Tag Archives: Pull The Other One

Martin Soan sells bits of comedy history – and The Greatest Show on Legs’ origin

The poster for the latest Pull The Other One

Martin Soan’s comedy club Pull The Other One has been running for eleven years in South East London but is closing in June this year. Currently, there are shows twice a month. Recent acts have included Alan Davies, Omid Djalili, Boothby Graffoe, Robin Ince, Tony Law and Stewart Lee. The next one is this Friday with top-of-the-bill Nina Conti. After that, there are only five more shows including one headlining Simon Munnery. The final Pull The Other One is on Friday 29th June with Oram & Meeten. 

Martin Soan is also a prolific prop maker both for himself and others. Almost every Edinburgh Fringe, it seems, he gets asked to make a giant vagina by different acts: on one occasion, a singing one.

I did not ask him about the giant vaginas when we met.


Martin – legendary performance artist with a sense of humour

JOHN: So you are selling your props… Why?

MARTIN: To get a bit of cash and fund me doing something else. And I don’t have a van any more and some of these props are quite large. That’s the main reason.

JOHN: Doing something else? 

MARTIN: I’m reinventing myself, John.

JOHN: As what? A woman?

MARTIN: A performance artist with a sense of humour.

JOHN: But you’ve always been a performance artist.

MARTIN: I haven’t done a show for ages.

JOHN: You’re doing a show every two weeks!

MARTIN: Well, with that, I’m a comedy producer or a gig owner or whatever. But there’s another show inside me.

JOHN: Which is?

MARTIN: I don’t know yet. It won’t be themed. It won’t be like…

JOHN: Hamlet?

MARTIN: No.

JOHN: So?

MARTIN: Stupid, surreal.

JOHN: What are you going to do with this show? Take it up to the Edinburgh Fringe next year?

MARTIN: No. 

JOHN: Why?”

MARTIN: Because Edinburgh is a black hole of financial… deadlines and… Edinburgh is rich enough now. The breweries, the University. They’re rich enough. Move on… To another city. A depressed city.

JOHN: Where?

Could Scarborough be the new Edinburgh for Fringe comedy?

MARTIN: Scarborough. Let’s create a Fringe at Scarborough.

JOHN: Why?

MARTIN: The last time I went to Scarborough, it looked a bit like Brighton – a gorgeous town – but it was completely and utterly depressed.

JOHN: Isn’t it where Alan Ayckbourn does his plays?

MARTIN: I’m not sure. I’m saying Scarborough, but it could be any town. Scarborough is ideal because it has all these large premises. Loads and loads of rooms out the back of pubs.

JOHN: How about Leipzig? You have staged Pull The Other One shows there.

MARTIN: Well, yeah, but it’s getting popular now. Probably moving out of Leipzig is the thing to do. Grünau is probably the place. I’m desperate to go somewhere like Leipzig.

JOHN: You mean move there?

MARTIN: Yeah, for a time. That’s the desire. I’ve gotta get some funding. Pull The Other One in Nunhead was fantastic, but I don’t make money. I cover my expenses. It’s an enormous amount of work. I dress the room, which takes a day and then another day taking it down. I would carry on, but it does occupy all my time, really, and it’s tense leading up to the gigs. If I don’t sell tickets, I’m losing big-time because I have to pay everyone. The Nun’s Head pub are very, very good to me, but I want to do two or three pop-up shows a year.

JOHN: So what props are you selling?

MARTIN: The Gates of Hell.

JOHN: Eh?

MARTIN: That rack of 24 singing Billy The Bass fish… And  I have an anvil made out of foam… I’m selling The Red Sparrows with written choreography…

…and I’m selling Mr Punch, who is 49 years old. 

JOHN: And the relevance of Mr Punch is…?

MARTIN: He was the very first member of The Greatest Show on Legs. I was the second. Basically, the Greatest Show on Legs started out as a Punch & Judy show and it was me and Malcolm Hardee. That was where me and Malcolm met. He became my ‘interpreter’.

JOHN: Why is it called The Greatest Show on Legs?

MARTIN: Because, rather than being a free-standing booth, the booth cloth came down halfway and was all strapped to my back so my legs came out the bottom and I could walk around with it. In fact, the original one had four legs coming out of it, because I did the old Rolf Harris Jake The Peg thing.

JOHN: Malcolm told me the other reason for building it that way was that, if the show went badly, you could just do a runner…

MARTIN: Well…

JOHN: …or was that just one of Malcolm’s fantasies?

MARTIN: Well, yeah, Malcolm just made that up. I mean, I wouldn’t be able to see where I was running, would I? There was one time at the Ferry Inn at Salcolme when I had had rather too much to drink and, inside the booth you have no horizon so I was falling over and didn’t even know it. Suddenly, it was like a sledgehammer coming up and hitting me on the back of the head and I was knocked out. Malcolm looked at the audience and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, there will now be an interval of fifteen minutes.”

JOHN: But you had done the Greatest Show on Legs on your own before you met Malcolm.

MARTIN: Oh yeah. I was 16 when I started. I think me and Malcolm met when we were about 24 or 25. When I first started at 16, obviously, I was shit. I had no formal training in any performing art or anything. I didn’t know what I was doing. I always remember the first show I gave where I thought: Aaah! I think I might have the hang of this! It was at University College, London. Outside one of their buildings, at some event. Something clicked on that one.

JOHN: You got around a bit.

MARTIN: I used to do Portobello Road and only two people used to come and see me regularly. This large black lady and a little boy. They came and saw me every time; I don’t know why. I  used to shit bricks before I got into the booth and started.

