Tag Archives: podcast

Comedian Matt Price is having weekly Conversations with Criminals

In 2013, I posted a blog in which comedian Matt Price talked about the violent physical attack in 2007 on his partner, comedian Martha McBrier, by four or five men in Glasgow. The attack permanently damaged her hearing. 

He told me: “about a year later, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and, between those times, a member of her family went to buy a gun to shoot the man who attacked her.”

Matt also looked into the possibility of taking violent revenge, but a career criminal persuaded him not to.

Last week, Matt told me: “If I’d have taken revenge, I wouldn’t be here eating a muffin with you; I’d have been in jail.”

He is still together with Martha and, now based in London, he has started a weekly podcast – released every Sunday – called Conversations with Criminals.

The fourth episode of the podcast was posted online yesterday.

Matt’s Edinburgh Fringe comedy show in August will be titled: Broken Hooters and Geezers with Shooters.


JOHN: Conversations with Criminals… Why?

MATT: Because I knew nothing about crime until I was on the receiving end of one, when Martha got attacked all those years ago. Had I taken revenge, my life would have been very different.

I would much rather hear about what it’s like to be in prison and how hard it is to hustle while I am here eating a muffin, drinking a coffee with you and not in prison.

JOHN: …and…?

MATT: Because I’ve spent about ten years in the company of various dodgy people.

I like podcasting as a medium and also I like the fact that people who are on the wrong side of the law have great stories to tell and a very bleak sense of humour. They have to in order to cope with what they do and what they’ve done.

I am casting my net wide. I’m going to Nottingham to speak to a guy who will talk me through what it was like to be an addict going in and out of jail. I’ve talked to a guy whose parents were heroin dealers and, in the 1980s, he moved down to London and started robbing banks. All interesting stuff.

JOHN: Why will they talk to you? You’re not paying them.

MATT: People like to talk about themselves. Or maybe I’ve just fallen in with the right crowd.

JOHN: The first podcast was with Dave Courtney who, let’s be honest, will talk to anyone. The second one was with…

MATT: Brendan, Dave Courtney’s best mate and he’s a very funny guy. Just a funny man. What makes him so interesting to me is that he is a self-confessed coward. He made it very clear when he met Dave all those years ago: “Look, you’re great company, but I’m a coward. I don’t want to get involved in any violence. So I will run away.”

JOHN: So he’s not really a ‘hard man’.

MATT: Not at all.

JOHN: Or a criminal?

MATT: I think it’s well-documented he did go to jail. But I know he doesn’t want to be known as a ‘hard man’ in any capacity and that’s very important to him. Because if you make it clear, in that world, that you’re not a hard man, then people will leave you alone.

JOHN: And, if you say you are a hard man…?

MATT: …I imagine there will be more… ermm…  challenges.

JOHN: Difficult to keep it up weekly, missus: the podcast.

MATT: Well, it’s not easy interviewing people who are on the wrong side of the law, because they tend not to make plans for the future. You can’t phone someone up and say: “Oh, can you have a look in your diary… We could do lunch next week?” 

That’s not how it works. And sometimes there are misunderstandings, of which I’ve had a few. The most recent one was with a guy called Andy Costello, who was in Episode 3.

He really intrigued me because, in a way, he’s a vigilante. He was a policeman and lost his job because – this is 20 years ago – somebody punched his teenage daughter and he took violent revenge on the guy – He beat up him and his mates – and went to jail for it. But he has turned his life around completely now; he’s an amazing guy.

JOHN: What does he do now?

MATT: He teaches martial arts. He trains some of the best fighters in the country if not in the world.

I met him through a friend and I went out to meet him on a farm where his gym is and I thought he knew I was doing my weekly podcast.

But he thought – because he has just started doing stand-up comedy – that I, as a comedian, was going to interview him about his new career.

We met and I said: “Look, I’m not here to judge you in any way…” and he thinks Great! Because he’s just started performing comedy and I’ve been doing it a while. And then we start talking about crime and revenge and what it’s like to be in jail. And he was too polite to say anything. He thought it was odd but maybe I was trying to ‘big him up’ with an interesting angle. 

It was only afterwards that our mutual friend told him the title of the weekly podcast was Conversations with Criminals.

But the interview was great and he and his daughter like it. So it was all fine and mellow.

JOHN: Have you had less mellow misunderstandings?

MATT: Yes. I met somebody else through a mutual contact and the three of us got into a car with Mister X who, to be honest, I knew very little about.

Our mutual friend says to Mister X: “You remember that time you chopped somebody’s arm off?”

And Mister X says: “No. I have absolutely no recollection of that whatsoever.”

“Ah, no,” says my friend. “You remember – that geezer with his arm hanging off and the claret everywhere?”

“No… I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. And, by the way, who are you?” says Mister X to me.

I said: “My name’s Matt and I’m a comedian.”

“Well, you don’t look very funny,” he says.

So we get to this strange pub and at that time I had flu – my eyes were watering and Martha had told me I needed to be drinking lots of water – so, of course, I downed four pints in one go and arm-chop man was already quite nervous and he says to our mutual friend: “Your mate looks a bit dodgy. What’s the matter with him? Is he a policeman? Is he wired-up? Is he a journalist?”

“No,” my mate says. “He’s just an idiot who is too scared to ask where the toilets are.”

So we had this very awkward, very tense interview with power ballads playing in the background and I said: “Can you give me some advice?”

And he said: “Yeah. You should chill out, mate. Relax. You look really twitchy and you’re making ME feel nervous now.”

Then two guys walked in – two total strangers – and my friend just walked out of the venue. So I followed him. 

A couple of days later, I got a phone call from Mister X who says: “You really ARE what you say you are. Shall we start again?”

