Tag Archives: sexism

Lewis Schaffer and the unopened letters from his mother: “All women are crazy”

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his Leicester Square audience

The penultimate time I saw London-based American comedian Lewis Schaffer, he was touting a show in a venue “near Leicester Square” in which the audience had to turn up at a corner of the square and be led to a highly secret venue.

When the audience assembled, he took them to the upstairs floor of a Burger King bar on the corner of the square, where he found a table and sat around chatting to them.

Now, in the lead-up to the Edinburgh Fringe, he is performing a new Monday night show in a more conventional venue – a room above a pub near London Bridge, an hour-and-a-half after his weekly Resonance FM Radio show which is transmitted live. His radio show is allegedly specifically for Americans living in Nunhead, London. But the guests are almost never American and rarely come from or have any link to Nunhead.

“Come along to the radio show and sit in the corner,” he told me. “You don’t have to say anything.”

Lucy Frederick with radio hosts Lisa Moyle and Lewis Schaffer

The actual guest on the radio show last Monday was comic Lucy Frederick, though he did ask me a couple of questions, introducing me as “the worst guest ever”.

In a pub after the radio show, he talked about his upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show Unopened Letters From My Mother

He has a whole batch of letters sent to him in London from his mother in New York over a ten year period. Each night, he will genuinely open a different sealed letter received from her which he has never read.

“Every woman that I know,” he told us in the pub, “has said their mother was insane, so it has given me the impression that maybe all mothers are insane.”

“I am not a parent,” said Lucy Frederick, “and I don’t really plan to be, but maybe maternal love almost drives you insane. The weight of my mother’s affection and love was quite a burden. Which sounds a dreadful thing to say, but I think living up to that was…”

“I have a feeling,” interrupted Lewis Schaffer, “that is what’s going to be in my mother’s letters. The burden of my mother’s love.”

“You’re riddled with guilt,” suggested Lucy. “Guilt and gratitude: two very heavy things.”

“These are letters,” I asked Lewis, “which you received after you came over here in 2000?”

“Yeah.”

“And she died when?”

“2011.”

“So why did you not open the letters?”

Lewis Schaffer’s unopened letters from his mother (He has since – long ago – changed his address)

“We don’t know why,” replied Lewis Schaffer. “There were six I did open. The first six. I looked in the envelopes to see if there was any money. I didn’t read the letters and just put them aside. After the first six, I didn’t open any of them. I thought: The chance of there being money in them is… But I didn’t want those letters to go to waste, so I kept them.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, we don’t know,” he replied.

“And why,” I asked, “for the first time in your life, are you using the word ‘We’?”

“I’m thinking for the show,” he explained. “We as an audience, and me, are going to find out.”

“But you have no idea why you have never read the letters?” I asked.

“I think I have an idea. I could give you an answer but, whether that would be the real answer… It’s been 17 years.”

“You have no idea,” I said, “what is in the letters. They might be very emotionally upsetting. What happens if, on the second night, you break down with paranoid fear of what’s going to be in tomorrow’s letter?”

“We don’t know,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You know, for the past two years I’ve sort-of wound down my comedy because, two years ago, I had a 5-star review at Edinburgh and, that year, I achieved all the goals I wanted to with comedy: which weren’t very much… To do a ‘regular’ type show and to have people appreciate it. And I acted in a play. And I also organised a tour with over 50 dates. After that, I felt: Why bother? Why do I need to continue? That’s what I’m really afraid of: that I don’t really have a desire to do stand-up comedy any more.”

That was what Lewis Schaffer said to us in the pub.

Lewis Schaffer kicks off a show every Monday

An hour later, in his weekly comedy show, upstairs in another pub, he told the audience:

“When I open the letters, people are going to cry – Moms or people with moms. We all have moms. I thought: People are going to cry and that is going to get me an award. The way you win a comedy award in Edinburgh is by making people cry. Heartfelt. I have to do this show now, because I promised to do it.

“I kind of know why I didn’t open the letters, but I don’t know what’s in the letters. My mother is dead. So I am thinking: How can this be funny? Does it mean I didn’t love my mother? Does it make me a bad person?”

A woman in the audience said: “Yes.”

“Does it?” said Lewis Schaffer. “I left my mother behind in New York. I have a sister. I’ve noticed this about daughters… they think their mothers are crazy.

