December 19, 2013
I’m reviewing the Top Ten Comedy DVD’s (taken from a search on Amazon), but with a trick. I’m not watching them. I’m not even reading about them. I merely looking at the covers (pictures of the covers) and coming to undoubtedly unfair conclusions. It’s a service I’m offering to help you with those last minute Christmas presents.
Yesterday I looked at numbers 3 and 4. In fourth place was grumpy Jack Dee. In third place was becalmed Bill Bailey.
Who’ll be in second place? And will they be a smiler or a scowler? Here goes…
It’s Greg Davies! And he’s… scowling? Or squinting? Possibly pondering.
As far as covers go this one is a winner, only bettered so far by Bill Bailey’s barmy army cover. It looks good, there’s outsider art involved, and it presents us with a mystery: why has Greg decided to turn his back on the view? Is he doing it to spite his Mum? And what is he looking at with his one eye? And why’s he called it The back of my Mum’s head? And is that his Mum? And if it is his Mum, is it his real Mum or a ‘stage Mum’? And why is he wearing a huge blue badge telling us he is “one of this country’s best comedians?”
That’s the one part of the cover I hate. I can’t tell for sure but it looks printed on rather than being a sticker you can peel off, and that makes it just a little bit worse. Someone (maybe Greg, maybe not) designed this cover and made it as good as they could and then someone else (a marketing idiot) came along and said:
(The kind of person who says ‘guys’ to everyone regardless of gender)
“Hey guys, I’m not really sure this cover sells Greg as well as it could. After all, he is one of this country’s best comedians, can’t we find a quote from somewhere that helps get that point across?”
The quote is found and the marketing idiot tells someone else to make it look like a big sticker stuck on the front of the DVD. And this someone else, who has no power, tries to suggest it will look shit and it will ruin the cover. And the marketing idiot, thinking they are being creative, adopts a pose not unlike Greg’s, pretends to think, and then declares “make it blue, so it matches the blue of the sky!” And the marketing idiot barks a laugh and shouts out “”That’s blue sky thinking for you” and everyone pretends to laugh and a cover is destroyed.
Two 15 certificates. Suitable for 30 year olds.
Tomorrow, number 1.
December 18, 2013
Ok, so I didn’t get a chance to do number 4 yesterday. Sorry! But it’s nearly Christmas and there is drinking to be done.
And so, rather than be a day behind, I am going to rattle through numbers 4 and 3 today. Here’s my thinking, this is the plan; if I get to Number 1 by Friday then you are all sorted for your Christmas shopping. You’ve got the weekend to buy the whole Top Ten. If that’s your thing.
The downside is that I can’t tell you anything about the content of these DVD’s. It’s not like I’m watching them! I haven’t got the time! Or the money! …No, hang on… I haven’t got the money! I knew it was one out of the two.
Having seen none of them I am solely judging a DVD by its cover. Which is fine by me. These comedians surely approved their covers; even, bizarrely, Jimmy Carr!
Before we start the Top Three countdown let’s get Number Four done. And it is…
It’s the original Grinch! It’s the grumpiest comedian ever! It’s Jack Dee!
Here’s Jack! Looking more hapless than grumpy. He’s pulling the kind of face you imagine he might have pulled when he heard Martin Freeman had stolen the part of the Hobbit from him.
Ooh, as a little diversion, here’s some stuff I have watched. Let’s laugh along as Vic and Bob try to cheer Grumpy Jack up. And look carefully… at one point Jack is sitting next to The Hobbit himself, smiling away, not grumpy at all.
Now, back to the serious cover analysis.
I’m getting a little fed up of the double 15 certificate thing. It’s on all of these bloody videos. But, for those new to this blue and red stickeration the double 15 means this DVD is suitable for thirty year olds.
Jack’s gone for an old variety poster style for his cover. It’s a cross between the Good Old Days and a boxing flyer. As such, it’s covered in stars. The Telegraph gives the show Five Stars, but if you count them all up this is in fact a 47 Star show. That’s a hell of a show. So What? So 47 Stars What, that’s What!
