Tag Archives: Robin Williams

Guy Combes: surrealist with luxuriant moustache who drank some shampoo

Last week at Vout-O-Reenee’s  (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Guy Combes last week at Vout-O-Reenee’s (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

In a blog last week, I mentioned going to Vout-O-Reenee’s – Sophie Parkin’s club “for the surrealistically distinguished” – to see Guy Combes fascinatingly surreal show Auntie Rene’s Memory Box Is The Smallest Museum in The World. Guy Combes is a man with a luxuriant moustache.

In yesterday’s blog, the untold (by me, but not by her) story of writer/editor/artist/bohemian Molly Parkin kissing jazz legend Louis Armstrong was mentioned by comedy performer Matt Roper.

Molly Parkin at Vout-O-Reenee’s gallery opening last night

Molly Parkin at Vout-O-Reenee’s gallery opening last night

Last night, Matt and I went to see the opening of the Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s – The first exhibition is a retrospective of  Molly Parkin’s paintings 1954-2014.

While there, I had a chat with Guy Combes, who claimed to have read my blogs.

“I think research is much over-rated,” I said. “I don’t know anything about you at all, except that you have a luxuriant moustache and used to be in a comedy duo called Moonfish Rhumba.”

“Usual story,” said Guy. “Failed actor. Robin Williams said comedy was his therapy, not that I’d compare myself with Robin Williams, of course.”

“Well for one thing,” I said, “you’re not dead.”

“Or depressed,” said Guy, “though I have my moments. Anyway, Robin Williams said that, between his acting jobs, he got really ‘down’ so, as a way of therapy, he started doing stand-up. There was no mental illness, just boredom. Obviously, I have a level of mental illness: you’ve got to have.”

“So you HAVE read my blogs!” I said.

The new Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee's

The new Stash Gallery at Vout-O-Reenee’s

“Yes,” he said. “The suicide one. I’ve got a story, though nothing quite as exotic as that. I was sent to boarding school and I hated it and, in the process, I drank a bottle of shampoo. The boys in the dormitory found it very entertaining. They were giving me shoe polish and all sorts to see if I could imbibe as much as possible until a snotty prefect decided to pack me off to hospital.”

“Thus,” I suggested, “you are here in this private club for surrealists.”

“Probably,” laughed Guy.

“Boot polish is an interesting one,” I said. “It’s solid.”

“Yeah,” agreed Guy. “It took a bit of chewing. It was probably the best performance I’ve done, because all these boys were giving me all these different things to imbibe and I would find different ways to look like I was but not. With the shampoo, I put my tongue in the bottle, so I wasn’t actually drinking much at all.”

“University?” I asked.

Guy Combes at Vout-O-Reenee’s last night minus shampoo

Guy Combes at Vout-O-Reenee’s last night minus shampoo

“No,” said Guy. “I was taking lots of drugs at the time and was very interested in Alice in Wonderland and there was this place in Bournemouth… a theme park about Alice in Wonderland… There was a girl who is now a member of Vout-O-Reenee’s as well – Julia Pittam – and she got the job as Alice and I got the job as the White Rabbit because I needed to get my Equity card somehow. So I was running around the theme park trying not to get beaten up by children and then I got promoted to being the Mad Hatter.”

“Is that promotion?” I asked. “I don’t know the hierarchical structure of Alice in Wonderland theme parks.”

“Well,” explained Guy, “the owner was originally the Mat Hatter. Rich toff. Land-owner sort. It was a good learning process, a great way to develop a skill of working an audience because the airport was opposite the theme park. Or maybe that was the drugs.”

“So,” I said, “you wanted to be an actor, you became a rabbit and now you are making, I imagine, a good living appearing in TV commercials for Eat.”

“As Mr Mozzarella,” said Guy. “Yes. Well, that’s running until Christmas and then they’re stopping it.”

There is footage on YouTube of Mr Mozzarella at the Corby Parliamentary By-Election in 2012.

“You’re very memorable Mr Mozzarella,” I said. “Have you done other commercials?”

“There was one,” said Guy, “which kind of segued into the Mat Hatter – I got a job as Barbara Windsor’s sidekick in a bingo ad and they dressed me as the Mad Hatter.”

“What were you doing?” I asked. “Throwing gambling chips around?”

