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Mr Twonkey tries to plug his show but gets sidetracked by cheese and fast food

I had a very fuzzy talk with Mr Twonkey

I had a video chat with comedy performer Mr Twonkey (Paul Vickers) on FaceTime but I could only see him as a frozen, fuzzy presence.

PAUL: That’s just the way I look.

JOHN: Where are you? Edinburgh?

PAUL: Yes, on the shore at Leith in my windmill.

JOHN: Your windmill in Edinburgh.

PAUL: Yes.

JOHN: You wanted to talk to me to wantonly plug your show at the Bill Murray comedy club in Islington next Thursday (7th February).

PAUL: And I’m at the Leicester Comedy Festival the weekend after that – Saturday 9th.

JOHN: The same show?

PAUL: Yes. Well, the same show with a different title.

JOHN: The last time I talked to you, there seemed to be a planned, linear progression to your shows. I was quite shocked.

PAUL: Well, to me there’s a plan, but people just think they’re… well, just… well… mental… But to me there’s a plan.

JOHN: So what’s this new show about?

PAUL: A conspiracy theory. The idea that all the weather we currently experience is generated in one small factory in the Dordogne in France. And the ‘front’ for it is a cake decorating shop. Behind the scenes, they are making weather, but it is mal-functioning. So I go to investigate. That’s the central crux… There are connections with Leonardo da Vinci.

JOHN: Which are?

PAUL: Apparently he had plans to re-invent the weather.

JOHN: Title of the show?

Mr Twonkey’s new show is coming to Islington

PAUL: My original title was Twonkey Turns The Umbrella of History, Meets Leonardo da Vinci and Explains Climate Change but, when I told my PR, the phone went silent. Now it’s called Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch. She didn’t like Whizz, Weathercock, Whizz! either. Next Thursday will be the first time I’ve performed it. The other night, we wrote a new song for it because we were watching Neil Diamond videos and became inspired. So now there’s a new bit in the show about a temporary exhibition of Neil Diamond stage costumes at Luton Airport.

JOHN: Separate from this show, you have a new music album coming out…

PAUL: Yes. There’s a new Paul Vickers and The Leg album called Jump! There have been some problems on that with label changes, but I think what is going to happen is… Well, I don’t know what is going to happen at all. The main thing we’re focussed on is getting it finished. We’re mixing it at the moment. It takes a long time to finish a record because, when you get five grumpy men in a room, it takes a while.

JOHN: Are you going to tour with the band?

PAUL: Hopefully. But it’s a case of time and money. There’s a lot of things I would like to do. My play about David Lynch is ready, but it’s too expensive for me to do at the moment.

JOHN: Why expensive?

PAUL: I need actors and actors cost money. The last time I did a play – Jennifer’s Robot Arm – it cost me a fortune. The trouble with plays is the cost escalates. It’s like digging a hole and just throwing loads of money into it. Whereas, with a Twonkey show, there’s a limit to how much the cost can escalate because it’s basically just me and what I buy in junk shops.

JOHN: How is your good lady? Is she still making props for you?

“Somebody had a go at it with a screwdriver. Sounds strange”

PAUL: Yes. And buying me things. The other day, she bought me a xylophone that plays by itself, but I think it’s broken. It sounds wrong and wobbles a lot.

JOHN: But, then, so do I… Is it having creative differences with itself?

PAUL: It appears so. It’s quite rusty as well. Somebody had a go at it with a screwdriver but it sounds very strange now.

JOHN: It plays itself?

PAUL: Because it’s from the early 1970s, the way you program it is with a coil. It’s kinda like an auto-piano that you would get in a Wild West saloon. It’s very old and broken.

JOHN: But, then, so am I and, if you tweaked me with a screwdriver…. What else have you been doing?

PAUL: I made a little video in the western town in Morningside

JOHN: Western town? Morningside??? The very posh part of Edinburgh?

PAUL: Yes. Behind the library, there’s a street that’s like the Wild West.

JOHN: What?

PAUL: It was built for some advertising thing. There’s a saloon and a canteen. It’s like a proper little Wild West street. It used to be a dance hall; now it’s a street.

JOHN: What is the video about?

Mr Twonkey inside his windmill, holding quite a large cheese

PAUL: Cheese. How America lacks high quality cheese… American cheese is kinda plastic cheese. Was there ever a point where they tried to introduce European or exotic cheeses into America? I had the idea there was a time in the Wild West where cheese was more valuable than gold. So I’m trying to smuggle cheese and I steal the sheriff’s cheese and he tries to win it back. It’s very simple.

