Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Letter From Dad

This blog post is not one of my usual "Comedy Adventures". So apologies if you have come here to read about something funny that happened!

About 2 or 3 weeks ago, my friend's dad died. This was a catalyst to get in touch with mine as we haven't really ever had a good relationship. I moved out of home when i was 15 to live with my Aunt and Uncle, and when I was 18 or 19 I came out to my family and friends, via the old-fashioned medium of a hand-written letter. All the responses were fantastic, and pretty much what I expected. Most of my family have some sort of religious belief, but the majority of them were as good as i could imagine.

My dad, however, has somewhat more conservative religious views than most and sent me back a no-nonsense letter that I remember contained the line "If this was Biblical times you would be stoned" and also something about AIDS. Unfortunately at some point my cheap after shave (possibly Hai Karate or Blue Stratos) leaked all over it and ruined the whole thing.

I had met up with my brother (who is a Church of England vicar) a couple of years ago as he was in London for the day and we had a nice meal and a couple of drinks and enjoyed catching up with each other. I had told him that I was thinking about sending dad a letter to try and get back in touch, and the conversation we had made me decide it was the best thing to do. After all, he is in his 80s now, and even though we have a zero relationship, I feel that if he died before I tried to reach out to him, I would have a constant dull thud of guilt inside me.

I am quite lazy though, and bad enough at keeping in touch with family members that I like (i.e all of them!) so it took the death of my friend's dad to spur me into action. I got his address from my brother and typed the following letter and popped it in the post.

I decided to keep it non-controversial. I certainly didn't want to get into an argument or shouting match. In reality I didn't really expect a response at all. But a few days later, this arrived at my front door.

I have obviously removed his address and signature. I don't want to comment on it too much, but the opening line discussing my mum's illness and death showed me that the rest of the letter wasn't going to be too upbeat.

I shared this on Twitter and I was deluged with messages. A lot of them were asking if I was OK. Yes, I'm fine. After all I didn't expect some sort of reunion that would make the end of a Hollywood film blush. But your responses were much appreciated. In fact I got a little emotional as I was reading them on the walk down from Esher station to the pub where I was meeting my other brother.

I look back at myself when I was younger and almost see him as a different person. A couple of people remarked that it was one of the saddest things they had ever read. I agree. But I'm sad for the little boy that I used to be.

Another friend asked if I am going to write back. I had thought about it, but it is not going to gain anything. The ball is in his court, and I have done all I can do to try to regain some sort of civility. But he is not going to change. I am not going to change.

I guess I won't be inheriting the house.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Comedy Sale at The Star Of Kings

Sanderson Jones has started a residency every Wednesday at this Kings Cross venue, and tonight was the first night. Comedy Sale is an interesting project where you have to arrange to meet Sanderson to buy a ticket for the show in person. No internet or phone or booking office sales. For these smaller gigs however you should hopefully be able to buy a ticket from him direct at the venue if you have met him before.  He originally did this gig at the massive Union Chapel in Islington and sold it out last year before heading off to Australia, performing the shows at all the major cities.

"But what's the advantage of Sanderson doing all this extra work?", I hear you cry. Well he then has time to do some research on the particular audience for the show, ploughing through their Facebook and Twitter feeds for comedy gold.

The show is based on his attempts to win his ex-girlfriend back, with many Venn diagrams, Pi Charts and other graph based nonsense along the way.The highlight (for me) of the show is "cockhunting" where he puts a backdrop behind a sexy girl or two and puts them on webcam on Chatroulette. As soon as he sees a guy masturbating, he drops the sheet and we all cheer him along! There will be a video below. Please do not click on it if you're at work, or indeed if you don't want to see a man masturbating!

At the end of the show he revealed that his next big project after selling out Union Chapel, is to sell out The Royal Albert Hall, again selling all tickets by hand! This is something so bonkers we have to get behind it! The Star of Kings show will soon develop into a night with other comics with internet based material, and I will try to get down there as often as work shifts and my bank balance allows.

Join me!

All Day Edinburgh - a benefit for PBH's Free Fringe

It seems amazing that it has been 2 years since the first All Day Edinburgh. While that one was a benefit for Shelter, this one is going towards Peter Buckley Hill's Free Fringe. Tickets were announced a few weeks ago and they sold out in half an hour. Luckily I got one of the 100 tickets available, as did a fair few of my comedy friends.

I got to the pub around 1230 and met Neal for lunch, soon to be joined by Bob, Hitch, Heather, Jack and Sarah and others and got downstairs nice and early, in plenty time to grab a front row seat.

Anyway, the announced line up was ace, including Robin Ince, Simon Donald, Tony Law, Thom Tuck, Cariad Lloyd, Liam Mullone, The Trap, Richard Herring, Tiffany Stevenson, Matt Kirshen, and Dan Antopolski, amongst others. It works out at around 25 acts for £20. I decided I would attempt to be relatively sensible as it was obviously going to be a long long day. I've decided not to write about everyone as this blog would be far too long, but concentrate on the acts that I loved the most.

Michael Legge
Matt Kirshen
The show started with Michael welcoming us to the show, raging against the weak female comedians who were unable to come to the show as they were ill, before speaking about Kate Smurthwaite's accusation of Robin Ince's sexism for wearing a Hefner t-shirt. The phrase "paper mache bastard" was mentioned. Can anyone guess who he was referring to? After a short while he introduced us to the first act, Matt Kirshen.

Matt presents "Set List" which is an improvised show where comedians don't know what the topics of their set are going to be till they flash up on a screen. These have all been selected by the audience. Today Matt was going to do it himself with topics written by Michael, and on an appropriately low-tech sheets of paper. Most comedians say that Set List is a terrifying, but ultimately great experience where they are free to experiment even though the results can be very varied in quality!

Matt is a very likeable comedian whose baby face disarms you at first. He got through such topics as "fizzy houmous" and "what's the deal with airline foo" (no, I haven't misspelled it!) with the same expected mixture of success! We also learned what people on each side of the Irish divide call a vagina. Go and see Set List if you get a chance. I went to a recording a while back as they are turning it into a TV series.

