Tag Archives: Youtube

Irish YouTube sensation Rubberbandits in shock BBC Jimmy Savile revelation

(This was also published by the Huffington Post and on Indian news site WSN)

Rubberbandits bagged the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award

Rubberbandits bagged the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award

Last August, Irish musical/comedy duo Rubberbandits won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the Edinburgh Fringe. They are currently over in Britain performing at London’s Soho Theatre this week and next week.

I thought it would be jolly to chat to them for this blog, because I thought there might be a chance they would pay me money in a belated, after-the-event bribe to win the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award. Sadly, they preferred to do the interview by e-mail. Below is the result. I am a sadder, none-the-wiser, man.

At the time of writing this blog, their YouTube video Horse Outside has had 9,991,031 views.

Why will you only do email interviews?

We never said we only do email interviews. We said we only do face-to-bag interviews by Females.

Why the name? Shouldn’t you be called The Plastic Bag Bandits?

In Ireland, people often use plastic bags as rubbers and also carry their groceries in rubbers.

Are you THE Rubberbandits or THE Rubber Bandits or just Rubberbandits or Rubber Bandits? Why?

Rubberbandits, We don’t know why. But we know we were influenced by The Prodigy becoming Prodigy in 1995.

What’s with the bloody plastic bags on your heads anyway?

It started off as a way of frightening rats out of a house and then we kind of left them on permanently.

Has the YouTube tsunami of views on your video stuff had any good effect?

Yes, the opposite effect of a tsunami ironically.

Has the Japanese tsunami had any good effect?

Yes, actually. A lot of independent music CD warehouses were destroyed and it reduced competition in the Irish music market for a month or two. Our CDs were intact.

Has your increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award had any good effect?

Very good for our fans’ arguments in pubs back home when we get compared to Jedward.

Can you lend me £100? I’ll give it back to you next week.

Yes, but only in cold war Russian money.

Why do you (and other people) think you’re funny?

We’re not funny. We’re hardcore gangsta rappers. We have no idea why people laugh at us.

What type of comedy do you do? Is it like Miranda?

It has been described as battered comedy. Like normal comedy but if it was battered and deep-fried. Miranda would get a ride.

Are you rich?

Not yet filthy, just small but grubby.

Can you lend me £100? I’ll give it back next week. Honest.

We can give you 50 now and we’ll give you the rest four months ago. However there’s interest at 100% so technically you should owe us 200 quid by now.

Will you ever be rich? Would becoming ‘very rich’ mean you’re very good performers. If not, why not?

We will be rich. Not from performing, though. From our lucrative hot air balloon business where we encourage Americans to spit on roundabouts from 1,000 feet and take bets.

Would doing a big TV series or a movie be ‘selling out’?

Yes it would, so we’d counteract it by peppering the TV series or movie with gay sex scenes to regain some integrity and edge. Like Danny Dyer did in Borstal Boy.

Would you have been as happy just being successful in Ireland, land of your fathers?

Our fathers are from Malta. We are using Britain as a gateway to the Maltese comedy scene.

Are you playing the Edinburgh Fringe again this year?

A bit too early to say. We were told to stay away from Scotland after we fellated a tern in Orkney.

Are you performing for six-to-eight minutes on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday 23rd August this year? If not, why not.

See tern fellation above.

Can you lend me £100? I really will give it back to you next week.

When you give us back our £200 that you owe us from four months ago, we can talk.

What’s next? How can you keep your act fresh?

We just throw the bags into a washing machine and Hey Presto!

Have you any good Jimmy Savile stories to increase the hits on my blog?

He had a spy camera on the end of his cigar. He used it to secretly film the camera man while he was on Top of the Pops. There’s a rule in the BBC that if you are filming while being filmed then you are entitled to tell the Board of Directors a big secret and, if they ever utter it, they grow a set of donkeys’ ears.

Explain the Irish ‘Troubles’ in two short sentences.

This piece of bread is just normal bread but this other piece of bread is haunted by the ghost of a bearded man from the Iron Age. Let’s fight about it.

How would you describe the people who watch you on YouTube and come to see your shows? Are they different types?

In Ireland, they are young drunk people who don’t know how to be quiet when we talk. In England, they are older beard-rubbing people who treat us like a monkey in the zoo that can talk.

Do people in the high-rise flats in North Dublin estates really take their horses up in the lifts?