So we did and we had a delightful chat. He is going to remain anonymous not for any particular sinister reason. It’s just he has moved on with his life. He said: “You can have a selfie with my dog, but don’t put the picture of the dog online, because that will give away my identity.”

JOHN: Quite a few comedians have dodgy pasts.

MATT: One day I was in a car on the way to a gig with Mister A, talking about the podcast and he said: “Well, as comedians, we are on the periphery of society anyway, so we have a lot in common with these people. We’re just alternative people who are not going to work 9 to 5 staff jobs and neither are they. We are just people with a different lifestyle.”

Unfortunately, crime pays an awful lot more than comedy does. 

Lets be honest, everybody says: “Ooh, I’d love to get on Netflix as a comedian but, failing that…”

JOHN: Do they?

MATT: True crime is very popular at the moment.

JOHN: I guess everybody thinks they would like the excitement of being a criminal.

MATT: Well, not me. I’ve met them. At various levels. And I don’t really know any one of them – yet – who says Oh yes! Crime is great!

Crime is great when you’re driving around in a BMW. But then you get caught and suddenly all the people who said they thought you were amazing don’t want to know you any more. I don’t see what’s glamorous about that.


CONVERSATIONS WITH CRIMINALS IS ON

iTunesSpotify, Podbean and all usual platforms.

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Why has comedian Akin Omobitan started a podcast called IT DIES HERE?

JOHN: So you have started a podcast. Why not do a blog? – Or is that too old-fashioned?

AKIN: I did do a blog back in the day and someone did once call me a blogger and I really didn’t know how to take that.

JOHN: Are you sure it was a blogger he called you?

AKIN: Yes. You have a blog. How do you describe yourself?

JOHN: The former John Fleming. 

AKIN: I used to blog back in 2004. I had wanted to do a podcast for ages but never had an idea I thought would be ‘for people’. 

JOHN: And now you have. Why is it called It Dies Here?

AKIN: It is pretty much a celebration of idiocy, calamity, regret, stupidity, misfortune, mishaps. So, each week, I have a different guest and they bring a story, a situation or an event which plays in circles in their head because, in hindsight, they now know how they could have handled it differently and better. So, instead of it living in their head, they bring it to the podcast and it can die.

JOHN: Sounds like online therapy.

A couple of people have said: “Oh wow! This is like therapy!

AKIN: A couple of people have come on and said: Oh wow! This is like therapy! but none of them has agreed to pay for my services yet.

JOHN: Do you have a couch to lie on?

AKIN: I do. But, if I invited people to my home to lie on a couch, it might just lead to misinterpretations.

JOHN: People might queue.

AKIN: Well, since releasing the trailer and putting Episodes 1 and 2 online, people have got in touch with me asking to be on the podcast.

JOHN: Do you edit it?”

AKIN: No. Because of the time it takes. And because I think it’s good for the listener to get the full conversation.

JOHN: Are the guests all comedians?

AKIN: No. Coming up, we have a couple of comedians, a financial journalist, a DJ and a TV presenter.

JOHN: Despite having co-hosted 101 Grouchy Club podcasts, I am not really a podcast listener. I have a feeling there’s something else I could do – like watch two-thirds of an old British comedy movie on TV.

AKIN: Or you could listen to a podcast and hear about the demise of an individual who started his own business, was offered millions for it and a job in Silicon Valley and all of that crumbled.

JOHN: But will it have knob gags? Anyway… where is this new weekly podcast leading? To a ‘proper’ broadcast radio show?

AKIN: I don’t know. It’s a different way of expressing yourself creatively. I used to write; that was one method. Doing stand-up comedy is another method. I MC shows as well; that’s different. And the podcast is such a different platform.

JOHN: How?

AKIN: With a lot of my stand-up, it is scripted. I may go off on tangents and play around a bit, but the majority of it is premeditated… When you are MCing, you can have a chat with the audience, but there are lots of different people and you are not really having a conversation with them; you are just trying to make the room fizz… When you do a podcast, you sit one-on-one with someone and have a good in-depth conversation for around 45 minutes.

JOHN: I find listening to what people say is over-rated.

“…I had things which ran around in MY head…”

AKIN: Part of what inspired…

JOHN: What?

AKIN: Part of what inspired the podcast is that I had things which ran around in MY head much longer than they should have… You know when you are a teenager and you are just very broody and moody and miserable? And that can go from adolescence into adulthood. Break-ups, different careers, failures. I was fired from jobs on a number of occasions. There were lots of things I had to let go of and, in letting go of them, I realised that I myself was the main reason I was not happy.

When I realised that and took a bit more control of my own happiness, I became a happier, nicer person.

And, because I had this reference point of me being a moody, miserable, self-indulgent person, I never wanted to be that person again. It inspired me to drift away from that aspect of my personality and more towards embracing the good things of life.

JOHN: You are a Christian. Did you go through a period in your teens of not being a Christian?

AKIN: I wouldn’t describe myself as re-born. I think a big part of it, actually, is that, when you grow up in a Christian household, there are a lot of beliefs and belief systems which you adopt without really making a choice. I guess part of my ‘liberation’ was stepping away from a lot of things. 

I guess I stepped away from a lot of the formalities of Christianity and the closeness I had with my parents. I quit my job. A lot of things: friendships, relationships, even myself. Lots of things I just stepped away from entirely.

Akin will be appearing with Lew Fitz at the Edinburgh Fesival Fringe this August

And then, one-by-one, I started re-connecting to all of these things, but under my terms. My relationship with my family is great, but I no longer feel the need to pander to my parents’ wishes for my life. I have tailored my friendship circles, so it is people who I genuinely want to be friends with, as opposed to people who I have just known for a long time.

