Tag Archives: When I Grow Up

Juliette Burton on how to perform an emotionally raw show to children in Oz

Performer Juliette Burton is in Australia. She should be arriving in Melbourne tomorrow for her When I Grow Up shows which run at the International Comedy Festival.

Juliette Burton & Frankie Lowe rehearse yesterday for her February-May tour of Australia

Juliette Burton and musical director Frankie Lowe set off for their tour of Oz last month

I talked to her when she was in Auburn, about 2 hours drive from Adelaide. She had been performing both her own solo show When I Grow Up and, with Lizzy Mace, their Rom Com Con show at the Adelaide Fringe.

“I’m going to drive the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne.,” she told me rather enthusiastically.

“How was Adelaide?” I asked.

“I live in Edinburgh,” said Juliette, and I’m missing it desperately, but Adelaide has been trying very hard to make me feel at home. It’s been raining non-stop the last few days. When we left, it was pissing down with rain and it was freezing.”

“And professionally?” I asked.

“It was a very big learning curve,” Juliette said. “It was very random. Loads of random experiences. I met Randy again.”

In Juliette’s When I Grow Up show at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, Juliette (a great fan of the Muppet Show) had a puppet called Juliuppet who talked via Skype with Randy in Australia.

“In Adelaide,” Juliette told me, “Juiliuppet and I were in the front row to see Randy’s show.”

(from left) Randy, Juliette and Juliuppet in Adelaide

(From left) Randy, Juliette and her Juliuppet

“So you and your hand puppet were watching Sammy J and his hand puppet?”

“Absolutely,” said Juliette. “I’ve seen some great shows. There were some amazing burlesque performers like Rusty Trombone.”

“Did he play a trombone?” I asked.

“No,” replied Juliette, “but he did do a lot of things with a sparkly g-string which I loved. And I got to ride a motorcycle for the first time ever.

“We’ve also been doing a lot of schools performances here, which have been real challenges. I hadn’t realised how much I enjoy performing for adults. Performing for kids is so much harder. When I Grow Up was never written for kids but, for some reason, as well as my main show, I was booked to take this show around schools. I did two shows today, one to primary school children, 8-13. I went into that thinking They’re not going to understand it at all. It will go over their heads. It will be horrible. But, actually, they were laughing along; they were loving it. They especially loved the swear words. And they were asking really intelligent questions afterwards.”

“I remember seeing you do the show in Edinburgh last year and there were three kids in the front row,” I said. “They did seem to enjoy the references to ‘shit’ in the working-on-a-farm sequence.”

“Yes,” said Juliette. “I’ve realised this is the key to having an awesome show for children. Saying swear words and having a puppet. Those two things are massive hits for kids. The ‘shit’ word goes down a storm and ‘dickhead’ goes down a storm and maybe surprisingly the ‘twist’ near the end of my show actually seems to have a massive impact on them. No matter what age they are, they all seem to shut up and listen at that point, even if they weren’t paying attention before.”

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette’s childhood show: usually for grown-ups

“It must be difficult,” I said, “to perform that part of the show to kids – the emotional twist.”

“Well,” explained Juliette, “I am learning to put myself in a protective bubble a bit when I do it, because sometimes it’s too raw for me.”

“What do you do?” I asked. “Do you say to yourself: I am being a performer – I am not being me?”

“No, I tried that and it didn’t work,” said Juliette. “Now, even if it is a group of 100 kids and 50 of them couldn’t care less, I try to find the kids in the audience who ARE making eye-contact with me and who ARE clearly invested in what I’m saying and I look at them and say the words to them.

“If I can’t find them in the crowd, then I end up looking at Frankie – who’s doing my technical stuff – and the adults in the room as well. I look at the people who understand exactly what I’m saying and that helps me get through it a lot more. Especially looking at Frankie, because he has seen this show so many times and he has seen the shows where the kids couldn’t care less and the shows where the kids come up to me afterwards.

“With the primary school kids today, we had one girl in the front row who quietly, at the end of the Q&A, said: My mummy doesn’t like herself. She just said it. I asked her Have you spoken to anyone else about this? She said No and I asked Have you got a teacher you can talk to? and she said I think so. The fact that, having seen the show, she felt able to share that with me, let alone the rest of her class… that was amazing.

Juliette defeats Richard Herring in Russian Egg Roulette at last year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photo by Keir O’Donnell)

In Edinburgh, Juliette beat Richard Herring in Russian Egg Roulette at last year’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photo by Keir O’Donnell)

“So it is worth it; it’s just the hardest work I’ve ever done. And, whilst Theatre In Education is not what I want to do, I think it is making me better at performing for adults as well. I’m looking forward to the Edinburgh Fringe so much now, having done this.”

“Doesn’t making eye contact with the kids make it more difficult to get through performing the emotional bit?” I asked. “I would have thought you’d have to distance yourself, but you’re implying it’s better if you, in a way, shorten the distance.”

“But then it would not be real,” explained Juliette. “It would not be me. If I say the same words I’ve said hundreds of times before, I don’t want what I’m feeling to be fake. It is really difficult, but I’m finding ways to cope. In one of the Q&As today, they asked me How do you keep it fresh? and I said The fact I’m looking in new people’s eyes means it’s always fresh because it’s a new story I’m telling to each new person. It’s a lot of emotionally hard work. But I did get to see some kangaroos yesterday and got to touch a koala.”

“Aren’t they supposed to be vicious little brats?” I asked.

A koala or a Fringe performer? The choice is yours

A koala bear or a Fringe performer? –  The decision is yours.

“No,” said Juliette. “They reminded me a lot of Fringe performers, because they sat there taking their drugs – their eucalyptus leaves – scratching themselves and looking uninterested in the people who were standing in a queue waiting to have their photograph taken with them. Then they had to do a turnaround between keepers and koalas which took about the same amount of time it takes between Fringe shows and they were just like little divas waiting for the next batch of koala lovers to come in and see them with their fur coats on.”