JOHN: Why did you start doing it if you had no natural aptitude at 16?

MARTIN: When you’re young, you are desperate to make friends and at least be recognised in some sort of way. Plus it fed my creative ‘making’ side – making props and things. I used to like all the problem solving. 

JOHN: Such as?

MARTIN: Thinking it would be brilliant if Mr Punch got so angry that smoke would come out of his ears. So he has two tubes to blow smoke out.

JOHN: And this is the one you are auctioning off?

MARTIN: Yeah. He is 49 years of age.

JOHN: That must be a bit of an emotional trauma for you.

Martin Soan’s 24 Billy The Bass which will sing in unison

MARTIN: Well, so far, people have not taken it seriously. Boothby Graffoe started mucking around and saying he would bid half a monkey. Otiz Cannelloni bid £500 for the crate of Billy The Bass singing fish which I think… Well, they are £25-£35 each and you could flog ‘em for £25 each so, in singing fish alone it’s worth £500. But it’s a concept and they’re all wired up to one button so they all sing together.

JOHN: How do you know when the auction has ended? 

MARTIN: I will decide when it gets to the reserve price or more.

JOHN: Have you got reserve prices in mind?

Martin says: “Mr Punch is 49 years of age and his skin is really good to look at”

MARTIN: No. Mr Punch is 49 years of age and his skin is really good to look at. He looks aged. He looks 49, but not in a bad way.

JOHN: What does “Not in a bad way” mean?

MARTIN: Look, I’m talking bollocks now. You have tricked me into talking bollocks.

JOHN: It’s a natural aptitude.

MARTIN: I obviously would not let Mr Punch go for for £25.

JOHN: If people want to bid or buy or ask questions, what is the ‘handle’ as I think young people say or used to say.

MARTIN: @PTOOcomedy on Twitter and Facebook is Pull The Other One.

JOHN: Not Martin Soan?

MARTIN: Well, you could. And I have other interesting stuff.

JOHN: Such as?

MARTIN: Miss Haversham.

JOHN: From Great Expectations.

Martin Soan on stage as Miss Haversham

MARTIN: She’s sitting down in an armchair and she has arms and legs – which are false. 

JOHN: And Miss Haversham IS the armchair.

MARTIN: Yeah. You put it on like a costume. You can be dressed normally, You go in from the back and come up and, as you come up, you are putting on the whole costume; there’s even a wig built-in. It’s like a quick-change thing.

JOHN: I seem to remember it involved a 3-minute build-up for one visual gag.

MARTIN: Well, you’ve never seen the whole sketch. It was all about alliteration. There’s Pip and Miss Haversham is doing embroidery and she gives the needle to Pip then she moves away from him to create the tautness of the thread and comes back. Instead of him moving, she moves.

JOHN: You should do a show demonstrating all the props you’re selling ‘as originally used’.

MARTIN: I suppose so. They’re lovely props, but they are big props for a big show. You need a van. To get even the fish in AND Miss Haversham, you need a big van.

JOHN: You’re not going to retire.

MARTIN: No.

JOHN: That’s a relief.

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy

Why audiences would rather pay than see free comedy shows in London

Martin Soan and Paul Vickers before a Pull The Other One

Martin and Vivienne Soan have been running Pull the Other One comedy nights in Nunhead, South London, for over ten years. The shows are monthly. You pay to enter; and, in my opinion, they are always value for money whoever is on the bill.

Relatively recently, they also started monthly sister shows – free to enter – called It’s Got Bells On.

These two monthly comedy shows mean Martin and Vivienne run shows roughly every fortnight.

Pull The Other One is at the Ivy House in Nunhead; It’s Got Bells On is at the Old Nun’s Head in – you guessed it – Nunhead.

Martin has always paid acts to perform at It’s Got Bells On, though entry has been free for audiences. From this Friday, though, Martin is going to charge £3 entry.

“Why?” I asked him a couple of weeks ago, before a Pull The Other One show.

Also sitting at the table, mute, was Paul Vickers aka Mr Twonkey.

“Do you want to say anything surreal?” I asked Paul.

“No,” he replied.

“So,” I said, turning back to Martin Soan, “why start charging entry?”

“Well,” said Martin, “I started It’s Got Bells On because I was getting a little tired of putting on stuff that sells. If I book a big name like Alan Davies or Omid Djalili or Stewart Lee at Pull The Other One, people will happily pay to come along.

Stewart Lee (left) behind-the-scenes with Martin Soan

“If I don’t have a big name, people won’t come along in such big numbers, Which is very frustrating because all the shows are always consistently good. (Martin tells the truth here.) It doesn’t matter who is on, the shows are worth the same ticket price. The fickle nature of the public, though, is that more will come along if they see a name they recognise. And, because the audience is paying, the acts feel they have to deliver risk-free performances.

“So I wanted to have a free-to-enter evening which would allow acts to be more anarchic and experiment more without worrying about the possibility of failing. I could also feed off It’s Got Bells On and transfer acts tried-out there into Pull The Other One.

“What happened was that the first few months of It’s Got Bells On were incredibly successful. I didn’t realise at the time why, but the (mostly South London) acts I was putting on were bringing along lots of friends. But then, when I started having acts on from North London, they didn’t bring friends and I had only 20-30 people coming in, which was disappointing.”

“Why,” I asked, “would charging get you bigger audiences?”

“People have been talking to me, saying: I didn’t want to come along because it was free so, obviously, it was not going to be very good. Which isn’t true, but that’s what they think. So I thought: Right, fuck it. We will charge the audience, but all the ticket money will go directly to the Clowns Without Borders charity. 

