Tag Archives: Paul Kerensa

Increasingly confusing times for Christmas but not for Paul Kerensa

I was in Oxford Street in London last week. The Christmas street lights are already up and shops have special Christmas sections already open.

It is early October.

A couple of weeks ago, my TV went up the spout and I am thinking I might wait until the January sales to buy a new one. The January sales now start in mid or early December.

I blame Christians for this. They started it.

This mucking-around with dates.

I was saying to comic-and-now-author Paul Kerensa that I have never understood the Christian festivals. I know, obviously, that the reason Christmas and Easter were positioned where they are was to smother the pre-existing pagan end-of-year and Spring festivals. But what on earth were the early Christians thinking about?

Father Christmas before the Coca Cola marketing colours finally took over

The end of the year is all about endings and the death of the old.

Spring is all about re-birth and new starts.

So what’s with this ridiculous back-to-front symbolism of Jesus being born at the end of Nature’s annual life-cycle and dying in the Springtime?

It’s not as if it even makes any Biblical sense.

According to the Bible, Jesus was born in the Spring – the shepherds were tending their new-born lambs in the fields; and there is no hint of what time of year he was crucified.

So that would have been perfect. The lamb of God was born in the Spring with the real lambs at the symbolic re-birth of the natural annual cycle of life. And it would make perfect sense and have no Biblical complications to have him die at the same time as the death of the old year and the end of Nature’s annual life/death cycle.

So celebrate Jesus’ birth at Easter and his death at Christmas.

And you could still smother the pagan festivals.

What were they thinking of?

The ever-interested & interesting Paul Kerensa

I was droning on about this to Paul Kerensa – who managed to retain a mask of interest – because he was having his book launch. He has just written Hark! The Biography of Christmas.

I think the Christmas book-buying season starts in October and runs to the middle of December. Obviously, people don’t actually buy books as Christmas presents AT Christmas. That would be silly.

Paul tells me that “the original print run has already completely sold out, and the book is on its 2nd reprint already” – It was published in September – so October is the perfect time to launch it.

For all that the British comedy club business is said to be in decline, the British appetite for comedy and comedians seems to continue unabated.

At the time of writing, Sarah Millican’s book How To Be Champion tops the Sunday Times bestseller list and all four top places are books written by comics – the others are Russell Brand’s Recovery, Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt and David Jason’s Only Fools and Stories.

Paul Kerensa’s new book is, as the title suggests – Hark! The Biography of Christmas – all about Yuletide facts and fictions – answers to all the festive questions you might ask and some you would never have thought to ask, like…

Paul Kerensa – the man with all the answers

– Was St Nicholas the first to use an automatic door?

– Which classic Christmas crooners were inspired by a Hollywood heatwave?

– Did King Herod really have a wife called Doris?

Jeremy Vine says: “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Christmas until I read this brilliant book”.

Me too. And Paul was able to set my mind at rest. He told me it is unlikely I will get arrested for celebrating Christmas.

When I last heard, there was still a Cromwellian law on the statute books banning the celebration of Christmas.

Although he was less reassuring about the legality of eating mince pies.

And, as if hedging his bets, half the mince pies supplied for the book launch were actually apple pies.

Intentionally.

DJ/presenter Chris Evans says Paul is: “A brilliant writer, fantastic communicator, deep thinker and extremely decent bloke”. I agree.

And, with plugs on the back cover from Miranda Hart and Noddy Holder of Slade, no wonder the book was on its 2nd reprint before it was launched.

Here’s Noddy…

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Paul Kerensa: an upstanding 50/50 kneel-down stand-up comic and writer

Paul Kerensa - in a Christmas cracker of a comedy show

A Christmas cracker of a show new to London

“I’ve forgotten why we’re meeting up,” I told comedian Paul Kerensa this afternoon. “I find over-research can be very over-rated.”

“This coming Monday,” he reminded me, “I’m at the Leicester Square Theatre with a Christmas show – Kerensa’s Christmas Cracker – A Centrepoint Fundraiser. It has some carols, Bec Hill, Paul Tonkinson, Rob Thomas and a magician called Wayne The Weird – his real name is Wayne Shakespeare – I keep telling him he should just use his real name.”

All proceeds go to the Centrepoint Christmas homeless charity.

“I’ve been doing these package shows all through December,” he explained, “I’ve done this show about eight years now but never done it in central London before. I normally call it Comedians and Carols but, in London, I didn’t want to step on the toes of Robin Ince’s Lessons and Carols For Godless People.”

“It’s been getting audiences?” I asked.

“Last week in Exeter, we played to 2,000 people at a modern-built church place. And, in Durham, we played to about 1,500 at the Gala Theatre.”

Paul has been performing stand-up comedy for 15 years.