Jeremy Hardy calls the show/Jack a “little ray of sleet”. It’s not quite up there with Lee Mack’s critique of Stewart Lee…
… but it’s still a fun quote.
And so on to the Top Three.
(Incidentally, the Top Ten order has not been decided by me. I am going off the first ten comedy DVD’s that came up when I searched Amazon’s Stand-up comedy section way back on December 11th).
And, at Number Three…
It’s Bill Bailey! And what a cover! Truly astonishing! A 12 certificate! A first for the Top Ten! Here is a DVD for (almost) all the family.
It’s also the first DVD in the Top Ten to entertain me through title alone. If only all warmongers became qualmpeddlers the world would be a much better place.
As far as most comedy DVD covers go (grins, teeth, quiffs, scowls) this one is a work of art. A spoof art work too, mocking and mimicking the militaristic murals of Mao.
Bill Bailey may be only Number Three, but it’s likely, when the votes are in (the poll will open on Saturday) that this cover will be Number One!
Tomorrow, Number 2.
December 16, 2013
Following on from yesterday’s no. 6, Eddie Izzard, we move straight on to no.5. And, to quote Winston The Wolf from Pulp Fiction, “If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor”.
See, the thing is, I’ve been out all day and now I have to eat and then get to my choir’s social, where karaoke is king, and that starts at eight.
So… Number 5.
It’s Sean Lock! We hope. The tricky thing is to try and figure out what letter his head is. But since his name is actually Sean Lock I’m going to plump for an ‘O’. His head is a big ‘O’. He’s the Roy Orbison of comedy.
He’s a two 15 certificate comedian man, making him ideal for any thirty year olds.
He may have his hands down his pants.
Talking of pants, his cover with its swirly fonts makes me think a little of this:
Despite his down-turned mouth and the description of him as “punchy”, I doubt he is a violent man. Unlike Eddie Izzard’s DVD, he is not selling an Ultraviolent version of his act.
He is also “inventive, superb… undeniably brilliant.”
Well… do you dare deny it? I thought not. You can’t. It’s undeniable.
If you’re wondering what Sean’s Purple Van looks like, here’s a pic:
I am off to do my yearly sing of First Of The Gang To Die and Manchester. Bye.
Tomorrow, number 4.
Oh, and if you’ve never seen this video, give it a watch. It’s “punchy, inventive, superb… and undeniably brilliant.”
December 15, 2013
The countdown continues as we reach the halfway point. Have you found your ideal Christmas present yet? So far we have had the Channel 4 Comedy Gala, then Peter Kay, then Kevin Bridges, and yesterday, Jimmy Carr. Today it is the turn of the future Mayor of London.
Number 6 is…
Wow! Now, for those new to my style of reviewing, I’m simply going to review the cover, not the contents. And this cover’s a stunner. It makes me think of this:
It’s Eddie Izzard. And his show is called Force Majeure Live.
That’s a two thirds French title, but don’t worry, the DVD isn’t in French. Or, if you are French, do worry. Or not. You choose.
But what does it mean? Heck knows. Here’s a hastily researched online definition:
This is an ultraviolent copy. And, as a result of it being ultraviolent you can watch it anytime, anywhere. A bit like The Goodies.
It’s another 15 certificate twice, making it suitable for 30 year olds.
He also (and I admit I didn’t get this info from the cover, but rather from the guardian yesterday) plans to consider entering into politics as either Mayor of London, or just parliament in general, around about May 2019. the 17th.
That’s 6 years away! 6 YEARS AWAY!
A priest once said to me “never trust a comedian who wants power over us. In the future. Around about May”.
Eddie Izzard is “a genius”.
Tomorrow, number 5.
December 14, 2013
I’m judging all the Top Ten DVD’s by their covers by the way, not the content. And here’s what I know:
Jimmy Carr’s DVD is called Laughing and Joking. It has an 18 certificate. It’s (like the Liberace DVD) purpley. Oh, and Jimmy couldn’t find time, or wasn’t bothered enough, to pose for a cover photo. Instead, he sent along a hideous animatronic doppelganger made out of BHS clothes, Action Man Eagle Eyes, Action Man Hair (pre-realistic style), earwax, and The White Cliffs of Dover.
