Tag Archives: Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian

Ever-calm Chris Lincé laughs: “I’ve tried to work on the best and worst shows”

Chris Lincé

Chris – “Maybe I saw it and have repressed it. “

In a blog chat three weeks ago with Jody Kamali, an unjustly forgotten Edinburgh Fringe show called Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian came up.

‘Unjustly forgotten’ in the same way that it would be unjust if the sinking of the Titanic were forgotten.

Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian was outstandingly bad and the reviews reflected that.

Coincidentally, I chatted with writer-director Chris Lincé and it turned out he had been involved in the production – but only designing the sets.

“You never actually saw the stage show itself?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

“Trust me,” I said, “if you had seen it, you would have remembered it.”

“I definitely read the script,” said Chris. “Maybe I saw it and have repressed it. I really don’t know.”

“It was truly awful,” I said. “It was like when young male comics get on stage and talk about wanking… Sometimes you get girls who think they’ll be terribly avant-garde and progressive if they talk about sex and say the word ‘cunt’. It was all that. The central character worked for CUN TV, which was the best pun in it. Did the script read OK?”

“No,” said Chris. “It was that for an hour.”

“It’s not my memory misleading me?” I asked.

A 2005 photocall in Edinburgh for the Sally Swallows show

2005 photocall for Sally Swallows Fringe show

“No. To a certain extend, I think it’s someone watching things like the League of Gentlemen and not really understanding why it works. Looking at ‘dark’ things and learning the wrong lessons. Thinking: Ooh! If I’m as dark as possible, if I swear as much as possible, that will do and that will be funny! and I believe from people who saw the Sally Swallows show that… eh… that was not the case… Presumably you saw it with an audience?”

“Yes,” I said. “There were about 8 or 10 of us and, beforehand, there was a sense of enormous anticipation. We had all come see it because we had read the terrible reviews. But – and this is true – I do remember that the sets were really, really good. I seem to remember realising enormous work had been put into the sets and the sound and I think the costumes too.”

“A lot of effort went into the production,” agreed Chris, “and she hired a really good cartoonist to design the poster. I did a painted backdrop of London and there was an ice cream van that I spent ages making in my living room. It was huge and heavy.”

“This was for the sperm ice cream scene?” I asked.

“I guess so,” said Chris. “I remember there was a hairy clam on a plate and a small, deformed puppet body that I think one of the characters wore around their neck.”

“The hairy clam on the plate,” I said, “must surely have been a vagina?”

“I think that was the innuendo,” said Chris.

“Any contact since,” I asked, “with the lady who created the show?”

Gail Porter projected her ideas on Parliament

Gail Porter’s successful Parliamentary projection

“Well,” said Chris, “shortly after doing that show, she sent me lots of naked photographs of herself… to be projected onto the Houses of Parliament. I think it was after FHM had projected Gail Porter onto the Houses of Parliament and so she wanted to project herself onto them to promote the raising of import tax on fur.

“She was going to have a photograph of herself, completely naked – I think with a little aeroplane over her lady parts. I got as far as re-touching the photos and adding text to it – and the aeroplane – but then she found out how much it would cost to hire a projector that big and the whole project fell apart. That was the last I heard from her.”

“I don’t know what you are,” I told Chris. “You are difficult to categorise. When I first met you, it was as a writer. But then other people see you as a director. And now I find out you were a set designer.”

“I’ve tried,” laughed Chris, “to work on the best and worst shows that have been out there!”

“Most recently…?” I prompted.

“I script edited a small, independent British movie,” said Chris. “Superbob. Been in cinemas, now available on DVD and video-on-demand and all those other exciting things. Written by Brett Goldstein, directed by Jon Drever.


SuperBob – “very sweet and heartwarming”

“It was based on a short film that Brett and Jon had made and they developed it into a feature script, got lots of producers involved. But, like any low-budget film, it took five years to get anybody to see it.

“The shoot was about three weeks, two and a half years ago. Within the last six months or so, they got distribution for it and it’s been out there, people have been liking it and the reviews are good. All the things you hope for but don’t expect. All the reviews seem to say it’s very, very sweet film; heartwarming.”

“What,” I asked, “is the elevator pitch for it?”

“It’s about a postman who is hit by a meteorite and it endows him with superpowers. He gets hired by the Ministry of Defence to be the world’s only superhero. But this film is set on his day off.”

(There is a trailer for Superbob on YouTube)

“You directed,” I said, “Brett Goldstein’s last three Edinburgh Fringe stage shows and you directed two other shows at the Fringe this year… but you didn’t actually go up to Scotland… Don’t you have to up if you’re directing something?”

“I can’t be doing with that any more,” explained Chris. “If it’s not directed by the time it starts, it’ll never be ready… It’s only hand-holding after that. Each of Brett’s shows I work on for about a year and a half. The hard work is early on.”

“You do a lot of script editing,” I said. “Isn’t that frustrating, because you’re making someone else’s writing better but getting no credit for it?”

