Tag Archives: Phil Klein

Reactions to Phil Klein’s comments that comedians have no honesty or integrity

Phil Klein in Leicester Square in May 2012

Phil Klein in Leicester Square in May 2012

In my blog yesterday, I quoted comedian Phil Klein saying, among other things, that “the world of comedy is fucking boring… you pretend you’re mates with other comedians, when the truth is you are trying to get one over each other all the time and you want them to fuck up and die on their arse so that you can feel better about yourselves… most of the people in comedy have no honesty or integrity at all… and that is why I want nothing to do with it, after I finish the three remaining gigs I have left.”

There was some reaction to this…

Someone called ‘Mike’ commented on my blog: “This reads like a guy reacting to a beautiful woman spurning his advances. I didn’t want that ugly bitch anyway!

Phil Klein also referred to a May 2005 review of his act by the Chortle comedy website.

In a Facebook posting, Darren Richman advised Phil: “8 years after the review? Jeez, time to move on.”

In another Facebook comment, influential writer Dave Cohen, wrote: “What I don’t understand about this guy is that he displays self-delusion, insecurity, paranoia and bitterness – the classic skills required to be a successful stand-up. Give it another go mate, you’re 80% of the way there.”

Comedian Jeff Mirza Facebooked: “This guy’s is a schmuck. The pain I’ve suffered to be in this business, the racism of the early days, the poisonous reviewers, the self hating members of the ‘community’ who said no, the timewasters, the ‘promoters’ who gave me rubber cheques… It’s only the public, the audiences with their laughter and smiles that have kept me going. Don’t go in the business if you don’t love yourself (a bit) or what you do.”

Anonymous ‘John in Cheshire’ commented: “I tend to be in agreement with Mr Klein’s sentiments, only to add that the BBC is guilty of promoting third-rate comedians as though they are doing something useful for the rest of us. The key to being a comedian in the UK at the moment appears to be: make a friend with perhaps Arthur Smith, demonstrate your socialism in your routines, be snide and vindictive towards normal non-socialists and suck up to Muslims and immigrants in general. The fact that they have no originality or inherent truth in their routines is neither here nor there, that can be fixed with canned laughter.”

James Cook suggested to Phil: “You’ll find all these problems go away the funnier you get.”

Albion Gray, son of late ‘Alberts’ performer Tony Gray wrote of Phil’s original comments: “I agree with him!”

And someone whom I know but who prefers to remain anonymous e-mailed me: “I experienced a bit of this when I overheard some of the comedians at (he named a well-known London venue) standing in the little cove next to the stage. (A named comedian) slow-clapped a first-timer. He was a big lump with long, greasy hair and a shoulder bag. I can’t remember what his act was – a bit of Michael Redmond weirdness mixed with Spudgun from the program Bottom. But (the named comedian) – the ‘banner name’ for the evening – slow-clapped him off when the audience’s response went from 3 to 0. (The named comedian) was next and he leased the crowd; he took ownership as all the best comedians do. It seemed like bad sportmanship to do that to the sad sack who was before him though.”

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“Most of the people in comedy have no honesty or integrity at all,” says a comic

This man had no important message in 2012

In yesterday’s blog, I posted a response I had received to a February 2012 blog of mine.

There must be something in the air.

Just after I posted it, I received another response to a totally different 2012 blog.

In May 2012, I blogged about a man I had bumped into in Leicester Square.

He had been holding a placard saying:

I HAVE NO MESSAGE. AND I’M NOT SELLING ANYTHING. I JUST HAVEN’T GOT ANYTHING BETTER TO DO.

Four days later, I found out the man was comedian Phil Klein and I posted another blog about him, in which I quoted a Chortle website review of his 2006 show The Growing Pains of Amos Phineas Klein Age 33 And A Third. The Chortle comedy website is run by Steve Bennett.

This is the comment which I received yesterday from Phil Klein. It is addressed not just to Steve but, I think, more generally to other comedians.