Truly the most astonishing DVD cover I have ever seen.
Tomorrow, number 6.
December 13, 2013
It’s Kevin Bridges: The Full Story Boxset!
Now! A quick reminder of the ‘rules’. I haven’t seen any of these DVD’s. In many cases I haven’t seen the comedians. Even on the Apollo show. I am simply reviewing them by their covers alone. Here goes.
I don’t know Kevin Bridges story. But it goes something like this: Kevin Bridges talks about what it’s like being the unsung son of Hollywood actor Jeff Bridges. There’s some amusing anecdotes about boyhood fishing trips with Uncle Beau and an alarming tale of an onset visit to see Grandpa Lloyd when he starred in the comedy Jane Austen’s Mafia!
Maybe he’s not related. Maybe he is! You decide.
The Full Story Boxset is possibly a little misleading. How many DVD’s make a Boxset? How many stories make a Full Story? Well, in this case, two. Two DVD’s. Two stories.
The stories so far are, ahem, The Story So Far and The Story Continues. Perhaps, next Christmas, the Full Boxset will become a Triple Boxset and, in typical three act story style, the story will end with the third DVD, The Story Ends.
Comedians come in two forms; the grumpy comedian and the smiley comedian. In first place, at the moment, are Jack Dee and Michael McIntyre. (I was going to say respectively, but I’ll leave it for you to figure out- you can always click on the names above to see photographic evidence). Kevin, as his legs suggest, is straddling the two styles; it’s not a smile, it’s not a grimace. I cannot tell what it is. He is a third kind; the enigmatic comedian.
He possibly has no arms.
He’s looking up. The camera is either very high or Kevin is very short.
This is “unmissable stuff” and, with two 15 certificate symbols, it is suitable for thirty year olds.
There is a lot of yellow.
Tomorrow, number 7.
December 12, 2013
it’s the countdown of the Top Ten comedy DVD’s! It started yesterday! It’s fun! And it overuses exclamation marks!
Yesterday we kicked of with number 10- Channel 4’s Comedy Gala 2013!
The rules are simple. I’ve picked the Top Ten from Amazon. I don’t watch them. I simply judge the DVD’s by their cover. This may, or may not, help you sort out your Christmas pressies.
So… here we go with number 9. And it is…
This is a fascinating cover. Without having a copy of it in my hands I’m going to hazard a guess that the outer box is made of leather with embossed gold leaf lettering. Inserted into this almost Biblical presentation are two smaller DVD covers showing Peter Kay at his chirpiest best (the comedians fall into two categories- grumpy or smiley- and Peter Kay is one of the smiliest, currently rating 4th Smiliest Comedian in the Land).
(I cannot help but think of a high court judge seemingly reading The Times during his lunch break only for his cover to slip and reveal he is actually smiling at a topless beauty in The Sun. Or perhaps something even cheekier; a copy of Knave found under a bush in the park as he cycled into work, or a Donald McGill postcard of someone holding a garlic baguette in silhouette and a passing mother superior mistaking it for a cock.)
This is a Double Bumper Comedy Compilation including a previously unreleased documentary entitled Stand and Deliver. I have no details on the documentary, but, going off the title alone, it’s likely to be a documentary about Stuart Leslie Goddard.
As for the two DVD’s that make up this double bumper comedy compilation, the first is called Stand-Up UKay. Now, the title alone requires some in-depth investigation:
Firstly, Peter Kay is a stand-up comedian. That’s the ‘stand-up’ part dealt with. That’s the easy bit. Understanding ‘UKay’ is a little more complex: The ‘Kay’ part of ‘UKay’ refers to the comedian’s last name, Kay. But before that is a ‘U’. This can only be in reference to Edgar Rice Burrough’s fictional creation, Tarzan The Apeman, who was known for his primitive speech patterns, his most famous being “Me Tarzan, You Jane”. But why then hasn’t the comedian referred to himself, and thus the DVD, as “Stand-Up MEKay”? It’s a puzzle. The only clear conclusion we can reach is that Peter Kay was raised as a feral child by The Mangani.