“So,” I said. “Drugged-up but vicious underneath? That’s a pretty good description of some Fringe performers.”

“Not my words,” said Juliette.

“No,” I agreed. “So you’re having a lazy time…”

“I arrive in Melbourne on Friday,” she said, “I perform When I Grow Up there on 27th March until 20th April – just one show a day which will be bliss. So I’ve got a few days before then to start writing my new Edinburgh Fringe show Look At Me, which Janey Godley is co-writing with me.

“I’ve recorded all of the video interviews I need. The prosthetic stuff I can’t do until I get back to the UK in May. I’m doing When I Grow Up at the Brighton Fringe in May. Then I’m doing previews of Look At Me in Cambridge and Stowmarket in June – and Brighton and London in July – for the Edinburgh Fringe in August. I’m desperate to create something new. I have to create something new to move on from what I’ve learnt. I’m a different person now to who I was a year ago, so I have to write something new now.”

Juliette has a series of six shows planned-out. When I Grow Up Was the first; Look At Me is the second and, in 2015, Dreamcatcher will be the third.

Juliette Burton

A publicity shot for Juliette’s Look At Me (Photo by Helena G Anderson)

“I’m already planning Dreamcatcher with Frankie,” she said.

Frankie Lowe is her musical collaborator as well as her techie.

“Frankie,” She told me, “wants to do some live music instead of recorded music in Dreamcatcher and I think that would work well. In fact, I might end up doing two shows in 2015.

“I’ve had some exciting interest from other Fringe festivals around the world who saw me in Adelaide. I’ve had a couple of offers for this year which I can’t accept because I’m too busy, but next year maybe I’ll see a bit more of the world.”

“So you’re not being lazy,” I said.

There is a video for Juliette’s pop song Dreamers (When I Grow Up) on YouTube.

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Why Juliette Burton thinks she is going to explode while performing on stage

Juliette Burton taking a selfie at the weekend

Juliette Burton doing a selfie in a dressing room this weekend

 

Can this woman be turned into a man? (Photograph by Helena G Anderson)

Can this woman be turned into a man? (Photograph by Helena G Anderson)

Four days ago, I posted a blog chat with performer Juliette Burton and, at the bottom put … TO BE CONTINUED…

This was rather scuppered by my iPhone throwing a wobbly and losing the recording of our chat but now, through the wonderful free help of Apple, the recording has re-appeared.

So today I was going to post the second part of our chat about her new show Look At Me and about the two performances of her current When I Grow Up show at Leicester Square Theatre this Tuesday and Wednesday before she tours it in Australia February-May.

But then I woke up this morning to an e-mail from Juliette sent at 1.20am.

She prepares her shows in depth.

Last year at the Edinburgh Fringe, When I Grow Up involved – in addition to the show itself – a pop record, a pop video, a performance at the T In The Park rock festival, pre-filming of show inserts and interviews, YouTube clips and much else.

This year, Look At Me will involve another pop song, another pop video, more extensive pre-filming, YouTube clips and (read my last blog for details) nudity, prosthetics and Juliette being turned into a man and wearing the hijab in an Ann Summers shop.

So the e-mail from her this morning came as no surprise:

Juliette being made up for her photoshoot yesterday

Juliette’s 11-hour photoshoot yesterday (Photograph by Helena G Anderson)

I did an 11 HOUR photoshoot today (Sunday) – an incredible stop motion project that will show not only the transformation of a “normal woman” from “normal” to “glam” with hair, make up, clothing, lighting, stance, confidence and Photoshop but also the transformation of a “normal” room into a photo studio and telling the story of the whole team of people behind it all.

We also filmed a behind-the-scenes documentary about the day… which proved to be eventful.

The photoshoot in the large, cold west wing of a stately home suddenly came to a halt when the power all cut out. We had 2 photographers, 2 make up artists and a cameraman all there with me with heaps of equipment and no other day to do it before we leave for Australia…

We were told the power wouldn’t be back on until “teatime” (which turned out to be 6.00pm). This was at around midday after 3 hours of prep and rehearsals already.

We had NO heating whatsoever and I was sat still for around 7 hours straight… I was blue. We couldn’t even boil a kettle for a cup of tea!

I’m amazed we did it. But the end pics look so glamorous.

We began at 9.30am. We finished at 8.30pm. I am still up (1.20am). I have a 5.00am start, ready for two shows and two Q&As, one evening meeting and then, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the full-on London performances.

Of such things are Edinburgh Fringe shows made.

The second half of the chat I had with Juliette was going to be this:

“I’ve already got the Powerpoint show being designed for the Edinburgh Fringe show,” she told me.

Look at Me,” I said, “is about the extent to which people are treated according to their external appearance. At various times, you were a size 4 from anorexia and a size 20 from compulsive overeating. Are you doing this new show because you yourself changed from a more full-bodied person to a svelte swan-like person yourself? Is it some form of catharsis?”

Can this woman be turned into a man?

The current shape of things for Juliette (Photograph by Helena G Anderson)

“Well,” said Juliette, “I guess the experience of being that ill and that thin with anorexia… The way people reacted to me was very different from the way people reacted to me when I was very overweight… I’m interested in the idea of whether that was because of their preconceptions of the way I looked or because of the way I felt about myself inside.

“One of the main reasons I’m doing this show is because of my last Edinburgh Fringe show When I Grow Up. Every time I perform When I Grow Up, some people come up to me afterwards and open up about their own mental health experiences, but some others will say Oh, how long has it been since you’ve recovered? and I would like to be able to stand on stage and say: Actually, I still struggle every day with eating disorders, but I don’t let them win any more. I put up a bigger fight.

“When I’m standing on stage and I’m really, really stressed, my body dysmorphic disorder kicks in really badly. Sometimes I’ll be standing on stage doing a really uplifting part of the show and I will be saying how wonderful life is, but this minx on my shoulder – this body dysmorphic disorder – is telling me: Can you feel how fat you are getting?… Your legs are inflating. Your arms are inflating. Your dress is about to burst off because you are so fat. 

