March 7, 2015
It’s almost time for Red Nose Day 2015, the biennial Comic Relief festival aimed at raising cash and changing lives for the better for people both here in the UK and across Africa. I always try and do my bit. Bit being the operative word here; I’m no mountain climber or road runner or ocean swimmer or dancer or baker. I’m more of a… well, I don’t know… last time round you lot donated over £2000 just to support me as I wrote about Everything But The Girl songs! What was all that about?
So this time around I’ve decided to do nothing. But I would like to tell you about two people who are going to try and do something. It was my wife Zoe’s idea. Last year she packed in her job working for Cadbury’s (Kraft, Mondelēz International, blah blah… I guess things had moved away from the innocence of selling Quaker inspired chocolate) and fulfilled her dream of opening and running her own cafe, The Archie Parker (named after our dog!)
And then she goes and says; “Why don’t The Singing Corner get together for Comic Relief and come and work in the cafe for a few hours?”
Yeah. Great idea.
Why don’t two fictional characters who I haven’t seen in yonks, reunite and come and make coffees for an hour or two? Assuming they can even operate a Fracino whatever it’s called coffee maker. Assuming they know their portafilters from their tampers. Assuming they exist still!
But I say I’ll give it a go.
First up I give Trev a ring. He used to be close to Don Singing (the Singing half of the Singing Corner). Trev follows him on Twitter (@DonSinging) and it turns out he lives in Angoria. This is a place that DOES NOT exist! We are off to a flying start.
I try and track down Bob Corner (the Corner half of The Singing Corner). He’s on Twitter too (@bobcorner) and it turns out he’s moved to Skandeborg. On the plus side, Skandeborg does exist. He runs the Marigold Ged Gard and is also regularly involved with Smukfest.
To cut a long story short, both have said they are willing to come along to The Archie Parker next Friday to do their bit for Comic Relief. Indeed Bob Corner tweeted last night that he is already flying over from Denmark, having booked a flight with cut-price Ildelugtende Ged Airlines.
So, they are going to be in The Archie Parker on Friday 13th. Me and Trev will be there too. We’ll be there most of the afternoon but I think Don and Bob will turn up at about 4pm. The cafe normally closes at 4, but for Comic Relief it will be staying open until 6pm, giving people a chance to nip in on their way home from work.
And Don and Bob will serve folk, clean tables, make coffee and sandwiches, and maybe sing a song or two.
All I ask of you is that you sponsor my wife Zoe, and her cafe, in their attempt to raise money for Comic Relief by bringing about the resurrection of The Singing Corner.
If you come to the cafe you can make a donation there and then, and (if it’s your thing) get a pic with The Singing Corner. A ‘selfie’, if we must.
If you can’t make it perhaps you’d like to make a donation anyway through Zoe’s Red Nose Day Giving page. She has set herself a £150 target (almost reached!), but the more money we get, the more The Singing Corner will do at the cafe. And I’ll do my best to get someone to film bits of it so we can shove it all on YouTube.
And I promise, on Don and Bob’s behalf, if Zoe can double her target to £300 they will sing their hit version of Jessie J’s Pants Tag. And they’ll do their best to learn it too.
June 10, 2014
In the early 80’s me and Trev met at Manchester University. We were doing degrees in Drama (one each). I can’t speak for Trev, but I was hardly the most academic of students. Nor was Trev. As our friendship developed, so did our interest in comedy, more commonly known then as mucking around a bit and getting up late.
We were blessed with having tutors who not only indulged our experiments in comedy but also actively encouraged it. (Every Monday night students would perform their latest experimental pieces at the department’s Stephen Joseph Studio, a converted church where we once tried an ‘alternative comedy’ take on Chekhov).
One of our tutors was Dr David Mayer (later to become Professor David Mayer). David’s daughter, Lise, was the girlfriend of a former student, Rik Mayall. The two of them, along with another former Manchester student, Ben Elton, had just written a new sitcom for the BBC called The Young Ones.
We had no TV. We were students; we had no money. Any money we did have had to be spent on beer. And tins of Goblin Dumplings (50p at Oobidoo. Everything at Oobidoo was 50p. That’s why their slogan was –Don’t ask the price. We always did.)
The Drama Department had a TV. And a video player! Every week David Mayer would video The Young Ones for us. And I do mean us, the two of us. Others may have come along too, but David, gently pushing us in all the right directions, knew it was important for us to see this show.
