Tag Archives: Phil Jarvis

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 13: The Elvis Dead, compost and comedy in a shed

I ended today soaked through with Irn Bru and rain.

The day started off like a normal Fringe day.

“Michael Brunström wants to borrow some of my compost,” performer Narin Oz told me, as I walked into Fringe Central. This made perfect sense at the time – a sign of how your brain soon gets affected by the Fringe.

I was on my way to the first Grouchy Club of the Fringe, supposedly chaired by Kate Copstick and me – but she had been dragged off by The Scotsman to review former First Minister Alex Salmond’s chat show at the Assembly Rooms on other side of town.

Becky Fury stood in for Copstick. Same hair; no white streak. The front row of our overwhelming audience (it’s all comparative) included two women who had seen Lewis Schaffer’s show last night and had not liked it.

Martha McBrier – castigated by some for playing a didgeridoo – arrived with a small brown box.

Copstick arrived when the show was almost over, telling chilling tales of Alex Salmond singing.

Cultural appropriation for Martha McBrier to play the box?

Martha McBrier played the small brown box by blowing into it. She claimed it was a ‘box didgeridoo’.

It was unclear to both her and us if women were banned from playing it, as they are with linear didgeridoos.

We started discussing Lewis Schaffer again.

At this point, Lewis Schaffer phoned asking me to send him a picture of himself.

Then I was off to see Michael Brunström, Phil Jarvis and  Alwin Solanky perform the legendary 20-minute routine Dinner For One in a small garden shed beside Bob Slayer’s Blundabus.

Dinner For One, recorded in English for German audiences in 1963 is extraordinarily famous in Germany, Austria, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Faroe Islands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, South Africa and Australia. In fact, loads of places except the UK.

(Left-Right) Alwin Solanky, Phil Jarvis and Michael Brunström

Phil Jarvis introduced this shed-based production in German, then Dinner For One was performed in English with Phil as the butler, Michael Brunström in drag as the lady and Alwin Solanky as the tiger skin rug. The shed miraculously contained an audience of (I think) eight people, with more peering in through the open door.

Dinner For One: a cast over the top; an audience under threat

The spilling, throwing and spewing of Irn Bru – standing in for the original show’s alcoholic drinks – was extensive.

The result was that I was (with some pride) the only audience member left in the shed by the end.

I had taken the precaution of wearing a coat which I bought in Nuremberg and which, fortunately, has a liquid-proof hood.

This production of Dinner For One epitomised the spirit of the Fringe – people performing something for no logical reason whatsoever, ignoring financial recompense, audience numbers and any common sense.

You did, indeed, have to be there.

As did I at Nathan Cassidy’s one-off event The World’s Best MC Award Grand Final because I was booked to be one of the judges – well, THE judge, as it turned out.

I did not know what to expect from this.

I blogged about its clear Cunning Stunt Award intentions in a blog almost three weeks ago.

At the Awards (L-R) Nick Helm, Rich Wilson, Nathan Cassidy and Sarah Callaghan (Photograph by Rat Pack Productions)

As it turned out, it was pretty much what it said on the label – six good comics doing 5-minute MC-style intros – each introducing the next – in an attempt to win an alleged £5,000 prize.

The comedians/MCs were Sarah Callaghan, Nick Helm, Joey Page, Mark Silcox, Chris Turner and Rich Wilson.

Unsurprisingly, in a shock twist, Nathan Cassidy won his own £5,000.

Very enjoyable, a real audience-pleaser, but I’m not convinced it’s a Cunning Stunt. The door money DID go to charity, though.

That is not up to me, though.

Fellow Malcolm Hardee judges Marissa Burgess, Bruce Dessau, Kate Copstick, Jay Richardson and Claire Smith all have equal says to me.

Talking of Malcolm Hardee – and who isn’t at the Fringe? – the wonderful 2011 Award winner Johnny Sorrow and Bob Blackman’s Tray have arrived in Edinburgh. I saw them tonight at The Newsroom, the small venue at the top of Leith Walk. From their energy, he/they could have been playing Radio City Music Hall.

THAT is how to play to an audience of one.