Horses have an intrinsic fear of lifts, however they are quite adept at climbing stairs.

Why are the Irish funny?

Because we take the English language,  pull its pants around its ankles and ask it to walk sideways like a Saxon crab.

Can you juggle spaghetti? Would you like to try on the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on Friday 23rd August this year?

Spaghetti juggling is racist to Italians. It would be like Morris dancing and not taking a fancy to your cousin after a bottle of elderflower wine. Or caber tossing in an Erasure T-shirt.

Seriously. Can you lend me £100? I’ll give it back next week.

OK, here you go. But we’ve drawn missing teeth on the Queen’s grin.

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Devvo, Lee Nelson & television people

Devvo smiles in Edinburgh last month

When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe, a couple of weeks ago, I had a chat with chav character Devvo who was performing in the Comedy section of the festival.

‘Chav’ translates as ‘Ned’ in Scotland and in American, I guess, it translates as ‘trailer trash’.

I did not have time to include the chat in this blog, a sign of my very bad time-management at this year’s Fringe but, for the purposes of bullshitting, perhaps that was suitably irresponsible of me, given Devvo’s irresponsible chav image.

“You’re sometimes labelled a ‘You Tube sensation’. Why?” I asked him.

“Just for being me, really,” Devvo answered in his Yorkshire accent. “I started out – what? – eight years ago just being me. Being a young lad going around causing trouble, causing bother and then people started picking up on it. But people are filming you and saying stuff and then you suddenly think Hang on! I’ve got a voice! I could be clever! I can teach people all my knowledge and give ‘em me life tips – so now I’ve started doin’ life tips videos on YouTube. School’s crap. Who learns owt from school? Learn it from the man in the street… That’s me.

“Everyone wants to make money, John. Everyone wants to know how other people do it. Everyone’s got boring jobs haven’t they? I’ve got no job. I’m a dole queue hero, I am. I’ve got teeshirts that say I am so I must be.

“You see people dressed like me with me Burberry cap on an’ people get scared. Don’t be scared, cos some of ‘em have got knowledge. But be scared of some of ‘em, because some of ‘em have got knives.”

“And,” I said, “the people who come to see your stage shows are…”

“It’s a nice mix,” said the man with the Yorkshire accent. “Cos there’s different levels of Devvo fans. You get the real low-level idiots who are just on my wavelength. Then you get the middle group who’re a bit more intelligent, but they know about me character. And then you get the people who’ve got no idea and that’s right fun. But I did have a gig the other day with a load of Army squaddies in at the low level of intelligence and I were stood there doin’ me show thinking Why am I even bothering? I left thinking This is ‘orrible.”

“What were they doing?”

“They were just idiots. It was a nice gig but I just thought You’re all idiots. Cos I’m growing into a bit of a businessman now – sellin’ teeshirts, sellin’ DVDs, givin’ out me life tips. I’ve gone up-market. I started out as, like, a rap character, but you’ve gotta move on.”

“You used to do music gigs, but now it’s mostly comedy gigs?” I asked.

“I’m not really that arsed about doing music gigs again,” said Devvo, “because I just felt I were ripping people off. Which is alright. But it’s not that much fun when you’re just stood there for half an hour takin’ money off people for doing all of yer old songs. It’s not really as good as breaking it up and having funny bits in between.”

“How were you ripping people off?” I asked.

“Just cos you think I’ve only done half an hour an’ I’ve just played these old songs an’ I’ve done nothing new. Now it feels like I’m gettin’ back to doing it just for a laugh again.”

“So you’re angling more towards comedy now,” I said. “What about Lee Nelson? He’s on TV already. He came along after you’d made a YouTube name for yourself. Some people have even said he ripped-off the Devvo character, though I couldn’t possibly comment.”

“Well,” said Devvo, “they’ve gone and said to him: Lee, here’s a cheque and can you do this for us and make it all friendly and clean and polished for BBC3? And, fair enough, if he’s happy with that, that’s up to him. If that’s where his comedy lies, you can’t begrudge him that.”

“What was he doing before he became you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Devvo, “because he’s got another character which is a Spanish footballer or an English footballer or something and that’s even worse. And he’s got a similar shirt on to mine, except mine I got from a charity shop about eight years ago for £3.”

“You did some TV stuff before the Lee Nelson character appeared on TV…” I prompted.

“Yeah. When we were filming some stuff for TV, they said to me: Why don’t we find somewhere in London that looks like Yorkshire and film down there? And that’s when I started to think You’re a set of knobheads because why don’t we just film it in Yorkshire?”

“Who was this for? Not the BBC?” I asked.

“No, it were for Funny Cuts on E4 a few years ago. I did it for Monkey Kingdom and it got the most views out of everything, but they just came and they said Right, we want some scripts now and I said We don’t do scripts and they suddenly all panicked and went in a flap and said What? You don’t do scripts and it’s in Yorkshire? Aaaaahhhhh!”

“But,” I asked, “if someone like BBC3 approached you, you’d still be happy to do television?”

“I would do, but I kinda stopped doin’ all me filming stuff a while ago because I just got bored. I thought Sod you all! Originally, we started doin’ things just for fun. People were filming me just for fun and then it got to a point where all these TV people were getting involved and then I suddenly thought I should be doin’ all this TV stuff now, because I’ve been given sommat! and then I took a step back and thought What? No! We were just doing stuff for fun and then TV tried to get its fucking claws into it and ruin everything, so I walked away from it and thought I’d just live me life, get me life tips ready and now I feel I’m just doin’ it for a laugh again.

“The Monkey Kingdom stuff’s been on E4 and Channel 4 and YouTube but now, if someone came to me with some TV stuff, if it don’t work out, I’ll just carry on doin’ me life tips in Yorkshire.”

“Can you develop the character into something else?” I asked.

“Probably. I could do owt. There are Waller FM podcasts on fat-pie.com and Devvo – me – I’m in there somewhere.”

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The American comic with the 99 cent potential movie about online hysteria

Mike Player confronts the horrific possibilities of viral videos

Last month, I blogged about improvisational American comedian Mike Player’s Angry Daddies show at the Outlaugh Comedy Festival on the Hollywood Fringe.

“It went great,” he told me this morning from Los Angeles. “It was like giving birth to a two hundred pound baby. Surreal experiences got so crowded I had to sit on the floor. I hate sitting on the floor.”

I mentioned in my previous blog that Mike had written a book Out on the Edge: America’s Rebel Comics.

Now he has written a comedy/suspense novel Viral – The Story of the Milkshake Girl which sounds to me like it has movie potential.

What interests me is the price, though.

It is available as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk for 77p (or for 99c on Amazon.com).

This could be the future of publishing.

I have been thinking of issuing an eBook myself with a 99p price tag. But perhaps I would be over-pricing it!

Mike is a graduate of the Master Class of the UCLA Writers Program. He is also a graduate of the Warner Brothers Comedy Writers Workshop and was executive producer of MTV Logo’s 8-episode network series, Outlaugh Festival on Wisecrack. Mike is basically a Hollywood chap and he has, of course, got a good ‘elevator pitch’ for his Viral book:

Mike’s interestingly-priced cyberworld book

What if something you did got filmed and posted on the internet and you became FAMOUS and everyone hated you but you were FAMOUS and earning lots of MONEY, your life was threatened and you had to run away to protect your family?

What if you could have sex with anyone you wanted? Your phone was more powerful than the major broadcast networks and goats jumping on a trampoline got more views than the President’s State of the Union speech? What if you had to fight for your very life?

What is it like to become an overnight viral video star? Sixteen-year-olds become moguls and moguls fetch coffee… in the dark comedy suspense thriller VIRAL.

“This sounds not too far removed from a possible reality,” I suggested to Mike.

“Well, I read about Jessie Slaughter,” he told me. “It’s not her story, but she was a teen who had to go into the Witness Protection program because her internet doings got so out of control. Plus I have met a lot of crazy people working in TV and producing my own videos. I manage to get a lot of poison out of my system by writing comedy.”

“And writing the book?” I asked.

“Would you be only vaguely interested in removing a splinter from your forehead?” Mike asked.

“It seems to me an awful lot of supposed fiction is actually fact toned-down to be believable,” I said.

“A weird true thing I researched that’s actually in my book,,” Mike said, “is a kid who fell into a ditch in Colombia or somewhere and someone filmed it and posted it online. It got so popular the kid got a commercial deal out of it. And all he did was fall into a ditch.”

In the book, Iranian teenage foster girl Erika Moradi stands up for herself by swatting the milkshake out of the hand of a sexist bully in a Las Vegas high school and becomes famous in a fluke video as The Milkshake Girl.

As a result, she incites the wrath of her high school and the darker elements of online teen networks. Her home is vandalised and her life is threatened. She runs away and meets TV producer Jack Hawkins, who has lost his job on a network soap opera. He has several high concept series ideas involving some of the hottest viral stars of the moment – a trampolining goat, a gay Congressman and a Brazilian who fell into a ditch. But Erika becomes the most notorious.

“What’s a comedy person doing writing this paranoid dark stuff?” I asked.

“Well,” Mike told me, “it’s dark comedy suspense. All comedians love to go ‘dark’.”

“Is writing for print more satisfying than improvising live?” I asked Mike.

“In some ways it is,” he said, “because it lasts longer and people can’t throw things at you.”

“And what’s with the trampolining goat?” I asked.

“Every book should have a goat on a trampoline,” he replied.

I cannot disagree.

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“Britain’s Got Talent” – farting around causes national outrage in Romania

(This blog was also published in the Huffington Post)

My chum Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally performing farteur, caused a bit of a stink when he appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 and now he has innocently caused national outrage in Romania.

Last Thursday, viewers were happily watching the current affairs programme Stirea Zilei (News of the Day) on Antena3 TV. Presenter Gabriela Vranceanu Firea was hosting a serious political debate which included former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase who, not surprisingly was critical of the current ruling politicians.

Then, 16 minutes 25 seconds into the show, they screened footage of Mr Methane on Britain’s Got Talent, farting the Romanian national anthem. The whole Stirea Zilei show is online here:

http://inregistrari.antena3.ro/view-06_Oct-2011-Stirea_Zilei-10.html

The relevant clip was also posted on YouTube:

Angry Romanians enraged that Mr Methane had insulted their nation complained to the TV station, complained to YouTube and contacted Mr Methane direct by e-mail demanding an apology before realising that they had, in fact, been duped.

The TV channel had over-dubbed the sound of a farted Romanian national anthem.

Quite whom they employed to do this complicated task remains a mystery; one suspects a clever videotape editor with a lot of time on his hands.

Reaction included a message from one Dragos B. Baia Mare saying: “My country Romania was humiliated… The people who lead us have allowed my country Romania to be mocked. Try to live dignified and decent. Romanians Awake!”

A more informed but anonymous viewer who had checked the original Britain’s Got Talent clip on YouTube wrote (and I can only go here by what Google Translate tells me):

“To run a movie with a performance of a candidate reprehensible in a contest, with background music is changed intentionally demeaning to every novel that has followed this issue. Especially with how serious it is attitude, not all citizens can check if the original movie in the background was the national anthem or not, the intent to mislead a substantial mass of viewers, is obvious. Last but not least, the use of national anthem for such purposes and to get the audience and to provoke discussion, must be punished.”

I have to agree (I think).

One Romanian who watched the TV show in Bucharest told me: “It felt frustrating and kinda humiliating to see and hear the national anthem being played through the ass.”

A bemused Mr. Methane says: “I’m no stranger to controversy and I don’t mind taking the blame for my own ‘colon coughs’ but, in this case, my botty bugle was not involved. I had been set up and what would really upset me is if this footage has been licensed to be used in this way by TalkbackThames, the UK copyright holder and producer of Britain’s Got Talent

“I suspect that the Romanian TV channel may have just  gone ahead and used it without their and ITV’s permission. Either way, it’s pain in the arse. I think I deserve an apology from one of them or maybe both. If they want to insult the Romanian national anthem and seek a confrontation with outraged Romanian citizens everywhere, they should take responsibility for their own farting around and not try to pass it off as mine“.

You can see the original Britain’s Got Talent clip without the Romanian national anthem here:

(FOOTNOTE: There was an update and continuation of this blog story two days later here.)

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Filed under Comedy, Eastern Europe, Romania, Television

Outside the Edinburgh Fringe, TV show sleaze and a comedy award for sale

In Edinburgh yesterday morning, I saw President Ahmadinejad of Iran walking purposefully through Bristo Square. But surely this cannot be? All I can think is that a serious President Ahmadinejad wannabe lives nearby.

Later in the day, also in Bristo Square, I watched as a flyerer approached a mother and child with the opening line: “Can I interest you in a show about a tree?”

Ah! – the Edinburgh Fringe!

Outside the cocoon of the Fringe, surprisingly, the world still turns.

Comedian Dave Thompson has just published his novel The Sex Life of a Comedian about which I have blogged before

It is available as a printed book or as an eBook download.

He famously played Tinky Winky (the purple one) in the children’s television show Teletubbies but was equally famously fired for being too gay (which he isn’t) in the role and he is no stranger to the backstage world of television.

His novel is about a stand-up comedian called Doug who “lands a big part in Rats Milk Cheese, a bizarre sitcom… In a world where louche girls romp in dressing rooms, luxury yachts and drug-fuelled orgies, Doug thinks his career has taken off. But show business has a dark side. As the wealth at stake increases, so does the greed of those who want it. At a celebrity sex party, Doug accidentally spurts on a member of the Mafia…”

Dave tells me The Sex Life of a Comedian is only partially autobiographical.

It has only been out a week or so, but already has some impressive admirers:

“It’s funny, it’s gripping and it’s not for the squeamish.” (Ben Elton)

“If you love comedy and/or sex you’ll love this book. My wife caught me reading it and I had to do the washing up for a week.” (Harry Hill)

Also still available as a paperback, a Kindle eBook and an iBook for the iPad is Sit-Down Comedy, the anthology to which Dave contributed a short story with Jim Tavaré. The book had contributions from 19 stand-ups and was edited by me and the late great Malcolm Hardee.

Which inevitably brings me to the Malcolm Hardee Awards.

Show Me The Funny judge Kate Copstick (who is also a Malcolm Hardee Award judge) has already exchanged thoughts with me about acts which might be worth seeing for this year’s Award.

Meanwhile, last year’s winner of the main Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality is not playing the Fringe this year.

Last year, Robert White did well: good reviews, career progression, a Malcolm Hardee Award, new gigs and the industry noticed him. But, he tells me:

“It left me poor: I am not doing Edinburgh this year and instead am releasing some YouTube sketches and selling my Malcolm Hardee Award on eBay.”

You read it first here.

I’ll be interested to see what price he gets for the increasingly prestigious, nay, unique trophy. Unfortunately, the man who was going to do Robert’s publicity has temporarily gone into prison – not for a social visit

“To be honest,” Robert says, “it’s thrown everything up in the air as he was going to do all the social networking etc. He has the Twitter account for a comedy club The Comedy Closet I am starting in central London. His Facebook is gone, I can’t ring him as he is in prison and I do not know exactly his circumstances. I have created some funny video sketches and set up all sorts of stuff and now I just don’t know really. I suppose I am going to have to teach myself Twitter in the space of a week.”

Robert intends to release five comedy sketches on YouTube on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th of this month – to coincide with Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Did I mention there is a Malcolm Hardee Week at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe?

At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, there is a Malcolm Hardee Week.

There, I’ve said it.

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Cut out the music industry middle-men, think small and make big money

I got a Facebook message from Ben Peel in Bradford, saying:

“I would love you to go check out my home-made video from my debut single here. It will sure make you smile. I have currently just released my debut album – which can be previewed here. ”

I don’t know Ben Peel nor his band The Wool City Folk Club, but his video and songs are interesting.

Quite soon some unknown person is going to achieve worldwide fame and become a millionaire through YouTube clips and subsequent audio or video downloads. Maybe the Arctic Monkeys have already done it, but only on a limited scale.

Perhaps in a couple of years time, Ben Peel will be a multi-millionaire.

Or maybe not.

The world is changing fast but no-one knows what the fuck is going on or what they’re supposed to be doing.

Shortly before Apple announced their new iCloud service, I wrote a blog in which I mentioned the on-going death of the traditional record industry – by which I meant vinyl, tapes, CDs and DVDs sold in shops.

The blog resulted in some interesting feedback.

Hyphenate creative Bob Slayer (he’s a comedian-promoter-rock group manager) reacted:

“It is at worst a myth and at best very misleading to say that the record industry is dying – there is more demand for music then ever. What has happened over the last ten years is that the music industry has completely reinvented itself. The X-Factor has had an effect and a smaller number of pop artists are selling a high number of records. They still operate in a similar way to the traditional industry.

“But everywhere else has radically changed so that the artist (and their management) can play a much more hands-on role in controlling their own careers.”

Mr Methane, the world’s only professional farter, who knows a thing or two about self-promotion and has made his own music CDs produced by former Jethro Tull drummer Barrie Barlow, tells me:

“Large record labels no longer have the money to keep well-known acts on retainers or publishing contracts like they used to and have pressed the ejector seat. New and well-known acts are not as a rule getting huge piles of money thrown at them to go away and make an album. The Stone Roses’ great rock ’n’ roll heist, where they made one decent album then got a shed load of money advanced to make another and did sweet FA, just would not happen in today’s economic climate – or at least it would be highly unlikely.”

We have entered the entrance hall of an iTunes world of downloads with megastars and small self-producing, self-promoting unknowns where good middle-ranking performers and groups will potentially be squeezed out. It is much like comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe, where the big TV names and unknowns on the Free Fringe and Free Festival pull in crowds, but it is increasingly tough for very good, experienced middle-rankers with no TV exposure.

Ben Peel, just starting out in the music business, says:

“The digital realm does not have time for people who are solely musicians. You have to evolve into some type of super musician / marketing guru to be able make an impact amongst people. I have to be 50% musician, 50% marketing and branding. The digital realm is creating a new generation of musician: one-man machines cutting out the middle-men. The downside is that the middle-men had collateral – and contacts.”

Self-promotion ability is vital, though Ben thinks e-mails are outdated in publicity terms.

“I do a gig… and send an email out… I get ten people there…. I do a gig and throw out a 30 second YouTube short… one a week on the run-up to a gig…. I get two hundred people to attend and the exposure of the viral promoting and people re posting is priceless…. You cannot buy ‘word of mouth’ promoting …. you can only inspire it through something quirky/ original/ funny/ catchy etc.”

Bob Slayer manages not only the wonderful Japanese rock group Electric Eel Shock but also internet phenomenon Devvo and tells me:

“At his height, Devvo was achieving over a million hits on every YouTube clip we put online. We had no control over who was viewing them but, as they were mostly passed around between friends, he found his natural audience. Devvo is not really understood outside the UK, so that massive following came largely from the UK and predominantly in the north. It meant that, he could easily sell-out medium sized venues anywhere north of Birmingham and strangely also in Wales but, for example, we struggled to sell tickets in Brighton.”

Financially-shrewd Mr Methane has so far failed to dramatically ‘monetise’ the more than ten million worldwide hits on just one of several YouTube clips of his Britain’s Got Talent TV appearance. but he sold shedloads of CDs and DVDs via his website after appearances on shock jock Howard Stern’s American radio and TV shows because small local radio stations across the US then started playing his tracks. They were small local stations, but there were a lot of them.

Only Bo Burnham, winner of the 2010 Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, who straddles music and comedy like Mr Methane and started as an online phenomenon, seems to have got close to turning YouTube clips into more mainstream success and music downloads.

The fact Mr Methane made a lot of money online, sitting at home in Britain, after very specifically local US radio exposure is interesting, though.

At the bottom of his e-mails, Ben Peel has a signature:

“Dwarves are like tents… a lot easier to get out of the bag than they are to put back in.”

Yes indeed. And that is very true with new technology. But it made me remember something else.

Years ago, I attended a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain meeting where the speaker’s message was “The way to make money is not to think big but to think small.”

He suggested that one way to make money was to create a weekly five or ten minute audio insert which could be run within local US radio shows. If anyone could come up with an idea, made in Britain, which would be of interest to Americans on a weekly basis, you could sell it to local US stations at a very low price.

If you tried to sell the mighty PBS network a weekly half hour show for £2,000 it was unlikely they would buy it.

But any small local US radio station could afford to pay £5 for a weekly five or ten minute insert. If you could sell that same insert to 499 other small local US radio stations (not competing against each other because they are small purely local stations), you would be grossing £2,500 per week for creating a five or ten minute item. And you could distribute it down a telephone line.

If you could persuade the stations to buy it for £10 – around $15 – still throwaway money – then, of course, you would be making £5,000 per week.

The trick was to price low and sell in volume.

That was before iTunes, which became successful by that very same model of micro-pricing. It was worth buying a single music track if it only cost 79c in the US or 79p in the UK. If iTunes had priced a single music track at £1.60 in the UK, they would almost certainly have sold less than half as many units, so would have grossed less money.

Think small. Think cheap. Think volume.