“I would say all women are crazy. I got married late and the mother of my children threw me out. I’ve had a lot of dealings with women and I’ve noticed how crazy they are. My father would say to me: Your mother’s crazy, but that woman over there is not crazy. He said that because he wasn’t married to that woman over there. That’s when I started to think that all women are crazy. I don’t hear many people calling men crazy. They call them shits.

“At some point, you have to say that women are a different species from men and you have to learn to love them for what they are, otherwise you will be very unhappy. My father never understood that. He would say Your mother’s crazy so I grew up thinking my mother was literally crazy. But, when I look back at her now, based on the other women I’ve met in my life, she was just a normal woman. I didn’t open the letters because…”

Well, you will have to see the show.

As always with Lewis Schaffer shows, it will be different every night. With insight and an element of crazy.

Lewis Schaffer (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Psychology

It appears you CAN make a success of “nice, kind, friendly, accessible comedy”

Quantum Leopard boss James Ross at King’s Cross

Quantum boss James Ross at King’s Cross

The monthly-ish Quantum Leopard comedy show in London this Saturday is sold out in advance – as always.

Organiser James Ross does not have a website for the shows. He thinks it would be a waste of time and money. He says: “The Quantum Leopard Facebook group is very much the key mechanism for publicity.”

His shows are also booked solid with acts for the next six months. Clearly, he must be doing something right.

I met James at King’s Cross station in London. He had just returned from a tour of Scotland and the North of England and performing in people’s front rooms in Edinburgh and Newcastle.

“Was that” I asked, “just a ploy to get free accommodation in people’s front rooms?”

“That helps.” laughed James. “Don’t get me wrong. But popping along, doing my show for an hour is a good way of meeting people properly. Interesting places, interesting people and it’s a fun thing.”

“How many people fit into a living room?” I asked.

“About a dozen, which is all I need.”

“How,” I asked, “do you find people who want comedy performed in their front rooms?”

“So far, most are ones I met when I was doing my ‘bucket speech’ at the end of my Edinburgh Fringe show last year. I did one show last Thursday in London. One in Edinburgh on Saturday. And I’m booking some more in.”

“Your policy on comedy material at the regular Quantum Leopard shows in London,” I said, “is quite restrictive.”

“Yes,” James agreed. “The content policy is no racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, chav bashing… No picking on the audience, no rape jokes… And, in return, no heckling from the audience.”

James Ross show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe

The James Ross comedy show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe

“If you ban all that,” I suggested, “there’s nothing much left.”

“I strongly but politely disagree,” he told me.

“You allow plenty of four-letter words, though.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s fine. That’s yesterday’s taboo.”

“So why this policy on what material comics can use?” I asked.

“The mini-manifesto behind it is that there is an audience for nice, kind, friendly accessible comedy that is not really very well served by a lot of comedy clubs. There are so many people who just get put off going to mainstream comedy clubs. There are a lot of MCs out there who are channeling some really quite barely-controlled rage. And a lot of men who have a problem with women or picking victims and thinking that ‘really horrible’ is the same as ‘funny’. It’s just not on and audiences don’t like it. A lot of the comedy circuit is horrible and our gigs are so much more fun for much nicer people.

“The reason why we get full houses at Quantum Leopard and why people come back month after month is because people know it is a safe place to be. They CAN sit on the front row to have a good view of a nice show and they know they’re not going to have the piss ripped out of them. If people want the ‘intimate bullying’ experience, there are plenty of places that serve it up.”

“Do you have a real job?” I asked.

“At the moment, I’m working for a non-partisan political fact-checking charity. My specialism is media monitoring. I don’t really want to do comedy full time.”

“Why?”

James hosts a Quantum Leopard show

James hosts a Quantum Leopard show

“Because the pay is terrible and it is really insecure. It’s not the sort of wage or stability you can raise a family on, unless you’re happy to live on lentils in the back of your car. Also, a lot of the decision-makers in comedy are really unpleasant people and I don’t want to have to suck up to them in order to make enough money to live. I always want to have the option to turn down a terrible gig or a gig for a terrible promoter.”

“So you really want to do politics?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, really. I think there are enough people like me in politics already – pale, male, Oxbridge.”

“So you are not going to stand for Parliament?”

“No way. You have to be polite to a lot more people than I’m constitutional capable of being.”