No audience problem for The Elvis Dead, though.

The Elvis Dead – Cultural event or niche pastiche?

It is probably the hottest and most talked-about show in Edinburgh.

In fact, the buzz around it started at the Leicester Comedy Festival back in February and has built to dizzying heights since. It is superbly well put together together and performed.

But I am not the target audience.

It reminded me of my experience over a week ago when I saw Mother’s Ruin – about gin – with an audience fully into the subject. The Elvis Dead is a musical re-telling of the movie Evil Dead II through pastiches of Elvis Presley songs.

My problem is that I have not seen Evil Dead II; I am not a particular fan of Elvis Presley; and singalong, clapalong-stompalong-whoopalong, crowd-bonding events are not my thing. Mea culpa.

The audience LOVED it. The only-begetter of this crowd-pleasing triumph, Rob Kemp, is getting full houses every night. But for me, the elevator pitch is that it is Jollyboat rabble-rousing (I like Jollyboat) meets Harriet Braine niche pastiche (I admire Harriet Braine).

Braine and brawn vie for niche pastiche attention

Harriet Braine performs superb pastiche songs about fine art and artists – very very clever songs about Magritte, Cezanne, Van Gogh, whatever whoever. But I don’t know the subject well enough to fully appreciate them. So the full effect floats or zooms over my head, as with The Elvis Dead.

Rob Kemp says he is returning to Edinburgh next year with a Beetlejuice show.

I HAVE seen Beetlejuice.

But I am not a massive fan.

On the other hand… if we were talking about a musical version of The Wild Bunch… I would be queuing-up like the Dead Elvis fans are.

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Edinburgh Fringe, Day 8: These shows are all far too good and then Consignia

Pitch perfect, beautifully written and paced

It has been a bad Fringe for me in the sense that, so far, I have not seen a truly terrible show. Where have all the shit shows gone?

I started today with Katharine Ferns in Stitches – about domestic abuse. Well, it starts off about domestic abuse and then gets more and more horrific. It is a pitch perfect performance and a beautifully-written, perfectly-paced comedy script.

Absolutely wonderfully done. A perfect Fringe show. Laughs. Tears. Jaw-dropping. It deserves a (formerly-known-as) Perrier Award but the (formerly-known-as) Perrier Awards are possibly in terminal decline.

Then there was Giants’ sketch comedy show For an Hour with Ian Hislop’s son Will Hislop and his friend-since-childhood Barney Fishwick. The former is in the unenviable position of facing 3-4 years of being called “Ian Hislop’s son” and the latter is facing 2-3 years of being called “the other one”. Nothing can be done about this. That’s life. As Oscar Wilde did not say, the only thing worse than being labelled is not being noticed.

(L-R) Will Hislop succeed? Yes he will, with Barney Fishwick

That’s the downside. The upside is that they are supremely self-confident, highly professional and write and perform impeccably. There is a humdinger of a ‘door’ gag and a very clever ‘Israeli’ reference which are worth the price of admission on their own. And they will have their own TV series within 3-6 years tops. Probably in some BBC2 double-billing with Ruby Wax’s equally well-connected daughter duo Siblings.

The next two shows I saw were Ashley Storrie’s and then Janey Godley’s.

Janey is probably the most talented creative all-rounder I have ever met. Her autobiography Handstands in the Dark was a bestseller in Scotland and England; she had a column in The Scotsman; her shows are masterclasses in audience control and performance; and this year’s Fringe show was preceded by a two-day shoot in a part specially-written for her in an upcoming Julie Walters feature film. If she did not live in Glasgow, she would be a major star.

When you know Ashley is her daughter, you can spot the inherited performance skills, though their on-stage personas and schtick are different. I saw their shows (in different venues) consecutively and it was fascinating to see how they dealt with overlap material (particularly the recent death of Janey’s father) differently.

Janey’s act mentioned the time she and I were sitting in her living room in Glasgow and an entire building blew up across the road.

Consignia – Phil Jarvis (left) & Nathan Willcock

Which brings me to Consignia’s intentionally shambolic late-night Panopticon show.

