Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Are You Here For Comedy?

I found out Catie Wilkins was playing a gig literally 5 minutes from my house. I shouldn't go out - I should be sensible. I'm up at 5am, but hey - I'd be home by 1030. Unfortunately there was a mix up with Time Out. "Are you here for comedy?" said the compere? Looking around, I said "I hope so, but I'm not sure" - Catie had already warned me in a tweet that the gig was sparse and it turned out I was the first one. Another two turned up before they decided to pull the gig.

I think it was unnecessary of the compere to go on stage and tell the 3 of us this through the microphone though...

Anyway, I decided to hit Shoreditch to the Storytellers' Club to see Michael Legge. Turns out I'd already missed Bennett Aaron. Damn. Anyway, I got my pint from the completely empty bar upstairs and headed down.

The first comedian I saw was rather dull. Actually he was shit. He came out and told us his "crazy" stories from Glastonbury, but the only people laughing seemed to be the people that ran the club and the nervous people at the front. Most of his material seemed to be in jokes though. Thankfully he finished. But seemed to go on for ages.

I went up to get another beer and the bar man said he had ran out of pint glasses. They were all downstairs. There were only about 40 people downstairs. They must have more glasses than that ?! He retreived a couple and disappeared into his secret room for 5 seconds. He came out brandishing a dripping pint glass and poured my beer into it.

"Have you cleaned it?"
"Oh yes I gave it a good scrub."
"I think I'd prefer it in 2 half pint glasses."

He poured the beer from the scabby pint glass into a half pint. I looked at him with disappointment.

He sensed this and poured 2 new half-beers from the tap.

After all this waiting around and nonsense I went back down to see a funny woman (whose name I can't remember) say funny things for a bit. I wish I could remember her name. And I wish the bar man got me my drink quicker so I could have seen more of her. Havng said that I wish the beer had run out as I had earlier met up with a mate - to help him shop for a hard drive in Argos - and had started the beer thing much too early. But in my defence, I wasn't planning on going out tonight at all.

Michael Legge came on next. The audience seemed undecided. Though the reading of his "Quinola" blog seemed to eventually get them on side. After Michael left the stage, the rather bland compere (name unknown) decided the audience wanted an encore. To be honest I think the audience should decide on these things for themselves.

Michael came back and read his Li Ping blog which seemed to go down very well, though I do think if he wants to use these stories he should learn them as routines rather than read them out, He has a stack of material he could base a lot of gigs on as he writes  I think at the 'Pointless Anger - Righteous Ire' shows he does with Robin Ince they work better when read, but that is probably because Robin spends some time ranting from books too.

Read Michael Legge's blog here...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

As It Occurs To Me

Those of you who know me will already know that I'm a big fan of comedian Richard Herring, best known for "Fist Of Fun" and "This Morning With Richard, Not Judy" - his 90s series with Stewart Lee. I listen to all his podcasts (Collins & Herring, Collings & Herrin, and of course, As It Occurs to Me, or AIOTM (pronounced A-Eye-Aw-Tim-Uh) and I guess I could be described as a bit of a fanboy.

As It Occurs To Me is a stand up and sketch show which Herring writes on the Sunday, performs on the Monday and releases for free on the Tuesday. It's a brave venture, and one that originally looked destined to fall on its arse, but every week without fail some pretty amazing comedy is produced. The USP of this show is that Herring does not edit anything out, and the whole thing, no matter how successful or otherwise is released. As Richard explained in one of the previous shows "I don't want to patronise our listeners. is 'patronise' the right word? No, I don't want to 'respect' our listeners." (paraphrasing).

The idea came to Richard during the aftermath of the Ross/Brand incident. The BBC had to be extra careful with what could be allowed on the radio, and bypassing the broadcasters seemed like the best way to get the comedy out there.

The cast comprises of Herring, Dan Tetsell, Emma Kennedy and Christian Reilly, all of whom have worked together before. The show starts with Herring doing around half an hour of stand up, which along with a few tried and tested routines, mainly consists of riffing with the audience. He can be quite rude to the people he picks to chat to, but it is always done with a cheeky grin, and I think all of the audience secretly want to be called a "fucking idiot" by Herring!

I started my evening with a visit to The Stockpot on Old Compton Street. This is a great little restaurant whose menu (or prices) don't seem to have changed much since the 1970s. Its a good place to eat alone, but a dreadful place to take a date, unless you're planning to break up with them anyway.

I'm going to detour briefly here. I used to be the assistant manager of The Admiral Duncan in Soho, and every day without fail I would see Smurf. Smurf was one of the many homeless guys that would base himself in Soho. He clearly had a number of other problems as well as the obvious, but Smurf was a really nice guy. My boss and I knew quite a lot of the regular homeless people in Soho and we all had a good relationship with them. We would both give a small amount of money each day to the first of the regulars we saw and it was inevitably Smurf. In return he and the other regulars would let us know about any dodgy people that were coming into the bar, like an advanced warning system. It was very much a mutually beneficial arrangement. After a year or so, Smurf wasn't around any more and I had heard that he was either in prison, hospital, or dead.

However it was great to bump into Smurf this evening and chat with him. His mum had just died and she had left him her house in Ireland which he has put on the market. He has moved in with his dad in Kent after not speaking to him in 29 years and things were finally starting to look up for him.

Anyway, off to the theatre and took my seat. Herring did a good half hour of material, including a short preview of his upcoming "Christ On A Bike" show. he does need to work on relearning the genealogy of Jesus though...

During the break I met The_Phosphene who I had been chatting to on Twitter & we arranged to meet after the show. I'm not going to review the whole show as you can easily download it here or from iTunes (as you can for the next 4 Tuesdays - or even better, go along to the gig!), but needless to say, Tiny Andrew Collings (absolutely NOTHING to do with Andrew Collins, Richard's podcast partner and respected broadcaster and writer) was the star of the show with Herring trying to apologise and backpedal for going too far in last weeks show. It did look like the apology was going well, but in the end I think it made things much, much worse.

It was a shame I couldn't get my hand high enough to catch his attention during the part where Richard asks the audience what has occurred to them that week. I was going to apologise for not being able to attend last week's show due to seeing Michael Legge and Andrew Collins instead, but was confused at seeing Andrew Collins chatting with Tiny Andrew Collings. This had blown my mind. But I soon found out that it wasn't Dan Tetsell, but his doppelganger Danny Wallace (who was an extremely nice chap.)

After the show finished I chatted at the bar to The_Phosphene (aka Jack) as well as the ever-lovely Rob Sedgebeer. I have met Herring on quite a number of occasions, and only recently have I stopped being a bit of an over-talkative drunken dick while chatting to him. Richard is a very affable guy in real life and always has time for a chat. Although one Irish guy did tell Richard that if he didn't play in Ireland more he would punch him in the face. He said it with a smile so I can only assume he was joking but that in itself seemed to make it more threatening to my ears! Though things cheered up as Jack regaled Richard with his 3some story, which I found very touching <aside - I didn't..>

Highlight of my evening was getting to finally touch an actual pinpod*. Emma Kennedy had hers with her and I simply had to ask her to let me hold it and prod it. I'm not sure if I'll get a pinpod* yet, but if I had a few hundred quid I wouldn't miss then I definitely would. It's a lovely thing.

Jack and I headed toThe Porcupine by Leicester Square and swapped comedy memories, eventually chatting with a young lad at the bar and trying to explain AIOTM to him. This is actually quite tricky after a few beers and trying to explain the in-jokes, but if he turns up next week, then I think Richard will owe me at least £5. Which will probably through some unusual logic result in Andrew Collins owing him twice as much.