There’d been nothing like it. And it was made by students from Manchester! Not Oxford, not Cambridge. Manchester! It was the most ground-breaking Mancunion contribution to comedy since Frank Randle (and, if you have four minutes to spare to watch this clip from Somewhere On Leave, 1943, you’ll see that Frank would have fitted very nicely into the world of The Young Ones).
Sometime shortly after this, in 1983, David said; “Lise, Rik, and Ben are going to be at my house over the weekend. Would you like to come and meet them on Saturday night.”
Ok… stop. Take a big long break in reading. I’d like to leave a big long gap on the page but that’d be daft. Just imagine the time it’s taking me, even now, for this to sink in. Would we, two stupid students, barely out of our teens, like to meet the creators of The Young Ones? At our tutor’s house?
Let’s deal with David Mayer’s house first.
It was a Mansion of Myths. We’d never been there, but we’d heard the rumours. Apparently he had a shower with three heads! And a Picasso! And we were being invited there! To meet The Young Ones! (I know exclamation marks should be used sparingly, but… come on!!!)
Now, the meeting. Of course we went. We even prepared: We spent Saturday afternoon scooting around Oobidoo, looking for fun items and generally asking the price. We settled on a wind-up spider. 50p.
And so we headed off on Saturday night to our tutor’s home in the posh part of Manchester armed only with a wind-up spider. (I don’t know at what age we learn to take wine, but whatever age, we hadn’t reached it yet).
We arrived at the house. And whatever you read from this point onwards, I assure you, did happen. David greeted us and showed us into a huge half kitchen, half dining room, with a small dividing wall about three feet high in the middle. In the dining room half there was a circular table. And there was Rik, Lise, Ben… and possibly someone else (sorry someone else). David didn’t introduce us… oh, he may have said something like “this is Trev and Simon”… but he didn’t explain who we were or why we were there. The one other thing he did do was to ask us to keep an eye on some steaks he was grilling in the far half of the kitchen.
This of two idiots whose diet consisted of tinned Goblin products.
And David disappeared! Where did he go? To this day no one can answer that. But the best bets are ‘to have a look at his Picasso’ or ‘to have a shower’.
So… we kind of stood around. The others, at the table, carried on talking to each other. At one point we wound up the wind-up spider and let it have a little walk. It didn’t get much of a reaction. But then, why should it? These fellows had demolished a house in their first episode.
We hadn’t been asked to do much by our tutor. Just keep an eye on some steaks. But that wasn’t our forte. We did our best. We wandered over to the cooker. We looked at them. And then they burst into flames.
How can a steak catch fire? I’m sure it’s easy to burn a steak, to ruin it; but for it to catch fire?
Trev struggled to get the grill out. He did, eventually, but not before the fire alarm went off.
The rest is a blur.
On Monday night we did a daft bit of comedy at The Stephen Joseph Studio. It ended with us dropping some kind of large object off a balcony onto our wind-up walking spider. The spider was smashed to bits. And Rik, and Lise, and Ben were there.
Afterwards we talked about Saturday night. They had no idea why we were there or who we were. They said they hadn’t realised we were ‘comedians’. Which could have been a compliment or not, but either way we had a long chat with our comedy heroes. And for the next few days they were around and about. One night I played cards with Ben and Rik (Ben insisted on giving me money for a taxi home. I insisted on refusing it. I walked the three miles home in the rain. What an idiot student.) Another night we sat chatting with Rik in the bar at The Contact Theatre (the theatre connected to the drama department). He gave us lots of advice and he even gave us his phone number (before mobiles… this was Rik’s home phone number!) and told us to phone him whenever we wanted. He also gave us a quote to use on our publicity for our first Edinburgh show. He told us to use, “My favourite act!”
Up in Edinburgh, doing our first ever show in 1984, we walked past a poster for a band. I can’t remember the band, but I can remember the quote: “My favourite band”, Rik Mayall.
RIP Rik. Thank you. x
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.”
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.
March 6, 2013
It’s Day 2 of my Comic Relief Challenge, wherein I try to raise £1986 for the charity. I’m proud to be part of Tracey Thorn’s #twittermillion team. We’re going to raise a million pounds! At least! And I’m going to do my part by listening to some EBTG tracks and learning from them.
Today’s choice was between two great ‘littles'; Ugly Little Dreams and Little Hitler. @Execcer chose Little Hitler. Hitler beats Frances, which, given the subject matter, is perhaps appropriately phrased.
