Reviews. Interviews.

Fringe Reviews: Research reveals gender bias across leading publications

Featured

I was unable to see any Fringe shows this year due to a crippling bout of agoraphobia . I was miserable to be missing out, and by my third month of hermit-like existence I was desperate to participate in some way, so idly decided to tally up a few star ratings to see if men and women were rated equally . It’ll kill an hour or so, I thought, and in any case, I was running short on episodes of Undercover Boss.

What followed turned into a two week full-time project, during which I had to teach myself first Excel and then (in a late realisation) basic maths.

What follows are my findings. It’s a long read, but don’t worry, there’s pictures.

*****

Review stars, eh? What a wonderful, unbiased way of summarising the artistic originality and accomplishment of an act. In the Edinburgh sea of nearly 4000 comedy shows, the 1*- 5* rating system is an easy way of separating the wheat from the chaff, and letting punters know the best shows out there.

Or is it?

During August, I’ve lurked like a benign spectre on various Facebook groups for performers and have seen the same themes crop up again and again. Gender bias. This publication only awards 1*s to women. That reviewer only rates men. This reviewer reckons a woman discussing her fertility is somehow too niche for public consumption: two stars.

Of course, it would be unnatural if there weren’t a small punnet of sour grapes attached to some of these remarks; a comic probably won’t ask a reviewer to their wedding if they’ve said their show’s a hackneyed pile of garbage.

But individual beefs aside, I wanted to know if there was any truth in the rumours of gender bias in the awarding of stars, so I decided to crunch the numbers to ascertain if bias really existed, and who the worst offenders were.

In all, I looked at 1530 reviews across 12 publications: Fest, The Skinny, Broadway Baby, Ed Fest Mag, The Wee Review, The Scotsman, One 4 Review, Chortle, Fringe Guru, The List, The Telegraph and The Guardian. Although the latter two had small sample sizes, their ratings mean a lot so were worthy of inclusion. (I’m sure I missed some important publications, and it would help me greatly if you could let me know in the comments, just in case I decide to embark upon this foolhardy enterprise again next year).

There are significant limitations to my research. The data were collected on 24 August before all publications has submitted their reviews, and is therefore not entirely complete (this was the only way to analyse the data before the Fringe was a distant memory). I had to make not-wholly-scientific decisions about who I included; although I only analysed the ‘comedy’ category, I had to make judgement calls about large mixed-gender troupes (I left them out) and sketch groups where the ratio is two male one female and a female director (thanks Geins) or vice versa. A serious criticism of the research is that it operates on the gender binary – I had to guess gender from the artist’s name; failing that from their photo; and if I was really stuck then the pronouns used in the show blurb, so anyone who chose to identify as non-binary would likely have been noticed but the research doesn’t have the capacity to account for this. Finally, the research ignores intersectional axes of oppression such as disability, sexuality, race, religion and class. Although these are big issues and shouldn’t be ignored, it would have been impossible and foolish to try and make judgement calls about these signifiers based on the little information I had.

One factor I was really shocked by is that the Edinburgh Fringe don’t collate any information whatsoever about the demographic of participants – and this would be so easy to do, since performers must complete some sort of registration – how hard would it be to include an equal opportunities monitoring form? When I spoke to the press office to see if they held data on the gender split of comics at the Fringe, my question was blithely laughed off with the claim that ‘the Fringe is open to everyone’.

Yes, but so is Eton. Oh, unless you’re a woman (amirite Lou Sanders?). It seems to me that the Fringe is missing a big trick here, and as it becomes increasingly crowded with performers and expensive to play, it seems likely that the most privileged groups will dominate and elitism will prevail. Equalities monitoring wouldn’t stop that, but it would give a jumping off point to understand how structural inequalities are preventing certain groups from participating in this ostensibly ‘open’ event.

Notwithstanding the limitations of the data, here’s what I discovered.

There are more male than female comics performing so you can’t compare like for like. The publications I looked at reviewed an average of 69% men to 31% women, so star ratings were weighted to reflect this. Here’s how all stars awarded looked across all publications.

Control Data

Looks pretty unbiased, right? With the exception of the male weighting towards 1* reviews (which is a little misleading as the sample size of 1* reviews is tiny – many publications don’t give any at all).

But although the overall picture looks benign, once I began to break down star ratings to each publication, a different picture emerged.

In order to ascertain how fairly stars were awarded to men and women, I calculated the average gender split reviewed by each publication, and then worked out what percentage of stars were awarded to men and women in each ratings category. So, as an example, The Wee Review reviewed 66% men and 34% women, yet awarded 93% of their five star ratings to men and the remaining 7% to women, so it’s clear to see that there is some bias at play here. However, the same publication may not replicate the same level of bias across all star categories – for instance, in the case of this publication the 4* awards were tipped in favour of women, and the 3* awards were fairly even.

It’s not an exact science.

Wee Review

I’d gone in, somewhat naively, expecting bias to be screaming itself loud and clear from the rooftops, and yet the findings were nowhere near that simple.

There was only one publication – The Scotsman – that indicated bias in favour of men across the board, awarding them far more 5* and 4* ratings and reserving the 1*s and 2*s for the women. I spoke to the Arts Editor of this magazine for comment, however he simply informed me that his reviewers were all unbiased and highly experienced thank-you-very-much and assured me my remarks would be borne in mind at next year’s festival. So much, so revolutionary.

Scotsman

By contrast, I spoke to Ben Venables, editor of The Skinny, which was much more favourable to women in awarding star ratings across the board. Ben explained there was a clear ethos in place about criteria for reviewing in general; schedules were assigned in advance and at random so reviewers could not choose ‘favourite’ performers – a reviewer from a different publication (who asked not to be named) told me that it’s commonplace for people to choose who they review. The Skinny placed an emphasis on seeing acts debuting the Fringe for the first time, and there was a strict criteria for allocation of stars, with very few being given out at both ends of the spectrum. Even more hearteningly, Ben showed an awareness that even where they were getting it right on areas like gender, their reviewers still tended to meet a certain age, race and class demographic. He recognised the imperfections in their system, which is at least a start. He also told me that they vet potential reviewers. Anyone with the attitude that ‘women aren’t funny’ never gets through the door.

Skinny

Of the other publications I reviewed, it was hard to draw any concrete conclusions as each one painted a unique picture. It did seem as if more 5* awards were going to men with the notable exception of Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Hannah Gadsby. I was left wondering had she not performed the festival this year, if women would have been represented much at all at the 5* mark.

Here’s the rest of the publications broken down.

