Sunday, June 7, 2009

Paul Merton, Toothpicks and a Tub of Lard

In a word and IMHO (forgive the synonym but this is the 3rd millennium FCOL…For Crying Out Loud) HIGNFY (aka Have I Got News For You) would cease to exist without Paul Merton.

OK, so strictly speaking this isn’t true and HIGNFY has actually existed without the presence of Mr Merton on a number of occasions and I’m the first to admit that there have been some brilliantly funny guests on HIGNFY: Brian Blessed is always the first to spring to mind,( I tried to erase my memory of that episode where he took the HIGNFY podium, but to no avail, needless to say, I’m now seeking professional help) but Paul, Mr Merton, is undoubtedly the epicenter of this iconic satirical news quiz show thingy thing.

Certainly, though, there is conclusive proof that Mr Merton can single-handedly take on the opposition against all odds. As I recall, armed only with a Tub of Lard (due to the original choice of guest, Roy Hattersley failing to arrive, they got the next best thing and as understudies go, the Tub of Lard performed surprisingly well and one could be forgiven for not noticing the absence of Mr Hattersley) and as if that was not enough, the majority of Paul’s posers were in foreign languages, he still won. As we on the subject of HIGNFY episodes I can’t resist mentioning the one where a spate of puns themed around pot noodles had me quite literally rolling on the floor gasping for air, and not many comedians hit that mark for me, Paul consistently hits the spot with alarming accuracy with the force of a sledgehammer.

I could reference so many of HIGNFY episodes (and this entire post could become a rant about the funniest moments on said show) alas, it is impossible for me to pick out a favorite but I do have a fantasy HIGHFY line-up in my head: Paul Merton, Bill Bailey v Ian Hislop and Eddie Izzard all being Presented by Jo Brand…or maybe Jack Dee (his “webisode” appearance was nothing short of stunning). Now that I would pay good money to see!

Paul Merton isn’t all HIGNFY (and neither is this blog, despite how it may appear) and it almost escaped my memory that he had his own series way back when aptly named “Paul Merton – The Series” full to the brim of comedy sketches and his peculiar monologues from behind a newspaper stand. And he is a stand-up comedian (good link huh?) even though many of us at the mention of his name immediately think of him behind the HIGNFY desk spouting out captions for photos of the weeks news. His meager beginnings at the Comedy Store in London (which I may add he was scared witless of performing and took an age to finally pluck up courage to go on stage) and an uphill struggle from there on, serves as a great inspiration to my own personal arduous ascent in the comedy world (ascent not quite the right word as I've not yet got anywhere but you catch my drift I hope)

This all said and done I get the impression (and I’m struggling for the right phraseology here) that although I’m sure Mr Merton is a lovely bloke (and I’ve not met the man to be fair so entirely speculation), I have a guttural feeling he’s also, could quite possibly be, an annoying git. Now don’t get me wrong and I’m sure you’re wondering why the hell I’m writing about a comedy hero of mine only to underhandedly stab them in the back, albeit with a toothpick, but you misconstrue my approach, it’s not meant as an attack but merely an observation that I relate to as I often feel my description is “Lovely lass, but a tendency to become intensely irritating after 3 minutes” (though I am writing this after a few beers so in the sober light of day I may well acquiesce….or just feel queasy…probably the later….see what I mean about the three minute cut-off point, though I could make anyone I’m in the company of feel slightly better during a 3 minute warning)

Just one last thing I think I have to say, Paul, mate, get a haircut.

The man has his own Website….finally.

And I was intending to post links to the webisodes and other clips of HIGNFY but frankly I’m far too inebriated to go tralling through youtube so you can bloody well look for them yourself, trust me, it’s worth the effort.

(Question: Why I haven't included a pic of the man? Answer: Beer)

(Another Question: Did I spellcheck this post? Answer: Did I hell)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jo Brand, Sea Monsters and Lesbianism (that should get some readers in!)

Josephine "Jo" Grace Brand (born 3 May 1957)

Flying in the face of media female stereotyping and kicking Cosmopoliton in the bollocks in the process (and rightly so), Jo Brand, in all her unbounded (though possibly well supported) glory is my comedy heroine.

Foul mouthed, opinionated, and more caustic than a bottle of Domestos. Jo Brand’s unedited honesty and lack of inhibitions coupled with the driest of wit, all delivered with a tone of voice that gives you the impression that whatever she’s talking about she really couldn't give a flying fuck, and quite frankly she’d much rather be sat on her sofa at home, watching The Very Best of Loose Women on DVD, and eating…anything, as long as it’s within arms reach.

Quite probably she was the first woman I had seen do stand up, and surprisingly she made an indelible impression on me, she is in every sense of the word, unforgettable. Her complete nonchalance about her obesity (on her early comedy she refers to herself as The Sea Monster, A Fat Bastard and, amongst other things, compares her belly to K2 (that’s a mountain not a lovechild of K9)) and her distain for male chauvinism and, it seems, her general attire she got labeled a “Leso” by the media (*spits*), but like water off a whales vagina, she took it on all her chins and merely worked it into her comedy like it was all part of the plan. Indeed, rarely does a TV appearance of Jo, on chat shows and the like, go by without some reference to Lesbianism, and how her husband was surprised when he found out.

I crave for moments of Jo Brand on those comedy quiz shows, she makes for such an entertaining panelist, QI, HIGNFY, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, she banters with the best of ‘em and gives as good, and quite often, better than she gets. All too often I cringe when females are on these shows and are dominated by their male counterparts and fail to keep up with the pace and drown into the background, almost to a point that you forget they’re actually there, to date, and to my knowledge, this has never happened to Jo Brand and I bet your bottom dollar it never will.

Few women choose the comedic career, few make it, and even fewer do “it” for me. Why this is I could speculate on for…oohh…let me see now….a whole of five minutes, at a push mind you. Let’s face it, it’s pretty plain as day, to me at least, why this is and not what some of you MIGHT think, women ARE funny, but stand-up comedy is a) dominated by men and b) not the wisest of career choices from a womens point of view (oops! whooper of a generalization there, do forgive me) and many “funny” women most probably (covering my back on this one) would opt for an alternative “route”. But, boy oh boy, am I glad Jo Brand didn’t.

Jo Brand doesn’t seem to have her own website and isn’t on facespace, mybook or Twatter, why am I not surprised? I can almost hear her saying “What a waste of fucking time that is”

Alas, she’s on the IMDB and here’s the Wikipedia link too:

And a rather nice QI blog with a biography on Jo Brand

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alan Davies, Leotards and Wurples

Alan Davies (born 6 March 1966)

Around 1994/95 I ventured into to a dark and somewhat dingy comedy club in an upstairs room above a pub in Highgate (the name of the pub escapes me but I think it was on a corner somewhere past the Highgate Bridge), the Club was quite aptly named “Nice Little Earner” (luckily I can at least remember the club name else this paragraph would end up being “some vague time ago, in a pub, somewhere I can’t remember, ah feck I forgotten, where’s my specs?”, I should really consult with my friend who could probably tell me the exact date, time and position of the moon at the time in question, but I can’t be arsed). ANYWAY..the club was being run by some friends of friends of mine (once removed) and I went along almost as a favor.

At that point in time I wasn’t a frequent punter at comedy nights, in all honesty, the closest I’d been to live comedy was some dire panto-esque pun-filled amateur performances my dad and his mate would insist on holding at reluctant friends weddings. I recall being traumatized as a child as I was dressed up as a houseplant to be a human punchline for a sketch; as my Dad drove a cardboard cutout of a car and his friend yelled “STOP! There’s a heavy plant crossing” cue me (in a lurid green leotard with roughly sewn on felt leaves, not my best look it has to be said), and cue groans of pain from the guests, needless to say I never recovered from the emotional scars it left me with.

Random tangents aside, “Nice Little Earner”, had 3 acts on that particular night, none of hich I’d heard of but I had few preconceptions as it was my first time at a comedy club. The acts that rolled out were engaging and very amusing, so “Nice Little Earner” soon became “Nice Little Night Out”. The first act was a rather spikey blonde with bright red lipstick and I’m pretty damn sure it was none other than Jenny Éclair, she singled me out at one point and made a comment relating to my date who was a rather aging hippy, so yes , I was asking for it.