Even with my Faith, I would say I am a lot more liberal in my views and outlooks. I guess there are different ideals and morals and stuff which I agree with. I just connect with things very differently. I guess there’s just a certain amount of freedom now.

JOHN: So you are more liberal in accepting other people’s ideas and beliefs?

AKIN: Definitely. I would always have described myself as liberal but I think, until you step away from your ideas then re-connect to them as you want, you are not really living your Truth.

When I decided who I wanted to be and who I wanted to connect with, I then started thinking: Why do I?

So, as opposed to Oh! I just love everyone, man! I then started thinking Why do I believe that?

I guess a lot of my beliefs and ideologies now are bounded more in me personally, not just: Oh. Because I’m a Christian, this is why I love everyone… or Because I’m a black person, this is why I behave this way. I just separated myself from a lot of parts of my identity and found a way of re-connecting… Yeah…

JOHN: Yeah.

AKIN: Maybe that sounds a bit hippyish and… Yeah…

JOHN: Yeah.

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Comedy critic Kate Copstick teaches me about beautiful male and feline genitalia

Kate Copstick after he Grouchy Club Podcast yesterday

Copstick in Mama Biashara after the Grouchy Club Podcast

Yesterday afternoon, with Kate Copstick newly returned to London from Kenya, we recorded our weekly Grouchy Club Podcast.

Because there was a loud African band playing live in the performance space at the back of her Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush. we went to a nearby cafe for the recording.

A man was sitting alone at the next table. This becomes relevant later on.

As normal, we did not discuss in advance what we might talk about. I just switched my iPhone on and started recording. Seven minutes into the 25 minute podcast, we had reached this point…


COPSTICK
I have to say…

JOHN
You don’t have to say… You don’t, you don’t.

COPSTICK
No, I do. I feel I have to say that…

JOHN
Hold yourself back for once.

COPSTICK
… I have never thought testicles… even the late, great and ever-increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee’s bollocks – They were extraordinary, but they weren’t beautiful – I’ve never seen a beautiful pair of human bollocks. I’ve seen a couple of very beautiful penises, but bollocks are not beautiful.

But my cat in Kenya. His little bollocks, they were beeauutiful!. Under his tail, obviously, there was the arse…

JOHN
Obviously.

COPSTICK
Then, under the arse, it was like a little heart-shaped pouch, a little heart-shaped furry pouch. And then, just under the little heart-shaped furry pouch, was another tiny little hole which I only noticed because, when I used to tickle his tummy, he used to get a tiny catty erection.

JOHN
Are we talking about a cat with two anuses here – two ani?

COPSTICK
No. It was just a little hole where his willy comes out. It retracts, John, when he’s not using it.

JOHN
He has a concave willy?

COPSTICK
No. There’s a little… It’s like… Oh, for God’s sake, I give up. Anyway, it was…

JOHN
I think you should continue the It’s like sentence.

COPSTICK
It was very cute.

JOHN
It’s like… Come on, I want you to carry on that sentence. It’s like

COPSTICK
Well, men’s penises retract. Most animals’ penises retract almost totally. You’ve seen a horse. Even a horse, with its massive penis, it retracts for the sake of safety.

JOHN
It doesn’t retract. It shrinks.

COPSTICK
It retracts, also. It kind of gets hooked up. Fish. Most male animals. It gets almost totally sucked back up into the body with a little bit poking out. And my little cat has a little tiny, kind of…

JOHN
My Little Cat. There could be a toy range to be had here.

COPSTICK
…little glabial tissue.

JOHN
What’s a glabial tissue?

COPSTICK
Or glabular. What’s it called? Globulus? Glabrous? Glabrous. It means tissue with no hair. Like…

JOHN
Bald. There’s nothing wrong with being bald.

COPSTICK
Yes. Like, like, like… the tissue on your willy.


It was around this point that the man sitting alone at the next table in the cafe moved away with his cup to another seat. It was by the window. I guess he wanted to look out at the traffic driving past Shepherd’s Bush Green. We continued talking. The full podcast is HERE.

The West 12 Shopping Centre

The West 12 Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London

There will be a live Grouchy Club meeting/show this Tuesday at 6.30pm in the performance area at the back of the Mama Biashara shop in the West 12 Shopping Centre at the south east end of Shepherd’s Bush Green. Mama Biashara is in among the shops by the back end of Morrison’s supermarket. I mention this as the Mama Biashara website is down.

As with our Grouchy Club events at the Edinburgh Fringe, anyone can come. Entry is free.

Tuesday 13th October
Tuesday 10th November
Tuesday 8th December
Tuesday 22nd December

All at 6.30pm

These are not shows where the audience sits and watches. They are aimed at people in showbiz and the media who want to chat about the business and anything else that comes up. Or, as yesterday, talk bollocks. Anyone can come along. A real chat show meeting. A chance to interact with the doyenne of British comedy critics and some fat, slaphead comedy blogger. We are open to anything including occasional live comedy performances.

Luca Cupani (bottom left) at the Awards last night

Luca Cupani (bottom left) at the SYTYF Awards in Edinburgh

This Tuesday Luca Cupani, winner of this year’s So You Think You’re Funny? award at the Edinburgh Fringe will be performing new material for his Fringe show next year. But it’s mainly chat between the audience, Copstick and me. 

Or Copstick just talking bollocks.

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Comic Janey Godley on the benefits of social media but not of Turkish men

Janey Godley recorded the Grouchy Club podcast yesterday

Janey recorded the Grouchy Club Podcast with me yesterday

This may not be for the easily offended.