It’s Got Bells On – £3 this Friday in Nunhead

So the people who won’t come to free shows because they think they will be shit may come to this pay show because they assume it will be better. But we will keep the essential elements of It’s Got Bells On – freedom from having to do risk-free comedy and allowing people to experiment. And I will still (as before) pay everyone £20 to perform. So it’s good for the performers and hopefully now people will start taking it a bit more seriously because there’s an admission fee (which goes directly to Clowns Without Borders).

“I’m still gobsmacked by the attitude of audiences out there. People have got these boundaries of what they will allow themselves to experience. If the performers have been on television, then that’s OK. They will come. At Pull The Other One, invariably, when we have really big names on, we will put acts either side who are completely nuts and the audience will come out saying: I loved the Big Name but that guy who did the blah blah blah whatever – I REALLY, REALLY loved him!

“The whole idea of It’s Got Bells On was to be free so acts feel no pressure not to fail… but I have never known an act to fail there. Generally, if you get up and do something new, then your adrenaline and determination will carry the whole thing through.”

Martin smiled.

Martin Soan decided not to have bluetooth

“Why do you have a green tooth?” I asked. “That wasn’t there before.”

“I wanted bluetooth to communicate better but I got a green tooth instead.”

“Ah,” I said. I turned to Paul Vickers aka Mr Twonkey. “Do you want to say anything surreal?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

Paul lives in Edinburgh but had come to London to appear in various shows.

“Are you staying with Lewis Schaffer?” I asked.

“No. I’m staying with Martin here. That means I won’t have to do the book.”

“Do the book?” I asked.

“You remember I told you about the book?” Paul told me. “I Can Teach You How To Read Properly by Lewis Schaffer.

“Ah,” I said. “Do you have any books at your place?” I asked Martin.

“I do have a pop-up Kama Sutra,” he replied.

“A pop-up Kama Sutra?” I repeated.

“Yes. You open the pages and figures pop up fucking each other and, if you move the pages correctly, you get the penis going in and out.”

“How much did that cost?” I asked.

“It was 15p from a charity shop in Peckham.”

“That must be an interesting charity shop,” I said.

“It was in the children’s section.”

“No,” I said.

“Yes,” said Martin. “That’s the God’s honest truth.”

“Why?” I asked. “Just because it was a pop-up book and they assumed it was for children?”

“I suppose so,” said Martin. “I don’t think anyone had opened the book and looked inside.”

“Do you want to say anything surreal?” I asked Paul.

“No,” he replied.

“Ah,” I said.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy

Jeremy Corbyn & my beard and the link to Martin Soan’s new free comedy club.

Jeremy Corbyn? Daniel Craig? John Fleming?

Jeremy Corbyn? Daniel Craig? John Fleming? A combination?

I am probably going to be Jeremy Corbyn. In a music video for Ariane Sherine’s Love Song For Jeremy Corbyn.

The London Evening Standard’s opinion is that this “steamy tribute” to the great man is “one of the most stirring”. But that “most of the verses are too graphic to be printed in a family newspaper”. The song includes the stirring lines:

One poke from the leader
And you’ll be in Labour

I was conned into saying I would appear in this video, to be shot in July, on the basis it would include “topless” scenes. Alas, these turned out to be not Ariane Sherine topless but the Jeremy Corbyn clone – me – and, because of this, I have been trying to slim down to something more approaching Jezza than Dumbo.

It has also meant I have kept my beard, which I had intended to shave off.

Now, though, the video shoot is going to be in September not July. So I was going to chop off my beard and re-grow it during the Edinburgh Fringe in August. (This has the added bonus I could get up later in the mornings).

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan's hair

Stephen Frost (left) attacks Martin Soan’s hair on stage in 2013

My eternally un-named friend then suggested I should get Martin Soan to cut it off or, at least, cut one half of it – perhaps the left half – and half my shirt and possibly half my trousers.

Thus it is going to happen on the opening night of his new comedy club this Friday night. There is a bit of ‘previous’ here. In 2013, comedian Stephen Frost cut off half Martin Soan’s hair on stage at Pull The Other One.

For over ten years, Martin and his wife Vivienne have run the very successfully bizarre Pull The Other One monthly comedy club in Nunhead (Peckham to you and me, but don’t say that to the natives). Now they are also going to be running another monthly comedy night in Nunhead called It’s Got Bells On.

“So,” I asked him, “you’re going to do this new one monthly and carry on doing Pull The Other One monthly? What’s the difference going to be?”

“Well,” said Martin, “It’s Got Bells On is free and Pull The Other One is pay-to-enter.”

Martin Soan promoting new night It’s Got Bells On

Martin Soan promotes his new It’s Got Bells On

“Why is It’s Got Bells On free?” I asked.

“Because I’m very lucky. Someone who is really into comedy is sponsoring me. He wants to remain anonymous. He’s fronting the cash for it – not a lot of cash, but it means I can pay the acts and have a bit for myself as well. Basically, everyone will get expenses.”

I asked: “When you say ‘free’ it will have a bucket at the end for voluntary audience donations?”

“Yeah. But there will also be 30 tickets behind the bar which you can buy for £1 each in advance to guarantee a seat.”

“So it’s the Bob Slayer ‘Pay What You Want’ model from the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said. “Is there any difference in the type of act or the headliners at the two clubs?”