Dan Antopolski
Bravely stepping into the missing Nick Doody's shoes was Paul Litchfield, appearing as his Sean Goldsworthy character. Sean has appeared a few times before, mainly as part of Los Quattros Cvnts (RIP) who is one of Somerset's leading online erotic fiction writers. Today, as it was so close to Halloween, he read us one of his erotic vampire stories, about Count Florentine Daggerpoke, trying not to corpse while uttering such ludicrous phrases such as "then the gong would be gonged" and "ofen he would take home a sack of tits as a doggy bag". There was to be more of Paul later as part of the amazing sketch group, The Trap.

Liam Mullone was on next. I had never seen him before but had heard a lot of good things about him. With his thick glasses and delivery style he reminded me of Harry Hill. He discussed how much hard manual labour his wife would have to do in order for him to be happy for her not to change nappies. He's definitely someone I would much prefer to see a full show from.

Rachael Parris
Jigsaw couldn't make it, but we did her one third of them in the shape of Dan Antopolski. A very very funny man, with a combination of one liners and unusual thoughts. Some excellent thoughts such as "What do you prefer? Her bridal train dragged behind her like a prolapsed rectum.... or vice versa"! Dan is always guaranteed 100% funny and never seen him perform at anything less.

After a brief interval, it was time for Rachel Parris who gave Michael a bit of stick back for his comments earlier about the sick female comics! normally I dread musical comedy but Rachael is genuinely excellent. She did a great song that she has "submitted" to the new High School Musical, followed by the next X Factor winners song, which had all the cliches you would expect: the inspiring verses, the wobbly show off vocals, and the chorus "I'm Amazing". She also did a middle class blues song, which reminded me a lot of Diamanda Galas's blues vocal style.

Simon Munnery
Tiff Stevenson
There was a new addition to the bill: the legendary Simon Munnery. I've seen Simon a few times now and he is one of the best comedians in the UK. He did his standard routines, nothing as experimental as some of his full shows, but as ever, totally on form, starting musical statues (which I ended up losing) then his "Stop the war" song. Another song ended up like a football chant from a Sainsbury's fan, railing against Tesco and Morrissons. Simon has been going for many years and still has a punk style to his comedy.

Stuart Goldmith and victim.
Tiff Stevenson was up next . She hosts the Old Rope new material night at the Phoenix every Monday and came runner up in "Show Me The Funny" and is great fun. She can be pretty filthy (which we like) and spoke about cosmetic surgery, joked about people thinking she is pregnant while she drinks wine ("Don't worry, I'm not keeping it") and went down a storm, climaxing with shouting "Smash your back doors in!" to Sarah!

Marlon Davie
Stuart Goldsmith came on next. I had seen him before at Michael Legge's Private Hell. He was another "Show Me The Funny" contestant too. He was trying to condense his entire Edinburgh show down to 10 minutes, and confessed it should be quite easy due to the amount of padding. Stuart does a great podcast called "Comedian's Comedian". It's not a comedy podcast as such but a podcast about comedy, focussing on established comedians speaking about their writing techniques and is aimed at up and coming comedians. But if you're a comedy nerd like me, it's worth a listen. He noticed that both Neal and I were in the front row again, and had to pick on someone in the 2nd row who after telling us about his lesbian hen night, proceeded to climb on his lap and caress him.

Cariad Lloyd
His set ended with the shortest ever Comedian's Comedian podcast with a 3 second interview with Michael. I hope this joke goes further than the gig and ends up being released. Stu assured me it will!

Marlon Davis is someone I had never seen before. And my, wasn't he lovely. He brought out my maternal side, He has a lovely smiley face, which he acknowledged doesn't give him any authority at all, along with his voice.

Cariad Lloyd came out as Joey Bechemal. Joey is a kooky,clumsy and extremely annoying Californian girl. she broke character a couple of times just to make sure we all realised this. She took a liking to Hitch, bellowing at him "Are you hard yet?" as she tried to make herself unthreatening to the girls, but attractive to the guys. "I'm not a model, I'm a geek!" She left the stage, doing the "call me" mime to Hitch.

Michael Legge and Robin Ince
James Acaster
Robin Ince joined Michael on stage to vent some pointless anger and righteous ire. Robin railed against Michael for looking so young. Well, he had shaved his beard off, and Robin was also furious about people who tell people to "grow a pair", James Dellingpole, before Michael shared his vegan sausage with him which tasted of the memory of gravy made be a relative with dementia. By the end though, Robin declared that Michael had made him happy again.

Simon Donald
Dab & Tench arrived to kick off the next section and gave us a quick acting lesson, wihch was very silly indeed. Then came James Acaster. He's a guy I've heard so many good things about but this was the first time I had seen him. He asked myself how many crumbs there were in a loaf of bread. I guessed 24000, but the next girl to guess got it spot on. (15000). I was mocked for getting this wrong. Then we had to guess how many breadcrumbs could coat a Scotch egg. Again, I got it wrong and my nemesis was spot on. The final question though I redeemed myself by getting it spot on and my competitor was humiliated. Go and see James Acaster immediately!

The Trap (Paul, Dan and Jeremy)
I'm going to a show in November where Michael Legge and Simon Donald (yes, him off Viz) are going to perform their 2012 Edinburgh shows. I got a taster of Simon Donald next where he discussed swearing in rather a lot of depth, which I guess wouldn't surprise you. He spoke about how adding the letter "e" to shit makes a whole new swear word up north and in Scotland, but doesn't necessarily work on other words. He also told us about Threadneedle Street, which in Victorian times, part of which was called Cuntgrope Lane, and ended up railing against the rise of the double negative. I'm looking forward to the main show already.

Catie Wilkins
You've heard about me speak about The Trap many times before, and after being introduced as "the fat ones from Los Quattros Cvnts" by Michael, they took to the stage where Dan Mersh explained their Bad Musical show that they were going to do a couple of excerpts from, and was keen to try to put it into context for us. They started with the "Touch In, Touch Out" song and ended with Paul singing a very emotional musical style song that went on for eternity as Dan and Jeremy looked on with increasing frustration.

Aisling Bea
Catie Wilkins finished this part of the show, and seemed a much less nervous as I've often seen her before. She spoke of herself as a "sex positive feminist on the go" and updated some Yo Mama jokes through the ages, and went on to speak about feminism ina genuinely funny way. Yes I know, I shouldn't be surprised by this, but her demeanour meant that there was no feeling of being preached at.

