Wednesday, 30 November 2011

My Name Is Gandhi

I wasn't feeling well so I was planning a night in. I had even turned down Sarah's invitiation to Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown. But it was Fat Tuesday, which is just a short walk from my house. Paul Sinha and Tiffany Stevenson were on so it was pretty tempting, and then I got  Facebook message to say that Greg Davies was going to appear too. My mind was made up!

I got there around 7:45 and got what is becoming my usual seat at the left side of the front row. A couple sat beside me, and spent the 20 minutes till show time snogging. I buried my face deeper into my Kindle! 

Greg Davies
  Nish Kumar is the new host of Fat Tuesday and he has reduced the capacity of the room, making it more comfortable, and less death trap like, however on the two visits I've made, the audiences have been smaller than in Tiernan's time. On a personal level however, this is right up my street. The smaller the better.

Joe Lycett

First up tonight was Joe Lycett, who I have never seen live, mainly because of his character in "Epic Win". He is younger looking in the flesh, and he spent some time talking about his experiences as a bisexual, as well as introducing the audience to Grindr. He asked if anyone had seen Epic Win, and it seems only two of us had. He spoke to me about it, and I felt quite horrible telling him that I hadn't seen him earlier because of this! Still, he did his Epic Win voice which was surprisingly loud (and butch) for such a slight man. He had already asked me to explain my "Who Is Virgilio Anderson" t-shirt, but I told him it would be quicker to ask Richard Herring as it is a rather long story. (He said that as Herring was rather highbrow, and that as his act was going to start with jokes about farting I had better leave.) He also spoke of the time he performed on the same bill as Jim Davidson and how he managed to make him realise that "Chink" is not an acceptable noun to use.

Tiff Stevenson
Old Rope's Tiff Stevenson was up next, though most people will know her as the runner up on "Show Me The Funny" (a series that started terribly, but got better as it went on. A sort of X Factor for professional comedians that was eventually won by Pat Monahan).
However I and other Precious Little "podophiles" know her for James' mum's bucket.

She told us of the expectations other people have of her as a woman in her thirties, such as having children, and shocked the nice middle aged couple in the 2nd row with a couple of well placed "C-bombs"

Hari Kondabolu
 After the interval we had an Asian-American comedian called Hari Kondabolu who I hadn't heard of before. However he was excellent. He was just geeky enough for me. He did a joke about chess, which got a couple of sniggers, to which he respnded with "Ah. You're a draughts audience" (he had just changed the punchline from "Checkers"

The amazing Greg Davies came on to do 15 minutes of new material, though I'm sure I have seen some of it before. Poor Greg was suffering and didn't look well at all. He apologised to the audience if they came down with anything in the next few days. He was telling us of strange nicknames that people at his school had (eg "Baghdad" because he came to school with a bag bought by his dad!) and "Bad Back Brown" (who was a kid at school who hurt is back for just one day and the name stuck). He told us he had asked audiences what nicknames they had and a camp young man said he got called "Gandhi", simply because he was gay and his name was Andy. I may well adopt that.

Paul Sinha
 Paul Sinha came to close the show. Paul always starts his shows by explaining that he is Asian, gay, a former doctor and 24th best quizzer in the country. He told us of his interviews on radio with controversial figures: one time with the deputy leader of the BNP (while in his bath) which I had heard before as well as a story where he was interviewed about Islam (which is odd as he is a Hindu) alongside Anjem Choudary, as well as the time Jim Davidson came to see his show.

A double Davidson night!

After apologising to Joe for being mean, I had a chat with Paul and Nish after the show and accompanied them towards Angel station. They are two very lovely guys as well.

I'm glad I have "rediscovered" Fat Tuesday. I used to go almost every show back in 2009 but haven't been since. I'll be back more regularly in future though.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Dara O'Briain & Friends - Benefit for the Irish Cultural Centre

My friend and I had a deal. A couple of years ago I wanted to go and see The Jesus Lizard but had no one to go with. No one had heard of them. no one wanted to go. So I bought my mate a ticket on the understanding that if he wanted to go to a gig in the future but needed someone to go with then i would go to it, whatever it was.

Last week he bought 2 tickets to Dara O'Briain at The Palace Theatre, and as it had almost sold out we got our own box. This was much different to the usual spit and sawdust comedy nights I usually go to.

We got there, and ordered our incredibly expensive drinks as well as pre-ordering our interval drinks and headed to our lovely little box. The evening started off with some fiddle-dee-dee music from "Four Men And A Dog" and continued with some Riverdancing types with lights on their shoes (who I have to admit were excellent!)

Dara, our compere came on, and did a cracking set to warm up the crowd for what was to come. He spent a lot of time on a story about how he had saved 2 people's lives and asked the audience if they had done the same, which resulted in some great banter. Jason Byrne was up next. I had only seen him on TV before (in fact that goes with everyone on the bill) and hadn't paid him that much attention but he did a cracking show. We had a little more fiddle-dee-dee and then it was the interval.

Dara came on to apologise for the late start of the second half but apparently there was a "fracas" at the bar, and he sarcastically thanked the largely Irish crowd for reinforcing national stereotypes. Andrew Maxwell was up next and, again, I hadn't paid him too much attention before, but he is certainly someone I would see again. I was very excited that the "secret special guest" was Tommy Tiernan. I have seen him on TV a few times and have been wanting to see him live for ages!

