Ariane Sherine, who is writing an album of songs as Ariane X, has discovered that, since finding a new man in her life and becoming happy, she has been unable (temporarily one hopes) to write songs.
I remember Charles Aznavour being asked in an interview why he always seemed to write sad songs. He said that, when people are happy, they are all happy in much the same way, so happy songs are a bit samey; when people are sad, there are varied, specific reasons why, so ‘sad’ is more inspiring and more interesting.
Let’s go off on a random phishing expedition… (Photograph: Bearmix Studio via UnSplash)
MONDAY 27th JULY
I had a call from BT, my internet provider, telling me that my line has been compromised and that my landline and broadband might be cut off…
Except BT is not my internet provider nor my line provider.
There was an electronic recorded voice explaining the above, which then transferred me to a second electronic recorded voice which said it was putting me through to an ‘adviser’ who said, in a very heavy Indian accent: “Hello. This is BT, your internet provider”.
I replied “No you’re not. So you can fuck off.”
It seemed best in the circumstances.
As someone pointed out, the quality of scammers has deteriorated recently.
The COVID self-administered swab test pack – my fifth test…
TUESDAY 28th JULY
No wonder the self-administered COVID-19 swab tests are inaccurate. I just self-administered my second one. (This time, I was randomly chosen by IpsosMORI for their research.)
You are supposed to stick the swab up both nostrils and into the back of your mouth, touching both tonsils, using a mirror to see the tonsils.
Perhaps I am oddly built but, for the life of me (which could be literally true) I cannot see my tonsils nor pretty much anything at the back of my mouth/top of my throat.
After sticking the swab up both nostrils and turning it around a bit, I dabbed it and turned it vaguely at the back of my throat on each side and hoped for the best.
In the evening, I went to my local cinema to see The Dark Knight. Cinemas are currently screening ‘modern classic’ movies to entice people in after the coronavirus lockdown.
I sat in my normal seat in the very front row. I was the only person in the screening room until, at the very last moment, a tall man came in and sat in the very back row. He had a green Mohican hairstyle, which struck me as a little old-fashioned. I was reminded of James Fenimore Cooper.
WEDNESDAY 29th JULY
Good news for comedy clubs. A friend of a friend who works for a comedy club (and who has luckily been on paid furlough because of the coronavirus) will be back at work this Saturday because a lifting of restrictions means that comedy clubs can open provided they observe social distancing and take other anti-virus precautions.
Other than that, it was a surreal day…
The ‘artist formerly known as The Iceman‘, now occasionally and erratically known as AIM, has been painting aliens. He sent me an image of his latest encounter.
Like many by the artist formerly known as The Iceman, this painting is fairly self-extra-planetary
The “BARGAIM of the WEEK” (sic) on his website is currently a painting of his ice block at the Glastonbury Festival for a very reasonable £5,077…
Richard Moore, known as ‘C’ or ‘M’ but not as Roger Moore.
Richard Moore has been appointed the new head of MI6 – ‘C’ to his chums; ‘M’ to James Bond fans.
It is a sign of our surreal times, that #RogerMoore is now trending on Twitter because people only skim the headlines and get confused between reality and fantasy.
THURSDAY 30th JULY
On Monday I have an appointment to see the doctor who is trying to figure out why my calcium level and kidney function went mad in May and I had to be hospitalised. It is a face-to-face meeting and will include yet another blood test.
As I have come to expect, this morning the NHS sent me a text saying the face-to-face meeting has been changed to a telephone call. I assume this is bollocks.
This afternoon, I had a chat in Covent Garden with performer Samantha Hannah for an upcoming blog. Nearby in the piazza, in front of ‘The Actors’ Church’, a lone puppeteer street performer was trying to attract a crowd. The place used to be thronged. No more – because of COVID-19.
A street pupeteer (extreme right) tries to attract an audience (extreme left) in Covent Garden piazza
Samantha told me two fascinating facts which will not be in the blog…
Apparently up-market apartments are not selling at The Shard in London – not because of the prices but simply because it is (just) south of the River Thames. North has more prestige.
And she read somewhere that people from hilly areas speak with accents that go up and down more than people from flat areas. This is such a weird and unlikely idea that I suspect it may actually be true.
Life is a simultaneous drama and comedy for all these days
FRIDAY 31st JULY
On the early morning Today programme on Radio 4, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that comedy clubs can open tomorrow.
I double-checked with the hospital that my appointment on Monday is, indeed, a face-to-face meeting with my Kidney Man, not via telephone.
And, indeed, it is face-to-face.
The text I got from the NHS was bollocks.
Later, I got a text about my self-administered coronavirus test:
Thank you for completing the COVID-19 swab test. Your swab analysis results indicate that you are COVID-19 negative. Although results are not 100% conclusive, it is important that you and your household continue to observe social distancing guidance. If you or anyone in your household has or develops symptoms you must follow the Stay at Home Guidance even if you have a negative result.
That is my fifth COVID-19 swab test. All negative.
I received a more positive email from Kunt and the Gang:
“It took 18 months… 20-odd rehearsals, 3 days in the studio”
It took 18 months, 2 line-up changes, 20-odd rehearsals, 3 days in the studio and about 2 months of pinging mixes back and forth remotely all through lockdown, but finally, at long last… Kunts Punk In Your Face is out now to download from our Bandcamp page.
As a thank you to everyone who supported my book Kickstarter all those years ago it’s available for free until 17-08-2020.
