Tag Archives: tanning

I don’t mind being called a lady, but I am not English, despite the Italian slur

Does this chin make you think I am an English lady?

Last night, I flew back to the UK to what seems to be a tsunami of publicity – on BBC Radio 2, on French TV, in UK newspapers and online about my fellow Scot Janey Godley’s ‘Train Tales’ Twitter saga.

I myself wrote about Janey’s allegedly public-privacy-invading Twitters (soon, perhaps to become an Edinburgh Fringe show) in this blog and in the UK edition of the Huffington Post two days ago… and the US edition of the Huffington Post re-visited the story in a second article yesterday.

Janey is very good on publicity. And she is not alone.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned some of the stories in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

Italian-born, mostly British-based comedian Giacinto Palmieri commented:

“I think what is missing in Italy is the newspaper market ‘segmentation’ between broadsheets (most of which nowadays are tabloid-size) and tabloids. So, Corriere della Sera and Repubblica are a mix of ‘serious’ articles of the type you could find in the UK in the Guardian or the Telegraph but also the kind of gossip you mentioned. Having said that, it’s also true that politics in Italy is often about personalities, so political reporting tends to be quite gossipy in nature.”

I prefer to think of it all as admirable Italian eccentricity.

Yesterday, in a shopping centre in Milan, I spotted a tanning salon where people go to get fake tans. The temperature was 102F and sun is not an unknown phenomenon in Italy.

“A tanning salon? Is this some new thing?” I asked my English friend who has lived in Italy for almost 25 years.

“No,” she told me. “They’ve been here as long as I have.”

“Why would Italians want fake tans?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” she said. “It’s a mystery.”

Giacinto Palmieri was born and grew up in Milan. I asked him what he thought of my view of Italians as ever-so-slightly eccentric – in an admirable way.

“I’ve been following your reports from Milan with great interest,” he told me. (He will go far.) “They remind me a bit of what I’m trying to do with my own comedy as an Italian in Britain: showing how things that are too familiar to be noticed in the eyes of the ‘natives’  can be shown as surprising, weird and (hopefully) funny in the eyes of an outsider.

“Having said that,” he continued, “I have also enjoyed observing the observer and I need to confess a mental association you might not find very flattering.

“There is this comedian in Italy called Enrico Montesano who, a long time ago, had a character called La romantica donna ingleseThe romantic English lady. She was a comedic equivalent of the mother in A Room With a View. Her catchphrase (uttered in a strong mock English accent) was ‘Molto pittoresco’ – ‘Very picturesque’ – a comment she found suitable for almost everything she saw.

“I don’t know what Montesano’s source was, but the character was spot on. It really seemed to capture something true about the English visitors’ view of Italy. Please don’t take it as a criticism: your remarks are, indeed, very interesting and often funny. Besides, nobody can be held responsible for his free associations.

“By the way, I tried to find a seamless link into a casual mention of my Edinburgh Fringe show Giacinto Palmieri: Pagliaccio at the Newsroom, 2-26 August, 7.00pm… but I couldn’t find it.”

Relentless publicity is a vital thing for any comedian: which is unfortunate, as an awful lot of comedians – Pagliacci indeed – are ironically so lacking in self confidence that they are terrified of the self-exposure in print and in the media that they confusingly crave on stage.

But Giacinto Palmieri, like the unstoppable force of nature that is Janey Godley, is different and will clearly go far.

Well, he will in this blog.

But not if he calls me English again!

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