Tag Archives: Norwich

If you see a ginger dwarf lying on the ground, would you think: “That’s odd!”

Tanyalee Davis: a big comedy talent from Canada

Last night, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I were in Covent Garden to see the Maple Leaf Trust’s annual Hilarity For Charity gig with profits going to the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund.

On the bill were Canadian comics Ryan Cull, Tanyalee Davis and Tom Stade.

Afterwards, we had a drink with Tanyalee.

“I am hopefully getting new hips in the next two years,” she told us: “I have the hips of a 90-year-old with the mentality of a 19-year-old.”

“So what’s next for you now?” I asked.

“Starting on Monday,” she told me, “for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be FaceTiming and Skyping with some disabled performers in Vancouver who are going to be doing stand-up pretty much for the first time at a three-night event in Vancouver at the end of May. On May 4th, I’m going to Vancouver and working with them in a rehearsal space.”

“May the fourth be with you,” I said.

No-one laughed.

“Why do these people wanna be stand-ups?” I asked. “All stand-ups are mad.”

“I dunno,” Tanyalee replied. “Who knows? Everybody wants to give it a go.”

“What,” Copstick asked, “is your advice going to be?”

“They have sent me some of their material,” replied Tanyalee, “and… there are no jokes… But maybe that’s the problem of seeing stuff as written words. I’m not the best writer by any means but I sell it with my performance. So I’m hoping, once I meet these people on Skype and I see them doing it, I will have advice on their writing and how they perform it. I have just seen the bare bones so far. I’ve been in the business 27 years, so I have some experience.”

“Who has chosen these people?” I asked. “Are they self-chosen?”

“They’re part of a non-profit-making theatre company called Realwheels. They got a government grant to fly over an international performer to mentor.”

“You are Canadian,” I said, “but you live in the UK in Norwich. I have lived in Norwich. For heaven’s sake, why are you living in Norwich?”

“Because I’m part of an anti-bullying campaign,” Tanyalee told me. “A self-empowerment campaign called Great As You Are. I go into schools and work with little snot-nosed kids, but I absolutely love it. It is really rewarding.”

Copstick and Tanyalee in London last night

“Are we talking children-children?” Copstick asked.

“4-7 year olds. Our programme was for a three-year pilot but we’ve already accomplished everything in two years. We’ve now done 4-11 year-olds and maybe 1,000 more kids than was intended. We are putting in another funding application with the Big Lottery Foundation. We want to expand. There are 400 schools in Norfolk and we are only doing 16.”

“Were you ever bullied?” Copstick asked.

“Absolutely. I still get bullied. Oh my God! It’s constant. The other night, some girl came up and just started pushing my (electric mobility) scooter. People yell at me in the streets: Fucking midget! Chase me. Stop dead in front of me going Ahahahaha! and laugh and point at me. And I’m like: What the fuck is your problem?”

“Is that,” I asked, “just in London?”

“In the UK.”

“Moreso than in Canada?” I asked.

“God yes. Nobody’s ever done that to me in Canada.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“I dunno. I think it is more the drink here. It’s just weird. But that’s why with me doing comedy and hopefully getting on more shows I really want to bring to light how fucking horrible people can be…”

“Yes,” Copstick agreed.

Tanyalee continued: “… and the fact I still get bullied. I’m an adult, a 46-year-old and I still get bullied. I tell the kids that and they’re shocked. I give them an example of when I was by the London Eye a couple of years ago – a tourist area, hundreds of people – I was looking up, wasn’t paying attention and I drove over the kerb and I tipped over and the scooter fell on top of me. There were hundreds of people and not one person stopped to ask me if I was OK. People are so stuck to themselves with blinders on, especially in big cities like London. Everybody’s on their phones: Oh! Ooh! That didn’t happen!

“Even what happened on Westminster Bridge last week (when a terrorist mowed-down pedestrians with a car), there are pictures of people walking past on their mobile phones and there is blood and a person lying on the ground.”

“Nobody ever looks at anybody,” said Copstick.

Kate Copstick and Tanyalee Davis – surely a future double act?

“It’s a Big City mentality,” said Tanyalee. “It’s in Vancouver and Los Angeles and New York and here. We have just gotta get to where we’re going. Get the fuck out of my way! But, I mean, if you see a fucking ginger dwarf lying on the ground with a scooter on top of her, you would surely think: That’s odd!”