We were now on to the final section opened by the amazing Aisling Bea. Again, I've seen her before at Los Quattros Cvnts. She spoke about women dancing like men having sex and her theories of dancing. "Dance music is the easiest form of music to dance to as it is named after the main form of dance, which is dance". Unfortunately this wasn't as long as I had hped for as I think they were running over time.

Tony Law

Without further ado, Tony Law was introduced by a babble of Irish words by Michael. Tony tried to carry on the accent but gave up after a few moments thankfully. Tony is one of my favourite comics on the circuit today. he spoke about his part pirate part iking look, and about the times he spent on Viking raids and playing the old traditional game of scoopmud. His stream of nonsense was almost hypnotising as you became part of his extremely silly world.

Richard Herring

The penultimate act was one of my favourites, and the reason I got into the stand up scene in the first place, Richard Herring. I had hoped for the mini-RHEFP, but this was not to be. He gave us a short 10 minute section of his current show, Talking Cock, which I have talked about at length elsewhere. It's always good to see Richard, and looking forward to seeing him "interview" Dave Gorman on Monday at RHLSTP!

Thom Tuck

And finally we were here. the final act of the night. The Penny Dreadfuls closed the show 2 years ago, and tonight it was one of them, Thom Tuck that had the honour. Thom's stage persona of a rather posh ex-student is surprisingly likeable. He told us that Thom Tuck was his real name and he wasn't from a fairy tale as his name might suggest. His Tescometron joke was his opener (if you haven't heard it you won't get it) and spoke of his problems with coming across as masculine and his annoyance with the lack of semi-colon in cigarette packet warnings.

Soon it was all over, and Michael brought Peter Buckley Hill to the stage to say a few words. Peter is a lovely man, like your favourite uncle and I think anything people can do to support his free fringe is worth it.

A few of us stayed till the Phoenix closed, which was sooner than I thought. We headed to The old Explorer which also closed. Eventually Hitch and I went to a bar in Kings Cross I know and had a couple there. to be honest, things were getting a bit fuzzy by then.

Michael had earlier told us that he woldn't be doing All day Edinburgh again, as it is so hard to organise, but I for one am looking forward to All Day Edinburgh 2013. Bring it on!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Stewart Lee and Friends perform John Cage's "Indeterminacy"

I had never really heard of John Cage. I knew two facts.

  1. He wrote 4'33", a musical piece with no sound other than the sound of the space it was performed in.
  2. He was in The Velvet Underground.

That was John Cale. So out of the two facts I knew, one of them was wrong. I even originally thought J J Cale was in The Velvet Underground till I was forcefully corrected on Twitter.

I researched him (i.e. looked at YouTube) and found this marvellous piece from 1960.

My friend Mike told me about this show and I happily agreed to go with him. We met up at 7pm but were forced to sit in the cold with our beers outside as the musicians were soundchecking. The honks and parps echoed round Dalston. We got in at 8 and found a seat with a reasonable view (near the toilets - a good tactical decision) and awaited. Neither of us were sure what to expect, but after reading a review of an earlier performance I was hopeful Harry Hill would perform Water Walk. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Things started off with a piano and trombone improvisation by Steve Beresford and Alan Tomlinson, which showed us the madness that was to come. It was instantly funny, but people seemed scared to laugh. People were giving the performance a lot of chin stroking respect, but as soon as Tomlinson honked a bicycle horn into the end of his trombone as he played, we all relaxed and realised that, yes, it's fine to laugh!

Tania Chen performed an off the wall piano solo on her "prepared piano" and as well as some traditional jazz stylings she ended up climbing into the piano and plucking the strings from the inside.

The highlight of the first half for me, though was the trombone solo. (There's a sentence I never expected to write in my life.) 

Tomlinson explained Cage's unusual scorings, particularly the instruction to remove a piece of the trombone and use a particular mute, but as he explained, when you take that piece out, all the air goes out the wrong end anyway, so the mute would have made no difference. A little joke on Cage's part perhaps?

This was really odd. A lot of single notes at various volumes, pitches and timbres, evoking a didgeridoo at one point, and at another he span as he played, giving a slow phaser effect.

Here is a short clip. But I know it doesn't do it justice. I missed the funniest bits!

We had an interval and outside I overheard conversations about French philosophers and Becket. Yes, I was certainly in Dalston.

The second half started with Chen, Beresford and Lee sitting at a table with all manner of unusual instruments amongst them. The musicians would provide an improvised backdrop for Stew, who would read 40 of Cage's stories randomly chosen from selection of 90. Each one was read at different speeds in order to either fit them into, or stretch them out so they each lasted a minute.

It was a great 40 minutes. After a while the sounds sat in my head comfortably, but always surprising me, and I struggled to hear Stew on a few occasions when the sounds got louder, but this was the intention. We left the show happy and I had a quick chat with Stew at the end where I said that Tomlinson's trombone solo reminded me of Diamanda Galas's "Schrei X" and he said "Oh, I think he's played with her before"!

It's not a show I would normally go to, and naturally the draw for me was the always magnificent Stewart Lee, but hey, I'm a hipster now!

Thanks to @muzrobertson and @chillmaid for the live photos.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Eddie Izzard

I saw Eddie Izzard last month and forgot to finish writing this blog. The day was hard. I had been to see a Private Hell special the day before with Michael Legge and Stuart Goldsmith. Even though Stuart isn't the usual style of comedian I would go and see, I thoroughly enjoyed his set, and Michael's show was very nearly ready! I had a few beers with Michael and some of the audience afterwards and was planning on going home, but Nadia persuaded me to go to the other Phoenix to see Lou Sanders and Grainne Maguire. It was a great evening, but on the morning of Izzard, I had a brutal hangover.

I was excited about seeing Eddie Izzard, and have been for a while but 1115pm seemed like such a long way away. He was playing in the small room in Soho Theatre and it was a work in progress gig for next year's world tour, "Force Majeur". I have never seen Eddie before, but he is a true comedy hero of mine, up there with Billy Connolly and to see him in what I insist on calling The Gregg Jevin Memorial Room (ie a room with about 140 seats) is much more exciting than seeing him in a massive arena.