This is one show which should create a sense of nervous anticipation in any audience and where Malcolm Hardee’s intro “Could be good; could be shit” resonates. And, in the case of Consignia, he might have added: “Good and shit could be the same thing here. Fuck it.”

This is the traditional spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe.

I had very little (possibly no) idea what was going on during the show but neo-Dadaism might be the best description. I was dragged out of the audience, a pink tutu put on my head to represent a bride’s veil and I was told to wave my hand while repetitive music played for I guess around 4-7 minutes. Might have been 47 minutes. Meanwhile, Nathan Willcock stood with (what I think was) a fake TV screen on his upper body and Mark Dean Quinn repeatedly hit Phil Jarvis in the face with a mop while he (Phil) yelled out “No!”.

Eventually, in its repetitiveness, this became quite reassuringly mesmerising and I felt sadly empty when it ended.

I think Stockholm Syndrome may have kicked in.

Either that or my green tea was spiked with some hallucinogenic substance.

On my short walk home, I passed three people sitting chatting and drinking on the edge of a building.

Nothing unusual there.

This is Edinburgh in August.

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The anarchic post modernist comedy group named after the Post Office. Not.

The interior of Cafe Diana in Notting Hill

The interior of Cafe Diana in London’s Notting Hill

Consignia won last year’s Alternative New Comedian of the Year title. The comedy group are Phil Jarvis, Andy Barr, Nathan Willcock and now “newcomer Jason Bridge”.

Phil and Nathan had tea with me in Cafe Diana – a culinary shrine to the late Princess of Wales, opposite the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in London’s Notting Hill and near the brutalist Czech Embassy. It was their choice of venue. Also present was Dec Munro, one of the begetters of Angel Comedy’s Bill Murray club.

Dec has let them have an entire afternoon of six previews at the Bill Murray on Sunday 5th February – from 1.45pm to 6.00pm, unless they repeat everything twice, in which case who knows?

The logo for The Abridged Dapper Eleven-Hour Monochrome Dream Show

Publicity logo for The Abridged Dapper Eleven-Hour Monochrome Dream Show

Consignia were performing in Swansea last night. If I had been more efficient, I could have posted this blog before then to give the gig a plug.

But I wasn’t and didn’t.

At last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, I saw their show The Abridged Dapper Eleven-Hour Monochrome Dream Show twice. Well, I had little alternative. When it got to the end of their one-hour slot, they simply did the whole show again from beginning to end. When we met at Cafe Diana, Nathan was feeling ill and was very tired. Our conversation, under walls covered in photos of Princess Diana, went like this:


Phil Jarvis at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015

Phil Jarvis at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015

JOHN: I was surprised when you repeated the show in Edinburgh that there seemed to have been a script.

NATHAN: The Leicester Comedy Festival is the last time we will do that show.

PHIL: Yeah. Saturday 25th February.

NATHAN: And, after Leicester, we will do something new for Edinburgh this year.

PHIL: At the Edinburgh Fringe, I want to do an unofficial Dinner For One tribute show. I am trying to get the smallest room I can and put a table in it with six people round it.

JOHN: Isn’t the whole point of Dinner For One that he is serving things to non-existent people?

PHIL: But you could have someone playing the tiger rug and people playing the people who aren’t there.

JOHN: This show would run the whole duration of the Fringe?

PHIL: It would be a one-off. There would be a knees-up, because that’s what the show is.

JOHN: Is it?

PHIL: I think it is, yeah. A melancholic knees-up.

JOHN: A sort of Chas & Dave with tears?

PHIL: (TO ME) We are waiting for Bridge.

JOHN: Bridge?

PHIL: Jason Bridge.

JOHN: Like Godot?

PHIL: Mmmm…

JOHN: But, apart from your Dinner For One with six people, what is the new Consignia show for Edinburgh?

Nathan Willcock (left) and Phil Jarvis pay homage to Princess Diana

Nathan Willcock (left) & Phil Jarvis pay homage to Lady Diana

PHIL: Panopticon.

JOHN: Why is it called that?

PHIL: It has to be more pretentious than last year’s.

NATHAN: We have a gig booked in Norwich for it already.

