Tag Archives: song

A chat about a Christmas video turns to talk of comedians in court in the 1960s

Matt Roper - Christmas in Soho

Matt Roper spends a Happy Goddam Christmas in Soho

Comedian Matt Roper is flying to India on New Year’s Eve for two months. At least, that was what he intended to do.

“I think my new principle should be Don’t book flights when you’ve had two bottles of wine and a load of Guinness and a few tequilas,” he told me over pizza in London’s Soho.

“I’d had a heavy night out and woke up in the morning. My life most mornings, if I’m being honest is… Well, if you’ve ever seen a window with condensation on it and it slowly clears away… That’s my brain in the morning… I remembered doing something about a flight, so I went and checked my emails and the Confirmation was there… Flying out on 31st December, which is perfect for me because I don’t like New Year… and coming back on June 3rd…. What?… June 3rd?!!… but the most surprising thing was I’d managed to choose my seat and decide what sort of meal I was having.

“I’ve been many, many times to India. I love it out there, but I haven’t been for about six years. I’ll go to Goa and then hopefully write my Edinburgh Fringe show in some hill station. But my point is Never book a flight when you’re hammered.

“Maybe that should be your Fringe show title,” I suggested: “Never Book a Flight When You’re Pissed. But you shouldn’t go to India. You’re in the iTunes Comedy charts at the moment with Happy Goddam Christmas, this Christmas song of yours.”

“Well, it’s an anti-Christmas Christmassy song, really,” Matt corrected me, “like Fairytale of New York.”

“When that was released,” I said, “it was inconceivable it could become a standard festive song like White Christmas.”

“It’s a British thing,” suggested Matt. “We’re maybe not drawn to the natural sugary, positive ditties.”

“Is it the first song you’ve written?” I asked.

“No,” said Matt. “All the Wifredo stuff you hear at Edinburgh is all orginal songs, though I did one of those in collaberation with Pippa Evans.

“With Happy Goddam Christmas, I had the music for a long time – the basic structure of the song – it was about an ex I was feeling particularly, you know, bitter and jaded about. But the song isn’t iactually about me feeling bitter about an ex. I took it to Pippa Evans and she added a middle eight onto it and we worked together on the lyrics.”

Pippa Evans performs as her on-stage character Loretta Maine. Someone once described her as ‘Dolly Parton as seen through the lens of Mike Leigh’.

“Arthur Smith has a little cameo in the video,” Matt told me, “and we have Sanderson Jones and Imran Yusef – in the video, they’re in the band – Arthur’s in the toilet brandishing his Hammond organ.”

“So you wanted to make lots of money with a Christmas song?” I asked.

“Not really,” said Matt. “It was just about having a bit of fun. It’s easy to release whatever you want on iTunes. It’s quite incredible how the music industry’s changed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Edinburgh Fringe were along similar lines? If you could cut out all the middle people.”

“Well,” I said, “the Free Fringe and the Free Festival sort-of do that. Are you thinking of doing one of the two free festivals next year?”

“Possibly. I had a lot of fun with Just The Tonic this year. I would like to see the Fringe level out into an event where your established comics and TV names are on the ticketed Fringe and the less-established acts can realistically afford to do it and make at least a little bit of money by the end of it.”

Matt’s father, George Roper, was one of The Comedians on the seminal Granada TV comedy stand-up show of the 1970s.

It was a different era.

“There was a club called The New Luxor Club in Hulme, Manchester,” Matt told me.

I raised my eyebrow at the mention of a club in Hulme. I went to Hulme a few times when I worked at Granada TV in the 1980s. If you went to the Aaben Cinema there, when you came out, you might find three youths sitting on your car bonnet saying: “So how much are you gonna pay to get your car back?”

“In the 1960s,” Matt told me, “they would have ‘gentlemen’s evenings’ at some of the Manchester social clubs, working men’s clubs, cabaret clubs. It would not be uncommon to have six stand-up comics and six female strippers/exotic dancers on one bill. At this point in the 1960s, it was legal to be naked on-stage, but it was illegal to move.

“The police decided to bust The New Luxor Club and my father was one of the six comics performing there that night. The police raided the club and charged the comedians with aiding and abetting the club owner – a guy called Vincent Chilton – for running a disorderly house.

“The six strippers and the six comics were in the dock at Manchester Crown Court and the police had to stand up in the court and tell the jokes. I swear – no word of a lie.

“I don’t know the exact date, but the police had to get up and say something like On the 28th of June 1965, George Roper stood up on stage and said the following joke: ‘A policewoman and a policeman were walking ‘ome from t’station one night. Ooh, she said, I’ve left me knickers back at t’station. Ooh, don’t worry, said t’policeman. Hitch up yer skirt, let the dog ‘ave a sniff. Half an hour later, t’dog comes back with t’sergeant’s balls in its mouth’…

“Can you imagine? In the Crown Court? The public gallery had to be cleared because everyone was laughing so much.

“There was a guy called Jackie Carlton, who was the apotheosis of Manchester club comics at the time and all the younger comics like Frank Carson and Bernard Manning looked up to him. He was very camp, very flamboyant. When it was his turn in the dock, the judge asked: Was that one of your jokes? and he said, Yes, but I tell it much better than that. He was found guilty.

“My dad was the last comic up and, when it was his turn to stand in the dock, the judge asked Is that one of your stories? and he said Oh! Not heard that one before and, for some reason, he got off with it by playing the underdog, as he always did. The other five comics got fined, but my dad got off with it.

“I asked my uncle about it not long ago and he said people were queueing round the block to buy the Manchester Evening News to read the jokes that were told in court.”

* * *

Below, Jackie Carlton talks in the 1970s about camp comedy and obscenity…

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Twelve years ago today, in London, I met a fetish songwriter

Twelve years ago today, I went to the National Film Theatre to see a movie with a friend. Before going in to the auditorium, we looked at the NFT notice board where one ad started FETISH SONGWRITER….

I asked my friend: “What on earth’s a fetish songwriter?”

A man in his late-twenties or early thirties with a leathery face and sticky-up blond punk hair standing beside us said:

“I put that one up.”

He turned out to be someone who, with a friend, wrote and performed fetish songs in drag with props such as a bed of nails and fire.

He told us it took a few weeks to recover from each performance as they really did get burnt:

“I’ve got lots of scars under these clothes,” he told us, “and the bed of nails hurts too.”

He was very happy that he had managed to write a fetishistic version of the Lord’s Prayer and felt that, being realistic, he and his friend (who call themselves Erotica Daist – not Dadaist) should be able to make some impact on the media within six weeks.

That was twelve years ago.

Times don’t change.

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Comedy complications and a classic new Christmas song…?

We awarded two Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe last week.

Immediately before the Awards Show, fellow judge Kate Copstick and I decided to give an additional award to Bob Slayer as well as to Kunt and the Gang.

This was possible because, while packing for Edinburgh at the beginning of August, I realised that, mysteriously, I had had an extra Cunning Stunt Award made – I have no idea why.

I had awards made by mad inventor John Ward for every year up to and including 2017. Only the exact number required.

I have no idea why there was an extra award made.

But, as a result, we were able to give the extra award to Bob Slayer because I knew there was an extra trophy.

Except that, when I returned home two days ago, I found I did NOT have a spare Cunning Stunt Award. The spare trophy I have is actually an ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award.

These trophies are one-offs, which is why they were all made together in advance. They can’t be duplicated because the materials would not be the same.

So John Ward is off to his back shed with his thinking cap and his template of what he made to see if he can make a new one to give to Bob Slayer.

As I blogged a couple of days ago, this was not the only gremlin which emerged on my return home.

My MacBook Pro laptop has now been taken in for repair – Apple are doing it for free because it is a known fault on the graphic card supplied by a third-party manufacturer for Apple, Dell and Acer computers. But my Hoover still does not work. The faulty washing machine pipe which partially flooded the kitchen during my four weeks in Edinburgh, despite the fact the water supply was turned off, has been repaired. But now my toilet has sprung a leak.

Life.

But – hey! – it’s now 1st September, so it is Christmas, right?

Well it seems to be.

Driving home three nights ago, I saw two houses with twinkling exterior Christmas light decorations.

Shortly afterwards, as someone had given me a CD of Roy Wood’s singles for my birthday at the end of July, I was listening to Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday on the car stereo and yesterday, even more bizarrely, I heard someone singing Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody in the street.

This made me think, inevitably, that the Malcolm Hardee Award winning Kunt and the Gang, in a bid to prove we actually should have given him an ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, should write and sharpish record a Christmas ditty for festive download. It could be a classic.

Equally strange things have happened.

It used to be that Bing Crosby’s White Christmas was the ultimate Christmas song. Who on earth could have ever imagined that the Pogues’ amazingly un-festive Fairytale of New York would one day replace it?

Kunt for Christmas, anyone?

In the wonderful new world of downloads, anything is possible.

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Comedians are the arseholes of entertainment – from one who knows

I recently wrote a blog about fame which mentioned the music business and the comedy industry. It provoked an interesting response from Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing farter.

There is, of course, that famous old saying (usually credited to Janet Street-Porter) that “Comedy is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

Mr Methane’s view is:

“Comedy was not, is not and never will be on a par with rock ‘n’ roll stardom. You do not wake up in the morning humming a joke you heard fifteen years ago because a joke does not take you back in your mind those fifteen years – unless you a comedy trainspotter.

“Music finds pathways into a nation’s soul and gets very deeply rooted there. It is valued as a great work of art by those who listen to it.

“Comedy, though a very serious business and labour of love for the artist, is generally seen as nothing more than a throw-away laugh by the consumer.

Ringo Starr was not the only drummer in the Beatles – and, according to a joke by John Lennon, he wasn’t the best either – but let’s just say you have a choice between Ringo Starr and someone currently at the very top of the comedy tree coming round for dinner – maybe that Michael McIntyre bloke.

“It’s going go be Ringo Star every time for 90% of the British population. That is just how it is.

“We ain’t rock stars. We are the comedy arseholes of entertainment. In my case, literally.”

Is Mr Methane talking out of his arse (something he surprisingly rarely does) or clearing the air?

My thoughts are divided.

Comedians certainly rarely get respect as performing artists whereas singers do – although the increasing amount of money swilling around the upper, rarefied reaches of comedy success may be slowly changing that.

Nothing breeds admiration more than millions in the bank.

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