I left the house at 930 as I had arranged to meet my friend in The Soho Theatre bar at 1015pm. I thought it best to get there early in order to try and secure a good seat, but I guess in this room all seats are pretty close to the stage. We bumped into Rob Sedgebeer and his lovely lady and settled down to watch the show.

Eddie announced that there would be an opening act.A German comedian. Of course I instantly assumed it would be Henning Wehn. Eddie announced Michael Mittermeyer to the stage. I had never heard of him before and he had a few good lines, but most of the material was pretty hack, with talk of Germans getting to sun loungers first and the fact that the German language sounds aggressive rather than sexy. Things took a turn for the worst when speaking about the Beijing Olympics, which involved him speaking in a "comedy" Chinese accent for an extended period of time, which just ended his set uncomfortably. I had trusted Eddie to introduce us to someone amazing, but he let us down. I've never said this about any comic on this blog, but as I plan on avoiding seeing any more of his gigs in the future, I will. He was awful.

After a very short break, it was time for Eddie to take the stage. Now this is the embarrassing but of the blog. I thought I had written this and posted it 2 months ago. Turns out I hadn't. So I can't remember very much so the main part is going to be a little truncated.

He started a little unsure, as a lot of this was new material. I can't remember a great deal of it, but there was a fantastic truly improvised piece about opera singers microphone technique which made him laugh a lot as well as us. There was another part that I had seen before about the tigers massacring the animals on Noah's Ark. That's pretty much my memory of the gig. Sorry about that. Then we left into the cold dark night and had to get a night bus home as all the tubes were shut.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Nick Helm - This Means War

I first encountered Nick Helm at The Wilmington Arms about a year ago when he, Michael Legge and Bennett Arron were previewing their 2011 Edinburgh shows. I had never heard of him before but he made a big impression on me. I was terrified. I remember saying at the time that he is the one comedian who I wouldn't sit in the front row for. At Edinburgh he was nominated for an award too and now he is getting a wider audience after closing each episode of Live At The Electric with some rocking tunes.

Here's a clip from Channel 4's "Comedy Blaps". The sheer desperation and self-pity is fantastic!

Next time I saw Nick was at Michael Legge's Private Hell and found out he was doing an hour at The Hen & Chickens each week so I decided to go along. 

By this time I realised that Nick's onstage anger is mainly directed at himself (or the audience of course if they misbehave) so I decided to plump for a front row seat. I was the only one. Nick came on stage and immediately went to the back rows, ordering people to move to the front. They all complied. Of course they did. Only an idiot wouldn't!

This was just a preview so I'm not going to give much away, but the opening song, "This Means War" saw Nick ordering the front two rows on to the stage to sing along backing vocals. He berated us for not singing loud enough and then added more backing vocals from various sections of the remaining audience. It was a very inclusive way to begin and we all sat down with big smiles on our faces.

He launched into a selection of one-liners before some poetry. Don't worry about the "P" word. It's much more fun than it sounds! An extensive section about the best soft drink followed, along with some more songs. This is a show, that if I were going to The Fringe (I'm not), I would definitely go and see.

I decided to go and see him the following week too and he had an excellent new opening which didn't involve him saying or moving very much. The audience though were awful. There were 2 lads beside me who hadn't seen Nick before but had come because of Live At The Electric. These lads, however, were not awful. They were great, and one of them spent most of the show on stage with Nick, looking both embarrassed and proud at the same time.

A lot of the others though were chatty, interrupting dicks. Two walked out after half an hour or so, which was fine, but when a woman in the second row kept talking, he said that he wished it was her that had left. She left, to a round of applause by me! Dicks aside, it was a really fun evening!

Afterwards I had a drink and a chat with Nick. What a lovely man. He is surprisingly soft spoken, and generous with his time and conversation. Go and see it Edinburgh people. make sure it's on your list if you want to see lashings of impotent fury, self pity,  self loathing and have a right good singalong. And the ever hanging threat of psychological violence.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


I had been looking forward to "An Actually Rather Good Comedy Festival" for some time, but annoyingly managed to be late. I had planned to meet Heather, Neal, Sarah and Jack, and as I got to the venue Nadia was just arriving too. I caught the end of James W Smith who seemed to be going down pretty well. It's not often you hear fisting material before lunch time, but we dealt with it.

At the end of the first set I saw Neal so we went outside and were joined by the always awesome Lou Sanders who was compering upstairs. It's always nice to bump into Lou (one of the most enthusiastic and so far unrecognised comedians on the circuit - remember - she will soon be a star!) We were joined by everyone I was supposed to be meeting and we went through our viewing schedules with each other

Stuart Laws
Lou Sanders
ArgComFest was held in the Kings Cross Social Club, a venue I had not heard of before but after looking at Google Streetview realised it was an old gay pub, previously known as The Golden Lion. It had only really worked for a couple of years before changing hands. It's a pretty nice venue, though the main stage could have done with a bit more lighting, as from my position at the back of the bar, and having just come in from the bright outdoors, the first comedian was not much more than a silhouette on stage.

Neal and I followed Lou upstairs where we caught Stuart Laws. I had never come across him before, and he was immediately likeable. He clearly does a lot of compering as his style had a lot of audience interaction, skilfully done. He talked about alpha and omega males, and pointed out Cliff, a blue and black haired alternative looking type and asked him if he was the big spoon. It took me a while to work it out, and of course he was talking about who was behind and who was in front in a "spooning" situation. After helping Stuart fence him off with a coffee table I returned to my seat beside Neal. He obviously cast Neal as the big spoon, leaving me as the little one in the scenario. Later I had to be a mixing bowl on stage while another "little spoon" had to suck all the chocolate milk out of it. I liked Stuart a lot and will definitely be seeing him again, hopefully before we all go on holiday to Centre Parcs together.
Michael Legge

I went back downstairs, as next up was Michael Legge. You might have thought I'd seen Michael enough lately at Private Hell, but as he explained at the last one, it hadn't really worked for him as compering a gig is no way to prepare for an hour long show so this was the first chance I had. Michael is at an early point in his show, still using sheets of notes, but no one minded. We all knew we were seeing previews. The story about his journey to a gig in Manchester costing him over £200 went down really well, and the punchline about Jamelia brought the biggest laugh of the festival so far. Michael improvised a line about an "exciting watch" and wanted to remember it, so Michael, if you're reading this, write it down.

