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UK Comedy: the death of a magazine, a website and a forgotten comedian

No more mustard after this year

No more Mustard magazine after this year

Last week, it was reported that Mustard comedy magazine is to cease publication; the final issue will be out in a few months.

I think I have a temperature. Last night, I kept waking up every half hour in bed and my pillow was wet with sweat. Things are a bit swirly this morning.

I am staging two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and I am a multi-award-winner. I think, perhaps, I should have mentioned that on my posters.

When I was 11, I won an award at school for handwriting. As a prize, I was given an abridged version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Why I was given that book and why it was the abridged version, I do not know.

My award as Best Awards Founder

My no doubt increasingly prestigious award as Best Awards Founder

A century later, in 2010, I was given a Fringe Report award as ‘Best Awards Founder’ for awarding the annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. It was even better that that, as the actual physical awards for which I was given an award for awarding awards were actually designed by a Ward – mad inventor John Ward.

Fringe Report was a quirky online publication covering the Edinburgh Fringe and the London theatre Fringe. It closed in July 2012 after ten years of sterling reviews, features, parties and occasionally eccentric awards.

Yesterday afternoon, I supped tea with its erstwhile editor John Park, who told me that all the Fringe Report material is going to be archived by the British Library “so that, in future years, people can read without payment some of the flavour of what happened in this great area of the experimental arts at the start of the 21st Century.”

All the online text will be transferred into a series of physical books.

“We’re planning about 14 volumes,” John Park told me. “One for each of its 10 years.”

“Eh?” I said.

“There will be 11 volumes, as it started and ended mid-year,” he explained.

“Eh?” I said.

“Then one for all the awards certificates,” he explained. “And one for articles still in notebooks which were never written up for the site – our editing backlog. And one as a cumulative index of all the other volumes.”

“Ah!” I said.

I used to attend the Fringe Report social events

Fringe Report monthly social (photo by Catherine Balavage)

“The books will probably be A4, hardback bound,” said John. “All of the photographs of awards ceremonies, Fringe Report ‘First Mondays’ meetings and other social events are being donated as several hundred digital images. The films and soundtracks of about 4 to 5 years of Fringe Report Awards are being donated as digital files. The books will be compiled by us and designed into books by Richard Dragun who designed all our awards certificates. Compiling the books and indexing who is in all the photos is likely to take a year, so it will probably be completed around the middle to end of 2014.

“The main Fringe Report site will go offline during 2013, at the latest by November but probably before.  We’ll probably keep the WordPress site online after that, at least into 2014.”

So some memories of people passing through the transient world of live performance will be preserved. Something I try to do – slightly – in this blog.

Yesterday, I also got an e-mail from my occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who has memories of the live UK comedy scene as long or longer than mine.

“Did you ever see The Brixton Bank Manager perform?” she asked me. “He was very personable, great to work with and grew fine tomatoes on his window ledge. He was also known as Richard Elkin and Norby West. He was possibly the most elderly of the comics on the circuit in 1986. A very funny man.”

He started performing at festivals and in the streets in the 1970s with a pornographic Punch and Judy act and as The Amazing Percy Main.

The Brixton Bank Manager - “Cheques should be made payable to Richard Elkan  * Bollocks baffle madness - the old family motto

Photo of Norby West in the 1980s – autographed  “Cheques should be made payable to Richard Elkan [aka the BBM*] *Bollocks baffle madness – the old family motto”

“In the 1980s,” Anna told me yesterday, “he telephoned the Open Heart Cabaret which Sir Gideon Vein (Tony Green) was running. I answered the phone and a cheery voice at the other end said: Hello – This is the Brixton bank manager. I thought it must be a wrong number as we were far too impoverished to have any reason for a bank manager to call, but he quickly explained: I’m not really a bank manager – that’s my stage name….

“Who knows, he may have worked in a bank once. He had an ageless quality. He was going to newcomer comedy nights when he was in his seventies. He had an infectious childlike enthusiasm, combined with a professional sort of manner.”

