Tag Archives: Roseanne Barr

Oy! What do you say to the frustrated organiser of a Jewish comedy day?

At The Grouchy Club yesterday: a bad selfie of Coptick and me

The Edinburgh Grouchy Club, being revived in North London

I mentioned this last year. Pay attention.

On 22nd February this year, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I are reprising our Edinburgh Fringe show The Grouchy Club for a Jewish Comedy Day at the London Jewish Cultural Centre. Neither of us are Jewish and the tickets are only £5. Life is full of constant surprises.

The organiser of this fine upcoming Jewish Comedy Day is Arlene Greenhouse. We met when she came to see a couple of Grouchy Club shows in Edinburgh last August.

Arlene is also organising a Kitchen Komedy show tomorrow night at the Hendon Park Cafe headlined by US comic Avi Liberman. It promises: “Kosher food, including yummy sushi.”

So yesterday, obviously, I had a chat with Arlene at Hendon Park Cafe.

Yesterday, she paid for the food.

Afterwards, I realised I had forgotten to take a photo of her for this blog. So I Googled “Arlene Gorodensky mum’s the word” on Google Images.

To find out why that name, you will have to read further.

This is not a picture of Arlene Greenhouse

Not the real Arlene Greenhouse

The interesting thing is that the first actual facial image to be displayed by Google Images was one of Wonder Woman.

“I like asking the questions,” Arlene told me yesterday. “I don’t like being judged.”

“I don’t judge,” I told her.

“This is my debut into – I dunno,” said Arlene. “Promoting? Organising?”

“Well, you’ve got a great line-up for the February Comedy Day,” I said, “present company excepted. I’ve read the programme. What do you see it as?”

“It’s celebrating Jewish comedy,” said Arlene, “like a spa day – where you come and get your fill of laughter and feel better for five days afterwards.”

“It’s just a talky-talky day?” I asked.

“No,” said Arlene, “We have everything. We have…”

“Strippers?” I asked hopefully.

“Yes, we do have a stripper,” said Arlene. “We have Lynn Ruth Miller performing. But, more seriously, it’s always been a very important part of our culture to be able to laugh at all the hardship. My first gig, I performed at…”

“You performed?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“I didn’t know that,” I said, “but I find research is over-rated.”

Still not a photo of Arlene Greenhouse - This is Roseanne Barr

Not Arlene Greenhouse – Roseanne Barr

“My very first gig ever – if I can call it a gig,” said Arlene, “I was on-stage with Roseanne Barr in Montreal in 1983 (Arlene comes from Montreal) and we were volleying Jewish jokes back-and-forth.”

“This,” I asked, “was when Roseanne Barr was still unknown?”

“No. she was already known.”

“So your first gig was onstage with a famous comedienne?”

“Yeah. And – though my daughter thinks this is a lie – I did tell Ellen DeGeneres in 1982 after her show in a little seedy basement comedy club in New York that she was gonna be famous. She was so amazing. The type of humour I like. She was talking about bridesmaids and how the bride chooses her ugliest friends to walk down the aisle and, to make doubly sure she shines, she puts them in slime-green bridesmaids dresses.”

“How long were you doing comedy for?” I asked.

“I wasn’t,” said Arlene. “I have had one gig maybe every two decades. I have done about six now. My biggest regret in life is that I never wrote for Joan Rivers. I could never figure out how to do it.”

“You had the opportunity?” I asked.

“No.”

“Why should you have written for her?” I asked.

“Because my humour is the same as hers.”

“So,” I asked, “you must be a frustrated writer-performer?”

“I’d prefer to write,” said Arlene. “I do like the limelight but I would prefer to write, because you can do that in your pyjamas.”

“You should write for Lewis Schaffer,” I said.

Lewis Schaffer last night - aspiring moustache twirler

Lewis Schaffer not to be confused with Arlene

“About a year ago,” said Arlene, “I went and saw Lewis Schaffer and I said: Lewis Schaffer! Gimme the mike! and I got up and he was heckling me the whole time and I  felt very comfortable with that because, when I was growing up, you sat around the table in my house and you heckled each other. That’s how we communicated. There was never a compliment. It was like: You think you look good? You don’t look good.”

“Lewis Schaffer is at your February Comedy Day too,” I said, “interviewing critic Bruce Dessau.”