JOHN: What triggered you into thinking about the low quality of cheese in the USA?

PAUL: I just couldn’t think of any high-quality American cheese. In this country, every different region has its own cheese. And I thought: That surely must be the case in America; they must be making some kind of local cheese… but they’re not. Why not? But they love cheese. 

JOHN: Their showbiz can be quite cheesy. There’s Brie Larson.

PAUL: But does she generate genuine cheese?

JOHN: I don’t know her that well.

PAUL: There is no great American cheese. It is such poor quality that it can’t officially be classed as cheese.

JOHN: Who says?

Mr Twonkey – a man, a myth, a large sombrero

PAUL: The cheesemongers of the world. The Cheese Police. (LAUGHS)

JOHN: Is there some official supervisory cheese body?

PAUL: There must be. You can’t get away with just knocking out anything and calling it cheese. There must be someone who says: “Hang on a minute… That’s not proper cheese!”

JOHN: Is all this because American cows are below par?

PAUL: The thing about America is it’s massive. They’ve got snake farms. There are places out in the woods where they’re making things in a DIY homemade manner. You would think somewhere out there someone would be making high quality cheese…

You would think maybe someone with French ancestry would be thinking: I want to make a really smelly, runny cheese. But I don’t think there’s anyone in America doing that. I have Googled extensively online and the best I could come up with was Vermont Cheddar which, if you put it on a plate in France, they would say: “Well, that is… average.”

I have never been to Vermont. All I know is the Captain Beefheart song Moonlight on Vermont.

JOHN: Does Moonlight on Vermont include any reference to cheese?

PAUL: I don’t think he mentions cheese.

JOHN: I seem to remember cheese being a motif in previous shows of yours.

PAUL: It is. It’s one of the things I focus on. Certain things keep coming back: cheese, World War Two, escapology, engineering and witchcraft. But you Google American cheese. You’d be amazed.

JOHN: I don’t doubt it.

PAUL: The country that invented the cheeseburger doesn’t have decent cheese.

JOHN: Did they invent the cheeseburger?

PAUL: Well, they invented fast food. Have you seen that film The Founder?

JOHN: About Colonel Sanders?

PAUL: No, about the guy who started McDonald’s. Except he didn’t start McDonald’s. He went into business with the McDonald brothers and their original intention was high-quality fast food.

Michael Keaton’s movie as The Founder

The way they did it was they didn’t open a restaurant first; they booked a tennis court, got a piece of chalk and divided the tennis court into different areas for preparing different types of food, then employed staff who came to the tennis court and they mapped-out a kitchen and they were directing people round this tennis court to see who could make the quickest high-quality cheeseburger. Then they built a restaurant to the exact specifications of the tennis court.

JOHN: Didn’t the net get in the way?”

PAUL: I think they maybe took down the net. We have gone off-track…

JOHN: I feel there is a rock opera to be written about cheese and you are the man to do it.

PAUL: The Americans invented jazz and fast food… And that’s it… We are going off-track.

JOHN: So you are performing at the Bill Murray in London on Thursday.

PAUL: Yes. Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch.

Twonkey… Another gig. The same show. Another title… A fez

JOHN: And then at the Leicester Comedy Festival on Saturday 9th February..

PAUL: Yes. Twonkey Turns The Umbrella of History, Meets Leonardo da Vinci and Explains Climate Change.

JOHN: Which is the same show, but with a different title.

PAUL: Yes.

JOHN: And, at the Edinburgh Fringe, it will be called Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch?

PAUL: Yes.

JOHN: That seems reasonable.


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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Music

What sort of material is suitable for blogging about? Coade stone material?

The dramatic effect of being in Edinburgh but having no blog

Tomorrow’s blog will be easy. 

That’s what I foolishly thought yesterday.

I am meeting comedian Charlie Chuck during the day, going to South Queensferry and the Forth Bridges with my eternally-un-named friend and having a meal tonight with comedienne Janey Godley and PR boss Stuart McKenzie from Kiev, who was Scots comedian Jimmy Logan’s stepson. There will be a blog in there somewhere.

But Charlie Chuck was in Yorkshire, buying a new Mercedes for his drive up to the Edinburgh Fringe next month. Nothing much happened in South Queensferry apart from photos. And the meal at Assam’s, though indeed as wonderful as promised and with interesting people, was not really bloggable, though I did try to encourage Stuart’s father Bruce McKenzie to buy an Apple Mac and become a blogger.

“If you want to blog,” I suggested, “it sometimes helps to be opinionated,”

“I can do opinionated,” Bruce replied with an alarming amount of enthusiasm.