“Barbara Windsor was the Queen and I was Jackpot Joy… No, no… I was Jack. She was the Queen of Hearts and the girl who played Joy went on to get a part in Game of Thrones as the prostitute.”

“You’d be good in Game of Thrones,” I said. “You have a medieval face.”

Game of Guys – Is this a good medieval face?

“Yes,” said Guy. “One of my favourite comedy gig heckles was Look out! Here comes a medieval terrorist!

“But you’ve never done stand-up?” I asked. “You’re an actor.”

“I’ve attempted it,” said Guy, “but it never really works. I realised, with me, everything has to have a character attached to it. I struggle with myself.”

“Which one of you wins?” I asked.

“Don’t know.”

“You’re married,” I said.

“Yes.”

“So you are a sensible, level-headed married chap.”

“My dad was a bank manager,” said Guy, “and I think I’ve inherited some of that. Today I was at home doing the car insurance and organising all the bills and sorting out our mortgage.”

“So,” I said, “sort-of level headed with odd things thrown in.”

“I got a good job in the middle of the Edinburgh Fringe this year. My agent phoned me up and said: They want a moustache in Germany.”

“Do you get a lot of moustache-related work?” I asked.

“Well,” said Guy. “It’s amazingly useful. You get all these actors out of work and, if only they just grew something…”

“I was,” I said, “watching the TV news the other day and there was this research scientist saying that, in 25 years time, people who have lost their legs will be able to re-grow their legs but, for some reason, not their feet. They would still need artificial feet.”

“So I was in Edinburgh,” continued Guy, “and they flew me to Berlin. Lovely. They shot me first thing in the morning with the Berlin skyline, just as the sun was coming up, and all I had to do was smoulder, look into the camera and say What are you looking at? in German.”

“You can speak fluent German?” I asked.

“No.”

“Surely,” I said, “they have people in Germany with moustaches?”

The Kaiser: a man, a myth, a moustache

The Kaiser: a man, a myth, a moustache

“Apparently not of this size,” replied Guy.

“Did the Kaiser live for nothing?” I asked. “What do you want to be ultimately? A respected actor not a comedy person?”

“It’s just a magical journey,” said Guy. “I don’t know where it’s gonna lead next. I suppose I’m just compelled to do certain things. At the moment, I’m working on various comedy characters that I’m going to be taking around comedy clubs.”

“Stand-up comedy?” I asked.

“Character stand-up,” said Guy. “When I did my show here last week, people seemed to enjoy the song and the puppets. So I think more songs, more puppets. I think I will pop down to Pear Shaped and try out some things. I wanted to work some more with the Aunt Rene thing, but I think I’ve sorted exhausted that. It all started going quite dark last week.”

“Dark is good,” I said. “It will get you reviews.”

Guy Combes eating his Aunt Rene’s brain in show last week (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

Guy Combes eating his Aunt Rene’s brain in show last week (Photograph by M-E-U-N-F)

“Ye-e-e-e-s,” said Guy. “But what happened the other night was un-planned. The eating of my aunt’s brain. That took me by surprise. I wasn’t sure how to end the show. I thought: I’m either going to have to throw her brain into the audience like some clown would do… or get someone up to eat it… or I’m going to have to eat it. I don’t know if it was fitting for the memory of my auntie to eat her brain in front of loads of strangers. But maybe that’s the way to go. Maybe that’s where my future lies.”

“Eating people’s brains?” I asked.

“Maybe,” said Guy.

Guy at the Stash Gallery with a woman who had been gored by a bull

Guy at the gallery with a woman who had been gored by a bull

And then we went off to look at the Molly Parkin exhibition.

Guy got talking to an interesting artist who told him she had been gored by a bull.

Foolishly, I did not record her story and did not get her name or contact details.

Life is full of missed blogs.

On Vimeo, there are excerpts from some of Guy’s TV ads.

GuyCombesShowreel

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Edinburgh Fringe: Want to become a comedian? – Why? Are you ****ed up?

At the end of yesterday morning’s blog, I mentioned the surprisingly not-yet-legendary fact that comics Bob Slayer and Jeff Leach once, in British English, wanked into the face of an audience member at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I had heard before of this (in British English) wankathon, but not the fact that an audience member was involved.