JOHN: Oh, I’m sorry.

PHIL: We did it last year. That’s where last year’s gig found its feet. Before that, The Abridged Dapper Eleven-Hour Monochrome Dream Show was a disaster.

NATHAN: I went to university in Norwich.

JOHN: Oh, I’m sorry.

PHIL: I’m going to run a gig in Basingstoke.

JOHN: What? Into the ground?

PHIL: Probably. It’s a regular monthly gig.

JOHN: Called…?

PHIL: Goat.

JOHN: Because it will make people feel horny?

PHIL: No. It’s just a name.

DEC: Someone named their rap album Goat.

Phil Jarvis (right) listens to his notes; Dec Munro concentrates

Phil Jarvis (right) listens to his notes; Dec Munro concentrates

PHIL: I think there’s a band called Goat as well.

JOHN: And an animal.

PHIL: If you put the words ‘a Comedy Club’ next to it, it says ‘Go at a Comedy Club’.

NATHAN: Nobody says: “Go at a comedy club.”

PHIL: I do.

NATHAN: You should call it GOAT 2 – “Goat 2 a comedy club.”

JOHN: So why call yourselves Consignia?

NATHAN: We didn’t have a name in Edinburgh last year, but now we have retrospectively given ourselves a name.

JOHN (TO NATHAN): Are you going to fall forward unconscious into that soup or what?

Nathan Willcock was feeling a bit ill

Nathan Willcock alas did not fall into his soup

NATHAN: It’s very hot.

JOHN: Why did you choose the name Consignia?

NATHAN: It was going to be the new name of the Post Office but they got rid of it, so we thought: We’ll have it.

JOHN: You didn’t think of calling yourselves The Post Office?

PHIL: It’s not as funny.

NATHAN: With Consignia, only a few people remember it happening. It was so stupid. I had to check with people: Did that actually happen?

JOHN: Ah. So it IS suitable for your shows, then.

NATHAN: We are hoping to get into a high-profile legal battle with the bloke who thought up the name.

PHIL: We like faded things.

JOHN: Is that why you invited me here?

NATHAN: We like pointless, meaningless things.

PHIL: That is why we like brutalism in architecture.

Nathan Willcock (left) and Phil Jarvis approve the brutalism of the Czech Embassy

Nathan Willcock and Phil Jarvis approve the brutalism of the Czech Embassy in London

JOHN: Are you sure you are not misunderstanding the word? It is not just beating-up people in the street.

PHIL: We want to perform at The Comedy Store.

JOHN: In the Gong Show bit?

NATHAN: Yes. They film you and you can pay £5 to get a copy. We could probably use it in our new show: about us being booed off. We will just stay on stage.

PHIL: They will be gonging and we will just stay on until the bouncers come on to get us. They will think about it a bit.

NATHAN: Basically, we want them to get violent… and then we will see if we can still get the video.

JOHN: You really do misunderstand what Brutalism is.

NATHAN: He still hasn’t turned up.

JOHN: Who?

PHIL: Jason Bridge. He will be with us in Leicester. With my son.

JOHN: You have a son?

PHIL: No.

NATHAN: Do you remember anything from our show in Edinburgh?

JOHN: No.

NATHAN: The one you sat through twice.

JOHN: No. I do remember the second time was a revelation because I thought: I’ve never seen anything like this before.

PHIL: Do you not remember me covered in blood wearing a gas mask, holding my son?

JOHN: No. I thought I must have dreamt that.

PHIL: You saw my penis.

JOHN: Did I see it twice?

PHIL: Yes you did.

JOHN: I don’t remember it.

NATHAN: My girlfriend hates that.

Nathan Willcock Facebook header image

Can you spot Nathan Willcock in his Facebook header image?

JOHN: His penis?

NATHAN: No… Nicholas. Because Nicholas is covered in egg and mud…

JOHN: His son?

PHIL: …and guacamole…

NATHAN:…but I refuse to throw it out. It’s in our cupboard.

JOHN: Why is guacamole funny? All those Al Queda prisoners in there for years on end…

PHIL: Do you not remember our show at all, John?

JOHN: No.