Telegraph

 

One4Review

List

Guardian

Fringe guru

Fest

Ed Fest Mag

Chortle

Broadway Baby

Telegraph

Why is any of this relevant? As each performer tells themselves for three weeks, ‘reviews don’t matter.’ Except they do. The comic Athena Kugblenu explained to me how she hates the review system, yet ‘I want the 4* and 5* as much as the next comic, not for the endorsement, but for the marketing and PR.’ And as Edinburgh stalwart Kate Smurthwaite explains, ‘Anything less than a 4/5 star is of no use cos you can’t put 3* on your posters.’ I spoke to one experienced reviewer who hypothesised that reviewers simply aren’t going to enough female shows. Proportional representation is all very well but because female comics are still in the minority, their work is still viewed as marginal which means reviewers are less likely to award the more prestigious star ratings. As encapsulated in the comment that Sara Pascoe’s material was ‘too tamponny’; when male comics talk about their lives it’s comedy. When female comics talk about their lives, their shows are described as focusing only on ‘women’s issues’ or pigeonholed as feminist, as if feminism was somehow a bad thing rather than just a wish for gender equality and an end to young girls having their genitals mutilated. Something one hopes we would all strive for, whatever our gender.

Although the project above focused on numbers rather than qualitative analysis, there’s no doubt that the use of language in male vs female reviews is an area ripe for research. As a little test I decided to peek at the content of the reviews of Sara Pascoe’s acclaimed show Lads Lads Lads and the 2017 Comedy Award winner John Robins’ show The Darkness of Robins. I chose these shows because I’ve seen them both, and although the content of the shows isn’t identical, they were both written on the back of their breakup in late 2016.

The reviews I looked at were from the Guardian, the Standard, the Skinny, the Scotsman and Chortle, and all awarded 4*. Of the five reviews of Pascoe’s show, she was referred to as endearing twice, vulnerable once and ‘oversharing about sex’ – presumably because she had the temerity to mention masturbation – a theme that’s rarely absent from most male standups’ staple material. Robin’s show, despite containing several depictions of sex with his ex partner and a whole bit about women’s pubic hair, did not attract any comment on the topic of sex whatsoever. Adjectives attached to Robins’ show included ‘extremely forthright’, ‘high-powered, front foot delivery’ and ‘an eloquent howl of rage’. The assertive adjectives attached to Robins’ reviews are ironic if only because in both Pascoe and Robins’ depiction of their break-up, she is undeniably the one who is taking it better.

The most telling observation, however, came from the three out of five reviewers who commented on Pascoe’s stage attire – a sparkly bodysuit and fishnets. This might be understandable were it not for the fact the John Robins went on stage every night donning a tailor-made bright yellow leather replica Freddie Mercury jacket. Not. A. Mention. [Edit – apparently John ditched the jacket after the first two previews so this isn’t an entirely fair comparison. Thanks to commenter Pete for pointing this out].

Kate Smurthwaite provides some examples of gendered reviews from her own experience.

My first Chortle review call[ed] me “too alpha female”. My second says sometime I make a political point instead of a joke which is TRUE but that’s the style of my comedy and no-one complains when Mark Steel does it. 

We also need to take into account the structural bias behind the scenes before shows even make it to the review stage. Smurthwaite claims that bias amongst venue managers means women end up with less favourable rooms and slots, and a poor slot with a barely warmed up or hungover audience, taking in their first show of the day, can have a devastating effect on reviews.

Conclusions?

Mark Twain was right when he talked about lies, damn lies, and statistics. I embarked upon this project looking for easy (or at least clear-cut) answers, and aside from the fairly unequivocal findings of the Scotsman, the results turned out to be a little more complicated.

It has certainly given me food for thought about how we can build on this information in years to come, and I hope that comics of all genders will feed in with their own experiences. I’ve set up a Facebook group for this purpose: Edinburgh Fringe Ratings.

Female (and many male) comics don’t need to wade through a 2000 word blog to know there’s gender bias in comedy. I just fancied drawing a few graphs to illustrate it, and as Stewart Lee’s apocryphal taxi driver once remarked “Well. You can prove anything with facts”.

For the full report and datasets, visit http://wp.me/p8JV3i-dU.

I welcome your comments and notification of any errors via this blog. Please bear in mind I’m an amateur unpaid blogger, so by all means tell me I’m wrong but please do so with respect. If you like this article you can help by sharing it on your social media.

Edit: Quite a few commenters are asking why I didn’t take into account the gender of the researcher. Here’s my response:

I consciously didn’t analyse the gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age or class demographic of the researchers  because i thought it was a red herring. There’s no obligation for women to support women and women are just as subject to the patriarchy as men. They’ve seen more male comics in more prestigious venues/media slots etc. They’re sitting in an audience of people who may well have the embedded beliefs that men will automatically be funny, women have to prove they will be, and god forbid they should hear a mention of ovaries. This of course impacts on the performance, audience reaction and subsequent impression left upon the reviewer. 

I do think there is space for [analysis of the reviewers], perhaps as part of a larger piece of research that looks at organisational culture. I was struck by the comments from the Scotsman that their reviewers were well established and experienced, and the Skinny that they tended to have a high turnover of younger reviewers. I think these factors surely also have a bearing as much as the researcher’s gender. 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Review: Daniel Simonsen – No Net

Featured

 

Reviewer: Andy McHaffie

daniel simonsen 2

For three nights in a row I’ve found myself watching Daniel Simonsen’s ever changing show at The Bill Murray as part of the Camden Fringe. This year he has two shows: No Net, and Net. The first show is completely unscripted as he speaks about whatever pops into his head, or maybe tries to improve on routines that he came up with the night before.

Daniel Simonsen won the best newcomer award at the Edinburgh Fringe 5 years ago, but I think most of these audiences know him as Bob Mortimer’s oddball son from the brilliant “House Of Fools”. That’s what I gathered from my pre-show eavesdropping anyway!

The first show I saw on Sunday, Daniel was not really enjoying it. He felt uncomfortable and didn’t have any confidence in himself. I know that because Daniel told us straight up, which I think made a lot of the audience lose trust in him, which meant the show was never really going to recover. There were some great bits though, such as his long explanation of why red is his favourite colour and telling us that his nickname growing up was ‘Crying Daniel’. But there were real belly laughs all round when he decided to try out a few different accents.

The next night there was a much smaller audience in, and Daniel expressed surprise that I was back, having seen the show the previous night. I did tell him that it really wasn’t as bad as he thought it was! But this show was blisteringly funny! The Crying Daniel routine was lengthened, and there were far fewer silences than the night before. Sadly he had dropped his Irish accent this time which was a shame, because it’s such a lot of fun to hear someone with such a distinctive accent try some other ones.

I found back there on Tuesday, and again another superb show. The accents were back and Crying Daniel was even stronger. The only thing that spoiled it was two annoying audience members who insisted on a Q&A session, with one of them in particular being downright rude by asking Daniel “What’s the best joke you have?” Daniel told them he doesn’t really do jokes, but he thought for a bit and left the stage with a wonderfully out of character piece of smut!

Net is slowly evolving from No Net, and as the days go on I fully expect this to be a totally joyful, funny, five star show. There are three more No Nets left before Net begins. Check the Angel Comedy website for dates and times.

Daniel Simonsen on Russell Howard’s Good News

Daniel as Eric on “House OF Fools”

Review: John Robertson: The Dark Room

Featured

Phoenix, Cavendish Square, 6 July 2017

Yes! I have finally arrived as a comedy reviewer, in that I was actually offered free tickets to a gig. Albeit I had to turn up and pretend to be someone else, but still, I’m on my way.

The freeness of the gig was partly what got me there, because from the billing I was convinced that The Dark Room was Not My Sort Of Thing. For a start, the only descriptions I saw online were heavy with mentions of horror, death and fear, and my mental health is currently so precarious that an emotional dog meme is enough to send me into an existential crisis. My general practice is not to research shows online before I see them, as I prefer to go with an open mind, but verbal feedback from people who’d seen the show described it as ‘very dark’  which at least adheres to the description, I suppose.

As one might glean from the title, we were ushered in and seated in a dark room, which for the purposes of this show was the basement room of the Phoenix which provided just the right level of gloom. The only things I could vaguely make out were a screen up ahead, and a trestle table of assorted rammel, including a pineapple, a fur coat and a bathmat.

After a few minutes of tense anticipation (this isn’t the sort of show where you have a chirpy compere warming you up) on came Robertson, his bleached hair swept back, and his terrifyingly spiked collar bedecked with strips of neon. I can only describe him as a modern-day Riff-Raff, and his delivery is also pretty O’Brien-esque. In fact, the whole show bore a lot in common with the Rocky Horror show, from the audience call-and response to the in-jokes between devoted attendees.

And it quickly became clear that The Dark Room was indeed a cult phenomenon. At least half of the audience had been before and quite a few sported the mark of the true geek: the merch t-shirt. But even as a newbie it was easy to join in and me and my party of three mates (who were all new to the show) quickly picked up on where to join in.

Billed as  ‘the world’s only live-action video game‘ the concept is pretty simple. Each round of the game begins with the same premise: you awake to find yourself in a dark room, and you have four options. Which one you choose will determine the course of the adventure, and Robertson promises the winner a prize of £1000. Losers, sadly, are killed off, to gleeful shrieks from the audience of ‘YA DIE, YA DIE, YA DIE!!!’

dRK ROOM SLEEP

If this sounds intimidating, it’s not. No one is dragged up on stage, and even Robertson’s crowdwork is archly camp rather than insulting – when myself and blue-haired lady got picked to play, he described us as ‘the two ladies with coloured hair who have not yet given up all hope of joy in the world’. Participants are invited to choose options from their seats, which keeps the game moving nice and quickly. Player after player meets their grim fate, but they don’t leave empty handed (I came home clutching the rather fetching bath mat).

Five minutes into the show, I was glad I came. Ten minutes in, I decided that this was just what I needed in my life. And by the end of the show, I’d decided that if we all had a bit more of this in our lives we wouldn’t have voted Brexit. In short, The Dark Room is what the world needs, it’s an hour of pure, unalloyed joy, camp, and silliness. It’s definitely going on my Edinburgh spreadsheet.

Speaking of which, Robertson is also doing two other Edinburgh shows: a kids version of the Dark Room, which I reckon will be no less hilarious, and his stand up show Dominant, which I’m intrigued to see. Robertson is a self-confessed sadist, and as a fellow member of the kink community I can’t wait to see how he works a BDSM-themed stand-up show.

Spoiler alert: sadly no one won the £1000. Maybe next time.

 

 

 

ARG Com Fest: Three Word Reviews

Featured

Being the good law-abidin’ God-fearin’ folk that we are over at the Howl Sanctuary, we don’t review previews/works in progress. Comics need a place to be able to fail, quietly and with dignity in front of a select bunch of people, then huddle in a corner for a few hours before re-emerging to have another go.

But this left us with a dilemma – how to cover the effervescent wonderment of the humbly-titled Actually Rather Good Comedy festival? We could not let this highlight of the comedy year pass without note.

So, we solved this problem by awarding each comic we saw a three-word review. The only word that was banned was ‘funny’; because we knew that with a lineup like this, ‘funny’ was a given.

Here’s our picks (in no particular order, and not everyone saw every show, hence there being more reviews for some performers than others).

Sofie Hagen: Crafted, clever, woke.

Nick Helm: Manic, insane, genius/Whirlwind cunt slinger

Rhys James: Sharp, witty, slick/Gamble, Ruffell, hair/slick t-shirt comedian

John Robins: Honest, brutal, existential/Affecting, expressive, perceptive/Hug needed – hilarious!/Peering round corner

Fern Brady: Incandescent, raw, inspirational/Fearless, confessional, Scottish/Brutally honest Scotch/Brave, giggly, brilliant

John Luke Roberts: Tears of joy!/Original, farcical, clever/Naked, very naked/Naked ‘allo ‘allo

Spencer Jones: Whimsical, imaginative, creative/Just delightfully brilliant!/Tennis, singing robot/Surreal sublime vibrations

Mark Watson: As ever, delightful

Suzi Ruffell: Just so good!/Relatably working class

Nish Kumar: Couldn’t get in!

Rose Matafeo: Sassy, manic, outside/Alarms? What alarms!/Unshakeable sassy character

Ben Targét: Games, shaved, messy

Lou Sanders: Shameless, joyful, baptism

Jordan Brookes: Delayed by fire

Tom Neenan: Quality Attenborough homage/Attenborough seeks bigfoot

Garrett Millerick: Angry with Essex

Mae Martin: Bette Midler addiction

Joe Lycett: Coin or groin

Bec Hill: Roder, tou, fo

Michael Legge: Eventually good show/Musical high kicks

Robin Ince: Eventually stopped show/Shouty, disorganised, erudite/Loves a tangent

Angela Barnes: Apocalypse loving childless

David Trent: Angry at trivia/Didn’t play guitar

Joel Dommett: Bird flu famous/comfortable on table

Joel Dommett
Photo: Andy McHaffie

Colin Hoult: Anna ‘mazing Mann/Actress, comedienne, barber

Ingrid Oliver: Cleverly written sketches

Sara Pascoe: Handling breakup better!

Eleanor Morton: Raven sized argument

Stuart Laws: Forgets cream buns/Nandad, Belgian, foyer?

Rachel Parris: Inspirational, uplifting, silly

Bethany Black: Allergic to titanium

Grainne Maguire: Irish, soul, influence

Lucy Porter: Rude, name-check, argumentative

Ed Gamble: Metalhead, no, really!