Yesterday afternoon, coming out of The Grouchy Club, I accidentally bumped into Dave Chapple – not to be confused with American comic Dave Chappelle – Dave Chapple is the afore-mentioned wank-incident audience member who is, this year, trying to set a record by seeing 287 comedy shows at the Fringe.

One man faces up to near-legendary Fringe status

This man’s face played a role in Fringe history

“I only have 45 seconds before my next show starts,” he told me.

“It’s all true, then?” I asked him. “The story about the wanking?”

“Absolutely true.”

“Do you remember any details about it?” I asked. “The texture?”

“The texture? Not really.”

“Could you not get out of the way?” I asked. “Surely it takes a little time if they’re on stage and you’re in the front row of the audience?”

“Not in Espionage,” he replied. “They were on a stage and I was on a stool.”

“A stool?” I asked.

“A stool. Carole was sat next to me and she was laughing her head off. I was just grateful I had my glasses on.”

Other oddities at the Fringe yesterday involved…

  • The re-appearance of fake BroadwayBabys

    A re-appearance of the fake BroadwayBaby

    Random punters at The Hive last night having to choose between Sex With Children and Jim Davidson’s Funeral (a one-off performance).

  • Someone stopping me to ask when Machete Hettie was back from holiday in Bulgaria and if she was going to turn up at The Grouchy Club. I hope the answer is Yes. Ask no more. She is a Fringe legend in the making.
  • The re-appearance of what appear to be fake editions of the Broadway Baby free review sheet. When I phoned the person I thought might be responsible, I was told: Ha! Just you wait! I have other news, but I will hunt you down in two days.

Among the audience at The Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon were Italian comics Giacinto Palmieri & Luca Cupani and young comic Jake Baker.

Last year, my Grouchy Club co-host Kate Copstick, doyenne of comedy critics, was judge on the Gilded Balloon’s highly-esteemed annual So You Think You’re Funny talent show at the Fringe.

She was also a judge on an unspeakably dire comedy talent show on ITV called Show Me The Funny which kept trying to pretend it was not a comedy talent show by having the contestants go out and milk goats or some other pointless task.

Well, I do not think they ever WERE asked to milk goats, but it felt like it. Copstick, clearly cast as the evil Simon Cowell judge, was the only decent part of the show.

I express my own opinion.

Do not confuse the awful Show Me The Funny with the excellent So You Think You’re Funny.

It was on the excellent So You Think You’re Funny show that Copstick saw young comic Jake Baker.

A couple of months ago, he asked if Copstick could give him some advice on his act. She suggested he come along to The Grouchy Club one afternoon in August and perform in front of other comics. They would give him their comments.

London’s Evening Standard reports the death

Evening Standard reports the death

At the start of yesterday’s Grouchy Club show, I mentioned that Robin Williams had died, apparently from suicide. Copstick had not heard.

“That’s one of the horrible things about the Fringe,” she said. “things happen in the world and you don’t hear. Thousands die in Syria. ISIS are chopping the heads off children and the most terrible thing here is when someone is given 3 stars instead of 4 in a review.”

In the last week, I have had two comics sharing emotional wobblies with me because they got 3-star reviews that, they believed, panned them. When I read the reviews myself, both were enthusiastic, complimentary reviews with good quotes which could justifiably be extracted to publicise the show. Both comedians got good reviews. Both thought they had got bad reviews.

Copstick said: “I remember, when I was a performer here, spending two weeks being devastated because somebody had written: The show was great. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And Kate Copstick was a revelation.

“I thought: Well, they obviously expected me to be shit! The word on the street must be that I’m rubbish! I went into a spin about that, but real things were happening in the real world.”

After the shock of hearing about Robin Williams’ apparent suicide, she said: “But, then, there are no well-balanced people who go into comedy. You cannot be happy, well-balanced, with proper friends and be a comedian. You have to be fucked-up in some way.”

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

Religious Luca Cupani (left) & non-believer Giacinto Palmieri

“I am quite happy,” said Luca Cupani.

“Come on,” said Giacinto Palmieri, “you believe in God. How fucked-up is that?”

“He’s so powerful he scares me,” said Luca.

“You’re Catholic?” asked Copstick.

“Yes.”

“Well, there you are,” said Copstick. “You don’t get more fucked-up than being a practising Catholic.”

“That’s true,” said Luca.