NATHAN: You remember we put a carrot and some humus on stage…

JOHN: Did you?

NATHAN: …and then played a really slowed-down version of Daphne & Celeste and then walked off stage and the audience just looked at this carrot and humus.

PHIL: One night, we couldn’t find any humus. We could only find discounted guacamole.

NATHAN: That was the night the second show happened – the X-rated one – the night you were there, John. We did everything naked.

JOHN: Did you?

NATHAN: And, instead of putting a carrot in the guacamole, we put Phil’s penis in it and put a microphone to it.

JOHN: Did you?

NATHAN: And guacamole is a bit spicy so Phil said it hurt quite a bit.

PHIL: I had a mild burn for the rest of the Fringe.

Phil Jarvis

Phil Jarvis felt off-colour during the Fringe

NATHAN: That’s how committed we are.

JOHN: And your girlfriend is not keen on this?

PHIL: His fiancée now.

JOHN: (TO NATHAN) Oh! Congratulations.

NATHAN: She asked me.

JOHN: How did she ask you?

NATHAN: She took me to Belgium.

JOHN: Is that a euphemism I don’t know? I have heard “took me round the world” but never “took me to Belgium”.

NATHAN: Ghent. She didn’t go down on one knee. She just gave me a ring underneath the belfry.

JOHN: Is that another euphemism I haven’t heard?

NATHAN: December 9th. The wedding. It’s going to have a Christmas theme. We had a load of crackers delivered the other day.

JOHN: In January? For your December wedding? That’s forward planning.

NATHAN: She’s very organised. We have put the soundtrack for The Abridged Dapper Eleven-Hour Monochrome Dream Show up on Bandcamp and you can buy the full album for £1,000. You can also download individual tracks for free.

JOHN: It is all commercialism with you, isn’t it?

Consignia logo

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An example of how to promote a comedy show – or three – or not

(L-R) Andy Barr, Nathan Willcock and Phil Jarvis at Soho theatre yesterday.

(L-R) Andy Barr, Nathan Willcock and Phil Jarvis at the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday with Jeremy Spake and Baby Spice.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a message from comedy performer Phil Jarvis saying:

Hi John. Is there any chance myself and Andy Barr can plug a few odd shows we have lined up to you? We can bring Creme Eggs.

When I arrived at Soho Theatre yesterday, there were three of them – people, not eggs – Nathan Willcock was a late addition – and they gave me a scanned photograph of Baby Spice holding a pizza plus a photo of a man with a slight beard.

“Who is that?” I asked Phil Jarvis.

“Nathan Willcock,” replied Phil Jarvis.

“No,” I said. “The man in the photo.”

“That is Jeremy Spake,” Phil told me. “From the 1990s TV reality show Airport.”

“And your show is…?” I asked.

“We’ve got a show called Kafka or Magaluf.”

“What is it about?”

I had thought it was a relatively simple question.

But there was a long, long pause.

Eventually, Andy came up with: “Malcolm Julian Swan is attempting to run a nightclub… erm…” There was another long pause. “But he is also interested in Marxist theatre.” He looked at Phil for confirmation.

Phil returned his look, slightly surprised.

Malcolm Julian Swan is an on-stage alter ego of Phil.

“We have,” Phil told me, “got some jungle music as an intro. And we’ve got a DJ in the show as well.”

“A proper DJ?” I asked.

“A proper DJ, yeah,” he said.

“Who wears it?” I asked.

Malcolm Julian Swan aka Phil Jarvis in a previous incarnation

Malcolm Julian Swan aka Phil Jarvis in a previous incarnation

Phil ignored me. “His name is Callum Vaughan. He lets us crash in his spare room… And we’ve got some Velcro. That’s pretty much it… It’s us trying to be Marxist theatre, Brechtian types. Malcolm Julian Swan – the character I made up – is quite a pretentious, avant-garde guy who lives in Basingstoke – He is sort-of based on myself.”

“You live in Basingstoke?” I asked. “I am terribly sorry.”

“It has its perks,” he told me.

“Does,” I asked, “a cockroach appear in the show at any point?”