These are Phil’s comments:


Phil Klein gives his opinion

Phil Klein reacts to a Chortle review and to comics

This is a communication to a Mr Steve Bennett, a Comedic Reporter from the land we know as Chortle land, where everyone has a good old chortle, when they aren’t acting like cunts to each other in a good, old-fashioned, English passive-aggressive, “Let’s pretend we’re friends while stabbing each other in the back” kind of way.

You were right, Mr Bennett, there was “a yawning gap” between me coming across “effortlessly as a nice enough bloke” and “the X-factor that will elevate him from the open mic circuit.”

You’re right there was a yawning gap, but here’s the thing, when people yawn it is because they are bored. What I just got, at the time, was that the gap between being an open mic comedian and a pro comedian was indeed yawning, i.e. very, very boring, and I wasn’t interested in it. Because the truth is that the world of comedy is fucking boring, and I want no part in it whatsoever. Because I want to be around interesting people who are up to stuff in life, and, frankly, most comedians aren’t.

And, yes, if you think that’s arrogant, fine, I’m arrogant. Which is actually a reflection of just how unbelievably arrogant so many of you are. Cos, you pretend you’re mates with other comedians, when the truth is you are trying to get one over each other all the time and you want them to fuck up and die on their arse so that you can feel better about yourselves. I know, cos I was as bad as anyone, but at least I’m honest about what I’m like, whereas most of the people in comedy have no honesty or integrity at all.

And that is why I have zero interest in doing comedy at all. Cos the world of comedy stinks. It pretends it’s different to the work place when, actually, it’s exactly the same. Boring and dull people (the comedians) being boring and dull, as other boring and dull people (the audience) watch them being boring and dull, while being jealous of the fact that at least the boring and dull people (comedians) have the cohones to show the world just how boring and dull they are.

I’m saying this, cos that is what you all really think, and you are all just pretending otherwise.

And, yes, of course, there are same great people in comedy, some amazing people who are very, very interesting and up to brilliant, fantastic, fabulous things (my kinda people). But, sadly, most of the people who either perform or watch or promote comedy are boring and dull with not a whole lot going on in their lives, and that is why I want nothing to do with it, after I finish the three remaining gigs I have left at the Cavendish and the Water Poet.

Oh, and Bennett, you saw me being naturally very funny twice at the London Comedy Festival in 2005, and it is shocking that you made no mention of that, though, on the whole, your review was fair based on that gig you saw at Hammersmith.


I would be interested to hear other people’s publishable views on Phil’s comments. You can contact me via SoItGoes@thejohnfleming.com – or just leave a Comment on this blog.

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Unmasked: the man who stood in Leicester Square with no message

Last week, I wrote a blog about a man who “stood in Leicester Square with a placard saying he had absolutely no message for the world

His name was Phil Klein.

It was not his first time in Leicester Square and here, indeed, is a YouTube clip which appears to have been shot in 2007, before he became a man who held a nihilistic placard:

In retrospect, I have to say, when I stopped and talked to him on a whim last week, he did look vaguely familiar, as did the name. But I thought that was because Phil Klein is not that uncommon a name and comedy maverick Phil ‘Pigeon Man’ Zimmerman is a British alternative comedian while Alan Klein was the American who managed The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

After my blog was posted, though, UK comedy cognoscente Ian Fox told me: “Phil Klein used to be a comic.”

When he was working as a comic, one description of his act (I think penned by Phil himself) was: “His humour incorporates themes on being Jewish, coming from Hampstead, George Dubya, how the Aussies love the English really. Though, if all else fails, he is liable to down a pint (or more) on stage.”

Ian Fox told me that “Phil performed in the Canon’s Gait venue at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe. Every day when he finished his show – he never used a microphone, just shouted at the audience – he’d be quite sweaty and in the change-over period between shows I’d ask him how it went. He always answered the same way: I think I need to work on my material.”

That 2005 Fringe show was called A1A Phil Klein and the Fringe Programme description read: “An honest, warts-and-all exploration of being messed up and Jewish or a blatant attempt to be first in the programme? Take a seat for half an hour on the rollercoaster that is Phil’s life.”