The 2nd act that came on seemed either pissed or stoned…..or possibly both, he wobbled on to the stage and launched into what was an incredibly funny and surreal set, Sadly I recall little of it (as you already have realised my memory is virtually non-existent plus I have a distinct feeling that I may have been as equally inebriated in a similar fashion as he was) but I vaguely remember him making some amusing comments about the pub decor and at one point tried to climb a curtain on the stage and I’m fairly sure he made some references to his cat. I was in stitches. I never saw the comedian again until a few years later, on my TV screen. It was none other than Alan Davies.

Alan certainly is an accomplished stand up comedian but personally I feel he seems to be in his absolute element on comedy quiz shows and the like, QI being the Pièce de résistance. I cannot for the life of me imagine any other comedian blurting out (and getting roars of laughter for) “curple, durple, hurple, wurple” in a response to a poser of what rhymes with purple, the man is most definitely in touch with his inner child, and quite probably permanently so.

The comedic chemistry between Stephen Fry and Alan is stunning, almost poetic in a Shakespearian tragedy kinda way but a shed load funnier. Alongside Mr Fry’s innate intellect he plays the fool so convincingly that at times you believe he is actually daft as a brush, but don’t be fooled, to be that silly takes talent and I won’t have a word said against him (unless it gets a laugh of course)

I do cherish the fact that I saw him way back when, and he was just as hilarious then as he is now, that’s not to say that he hasn’t improved, just that he has always been very very funny, many comedians struggle to get to that level but Mr Davies is quite frankly a natural.

Look I wrote all that without a single reference to perms….oops.

Alan is on Twitter

Alan has his own Youtube account

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Simon Jenkins, a Teacosy, Nipples, and a Seductive Onion

I had promised (to noone in particular but still it’s a promise) that I would feature some newbie comedians on my comedy blog (now being read by 5…yes FIVE..people, I’m so proud). So armed with a bag of twiglets and a half eaten liquorice allsort I managed to bribe my first victim (the allsort was one of those pink ones with the white bit in the middle so strictly speaking it wasn't a liquorice allsort but just icing, but I think I got away with it) without further ado (or more of my inane drivel), this is Simon Jenkins answering my 20 questions (and to be frank, I'm sure Mr Skinner would agree, I have a sneaky feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of this chap in the future (teacosy optional) You heard it here first.), over to you Mr Jenkins:

1) Full Name

Simon Jenkins

2) How old are you?

21 and a sixth.

3) Other vital statistics?

I have four beautiful eyes, and my nipples are smaller than a 5p piece.

4) Where are you from?

Old Portsmouth. It's essentially Portsmouth, just a little bit older.

5) How long have you been a stand-up comedian?

I've been doing stand-up for just over a year now.

6) Describe yourself/your comedy in three words?

Immature and really...

7) When & where is your next gig?

My next gig is tomorrow night at the Comedy Tree in Putney. It's a wicked line up so should be a nice night. I'm trying some new stuff so always a bit anxious...

8) Who are you major influences?

I'd say my biggest influence is Paul Whitehouse (from Fast show). My dad used to let me stay up late and watch it and I think that's how I got into comedy. In terms of stand-up, I'd say Frank Skinner is one of my heros. I had the pleasure of gigging with him recently – was beautiful. I cried... twice. In terms of general influences in life – Nadine from Girls Aloud.

9) If your comedy was an item of food what would it be?

Mexican Bacon: It's quite risky: some of you will see it and be fine. Some of you will see it and become very sick and potentially die.

10) What was your worst Comedy moment?

Actually last week. I was going on stage just before Russell Howard at a club in London so was obviously quite nervous. I walked on stage and the microphone was jammed into the stand. I pulled quite hard at it but it didn't come out. The audience's clapping died down and at that moment, I pulled the mic out, it hit me in the face with such force my glasses fell to the floor. The first minute of my set was spent checking for blood and trying to find my glasses. I've got it on video, but no one will ever see it - EVER!

11) What was your best Comedy moment?

Best comedy moment came last month. I was in the Paramount Student Comedian of the Year final at the Comedy Store. It was my first time there. Absolutely insane. The place was sold out, like 450 people, and I had mates / family there. My set was the best I've done. Then Robin Ince was judging (another hero of mine) and said some amazing things. Didn't win the night, but it was a properly good experience.