Copstick said: “There is probably some kind of police code: Dwarf down!

“Like Black Hawk Down!“ agreed Tanyalee. “Yeah.”

“Maybe,” I suggested, “it is because you are ginger.”

“Yeah,” said Tanyalee. “Maybe that’s the problem. There was this kid (in Norfolk). He was 14 but super-tall for his age and his headmaster told me the boy had had to move school four times because he had been bullied because he had ginger hair. In Australia, they don’t call them ginger; they call them ‘rangas’.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Orangutans,” said Tanyalee.

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Filed under Disability, discrimination, Humor, Humour, political correctness

Jimmy Savile comedy duo banned from Norwich pub. Now they plan an opera based on a murder maniac rampage…

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into a comedy venue…

Ellis & Rose revealed as Punch andPunch puncher

Gareth Ellis (left) & Rich Rose revelling in Edinburgh

At the Edinburgh Fringe in August, comedy duo Ellis & Rose got more than a little attention by performing Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

The Chortle comedy website reviewed it with the words: “It’s an insult… It could have been a provocative show. It could have been a silly show. It could have been a satirical show. But it should surely at least have been a show.”

The other reviews were… equally interesting. The London Is Funny comedy website gave the show 1-star as “a steaming pile of horse shit”. Slightly better was The Skinny, which gave it 3-stars and said it was “good, knockabout fun done in a deliberately half-arsed way” and Outsider Comedy gave it 5-stars and said it was “a new style of comedy that is years ahead of its time”.

Admittedly, Outsider Comedy is actually just their fellow comedian Mike Belgrave, but Ellis & Rose know how to concoct good publicity from bad.

They won a highly-coveted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award at the Fringe when a member of the public hit Gareth Ellis in the face in the street and gave him a massive black eye for daring to perform Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show.

Well, they didn’t get the Award for that.

They got it when it was revealed in this blog that, in fact, it was a publicity stunt and Rich Rose had repeatedly punched his comedy partner Gareth Ellis full-force in the face to get the required effect… all to publicise their show. They even videoed the beating and posted it on YouTube:

They know how to milk a show for publicity. So it came as no surprise to get a message from Gareth Ellis yesterday. It said:

The Norwich poster

Not normal even for Norwich – the poster

We are putting Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show on in Norwich for one night (next Monday 18th November) before we hit The Brixton Dogstar in London with it on the 28th. We had arranged a lovely Norwich venue, which was to be the Hog in Armour pub and we sent out all the listings information.

The day after that, I got a phone call from the manager telling me the pub owners had reacted badly to having a Jimmy Savile show in their venue – and could we change the title? If not, they told us, we would have to cancel.

The owners of the pub apparently also own a family holiday park and didn’t want Jimmy Savile in their pub and – of course – they wrongly thought that something called Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show is somehow going to be totally pro-Savile…

I suggested we change the title to Sir Uncle Jim’s Unwanted Spitroast, which didn’t go down well… but then it never does.

They said the show would have to be cancelled. I said OK. But I am not one to give up in the face of adversity so, the very same day, I made a lot of phone calls and arranged a new venue – Now we are going to perform the show in a lovely place called Olives Cafe Bar, who are very supportive of us and our Jimmy.

I have no idea if any of the above is true.

It sounds likely.

But, in Edinburgh, I saw Gareth’s very painful black eye and it never entered my head that he had been beaten up by his comedy partner. They know how to drum up shock and publicity.

Now to the future…

Could Gareth be cruising for another bruising?

Could Gareth be cruising for another bruising: a real one?

For readers who do not live in the UK, in 2010, a man recently released from prison – Raoul Moat – shot his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend and a policeman using a sawn-off shotgun.

The new boyfriend was killed, the ex-girlfriend wounded and the policeman permanently blinded. Moat then went on the run for six days and, when cornered by police for six hours, eventually shot himself.

Two years later, the blinded policeman was found hanged at his home.

On Gareth Ellis’ Facebook page, there is currently a posting which says:

Turning the Raoul Moat Saga into an opera. Need a composer to do the music. Anyone?… Raoul Moat really is a great name for the tragic protagonist of an opera… Don Giovanni, Figaro, Raoul Moat…

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The forgotten, fallen TV presenter of BBC TV children’s series “Blue Peter”

Christopher Trace at his peak

Christopher Trace at his peak

Howard Posner, the man who expanded on this blog’s true tale of a sheep drinking in a Norwich pub (the Ironmongers Arms) now also mentions to me a disgraced TV presenter.