For everyone else it’s pay what you want – I suggest between a fiver and a tenner, depending on how flush you are, or be a proper kunt and go and pinch it for free!
It should also be up on the likes of your Spotifys and your iTuneses etc. soon, so go and have a check – if it’s not up right now it won’t be long but those platforms are a bit of a law unto themselves.
At lunchtime, it was suddenly announced that the slow easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions has been put on pause and comedy clubs (and other premises) will NOT be allowed to open tomorrow.
Worse still, for me, cinemas can remain open but audiences will have to wear masks.
It is, at least, good to know that, in such uncertain times, you can rely on the arrival of Kunt albums with puns in the titles.
SATURDAY 1st AUGUST
And, it seems, you can also rely on Apple…
Writer/performer/producer/comedian/all-round good guy Peter Michael Marino, who lives in New York, says:
Socially-responsible, financially lucky Peter Michael Marino
At Grand Central Genius Bar:
“Your 2.5-year old, out-of-warranty MacBook Pro is defective and needs a new keyboard, new battery, and new hard drive.
“It’s your lucky day. It’s all free. Don’t ask any questions. Play the lottery, dude.”
Just played the lottery and won $10.
Apple Store, London, late 2011.
I took my out-of-warranty MacBook Pro in for repair for the third time – a faulty DVD drive. They had previously repaired it for free, because the drive was a third-party item – not of their making – and they passed the repair charge on to the other company.
“John, you seem to be having a problem with this machine. Would you like a new one for free?”
“How much would it cost if I bought it?”
(The answer was over £2,000)
“I’ll have it.”
“I’m afraid there will be a delay of about a week. We have to get it in from Ireland.”
A week later, I am watching the BBC News Channel. They announce that Steve Jobs has died.
As far as I am aware, I only have two prejudices, both totally indefensible.
One is because I really have never met a nice white South African. I think it may have been caused by the education system under apartheid trying to instil self-confidence. In my experience, they really have all been a bunch of arrogant bastards. But, of course, that is blind prejudice.
The other genuinely indefensible prejudice I am aware of is that I am unthinkingly prejudiced when it comes to Jews.
If I know I am going to meet someone called Peter Smith, I have no pre-judgments about him.
If I am going to meet someone called David Bernstein (presumably Jewish) then I assume he will be highly intelligent, highly educated, sophisticated and I will probably get on well with him.
That is blind, unthinking prejudice partly fuelled by my childhood and partly by history. And it partly (but not wholly) transfers from Jews as people to Israel as a state.
Vile, anti-Semitic Copstick & Fleming of the Grouchy Club
In my erstwhile impressionable youth, the Israeli Foreign Minister was Aba Eban (who sounded like an English public schoolboy) and the Prime Minister was Golda Meir (who had an American accent). The Palestinians and Arabs on TV always had representatives with harsh-edged ach-ach-ach accents. So the Israelis were “like us” and the Arabs were clearly foreigners “not like us”. Blind, unthinking prejudice.
As for Jews, I went to a grammar school near Gants Hill in Essex/London which had a very high percentage of Jews. I can’t really remember, but I think my year had A, B, C and D streams. Almost all the Jews were in the A stream with only a few stragglers in the B stream.
When there were Jewish holidays, a lot of lessons in the A stream were effectively replaced by general knowledge tests or similar.
I do remember that, in Latin lessons, there used to be three rows in class. But, when there was a Jewish holiday, there was only half a row,
So my impression was that Jews were intelligent.
That is blind, unthinking prejudice, just as bad as the opposite would be.
And that prejudice sort-of transfers to the Arab-Israeli/Palestinian situation. Look, don’t hassle and troll me (as if that would stop them!) but I think, if the IRA had been sitting in fields south of Dublin lobbing shells and missiles over into Liverpool, Blackpool and Macclesfield, the British Government would have done something even more active than sending the SAS into the south of Ireland to sit in fields and occasionally assassinate people.
Which brings us to this week and Kate Copstick, my Grouchy Club co-host and one of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judges.
Copstick has never been known to mince her words or necessarily to think too long and hard before speaking. It is a good quality if you want to be a controversial journalist, TV producer and comedy critic.
We disagree on several things, including Palestine. I would say she has a bee in her bonnet about it. She would no doubt say I am an ill-informed idiot.
The offending and offensive anti-Semitic piece posted on Facebook
This week, she posted a link on Facebook to an article. I notoriously don’t much look at Facebook or Twitter but, after the link started getting mentioned, I took a look at it and gave up after 3 or 4 paragraphs and seeing the first picture. The article basically was pushing a particularly stupid conspiracy theory in which the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was behind ISIS. The picture was what I can only describe as a 1936-style Nazi cartoon Jew replacing Jihadi John in a pre-beheading hostage still. I am told that, later on, the conspiracy theory being pushed was that Israeli-backed ISIS was doing its dark deeds to kill off all the Catholics in Europe. Apparently Copstick, in classic style, had posted this WHY ARE ISIS NOT KILLING JEWS? piece without reading the whole thing on the basis it was an interesting concept. (My paraphrase not hers.)
And, indeed, no-one can say it is not an interesting concept!
On Wednesday (or was it yesterday? – it’s been a complicated week), I became slightly aware of this posting because @cliffordslapper was suggesting to Twitter followers: “Maybe try via her podcast co-host, @thejohnfleming”.
This led me to @TracyAnnO’s Tweet: “Maybe we should all ask John if he endorses her views?”