“I don’t know what you call headliners now. I’m moving against ‘celebrity’ because it muddies the water yet again. Comedy should be whether you like it or not – nothing to do with whether people have been on TV or not. But everything still hinges on whether they are ‘famous’ or not.”

“Your Pull The Other One shows,” I said, “are usually full up and the format, as I understand it, is that they are all variety acts plus one stand-up comedian who is usually a ‘Name’.”

“That’s the way it works out normally, “ said Martin, “but it’s not a rule. Variety is the key. I wanted to put on a free night and now I’ve had this glorious offer of it being funded by an anonymous sponsor.”

Dr Brown and an audience member at PTOO

“I want to edge the club back towards being far more anarchic” (Photo of Dr Brown at Pull The Other One)

“Why did free-to-enter shows attract you?” I asked.

“With it being free,” explained Martin, “we don’t have to fulfil any audience expectations. Acts can be more free with the type of material they do. I want to edge the club back towards being far more anarchic – as it used to be. I am going to feature a slot a bit like The Obnoxious Man (Tony Green). I have Brian Sewer to fulfil that role in the first week. He’s an art critic.”

“Ah,” I said, “a piss-take on Brian Sewell? Who is doing that?”

“Ed At Last.”

“So the idea with It’s Got Bells On,” I asked, “is that you would not have one big name?”

“Well,” said Martin, “if Stewart Lee wanted to try out 10 minutes of new material, he would be just the same as anyone else on the bill. He would get 10 minutes and his expenses.

Stewart Lee (left) behind-the-scenes with Martin Soan at Pull The Other One

Stewart Lee (left) and Martin Soan, backstage at P.T.O.O.

“I’ve got Stewart Lee booked on at Pull The Other One on the 9th September and I must be getting two e-mails a day saying Can I get tickets? Can I get tickets!

“I’m getting frustrated by this celebrity-bound comedy and the way comedy is being used yet again.”

“It seems now,” I suggested, “that people will pay to see an act they have seen on TV, but lots of venues are doing free shows with unknown acts who do not get paid to perform.”

“Yes,” agreed Martin. “It’s not that I disagree with free venues, but I think people need to get paid for what they do.

“Now venues are starting to refuse to pay artists, basically. We have gone backwards. I remember the days in the 1980s when bands used to have to pay to play. I was involved with bands through my wife Vivienne. There was one particular pub which was absolutely notorious. They charged all the bands something like £50 to use the PA.”

“In the 1980s?” I asked.

Vivienne and Martin Soan

Vivienne and Martin Soan – Campaigning comedy couple

“Yeah. And the band would get some percentage of any tickets. But, basically, very few people bought tickets. You were allowed two guests and the audience was just other bands. So the poor band that went on last played to no-one.

“I got quite political about it and helped start an organisation called Community Music and basically the practice was stamped out over a few years.

“Now with comedy, though, that seems to be happening again. Venues not paying the acts.

“There are very few venues where you have to pay to play but, nonetheless, considering it’s such a small business compared to bands – it’s just people coming along alone or with props – they just need a microphone and the overheads are cheaper – the venues are not passing the profits on to the performers. I know the overheads of venues are high. But, if they didn’t have this comedy going on in their pub, then they would be down on their takings. At one place I ran a comedy night, on my average night, the bar was taking maybe an extra £3,000.

Martin Soan (left): “I know the business from all sides now."

Martin Soan (left): “I know the business from all sides now.”

“I know the business from all sides now. The first guy who ran the Old Nun’s Head where Pull The Other One ran shows – Daniel – was very open about how he made his money and how much he needed to get. He was dead straightforward, put his cards on the table and I knew exactly where I was, which I appreciated. That enabled me to project a plan to make the club viable. And the new guy running the Old Nun’s Head is very straightforward too.”

“So you will be running monthly pay-to-enter Pull The Other One shows at the Ivy House in Nunhead… and monthly ‘free’ It’s Got Bells On at the Old Nun’s Head in Nunhead.”

“Yes.”

“Any more shows in Leipzig?” I asked.

“Yes, in November. Bartushka, who is from Berlin but you saw her in Leipzig, wants to work with us over there.”

“Remind me of her act?” I asked.

“She is…” Martin started. “She… It is very difficult to categorise her. She is cabaret-inspired, very charismatic…”

“Much like Pull The Other One,” I suggested. “And, I guess, It’s Got Bells On.”

I may revise my opinion after I get half my beard, hair, shirt and possibly trousers chopped off on Friday.

It’s Got Bells On - free comedy

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy

In London soon: a little-seen Saxon comedian with a chicken on his head

Martin Soan, master maker of stage genitalia

Martin Soan – long stalked a Saxon comedian

I was in bed all of yesterday, trying to throw off the remnants of a cold which had turned my voice into a rivett-rivetting impression of a frog.

The only real interruption to my sleep was a Skype video call from comic Martin Soan, who was wondering if I was going to his Pull The Other One comedy club show in Nunhead on 29th January.

Wild hoarseness would not stop me, because it is my first chance to see live The Short Man In Long Socks – I always thought he was called The Short Man With Long Socks, but I stand – or, given my cold, lie – corrected. I presume it is a variable translation from his actual German stage name: Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken.

Martin tells me it is Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken’s first live UK appearance. I think I may have seen him back in the 1980s when London Weekend Television’s Entertainment Dept had a tape with video excerpts of Vier gegen Willi a German peaktime TV show which was co-presented by a hamster. I think LWT was considering doing a British TV version but might have been put off by the fear of complaints by animal lovers. In Germany, they had to have multiple Willi doppelgängers on standby because the eponymous hamster tended to die under the hot studio lights.