So to the second DVD, Special Kay. Here we are promised ‘Golden bite-sized chunks of comedy’. And the photo shows Peter Kay eating these bite-sized chunks of comedy. This is unusual.
Having said that, just look at the size of him on Stand-Up UKay! He’s got one foot in the North West and another foot in Dorset! He needs to stop eating TV’s!
A few weeks back my mum went to hospital for one of her regular check-ups. While she was in the waiting room Peter Kay walked in. My mum couldn’t help but smile at him, and he smiled back. And then he went off for his appointment. My mum phoned me as soon as she could. She was excited. She wanted to tell me who she had seen and who had smiled at her. At the end of the call she said,“he was dressed just ordinary, like any man, nothing fancy, just in a shirt. Like a shirt from Primark.”
I should stress that what my mum was saying was a good thing. She was letting me know that, despite him eating miniature TV’s of his own shows for breakfast, here was a man that was not highfalutin or full of airs and graces.
The one thing that she didn’t say was that he was fifty miles high!
And I do wish she’d said to him, “You Kay, Me Pat.”
Oh! I’ve somehow drifted away from a DVD review. So… a 15 certificate on the left and a 15 certificate on the right. Suitable for 30 year olds.
And you can get it at Amazon for just £7.50. A Christmas present bargain.
Tomorrow, number 8.
December 11, 2013
It’s that time of year again, when all the comedians bring out their comedy DVD’s and everyone gets a funny present for Christmas. For the past few years each Christmas I’ve taken a look at the DVD’s on offer and judged them not by their content, or by the comedian, but solely on the DVD’s cover. Yes, I am judging a DVD by its cover. And (crucial to my process) I refuse to do any other research other than what I already know and what is there before me, right in front of my eyes.
And how to choose the Top Ten? Well, I went over to Amazon, looked up stand up comedy DVD’s, and picked the first ten that popped up (as of 12.44 pm today). Amazon’s list might change over the coming days, but I’m sticking with the 12.44 list.
And first up, in at number 10, is…
Wow! A hell of an event. Just read this: This Comedy Spectacle of 2013 includes 22 of the biggest names in TV and Comedy along with an alternative dance performance from the amazing Diversity and their new recruits, all guaranteeing your biggest laughs of the year.
Now let’s look at the cover:
All of the acts have provided a photo booth pic. Most of them are smiling, but some of them look a little grumpy. And, just so the girls don’t feel neglected, three of the 22 acts are female. There’s truly something for everyone here; with a teeny bias towards happy and sad white males.
The title of the show is on a spring, popping out of a dark hole. I don’t know what this means.
In the bottom right hand corner there is a doodle of a child smiling and crying.
In the bottom left hand corner there’s the two 15 certificate symbols, making this DVD perfect for any thirty year olds.
It’s “the funniest event of 2013”. Well now, most events this year haven’t been funny at all. We’ve seen natural disasters, terrorist attacks, attacks on our liberty, and the death of Nelson Mandela. The only other event of 2013 that comes close to being as funny is the scientists in America who grew a living ear using a 3D printer. And that’s a wry smile, rather than a belly laugh, event.
Oh… the comedian above the 4 of “channel 4” is holding a skull. This is either a reference to death, and possibly Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or he is in a double act.
The woman to the right of him is also in a double act, possibly with Len Goodman from The Dancing Show.
The live show was in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital and this DVD is also sold in aid of the charity. So please do buy it as Christmas gift. I am sure, out of the 22 acts available, some of them, if not all, will make you laugh (or cry). Like the child.
Tomorrow, I will take a look at number 9.
Oh, and after ten days time I will set up a poll where we can all vote on the best and the worst cover. Maybe.
I can’t believe I’m starting with a diversion, but writing that title has just reminded me of one of my favourite Trev and Simon jokes. It comes from a never-screened pilot we made. Me and Trev are at home (Morecambe and Wise style) when the post arrives. Trev has received a Readers Digest type winning envelope (remember, this was last century). He is overjoyed, ecstatic. The letter tells him; “Congratulations! You have won a car”. Trev celebrates, unfolds the letter, and reads the remaining print; “digan”.