As comedy critic Kate Copstick is still in Kenya, yesterday I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with comic Janey Godley

We talked about strange acts, swearing, David Cameron’s penis and the pig, the Moth’s storytelling, free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and UK comedy in general.

Janey published her jaw-dropping best-selling autobiography Handstands in The Dark in 2005 and also started blogging regularly in early 2005. So, during the podcast, we talked about her widespread social media presence. Here is a short extract:


JOHN
You stopped blogging regularly. Why? Were you just going with the trend.

JANEY
Yeah, well, I use Twitter, I use Instagram, I use Vine and people have got access to lots of different… And I Periscope! I was one of the first British comics to use Periscope.

JOHN
Well, you were one of the first bloggers. The sad thing is now you are very Twittery and Periscopey and they’re all transient. They don’t last at all. So people, in two years time, will never see what you’ve done whereas, when you used to blog, there’s something there. But I suppose that’s like live comedy as opposed to recorded comedy.

JANEY
I like the fact that I can Tweet and Periscope. One of the amazing things about Periscope was that, as soon as I started Periscoping, my book started selling (even more) because people all over the world were watching me. Periscope’s a great medium for comedians and people who aren’t worried about folk being abusive online. You get all these beautiful women that go: I’m going to be doing a make-over online and you can talk to me and I’ll be in my bikini. And then you get all these men who go: You’re an ugly bastard! And she’s: Oh my Gawd! I can’t believe you said that! Whereas, if you say that to me, I’ll say : Shut up! Away and fuck yer mother and get burnt in a caravan! I don’t care, y’know?

JOHN
Whenever I see tags for your Periscope, they seem to include things like Kim Kardashian.

JANEY
Yeah, sometimes I dress up as… What I do is sometimes I’ll put on loads of make-up and put on a big hairpiece and I’ll say KIM KARDASHIAN – LIVE ON PERISCOPE! – VIP ACCESS ONLY – There’s no such thing as VIP Access on Periscope. But, immediately, the whole of Turkey… cos Turkish men really love Periscope and they’re really, really abusive and misogynistic on it… I know that sounds like I’m racially profiling, but I can back it up by news reports. Other people have had to ban the majority of men in Turkey who come on Periscope and go: Open boobs! Open boobs! We have a hashtag Open Boobs. They’re asking you to show them your breasts, as opposed to heart surgery.

JOHN
I know. Open boobs! doesn’t quite compute, does it?

JANEY
And we have a song:
Open boobs!
Open boobs!
Open boobs and anal!

They sometimes ask for anal.

JOHN
On Periscope?

JANEY
Abso-fuckin-lutely. If your opening gambit is Open boobs! Anal sex – and sex is spelled SEXCT, which is bizarre… They want sex; they want anal. They want open boobs… So the minute they do that, I abuse them back. It’s a really weird thing that some people think they can abuse you if you’re in the public eye but, if you immediately say: Go fuck yourself! (and sing)

Go fuck your mother
And if your mother’s dead
Dig her up and fuck her instead

… they’re horrified you say that.

But it’s OK for them to say Anal.

JOHN
And this sells books.

JANEY
It does. All my Periscope followers will say: Sing the song, Janey! So, as soon as someone says SEXCT! OPEN BOOBS! I say: Go and fuck your mother! – And there’s a dance – And if your mother’s dead Dig her up and fuck her instead – They’re like: That’s horrific! and I say: You started this, ya cunt!

JOHN
This is a serious point: Periscope is selling your books, but Twitter isn’t?

JANEY
Twitter does as well, but it’s mostly Periscope.

JOHN
And you’re still in print, which is a rare thing, because it’s ten years old, isn’t it?

JANEY
Yeah, yeah. It is still in print and it’s going great.

JOHN
I still think there should be a sequel, but there we go.

JANEY
Yeah, shut the fuck up about the sequel. I don’t want to hear about that any more.

JOHN
You could self-publish the sequel. That’s where the money is.

JANEY
John, there’s nothing to talk about.

JOHN
There is.

JANEY
So…

JOHN
Janey Godley: My Rise To Infamy… I can see it now.

JANEY
Shut up.


The full 22-minute podcast can be heard on Podomatic and downloaded from iTunes.

Janey Godley’s bestselling autobiography

Janey Godley’s bestselling autobiography

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Filed under Periscope, Podcasts, Sex, social media, Twitter

Critic Kate Copstick exposes my sexism.

The podcast, recorded at Mama Biashara, London, yesterday

The podcast, recorded at Mama Biashara, London, yesterday

Comedy critic Kate Copstick and I recorded our weekly Grouchy Club Podcast yesterday.

She talked about the near-miraculously transformative physical effect on her of some recent acupuncture treatment.

But am I going to quote from that extensive, fascinating part of the podcast?

Of course not. I’m going to quote a sexual bit in a sordid bid to increase the hits.


COPSTICK
My father asked me just the other day – I forget how we got onto the subject but – he said: “You were very promiscuous, weren’t you?”

JOHN
Last week?

COPSTICK
When I was staying with him after the (Edinburgh) Festival.

JOHN
You were promiscuous when you were staying with him?

COPSTICK
No no no no no. He asked me when I was staying with him. I think we were talking about my time when I… well… when I was younger… You know, when I was… when I was young, John. When I was young! I was young, once!

JOHN
Last year?

COPSTICK
You know I was young once. We both were, John. We were young! Not now. Not yesterday. Not the day before yesterday, but we were young!

JOHN
Anyway, you were in your erstwhile twenties, I’m presuming this is…

COPSTICK
And thirties.

JOHN
… and thirties.

COPSTICK
And forties.

JOHN
… and forties.