“You don’t get the immediate praise a stand-up gets when he’s performing,” admitted Chris. “but, as a non-performer, I don’t particularly crave that. You do want to be recognised for it so you can get more work off the back of it.”

“How does anybody actually direct stand-up?” I asked.

“The word directing is almost meaningless,” replied Chris. “It can mean almost being a co-writer or turning up at the last minute and suggesting performance or presentation things. I’ve got involved in shows at all types of different stages of development. “

“What are you doing next?” I asked.

“I’m directing a short play at the New Diorama Theatre – The Story Project’s Chapter 2 – starting on Tuesday – about a teenage girl who’s being trolled and abused online.”

“Have you,” I asked, “decided to concentrate on being a director now?”

“I do whatever people ask me to do. Bits of script editing; bits of directing; a little bit of writing recently, to stop myself getting rusty.”

“Can you be rusty in writing?”

“I think so, yeah.”

“Have you got ambitions?”

“Only to do more of the same but get paid better – or paid – for it. I’m always busy but not always productive.”

Chris Lincé’s showreel is on Vimeo.


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Jody Kamali has learned from mistakes like being in the worst Edinburgh show

Jody Kamali with some flowers yesterday

Jody Kamali sat with some flowers yesterday

I have never had a good memory.

A good visual memory, yes.

But, for facts, no. A shit memory.

This can cause problems and embarrassments… like yesterday afternoon.

I met up with character comedy performer Jody Kamali whom – as it turned out – I wrongly thought I had first encountered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012.

It started off well enough.

He wanted me to mention his Hallowe’en show this Friday in Sydenham.

Jody Kamali’s House of Horror

Fernando’s House of Horror Comedy Variety Show

“It’s called Fernando’s House of Horror Comedy Variety Show,” he told me. “It’s my shambolic through-character from Spectacular! (his 2015 Edinburgh Fringe show) but more dark – with Marny Godden, Cheekykita, The Hoover Lady, a man who is half-human half-walrus and Dan Lees as a jazz-singing Freddie Krueger and a Half-Frog Half-Matthew McConaughey.”

“I saw the half-human half-walrus last week,” I said, “at the Spectacular Spectrum of Now. What is The Hoover Lady?”

“She’s got Hoovers,” explained Jody. “Giant Hoovers. Very dark and strange. She goes around sucking people up.”

“There used to be a man with a talking Hoover,” I said.

“Yes,” said Jody. “I saw him busking years ago on the tube.”

“Wrong place,” I said. “I saw a band of seven Romanian gypsies busking on a tube train the other day in the rush hour. They hadn’t thought it through. It is not a good idea in the rush hour and also they would have to divide any money seven ways. Wrong time; wrong place; wrong act.”

“I’m doing my solo Edinburgh Fringe show Spectacular! in Chippenham on 26th November,” Jody prompted.

Jody Kamali - half Iranian

Iran comics: the new rock ’n’ roll

“That’s very wise,” I said. “You’re part-Iranian, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” said Jody. “Half Iranian.”

“British comedy seems to be awash with part-Iranians,” I said. “There’s you, Patrick Monahan, Omid Djalili, Shappi Khorsandi…”

“Iranian comedy in the States is rock ’n’ roll,” said Jody. “They fill stadiums.”

“Iranians?” I said.

“American-Iranians,” said Jody.

“And you’re from Bristol,” I said.

“My mum is from Bristol. She’s half Irish and apparently we also have black ancestry, which makes sense, because Bristol was a big slave trade area. I’m told ‘Jody’ as a name in the black slave community meant someone who went off with other people’s wives.”

“No thespians in the family?” I asked.

“No. No. But, in Bristol, HTV had a drama centre. They used to put the kids on local TV shows. There was money going around in local ITV in the 1990s. I guess that’s how I got a taste for performing.”

“So,” I asked, “you wanted to be an actor?”

Jody Kamali - Not a stand-up comedian – a levitated character one

Not a stand-up comedian – he’s more of a levitated character one

“I got obsessed with musical theatre for some reason,” said Jody, “but I don’t sing very well. When I was at university in 1999, I did a comedy course called The Tut and Shive and on the course was Patrick Monahan, Steve Carlin – it was Carling with a G then – Steve Williams and I think, the year before me, Josie Long had done that course.

“It was very stand-up. It was 90% persona, 5% material and 5% the bollocks to get up and do it. I think I’m addicted to it. A compulsion to do it, no matter what. When I was 6 or 7, the teacher asked who wanted to be in the Nativity play and I remember that feeling of wanting to do it.”

“Who did you play?” I asked.

“I think it was Joseph’s dodgy brother who betrayed him”

“Are you sure? I asked. “All I ever got was stories about sheep and the Virgin Mary. Was there was a dodgy brother lurking around?”

“I’m sure there was an evil brother,” said Jody.