Well, I like it!
But to the point. It’s not often (at my time of life) that something can come along and knock you off your feet, but last night, on Twitter, Clayton Hickman (@claytonhickman) sent me a tweet that took my breath away. (Yes! I know! Knocked off my feet! Breathless! It’s a heady combo!) Clayton had stumbled across something so mind-blowing it might, possibly, just have ripped a hole wide open in my Atkinson-Shiffrin Memory Model (don’t worry- I don’t know what I’m on about either. it’s just a bit of fun. Try and keep up, it’s early days yet).
This is the story of a cardigan. We can trace the cardigan back as far as The Crimean War if we want to, but let’s not. For this story we need only trace the history of a singular and particular cardigan. A cardigan that goes back to the 80’s.
This cardigan, to the best of our knowledge, was first worn by Joseph Marcell in the serial Remembrance of the Daleks (the first serial of the 25th season of Dr Who) in 1988.
In time this cardigan would come into my hands. In the meantime Joseph Marcell would go on to become Geoffrey the butler in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Back to the cardigan. What happened to it? In the late 80’s, going into the 90’s, I worked on two Saturday morning live TV shows, Going Live! and Live and Kicking along with Trev Neal. We did comedy sketches and such, and we were also responsible for finding other comedy acts willing to appear on the show. One act we discovered wasn’t a comedy act but a musical act. We, perhaps foolishly, thought they might appeal to the Saturday morning audience.
The act was called The Singing Corner. We first saw them perform at The Velvet Percush’n in Amsterdam’s Kliegersstaffhen District. We assumed they were a spoof act, there was something so quaint and naive about them; but after talking to the club’s owner, Hansstraff Munck, it became clear they were for real, and so we asked for an introduction.
We met Don and Bob in the dressing room of The Velvet Percush’n. The two of them, in their psychedelic threads, blended neatly into the narcolepsy-inducing grasswhort curtains and hanging fabrics of the Percush’n’s inner sanctum and, what with the floating fog of jazz mist swirling around our curlicues, the two of us spent the first two hours of our meeting smiling not talking.
Eventually one of us spoke. Don was the first. All he said was ‘Hello’, and yet it took him seven minutes to say it.
11 minutes later and you couldn’t get any of us to shut up.
We assumed they were called The Singing Corner because each night they would sing in a different corner of The Velvet Percush’n’s 28 corners (the club was as famous for its many corners as it was for the calibre of musical acts that performed there; 28 acts every night, a different act in every corner). But no! It was a coincidence. They were called The Singing Corner after their names; Don Singing and Bob Corner.
(A little diversion: on Saturday 17th April 1965, the opening night of The Velvet Percush’n, the line up of acts was truly amazing. Take a deep breath: Bob Coats Trio, Melaniecholy, Dave Suave and his flute, Pancho, Bob Dillon, The Troublers, Sweet Toast, Brother and his Sisters, Carparque, Leslie Cousins, Donna Van Dyke, Long Jack Hankie, Melting Pot, Dizzy Dennis Dickens, EarthenWhere?, KFJ, Leo Sayer, Mustang Alley, David Singing (Don’s father), The Clark Fife Four, The Burds, The Beatles, Turtleneck Beach, Feather Conspiracy, The Simon Sisters, Waferbaby, Mardy Wah!, Big Clint McFlintlock, and (headlining) Art Garfunkel.
What a night that must have been. And, for the eagle-eyed, amongst you, I know that’s 29 acts! Don told me that his father wasn’t supposed to sing. He was there, ostensibly, as Long John Hankie’s whisperer (Long John Hankie could never remember the words to any of his songs ever since being diagnosed as forgetful by a recently qualified doctor and so always had a whisperer on stage to help out). Unfortunately LJH was also partially deaf and so David had to whisper louder and louder until, in effect, he was singing. The story goes his voice was sweet enough to make statues weep.)
So… back to wherever we were. Ah yes! Don and Bob and me and Trev in the dressing room of The Velvet Percush’n. A friendship started that night; a friendship that would last until it finished.