He came on to the stage, punctuating his punchlines with kung fu kicks. His material addressed his own problems with his own mental illness and had a very touching story about his younger brother with cerebral palsy and his dad's reaction when discovering a possibly mentally ill baboon in a safari park. Brilliant stuff. Strangely there was a shouting man on our floor (luckily we were safe in our box). I'm not sure what he was angry about. Could he have misinterpreted Tommy's jokes and got offended? Or (more than likely) could he have been the man causing the fracas in the bar earlier? Either way Tommy cracked on, and possibly didn't even notice this commotion.

The show ended with a little more hip hop riverdancing and fiddle-dee-dee followed by a an informal chat between the 4 comedians. What surprised me more was that the very end of the show had Jason Byrne in just trousers and vest riverdancing round the stage solo and very competently too. I got my video fired up for this, but the bloomin' file got corrupted. Damn.

Dara tweeted later that had been threatened after the gig by someone who wanted to punch him. Either this was a surprisingly violent crowd who just don't like jokes, or the fracas / shouting man had struck again!

It was a nice close to my week of gigs, and I skipped all the way home.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Stewart Lee - Carpet Remnant World

I wonder if I go to Leicester Square Theatre too much. The manager today queried my choice of seat. "R14? That's not like you". R14 is the seat right at the back of the theatre which no one would generally choose, but as I just needed one ticket decided it would be fine.

Stew hovered at the top of the stairs while his intro music played and strode down the aisle once there was enough dry ice on the stage. He explained near the beginning that he had no real narrative, but he had to choose a title, and that 2 minutes from the end of the show he would mention the title while some sad music played. So it was good to know what to expect.

Stew started with a great opening line asking who remembers where they were during 9/11. You know, the bolting horse? (Spoiler / punchline not included!) He touches on travellers, and has a decent stab at a few Muslim jokes. His usual technique of gesturing at a large swathe of the audience and casting them as the new fans who only know him from his Comedy Vehicle series (who he hates) and the old fans (who again all happen to be sitting in the same general area of the theatre). He reminisces about the jungle canyon rope bridges from the 80s and the fact that they are all broken. This turns into a routine about Thatcher and Scooby Doo, after which Stew reveals that he and Richard Herring wrote a list of 10 topics they would never cover as they were too cliched: 2 of them being Thatcher and Scooby Doo.

Seat R14 was actually awful. If it wasn't the staff wandering around in front of me it was the audience getting up and down to go to the toilet. I moved to prop up the bar for the second half.

In this half he touches again on comedy and that being a dad and also constantly travelling from provincial theatre to provincial theatre means that he hasn't done anything. The modern comedians all go on adventures. Richard Herring even grew a moustache and that was funny. He calls Dave Gorman the Mr Benn of comedy (but as is often the case when talking about his contemporaries, it's just harmless ribbing! The back of the stage are various rolls of carpet remnant of various colours and lengths, which transfer into a gorgeous city skyline at the end of the show.

I quickly spoke to Stew on my way out and told him how much I enjoyed both this show and Bridget Christie's sitcom and scuttled off into the night. From his brief reply it looks like something will happen with it but I don't know whether it's destined for radio or TV. I don't know why but I feel so intimidated interacting with him. Anyway, go and see the show. He's only on here till February!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Richard Herring - What Is Love Anyway?

After sorting out racism and religion in his previous tours, this year Richard sets out to destroy love. He explains that he hopes he isn't successful, as his girlfriend may not approve. This is a much sweeter show than previous ones, and he explores love from different angles. Are children capable of love? Richard thinks not. Is is impressive when a father tells people how much he loves his kids? Again, Richard thinks not.

I got to the Soho Theatre around 945 giving me just enough time to get a beer before going upstairs to the venue. I've never been here before and it's quite a nice room. Steep seats, and it's a surprise to find that the room holds 150 people. It feels much more intimate than that. I got a second row seat and we awaited Richard's arrival. There was of course a love theme to the pre-show music, and of course Howard Jones signalled the start of the show.

A very unusual heckle came right after Richard's logically twisted routine about doubling the amount of Ferrero Rochers he has to buy his girlfriend each year, resulting in a new slave trade in order to build the eventual full size pyramid. "You should have thought about that earlier" came the shout, before Richard mentioned that that was indeed the whole point of the routine.

The end of the show was beautiful, discussing his 100 year old grandmother who has Alzheimer's disease, over a soundtrack of Debussy's Clair De Lune. This was emotional without being mawkish, and gave the show a real punch with the audience laughing one minute, then being close to tears the next and back again. Richard said on Twitter yesterday that audiences seem to like this, but the critics see it differently. Personally I think it wraps the show up gorgeously, and like most Herring shows, gives us something to think about.

I overheard someone in the loos after say to his friend that it was like a lecture with some jokes, which i thought was a little harsh, though I imagine he was hoping for a one-liner merchant like Tim Vine or Jimmy Carr. A slight annoyance for me was the man sitting directly behind me who kept muttering the punchlines, sometimes before they were even said by Richard. I don't know if he thought he was impressing his mate, but he wasn't impressing me!

I'm seeing Stewart Lee next, and to beat this show he will have to be on top form !

I haven't mentioned my favourite phrase of the whole show. In case you are wondering though, it is "Vaginal Frubes".

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Fun Haus

I had bought a ticket to this some time ago, but yesterday Sir Bob mentioned he wanted to go. I told him it was sold out but that I would look for a spare ticket on Twitter. With Martin White's help I discovered that Peter couldn't go and both myself and Andy T managed to nab his spare tickets. Andy and I texted backwards and forwards for a bit and he seemed like a nice guy, even though I hadn't met him. It took a while to work out the logistics of picking up the tickets but we worked out a plan. Peter also suggested putting the money to charity which was rather nice of him, so we decided to choose SCOPE.

I met Sir Bob at a pub in Kings Cross and we headed up the extremely long Caledonian Road. Inside the Pleasance we saw the lovely Rob Sedgebeer which is always a delight! (even though he is always mean to me!) and located Andy. Tickets were swapped and we headed upstairs. Things seemed to be running late. I thought I should nip to the loo but was told that if I did I couldn't come back till the interval as things were about to start. I decided I could wait, and soon Danielle Ward took to the stage for some "speed compering" as time was short.

Danielle explained the format of the show and about the loo situation to which Sir Bob let out an "Oh fuck..." Danielle, possibly thinking it was me, gave me special dispensation to go, so Bob and I hared down the stairs and we were back within 2 minutes after meeting Thom Tuck who seemed worried in case the second act was about to start.

The first show was a sitcom written by Bridget Christie based on The Mitford Sisters (cleverly disguised as The Flapper Sisters). What a cast. We had Margaret Cabourn Smith, Sue Perkins, Peter Serafinowitz and Colin Hoult. as well as others. This was set sometime in the past, but at a non-specific time (like Downton Abbey) so the characters were unsure if it was the 30s or the 40s. After lots of talk about tinctures, which appear to turn Unity Flapper into a fat Nazi, Bridget Christie arrived as "Coughing Mrs Broadwoodwidger" which was definitely the highlight for me.

Next up was a spy comedy written by the Penny Dreadfuls where the cast were joined by Tony Gardener (who know, that guy from Lead Balloon and Fresh Meat). This was written by The Penny Dreadfuls and contains all the little word twists you would expect of them. Colin Hoult was back, as was Sue Perkins. Colin's role as the Russian was all the better for occasionally lapsing into French.

After the interval was the musical half of the evening. Colin Hoult and Margaret Cabourn Smith sang 2 or 3 songs from Psister Psycho, a musical I have never heard yet but you can download free from iTunes. It's been sitting on my phone for some time so really must get round to it this week. The scene they played was one where the lead character (a shy virgin) discovers a boy trapped in a cupboard and of course, they fall in love. If you have only seen Gutted (also free to download on iTunes) then you'll love this too.

Tony Gardener was back next singing a new song from Ward and White. He seemed nervous, but did a great job as you would expect, one song being about being an angry bitter old man, where he pretended to be offended at being cast in this role, being only in his late 40s. Margaret came on next to do a hateful duet with Ruth Bratt , a song about 2 women in love with the same man, which was a much naughtier version of "I Know Him So Well".

Martin and Tony try to fix the accordion (photo stolen from Ruth Bratt)
The show ended with a Martin and the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra presenting a few songs from his new project "Mr Flea" about a flea circus. However ... disaster! Martin's accordion broke, and would only play one note as the button wouldn't come out! After borrowing various items from members of the audience, pens, tweezers etc, Martin retired backstage to try and fix it and Danielle took to the stage to tell us a few stories. Then, something magical happened. Danielle asked Jeremy Limb (on keyboards) if he could play "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret, which Danielle smouldered into, before being joined by Margaret, where things turned a little more raucous. Although unplanned, this may have been my highlight of the entire evening.

Martin came back, defeated, accordionless, but the show must go on, and luckily Martin found an accordion found on his keyboard. Colin Hoult, Thom Tuck were joined by Gus Brown to sings a few songs from Mr Flea. Gus played the evil flea tamer perfectly, and the show ended with The Flea National Anthem "One Nation On A Dog". I recorded a few of the Mr Flea songs at Union Chapel a few weeks ago which I will add below.

Ward & White's Fun Haus is a delight. Tickets also go fast - both nights so far have sold out - so when the date of the next one is announced, get that ticket immediately!

The Wisdom Of Animals

The Flea National Anthem

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Return to Fat Tuesday

There have been a few changes at this long running local comedy club. First of all, no Tiernan Douieb, which is obviously a shame. They have also spaced the chairs out for a bit more safety and comfort, turning a packed 70ish capacity room into a much more relaxed 40 seat place. Much more less of a fire trap.

It's been over a year since I've been here. I don't know why it's taken me so long as I've always had a good time. Up until 750, there were only 6 of us in, but between 8pm and 820 another 25 people arrived. I'm not sure why they were so late as the gig was meant to start at 8pm.

The compere was Ed Gamble who did a pretty good job getting the room on side and picking on poor Connor for his poor clapping skills. As is normal in comedy clubs he asked the front row what they did for a living and where they came from and i wasn't spared this. It's always fun yet slightly embarrassing explaining to comedians what I do (and if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you) and Ed wasn't sure if I was making it up or not.