Jodi Kamali - money man 2012

Jody was Dirty Filthy Rich at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2102

“And now you’re a character comedian,” I said. “When I first met you in Edinburgh, your character was that red-braces, inspirational business speaker guy.”

“Shall we,” Jody asked, “go back to when you first reviewed me? Do you remember that?”

“Oh dear,” I said. “No I don’t. Did I review you? This sounds like it is going to be bad. What did I say?”

“You were reviewing for Chortle in 2004,” Jody reminded me.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“I particularly remember it…” Jody started.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“…because you called the show an omelette without an egg.”

“Oh dear,” I said. “Really?”

“But, weirdly,” said Jody, “it’s gone from Chortle.”

Jody Kamali - An Audience With Dominguez

“We devised the show a week before we did it,” he admits now

“Sounds rather vicious,” I said. “Dear me. That’s why I don’t do reviews any more. Now I just blog about people I like doing interesting things well. Like you.”

“I was young,” said Jody. “There were three of us. We devised the show a week before we did it, which we thought was enough. It was about a Latin-American pop star.”

“The next year, we did the Sally Swallows show.”

“Oh God,” I said. “Is that Londonian?”

“Yes. Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian.“

“Oh shit!” I said.

“That was in 2005. So, John,” said Jody, “we do have a history.”

“I still,” I said, “bear the mental scars of having to sit through an hour of Londinian.”

“The guy,” said Jody, “who was in my 2004 show AND in Londinian is now a very, very successful children’s television presenter. But we had no creative control over Londonian. The woman behind it just wanted it to be gross and was obsessed by The League of Gentlemen. As performers, we did not have any input. Not anything.”

A 2005 photocall in Edinburgh for the Sally Swallows show

This seldom seen publicity shot from a 2005 photocall possibly shows what Sally Swallows and the Rise of Londinian was trying to achieve

“I have a vague memory,” I said, “of thinking: Three of these people are far too good to be in this show. There was so much work put into that show, but I think it was the worst thing I have ever seen at the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Yeah. She put a lot in it,” said Jody.

“The design, the music, everything,” I said. “Loads of work. All excellent. All except the script and the idea.”

“She was amazing at selling it,” said Jody. “She got lots of BBC people in. She got a centre spread in the Scottish Sun. there was a big spread in The Scotsman. The amount of press she got was unbelievable. She hyped the thing up because she believed in it so much as the next big thing. It was so over-the-top. My role was basically that I was an ice-cream seller and, when I ran out of ice-cream, I had to masturbate into a cone and give it to the kids.”

“There were kids?” I asked.

“One of the guys,” Jody reminded me, “played a kid going: Hello! Do you have any ice cream, please? and, as I climaxed, I had to sing as an operatic tenor: Eeaauuugh!!!”

“I went to see it,” I told Jody, “because the reviews were so catastrophic. There was so much anticipation in the audience before the show, because we had all come knowing it was a catastrophe. There was real excitement in the air.”

“I remember your review,” said Jody.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“That is exactly what you said,” Jody told me: “Oh dear… Where do I start?… I remember The Scotsman review was: Avoid like the plague.”

In fact, Jody’s memory is faulty. The Scotsman’s review read (in its entirety):

Complete revulsion is too pleasant a summary of my feelings for this sketch show. Not one ‘joke’ leaves the listener feeling anything less than soiled. Avoid like death.

“What’s the woman behind it doing now?” I asked.”

Jody Kamali - “and all because the lady loves supermarket bags

“…and all because the lady loves plastic supermarket bags”

“She’s now in wildlife presenting,” Jody told me. “She does things with Bill Oddie. She had a part in EastEnders years ago and wanted to do comedy, but I think she…”

“…realised the error of her ways?” I suggested.

“I’ve wiped all evidence of it from my CV,” Jody said. “My agent told me I should put it in, ‘because they’ll see how you’ve progressed’. But I said: No way. I can’t be associated with it. It was the worst show… For me it was like How not to do an Edinburgh Fringe show, but I did learn how hype can really sell a show.”

“You can learn a lot more from a failure than from a success,” I suggested. “What is your Edinburgh show next year?”

“At the moment, I’m toying with… As a performer you toy with: Do I take it the next level now?

“Which is?” I asked.

“Really push yourself to do something even more risky, more personal, but blend it…”

Jody |Kamali with the same flowers yesterday

Jody Kamali sat with the same flowers yesterday

“It’s easier,” I said, “for a reviewer or a feature writer to do a piece about a personal, autobiographical show. Stand-ups telling gags are just doing the same things in not-very-different ways. Variety acts are more interesting because they fall into different areas. But all autobiographical shows are, by definition, unique and have more meat to write about. My Ten Years of Heroin Hell or whatever.”

“But why are we doing shows at the Fringe?” asked Jody. “Just to get noticed? Or to do a really entertaining show?”

“The eternal question,” I said. “And not just in Edinburgh.”

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