Juliette at BBC Scotland last week

Juliette at BBC Scotland last week. Now she is off to Australia.

And that experience when I’m performing is very real to me. I would love to be able to address it, but also to be able to open it out and be able to make it accessible to other people. Because everybody has a relationship with their outward appearance. I’m sure you do, John. How do you feel about how you look?”

“I’m too old,” I replied. “There came a sudden point when I would see my reflection in a shop window and would think That isn’t me. That’s some seedy, overweight bank manager. Now, when I’m shaving or whatever and catch my eyes in the bathroom mirror, I think: Those are not my eyes. Now I am some seedy old ex-bank manager bloke wandering around with eyes that are not even mine.”

That is the thing about blogs, isn’t it?

It is just all Me, Me, Me…

There is a video on YouTube promoting Juliette’s new show Look At Me.

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Why performer Juliette Burton will dress as a Muslim woman, go naked and become a man with a very ‘big package’

Juliette Burton

Juliette Burton will cover up and strip off

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, Juliette Burton is performing her 2013 Edinburgh Fringe show When I Grow Up show at the Leicester Square Theatre in London and then she is immediately going off to tour Australia with it.

This morning she told me: “I just found out yesterday that I’m getting funding from the Arts Council towards the cost of research and development on my next show Look at Me.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because it’s all about body diversity, body confidence and the celebration of difference. It questions whether who we appear to be is who we are and whether we can change who we are on the inside by changing who we seem to be on the outside.”

“For When I Grow Up,” I said, “you pre-shot lots of video inserts and interviews with various people.”

“Yes,” said Juliette. “And that’s what the funding is going towards on the new show this year: things like prosthetics.”

“So this year, for Look at Me…?” I asked.

“I will be dressing more and more provocatively,” explained Juliette, “to see – if a woman does dress provocatively – if she is going to get unwanted attention from men.”

“You read what Kate Copstick said in that controversial chat show I had at the Edinburgh Fringe last August?” I said.

“I think some interesting points were made,” Juliette said carefully.

“Some people,” I said, “thought Copstick said women were ‘asking for it’ if they dress provocatively…”

Juliette stalked Prince Harry this week

For her When I Grow Up show, Juliette tried to marry Prince Harry by stalking him: she failed

“That’s what I’m finding out,” said Juliette. “But, to counteract that – to see if there is any substance to that – for another part of the show, I’m going to be wearing the hijab.

“I’ve been working with the Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh to make sure I do that in a sensitive and informed way, rather than in an Islamophobic way.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked. “Just wander around the streets?”

“With all of these appearances,” said Juliette, “I’m going to be spending some time in context – somewhere you might expect to see someone dressing in that way – and then somewhere it might appear to be a bit strange. So you might find it strange to see a woman wearing a hijab in an Ann Summers shop.”

I laughed.

“But why is that strange?” Juliette shot back. “Women wearing the hijab have every right to be in an Ann Summers shop.”

“My eternally-un-named friend has a burka,” I said, trying to be helpful.

“I’ve already got one,” replied Juliette.

“But, as well as the hijab in your show…” I prompted.

“There are prosthetics,” said Juliette. “I will become a man. Not only dress as a man. The prosthetics will turn me into a man with facial hair and, I hope, a big ‘package’.”

“A big package???” I asked.

Can this woman be turned into a man?

Can this woman be turned into a man?

“Well,” said Juliette, “I don’t quite know how, but I’ve got a very talented prosthetics make-up artist called Sarah Jane.

“I would like to find out what it’s like to be a man and whether men really are more empowered or maybe actually it’s really scary being a man. I have no idea. I need a mentor, John. You can teach me how to be a man.”

“More like a grandfather,” I said ruefully.

“That’s the next thing in the show,” said Juliette. “Age. I’m going to age into a much older version of myself using prosthetics. A lot of women of 60+ who I’ve spoken to in interviews for the show have told me they felt when they hit 40 they suddenly became invisible and that only increased as they got older. I’m a bit scared I might end up looking like my mum but, then, why would I be scared by that? My mum’s gorgeous. It’s just that thing of you never expect to turn into your mother.”

“It would be more frightening if I turned into my mother,” I suggested.

“Then, after the ageing process,” continued Juliette, “I will be revisiting my obese self. All the rest are interesting and fun and different, but I am quite nervous about this one. When I became obese, it was because of Compulsive Overeating Disorder – having been anorexic and then also experiencing bulimia. I was a size 4 from anorexia and then a size 20 from compulsive overeating.”

“Maybe it will be cathartic and give you closure,” I suggested.

“Maybe,” said Juliette. “I would love to be able to find some comfort in it. I will have an obese costume to wear. The whole point of the show is If I’m changing my appearance this dramatically, can I really still remain myself?

Starkers starters with a prophetic message

Members of the London Naked Bike Ride

“And then, finally, I will be going nude in two different ways, because I’m not sure which one will make it into the show. I’ve had a couple of meetings with the organiser of the London Naked Bike Ride…”

“Was he naked?” I asked.

“Interestingly,” said Juliette, “he wasn’t. He wore a bowler hat, a waistcoat, shirt, tie, jacket, trousers and overcoat. He was very very clothed.”

“It sounds,” I said, “like you may have dropped through a rip in the fabric of time into 1958.”

“And then,” said Juliette, ignoring me, “the other way I’ll be having a nude experience to see whether it makes a difference will be working with Mat Fraser. He has said I can perform at his Sleaze club night and he’s suggested I try to put together a performance routine where it’s maybe something about stripping away layers: a burlesque performance that’s less about sex and more about body confidence.”

“You could use prosthetics and take your face off, like in Mission Impossible,” I suggested.

“I’m thinking of maybe using the obese costume,” explained Juliette, “but, instead of stripping it away, I will maybe put it on and be sexy within it. Or maybe changing from a man into a woman by taking off the prosthetics. I’m hoping to get a couple of burlesque tutors and Mat says he’ll teach me ‘nudity comfort’.