COPSTICK
So, until…

JOHN
You mean you’re over 40?

COPSTICK
Yeah. I know. You heard it first here, people.

JOHN
And so your daddy… Your daddy…

COPSTICK
So my daddy said: “You were very promiscuous, weren’t you?” I said: “Yes I was”. So he said: “Do you regret it?” I said: “No, I don’t.” So there you are. Moving on… What were you going to say?

JOHN
No no no no… And then the conversation switched to what?

COPSTICK
Ehhh… Ummm…

JOHN
Oh to be a fly on the wall.

COPSTICK
Ehhh… Then the conversation went to what one gets out of rampantly promiscuous sex…

JOHN
Semen, I would have thought.

COPSTICK
Some of it was with girls, John.

JOHN
Ah.

COPSTICK
You see? Oh you narrow-minded man! I’m sorry, I’m going to have to report you. You assumed, there, that because I’m female I was always having heterosexual sex with men. I’m sorry, I don’t know if I can do a podcast with you any longer. Not somebody that thinks along – excuse me, I’ve always wanted to use this word in genuine conversation – that thinks along such heteronormative lines. Oh my God! That was so much fun!

JOHN
I am to be crucified just for a cheap gag!

COPSTICK
You’re so heteronormative!

JOHN
Hetero and enormous. It’s seldom anyone’s said this.

COPSTICK
No no. Heteronormative. Your hearing’s going as well. Heteronormative.


This week’s Grouchy Club Podcast lasts just over 27 minutes.

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Buddhism, cats and a missing podcast at the Edinburgh Fringe. And a death.

Simon Caine podcaster

Simon Caine, comedian and host of the disappearing podcast

So, yesterday, I went to see Simon Caine’s comedy show Buddhism and Cats at The Caves in Edinburgh.

Before the show started, I was standing outside, talking to Simon and to Nick Awde of The Stage newspaper. Simon runs a podcast called Ask The Industry where he (according to the website) interviews the most influential people from the worlds of stand up, comedy, writing, TV and radio.

Despite this, I explained to Nick Awde, Simon had recorded a podcast with me. It took two hours back in January this year.

“His logic was,” I told Nick, “I know how I can win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. I won’t run the podcast until after the Fringe has finished… I did tell him this was not going to be an effective strategy.”

Nick Awde singing opera in the streets of Edinburgh yesterday

Nick Awde often sings opera in the streets of Edinburgh

“Well,” said Nick Awde, “it’s cunning. Sort of.”

“The actual idea,” explained Simon, “was that I wasn’t going to run it at all. I was just going to get John round to my flat and tell him about my show for an hour…”

“Two hours,” I corrected him.

“… and,” continued Simon, “just keep plugging my show during the recording and then throw the recording away. That was the cunning stunt. But John said the only way it would work as a cunning stunt was if I didn’t have a podcast to begin with and, unfortunately, I did.”

“Have you thrown the recording away yet?” I asked.

“No.”

“What else do you throw away at the Fringe?”

“Food,” replied Simon, “Every year in the past, I’ve thrown food away, because I don’t eat all the food I buy.”

“Why?” I asked.

Simon Caine - Buddhism and Cats

Simon Caine: Buddhiism, cats leftover food

“Well,” explained Simon, “you buy food with the good intention of eating it but, because you end up going out a lot, you end up eating out and you end up saying Oh, I’ll just have cheesy chips for the next five hours and you don’t eat what you’ve bought.”

“Do you?” I asked. “I buy food when I want to eat something.”

“This year,” said Simon, “I’ve partnered with a homeless food charity in Edinburgh – the Basics Bank – and talked to Alex Petty of the Laughing Horse Free Festival and he’s getting me a spot at the Three Sisters venue and, at the end of the Fringe, comedians who have food left over which they have not yet opened, can come down and donate it to the homeless of Edinburgh.”

A worthy idea but is it just me who fails to understand the problem?

I have never understood the concept, in this day of 24-hour supermarkets and 0700-2300 corner shops, of storing unnecessary amounts of food in a fridge and leaving it there while the sell-by date approaches and passes.

If you want to eat food, buy it. If you don’t want to eat any food yet, don’t buy it.


Yesterday, I saw:

Steve Bennett, comedian

Irish Steve Bennett, trying but failing to hide his ginger beard

Steve Bennett: Groan Up
Steve Bennett is the English owner and editor of the UK’s premier comedy industry website chortle.co.uk … Another Steve Bennett is an Irish comic with a large ginger beard. I saw the latter. He works. The show works.

The Double Life of Malcolm Drinkwater
Patrick Monahan’s very well plotted and scripted play about a hitman, starring himself, Gary Colman, Lucy Frederick and Archie Maddocks. This could easily be a one-hour TV drama. The slogan of the play is that everyone has secrets. Patrick Monahan is, secretly, a good playwright. He hugged every member of the audience on the way out. He is Patrick Monahan.

Ashley Storrie: A Very Tall Storrie
Ashley first appeared at the Fringe in her own hour-long, very well-reviewed stand-up show aged 13. Then she lost interest. This is her second show. She is now 29. It is mostly about sex and she doesn’t put a foot wrong in the writing and comic performance. A future stage and TV star performer and writer.

Simon Caine: Buddhism and Cats
See above. Despite his inability to post podcasts, the show is very good.

Mark Davison has a bunch of friends

A rare shot of Mark Davison as himself, not as Mr Susie…

Mr Susie: Mr Susie’s Last Chance Cabaret
Mark Davison (aka Mr Susie) was about the only person who came out of this year’s Cowgatehead fiasco with any credibility intact. This show co-stars Jayde Adams and Ali Brice with a musical mash-up (written by Laurence Owen) of Les Miserables and The Wizard of OzLes Misard of Oz.