Little Hitler is the closing track on Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. Like a lot of my favourite songs, from artists such as The Beautiful South or Jacques Brel, Elvis Costello or (at a push) The Jam, it’s a fierce song wrapped up in the most gorgeous of melodies. (Why ‘at a push for The Jam?’ Well, I guess it’s because sometimes they twist it around into a gorgeous song wrapped up in a fierce melody).
When Baby, The Stars Shine Bright came out in 1986, the 24 year old me would almost faint when, just over three minutes into Little Hitler, the big orchestral sound would be snatched away into a vacuum to be replaced by the gentler piano and bass. Have a listen and see if you too are overwhelmed by Stendhal Syndrome.
I’m hopeless at remembering lyrics or even understanding them. Some of my favourite Elvis Costello songs have been listened to for over 30 years and I still will have no idea what he means. But that’s ok. Music. Songs. To paraphrase Michael Haneke (who was, at the time, paraphrasing Truffaut) “if I wanted to send a message I’d have gone to the post office”.
So when I try to understand Little Hitler I think of it as being about the tyranny of men.
Not all men. Just men who have to be men.
In today’s guardian’s g2 Jane Martinson has written a piece about politician’s encouraging other politician’s to ‘man up’. Harriet Harman, whilst acknowledging the term as being sexist, urged David Cameron to ‘man up’ on a recent Andrew Marr show. She couldn’t think of an alternative. Jane Martinson thinks of an alternative; “Doing the right thing… is the most gender-neutral thing you can do.”
Little Hitler‘s men ‘man up’, yet do the wrong things.
Behind every big man there’s a small boy/ Drink to Stalin and Hitler and Jimmy Boyle
It’s an interesting move, linking Jimmy Boyle to Hitler and Stalin, and one I’m still trying to understand.*
Jimmy Boyle, the Glasgow hard man, the killer, the man who was sent to jail for murder. He spent time in H.M. Prison Barlinnie special unit (now no longer in operation); a centre putting rehabilitation, over punishment, at it’s heart. He was given a pair of scissors by a warden who then turned away from him. And Jimmy Boyle didn’t stab him. This was a move in the right direction.
The first verse of Little Hitler could be about Jimmy Boyle:
Little Hitler, don’t come round here again/ With your renegade politics, redder-than-thou-disdain/ Thought we were on the same side/ But with a fistful of nails and your knives from the Clyde
The song came out in 1986. At that time Jimmy Boyle was out of prison and a reformed character. He ran an art gallery called The Gateway Exchange in Edinburgh, aimed at helping drug addicts and, I would hope, anyone finding themselves troubled enough to want to change their life for the better.
I know this because in 1985 I met Jimmy Boyle. We were doing a show at the Edinburgh Festival, and our venue was The Gateway Exchange. Here we are:
We were young and we were foolish. I’m still one of those things. I’d read Jimmy Boyle’s books, A sense of Freedom and The Pain of Confinement: Prison Diaries. I was surprised when The Gateway Exchange gave us permission to perform at the venue and I was terrified about meeting Jimmy Boyle.
All was fine though. He was polite and charming. Every evening, when we trooped up to the venue for our performance, Jimmy would be standing outside. He said he liked being outside.
I can’t remember much of our time there. We did a show with Simon Bligh and Fred n’ Ginger (Anne Rabbit and Doon Mackichan).
Jimmy Boyle was very much the ‘man’ there, but he also had a team of helpers, one of whom went on to achieve some notoriety by getting crucified, without painkillers, in the Philippines. Perhaps this act relates a little to the ‘fistful of nails’. That man was the self-proclaimed dandy Sebastien Horsley who died from a cocaine and heroin overdose in 2010. We also met Sebastien’s then wife, Evelynn Smith. She was lovely, and I was saddened today to learn that she died from an aneurysm in 2003.
Here we all are, Jimmy Boyle on the left, then Sebastien, Anne, Simon, Evelynn… and I’m sorry to say I cannot remember the names of the next two… then me and then Trev.
And I must apologise to the woman who’s hair I am holding up. You are clearly uncomfortable with my foolishness. All I can remember is that I liked you, and, for someone incapable of expressing that at the time, I chose, instead, to lift up your hair. Sorry.
And if you’re heartless and hard/ Well this has made you what you are
At the age of 14 Jimmy Boyle stole a cash box at a fun fair and was sent to a school run by the De La Salle brothers ( a Catholic order of monks). in 2001 Jimmy said; “Today, I’m still haunted by the sound of breaking bones as a monk deliberately smashed a child’s leg to smithereens or the footsteps in the night that heralded yet another horrific rape of a terrified, crying child.”