He appears to have got no review for the show, but he was less lucky in 2006, when his show on the PBH Free Fringe was titled The Growing Pains of Amos Phineas Klein Age 33 And A Third and the Chortle comedy website’s one-star review said:

“When a comedy show is free, you have to expect an audience that isn’t 100 per cent focused on the show. But you don’t normally expect it of the comedian. Amos Phileas Klein spends almost the whole of the second half of his show playing with his phone. At first I thought he had some notes on the set stored on there that he was looking up: unprofessional but forgivable. But it soon becomes clear that this isn’t the case ­ it seems he is involved in a text conversation with someone, while delivering in an increasingly distracted fashion. It’s a truly shocking degree of contempt for his audience.”

Future Malcolm Hardee Awards judge Jay Richardson, writing in The Scotsman, suggested: ”It’s less a comedy gig than a hostage taking.”

After reading my blog last week, Brian Damage, who runs the Pear Shaped Comedy Clubs told me: “Last time Phil did Pear Shaped he borrowed £10 off me and fell asleep,” and, on the Pear Shaped website, Brian writes that Phil “was for many years our chief competitor. However he has now retired to spend more time with his personality.”

Around 2005, Phil used to be co-promoter and co-compere of The Funny Bone comedy club in Finchley Road, near his home in Hampstead, as well as running another comedy night in North London at The Culdesac. In May 2005, Chortle wrote:

“Regular compering at the small empire of open-spot gigs he runs in central London has given him a level of comfort at being on stage, but even with that near-daily experience of performing, he still doesn’t appear naturally funny… He comes across relatively effortlessly as a nice enough bloke, but there’s a yawning gap between that and the X-factor that will elevate him from the open mic circuit. On current form, it’s a gulf Klein cannot bridge.”

This is a YouTube clip of him performing in London, it seems likely, in 2006:

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Yesterday a man stood in Leicester Square with a placard saying he had absolutely no message for the world

This man has no important message for you

(This was also published in the Huffington Post)

Yesterday, I was rushing to a meeting at 6.30pm just off Leicester Square, in London.

At 6.18pm (that exact time is on the sound recording on my iPhone) I saw a man standing in the North East corner of Leicester Square with a placard saying:

I HAVE NO MESSAGE. AND I’M NOT SELLING ANYTHING. I JUST HAVEN’T GOT ANYTHING BETTER TO DO.

So, obviously, I went up to him.

“You’re a performance artist?” I asked.

“No.”

“An actor?”

“No.”

“So” I asked, “Why?”

“Why?” he asked me in reply. “Why not? It’s something to do. I haven’t got anything better to do. It’s on the placard.”

“So what did you do,” I asked him, “before you didn’t do anything?”

“That’s a bit of a mind-turning thing,” he replied. “It’s been like this for years. I haven’t had anything better to do than this for years.”

“Did you go to college?” I asked.

“I did, but that was years ago.”

“What was the subject?” I asked.

“History and politics,” he replied.

“Ah!” I laughed. “So, you’re a failed politician?”

“Failed.” he said. “Completely failed to be a politician.”

“You could get yourself exhibited at the Tate,” I suggested.

“Do you think so?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Like a Damien Hirst thing.”

“It’s an idea,” he agreed. “In the Tate? Just stand on the steps at the Tate?”

“Yeah,” I told him, realising he was thinking of the old Tate building. “In fact,” I said, “you should stand at the main entrance to Tate Modern – at the slope – and you might get a commission. You might get a commission to stand there for weeks on end.”

“Brilliant,” he said with little enthusiasm.

“Leicester Square is the wrong place for you,” I suggested. “This is the home of showbiz and Hollywood. But, if you go to Tate Modern, that’s the home of people who give lots of money for nothing. That’s your ideal market.”

“So that would be my attempt to advertise myself?” he asked.

“Is that too commercial?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I dunno. I probably need a seat or something. Do you think they’d give me a seat?”

