and a good dose of good luck – This you can only make by doing even more free, web-based, social media publicity.

Possibly I and others like me are in a slow downward spiral. But, all this said, now I’ve had a moan, these are potentially more exciting times – or is that just another word for changing times? Either way, what is happening is a doubled-edged sword.

With regard to the Comedy Store Raw & Uncut film… Remember what happened to the acts that were on The Comedians on ITV. Big exposure but, when they came to do their next gig at a working men’s club, the audience had already seen their act.

The saying Swings & Roundabouts comes to mind.

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davesleicester_logoMaking money from a comedy act was also something discussed by the panel yesterday at Dave’s Comedy Festival (Dave being the TV channel which sponsors the festival).

“I think something ghastly and toxic happened round about the early to mid 2000s,” said comedy critic Kate Copstick.

“In the 1990s, there really wasn’t very much available for comics on television. So, before they all hurtled lemming-like to the nearest 12-year-old commissioning editor with half a Media Studies degree from a jumped-up Polytechnic, they at least had a chance to develop who they were and they had something to sell.

“Then we got the industrialisation of comedy which happened in the 2000s. All of a sudden there were more TV channels and…”

“There were more opportunities,” interrupted Nica Burns, organiser of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. “There were more opportunities for comedians to get on television. There were all these channels and comedy is very cheap. A half hour of stand-up comedy is much cheaper than a half hour of sitcom and a fraction of the cost of an hour of drama. And that is the critical thing because underlying all this is money. They needed to fill up their hours, comedy was a very cheap way of doing it and the comedians were desperate to get a wider audience.”

“It took a long time for that to come around,” said Kate Copstick, “and, in one way it was wonderful when it did. I produced a TV show called The Warehouse and comics were gagging then to get a chance to do stand-up. There were very few places to go on television. Tiny bits-and-bobs. And then, all-of-a-sudden, there was a rush. It think it was something to do with (agent/management companies) Avalon and Off The Kerb not only having a foothold as managers but also as producers.”

“There were a lot of things coming together,” agreed Nica Burns, “in terms of the growth of managers who had career visions for their clients.”

“And none of that,” said Kate Copstick, “was bad until it all kind of turned toxic. Comedy is not a nice business and it’s not got nice people in it. Really, genuinely nice people don’t go into comedy. Comedy always had a career ladder. Now it’s got a bloody express elevator.

“Like I’m 18-year-old. I’m a student comic. I look right. I sound right. I’m fucking lucky. I’m possibly connected. Look! I’ve got five minutes. Good grief – I’ve won a student comedy competition! Crikey – now I’m at the Edinburgh Fringe! Woo – now someone’s picked me up and stuck me on a Stand-Up For The Pointless Pre-Written Gag of The Month TV show. Great! Now I’m back with my own one-hour show with a strap on the poster that says STAR OF the Stand-Up For The Pointless Pre-Written Gag of The Month TV show. Now I’ve won the Best Newcomer or the Panel prize because nobody can think of anybody else to give it to. Next thing you know, I’ve done five heavily-edited minutes of Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow and now I’ve got my own telly series!… and I didn’t ever actually want to be a stand-up comic. I just wanted to be rich and famous and wey-hey! Thanks to luck, ego and Addison Cresswell (of Off The Kerb) and lots of stupid audiences out there, now I am!

“What then happens is that the decent stand-up comics, the ones who do want to be stand-up comics and who want to play the clubs, aren’t getting audiences, because the audiences only go – like a comedic Pavlov’s dog – where there’s a TV sticker on the poster… STAR OF MUFFIN THE COMEDY MULE – Oh wow! That must be good!

“I could shit into a bag and, if some high-powered PR person stuck an As Seen on Mock The Week sticker on it, people would come and see it. They genuinely would! This is not good for comedy.”

(A slightly edited podcast of the panel session is on the Demon FM website.)

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Filed under Comedy, Television