“I shared a flat,” continued Copstick, “with a practising Irish Catholic and she was quite a badly-behaved girl. Every time we had an appalling, badly-behaved party, she ended up under three different guys with four different kinds of drugs and spent the next morning going: Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin!

“She would go down to Confession, come back and do exactly the same thing again and then go: Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin! It was virtually a split personality. Half of her was shagging as a main hobby and a way of life – she specialised in married men – Oh! It’s a sin! It’s a sin! It’s a mortal sin! – and the other half of her was devastated by the sin of it.”

“I am protected,” said Luca, “because I don’t have so many girls going down on me so far.”

“How long have you been a comic?” Copstick asked.

“Five months,” said Luca.

“Oh, it will come,” said Copstick. “Giacinto, tell him.”

“They don’t” Giacinto said. “At least, not to me.”

Jake Baker performed at The Grouchy Club

Jake Baker performed at The Grouchy Club

“I’ve had the same girlfriend since I was seventeen,” said 24-year-old Jake Baker.

“Wow!” said Copstick, shocked. “Seven years! That’s amazing!”

“There’s still plenty of time for him to ruin his life,” I said.

“You can’t be a comedian,” said Giacinto.”You’re not fucked-up enough.”

“Why do you want to be a comic?” asked Copstick.

“It looked like fun,” said Jake.

“For you or for the audience?” asked Giacinto.

“I quite liked stand-up when I was at university,” said Jake. “I thought I’d give it a go, I’ve enjoyed it so far, so I guess I’ll keep going as long as I enjoy it.”

“Why did you want to be a comedian?” Copstick asked Giacinto.

“Because I have things I want to say. I like to play with my mind.”

“That’s the other thing, isn’t it?” I said. “To get things out of your brain.”

“I think now,” Copstick said to Jake, “the danger for stand-up is that there are lots of guys around your age who don’t really want to be stand-up comics. They want to be famous and they want to be on TV and they probably want to host something ideally within the next 18 months. For the last few years I’ve been able to go and see clones who have not really got anything to say.

“I think the worst thing you can have in politics is a career politician – someone who has not had a life but who went to university to do politics and then become a politician’s assistant and then a politician. In the same way, there’s nothing worse than somebody who goes to a comedy workshop or class – and you can tell them a mile off. They’re doing it by numbers, because comedy is a secondary drive. The primary drive is fame and television.

“So I think you’re coming into comedy at an incredibly crowded time, which is bad news. But the good news is most of the crowd are shit.”

A helping hand held out in a comedic world

A helping hand held out in a comedic world

Just for the record, Jake was very good. Not perfect. But very promising.

As I finished writing this blog, a lady came up to the table I am sitting at in Fringe Central.

“Can I give you this?” she asked in a soft voice, handing me a card. “If you need anyone to talk to. I know it is not always easy for you guys.”

The card was from The Samaritans.

If only she knew.

If only she knew.

I had already had an e-mail from Lewis Schaffer.

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One man’s memory of two brief chats with Robin Williams… So It Goes.

John Ward's snow machine

John Ward’s snow machine

John Ward, designer of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards, has sent me a memory of comic Robin Williams, who seems to have committed suicide yesterday. John writes:


While in New York some years ago, I was on a couple of TV talk shows with Patch Adams, a doctor of medicine and self-taught clown who brought laughter to medicine and had a large following in the States because of his ethos of not turning sick people away because they don’t have medical insurance or money to pay for their treatment.

The book on which movie Patch Adams was based

The book on which the movie was based

We got on rather well as we have the same basic sense of humour and, on his visit to England a while later, he stopped with us for a few days as he was giving lectures to assorted medical colleges etc and he told us his book – Gesundheit! – was being turned into a film and he was hoping that Robin Williams would play him. Which he did. A few months later, our phone rang and it was Patch. He was at Robin Williams’ home in a ‘meet the person to study for the role’ type of thing and had explained he knew me and, before I could utter a word, I was handed over to Robin Williams. Robin spoke in fluent ‘machine gun’ and I think I kept up with him. After a few minutes of general banter of the ‘when next in the US, pop round’ sort of thing, I was handed back to Patch. I said I would be thrilled if he could send me a photo of them together.

