Thursday, 30 April 2009

Ben's Big Gig


8pm start, North Wall Arts Centre in Summertown, Oxford.

Friday, 17 April 2009

London Society 6

The following is bollocks.

It's been a while since I updated you on what's been happening in 'the Smoke' - as Norman Lamont self-consciously calls London when he's chatting up some oik.

I'm afraid that things have been fantastically dull. Roy Keane has retreated further into himself following his departure from Sunderland United. He is still as pleasant as ever - in fact he's so gentle and kind that he makes me feel tearful on a quite insupportably frequent basis - but he's lost his sparkle. I have to admit that I am revising my opinion that he was better off out of soccer.

As ghastly as everyone involved undoubtedly is, I am resigned to the fact that Roy was born for the sport. Perhaps he should forget about management, and start playing again. He may not be able to control a bunch of plebs, but he can still control a football, effortlessly.

Is it really such a ludicrous idea? It won't take Roy long to get fit, although he'll have a bit of work to do, because he has become an ardent baker of cakes, and - alas - a rather ardent eater of them too. He is not helped in this by dear old Julian Clary, who is also a devotee of tea time treats, but who couldn't put weight on if he swallowed a pianoforte.

Norman Lamont is quite a lot older than Roy, and he is fitter than ever. He has become utterly OBSESSED with martial arts. It all started when his personal trainer, Felix, suggested wrestling as a way of losing podgy fat. Norms went at it like a madman, and is now consumed by a desire to fight. I am terrified to be out in public with him, lest he launch a judo kick at someone's midriff. (Norms thinks he can kick above his own head, but he really can't. Felix confided in me that Norman has very short hamstrings.)

Other than baking and fighting the latest news is that Julian is thinking of doing a game show. It will be startling to see him do his act again. He is almost as quiet as Roy in normal life, but when he hits a stage he is totally transformed into an outrageous diva. Personally I prefer the dry wit that he shows in private to the high camp, but I suppose the latter is more likely to pay the bills.

I made a few suggestions for the format of the game show. I grant you that it is highly amusing to watch the lower orders having large (for them) sums of money snatched from their grasping hands at the last minute, but I think we could be crueller still.

That chap Jeremy Thingy, who REALLY plumbs the depths of the gene pool on his programme, has the right idea by reading the results of paternity tests live on air. I think Julian should take a leaf out of his book. What purpose do game, chat and reality shows have other than to afford the rest of us the chance to revel in the humiliation of the underclass?

My suggestion - which I'm afraid rather upset Roy (although Norman was very pro) - was that if a contestant failed to correctly answer, say, five questions in a row, then Julian or an assistant would flog them VERY hard. There would be complaints, obviously, but such a show would become incredibly popular with, for example, students - a cult classic in the making.

Julian said he'll think about it. But I'm not convinced that he meant it.


I just started an overwrought post about how disagreeable it is when friends come to a gig and I underperform. Because I'm 33 not 13, I deleted it.*

Instead, let me draw your attention to two superb music acts: Frank Turner and Dive Dive. I must confess that when my friend Jon waxed lyrical about the latter I thought he might be guilty of hyperbole - but they're terrific. They're ballsy without being immature, lyrically outstanding and exceptionally tight and skilful musicians. I can't wait to see them live.

They play with Frank Turner. I can't think of a better way of expressing my admiration for his music than to say that for several weeks I've been playing it almost constantly while I work. Well, I suppose I could add that he too is a quite brilliant lyricist. And that I love his melodies. And that judging by his videos he is an outstanding showman. And that several of his songs have resonated with me in rather a profound way. But that would be a bit gushing, so I won't.

Frank and Dive Dive are all nice - and interesting - guys too. And so yes, I'd be less (or more?) than human if I wasn't particularly disappointed to have picked last night to turn in a low-energy, hackneyed, uninspiring and hideously unfunny set.

Oh well. Dying in front of friends every now and again is a price you have to pay in the early years of stand-up. It'll take me until the next good gig to remember it's a price worth paying.

*Actually that's unfair on thirteen year olds. I'm not sure I was such a big ponce at 13 as I am now.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Mixing My Media

I had a lovely experience last night.

M'great mate George Chopping asked me to take part in an open mic acoustic night at the Chester Arms (one of the nicest pubs in Oxford). It was a poetry event with a bit of music and I was the only stand-up.

This presented an interesting challenge. I love the idea of performing in a not exclusively stand-up environment (not least because I don't actually like most stand-up comedy) but one is never quite sure if it will work. When music and comedy combine, the music tends to win, as that is what the bulk of the audience has come to see. (I'm not talking about people like Bill Bailey who brilliantly do musical comedy, but alternating different acts.)

I very much enjoyed listening to everyone last night, and was really pleased that my own set went well, as it means that I am all the more eager to make like David Cross (American comedian from Arrested Development who often opens for rock bands) and do the stand-up thang in non-comedy environments.

So all in all a very cool evening. It gave me some inspiration, and I enjoyed dipping my toes in the waters of poetry.
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