And there you have it. An entire weekend’s comedy summed up in a series of tweet-friendly soundbites. Who says the world is dumbing down.

See you next year, ARG Com Fest!

Review: John Robins Live from the BBC

Featured

I need to open this review with an admission.

I’m a John Robins fan. Not a stalker; not a superfan … just someone whose attendance at this recording was the third time I’d seen him in so many days. But that was just a coincidence, OK?

As it happened, Live from the BBC took place at what must have been an incredibly tricky time for Robins. The week kicked off with John’s mention on his Radio X show that he’d recently split from his partner Sara Pascoe, on whom a lot of the material in this show is based. To further complicate matters, Robins was slated to perform a preview the day before the BBC record, sharing a bill with his now-ex.

I was at that show, and although Robins handled the situation professionally, the juxtaposition of both sets (Pascoe’s also included material about John) was toe-curlingly awkward and, for those that have followed Robins’ ups and downs via his Radio X podcasts, more than a little heart rending.

So I had fingers, toes and all other appendages crossed for John’s debut appearance on Live from the BBC. With just a couple of Mock the Week appearances under his belt Robins is still at the point at which TV coverage is something of a big deal.

Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. Robins came out full of piss and vinegar (is that still a saying?) adorned in one of his trademark Queen tribute t-shirts, and after the customary bit of crowdwork, launched confidently into his set. His pace, delivery and well-timed interaction with the crowd were all spot on and showed his flair as an ebullient performer.

His material, a truncated version of his 2015 Edinburgh show Speakeasy, kicks off with John’s feelings regarding his partner leaving the country for four weeks. Robins caricatures himself as a laddish beer monster, delighted for the opportunity to be off the leash from the ball and chain. This John is a dick. He’s meant to be a dick. An arrogant, ale-swilling, Queen-obsessed dick. But as the story unfolds, it slowly dawns upon John that ‘the only thing that has made my life fun, and engaging, and bearable’ is no longer around. This is Robins’ strength, alienating his audience with arrogant bombast, before breaking down and admitting that left to his own devices, he’s buying cherry vodka from the Polish shop at four in the afternoon.

It’s one of the reasons I like him – his ability to unashamedly confess to enthusiastically participating in the less palatable facets of blokiness – beer, porn, wondering if an old school friend takes it up the you-know-what – before unravelling those trappings to reveal the humanity underneath. We might all watch porn (PSA: it’s not only guys, guys!) but what’s important is the those three dimensional moments with the important people in our lives, be that binge-watching The Good Wife or prodding your significant other in the ribs whilst washing up.

To those of us who were aware of the backstory, hearing John talking about the poignant sadness of his girlfriend’s absence was bittersweet, but most punters won’t be as intimately acquainted with the life of Robins, and in any case, many comic’s shows are works of pure fiction from beginning to end, and none of us ever really know how much is exaggerated for comedic effect. Although having seen works in progress of John’s forthcoming Edinburgh show, it’s probably fair to say that the grains of truth are possibly boulder-sized here.

If I have one criticism of Live at the BBC it’s with the editing – they removed many of the subtleties referred to above in favour of keeping the narrative tight, the result of which leaves Robins looking like a far ‘laddier’ comic than the complete show attests. (It also really annoyed me as it lost one of Robins’ strongest bits about his Twitter friend Dan, the gin aficionado.) I understand the necessity of this editing for the purposes of the format, but I’d  flag to any new fans that they’ll get a much more nuanced version of Robins at one of his full tour shows.

As I mention at the top of this review, I’m a massive Robins fan so can’t even start to claim to be impartial. So I’ll leave it at this: John Robins Live from the BBC is a ruddy bloody good watch. Now go and see him live.

 

Review: RHLSTP with Andrew Collins

Featured

I don’t have a great deal of interest in “celebrity” culture. I couldn’t give a damn about Kim Kardashian’s bottom, or The Only Way is Chelsea. But that’s not to say I don’t have teenage popstar-style crushes: it’s just that mine are on the people who clamber between my ears and make me laugh.

Collings and Herrin (the name arising as a result of journalists constantly misspelling their names) were such an obsession. They were the forerunners of the podcasting genre, after a few guest slots for Richard Herring on Andrew Collins’ 6Music show revealed the chemistry between the pair. When Collins’ run on 6Music ended (it was originally a deputising spot, although went on to become longer term) the boys decided to try and decode the mysteries of Garageband and record their own chats in Richard’s attic.

The format didn’t go much further than a discussion of the news, with Collins turning up with the newspapers (plus a supply of healthy treats, much mocked by Herring); but it worked well. Andrew was the straight man foil to the obnoxious, mocking and childlike “character” of Herrin. Aside from the comedic chemistry, both men were intelligent and well-read, and so the resulting podcasts were as interesting as they were charming and hilarious.

Unsurprisingly, people became invested in the show and it regularly frequented the iTunes top ten. Collins and Herring did spin-off live shows, which further cemented the connection towards their audience. The pair continued for nearly four years, when finally the cracks started to show, and they ceased their podcasting relationship in what Chortle described as “a very public falling out”.

Collins posted a statement about the split, which included Richard’s response. Too much water has gone under the bridge to discuss the whys and wherefores here, they’re already well documented. Suffice to say that an attempt at a further podcast five months after the falling out makes for painful listening and shows that the pair aren’t quite ready to put their differences aside.

For us fans (who they’ve both referred to as the progeny of the partnership) it was sad times indeed. Until now. Fast forward some five years later, and Richard has finally invited Andrew to be a guest on RHLSTP and Andrew has finally bowed to public pressure and complied.

As a displaced child of this divorce, I approached the gig with some trepidation. If it was anything like the aforementioned “attempt at burying the hatchet” final podcast, it would be a cringingly uncomfortable experience.

Thankfully, the audience at the Leicester Square Theatre were spared an evening of polite awkwardness. Seemingly enough oatmilk has passed under the bridge for Collins and Herring to share a room.

That’s not to say that the interview was bland – it was anything but. Collins bounded on to the stage in a chirpy yet rambunctious mood, and it soon became clear that he would be pulling no punches. If the Collings and Herrin podcasts cast Richard in the role of Alpha aggressor and Andrew the mild-mannered nerd with an obsession with the Mitford sisters who laughed off his jibes, it’s obvious from the off that Andrew won’t be returning to that dynamic.

After beating around the bush for a maddening amount of time, Herring finally gets onto the topic of their podcast. Collins is immediately open: “they were, and I hate to say it, marvellous times”. Herrings agrees that “they were, and I miss them”. Cue an audible “aaaah” from the audience.