Do I understand it? No.
Does it matter? I’m not sure.
Do I like it? I love it.
Here it is.
if you would like, or are able, to give to Comic Relief you can find my sponsor page here.
* Tracey let me know, through Twitter, that the song is not about Jimmy Boyle but about a bully she met who idealised him.
March 2, 2013
Last Wednesday I did Specialist Subject at The Black Heart in Camden. Specialist Subject is the brainchild of @NoJokeTooNiche (itself the brainchild of Steve Cross and Marc Burrows). It’s the chance for comedians to come along and do ten minutes on their specialist subject.
11 comedians did their thing. They were all excellent (well, at least 10). Here’s a Twitter list of them – “Tonight’s niche geniuses include
@20thcenturymarc @simonmhickson @JozNorris @HeyJackDeAth @Angela_Barnesy @IvoGraham @helenarney @natluurtsema @IChrisBoyd @PhilNWang @steve_x”
I’d like to tell you more about them but my memory has gone. Before I went on I was not myself and after I went on I needed a drink.
Yes, I’ve done comedy before, but almost always in a double act, almost almost always on TV, and, when live, almost always to people who have paid to come and see Trev and Simon.
Stand up comedy is a different beast (most definitely a beast) and I had no reason to think I could deal with it, but hey, 40 quid is 40 quid and a man has to eat.
So, preparing for my (effectively) first ever stand up gig, I picked my specialist subject and wrote my 10 minute routine. I went over it a few times in my head in the bath but that was tricky:
In the guardian’s G2 a week or so ago there was an interview with Dinos Chapman (one half of Jake and Dinos Chapman). He’s done a solo project, an LP, Luftbobler, and in the interview he says “I can’t figure out why people don’t work with other people – because on your own, you have this kind of weird conversation with this person in your head who agrees with everything you say.”:
I wish! On my own the person in my head disagrees with me constantly. In the bath, I was heckled from the opening. And the heckles would be harsh. And the responses in my head stretched from getting involved in a long-winded argument over the meaning of the word synecdoche, to punching members of the audience, to giving them Chupa Chups to shut them up.
In absolute truth, I never got to the end of my routine in the bath, and, before performing it on stage that night, not a word of it was said out loud.
Here’s the routine. This is the written version. On the night I forgot bits, I added bits, I rushed bits, I messed up bits. But I got through it and I wasn’t heckled.
Hello. My specialist subject was going to be “The catchphrases of Trev and Simon from Going Live! and Live and Kicking, 1987 to 1997″ but Trev… (a pause and a sigh)… sorry, the artist formerly known as Trev, has taken out an injunction against me. And so I am not allowed to come within 100 words of one of our catchphrases.
So, no swinging of my pants… Oh shit.
My specialist subject is mugging.
Sorry, no, not mugging, not the act of mugging someone, which is… well… that would be a horrible specialist subject wouldn’t it? Physically assaulting people and robbing them?
And I’d be no good at it… I wish I could be good at it. (to audience member) Give me your money. (audience member says no) See?
No. My specialist subject isn’t mugging. My speciality is being mugged. Being a muggee.
It’s a double act, you’ve got to work together to have a successful mugging. A mugger without a muggee is like Robson without Jerome. Or cigarettes without alcohol. Or Seth McFarlane without hate.
I’ve been mugged five times in my life. For a 50 year old that’s, on average, once every ten years. The last time was in 2010 so… I’m pretty relaxed at the moment. i should get home safely tonight.
I’ve been mugged through the decades too. in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, noughties, and whatever this is called.
The first type of mugging, and the most pedestrian, the most boring, the most mundane of mugging styles, is the rush and push mug. You feel the gust of a teenager behind you (ideally, as in my case, from Crumpsall in Manchester… Crumpsall… the only suburb of Manchester that, like Michelle Pfeiffer, has a silent P)… you feel, you sense, the gust of a teenager behind you and the next thing is your hands bleeding from crashing into the asphalt as some child, some opalescent ghost boy, fades into the distance with your bag, or your hat, or your sweets.
It’s a feeble mugging. It lacks flair. It lacks style. it lacks innovation. It’s the Daniel O’Donnell of mugging. If there was an X factor for muggers they just about manage to wheeze a Snow Patrol ‘B’ side before Louis Walsh would say ‘you remind of a young Daniel O’Donnell’.