Footlights sketch groups "Sheeps" were next on. I took a spot near the door at the bar beside Michael. I always worry about acts I have never seen before, especially sketch groups, but it didn't take me long to get on board with their tales of how their sketch group formed and about their THUMP THUMP THUMP... what was that? Sorry, it didn't take me long to get on THUMP THUMP THUMP. Eh? .. about their trip to Hollywood. Upstairs there was a constant banging. But James Acaster was upstairs. What the hell was going on. I told Michael I was going to investigate, climbed the stairs and and as I got to the top, it had just ended and there was a big round of applause. I went downstairs and told Michael I had told him to shut the fuck up! I'm still not sure what he was up to but for such a slight man he made such a lot of noise. In the end, for me, Sheeps had a bit of a Trap vibe to them and I'm sure they'll be on BBC3 soon (That is not an insult by the way!)

The day was going really well, but every now and then a guy in a grey t-shirt would shout something out. I wouldn't even call it heckling. He was just saying stuff. Rob was getting annoyed about it and we chatted about it in the break. I hadn't actually heard anything at this time, but though I would keep a look out. He was sitting with 2 friends. But back to him later.

I have never seen Pappy's before apart from a drunken half an hour at All Day Edinburgh a year ago. (They were drunk, I was drunk, so my memories of them weren't that sharp). I am a big fan of Flatshare Slamdown so decided to watch them. I was originally going to see Sara Pascoe but I have seen her quite a few times before. This was Pappy's "Last Ever Show" and they came out as old men, trying to get the sketch group back together and relating their memories to each other. I was really enjoying them, but it was very important that I take a break for a bite to eat and 2 arguments.

I went to Kings Cross station to claim my free "O2 Priority Moments" Delice de France sandwich and drink. The only rule was it had to be between 12 and 6pm. But by the time I got to the station, the guy behind the counter had added his own rule - not on a Sunday. I argued with him but to no avail. I had picked a nice brie, bacon and spinach panini and was looking forward to it. I should have just bought it, but I wanted to make a point so I went to the Burger King beside it. That would teach him. I ordered a more expensive and much more shit Chicken Royale meal (£5.99). The guy asked me what I wanted to drink. I said I was fine for a drink and he whacked the price up to £6.08! After another argument with the manager I agreed to take a drink and he gave me my 9p back. I dramatically placed my drink on the counter and left. Again, that'll teach him.

Thom Tuck
I got back to the venue but still had some chips to eat so I chatted to the lovely bouncer outside. He seemed to be enjoying the day as he wasn't used to doing comedy gigs and I think must have been used to rougher events and kicking a lot of people out. In fact at the start of the day Lou Sanders had been making a lot of noise upstairs and he thought something had kicked off and got halfway up the stairs to sort it out!

I caught the end of Pappy's and found a marriage going on between one Pappy and an audience member. Back in their old men characters, a voice rang out from the audience "Poor old bastard". Off stage, I heard the guys say "Did he say poor old bastard?" but they continued the show and it was soon over. I got chatting to Thom Tuck outside and he was growing tired of this pseudo heckler too and vowed to destroy him.

Tony Law
I stayed on for Thom, missing the highly recommended Claudia O'Doherty upstairs. This year, Thom's set seems a lot more stand up based, and much looser than last year's show about straight to DVD Disney films. He was storming out. Then the voice rang out again. Thom gave him both barrels and a normal person may have got embarrassed and shut up by then. But no. He piped up just as Thom's set was coming to its end. Thom's anger was pouring out of his mouth directed at this dick. We never got to see Thom put his legs behind his head as we had been promised. I do think that this guy should have been told to leave by this point as he had been trying to wreck a few sets already. I went over to him where his 2 "friends" were asking him why he was being such a cunt. It turns out they just happened to be sitting together. I asked him if he could please not say anything during the next act. he seemed genuinely bemused. "But why is no one heckling?" I told him it was because all the acts were really good, and they were putting a lot of effort into getting their shows ready for Edinburgh, and that what he was doing is very disrespectful to both the acts and the audience. We had paid money to see funny people on stage, not to hear his idiotic utterances.

Bridget Christie
Stuart Laws was compering now, and I was at the bar beside Neal, and the next act, Tony Law. "What's better than going to your fridge and finding an extra ham in it?" he said. "I'm Jewish you arsehole" came the response. not form the original dick, but from a new one. Thankfully he soon shut up, and once I saw Tony make him laugh I knew it was going to be OK. I never get tired of seeing Tony Law. With his tales of 2 elephants walking into a bar told from both the human and elephant angles, together with some outrageous accents, he stormed it. I was sad that he didn't bring along his horse Tuppence, but after chatting to Tony afterwards, he will be back for The Fringe. Tony was asking Jack and I for some feedback about the end of the show, but what do we know? I think our "advice" was just "the more elephants the better"

Colin Hoult
Jack and I arrived just slightly late for Bridget Christie. She is continuing to work on her War Donkey show, but sadly no donkey costume or inflatable fat suit. This was a real "proper" preview with ticks and crosses and maybes being made after every joke. And her idea for the end of the show involving childbirth, donkey breastfeeding and a man with a fart machine is going to be astonishing when it happens...

And finally, there was Colin Hoult. I know him mainly for his role in Gutted, but I have seen him once or twice before. And he stormed it. With a suitably horrific opening combined with lots of characters, including the army veteran who was writing his "Hostel" type film, where I was chosen to play Mr Giggles - giggle giggle. A guy turned up late and was picked on. He didn't want to get involved but Colin insisted. He was in his karate expert character, and eventually he got him on stage for a martial arts lesson. I can't say what happens next though as it would be a massive spoiler.

Thanks to "Timidheathen" and James Lowey for putting this together. I hope we get more of the same next year, and who knows, perhaps another All Day Edinburgh?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Michael Legge's Private Hell - LET'S DO IT TO IT!