Robin Williams’ photo sent to John Ward

Photo sent to John Ward by Robin Williams and Patch Adams with the message “nuts of the world unite”

A month later, a signed photo arrived of them together outside the front of Robin’s home with him in one of Patch’s clown costumes and – as Patch used assorted rubber noses in his clown roles – Robin had a selection of them stuck to his head. Another month on and the phone rings at 1.00am and this time it is Robin. I had only just got to bed as I had returned late from a talk engagement I had given, so I was a bit ‘four parts to the wind’.

Poster for the Patch Adams movie

American poster for the Patch Adams movie

But he then settled into telling me about the film that was to be called Patch Adams and, as we talked, he glided into a sort of ‘old English Army Officer’ type of voice not unlike Peter Sellers doing his Major Denis Blodnok in The Goon Show and we chatted for a while and eventually called it a day or – in my case – a morning. It is not often you meet or talk to a genius but think I may well have done on this occasion. Robin Williams RIP

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“Being a stockbroker is like being a comedian”: Russia Today’s Max Keiser

Max with Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You

Max (right) with Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You

If you want to see the heir of the late American comedian Bill Hicks performing, where do you look?

Not in British comedy clubs where Bill Hicks is the comedians’ comedian. Certainly not in America,  where Bill Hicks only came to most people’s attention fairly recently.

Perhaps one place to look is a television programme transmitted three times a week on the RT channel (The channel used to be called Russia Today.) American presenter Max Keiser is RT’s economic guru; he fronts his own show: The Keiser Report.

Max Keiser (extreme left) on 10 O'Clock Live

Max (perhaps suitably on the extreme left) on 10 O’Clock Live

Last month, he was a guest on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You. Last year, he was a guest on Channel 4’s comedy series 10 O’Clock Livepresented by Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker, Lauren Laverne and David Mitchell. 

Jimmy Carr came up to me after the show,” Max told me yesterday in Soho. “He was very nice and wanted to know more about my views on the economy. A few weeks later, I was having lunch over at his place – beautiful house, beautiful tennis court. He had me up there to talk about gold and silver. He said he was prepared to buy a ton – that’s 32,000 ounces – of silver. Since that lunch, the price has dropped about 50%. So that’s probably why I haven’t heard from Jimmy since then.”

“And you’re a fan of Bill Hicks,” I said.

“If anyone is a big fan of comedy and they watch my show on RT,” said Max. “they’ll recognise that I borrow heavily from him. I liked Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks and that raw, unvarnished truthfulness is something we’ve always tried to strive for in The Keiser Report. It’s just very raw and sometimes it works not from having people’s funny bone tickled but because they are uncomfortable.”

Max Keiser presents his Report on Russia Today TV

Max presents Keiser Report next to Boris Johnson’s City Hall

“But The Keiser Report,” I said, “is a current affairs show – a news show covering business and finance – that is not normally a comic area.”

“At this point in time,” replied Max, “the financial world and the banks are so pathetically corrupt that it’s impossible to cover them without having, to some degree, a satirical view. Very few things which banks do, in this country at this point, are legal. Virtually 100% of everything all the Big Four banks do is illegal.”

“Could you be pushing this angle because you’re a presenter on the Russian government’s own TV channel?” I asked.

“Well, the show is produced by Associated Press,” said Max. “which is an American company. The show is recorded at a TV studio that’s part of London & Partners, which is London Mayor Boris Johnson’s public relations division. And we make other shows with Associated Press which are sold to other outlets. We sold a show to Press TV.”

“Thats worse!” I said. “That’s the Iranian government!. These are dodgy people we are talking about.”

“These are fine international news organisations,” said Max. “We’ve done a show for BBC World News. We did shows for Al Jazeera English.”

Max, in Paris, gives his opinions to Al Jazeera English

Max, in Paris, gives his opinions to Al Jazeera English, Doha

“Ah, now,” I said. “Al Jazeera English is a very, very good news channel, though I don’t know about the Arabic version.”

“When we were in Doha where Al Jazeera English is based,” said Max, “there was this famous car park with the Al Jazeera English building on one side and the Al Jazeera Arabic building on the other and they really did not get along. So there is a perpetual stand-off in Doha and occasionally executives would be taken out to the car park and…”

“Beheaded?” I suggested.

“…left to their own devices,” continued Max. “And that’s not easy to do, because you need an exit visa. So, if executives have fallen into disfavour with Al Jazeera, they have to sneak out of the country.”