Hanna Winter: Mimi Goes East
I was persuaded to see this because the Cold War story is so interesting: “based on the life of Hanna’s dad, Gabor Varszegi. A Hungarian rockstar. A legend. An absent father in communist Hungary.” This being the Fringe, exactly halfway through, two utterly drunk, very happy and fairly shouty locals came in with the cry: “You’d better be funny!” Hanna carried on, did not go out-of-character, did not lose the attention of the audience, despite the occasionally mouthy female local, and eventually DID lose the drunks, who left without feeling harassed. No mean feat. A great credit to her performance skills.


This morning, I got an e-mail from performer Martin Soan back in London:

Jonty Wright.
Sad to hear Greatest Show on Legs member and Reg Rabbit and the Fast Breeders band member has passed away.

So it goes.

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Can you over-preview comedy shows?

Kate Copstick overcome during the podcast

Kate Copstick (bottom) was overcome during the podcast

Yesterday, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I recorded our weekly Grouchy Club podcast. Topics ranged from Copstick getting drunk and buying vibrators from Poundland to what comedy writer Barry Cryer says when he goes into a pub and why Sean Penn’s hair in Carlito’s Way lost Copstick a job on BBC TV’s Good Morning with Anne and Nick.

But our chat also roamed into talking about Edinburgh Fringe comedy show previews and putting press quotes and stars on Fringe posters. This is a short extract.


JOHN
You absolutely have to do previews for Edinburgh, don’t you, because it’s so important and it’s an hour long?

COPSTICK
Do you, John? Do you?

JOHN
Well, when people do the circuit, it’s 20 minutes or half an hour at most, whereas an Edinburgh hour is about 55 minutes – and to do twice as long is actually more than twice as hard, isn’t it? – To actually get a structure to it.

COPSTICK
I believe that people frequently over-preview. You see people in January saying: It’s an Edinburgh preview!

JOHN
Can you over-preview?

COPSTICK
I think you can over-preview.

JOHN
You become too slick?

COPSTICK
You go to the Fringe, I like to think, to get close to comedy, to see a bit red in tooth and claw and frequently I like to see things, if you’ll pardon the expression, a little loose.

JOHN
What happens if you do over-rehearse it or over-preview? Does it just become…

COPSTICK
I think it becomes stale. I think you (the performer) become stale. As a stand-up, if you’re not interested in and excited by and entertained by and hopefully amused by your own show, then why the hell should anyone else be?

The full Grouchy Club Podcast is in audio at PODOMATIC and iTUNES
and in video at YOUTUBE.

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How to promote an Edinburgh Fringe show – plus some Cowgatehead irony

Kate Copstick, ploughing through the press releases

Kate Copstick assesses the very worst of Fringe press releases

Yesterday ended surreally with (after his show ended) a member of the audience asking marriage advice from Lewis Schaffer.

This is a bit like Peter Buckley Hill (the PBH of PBH Free Fringe) giving advice to a comedian on how to develop and handle a PR strategy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Earlier in the day, I had gone round to comedy critic Kate Copstick’s home to record our weekly Grouchy Club podcast. Sometimes we record this not just in audio but on video for YouTube and/or we stream it live on Periscope.

Yesterday… no visuals, because of her face.

“I woke up this morning,” she told me, “a horrible puce. Normally I don’t look in mirrors, ever. They crack, of course. Either that or there’s no reflection to see. But this time it was an horrific sight. Massively puffy. Eyes like currants in a dumpling. But a red dumpling.”

So no pictures of her from yesterday.

But we did, in the course of the 39 minute podcast, get round to discussing her job reviewing comedy shows for The Scotsman newspaper during the Edinburgh Fringe and to PR strategies for Fringe comedy shows…


COPSTICK
There is a kind of firewall – which I think is tragic – of paid PRs who can all get to the editors, who can get to the journalists, who have a budget to take them out to lunch or whatever and who, in some cases, have the tenacity of a moray eel once it bites into your leg: it’s just not going to let go.

JOHN
We’ve all been there.

COPSTICK
And it’s hard… I always give out my personal email because I’m happy for anyone to contact me. A lot of reviewers don’t. But I find myself drifting off if I start reading one of these standard It’s all marvellous! – Whoa! – One of London’s top… No! You’re not. If people up here (in Edinburgh) haven’t really heard of you, you’re not one of London’s top anything.

I much prefer – as I’ve had – a few little emails saying: I’m bricking it, terrified, blah blah blah… That is much more likely to appeal. That shows the right attitude. It shows – No 1 – a respect for the Edinburgh Fringe, which is a monumental entity in the comedy industry now… and an acceptance that life – much less the Fringe – much less the press – owes you nothing at all. It is what you make of it.

So, if you’re an individual, some corny pro-forma press release with all the usual buzz words in it is not going to work. A direct e-mail – for me – is much more likely to work. Not a press release, just an e-mail.

Then, once you get up to Edinburgh, play your little heart out, paper your show, just get people in to see it. If you’re on the free Fringe, just try and get as many people in as possible. Because, if you are any good, every single one of these people is a human flyer and you are sending them out there. They are a talking, walking, smiling, reminiscing, sadly often joke-quoting flyer. And they will do you more good than bits of paper.


Much, much more in the online podcast, including Copstick’s e-mail address and one of 21 things you did not know about pornography.

See? Marketing is all about teasing.

Meanwhile, to round off this blog – which started with a humorous suggestion of Peter Buckley Hill giving advice to a comedian on how to develop a PR strategy at the Edinburgh Fringe…

In the continuing saga of one of the worst examples of Fringe PR in recent years, the Cowgatehead saga trundles on. New readers will have to refer to previous blogs, as I am not going to plough through the whole sorry mess of a background again.