I was chosen as the designated clapper to bring on the first act, Matthew Crosby. He's the bearded one from Pappy's, whose Flatshare Slamdown (download it from that link for free) I am a huge fan of. He was trying a lot of new material and had to refer to his notes a lot but was rather funny, teaching us about the awkwardness of introductions when you only know one person's name, his hypochondria and lying.

Daniel Simenson
Next up was Daniel Simenson, quite a cute young Norwegian guy. He spoke quite slowly, thinking about each line, leaving a lot of room for the lines to breathe. The audience left quite a few silences too, but mostly laughed. His squirrel impression was a bit too derivative of Izzard for me, but I did like the end of the gig when he went back over the ideas that didn't work, and questioned why he thought they were funny in he first place.

Chris Stokes
After the break Chris Stokes came on. He's not from London! Shocking. He's a short skinny cross between Bernard Butler and Professor Brian Cox, and mainly spoke about his geekiness (which a lot of people do in comedy these days) but the highlight (for us, not him) was telling us about getting sexually harassed by a tramp the last time he visited London.

Finally Simon Munnery arrived to do his "Hats Off To The 101ers" show. I would definitely put him down as one of the top 3 comedians working today. He has influenced my other favourites (Lee & Herring) and is absolutely mesmerising. He played a few songs ("Sainsburys", "Stop The War") and decided to rip apart the lyrics to John Lennon's "Imagine". There were a few people here tonight who clearly didn't know who he was and I could only imagine what they thought when the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall-alike took to the stage (well, floor) but everyone was won over quickly apart from the one audience member who walked out fairly sharpish.

And this is just the start of my comedy week. I still have Fun Haus, Richard Herring, Stewart Lee and Dara O'Briain to go...

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ricky Gervais: An apology?

Imagine my surprise on my way home from work, idly checking Twitter when I saw this exchange of emails between Ricky Gervais and Nicky Clark (the disability campaigner who was interviewed on this BBC show yesterday)

Nicky Clark

Ricky Gervais: A very public thank you for your kind, rational and understanding words in private.

Nicky Clark: Thank you for getting in touch. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of things? Nik
RG: Ask away
NC: I now understand that you didn't and wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone. Do you understand why people got upset by it ?
RG: I do now. Never dreamed that idiots still use that word aimed at people with Down's Syndrome. Still find it hard to believe
NC: How has the response to your use of it online and in the press made you feel ?
RG: A mixture of confusion, anger, terror and disappointment. But mostly naive. Never meant the word like that and never word.
NC: Some of your followers have attacked people like me for criticising you over this do you condone this behaviour?
RG: Definitely not - reason I contacted you to be honest. The hate mail I had was psychotic and wouldn't wish that on anyone.
RG: What do you think of how the press have portrayed me, out of interest?
NC: I think that had I not spoken to you,I would have believed that you were a bully.The tweets seemed out of step with your work.
RG: Cheers. Understandable Using that word to mean DS WOULD be bullying. I'm glad people now realise I'm an idiot instead. Ha ha
NC: many people have been confused by your tweets to anyone who has been hurt by them what would you say?
RG: Well all I can do is apologise and hope they don't confuse those people's views with mine. ( meeting now back in an hour)
NC: okey dokey.
NC: Thank you for that. It's certainly not how I expected today to turn out.
RG: This is better than Frost and Nixon by the way. Speak later

I actually felt a little tinge of emotion, a slight teariness (but I held it back) and I tweeted excited screen shots of this as well as a message of kudos to Ricky for seeing sense, however couldn't believe the self-absorption of the man as he asks what Nicky thinks about how he has been portrayed in the press!

I received a couple of messages from followers who had a mush more cynical outlook than myself, seeing it as "pathetic, now he's got the publicity for his TV programme to pretend he didn't realise for days and days." I may well be naive. And to be honest, this discussion between Gervais and Mrs Clark is all very well, but will his behaviour change. After all, actions do speak louder than words.

I was prepared to see this as a genuine apology and move on, but always keeping an eye on his next move. (I know it sounds a bit school maam-ish!)

Francesca Martinez
Francesa Martinez had a little more to say on the matter. She said to Mrs Clark "I'm so glad Ricky Gervais understood your point". I asked pointed out on Twitter that I was less gleeful and getting more cynical, but that Francesca was happy with the apology to which she replied "It's better than none!". Is that damning with faint praise? I don't know.

Robin Ince
The best response to today's kerfuffle was from Robin Ince who is a very intelligent and well-read comedian who back in the day was Ricky's proto-Karl, having supported Ricky on two tours and being the butt of many of Ricky's jokes. You can read this blog here in full (I recommend you do). Robin had not said anything about this issue up until now and had obviously thought long and hard before wading in. Even Ricky promoted this in his Twitter stream. In it, Robin explains that the more famous and rich someone gets, the less empathy they can have. Yes, Ricky has the right to say whatever he likes, but questions why he feels the need to. According to Robin, Ricky truly did not know that "mong" was still actively used against disabled people and thought he was just making a silly playground taunt. Ricky Gervais is the man that says shocking things. He was living up to his reputation.