Modern technology allows ordinary bands to record, mix, cut and put their own tracks on iTunes alongside music industry giants. It also allows people in New Zealand to listen to and watch Ben Pool on YouTube just as easily as people in Bradford can see him play a live gig.

Think small. Think cheap. Think volume. Think worldwide.

Just as some comedians are looking into e-publishing, bypassing traditional publishers, Ben Pool in Bradford and local bands in South East London can now expand beyond selling their own CDs after gigs and could reach a worldwide paying audience of millions with no music industry middle-men.

Last year, I wrote a blog titled Britain’s Got Talent in Pubs about an astonishing regular pub gig I saw in South East London featuring Bobby Valentino and Paul Astles.

A week ago, I saw Paul Astles perform again, this time with his seven-man band Shedload of Love in their monthly gig at The Duke pub on Creek Road, Deptford, not far from Malcolm Hardee’s old Up The Creek comedy club. They also play the Wickham Arms in Brockley every month. They are astonishingly good. Formed in 2004, they recently recorded an album at Jools Holland’s studio in Greenwich.

Both the Paul Astles bands are world-class, playing mostly locally but, if promoted on the internet, they could garner a worldwide following with no music industry middle-men.

There are, of course, as with anything involving creativity and cyberspace, those big words IF and COULD.

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Filed under Comedy, Internet, Music, PR, Radio, Rock music

What is success? Global fame, Simon Cowell or a big fish in a small pond?

Yesterday, 20-year-old American comedian Bo Burnham started a two-week tour of England. He has his first album out, has been commissioned to write a movie, MTV recently ordered a television pilot from him and, in January this year, he finished Number One in Comedy Central’s Stand-up Showdown in the US – a public vote on the twenty greatest Comedy Central performances. But he is still mostly unknown in the UK, despite being that new phenomenon ‘an internet sensation’ and winning the much-publicised Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe.

I wrote a blog a while ago about Ken Dodd which started off “Morecambe and Wise were not famous” and mentioned, as an aside, that “fame is relative and mostly regional

One response was from Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally performing farter. He has performed all over the place and, at various times, been fairly famous in Sweden and in Japan because of his television appearances there. Far more famous than in Britain, where farting in peaktime is still frowned on.

He responded to my blog by saying: “I always find it interesting when I go abroad and do a TV show with a person who is that country’s Steve Wright or Jonathan Woss – a big fish in a small pond but none-the-less raking it in. My problem has always been that awareness of Mr Methane is spread globally rather than condensed in a certain geographical area which makes it harder to get bums on seats and make some serious money.”

The Scots comedienne Janey Godley has had a Top Ten bestselling hardback and paperback book in the UK and regularly (I have seen the figures) gets over 500,000 worldwide hits per week on her widely-posted blog. But if she were to play a theatre in, say, Cleethorpes in England or Peoria in the US, she would not necessarily sell out the venue’s tickets in the first half hour they went on sale, because she has had relatively little English TV exposure and her fame and fanbase is spread worldwide not concentrated locally.

To be a big ‘live’ star in a country, you still have to be on that country’s television screens fairly regularly. A massive internet following may not be enough for you to make shedloads of money on tour. I would lay bets that some amiable but relatively talentless British stand-up comedian who appears on a BBC3 panel show will make better box office money on a UK tour than the equally amiable and immeasurably more talented Bo Burnham who is, indeed, that legendary beast ‘an internet sensation’.

In 2009, Mr Methane was on Britain’s Got Talent. Several clips of that appearance have been posted on YouTube and, at the time of writing, one of those clips

has had over ten million hits. But those ten million plus people are spread across the globe, so how does Mr Methane, in that awful American phrase, ‘monetise’ the awareness of his existence? He can market products online, which I know he does very successfully but, if he were playing a live venue in Peoria, would he fill the auditorium?

The result is that, as Mr Methane observes, you can often make more money and be more ‘successful’ by being a big fish in a small pond rather than being an internationally recognised performer. Financially, it is usually still better to have 10 million fans in the UK than 30 million fans worldwide.

iTunes, YouTube and other online phenomena are still in their infancy and may well change all that and Bo Burnham may be one of the trailblazers.

The now-dying record business created international stars selling millions of discs worldwide who could tour on the back of that success. But without television exposure and with only a few exceptions, that has not yet happened for comedy acts. You still need local TV exposure.

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Filed under Books, Comedy, Internet, Television, Theatre