After the meal last night in Edinburgh, I was still blogless. I texted Janey Godley (by then in a train back to Glasgow):

“No blog. Any quotes or quirks gratefully accepted.”

“Quotes? What quotes?” she texted back. “Remind me, baldy brain.”

I had no answer; she had no opinionated quotes (which is a rare thing).

So, in the drive back to our temporary flat in Morningside, I switched on my iPhone and let my eternally-un-named friend tell me things.

“Tell me things for my blog,” I told her.

“There are some nice second hand shops in Edinburgh…” she started.

“You said there are three different Edinburghs,” I said, trying to veer her away from second hand shops.

“Well,” she said, “this is only my second visit. But there are some very elegant areas with wide streets and smart stone and elegant details on corners. Then there were the low bungalowey type homes on the way to the Firth of Forth; that was a bit strange; they’re like some kind of Hobbit huts, though I don’t actually know what a Hobbit hut is. Nice wide streets and wide pavements. But there was also that area which was a bit grim and tatty.”

“Well,” I said, “I love Edinburgh. Very elegant. But Trainspotting was also set here. Lots of heroin. Edinburgh is little old ladies and heroin.”

“There’s a post box over there,” my eternally-un-named friend said. “Maybe we should get a post card and post it.”

“To whom?” I said.

“Oh, exactly,” she said. “There are yellow lines there. That’s why there’s nothing parked on that corner.”

“And then there’s a graveyard on the other side,” I said. “Say something interesting about the graveyard. Is it a nice graveyard?”

“Oh God,” she said. “I can’t think of anything. There’s nothing to write in this, John. Well, you do wonder what’s going to happen to that Saab car dealer building there that’s closed because, as you said, it must be very valuable ground.”

“Well, this is Morningside,” I said. “You told me you like Morningside.”

She regained her enthusiasm: “Oh yes,” she said. “Yes, I do like Morningside. I think there are some very nice second hand shops here, very, very reasonably priced in comparison to second hand shops in England where some of them will charge you something like £7 or £10 for an item, which is just ridiculous. You bought that Elgin Marble head this morning, which could have been made from Coade stone.”

“Coade stone?” I asked. “What’s a coade stone?”

“It’s the stone someone I think called Eleanor Coade made statues out of,” she explained. “And there’s a statue of a lion on some bridge in London that’s a bit like the ones on Trafalgar Square.”

“Aren’t they,” I said, “made from the melted-down guns of French ships captured at the Battle of Trafalgar?”

“Anyway,” my eternally-un-named friend continued, “this lion is at the end of a bridge in London and this Eleanor Coade woman made these statues that are in the foyer of the Royal Naval…”

“…College in Greenwich?” I suggested.

“The churchy bit,” my eternally-un-named friend said. “What’s that churchy bit called? Chapel. Opposite The Painted Hall. There are some statues there and they’re made from very hard stone. I don’t think it’s actually stone. It’s maybe some kind of resin. But they have apparently lost the recipe.

“A lot of statues erode over time, like the gnomes at the bottom of your garden, and lose bits like their noses and – well, they lose bits – Coade stone doesn’t erode. But, as I say, they’ve lost the recipe. Very elegant, fine statues: the sort you should have at the bottom of your garden instead of gnomes. How can they lose the recipe?

The (not) Elgin Marble from the charity shop

“But you have bought some Greek or Roman statue head that’s fallen onto the ground like Ozymandias – and you mentioned him in a blog recently – and we’ve no idea what it’s made of but it’s very like these buildings here in Edinburgh and it could be the Elgin Marbles that you’re going to return to Greece because they have run out of money.”

“Oh,” I said, “I thought you told me definitively it was a copy of an Elgin Marble.”

“Is that why you bought it?” she asked.

“No, but I thought you recognised it from somewhere,” I replied. “Possibly the Parthenon.”

“No,” she said, “I don’t actually know what the Elgin Marbles look like. Sorry. Did I forget to mention that? I lived in Lossiemouth, which is near Elgin. But I don’t know where the Elgin Marbles are.”

“The British Museum,” I said.

“They said, if they hadn’t taken them,” she said, “they would have ended up being destroyed by…”

“…the Turks blowing the Parthenon up,” I said.

“But, then,” she said, “that’s an excuse you can always have when you go and nick someone else’s stuff, isn’t it?”

“The Turks will blow it up?” I asked.

Just looking after it for you.” she continued. “You’re not capable of looking after it.

“Or blame the Turks,” I suggested.

“Are we ever going to get out of this car?” she asked.

“It seems increasingly unlikely,” I said.

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