His Norby West character was billed as “the granddad from hell” and described as “geriatric filth disguised as satire”. When he died in 2009, the Chortle comedy website quoted comedian Paul Foot as saying:

“Richard retired about six years ago because the smoke in the clubs affected his ancient lungs and we remained friends. I would pop round to his flat, he’d give me a stale biscuit and we would laugh at amusing moments from our comedy careers. Richard was an entertainer for most of his life. He continued writing plays and other things after his retirement. He never lost his creativity or sense of fun and will be massively missed by me and other comedians.”

Now Richard is forgotten by new generations of comedy club goers. He died of pneumonia at the age of 80.

So it goes.

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Casual Violence with Mr Methane farting around, plus Fringe comedy, David Icke & the Bilderberg conspiracy

Last night, I saw comedy sketch group Casual Violence performing what they called a ‘work in progress’ version of their upcoming new Edinburgh Fringe show House of Nostril.

It was slick, sick and silly, peculiar, perverse and potty – in other words classic Casual Violence weirdness.

James Hamilton, Casual Violence writer and twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee, reckons his stuff is not weird but, then, he IS weird, so what does he know about it?

Casual Violence have even put a video about hair on YouTube this morning.

After the Casual Violence show last night, I got back to relative normality at home when I received to an email about the World Farting Championships at Utajärvi in Finland.

It seems the Chortle comedy website’s Fast Fringe preview is on 11th July in London and Chortle’s Steve Bennett had inquired into the availability of Mr Methane, the farter of alternative comedy, but he was sadly unavailable because he will be off to the World Farting Championships.

When I intruded into Steve’s grief last night, he told me: “It’s a shame. Mr Methane would have added something very distinctive to the atmosphere of the gig. However, the other 28 acts who are on the bill will possibly be grateful as the dressing rooms at Leicester Square Theatre are very small.”

I asked Mr Methane about his now tragic non-appearance at the upcoming Chortle gig:

“Being invited to the Fast Fringe,” he told me, “is a significant acknowledgement for any performer who is out there working his ring off, so it goes without saying that I’m more than a little frustrated at having a Diary Clash.

“But, that said, I can’t let down my fans in Finland nor the World Farting Championships – The promoters had already booked my tickets and announced my appearance.

“I have promised them some anal japery and anal japery they will get. My word is my bond. Mr Methane always come up trumps.”

“But,” I asked him, “what if you HAD appeared at the Fast Fringe preview: what would you have shown them?”

“I would,”  he told me, “have given potential Fringe goers a taster –  if that’s the right word – of what to expect at my Edinburgh Fringe show.

“It’s not just a performance show this year. I am attempting to give audiences the ‘back story’ of my 20+ years at the ‘bottom end’ of showbusiness… the quirky, stupid stuff that to me has become everyday normal but to everyday normal people is anything but normal.”

I thought of Casual Violence at this point.

“That said,” continued Mr Methane, “I realise that many will just want to see the farting so I’m going to do that as well… All the crowd pleasers… Candle in the Wind, the cake, the talcum powder, farting the dart…

“It’s going to be tricky getting the balance between spoken word and farting right, but I’m sure that wherever the balance point ends up I will share some good crack.”

His show – Mr Methane: My Life in Farting – is at the Edinburgh Fringe 13th-17th August – at Bob Slayer’s new venue Bob’s Bookshop. It should, as Steve of Chortle said, add “atmosphere”.

Never knowingly under-promoted: my upcoming Fringe show

Never knowingly under-promoted: my upcoming Fringe show

For better or worse, I may have to inhabit some of that atmosphere, as my show Aaaaaaaaaaaarrghhh! So It Goes- John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show is in the same venue 19th-23rd August. Let us hope the sweet smell of success transfers.

Mr Methane had two other little snippets of news for me.

The first was something totally unexplained in an e-mail. He told me:

“I met Bob Slayer at the weekend. The tank broke down due to fuel starvation, so he wasn’t able to arrive from out of the sea on an amphibious craft but is hoping to try again next year.”

I have absolutely no idea what this means.