We persuaded Don and Bob to come along and perform on Going Live! They were keen from the start and (once we’d found our way out of The Velvet Percush’n’s dressing room) nothing was going to stop us from introducing The Singing Corner to the UK. (The 28 corners meant that the dressing room was a very unusual shape, and it was not uncommon for it to take an hour or two to find the door: rumour has it that Sixto Rodriquez spent 17 years in there.)
However, once Don and Bob landed in the UK, they started to get edgy. It didn’t help that the first thing they saw upon entering the country was Big Fun with their Handful Of Promises.
It knocked their confidence for six. And what could we say? The competition was tough in those times and we fully understood Don and Bob’s reticence.
Annoyingly, we had already told our boss, Chris Bellinger, that we had a great new act lined up. The kind of act that would make Big Fun look like medium fun. What could we do? How could we persuade the boys to give it a go?
Chris suggested we tried snazzying their image up a little, take them down the Kings Road, do a bit of shopping. He even gave us an envelope stuffed with cash to make sure we got top notch clobber. “Maybe something with hoods”, he said.
Now! This next part! It wasn’t my idea ok? All of the following was Trev Neal’s work.
Trev said (and this is verbatim. I was there), Trev said; “ere, Simon. There’s a pretty penny or two in this John Paul*. What say you we take these two geezers down the old BBC costume store and deck ’em out in some cheap duds? They don’t know the Kings Road from The King’s knackers. We get ’em kitted out and, in the process, we make a Salamander each!”
I wasn’t in favour. I mean a Salamander (slang for £78.90) wasn’t to be sniffed at in those days. But even so, it felt low.
Hey, it’s in the past now, and I may well be testing your patience with this post. The be all and end all is that I took part in the fraud, Don and Bob were taken by us to the BBC’s wardrobe department out in Acton, and Bob, thinking the Kings Road was inside a concrete tower block, picked a certain cardigan to wear.
The BBC costume collection no longer exists. Nor does its wig collection (not that Don or Bob ever needed wigs). In 2008 “the BBC management team concluded that the best option was to close the department and dispose of the stock”. Idiots.
Huge thanks to Clayton for making me aware of the cardigan connection.
* Trev used to call envelopes ‘John Pauls’ after the current Pope. it was a short lived Cockney style he experimented with between March and April 1990.
October 7, 2013
Day Seven! That’s nearly a week! That’s almost a quarter! 25% there; ‘there’ being staying sober, throughout October, for Macmillan Cancer Support. And so far me and my wife, as Team Mr and Mrs Hickson, have raised £196 for the charity. Thank you to everyone who has donated.
It’s been a difficult weekend too. My mum visited from Manchester for her birthday. We visited Trev and his family. There was food, birthday cake, Prosecco! But we managed it. We had champagne glasses filled with fizzy water!
It was also Broadstairs Food Festival this weekend. We strolled around the stalls, with their home-brewed ales, foot-pressed ciders, and wind-dried wines. There was even a owl display. look!
But, the best discovery by far was a drink that we can drink during Go Sober that, just about, at a pinch, if we seriously try and delude ourselves, can fool us into thinking that we are still drinking alcohol.
That drink is: Rochester ‘Dickensian recipe’ Non Alcoholic Ginger Wine. A drink with “the kick of two very angry mules!”
It’s good! It even looks the part (ignore the whisky hiding at the back).
Now isn’t the time to wonder what a “Dickensian Recipe” is. In fact, that time is never. Just try the drink. As far as non-alcoholic ginger drinks go it’s the best. I’ve never been kicked by a mule, or two, angry, or not: but this drink has that kick! My worry is, having bought one bottle, it will be gone by dawn. I’m also worrying about overdosing on ginger; tea, wine (fake), biscuits. but that’s the price we are paying.
Please help us. We have set ourselves an unreachable target of £1664. It’s early days though. If you can sponsor us one bottle of Rochester’s (£4), I am sure we will do it. You can sponsor me, or my wife, or both of us here, here, or here. Thank you for helping. Here’s a owl for you.