“Yeah. He’s not gonna embarrass me is he?”

“Lewis Schaffer?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t really know Lewis Schaffer, do you?” I said.

“I do.”

“Well of course he’s going to embarrass you,” I told her.

“Oh God,” said Arlene. “I’m gonna have to threaten him. Seriously.”

“You like his act?” I asked.

“I like a comedian in a jacket. It makes a big difference.”

“Potatoes have jackets,” I said. “I preferred him when he dyed his hair. Why don’t you do something about writing? They’re crying out for writers at the BBC.”

“I did write a sitcom script,” said Arlene. “I thought it was quite good.”

“I’m working on something very similar myself,” I told her.

“About what?”

“About whatever you are about to tell me. The trouble with the Beeb is that they’re inclined to steal people’s ideas. So what did you do with your script?”

“I sent it to the BBC and that was it.”

“You heard nothing back?” I asked.

Arlene shrugged.

“So,” I said, “this thing tomorrow night…”

American comic Avi Liberman (right)

American comic Avi Liberman (right) will be in Hendon…

“I met this guy Avi Liberman on Facebook,” Arlene told me. “He said he was coming to London so I said: Do you want me to organise a gig for you?

“My cheap psychology,” I said, “still tells me you are a frustrated comedy performer. Or writer. You…”

“I am such a frustrated comedian person,” agreed Arlene.

“But, in real life…” I prompted.

“I’m a psychotherapist,” Arlene told me, “but I’m winding down, because I do find comedy a lot more…”

“Me too,” I said, “You could spend a career doing therapy on comics.”

“Look at Lewis Schaffer…” said Arlene. “I’m talking as a psychotherapist now, rather than as a comedy audience. Lewis Schaffer is funny, but he has a fear of success. If he would just put the effort into it, he would be top, top. You have all these students doing academic papers on him because he really is something to study. This whole persona built on failure. Is it a persona? Is it the self? What is it?”

“I think,” I said, “that loads of comedians sabotage their careers intentionally. Well, maybe subconsciously. They know what it’s like to fail and to struggle and they know they can cope with that: the empty, slight pain in their stomach.”

“They know they can deal with the familiar,” said Arlene.

“Yeah,” I said. “But they’re subconsciously frightened of succeeding, because it’s the unknown. Lewis Schaffer would be a great presenter of documentaries – or be good on TV panel shows – because he’s got lots of interesting views and odd knowledge but he can’t duplicate the exact same word-for-word act time-after-time, which is what the want for stand-up on TV. What sort of psychotherapy did you specialise in?”

Arlene Greenhouse - Mum’s The Word

Arlene’s 1996 book on mummy’s boys

“Nothing. Eclectic. But I also wrote a book in 1996: Mum’s The Word: The Mamma’s Boy Syndrome Revealed under my maiden name Arlene Gorodensky. It’s been translated into about six languages. I made no money out of it. Somebody has.”

“That’s publishing for you,” I said. “Are comedians mummy’s boys?”

“Not necessarily,” Arlene said. “I married my husband because he’s very funny.”

“What does he do?” I asked.

“He’s a lawyer. That’s not funny, but he’s probably one of the funniest people I know. When we have an argument, I always say to him: The only reason I don’t dump you is because you’re so funny. He proposed to me on our first date and, afterwards, he said: My mother told me to ask all women to marry me so they know I am serious and I’m not going to waste their time. I was the one out of a hundred that said Yes to him.”

“You said Yes on the first date?”

“Well, I didn’t say No.”

“Where was your first date?”

Arlene Gorodensky-Greenhouse as she wants to be seen...

Arlene Gorodensky-Greenhouse as she wants to be seen…

“He took me to the Savoy and told me: You’re going to have a very hard time getting married. I was 36 and he was 48. Neither of us had ever been married. The only good piece of advice my mother gave me was: Marry rich. Did I listen? No.”

“Yes you did,” I said. “He’s a lawyer!”

“She wanted me to marry a doctor,” explained Arlene. “I’ve been a disappointment to my parents.”

Arlene is performing comedy at the Hendon show tomorrow.

It will be interesting.

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Filed under Comedy, Psychology

RT financial guru Max Keiser’s view of journalists, criminal banker wankers & financing new Edinburgh Fringe shows

On Tuesday, the American journalist Abby Martin seemed to commit premeditated professional suicide on Russia’s RT TV channel – her employer – by criticising the Russian invasion of Crimea, part of the Ukraine.

