Tag Archives: Vicky de Lacy

Going Pear Shaped: the last night of London’s second worst comedy club

(from left) Brian Damage, Vicky de Lacy & Anthony Miller last night

(L-R) Brian Damage, Vicky de Lacy, Anthony Miller last night

Last night, for the very last time, I went to Pear Shaped in Fitzrovia, the always fascinating (note the careful use of word there) weekly comedy club run, for the last 15 years by Brian Damage & Kryssstal (Vicky de Lacy) with Anthony Miller.

The club is closing because the Fitzroy Tavern pub and its basement are having a big refurbishment lasting, perhaps, a year. Well, OK, the story seems to be that, as part of the refurbishment, the club may be turned into a toilet. I pause while you make up your own joke.

“They’re closing down next month,” Brian Damage told me last night. “They do want us to come back, but that’s nine months away.”

“Have you got another venue?” I asked.

“We’ve found another one,” said Brian. “But nothing settled yet, so I’m saying nothing.”

“If you’re now free,” I said, “you can go to the Edinburgh Fringe in August.”

“I’d love – we’d love – to go up to the Fringe,” said Brian. “I miss it. But not running a venue – That’s a whole year of Read the first fucking e-mail I sent you!”

For years, Brian and Vicky used to run the Holyrood Tavern up at the Fringe, including the extraordinary Pear Shaped at Midnight shows where, whenever I went, there was no ‘real’ audience, merely acts watching other acts perform after their own shows had ended. Shows can often be better without an audience of punters. These shows were.

“You met Vicky at the Fringe, didn’t you?” I asked.

“Yes,” he told me, “I was asked to compere a show up there. We met and, one night, I was pissed and I said: We could run this fucking place, thinking it was easy. It wasn’t, of course. I didn’t know Vicky used to run theatres in Australia. I couldn’t run it, but she could.”

With Brian Damage & Vicky de Lacy in 2007

With Brian Damage and Vicky de Lacy in December 2007

“Where did you and I first meet?” I asked him. Memory is not my forte.

“On the Wibbley Wobbley,” he told me. “We ran the new act night there for Malcolm Hardee – we booked the acts.”

Look, it’s not my fault that conversation often turns to the late comic/ promoter/ club owner Malcolm Hardee. After running the infamous Tunnel club and the more respectable Up The Creek, he staged shows in Rotherhithe on a converted German barge, The Wibbley Wobbley.

“Malcolm was,” said Brian last night, “the opposite of all the bullshit and all the crap that enrages me. When I first started doing comedy, I loved a bit of bullshit.”

“And he didn’t?” I asked, surprised.

“Well now,” said Brian, “because of the fucking barrage of shit I have coming at me every single day on Facebook, all the arguing and the bollocks. I’ve got to the stage where I’m thinking I don’t care about any of it.”

“That’s age,” I suggested.

“Well, maybe it is,” said Brian. “But I just don’t care. The things that people are arguing about…  for fuck’s sake. They actually have discussions about Are women funny? Fuck off! I mean, Fuck off! It’s so rubbish.”

“Facebook somehow encourages it,” I said.

“I’m only on Facebook for business purposes,” said Brian. “Thank God I’m not on there as a human being. There’s so much shit coming at me, I’m fucked if I’m going to add to it. Fuck off!”

“The Queen,” I said, changing the subject, “may have to leave Buckingham Palace for six months while they refurbish it.”

“Yes, we could move in there for a few months,” Brian mused.

Last night, the Pear Shaped venue was full.

“Tonight is one of the few nights we’ve had an audience,” Brian told the audience. “I reckon what we should have done over the last 15 years was, every week, say CLOSING DOWN and I reckon that would’ve done the trick.”

Over the last 15 years, enormous numbers of starting-out comics have performed at Pear Shaped, which is billed as “London’s Second Worst Comedy Club”.

The worst one, Brian claims, was the one they ran before the current Pear Shaped. Well, current until last night.

Brian Damage & Anthony Miller read last rites

Brian Damage & Anthony Miller read last rites

One of the acts last night (I have tragically forgotten who) said that Brian & Krysstal’s next club will, by definition, be better because it will be London’s third worst comedy club.

