Tag Archives: People

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” reveals critic Kate Copstick

Last night, Funny People at Soho Theatre

Since coming home from the Edinburgh Fringe exactly one week ago, I keep waking up at 7.22am.

Last night, I got to bed around 3.30am. I set my alarm for 8.30am. I woke up again at 7.22am for no reason. Someone must make a noise in the square outside my house at around 7.22am, but I hear nothing when I wake up.

Getting back to sleep was confused by the fact that, at 3.30am, I had taken a Vicks Medinite cold cure to help me sleep; but, last night, doyenne of comedy critics Kate Copstick had bought me a Red Bull energy drink.

We had been at the Soho Theatre to see the Abnormally Funny People comedy show.

And they were.

It is rare to see a comedy show where there is not one duff act. But, last night, every act on the show was excellent. Don Biswas, Liz Carr, Tanyalee Davis, Steve Day and Stella Young, compered by Mat Fraser. All excellent.

Because of what comes later in this blog, it is worth pointing out that all these comics have worked exceptionally hard under exceptionally challenging circumstances to become exceptionally good comedy performers. Each one is wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

At Soho Theatre last night, Copstick talks to Bronston Jones and Will Franken. In background, in green, Tanyalee Davis.

After the show, Copstick and I had a meal at Soho Theatre with the lovely Tanyalee Davis and American comics Will Franken and Bronston Jones. All three are wonderfully creative. Remember that phrase.

Both the guys had played their first Edinburgh Fringe this year and both, to varying extents, said they were thinking of moving to the UK. Will Franken, in particular, seemed especially Anglophile as he had been to William Blake’s grave earlier that day, recited an entire Blake Poem (NOT Jerusalem or Tiger, Tiger) and sang Roxy Music songs with Copstick without the urging of excessive amounts of alcohol.

He is returning to San Francisco in three days time. Copstick is returning to the slums of Nairobi in two days time. She will be there for 18 days. She spends four months of every year in Kenya, working for her Mama Biashara charity. I have blogged about it before. If you want to know more, use the Search facility.

“You were telling me,” I said to Copstick when Will Franken and Bronston Jones had gone outside to smoke, “that, when you go to Kenya, within one day, it’s like none of this glittery Soho comedy stuff exists at all.”

“Especially,” said Copstick, “when you go out to a night like this, see the show and then you hang out with creative people and you have all these amazing ideas. It’s exciting that Will Franken is hanging around in London and half of me wants to go Oh! Before you go, we could meet up again and discuss ideas! and Tanyalee’s going to Liverpool but then she’s coming back and you think…”

“There must be a TV series in tonight’s show,” I interrupted.

“Well,” said Copstick, “the Abnormally Funny People had an idea for a sitcom involving the whole cast touring round the country. They had been pitching it for about two years, gradually crawling up the echelons of the BBC and, just as it got to the top, the BBC commissioned Life’s Too Short and, of course, television thinks it can only have one disabled-centric sitcom or programme of any sort at any one time. So the BBC didn’t commission the idea.”

“But, when you go to Kenya…” I said.

“As soon as I’m in Kenya,” said Copstick. “it’s like life in London doesn’t exist. Not Soho, not the Soho Theatre, none of this. Then, once I’ve been in Kenya for a few weeks, up to my nipples – my lovely nipples, as indeed remarked upon by a lovely man in Shepherd’s Bush only the other week – up to my nipples in sewage and poverty and despair and death – I come back and it takes much longer to adjust to life here in London. It takes me weeks not to be irritated by almost everything that I see and everyone I meet.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because we have so much and we don’t care and it would be so easy for us to help and do more and because my two totally different alternative universes are the Mama Biashara work in Kenya and comedy and performing here and most performers are, by their very nature, shallow, meaningless, pointless, self-obsessed people.

“It’s very difficult to get back to this from people who are absolutely up against death by starvation and malaria every day. People in Kenya say things to me like I had a touch of typhoid, but it’s fine and Let’s do the workshop; I only have a touch of malaria.

“Whereas, over here, you have people weeping into their cups because the audience didn’t like them as much as they thought they ought to. That culture clash is hard.”

“You’ll have to soften that They’re all shallow bastards implication,” I suggested. “Some comedy performers are wonderfully creative people.”

“Some of them are creative and wonderful, like the ones tonight,” Copstick agreed. “But some of them are just shallow ego-centric bastards. I’m not going to name names, but I may do in one of your future blogs!”

“That’s softer?” I asked. “So where do you live when you’re in Kenya? Last time I mentioned you in Nairobi, you were eating goats’ innards and jelly babies. The jelly babies sounded a bit luxurious.”