In order to prepare for his new Fringe show, Michael has put on 4 gigs, once a month (one of which he couldn't manage to turn up to) involving himself and his funny friends. He now acknowledges this is a mistake, because compering a show is no way to prepare for an entire hour of new material.

It wasn't a mistake for the fans though. We have got to see Paul Litchfield, Sarah Parrish, Dab & Tench, Richard Herring, Tony Law (and probably more that I've forgotten about), and today was the best line up of all: Caroline Mabey, Bridget Christie and Nick Helm.

The "Die Hard" fans met upstairs and comprised of, among others, myself, Neal, Neale (aka Hitch), Sarah, Sir Bob, Ian and Heather. We had fun. A lot of fun. It was Canada Day. We got stickers. But all good things must come to an end and we trudged downstairs to see the show.

Caroline Mabey
I love sitting at the front at gigs, but have always been wary of Nick Helm. Off stage, he is so lovely. On stage, he is fucking terrifying. But of course, even though we were late downstairs, we found the front row totally empty. Even the second row. Everyone was in the third row and further back. Maybe they were even more scared of Nick than me!

Michael didn't really have much time to give us a proper preview of his show but did throw in an story of his train journey to Manchester that, even after he was paid cost him £150, which happily ended up with Jamelia falling off a chair, as well as introducing a new slant: Michael's Indiscretions. Hopefully I will get a chance to see a full preview of his show next week in Kings Cross.

Bridget Christie
A heavy pregnant Caroline Mabey opened the show with some pretty close to the bone stuff mainly based around her pregnancy. But as she says, the jokes will be out of date in a week or two. But she is someone always worth seeing.

Jason the War Donkey as played by Bridget Christie was on next, kicking his way through Edwin Starr's "War". Aw, Jason is such a cutie, and as a donkey comic, touched on subject such as the issue about being related to a more famous donkey, and is that the only reason he gets gigs, to the prevalence of horse comedians these days. Bridget got out of the donkey costume eventually and revealed an inflatable fat suit so she could show us her Edwin Starr dancing when he was rather larger. This was pure physical comedy and totally funny. Unfortunately she was worried this might distract us from the serious points about feminism she was trying to make, and she was right to worry. She slowly deflated herself and carried on...

Nick Helm closed the show with a preview of  "This Means War", and he wasn't as terrifying as I thought / hoped. He started with a rock number, getting all the audience to punch the air, shouting "Helm Helm Helm" which we did, until he started singing. He berated us for stopping, so we continued. Of course when he split the audience in two to sing different parts this caused even more confusion and fury towards us. He told us to provide the pyrotechnic noises to the punchlines to his jokes, but very quickly spotted the problem, i.e. we had no place to laugh! A new catchphrase was born: "Let's do it to it" which he soon got annoyed by. A few more songs and poems and a run of about 20 awful jokes and it was all over. Nick Helm is on the cusp of stardom right now, and he will very soon be a household name. And, (keep this secret) off stage he is a lovely, sweet, soft-spoken man.

Afterwards we had a beer upstairs and headed home around 7ish. I headed to a bar in Kings Cross where my good friend and artist Donald was having his leaving do before he goes to Paris for a year and it was nice to see him warble along to some obscure musical numbers form some obscure camp musicals.

Next week, there's a show in Kings Cross comprising of 18 acts doing full Edinburgh previews. LET'S DO IT TO IT!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Talking Cock / Joy Is My Middle Name

I love Edinburgh preview season. I don't go to The Fringe, well I haven't yet, and for some reason really enjoy seeing shows being constructed. There's also an added bonus of seeing comics when they don't know their material that well, which makes for quite an exciting evening. The idea that things can go anywhere is quite appealing to me. As one comedian on Twitter said yesterday when he was promoting his preview, it's for people who prefer to lick the spoon than eat the cake.

Off I went to The Camden Head (in Camden, not Angel - it's always important to check which one it is*) and met up with my mate Andrew. He was just here for a drink, but we ordered fish finger sandwiches. I tweeted this fact, and The Phoenix had a bit of a hissy fit and chastised me. It's nice when pubs get jealous of each other. Anyway, after a couple of drinks Andrew soon abandoned me and headed home.

Catie Wilkins was on first. I had seen her and Richard Herring do these previews a week ago at Michael Legge's Private Hell, and things have come on in leaps and bounds since then. At that show, there didn't seem to be a lot of new material, but plenty of ideas, but by now she is heading towards a complete show, although one of her routines that she was reading ended with her saying "It just says 'write joke' here".

Catie's show this year is called "Joy Is My Middle Name", because, well, it is. She was much more confident in her material this time, although her nerves still show. However, I've always thought this endears her to most audiences. There was a little muddle when she tried to work out how to hold the mic and show us her rather large cards, which I imagine will be turned into slides, until audience member Alex heroically offered his services as an assistant.

The show focuses a lot on feminism (stop groaning!) and has a couple of ranting moments. All in all, like her last show it's quite sweet, quite rude, and very funny and I'm glad her AIDS joke has made a return, and I hope it stays in the final show.

This was the 3rd tie in a week and a half that I've seen Richard's preview of "Talking Cock - The Second Coming". Like "Christ On A Bike" a couple of years ago, it's a reworking of an old show from 10 years ago. He thinks it was a shame not many people saw it first time around, and is proud of it, and this gives him a chance to finally get it out on DVD. So he has a head start, although as the gigs progress, various new bits are being added.

*Remember my advice earlier about checking which Camden Head to go to? Well unfortunately Richard didn't heed it, and had arrived at the wrong one...

The show is based around an anonymous questionnaire all about people's attitude to penises. Gents, you can find yours here, and ladies, have a look here. This show is startlingly rude (as you would expect) and the looks the lady sitting near me on the front row was giving was a picture!

Richard discusses why people are ashamed of their penis, and why it is an object of laughter. Why is it not held in a higher regard? Through the show we learn where guys have put theirs for fun, we learn that even people filling in anonymous surveys probably lie about their cock size, and we hear tales about what happens when you snap your "banjo string". We also think about our dad's spunking cocks quite a lot.

At the end, as an audience, we are asked to declare our love for our cocks. Ladies have to declare their love for our cocks, and gay men have to declare our love for our cocks - and your cocks. And for the third time in a row I was the only one!