There is currently a clip of Vier gegen Willi on YouTube, though the star rodent does not appear until 26 mins 16 secs into the clip.

Martin told me yesterday: “I first saw Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken 15 years ago in Leipzig, at Jim Whiting’s club Bimbo Town – the best club I’ve ever been to. It’s full of automata, installations, art, music and performance and is what us Londoners call ‘immersive’ – everything is out of this world and challenging. It’s a funfair of surreal proportions in a disused factory and it is VAST… Jim is a magnetic force and artists of all descriptions gravitate to him. Some aren’t even artists but genius just the same.

“Anyway one such act featured that night I went to Bimbo Town was Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken, I really, really was impressed, It was the most pointless and ridiculous act I have ever seen, but one of the best. There are three sections to the routine. Him getting ready to ‘go out’… Him ready to go out… And then him out. That doesn’t really explain his act, but… “

“I seem to remember,” I told Martin, “that, in Vier gegen Willi, he had a live chicken on his head.”

...a chicken...

…a chicken…

“Oh yes,” said Martin. “I forgot about that.”

“Is he possibly,” I suggested, “ever-so slightly bonkers?”

“Depends how you define it,” said Martin. “When I met him, he didn’t think any of it was mad at all. I had the feeling it was maybe a little cathartic for him.”

“Why cathartic?” I asked.

“No idea, “replied Martin. “He told me he very rarely did the act.”

“Possibly,” I suggested, “because of a lack of willing or well-balanced chickens.”

“It was just a thing he felt he had to do,” Martin explained.

“And they say,” I mused, “that Germans have no sense of humour…”

“He is fiercely not German,” Martin told me. “He is very definite that he is a Saxon not a German. Apparently he earns a very good living as an optician in Plagwitz (a suburb of Leipzig). He told me Saxons love designer glasses. He invited me around to his flat for kuchen (cake). We got on really well and he showed me his etchings. Very dark, they were – the subjects. Lots of eagles and women wearing horns. Angst is a good word isn’t it?”

“I do,” I agreed, “always enjoy hearing it said out loud.”

Too poster - Phil Kay

Kay fan: Der kleine Mann mit langen Socken

“When I was back in England,” Martin continued, “I contacted him regularly to try and entice him over. I have actually booked him three times and three times he has cancelled and I got resigned to never getting him over for the club. But he’s making it on the 29th of this month because there is some opticians’ convention in London and because Phil Kay is on the bill at Pull The Other One. He has seen Phil Kay perform abroad and he’s a big fan. So he wants to perform with him.”

“Who else is on the bill?” I asked.

“Darren Walsh and a nun.”

“I’m not going to ask,” I told Martin. “Some things are best left to the imagination.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Germany, Performance, UK

Two comedians talk about cannibalism

Lewis Schaffer (left) and Martin Soan

Brian Simpson/Lewis Schaffer (left) & Martin Soan yesterday

Yesterday’s rather self-indulgent blog was about my rail trip to see comic Martin Soan at his home in Nunhead, London. Also there was Brian Simpson, the English character actor who performs as the New York Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer. We chatted…


BRIAN
John, is this really the end of the line for your daily blog?

JOHN
On the 31st of December, yes.

BRIAN
My point is…

MARTIN
There’s always a fucking point with you.

BRIAN
Because I’m trying to get some kind of meaning to my life. I’m not like you who is free-floating and everything’s OK.

MARTIN
I don’t think everything’s OK.

BRIAN
You’re contented. I guess the way you get contented is by not having a point. Because, once you start searching for a point, you will not find contentment. I’m always searching for a point, for some meaning.

MARTIN
Become a table tennis instructor. You would be a genius table tennis instructor. All you’ve got to do is just talk at them. Just talk, talk, talk at them.

JOHN
It’s talking balls. It’s ideal for you.

MARTIN
So what are we discussing?

BRIAN
John’s blog.

JOHN
Chris Dangerfield reckons he can’t remember talking to me for any of the blogs he has appeared in. I might as well have made them up. Although I suppose no-one could make up Chris Dangerfield.

BRIAN
You could. You could have made the entire blog up.

JOHN
Like you made up the Lewis Schaffer character? When are you going to come out as yourself?… Well, I suppose you already did in 2013, but people didn’t really believe it.

BRIAN
I am going to come out as Sarah Franken.

JOHN
Will Franken might be in my very last daily blog. I would prefer the last one to be about a court case that is brewing over the Edinburgh Fringe – because then I could end on a whacking cliffhanger, like The Italian Job. But the guy involved doesn’t want publicity yet. How is your campaign to save Southwark Woods going?

BRIAN
Chris Lynam is interested in the trees. He walks his dogs in Southwark Woods and he’s totally gung-ho about it all.

JOHN
If they want to cut down some trees to put in more burial plots, I…

MARTIN
(TO BRIAN) I’m not against your cause at all, but we’re coming to a population crisis in terms of interment. We’ve got to find a cost-effective way so we’re composted and produce crops for future generations to eat. That’s the next stage. But Mankind can’t accept that, so we do these things like cremations and burials. What we gotta do now is…

BRIAN
… chop up the bodies and make them into fertiliser?

MARTIN
Yeah. Absolutely. There’s no other way for Mankind to go on to the next stage in evolution on this planet unless we do that. We’ve got to recycle Mankind.

JOHN
The next stage of evolution is cannibalism?

BRIAN
That’s what I was thinking: Soylent Green.

MARTIN
Yeah, well we’re eating everything else.