Anthony Miller told the assembled throng: “You have to see it in perspective. The David Lean Cinema in Croydon has as many seats as this room and managed to lose half a million pounds in a year. So, compared to that, we’re slick.”

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Robert White apparently gave his first performance at Pear Shaped. He was there last night and gave Anthony Miller a farewell kiss. It seemed not to be appreciated.

As always, Brian Damage started the evening by singing the club’s theme song (to the tune of The Flintstones TV series):

Pear Shaped
This is Pear Shaped
Every Wednesday night at half past eight

Pear Shaped
This is Pear Shaped
Loads of comics you can love or hate

Pear Shaped
It’s just a fiver to come in
And we hope
You’ll both be coming back again
to
Pear Shaped
Up to Pear Shaped
Every Wednesday night at half past eight

At the end of the evening, he sang:

I don’t know where
I don’t know when
But it will
Happen again

Here’s hoping.

Brian Damage bids a fond farewell

Brian Damage bids a fond farewell

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Brian Damage & Krysstal are appealing but have some vile Fringe memories

This week, I went to Brian Damage and Krysstal’s legendary Pear Shaped venue in Fitzrovia, London.

Tomorrow, they start recording a music album in Cambridge.

“We miss the music.,” said Krysstal (real name Vicky de Lacy). “When we first got together, we used to play a lot.”

“You met at the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.”

Brian Damage with Vicky as  Krysstal

Brian Damage with Vicky as Krysstal are getting back to basics

“Yes. In 2000,” said Vicky. “When we first got together, our main work was playing in pubs as a duo with a bit of comedy and then gradually the comedy took over. We hardly ever do any music gigs now, so we put this band called The Wrinklepickers together.”

“The Old Bastards was another option,” said Brian.

“But The Wrinklepickers wasn’t taken,” explained Vicky, “so we got the website wrinklepickers.com and we’ve had that for about three or four years now, though someone has recently started calling themselves Wrinkle Pickers – separate words.”

“Playing the same sort of music?” I asked.

“No,” said Brian. “They’re playing covers.”

“Who’s your target audience?” I asked.

“It’s mostly country-ish sounding,” replied Vicky. “Close harmonies. But they’re lively songs: you can dance to them.”

“In folk clubs?” I asked.

“We’re too lively for folk clubs,” said Vicky. “We’re pretty upbeat. Not political songs or anything like that.”

“If you listen to old bluegrass and country songs,” said Brian, “they’re miserable songs about death and killing your girlfriend, but they’re cheerfully performed. With us, it’s the harmonies and beat that does it. We’re lively. Our percussion man has got a snare drum, but he’s also got pots and pans and a washboard.”

“We have 30 or 40 original songs,”said Vicky, “about 20 of which we already play regularly at comedy gigs and people like the songs, so we figured: Let’s make an album. But we’ve got no money.”

“You’ve made albums before,” I said.

The Wrinklepickers

The Wrinklepickers – now they are aiming for a £1,000 target

“Yes,” said Vicky, “but they were silly songs. The music wasn’t the most important thing; it was the comedy bits. We could do those at home in our bedroom but this one – because there’s a band…”

“We’re going to do it in somebody else’s bedroom,” said Brian.

“On a farm in Cambridge,” said Vicky. “We’ve started a crowdfunding thing to make at least a demo album. There’s just under two weeks left to go – 19th November.

We have met our first target of £600, but we set the target deliberately low, so now we’re aiming for about £1,000 because that will help us make a proper 10 or 12 song album instead of a demo album with 5 or 6 songs and then 5% or 6% of the profit will go to a music charity for young people.”

“What’s the album called?” I asked.

The Wrinklepickers Album #1,” said Vicky.

“Very appropriate,” I said. “How is Pear Shaped going?”

“We don’t wanna get too big,” laughed Brian.

“You should give out awards,” I said.

“We did have an award winner,” said Brian. It was Seymour Mace.”

“We gave him The Golden Derriere,” said Vicky.

“As in Perrier,” said Brian.

Brian Damage and headstrong Vicky de Lacy this week

Brian & Vicky at Pear Shaped, London, this week

“It was a golden pear,” said Vicky, “with a cut in it so it looked like a little bottom – Pear Shaped – the Golden Derriere Award. I think we gave it the second or third year we were in Edinburgh.”