Robin did then decide he was going to rewrite his blog as it had given some people the impression that he thought that Ricky was not aware that "mong" had been used as a Downs Syndrome slur.

After Ricky's meeting (with his publicist perhaps?) the conversation continued:

Ricky Gervais: And we're back. (Sweaty, but raring to go)
Nicky Clark: hello again.Aside from the words you were using you also posted photo's pulling faces.Was that supposed to be someone disabled
RG: No. The point is to look as hideous as possible without the use of props. Not a great art form I'll admit. Ha ha
RG: Interestingly chat shows and newspapers have shown them many times. but comedy is about timing I guess. Whoops.
NC: You have adopted a new word in place of your old one people might worry that it's similar to mongol.How do you respond?
RG: Yes it seems even a brand new made up word with no history can cause offence. I wanted to show that a word needs intent.
NC: I've seen the youtube clips of your character Derek Noakes. Is he supposed to be a man with a learning disability?
RG: Hello sorry. Long bath watching "Pointless" Can I answer this question on email then you can post it? I don't know how. Ha
RG: Can't do it in 140 characters. Writing now
NC: Thats great thank you. I'll DM my email shall I? I'll put it on my blog. Very best wishes Nik x
RG: I don't know what that means. Ha ha Useless
NC: I realised as soon as I sent that.
RG: I put my lack of social networking skills down to me being a genius. You should have my answer now by the way.
NC: I have and thank you. best Nik x

Ricky's email arrived which Nicky published on Twitter

RG I've never thought of Derek as disabled per se. Definitely nothing specific. Not Down's Syndrome, Autistic or someone with mental health problems.
He's certainly "different". But when does a bit weird become an official disability? it's ambiguous and he's certainly an outsider. He's based on some of the strange people that collect autographs or train spot (Oh dear now I'm really in trouble) but not in a sneery way. I love Derek. He's funny, happy, empowered and absolutely charming. I guess I've crossed a nerd with a child.
i think in the present climate people will assume this has to be cruel because he's not the "smartest tool in the box" but it's not at all. We could go back and question many comedy characters. What's Mr Bean for christ sake? DP Gumby? Everyone in The League of Gentleman? They're "weird" sure but "weird" people can't help who they are any more than any one with any form of learning disabilities.

I imagine it's also Ricky's lack of social networking skills that means he doesn't realise why "twong" can still be seen as offensive. Twitter has a long and silly tradition of making portmanteau words starting with the letters "tw". So "Goodnight people" and sometimes be seen as "Goodnight tweeple", and "Let's have a tweetup" etc etc.

Here is Ricky performing as Derek Noakes:

All in all I would like to remain is cynicism free as possible about this and will take it at face value for now. There were a couple of questions Ricky disappointingly didn't answer, and it would have been good if Ricky explicitly told his followers that their conduct was equally as unacceptable. (Even as I write this, looking at the @rickygervais column, it is still populated with "mong" tweets)

Richard Herring
An honourable mention should go to Richard Herring: the only "famous" comedian to make a stand about this a number of days ago. Richard has however pointed out that his SCOPE fundraising site has received many more donations. We have found out this week that language is very powerful, but this shows that the power is not always negative, and a lot of good can come of it.

Donate to Richard's SCOPE fundraising page here

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Ricky Gervais: What's the problem?

So Ricky Gervais said "mong" on Twitter and people got upset? Big deal. He told us he didn't mean Down's Syndrome. He says the modern meaning is just "dopey". Ah that's fine then.

Except it's not.

Firstly he posted these pictures (an almost obsessive amount of them - there may even be more that I've missed)

Secondly, "Mong" is still used as an insult to disabled people.

Richard Herring, a long standing supporter of disabled rights and no stranger to offensive comedy wrote a couple of blogs about this which you can read in full here and here. It was a proud couple of days to be a Richard Herring fan, as he turned out to be the only "name" comedian who publicly stood up against Gervais' rather cavalier use of language.

Herring stated " I found the anger towards me quite surprising and largely amusing, but was also getting a lot of support from people who was glad I had made a mini stand. Ricky Gervais is a powerful figure in the industry and I know it is hard for a lot of people to say anything negative about him for fear of what might happen to their own standing. Funnily enough it's because I don't care about the repercussions or publicity that I am in a position to say that I don't think it's a brilliant thing that he's done."

It was also very  interesting to compare the mainly considered tweets from Herring's fans to Gervais with the mainly abusive ones from Ricky's fans. The abuse from his fans was even directed towards the mother of a disabled daughter who was interviewed on the Jeremy Vine show on the BBC.

The "debate" seemed to take a turn and gervais fans were soon talking about offensive comedy, and why shouldn't Ricky be offensive. Some fans accused Herring of being too scared to offend anyone. Others said that the Hitler Moustache could be offensive. This was a (and yes, I'm really going to say this. Let me clear my throat...) red herring.

I kept reminding people that Gervais kept stating that "mong" doesn't mean Down's Syndrome

<-- Look back at these lovely pictures. Remember them? Someone on Twitter asked me why I thought these were mocking the disabled, as if the offense was all in my head. It stacks up. The phrases, the pictures, and of course the clip from Science where he says "Even mongs can say it (mong). That's part of the beauty of the word. They don't see it as a perk I'm sure"

(Video that was here previously removed due to me not realising it was a spoof. Because I'm a twat.)