“Well, you can get jelly babies there,” said Copstick. “They’re not Bassett’s jelly babies. But you can get Maynards’ over there. That last time was the night I had this fantastic sausage made by a lovely, lovely man who stokes up a barbecue in the middle of the slum and he grills a sausage called mutura, made from goat intestines. It’s a cousin of the haggis but there’s no oatmeal. They just mash up the intestines and the blood and coil it up and roast it on the barbie and chop it up and you can buy yourself a good six inches for a couple of pence.”

“And that’s something you like,” I prompted.

“I need at least a good six inches to satisfy me,” Copstick agreed. “So that night I think I spent about 10 pence on a good six inches, which I took home and set about with my usual enthusiasm and, afterwards, I had half a dozen jelly babies.”

“You live in the slums of Nairobi,” I said.

“I live in a slum,” said Copstick, “among the people we work with.”

“I’ve never lived in the slums and seen real poverty and death like you,” I said, “but when I’ve come back from seeing abject poverty in places like Nepal, I walk around the streets of London and total nihilism sets in for a couple of weeks. Doesn’t it make you terribly nihilistic?”

“I get…” said Copstick. “I get angry because we waste so much and it’s all so easy and nobody thinks about anything and we’re all so obsessed about tiny, pointless things. We have no idea how hard life can be. With performers, the ego-centricity is a necessary part and parcel of the whole thing, but we get obsessed with tiny, pathetic things.”

“Maybe that’s the difference between us,” I said. “I get nihilistic; you get angry.”

“One of the things that spending all that time in Kenya has done for me,” said Copstick,  “is that… you certainly don’t sweat the small stuff when you spend four months there every year… Things that used to drive me crazy in London, I just now think Yeah, whatever… I don’t get so upset about things. I really don’t and it’s entirely Kenya which has done that to me. I have absolutely – apart from the fact that bin seems to be on fire in the street outside – I have absolutely nothing to complain about.”

“The bin appears to be smoking along with Will Franken,” I said.

“Indeed,” said Copstick.”

“It’s like a New York street scene with smoke coming up through the road,” I said.

“Will Franken – the brilliant Will Franken,” said Copstick, “has set a bin on fire.”

“I feel I should photograph it for my blog,” I said, “not that I want you to think the blog controls my life. Perish the thought that I should be so shallow.”

“That is quite a serious amount of smoke,” Copstick said. “You should go out and get a picture. This could be the second Great Fire of London.”

“I can’t shoot a picture through the window,” I said, “because of the reflections. I will have to go out.”

The not-now-smoking bin outside the Soho Theatre last night

And I did go out but, before I got to the bin, a security man from Soho Theatre had got there with two glass jugs of water and had poured them into the bin.

“It happens quite a lot,” he said to me. “There were flames last time.”

“Bastard thing!” I said to Copstick, more in nihilism than in anger, when I came back inside. “He doused the smoke before I could get a decent picture for my blog.”

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Filed under Charity, Comedy, Kenya, Poverty, Third World

News of the World. Forget the hacks. It’s The Bill you always have to pay.

I have worked as a researcher and sub-editor for BBC TV News (via their old Ceefax teletext service) and, briefly, in the newsrooms at Anglia TV, Granada TV and ITN. I have known a lot of journalists. But even I was shocked by the News of the World and other tabloids’ amorality.

I don’t mean the telephone hacking scandal which has now seen Rupert Murdoch close down Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.

I mean the cheap Killer Bitch movie and Katie Price’s ex-husband Alex Reid being caught on camera with his trousers down.

Police corruption comes later in this blog.

In what must have been a moment of madness I financed Killer Bitch without reading the script (look, it was cheap) and I was away at the Edinburgh Fringe for weeks when shooting started.

While I was away, a sex scene was shot between Alex Reid and the lead actress, the director’s girlfriend/partner.

Alex Reid’s chum/manager asked the director if it was OK to have a photographer on set that day – not to take photos of the sex scene itself but just of Alex arriving, being on-set, being glamorous. The director said Yes.

And, of course, when the sex scene happened, click-click-click and off in a corner Alex’s photographer goes to e-mail out his photos.

What the director didn’t know was that the manager guy had, all week, been playing-off the News of the World against The People to get a higher price for the sex scene pictures. The People ran their photos on the cover and in an “exclusive” double-page spread that Sunday.

But the News of the World, unknown to anyone else, had secretly set up a hidden camera in the grotto where filming took place. They took their own photos and ran a single-page ’spoiler’ about “sickening footage” in the “vile and degrading hardcore porn film” in which Alex had been involved in a “disgusting rape”.

In fact, it wasn’t a rape scene at all. Never was. Never scripted as rape (I read that bit later); wasn’t shot as rape; wasn’t edited as rape. I saw the uncut footage when I came back from Edinburgh and it simply wasn’t rape.