That’s just how feeble they are; that I’ve had to resort to comparing them to Daniel O’Donnell, twice.
You can’t even go to the police. They laugh at you. “Ooh, I was pushed over. I hurt my hands. He took my Curly Wurly.”
Don’t become a muggee to a rush and pusher. You can do better than that.
Guns and knives. That’s what’s needed to gain kudos as a muggee.
I was mugged at knifepoint in 1981, Manchester, again. It’s fun up North. I was a useless 19 year old drama student. My mugger got away with a one pound note and a copy of The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim. Well done mugger. Good work. I like to think that now, 30 odd years on, he’s comfortable with the symbolism of a glass slipper.
Guns are better. I became a gun muggee in San Francisco in 1994. having a gun, some kind of semi-automatic handgun, pushed into your belly is fun. It’s good for the adrenaline. I remember looking down and going “oh”.
He did well. He was a good mugger and I was a good muggee. He got my sunglasses, my passport, my wallet. As he and his partner… a mugger’s apprentice? The Andrew Ridgeley of the mugging world?… as they ran away I shouted after him to chuck my passport away. That’s the word I used; chuck. Something that meant no more to him than the last Chuck Norris film he didn’t watch. Chuck my passport away. Charles my passport away young man.
He was a kind mugger. We worked together. I gave him my things, and, in return, he didn’t shoot me.
There is though, a form of mugging that transcends the rush and push, that makes the knife, and the gun, redundant.
Has anyone ever been mugged by the piccolo nomadi?
Rome, 1991. I’m a well-travelled muggee at least.
Piccollo nomadi. It’s Italian. Nomadi as in no fixed abode, and piccolo as in a small flute. Or as in child. The piccolo nomadi are small street urchins, about this high. They work in gangs of about five or six. Maybe seven. I didn’t count.
They don’t have guns. They don’t have knives. They don’t rush and push.
Their weapon of choice is newspapers. Or rather, crumpled up pages from the newspapers. They run up to you proffering sheets from La Repubblica, and they’re crying, weeping, sobbing. And the first thing you think is; they’ve lost their chips.*
I search for my phrase book to look up “have you lost your chips?” but before you know it, they’re gone. And so is your wallet. Your passport. Your camera.
The piccolo nomadi.
They sound sweet. They’re not. they’re just weeping little fuckers.
No wonder the Catholic Church hates children. No sorry, I’ve got that wrong haven’t I? the Catholic Church loves children, just not in the right way. **
I hope my experiences can help you to become a better, more proficient, muggee. Just remember, give it all you’ve got. Or rather, give the mugger all you’ve got. Who knows, perhaps we can make it from this Black Heart tonight without being stabbed in Camden. Or down in the tube.
I’d like to end on a piece of poetry. This comes from someone whom I’m sure must have been influenced by my all true stories of being a muggee.
I say all true… I told one lie. The lad in Manchester didn’t take my copy of Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment. I just wish he had. ***
A poem to end:
The last thing that I saw As I lay there on the floor
Was “Jesus Saves” painted by an atheist nutter
And a British Rail poster read “Have an Awayday – a cheap holiday –
Do it today!”
I glanced back on my life
And thought about my wife
’cause they took the keys and she’ll think it’s me
And I’m down in the tube station at midnight
The wine will be flat and the curry’s gone cold
Yes. I am Paul Weller’s muse.
What was he thinking?… Sparkling wine with curry?
Take care. Goodnight.
* Thanks to Ben Norris for the chips joke.
** I forgot to say this bit. And thanks to Ben again for pointing out the mistake in saying that the Catholic Church hates children (hence the extra loves ‘joke’). This was also the point, in my inner head rehearsals in the bath, where I would get heckled by an imagined Catholic in the audience. They would, quite rightly and properly, make the point that it’s not everyone in the Catholic Church that abuses children. And I would get all arsey pointing out that the phrase is a synedcdoche, where the whole is used to represent a part (or vice versa). Then I’d give them a Chupa Chup.
*** I forgot to say this too. For those who went away thinking the lad took the book, I’m sorry for misleading you. I just wanted to make sure I mentioned the symbolism of a glass slipper in my first ever stand up routine. He did take a pound though. And my mate, Joe, who ran, returned about a minute too late, armed with a baseball bat.