“We’ve got some bits where we put Velcro on people. That’s about as close as we get to a cockroach. I was going to re-read Kafka’s Metamorphosis before doing this, but that never worked out…”

“What was the last book you did read?” I asked.

“It was a book by Jeremy Spake about working in an airport.”

“And where is Kafka or Magaluf going to be performed?” I asked.

I had thought it was a relatively simple question.

Phil looked at Andy.

“Where is it happening?” he asked.

There was a pause.

No-one answered.

Then someone said: “The Criterion Free House at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival this Saturday.”

Cockroaches or Velcro? Kafka or Magaluf? Eh? Who knows?

Cockroaches or Velcro? Kafka or Magaluf? Eh? Who knows?

“Are you an ongoing threesome?” I asked.

“I’m not in Kafka or Magaluf,” Nathan told me.

“If we take it to the Edinburgh Fringe,” Phil told me, “he has said he will be in it.”

“Are you definitely going to take it to Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Might do,” Phil said, “but the thing we are definitely taking to the Fringe is The Abridged Dapper 11-Hour Monochrome Dream Show.

“Dapper?” I asked.

“We are reclaiming the word Dapper,” Phil told me.

“From whom?” I asked.

Dapper Laughs.”

“Because?”

“Because he’s a cunt. So it’s worth claiming it back cos it’s a tarnished word.”

“How long does your 11-hour show last?” I asked.

“One hour,” said Andy. “Originally, we were going to do it as 11 hours, but it’s abridged. If you know anywhere that will let us do it for 11 hours, we will do that.”

“It would be a free show?” I asked.

“Oh,” laughed Phil. “Oh yes. No-one will want to pay money to come and see it!”

“Did you,” I asked, “flyer for your Edinburgh Fringe show last year?”

“I gave out some IKEA instructions for assembling furniture,” said Phil, “and wrote my phone number down on it and said Come… About 15 people came! We did two days.”

“The first day,” said Andy, “we got about five people in.”

“But that,” I reminded him, “is around the average audience size at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“We could,” mused Phil, “do the full 11-hour show on the Megabus from John O’Groats to Edinburgh.”

The back end of a MegaBus

The back end of a Megabus aka possible venue

Last year, Phil came up with an idea for an Edinburgh Fringe show in which comedians would rotate getting on the Megabus for a month and videoing a live feed onto Skype which would be projected in to a room in Edinburgh. Sadly it came to naught.

“This new show,” said Phil, “The Abridged Dapper 11-Hour Monochrome Dream Show… It was thought-up in Michael Brunström’s garden… at a barbecue. We were all sitting round talking and it came out of that.”

“I went to the toilet,” explained Andy, “and, when I came back, they had conceived a Fringe show.”

“Was it a long visit to the toilet?” I asked.

“Well,” Andy told me, “it was fairly… was fairly… Well, I was checking the Tweets, you know?”

“So Andy comes back,”explained Phil, “and it ends up Andy was the only one who was in the show. Everyone else who originally agreed to be in it has pulled out.”

“They’ve all distanced themselves from it,” said Nathan.

“What is it about?” I asked.

There was a short pause.

Phil Jarvis at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015

Phil Jarvis at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015

“It was originally going to be about the Apocalypse,” said Phil, “but now it’s just dreams – sketches about the Apocalypse. Well, it’s not sketches. it’s dreams.”

“The key difference being,” said Nathan, “that there is absolutely zero narrative thrust to any of the dreams.”

“We don’t really know what it’s going to be” explained Phil. “The key thing is that something is going to happen at a preview in London on the 24th of March. It’s a happening. That’s what we do. It’s happening. A happening. It’s a dream happening.”

Andy added: “We just hope Phil’s gonna keep his clothes on this time.”

“I will be trying to keep them on,” said Phil.

“Oh,” I said.

“The other thing we want to plug,” Phil continued, “is that Andy’s starting a new comedy night on 3rd March called The Apocalypse Survivors’ Club.”

“The idea,” explained Andy, “is that an Apocalypse has happened and all culture has been wiped from the face of the earth, aside from a few bits and pieces.”

“Where is this?” I asked.

“Dalston,” replied Andy.