“You should go up again,” I said.

“The good thing about Edinburgh,” said Brian, “is you bump into people – promoters – accidentally and that means you don’t have to crawl up anybody’s arse. But we haven’t been up there now for a long while.”

“Someone’s arse?” I asked.

“Edinburgh,” said Brian.

“2008 was our last time,” said Vicky.

“Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Vicky.

“The Holyrood Tavern,” said Brian, “was a great venue to run. But that other place we ran up the Cowgate was vile.”

“It was hard to run.” agreed Vicky.

“In 2008,” said Brian, “Edinburgh pissed rain for a whole month.”

“Not only that,” said Vicky. “We had torrents of water coming down inside our venue from The Green Room upstairs because they had a faulty washing machine. So we had all this dirty washing water coming down the back stairs into these enormous bins, so it sounded like a horse pissing when people were on stage.”

“And sewage outside,” said Brian. “It splashed on people as they came in.”

The Cowgate in Edinburgh

The Cowgate in Edinburgh – not really at its best when it rains

“There was a hole in the road,” explained Vicky. “You know how narrow that road is there and they had a little notice, but people kept knocking that over and all the cars kept going into this hole full of sewage water and spraying it up so people coming in to our venue were getting sprayed and you couldn’t put posters out the front because they got soggy. The staff used to go out the front to have cigarettes and get showered with dirty, smelly water. It was just horrible. And the toilets stank in there as well: the men’s toilets especially. The whole place was smelly and wet for the whole month.”

“It was the worst Edinburgh I’d ever had,” said Brian. “The previous year, we had set off from London and the sun was shining. I was in shorts and a flowery shirt and looked like I’d crept off a beach in Spain and we came up over that hill into Edinburgh and we just saw…”

“…all this mist and fog,” said Vicky.

“And we drove down into it,” said Brian.

“And the whole month was like that,” said Vicky. “And then, coming home, the reverse happened. We drove back over the hill and it was all sunny.”

“But it wasn’t as bad as 2008,” said Brian.

“It was great this year,” I said. “You had shit weather in London and I as basking in the sun in Edinburgh.”

“The year the two of us met – 2000,” said Brian, “I didn’t pay to go up. Neil Willis was an agent then. He said: Do you wanna go and compere a show in Edinburgh? And it was great.”

“What’s the point of Pear Shaped?” I asked. “What’s the unique selling proposition?”

“Anybody can do five minutes,” said Vicky. “and anybody watching can stand anybody doing five minutes. You can be as terrible as you like and you still get booked back. Basically, it’s mainly for comics; it’s not for an audience. It’s our night off; we just have a good time.”

Pear Shaped Comedy Club logo

Pear Shaped Comedy Club – the legendary UK comedy venue

“The Pear Shaped shows in Edinburgh were wonderful,” I said. “Comics just coming along to see other comics.”

“The midnight show was brilliant,” agreed Brian. “Any customers who wanted to see it, we charged ‘em and that kept the idiots out. And then the comedians would turn up in various forms of psychological meltdown and tear up on stage. They would either have had a fantastic day, in which case they were really on form. Or a terrible day and they were roaring at everybody and threatening to kill themselves.”

“There was that time,” Vicky reminded him, “when Danny Hurst showed up and he had just been mugged and had had a bad review. Well, someone tried to mug him, but Danny ended up punching the mugger because he was so fed up.”

“He got up on stage…” started Brian.

“…and said…” continued Vicky, “I had to go and report it to the police… And then the police actually turned up at our venue when he was midway telling the story on stage and they carried on the story.”

“The police did?” I asked.

“Well,” said Vicky, “They pulled him to the side and so it all became part of the show. He had punched out this guy, but he had to give himself up to the police for committing Grievous Bodily Harm.”

“I take it,” I said, “that the mugger did not press charges.”

“No,” said Vicky, “the police just said: Well, you shouldn’t go around punching people on the one hand. On the other hand, we understand… We used to get things like that happening. Or people just being completely pissed and getting on stage and trying to do another comedian’s act.”

“I’d like to go up again,” said Brian.

“But it’s the cost,” said Vicky.

“Maybe we should try to crowdfund it,” said Brian.