BRIAN
The amount of space it takes to plant a dead body is very minimal. But they could just plant them in mass graves – layer them five on top of each other. They did that historically in this country. All of Camberwell Old Cemetery is people who were buried six deep.

MARTIN
But now we come to a critical phase of that, cos we can’t bury on Mortlake or Blackheath, because that’s Black Plague ground. We’re not allowed to disturb that ground for 150 years That’s why it’s become common.

JOHN
And I think there are plague pits under Soho. They have problems extending downwards.

MARTIN
So where do we go? We can’t take up more agricultural land. Everyone wants to build everywhere, so there’s less and less space. There’s got to be an efficient way of recycling human beings.

BRIAN
Why not put people six deep in a pit? They don’t do that in this country any more.

MARTIN
You can’t bury six bodies at a time.

JOHN
If the history of the Jews has taught us anything, it’s that you can bury people six deep.

BRIAN
…but they prefer to burn them. Jews are very flammable.

MARTIN
Mankind is expedentiating at a rate of…

BRIAN
Expedentiating? You just made up a word there.

MARTIN
Yeah, but I’m good at making up words, man.

BRIAN
Exponentially…

MARTIN
Expedentially. You understand where I’m theorising from now.

JOHN
You could bury them vertically.

MARTIN
Absolutely. It’s a real fucking issue now that no-one wants to face. It’s as big as chickens.

JOHN
As big as chickens?

MARTIN
Yeah. Don’t you understand?

BRIAN
I do. It’s one of those old sayings. The Bells of Bow Bridge or whatever.

JOHN
What does As big as chickens mean?

MARTIN
Of course it does.

JOHN
What is As big as chickens?

MARTIN
The disposal of Mankind upon itself.

JOHN
It’s a phrase you have just made up.

MARTIN
There is no other way to look at it.

BRIAN
(TO MARTIN) Is that a phrase you just made up?

MARTIN
Yeah.

JOHN
That’s a relief.

BRIAN
The point I am making is… We are not disagreeing with any of your points.

JOHN
Yes we are.

BRIAN
We aren’t.

MARTIN
(TO BRIAN) You just want to argue all the time.

JOHN
(TO BRIAN) You want to argue because you’ve turned into Lewis Schaffer. You made him up and now you’ve become him.

BRIAN
I want to argue because I am an ENPT type on the Myers-Briggs scale. ENPT-T. That’s the rage, now, if you’re interested in what’s going on.

JOHN
What does the T stand for?

BRIAN
Trouble.

JOHN
No it doesn’t.

BRIAN
Turbulent. I’m a debater. I like debating.

JOHN
I have lost the will to live. Set fire to me… Martin, when is your next Pull the Other One?

MARTIN
January the 29th.

JOHN
Who’s on?

MARTIN
Phil Kay, Darren Walsh and The Short Man in Long Socks.

Pull the Other One - 29th January 2016

JOHN
At last I will see him!

BRIAN
Who?

JOHN
The Short Man in Long Socks.

BRIAN
Where’s he from?

MARTIN
He works mainly in the Eastern European cabaret circuit.

BRIAN
What’s his act like?

MARTIN
Indescribable.

JOHN
That’s why I want to see him. He’s a legend.

BRIAN
I’ve never seen him.

MARTIN
Yes you have. We were filming for the 8th anniversary of Pull the Other One, which we called the 10th anniversary for publicity purposes. You were interviewed and…

BRIAN
That’s right! He popped in and popped out. I met him, but I’ve never seen the act.


After that, the conversation degenerated even more.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Death

Kissing shoes in Soho, the incendiary comedian, w*** gags & a Banana Split

Richard Gadd wearing nob shoes to promote his Soho Theatre show

Richard Gadd wearing no shoes to promote his Soho show

Yesterday was a pretty ordinary day.

In the afternoon, after talking to director Chris Lincé for a future blog, I bumped into comedian Richard Gadd at the Soho Theatre.

I got down on all-fours and kissed both his shoes.

You can never be too careful when someone is on the way up and you are in decline.

Richard Gadd’s response:

“Is it too late to tell you about the clump of dogshit I stepped in just before I arrived at the Soho?”

I think he was joking. He may not have been. Life is the sole of a comedian’s shoe who has just stepped in dogshit.

Last Friday, I went to see Martin Soan’s always excellent monthly Pull The Other One variety show at the Old Nun’s Head in – no surprise here – Nunhead.

On Monday, I got a call from comic Lewis Schaffer to say the manager at the Old Nun’s Head had found my British Rail travel pass, which must have fallen out of my pocket. Lewis was not at the show, but the manager had phoned him when he found my railpass. It seemed best not to ask why.

So, last night, after going to a Gresham Lecture about finding the body of Richard III under a car park in Leicester, I ventured down South of the River again to collect the card. I told Lewis Schaffer I would buy him a drink or a meal to say Thankyou.

He texted: I have got car unexpectedly staying here. Can you come to my flat instead?

You have a car staying in the flat?? I texted back.

Carnegie, he texted back.

Lewis Schaffer has a son called Carnegie.

I have never asked why. It seemed best not to.

Martin Soan last night, promoting Thursday’s show

Martin last night, promoting  Thursday’s show

As I left the Old Nun’s Head with my railcard, I bumped into Martin Soan with a placard on his back. He insisted I have a cup of tea before seeing Lewis Schaffer.

It is usually better to have a stiff alcoholic drink before seeing Lewis Schaffer.

