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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BILL HICKS (plus a bionic panda)

William Melvin (Bill) Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994)

If you’ve never heard or seen Bill Hicks your life is not complete (at least not comedywise) He has been the inspiration for hundreds, maybe thousands of comedians, his unfettered caustic honesty and anti-establishment attitude was unique and as far as I can see unreplicated, OK, OK, I know there are many great comedians out there that are anti-establishment but correct me if I’m wrong (I often am) they all seem just angry and fail to quite hit the mark in the way that Hicks did.

He was controversial and thought-provoking in his performances, and came across to me like he was trying desperately to open peoples minds,
make them think beyond the boundaries placed by our cultures. I believe he achieved this with ease, his angsty delivery made you listen like a naive child being told that what your parents said to you about playing with fire was just propaganda and then being handed a box of matches and given the task to burn an effigy of Bush.

Bill Hicks with cynicism angst, quick-fire retorts that made hecklers cower like small rodents cowering from a rather large and fierce predator, combined with a somewhat contradictory charm and devishly good looks reminds me all too vividly of a soft toy I had as a child, a once cute panda, mutilated by my brothers (inspired by the six million dollar man) one eye removed and replaced with wires and a rusty washer, a square of fur on his chest removed and a broken circuit board inserted, he was never quite the same again. On a quick peripheral glance a cute fluffly black and white reproductively challenged mammal, on closer inspection a bionic bear with attitude that could have your eye out in seconds.

Hicks was undoubtedly renowned for his drug & alcohol abuse (in his case he never exhaled) and sadly it was his undoing in the end when he died from cancer at the untimely age of 32. You rarely saw Hicks without a cigarette in his hand and it became part of his rogue image and even part of his material. You write about what you know, you reflect on the life you lead, almost it seems comedians are on a journey of self-help therapy, exercising demons, making sense of the world in the only way they know how to.

There is most definitely a little Bill Hicks in me screaming to get out, would I choose the road of political satire I’m sure my currently subdued angst would reveal itself, though I never consider myself to be politically savvy enough to venture down that road.

One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to see this man perform live, alas I never shall, at least not without the assistance of a very good medium and an Ouija board with added expletives. My desire to see him live is not for the thrill of being in the same room, you understand, but akin to seeing a band perform live, you experience an essence of them lost in recordings, stage charisma and presence count for an awful lot, not to mention the humanness of adlibbing and heckler retorts that often (all too often in my book) get scrapped before it goes to DVD.

The question is if I had conclusive proof that a spirit world existed and Bill Hicks was gigging on the other side, would I consider topping myself?....nah mate.

That all said and done, Channel 4 ran a poll for the Top 100 Comedians of All Time. Hicks was voted 6th.

I’ll swing with that.

Official Website: