Tag Archives: women

Karl Schultz with Joz Norris – Two UK weirdo comics talk about women etc

Karl Schultz (left) and Joz Norris yesterday

Karl Schultz (left) and Joz Norris chatted over tea yesterday

So I said I would do a blog chat with comic Karl Schultz about a charity gig which he is organising in London on Monday. Karl brought along Joz Norris, who is co-organising the gig. Somewhere along the way, the conversation went off course.

“What’s the show?” I asked them yesterday.

“It’s Karl & Joz’s Over The Top Christmas Love-In at the Bloomsbury Theatre,” said Karl.

“For Karl’s charity,” added Joz.

“You have a charity?” I asked Karl.

“Oasis. It’s the one I run in Barking and Dagenham. It basically gives somewhere to go in the week to homeless people, unemployed people, people trying to come off drugs – recreational, free meals and stuff.”

On YouTube, Karl tells a story about his charity.

Monday’s charity show at the Bloomsbury Theatre includes comics Bridget Christie, John Kearns, Tim Key, Josie Long and Sara Pascoe.

“When did you start the charity?” I asked Karl.

“Last December. About 75% of the money from the gig is going to that charity, but I’m also going out to South Africa with my dad for a couple of weeks and we know some projects out there which could do with money.

“When I told someone I was going out to South Africa, someone said: Oh, you’re going on ‘holiday’ are you? ‘Holiday’. Apparently South Africa where people go with sex addictions. There’s a clinic or something. But I’m going out with my dad, who’s a Salvation Army major.”

Joz said: “I had some kids from a South African township stay with me in 2007. My mum did the African premiere of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man Mass for Peace. She had breakfast with Desmond Tutu twice and the choir came over here and stayed in my room and I had to stay in the shed all week. I taught them about iPods.”

“Did they have iPods?” I asked.

“No,” admitted Joz.

Karl Schultz: one of his more understated stage performances

Karl Schultz: one of his more understated stage performances

“I,” said Karl, “was seeing a girl from Sierra Leone a couple of months ago, but she got sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Three women I’ve seen have got sectioned.”

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Joz. “That’s your taste. I think you’re drawn to eccentrics.”

“I get approached by depressed women,” said Karl.

“I’m always attracted to mad women,” said Joz, “and they’re always either very short or very tall. But Karl hates short women. He says their bottoms are too close to the ground.”

“I do have a thing for tall women,” admitted Karl.

“Why?” I asked.

“My mum is 5’1”, so there’s no Oedipal thing. But I was brought up in Ghana from the age of 11-14 – the most formative time – and all the Ghanaians hit puberty before me. So, when I went back after the summer holidays, I had grown an inch but, in Ghana, they had grown six inches. So all the girls I was in love with in my class were all tall.

“Earlier this year, I was trying to be a better person and took a short woman on a date – I thought If I can survive it, I will be a better person for it – so we were walking on the South Bank in London drinking our chai lattes and she burnt her tongue on her chai latte and started hopping on the spot and I was looking at her thinking: Is this what it is going to be like?”

“Karl’s got a thing about chai,” said Joz. “He loves taking women – usually tall ones – to drink chai.”

“Well,” said Karl, “you can always see women, but how often can you have a South Bank chai latte?”

Joz Norris grew up in a small English village

Joz Norris is not always seeing women; Karl joined Tinder

“I’m not always seeing women,” said Joz.

“I joined Tinder,” said Karl, “mainly because I felt bad about not doing enough out-of-town gigs. I got into comedy to travel, but I don’t really travel much, other than Edinburgh and China.”

“China?” I said, surprised.

“I went to China a couple of years ago. Did a cabaret out there. In hindsight, I should not have been invited.”

“Anyway,” I said, “on Tinder…”

“I’ve been to Southampton and Penrith,” said Karl. “When I went to Southampton, I got to see where Craig David went to school. I had to do it at the weekend. You can’t do it in the week, because they will move you on.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well you can’t,” said Karl, “just go snooping on Craig David’s former secondary school during the week. People will say: What’s he doing?

“Fair point,” said Joz.

“What happened in Penrith?” I asked. “Did you get a booking at a local comedy club?”

“Free lodgings and a lovely breakfast,” said Karl. “I had curry for breakfast.”

“The other day,” said Joz, “I had left-over lamb biryani for breakfast.”

“So you got into comedy to travel?” I asked. “But there were other things you could have done. Like become a bus driver.”

“We went to Lake Windermere,” said Karl. “Dove Cottage: Wordsworth’s cottage. You know they always had tiny beds…”

“Yeah,” said Joz.

“Did you really?” I asked him.

Joz shrugged.

“But,” continued Karl, “the part where your head would be was at 45 degrees. That’s why beds were shorter. They believed that demons or ghosts might visit you in the night and, if they saw you almost upright, they might think you were awake and go away.”

“It stops acid reflux too,” I said. “Sitting up in bed.”

“Yesterday,” said Karl, “I thought I was having a heart attack.”

“I had it for the first time about a year ago,” I said. “Acid reflux. It really is like you have acid inside your tubes.”

“Is that how you spontaneously combust?” asked Joz.

“No,” I said.

“Too many eggs,” said Karl.

“The Elephant Man had to sleep sitting up,” said Joz, “because of his huge head… Seriously. I was in the play in 2003; I played the man at the fair.”

“I was intending to do a fairly serious chat with you,” I said.

Karl as his character 'Matthew Kelly’ with some Chinese fans

Karl as his character ‘Matthew Kelly’ with some Chinese fans

“We could do that,” said Karl. “Someone said watching me be happy as my Matthew Kelly character was like watching a crocodile. The character has a calm exterior, but my eyes were very violent. So it was like a crocodile smile.”

“You can hold a crocodile’s mouth shut,” said Joz. “The muscles that open its mouth are very weak, so you can touch the sides and hold the mouth shut.”

“Or use a rubber band,” said Karl.

“Aren’t you supposed to hit them on the nose?” I asked.

“That’s sharks,” said Joz.

“Lick its eyes,” said Karl. “That’s what a zebra does. I saw a video of a crocodile being licked by a zebra. A crocodile hasn’t evolved a natural defence against having its eyes licked.”

“Nor have I,” said Joz.

There is a video on YouTube of a zebra briefly licking a crocodile’s eyes then escaping.

“That’s how you can get away from Joz,” suggested Karl. “Lick his eyes.”

“No-one’s ever tried that,” said Joz. “Mostly, they just say No… I heard that the way to get away from a crocodile is to run in zig-zags, because they can’t move in zig-zags.”

“Or just keep out of Africa and away from the water,” I suggested.

“And Asia,” said Joz. “And America.”

“And zoos,” I suggested.

“London Zoo is so depressing,” said Karl. “They haven’t even got the grey animals now; they’ve moved them all up to Whipsnade Zoo.”

“Grey?” I asked.

“The elephants and rhinos,” said Karl.

“Do they only keep all the colourful ones in London?” I asked.

“They’ve still got the tiger,” said Karl.

“Earlier this year,” said Joz, “I went to London Zoo on a date and I made the girl film me doing an impression of Nelson Mandela all the way round  the zoo.”

“Sounds questionable,” I said.

“It was for a sketch,” explained Joz.

Never ever take ketamine wearing a lion mask at London Zoo

Never ever take ketamine wearing a lion mask at London Zoo

“The first time I went back to London Zoo since I was a kid,” said Karl, “I went with my mate and bought some masks and took ketamine. It was a terrible afternoon. I was in a really bad place.”

“It’s terrible stuff,” agreed Joz.

“He was a giraffe and I was a lion,” said Karl. “Ketamine is the worst drug ever.”

“Well don’t take it,” I said.

“I don’t any more. Have you heard of K-holing? It describes the completely stark, cataclysmic trip of… It’s awful…”

“What’s your idea of heaven?” I asked.

“Taking a tall Ghanaian woman to Lake Windermere,” said Karl.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Women are not funny? … B****cks!

Martin Soan, who runs the Pull The Other One comedy club in London (and soon Leipzig) with his wife Vivienne, recently told me that he thought most of the truly original new bizarre comedy acts around – but often not booked into traditional comedy clubs – were women.

