Tag Archives: racism

Comics Lewis Schaffer & Will Franken. Name-calling and some missing money

Lewis Schaffer videos Will Franken by a Big Mac toilet

Lewis Schaffer videos Will Franken outside a Big Mac toilet

Yesterday’s blog was the first part of a chat I had with UK-based American comics Lewis Schaffer and Will Franken. A few months ago, Will decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken. Now read on…


“You got mad at me,” Lewis Schaffer said to Will, “because I called you Will all that time.”

“You were the only one,” replied Will, “that did not call me Sarah throughout the whole seven months – not just at the Edinburgh Fringe – all the months leading up to it.”

“I don’t care about other people,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“So,” I said to Will, “you are not going to be appearing as Sarah after you finish with this show?”

“I dunno,” said Will.

“What are the alternatives?” I asked. “Are you going to be the ‘real’ Will Franken?

“I have no idea,” he told me.

“It might be difficult to backtrack,” I suggested.

“Yes,” agreed Will. “Are people going to think I took the piss? There was this outpouring of love when I came out as Sarah. But, at the end of the day, they don’t have to live this life. I do and I’ve personally found it a fucker. I had no interest in taking hormones or having the operation. I wanted to keep my wing-wang.”

“Yes,” I said. “People thought: He’s so brave for doing it. And, if you backtrack, they might say: He was just doing it for publicity.

“Of course I wasn’t!” said Will.

“I know,” I said, “but that’s what they might think.”

Lewis Schaffer (left) and will Franken check video shot

Mr Schaffer (left) & Mr Franken watch a video

Lewis Schaffer said: “We always think: What effect will it have on my career?” When I moved to England, I got an offer to appear on the TV series Wife Swap. My wife at the time did not want to do it and I didn’t want to do it either.”

“Did they tell you who you would swap with?” I asked.

“No.”

“A celebrity?” I asked.

“No. It wasn’t a Celebrity Wife Swap. But the first thing I thought was: How will this help my career? Not the money.”

Will said: “The first thing that goes though my head now is: Is there money? I don’t think about exposure any more.”

“Would you lend him money?” I asked Lewis Schaffer.

“I did,” he said.

“I needed a guest on my radio show,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “because I’m very last minute. I was desperate for a guest. I said to Will: Come down. I’ll loan you £50.

“I thought,” said Will, “that you told me: I’ll give you £50.”

“I’m not gonna GIVE you £50,” said Lewis. “So since then, he’s given me a total of £8 back.”

“Anyway,” I said. “Career advancement…”

“You don’t write funny,” Lewis Schaffer told Will. “You should write funny.”

“What ya talkin’ about?” Will asked.

“You CAN write funny,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You do write funny.”

“I do write funny,” said Will.

“But often,” said Lewis Schaffer, “you write very seriously in the middle of the night.”

“Well, surely that is good,” I said.

“It’s not good,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“What do you mean it’s not good?” asked WIll.

Lewis Schaffer (left and Will Franken sharing fast food

Lewis Schaffer (left) and Will Franken share a love of fast food

“Because,” said Lewis Schaffer, “in real life, you are never not funny. When you talk to people, you are never serious for more than a minute.”

“I played Hate ’n’ Live,” said Will and the subject for me was Islam. I thought it was tailor-made for me. I deal with jihad and radical, y’know… I mean, any type of hypocrisy, I’ve got to go after it. I see something so hypocritical with I personally hate Christians, but…The hypocrisy to me is just astounding. I’ve been obsessed with this for about ten years.

“At a show, this girl said to me: I was just in the Middle East and I found Islam really interesting. So I asked: What was your favourite part? The homophobia? And it turns into this, like, tense… She said nobody questioned her her whole life. She said she went to Cambridge… I said: Mohammed; six-year-old brides… She said: nine-year-old… I said: Oh, nine years old. I do apologise… She got tense and she walked out and I was angry and I said: You fucking Maoist!

“Her boyfriend came back in and said: Why did you call my girlfriend a bitch? I said: I didn’t call her a bitch; I called her a Maoist, which is actually worse. But then I hated myself, because I don’t want to be that person.”

“You mean confrontational?” I asked.

“Yeah but then, at the same time, I feel there’s so much brainwashing…”

“That’s my point,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He’s made my point for me. My point is that, when you’re with people, you are rarely serious to the point of not being funny.”

“I’m getting confused,” I said.

“That’s your default position,” said Lewis Schaffer, still talking to Will. “When you’re with people, that’s your default position. But I’ve seen what you write and sometimes what you write is serious because you’re in the privacy of your own home and you don’t feel the need to be funny as you would when you actually see someone’s face.”

“True,” said Will.

“The reason I notice that,” continued Lewis Schaffer, “is that is like me when I wrote my blog for those three months. I was writing in the privacy of my home and it was just bitterness-bitterness-bitterness-bitterness-bitterness. But, when I’m out with people, it’s bitterness-joke-bitterness-joke-joke-bitterness and they don’t really notice the bitterness.”

One of Will Franken’s blogs

An old Will Franken blog

“I used to write really funny blogs,” said Will. “Back when I smoked a lot of weed, I was constantly on the blog. Some of them were really, really weird. Some of them were long libertarian treatises that were serious and academic. Some would be like fake obituaries for a woman names Dolores Oatmeal.”

“What about the serious blogs?” asked Lewis Schaffer.

“Some,” replied Will, “I just went through and deleted. Sometimes I get serious. I think I have that kind of…”

“Yes,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I know you do. But, when you are actually with people, if you see somebody not being happy with what you’re saying, it’s not that you backtrack, but you know, deep down inside, you want to make a joke about everything when you look at their face. You see somebody’s face and you say to yourself: I’m going to make them laugh.

“Or sometimes I wanna run away,” said Will. “I wanna be like Christopher Hitchens. I would love to be that detached emotionally,”

“You can’t do that,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“I can’t do that,” Will agreed, “because I’m too passionate.”


After our chat finished, Lewis Schaffer recorded a 2-minute chat with Will/Sarah Franken and me inside a Big Mac toilet… It is on YouTube.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Sex

Will Franken revert from being Sarah?

Lewis Schaffer (left) with Will/Sarah Franken and apple pie/cheeseburger

Lewis Schaffer (left) + Will and/or Sarah Franken in London last night plus an apple pie and one of three cheeseburgers

A few months ago, London-based American comic Will Franken decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken.

I met Will/Sarah last night for a chat with fellow American comedian Lewis Schaffer. Will/Sarah was wearing men’s clothes, so I shall call him Will in what follows.

We met at a branch of McDonald’s in Holborn. Lewis Schaffer ordered apple pie and brought his own water. Will Franken ordered three double cheeseburgers and a small Coke. They are Americans. What can I say?


Sarah Franken’s current stage show

“When I became Sarah… a feeling of being accepted.”

“So,” I asked Will, “are you going to revert to being Will again?”

“Well,” he replied, “I was making a pros and cons list…”

“So Sarah might be a pro and Will a con?” I asked.

“I look on this as a prolonged break,” he said.

“Dressing as a man?”

“Yes. When I became Sarah, there was a feeling of being accepted, but there were a lot of comments and abuse in East London – I’m 6’5”; I stick out like a sore thumb. A lot of people were nasty. They shouted out: Gay boy! Trans-sexual!”

“This was in Bethnal Green,” I said, “and I’ve heard you say there were particular problems from Moslems.”

“…and sometimes,” said Will, “you would get the tourists who just wanted a photo like you were the Ronald McDonald clown.”

“You could charge them,” I told him.

“I’m a whore,” he replied, “but I never sell out when the opportunity presents itself.”

“Because you don’t want to be a success,” suggested Lewis Schaffer.

“Well, that’s not being a success,” argued Will. “Being a tranny and getting your photo taken.”

“That’s why you did it,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Because you knew it would annoy people.”

“That’s not why I did it,” countered Will.

“That’s why I would do it,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“But the other problem,” said Will, “is I fancy women and I think I was like kinda swept up in this idea: Oh! Women love confidence! It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. As long as you’re confident. That’s what women are attracted to. But I found it was just utterly confusing. I didn’t know when to make the move. I mean, I never knew when to make a move when I was Will either, but Sarah confused the hell out of me.”

Will/Sarah Franken - "I didn’t know when to make the move"

Will/Sarah Franken – “I didn’t know when to make the move”

“A female friend,” I said, “once told me the biggest turn-on line for any woman was a man saying: I think I MIGHT be gay. Then it’s a challenge… So, surely, if you dress in women’s clothing but say you’re still heterosexual that might surely be even more of a turn-on?”

“Women want to hunt,” suggested Lewis Schaffer. “Like men. It’s human nature to want to hunt. But women, unfortunately, are not really allowed to hunt so, if you give them an opportunity, I think they really enjoy that.”

“I need people,” said Will, “but I’m very afraid of them too. I think I’m really shy and withdrawn in a lot of ways.”

“That’s all comedians,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Comedians,” I suggested, “are often extroverts who want to hide in a cave.”

“Absolutely,” agreed Will.

“I am like a refrigerator light bulb,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You open the door and I’m on… If I’m at home or with someone I know, I’m miserable but – out and about, if I meet strangers…”

“That’s where you and I differ,” Will told him, then turned to me: “Lewis Schaffer will be a really good friend and he will stand with you in Leicester Square and say: Look, you DON’T wanna get the razor blades. There’s no reason to put your wrist in the way. And then he sees someone passing and it’s: Tommy! How are ya? and he’ll go right off. When somebody passes by that he knows – he could hate their guts – but he will…”

“Because,” explained Lewis Schaffer, “I’m happy to see them.”

“But why,” asked Will, “would you be happy to see someone you don’t like?”

“Because,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “I know the guy, so I think I must like him, else why would I know him?”

“And then,” said Will, “I have to remind you that you don’t like them.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“But,” I said to Will, “to get back on the Sarah track, you found there were drawbacks…”

SarahFranken_photoMihaelaBodlovic

By the time you get to the 15th or 20th interview …

“Yes,” said Will. “The stares, the comments, the wanting to get laid by women. And then there was feeling like I was a poster child for trans-genderism. The first interview you do about trans-genderism feels really cool but, by the time you get to the 15th or 20th, you’re like… I mean, you know I do other things apart from being trans-gender? I developed sympathy for what black comedians must go through in interviews – black, black, black, black, clack, black, black.

“I think one of the most interesting things in the show I’m doing right now at the Museum of Comedy – Who Keeps Making All These People? – is that it’s completely blasphemous towards radical Islam… I think that is more newsworthy, given recent events.”

“I think,” said Lewis Schaffer, “the reason you’re not a huge success is you get bored. In order to be a success in comedy – a success in anything – you gotta do the same shit all the time, over and over and over again.”

“I love,” said Will, “how you don’t consider yourself a success, yet you sit here and hold court on how to be a success.”

“That’s right,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I don’t think I’m a success – I think, objectively speaking, a guy who lives in his living room, who has to buy a phone in Tesco’s, is not a success.”

“Back on the Sarah and Will track,” I said. “Will, your current show…”

“It’s the one I did in Edinburgh,” Will told me. “Who Keeps Making All These People?

“You know what your show is about?” asked Lewis Schaffer. “It’s about How can I annoy people?

“That’s not true,” said Will.

“Yes it is,” insisted Lewis Schaffer.

“What are you talking about?” asked Will.

“That’s what your show is about.”

“No it’s not.”

“You,” I told Lewis Schaffer, “are just trying to be annoying.”

“Your thing,” Lewis Schaffer said to Will, “is similar to mine, except I have a filter on what I say… I’m trying to make it funny. You will say it whether it’s funny or not…”

“But,” said Will, “my show IS funny!”

“…and then it becomes funny,” continued Lewis Schaffer, “You will say things even if you haven’t figured out how to make them funny.”

“Excuse me,” I said to Lewis Schaffer. “Pot kettle black.”

The Division Bell started ringing for Will in 2014

Did The Division Bell start ringing for Will back in 2014?

“My show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – in 2014,” said Will, “was like a Pink Floyd album. Weird sound cues and everything. It just felt like a psychedelic experience. I liked it. This year’s show – when I came out as Sarah – it felt more like Johnny Rotten. Like the style was the same but I began riffing. I’m starting to do some stuff off the top of my head. I feel more vulnerable doing that.”

“Because you’re being you?” I asked.

“Yeah. Cos, if I’m putting on an accent, it could be that guy’s beliefs. If I’m speaking as myself, it’s really scary.”

“What,” I asked, “was your act like five years ago? Were you not you?”

“Never was,” said Will. “The first Edinburgh show I did, I started off as a British butler and I think I ended as a disabled teenage American girl.”

“In 2014” said Lewis Schaffer, “you were BBC Radio and you were drinking and you were talking to somebody on the phone.”

“So coming out as Sarah,” I said, “is just another way of not being you – another mask.”

“No,” said Will, “I don’t think so. I felt Sarah was me.”

“But,” I said, “you were wearing clothes you were not wearing before, therefore that’s a costume, in a sense.”

“Well, I think that’s why the riffing this year. I felt I just had to go out there and just explain: I’m a character comedian, but this is not a character and here’s some of the shit I deal with. This show is so heavy. There is about ten minutes of peripherally related trans-gender related stuff and then it reaches a point where it just flips and I go after over-diagnosis and the psychiatric industry and ISIS and that was my reaction to what I thought would be people expecting me to write a nice little show about coming out – which I didn’t want to write. I got even angrier and less-PC as a result.”

(TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW)

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Psychology, Sex

Kate Copstick’s Kenya: underwear, circumcision and marrying a Moslem

Some of the Kenyan children helped by Mama Biashara

Some of the Kenyan children helped by Mama Biashara charity

Yesterday’s blog was about comedy critic Kate Copstick’s Kenyan charity Mama Biashara, which helps local women and others with seed money and advice on starting small-scale businesses. I guess Copstick spends maybe six months of the year out there.

This is part of her latest report on life there this week.

Bear in mind when reading it that, according to the Daily Mail this week, initiation ceremonies at Oxford University can involve future Prime Ministers sticking their penis into a dead pig’s mouth.


I meet Julius – a long longtime Mama Biashara stalwart.

Recently it was the ‘initiation’ season.

Initiation (for the Luhyas of Western Kenya) involves taking the boys (aged about 13/15) out into the bush, stripping them naked and circumcising them. Circumcision like this is a big thing for many tribes.

“It is all about,” says Julius, “your blood being spilled on the earth and joining you to the land forever.”

The little bleeders (as we might call them) are left for a night, then given an animal skin apron and left for another night and then given another animal skin blanket to wrap themselves in and then, says Julius, “they are heroes”.

Women at this time are used only to prepare and carry food to the bush and leave it for the menfolk to eat. The new heroes are immediately a cut above the female of the tribe. Pun accidental but I like it.

Julius suggests a new business for Mama Biashara – selling ladies’ underwear.

Many Western Kenyan women walk 30 km per day to and from the fields where they collect a big tub of soil which, if they are lucky, contains tiny particles of gold. “They have great problems,” says Julius, “with their sweaty swingy breasts and their chafing thighs.” So this new business will sell sports bras and biker shorts. Plus normal bras and panties.

As a humanitarian, I hate to think of thighs chafing in the searing heat of Western Kenya and I tell Julius we will go to Eastleigh and buy the stock.

He would like to have a gift of bra and panties for his new wife, he says. She makes him healthy, he says. He has three kids and she has two and I have a feeling we are heading for more underwear. They are not having any more children, says Julius. I tell him I am delighted to hear it. But then he explains the pressure every man is under to produce as many children as possible.

He then details the tradition concerning childless men and women. When they die, they are buried face down with a thorny branch shoved up their arse.

I am horrified. But apparently childlessness is the worst disgrace you can commit.

I suspect my offer of condoms will be rejected.

Apropos of a chat about Western Kenyan sex workers and my saying that I had never met a Kenyan man who did not avail himself of the services of a commercial sex worker, Julius goes on – he is a bottomless fund of local belief – to tell me about how Kikuyu ladies turn to sex work for the money. And that non commercial Kikuyu ladies demand commitment but are a bit shit at sex.

“Brown ladies,” he says, “have sex in their blood.” Lighter skinned women are hot to trot and don’t care who is in the saddle. And there is something about the thighs of “brown ladies” which casts a spell on men and they are powerless to resist their wiles. Men, it seems, are helpless in the grip of a brown lady’s thighs.

“Black thighs do not have the same power,” says Julius.

He and I go off to Eastleigh.

This is basically Little Somalia: a massive slummy sprawl absolutely seething with business of all kinds.

Say what you like about the Somali people, but they can get you anything from anywhere and do it at a rock bottom price. We buy the anti-thigh-chafing bikers and loads of knickery stuff and bras. Julius is fondling a camisole with lacy trimming and sparkly bits. The kind of thing that might, I suspect, be worn by a sexually rampant “brown lady”. He also suggests we get some knickers with high cut thighs in a sort of hideous red leopard print.

“The shoshos are making bricks from mud,” I remind him. “Why do you want them to dress like sex workers?”

The young lady (in full ninja) with the beautiful eyes, who is the shop owner, crinkles them in laughter.

Julius wants to know whether he could marry a Moslem girl without converting.

“No,” we are told by the Lovely Eyes Girl and her slightly-less-lovely but still-attractive mother.

“What if the Moslem girl converted to Christianity?” he asks.

We get a few variations of burning in hell.

“But it is the same God,” points out Julius (hugely broadminded for him).

There still seems to be a lot of burning in hell going on.

1 Comment

Filed under Kenya

Kate Copstick on UK comedy’s jihadists, sexism & why an ITV show failed badly

Kate Copstick during the recording of the first Grouchy Club podcast

Copstick, oft called a horned beast, proves the point

In 2011 at the Edinburgh Fringe, I chaired two debates about the comedy business and arranged two spaghetti-juggling contests; the latter could be seen as a simile for the former.

At the 2013 Fringe, I chaired five chat shows on comedy-related subjects. Most included comedy critic Kate Copstick.

Throughout the 2014 Fringe, Copstick and I chaired The Grouchy Club, in which there were no guests. We (well, to be honest, mostly she) chatted to the audience and it was mostly but (like this blog) not entirely about the comedy business.

Yesterday, Copstick and I recorded the first in a weekly series of Grouchy Club “mostly comedy” podcasts. 

I suggested we should start off these weekly chats simply – with just us alone in an empty room and no audience because of the audio distraction. So we decided to record the first podcast at Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in London’s Shepherd’s Bush because it was a controllable space and, on a Sunday, closed.

So we thought.

In fact, the shop was open and, on a Sunday, has a music tradition. So there is an African drummer rather distractingly plying his art over the first 16 minutes of the 43 minute recording available online at http://thegrouchyclub.podomatic.com

The subjects covered include: sexism, the controversial comedians Dapper Laughs and Andrew Lawrence, why ITV’s  Show Me The Funny comedy talent show was crap, Copstick’s encounters with criminals, rape victims, police corruption, and the comedy industry’s new ’political correctness’ Fascists… Oh!… and Copstick sings.

The audio podcast is 43 minutes long. We also videoed the chat and I have posted a single 10-minute chunk of the podcast on YouTube.

Kate Copstick, John Fleming at The Grouchy Club

Serious stuff: The Grouchy Club podcast recording yesterday.

There will be a live Grouchy Club show next Sunday as part of the Jewish Comedy Day in London, despite the fact neither of us is Jewish.

And The Grouchy Club returns to the Edinburgh Fringe this August.

Below are two low-key excerpts from yesterday’s podcast. You will have to listen to the original to get the fully venomous rants.


COPSTICK
Have you looked recently at any of the comedy forums? They are all grouchier than me.

JOHN
No-one is grouchier than you. Adolf Hitler was not grouchier than you.

COPSTICK
To be fair, OK, I am grouchy. But comedy recently, I think, has just become so fucking judgemental.

JOHN
It’s always been judgemental. You’re a critic.

COPSTICK
But I’m fairly and intelligently judgemental… I mean, look at what has happened. Currently we have questions being asked in the House of Commons because Channel 4 want to do a sitcom based on the Irish Potato Famine. Because, apparently, you’re not allowed to be funny about the Irish Potato Famine.

That is two steps away from creating a jihad because someone has drawn a moustache and a pair of funny specs on the face of the prophet Mohammed – who probably had a moustache anyway, to be fair.

JOHN
We should point out this is being recorded the day after people were shot to death in Denmark for daring to speak things.