But Collins isn’t prepared to bury the hatchet that easily. Interrupting Herring at one point, Andrew turns cheerfully to the audience and says “I can’t believe that he’s asking me questions. Because in all the time we did the podcast, he was never that interested in me”. Collins goes on to accuse Richard of causing his previous radio show to be cancelled which Herring admits to, before saying “…let’s not dig this up…”.

“I’m enjoying it!” Collins responds puckishly. It was highly amusing to watch the usually dominant Herring squirm and suggest that “we chat about this backstage”. How times have changed.

Arguably the biggest choker comes up by accident when Richard lets slip that he wanted Andrew to be the best man at his wedding before their falling out. Collins clearly doesn’t know this, and is obviously touched – and surprised. This seems to illustrate how badly things had deteriorated towards the end of their friendship and broadcasting relationship.

Despite the dynamic no longer being the same, there’s plenty to love in this interview. Collins still meanders off on his roundabout anecdotes about minutae which never arrive at a punchline and yet are nonetheless endearingly funny; notably the Northampton Express Lifts Tower and his newfound obsession with the decorating aid Frog Tape. He still loves the 1980s, and the past in general, lamenting the demise of his former employer NME to become a free paper and the Guardian’s plans to launch tabloid-style. He’s such a likeable fellow I feel my teenage crush reawakening all over again.

We can never go back, and I would argue that we shouldn’t try. Twitter is full of Collings and Herrin devotees begging for a return of the podcast, but I prefer that body of work to stand as a perfect little monument to a friendship between two jolly nice fellows. The ugly split detracted from its beauty, but this interview sets matters to rights. As Andrew wrote at the time “I hope we will be sunny and equal and silly again”. It may have taken six years, but the boys are finally back there.

 

Opinion: Did you hear the one about the dead hooker?

Featured

 

Anonymous Contributor

 

We need to talk about dead hooker jokes.

I see a lot of comedy. I’m a comedy fan, a comedy reviewer and a comedy blogger. 

I’m also a sex worker. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that comedians, along with the general public, don’t expect sex workers to be present. We are invisible. If we’re considered at all, it’s like the shots you see in the press: a faceless woman on a dark street corner leaning into a car, one leg flicked coquettishly upwards; an anonymous entity.

In terms how the general populace views whores (incidentally, at this point in time, the word ‘whore’ is like the ‘N’ word, in that I’m allowed to use it but you’re not); we’re still in the dark ages. Imagine back to the time that Oscar Wilde was obliged to hide his sexuality in plain sight whilst being persecuted by the law and you’re getting close. I’ll save you looking up the year – that was back in 1895. 

122 years later, prostitutes, hookers, ladies of the night, courtesans, escorts and call girls (the term generally accepted these days is sex workers) are all still in a similar position socially. Why should comics be concerned with using us as a punchline; they wouldn’t think for a single minute that there was a one of ‘them’ in the audience. No one is wearing fishnet tights and a leopardskin coat with twenties bursting out of her bra, for God’s sake. I keep mine stashed in my knickers. 

So, I go to gigs. I laugh for the most part, and occasionally I cringe. Until you’ve been the repeated butt of the joke, you probably don’t notice that you’re being picked on, but comedy frequently has a target, and people tend to kick down. In the case of sex workers, we are two steps below human beings, one step below women and one step above rats. If you need confirmation of how mainstream this view has become, have a look at JK Rowling’s ostensibly feminist tweets about how it’s filthily misogynistic to call Theresa May a whore because surely there can be no worse insult. 

Sometimes, whorephobia (for that is the name of this phenomena, oh yes, we have a technical term for everything these days) emanates from ignorance. And you know what, ignorance is ok, everyone’s learning. We can’t all walk around being permanently aware of everyone’s finer feelings, especially in comedy where quick thinking is key to the job.

I was at a show a few months back when one of my favourites comics improvised a gag where he alluded to a ‘whore’ being a bitch or a slag. I cringed, as usual, but I enjoyed the rest of the show. The following day I tweeted the comic and explained my offence, he was contrite, apologised, and admitted that it was an off the cuff remark which, given more time, he likely wouldn’t have repeated. Fair enough. The problem is, most of the time, sex workers don’t speak up and identify themselves, for pretty obvious reasons. Stigma ensures that we remain invisible and thus allows us to still be the butt of the jokes. 

dead hooker
One of the memes tweeted out by the London Dungeon this year.

Sometimes people are not as keen to be called out. Last Valentines day, The London Dungeon tweeted a series of memes. The image above is one of the most appalling; which I assume was their desired intention. When they were taken to task about the nature of the campaign, they took the classic ‘I’m sorry if you’re offended’ line, which translates to ‘fuck off, we’re entirely unapologetic’.

Normally these instances cause a day of annoyance on twitter, and then we all move on. But recently, things got pretty damn serious. Firstly, an indoor sex worker was murdered in her flat a couple of miles from my house. Suddenly. this wasn’t such a funny punchline. Then today, I read a post by Janey Godley, a comic I greatly admire. She’s a no-holds-barred, straight down the line, smack-a-mens-rights-activist-in-the-face kinda gal, and I love her because she makes me feel not quite so alone in a scary world.

Janey was angry, and rightly so, at the horrifically misogynistic shit that gets hurled at female comics; particularly by stag parties. Sadly, Janey’s way of expressing her anger was to suggest that misogyny, violence and anger not be aimed at ‘women’, but instead be saved for that special breed of sub-woman, the hooker:

“I wish someone would open a huge stag strip bar in Glasgow so that the giant groups of angry men can go there and scream their hate at women and not come to comedy clubs…you are asking female comics to accept abuse because you can profit off a group of men whose mentality [was] so skewed they should’ve chipped in their money to hire a hooker and then killed her by taking turns kicking her up a dark alley…”

Even typing this turns my stomach. Janey is an ally, a good feminist. Sex workers are so peripheral on the vision of civil society that she thought it was OK to draw a parallel with nasty men being dicks to female comics at gigs (and I don’t doubt for one minute that they are horrendous, and it’s something no woman should have to suffer at work) with them instead expending their pent up woman-hatred by killing a prostitute.

I wrote to Janey and said as much, and although she didn’t reply, she did go on to amend her post to include the point that violence towards sex workers is not OK.

It’s a small concession, but I have an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach that it’s a battle that’s far from being won.

I’m still not laughing.

 

This post is in remembrance of Romina Kalachi, 32, who was murdered at her home in Kilburn, London on May 29 this year. Police stated that she was targeted because of her profession as a sex worker. You can make a donation to Ugly Mugs, a national charity which works to protect sex workers, here.