“At the Ophelia,” said Phil.

“How do you spell that?” I asked. He told me. “Just checking,” I told him.

“We will,” Andy continued, “have some acts on trying to re-build culture after the Apocalypse.”

(Foreground) Cassie Atkinson looks forward to an evening with Andy Bar

(Foreground) Cassie Atkinson keen to spend an evening with Andy Barr and other Apocalypse Survivors’ Club members

“Acts?” I asked.

“The first night,” said Andy, “has Alexander Bennett, Michael Brunström, Cassie Atkinson, Fern Brady and a poet called Michael Clarke. It’s just a new material night. We can use it as a testing ground for stuff we might put in later shows and Phil is my assistant.”

“We were thinking,” said Nathan, “of starting the first show with Donald Trump causing the Apocalypse and then we’re all around the camp fire and link the sketches through that. But Andy immediately said: That’s too much structure.”

“I am more worried,” I said, “by the phrase ‘we’re all around the camp fire’…”

“It is good to keep an element of fear,” said Phil.

“We could get a laptop of a burning fire…” mused Nathan.

“And,” said Andy, “just burn the laptop.”

“That’s too logical,” said Nathan.

When I left, Phil gave me part of the script for Kafka or Magaluf. It starts:

Sam and Andy walk out to the audience and hand out quotes from Karl Marx, Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx…

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Edinburgh Fringe: 5-stars, fake breasts, deaf squirrels, iScream and Hokum

BethVyseA lot of Edinburgh Fringe acts do not need publicity in this blog any more. They are doing too well.

This morning, on my way back from the laundrette – oh, the glamour of the Fringe – I bumped into comedian Beth Vyse who, two days ago, had a full half-page article about her in the Guardian.

As a result, she told me, the audiences for her show As Funny As Cancer have changed for the better. Instead of (my phrase) drunken passing Scots, she is now getting more women interested in the actual subject of her show. The Guardian piece was headlined: Fake breasts, ping-pong balls and tears in a comic exploration of cancer. 

We will return to this morning at the end of this blog.

Tom Binns’ characters

Tom Binns’ characters need no help from me after that review

Yesterday, I went to see Tom Binns. He had just got a 5-star review from Kate Copstick in The Scotsman for his Club Sets show – hardly surprising as it showcases his three characters and himself and he does a genuine psychic trick, a card trick, ventriloquism and a plethora of sharp verbal and musical jokes.

Then I went to the Italian Cultural Institute where they were showcasing Italian-related acts and shows linked by comic Luca Cupani who surprised me – I have no idea why – by being a very very good MC.

Amy Howerska - allegedly

Amy Howerska – the word of mouth will deafen squirrels

Then Amy Howerska Sasspot – she really DID grow up in a family of trained killers – had her room so packed to the rafters with appreciative punters (on a day when, traditionally, audiences drop off) that she needs no publicity from me and the word-of-mouth on her energetic show will be so loud it will deafen squirrels at 200 yards.

Coming down the Gilded Balloon’s spiral stairs after seeing Amy’s show, I bumped into Charmian Hughes whose daily show When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs and Loves of a She-Comic) actually names names, including ex-boyfriend Dave Thompson (Tinky Winky in TV’s Teletubbies).

Charmian Hughes When Comedy Was Alternative

Charmian Hughes knew how to get booked

“I’m doing two of Dave’s jokes,” she told me, “to portray his part in my life. He said I could do it only if I told his jokes right, but I can get very muddled up. So he’s coming up from Brighton next week and he will have a walk-on part in my show next Tuesday or Wednesday, when he will do his own two jokes.”

“When did you two meet?” I asked.

“When he ran a show which included an open spot. My open spot went really badly and I thought: How can I get another booking? I know! I’ll get off with him, become his girlfriend and then emotionally blackmail him throughout the relationship so he has to give me gigs… And it worked!

I then went to see Adrienne Truscott’s a One-Trick Pony!

Yesterday morning, Adrienne had posted on her Facebook page:


Adrienne Truscott

Adrienne Truscott is not a one-trick pony

In the States they say that, if a pigeon shits on you, it’s good luck. 