The second thing he told me was in the same e-mail:

“BTW there is a Fringe Festival happening near you very soon – the Bilderberg Fringe Festival. Speakers confirmed so far include David Icke and Alex Jones, who Rolling Stone described as a giant in America’s conspiracy sub-culture.

Publicity for the Bilderberg Fringe

Publicity for Bilderberg Fringe features esteemed David Icke

“Fancy! The Bilderbergs just happening to set up shop down the road from you and then along comes a Bilderberg Fringe Festival as well. They’ve got an alternative media centre outside the hotel – That’s a whole week’s blog material right outside your front door. It’s come a long way since Jon Ronson covered them.”

I looked up the Bilderberg Fringe website after getting Mr Methane’s e-mail. It says:

“The Bilderberg conference is an annual, unaccountable, off-the-record summit attended by royalty, politicians, intelligence, Big Pharma, tech, banking and corporate CEOs plus policy-makers and media moguls from all over the world. The press are not invited, nor given any details beyond a participant list and a sketchy agenda.

“The group is run by a Steering Committee (which is the Bilderberg Group proper). The UK’s Minster of Justice Kenneth Clarke has been a member of the steering committee since at least 1998.

“Seeking to stimulate hearts and minds and unite the politically conscious, the Bilderberg Fringe Festival is an unmissable occasion for conscious citizens from all over the world to join together. We are expressing our outrage at this travesty of democracy the only way we know how. By hula-hooping in the sunshine and dancing barefoot in the grass. Except where cows have been.”

Perhaps James Hamilton and Casual Violence are not as uniquely weird as I thought.

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Comedy man Steve Bennett talks about stalking women and losing his virginity

Chortle website owner and editor Steve Bennett

Steve Bennett, owner of the Chortle website

Since 2007, I have organised the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. They continue until 2017.

Steve Bennett started the Chortle comedy website in 2000.

In 2010, he looked back at The 50 Most Memorable Gigs of The Decade and, at Number 6, put the Malcolm Hardee Tribute Show staged at Up The Creek comedy club in February 2005.

He wrote:

“The funeral of this alternative comedy legend was probably one of the gigs of the decade, but this wake in the venue he founded must run it a close second. A suitably raucous celebration rich with reminiscences, gags – and, of course full-frontal male nudity, the line-up included Arthur Smith, Jools Holland, Jimmy Carr and Chris Lynam, with his traditional firework up the backside.”

So I was little surprised when, last week, I got an email from Steve Bennett headed Elegibility For Malcolm Hardee Award, saying:

“I am doing my first solo hour as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival this year. I was just wondering about the eligibility criteria for your awards. Do I need to apply anywhere or do you just come to my show and decide from there?”

I was even more surprised when I Skyped him yesterday in Bordeaux and he told me about the night he lost his virginity.

Obviously, the Steve Bennett of whom I write is the Irish comedian who shares his name and not the esteemed Chortle website supremo.

Still, losing your virginity is always interesting.

This other Steve Bennett – the Irish one – currently teaches English to kids in a primary school in Bordeaux. He has been a comedian since 2008, but he has only “treated it seriously” since 2011, when he finished four years of studying French and Psychology at college in Galway.

This August, he will be performing his one-man show In Bits at the Finnegan’s Wake venue during the Edinburgh Fringe..

“I do a lot of musical comedy with a ukelele or a guitar,” he told me yesterday. “This year, it’s been ukelele mostly because I couldn’t bring my guitar to France, so I bought a ukelele here  – it was cheaper and smaller.

Steve Bennett talks to me via Skype yesterday

Steve Bennett talks to me yesterday from Bordeaux via Skype.

“My Edinburgh show’s about the ‘breakup hangover’ – what happens post-breakup and comparing that to the drinking hangover, being Irish. One song’s about your ex finding you on Facebook all the time. The stalking thing that happens. So it’s written from her point of view – kind of crazy zany, which suits the ukelele because it kinda has a NING NING NING NING sound to it. The…”

“Erm…” I interrupted. “You said ‘the stalking thing that happens’ as if stalking is an everyday result of a relationship breaking up.”