Martin, whose Pull the Other One I saw in Nunhead last Friday, is preparing for another Pull The Other One show in Peckham Rye this Thursday, which is Guy Fawkes Night. The poster (which he had on his back) promises An Explosive Finale.

“What does that involve?” I asked.

“Indoor fireworks,” Martin told me.

“Indoor fireworks?” I asked.

“Indoor fireworks,” Martin repeated.

“What are indoor fireworks?” I asked.

“Incendiaries,” said Martin. “There are famous indoor fireworks. There’s the snake, the elephant’s arse…”

The incendiary comic Martin Soan last night

The incendiary comic Martin Soan last night

“…Dresden,” I suggested. “Hamburg.”

“No,” said Martin, “they were extremely outdoors.”

“Not if you were indoors,” I said.

“If you were indoors they were indoors,” admitted Martin, “but I think the effect was outdoors.”

“Not if you were indoors,” I said. “They had a big effect if you were indoors.”

“But,” argued Martin, “if you were indoors, you wouldn’t be indoors for very long, because your doors wouldn’t be in.”

“Well, in fact,” I said, “you wouldn’t be for very long.”

“Anyway,” said Martin, “you can now buy specific incendiary devices for all types of computers that blow up in different ways. For computer screens, electric wires, huge fuel boxes, electricity cables on pylons…”

“When I had to buy sugar-glass bottles to hit people with,” I said, “I had to go all the way to Shepperton Studios. Where are these incendiary people?”

“There’s a French company based in London,” Martin told me,” called – it’s a French name – Le something or La something.”

“It would be,” I said. “So, things are going to bang at the show on Thursday?”

“Yes.”

“But will there,” I asked, “still be nudity and knob gags?”

“No,” said Martin firmly. “I am trying to escape my horrific past. I am trying to become a serious fucking artist, John.”

“But it is a tradition,” I argued. “If there’s no nudity and knob gags, you are letting me down, you’re letting your family down, you are letting the Queen and your country down. What else are you doing before Christmas?”

“I’m organising an alternative performance for a Christmas Fair.”

Martin Soan’s living room as it was a couple of years ago

Martin Soan’s living room as it was a couple of years ago

“What is alternative about it?” I asked. “Does it involve Easter eggs and bunnies?”

“I am,” explained Martin, “getting some abnormal people to do walkabouts.”

“No giant, singing-and-dancing vaginas?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin.

“You have no sense of tradition,” I told him.

Martin said: “I did my first proper comedy club – not variety club – shows in ages recently. Just me and stand-ups. I did well but being on the same bill and seeing that stand-up stuff again was a huge cultural shock for me. I haven’t done any regular comedy clubs for years.”

“So was it,” I asked, “just 19-year-olds telling wank jokes?”

“No,” said Martin. “Middle-aged men telling wank jokes. They were extremely well-crafted, extremely good, very funny wank gags, but it was exactly that. I got a bit blown away. I thought: Oh, Jesus Christ! I’ve been living in this rarified atmosphere of variety and people coming on and juggling peanuts and putting costumes on and suddenly there I was in the real world of a proper, regular comedy club. My God! What a shock! I had thought maybe the whole comedy – what I now call the ‘straight’ comedy – circuit had maybe moved on a little bit.”

“I think,” I said, “maybe it moved on and came back round in a circle.”

“Then,” said Martin, “coming up I’ve got some big variety shows up in Sheffield, Halifax, Devon, which I’m completely at home with. But then I have this tradition of spending Boxing Day with this miserable old git in Borehamwood.”

Banana Split a La Lewis Schaffer

Banana Split a La Lewis Schaffer – yum yum

“Oh,” I said.

After that, I went to see Lewis Schaffer. He made me a banana split, with ice cream and banana and put mincemeat on top of it. He seemed to think this was perfectly normal.

Then I had to talk to him for 90 seconds in a brick stairwell because he is making 90 second videos every day which he is putting on YouTube. He told me very few people are watching them.

“Have you mentioned them to anyone?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

The 90 second video I did with him is on YouTube.

I am telling you because he is unlikely to.

When I got home, there was an email from the London Fortean Society telling me that, in January, Rat Scabies – drummer with punk band The Damned – is going to give a talk about the Holy Grail and the mystery of Rennes-le-Château.

It was that sort of day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour

Not only Fools and Horses in Peckham – Now they have absurdist comedians

Tina Turner - Tea Lady performs at last night’s show

Tina Turner – Tea Lady performs at last night’s PTOO show

NB NOT FOR THE EASILY OFFENDED

Michael Brunström won the increasingly prestigious main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the recent Edinburgh Fringe but, by the time it was awarded, he had finished his run and was back in London. So I gave him the trophy last night.

I gave it to him shortly before a Pull the Other One comedy night at the mis-named CLF Art Cafe in the Bussey Buildings, Peckham.

The CLF Art Cafe is mis-named because it is really a large dance hall (and used as such at weekends) in a vast rambliing building which used to be, among other things, a Victorian sweatshop and an armaments factory. Pull The Other One are running four not-quite-monthly variety nights there between now and March, as well as their monthly comedy nights in nearby Nunhead and – perhaps – more shows in Leipzig.

One of last nights poster survivors

One of last night’s show posters which survived

Vivienne and Martin Soan run Pull The Other One and put up 200 posters plugging the new show, but almost all disappeared quickly. This might have been due to heavy rain or because “It’s posters war round here,” as Martin says. “It’s very much like the Edinburgh Fringe. People ripping down your posters to put theirs up. It’s all happening here.”

“Peckham?” I asked. “Home of Only Fools and Horses and Del Boy?”

“You know it is,” said Martin.