“I tried giving it up about six years ago,” he told me, “but that only lasted about 10 days.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I thought I had got into stand-up to be a writer and I thought: The writing is working out. I will stop all this trudging across this fine land of ours. I love doing the gigs, but the driving is a lot of… So I tried to give up the stand-up and that lasted about a week-and-a-half but I got the sweats and needed to go and do a gig again. So, ever since then, I’ve done about three gigs a week – because I have to. It’s a drug. I love it and it’s just brilliant fun.”

“But you had originally,” I said, “gone into stand-up to become a writer?”

Paul Kerensa’s book - confessions of a kneel-down stand-up

Paul’s book as a kneel-down stand-up

“Well, I had thought I did, but now I know I didn’t. Now I know I went into it because I need to get laughs. Once you’ve had the experience, it’s difficult to not keep doing it.”

As Paul said, the writing HAS been working out for him. He wrote for the Miranda TV sitcom and writes for Lee Mack’s Not Going Out sitcom. His work has won awards from the Royal Television Society, the Rose d’Or and the British Comedy Awards.

I asked: “Are the stand-up and the writing fairly equally balanced?”

“Last year’s tax return,” he told me, “was within £10 between writing and performing. And I’m starting a podcast soon. I’ve got a few interviews recorded, which I’ll put out in the New Year. Just little segments like overheard conversations.”

“Why do a podcast?” I asked.

“Because I’m meeting lots of interesting people. I’m doing lots of BBC Radio 2 things with Chris Evans – I do the Pause For Thought spot on his Breakfast Show and I’ve been writing TFI Friday (on Channel 4 TV) for the last six weeks.”

Pause For Thought?” I asked.

“They do it every day Monday to Friday,” Paul explained. “The Reverend Richard Coles does it; a few bishops; a few Imams; and the occasional comedian like me. This Thursday, I’m doing one about my kids’ school nativity play.”

“And you do that spot because you are a Christian?”

“Yes.”

Paul Kerensa - amid the Ho Ho Ho and the sign of the cross

Paul Kerensa this afternoon – a bit of a Ho Ho and maybe the sign of the cross if you spot it

“That’s not common among comedians,” I said.

“I do a lot of gigs in churches,” said Paul, “because they have a ready-made audience. But the trouble is how do you have a foot in that camp and a foot in the mainstream comedy circuit? The problem is I don’t think being a Christian is that funny. It’s maybe funny to laugh at but not with. How do you make it funny? That’s the problem, really.”

“And, if you even mention it,” I said, “it might sound as if you’re proselytising.”

“Exactly. I think you can do the atheist stance on stage and people will go Yes!! but, if you did it from the other perspective, it would sound proselytising.”

“And you have to be squeaky clean?” I asked.

“Don’t have to be,” said Paul. “Depends on the venue. Depends who’s booked you.”

“Is there a church circuit?” I asked.

“I don’t think there’s a circuit as such, but I do 90 minute shows in churches to 200 people and sell a few books. The last church gig I did was two nights ago and, at the end of it, I had three different people from other churches come up to me and say: We’re from the church down the road. Can we have your card? Come and do a show for us. That doesn’t happen at most comedy club gigs – that you can get three new gigs from one gig.”

“It’s horses for courses. The way comedy has gone… If I had said to my mum 15 years ago Name me a comedian, she’d probably have gone Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard. Now, she could probably name me 50 comedians. There’s a comedian for everyone. Certainly ten years ago, a lot of churchy folk would have gone: Oh, I don’t like comedy. It’s a little bit, y’know… not for me. Now there’s something for everyone; comedy’s for everyone. A lot of modern churches nowadays: they’ve got the stage, the lights, the mic, the refreshments – they’re made for it.”

“With all this radio and TV writing,” I said. “I still don’t really understand the attraction of standing in a room above a pub performing to a relatively small number of people.”

Paul Kerensa’s advice on how to be a Blibluffer

His book advises how to be a Bibluffer

“Writing doesn’t give me the same sort of reward,” explained Paul. “Hearing Lee Mack get a laugh for something eight months after I’ve written it is not the same – and forgetting if I even wrote that bit or he wrote it… It’s not the same as getting the instant kick of a laugh in a club. Also, writing doesn’t pay what it could do and I have a family to feed – a wife and two kids.”

“Is your wife in the business?” I asked.

“No. She just pushes me out the door and says: Go and do a gig. Get the jokes off your chest and don’t do them in the house.”

“You have two kids?” I asked.

“My 2-year-old daughter,” said Paul, “is showing particular signs of being a good comedy audience member. My son does the jokes and she does the laughing.

“My son is 5 now. He’s just started school and is showing good signs of being a comedian. In a true show of comic timing, yesterday at school he was awarded a perfect attendance record certificate… but he wasn’t there to collect it because he was off ill.”

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