COPSTICK
Exactly! That’s what I’m saying. No, it’s not what I’m saying! People within the comedy industry seem to be becoming as judgemental as people outside the industry. I mean, when was the last time ever, in comedy – the answer is never…

JOHN
Never.

COPSTICK
Too soon.

JOHN
Timing.

COPSTICK
Essence… Comedy.

JOHN
42.

COPSTICK
We’re not talking universe here, we’re talking something much more important, John: we’re talking Comedy.

JOHN
I should point out that, when I arrived, Copstick said (a) I’m very angry and (b) I’m pissed. She is. Not me.

COPSTICK
Well, I was angry.

JOHN
And pissed.

COPSTICK
No, no, no. I was angry, I was in pain (Copstick has lupus), I was upset, I was depressed and I was frustrated.

JOHN 
Ideal for an Edinburgh comedy show.

COPSTICK
And then my lovely volunteer here in the Mama Biashara shop suggested Southern Comfort but we didn’t have any Southern Comfort, so I fell back on Jägermeister and I can’t tell you how warm and cuddly and friendly I’m feeling… Except to the people in the comedy industry who have suddenly turned into the Spanish fucking Inquisition.

Back to my question. Whenever in the history of comedy did people from within the industry turn on one of their own and kill… I’m talking Dapper Laughs.

JOHN
But he has revived, like the good lord on the third day.

COPSTICK
I’m speaking now as somebody who I think we can all agree… Look, it’s been some time since I’ve been well-moist. I think I’m sticky at best, crusty at worst… But what is wrong with Dapper Laughs? It wasn’t the greatest comedy series on television, but…

JOHN
We should point out to any foreign listeners that happen to be out there that Dapper Laughs was said to be a sexist and…

COPSTICK
He WAS sexist! He IS sexist. But what’s wrong with comedy sexism?

JOHN
Sexism is a bit like making jokes about rape. In theory, you shouldn’t make jokes about rape, but it depends how it’s done.

COPSTICK
Exactly…Well, no… I don’t think it is. Because rape is a terrible thing, despite what some people who subscribe to your blog might think that I think. Rape is a terrible thing. It’s an act of aggression; it’s an act of violence. Sexism is just making fun of different sexes in the ways that they are different.

JOHN
That’s comedy sexism. But sexism is actually demeaning someone else.

COPSTICK
But he IS comedy sexism.

JOHN
But it’s like saying there’s nothing wrong with racism. There is nothing wrong with jokes about people of another race, but there is something wrong with racism, where you say that person is not worthy of anything and should be spat upon. Women are pointless, they’re awful, they’re mentally inferior…

COPSTICK
That’s not what he said.

JOHN
That’s sexism, though.

COPSTICK
Yes, but that’s not what he said,


JOHN
You did an ITV1 comedy talent show.

COPSTICK
Yes, it was called Show Me The Funny and it didn’t. It hardly showed any funny, because it was too busy wandering off round Liverpool watching people trying to find somebody called Michelle.

JOHN
Without slagging off anyone or causing a legal rumpus, why did they do that?

COPSTICK
Well, without slagging off anyone or causing a legal rumpus…

JOHN
We both know the executive producer, who is wonderful.

COPSTICK
He is a marvellous man. As I understand it… and let me preface this by saying that, if anyone in ITV1 would like to offer me a comedy series, I would be only too happy to say Yes… However, what seems to me to have been the problem with Show Me The Funny was that somebody said: Let’s do X-Factor for comedy. and they went: Great! Fucking hell! Nice! Yes! 

However, at the point where they take a good or reasonable or very basic idea to a boardroom where lots of pointless executives sit around, they then said: Yes, X-Factor. Huge! Marvellous! Everyone loves it! But The Apprentice is really good too and it gets fantastic ratings. So why don’t we just… In a criminal enterprise, this would be called a cut-and-shunt.

JOHN
Shunt?

COPSTICK
Shunt.

JOHN
Just checking.

COPSTICK
Rhyming with… It means you take the back half of one (car) and the front half of another, slam them together and hope that it works. Guess what. It didn’t.

They had a choice: take the entire production team from the entertainment show or take the entire production team from The Apprentice. And guess what they did. They took the entire fucking production team from The Apprentice. How funny was The Apprentice? Not at all.

JOHN
That’s literally true, isn’t it? They came from The Apprentice.

COPSTICK
That is true. Lovely people. But about as funny as genital herpes.

JOHN
It’s very difficult to do a comedy show or a light entertainment show if you don’t have the light entertainment gene.

COPSTICK
Very sweet people but… bloody hell!


YOU HEAR THE FULL PODCAST HERE
AND WATCH A 10-MINUTE SECTION OF VIDEO HERE

 

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Sex

Other people’s lives partly overheard

Two men talk by a bus stop in Watford yesterday

Two men talk by a Watford bus stop yesterday

Not that I would like you to think I am obsessed with blogging, but…

… occasionally, I hear things which sound like they might fit into a blog…

… and they almost never do.

I do not write them down. I text them to myself.

It is a mild obsession. I can control it.

It does not control me.

At least, I do not think it does.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in a train near Hendon, going to St Pancras in London, and, in the next set of seats, four very dull-looking people were talking about their upcoming holidays and other equally (to me) uninteresting things. I was not really listening, but then my ears told my brain that one of their voices had said, in a casual, conversational way:

“That’s really the wrong question. The question is Has God found YOU?

By the time my brain adjusted to listening to them properly, they were talking about hotels.

How did God get into that conversation?

Yesterday, I was waiting at a Watford bus stop (don’t ask) when an ageing hippy type turned up with two Sainsburys shopping bags. I thought he was possibly homeless. He had a long light-brown coat, long greying hair, a long grey beard and a dark grey woollen cap. He looked like some cut-price Gandalf.

Shortly afterwards, a middle-aged black man arrived. They knew each other and started talking.

I reconsidered the first man’s status. He probably was not a tramp, just some left-over hippy from the early 1970s. The black guy looked like he had just come from work.

Again, I was not really listening to them until my ears heard the black man say:

“I was working like a bloody nigger.”

Whaaaat??? my brain told my ears.

Again, by the time my brain had adjusted to listening to the conversation, it was inconsequential. It had just been a casual phrase in a casual conversation.

You can’t really say it was racist: the guy was black and was talking to a white guy. You can’t really say it was offensive: the guy could only offend himself.

But Whaaaat??? my brain thought.

Whaaaat???

It was much like Boxing Day last week.

I was in the shopping centre in Borehamwood on Boxing Day. I had just bought myself  two pints of milk. I like milk.

Two men passed me. One said to the other:

“Your best bet is to put the guy’s body in a freezer and then cut him up later.”

Whaaaat???

That is exactly what he said:

“Your best bet is to put the guy’s body in a freezer and then cut him up later.”

The fascination of other people’s lives, partly overheard.

It is like reading only one paragraph on one page of a 500-page novel.

3 Comments

Filed under Racism, Sociology

Jim Davidson on being “racist, sexist, homophobic” – and Operation Yewtree

Candy Gigi being advised by Jim Davidson  last night while critic Kate Copstick appears to have a fit in the background

Candy Gigi with Jim Davidson last night while comedy critic Kate Copstick appears to have fit

Who makes a good chat show host? Someone who can ask difficult questions and get revealing answers without the interviewee really noticing.

Last night, I went to Bob Slayer’s Christmas pop-up venue – Heroes Grotto of Comedy – in the City of London, where Scott Capurro and his friend David Mills were hosting their chat show. Their guests were London mayoral candidate Ivan Massow, 2014 Malcolm Hardee Award winner Candy Gigi and British comedy legend Jim Davidson. An interestingly eclectic trio.

Before anyone complains – as I am sure they will – about what follows. I myself would have mentioned an alleged incident of wife-beating. But this is not my interview.

Scott Capurro met Jim Davidson for the first time at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Last night he asked Jim why he had stayed at a hotel out by Edinburgh Airport.

“I thought I don’t want to get involved with everybody,” said Jim, “but, more than that, I didn’t want to go in a club and get blanked.”

“Did that happen to you?” Scott asked.

“Well, it did a bit,” said Jim.

Jim Davidson’s current Edinburgh Fringe show

Jim’s Edinburgh Fringe show this year

“We went to the performers’ bar at the Gilded Balloon,” Scott explained to the audience, “and a couple of comics said: Why did you bring Jim in here? I said: Because it’s a public bar and he’s a comic. Why the fuck are you here? Why don’t you fuck off if you don’t like him? These were people who had not seen his live performance. But they had made up their minds about who he was.”

“I am,” admitted Jim, “regarded as an old school/ racist/ sexist/ homophobic horrible person. I understand the perception of me. I really do understand that. Perception, yeah. How many times have we said: I fuckin’ hate that bloke and you meet them and they’re absolutely wonderful? What you’ve done is you’ve spent all that time wasting emotion.

“I’m the bad guy,” said Jim. “When Bernard Manning died, they had to have someone else. Someone said to me: Jim, you’re the bad guy, because it makes other people better by default.

“I have always been unhappy to be called homophobic because it’s fucking annoying. The racist thing I can get because I used to do jokes about black people and it’s a bit more sensitive than doing jokes about gay people.”

“The night I saw your show in Edinburgh,” said Scott, “there was a wheelchair guy in the front row – and a blind person.”

“Yeah,” said Jim. “What’s the point of a fucking blind person being on the front row? That’s what I actually said to him. He could sit and face the fucking wall and…”

“Do you,” asked Scott, “revel in that sort of…”

“Yeah. I do,” replied Jim. “Don’t you? You do.”

“Yeah,” said Scott.

“This is it, right?” said Jim. “In the front row here tonight, we’ve got an Australian, a mad woman, a baldy man, a blonde girl and a person that’s wearing boots that are too young for them. Let’s say we also have someone in a wheelchair…

(From left) David Mills, Jim Davidson, Scott Capurro last night

(L-R) David Mills, Jim Davidson and Scott Capurro last night

“What you do is try and get that person in the wheelchair involved. Include him rather than take the piss. But what happens is some fucking Guardian-reading leftie that wants an excuse to hate me might say: Jim took the piss out of a man in a wheelchair. So do you take that chance? I do. And then I get slagged off for it. I hate it. I hate it. But I can’t stop myself. I want to include people. I don’t want to take he piss out of someone in a wheelchair: that’s fucking easy. I want to include the person… Include the person.”

“The really disabled people,” said David Mills, “are people who have got no sense of humour.”

“A blind man can still see a good joke,” said Jim.

“Some comics think,” said Scott, “if you do an accent, immediately that’s racist.”

“Yeah,” said Jim. “What’s that all about? I don’t get that.”

“You did a brilliant accent in Edinburgh.”

“The West Indian thing? Or the Indian thing?”

“The Indian guy.”

“This is true. I don’t care if you think this is racist or not. My mate in Dubai was a Sikh and he had (at this point, Jim started to imitate the accents) a real broad Glaswegian accent. He had a brown face, didn’t wear a turban and could drink like a fish. Halfway through drinking, his accent became slightly Indian and then it became Scottish but still Indian and, at the end of the evening, it was totally Indian but with a Scottish personality – Who you fuckin’ looking at, ya cunt?

“Someone said: How Seventies is that – thinking that Indian people are funny? But how fucking insulting is that?

“I’ll tell you where my West Indian character Chalky comes from. I used to do jokes about West Indian kids I went to school with and it was 1976/1977 Blackpool, Little & Large – remember them?

Little and Large with Susie Silvey in the 1980s.

Little and Large with Susie Silvey in the 1980s.

“They had a manager and, when I did this West Indian accent, he said: Oh, fuck me, we can’t have this! It was never offensive in my mind and people would laugh their heads off at it. But he said You’ve gotta drop that and the producer said Why don’t you make it one character and make that character someone everyone can laugh at, even the black people in the audience? So Chalky was based around my mates: all the black kids I went to school with had West Indian accents. Chalky was a character to be loved. I didn’t invent that character to ridicule anybody and, if I have ridiculed anybody, I apologise from the bottom of my heart. He was made to be loved. He was Dennis The Menace. He was Minnie The Minx.

“Unfortunately, there is a perception of me and I’ve got to take that on the chin. I’ve done well, I’ve been doing this for forty years. I’ve afforded four divorces.”

Jim was arrested under Operation Yewtree, the police investigation following sex revelations about the late Jimmy Savile.

“I thought Yewtree was fucking great when it started off,” said Jim last night, “because it was arresting all those funny people at the BBC that I didn’t particularly like. And then Freddie Starr got arrested and I thought: This is ridiculous. I think he’s the greatest act I’ve ever seen: I mean, really, really old school but brilliant.

“There were about twelve reporters outside my house every day for a couple of weeks. The police investigation lasted a year. Everyone knew it was not for under-aged sex and everyone knew I was a bit of jack-the-lad and a pretty easy target. I’ve never hid the fact I like girls. But I think arresting me was the straw that broke the camel’s back. People started to realise: Hang on a bit; it’s getting silly.”

Jim explained that one woman who said she had been sexually assaulted by him at the London Palladium later (after he had provided evidence to the police) changed her story to having been assaulted at the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion. He says a policeman questioning him over another charge said:

You came off the stage at The Green Man in the Old Kent Road and you saw a woman there with a short skirt on and a garter belt hanging down under her skirt and you twanged her garter belt. Can you remember doing that?

“In 1978?

“Yes.

“I can’t remember doing that.

“Is that something you would have done?

“Yeah, probably. And then what? Then I sexually assaulted her?

“No. That IS the sexual assault that we have arrested you for.

“And that’s how it went on,” Jim said. “It cost me a year and about £500,000 and, at the end of it, they said: No further action. They didn’t say sorry or anything. It was horrible. Horrible.”

“What is the motivation of the accusers?” Scott asked.

