Tag Archives: surreal

Last night, everything was normal… Or was it?

Charmian Hughes: The ghost of parties yet to come

Charmian Hughes: The ghost of parties yet to come

Yesterday, my blog was about surreality.

Last night, some reality returned. But only some.

I went to comedian Charmian Hughes’ Christmas party. in South London.

Passing through Blackfriars station, I heard a woman sitting on a metal bench with a younger man (possibly her son) say: “I want to have a proper chat and I can’t with you because you don’t drink.”

It was like a flat stone skimming across the surface of water. Briefly touching a few seconds of other people’s lives.

Comedian Lewis Schaffer met me at Peckham Rye station with his bicycle. We walked to Charmian’s. Lewis did not ride the bicycle. We talked of heart attacks, lungs and cholesterol levels. At one point, he said: “This is old men’s talk.” I had to agree. It is wise to agree with Lewis Schaffer. It saves time.

David Don’t at the party last night

Magic David Don’t at the party last night

At the party, Charmian’s husband, magician David Don’t, told me he had recently been asked to perform at a charity gig. As it was for a charity gig, he quoted a low fee. After the show, they sent him a cheque for triple the amount agreed because they had enjoyed his act so much. I do not know what this demonstrates in terms of charities, but it must demonstrate something.

Before I left, I was talking to very amiable Polish lady Ewa Sidorenko and to Karen O Novak’s equally amiable husband Darren. We talked of toilet bowls and taps. Charmian Hughes and David Don’t do own a genuine Crapper toilet.

Conversation turned from that to the consistency of ceramics and, from there, to the fact that the British – unlike Europeans – have a separate hot tap and cold tap in sinks, rather than have a logically more sensible mixer tap.

Karen O Novak & David Mills did NOT talk of Crappers & taps

Karen O Novak & David Mills did NOT talk of Crappers & taps

I think (though I may be wrong) that Ewa Sidorenko and I came to the conclusion that having two separate taps, with the risk of scalding one’s hand with piping hot water, fulfilled the triple traditional British benefit of identifying foreigners, humiliating them and maiming them.

On my way home, at Blackfriars station again, a young man who looked a little like Prince Harry asked me if he was on the correct platform for King’s Cross. I said he was, although the train actually passed through St Pancras not King’s Cross. We got on the train together and had a long conversation about his university course and job prospects.

StPancrasChristmasTree2013

This is St Pancras station last year not this year and is definitely not King’s Cross station

I told him I had once been on the same Thameslink line and heard a Japanese lady ask, as the train pulled into St Pancras if she was on the correct train for King’s Cross. To her increasing confusion, as she looked at the signs on the walls clearly stating ST PANCRAS INTERNATIONAL, three people told her: “This IS King’s Cross”.

Last night seemed to be a slightly strange evening, but I could not quite put my finger on why. Everything was normal.

But normality can be slightly abnormal.

During the evening, on trains, I saw two people with reindeer antlers on their heads. That is perfectly normal in London at Christmas.

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Filed under Humor, Humour, London, Surreal

My surreal yesterday

A selfie taken by myself while asleep

A selfie taken by myself while asleep but not while dreaming

I am someone who remembers his dreams only rarely. This morning, I remembered a detail from last night.

I was with a group of people and went ahead to check-out or to book a restaurant.

The restaurant was crowded and, at the entrance, there was a piece of paper lying on a table with a partially completed painting of an ape’s face. A man then drew a single line top-to-bottom on the uncompleted face of the ape to create a nose which comprised both a left and right side.

Before this (in my dream) I had been to another restaurant where another man had been creating a painting of something else. I do not remember what. I am not sure I even knew in my dream.

I have no idea where either of these dreams came from.

In what passed for reality last night, in crowded pre-christmas London, a traditional Christmas-card stage coach pulled by two horses passed me in Charing Cross Road, near Leicester Square. Further down, a small Cinderella type spherical coach pulled by two horses was passing the National Portrait Gallery. Round the corner, inside the National Gallery there were no pictures of apes and no-one was painting.

Afterwards, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to see the play King Charles III at Wyndham’s Theatre. Lovely theatre.

King Charles III poster

King Charles III poster for the man who would be George VII

The play is plotted around some future time when the Queen dies and Prince Charles becomes king.

Though, in fact, I seem to remember Prince Charles saying years ago that he would take the title King George VII when he ascended the throne, presumably because King Charleses have a dodgy pedigree – the first had his head chopped off and the second hobnobbed with female orange-sellers. The recent Georges (well, V to VI – let’s ignore I to IV) have a solid, dependable feel to them.

The play had a good enough plot with a good enough ending but it was utterly ruined by the fact it had been decided to write all the dialogue of this future fantasy in pseudo Elizabethan blank verse interspersed with modern-day slang. I am sure this affectation was bullshitted as something deeply intellectual and meaningful and possibly even looked good on paper, but it scuppered both credibility and my will to live.

London was crowded last night

Crowded London last night,  last Saturday before Christmas

After this, at London Bridge station, in a crowded corridor, we passed a man with bulls horns on his head. A few minutes later, in a totally different corridor, a man was trying to run through the crowd dressed as a matador.

The two men appeared to have no connection.

When I got home, there was an e-mail from mad inventor & Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward telling me that he was now Chairman and Minister For Inventions of The Eccentric Party. He signed himself ‘The Most Honarabble Sir Dusty Wells-Fargo’. This hints, I think, that it is unwise to live in Lincolnshire.

Although Vancouver must run it a pretty close race.

Because I also had an e-mail from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. I have no explanation for her reference to a spaniel. Nor for much else. Her e-mail reads:


Anna Smith in the Vancouver bookshop

Anna Smith, a woman with surreal tendencies

I know a couple of feral puppies just flown in from Santiago de Chile to the suburban wilds of Surrey, British Columbia. One is male, one female (in case the spaniel is gay) but they won’t be old enough to marry for a while.

I saw two different men on Davie Street who were wearing long tails: one looked like a rope, the other a rainbow-coloured horse tail.

A few nights ago, a man on Robson Street was wearing a white home-made dog-like mask. A few minutes later I saw a man wearing a white ten gallon cowboy hat, a white T-shirt and black Wellington boots. I think he was wearing shorts.

In the library, the kid at the computer next to mine was rolling a huge joint.

The librarians no longer have desks. They roam around and are difficult to locate but there is a phone from which they can be summoned. There are wicker baskets full of condoms and lube on the shelves and still a few books.

There is a lot of swearing, with people screaming “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” at their computer screens and fights break out with monotonous regularity. Everyone is used to this. They glance up to be sure it is not escalating towards them and return to their screens.

The provincial government is very smug because they just spent millions of dollars to increase the mental hospital capacity by fourteen beds.

Out in the rain, I talked with a broken-looking older man trying – without success – to sell calendars for charity. I asked him what he was going to do for Christmas and he said he was going to stay home and do ecstasy.

Earlier in the day, a couple of gay Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped to talk to me. They said they could show me how I could live for a thousand years.

“But I don’t want to live for a thousand years,” I told them.

“You won’t have to die,” they said.

“But I’m not afraid of dying,” I told them. “I have died so many times. It was not scary at all. It was totally relaxing. All the things you worry about like the water bill you don’t care any more. I did not go through a tunnel or see lights or anything and, when I came back, I was happy.”

They looked relieved… What I said to them about dying not being unpleasant really seemed to cheer them up and they walked away happily of their own accord and went across the street into a cafe to take a  break from the witnessing.


Perhaps I am missing nothing by seldom remembering my dreams.

Life can be surreal enough.

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Filed under Canada, Dreams, Surreal, Theatre

It Might Get Ugly – Karl Schultz loves comic Janey Godley but not milk toast

Karl Schultz

Karl Schultz with his latest haircut & thoughts

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog chat with comics Karl Schultz and Joz Norris about their annual charity gig in aid of Karl’s charity. After Joz left, I kept on talking to Karl.

“You’re all about re-invention,” I said. “you’ve had a lot of different haircuts this year.”

“I get bored,” replied Karl. “I’m trying to think of different ways to change Matthew Kelly.”

“Are you still doing that Matthew Kelly character?” I asked. “I thought you had finished with it.”

“I’ve been doing it again recently, after a year of It Might Get Ugly.”

It Might Get Ugly was/is a series of comedy evenings organised by Karl in which performers have to go on stage and tell totally true 15-minute stories about themselves.

“You had Janey Godley on the show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe,” I said.

“She,” said Karl, “was my favourite thing about Edinburgh. She’s got thousands of just amazing stories. What can you not like about her? I love Janey. She’s a comic who can handle anyone and she won’t be precious. She is so great. I can imagine her being an amazing actor. I fell in love with her the way I fell in love with David Mills when he first did it.”

“Very different comics,” I said. “What were you like when you started performing comedy?”

“When you start,” said Karl, “it comes as a shock. I was about 19 the first time I performed and you’re in this big nervous energetic space. It was like a heightened reality. I was thinking faster. I had different conversations going on in my head – what I was saying and what I was thinking – almost like Eskimo singers.”

“Eskimo singers?” I asked.

“Hitting different octaves,” replied Karl. “Then years go by and, even though you might be constantly surprised, shock doesn’t visit you as much. I believe shock is way more important to growth than something being ‘moving’. A moving gig is either good or bad, but a gig that shocks you has real impact.

“After four years of doing Matthew Kelly, I found that I wasn’t writing as much material as I should have. I had a bit of material but was improvising the whole time and Improv often stands for impoverished as much as improvised.”

“But you are continuing the character?” I asked.

Karl as his character 'Matthew Kelly’ with some Chinese fans

Karl as his character ‘Matthew Kelly’ with some Chinese fans

“Yes,” said Karl. “What I’m enjoying with Matthew Kelly at the moment is playing with biographies. There is the character as himself. There’s Matthew Kelly telling stories about me when I was younger, almost as if Karl Schultz was the character. Then there’s me as Matthew Kelly, talking about experiences I have had as the Matthew Kelly character. And then there’s the sort of philosophy behind the whole thing. But it’s complicated to do that.

“I had this idea a couple of months ago… When you wake up, it takes you a couple of seconds to find yourself and I was obsessing over that and the idea that the day is a parasite and you, in that moment of awakening, are the host. So the parasite of the day lives through you as the host. It’s not comedic in itself, but I thought Matthew Kelly could be the day having fun on someone. It’s like a playful parasite. Even if I don’t communicate it to the audience, that can be what motivates the character.

“In a very American way, I subscribe to the idea of personal growth and the idea that a young artist should be trying to move his brain forward. That’s partly why I do all these different things: as a vehicle to move my personal philosophy forward.”

“What,” I asked, “helps you do that?”

“More than anything,” said Karl, “making mistakes and owning up to them. Nothing undermines something difficult to face up to more than accepting it. If you think: I am going to be visited-upon by dark clouds in my mind… If you can accept that, it completely undermines it.

Karl Schultz deep in thought

Karl Schultz is not going to Switzerland soon

“Two days ago, I had a dark night of the soul on the District Line between Temple and Bow stations and the way I got through that was just by accepting it. All the credence I wanted to give to those imaginings of trips to Switzerland… it was undermined.”

“Trips to Switzerland?” I asked.

“Well,” said Karl, “you know…”

“Oh,” I said, “Exit. So why did you start It Might Turn Ugly?”

“I wondered if I could create a performance space where you are watching someone do something that might move them forward and you are watching that play out. I told people: Fifteen minutes. No ‘material’. Try to be honest. The idea is that you should not be able to do it the next night.”

“What,” I asked, “did you want to be when you were aged 16? A novelist?”

“No. I wanted to be Nick Drake. If I hadn’t been a comedian, I would have been some jazz-inflected folk guitarist. I used to play guitar for about 8 or 10 hours a day.”

“Nick Drake is like Joe Meek,” I suggested. “More of a cult than generally famous.”

“Everyone wants to be a more famous version of their hero,” said Karl.

“So are you trying to fit musical styles into comedy?” I asked.

Karl Schultz: one of his more understated stage performances

Karl Schultz: one of his more understated stage performances

“I think my thing is just the life I had. Being an only child, moving every three years.”

Karl’s father was a Salvation Army officer and moved location throughout the world every three years.

“Having different voices in different groups,” said Karl. “That’s my thing. Having an assimilative personality where I can change my accent. I’ve had many different accents. Negotiating and reconciling.”

“Fitting into things you don’t naturally fit into?” I asked.

“Trying to make things fit,” suggested Karl. “I’m obsessed with reconciliation. If you have an early life like I had, it can be very confusing, so you try to make sense of it, which might lead you towards philosophy, poetry and so on. What is very attractive about prosodic things is finding disparate meanings but bringing them together, making them work. Something like Matthew Kelly is synesthetic – it is supposed to be.”

“You want everything to be ordered?” I asked.

“No. Not at all.”

“You want everything to be ordered even though your act is surrealism and anarchy?” I tried.

“My act is not anarchic,” said Karl. “It’s surreal in the sense of being unreal. I take ‘surreal’ to mean dreamlike and what I’m really obsessed with is that type of hypnagogia.”

“Hypno-what?” I asked.

Karl Schultz tattoo

Karl’s tattoo – a hypnagogic fantasy of a dodo with flamingo’s wings and peacock’s feathers

Hypnagogia,” Karl explained, “is that state between wakefulness and being asleep where, as a child, you can just as easily be talking to your mother as a figure in a dream.”

“And,” I suggested, “you can know you’re dreaming yet think it might be real?”

“Yes. It’s a bizarre state. You only have to read anything Oliver Sacks has ever written about memory to know that you can appropriate memories, which is terrifying.”

“I remember,” I said, “being in a pram in Campbeltown where I was born, but I don’t know if I really remember it or if it’s something my mother told me about.”

“Everything for me,” said Karl, “is like a palette where you just play out ideas and let them run.

“What I’m obsessed with at the moment is neurophilosophy and the idea that, since the advent of cognitive science, our understanding of consciousness has moved on and so the language – the lexicon of philosophy – should catch up. What we know has moved on, but our language hasn’t. I think that’s exactly the same with comedy. It feels like we’re using Saxon language. We end up inventing words like dramady which is horrible.”

“What did you study at university?” I asked.

“Philosophy, but I was a real philosophy student in that I was a drop-out. I went off to become a comedian aged 20.”

“At least you didn’t study comedy,” I said. “I get twitchy when people think they can learn comedy.”

“Someone who’s a writer,” said Karl, “told me the other day: I knew more about writing before I started. Getting a degree in maths means that you are just as aware of how much you don’t know – and that’s the real education.

“When I came into comedy, I thought someone was going to go: Well done. Go to Level 2. I thought there were hierarchies and pyramids. But then you realise: Oh! It’s just a common room! You end up meeting the producers and commissioners and you can either have a really nice time with them or think they are milquetoast.”

“Milk toast?” I asked.

“Milquetoast. A bit cowardly. Not willing to take risks… But someone explained to me that is almost written into their job description.”

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Filed under Comedy, Philosophy

The surreal show at the Scala last night

The Scala at King’s Cross in London

Purveyor of oddities – the Scala at King’s Cross

Sometimes it is better to see shows blind.

A few months ago, I was invited to go see a show which happened last week.

By the time the day came round, I had completely forgotten who had invited me or what the show was. So I went along not knowing what to expect.

It was very good.

Much the same thing happened last night.

I went along to the Scala in London to see the Greatest Show on Legs perform during a show which I thought was probably a music event of some kind. I had not really bothered to ask.

In fact, it turned out to be a mega-variety show staged by promoters White Mischief. It was called The Haunted Halloween Ball.

Stage crew watch as The Greatest Show on Legs perform their naked balloon dance to startled Halloween-themed audience

Stage crew watch as The Greatest Show on Legs perform their naked balloon dance to a startled Halloween-themed audience

The audience dressed in Halloween costumes and the performers were of a top-notch quality which I can only compare to the level of the old Paul Daniels Show on BBC TV or ITV’s old Sunday Night at The London Palladium in its heyday (not to be confused with ITV’s misbegotten recent dog’s dinner called Sunday Night at The Palladium).

It is still relatively rare to see a wildly energetic exotic dancer with a flaming hula hoop (I mean the hoop was in flames) followed by a near-naked werewolf trapeze act.

I was talking to one of the acts in the backstage corridor later.

They told me that the buzz of performing had been amazing – like the first and only time he or she had ever taken heroin.

Showman Adam Taffler last night, as the Greatest Show on Legs prepare to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands

Showman Adam Taffler last night, as the Greatest Show on Legs prepared to perform Michael Jackson’s Thriller with rubber bands

I am not sure this kind of simile should be encouraged, but there was certainly a buzz in the auditorium from a very good audience who wanted to see new things.

Showman Adam Taffler – one of the more extravagantly-dressed people backstage despite the fact he was not performing – told me he thought London audiences had now developed a taste for large-scale one-off events with strong formats. He recently staged Soirée in a Cemetery with Stewart Lee, the British Humanist Association Choir and much more.

Last night, The Haunted Halloween Ball show started at 9,30pm. It finished at 4.00am. I left at 12.30am when the show was still going strong. In the train home to Elstree, three middle-aged women were dressed as nuns. I think they were in fancy dress costume. But they might have been real.

By that time, reality and surreality had started to blur.

One of the UK’s more sensible political parties - The Monster Raving Loony Party

One of Great Britain’s more sensible political parties.

This morning, I woke up to an e-mail from mad inventor John Ward. It simply said:

“I have just had an e-mail from the Monster Raving Loony Party with a request to build something for one of their candidates in the forthcoming General Election next May.”

Like I said, reality and surreality have started to blur.

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Filed under Cabaret, Performance, Surreal

I had a dream… when I was eighteen

My iPad has become spiderwebbed cracked

My iPad has become spiderwebbed cracked

My blog is posted a tad late today because I managed to drop my iPad on the bathroom floor last night and the screen cracked the into tens of superficial spiders’ webs. It still works, but the screen is buggered.

Today I discover that Apple can’t replace the screen because the whole thing is a single unit. I have to buy a new iPad at a reduced price. It has all been terribly time-consuming.

So, instead of a blog today, here is a dream I had when I was eighteen:

Me... when I was aged eighteen

Me… when I was aged eighteen

I was on the River Thames where there was a large suspension bridge with large grey girders held together with big bolts. The water in the river was thrashing like a rough Atlantic storm. The individual waves were racing with each other – each wave unsuccessfully trying to play piggyback on the previous one, moving faster and faster from left to right.

There was a wind coming from somewhere; I couldn’t figure from where but, at the same time, I did know where it came from.

Look, it was a dream. What can I say?

We wondered where we were but I didn’t know who was with me.

Somewhere in among all this water, there was a country lane and wider roads. In colour. And I was in a car.

The car drove over and down a low hill and stopped between two fields of rich, golden corn. Then the car went through a very small wood further along. I seemed to know where the wood was but could not quite remember where.

My father was in the car. He said: “It’s because the corn is not quite good enough.”

I told him something about a school outing to a forest, but I knew that forest was not where we were now.

There was still a field of corn to the left of us.

When it ended, there was green, downy grass which, a little further along, met a slight slope.

Every geographical detail felt small, homely and warm: within hand’s reach.

About halfway between the rich, golden corn and the slight slope was a dark brown rabbit, sitting on its hind quarters with long, soft ears sticking gently up towards the sky. Just sitting there on the downy green.

When we got near to the rabbit, I had thought it would run away, but it did not. It just sat there looking at us, then scampered off up the hill.

We had a dog with us. It was large and black and white and rather dirty and squarish. Like a black-and-white St Bernard which was waist-high to my father.

“Oh no!” my father said.

He had slapped the dog on its rear and it had chased the rabbit up the slight green downy slope.

The dog chased and chased and chased the rabbit. Its jaws moved as it neared the rabbit’s rear haunches and I told someone to call him back.

My aunt said: “No-one can call him back now.”

And soon the rabbit and the pursuing dog were over the crest of the hill and had disappeared to the left of dark green trees and I was in a house.

Well, I was not in a house. It was a little wooden shack. A hut.

I was looking straight out through the open door onto the scene. I don’t know what the scene was, but I was looking at it. My mother was standing beside me, to my left.

A huntsman came over the top of the hill wearing his bright red huntsman jacket but with bright, clean, bright orange trousers. I thought fleetingly: “That’s odd.”

He rode down the hill on a horse and I shouted something at him. The sound reverberated in the small hut.

My mother, with a smile and mock courtesy asked the huntsman – who was now out-of-sight to my right – some question about which way to go or which way to get out.

Then we were out of the hut with a path leading away on our left and a path leading away on our right.

And then I woke up.

I have no idea what that dream from when I was eighteen means.

All suggestions from suitably qualified psychologists gratefully received.

Normal blog service will, I hope, be resumed tomorrow.

I lament the fact that I no longer remember my dreams.

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Filed under Dreams, Surreal

A drunk comedian with blood coming out of his mouth = Great British culture

Tony Green after our tragic chat

Tony Green in London after our tragic chat

A couple of days ago, I had a chat with Tony Green who, I suppose, I have to describe as a comedy veteran.

In a tragic 21st century accident, I accidentally erased 59 minutes of the recording on my iPhone. The only snippet of an anecdote left is this one:

“…had this habit of going down to pick up the post with no clothes on and got locked out once. He said: Dave, could you phone up my girlfriend at work. She’s got a spare key. But Dave didn’t have a phone…”

With my bad memory I, of course, cannot remember how the story ended.

Yesterday, I had a chat with writer and occasional performer Mark Kelly.

I had not realised, until it came up in conversation with Tony Green, that Tony and Mark had known each other years ago but had fallen out. Tony told me why but, of course, I accidentally erased what he said.

So what follows is Mark’s version only…

“Tony and I were really good friends in the mid-1980s,” Mark told me, “and we fell out eventually over an act he started putting on which I thought was racist. The act claimed to be doing a parody of racism. But I found – particularly given the nature of the audiences Tony was encouraging…

Interrupting him, I asked: “What were the audiences like?”

Mark Kelly turns his back on the police state

Mark Kelly – never normally seen as Mr Light Entertainment

“Well,” explained Mark, “Tony was in love with East End lowlife culture so, at Tony’s gigs, there would be a mixture of arty Bohemians and East End criminals, some of whom were very right wing.

“It seemed very obvious to me that this particular act, whose name I genuinely can’t remember, was getting laughs for very mixed reasons and it was all very, very dodgy. And we fell out over that. Tony is a very interesting person.”

“He is indeed,” I said. “These shows were at his Open Heart Cabaret?”

“Yes. He ran it in various locations. He briefly ran it in Chiswick – not his usual territory. The pub had a function room at the back which was on stilts and once he was about to cancel the gig because there was hardly anyone there – three or four people – but then, for no apparent reason, a coach driver pulled in and everyone in the coach went into the gig. I think maybe the coach driver went off for a drink. The gig was saved in the sense of not being cancelled, but the coach party had no idea why they were there and they didn’t like any of the acts. It was terrible.”

“A lot of the acts he put on,” I said, “were… err… very experimental.”

“At Tony’s gigs,” agreed Mark, “even I felt like Mr Mainstream Light Entertainment. Tony was quite enamoured of an act called Ian Hinchliffe, an old performance artist who would usually take all his clothes off, eat glass – which he usually did quite badly – and get blind drunk.

Ian Hinchliffe (right) with Sir Gideon Vein (Tony Green)

Ian Hinchliffe (right) with Tony Green (as Sir Gideon Vein)

“The last time I ever saw Hinchliffe, he was naked, had Sellotaped his genitals together and was, of course, blind drunk. The glass-eating had gone wrong so he was bleeding from the mouth and he knocked over a couple of tables including all the drinks, horrifying the innocent people who were sitting there. That is my abiding memory of him.”

“Hinchliffe,” I said, “was quite nice except when he got drunk, which he usually quickly did. He didn’t really become a befuddled drunk; he became an aggressive drunk. But I can see why Tony found him interesting.”

“What I did find interesting,” Mark told me, “was that, even towards the end, the British Council was still sending Hinchliffe abroad, representing Britain culturally.”

“That must,” I suggested, “have caused a major deterioration in international relations.”

“I presume,” said Mark, “that he was only bookable wherever there was a bar and a drinking culture.”

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How comedian & artist Martin Soan destroyed Marilyn Monroe’s image

Marto Soan - a man I look up to (Photo by my eternally-un-named friend)

Martin Soan (right) – an artist I look up to (iPhoned by my eternally-un-named friend)

On Sunday, I asked occasional prop creator Martin Soan: “How many vaginas have you made for comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe?”

“I think four,” replied Martin. “Three or four.”

“Including a singing and dancing one.”

“Yes. Not my finest work, to be honest.”

My blog yesterday was about a visit to artist DRB’s exhibition at the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich. I went with Martin and Vivienne Soan. They run Pull The Other One comedy club.

Vivienne told me about a now-deceased club called DeVille’s, based in the Royal Albert pub on New Cross Road, South East London. It used to feature such legendary odd acts as The Iceman.

Martin at the Ben Oakley Gallery on Sunday

Martin Soan at the Ben Oakley Gallery on Sunday.

“In 1982 or 1983,” she told me, “it was run by Martin, Steve Bowditch and Kelvin Vanbeeny. They used to wear white suits and, as people came in, they were given raffle tickets and, at the end of the show, they used to have this game called Don’t Be Fucking Greedy where they had a whole line of shots – whisky and so on – up at the back and people had to answer questions and the winners got a shot of whatever it was.”

“The shots,” explained Martin, “were whisky, tea and pee, all in optics, all looking like whisky.”

Vivienne Soan in Greenwich on Sunday

Vivienne Soan sits in Greenwich on Sunday

“At that time,” Vivienne continued, “we had just bought a video camera so, every week, people would win a prize – which might be Martin, Steve and Kelvin will do your ironing for a week or They’ll give you breakfast in bed for the weekend. And they used to film it and then, the next week, screen it at the club. It was great. They did all sorts of things. A day at the races; a day at the bowling alley.”

One of the other things they screened at the club was a video which Martin had previously made.

“I used to work with this genuine artist called Surrealist Ron,” said Martin. “So we got this tray measuring a yard by maybe two and a half feet and, in that, we made a picture of the classic Andy Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe. Then – it was almost like paint-by-numbers – we divided up with cardboard where each colour went.

The iconic Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe

Maggoted: the iconic Andy Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe

“Then we got a load of maggots and used food dye to colour them – yellow, blue, red, black, flesh tones and all the rest – and put the relevant colours into the different compartments. So we had this picture of Marilyn Monroe, but it was writhing around, because all the maggots were alive. Then we suspended a Sony Video 8 camera above it and removed all the cardboard dividers.

“So we had started off with this pretty crystal-clear image of Marilyn Monroe with the colours writhing and then, when we withdrew the cardboard dividers, as the maggots wriggled, it gradually went out of focus and diffused and the colours started mixing and it just ended up a writhing mess.”

So it went.

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