* no explanation will be posted here in tribute to Andrew's confusion at the lack of an asterisk explanation on a bottle of Plax, but all is revealed on the podcast!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Raging in the Park

I'd been counting down the days to see Rage Against The Machine for weeks and finally the day was here ! As you know, after quite a groovy Facebook campaign, the British people mobilised and bought the 1992 hit "Killing In The Name" in order to stop the predictable 5th consecutive Christmas number one by The X Factor. Finally the charts were getting interesting again. Fans were asked to donate to Shelter, and the band put all their royalties from the sales of the song to the same charity.

So back to the day. I met my mate at The Garden Ladder, a little pub on Green Lanes near where we both used to live for some Sunday lunch (at 430pm - is it still lunch then?) and then headed off to the Old Ale Emporium (or OAP as we affectionately call it). Its a traditional old man's pub that plays football at any opportunity and seems to have a constant stream of 70s rock music playing. I should hate it but I don't. It used to be our local even though I have nothing in common with any of the people that seem to go there.

We were going to originally get to the park for around 8.30 but I was told on Twitter that I really should see Gogol Bordello (or whom I had zero knowledge) and I'm so glad we changed plans and caught them. (Thanks @IanReentrant). They were amazing. Not sure how to descibe them. A mixture of punk rock, accordion, violin, and a general gypsy vibe going on. Like a modern day Dexy's except actually good. They ended the set by throwing one of the drums into the crowd which was followed by the drummer launching himself into the crowd in order to retrieve it. This ended up with the crowd supporting him on the drum, as though it were the base of a statue.

After a beer break we got back into place for RATM. The crowd was getting more packed and more people were trying to get into their prime spot. One lad with a large rucksack kept banging into my mate (accidentally) until he snapped back. I calmed the situation down and tried to explain that people are always going to be banging into him and to not worry about it.

Immediately after that a rather large man apparently catapulted himself past us rudely pushing everyone aside. "Don't be a dick" I said and was told to fuck off. I gave him the finger (as did at least two others) and I explained to my mate that this situation was different to the one that he found himself in, and that I was acting in the right. (obviously)

We were beside two girls with wooden spoons who were admonishing any rude people who pushed in with a sharp thwack to the back of the legs.

We liked them !

It was time for Rage, and the opening was done with a real sense of humour, with a cartoon Simon Cowell introducing the band before they launched into "Testify". Al the sings you would expect to hear were played and the only gripe I had was that the overall volume could have been louder. but then again, i'd say that about any gig.

Zack encouraged the UN to take action on the blockade of Gaza, but other than this, the politics were kept to a minimum (which was a shame). The band brought on the organisers of the Facebook campaign and hugged them, before presenting Shelter with a giant cheque, however we didn't find out how much it was. Anyone know how much was raised?

A security man told a guy near me that he wasn't allowed to make his own beer in the park. He turned to him and said "Fuck you, I won't brew where you tell me" (This bit didn't actually happen.)

The show ended. But no "Killing In The Name". However, SURPRISE ! The band came back on to a montage of quotes and stats from the Christmas campaign, each provoking lots of good natured boos and cheers, over a soundtrack of the X factor song. The place exploded as it had done back at Reading Festival in 1993 which was the last time I had seen them.

As the track ended we started heading to the exits. Once out of Finsbury Park it struck us that the tube would be rather hideous so we decdied to go to the pub on the corner till things "died down". This was rather naive as the pub soon got rammed not long after we had got our drinks and when we left it turned out that nothing had died down at all. We decided to walk into the crowds and get to Manor House where he could get on the tube easier and i could get my bus home.

Oh yes, incidentally, most of my pictures of this gig were taken via the giant screens. The reason for this was the far too tall man who stands in front of me at every single open air gig I attend. Here he is >>>

As I was waiting for the bus I was told I was at the wrong stop. I turned and said to them "Fuck you, I won't queue where you tell me." (This didn't happen either but I really wish it had)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Los Quattros Cvnts

I was in a great mood yesterday. I had change in my pocket and even though I was rushing from Wandsworth to the West End in order to get to the Phoenix by 7.30, I had time to stop and give a pound to a smiling homeless guy with a dog. I don't give money often enough to nice smiling homeless people so this made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. The evening would end slightly differently

I got to the venue in record time and met up with @RobOxley and @Tainted_Harmony and her two friends. The queue for the basement was rather large and slow-moving but we got there in the end and nabbed our special reserved table (after Muki hassled the poor guy who was sitting at it). Anyway we were soon joined by @misswiz and @kateweb and the show began...

The Cvnts are a sketch troupe made up from Michael Legge of Precious Little and Dan Mersh, Jeremy Limb and Paul Litchfield of The Trap and they perform together on the first Wednesday of the month at The Phoenix (home of the still to be blogged about London Comedy Improv). Guests they have had previously include Andrew Collins, Jason Manford, Robin Ince and Jeremy Lion, and this week saw the mighty Richard Herring close the show.

The Cvnts threw in a number of great sketches this time including Michael and Jeremy unsure whether the "animal sketch" was one about animal porn or animal vets, Paul's cornish homoerotica (eroticker) and Dan trying to get Doctor Pub to give advice to viewers problems (though I did miss Doctor Party - please bring him back.)

The handover to Herring included a great sketch where various rather posh lords were meeting and chatting about their more famous wives, including Lord Gaga, Lord Sovereign, and *ahem* Lord Boy! Naturally Herring had to trump them all and arrived as King Latifah!

I've seen Richard Herring a number of times, downloaded the podcasts, read the blogs, bought the book,  bought the DVDs, and, yes, bought the T-shirt so I'm quite familiar with hs work, but he always, but always makes me laugh. I think it's a combination of his stage personality which can range from insecure ("I just want to be back on the telly") to full on ranting in the blink of an eye. Even @Tainted_Harmony's grumpy friend cracked a smile (so I'm told!). I particularly loved how he could still shock and surprise this audience of mainly liberal comedy regulars with his routine about having small hands, the size of a 7 year old girl's, and to the dark fantasies where this led.

After the show I spent some time with Rob and Vicky outside with Paul Litchfield (who very rarely appears to switch off) before we headed inside for a lovely time chatting with Michael and James and the ever-lovely Ewen Macintosh who had managed to survive a potentially awkward situation where he had to buy 'The Office' DVDs in a shop. I'm not sure if he felt the need to excuse himself to the shop assistant and come up with some excuse for buying his own DVD, but I like to imagine he did. By the way, it wasn't for him - it was a present for someone and he could only get Ricky Gervais to sign it that day.

I got the bus home, but rather predictably fell asleep and woke up in Seven Sisters. The wait for the bus took ages but Twitter managed to entertain me. I was grumpy though. Especially when a Scottish man gestured at me when i had my earphones on. I assumed he wanted a light so I fumbled in my pockets for my lighter. He still looked like he wanted more so I unplugged myself and it turned out he wanted a whole roll-up ! How rude. Well I was happy to give it to him and I guess he worked out that I was also from Scotland. "Where are you from?" he said. Now the only reason Scottish people ask me that is to see if they know the town I grew up in and regale me with stories of their home town. I wasn't interested. "Angel", I said, simultaneously putting my headphones back on. He looked disappointed. I was getting grumpier.

Then another man appeared to be staring at my face, slightly too closely, obviously saying things. I unplugged myself again and he was saying "Give me a couple of quid.". Not asking me nicely, but almost ordering me to. I didn't know if he was a polite mugger or a fucking rude beggar. He clearly wasn't homeless, so I told him I didn't have anything to spare. Which was true. Yes I had loads of change. But I wasn't going to spare any to this dick. We were at an impasse.

"Give me a couple of quid."
"Give me a couple of quid."
"Give me a couple of quid."
"Give me a couple of quid."
"Fucking tight stingy bastard!"

He walked off and although my meeting with this guy was vastly different to the lovely homeless man I had met earlier I was glad I didn't give him my money. It made me warm and fuzzy inside.

The Cvnts are taking a break for the summer but will be back at The Phoenix in September.