On Wednesday, her colleague Liz Wahl did resign live on air.

I asked RT’s American financial guru Max Keiser about this when I chatted to him in London’s Soho yesterday.

“Journalists report on the news,” said Max, “and, at RT, they’re free to report anything they want to report. There’s no editorial restrictions. The young woman who resigned didn’t have to resign. After giving her thoughts, she could have easily stayed on just like Abby Martin stayed. Abby had comments regarding Russian policy on Ukraine and these comments were – eh – widely talked about and that’s what a journalist does. They either report the news or they give their opinion. But to then resign on air… That’s not journalism. That’s being a drama queen.”

Max, of course, is not shy of expressing his own opinions. Nor of unexpected actions.

A couple of weeks ago, he launched a crowdfunding site called StartJOIN, just one week after he launched his own alternative currency – Maxcoin.

Maxcoin was the biggest launch in the history of altcoins and achieved a $5 million market capitalisation within a week. Maxcoin is similar to BitcoinLitecoin and other crypto currencies.

Max himself, as I mentioned in a previous blog, is a former Wall Street stockbroker and still occasional stand-up comedian. But launching your own crypto currency is no joke.

“The Mt Gox bitcoin exchange has now collapsed,” I said. “Doesn’t that mean all these crypto currencies are vulnerable?”

“That one exchange collapsed,” said Max, “but it has nothing to do with Bitcoin. It’s like saying the London Bullion Market Association might collapse one day – but that wouldn’t really affect gold.

“We launched Maxcoin and it very quickly got up to $7 million in value and now it’s trading at around $2 million and it’s still one of the most actively-traded currencies out there. The miners who are mining it are profiting from their mining activities. Maxcoin launched successfully. And, based on the success of Maxcoin, we may soon see Stacycoin.”

“Based on Stacy Herbert?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Max.

Stacey Herbert with Max Keiser on RT series The Keiser Report

Stacey Herbert with Max Keiser on RT’s The Keiser Report

“Your TV co-presenter on The Keiser Report?”

“And my wife,” added Max. “She used to be a comedy script doctor. She worked on lots of TV shows here in the UK, including an animated sitcom called Popetown, commissioned by the BBC. But it was never aired here because the Catholic Church found it highly offensive. It had the voices of McKenzie Crook, Kevin Eldon, Matt Lucas, Bob Mortimer and Ruby Wax. Before that, Stacy was in Los Angeles doing TV and mostly film.”

Roseanne Barr is trying to finance a new film via your StartJOIN crowdfunding site,” I prompted.

“Yes,” said Max. “It’s called Bailout 2. It’s a sequel to a film called Bailout.”

“Now there’s a thing,” I said.

Bailout 2 is described on the StartJOIN site as “a hard-hitting, mud-slinging, social and political documentary exploring the Eurozone Crisis”.

“So what is your new StartJOIN site?” I tried.

“It’s crowdfunding – proper crowdfunding,” replied Max.

“For anyone?”

“Anyone. Any thing. I’m particularly interested in the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“But there’s no money in the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said.

“Well,” said Max. “I went to the Fringe for the first time last year and fell in love with it. But you hear over-and-over again about performers going up there and losing money. Crowdfunding seems perfect as a way to solve that problem: to get money up-front so you don’t have that economic risk. All the shows: comedy, theatre, music, lectures, whatever.

“The economics of the Fringe are terrible because the performers lose money for the most part. They have to come up with money ahead-of-time, then they have to go there and try to make it back and, for the most part, they don’t. So crowdfunding is perfect for this; it allows performers to raise money before they go and, when they get to the Fringe, they can concentrate on just doing their show.

“I’m going to make it a personal goal with StartJOIN to try to get as many acts as possible financed and up there. It’s an example of where alternative economics can step in and solve what I perceive to be a problem.”

“You see yourself as a modern-day Medici helping artists?” I asked.

“My hope with the Fringe is that, if it works this year, next year we can get even more active by actually putting as much additional financial resources as we can behind acts. We wanna make it the crowdfunding home for Fringe in the UK. We’re going to promote it as aggressively as we can. My intention is to throw as much money as I can at good acts.”

“Isn’t launching a crowdfunding site and your own crypto currency dodgy?” I asked.