Ex comic, Christina Martin wrote a great blog where she talks about her experiences with people's reactions to her brain damaged brother and gave us quite an insight into Gervais's character:

"So, I did some stand-up at the Bloomsbury Theatre a few Christmases ago. I was really excited about it as I was on the same bill as Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Mark Thomas, Josie Long, Chris Addison, loads of really good people. Gervais was also on the bill. 

We had a massive green room, full of food and stuff that we were autographing for auction. As it was Christmas there was a lovely festive feel and everyone was having fun backstage.

I was waiting for Gervais to turn up but he never did. After a while it was explained to us by the organiser that he refused to share a green room with anyone, in case we bothered him. Can you imagine Stewart Lee going all fan boy over Ricky Gervais? Please!

They'd had to make him up an impromptu dressing room out of one of the spare rooms backstage. Food and drink was removed from our room for him, and the stuff to be autographed was collected and taken to him when we were all done signing it.

When the show started we all stood in the wings, cheering each other on and watching each others' sets. Then the organiser informed us that Gervais didn't want anyone standing in the wings when he was on, and that we were all to go back to the basement dressing rooms before and during his performance. Twenty performers, many of them top names, being bossed about by this diva-ish man. "

Francesca Martinez (a very funny comedian with Cerebral Palsy) who has  worked with Gervais in Extras where they did some amazing satirical work on the issue of disability. This is what's disappointing me. There is no sature here at all. It's just him pulling "mong" faces and saying "mong". There doesn't seem to be any purpose other than to upset people. He denies "mong" is anything to do with disability, but... THAT IS BULLSHIT.

Talking of Francesca, she has made her feelings pretty clear on the matter.

She followed this up with:

Now, I'm a fan of Gervais's TV work and The Office and Extras were both amazing pieces of work. And yes, I'll still watch his new show with Warwick Davis; "Life's Too Short". But I don't hold him remotely as highly as I did. I feel let down.

Anyway, before I go, let me leave you with this excellent blog that you must read. Incidentally, all of the blogs I have quoted are worth reading. Every one is much more considered and articulate than this addled mess.

Wow - this blog just looks really horrible. I don't know how to change the colour of the cut n paste text. I think I know but when I actually do it it looks even worse. But hey ho. 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

It's mad right? A comedian no one has really ever heard of, booking an 850 seat room, and not allowing the audience to buy tickets at the box office, online or over the phone? Where the only way to buy tickets was to meet him personally? Which meant he had to stand for days with a ludicrously large "Comedy Sale" sign all over London flogging tickets to passers by? Where he even made home visits to delver his tickets?

Well, this is what Sanderson Jones has done. I have written about him before where I first heard of this idea. Sanderson's logic is that as he is one of the few, or possibly only, comedian to sell all his tickets to his smaller Edinburgh Fringe shows by himself, why not book one big show?

Here is Sanderson's introduction:

Sanderson also arranged a few meet ups at his local pub for the audience to get to know each other. Well after all, it's a bit unfair if he has met every single one of us, and we haven't. There will be no strangers at this gig.

Now I tend to go to smaller gigs. It's just the way I like them. Looking back over the gigs I've attended the biggest would probably be a sold out gig at The Leicester Square Theatre. This means that the gig was the biggest comedy gig I have seen since I saw Billy Connolly back in the 90s.

Sanderson sells tickets to "chuggers":

New Londoner, Sarah had come along to these meet ups. As a big comedy fan she had seen Sanderson flogging his tickets in Edinburgh but hadn't seen him. I also met a couple of fun people at the pub meets and we arranged, along with Sir Bob to meet up at the White Swan near Highbury Corner for drinks beforehand. I made the surprisingly clever decision to eat at the pub which made the rest of the night much less embarrassing.

Why is my camera showing the wrong date?
The Union Chapel is covered in scaffolding but inside is a great space. The downside being that due to it being a church they don't let you bring booze into the venue (A-boooo!)

They do sell it though which is nice. We queued up for a short time before passing Sanderson on the steps, still flogging tickets.

Am enormous screen was showing #comedysale twitter updates. I've always enjoyed live broadcast twitter feeds before and naturally writing rude words to them so mentioned casually on twitter this was happening. And bless them, they sent them in thick and fast, but unfortunately the feed had to be manually refreshed so most of them got lost which was a shame.

The show started with a slide show of all the tickets he had sold to each punter. This made us feel integral to the show if we didn't already. Sanderson came on and seemed genuinely blown away by the turn out. One man, selling 750 tickets was no mean feat!

He had done his research and the first part of the show was peppered throughout with rather embarrassing Facebook and Twitter updates from the audience. A comedy critic had not shown up, so Sanderson decided that in return he went onto Amazon there and then and left a terrible review of his last book. He reviewed the critic more than the book! I think it started with a C and ended with a T.

There was a section where Sanderson put a backdrop behind a lady in the front row and signed into Chat Roulette, finally dropping the sheet to reveal the entire cheering audience as soon as he saw an erect cock (or, as this was in a church, a man in pants - we still saw cock though!)

There was video footage of "sexy" 7 year olds dancing - (Totes Inappropes!), as well as the story of Sanderson's love lost, won, and lost again when he was in Australia. Sanderson spoke about his failures and lack of concentration, all backed up with this amazing multimedia presentation.