I went out for coffee at the corner and came upon a 2-star review of my not-yet-ready-for-prime-time second show by a very thoughtful and fair writer.

I agreed with his observations heartily and went directly home to continue working on it and, in my lounge room, came upon 2 trapped pigeons! One for each star?!! They were flying everywhere and nowhere, mayhem back and forth, all around me, smashing into the windows, smashing into the walls, swooping past my head, feathers and wings everywhere.

They shat everywhere!!

Neither shat on me. Not one ounce. 2 terrified trapped pigeons and one shit-free me!

I am not yet an experienced stand-up comedian but I have a hearty sense of humor. I’ve cleaned up the shit. I’ve made my show better. I love it now and can’t wait for tonight.


She was still shit-free last night and the show was as she hoped.

PhilJarvis

Phil Jarvis’ Hokum. Don’t ask… Just don’t ask

The last show I saw yesterday was Malcolm Julian Swan Presents Hokum at the Freestival’s new venue in the New Waverley Arches. The repeated cry was: This is not a show. It’s an album!” And, indeed, it was not really a show, more a time trip to some deranged 1967 Happening which involved kazoos, pipes, much banging and chanting of random phrases like Human Detritus! plus a bit of nudity, projected computer screens, bits of cardboard and the repetition of phrases through a loud-hailer. Oh – and Phil Jarvis, whose admirably shambolic show it really was.

Hokum (if it really was called that) is highly recommended as a one-off which was really a two-off (it was only on for two days) but you can’t see it – last night was the final show.

So back – or maybe forward – to this morning.

This morning, comic actress Jo Burke was flying up to Edinburgh for her show iScream, which starts on Sunday.

Texts and e-mails flew, because she has also written a book iScream – now available – to go with the show.

Jo Burke with her physical book

Jo Burke with one of her physical books

“The show is new,” she told me, “but I wrote the book about ten years ago – It was a book about internet dating and a year in my life with a brief history of me to set it up. At that time, it was called From Strangers with Love – like in the subject heading of an e-mail.

“This year’s Fringe stage show was called iScream and I did a preview in London and someone – well, you, John – told me it should be more about me. So I took some stuff out that was not about me and thought: What shall I put in to fill the gaps that’s about me? And then I realised: Y’know what? I already have a whole book of stuff that is ‘me’ and, when I looked at it again, I found two little things from the book which I added to the stage show and I then thought: This is a perfect opportunity to release the book as well. So the book is now called iScream too.”

“Did you re-write bits?”

“No. It was written ten years ago and now I am a completely different person to the one who wrote the book.”

“So are the book and the stage show about the same thing?”

“No,” replied Jo. “The book is maybe only under ten minutes of the hour-long show, which is the abridged version of me. The stage show is very personal to me and it does end on what could be considered a downbeat note, but it’s actually not; it’s a very positive note. Like everyone else, you trolley through the shit and come out the best you can.”

Jo Burke iScream designed by Steve Ullathorne

Jo Burke’s show poster, by Steve Ullathorne

“You must be happy the book is out,” I said.

“It is doing extremely well and has been as high Number 17 on Amazon in Comedian Biographies. But I’m actually terrified people will read it and never speak to me again – I have been ridiculously honest. Friends read early drafts of it and told me to take things out and I refused. I’m already writing the second book.”

“The story continues?”

“No. I’m easily bored. I like to try my hand at different things.”

“With luck, money might roll in,” I said.

Jo Burke with butterflies and Prosecco a London City Airport

Jo – butterflies and Prosecco at City Airport

“If money was the prime motivator,” said Jo. “I wouldn’t have done all the things I’ve done in the last ten years. Unfortunately, money doesn’t motivate me; but doing stuff I can feel proud of or which makes other people happy or think… I enjoy that. Just a living. I’d just like to make a living out of it.

“If you’re money-motivated, you gravitate towards the City and almost no-one I know is a City suit person. I don’t want to meet City suit people. I don’t like them. They lost everyone’s money and are still rich and it makes me sad.”

“Where are you now?”

“Currently at London City Airport awaiting lift off. I have butterflies and Prosecco…”

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