“As a consequence of the welcome the pub gave to the sheep,” Howard says, “it became a regular haunt – one of the few non real ale pubs in the city we went in – and that was where I met the former Blue Peter presenter Chris Trace, whose love of alcohol was often greater than his funds.”

You have to be of an extraordinarily advanced age like me to remember the fall from grace of Christopher Trace which preceded even the mostly-forgotten Simon Dee’s sudden disappearance into obscurity.

I asked a friend from the TV industry about Christopher Trace, whom I had grown up watching on children’s series Blue Peter.

“All I remember,” she told me, “is the drinking and, because of it, he screwed up financially, the marriage, professionally etc. and ended up in Norwich.”

Which is a fair placing of Norwich in the media hierarchy.

My friend, like me, worked in Norwich for a period and continued: “I remember him being strong on screen on BBC East. He was only there as his wife had kicked him out, he’d lost all his money and was drinking and eventually he went off to run a pub in Norwich.”

Christopher Trace presented Blue Peter for nine years. He was said to have been Charlton Heston’s body double in Ben-Hur and then got his job as the TV show’s first presenter because he bonded with the programme’s originator and first producer John Hunter Blair over their shared love of model railways. According to the show’s later editor Biddy Baxter: “Trace had spent his entire audition playing with the ’00’-gauge layout in Hunter Blair’s office. After that, there was no hope for any of the other candidates.”

Biddy Baxter recalled Christopher Trace’s skill as a live presenter: “On one occasion, when the promised, playful, small lion cub turned out to be almost full-grown and ferocious, Trace carried on his interview, ignoring the snarls and the blood streaming down the arm of the cub’s owner whilst the others, save the camera crew who were quaking behind their cameras, fled.”

She also recalled that: “After a season of bi-weekly programmes, Trace pointed out in his usual forceful way that he was ‘bloody knackered’ and that if we didn’t get a third presenter to share the load he would leave. John Noakes became the third member of the team in 1966.” Some people say Christopher Trace actually suggested John Noakes for the role.

According to the BBC, Noakes “soon took over the action man role, a relief to Trace as he suffered from vertigo”. Biddy Baxter says: “Trace suffered from vertigo and climbing anything higher than a stepladder was a nightmare.”

This was the beginning of the end, but Trace’s downfall had actually started in 1965 when, aged 32, he had an affair with a 19-year-old hotel receptionist during a Blue Peter ‘culture-embracing’ summer filming assignment to Norway. When this came out, his wife divorced him in 1967 and the BBC “accepted his resignation” because, by then, co-presenter John Noakes had established a viewer fan-base. It was said he had also become difficult to deal with. Biddy Baxter says: “After his marriage broke down, Trace never appeared to have quite the same driving force.”

The BBC did not sack him. He resigned. He had had what seemed at the time to be “the chance of a lifetime”. He was asked to join Spectator, a feature film company, as writer and production manager. But the company failed after two years and Trace lost his life savings. He was made bankrupt in 1973, then returned to the BBC in Norwich on the local TV news show Look East and their daily morning radio show Roundabout East Anglia; he also occasionally reported for the networked Nationwide show.

I encountered him once at a Norwich meeting of the National Union of Journalists. He sat in a corner, was fairly quiet, was engrossed in his own thoughts, looked sad and drank a lot. Howard Posner recalls that, when he encountered him, “he had been sacked from the BBC and was working in a factory during the day and behind the bar in a pub near the Catholic Cathedral at night. He never spoke about his TV days, but I do recall he never had any money and said he had big bills to pay. He used to get upset when students told him John Noakes was their favourite.”

Christopher Trace lost two toes in an accident at the factory.

“He stopped coming in after the accident,” Howard Posner remembers. “I was much younger than him so, apart from drink, we didn’t have much in common.”

In the 1980s, he worked in the press office of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association. In the 1990s, he briefly returned to the BBC as a regular guest on Radio 2 nostalgia series Are You Sitting Comfortably?

He died in 1992 from cancer of the oesophagus while living in Walthamstow.

So it goes.

According to Wikipedia – always to be trusted on such things – “During his time on Blue Peter, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography credits him with coining two quotations now prominent in British popular culture: the line “And now for something completely different” – later taken up by, and usually attributed to, Monty Python – was used as a segue to different parts of the programme; and “Here’s one I made earlier” was used during the construction of models on the show, and has since been adopted by nearly all subsequent presenters on Blue Peter.”