The show ended with fire eating, juggling, sexy
nurses (that he had chased round the room Benny Hill style earlier) and the biggest round of applause I've heard for a comedy event in a long long time. There was even an unforced standing ovation.

It's really not 2008!
What an astounding show! At the end of the show, Sanderson told us of the after show party at The Garage, so we hit the bar at The Union, then headed straight there but found it was closed till 11pm. Not to worry, we headed to The Famous Cock (no sniggering please) and went back over. For people in their 40s like me, it was great music and everyone seemed to be having a lot of drunken fun. Sanderson certainly was !

I think I may have even took my top off and may have grinded against a guys bag as he was doing the same from the other side. I think that may have caused a little bit of bafflement and confusion.

I did bump into the lovely Martin White in the Union Chapel bar who reminded me that his Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra is playing at the same venue today (ie Saturday) so think I should wrap this blog up now and get ready for MFMO !

Here's a little snippet of what you missed:

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Curse Sir Walter Raleigh

I had an awful cold and had been suffering bravely and silently. I considered staying in but decided to risk it. After all was is the last ever Curse Sir Walter Raleigh show.

Michael Legge took his first ever solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe last month and decided to finish things off by playing 3 nights in the Lounge of the Leicester Square Theatre. I have seen Michael do a few of these previews - and to Michael, they are all previews - before, and have always had a brilliant time. I actually came along on Tuesday as well, which ended up with Michael, myself and quite a number of the audience sprint-walking to The Phoenix for the Do The Right Thing podcast.

There was less of a rush this time, and after meeting up with Misha, Woolhouse, Jack, Neal, Paul, Simon, Rob and Michael at The Imperial and having a long discussion about the "Smooth Groove", we headed up to the venue where there were some lovely front row seats waiting for us, with a conspicuous 2 seat gap right in the middle.

Michael came on, and immediately noticed the gaps, telling us that they were his least favourite seats. A couple turned up really late (I mean really late, probably about 20 minutes after the start of the show) and Michael made sure they sat there and gave them a lot of attention!

Paul, Jack, Misha, Me and Simon
'Curse Sir Walter Raleigh' is a show about manners and Michael's obsession with them. You might read his blog and think he is a shouty angry man, but that is only in response to the rudeness of strangers. The show starts with a story about whn he and Colin Hoult were "rescued" by Hunter from Gladiators - "a man that doesn't even exist!"

It then moves on to Michael's obsession with Sir Walter Raleigh based upon a lie his father told him when he was 3. He loves him. He hates him. Whatever it is, Sir Walter is an important man in Michael's life. We then move on to where most of the stories from his blogs happen - the train.

taken by Claire Haigh at the Cambridge Comedy Festival
Michael usually works with other people in sketch shows, or tends to compere. I was so surprised to find out this was his first full length solo show. Hopefully there will be more to come. And hopefully there will be other chances for you to see this one.

Michael ended the show by inviting us all (yes, everyone in the theatre) to The Blue Posts in Newman Street, and, at a guess, around 15 of us took him up on the offer. The pub was being painted downstairs so we were herded into a bar upstairs. It was quite a squeeze, but our good time was continuing.

There was a long discussion with Simon and Paul, mainly about cocks and blow jobs, Paul Litchfield turned up and some how it ended up with an arm wrestling competition: Bear (Neal) vs Lion (Paul JL) vs Bird (Simon). Unsurprisingly, Bear won.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Gary Numan - Dead Son Rising

Gary Numan's career has taken an unusual path. Starting as a fully fledged number 1 single selling pop star in the late 70s, he had a string of top 10 hits for the next 3 years, before gradually losing his commercial appeal. As this happened, he lost his artistic way quite spectacularly.

It took until 1994 for him to start to crawl his way back. He ditched the session musicians, and produced and recorded the "Sacrifice" album himself. This gave Numan his voice back, and although the sound itself was a little muddy, it was a step he needed to take. 1997's "Exile" improved on this further, but it wasn't till 2000 where he discovered his true sound. Influenced by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, he released the super heavy "Pure". A few years later "Jagged" was released. Both these albums were epic heavy masterpieces with anthem piling up against anthem.

Now, in 2011 it's time for "Dead Son Rising", a collection of reworkings of songs that he had originally shelved, but after speaking with producer Ade Fenton, decided to rewrite and record these all from scratch, breathing new life into them. Numan doesn't see this as canon, and sees the forthcoming "Splinter" album as the natural follow up to Jagged, however it fills the role extremely well.

The album starts with 'Resurrection'. Within the first few seconds you know you're listening to a Numan album. The atmosphere builds; strange noises make you uneasy, before the first huge booming synth chords hit. Numan wears his influences on his sleeve, and this has a real Nine Inch Nails feel to it, reminiscent of 'Hyperpower' from the Year Zero album. It takes an interesting twist, with sampled vocals giving it an exotic edge. The track builds and we're getting ready for the first song proper.

"Resurrection" (and Down In The Park)

'Big Noise Transmission' (it's title having being changed form the original Captured Underground Noise Transmission, possibly to avoid an unfortunate acronym - I think that's a shame...) is up next, with a sample that is reminiscent of 'Crazier'. This song sounds like it's borrowed a lot from Numan's own 'Dead Heaven' in the verse, but has huge crashing guitars before hitting the chorus which banishes the previous association from your mind. I've seen this song live and it's a big one.