@londonette – how do u suggest contacting her? They are employed to represent her.They should at least act as a conduit
@lucyinglis – That’s true. Or through the paper? Or facebook?
@londonette – both have been attempted. Agents are there to deal with this sort of enquiry. End of.
As I was looking after a somewhat active 4-year-old at the time and don’t live on Twitter, the next time I looked, there was a positive flurry of Tweets along the lines of:
@BennettArron – I too have known John a long time. Perhaps he will respond.
@TracyAnnO – Silence as we know in all forms of bullying,are complicity
The latter was much liked and ReTweeted which, I thought, was a bit rich in the circumstances.
The Tweets continued unabated and unseen by me until later as in, for example:
@londonette – Hi John – I really do hope you’ll distance yourself from raging antisemite Kate Copstick
@TracyAnnO – Denying Holocaust isn’t good look is it @theJohnfleming @Copstick.Even for #clickbait self promo.
@londonette – I’m shocked u didn’t challenge her more at the time – podcast is a truly horrible listen
Where on earth a podcast came into it, I had no idea. But comedian Bennett Arron very sensibly emailed me, saying:
“Hi John, You might have missed the backlash about Kate Copstick on social media. Just wanted your thoughts on what she said on the podcast. Hope all’s well.”
My reply was, by now having belatedly scrawled through seemingly endless Twitter bollocks:
“I’ve seen the Twitter stuff. Podcast I don’t know. She’s going to talk about Twitter on the Grouchy Club Podcast recorded this Friday – possibly not posted until Saturday as I’m busy. As far as I understand it, she didn’t read the whole thing she posted. I only read the start. I’m looking after a 4-year-old, which is all I care about. If anyone has any objection to anything Copstick says or posts, that’s between them and her, not me. If anyone wants to have a go at me about things I haven’t said or thought, they can go fuck themselves.”
Bennett came back with: “Fair enough. Enjoy being with the 4 year old. Great age :)”
I then read, Tweeted by @londonette: “In case you haven’t heard it. Includes antisemitic rant by The Scotsman’s Kate Copstick AUDIO: The Grouchy Club Podcast: Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke
At this point I realised they were referring to a Grouchy Club Podcast posted on 6th December 2015 headlined JEWISH HOLOCAUST JOKES (a legendary routine by Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer) and with the description:
Kate Copstick talks to John Fleming about the Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke, trans-gender comic Will/Sarah Franken, Lewis Schaffer, The World of Pain, British TV censorship, how BBC TV executive Alan Yentob re-cut controversial comic Jerry Sadowitz, the power of TV advertisers and Noel Gay TV.
At this point, the podcast had been online for over three months, had 258 hits and had had no complaints.
The account Islamists Exposed @JailNaziScum simply posted my Twitter address: @thejohnfleming
Other responses included:
@TracyAnnO: Horrible response Mr Flemming. The pressure of collusion getting to you.?
@Kaztastic: heard the one about the bearded anti Semite posing as a comedy blogger? Shame on you Fleming.
@ziegfieldstar: Why is it that these anti Semitic vermin are always physically ugly as well as psychologically.
I then got an email from my blog’s South Coast correspondent saying: “I am getting tweets from this woman, @londonette, hell bent on what I don’t know. I was going to reply telling her that no way is Copstick racist or anti Semitic. It’s OK that they want to challenge and express distaste for something. That is everyone’s right. It’s the stoking of the fire that I object to. Saying ‘Fuck off’ isn’t always the best way forward.”
“Nah. Fuck ’em. The origin of their hatred is fair enough. But they’re now just mindless trolls. As bad as the Fascists they hate.”
That remains my view.
No doubt there will be further comments on social media. Welcome to the 21st century.
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:
You stopped blogging regularly. Why? Were you just going with the trend.
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.
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.
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?
Whenever I see tags for your Periscope, they seem to include things like Kim Kardashian.
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.
I know. Open boobs! doesn’t quite compute, does it?
And we have a song: Open boobs! Open boobs! Open boobs and anal!
They sometimes ask for anal.
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.
And this sells books.
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!
This is a serious point: Periscope is selling your books, but Twitter isn’t?
Twitter does as well, but it’s mostly Periscope.
And you’re still in print, which is a rare thing, because it’s ten years old, isn’t it?
Yeah, yeah. It is still in print and it’s going great.
I still think there should be a sequel, but there we go.
Yeah, shut the fuck up about the sequel. I don’t want to hear about that any more.
You could self-publish the sequel. That’s where the money is.
John, there’s nothing to talk about.
JOHN Janey Godley: My Rise To Infamy… I can see it now.
My Scots comedy chum Janey Godley is down in London this week, from Glasgow.
I met up with her this evening for a chat.
“I’ll give ye a blog,” she told me. “What do you want me tae talk aboot?”
And, before I could reply, she started:
“I’ve stopped smoking for a month now,” she said, “and I’m on a diet, so my whole family have been put into the witness protection programme while that happens. And, if you talk to me about it, I’ll stab ye.”
“Well,” I said, “No change there, then.”
‘It’s hard to stop smoking,” she continued, “but to stop smoking AND go on a diet isn’t really that much harder cos you’re using the same willpower for both.”
“I would have thought,” I said, “that it must make you twice as angry as normal – but maybe that’s not possible with you.”
“That,’ said Janey, “is what (Janey’s nameless husband) says: How can we tell the difference?”
Janey looked over her shoulder.