“No idea” said Jim. “Schadenfreude? I really think that’s what it is. How dare he have such a good life when I’ve had such a shit life. And there’s a lot of bandwagon jumping. But it’s not for me to say.”

“Did you,” asked Scott, “believe in the legal system before this?”

“I still believe in it,” said Jim. “I don’t think the police had any alternative but to investigate. I read the other day that the Inspector of Constabulary said that the police should record more crimes. Someone can go in and say blah-blah-blah and it’s got to be put down as a crime and the person is arrested before the interrogation. I think that’s the wrong way round. I think, in this country, you are innocent until proven guilty. But I’m not going to shout out about it because I’m frightened to. I don’t want to rock the boat and that’s the truth.”

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Crime, Police, Sex

“I will sometimes be racist. Sometimes be sexist. Sometimes be homophobic.”

Chris Dangerfield looks over his shoulder yesterday

Chris Dangerfield looks over his shoulder occasionally

Sometimes… Sometimes…

Sometimes there are days when I know I will have to write a daily blog or – more accurately – have no time to transcribe some interesting blog chat I have had with people. Today is such a day.

So I thought I would quickly copy-and-paste a section I had not included (for space reasons) in a previous blog, quoting comedy performer Chris Dangerfield.

It is about his Theory of Sometimes.


“I’ve got this theory of sometimes, he told me.

“I, Chris Dangerfield, sexually objectify women. Sometimes. It’s not all I do. And they are sex objects. Sometimes. They are treating me as a sex object sometimes and I’m treating them as a sex object. Sometimes. That’s not all they are – obviously. This mad thing about Oh, you sexually objectify women. Yes I do. Sometimes.”

“What about your girlfriend?” I asked. “Is she happy with all your screwing around?”

“I don’t do it when I’m in a relationship,” he told me. “I am totally monogamous then. That’s the deal, isn’t it? We give each other a gift and that’s monogamy.”

“What other sometimeses are there?” I asked.

“Well, racism,” he said. “I’ve grown up in a culture where we have this crazy media; we have an education; we have people’s agendas fed to us from a young age. I grew up in a school where we had to praise the lord. He who would valiant be. I didn’t know what the words meant.

“I have learnt behaviour. And it wasn’t learned from choice; it was stuff that was pushed on me. So I will sometimes be racist. I will sometimes be sexist. I will sometimes be homophobic. That doesn’t mean I am racist, sexist and homophobic all the time. It means I’m in a continual battle with who I am, who I want to be and what I’ve heard or read. That’s just reality.”


Chris makes his money – perfectly legally – by running a legitimate lock-picking company. He designs the devices himself. Apparently some of his best customers are government departments. I seem to remember MI6, the police and an American agency were mentioned.

Online, he gives instructions. Not just on his own site but also with clips on YouTube.

It may be my imagination, but there seems something strangely sexual about this video.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gay, Racism, Sex

A racist blog featuring three taxi drivers, PR Max Clifford, a BBC DJ and gorillas

Potential Edinburgh Fringe legends Ellis & Rose

Malcolm Hardee Award winners Ellis & Rose aka Alison Rose

Yesterday, at Soho Theatre, I accidentally bumped into Malcolm Hardee Award winning comedy duo Ellis & Rose.

Rose told me they had once been billed by a hard-of-hearing comedy promoter as ‘Alison Rose’.

Ellis told me he had just realised that, when I have no material for my blog, I simply paste-in sections from my old diaries.

In fact, he is only half right. I also do it when I have no time to transcribe (let us say) three long interviews.

So here are some Guy Fawkes Day extracts from my old e-diaries.


November 1999

DJ Chris Evans (very big in radio) with Joss Stone (Photograph by The Admiralty/Wikipedia)

DJ Chris Evans (very big in British radio) with Joss Stone (Photograph by The Admiralty/Wikipedia)

In the evening, I went with a French girl to a Guy Fawkes night party at an ex-Radio 1 DJ’s home. We arrived a little late and the French girl asked someone: “Have you already burnt the gay?”

This week the press have been carrying a story about Spice Girl Geri Halliwell having an affair with disc jockey Chris Evans.

“Well, I don’t know if they are or they aren’t,” the ex-Radio 1 DJ told me, “But I’ve been told by one who’s been there that he’s got the most enormous knob.”

PR Max Clifford told this ex-DJ a few years ago, when she was at Radio 1, that, if she gave him £50,000, he could make her massively famous by fabricating an affair.


November 2000

A black cab racing through London with no sign of a glove

London black taxi cabs are a hotbed of anecdotes and racism

I met three taxi drivers and someone who ran a facility house in Soho.

An Asian taxi driver told me he had taken a computer studies course at Reading University but hated computers and so was now driving. He said he had played second team for one of the County Cricket clubs, but could have played for Pakistan.

“Are your parents Pakistani?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, “But I know influential people.”

A Nigerian taxi driver told me he spent three months of every year driving cabs in New York. He lamented the fact the British government had no control of the country. “People are allowed to demonstrate and cause chaos,” he told me. “Britain needs stronger leadership.”

A white cab driver took me to Soho for my daily video edit. He told me he lived in the East End near Canary Wharf. He was a disillusioned racist who, of course, started: “I’m not racist, but…”

He said he was going to leave London where he had been born and bred because “it’s no longer my city. Me and my kids are foreigners in it”. His local mayor (in Tower Hamlets) was an Asian and, whereas his kids’ school had no religious assembly in the morning because that would be unfair on non-Christians, they had to observe Ramadan (he claimed).

“All I want is a level playing field,” he said. “The council’s building 4-bedroom flats now. That’s not for the likes of me. They’re building them for their own kind because they breed. And round my way, the Bengalis run the heroin trade and, if you get in their way, they just kill you.”

Ironically, he was talking of emigrating to Grenada in the Caribbean.

A silverback gorilla in its natural environment, not in England

Irrelevant yet strangely relevant picture of an African  gorilla

At the editing facility in Soho, the audio suite was run by 32 year-old woman with an English accent, but who had been born in Edinburgh.

Aged 6, she had gone with her family to Zambia for four years. While she was there, she and her classmates were held hostage by Zairean guerrilla rebels for a period. She did not know how long. The teachers told the children the men outside were just stopping by on their way somewhere else and, when she was told they were guerrillas, she was very impressed because she thought they must be very educated gorillas.

Her father piloted the local Flying Doctor plane and, returning to the UK, flew executive jets chartered by celebrities and businessmen. He was friendly with Edinburgh-based pop group The Bay City Rollers at the height of their fame. She remembered travelling with them in cars – they were lying on the floor or bent down covered with coats to avoid being seen by their fans. Knowing them gave her prestige at school and fans offered her money for the bathwater the boys had used.

Later, in her teens, she went through a Goth phase with bleached blonde hair and now, aged 32, her boyfriend is a 25 year-old freelance gardener who was adopted. He has no interest in finding out about his real parents, but knows his father was olive-skinned and his mother was a lifeguard.