But, bizarrely, journalists often believe what they read in tabloid newspapers, so this story about the vile rape scene in a hardcore porn movie (which is wasn’t) quickly spread across the world, sometimes using the same words the original News of the World had used.

The movie, which had only just started shooting and which was months away from being edited, was reviled as “violent porn” by The Times of India, a “vile and degrading movie” on Australia’s Perth Now website and “violent, aggressive… icky stuff” by TheHollyoodGossip.com. Back home, totally unseen, the Daily Mirror slammed it as “a sick movie” with “vile scenes…stomach churning”

Fair enough. Good publicity for a small film, though sadly much too early to profit from.

Two weeks later, The People ran a new cover story and two-page spread about how Alex Reid had “returned” to the Killer Bitch set “to shoot more torrid outdoor sex shots”. This had never happened. It was a complete fiction. But The People had detailed descriptions, actual photos from this supposed second sex scene (they were re-cycled from the original scene) and they even had a direct quote from the director saying, “I can confirm that Alex filmed these scenes within the last seven days”.

The director told me not only that The People had never talked to him about this alleged re-shoot but, at that point in time, he had never actually talked to anyone at the newspaper about the film ever.

Obviously, you expect to be mis-quoted and have your words twisted by newspapers. Now, it seems, it’s common to simply make up entirely fictional stories.

The New York Daily News correctly reported that “the film’s producers don’t seem bothered by the publicity.”

Fair enough. Publicity is publicity.

But just as the Stephen Lawrence affair, to my mind, was not about racism but about police corruption – an investigating policeman was paid-off by the father of one of the accused – the current News of the World scandal is not about phone hacking but about endemic police corruption.

Two days ago, I saw a Sky News double interview with, on the one hand, Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and on the other ex News of the World journalist Paul McMullan.

McMullan could be seen almost literally biting his tongue off after he said that, if you were investigating police corruption, the only way to find out the facts was to talk to other policemen. As they might lose their jobs by dishing the dirt on fellow officers, they could not be expected to do this for free or for a few pounds and it was not unreasonable to pay them £20,000 or £30,000.

This figure was picked up by the interviewer.

Brian Paddick, who was basically defending the Met, said this was terrible but “clearly everyone has their price”.

This is an interesting thing to say because it is an acceptance by a former senior Met officer that, if the price is high enough, any Metropolitan policeman can be bought.

Yesterday’s London Evening Standard led on a story that “Corrupt Met police received more than £100,000 in unlawful payments from senior journalists and executives at the News of the World.

It also claimed that two senior Scotland Yard detectives investigating the phone hacking scandal held back: “Assistant Commissioners Andy Hayman and John Yates were both scared the News of the World would expose them for allegedly cheating on their wives if they asked difficult questions of the Sunday tabloid.”

Today’s Guardian says: “Some police sources suggested there was no evidence yet that officers had actually received the payments and what would also be investigated was whether the journalists involved had kept the money themselves.”

Obviously some Met officer here, limbering up for a career as a stand-up comic.

Police in the UK taking bribes? Shock! horror! – And the Pope is a Catholic?

The system-wide corruption within the Metropolitan Police in the 1960s was supposedly partially cleaned-up.

Bollocks.

On 4th December 1997, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and said there were around 100-250 corrupt officers in the Met. By “corrupt” he meant seriously corrupt – they dealt drugs, helped arrange armed robberies etc.

Condon is also the man who coined the phrase “noble cause corruption” – the idea that some police justifiably ‘bend the rules’ to get a conviction when officers ‘know’ the accused is guilty but do not have enough proof to convict. So it could be seen by some as “noble” to plant evidence, lie under oath and generally ‘fit up’ any ‘known villains’ when there is no actual evidence which would prove their guilt.

In Stoke Newington the police did, indeed, ‘fit up’ guilty drug dealers who would not otherwise have been imprisoned. But their motive was not to ‘clean up’ the area but to clear away the opposition as police officers were themselves dealing hard drugs. Whether this comes within Sir Paul Condon’s definition of “noble cause corruption” I am not sure.

In 1998, the Telegraph got hold of (and one wonders how) a confidential document containing the minutes of a meeting organised by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). It quoted this police document as saying: “corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service… Corruption may have reached ‘Level 2’, the situation which occurs in some third world countries.”

I once asked someone who had managed a ‘massage parlour’ – in other words, a brothel – how he had avoided getting raided by the police. He looked at me as if I was mad:

“Cos we fucking paid the Old Bill and gave them free services,” he said.

In Britain today, it remains a fact of life – as it always has been throughout my life – that you always have to pay The Bill.

Last night’s TV news shows reported that today the police would arrest former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Now where would they have got that story from? Only the police would know. And today he was arrested.

Was the tip-off paid-for or was it just a nudge-nudge case of You do me a favour; I’ll do you a favour?

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Filed under Crime, Legal system, Movies, Newspapers