“There’s really loud people behind me,” she said, “who deserve to be stabbed.But I’m really excited cos I’m up for four Scottish Comedy Awards on 27th April. have you voted for me yet?”
“Yes,” I said quickly.
“I won the Podcast one last year,” she told me. “This year, I’m up for Best Headliner, Best Compere, Best Podcast again and Best Festival/Tour Show.”
‘Tell me why are you in London in some way that’s repeatable?” I asked.
“I’m in London this week,” she explained, “cos I had a couple of meetings with the BBC about future projects and I’m doing a couple of gigs – Banana Cabaret in Balham and Soho Comedy.”
“Is that the one in the gay street?” I asked. (It is not.)
“A gay street in Soho?” laughed Janey. “That must be a fucking hard task to find, eh?”
The Admiral Duncan pub in Soho (Photograph by Ewan Munro)
“Old Compton Street,” I said, “I didn’t know the street was supposed to be gay until the Admiral Duncan blew up when the nail bomb went off.”
“You didn’t know it was gay,” said Janey, “because not one gay man has ever approached you in your entire life. They’ve all went: No, you’re on yer own, John.”
“Not even women,” I said. “I once had a pigeon approach me at Oxford Circus.”
“I bet,” said Janey that even it bolted when it saw you.”
“No,” I said. “You know the barriers at the kerb to stop you walking across the street? I was outside one of those, walking on the narrow bit of the kerb, and this pigeon was strutting towards me and I thought it would give way to me, but it didn’t. I had to step into the road so it could walk along past me on the kerb.”
“That happened to me,” said Janey, “in Earls Court with a rat. You remember that hotel I lived in in Earls Court? There was a rat in the middle of the pavement and I thought: Well, clearly, if I bang ma feet, it’ll bolt. No. It stayed. I had to go into the road and I almost got hit by a car cos I was walking round a rat. And, see, when I went to the other side of the street, it turned its head to look at me and never moved. I am thinking like: Ya fuckin’ bastard! It was the size of a small poodle. I was frightened.”
“It was a very self-confident pigeon,” I said. “Its shoulders were going like it was an Essex Boy.”
“It’s the only bird that would come near you,” said Janey.
“Any other jollities for the blog?” I asked.
“I’m still,” said Janey, “having a fight with people on Twitter over the word cunt. They still can’t believe you can say that word. The other day, Ricky Gervais put up a post with the word cunt in it. That’s OK cos he’s rich and middle class. But, if I say it…”
“But you won’t,” I asked, “have had any Scottish people objecting?”
“A lot of people,” said Janey.
“Really?” I asked, surprised.
Janey’s current Twitter page has 16.5k followers
“Yup. It’s really weird that nobody will say anything to me (At the time of writing, Janey has over 16,500 Twitter followers) but, the minute I say cunt, people start to come on Twitter and moan. I always then put up this post that says: If the first time you’ve contacted me is cos you’ve saw the word cunt but, whenever I’ve asked you to donate to the Food Bank and you’ve never contacted me, then that means you’re a cunt.”
“But I mean,” I said, “in Glasgow, it’s the equivalent of an Australian calling someone a ‘bastard’. It’s not strong.”
“They still have an issue with it,” said Janey. “It’s unbelievable that the word cunt makes you bad.”
“When you think,” I said, “of the things they asterisked-out in Victorian novels – H*ll possibly and certainly d***ed.”
“In London in 1960,” said Janey, “they had the court case over Lady Chatterley’s Lover – about the language in that – cunt – and it was found to be not obscene. So I can say the word cunt specifically.”
“Some of us,” I said, “lost the same court case in Norwich in 1996.”
“Did you?” said Janey.
“I was,” I told her, “found guilty of Malicious Communication for calling someone a fucking cunt.”
“You called somebody a cunt?” asked Janey.
“A fucking cunt,” I said. “I thought it was fair comment. The judge said in his ruling that both the words fucking and cunt were ‘clearly indecent’. As far as I could see, that overturned the decision in the Lady Chatterley case under Common Law.”
“You got taken to court for calling somebody a cunt?” asked Janey.
“Yes,” I said.
“You’re a dick,” she told me. “Who did you call a cunt? The Queen?”
“It’s a long story,” I said. “You should read my blog.”
“I usually do. It’s fuckin’ brilliant. Ashley (Janey’s daughter) is obsessed with your North Korean blogs. They’ve made Ashley want to go to North Korea.’
“Everyone should go to North Korea,” I suggested.
“She’s no going to North Korea,” said Janey firmly.
“It’s safe,” I said, “provided you don’t say anything. I used to go to lots of Communist countries because they were safe.”
Jonathan Ross as I remember him between my holidays….
“I have to say,” said Janey, “that the best laugh I ever had on Twitter was when I contacted Jonathan Ross and asked: Do you remember John Fleming? And he Tweeted back: Is he still going to weird Communist bloc countries? And I said: Yeah. You definitely remember him.”
“That’s it finished,” I told Janey. “That’s the way to do a blog. Pretend it’s about someone else, but it’s really all about Me, Me, Me.”
A new website called Poetweet has gone online, created by the Brazilian Contemporary Art Centre. aka the B_arco Cultural Center.
You type your Twitter name into the text box, choose what type of poem you want and the software then allegedly tracks “the data of your inspiration” while, it claims, “analysing your deepest thoughts”.