November 4, 2012
it’s Day Four of my Movember attempt. I say attempt… it’s just not time to reveal any kind of moustache. It’s not there. I look like a boy trying to grow his first ever moustache, who also happens to have the withered visage of a quinquaginarian (I had to look that up).
Movember. It’s November crossed with moustaches. Or mustaches. (My computer prefers that. Maybe it’s American). I like to write moustache, but I most definitely pronounce it ‘muss-tash’, none of this ‘moose-tash’ lark.
Anyway, and crucially, it’s for charity. The aim is “to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and testicular cancer.” Please find out more here. And please, if you can, donate here. I am currently on £52 and rank 8556th nationally. My aim is to raise the necessary amount to rank somewhere between 237th and 217th.
Over they years I have experimented with fake facial hair. Fake to me; the BBC perhaps got it from the Tirumala Temple. Maybe not. I just don’t know! I hope nobody was harmed in the making of our cheap sketches.
Here we are in one of our fake (but possibly real) hair get-ups. Not for the BBC though. This was one of our rare outings to a rival TV company. I can’t remember the exact details but we did some Hallow-e’en links for a season of horror films on Sky TV. No beards, no moustaches, just whiskers.
And here is someone trying to be Trev.
November 2, 2012
I’m growing a moustache throughout November for Movember.
Movember “is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in the UK and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and testicular cancer.” That’s what the Movember people say. That’s why were doing it. There’s a lot of us. I don’t know how many. But currently, and with £37 donated, I am ranked 10513.
“It’s not a competition”, my friend Andrea pointed out. She’s right. Except it sort of is. For me. The competitive element is what will lead me to bully and pester you over the next few weeks. I want to raise a massive amount of money for Prostrate Cancer UK.
And I want to do that by growing a moustache.
Some people take the easy way out when it comes to raising money for charity; running marathons, trekking across deserts and mountains, swimming oceans.
That’s not for me. I needed a challenge.
Zoe, my wife, put me up to it. I’m claiming she made me do it, encouraged me, suggested it. Truth is, all she said was “are you doing Movember this year?”
After two seconds thought I came to the conclusion, why not? It’s not like I’ve got anything else on.
And so I’m growing a moustache.
It won’t be easy. I’m 50 and I’ve never been able to grow one yet. I wanted to cheat; to start the month off with the feeble follicles I try to pass off as designer stubble. I’m more Elvis Costello than George Michael. But then I’m more George Dawes than Elvis Costello. I can’t really grow hair anymore. Not even (for the sake of some second rate comedy observation) in my ears or up my nose.
So yes, cheat. Get a few days head start. It is, after all, not a competition.
But cheating’s not allowed. It’s in the rules. (See Andrea! Rules! Rankings! This must be a competition).
And so yesterday I shaved, maybe taking a little less care when it came to the bit under my nose.
I’ve always wanted to have a beard, a moustache, even hair on my head. Once I looked like this (those concerned with the aging process look away now).
Like bloody Havers.
Now, I look more like this.
Trev always was the lucky one. He’s kept his hair. And his looks. And his height.
When we played characters on Going Live! and Live and Kicking we’d write the scripts on a Tuesday and a Wednesday. We think up all sort of arrangements of facial hair; moustaches, beards, pony tails… you name it. On Friday I’d go into make-up in the morning to try out a few styles. Trev would stroll in towards the end of the day with a full beard, a moustache, a pony tail… what have you. ALL GROWN! BY HIMSELF! ON THURSDAY. HIS OWN HAIR! A BEARD! A MOUSTACHE! A PONY TAIL! WEEK AFTER WEEK AFTER BLOODY WEEK!
HE’D SHAVE EVERYTHING OFF AFTER THE SHOW. BALD AS A BABY BABOON. AND THEN, COME NEXT SATURDAY, HE’D HAVE GROWN A NEW HAIR ENSEMBLE! BEARD! MOUSTACHE! PONY TAIL! EYEBROWS!
THAT’S WHAT I HAD TO PUT UP WITH. WEEK AFTER WEEK. FOR 10 YEARS!
HE EVEN ONCE GREW HIS OWN DOWNSTAIRS HAIR. NOT FOR A SKETCH; THE BBC BOSSES WOULDN’T ALLOW THAT. NO! HE DID IT JUST TO SHOW OFF. BECAUSE HE COULD. FLOUNCING HIS CURLING LOCKS OUT OF THE BOTTOM OF HIS TROUSERS! SWANNING AROUND THE STUDIO SINGING “SWING YOUR PANTS”.
I don’t take this challenge lightly.