“Where are you going to be in ten year’s time?”

“Comedy-wise, I would like to be one of these people who do ‘a fun hour’ every August (at the Edinburgh Fringe) and who gets asked to do the fun gigs rather than having to chase them. A nice second income from something that I enjoy. I don’t want to have to do something for a living that I would otherwise enjoy. If you become financially dependent on it and you have to do it, then it’s much less compelling.

“I think the idea that you must enjoy what you do is an incredibly self-indulgent modern thing. Over 95% of human history, 95% of human beings worked at something they didn’t enjoy and probably died at 30 or in childbirth. So saying: Oh! This job doesn’t creatively fulfil me! is…  Well, if you enjoyed your job, you would be paying them to do it because it would then be a hobby. Expecting labour to be anything other than alienating under a capitalist system one of whose fundamental precepts is the alienation of labour is nonsense and foolish and self-regarding hippie nonsense. That’s the type of philosophy you get on the back of a carton of Innocent Smoothies. That’s not a way to live.”

“So you like Mr Corbyn?” I asked.

“Mr Corbyn is brilliant.”

“I get him muddled up,” I said, “with Mr Corbett, who had his hand up Sooty.”

Sooty

Sooty – in no way related to Jeremy Corbyn’s hand

“Sooty & Sweep were my introduction to comedy,” said James. “I was always taken by my parents to Southport. There’s this big Scottish Dancing Convention there and they met while Scottish dancing. In the other big theatre part of this big hall there was always The Sooty Show. So my grandma would take me and my little brother to see Sooty & Sweep while my parents were off doing their Scottish dancing in the other room.”

“Why were they interested in Scottish Dancing?” I asked. “A Scottish background? Or a love of the surreal?”

“I honestly don’t know,” James replied. “I love my parents very much, but I think their sense of the surreal is really quite limited. My dad is a Scout leader; my mum is a Guide leader. They are both pillars of the community. I think they are a little puzzled where this strange changeling child came from.

“But I get my love of admin and organisation from them. The number of spreadsheets that back up what I do is colossal and there’s a bit of Public Service ethos behind Quantum Leopard. It’s got like a mission.”

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy

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

Comedy and variety in Bethnal Green + crime, stripping and porn films in Rome

Rich Rose (left, without shirt) and Gareth Ellis (right, in dress) last night

Rose (left, without shirt) and Ellis (right, in dress) last night

Things are on the up. There seem to be a rising number of comedy clubs in London which are not just putting on very samey bills of 5-male-comics-doing-stand-up. There are several now staging genuine variety nights and filling their venues.

Among them are the highly-esteemed Pull the Other One comedy nights in Nunhead and Peckham, the occasional Spectacular Spectrum of Now shows in King’s Cross and the occasional Brainwash Comedy nights run by Ellis & Rose at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green.

I saw a Brainwash show last night, headlined by Harry Hill who, although he could be described as a straight stand-up, is considerably more weird than that.

I won’t even attempt to explain what was going on here

I won’t even attempt to explain what was going on here

Tom Ward was, I suppose, the genuine token stand-up act. Other acts on the bill were sketch trio The Birthday Girls, Neil Frost (of The Spectacular Spectrum of Now) as moustachioed Victorian ‘Gentleman Johnson’ who ended up in a boxing match with a genuinely feisty girl from the audience, Casual Violence creator James Hamilton in a double character act, Mr Susie only partially on planet Earth and Lipstick & Wax doing a standard but nonetheless astonishing magic act.

So… one stand-up, six excellent variety acts, not a dud anywhere and Ellis & Rose impressively managing to be both effective MCs and constantly anarchic in themselves.

Perhaps London comedy clubs are changing.

They certainly have to.

Joe Palermo, Italian stallion, tonight

Joe Palermo, Italian stallion, in Soho tonight

In the meantime, people are preparing potential Edinburgh Fringe shows for next year.

One of the most interesting could be Joe Palermo’s Mémoires of an Italian Stallion.

I saw an initial try-out tonight which took around 70 minutes and did not get even halfway through the story, which involves his somewhat colourful life.

From what I heard tonight and during a post-show chat at the Grouchy Club, I reckon his story might take about four hours or longer to tell – if heavily edited.

It will be interesting to see how this fits into a 55-minute Edinburgh Fringe slot. The briefest of headings would include:

  • him as a child in Italy (watching porn on TV in the back garden)
  • attempts to be a Roman teenage gigolo
  • crime and the drug trade
  • athletics
  • modelling and becoming a male stripper
  • porn movie experiences
  • encounters with ‘proper’ movie people including stories of Cinecittà, famous actors and spaghetti western people

Joe says: “The show at this stage is mainly for a male audience, however open minded women or girls are welcome.”

I told him I thought Edinburgh audiences might crucify him atop Arthur’s Seat for sexism.

But, if his Mémoires of an Italian Stallion show does make the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, it will surely be an interesting ride.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Sex, Theatre

Kate Copstick on married life in Kenya

Kate Copstick. My house. Yes this is more or less all of it. I am standing with my back to the other wall.

Where Kate Copstick lives when in Nairobi: “Yes this is more or less all of it. I am standing with my back to the other wall.”

More news from comedy critic Kate Copstick, who is currently in Kenya, where her charity Mama Biashara gives small grants and advice to mostly women wanting to start small businesses which can raise them out of their extreme poverty.

Note. Zimbabwean men in Kenya tend to have more than one wife.

A blog from Kenya a couple of days ago mentioned that Mama Biashara has stalls at the Nairobi International Trade Show – the Big Event of the Nairobi year in terms of business and enterprise – and that the President was due to pay a visit. Now read on…


Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick at a happier time in Kenya

Copstick, currently in Kenya

FRIDAY 2nd OCTOBER

It is another slightly odd day when nothing happens as it should.

I am supposed to have a meet with Doris and more of the Zimbabwean Third Wives Club who need a grant to start business. They are trapped in the ghastly jam caused by the Prez going to the Show (he was scheduled to go yesterday but, of course, he is late). Lest the Prez be tainted by anything approaching real life in Nairobi, the roads are cleared and all normal traffic held back while his motorcade sweeps by.

When Doris does arrive she has two young women with her, representing the two groups of Zimbabwean Third Wives. The groups could not come en masse – there are 50 women in one group and 62 in the other. The young women are charming. We discuss the businesses.

I ask if the ladies could let me know how many children the women in the group have. The total is 479 for both groups.

Many of these young women already have 5 children by the age of 17 or 18. They are married at 12 and impregnated almost immediately. The young women I am sitting with are 17 and 18. They have 8 children between them. The first and second wives sometimes have as many as 12. The men do and give absolutely nothing by way of support.

The living conditions are pretty horrific – given the enormous numbers of children and the extreme poverty in which they live. They do not, Doris tells me, even have enough unga (flour) to make solid ugali. Their ugali is like soup. It should be like cake. They sleep as many as twenty to a room.

Now that the Zimbabwean community here is a couple of generations old, women of the Third Wives’ ages are looking for another way. Mama Biashara was the first ever help they were given.

These are the women for whom we ran the Secret School (but we don’t have the infrastructure or resources to continue it – much as we would like). These are the women for whom (at their begging request) Doris supplies the pill. These are women who, in secret, are doing massive business across Sudan. The effects can be seen in the much improved living conditions of their families, their nutrition, the number of their children going to school… but apparently the wazee (the much MUCH older husbands) are beginning to talk… to notice the money coming in. And this is dangerous for our women. But they are desperate to continue. And expand. They want a better life for themselves and their (many) children. They are going further underground with their supply lines.

Third wives are aged anything from 12 to 20. After that they are sort of discarded as hubby gets another 12 year-old and they are left to support the children and feed the husband.

I really want to offer them an alternative.

Their community operates like a sort of sect. Any deviation from its religious rules meets with fairly ghastly consequences. They have their own ‘courts’ and their own punishments. Any girl not getting married when told to would be an absolute pariah in the community. An outcast. But not allowed to leave. Ditto any mother not allowing her 12 year-old to be laid waste (literally and metaphorically) by some 50 year-old in the market for Wife No 4.

There is no real option for the young women who want out and there are many now.

The women who have had the experience of going to Sudan to do business love the freedom, love the power, love the life of independence and they want to learn to read and to write and they want their girls to have a proper chance in life. They are brought up in this closed community ruled by men with their over-active rods of iron. I want to give them an option. An escape route. We are not going to persuade anyone, we are not going to do a hard sell, but I want to (and it is a way off) establish a refuge for up to ten Wives at a time, with their children.

They come, they get acclimatised to life outside, they continue their business and make money but no longer have to hide it. And, when they are ready, and have found somewhere they think they can live happily, they go. And thus we establish little mini-communities of Zimbabwean ladies all over the place. But without the men forcing them to do anything. Least of all forcing them to hand their 12 year-old daughters over to a a 50 year-old man.

It needs a lot of planning. Somewhere very safe. And it will need a fair old wedge of money. I am very much against the march of Middle Class White ‘Liberalism’ hurtling in to trample all over cultures which are thousands of years old and ways of life that suit the people living them. But too, too many of these young women have come to us now wanting out. Wanting a different life for themselves and their kids.

Sorry I have been wittering on quite repetitively.

But I have never met a 17 year-old with 5 children before. It is an experience I found quite difficult.

Doris goes off to the show.

I start packing for Monday when we take the stuff to the airport cargo area.

Doris calls to ask what would cause a 21 year-old woman to scream in pain and say her chest is burning. I ask if her chest is, in fact, burning. It is not. I ask the usual – What has she eaten/drunk? Where exactly is the pain? Has it happened before? Are there any other symptoms? – and have only just got into my quasi-medical stride when Doris texts to say that the young woman knows what is wrong. She is possessed by demons.

I lie on my mattress and look at my WhatsApp conversations with Rebecca right up until the day before she died. Suddenly, before my eyes, her picture disappears from the profile to be replaced by some ghastly, pouting, lipsticked, anorexic 14 year-old.

The phone had, as promised, been stopped and the number was now someone else’s.

I turn to my new addiction. Solitaire. Known to us older people as Patience. I play it obsessively. I understand that this is about making order from chaos. And it comforts me. My phone tells me I have spent 34 hours playing since I started about a month and a half ago.

I am visited by the two, now grown-up, kittens I knew when I lived in the other little house here. One is seal point and the other tortoiseshell and very reminiscent of William, the cat who entered and enhanced Daddy Copstick’s life for a while and then left as suddenly as he came. They are ridiculously affectionate. To the point of developing (in the case of William Jnr) a tiny feline erection as I played with him (not like that!).

I notice he has MASSIVE balls (for a cat his size) and immediately re-christen him Malcolm (after Malcolm Hardee, of course). I have never actually been as close up and personal with a young cat’s tackle, but Malcolm made his attributes hard to miss.

A couple of games of Solitaire later I sleep.

2 Comments

Filed under Africa, Kenya, Sex

Comic Janey Godley on the benefits of social media but not of Turkish men

Janey Godley recorded the Grouchy Club podcast yesterday

Janey recorded the Grouchy Club Podcast with me yesterday

This may not be for the easily offended.

As comedy critic Kate Copstick is still in Kenya, yesterday I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with comic Janey Godley

We talked about strange acts, swearing, David Cameron’s penis and the pig, the Moth’s storytelling, free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and UK comedy in general.

Janey published her jaw-dropping best-selling autobiography Handstands in The Dark in 2005 and also started blogging regularly in early 2005. So, during the podcast, we talked about her widespread social media presence. Here is a short extract:


JOHN
You stopped blogging regularly. Why? Were you just going with the trend.

JANEY
Yeah, well, I use Twitter, I use Instagram, I use Vine and people have got access to lots of different… And I Periscope! I was one of the first British comics to use Periscope.

JOHN
Well, you were one of the first bloggers. The sad thing is now you are very Twittery and Periscopey and they’re all transient. They don’t last at all. So people, in two years time, will never see what you’ve done whereas, when you used to blog, there’s something there. But I suppose that’s like live comedy as opposed to recorded comedy.

JANEY
I like the fact that I can Tweet and Periscope. One of the amazing things about Periscope was that, as soon as I started Periscoping, my book started selling (even more) because people all over the world were watching me. Periscope’s a great medium for comedians and people who aren’t worried about folk being abusive online. You get all these beautiful women that go: I’m going to be doing a make-over online and you can talk to me and I’ll be in my bikini. And then you get all these men who go: You’re an ugly bastard! And she’s: Oh my Gawd! I can’t believe you said that! Whereas, if you say that to me, I’ll say : Shut up! Away and fuck yer mother and get burnt in a caravan! I don’t care, y’know?

JOHN
Whenever I see tags for your Periscope, they seem to include things like Kim Kardashian.

JANEY
Yeah, sometimes I dress up as… What I do is sometimes I’ll put on loads of make-up and put on a big hairpiece and I’ll say KIM KARDASHIAN – LIVE ON PERISCOPE! – VIP ACCESS ONLY – There’s no such thing as VIP Access on Periscope. But, immediately, the whole of Turkey… cos Turkish men really love Periscope and they’re really, really abusive and misogynistic on it… I know that sounds like I’m racially profiling, but I can back it up by news reports. Other people have had to ban the majority of men in Turkey who come on Periscope and go: Open boobs! Open boobs! We have a hashtag Open Boobs. They’re asking you to show them your breasts, as opposed to heart surgery.

JOHN
I know. Open boobs! doesn’t quite compute, does it?

JANEY
And we have a song:
Open boobs!
Open boobs!
Open boobs and anal!

They sometimes ask for anal.

JOHN
On Periscope?

JANEY
Abso-fuckin-lutely. If your opening gambit is Open boobs! Anal sex – and sex is spelled SEXCT, which is bizarre… They want sex; they want anal. They want open boobs… So the minute they do that, I abuse them back. It’s a really weird thing that some people think they can abuse you if you’re in the public eye but, if you immediately say: Go fuck yourself! (and sing)

Go fuck your mother
And if your mother’s dead
Dig her up and fuck her instead

… they’re horrified you say that.

But it’s OK for them to say Anal.

JOHN
And this sells books.

JANEY
It does. All my Periscope followers will say: Sing the song, Janey! So, as soon as someone says SEXCT! OPEN BOOBS! I say: Go and fuck your mother! – And there’s a dance – And if your mother’s dead Dig her up and fuck her instead – They’re like: That’s horrific! and I say: You started this, ya cunt!

JOHN
This is a serious point: Periscope is selling your books, but Twitter isn’t?

JANEY
Twitter does as well, but it’s mostly Periscope.

JOHN
And you’re still in print, which is a rare thing, because it’s ten years old, isn’t it?

JANEY
Yeah, yeah. It is still in print and it’s going great.

JOHN
I still think there should be a sequel, but there we go.

JANEY
Yeah, shut the fuck up about the sequel. I don’t want to hear about that any more.

JOHN
You could self-publish the sequel. That’s where the money is.

JANEY
John, there’s nothing to talk about.

JOHN
There is.

JANEY
So…

JOHN
Janey Godley: My Rise To Infamy… I can see it now.

JANEY
Shut up.


The full 22-minute podcast can be heard on Podomatic and downloaded from iTunes.

Janey Godley’s bestselling autobiography

Janey Godley’s bestselling autobiography

Leave a comment

Filed under Periscope, Podcasts, Sex, social media, Twitter

Juliette Burton is a lesbian SuperMum who reads erotica for blind Britons

Juliette burton is SuperMum

Juliette Burton: media crisis SuperMum

Tomorrow night sees the big-screen premiere of the short SuperMum at the Vue cinema in London’s Leicester Square – part of the Raindance Film Festival. It stars comedy performer Juliette Burton in the title role.

“Yes,” she told me yesterday. “My massive face on a massive screen. Its also going to be part of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because my character happens to be lesbian.”

“Now THAT is real acting,” I said. “How did you get to be a lesbian SuperMum?”

“I auditioned for the writer-director Lisa Gifford and her partner Elisar Cabrera who produced it. I went in for a proper audition where I had to read a scene and do stuff, but they just wanted to chat to me and talk about the script and what I thought about it. That was back in April.”

“So, in the script,” I said, “you are super and you are a mum.”

“Yes. SuperMum’s day job is being a superhero and I was attracted to it because it was about the conflict between two different lives: wanting to spend time with your family and wanting to devote yourself to a career you really love. And then the fact the media keep focussing on irrelevant things like Has she gained or lost a few pounds? What is she wearing? Who does her hair? Who designed her cape?

“It’s a mockumentary about the dissonance between what she is in reality as a mother and as a wife, in her lesbian partnership, and who she is as a superhero. The media see her as someone else. It was interesting because the weekend we started filming it was the weekend that the Beach Body Ready controversy kicked off.

Juliette burton - coming soon as supreme

Ready in Lycra. Who cares about being Beach Body Ready?

“I was getting all these Twitter notifications and people wanting to do interviews about the Beach Body Ready thing and I was getting trolled really badly. I was very fragile and the production crew was so supportive. It involved working with children and animals, which was fun, and involved me running around a lot wearing Lycra. It was very bizarre running around being a Lycra superhero at that time.

“I just had a birthday a few days ago, so I’ve been reflecting on the last year and it’s been quite a challenging year in lots of ways, but it’s also been quite a transforming year. Oh! That sounds really cheesy, doesn’t it? That’s so cheesy! But that whole debacle had a big effect on me.”

“You did a routine about it shortly afterwards,” I said. “At your monthly Happy Hour show.”

“Yes. That was the first time I felt like me again. If I hadn’t been performing at that time, I don’t know if I would’ve gotten stronger again.”

“And your next show is…?” I asked.

“I’m going to be doing a first work-in-progress performance of Decision Time at the Leicester Comedy Festival next February.”

“I thought,” I said, “that you were going to do Dreamcatcher as your next Edinburgh show.”

“Well,” said Juliette, “having done loads of research for it, I think Dreamcatcher’s going to take a different form. It was going to be about psychosis and the idea of sanity and whether I’m still crazy now. I do like the idea of exploring sanity, especially within comedy, because there’s no place for sanity in comedy.”

“Or in contracts,” I said. “Everybody knows there ain’t no Sanity Clause.” (Look, I like the Marx Bros; what can I say?)

Decision Time,” continued Juliette,is more relevant to what’s going on in my life right now, because I’m having to make lots of big decisions in my life and some are fun and happy and some are quite sad and difficult. So the show will be about how people make decisions. I am very indecisive and my family have been very worried about me being left behind in life because I’m not…”

“…married to a farmer?” I suggested.

“… getting a mortgage or a marriage,” Juliette continued, “or babies or ‘a proper career’…”

“… by marrying a farmer,” I suggested again. Juliette’s family is in farming.

Juliette Burton with Russian Egg Roulette medal

Juliette with her Russian Egg Roulette medal in Edinburgh

“I never met a farmer who came to a comedy club,” she told me. “Anyway, I decided I would do a show about indecision and choices. I’m workshopping it between now and early February and then, in early February, it is likely I will be doing my first work-in-progress performances of it…”

“But you haven’t decided yet?” I asked.

“… hopefully at the Leicester Comedy Festival,” continued Juliette. “But I can’t confirm that yet.”

“Last time we talked,” I said, you had been recording a Mills & Boon audiobook for the blind.”

“I’m now,” said Juliette, “recording a book called The Visitors for the RNIB – which is as scary as it sounds – and the next one I’m recording is Glitter. But the last one I recorded was Dark Obsession by Fredrica Alleyn – the dirtiest book I have ever read. Basically, someone has made a list of all the fetishes you could possibly have and has written them into a story.”

“Like Fifty Shades of Grey?” I asked.

Fifty Shades of Grey,” said Juliette, “could learn from Dark Obsession. What I realised when I was reading it was that, with all of these books, you can usually stop if it gets too sordid or a bit heated. But you can’t if you’re reading it as an audiobook for the RNIB. You have to keep going. So, when I was reading some ridiculous sentences about clitoral rings and throbbing balls and S&M and all kinds of contraptions, wearing no make-up in a tiny little room with a sound engineer in the next door room, I kept thinking it was a lot darker than I was expecting and I got bored by sex. By the end of the book, there had been so much sex that I was bored of it.”

“It’s debatable,” I said, “when you’re doing the voice for an audio book, whether you are an objective narrator or being a stand-in for the person listening to it.”

“I didn’t want to read it too seductively,” replied Juliette, “because I would have found that too uncomfortable and, as a narrator, I was a third party observer. When I’m a character seducing another character then, yes, I have to sound seductive. But, when I’m the narrator talking about these people in the third person, then I have to sound fairly detached from it. You have to be engaged but some of the scenarios being described were quite analytical. I have to say it’s the most challenging audio book I have done.”

“And?” I asked.

“And I’m doing a couple of feminism talks in October and also a couple of mental health talks in London, Sheffield and London again. And, next Tuesday in London, there’s my monthly Happy Hour.”

“You’re taking things easy, then,” I said.

SuperMum is currently online.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Movies, Sex