Analysing my own superficial 140-character thoughts via my own Twitter account, Poetweet came up with this sonnet:
AUDIENCE MEMBER by John Fleming
Singing, vomiting & fisting Into over 100 million stars… But it must be something And the sexual use of Mars Bars
Forget comedy and turn to crime Drugs, creativity, mental health. 2016… Everything takes time… And turned to Beautiful Filth
At my worldwide blog statistics In brain is mainly in the plain Of British alternative comics
This weekend, literally underground Church in the Middle East… Is that a bra in the foreground?
There may be more development needed in the Poetweet software.
It also came up with this Rondel…
ORIGINAL TRAILER by John Fleming
The World Egg Throwing Federation Parlours and marijuana plantations Winkleman pops up as a suggestion Dead British television stations
Norwegian sex act in 2004. Honest. Mad Frankie Fraser & feminism And Lesbians in the Forest The French for liberal Fascism
There are intentional emergencies Now targeting Fringe comedy acts? World aid is a holocaust of lies Shot is real – not special effects But have some vile Fringe memories
Make of that
What you will
I think I’ll wait
Computers are more
Like Vivienne Clore
My Twitter address is @thejohnfleming NOT @johnfleming and Doug had accidentally Tweeted about Ian Cognito getting his cock out to a completely innocent other John Fleming who lives in Florida and who apparently is a “company builder, marketing and social media practitioner, clean tech advocate, country music fan and stumbling but dedicated parent”
Media people and performers – especially people in the comedy industry – do not live in the normal world as other people know it. So I do not even want to think what the other John Fleming made of the unsolicited Tweet about a cock.
Nudity, farting and sticking fingers up people’s bottoms (I refer you to yesterday’s blog) are perhaps not everyday occurrences in the world of entertainment, but they do not raise an eyebrow. Standards are different.
Arty anal entertainment? Mr Methane prepares to fart a dart (Photograph by Stephen O’Donnell)
For example, the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe last Friday had farting from Mr Methane and a man with bacon draped on his head and a singer who looked like Adolf Hitler crooning Frank Sinatra songs and giving the Nazi salute.
There was, as far as I am aware, only one complaint – which was that the show was too middle class.
On Facebook, just a few hours after the show finished, Bob Walsh posted:
The Malcolm Hardee Awards Show was a middle class rally? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)
I hope y’all enjoyed the MH awards whilst the people that actually worked with him DIDNT GET INVITED! The people that headlined his shows ARE NOT INVITED! And his whole ethos has been ignored by middle class cunts who he would have HATED enjoyed yourselves. Goodnight!
Comedian Keara Murphy replied: What you on about? It wasn’t an ‘invite’ situation. Janey, who hosted it, did work with him.
Bob Walsh responded: Wow there was one then… He would have hated it.
Pat Monahan lost to Tim Fitzhigham in Russian Egg Roulette (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)
Keara argued: You don’t know what he would have hated. Fact! Loads of people who were there last night knew and worked with him. The organiser knew him personally. The performers were chosen for their reflection of his spirit – of who he was and the kind if acts he would have booked. Your rant is misinformed and misjudged.
Bob’s reaction was: I knew him well, he is the reason I am in comedy and I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT! An opinion not misinformed!
Keara replied: You said his ‘ethos was being ignored by middle class cunts’ – in what way, exactly? And exactly to whom are you referring? And who exactly are you calling ‘middle class’? John Fleming? Kate Copstick, Bob Slayer? Janey Godley? The audience?
Keara has something of a point here. I do not think former railwayman Mr Methane from Macclesfield would label himself middle class.
Janey Godley on a quiet day
And anyone calling Janey Godley middle class risks an unfortunate end, as she occasionally points out in her act that she can get someone killed for the price of a packet of chips. She is only joking, of course.
She could get someone killed for free, as a favour… and, indeed, she has half-joked in past shows that her uncle was killed one year as a birthday present to her.
But, by this point in the Facebook postings, I was a bit confused and I posted to Bob Walsh:
Greatest Show On Legs (from left) Dickie, Steve, Martin
I’d be interested to know who didn’t get invited. Martin Soan of the Greatest Show On Legs was booked to appear but, at the last minute, could not come up. Steve Bowditch and Dickie Richards, the other current two members of the Greatest Show on Legs, were invited to appear, decided to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller then decided they did not want to do it without Martin.
As for the middle class cunts in the audience, Malcolm discovered, when he was forced to turn the Tunnel Palladium into a members-only club, that a lot of his audience came from middle class areas.
Malcolm ran his Tunnel comedy from 1984 to 1988. He told me that, to his surprise, a lot of his best hecklers worked in the City of London. I think (though I may be wrong) that his most legendary heckler – The Pirate – was a stockbroker who retired early on his mega-earnings to Spain.
Bob Walsh confused me even further, by saying: I THINK HE WOULD HAVE HATED IT and the whole middle class comedy industry and my drunken rant stands as my opinion. (Great line up tho Malcolm would have put some completely unknown acts on that HE liked)
Would Malcolm have approved the Silver Peevil from Venus? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)
It is, of course, impossible to know which unknown acts Malcolm would have liked because he drowned in 2005.
But I would lay bets that he would have liked The Silver Peevil in what I think (I could, again, be wrong here) was only his fourth performance.
And then there is the (in England, Scotland and Wales) unknown comedy harpist Ursula Burns, who performed her ditty I’m Your Fucking Harpist.