Good Eggs: a selection of interludes with Tash Demetriou, Nish Kumar and Lou Sanders

Featured

Let’s kick off with some home truths, shall we. I am new to this. I am not an experienced comedy blogger. I’m not a journalist, and although I suppose I could class myself as a professional writer, my former career in the Civil Service mainly consisted of penning soothing responses to Members of Parliament who were pissed off that we’d lost their constituent’s passport. So when I set up this blog I was largely making it up as I went along. Blogging and blagging, if you will.

So when I was very kindly granted access to chat to the stellar line-up of the recent Good Eggs charity night, I was convinced that I could blag my way through and get at least a couple of interesting bits of material. I was familiar with most of the acts, in fact some of them I’d seen multiple times, read their Guardian articles and listened to them being interviewed. I did not feel unprepared.

With the notable exception of the show’s opener, Tash Demetriou, who (although I’ve heard of her) I’ve never seen and therefore planned to strategically avoid. However, fate was upstairs having a good laugh at me and so naturally Tash is the very first person I bump into who very kindly agrees to have a chat with me.

Just to top off my nervousness, Tash is disarmingly beautiful. I could not draw my eyes away from those glowing cheekbones, despite the fact that only a few minutes earlier she’d been spectacularly bedecked as a giant slice of pizza.

Jay Jay: Let’s start with the service station question.

Tash Demetriou: I think Milton Keynes, because I used to be in a sketch group called Oyster Eyes, and and Liam [Stewart, fellow member] used to work there and tell so many stories about having sex with women in the freezer. It’s anecdotally a very special place for me. And it’s a good distance out of London for a stop and a wee. And some chips.

JJ: So you’re not going up to Edinburgh this year?

TD: No. I normally work with Ellie White, my best friend, my lover, has been in a West End show, and I didn’t have time to write a new set, and I’d have to do it by myself. Normally we do lots of stuff together, we do a night at the Moth Club with my brother Jamie [Demetriou] too, once a month.

JJ: Whereabouts is that?

TD: East London [Hackney].

At this point I have to break in to admit to Tash that I live in Camden and rarely venture further out of my bunker than a two mile radius of Regent’s Park; in fact I realise that I’m a bit of a lazy comedy goer. I then spend a whole five minutes extolling to Tash the virtues of the Bill Murray in Islington so perhaps she can tempt me East and I can lure her North.

JJ: What’s your favourite room to play?

TD: Probably the Moth Club – it’s an old working men’s club, you’re right near the audience, it’s always full of lovely East London liberal happy people who want to laugh. I like rooms where you’re really close to the audience – me and Ellie did our show in Edinburgh at a place called the Banshee Labyrinth, and it was the cinema room, and it was just tiny and so lovely.

JJ: You mention having East London lefty audience who want to laugh, is knowing that your audience is on your side important to your act?

TD: Obviously I’m a woman, and I’m not like a classic standup, I don’t tell straight jokes; for some people that’s their bag, but for me, lovely, nice, drunk young people are my ideal audience. They seem to find shit characters and bad jokes the best!

Next on my list of people to bother is the effervescent Nish Kumar, and I do feel at least a little more prepared for this one, since I saw Nish about seventeen times during April’s Machyllneth Comedy Festival. When I tell him this he laughs and admits that he was pretty ubiquitous during the festival. When he wasn’t on stage, he could often be seen lurking in the wings or, more likely, heard by his ridiculous hyena-laugh.

JJ: What’s your favourite service station?

Nish Kumar: I’m a slightly tricky case, because I don’t drive, so I take the train everywhere.

JJ: Ah! In that case, whats your favourite station cafe?

NK: I try and avoid Pumpkin, because they really bum me out. My favourite station is Birmingham New Street! It’s super fancy, and the Pret stays open until midnight, and you can get a late train back from Birmingham to London.

JJ: Thanks! Strong answer. Are all comics insufferable egomaniacs?

NK: Yes, only because all people are insufferable egomaniacs…comedians are just more honest about it than most people. I’d say about 95% of people I know are, on some level, insufferable egomaniacs, and it’s just a question of how you moderate that.

I think that with comics, it’s just that you’ve found an outlet for your insufferable egomania. If we we’re doing comedy, we’d be the annoying person at work…

JJ: Like Colin Hunt?

NK: Yeah! Absolutely.

JJ: So you just got a TV show with the Daily Mash…despite TV production companies generally being more risk averse – for instance I grew up with Lee & Herring’s This Morning with Richard Not Judy, which would never get commissioned nowadays – the comedy industry is still thriving. There’s a lot more acts coming through, Edinburgh is massive compared to what it used to be…so is TV the be all and end all for comedy?

NK: I don’t know if anything’s the be all and end all…all you try and do is get better and better, and do more and more interesting stuff, but there isn’t really like an end goal. TV is great for growing a live audience.

JJ: But for instance, I’ve heard comics like John Robins talk about how important getting on Mock the Week is…

NK: Yeah, stuff like that is really massive.

JJ: Massive in terms of status, or in terms of progression in the industry?

NK: It’s still to do with growing a live audience. It just really helps you fast track that process. All my ambition is ever geared towards standup.

JJ: Is that the endgame for you, then, for instance someone like Elis [James] has moved away from standup into broadcasting and acting.

NK: Elis is a great actor, though. I don’t really have transferable skills!

JJ: I think you’re one of the most natural standups I’ve ever seen…when I saw you do that show at Mach [Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Unless You Shout The Words Real Loud] it was like you’d never written or rehearsed it…like you came in and spoke off the top of your head for an hour…

NK: Oh thats good…ironically, [looking that effortless] really takes a huge amount of work! I can’t really act so I only have standup…the cool thing about doing TV is that is brings your work to a much wider audience.

In terms of the restrictions, the problem that we’re having at the moment is that particularly the BBC is under scrutiny for what it’s putting out, over the last few years it’s felt like it’s under a huge amount of pressure. But I think things are slightly turning around, Frankie Boyle’s doing a BBC2 show, it does feel like things are loosening up slightly.

Also I think people are realising that there is a specific campaign against the BBC; Sachsgate caused there to be a lot of scrutiny on the corporation, and I think hopefully you’ll see a loosening up of that over the next few years, they’re commissioning a lot of satire…it’s an exciting time.

After the show, I catch up with Lou Sanders for a quick word. I’ve seen Lou a lot live, and I think she’s a really interesting performer. The majority of times I’ve seen her have been works in progress, and I’ve only ever really seen one fully-formed show, but Lou’s careless delivery means you’re never quite sure if what you’re seeing is meticulously rehearsed or just being casually tried out. I like her a lot, and I also know a little of her backstory through interviews and podcasts.

IMG_5894

JJ: So Lou, what’s your favourite service station?

Lou Sanders: I don’t know any of them! I get driven, and I don’t memorise road names because I have better things to do! I like M&S because you can get something healthy. And a big bottle of water.