It’s for a good cause.
If you can give, please give. You can do that here.
Here we are in one of my favourite moustache sketches. Mine glued on, Trev’s home grown.
September 21, 2011
Damn my ignorance! @ShowbizSimon on Twitter makes some comment about killing Keith Chegwin as a movie, I think ‘that’s a great idea’ and, in an Ernie Wise fit of fifteen minute screenwriting, I bash out my take for a film called Kill Keith.
Damn it all! Then, I go and find out it exists! Who knew? Well, many of you I guess. I didn’t know. Or I’d forgotten (Trev thinks I’d forgotten and he knows my mind better than me). So, I write it this morning (like I say, 15 minutes… let’s not get too precious over this) and send it over to Trev. He gets in touch to tell me it’s real. There is a film. It is called Kill Keith.
Damn it to high heaven! And we didn’t even get a part in the damned saga!
So, for entertainment purposes only, here’s ‘the film what I wrote’. Let’s call it Kill Bill Vol.2
All of the ‘real’ people referred to are made-up, including myself. Though the beginning knocking on the door stuff is true.
KILL KEITH Vol 2
Everyone loves Keith Chegwin. He’s had his ups and downs – whether battling alcoholism or accusations of joke theft on Twitter – but as long as he does something cheeky soon afterwards – whether getting nuddy for a low-rent quiz show, opening a supermarket in Stoke, or laughing on a morning chat show – he always comes up smelling of roses.
Everyone loves Keith Chegwin. Apart from Simon Hickson.
The early 90’s. Simon is asleep in bed. Well, a kind of a bed. Simon, despite being a regular on Saturday morning’s kid’s TV, lives a squalid live. Like Keith a few years before, he’s battling his demons. Even in his sleep.
As he dreams, he hears the squeaky voice of Cheggers. Just a dream. A nightmare. And then his door bell rings and Simon is awake! Keith is at his door. All part of those jolly early morning wake up calls he does for the live Channel 4 show, The Big Breakfast.
This is horrible! Surely this kind of thing only happens to proper celebrities, like Linda Lusardi. What can Simon do? He calls his agent but it’s 7.30am and she doesn’t get in until noon. He calls Trev. Trev’s wife answers and refuses to believe Simon’s story; she knows he’s delusional, mad, not good in the mornings. She hangs up on him, refusing to disturb the slumbering Trev who deserves a lie in after a late night watching Bid TV.
“He he! I’m here outside Simon out of Trev and Simon’s house! He’s not answering. Yet! He he!”
Simon’s in a panic. What to do? Then he knows. He’ll scare Keith and also get Trev and Simon some well-deserved notoriety. It’ll do them good to cause a bit of an uproar.
Simon answers the door to Keith. Naked. Waving a replica firearm.
It didn’t work out.
It stopped Trev and Simon’s career in its tracks. Keith had a breakdown, went into a home, and emerged a few months later, loved by the public more than ever.
Years later. Simon can’t let it go. He’s met Keith since, at showbiz do’s here and there, and Keith has apologised. He was only doing his job. So were the Nazis Simon points out.
Simon decides his only option is to kill Keith. Trev, aware that he slept through the whole thing after a long night of Peter Simon watching, feels just a tiny bit guilty. He reluctantly agrees to help out. And then Trev and Simon approach the comedians whose jokes have been stolen by Keith on Twitter… discreetly… direct messaging.
A cabal is formed. An elite team of comedy assassins dedicated to ridding the world of Keith Chegwin; Trev, Simon, Ed Byrne, Lee Mack, Milton Jones, and Jimmy Carr.
They meet and form a plan.
They put their assassination plot into action.
Keith Chegwin is tied up in a basement. Jimmy Carr’s basement, full of suits. It’s his suit cellar. The team argue over who’s going to kill Keith. And how.
But Keith is wily. And cuddly. He he! And the asinine assassins find it impossible to carry out the vile task.
This wasn’t the way it was meant to be.
They hated Keith, but, after holding him captive they’ve all developed Stockholm Syndrome in reverse. They love him now, and he has grown to love them.
Keith understands, he empathises. Irritating celebrities should be dead. His team are just targeting the wrong people. Keith has been wronged too along the way and he has a revenge hit list. Between them they draw up a list of ‘celebrities’ who really do deserve to get it! He he!
Kill Keith has become Keith Kills. Headed up by their new honcho our team of crappy killers see off deserving celebrities one by one.