Afterwards I had a brief chat with Rich and Catie and as promised to Neale, got him a programme, as Richard has a surfeit of them from 10 years ago. And of course, Richard drew a cock on it.

I slightly let myself down at the end by attempting to briefly flirt with Catie's rather hot brother as I was saying goodbye, but I think it may have come across a possible prelude to something terribly sinister. Sigh, I'll work out how to do it properly one day.

Right, I'm off to the shops. I have made a list.

1. Toilet roll
2. Jelly
3. A spoon

Saturday, 9 June 2012

My Penis Is Like A Thermometer

I saw Richard Herring's "Talking Cock" preview for the second time a few days ago round the corner from me in Angel. I'm not going to go into the show here, but may do a write up next week as I'm seeing Rich yet again, along with Catie Wilkins in Camden.

We all received programmes from the first time this show was performed in 2002 which must have been cluttering up his flat for some time, adding tension and peril to the Me1 vs Me2 snooker podcast.

Anyway, I came across this gem of a poem by Stewart Lee, and thought I should share it with you before it gets lost for all time.

(One of the other penis-based poems in the programme is called "Mr Spock" and was written by the actor Kevin Eldon. It simply says:

"Mr Spock
Do you have a cock?"

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Bob Mould plays Copper Blue

It's been 20 years since this perfect album was released. Bands such as Husker Du and The Pixies had made a small but significant impact on American music before Nirvana had conquered the world and soon, the ex-Husker Du front man was back, fronting the 3 piece Sugar. Copper Blue was a mixture of thundering guitars and beautiful melodies and Sugar were big news. What the hell, if you have Spotify, listen to it here.

I first heard about them when my work mate Simon gave me a C-90 mix tape containing the likes of Jesus Lizard, Janitor Joe, Mudhoney and many other experimental rock bands and my whole music outlook changed from liking just Numan, Nirvana and metal, and opened me up to the US punk and alternative scene.

I saw Sugar back in '93 at Brixton Academy, and it was probably the loudest gig I've ever been to. Perhaps Motorhead were louder, but it was a close call. One of the highlights of that was the journey to the gig and meeting Greg Norton, the bass player from Husker Du, and pestering him to sign my Sugar ticket.

Cheers to Paul Bailey for this photo
I was at that gig with Mike, the bass player in my band at the time, and it was Mike who came with me tonight. We met up in the pub next door and realised how old we now are when we spent the first few minutes pacing round the pub looking for a nice seat.

We arrived at the gig in time to see the last few songs by The Cloud Nothings. They were pretty good, but I didn't find them particularly memorable. We were based to the right of the stage and after a little Twitter exchange found out that Christian Reilly (from Richard Herring's As It Occurs To Me) was towards the front too but it was too packed to go and say hi. Instead I managed an improvised "YMCA" style AIOTM greeting which he duly returned. This was possibly the oddest and most obscure greeting I've ever made and poor Christian had to explain to his friends what the hell was going on! 

In fact, this is another excuse to link to Christian's excellent Lembit Opik / Lady Gaga parody, "Wonky Face"

Bob was soon on, and bulldozed through Copper Blue. "The Act We Act" is a great opener both to the album and the show, but the highlight for me was his rendition of "The Slim" which I have always thought is the greatest thing to hear live. The album version just doesn't do it justice. Bob's painful screams about the death of a friend from AIDS put a tear in Mike's eye, and it was an emotional part of the show for a lot of people.

The album finished, and Bob announced, "That was the past. This is the future" and gave us 3 or 4 songs from his upcoming album. It was a relief for me that they were great songs. Like most artists who have been around a long time and experimented and taken risks, for example, David Bowie,  Bob's had his fair share of albums of varying quality over the years, but the new guitar and rock based stuff sounds like he's got another great one coming up.

After the new stuff it was back to some old favourites and from the Husker Du back catalogue we got the likes of "I Apologise", "Chartered Trips" (which he often plays, but has never been a favourite of mine), "Celebrated Summer" and "Makes No Sense At All". Mike and I were tempted to shout out or old Husker Du tracks, but only request Grant Hart songs to be a little naughty, but the combination of volume and our own cowardice stopped us.

"Helpless" - Bob Mould 01/06/12 live at the Shepherd's Bush Empire

Mike was hoping for a guest appearance by Dave Grohl, but it wasn't to be. (Younger readers will be more likely to know Bob for his vocals and guitar on "Dear Rosemary" and occasional live guest appearances for The Foo Fighters.

The anticipation of this gig was exciting, but unlike a lot of events, the reality lived up to it. The night ended with a surprise for me. I was at the bar waiting for Mike before we left, and a stranger tapped my shoulder. 

"It's Nick Holland"

Fuck! I haven't seen Nick since even before Copper Blue was released. He was the singer/guitarist in thrash band "Killing Faith" who I used to go and see regularly round the pubs of Surrey as well as being their "official" bootlegger, and this was the first band I saw that made me realise that I could form a band myself.  Big coincidence and a nice end to the evening.

Just to finish off, it was Bob Mould who made me realise the power of Twitter back in 2009. I had forgotten to buy a ticket for his sold out solo show at the Islington O2 and I tweeted despondently about it. I got a reply from a stranger saying he would leave his spare ticket on the door, so I hared down to the venue and found out that he wasn't winding me up and I managed to catch half of Bob's set. I had promised to tweet him and buy him a beer, but I couldn't track him down. So if you're reading this sir, thank you so much! 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

RHLSTP (rhlstp)

As you probably know, Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast is the London version of RHEFP (rhefp), the daily Edinburgh Fringe podcast which debuted last year, but running weekly and with higher profile guests. Upcoming guests I will be seeing in this series include Charlie Brooker, Stewart Lee, Atrmando Ianucci and Graham Linehan.

I wasn't planning to go to ths one as I was working a night shift and couldn't get leave, but once Jonathan Ross was announced as the guest, after a failed attempt to get Stephen Fry, I toyed with the idea. Rose said she wanted to go, and I was surprised to find that plenty tickets were available and there were two front row seats which I nabbed.