JJ: I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the article you wrote for the Guardian about your relationship with alcohol. It was very familiar to me, the experience of getting fucked by men when you’re so pissed you don’t know what you’re doing.

LS: Yeah, a horrible business. I don’t think it’s ideal, and we need to get into a time when that doesn’t happen…

JJ: It needs to become unacceptable, and the whole issue of consent needs to be raised. I liked the way that you were honest about what actually happened, because people don’t admit that this is what happens to young women.

LS: We all have to learn from our mistakes, we have to know where we’re going wrong but the men need to know where they’re going wrong as well.

JJ: On the wider issue of booze, what’s it like working in an industry where alcohol is such a big part of it?

LS: It’s fine, once you’ve made the decision. So many times before I’ve sort of half made the decision, but not committed to it, or thought ‘well I’ll just see how it goes’, but once you click that switch and think ‘no, I just don’t drink’, you’re fine. Once you’re resolute on anything…there’s temptation with everything, everywhere…how do you be faithful, how do you not eat all the cakes…?

JJ: But in many ways [alcohol in comedy] is a cultural thing.

LS: I think more and more people are not drinking, actually, so it’s getting easier.

JJ: A lot of comics say as a point of good practice that they won’t have a drink before they perform.

LS: Yeah, and lots of us are getting older and so aren’t drinking as much – and actually the younger kids aren’t drinking as much as they were, not in the way that we did when we were younger.

JJ: Can we talk about FUBAR radio? What are your thoughts, looking back? [Lou co-presented a show with Richard Herring at the station’s inception].

LS: It was fine, it was just a muckabout show, I wasn’t really being paid anything, so it was just a chance to try stupid things, it was fine.

JJ: What about the station itself…when you and Richard did the show, I tweeted them and said that I was really pissed off that you weren’t put on the bill with him…

LS: It was his show, to be fair.

JJ: Yeah, but there were fuck all women on that station full stop. A bunch of blokes started a comedy station and stuck another bunch of blokes on it.

LS: Yeah, I mean his [the creator’s] vision wasn’t the same as lots of the artists, he was wanting to get headline-grabbing people like John Gaunt…it happens everywhere. Katie Hopkins is not short of work, because there’s a demand for that. Nothing against him, just different visions. Quite depressing, but still.

But I loved working with Rich…

JJ: Do you still see him like your uncle [Herring once described their relationship as ‘avuncular’]?

LS: I love him.

And with that, my whirlwind of interviews ends – I don’t know about the acts, but I’m bloody exhausted.

 

.

 

3/3: Doc Brown

Featured

 

In the first of a series of three minute speed interviews, the delightful Doc Brown gave me a few minutes of his time to discuss night terrors, social anxiety and triple meat.

Jay Jay: So, what do you wake up screaming in the middle of the night?

Doc Brown: Haha! Oh God. I worry about absolutely everything, I’m constantly, constantly anxious. The really tragic thing about that question and the answer is that I don’t wake up screaming, I’m just lying there screaming, trying to get to sleep.

For me, [what keeps me awake] is definitely the future, in all its shapes and forms.

JJ: You mentioned in a recent interview that you suffer with social anxiety. What gets you performing when you’re feeling anxious?

DB: I really, really struggle with that. It’s the solitude – there’s a moment where I remind myself there’s a thousand people out there but [every] one of them would rather die than take your place right now. That’s the way I find an inner strength, I think none of them would do what I’m about to do.

JJ: So that makes you feel empowered?

DB: Yeah, it’s an empowerment.

Doc Brown Jay Jay Phoenix

JJ: I only have one question left: What’s your favourite service station?

DB: I wish I could remember what it’s called! It’s up North, it’s got like a proper farmer’s market thing in there so you can get amazing fresh meat, and a home farm. The last time I went there I bought what looked like a leg of lamb, but it was actually minced pork, wrapped in huge chops of pork, wrapped in bacon. It was outrageous!

[We conclude that we think the service station in question is Gloucester Gate].

 

 

Review: David Reed: Inside the Comedian with Marcus Brigstocke (Podcast Record)

Featured

Phoenix, Oxford Circus 4th June 2017

I’m not ashamed to admit it, David Reed bamboozled me.

I was present at the first podcast record of Inside the Comedian a few weeks back, when the show shared a double bill with Pappy’s. I’d come along for a Flatshare Slamdown, so was pretty clueless as to what David Reed’s offering would entail, except that it featured Miles Jupp, which to me can only be a good thing.

Because I’m ever-so-slightly ditzy/dimwitted/drugged up to the hilt on psychiatric meds, it took me a good few minutes into the show to realise that it wasn’t following the usual “but…are you happy?” format. In fact, Reed’s questioning grew more and more obscure, and poor old Jupp’s responses became barmier and barmier. It was pure joy to see the now oh-so-commonplace format of comedians interviewing other comics be mocked so skillfully.

So arriving for yesterday’s record with Marcus Brigstocke, I was slightly better prepared, although I have to admit that the sight of Reed in his three-piece tweed still made me come over all wobbly kneed (what can I say – I went to Cambridge – it’s a Pavlovian response).

The interview kicks off with Reed discussing Brigstocke’s latest venture – a club where left wing comedians can finally drop the shackles of pretending to care for others and give voice to their right wing ideologies. Brigstocke describes this as a ‘play space’ that has proved especially popular with Rob Newman (“Christ, he’s got some interesting ideas about the poor!”) and Stewart Lee, amongst others.

This is all, of course, utter horseshit. But it’s wonderful horseshit, because Reed’s clipped RP tones lend the whole ludicrous interview an air of legitimacy and gravitas, which heaven knows we need in our current unhinged political landscape, where satire has become indistinguishable from reality.

Reed’s straightfaced interjections are classic gold; “so, if we could start at the beginning of your career…just as you did” are almost on a par with the deadpan Mrs Merton (RIP). Speaking of Brigstocke’s radio work, Reed asks “so what’s it like to be left on in the kitchen when the many households have gone back to the living room to watch television?”. Brigstocke takes the digs without missing a beat.

Reed doesn’t shy from the issue of gender politics, leading Brigstocke into a discussion about the underrepresentation of women at the BBC. Marcus goes on to describe how he heroically redressed the gender balance by impersonating a female, interviewing a range of other male comics posing as women. This revolutionary approach created the current situation where Mock the Week may have “up to one woman…laughing at what the boys say”.

A potential flaw with this kind of format is that the quality of the interview will depend greatly on the ability of Reed’s subject to give as good as they get. I haven’t yet seen enough to see how Reed would cope with someone who gets stuck in the face of improvisation, but I suspect he’s got the skills to accommodate the style of most of his interviewees.