Last night was a prime example of the talent out there.

Zuma Puma grabbed two audience members last night

Zuma Puma mesmerising two audience members last night

Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma re-started her weekly Lost Cabaret club in London.

Extraordinary, mind-dazzling charisma does not even begin to get close to the stage presence which Canadian comic, actress, clown and puppeteer Nelly has and Zuma Puma is only one of her comedy characters.

She last appeared in this blog at the Edinburgh Fringe, cavorting naked with a giant gold-painted almond in Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret and singing sweetly (with terrifying homicidal outbursts) as the frighteningly schizophrenic Nancy Sanazi on the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show and in Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II.

It would be difficult to equal Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s charisma but, last night, Candy Gigi Markham certainly grabbed the audience’s attention.

Last time I saw her, Candy Gigi was at Pull The Other One, yelling at the audience, her mouth erupting with half-eaten Corn Flakes, scrawling red lipstick all over her face and clearly ready to be dragged kicking and screaming to some Bedlam-like Victorian insane asylum.

Candy Gigi last, spitting out vegitative matter

Candy Gigi last night, eating and spitting out green vegetative matter

Last night, at The Lost Cabaret, she seemed to have turned the volume up even louder, was screaming at the audience with a tsunami-like intensity and was manhandling – as a surrogate baby – green vegetative matter which she ended up literally shoving into audience members’ faces. And let us not even mention the shouted OTT and utterly unrepeatable obscene poetry.

I tried to take a photograph of her for this blog. It was like trying to photograph a tornado… It comes out fuzzy and can be dangerous.

The evening ended with the entire audience holding each other in a circle.

The Lost Cabaret is not so much a normal comedy show, more a 1960s ‘event’ with a large juicy pizza of ten (or was it eleven?) new 2013 comedy performers.

Men and women.

No difference.

No funny women?

Bollocks.

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Comic Arthur Smith and critic Copstick talk comedy & hard core pornography

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

Moi, Arthur Smith and Kate Copstick chatted on Monday

Moi, Arthur Smith and Kate Copstick chatted in Edinburgh

A couple of weeks ago, I staged five daily hour-long chat shows in the final week of the Edinburgh Fringe.

In the first show, the guests were comedian Arthur Smith and doyenne of Fringe comedy reviewers Kate Copstick (who hates being called Kate). This is a short extract:

_____________________________________________________

ARTHUR: A naked man is funny whereas, with a naked woman, there are different things going on.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why?

ARTHUR: Well… because of the evil that is Man.

COPSTICK: A round of applause, please. The feminist contingent has arrived.

ARTHUR: Well, I do consider myself a feminist. When I arrived at university in 1974, there was a woman setting up The Women’s Liberation Society. You only had to think about it. Men had been oppressing women for thousands of years and she was absolutely right.

I always thought that the feminist ethos would continue more. For example, the ‘Ms’ thing. Fair enough. Why does a woman have to announce her marital status on a form by being Miss or Mrs? Men don’t have to. So I just assumed Ms would become standard, but it didn’t.

I assumed that the Feminist revolution, for want of a better word, would continue, but then Lad Culture suddenly appeared, courtesy of Frank Skinner and David Baddiel amongst others. And porn was alright.

COPSTICK: Porn IS alright!

ARTHUR: Yeah, but… I’m not suggesting porn should be illegal, but it’s another area of controversy.

COPSTICK: Have you ever been on a porn set?

ARTHUR: I was asked… Victoria Coren

COPSTICK: Oh, that’s not a proper porn set. That’s middle-class girls playing at making porn.

JOHN: Copstick has proper porn sets.

ARTHUR: I’ve always had this joke about balancing a tray on the end of me knob. It’s an idea that perhaps I could learn to do.

COPSTICK: I was only asking because I have spent quite a long while within the porn industry.

ARTHUR: Have you?

COPSTICK: Yeah.

ARTHUR: I didn’t know that.

COPSTICK: Oh yes.

JOHN: She owns the Erotic Review.

COPSTICK: But I’m not talking about the Erotic Review. I’m talking about hard core porn. Proper hard core, you know? Every industry has its sleazy end. I know nothing about the illegal stuff. I’m talking about… The mainstream porn industry is where the one group of people who can turn up on a set with a list of what they will do and what they won’t do is the women. And that list is adhered to.