“What show did you make for them?” I asked.

“We had a long-standing contract to make a series of documentary films for a show called People & Power.”

“And why is Russia Today doing a capitalist business programme?

“Well, Russia Today has left the Cold War far behind unlike America, which still seems to want to be fighting the Cold War. If you look at the rhetoric coming out of the US, they still think it’s 1970. They don’t understand that Russia and the Russian economy has leapfrogged well beyond what was happening during the Cold War, well past the Soviet Union. They are very entrepreneurial in Russia and the TV network is very savvy. They have a bigger reach than the BBC – over 800 million. I think they’ve really taken the top position in the world right now as far as global international satellite and cable TV is concerned. And whatever we can do to support that, we’re happy to do. In this country, I would say the relationship with the Soviet Union is quite strained. Other countries have moved on from their Cold War perception.”

“You’ll get a Hero of the Soviet Union medal,” I told Max. “You’ve had other comedians on The Keiser Report, haven’t you?”

Max Keiser (right) interviews comedian Frankie Boyle on Russia Today

Frankie Boyle (left) interviewed on RT’s The Keiser Report

“Yes, we’ve had Frankie Boyle. I’m a big fan of his. A no-holds-barred comedian who’s willing to take big risks.”

“What were you talking about?”

“I think he and I talked about the state of the media.”

“But you’re a business show.”

“Yeah, but so much of business now is driven by perception and that perception is driven by the media. The Stock Market – whether it’s the FTSE 100 or the Dow Jones – it’s a hologram driven by perception. There’s no actual equity in those markets; it’s completely a bubble puffed up on zero collateral.”

“What were you before being a TV presenter?” I asked.

“I started out as a stockbroker for Paine Webber on Wall Street in the early 1980s. Before that, I was at New York University and I was doing stand-up comedy. I made the transition from doing comedy to being a stockbroker at the height of the Thatcher/Reagan period.”

“Why?”

“Because, surprisingly, being a stockbroker is not that much different from being a comedian. You’re telling stories to people, going through a lot of stories quite rapidly and you are essentially getting people not to laugh but to say: Give me 1,000 shares. To get to that moment, you use the same techniques as a comedian: pacing, word-choice, empathy.

“I was at the Comic Strip on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Jerry Seinfeld was the MC. Rich Hall was doing improvisation down in the theatre district. Robin Williams was at Catch a Rising Star. On the West Coast, you had Steve Martin. It was the beginning of that huge new wave when comedy became the new rock ’n’ roll and then TV shows came out of that.

“Watching Robin Williams work was pretty remarkable. During that time, before he went on stage, his ritual was to line up seven or eight Kamikaze cocktails. They’re extremely potent alcoholic concoctions. As the MC was about to introduce him, he’d just go Bang – Bang – Bang – Bang – Bang – Bang – Bang and down those suckers and then hit the stage with all that energy.

Max Keiser stands up for his beliefs - possible in Edinburgh

Max Keiser is into a post “Comedy is Rock ’n’ Roll” period

“Now we’re into a post Comedy is rock ’n’ roll period. I’m hoping we’re getting back to the more politicised comedy – the Lenny Bruce type of comedy – that’s what I’m hoping, anyway. A lot of people who do comedy here in London go to the United States and come back and tell me: It’s great; it’s all very funny; but it’s homogenised. They’re all doing the same kind of jokes, which is because of this huge thing called TV: the sitcoms. They’re looking for a certain type to fill a certain spot and there’s 10,000 comics trying to get that one spot and they’re all doing the same act.

“I love the comedy here in London, because it’s completely different. There’s a lot of political edginess to it. A lot of comedians here identify themselves as ‘left wing’. In America, there is no left wing. There’s only slightly right-of-centre and extreme right-of-centre and the fanatical right.”

“Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

“I went for the first time last year.”

“You should do a show up there,” I suggested.

“I would like to take a show up there though, if I do, I’d have to workshop it here in London beforehand. But I’ve already been doing my Stand-Up Rage show in cities around the world: Dublin, Los Angeles, London.

“People are fans of my rages on The Keiser Report and this is a 60-minute rage without any control whatsoever. I go into a fugue state in a white rage. Afterwards, I literally have no memory of what I’ve said. It’s a cathartic experience and the audience, in many cases, achieve a level of ecstasy.”