12) If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to yourself?

1. Get Laser eye surgery. 2. Don't get your hopes up, Liverpool will not win the league. 3. Don't smoke. 4. Still don't talk to strangers. 5. Don't trust Timberland – it's never too late to apologise!

13) What’s your Dad’s worst joke?

Did you ever meet that gay Scottish bloke? Ben Doon (to be said in a Scottish accent). Awful joke, pure awful, yet i'm in hysterics writing it!

14) Do you often get urges to throw annoying women out of windows in Libraries?

I refuse to go to libraries now. They're all rubbish. I get rage quite easily. Especially at my uni library. Some people just go there to talk as loud as they can about Kanye West's new song, or that new skirt, or that bloke from last night, or thrush. I've never actually confronted anyone about it, but I know that one day I'll flip out and kick someone in the face.

15) Are you a mover or a shaker?

Neither. I simply can't dance.

16) What are your views on facial hair?

Sore subject to be honest. I can't grow facial hair. No idea why. It's not genetic. Both my parents have beards, but I can't manage it. Any facial hair that does appear is just a fine ginger lock growing from my chin. Form a queue ladies...

17) Clams or Oysters?

Neither. I'm proper picky about what I eat. Are Oysters the things that make you wanna have sex? They're rough. I prefer toast or an onion to seduce my lady.

18) If you were abducted by aliens (assuming you haven’t been already) what would you say (“take me to your leader” is not permissible)?

“Is there a smoking room on this spaceship”... Or, “I swear to God this thing better have Channel 4... If I miss Scrapheap Challenge there will be issues”.

19) Do you leave wet towels on the bathroom floor?

No f*cking way. I'm properly anal (ha) about stuff like that. I hate dirty towels. When I'm rich I'm gonna use a fresh new towel everyday. I simply can't wait. It'll be very special.

20) Do you have a stalker?

For those of you that know me very well you'll be laughing at this question. I'm gonna go ahead and just say 'no'.

Simon Jenkins is on


Simon Jenkins official website (almost)

Simon is also part of that Channel 4’s Year Dot thingy thing too

And just found out the young man is also on twitter, twittertastic!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bill Bailey, Woodlice, and Moral Fibre

Bill Bailey (born Mark Bailey 24 February 1964)

I recall my first taste of Bill bailey way back when, all he had was a humble keyboard (probably a Roland) and little else, but with a few choice notes and wide eyed looks amongst other accentuated facial expressions and occasional seductive flicks of the hair he made a lasting impression on me. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe Mr. Bailey’s unique niche in comedy,
it’s near on impossible to compare him to any other comedy act out there, few match his ludicrousness and even fewer his musical prowess, of which I am constantly in awe of (and I'm pleased to say were there a Venn diagram of Bill's Top 10 Albums and my personal choices, we would be at least 75% compatible, albeit musically speaking)

Not restricted to stand-up comedy, Bill Bailey is one of the most versatile comedians I know of, he has mastered the ability to ad-lib and act and transpose his comedy into a veritable feast of hilarity; numerous guest appearances on HIGNFY, QI, a sorely missed team captain on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, not to mention his most memorable performance as Manny alongside Dylan Moran (a.k.a. Bernard Black) in what is rapidly becoming a cult sitcom “Black Books” to name but a few of his undeniably classic moments.

The demise of Black Books (purely it seems on the basis that Mr. Moran got bored and wanted to move on, which is fair enough) and Bills resignation from Buzzcocks caused considerable pain but has been eased by his appearance on Twitter, it seems he is just as funny in real life as on the stage (which is not always the case for comedians…indeed in my case it seems to be the complete reverse, funny in life but shite on stage…ho-hum) anyway I self-indulgently digress, as I was saying, twitter has become a public, macro-blog outlet for Mr. Bailey, his recent travels have brought about many amusing anecdotes via Twitter, including the adventures of Leonard (Bill’s highly trained but nevertheless enslaved Woodlouse) and close encounters with Komodo Dragons. If you’re not on Twitter yet, to follow Bill Bailey is reason enough to sign-up.