A very good friend of mine does everything. She does things probably none of the lovely people here could even imagine.

JOHN: Such as?

COPSTICK: Have you ever seen a cream pie?

ARTHUR: Oh, I’ve heard of that one. There’s a woman I know who’s actually quite well-known who said Ooh, I’ve seen this lovely profiterole. I’ve got me eye on it. I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but… she… she doesn’t eat it. Let’s put it like that.

COPSTICK: My friend does double-anal, she does double-pussy, she does cream pie, she does everything.

ARTHUR: With profiteroles?

COPSTICK: Well, there’s somebody there balancing them on a tray on his dick.

JOHN: And then?

ARTHUR: Is this comedy or porn?

COPSTICK: Oh, it’s porn.

ARTHUR: It sounds quite funny, doesn’t it?

COPSTICK: She’ll do all these things, but she doesn’t like anyone playing with her nipples. So, on her list of things the guys are not allowed to do, none of them are allowed to go anywhere near her nipples, no matter what else they are doing… And, if they do, she can stop the scene. The women are not downtrodden in porn… I haven’t convinced you, Arthur?

JOHN: Few people know you’re in the erotic industry.

COPSTICK: I thought we were talking about Arthur.

JOHN: Few people know you were in the erotic industry, Arthur.

ARTHUR: Mr Knobbo? He never really caught on.

JOHN: There was a lot of nudity surrounding Malcolm Hardee in the 1980s for no reason I could figure out except The Roman In Britain was getting publicity.

ARTHUR: Well, like I said, naked men are funny.

JOHN: Why?

ARTHUR: Kate will tell you.

COPSTICK: It is the danglies. Little squishy things that dangle are quite funny.

ARTHUR: Well, the testicles and penis are slightly silly things. The rest of your body doesn’t have things hanging off. You look at them and you think What the hell are…

COPSTICK: One wonders what Mother Nature was thinking… And there are an increasing number of chaps in really quite middle-of-the-road comedy shows who, at the end of the show, just randomly get their knobs out.

If I was male and I was going to get my knob out, I would want to know that people were going to have to gasp Whoaaah! but none of them are. Maybe it’s just a comedian thing. They’re all…

ARTHUR: All comedians have small knobs?

COPSTICK: Yeah.

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What happened to a female comic one night at London’s Comedy Store in 1981

Vivienne & Martin Soan on stage at Pull The Other One this year

Vivienne and Martin Soan at Pull The Other One this year

Vivienne Soan currently hosts the always excellent monthly Pull The Other comedy club. She tells me…

___________________

It was 1981…Tony Allen was the compere at the original Comedy Store in London and I had been to a very important England v Scotland football match that same day.

It was the match where the referee jumped over the ball.

I had been given free tickets and was sort-of fired-up from having sat with the Scots and cheered the English.

I had been in Europe for the past four years with Action Theatre and the queue to get into the lift at the Comedy Store had proved too tempting for the performance hostess that had been maturing within me. I worked the crowd before they got into the venue and so, when I stood up and took the mike after Tony Allen, I challenged the audience to “do better”… I had no doubts…The audience were on my side and I ‘stormed it’ (as an open spot) with a mixture of real life stories and old playground jokes.

My opening line was good. I had been sitting in front of a persistent heckler and said I had taken the stage to get away from him.

After the show, I was invited back by Don Ward (the Comedy Store’s owner) to do three weeks.

After the second week, it was whispered in my ear by the other comics that this was ‘alternative comedy’ and I could only perform original material.

“I’m a performer not a writer,” I proclaimed and they all turned away.

The third week, there was great excitement as the new-born Channel 4 was coming in to have a look.

There was a buzz …. “They are very interested in you,” I was told.

I bounced onto the stage, hit my head on the gong and told my caterpillar joke which ends in “I bin sick”.

At this point, Ben Elton turned the mike off and closed my set with the words: “I’m sorry, darling, you can’t tell jokes like that. We cannot allow you to perpetuate the myth of the dumb blonde”.