There was a slight pause.

“So you don’t have a script,” I asked. “You just go off on a rant?”

“I start off on one basic idea,” explained Max, “and I will refer to headlines and each usually triggers a good ten minutes of rage. Then, to catch my breath, I will maybe cut to a 20 second music or video blurb.”

“And you rage about politics?” I asked.

“It’s about the bankers and the banksters because, when you have this merging of the private banking interests and the political interests otherwise known as Fascism… I mean, London is the capital of financial terrorism. This is where the financial Jihadis congregate.”

“You do good headline,” I said.

“If you go down to the City of London,” continued Max, “they have the madrassas – otherwise known as HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland. These are the madrassas of banking fanaticism. They pursue market fundamentalism which says they can blow themselves up and others around them – not to seek THE Prophet but some profit.”

(The Keiser Report is transmitted on RT, with editions also available on YouTube)

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A man with Tourette’s Syndrome and an FBI file… Plus how comedian Ricky Grover insulted me.

So, the story goes like this…

On Monday night, I went to the New Act of the Year auditions at the Comedy Cafe in Shoreditch, one of the jolliest and most brightly-coloured comedy clubs in Britain. A film crew was coincidentally filming scenes for an upcoming movie called The Comedian.

The Comedy Cafe’s owner, Noel Faulkner, has had a ‘colourful’ past which he revealed in his astonishing 2005 Edinburgh Fringe show Shake, Rattle & Noel. I first met him when we were both helping-out our mutual chum Ricky Grover by appearing in an early pilot/showreel for his planned movie Bulla, which Ricky has recently completed as a ‘pucka’ feature film with Steven Berkoff, Omid Djalili, Peter Capaldi etc.

Noel has Tourette’s Syndrome which doesn’t mean he swears uncontrollably but does mean he occasionally twitches uncontrollably… except, oddly, he doesn’t do it when he’s performing on stage or on film. This non-twitching while performing caused surreal problems during the autobiographical Shake, Rattle and Noel show, as he was talking about how he twitched uncontrollably without actually twitching uncontrollably.

Noel has lived a life-and-a-half and he isn’t through with it yet.

After being brought up in Ireland by the Christian Brothers and working on fishing trawlers and having some peripheral encounters with the IRA, he was in Swinging London at its height where he got involved with the young Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood and sold Gary Glitter his first glitter suit. Noel’s twitching made him a wow in discos – people thought he was a great disco dancer – and it was assumed to be drug-induced, so he fitted perfectly into the very Swinging London scene.

Then he went to hippie San Francisco before Haight Ashbury turned into Hate Ashbury and became a friend of the young, before-he-was-famous Robin Williams. Noel ended up on the run from the FBI, went to New York as an actor and comic, dealt directly with and smuggled dope for the early Colombian drug cartels, was caught and deported from the US, returned to London and set up the Comedy Cafe, one of the few purpose-built comedy venues in the capital.

So this – the Comedy Cafe – was where I found myself on Monday night for the New Act of the Year comedy auditions, the 28th year of the contest – it used to be called the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year (Eddie Izzard came 12th one year). The final used to be held a the Hackney Empire, which organisers Roland & Claire Muldoon ran. This year, the final takes place at The Barbican on Saturday 19th March.

It was well worth going because I saw for a second time the promising up-and-coming stand-up Pat Cahill and, for the first time, the very interesting indeed Duncan Hart who had a dark and very well-crafted set about a heart problem in a hospital, a drug overdose, a mugging at gunpoint and much more. Not obvious comedy subjects and potentially difficult to tailor for comedy in a 5-minute spot, but he performed it flawlessly.

The only downside was that, looking around the Comedy Cafe’s full room, I was, as usual, almost certainly the oldest punter in the room. This depressing scenario is even more depressing when I am up at the Edinburgh Fringe and street flyerers ignore me without a second glance because – clearly, at my age – I can’t possibly be interested in comedy.

Ricky Grover cast me as a bank manager in his Bulla showreel because he has always said I look like a banker (and I don’t think he was using Cockney rhyming slang). After the financial meltdown, I should take this as an insult. And I will. But I won’t tell him.

It would be far too dangerous.

It will be our little secret.

Just you and me.

OK?

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