I must confess my desire to bear Bill Bailey’s love-child (albeit with a slight genetic modification to ensure my hair genes over-ride his, ie. More on top, less everywhere else) alas this bears little weight anymore as it is becoming increasingly apparent that I’d be willing to reproduce with the majority of comedians that I find hilarious, but my lack of moral fiber aside, Bill Bailey is high on my list of favorite all time comedians and should I eliminate a few dead ones, quite possibly he would be a contender for pole position (I resist the urge to euphemise…again)

In short, Bill Bailey is pure genius. I adore the man and find it hard to believe that there’s anyone out there who doesn’t find him an intensely funny comedian.

Bill Bailey IS on Twitter
Bill Bailey’s Official Website

plus a few tasters on Youtube:

Things to do before we die

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oysters & Clams

About one year ago I decided I wanted to be a stand-up comedian, I have so far only achieved one open-mic and were it not for my geographical location (Gaziantep in SE Turkey or to be more precise a Turks Slipper) I'm sure I would be scaring the shit out of Open Mic Comedy Club managers with my begging, pleading and sexual harassment to get a spot to inflict my so far poor delivery and even more dire material on an unsuspecting (but probably not paying so they get their just desserts) audience.

Mostly I thought I was just a delusional twit but I’m beginning to believe my own hype and the combination is almost certainly a required qualification for being a comedian. What adds fuel to the fire and pisses on it at the same time is that I'm British but one quarter American, or should I say I'm American but three quarters of me is British? So I have a constant battle between "The world is your oyster" and "The world is a horrible smelly half-baked fishy clam which is sure to give you food poisoning and then you'll die...more tea vicar?", luckily (for me at least) I tend to sway towards blind optimism which judging from my first open mic I need shed-loads of the stuff.

In short, this is my comedy blog, my journey in the wonderful world of comedy, exploring other comedians, new, old, obscure and even dead and gone, and also struggling wannabes like myself. I hope you enjoy and I hope I learn a thing or two along the way.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rhod Gilbert and Hair-Splitters

Rhod Gilbert (born 18 October 1968)

I stumbled upon Rhod Gilbert by pure accident while searching for something completely different on Youtube, as you do (now you may well ask why isn’t this article under Youtube instead of Explore but frankly that’s just splitting hairs and at this stage of the article I’ll have no truck with hair-splitters)…where was I?...ah yes, at the time it was just a video of a unnamed Welsh comic under a vague title of “Funniest Video Ever” or words to that effect.

It was his skit of having luggage trouble on arrival in Australia. It truly made me guffaw and still does, and I found out later after watching more of his performances that his “anger” appears quite frequently and is all part and parcel of his unique persona, feeding from ridiculous situations and experiences from his life he seems to orchestrate his anger into crescendos as he builds up to his punch lines, it’s almost musical the way he ebbs and flows with normal level conversation through to irritation and full blown fury. But his anger seems quite unthreatening and innocuous and for the life of me I cannot explain how that is, though I suspect it may have something to do with him being Welsh.

Now usually, it has to be said, my taste sways towards surreal alternative comedians (though in this day and age people assume that you ARE “alternative” unless you state otherwise which kind of makes the label invalid as how can you be “alternative” when there’s little or noone to be “alternative” too if you catch my drift, if you don’t then I suggest you avoid anything in parenthesis as it does tend to be drivel)

Rhod Gilbert is what I call a “Real” Comedian, he’s observational take on the world veers towards the minute details of life that we so often overlook and take for granted (a great skit on duvet tog ratings springs to mind focusing on 10.5 tog and why the hell would we need half a tog when we don’t even know what a tog is) and the ridiculousness of his anger at these trivial aspects of life make Rhod all the more endearing and hilarious.

I just this minute Wikipedia-ed the man as I didn’t know how old he was (40), and I found out he only started stand-up comedy a mere 7 years ago, and in 2006 he was placed in the Times top 50 comedians, not bad going for just 7 years on the block. (There’s hope for the old girl yet!)

I’ve not yet seen this man perform live. I hope that statement will be false in the very near future (though my geographically challengedeyness fails me yet again on that front)

In a word Rhod Gilbert is very very funny (ok 3 words, listen I’ve already made my stance very clear on hair-splitters, so just watch it…and watch Rhod Gilbert while you’re at it too)

Rhod Gilbert is on Myspace