Sic transit Ozymandias.

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Attractive Norwich sheep in a pub; Gary The Goat charged in an Australian court

The Bishop of Norwich was in no way connected to the sheep

The Bishop of Norwich was not involved

In May 2011, I wrote a blog about cat wrestling and a sheep in a pub in Norfolk. It seemed like a good idea at the time and is fairly normal stuff for Norfolk.

At the time, Norwich comedian Dan McKee told me a tale about a local pub – the Ironmongers Arms:

“The peculiarities of the old Ironmongers Arms knew no bounds,” Dan said. “The landlord had no tongue, but he did have a pet jackdaw which hopped around the bar and Friday night entertainment consisted of a young lady singing the hits of Tina Turner. She didn’t sing to karaoke tracks but actually sang over the original Tina Turner records on the juke box and she just tried to sing louder than Tina’s vocals…

“Then there was the night somebody brought a sheep in for a pint. We asked him why he had come in with a sheep and he replied: Well, I couldn’t very well leave it at home.”

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from Howard Posner in Norfolk. It read:

“A friend of mine just referred me to your old blog on the tale of the sheep. The sheep was, in fact, stolen from a field on the way back from a rugby game at Beccles in 1976.

“It travelled on the rear seat of a old Ford Cortina. I was in the front seat. The sheep was very placid and was taken into the pub by some of the University of East Anglia’s rugby fourth team (The Rams). I played for the team on and off for three season (two of which went undefeated).

“At the time, UEA’s first team was called the “u’s” and consisted of a lot of lads who were prepared to train regularly and drink a lot. The second and third teams were made up of those who failed in their efforts to get in the first XV. And the fourth team was made up of ‘social’ students, plus a couple of junior lecturers and a chef from the kitchens at Fifers Lane – who had quite a lot of ability but no desire to conform.

“Our pre-match routine was to meet in a pub somewhere and consume beer in such quantities that we would often arrive at the game with less than the requested fifteen players. Luckily, most of the opposition where of a similar sporting standard.

“As the fourth team, we adopted the Ram as our emblem and acquired a rather large advertising hoarding for pure wool with a sheep on it. The sheep was called Louise and we took this with us to all our games and wrote the results on the hoarding.

“On the way back from winning in Beccles on that fateful night, we decided that it would be more appropriate to have a live ram. There were lots of sheep in the area and we ‘acquired’ one. How were we to know the difference between a male and female sheep? We picked that particular sheep because it was the prettiest in the field.

“Our destination was the usual one, the Ten Bells pub, who would not let us in with a sheep. But the landlord of the Ironmongers Arms was happy to allow in at least fifteen drinking men and a sheep. Sadly, the sheep would not drink the beer, which I recall was high quality Norwich Bitter. When it urinated in the bar some of the liquid was mopped up into a pint glass and was quite favourably compared to the Norwich ale in look and smell. As the evening progressed, our numbers swelled and we moved on.

“When Spencer’s night club would not let us in on the grounds that the sheep was not a member, it was taken away. I was told it was released in a field of other sheep (not its own) but there was a tale, never substantiated, that it was actually taken to the Wild Man pub, escaped and was last seen heading towards the Cathedral. I like this version better.”

Coincidentally yesterday, comedian Bob Slayer also updated me on the progress of Gary The Goat, best friend of Australian comic Jimbo Bazoobi.

Bob’s adventures with Jimbo and Gary The Goat as they crossed Australia last Spring were partially blogged about here last year and Bob is about to publish an eBook about their joint exploits.

Gary The Goat reads the charges against him

Gary The Goat reads the charges against him in Australia

As I mentioned in a blog last month, Gary The Goat was recently disgracefully arrested for eating some grass and (police allege) some flowers.

As a result of this arrest, Gary The Goat’s Facebook page, which had 400 likes, zoomed up to 8,500 likes and the first post about the case went viral, had 25,000 likes and was seen by nearly half a million goat-fascinated folks…

The latest news is that Gary The Goat is going to court next Wednesday, accused of ‘damaging vegetation without authority’.

“Earlier this week,” Bob Slayer tells me, “FOUR cops arrived at Jimbo’s place to deliver their ‘brief of evidence’. It is a 200 page document. So far, I’m only half way through reading it.”