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“I’ve been mixing with weird people all my life – musicians, comedians, actors – They’re all f***ing cranks.”

The bare image promoting the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

David Tuck’s photo was ‘cartoonised’ by Brian

Brian Damage and his wife Vicky de Lacy perform musical comedy as Brian Damage & Krysstal and have run Pear Shaped Comedy clubs in London, Edinburgh and Sydney. At the moment, the club is weekly in Fitzrovia in London.

But Brian also paints and, in fact, created the image I use for the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards (based on an original photograph by David Tuck). So I thought it would be interesting to write a blog about Brian Damage the Artist rather than Brian Damage the comedy performer/club runner.

“Have you been painting all your life?” I asked him yesterday afternoon.

“No. I stopped when I was 19.”

“Why?” I asked, thinking I might have chosen the wrong subject to chat to him about.

Brian started selling cartoons to Tit-bits

.

“Around then,” he told me, “I took to cartooning and had about 16 published in Tit-bits magazine. And then, for some reason, I just stopped.”

“Why?” I asked.

“No idea..” he said.

“So when did you rediscover the joy of Art?” I asked.

“In 2010.”

“Why?”

“I can’t remember. But I know it was 2010 because I was extremely interested for two years and I’ve hardly painted at all this year.”

Oh dear, I thought, with a sense of impending doom.

Brian Damage at home with his painting

Brian Damage was at home with his painting yesterday

“I’ve only just managed to get the website up,” said Brian. “It’s taken me three years to put the website up.”

“Why did you start painting?” I asked.

“Originally, when I was a kid, because I was really into Dali and surrealist stuff.”

“But you don’t do surrealist stuff yourself.”

“Roses” by Brian Damage

“Roses” – by Brian Damage

“I did then,” said Brian. “My dad… His idea of tidying up was to start a bonfire. He’d see my paintings lying around and burn them. He would burn clothes and everything.”

“Why?”

“Anything he saw lying about, he’d say: Right! I’m tidying up today! But you might not necessarily be there when he was tidying up.”

“So there was a lot of arson around when you were a kid?”

“Yeah.”

“Why did you start painting again in 2010?” I tried.

“I can’t remember,” said Brian.

“So you’re a frustrated painter?” I asked.

“Yes. Art was the only thing I was good at at school.”

“Fatties” by Brian Damage

“Fatties” – by Brian Damage

“But you got into music when you were…?”

“About 17 or 18 or 19. I can’t remember. My mum and dad were already musicians; they used to play in pubs.”

“Why did you move from music to comedy?”

“Because I was never a great singer or drummer or guitarist, but I could do jokes.

“I started as a drummer and I was working as a musician up until I got married for the first time when I was 24 and my then wife told me: It’s time you grew up and acted your age and stop doing that horrible music and you should get a proper job. I was playing in my mum and dad’s band at the time. That was weird: dumping working with your own mum and dad to get a ‘proper job’.

Brian with two of his works. The one on the left is of his father)

Brian with two of his works. The one on the left is of his father

“So, for a while, I got a job in the warehouse of a company in Highbury, humping around boxes of mattress handles for export to Nicosia via Famagusta.

“Then I got another job and kept being promoted and, after two years, I was the manager of a Burberry shop in Lower Regent Street.”

“And then you left your first wife and moved into comedy,” I said.

“Well, with music,” Brian explained, “you can go sit in a corner, play and be ignored and everybody’s quite happy with you. That’s your job. I never wanted that. I did not want to be background.”

“So with comedy, you got more attention?”

“Yeah, as a drummer I always wanted to be out the front showing off on guitar; I did not want to be at the back.”

“And, in comedy, you started doing what…?”

Brian Damage and wife Vicky in 2008

Brian Damage and wife Vicky photographed in 2008

“At the time, I was into mainstream comics like Chubby Brown, Jim Davidson, all the unfashionable ones and I had a big collection of jokes before I started on the comedy circuit: every one was a ‘banker’ – all tried and tested.

“I heard Chubby Brown on the odd tape or video. He was extremely prolific. If you wanted good jokes, you just found the latest Chubby Brown tape and there would be at least ten ‘killers’ on it that you could use for the rest of your life. All the others used to share the jokes, but he was where they all came from.”

“This is in the late 1970s?”

“Yes… Well, I’ve got all the dates muddled in my mind, so I shouldn’t pay to much attention.”

“So you have got newly interested in Art again recently. Why?”

Grayson Perry,” replied Brian. “Have you heard his Reith Lectures?”

“No,” I admitted.

Brian with his painting of Vicky and the real thing

Brian with his painting of Vicky – and the real thing

“When we got my pictures together, I said to Vicky: Look, I can paint, but I can’t talk to people about it. I got into trouble on a website called Redbubble. I had loads of stuff on it – I don’t any more – and people got back to me after I uploaded a picture and said: Marvellous! Marvellous! So vibrant! So blah blah blah blah. And I said: Actually, it’s just a photograph of the paint at the bottom of the dish and I thought it looked interesting.

“They were so pissed-off!

“There’s so much bullshit, but what got me interested again was Grayson Perry, because he doesn’t like the bullshit either.”

“What’s he been saying?” I asked.

“Just basically saying: Yes, Art is great; it’s fun to do, but you’ll be lucky if you don’t get robbed by the dealers… and what makes it valuable and viable… and is it a good idea to get a little piece of dog shit and put a flag on it?

“Is it?”

A self portrait of and by Brian Damage

A self portrait of and by Brian Damage

“Well, it is and it isn’t. But I found myself agreeing with so many of his sentiments. I’ve been mixing with weird people all my life – musicians and comedians and actors – they’re all fucking cranks. And then there’s the Art thing. You go to one of the open nights when all the pictures are up and, if someone says your painting’s good, you have to say their painting’s good and the silences are deafening. I can’t get involved in it. It’s just more cranks.”

“Actors and comedians and musicians and artists are all odd,” I agreed, “but they’re all odd in different ways, aren’t they?”

“Yeah. They’re all cranks and that makes it all interesting but I can’t… I… There’s a friend of mine who used to do comedy and, at some point, his wife said: Why are you fucking around with this comedy? You’re a good artist. Why not just concentrate on your art and get rid of this comedy shit?

“Red Light Distract” - by Brian Damage

“Red Light Distract” – by Brian Damage

“Which he did. So he sends me stuff about the various art installations that he’s involved with. If I were to make a big chicken and put it over there, it would be adored and reviled by various people but the local council would have paid me thousands of pounds to make it if I told them: The colouring of the feathers shows the diversity of nations and brings them all together in a clash of featheringness.

“Well,” I said, “there is a story – which surely has to be apocryphal – about Damien Hirst going to some meeting with people who wanted to commission him and he accidentally trod in some dog shit on the way there. So he took his shoe off, went into the room, put it on the table and told them it was his latest work of art. The story is they believed him.”

“The odd part about it,” said Brian, “is that it is AND it isn’t art.”

“How?”

“Because anything can be Art. Anything at all can be Art.”

“Do you do Art on computers?” I asked.

“That’s what that Malcolm Hardee poster was,” said Brian. “I was trying to figure out how to use the pen in Photoshop.”

“New projects?” I asked.

“You know we’ve put a band together?”

“Eh, no…”

The Wrinklepickers at work

The Wrinklepickers: not exactly hillbilly-bluegrass-rockabilly

“That’s our main project at the moment. The WrinklepickersVicky sings and we’ve teamed up with a double bass player and a bloke who plays pots and pans and a snare drum. The fantasy is I want one other musician who plays the fiddle, mandolin, banjo and accordion – instruments which change the feeling of the band straight away. That’s the fantasy. What I have got is a lead guitarist who hasn’t managed to get to a rehearsal yet. We’ve managed two gigs so far, both in Kingston. The first gig was hilarious without doing comedy. The second one was more serious because about 90% of the songs were original.

“The original idea was hillbilly-bluegrass-rockabilly, that sort of thing. But it’s actually none of those.”

“Instead,” I prompted, “it’s…?”

“They’re influences.”

“Anything online?”

“There is a song called I Love You online which Vicky and I wrote and it’s just the two of us in the garden during the Big Snow.”

“Well,” I said, “with iTunes, you can be successful in all sorts of odd parts of the world.”

“I can avoid success anywhere,” said Brian.

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