Verdict: if you’re expecting to come away knowing more about the life, career and comedic influences of Reed’s interviewee, you will be sadly disappointed. You certainly won’t find out if they are happy.  If, however, you’re prepared for a session of gentle teasing, mocking and arch questioning of the unsuspecting victim (Reed assures me that his subjects have no idea of his lines of questioning in advance), then you will be in for an absolute treat.

Follow David Reed

Listen to the podcast here

 

 

 

 

Stuart Goldsmith: Interview

Featured

 

They say you should never meet your heroes, and most of the time this maxim holds true. However, little does he know it, but Stuart Goldsmith is high on my list of contenders for Nicest Man in Comedy, and today could have been the day my hero worship (and faith in human nature, no pressure) was blown out of the window.

Fortunately Stu proved himself to be a lovely fella, introducing himself to my friends, apologising for the three minutes that he was arguably late and being very understanding that we couldn’t record our interview down a Soho back alley, as I was still clutching my pint. As a result, the following exchange took place next to the bins by the Soho Theatre back entrance. Never let it be said that I’m not a class act.

I asked Stuart to answer three questions in three minutes, and here are the results of our speed interview (anyone who can do maths will be able to spot my sneaky extra question).

Jay Jay: When you write your material, who are you writing for?

Stuart Goldsmith: I am writing for…OK, I’ve got two answers for that. The first, clever clogs answer, is that I’m writing for myself. I’ve got to make myself laugh, if it doesn’t make me laugh, there’s literally no point in doing it.

Then, I suppose, in terms of who my audience are…no, actually, I suppose just for me, for my wife, I like making her laugh…

JJ: But when you write a gag, who are you thinking about laughing…?

SG: Me! I’m thinking about me…my favourite line in the show tonight [Compared to What, which Stuart is about to perform] is looking at someone, and thinking to yourself “you have clearly spent your life making a series of fascinating short term decisions”. That’s my single favourite line in the show. And I love that line because it makes me laugh. It makes everyone else laugh, but it’s a really strong line in the show. And when I wrote it, I was like “Yes! That’s got to work!”.

Very self indulgent, I think you’ll agree! I do visualise an audience laughing, but they’re an amorphous blob…its not like “I’ve got to get those sixteen year olds on board…”

JJ Or like “I know I’ve got this kind of lefty fringe audience…”

SG: Not really, no, I mean…you tell me who my audience is, I feel like I’m not very mainstream; I feel like I’m too mainstream to be a proper curveball left wing comic, I’m not really mainstream enough to be a mainstream comic…I’d go mental if I’d tried to work out who my audience is.

IMG_5746

JJ: What do you wake up screaming in the middle of the night?

SG: Nice…I like how open-ended that question is…I suppose, if you’re asking me what I worry about in the middle of the night, I sleep pretty soundly, and I sleep the sleep of the just…no, no I can’t say that!! I sleep well, and I like waking up in the middle of the night cause when I go back to sleep again, having been woken up, I tend to dream better.

If you’re asking what I’m obsessed with, what preoccupies me, when I’m worried I suppose its the usual – getting old, death, what it’s going to be like when my friends start dying…

JJ: Has this all become more pressing since you had your family?

SG: No, I’m so much happier now that I’m a dad, now that my family is a big sort of solid core.

JJ: Well, this leads us on to the final question then…are you happy?

SG: Yeeeeaaaaah!! You can ask me that. I’m really happy. I have almost everything that I want. And I’ll tell you what the cornerstones of my happiness are; recognising what makes me happy, and I learned this nearly forty years ago…you know that phrase, “It’s better to travel hopefully that to arrive”? I love travelling hopefully. Arriving is no great shakes, every time you get a thing, you think “oh that’s great”, and then that moment’s passed.

I was very lucky, I won a best new show award at Leicester Comedy Festival this year, when I heard that I was like “no way!” and then I stopped thinking about it completely. I was like, oh that’s nice, but it doesn’t mean anything.

Trying to make a thing happen, is really good fun and engaging. So with the podcast [the Comedian’s Comedian], I have this thing now where it always keeps me on my toes, I haven’t been bored in twenty years. I’ve recognised what makes me happy and what makes me happy is pursing a thing. That’s great! I can pursue a thing until I die! Getting the thing is of less value, so I don’t any more suffer from that kind of “I need the thing”. The pursuit of the thing is what makes me happier.

JJ: Thank you so much. We’re finished now, but I have to ask you a subsidiary question. What’s your favourite service station?

SG: Ooh! Leigh Delamere!

JJ: Brilliant! Thank you very much.

And with that, Stuart elbows his way back into the seething pit of Soho Theatre bargoers, in readiness to do one of the final performances of this show. If you’re really quick, you can snap up tickets to the rest of the run here. 

IMG_5754

 

 

 

 

TV Review: Red Dwarf XII Episode 2

Guest reviewer: Simon Wiedemann

So, the latest episode of Red Dwarf, Siliconia; was it any good? Well, it started off small, with ‘everyday’, space age banter. However, the conversations were far from boring. The classic lighthearted tone was set immediately and all dialogue linked in with the grander environments and plots that were to come. The contrast from normal to odd and almost nightmarish was is in part what made this episode intriguing. These scenario changes progressed very well and impressively subtly, and came neither too late or too soon. Not only were Kryten’s reactions to his changing surroundings amusing, they simultaneously paralleled modern day social problems in a way that was deep, well thought out and unpretentious. As time went on, more and more connections between fiction and reality were made, in a way that was almost scary.

Whilst the way things went from good to worse was captivating, the way things turned back to normal seemed very rushed. Not only did the ending almost come out of nowhere, it was also quite unrealistic. Things went from terrible to great and there were no more issues to be dealt with, when really there should have been. It was kind of a childish ‘and they lived happily ever after’ plot device. Unfortunately, this seems to becoming a habit with Red Dwarf, now. The first episode of series 12 had huge adversities conquered in seconds and with next to no effort. I’m sure the creators of the program would have loved to make their work a good ten minutes longer, so as to make their ambitions more believable. In comparison, imagine a Doctor Who show only lasting 30 minutes. It would be very difficult to pull off.

Despite the many strengths of the comedic themes, the characters could have been fresher at times; Rimmer was often annoying, the cat shallow, Kryten sensible and Lister immature. Ring any bells? However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the characters were forced to change their ways, and because of this, there was some interesting character development. It didn’t last forever, but the journey was nevertheless engaging. The occasional reference to past Red Dwarf shows (for example Lister’s guitar and his music in general) created a sense of nostalgia and hope for things to come. Did this episode capture the magic of the ones all those years ago? In my opinion, I think it did for the most part. Perhaps the science fiction elements of the latest show weren’t as strong and unique as the now quite old ones, but they did at least make sense and invoke curiosity.

7/10