Alas, I could not book Ursula Burns on her back with the harp
Alas, because of the sightlines in The Counting House ballroom, I did not ask her to perform her climactic opus in which she sings and plays the harp lying on her back, legs apart, with the harp on top of her. Trust me, Malcolm would certainly have appreciated that part of her talent.
With great respect to Ursula, I’m sure his outro to her act would have been: “I’d fuck her…”
On Facebook, though, I told Bob Walsh I was Still a bit vague. What would Malcolm have hated specifically and specifically why? I’m not arguing with your opinion, just interested in it.
Bob told me: Its just opinions of his regulars at Tunnel that I still associate with. They are NOT happy
I asked: Were they there?
Bob replied: I wasn’t but 2 were. The main gripe seems to be the lack of risks and how the show has become a cool thing for trendy comics to network at.
Cool and trendy comics Richard Herring and Juliette Burton? (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)
There are several points here.
One is that three acts did not appear on the show at the last moment. The act which had been going to climax the show phoned to cancel about 15 minutes before the show started. Two others (one a regular at Malcolm’s comedy clubs) simply did not turn up.
The other, more important point, is the incessant criticism of people being middle class.
Is that, in itself, a bad thing?
I think there is a worrying level of reverse snobbery going on here.
Yes, there is a comfortable Oxbridge elite of (especially BBC) producers who make programmes for audiences they do not understand. But there is no God-given rule of comedy that a so-called working class person from Liverpool can be funny and a middle class person from Surbiton cannot.
Malcolm’s early management business
If I booked a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show starring acts of which Bob Walsh’s ‘middle class cunts’ who read the Guardian and watch TV panel shows might approve, then Keith Allen, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jenny Eclair, Jules Holland, Stewart Lee, Sean Lock, Paul Merton, Vic Reeves and Johnny Vegas might appear on it. Malcolm booked, helped and sometimes even managed some of those acts.
He also booked bizarre odd acts and gave chances to new acts, which I always try to do.
As for “a cool thing for trendy comics to network at” – if only.
I would love that to be the case.
Those there last Friday – appearing on stage – if they hung around to see the show, that is not necessarily networking – included Baconface, Ursula Burns, Juliette Burton, Kate Copstick, Tim Fitzhigham, Janey Godley, Richard Herring, Lady Carol, Stewart Lee, Laura Levites, Mr Methane, Patrick Monahan, Frank Sanazi, Lewis Schaffer, Nelly Scott, Bob Slayer and Ewan Wardrop
Now, I am not specifying names, but I would not say all or even the majority of those names come into the liberal middle class elite of paranoid trendiness. And I may look like a fat, if shabbily-dressed, bank manager but, if forced to socially classify myself, I would say my upbringing was lower middle class and Malcolm Hardee’s was a step above me.
Malcolm was a grammar school boy who very nearly went to a public school. (American readers will have to translate that into their own native tongue.)
But, to steal Malcolm’s catchphrase – Fuck it!
Enough with all this class bollocks.
The so-called working class have no more right to own comedy than Oxbridge or the so-called middle class.
Random visual plug for my chat show at Bob’s Bookshop
I have just about got the hang of using Facebook, but I have not yet got the hang of using Twitter. It seems to work on the basis of short, inconsequential conversations with people who wander into the Twittersphere.
But yesterday, for a very brief time, I think I half understood it.
I made a day trip from London to Edinburgh and back, to see what will become Bob’s Bookshop – the venue my Edinburgh Fringe chat show is being held in.
I think intimate is the word.
Rather than drive up, taking about 16 hours (return) when I would be able to do nothing else, I got a train up, taking around 10 hours at around half the cost of the petrol. This meant (I thought) I could use my computer.
But the techno-anarchy on the currently government-run East Coast Trains became distracting. These are some of a series of Tweets:
– I am currently travelling in an East Coast train from London to Edinburgh which has two carriages where the heating can’t be turned off… …‘Luckily’ I am in a carriage where the only problem is the power sockets don’t work and the internet connection is as fast as… …three dead dodos floating in syrup. Welcome to 21st century rail travel on Britain’s East Coast…
– I use East Coast all the time, so your tweets are sadly ringing many bells. Hope you get to Ed soon!
– 3rd time I’ve travelled on @eastcoastuk in last 3 months and 3rd time power sockets don’t work
… Two young Japanese opposite me can’t understand concept of sockets with no power and look as if they think it’s a joke by Brits
– Ah, the British. Well known for the royal family, red buses, and pointless electricity sockets.
– I feel a blog coming on. I just need a naked man to run through the carriage with balloons… … I fear East Coast are developing a sitcom pitch for Sky and are trialing it on us… … Still needs a naked man with balloons to run through carriage, but we’re only at Durham, so…
In lieu of any streakers, I gave up Tweeting at this point but, about 15 minutes later, five slightly drunk women with spray-on tans and Liverpudlian accents, dressed as if for a hen party (and one wearing a short bridal veil), glided into our carriage – refugees from one of the over-heated carriages. Each of them had a glass of champagne in her hand.
“Sorry, luv,” one said, sitting down opposite me, ”it’s hotter than a fire fight in Syria in the next carriage.”
By now I had reverted to one-to-one text messaging, which I understand more than Tweeting.
MacBook near dead, I texted ahead to Edinburgh. iPhone 35%. iPad OK. Train sockets all dead. Woe is me.
I looked her up and she is a “Wireless Networks & VSAT Researcher” – I found these Tweets from her yesterday…
– On train to Newcastle in carriage with broken air con. @eastcoastuk Giving away tiny bottles of free H2O does not make this okay, FYI…
… Am also trying to buy WiFi from @eastcoastuk. 25 mins later, still can’t pay as only country option avail for my address is Afghanistan.
… @eastcoastuk Given that I could fly to Spain return 4 the £ you charge to get to Newcastle, unimpressed.
… Have paid £9.95 for a service that doesn’t work.
It sounds like I was comparatively lucky on my trip yesterday.
When I arrived in Edinburgh, I had a drink with comedian Juliette Burton. Her first question was: “Were there any hen or stag parties on the train?”
She often travels on the route and tells me hen and stag groups often join the train at Peterborough, getting off at Newcastle, presumably to go wild. Then other hen and stag parties get on at Newcastle to go to Edinburgh. She gave me the impression she thought the hen and stag parties heading from Newcastle to Edinburgh are slightly classier.
As we crossed the Royal Mile, I saw the group of Liverpudlian women from the train buying what appeared to be sausages from a stall. One was still wearing her short bridal veil. I was mystified by the fact sausages were being sold in the Royal Mile from a stall.
“Princess Anne is visiting Edinburgh today,” Juliette told me.
“If you spot her,” I said, “ask her if she’ll do a chat for my blog.”
I have heard nothing back yet.
Miraculously, both the power sockets and the very slow WiFi worked on the return trip to London. It must have been an error.
I have a feeling the two young Japanese men who had sat opposite me on the journey up to Edinburgh probably still think it was a joke on them by the wacky Brits.
Bob Slayer in Leicester yesterday – not turning over a new leaf
I went to Leicester yesterday to see Bob Slayer‘s new show, which is perhaps over-optimistically titled: Bob Slayer: Turning Over a New Leaf.
It did, of course, not live up to the title because the 60-minute show went on for 90 minutes but never actually started due to four disruptive drunks in the audience.
However, keeping to the billed or intended subject has never been one of Bob’s priorities, so it turned out to be one of the most entertaining shows I have seen recently.
You just can’t dislike a show which includes shutting one of the audience drunks in a hidden cupboard behind a mirror, insulting the Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival judge who was in the room to rate the show and taking leave of absence from the stage to go watch a lady pee in the nearby toilet.
Strangely Bob Slayer, when sober and often even when not, is one of Britain’s most entrepreneurial comedians – something probably gained from his days as a rock band manager – and he has a couple of highly-original, laterally-thought-out but sadly as-yet-unprintable ideas for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Another comedian with original ideas is my chum Janey Godley.
In 2004, she started blogging and, at its height, her blog was getting at least (I saw the figures) 500,000 hits per week worldwide. She has since been mostly seduced away from blogging by Tweeting.
As I recently mentioned, she looked into live streaming her 2005 Edinburgh Fringe show from the original Underbelly building in Edinburgh. It was her daughter Ashley Storrie who came up with the idea, Janey told me when I was in bed with her (Janey) and Comedy Cafe Theatre owner Noel Faulkner a week ago.
Noel Faulkner in bed with Janey Godley at the Comedy Cafe
“Ashley decided,” Janey told me, “that, if you can live-stream porn and people will pay for it, why can’t you use the porn pay-per-view platform for comedy?”
Alas, at that time, it proved technically impossible in the Underbelly’s original bizarre building. The next year, I think it was, she persuaded the Pleasance Dome venue to have a giant projected video screen promo for her Fringe show in their front window – something unheard-of at the time.
And now, from tomorrow, she is running radio ads on Real Radio XS (formerly Rock Radio) for her weekly podcast with Ashley, which has been running since 2010.
“Ashley wrote the ad and I get to interrupt her, which is what I get to do in the podcast,” Janey told me. “It’s the first time an ad for an independent podcast is going on commercial radio – and all because the listeners of my podcast donated enough money for us to make an advert.
“You know,” Janey told me, “now you can actually make payments with your phone. You can actually just bang your phone to pay – and that will revolutionise prostitution.”
“The other night,” Noel Faulkner added, “I saw an ad that said Text this number: £3 will buy a blanket for a kid. And I thought What’s three quid? and donated. The fact you could text the number made it easy.”
“In Glasgow,” said Janey, “we now have children who steal McDonalds’ sachets of tomato sauce and make a pot of soup with them because they’re so poor. We should get those two fucking lazy pandas out of Edinburgh Zoo and they’ll feed the kids. We need more original thinking.”
Then she carried on watching the act on stage.
The Comedy Cafe Theatre provides a large bed in the corner of its auditorium for acts to rest on while the shows progress across the room.
I had a feeling Tiernan decided to change his persona sometime around 2010, by bringing politics into his act, so I asked him about it this week:
“Oh, I think I’m still quite friendly on stage,” he said. “I’m trying to do the politics in my own voice, by saying I’m an idiot but this is how I understand things and this is why I’m upset. I’m not trying to get on my high horse and say I know more than the audience. But, yeah, I did want to get away from just doing silly gags.”
“Why were you worried about being loveable?” I asked.
“I wasn’t so worried,” Tiernan laughed. “But, at the moment, I’m just generally very angry with the government and I thought I want to talk about this because, for the first time, it’s really bothering me. I felt what I was saying on stage – the gags – didn’t really… I didn’t care about it any more.
“My family – my dad and brother and mum – are all quite political and I’ve generally been the crap one who didn’t care really care enough until a couple of years ago. I did start doing political stuff a little before the Coalition came in – about the financial crisis. It felt like a good challenge and I quite enjoyed getting my teeth into it – saying to myself: How do I make this horrible situation funny?”
“So how do you make a horrible situation funny?” I asked.
“If you look into a subject enough, there will always be something ridiculous, but you’ve got to research it. I’m learning. I’m still learning. I’m finding that there are gigs I can’t really do the political stuff at, especially on a Friday or Saturday where people seem to just switch off. People have the automatic assumption that, if you start to talk about politics, they won’t enjoy it. They just think: This is going to be boring. I’ve just finished work. This is the last thing I want to hear. I want to hear dick jokes.”
“So,” I asked, “you perform one type of routine Sundays to Thursdays and another type Fridays and Saturdays?”
“That’s almost it,” agreed Tiernan. “Also if I’m compering, I don’t do political stuff very much then because, selflessly, I’ve got to set it up for the other acts and, if I do something that changes the opinion in the room…
“The other problem with doing topical or political stuff is that it changes every week. I have bits of material I have where I go: Argh! I can’t do that any more! because they’ve changed that policy or whatever.”
“Did you also start writing for the Huffington Post because it gives you more gravitas?” I asked.
“Well,” said Tiernan, “much like you, I used to write a daily blog on my website. The object was to force me to get up and write something each day. Then, because my blog was about all sorts of things, I thought I’d write one for the Huffington Post which was just political stuff. And then I gave up writing my blog because I got bored with writing something every day.”
“I find,” I said, “that writing a daily blog does force me to do things. But I still don’t understand how to use Twitter effectively. Performers love it, though: possibly because they want constant attention.”
“Personally,” said Tiernan, “I like using Twitter because it helps me to generate jokes. I can write a topical joke very quickly and then it’s out there immediately.”
“But doesn’t that also mean,” I suggested, “that you’re giving away good jokes for free and, if you then use that joke in your act, it feels like a stale joke because people who follow you on Twitter will have heard the joke already?”
“I don’t use a lot of jokes I Tweet,” he explained, “because they are so topical. If I do three short jokes based on the news, they won’t be relevant tomorrow. I do Twitter for the same reason I used to do a blog: I find it keeps me really sharp. I get up every morning and think What gag can I get from that?… And what gag can I get from that?… Bam-Bam-Bam… I need to start my brain in the mornings, otherwise I can sit there aimlessly for hours. And often I put on Twitter a short joke that, later, I find is a theme I can develop. If it gets ReTweets, I know people have found it interesting. If I do a couple of jokes and they work, then I Tweet I’m gigging there… and that does work as self-promotion. At the Edinburgh Fringe, I sold 4 or 5 tickets a day, just as the result of Tweets.”
“And your next big project?” I asked.
“I’ve got a director friend and we’re talking about doing a video-cast every week – 5 minutes on YouTube of political humour, really topical. We’re both very sick of the fact there’s so much that dictates what’s on television and radio. We both have a lot of projects turned down because everything needs to be changed: You’re not allowed to say that on television or whatever.
“Sod it! We want to do an angry political rant every week. We might call it The Partly Political Broadcast and make it as funny as possible but with a point.”
“So you’re going to carry on down the political path, then?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m enjoying it. But I’m not a big Labour Party fan either. I think they’re awful as well. I don’t think anyone really speaks for the people or really cares. It’s mostly about earning money and I think, while that’s the case, there’s a lot to say.”
“I hate him,” said Tiernan. “I got booed at a gig for saying I hated him. He’s awful. He’s terrible.”
“But he makes people laugh…” I said.
“That’s the thing about being funny,” said Tiernan. “You can get away with everything. Comedians are dangerous.”
“And Boris is a comedian…” I said.
“No, he’s a clown.”
“What’s the difference?”
“He’s more farcical,” said Tiernan. “He’s more slapstick. His scripts are well-written. I’d love to know who writes his speeches. I think he improvises parts of them. I went to one of the Mayoral Debates and I didn’t really like any of the candidates. Brian Paddick was reading a script…”
“He was the gay policeman?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Tiernan. “And he was just so wooden and boring… but Jenny Jones and Boris came over as being very normal. If you watch enough performers and performance, you can tell when people are being ‘real’ and they just seemed genuine. But Boris ‘mugged’. Any time anyone else spoke, he would pull faces and distract the audience, so people were giggling. It was so cruel.”
“But effective,” I said.
“Incredibly so,” said Tiernan. “I just hated it.”
“Perhaps you should be a politician,” I suggested.
“I couldn’t do that,” said Tiernan instantly.
“The problem,” I said, “is that, to be an effective politician, you have to be two-faced and have adjustable morals to deal with all the shits you have to negotiate and compromise with.”
“I’m going to Iceland on Monday,” Tiernan said. “for my first holiday in two years. I like their ethos. Not their eating ethos – sheep’s heads and putrified shark – but the Mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr, was a stand-up comedian and went in to the election for a bit of a laugh. He formed a party called the Best Party and some of their policies were We’re definitely going to get a polar bear in the zoo and Free towels at all the swimming pools and all the voters went Yeah,We’re so sick of everyone, we’ll vote you in and he ended up being Mayor and now he’s going to run for Prime Minister.
“Their whole ethos is just Peace. They want to be a peaceful nation. They don’t want an army. They’ve got these lovely ideas. I mean, they still eat puffins, but… I dunno… the whole place appeals to me.”