Leave a comment

Filed under Racism, Radio, UK

Edinburgh Fringe: How the banned “Racist Joke Show” was a cunning stunt

Last night at about 8.45pm, I had a half hour snooze. When I woke up, it was 6.55am this morning. Einstein was right. Time warps. Especially at the Edinburgh Fringe. Well, to be honest, most things are odd at the Fringe.

Jay Islaam was at yesterday’s Grouchy Club

Jay Islaam was at yesterday’s Grouchy Club

At yesterday’s eventually crowded Grouchy Club show (people keep wandering in willy-nilly and then don’t leave – which is good), Jay Islaam talked about his Racist Joke Show.

This had been billed as part of the Freestival, the new free show organisation at the Edinburgh Fringe which got a reported £25,000 in sponsorship from La Favorita pizzas matched by £25,000 sponsorship from Arts & Business Scotland.

When Jay Islaam’s Racist Joke Show poster/flyer was brought to their attention, Arts & Business Scotland decided they did not want to have their name associated with the show.

“I have a confession to make,” Jay told us yesterday. “I put out this very provocative poster with just the words RACIST JOKE SHOW – BANNED FROM 100+ VENUES.”

“It hadn’t been, had it?” I asked.

“Well, I have,” said Jay.

“Why?” I asked.

“For a lot of reasons,” he replied.

“And the poster had a golliwog on it,” I said.

Jay and his golliwog, as seen on his website

Jay and his much-loved golliwog, as seen on his own website

“It was my own personal golliwog,” explained Jay. “But I had no intention of using that on the final poster, though I was thinking of using it on the flyers. It was a publicity stunt. I sent it to the media knowing it would get a reaction.

“(The comedy website) Chortle picked up on the poster and sent it to Arts & Business Scotland, who issued a statement without checking what the show was. I won’t comment on whether that was right or wrong, but that’s what they did.

“On the back of the flyer, it asked a series of questions:

  • Are we all racist?
  • Is political correctness an effective way of tackling the Far Right?
  • Is positive discrimination patronising and therefore intrinsically prejudiced?

“But, sadly, the show did not happen.”

“I know this is racist in itself,” I said, “but surely the name Jay Islaam would imply you are not – let’s say 500 years ago – of white British origin.”

“Well,” said Jay. “this is the thing. Part of the Racist Joke Show was about the fact it should not matter whether you are black or white or Indian if you want to discuss issues of culture or race or religion or sexuality. There should not be restrictions on someone just because they are the ‘wrong’ minority or majority.”

“Your name was on the poster?” I asked.

One of Jay’s characters: Michel de Fromage

One of Jay’s characters: decidedly odd Michel de Fromage

“No. It was on the back of the flyer – as was my photo – but in tiny writing. I did not want to be given a free pass to do the show because I was part of a minority – because the point is the things that I say about race and religion and sexuality and different types of prejudice should be something that anybody can say because they have a logical basis to them. You should not be censored because you are white or male or Chinese so you can’t talk about Indians. That was the point of not putting my name or picture on the poster.”

“I have never understood the argument,” I said, “that a black person can say the word ‘nigger’ but a white person can’t. The word is either offensive or it is not.”

“This is one of the things I was going to discuss,” said Jay, “and why I was using the golliwog as a symbol. People talk about ‘reclaiming’ offensive words, reclaiming insults like the Americans did with the word ‘Yankee’, which was supposed to be an insult.

“The show was wanting to do the same thing with words like nigger or Paki or Chink. You can say: I am black and I am going to reclaim the word nigger. But, if a white person says it and you are upset by it, then you have not reclaimed it because the word still has power over you. The show was going to be about taking the power away from these words and symbols.

A piece on Jay in this month’s Eastern Eye

A piece on Jay in this month’s Eastern Eye

“The poster was a blatant publicity stunt using the golliwog, but the upshot was the controversy snowballed to a certain point where the show was cancelled. That was not my intention.

“My intention was to create enough controversy that people would come and then I could preach to them. Get them in the church and then you can preach to them. But the church was knocked down before I was allowed to proselytise views.

“Hopefully next year I will be able to bring the show to Edinburgh. I have already been asked by some promoters in the North of England if I will come and tour it at their theatres.”

mrmethanebendsMeanwhile, back in what passes for the real world outside the Edinburgh bubble, this morning (when I eventually woke up) I read an e-mail from my farting chum Mr Methane – the world’s only professional flatulist act – whose company is called BO Productions. Yesterday, he received this e-mail:

Hi,

This is the first time I’ve been in touch and I wanted to find out whether you’d be interested in the idea of running a banner ad for B O Productions Limited on the Daily Mail website?

Web Windows is an advertising agency who are occasionally able to pick up some amazing late-availability banners. This is one of those occasions and you can find all the details of the offer on this link: One month Daily Mail banner campaign just £480.

If you’re not sure whether online advertising is right for you we’ve put together a Video Review: Why Online Advertising.

I appreciate this offer has appeared out of the blue, so if you’d like me to explain things in more detail, I can be contacted on the number below. Or maybe you’d just like to go ahead?

Best regards

Today’s front page of the Daily Mail

Today’s front page of the Daily Mail

It is good to know that the Daily Mail is obviously trying to expand and subtly alter its brand image and thinks its readers would appreciate a banner ad for a farting act and is actively courting Mr Methane. Meanwhile…

In other, more tragic, showbiz news, the increasingly time-constricted Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday seems increasingly UNlikely to include a string of comedians doing impressions of iconic Lewis Schaffer (though we did try it out to great success at yesterday’s Grouchy Club).

Perhaps our final Grouchy Club show should be devoted (as, of course, we all are) to Lewis Schaffer.

Malcolm Hardee Show 2014

A show or event? Who knows? But it is happening this Friday

There is even worse news, though – I am told by his agent that Jim Davidson is unable to accept my invitation to take part in the Scottish National Russian Egg Roulette Championship during the aforementioned increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show this Friday.

I tried my best.

We will just have to soldier on with what we have.

Have we got a show for you?

Well, it is certainly going to be an event.

Now I must go away and figure out a running order.

Leave a comment

Filed under Censorship, Comedy, PR, Racism

Two views of British & Italian comedy (+ racism, sexism & women with horns)

Luca Cupani: a man not likely to lose his bottle

Luca Cupani: a man not likely to lose his bottle

London-based Italian comic Giacinto Palmieri told me I should meet Luca Cupani from Bologna. So I did. Yesterday afternoon. With Giacinto.

Luca moved to London at the end of January this year to be a comedian.

“In Britain,” Luca told me, “comedy is a huge thing, so I looked for an Open Mic night online and I found this King Gong night at the Comedy Store. They gave me a spot at the end of February. They seemed to think I might be frightened, but I had never heard of the King Gong night or the Comedy Store.

“I would like to also be an actor, but it’s not that easy because of my accent and because, when they look for an Italian actor, they want someone who looks like an Italian, not like me. At Twickenham in November, I did an open audition for the new Star Wars movie…”

“I don’t mean to be rude,” I said, “but you do look a bit like an alien.”