“No,” I said, “you’re better to stand.”

“But it’s going to get knackering after standing for too long,” he said.

“But,” I explained, “if you’ve got a seat, it smacks of lack of cutting-edgeness.”

“You think so?” he asked me.

“I think so,” I told him.

“Basically, you’ve got the wrong market here,” I told him.

“You think so?” he asked.

“I think so,” I told him, “There was a story that Damien Hirst was on his way to see some people who wanted to commission him to create a work of art and he accidentally stood in some dog shit on the pavement outside the building and he went in and put the shoe with dog shit on it on the table and they were very impressed.”

“If there’s some dog shit, I could step in it,” he said trying, I think, to be helpful.

Message from the messenger with no message

“Nah,” I said. “That’s been done. This is original – what you’re doing here is very original and admirably meaningless. The important thing is it’s totally and utterly meaningless.”

“Of course it is,” he agreed. “Because that’s life for you. Life is totally and utterly meaningless.”

“How did you get the idea?” I asked.

“It just came to me one day,” he said, brightening up slightly. “It just came to me. I thought Why not? Why not do something completely pointless and meaningless?”

“How long ago was that?” I asked.

“About four years ago, I think,” he said, his enthusiasm dimming. “I’ve been doing this for four years.”

“Oh!” I said, surprised, “I’ve never seen you before…”

“I stopped doing it for years,” he explained. “I started four years ago, but then I didn’t bother for about two or three years.”

“Why?” I asked. “To create a demand?”

“No,” he explained. “I just stopped because I couldn’t be bothered.”

“Why not have a hat on the ground to collect money?” I asked. “Would that undermine the idea?”

“No,” he said. “I just haven’t got round to doing it.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Phil.”

“Phil what?”

“Phil Klein.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“London.”

“And you live in London?”

“I live in London.”

“Can we take a picture?” four passing girls asked Phil.

“Yeah,” he said, without much interest.

“You have a market here,” I told him. “You should be charging for this.”

The girls took their pictures.

“It spreads the word,” said Phil. “It spreads the word.”

“What word?” I asked.

“I dunno,” Phil replied. “There is no word. But it’s spreading whatever is there to be spread in its own kind of way. So this is like… yeah…”

“Where do you live?” I asked. “What area?”

Hampstead,” Phil told me.

“Oh my God!” I laughed. “You’ve got too much money!”

“Not me,” Phil said. “My parents.”

“There’s Art somewhere here,” I mused. “Performance Art. What do your parents do? Are they something to do with Art?… Or maybe psychiatry?”

“They just earn money,” Phil said. “Doing stuff. Well, my dad earns money doing stuff.”

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Erm… Thirty… nine,” Phil replied.

“You sure?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“You were a bit uncertain,” I said.

“No,” said Phil, “I just felt… It was a bit of a question… thirty nine.”

“You must have done something,” I suggested. “In an office or something?”

“No,” he told me, “I’ve literally done nothing in my life. This is as exciting as it gets for me. This is as exciting a journey, an adventure as…”

A passing girl took a photograph of the large question mark on the back of Phil’s placard.

Seeing the back of the man in Leicester Square

“Thankyou,” she said.

“It works quite well,” he told me. “You see, I have a question mark on the back and a statement on the front.”

“It might be a bit too multi-media,” I suggested.

“You think so?” asked Phil. “Too…”

“Too pro-active, perhaps,” I said.

“You think it’s too active?” asked Phil.

“You need to be more passive,” I said.

“Right,” said Phil.

“Ooh!” I said looking at my watch. “I have to be in a meeting in two minutes!”

“You’ve got to go in two minutes,” Phil told me, with no intonation in his voice.

“Let’s hope the iPhone recorded that,” I said. “If it didn’t, I’ll be back again! Are you here at the same time tomorrow?”

“I could be,” said Phil.

When I came out of my meeting an hour later, Leicester Square was more crowded and Phil and his placard had gone, like a single wave in the sea.

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