Suffice it to say that I have been contacted by an act performing at the PBH Free Fringe “probably for the last time ever, because of the way the Cowgatehead debacle was handled”.

The latest e-mail received by this act from Peter Buckley Hill apparently ends with:

“Here’s to an excellent Free Fringe 2015. The more co-operation there is between shows, the more excellent it will be.”

The act tells me: “I find that kinda ironic.”

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Mansplaining storyteller Dave Pickering

SennMicrophone_wikipedia

Comedy – the new rock ’n’ roll. Storytelling – the new comedy?

I’ve blogged before about the interesting rise of storytelling nights in London, one of which is Stand Up Tragedy. Their next event is this Saturday at the Hackney Attic in London.

I talked to Dave Pickering, who runs the events. He also runs a storytelling night called Spark London – next one is on Monday, also at the Hackney Attic.

When I pressed record on my iPhone, he said:

“I’m very used to being recorded. I record people all the time myself. Very few moments of my life aren’t audio form on the internet these days it seems to me.”

“Except sex,” I joked.

“There is stuff about my sex life that is online,” Dave replied. “I told a story about sex for the Risk! podcast, which Kevin Allison does in America.”

“What’s the difference between Stand Up Tragedy and Spark London?” I asked.

Dave Pickering comperes Stand Up Tragedy

Dave Pickering is compere of Stand Up Tragedy in London

Spark is true storytelling. Stand-up Tragedy is tragedy which can involve true storytelling but can also involve other disciplines.

“My podcast Getting Better Acquainted is about me trying to get to know people I know. I’ve had conversations with my stepdad, my mother, my dad, my friends about things I would never actually normally talk to them about.

“It’s been a fascinating four years of doing that show. It’s about people. For a lot of years, I didn’t really think of my day job as being very connected to outside of it. I was doing that job just to scrape by so I could do what I wanted: I was in bands; I write novels; I write plays; I do lots of different things. Which is why I call myself a storyteller: because that broadly covers all of them.”

“And your day job was…?” I asked.

“My background work-wise, day-job-wise was that I worked as a library assistant for quite a lot of years and then I slowly but surely moved into doing stories and songs for children in libraries – generally under-fives. Then that became my full-time job: I went into children’s centres on behalf of the library service, like an ambassador for the libraries. But then my job was not needed any more: it was part of the government cuts. And that’s how I ended up being a freelance storyteller – whatever that really means.

“I got involved in Spark London about five or six years ago through storytelling. I came along and told a story, got addicted to telling stories and then they decided to put me on stage getting other people to tell stories. Now I run the Hackney branch of Spark.

“We’ve go Spark Preston and Spark Bristol both starting up and we’ve got Spark Brixton and we’ve got a show in Exmouth market every month.”

“Storytelling,” I said, “is getting to be a big thing in America.”

“I think it started with The Moth,” said Dave. “A storytelling podcast. That’s the moment when storytelling hit people’s imagination. Then there are other storytelling shows in America like Risk!

Dave Pickering is a very busy storyteller

“When comedians come to perform at Stand-Up Tragedy, they find it a unsettling – laughs don’t work in the same way”

“I think it’s growing in this country too – people standing on the stage and talking – whether it’s comedy or storytelling – people want a live experience. Comedy has had storytelling moments before. It’s a pendulum, I guess. I think more comedians are moving out of the necessity to make people laugh all the time. When comedians come to perform at Stand-Up Tragedy, they find it a bit unsettling, though, because the laughs don’t work in the same way in a room where you’ve had sad things and then happy things.”

“I think,” I said, “that storytelling needs a better, sexier name to break through. Alternative Comedy took off because it had a sexy name, but Storytelling isn’t quite a strong enough name.”

“Though,” argued Dave, “once you get someone along to a storytelling show, they kinda go Wow! This is something I’ve not seen before and then they come back and, thorough that, I think it is growing. Doing Spark in three parts of London, we’re getting big audiences now.

“One of the things you get out of a storytelling show is you get to be voyeuristic about other people’s lives in a way you don’t feel guilty about and I think we all are interested in each other’s lives.”

“I have,” I said, “been involved in some autobiography books and I’ve told the people writing them: It’s not about facts; it’s about thoughts and emotions. People aren’t interested in a list of facts; they’re interested in people people people.

“With true storytelling,” said Dave, “people think it’s about narrative, but I think it’s about character. When people stand up on stage and reveal something of themselves, we forgive them if they’re clumsy with their words if they’re being genuine and authentic.”

“You are,” I checked, “doing your first solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?”

“I guess so,” Dave replied. “It’s called What About the Men? Mansplaining Masculinity.”

Dave’s Edinburgh Fringe show

Dave’s Edinburgh Fringe show: all explained in the title

“It talks about things that have hurt me because I’m a man. Being bullied. The way my mum treated me when I was growing up. The way my stepdad treated me when I was growing up. Violence and stuff. Emotional abuse. It is going to be revealing bad things that have happened to me, but also bad things I’ve done.

“I do think there’s something important in sharing the worst of ourselves as well as the best. Not just bad things but awkwardness. On stage, I try to be an awkward presence. That gives audiences permission to think: Right. We’re all awkward.

“I’ve been doing a survey of men’s experience of being a man. How patriarchy has affected them and how they’ve hurt other people. Lots of men have got very angry about the word patriarchy, but that anger’s also part of the response to my survey of nearly 1,000 men.”