“I thought,” said Luca, “if they chose Chewbacca and Yoda, they can’t be too fussy about looks. I queued at Twickenham Studios at five in the morning along with 15,000 other people for six hours and the audition was just entering a blue tent and exiting the other side in three seconds.”

“Why couldn’t they just look at pictures?” Giacinto asked him.

“I dunno,” shrugged Luca. “They just wanted to meet someone. But I thought: The Comedy Store can’t be worse than this.”

“And was it?” I asked.

Luca right have been crucified on his first UK gig

Luca took the risk of being crucified at his first UK gig

“There were about 400 people in the audience,” he replied, “and they were not nice and, listening to the comics on before me, I didn’t get half of the jokes because of the cultural references.

“Someone said something I didn’t understand and people laughed. Then someone said something I didn’t understand and they sent him off. I didn’t know what was the secret to stay on stage.

“When it was my turn in the second half, maybe I was helped because they were a little… I wouldn’t say drunk, but they…”

“I think you can say drunk,” I told him.

“Well for some reason,” said Luca, “they liked me. I started talking about everything. I would have sold my mother to stay on stage. I did not sell her, but I stayed on stage and I won the show, the King Gong. It was my first time and I was so scared and I survived and won.

“So they gave me another five minute spot in June that I did and that went not so bad. At the end the owner, Don Ward, told me I have funny bones. I had to look it up in the Urban Dictionary. He told me to keep doing it and I would have another spot in November but just five minutes again because he told me: Your English is not that good.

Luca’s first performance at the Comedy Store is on YouTube.

“I was improvising,” explained Luca. “I can’t write jokes in English so, if I want to find new material, I have to go on stage. In my room, I can’t find any joke. I need to be on stage and under pressure or under fear and I start saying something funny and people laugh and that gives me energy.”

“You’re a very good improviser,” Giacinto told him.

“I find it difficult to translate the jokes I say in Italian into English,” explained Luca, “and it is different the things that trigger laughter here. In Britain, I realised there are some subjects or topics you should not mention: if you talk about things like cancer.”

“Are cancer jokes OK in Italy?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Luca. “You can make a joke about anything.”

Giacinto disagreed: “Romina Puma (organiser of Il Puma Londinese Lab) always tells me it’s easier for her to talk about disability in London than it is in Italy. She tells me people here are more ready to mix comedy and tragedy. I don’t know the Italian comedy scene now. But it is true there is more sensitivity here about racism and sexism.”

Luca Cupani 2014 Edinburgh Fringe show

Luca’s upcoming improvised Fringe show

“I did some jokes about cancer at the Comedy Store,” Luca added. “They laughed. But, if you talk to other comedians, they say: Don’t say this; don’t say that.”

“You can,” I said, “make a joke about anything if you deliver it in the right way. What can you not say in Italy?”

“In Italy,” said Luca, “we don’t have something like stand-up comedy in the Anglo-Saxon way. It’s more like you have to portray a character maybe like Commedia dell’arte… You have to be the lazy postman or the rich businessman. You create this character like a stereotype and you do some jokes around this. In Britain, you are yourself and you talk about your vision of the world.

“In Britain, everyone who is black plays the race card; he talks about being black. Everyone who is Indian talks about being Indian. Women: We are women. But, if you are not one and you say a joke about them, you are sexist or racist. If you are a white man, you cannot talk about black people or make a joke about women.”

“But,” I asked, “in Italy you can talk about North Africans arriving in Sicily by boat?”

“If it is disrespectful, no,” said Luca. “But you can…”

“In Britain,” I said, “the Scots joke about the English, the English joke about the Welsh, people from the north of England joke about southerners…”

“Though not on stage now,” said Giacinto. “That’s more in the pubs. The butt of the jokes in Italy are the Carabinieri – the military police.”

Luca (left) and Giacinto pose for me in Camden yesterday while an attractive lady casually picks her nose behind them

Luca (left) and Giacinto pose for me in Camden yesterday while an attractive lady casually picks her nose behind them

“Yes,” agreed Luca.

“So,” I said, “in England, jokes about stupidity are about the Irish; in the US, they are about the Polish; in Ireland, I think they are about people from Kerry…”

“And,” said Giacinto, “in Italy they are about the Carabinieri. Yes.”

“So not about people from other areas?” I asked.

“Italian history,” said Giacinto, “is so localistic. People were for centuries closed inside very small communities. Probably the Carabinieri used to be from the South traditionally so maybe there is a bit of anti…”

“People from the South,” said Luca, “tend to represent people from the North as stubborn and Yes, they work but they’re not that smart. The South portrays themselves as We know how to live. We are smarter, brighter. In the North they are slow.”

“The impression I get,” I said, “is that people in the North of Italy think people in the South are animals and people in the South think people in the North are Germans.”

“Yes,” said Luca. “People in the North think they are like the Germans and are perfect, but they are not. Part of my family is from Sicily.”

“I have got myself off-subject,” I said. “Back to you, Luca. You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. You’ve never been to the Fringe before. Never been to Scotland before. And it’s an hour-long improvised show…”

“What ,” Giacinto asked me, “did you think of the preview of my Wagner show the other week?”

“I thought it was very good,” I said. “I didn’t have any misgivings about it because I thought: If the worst comes to the worst, there will be talk of women with horns on their heads.”

Giacinto’s Edinburgh Fringe poster

Giacinto: enthusiastic Wagner Fringe show

“Wagner,” suggested Luca, “helps you connect with your inner hero.”

“You are my personal hero,” said Giacinto, “because what you are doing – improvising an hour show – is crazy.”

“I would do a show about my sex life,” said Luca, “but basically nothing happens. I dated a woman who works in a bank and she just asked me about the Mafia for three or four hours.”

“One day,” said Giacinto, “I am going to do a show called All The Women Who Didn’t Sleep With Me (Abridged). The unabridged version would be too long.”

Your Wagner show,” I told Giacinto, “is actually ideal for the Fringe because it is a show performed by an enthusiast. In Edinburgh, the big thing is to latch on to a subject, then make it personal in some way.

“If the punters are sensible,” I continued, “even if they don’t give a shit about Wagner, they’ll think: Oh! Women with horns and a man with a sense of humour! That’s worth seeing! If someone’s an enthusiast, you know he’s going to be excited about the subject and will try everything to enthuse you and the hour is going to be interesting and, in this case, funny.”

“I know you don’t do reviews,” said Giacinto, “but, if you can manage to squeeze these words into your blog…”

“Did I not mention it before?” I asked.

“No,” said Giacinto, “you never mentioned my preview.”

“Oh fuck,” I said.

“But I’m still going to invite you to parties, don’t worry,” Giacinto told me.

“Parties?” asked Luca.

“John,” explained Giacinto, “says he doesn’t do reviews because he wants to be invited to parties by comedians.”

“You might have just managed to get into my blog,” I told him.

There is an award-winning short film featuring Luca Cupani on YouTube. (It is in Italian)

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Italy, Racism