No one knows who is behind the mystery murders of some of the most despised and undeserving ‘celebrities’ on TV… from the original Nasty Nick through to poor old John Stape from ‘Corrie’ – heck, he’s only an actor, does he really deserve to die? The public can’t tell fact from fiction and are happy to scream ‘Yes!’
Murder after murder… from game show hosts to reality ruffians to bad actors… the team are inventive with their killing ways, making the death suit their TV crime.
Eventually they make a mistake and the mystery murder team are exposed. Like Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy though, they go unpunished. They are just too loved now by a public happy to see the demise of those least loved. Those who now go by the names of ‘Killebrities’.
All films should have happy endings, and Kill keith is no exception. The team get their own prime time TV show; Killed by Keith – a gameshow where ‘game’ celebs go through a pretend execution if they fail to win viewers votes.
But why’s it called Killed by Keith? Lee Mack’s not too happy. Resentment starts to brew in Milton’s hair. Byrne by name burn by nature. Carr wants to push Keith off a cliff. Trev and Simon suggest a new plan… to be continued… ?
And here’s the real thing…
December 19, 2010
Yesterday I put up a post where I took a look at the Christmas comedy DVD’s andpassed a few ill-judged thoughts on their covers. Everyone should have a comedy DVD for Christmas, but how to choose? Is it fair to choose purely on the basis of the artwork? No, not really.
But who cares? It seems few comedians care about their artwork. Or perhaps it’s just me who thinks the covers are all bizarre pieces of shit showing the comedian facing away from his audience and trying to do something ‘funny’ with his/her (though his) microphone.
Here’s some more.
Remember… I have not seen these.
Remember… I am not judging the act here. Maybe.
Ok, I suppose I am. Yes. Yes, I am, once again, judging a comedian by their cover.
Someone said never judge a book by its cover. But why not? The author must have approved the cover. They must be happy to have their art sold in such a way. If they were overpowered or overruled by marketing folk, then… well, they should have stood up for themselves.
It’s your work, your cover, take responsibility.
I deny any responsibility for the following opinions. I am sick. I am on antibiotics. I am not myself.
Wow! Believe! What? Believe what? I don’t have to believe, I know Eddie exists. What am I supposed to be believing in? Or is it his belief?
He’s lit by a lone light. Or is it a star? He has a quote from the L.A. Times, so we know this comedian is a big fish, successful across the pond*.
The artwork is classy. I think someone may have been hoping for us to go… “Ooh! look! Eddie is a little like Dustin Hoffman!”
Or perhaps they want us to think he is a little like Jim Cavaziel.
I just don’t know. You decide.
* The pond is an informal term for the Atlantic Ocean. I believe.
This cover has some lovely shades of blue. A darker blue “cog crab” looms over the comedian. On closer inspection this “crab” has cats for hands. Then there’s the scary badge and the gold leaf hand holding a feather. This is not a DVD cover that has been hastily thrown together.
It is called Do Nothing Live. And that is a funny title. It makes me laugh. This comedian is excellent. He is called Simon and he looks like Harpo Marx. You decide.
This cover makes me feel ill. I don’t like the colours and I don’t like the woman on the front.
I’m not even letting you decide on this one. It’s just too- I can’t write anymore.
This comedian has a quote from The Telegraph, but this time online, making him more up-to-the-minute and with-it than Michael McIntyre (see yesterday’s post). Unlike McIntyre though, this one looks a little distressed. He seems anguished and he’s holding the microphone as if he can’t think of anything funny to do with it. There’s no photographer telling him to stick it in his ear (see yesterday again) and there’s no holding it out to us, the DVD cover viewer, as he grins to show us he is funny, his back turned on his paying audience. Indeed, there is no audience in sight! And the DVD is called “Aim Low”! Everything about this says avoid. But I’m going to recommend it to you. You decide though.
Trev and Simon
This is just awful. They can’t decide whether to smile or grimace and instead settle for some kind of sub-Next catalogue action pose. There’s no quotes and no mention of laughter. We are told it is stupid, but what kind of a recommendation is that? To make matters worse it’s a video and not a DVD. A redundant format for a product no longer available.
The backdrop is some kind of foul Mondrian mess-up, even worse than that awful shampoo ad from years back. Ok, it highlights some of the “characters” that we must assume are featured on the video you can no longer get, but even then the so-called characters just look like the same two blokes in funny costumes and wigs.
You can’t get hold of this one anyway so don’t even bother deciding.