“The stalking thing on Facebook,” explained Steve. “It’s done more by girls, I’m told, than by gentlemen. I don’t really do it too much, but it’s where you can go on Facebook when you’re Friends with your ex and take a look and see what they’re doing with their lives. That’s the thing the exes do now: they keep tabs on you.”

“You said I don’t really do it too much,” I said. “This implies that…”

“Oh, I’ve definitely taken a look see,” admitted Steve. “Who’s that guy? Is he your boyfriend?

“Does the ex-girlfriend know you’re doing this show about the breakup of your relationship with her?”

“Yeah, she’s aware of it. She’s not aware of all the intense details and I think I’d be happier if she didn’t see it. But she told me she’d be happy with it so long as it wasn’t baring all the details of our relationship. I’m fine with that too: I don’t want to get too personal about stuff. It’s more about general things and exaggerated things. A lot of it’s true, but not all of it’s true: the same way with most comedy.”

“When did you realise there was another Steve Bennett?” I asked.

Steve Bennett performs at the Róisín Dubh club in Galway (Photograph by WonderfulLife Productions 086 668 1375)

“Quite early,” replied Steve Bennett. “I started doing the Róisín Dubh club in Galway. The guy who runs the club introduced me to another more experienced comedian who went: Oh! You’re that asshole! It turned out Steve Bennett had given him a bad review at some point.

“Chortle actually ran a short piece about me and included a very early YouTube video of some of my stuff that I’m not very happy with. It’s from a talent show back in 2009. I won that, but it’s not really indicative of my stuff these days. I do a lot more high energy comedy these days.

“Back then I was a very subdued man standing at a microphone telling jokes. Now I’m a lot more getting into the crowd, having fun and the songs are snappy and fast, some done in characters like the Facebook one written from my ex’s point of view.”

“But you seem quite sane,” I said. “Why do you want to be a comedian? All comedians are mad.”

“I don’t know,” Steve replied. “I’m probably trying to find some deep-seated emotional depression.”

“But,” I said, “You are too happy to be a comedian, surely?”

“I probably just like the attention. When I was about ten years old, a kid at school said to me You should be a comedian, because you’re funny and I just went Yeeaahhh! That only came back to me after I started doing the comedy. I only fell into it because… well, the first time I picked up a microphone at an Open Mic night was the night I lost my virginity. So that’s why I…”

“Say that again?”

“The first night I did a comedy Open Mic, I lost my virginity.”

There was a long pregnant pause.

“So that’s probably why I’m still doing it.”

“Perhaps you are hoping to lose it again,” I suggested.

“That’s maybe it,” said Steve. “I’m still trying to find what I was looking for.”

“But you’re going to be stuck in France for the foreseeable future,” I prompted.

“Oh no, I’m done here at the end of next month. So I’ll be back in Ireland from May 3rd and I’m booking comedy stuff now over the summer and then in August it’s Edinburgh.”

“And after that?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m going to pick up the odd job here and there, maybe tutoring people in French.”

“But you’d like to be a permanent, full-time millionaire comedian?”

“That would be the ultimate goal, wouldn’t it? But I’ve always liked the idea of having a day job to give me material. If I was only a comedian, I don’t know what I‘d talk about. I know there’s life and day-to-day stuff, but I’d like to have that other job I do at the same time. Which works, because there’s no money in comedy at my level.”

“And next?”

“At the moment, I’m running an internet thing. I campaigned on Facebook amongst my friends and fans to try and get as many words and descriptions of hangovers as possible. Sick as a parrot. Those kind of things. One of them became my show title – In Bits – and I took loads of suggestions and, when I was in Paris one weekend, I said the words to camera with loads of Parisian landmarks in the background. And now I’m trying to get people to send me videos of them saying In Bits and I was hoping to put together a promo video of loads of people saying the name of the show.”

“Do you read the Chortle website?” I asked.

“I don’t much. Not at all, no.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. Is that a good place to keep up-to-date? Is that what I should be doing?”

“You should be reading my blog every day,” I told him.

“Oh,” said Steve Bennett. He seemed surprised.

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How to organise a comedy competition without ever actually meeting people

...but nothing is funnier than organising in cyberspace

In 2005 or 2007 (it depends how you define it) I started the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. So I am interested in how other people start such things.

Funny’s Funny, for example, is “an organisation run by comedians and promoters to provide links between funny people and the comedy industry” and, last year, they started the Female Comedian of the Year contest.

Last year, the Malcolm Hardee Awards were decided in Edinburgh with one of the judges, comedy critic Kate Copstick, on the end of a mobile phone in a train hurtling through some Godforsaken part of England.

So I was interested when Ashley Frieze told me the organisers of Funny’s Funny “manage to run it without ever being in the same room.”

Funny’s Funny started a year ago when news broke that the long-running Funny Women comedy contest was going to start charging £15 to entrants.

“As comedians,” says Ashley, “the idea of pay-to-play was abhorrent. I ended up in a Facebook discussion thread with comedians Okse and Jane Hill and we agreed something should be done about it. Okse set up a Facebook group. That’s activism in the modern age. Get some people to join a group and bitch about it.

“It didn’t really seem like we were changing anything, so I suggested that we should beat Funny Women at their own game – run a comedy competition without it being pay-to-play. I excitedly called up Okse and said: We really could do this and he seemed to believe me. After a handful of other phone calls to some people who immediately started talking about the subject in the ‘we’ person rather than the ‘you’, it became clear that we had plenty of people who could do a bit, but that nobody could do the whole thing.

“I took on the role of facilitator. I would enable the major organisers to work closely together, network-in our comedy club friends somehow and draw it all together via some sort of website.

“At that stage Bob Slayer‘s website WhatComedy was just starting out and they could nearly provide the infrastructure to run a competition, but it wasn’t there yet. So I decided that I’d have to use my real IT skills and build something. The Funny’s Funny website represents a few thousand lines of code that I rattled out in a hurry to ensure that our IT was always one step ahead of what we needed to do with it.

“As such, it enabled us to gather 250 entrants and spread them across 20 or so gigs that we were also providing listings for. Our ability to keep track of what we’d offered, who had accepted and who was going where was all done by using a website that the whole team could access.

“We had no opportunity to get into the same room as each other. Jane Hill was working as a newsreader as well as doing stand-up, so her day started at about 4.00am when she’d do some admin. Then she was out of touch except for a couple of hours at night when usually I was on the way to a gig. Her partner, comedian and promoter Rob Coleman, was working normal hours and he was coordinating with the venues. I was travelling a huge amount during the period and was in the States for a few days.

“I remember waking up one morning, checking the website and discovering that Jane and Rob had booked 50% of the entrants ‘overnight’. It was a real Elves and The Shoemaker feeling.

“Okse was producing artwork for the various show posters and these would be saved on his computer and get magically transported via a nifty technology called DropBox to mine. I would then click on a few buttons here and there to convert them for print using a Cloud-based printing service called FilePrint and they would magically appear on the doorstep of the recipient within a couple of days. I even produced a few posters myself this way, while sitting at the side of a
pool in Spain, where I was attending a family wedding.

“I think this is the magic of the internet, really. You don’t have to be in the same room as the action: you can bring it to you, wherever you are.

“After a while, the whole event took on a sort of surreal quality. It almost didn’t seem real. I couldn’t personally attend all of the shows – none of us could – but we got judging results in from them, via the Funny’s Funny website.

“I did start to wonder if the whole thing was real or if it was just an elaborate wind-up, born of about 250 people pretending they were doing a competition and sending me emails about it. Luckily, I managed to get to a few of the shows and see it happening for myself.

“The truth was that Funny’s Funny is really an ethos – We didn’t make it happen so much as define what was needed and get everyone to do it together through goodwill.

“You tell a bunch of people that it’s going to work and then it does.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was unable to get to the final… but the others made it along. So we were nearly all in the same place at the same time – if it hadn’t been for my prior commitments, I would have been there.

“This year’s team is using the same technique – lots of emails, lots of documents shared via the Cloud – and the same ethos… We will make a network of people to enable a huge event that we all believe in.”

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Alien lifeforms, empty schools and sexual promiscuity in County Kerry

The people I am staying with on the currently rain-swept Iveragh Peninsula in south west Ireland obviously (despite the weather) have a refrigerator.

On a shelf inside the fridge is a 1,000 kg block of cheese.

On the wrapper are printed the words “EC Aid White Cheese”. The cheese is supplied free to locals by the European Union. You just go along and ask for it and you are given it. No-one knows why, but no-one is going to turn down 1,000 kg of free cheese.

EC Aid is part of the European Community’s Development Programme which stems from the Cotonou Agreement. The central objective of the agreement is “poverty reduction and ultimately its eradication; sustainable development; and progressive integration of 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries into the world economy”. Quite how my two chums living in considerable comfort with two cars and five TV sets in Kerry fit into this no doubt admirable scheme and qualify with all the other locals for 1,000 kg of free cheese, I know not.

But this odd circumstance is, of course, not a solitary example of a wee taste of the bizarre here in Kerry.

The local newspaper The Kerryman (established 1904) carries a headline:

________________

‘ALIEN’ INVADER WASHED UP ON VENTRY STRAND

PHRONIMAS, deep-sea creatures that inspired the Alien movies because of their practice of burrowing into their victims, were discovered on Ventry Beach last week.

The discovery is believed to be the first time creatures of this kind have been found in Kerry and, according to head aquarist at Dingle Oceanworld Katie O’dwyer:

“Phronimas are a type of amphipod, related to crustaceans, such as crab and lobster and they live in very deep oceanic waters,” she told The Kerryman. “They find a Salp, a type of Tunicate or Sea-squirt, and they carve them out to create a ‘barrel’ which they then live in.

“However, scientific studies have found that the bits of the Salp that are left when the Phronima is living in them, are actually still alive.”

The Phronima still has to swim around but uses the barrel like a little dwelling; as the food and water comes through it.

________________

The Kerryman’s editorial then rages at:

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BIZARRE SITUATION OF TEACHER IN SCHOOL WITH NO PUPILS

While the east Kerry Scoil Mhuire National School in Clonkeen has no pupils and is due to be shut down in the near future, a ludicrous regulation set down by officials at the Department of Education meant that for the last three months the school’s principal still had report for work every day at a completely empty school.

Since September this teacher, who was willing and waiting to be transferred to another school, was forced to fill his days compiling logs and rolls for a deserted school and wandering the empty classrooms and halls.

That this situation was allowed to continue, and was arguably ignored altogether by officials at the Department of Education, while schools the length and breadth of Kerry cry for additional teachers is nothing short of scandalous.

It’s a damning indictment of the culture of spin that exists and our government and the officials involved in this whole outrageous fiasco should hang their heads in shame.

________________

and, in even more personal social news, The Kerryman reports:

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KERRY’S LOVE CHEATS IN A RUSH TO LOG ON FOR AFFAIRS

Infidelity is on the rise in Kerry. According to figures published by website ashleymadison.com, which is designed to accommodate people who want to cheat on their partners, there are a huge number of people in Kerry seeking to play away from home.

The site, which was launched in Ireland in 2009, now has 3,692 members in Kerry. This is one of the highest figures in the country outside of the major cities. According to the site about a third of these users are women.

Users of the site, described as attached people by the website, can use it to flirt with other people who are married or in a relationship through online chat services and message boards.

________________

The AshleyMadison site’s slogan is:

LIFE IS SHORT. HAVE AN AFFAIR.

Perhaps my blog yesterday about the “feckin” nuns cavorting on a local beach during their summer holidays was not as odd as I thought.

Life in Kerry is never dull and often unexpected.

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This comic cross between a dating website and Time Out listings magazine

Yesterday, I read Jon Kudlick’s article on the Chortle comedy website explaining why he was quitting his life as a stand-up comic after four years.

“Basically,” he says, “stand-up is not compatible with being married and having a family to support. And the vast majority of the comics I’ve met on the professional circuit are divorced or single.”

My experience of comedians also brings me to he conclusion that stand-up is not ideally compatible with a relationship because most comedians are barking mad and could provide a good psychiatric researcher with original material for a period at least as long as Ken Dodd’s career.

An hour after reading Jon Kudlick’s piece, an unsolicited e-mail plopped into my InBox from DoingSomething.co.uk

How this new dating site got my address or why is a mystery to me. But they offered “a three month trial period” if I used the code “haha” when I joined. Their selling line was: “Lots of comedy happenings in the next few months in London. You could do a lot worse than taking someone new to some comedy…” and they plugged five upcoming comedy events including Dave Gorman’s Screen Guild at Hoxton Hall, one of the current Heroes of Alternative Comedy gigs organised by Bob Slayer and – just generally – the Soho Theatre.

If these are paid-for ads, they could be on to a winner – half dating site/half Time Out. And, given Jon Kudlick’s assertion that most comedians are not in a steady relationship, targeting anyone connected with the comedy world seems a shrewd marketing idea.

Yes, I did sign up for the site, partly because I am a Scot brought up among Jews and it was free, partly because I wanted to see what was on the site and partly because I can also see three months blogging potential in it.

If you look like Katharine Ross in The Graduate or Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – and you win the lottery – do get in touch.

It must be bizarrely difficult to start a dating site from scratch and they seem to be offering free three-month trials to all and sundry. There seem to be plenty of twentysomethings on it, but people in that age range barely need a dating site. In my age range (well, the one I put in to test it out) there was just one single woman in the whole of the UK suitable for me. And I put in anyone anywhere. She is interested in baking. That’s a start. Maybe not.

I may stay on the site for three months and see what happens. If you scour the site for me, THIS what my profile picture looks like.

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I have seen some unexpected acts in my life but I had never seen what I saw last night… I am still shocked.

This morning, I used the Listen Again button on the BBC’s website to hear Boothby Graffoe being interviewed on yesterday’s Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman (it’s 18 minutes in, but is only available online in the UK if you are reading this within seven days of me writing it).

He was on the Radio 2 show to plug his new music album Songs For Dogs, Funerals (the comma really is there – don’t ask) and his UK comedy tour, which starts next Tuesday.

I knew he was the only comedian named after the small Lincolnshire village of Boothby Graffoe but, until he mentioned it on the show, I hadn’t realised this meant he was also named after the second largest site in Europe for testing genetically-modified food. Now there’s a thing.

I listened to the Radio 2 show this morning because I bumped into Boothby last night when I went to Vivienne & Martin Soan’s always extraordinary monthly comedy club Pull The Other One in Nunhead, South London. You know a comedy gig is good when other comedians go to see it even when they’re not on the bill and Boothby just went along to see Pull The Other One before he went back home to Leicestershire.

If I were using glib phrases – which, of course, I wouldn’t dream of writing – I might say it turned into an evening of unexpected revelations.

After the show, I was chatting to Martin Soan and, despite the fact I’ve probably known him since around 1990, I never knew he wrote several sketches for Spitting Image at the height of their TV success.

It was no surprise, of course, that, during the actual Pull The Other One show itself, Bob Slayer enticed a woman from the audience onto the stage and ended carrying her off over his shoulder.

What was unexpected was the climax of Mat Ricardo’s act. He is billed as a juggler, but is more than that and he introduced the final highly-visual thing he did as “impossible”… as indeed it is, but he still did it.

After Mat’s act, there was an interval and one of the other acts – smiling broadly – just looked at me and said: “Jesus!”

Another said to me: “Jesus! I have never seen that done before.”

The Lord was being invoked quite a lot after what we saw. I was and remain so shocked by what he did that I am going to pay to go to see his full live show Three Balls and a Good Suit next week in the hope he does it again.

What he did involves a table and a tablecloth and – no – it is not at all what you think.

There is seldom anything new under the sun – but I have never heard of anyone else doing what I saw and I have certainly never seen it before.

I can’t believe I did see it.

And I have seen a lot of acts.

Jesus!

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