I left the night with my head between my legs.

I didn’t venture back on a comic stage until 1991.

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Comedian Lewis Schaffer gets attacked for his allegedly woman-hating blogs about TV presenter Justin Lee Collins

Lewis Schaffer – sexist or vulnerable?

Last night, I got a call from Lewis Schaffer.

“The shit’s hit the fan,” he said. “I don’t want to be Frankie Boyle. I don’t want people to be mad at me. Well, just a little bit. That’s my default position. My parents were always mad at me. That meant they were paying attention.”

Last Friday, Lewis wrote a blog which started:

According to the Daily Mail, British comic Justin Lee Collins is on trial for “Harrassment (Causing fear of violence)” for calling his girlfriend a “fat dog” and telling her she was “riddled with cellulite”.

The blog was headlined: No man ever used the words “riddled with cellulite”. A defense of Justin Lee Collins.

The next day, Lewis followed it up with a blog headed: Justin Lee Collins attempts murder while Alan Carr watches. Believe it or Not!

“People are complaining that I’m defending violence against women,” Lewis told me. “That I’m a woman-hater, that I don’t understand what domestic violence is.”

“So what is your view on domestic violence?” I asked.

“That it’s best kept in the home,” said Lewis. “On stage, that’s funny. Maybe in print, people don’t know it’s a joke.

“People are viewing me like some archaic male chauvinist. I’m not. I don’t like people getting upset with what I write. My goal is to make people like me. The trouble with comedy is that, if you try to get people to like you, they don’t like you; and if you try to get people to hate you, then that doesn’t work either. Some people are saying to me – John, you yourself have said to me – I should be like Frankie Boyle and get into arguments, but I don’t want to get into arguments with people.”

“But,” I said, “that’s your schtick. On stage, you are confrontational. You tell the audience they are crap; you tell some audience members you don’t like them; you tell them you hate Jews, then you explain you’re a Jew and tell jokes about the Holocaust. That’s confrontational.”

“It isn’t confrontational,” Lewis argued, “because it’s interactive. They can see my face. The trouble is I write my blogs in the privacy of my own home and people can’t see my face when they read a blog.”

“So,” I said, “if you tell a live audience they’re crap, that’s OK because they can see your face and your eyes when you say it and you can see them, so you can control their perception of you?”

“Yes. It’s a very complicated situation,” said Lewis.

“I’ve seen you say on stage that you don’t like women,” I told Lewis. “But, of course, the audience knows that’s not true because they can feel the comic attitude. But a lot of your act on stage superficially is about how awful your ex-wife was and women are.”

“Yeah,” agreed Lewis, “it is about that but I think, at the end of the show, people realise who the real loser is – and it’s me. They walk away thinking I feel sorry for that woman being married to that man.”

“You have had some people walk out of your stage shows outraged, though,” I said.

“I have had many people walk out of my shows,” said Lewis, “and usually they walk out not after what I say but in anticipation of what I’m going to say because they think Oh my god! I can’t listen to this!”

“And in fact,” I suggested, “if they stayed and listened to more, they would realise it’s more balanced.”

“Yeah,” said Lewis. “It’s balanced. I don’t blame my ex-wife for everything. At the end of the show, people see that. They see I’m a flawed human being.”

“So your basic problem,” I suggested, “is that you’re used to saying things in a conversational way… You tend to talk WITH the audience in your shows, not just talk TO them… It’s a dialogue… But, when you put the same words down in cold print, people can’t read between the lines.”

“Yeah,” said Lewis. “A lot of what I do is tongue-in-cheek and most people realise that when they see me.”

“But they don’t necessarily see that in an individual blog?” I asked.

“If they read all the blogs, they realise that. The problem is I do care. I never do a blog that everyone agrees with. If I were to do a blog that says women are oppressed, some people would disagree. When I write a blog about Justin Lee Collins being pilloried and that no-one is speaking out for him…

“What I was reacting to in my blog was the sense of imbalance that’s being projected about Justin Lee Collins. I don’t know the guy. If I met him, I might not even like the guy. Anybody who screams at women… I’ve never done that… I withdraw into my own shell when people are attacking me. I’ve never ever screamed at a woman.”