“Everyone I’ve talked to for the show has these incredibly beautiful stories and experiences within them that you just cannot tell from first appearances.

Juliette filming with Adam Pearson

Juliette Burton filming with Adam Pearson for Look At Me

“There’s a guy called Adam Pearson who has neurofibromatosis, a condition where his nerve-endings continue to grow, so he is facially – for want of a better word – deformed. But he is an incredible guy. He is passionate, very funny. He’s actually starring in a film with Scarlett Johansson soon. Everyone is incredible.

“I interviewed Leo Gormley, who has horrific burns he received when he was 14 and in an awful petrol fire. But he escaped and it’s amazing his body recovered from that. We need to honour our bodies more for what they CAN do and not for their imperfections.

“I’ve also interviewed people who look completely ‘regulation’ – I don’t like the word ‘normal’ any more – but they may have a hidden illness.

“So I’ve spoken to two men currently battling cancer. To look at them, you can’t tell at all. One has a body which, because of the treatment, is being overwhelmed with oestrogen hormones which is changing his body in ways he never expected. Another girl looks beautiful, gorgeous, healthy and well but she has cystic fibrosis and is terminally ill and coughs up blood.

Juliette photographed looking in a mirror - What is real?

A photograph of Juliette photographed looking into a mirror – Which is real?

“She and I both, for different reasons, hate it when people say Oh, you look well. It’s hard when people project something onto you – not vomit but an idea – an idea of something they want you to be. Oh, you look like you’re having fun!… Well, don’t assume anything about anybody. Maybe ask them how they are feeling, rather than project onto them – again, not vomit. Unless you’re very drunk.”

“And all this filming, highly-edited,” I said, “will be in the show.”

“And I’ll be posting videos on YouTube in the run-up to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“And,” I said, “like last year there will be a song and a music video?”

“Yes,” said Juliette. “We’ve written the song already, It’s very catchy.”

“I don’t doubt it,” I said.

… CONTINUED HERE … AND JULIETTE EXPLAINS MORE ABOUT HER NEW SHOW ON YOUTUBE

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Juliette Burton (an English rose actress) & farteur Mr Methane’s burning bottom

The Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The highly-coveted main Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award with Edinburgh Castle behind

The Edinburgh Fringe takes place every August but never ends. It is only three months since this year’s Fringe finished and a whole nine months to the next one. But already performers are starting to obsess. It is like having a baby – right down to people having occasional morning sickness with a feeling of nausea in the pit of their stomach.

Fortunately, as a non-performer, I do not have to suffer any of this.

I have already booked a venue for the two-hour 2014 Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – on Friday 22nd August – and talked to a venue owner about doing a second year of chat shows in the lead-up to it.

Elsewhere, performers’ traumas reign.

Yesterday, a young starting-out stand-up comedian asked me:

“Can literally anything – ANY experience – be turned into a Fringe comedy show?”

“Yes,” I told her. “Janey Godley’s Good Godley! was the show everyone talked about in 2004. It was very funny and it told exactly the same story as her autobiography Handstands in The Dark which is so terrifying it reads like a novel by Edgar Allan Poe. In the book, the story is horrific; on stage, it was very funny without demeaning the story. But, then, Janey’s talent is that she doesn’t tell funny stories, she tells stories funny.

“And Juliette Burton’s Fringe show this year When I Grow Up had something unexpectedly shocking in it: you could almost hear people’s jaws dropping. It was a happy, uplifting show with a coup de théâtre in it.

“If you’re having really bad time with your boyfriend and the relationship is breaking up,” I said, “write it down. It’s cathartic and it could be turned into comedy gold in a couple of years, if not sooner.”

“Should I wait a week,” asked this would-be comic, “then I write it down so I can be objective about it?”

“No,” I advised her. “The last thing you want to do is write something objective. If something horrible happens, write it down straight away while the pain is still vivid. The writing-down of it distracts you a little from the pain and, when you look at it in 12 months time, you will find you’re objectively looking at something that seems like a stranger’s writing.”

“But you’re not a performer,” she pointed out. “What do you know about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, “but I can give bullshit advice plausibly.”

What you do not write is almost more important than what you do write. It is what you cut out that can give impact to what is left in. This is something known by the twice Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award nominee James Hamilton of comedy troupe Casual Violence.

Casual Violence - concentrated comedy

Casual Violence – surely everybody wants to see their sitcoms

He Facebooked a message yesterday about a one-off London show in January called Casual Violence: Nobody Wants To Make Our Sitcoms (Work in Progress). The blurb goes:

Join us for a low-key, super-informal script readthrough of two new sitcom projects that we’re working on – one for radio, one not for radio, both just for our benefit. We just want a bit of feedback so we can make them ourselves, for you. We’d like you to be our script editors. Come along, listen to our stories, have a drink with us afterwards and tell us what you think. Entry: £3 (entry fee is just to help cover the costs of the venue).

I have told them I will come along if they pay me £3.05p because, in comedy, it is seldom the performers who make the real money. It is the peripheral hangers-on.

Although, with luck, the aforementioned Juliette Burton might be an exception.

She is a combination of English Rose and whirling Tasmanian Devil type character with show ideas and promotional ideas spinning around her like a Wizard of Oz tornado. I had tea with her yesterday afternoon and most of the conversation I cannot repeat.

“What CAN I repeat?” I asked her.

“Well,” she replied, “as of today, it is confirmed that When I Grow Up is the first in a series of six live shows – and hopefully books and who knows what else? They will all be themed around identity – What makes a person? – The books depend on the interest I get from the proposal I have been asked to submit to a publishing company.”

Juliette’s new website lists her six shows as:

2013 – When I Grow Up
2014 – Look At Me
2015 – Dreamcatcher
2016 – an untitled show
2017 – Daddy’s Girl
2018 – The Butterfly Effect

“I am doing When I Grow Up at the Leicester Square Theatre in February,” she told me, “then touring it in Australia until May. There’s a new video promo for it.”

Juliette’s 2014 show Look At Me is going to be staged in association with the facial disfigurement charity Changing Faces, the body image charity B.O.D.Y. and the eating disorder charity B-eat.

Look At Me is billed as “a docu-comedy” (which is what When I Grow Up actually was) and, like When I Grow Up, will include video footage shot throughout the year – including interviews (the first is on 18th December) – and, in this case, the blurb goes:

By changing her appearance in dramatic (and hilarious) ways, Juliette will document how people react to her, how she feels and how she behaves. From wearing her glasses to being a man, from wearing a burka to dressing provocatively, from revisiting her “fat” self to being “old” and even going nude. Can we change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside? And is what we appear to be who we are?

I normally hate videos within live stage shows, but Juliette (a former BBC Radio journalist) showed with When I Grow Up this year that she can make it work smoothly and superbly.

Look At Me will also develop Juliette’s promotional blitz style with an accompanying pop song by Frankie Lowe, a pop video by Daniel Waterman, who directed her Dreamers (When I Grow Up) video, and who knows what else.

Juliette Burton seems to me to live a life of extremism.

With my chum Mr Methane, it’s a life of surrealism.

I got an e-mail from him last night.

Mr Methane pictured with Thomas Numme, Author - Jo Nesbo & Harald Ronneberg on a previous visit to the show.

Mr Methane pictured with (from left) Thomas Numme, author Jo Nesbo and Harald Rønneberg after a previous show visit

Tomorrow, he returns to the Senkveld med Thomas og Harald (Late Night with Thomas and Harold) TV show on TV2 in Norway.

He is making a special guest appearance with Robbie Williams and recently retired Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on the 10th anniversary edition of the show.

In fact, the show was pre-recorded on 22nd November in front of an audience of 8,000 at the Oslo Spektrum stadium.

Mr Methane tells me: “I had a brief chat with Robbie Williams as I came off stage and he went on – that’s right I was his warm up man. He said he had once gone to see me at a gig in Newcastle-under-Lyme in the early 1990s.

“Between us, me and Robbie had both ends covered on this gig. Although we both grew up not too far from one another and we both tread the boards, other similarities are not readily apparent. However I can now exclusively reveal that we both like oatcakes.

“Last weekend I went back to Norway again – this time to Kristiansand – where I did a 25th birthday gig for the Norwegian importer of Umbro sportswear.”

Part of Mr Methane’s much-admired yet seldom imitated stage act involves farting-out the candles on a birthday cake.

He told me:

“The Norwegian boss wanted me to wear Umbro sportswear until I explained that I came from Macclesfield where the Humphrey Brothers of Wilmslow set up their first Umbro factory. (The name UMBRO apparently obscurely comes from the words hUMphrey BROthers.)

mrmethanebends

Methane’s mate’s mum made his costume

“My mate’s mum, who made my Mr Methane costume, was an Umbro seamstress so I told the Norwegian boss that, technically, I was already wearing Umbro kit.

“He was delighted, but that didn’t stop a rather drunken member of the audience slamming the birthday cake candles into my bottom, burning my arse and rather spoiling the big moment. I don’t know if he did it on purpose or just fell over because he was so drunk.

“But that’s Northern Europe for you: long cold winter nights and large amounts of booze.

“The next day, I got food poisoning at breakfast and had a rough journey home. I am now finally getting back on track. It is a big relief as I am on my last pair of pyjamas.”

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Are female British comedy performers funnier and more original than men?

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Candy Gigi – Are men doing this sort of comedy act in Britain?

This is a story of two female performers who, on stage, are utterly different. One comes across as an English rose; the other can possibly be best described as a live-action version of Warner Bros cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil.

A few months back Martin Soan, who runs the Pull The Other One comedy club with his wife Vivienne, told me he felt a lot of the best up-and-coming comedians – especially the weirder acts – were women. Martin knows a lot about new talent and it is maybe worth pointing out that Pull The Other One is currently compered by funny woman Lindsay Sharman while Vivienne Soan is setting up a new Pull The Other One club in Germany.

As any regular readers of this blog in the last year will have spotted, I think phenomenally highly of former BBC Broadcast Journalist turned comedy performer Juliette Burton. She is not a comedian in the traditional sense – certainly not a gag-spouting stand-up comic, but she is a genuinely great creator and performer of full-length shows.

Her When I Grow Up show at this Year’s Edinburgh Fringe (which I saw four times, just to be sure it really was as good as I thought it was and not just a one-off freak) was masterfully (there is no non-male word) researched, crafted and performed, had unexpected intellectual depth and vigour and I shed a tear at each performance, despite knowing what the emotional twist to the seemingly lighthearted show was.

I am not normally a fan of – in fact, I usually actively hate – video inserts in live shows. But Juliette spent the year in the lead-up to the Fringe shooting interviews and video inserts which to my constant surprise fitted perfectly into the live show with live voice-overs and links by her. She also (there is no non-male word) marketed her balls off in the lead up to and during the Fringe.

There were video clips on YouTube and a pop song called Dreamers which she performed at T in The Park immediately before the Fringe

and which was accompanied by a pop video posted on YouTube.

All profits from sales of Juliette’s Dreamers song from iTunes and elsewhere will go to the BBC’s Children in Need. until 15th November, the BBC’s transmission day.

In Edinburgh, there were also QR codes on flyers linking to the Dreamers music video promoting her When I Grow Up show; she arranged a flash mob in the Royal Mile; and much more.

There was something else she did at the Fringe which she reminded me about yesterday. She is auctioning off a book.

“It starts today,” she told me yesterday, “and you can bid to become the proud owner of the When I Grow Up Dreambook.

“It’s a book I ran around the Edinburgh Fringe with. I asked lots of famous and soon-to-be famous Fringe performers to write in the book what they wanted to be when they were children and what they do now.”

“So who has written in it?” I asked.

“Ooh,” said Juliette, “loads,: Barry Humphries, Phil Jupitus, Frank Skinner, Robin Ince, Marcus Brigstocke, Stewart Lee, Andrew Maxwell and loads more including Gary Morecambe the son of Eric Morecambe and Brian Henson the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson. And John Fleming of the Malcolm Hardee Awards and the John Fleming blog.”

“Only the crème de la crème, then,” I said. “Was Brian Henson green?”

“He picked a green page to write on,” replied Juliette.

“Barry Humphries is an interesting man to meet,” I mused.

“I remember him being very well dressed,” said Juliette. “Patrick Monaham wrote in the book twice.”

“Did he hug you?” I asked.

“Twice,” said Juliette.

“He may have been thinking of something other than Children in Need,” I suggested.

“We even did a little video of it,” said Juliette.

“The hugs?”

“Me getting people to sign the book. You are at 3 minutes 30 seconds into it.”

“So it’s worth watching the first three minutes, then,” I suggested.

“People can bid to own the item and all of the money received is going to the BBC’s Children In Need appeal,” Juliette said.

“Why Children In Need?” I asked.

“With the show being about childhood dreams,” replied Juliette, “it seemed appropriate, fun and lovely to see if dreamers achieved their dreams.”

“How long is the auction?”

“It closes on 15th November – next Friday – the day Children In Need is transmitted. The auction is on eBay.”

“And,” I said, “as a result of your Fringe show, you have been offered four or five interesting projects.”

“Nothing signed yet,” said Juliette, “so we can’t talk about them.”

“Australia?” I asked.

“I can talk about that,” said Juliette. “A company are touring me in Australia for three months. They’re taking me there in February to perform When I Grow Up at the Adelaide Fringe sometimes twice, sometimes once a day and I’ll also be performing with Lizzy Mace in our Rom Com Con show which was at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012. After that, I’ll either be doing the Melbourne Comedy Festival or touring around. The itinerary is to be sorted out.”

“And, when you come back to the UK at the beginning of May,” I said, “you have deals with a couple of British media companies.”

“Agreed but not signed yet,” said Juliette, “so we can’t talk about those. But I’ll be back in time to do a show at the Brighton Fringe.”

“Will your show at the Edinburgh Fringe next year involve making videos in advance?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Juliette. “It will involve interviewing people on video and I definitely need people to get in touch with me if they want to go on record talking about their appearance and their relationship with how they look.”

Phil Kay performed with a bread product last night

Phil Kay performed with a bakery product last night

After seeing Juliette yesterday afternoon, I went to see one of the monthly Goodfather comedy nights run by Thomas Ward and Phil Kay at the Comedy Pub, a short heckler’s cry from the London Comedy Store in Oxendon Street – although heckling Phil Kay is not something to be recommended.

Thomas encouraged me to review the evening, but I rarely blog straight reviews. Instead, I will mention the aforementioned Tasmanian Devil comic – Candy Gigi, whom I mentioned last week.

Any show compered by Phil Kay is bound to be interesting and have stand-up acts worth seeing. But Candy Gigi is virtually unreviewable except visually. Some people might (I guess) not like her act, but it would be difficult to actively DISlike it because you would be suffering from sensory overload and unable to think clearly. I was sitting at the back of the audience so I could not see faces, but I had a feeling some may have mirrored the open-mouthed facial reactions of the First Night audience at Springtime For Hitler in Mel Brooks’ film The Producers. A combination of disbelief and sensory overload shock is not necessarily a bad thing in comedy.

In my very erstwhile role as a finder of bizarre talent for TV shows, I would sometimes see acts which were wonderful live but which would never translate to two-dimensional TV screens. I always went for talent, energy and originality. Go for the performer who has that ‘X’ Factor (in the pre-Simon Cowell sense.)

Candy Gigi has it, though how she develops this eye-popping and ear-assaulting act I have no idea. All I know is that the only way to describe it is to see it.

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If there were any justice in the comedy and entertainment world, then both Juliette Burton and Candy Gigi – two utterly different acts – would become rich, successful and famous, not necessarily in that order.

There is not.

So I can but toss a coin and pray, hope and mention.

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Juliette Burton on what it’s like to sing at Scotland’s T in The Park rock festival

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Comedy performer turned rock chick Juliette

Comedy performer turned rock chick Juliette

The annual T in The Park is Scotland’s equivalent of the Glastonbury music festival.

This year, the acts included Snoop Dogg, Paloma Faith, Killers, Mumford & Sons, The Proclaimers, Dizzee Rascal, Stereophonics, Travis and comedy performer Juliette Burton, who is staging a show at the Edinburgh Fringe titled When I Grow Up.

In it, she recounts how, this year, she tried to be all the things she dreamt of being when she was a child – including a baker, an artist, a Muppet and a pop star.

Performing yesterday at T in The Park was her “research” for being a rock star. She sang one song – Dreamers (When I Grow Up) – which is on sale for charity now and online as a music video later this week.

“What was it like yesterday?” I asked her.

“Unusually,” she told me, “there was no rain. But it got so dusty I am still sneezing dried mud out of my nose. I thought I had got a tan but when I had a shower this morning I realised it was just dust.”

“I’ve been to Glastonbury a few times,” I said, “but never to T in The Park. It’s much the same I imagine?”

Juliette about to go on stage

Juliette about to go on stage

“Well,” said Juliette, “there were the obligatory sightings of men and women peeing in public. That was expected. But there was an unusual fashion I hadn’t realised existed where young women wear hot pants cut so high that their bottoms hang out. I played ‘spot the arse’ which was a fun game. Sometimes it wasn’t bare cheeks I spotted but arses of a different kind – young men. I learned a lot about how to spot people on different types of recreational drugs.

“Then there were the tanked-up teens who decided to play volleyball in the middle of the crowd dressed as Monty Python-esque characters. There were some other excellent costumes around: the panto horse, the superheroes, the men dressed as bananas and a guy with a hoodie that just said CUNT on it. I was not sure whether he was advertising it or wanted to find some or he just wanted to let people know he was one.”

“So it was a different audience to the normal comedy show audience you’re used to?” I asked.

“Yes,” agreed Juliette. “Normally my audience keep their shirts on. There are usually far fewer nipples on display at a comedy show.”

“Were you more nervous?” I asked.

“I was trying to cope with the nerves by not thinking about it until it happened,” replied Juliette. “Which is a great coping strategy… until it happens. Before going on stage I was more of a bundle of nerves than I’ve been in a long while. I felt physically sick. I was worried I’d not be able to pogo in the shoes I’d chosen, worried I’d forget the words and worried about being bottled by the crowd.”

“So it was much scarier?” I asked.

Juliette on screen and on stage yesterday

Juliette on screen and (tiny on the right) on stage yesterday

“Terrifying,” said Juliette. “My comedy isn’t stand-up exactly – and stand-up is terrifying for much the same reason as T in the Park was terrifying – the crowd. But a comedy crowd – especially during the Edinburgh Fringe – comes to see a show because they love comedy. They want to watch a show you’ve put your heart and soul into creating.

“The crowd at yesterday’s T in the Park gig was not there to appreciate the fact I wrote a pop song to realise my childhood dream of being a pop star. They were there for the beer. They were mainly men, already pissed and enjoying themselves.

“I’ve never taken drugs – because I’ve already had a psychosis and nowadays I like to get my highs from laughter. So some of the young men may have also been on something else. It was a music a music festival after all. I don’t know about that. But I do know they were loud and a little aggressive. And they just wanted more beer.

“Even the compere of the show said they were the toughest crowd they’d ever had and the crowd was terrifying because they weren’t listening. So seeing that crowd before I went on was absolutely the scariest thing. I mean, what if they bottled me? Or chucked pints of pee at me?”

“So how did it go?” I asked.

Juliette fending off marriage proposals yesterday

Juliette had to fend off marriage proposals from front row

“Actually,” said Juliette, “it was frickin’ awesome. I owe a lot of that to the amazing comperes – Ben and Rufus. They introduced me in a way that meant the crowd (even that crowd) would warm to me – We want you to go crazy for this lady. Imagine she’s Rhianna and Beyoncé’s love child! – and they said they’d give free beer to my biggest fans…

“So, with that sort of introduction and bribery, I was lucky. Some of those guys, though, took the biggest fan thing really seriously. I got proposed to mid-song by two of the guys in the front row.

“I was told by the lovely team backstage that another thing in my favour was the fact most of the guys in the audience were ‘laaaaaads’ who, when they see a woman, just revert to Animal mode. And that’s Animal from The Muppets. They just end up shouting WOMAN! WOMAN! in their minds. The fact I wore a sparkly dress also meant they were distracted by something shiny.

“So lots of different tactics meant I didn’t get bottled. If they had been preparing pints of warm liquid excreted from their bodies especially for me, they kept them reserved for another band later on – maybe The Killers or David Guetta… I hope it was the latter because The Killers were fantastic.”

“And afterwards,” I asked, “you felt what?”

Not everyone in the audience was a lad

It looks like not everyone in the audience yesterday was a lad

“I imagine,” replied Juliette, “that will be how it is for the first performance of my actual show at the Fringe in the Gilded Balloon – terror and then fun. That’s why performing is amazing – it’s real life. A mix of the best and the worst. Maybe the preview reviewers might get their nipples out too… I don’t know.

“After the show yesterday I was so high – on life, not whatever those guys in the front row had been taking. I wanted to do it all again. I don’t know… Maybe I will get the chance again one day.

Juliette foregrounded by either arms or legs

Juliette foregrounded by either arms or legs

“Emotionally, my inner tweenager was overjoyed – I’d just realised a childhood ambition. All those days I had dreamed of singing a song to adoring fans, wearing a cool dress; all those days I had fantasised about it in my bedroom at home and drew little pictures of myself performing on stage – putting those pictures in a little homemade magazine inspired by such intellectual publications as Bliss magazine – I was NOT a cool little girl.

“And then finally, yesterday, I had realised that little uncool girl’s dream. It felt brilliant. But not as good as I imagine the first show at the Fringe will feel – That has been fewer years gestating but I think I care about it in the long term far more.”

“How does yesterday fit into your Fringe show?” I asked.

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette wants to recreate T in the Park orgasm

“The pop star section is at the end of the show,” explained Juliette, “and there will be proof of all that I’ve done in all this mad research on video and in photo form throughout the show on a Powerpoint. I don’t want to give too much away, but the pop star bit is a big climax of the show. Much like the orgasm I had walking off stage at T in the Park yesterday. It’s meant to be euphoric, life-affirming and uplifting.

“What did you think when you woke up this morning?” I asked.

Did that really happen?” said Juliette. “Followed, right now as I’m talking to you, by thinking: Seriously – anything can happen. We can make anything happen if we want it to – and if we work hard enough for it.

“Did you video yesterday’s performance for YouTube?

“Yes, some kind fellow performers filmed it for me. And I did a little introduction to camera afterwards to explain it. I’ll be editing that in the next day or two and get it online. And, if I can do a plug…”

“Yes you can,” I said.

The downloadable Dreamers song

Downloadable Dreamers from iTunes, Spotify & Amazon

“Anyone can buy the song I performed yesterday from iTunes, Spotify and Amazon – Just search for Dreamers (When I Grow Up).

“All the money raised until the end of the Fringe is going to Children in Need.

“As is all the money raised from auctioning off the When I Grow Up Dreambook – which is being signed by all kinds of exciting people – already including Janey Godley, Robin Ince, Stewart Lee and more. They’re all writing in it what they wanted to be as a child and what they do now. It will be on eBay during or just after the Fringe.”

“And when is the pop video you shot for the song – which I blogged about – going online?”

“Hopefully later this week.”

“So,” I asked, “what you have learned from all this is…?”

“That I think the Fringe might actually be a more restful time than this past week,” laughed Juliette. “And it would be a terrible waste of a life if we didn’t do something we at least enjoy, right?”

YOU CAN SEE A VIDEO OF JULIETTE’S PERFORMANCE HERE:

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Comedian Juliette Burton to sing at T In The Park and hopes to avoid STDs

Next weekend, it’s T In The Park, Scotland’s annual attempt at the Glastonbury Festival, with music from Killers, Mumford & Sons, The Proclaimers, Snoop Dogg, Stereophonics and Juliette Burton…

Hold on… Juliette Burton.? The comedian?

Yes?

Singing?

Yes.

How come?

So I asked her.

Juliette is torn between Gonzo and Jimmy Carr

Juliette & Frodo: the fellowship of T In The Park

“Well,” she told me yesterday, “very early on in the research for my Edinburgh Fringe show When I Grow Up I was telling a then-contact, now-friend, Frodo McDaniel – yes, that is his real name – about the concept of the show and what I would try to achieve. The concept is me trying to be all the things that I wanted to be when I was a child.

“He seemed to love the idea of the show. And, when he heard one of the things I had wanted to be as a child and was still trying to be for my show was a pop star, he immediately invited me to perform on the stage he produces at T in the Park – because he loved the concept of the show and wanted to help me realise that ambition.”

“Just the one song?” I asked. “With backing by…?”

“Yep, just the one song,” said Juliette. “I will sing Dreamers (When I Grow Up) live myself and my backing will be from Frankie Lowe who composed, recorded and produced the song. He’ll be like the guy in the Pet Shop Boys who stands at the back of the stage with a keyboard and a cool pair of sunglasses. I even got him the sunglasses. They were a freebie in the Brighton Fringe participants’ bags. They’re orange.”

The downloadable Dreamers song

The downloadable Dreamers (When I Grow Up) song

“So you won’t be performing with the Killers or Stereophonics?” I asked.

“I will be performing next Sunday afternoon as part of Rufus & Ben’s Cabaret Quiz,” Juliette told me. “Apparently I am the special musical guest. I might be a thespian performer who performs comedy and Fringe shows,” she laughed, “but, you know, multi-platform, crossover comedy is the future! And if 50 Cent and Brittany Spears can be singers who supposedly act, why can’t I be a comedy actor who very occasionally supposedly sings. VERY occasionally. Supposedly. Very.

“I’m not suggesting I’m any good by the way,” added Juliette in a very British way. A very British way. Very. “People can judge that for themselves by downloading the song from iTunes, Amazon or Spotify – Dreamers (When I Grow Up) – I just want to have some fun and try to make the dreams of my inner tweenager come true.”

“And you’re very good at publicity,” I said. “It’s the BBC broadcasting background.”

There is a clip on YouTube of Juliette rehearsing for the upcoming music video of Dreamers.

“Is all this part of your desperate Masterplan,” I asked, “to become famous at something… at anything?”

“Masterplan?!” said Juliette. “You think this is planned? I’m honestly not driven by fame, but I would love to be successful at something… but not anything! I would love to make my Edinburgh Fringe show a success this year – it’s my first solo show. The song is a part of the show and the adventure of performing at T in the Park is a part of that adventure. It’s me trying to realise this – one of many – childhood dreams. And if this helps towards making the show a success and if it helps encourage people to see the show then that’s my goal achieved.”

“Like I said,” I repeated. “Good at publicity. And you will sing the song in the show?”

“Nope,” said Juliette. “The show itself is an hour-long docu-comedy – a true story told on stage. The music video will be finished, I’m told, next week – before T in the Park – and it will be online then. The video will also be on the projector screen as part of the stage show. And the song will be played as I’m telling the story about me trying to be a pop star. And there will be footage of me performing at T in the Park.”

“Like I said,” I repeated again. “Good at publicity. How are your rehearsals going for T In the Park?”

“Ummmm,” said Juliette. “Yeah… Rehearsals… I should probably consider fitting that in at some point… But I do know exactly what I’m wearing. That’s the most important bit of being a pop star, right?”

Juliette Burton in London yesterday

Comic Juliette can make people cry

“Could be,” I agreed. “That and publicity. And how are your Fringe rehearsals going?”

“Ah! Now!” said Juliette. “Those have been in the diary for a long while and are already going well. Scots comic JoJo Sutherland is directing my show and we’ve already been rehearsing lots.”

“The fact you live in Edinburgh must help,” I said.

“It does,” agreed Juliette. “Jojo is brilliant – She totally ‘gets’ the show, but I keep making her cry. It’s meant to be a comedy! Did it make you cry John?”

“I think I had a tear in my eye when I saw the first preview,” I said. “The audience has no warning you’re going to suddenly pull the floor out from under them.”

“It’s just two weeks now until the Cambridge previews,” said Juliette. I’m pretty nervous. It’ll be the first proper preview of the proper show in its entirety.  It’s all a bit mad right now: getting music together, wrestling with PowerPoint issues, getting final filming and editing done, trying to do a bit of PR, getting final flyer design sorted, the ‘special’ project promoted, learning lines, keeping the social media active, rehearsing, trying to write some stuff for the Fringe Comedy Academy, trying not to want to run away from it all…”

“Are you regretting going solo” I asked, “after having the comfort blanket of being part of Mace & Burton?”

“I haven’t gone solo,” said Juliette. “I still work with Lizzy (Mace). We’re still working hard on our Rom Com Con movie screenplay and – if I can raise the funds – we’re both keen to go to the Adelaide Fringe next year together.

“But this is a solo show… Do I regret doing it? No. I’m really struggling with all the stress and I do desperately miss having help to manage it all. When I hear the first audience laugh I will know it has been worth it.

“I’m hoping that something might get picked up this Fringe,” added Juliette. “I mean my ideas by the industry…not an STD.”

(Juliette used to be a BBC presenter and is is no stranger to music festivals, as this showreel demonstrates)

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