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Filed under Animals, Comedy, Crime, Drink, Humor, Humour

Why I could never be a comedian

After reading about the wonderfully-named Laurel-Ann Hardie last week and how her moniker caused such worldwide excitement on Twitter, I suggested to the late, great comedian Malcolm Hardee’s son Frank that, if he ever has a daughter, he should at least consider calling her Laurel Ann (fore-name hyphens are surely only for American kids).

Why his father never thought of calling Frank’s sister Laurel Ann Hardee instead of Poppy Hardee I can’t imagine.

The only near-to-funny name I have ever personally encountered was the very old-school and respectable weatherman who worked at Anglia TV in Norwich and who was always called Michael Hunt, never (to his face) Mike Hunt.

But, then, as my two fore-names are John Thomas (after my two grandfathers, John McLellan and Thomas Fleming) I can’t really pursue the path of humorous names.

I was originally going to be named not Thomas but Tuesday because, when my father first saw me lying new-born in the cot at the hospital, he looked at me and said to my mother: “Let’s call it a day.”

And because I say that…

…that is why I could never be a comedian.

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Normal for Norfolk – cat wrestling and drinking sheep

Norwich comedian Dan McKee read my recent blog about Steve Coogan’s planned film Paul Raymond’s Wonderful World of Erotica and my stories of wrestling bouts in the Raymond Revuebar entrance lounge and a cheetah which was trained to strip the underwear off girls with his teeth.

There used to be an old wrestler up here in Norwich,” Dan tells me, “who drank in a very strange pub I frequented called the Ironmongers Arms. He was called ‘Bear’ and he once told me a story about wrestling in a strip club in what he called ‘naughtly Soho’ down in London.

“One night, when Bear was halfway through a bout with another wrestler in this club, a ‘fucking massive cat’ leapt into the ring and, not wanting to break the ‘kayfaybe’ of the moment, he ended up wrestling the beast for a few minutes before it got bored and walked off.”

This does, indeed, sound like the Raymond Revuebar, but the Ironmongers Arms in Norwich appears to be just as bizarre. For starters, Dan tells me it is the only pub in the UK with that name.

“The peculiarities of the old Ironmongers Arms knew no bounds,” Dan tells me. “The landlord had no tongue, but he did have a pet jackdaw which hopped around the bar and Friday night entertainment consisted of a young lady singing the hits of Tina Turner. She didn’t sing to karaoke tracks but actually sang over the original Tina Turner records on the juke box and she just tried to sing louder than Tina’s vocals.

“Then there was the night somebody brought a sheep in for a pint. We asked him why he had come in with a sheep and he replied: Well, I couldn’t very well leave it at home.

“As we couldn’t fault his logic, we didn’t ask any more questions. We always hoped he might come in again, but he never did.”

I worked in Norwich for two years. This sounds relatively normal.

(There is more about the sheep mentioned in this blog in a 2013 posting…)

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Two more tales of racism and xenophobia at ITV – both of them perfectly understandable in the circumstances

Following on from my recent blog about sex and Jewish stereotypes at Granada Television in Manchester during the 1980s, are two stories about executive perks and free cars.

I worked at ITV when money was swilling about.

After recordings of entertainment shows Game For a Laugh and Surprise! Surprise! at London Weekend Television, Mercedes-Benz cars would queue up late night, waiting to take participants off home or to their hotels – the mini-cab company used by LWT drove only Merecedes-Benz.

That was fair enough.

Always treat your programme participants well – especially on ‘real people’ shows.

But I heard interesting stories at two of the other ITV companies I worked for – about the cars which top executives were given as part of their pay packages.

At Anglia TV, two of the top men at the company had been imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II. So top executives were allowed to choose any car they liked within a certain price range provided it was not a Japanese car. For understandable reasons.

Granada TV was founded and run by the Jewish entrepreneur Sidney Bernstein. I was told that, in the early days of the company, top executives – as at Anglia – were given cars as part of their salary package, but they could only have non-German cars. Granada would not buy, rent or lease any German car. Again for obvious reasons. Though, by the time I worked there, this rule had been changed and executives could have German cars because, it was said, Sidney had been shown that using German cars made economic sense.

Perhaps that was an urban myth, though I suspect it was true.

Granada nourished myths.

But it is ironic that it was BBC TV not ITV which popularised the saying: “Don’t mention the War!”

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Filed under History, Racism, Television