“So give me an example of how people are criticising you…”

“Well, they’re saying that I’m… Well, one well-known female comic didn’t even have the nerve to say what she didn’t like… She asked if any comedians were going to speak out against me. It was one of the Tweets. But she didn’t come out and say I don’t like what this guy said. She didn’t say that, but she was thinking that, probably…”

“So,” I asked, “have people actually said to you in the flesh that you are blogging bad things?”

“No, just on the internet,” replied Lewis. “It’s the power of the Tweet. The irony is that, behind closed doors, I went a little mental and crossed a line I shouldn’t have done and, behind closed doors, they’re going all mental on me. Everyone’s in the privacy of their own little iPhones and iPads so they can say and write and do things that they wouldn’t say and do in real life. If they spoke to me, they’d know… They know me…

“Yeah, I am bitter. I do hate women. And I love women too. Women hate women. Life’s complicated and I’m even more complicated. I am famous for my bitterness. I’m bitter about men too. This blog happened to be bitter about women. There’ll be a future blog that’s bitter about men. Just wait…”

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BBC Radio women + a woman wearing only a lettuce at the Edinburgh Fringe

The BBC are giving away plastic pints

I woke up this morning to two things. One was the sound of comedian Janey Godley trying but failing to vomit in my toilet. I fear, dear reader, that you and I may hear more of this in the days to come.

The other thing was an e-mail which started:

Hi John,

 Just writing to say how much I enjoy reading your site. We at Lifeinsurancequotes.org recently published an article “8 Ways Funeral Homes Will Try To Rip You Off”, that we think is tailor-made for your readers.

Either their computerised spam system is totally out-of-control (surely not!) or I must be mis-targeting this blog.

I have little good advice on funeral homes.

Janey Godley once told me that, if you are going to murder someone, the best hiding place for the body is in a graveyard – the police will not look in a graveyard for a dead body and, if they are tipped-off, they will be wary of causing a public outcry by potentially digging up a body which may not be the missing victim.

That is my only funeral tip for today, but it may prove useful for Israeli comic Daphna Baram.

Whoever killed Jesus, it wasn’t Daphna

Yesterday, she told me: “There was a very drunken guy in the audience at my Frenemies show (it’s only on until Saturday) – Yuri from the Czech Republic. At some point during my set, the idea that I was Jewish – at least nominally – penetrated through the layers of beer in Yuri’s mind and he started heckling: You killed Jesus! You killed Jesus!

“I remembered I had a routine from my first Christmas as a comedian. Clearly this was a good moment for resurrection.

“In my most authoritative voice (I do authoritative well) and with, I regret to say, a certain degree of c-word usage, I informed Yuri that the whole 30 shekel story is highly non-credible as no Jew I’ve ever heard of would sell a hippy to the italian mafia for the equivalent of a fiver…

“He kept silent for a while but, in a later section about my military training in Israel, he started heckling again. I told the audience. I saw Yuri outside and invited him to the gig and thought Great! I’ve pulled!… But now all I can think about is where I am going to hide his body…

Well Daphna now knows, courtesy of Janey Godley, she can actually do this with little comeback.

But back to the Edinburgh Fringe proper…

Three Weeks – on the streets of Edinburgh now

In my first weekly column for Fringe magazine Three Weeks today, Mervyn Stutter criticises the BBC for putting on too many free shows at this year’s Fringe, to the detriment of hard-working performers who are already having a bad enough time with the big TV names and the Recession. You can read the Three Weeks piece by picking it up in Edinburgh or clicking here or you can download the whole issue here. I will post my golden words here on this blog in one week’s time (when the paper is no longer on the streets of Edinburgh).

I had another BBC-bashing angle punted to me last night, when I got chatting to someone who had better remain nameless. He works for a radio production company and has a lot of dealings with the BBC.

“It’s an odd thing,” he told me, “because, in America at the moment, there’s a huge flowering of female-driven comedy. You’ve got 30 Rock, Girls, the Mindy Kaling Project – loads and loads of female driven comedy – and people say part of the reason for this is the influx of women into US TV production. But, in Britain, we are not having that same increase in female-driven comedy.”