"Big Noise Transmission"

The (almost) title track 'Dead Sun Rising' is a melancholic, hypnotic minimalist anthem. It has a singalong quality to it. It drifts through your mind: "I've watched gods bleeding. I've watched worlds burn. I've watched stars falling and I've watched a dead sun rising". It's one that will float inside your head for quite some time.

"Dead Sun Rising"

'When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come" starts with a mournful worried vocal line over a bed of experimental sounds before moving into a Jagged like rock out chorus which is surprisingly catchy. This is another track that mentions "the sky bleeding" and "oceans burning" and could well be a natural follow up from the last song.

"When The Sky Bleeds He Will Come"

'For The Rest Of My Life' is a mid-tempo track that sits nicely at this point in the album. It's a bass guitar and synth fuelled beautiful, melodic love song.  This is probably the nearest Gary comes to pop in this album.

"For The Rest Of My Life"


The album moves down another gear with 'Not The Love We Dream Of'. Starting with Numan accompanied by a solo piano, this track is the vulnerable Gary, stripped down to the basics; this nicely sets up the killer track on the album which comes next.

'The Fall' has been one of Gary's live standards for a couple of years now and it's great to hear the final version. It's another anthemic monster, again with NIN style breakdowns. If there is one thing Gary knows how to write, it's a massive anthem!

"The Fall"

Massive drums along with a sharp saw-like synth line introduce the startling 'We Are The Lost'. Numan's drum sounds can sometimes be seen as a little predictable, but this takes us by surprise. An unusual vocal line comes in, leaving us unsure where this is going to go. Unfortunately the vocal melody gets lost a little along the way. The drums keep pounding, leaving us hypnotised again, and it ends with a nice saxophone solo (maybe it's a synth, I don't know) that wouldn't be out of place on Dance. I like to think of it as a subtle tribute to Mick Karn.

"We Are The Lost"

'For The Rest Of My Life' is then reprised, with the synth and bass stripped away, leaving us with piano and acousitc guitar. This is a mainly instrumental track with Gary singing the chorus towards the end and would have been a perfect way to end this album.

"For The Rest Of My Life"

The album does end, for me, with two rather disappointing fillers. All in all however, a really great album that starts Numan's second decade of top form. The album itself is on a par with as Pure or Jagged, but some of the individual songs outperform any songs from those two albums, especially 'The Fall' and 'Big Noise Transmission', but with the album as a whole let down by the two closing tracks.

Now the next thing Gary has to work on is his productivity. Hopefully we will get more than two albums this decade. Remember, you're not Kate Bush.

To finish, although it is nothing to do with this album, here's a great video of 'My Machines' by Battles, with Numan

'My Machines'- Battles

'Cars' - Bill Bailey

Friday, 9 September 2011

Do The Right Thing

It was so good to be back at The Phoenix after the traditional August drought. I met up with Sarah, Jack, Neal, and Simon beforehand and we waited patiently for the doors to open. Simon is moving to Birmingham on Saturday, so it was nice to see him before he abandons us.

I went to the first Do The Right Thing back in April which was a blast. DTRT! {dtrt} (that will never catch on) is a podcasted panel show with team captains Michael Legge and Margaret Cabourn-Smith and hosted by Danielle Ward. Each team has a guest, and in the first recording we had TV's Emma Kennedy and Rich Fulcher.

Michael Legge & Rich Fulcher
I've always been a fan of Emma. She has done some great work with Richard Herring in the past and I am currently reading her book "The Tent, The Bucket & Me" which is a very funny read. I've only recently discovered Rich Fulcher, and speaking as a non-Mighty Boosh fan, wasn't expecting much when I first saw him, but he is truly hilarious and his "Tiny Acts Of Rebellion" show was one of my favourites this year.

The point of the show is to give the panel some situations and have them tell us what the right thing to do is. Emma remained unconvinced that sex with animals was actually illegal and pulled out some lovely gruesome stories, leaving the panel wondering if this was a comedy panel show or a horror panel show.

We had an interval where I bid Emma farewell and she and Rich were replaced by Thom Tuck (introduced as Fosters Comedy Award Loser) and Danielle's fellow Dave Gorman sidekick and co-writer of "Gutted", Martin White.

Michael, Thom, Danielle & Margaret
In this show, we mainly learned that Martin is not gay, even though I did clearly hear him use the phrase "Your arse - my head". Anyway, moving on, this is a great little podcast, and if you enjoy a non-topical panel show such as "Would I Lie To You?" you should get downloading these as soon as they are released which will be sometime this Autumn. There is another recording on the 27th, so why not come along?

You can listen to the pilot episode here or get it on iTunes.

Margaret Cabourn-Smith & Martin White
Talking of the 27th, Michael Legge starts 3 nights at The Leicester Square Theatre. It may be the last chance you'll get to see the extremely funny "Curse Sir Walter Raleigh", unless of course, he decides to do some more. I have tickets to the 29th but may well go on the 27th as well before haring it to Oxford Circus in time for Do The Right Thing. See you there!