“I’ve already launched successful businesses before,” said Max. “The Hollywood Stock Exchange in Los Angeles which is now a $200 million business that was sold eventually to (the bank) Cantor Fitzgerald. And KarmaBanque (a hedge fund) was a big project. I did that with Zac Goldsmith here in the UK. Plus my TV show is very successful. RT has a huge global presence. It’s in 150 countries. We do three Keiser Report shows each week, each show broadcast three or four times. We figure my show gets about 20 million viewers a week.”

Max Keiser stands up for his beliefs - possible in Edinburgh

Max Keiser stands up for his beliefs – possibly in Edinburgh

“And, as for the Edinburgh Fringe…?” I said.

“I want to go up there this year myself with my own stand-up show Rage.”

“What are you going to rage about?” I asked.

“The bankers.”

“Isn’t that yesterday’s news?”

“I don’t think so, because the scandals are continuing and they will continue because there’s no reform. The regulations are getting weaker not stronger, so the criminality will get more intense.”

Criminality is rather a harsh word.”

“It’s an apt word because they break laws. They break laws and they pay civil fines to avoid criminal trials. They should not be allowed to simply pay civil fines for an amount of money that is less than the money they made breaking the law. These banks in the UK have a profit centre called Law Breaking.”

“Surely that’s a world-wide thing, not just in the UK,” I suggested.

“The UK is uniquely positioned,” argued Max, “because it has the weakest regulations in the world. That’s why so many other banks in other countries outsource their banking fraud to the UK.”

“The UK is possibly going to recognise Bitcoins, isn’t it?” I said.

“This is what could be the saving grace for the UK. They could become the Bitcoin capital of the world, which could save them from destruction. I’m all for that.”

“And the Bitcoin Foundation is moving to London isn’t it?”

Mark Carney: Is this man a brain-damaged ex-hockey player?

Mark Carney: Is this fine Canadian man a brain-damaged ex-hockey player or is he only Chairman of the Bank of England?

“Yes. This is potentially going to save Britain from economic destruction. It will replace Mark Carney, the Chairman of the Bank of England.”

“You’re just averse to him because he’s a Canadian and you’re a Yank,” I said.

“He’s a Canadian and he’s a shifty fellah,” replied Max. “When he played hockey in college, he played as a goalie. If you’ve ever played hockey, you know that goalies almost universally suffer brain damage because they get hit in the head so many times with the puck. Mark Carney’s a perfect example of that… and that’s an example of what I’m going to rage about.”

“That’s it then,” I said. “Thanks for the chat.”

“What about Charlie Brooker? asked Max.

“What about him?” I asked

“He does a show called Newswipe,” said Max.

“Yes,” I had to agree.

“And,” said Max, “he takes the piss out of TV shows and commercials. He hasn’t had a clip from my show on his show yet.”

“Am I to be blamed for this?” I asked.

“I want the people to know I’m not happy,” said Max.

“Why are you not happy?”

“Because, by all rights, he should have a clip of my show on his Newswipe show. He’s the only guy I like in UK media. Charlie Brooker’s got the best show in the UK right now. It’s the funniest and it’s very biting satire. He’s a very talented guy.

Max Keiser with friend Alec Baldwin in New York’s Upper East Side

Max Keiser with Alec Baldwin in New York’s Upper East Side

“We were going to do a show together – It was going to be Charlie Brooker and myself and Alec Baldwin. We were going to do a show here in London. A writer friend of ours put it together. It was going to be shot over at the Gherkin building and we were going to try to sell it to an American distributor. We were talking to Charlie Brooker’s ‘people’. Alec Baldwin was going to be the executive producer, because he’s been a friend of mine for 30 years. He’s thinking about moving to London and doing theatre.”

“Well, now Kevin Spacey is leaving The Old Vic…” I mused. “What sort of TV show was it going to be?”

“It was based on that BBC World News series I did called The Oracle. We’re trying to bring it back for another season, but I keep Tweeting about how the BBC is full of drunks, so it’s gonna be a tough sell.”

“If you can’t sell it, no-one can,” I said.

Max Keiser is such a good salesman he could even, in my dreams, sell laissez-faire rather than blindfolded pragmatism to the Russians.

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Filed under Bankers, Comedy, Crowdfunding, Finance, Politics