“Maybe because most producers here are male,” I suggested.

“Not now,” he corrected me. “Not in radio. Most of the level entry producers at the Beeb – the ones who comics new to radio would be working with – are female.

“At the BBC, there’s actually a big influx of women into radio production but, as yet, that doesn’t seem to be translating into a flowering of female comedy – certainly not at Radio 4 which has traditionally been a proving ground for comics before they get onto television. Radio 4 does not have many female-led, female-driven, female-written, female-fronted shows.

“That’s a generalisation, of course,” he said, “Jane Berthoud is top dog there and she’s tremendously supportive of women, but the increased number of female producers has not helped women in comedy.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he said. “All I’m saying is it’s an interesting area. There are now lots of female producers, which is good. Maybe the heterosexual ones are more interested in and more physically attracted to the male acts and therefore female comics are getting an even bummer deal that they were before.”

“You mean the female producers want to screw the male acts?” I said. “Now there’s a dangerous idea to say out loud. But surely, traditionally, there were more male producers and they would have wanted to cop off with female acts so there should have been lots of female shows around in the past. In theory, female comics should have always done better than men because there were more male producers. But that’s not the case.”

Possibly realising he was on dangerously non-PC ground, he continued: “It’s very difficult to un-pick because, statistically, if you looked at the number of shows made by men over all… Maybe there are more shows made with male stars because there are more men pushing to get in. Maybe sometimes there’s a lot of schmoozing and, rather than being about talent, it’s about who gets on with people and who people want to sit in a pub and chat and get drunk with.”

It is certainly an interesting idea and there must be something psychological going on beyond my fathoming.

Checkley & Bush’s Comedy Riot is just that

Last night, I was at a party thrown to celebrate ten years of the Funny Women organisation. Very hard-working. Very effective in raising the profile of female comedy, But still British TV and radio shows are generally skewed-away from female performers.

I left the party to see excellent character comedy from Checkley & Bush. They’re better than a lot of the under-experienced new male comics who pop up on TV and in radio.

And, earlier in the day, I had attended a ‘knittathon’ – a publicity stunt organised by Charmian Hughes at which the audience was invited to knit throughout her show to create something she could use in her climactic and erotic ‘Dance of the Seven Cardigans’… Charmian was listed at No 7 in the Chortle comedy website’s Ten Most Underrated Comics – the only woman in the list.

Lewis Schaffer, a masterclass in offending

No 8 in the list is American comic Lewis Schaffer, whom I had been chatting to even earlier in the day. There was a lot of chatting yesterday.

As I came out of Checkley & Bush’s show, I got a text message from Lewis which said simply:

I had 65 punters at tonight’s show. There were 40 walkouts.

I texted back:

Tell me more and I may blog about it.

He later told me what he had said.

“I can’t put that in my blog,” I told him. “You will get lynched.”

Perhaps being truly offensive is one thing women comics cannot get away with. As if to prove this, later I was walking down Niddry Street, and found comedian Bob Slayer standing in the street outside his Hive venue.

“I had to get naked in my show,” he told me. “I think it was the worst show I’ve ever done so I had to get naked. Jamie the sound guy sees my show every year and he told me: You failed on so many levels there, but it was definitely my favourite show. I had to get naked and there was a lady in the audience who turned up just wearing a lettuce.”

“Just a lettuce?” I asked.

“Just wearing a lettuce on her fanny,” said Bob.

Bob Slayer has his nipples tweaked

“She had nice tits,” a female staff member added, tweaking one of Bob’s nipples. Passers-by ignored it. This is the Edinburgh Fringe.

“The lady with the lettuce was a friend of Frank Sanazi’s,” said Bob.

“That might go some way to explaining it,” I said.

“Well,” said Bob, “Frank came and then that happened and then I had to get naked. It depends how you rate a show. It was the most avant-garde show I’ve ever managed to do. Apparently there was a reviewer for The Skinny in there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they made of it. I hope it was the guy who refused to get on stage. There’s no way I’m going to get a good review but I hope it was that guy because he HATED it.”

At the Fringe, being loved or being hated are good. Being ignored is bad. Oscar Wilde was born before his time.

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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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