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81-year-old Lynn Ruth Miller’s love letter to comic Michael Legge, aged 46

Yesterday’s weekly Grouchy Club Podcast featured not just comedy critic Kate Copstick and me but London-based Italian comics Giacinto Palmieri and Luca Cupani. We recorded an audio version – available on Podomatic and iTunes – and a video version posted on YouTube – at Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in London.

Below is a brief extract.


JOHN
Some performer did a love letter to you this week. who was that?

Giacinto’s passionate missive

Giacinto’s passionate missive

COPSTICK
Giacinto. Well, it wasn’t a love letter. It was a wonderful, wonderful piece of writing.

JOHN
She’s going coy.

GIACINTO
I just shared my ideas on why Copstick is so important – to remind us of the need to be passionate about comedy – The fact that comedy and the arts in general should be about passion. So the passion that she’s bringing to her criticism I think is very important. It is very important to remind us of that. And (speaking to Copstick) also the original way of thinking you are bringing to it and that you apply to this one as well – to the way you approach problems in Africa. I really see…

JOHN
This is the Mama Biashara charity?

GIACINTO
Yes.

COPSTICK
It was just… (a) it was absolutely glorious and (b) it was really well written.

GIACINTO
Thanks.

LUCA
Your English is so good.

GIACINTO
Somebody posted a link to that article with the comment: Who is that cunt? And I was really offended by that little, vile word.

JOHN & GIACINTO (together)
Who!

GIACINTO
After six years in comedy! Come on! Hopefully this will get me a bit more known.

COPSTICK
Yeah, absolutely.

GIACINTO
Hopefully, the next time I do something like this, they will say: Oh! I know that cunt!

COPSTICK
Exactly.

LUCA
You could put on your posters That Cunt.

COPSTICK
Giacinto has spawned, really, what is turning into an entire genre because, the author of that brilliant interrogative Who is that cunt? followed it up with – well, it wasn’t really – a satirical take on…

Michael Legge’s parody

Michael Legge’s parody

JOHN
Who is this?

COPSTICK
Michael Legge.

JOHN
A comedian.

COPSTICK
I would have expected something better from him. It was a kind of vicious but not particularly well-written parody of Giacinto’s

GIACINTO
I’m a parodied author now. It’s amazing. I feel like I’ve done a Bruno Ganz.

COPSTICK
Exactly. And now, just before we went on… iPhone or…

JOHN
…or whatever we’re on…

COPSTICK
… I got an email from the inimitable, indomitable Lynn Ruth Miller and she has, in turn, written a letter parodying Michael Legge’s

GIACINTO
We don’t know if Steve Bennett has accepted it yet. I hope he will.

COPSTICK
We hope that Steve…

JOHN
Who is Steve?

COPSTICK
Steve Bennett of Chortle. You’re really just here as a footnote, aren’t you.

JOHN
I am.

COPSTICK
Any time someone mentions anything, it’s Who’s that?


This is the parody letter Lynn Ruth wrote…


A LOVE LETTER TO MICHAEL LEGGE

This is a Tinder message to Michael Legge whom I do not know and who is young enough to be my grandson but it is a Tinder message nonetheless.

I read his message to the lovely Steve Bennett and I must say I wouldn’t mind a bit of a to-do with Steve as well but for the fact that my vagina resembles the Sahara Desert during a drought and Steve still has a bit of juice left in him, or so he thinks……and I make it a policy not to disillusion the young.

Lynn Ruth Miller wants to rub some matzo balls

Lynn Ruth Miller wants to rub some matzo balls

As I read Michael Legge’s overwhelming desire for coitus with an innocent like Steve Bennett, I realized that what he needs is a tryst with a woman of a certain age to teach him how true sexual satisfaction is achieved.

I would like to dunk us both in a chicken soup bath and rub Michael Legge’s matzo balls in my kishke.

He would experience a kosher sensation that would set his holishkes afire because MY horseradish has such a sizzle, you wouldn’t believe. It is after all,  home-made.

I do not expect to feature at his next show or anything like that but I assure you he will lust after my k’nadles and thirst for a bit of my particular, sensual brand of borscht so much he will forget his punch lines. It was my mother’s recipe and reduced my father to a pile of gribenes, every time she flaunted it. I will become an irresistible red-hot chotchke to Michael Legge and he will succumb, And who can blame him?

I will massage him with layer after layer of hot schmaltz to push his boundaries.  I promise he will be overwhelmed with schpilkes that only I can ease with my adorable little latkes even as I butter his bagel.

Ah, Michael! Once you have tasted my sparkling little shalota and savored the intense pleasure of my gedempte fleisch, all those traife peccadillo’s you thought were the real thing will fade into oblivion and you will discover a passion only a kosher maidle with a luscious kugel can provide.

I must admit I have not worked in a morgue but I assure you that I will be in one far before you will and I will make sure there is a soft, velvet little babka to warm the cockles of your heart or your cock whichever you prefer. You can count on me.

I have not compared notes with Kate Copstick and of course I will move aside for her if she prefers to smother you with greibenes or give you a good bublitchke in your nether region. But always remember that it only takes one taste of the American brand of gefilte fish to make a man out of you.

I hope you will forgive the phonetic spelling in this Tinder message to you but I am so overwhelmed with the urge to schtup your brains out that I cannot be bothered to consult a dictionary.

So what do you say, Michael? Are you as temped by my offer as you are by Steve Bennett’s bum? Do you honestly think that your letter to Steve was half as creepy as that lovely idealistic young man’s accolade to Kate Copstick or my delectable offer to you?

There are still some of us who believe in hearts, flowers and a bit of charoset to give life the flavor it deserves. If you do, too, I’m your little girl.

La Chiam to you darling with a bit of a schmear.

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