Martin had been going to perform with The Greatest Show On Legs at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show in Edinburgh – actually titled Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! It’s The Increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – And It’s Free! but, instead, had to be in London for the premiere of Steve Oram’s new film entitled Aaaaaaah!

There’s been a lot of Aaaaaahsing about lately.

There is a trailer for Aaaaaaah! on YouTube.

“I’ve got a tiny cameo role in the movie,” Martin told me last night. “Two brief shots of me as a has-been rockstar in his underpants singing at a coked-up party.”

“Has Aaaaaaah!,” I asked, “got naked women and armadillos?’

“Yes,” said Martin, then added, “well, I’m lying about the armadillos. But it has naked women and a lot of action and graphic violence – but not gratuitous. And, in it, Steve has created this TV world for them to watch.”

“Like?” I asked.

“Cookery programmes, but done in the genre – without giving the game away – of the whole premise of the movie. There are just so many elements to it.”

“Is it even odder than his previous film Sightseers?” I asked.

“Extremely odd, but brilliant.”

“Much like Michael Brunström,” I said.

Well, no, I did not say that.

But I have to cover over the half hour gap between the above conversation with Martin and me giving Michael Brunström his Malcolm Hardee Award.

Michael keeps his Award next to his books by Boris Vian

Michael keeps his Award next to his books by Boris Vian – French writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and important influence on the French jazz scene.

“You will be wanting to say you are deeply honoured,” I told Michael.

“I’m deeply honoured,” said Michael. “Last year, I did ten shows and got nominated for the Award. This year, I did six shows and won it. Next year, I’m thinking of not turning up at all.”

“Where are you going to put your Award?” I asked. “Laurence Owen put his on a shelf next to two small Daleks.”

“I have a bookshelf,” said Michael. “Are you only running the Awards until 2017?”

“Well,” I said, “In 2007, I only had eleven years’ worth of trophies made. So I run out of them in 2017.”

“After that,” suggested Michael, “you should just steal trophies and palm them off as  Malcolm Hardee Awards.”

“You’re right,” I said, brightening up. “It would be a fitting tribute and it’s what he would have wanted.”

At that point, Brian Damage arrived for his performance.

Brian Damage with Vicky as Krysstal

Brian Damage bearded with his wife Vicky de Lacy as Krysstal

Well, no, he did not.

But I have to cover over the gap between the conversation with Michael above and Brian talking about my newly-grown beard.

“You should think ZZ Top,” he told me. “What you got now is just bum fluff. Think of a beard as a straight line down to your waist. It catches food. You will never go hungry.”

As he said this, Spencer Jones arrived.

No. You are right. He did not. But, later, he told me about his bad drive back from the Edinburgh Fringe on Tuesday.

“I didn’t just have babies in the car,” he explained. “I had budgerigars and, because the budgies were in the back, I couldn’t recline my seat and have a quick hour’s sleep in that long 12-hour drive back to London. So I had four Red Bulls and two large coffees. Yesterday – the day after – was weird.”

Spencer has a budgie close to his heart

Spencer has a budgie close to his heart

“You took your budgies up to the Fringe?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“What did the budgies have to say about that?”

“They twittered on for a while, but they were OK about it. I nearly took them on stage up in Edinburgh. I thought Who’s ever taken budgies on stage? But I realised it would freak them out.”

“The audience?”

“The budgies.”

“I had,” I told Spencer, “a budgerigar act on a couple of TV shows I did.”

“I think his name was Don…” said Spencer.

“Don Crown,” I said. “I met him six or seven years later and he was a broken man: he had become allergic to feathers. His act had been destroyed by an act of God.”

“I think he had a song,” said Spencer, “which we used to sing in our house: Budgie Man... He’s the Budge-Budge-Budgie Man…”

There is a video on YouTube featuring Don Crown and his budgies.

“Do your budgies speak?” I asked.

“No,” said Spencer. “They fly around the house.”

“Shitting everywhere?”

“Shitting everywhere,” agreed Spencer.

“Much like children,” I suggested.

A budgerigar not owned by Spencer not shitting in his house

A budgerigar not owned by Spencer not shitting in his house

“Yeah,” agreed Spencer. “The reason I bought the first budgie was that, before my girlfriend and me had kids, I wanted to see if me and Ruth would get on looking after a little life. So I bought a budgie without telling her and we got on fine, so then we had kids. But then the budgie needed a friend. I had bought it thinking it was a boy, but it wasn’t. So we had a girl budgie called Ernie and we bought another one called Dirk.”

“Is it possible to ‘doctor’ male budgerigars?” I asked.

“I doubt if anyone’s ever tried.”

“Otherwise they’d breed all over the place,” I said.

“I think you have to have a very high calcium diet,” said Spencer.

“The owner?” I asked.

“The budgerigars,” said Spencer. “Though I do have quite a high calcium diet and have two kids.”

This morning, I looked up Don Crown and found recent YouTube clips of him with his budgies.

So either I imagined meeting him after he became allergic to feathers or he got over it.

Perhaps I have started hallucinating past events. But who has to?

This morning, I got an email from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. It said:

A man in Kelowna, British Columbia, has grown the world’s largest cucumber which he is planning on turning into the world’s largest pickle and he is wondering if anybody is making the worlds largest hot dog.

Michael Brunström also posted a photo of himself online this morning, holding the Malcolm Hardee Award.

Michael Brunstrom holds his Malcolm Hardee Award

Michael Brunström holds his increasingly prestigious Award as Malcolm Hardee would have wanted

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy