Tag Archives: surreal

I am very grateful to be even belatedly appreciated in Peru and Milton Keynes

Since I stopped writing a daily blog at New Year, surrealism has taken over.

Yesterday, rather belatedly, an online paper based in Puno, Peru, posted a link in their Adult section to my December 2010 blog Killer Bitch and the ‘F’ word and the ‘C’ word.

PunoPeru_paper.li

Today, slightly closer to home but still more than a little surreal, an online page called Hello Milton Keynes, Here’s Your Daily News published by Atkinson Forestry (“the premier specialists in providing a wide range of quality tree surgery services, at highly competitive prices) has picked up on another December 2010 blog I wrote titled: Spending Christmas 1998 with Malcolm Hardee in Sarf Eest London.

MiltonKeynes_paper.li

It is good to be appreciated in both Puno, Peru and in Milton Keynes, England.

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From Berlin: “the surreal, strange and amazing and weird and wonderful…”

Polly Trope’s selfie of herself in a mirror

Polly Trope’s selfie of herself reflected in a mirror in 2014

A week ago, I blogged about Polly Trope, who was organising a book fair in a bar in Berlin, which included the idea of a Literophone – a small furry booth where guests could call up writers and get words read to them down the phone.

I was supposed to be on the end of a phone in London yesterday, ready to read out a blog to unsuspecting German lovers of words. But I got tickets for a play in London’s West End instead. My Facebook Friends may have read my sort-of review of Mr Foote’s Other Leg.

So, this afternoon, I Skyped Polly Trope to find out how the Berlin event had gone yesterday.

“Really well,” Polly told me. “Everyone had a good time. About a hundred people came. It was more a social affair than a book fair – networking. We had two rooms: one for chatting and drinking and one for doing readings.”

“How did the Literophone go?” I asked.

“Really well. I think for both the people phoning and the people reading it was a very strange experience. A certain kind of person was interested in phoning.”

“What type of person?”

Polly Trope on a special horse near Great Yarmouth (Photograph by Clifford Slapper)

Polly Trope near Great Yarmouth (Photograph by Clifford Slapper)

“People who have a love for the surreal, the strange and amazing and weird and wonderful. Not everyone is into that. Some people phoned all the poets and all the flash fiction writers.”

“What,” I asked, “was surreal, strange and amazing – the readings or the fluffy booth itself?”

“I think it was the fact the readings were on the phone and you could not know in advance what you were going to get and you weren’t sure how to react. People came out saying: Ooh! that was really weird and intense.”

“In the tiny little fluffy booth?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“What was the highlight for you outside in the bar itself?”

“Jonathan Lyon’s reading.”

(Jonathan Lyon has been described as a fur-donning Adonis writing a novel via Instagram about his drug habits while at Oxford.)

“Why?” I asked.

“I just think he’s a wonderful writer. He read a piece about kind-of-like-a horror film taking place within his own skull and he climbs into his skull and finds another skull and then there’s a little door and slides down and it just gets really intricate.”

“It sounds,” I said, “ideal for a bar where everyone is drinking.”

“Yes. The bar is named after the dog.”

“The dog?” I asked.

“The bar is called the Posh Teckel.”

“Teckel?” I asked.

“I think it’s a word to say dachshund. They have a dog called Ella in the bar.”

“Stuffed?” I asked.

“No. Alive.”

“Sausages are usually stuffed,” I said.

Ella in the fluffy booth with a telephone

Ella in the fluffy booth with a telephone

“As soon as I made the fluffy booth,” Polly told me, “Ella went into it, thinking Ooh! this is nice and fluffy. I’m going in.”

“Ella is the dog?” I asked,.

“Yes. She left when people started to come in, “said Polly. “She doesn’t like crowds.”

“Are you going to do it again?” I asked.

“Yeah. We’re hoping next time we can get someone to sponsor us. It would be nice to have funding.”

“It is always nice to have funding,” I said, “… or so people tell me.”

“I don’t know when the next one will be,” Polly told me, “but the Literophone is possibly going to be happening in London as a little Christmas celebration. I’m quite keen to do the experience again for more people in more places.”

“Anything else you want to say?” I asked. “Do you want to sing?”

“I can’t sing,” said Polly.

“You can,” I told her. “I’ve heard you sing. You did a black and white music video.”

“You liked that?”

“It was like Berlin between the Wars,” I said, “which is rather worrying as it means there’s another war coming along.”

“Yeah,” said Polly, “but it was filmed in Florida.”

“You can still be German there,” I said. “Just because you are in Florida doesn’t mean you have to be a cartoon mouse. You can still be German.”

“I just took some video by the pool,” Polly told me. “At a really creepy motel. I liked the fact it was creepy.”

“Why was it creepy?” I asked. “Did it feel like Psycho?”

“No. It was a bit like a set of council blocks and, in the middle, was a swimming pool which never had anyone in it. So I swam in it.”

Polly’s song is still on YouTube:

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After weird comedy, what is next?

Martin Soan in my home

Martin Soan at my home in Borehamwood

“The first time you performed at the Edinburgh Fringe was in the 1970s?” I asked Martin Soan when he came round to help me with something in my home.

“I first went up there in 1971,” he told me. “It was different then. I only remember one street performer.”

“What was he doing?” I asked.

“I’ll give you three guesses.”

“Juggling.”

“No.”

“Fire-eating.”

“No.”

“Buggering budgerigars.”

“No.”

“What?”

“He was playing the bagpipes. There was a leaflet listing the Fringe shows. I think there were only about half a dozen shows. There was a room above a pub with the Cambridge Footlights in. There was an experimental dance piece. There was some sort of classic play.”

“Why did you go up in the first place?”

“Because I knew one of the dancers in the experimental dance piece.”

“The lure of sex.”

“Always. I went up there in 1971, but then I didn’t go up for another 12 or 15 years with The Greatest Show on Legs.”

“How has the Fringe changed?” I asked. “It’s just got commercialised, hasn’t it?”

‘Everybody knows how it’s changed,” said Martin. “That’s an old story.”

“You could make it up,” I said. “Did you know they used to sell fish in The Grassmarket? And whales. That’s why it’s the shape it is.”

Part of the Grassmarket in Edinburgh - once a seething mass of whale meat (Photograph by Kim Traynor

The Grassmarket in Edinburgh – once a thriving whale market (Photograph by Kim Traynor)

“Is that right?” asked Martin.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s a little-known known fact about Edinburgh.”

“Whales?” asked Martin.

“Imagine the shape of The Grassmarket,” I told him. “That’s whale-sized and whale-shaped, isn’t it?… The Gaelic work for ‘whale’ is ‘graas’ – It’s from the Norwegian. Graas. So it became the Graasmarket, where people bought bits of whale.”

“Really?”

“It was always a showbiz area,” I explained. “They used to sing songs in The Grassmarket. Whale Meat Again. That first got popular there.”

“I don’t know,” said Martin. “It’s like asking someone if they’re a vegetarian, then giving them meat but secretly it’s made out of soya or something like that. It’s very weird.”

“It’s not post-modern,” I suggested. “It’s post-weird.”

“That’s the thing,” said Martin. “Where do we go now with comedy if the weird has become the norm? What can be slightly off-kilter from that? I like a good stand-up. I like a good variety act. I like a good weird act. But there’s lots of them now. There’s lots of weird acts.”

Michael Brunström as Mary Quant

Michael Brunström as a whaling Mary Quant

Michael Brunström is weird in a good way,” I said. “I saw him the other day. He was dressed in a toga, impersonating the 1960s designer Mary Quant in what was supposed to be the true story of her whaling trip and it seemed to me that he was speaking in a slight German accent. It was weird. He is weird.”

“You can see the influences coming through now,” said Martin.

“Of Mary Quant?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin. “But it’s rippling through the comedy circuit. I have now seen three people wearing a saucepan on their head banging it with a stick.”

“Who started that?” I asked. “Spike Milligan?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” replied Martin. “But I think, on this round, the first person I saw do it was Cheekykita – maybe with a crash helmet on. Now there are loads of people banging their heads.”

“It could,” I said, “be Johnny Sorrow’s influence with the Bob Blackman Appreciation Society.”

“It is difficult to know where you go from weird,” said Martin.

“You must have a lot of original acts approaching you to appear at Pull The Other One,” I said. (Martin runs a monthly comedy variety show.)

“I’m trying to get back to true variety,” Martin told me. “I would love to put on stage people who don’t normally go on stage but who are brilliant performers. But it takes a lot of diplomacy. I really want to book – and have tried to book but failed – one of those guys who sells knives at stations.

“They sell kitchen equipment and stuff like that. They normally have one of those little Beyoncé mics and an assistant and they have a whole box of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions and their patter is: The time you waste finely-chopping onions, ladies! Just buy one of these Acme vegetable choppers. you take off the blades like this. You wash it like this. Then you get your onion. Bang! Bang! Bang! Finely chopped! Not only will I give you that and attachments for beautifully, artistically-sliced cucumbers but you can even core a cauliflower!

A cauliflower could lead to comedy

A cauliflower could lead to comedy

“I would love to get one of those guys up on stage during a show. If you just put them in a different situation, like a comedy club, they would ham it up even more. So I’m thinking about that.”

“And you could share the profit on knife sales,” I suggested.

“Yeah,” said Martin unenthusiastically.

“Or,” I suggested. “you could sell yourself to a shopping channel. They have all these embarrassed-looking out-of-work actors selling things for two hours in dull sets. Instead, they could have a surreal comedy show that sells things.”

“I am,” said Martin, “thinking opera singers and quartets at Pull The Other One.”

“I am,” I told him, “thinking opera singers on shopping channels selling vegetable cutters.”

“If,” he continued, “you think of your average comedy evening, one stand-up makes the audience laugh and the others don’t.  I want to do shadow shows and UV theatre, but good ones.”

“I’m sure,” I said, “that audiences at comedy clubs are getting tired of five stand-up acts in a row and, if they’re young male acts, they’re all talking about wanking because that’s all they know. There should be a ban on wanking references in comedy clubs. And there could be an untapped audience for people selling kitchen knives.”

There is a video on YouTube of Bob Blackman singing Mule Train while hitting himself on the head with a metal tray.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Surreal

Live forest sex in Canada amid massage parlours and marijuana plantations

After reading yesterday’s blog about live sex on-stage at a rock festival in Norway, this blog’s occasional correspondent Anna Smith sent me the following from Vancouver.


The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith: woman with a past

It’s not that unusual for people to have sex in the forest here. It’s a bit less crowded than the beach.

Most of British Columbia is conveniently covered in forest. Forestry is a major industry, it may even provide more jobs than massage parlours, but not as many as the marijuana plantations. Work in the orchards, fishing and mushroom-picking industries is more seasonal. Tree planting, logging, sawmills, pulp & paper and forest fires provide a lot of work year round and excitement every summer. Fire fighters pour in from across the continent, livening up small towns and dumping toxic water bombs from helicopters onto burning railway trestles to the delight of intoxicated teenage ferry passengers.

I have always turned down any job that involves having sex on stage. So I did find it hilarious that, when I was dancing in the Belgian Porno cinemas (which was not quite the same thing as the Belgian Congo, although the cinemas could be described as conflict zones), the signs outside the cinemas advertised Live Sex Show but it was just me doing a striptease. We had to sign lengthy contracts in quadruplicate stating that, if we were performing with wild animals or on the trapeze, we were responsible for our own insurance.


Anna’s father sounds interesting. She also sent me this:


Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

A photo taken last night of Anna Smith, “after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch, not wearing any make-up.”

My father is asleep right now, which I am glad of as he has a large hole on the top of his head. He looks like he has been hit by shrapnel and I am very glad he did not remove his cap at the concert on Saturday, although he did threaten to.

His friend, a languages professor from Manchester, pleaded that he not remove his cap.

I asked the professor: “What’s the matter? Don’t you have a hole in your head?”

He said he did not, so I asked him where he did have holes – a question which did not displease him.

We were in a church. There was an announcement over the PA system that someone had left their headlights on and that they should be turned off.

My father pretended that it was an announcement that someone had left their cap on and, again, threatened to remove his.

After the concert, we noticed two spooky effigies against the wall. One represented a refugee and the other a homeless person with angel’s wings.


I have no explanation for the above.


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Filed under Canada, Eccentrics, Sex, 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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