Unfortunately a few days later Rose told me she couldn't go as she had been involved in a bus accident (it's OK everyone, she is still alive!) and I asked my friend / landlord Ben to go, who sighs every time I mention the name of Richard Herring. He isn't really into comedy and don't think he's been to any shows before, but he surprised me by saying "yes".

We headed to Chinatown and he treated me to a meal before we headed to the theatre. We took out seats and bumped into Robin, who I had met at both the Christ On A Bike recording as well as an AIOTM (aiotm). Nice chap!

Ben was a little worried by sitting at the front, but I told him we were over at the edge, and Rich was more likely to chat to people nearer the middle. He was relieved. Although the mins point of sitting here was that even though we were in the front row we could only see the back of Jonathan's head, and the table between them rather obscured Richard.

At this recording, Francesca Martinez was also on as Jonathan had to leave early so Rich decided he was going to record 2 podcasts. This cut down on the stand up he would normally do before the show, and very soon Jonathan was introduced.

I'm a big fan of Ross, and it was great to see him chat with Rich totally unscripted. Of course Rich asked him about the Russell Brand and Andrew Sachs incident, and JR managed to handle it well, and not say anything stupid, but I imagine he has been asked about this enough in the past. Rich and Ross spoke at length about his history in broadcasting with some real laugh out loud moments, but Rich seemed more than a little nervous, and although he was a little bit naughty, he didn't quite go as far as he did in last week's Tim Minchin show. No prolapsing rectums discussed at all, and even more disappointingly, Richard had forgotten to ask Jonathan if he had tried to suck his own cock. Looking at Twitter after the show it seems Richard was holding back a little as he didn't know him that well and didn't want to go too far too soon.

Francesca joined the podcast for the last few minutes and she got a huge laugh when being "understanding" about Jonathan's speech impediment (Francesca has cerebral palsy in case you didn't know.)

After the break we had another podcast, this time featuring Francesca on her own, and this was much more relaxed for Rich, as it is clear they are great friends. Her parents were in the audience, which led to some embarrassing moments for her and at the end of the quiz (which I lost by answering "true" to "Does Richard have a long neck?) drew cries of "Fix!" when Francesca's mum won one of the prizes. I was getting a little annoyed by some chatterers a few rows behind me, but they weren't at a level that disturbed Richard, although they did shout out a few times. I guess they really wanted to be on the podcast!

A stand out moment for me was Richard's cutting edge reference when talking to a DJ in the front row, asking him "Are you one of those real DJs who does scratching, like Malcolm McLaren"?

I left literally 10 seconds before the end so I could get to the loos before anyone else and run off for my tube to work, which, I am glad to report, I arrived at with a minute and a half to spare.

As is tradition in Richard's live podcasts, the tickets are cheap to attend live, but of course, they are all released as soon as possible, usually the next day, for free on iTunes, and you can find them here

You know, when i bring non-comedy fans to gigs I always feel a little responsible if they don't enjoy it. I texted Ben afterwards and said that I hpoed he had fun. His reply... "It was great!"

Roll on Charlie Brooker...

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Hanson Brothers - The Lexington 15/04/12

"Mmm Bop! Ba Ba Mmm Bop." Ah, they were lovely boys weren't they? I wonder what happened to them? Well, keep wondering, because I managed to see the original Hanson Brothers live, on what looks like being their final tour ever.

The Hanson Brothers are the delinquent alter egos of technical Canadian punk rock band, NoMeansNo. Brothers Rob and John Wright play Robbie and Johnny Hanson, and Tom Hollison plays Tommy Hanson. The Hanson Brothers are, as you have probably guessed, based on The Ramones, and bang out dumb riff after dumb riff of catchy pop punk.

I had never seen The Hanson Brothers before, though I have seen NoMeansNo, perhaps 20 years ago, and tonight I had the fortune of them playing at a pub only 10 minutes walk from my house, The Lexington. I got there around 7pm. to find a lot of men of a certain age were congregating both outside and in. This of course, is what you would expect. The Wright Brothers (and indeed The Hanson Brothers) are fast approaching 60 themselves!

The opening band were The Invasives. They're not a band that were familiar to myself, or indeed any of the crowd, but they got everyone on side quickly. Nice chunky riffs, and great melodies. If Muse had decided to perform punk rock, then this is what they would have sounded like.

Soon it was time for The Hanson Brothers. Tommy, in his hockey mask, Johnny in his hockey gear with his baseball cap perched stupidly high on his head, and finally Robbie joined us, with his hockey shirt covered with a leather jacket. And wow. The energy from these grandads was unbelievable. Just take a look at this video below!

I took a few videos myself but frankly they were pretty crappy quality.

Even for an audience as old as we were, the mosh pit was pretty intense. I have recently learned to stay out of them these days, as it can take so long to recover. On stage were two hockey referees (form The Invasives) who stepped in to pull Johnny and Tommy back to their positions if they tried to grab any of Robbie's limelight! One guy was a bit pissed, and was apparently annoying Robbie and wouldn't leave him alone. Robbie reached down, grabbed his shoulders and pushed him to the floor, where he promptly passed out. There were a few cries of "He's faking!" but he really wasn't. The HBs didn't stop the show but they did pause just long enough for him to be helped out.

After the show I spoke to John and told him that I'm a long time fan of NoMeansNo but that this was the first time I had seen the Hanson Brothers, to which he said it would probably be the last chance as they probably wouldn't tour any more. I'm not surprised with the amount of work they have to do. They make NoMeansNo look relatively sedate! 

Rob (now out of character) came out and a few fans wanted to talk to him but he was concerned about the guy from earlier and he made his way outside to apologise to him. They guy took the genuine apology gracefully and had a chat. He was worried he didn't have his phone and the security wouldn't let him back in as he was both drunk and bleeding, but Rob managed to get him in to reunite him with his phone and bag (that he had forgotten about)

I told Rob I had seen NoMeansNo 20 years ago and after I had been stage diving, he had motioned for the crowd to push me on top of them back to the stage. Once I got within talking distance he had told me to give other people a chance and calm down! He didn't remember this of course, but thought it was pretty funny anyway!

A great night, and according to John, the new NoMeansNo album should be out by the autumn, and it seems fitting to add a lovely NomeansNo track to the end of this blog.