Blog

  • 19 Oct

    Get Brexit Done? Not On Your Life.

    People now pushing Brexit simply because ‘it’s been dragging on too long’. Fuck you. So sorry you’re bored of all this. How tedious that it’s always on the news. Must be a real drag to be part of one of the most significant flash points in modern European history.  Must put you right off your dinner. 

    Of course it’s tedious. Most socio-political and economic things that matter are. This is incredibly dry and complicated, no matter how Whitehall and its tabloid patrons would have it spun. 

    Of course it’s irritating. It’s being managed by a drunken clown convention straight out of a Hogarth print. If you were being forced to watch your kid’s incredibly important birthday party being planned every stage by scores of narcissistic rabid baboons, you’d have every right to be irritated. There’s only so much shit being flung across the room one can stomach.

    But that doesn’t mean anyone should be dismissing this seismic calamity, nor the way it came to fruition, as some trifling inconvenience that simply needs to be over and done with, like it’s the weekly big shop. What a shallow collection of self-absorbed skin bags we really are. 

    Maybe a major reason it’s still dragging on is because it’s incredibly important that we get it right. That maybe there is NO WAY to get it right. That maybe, just maybe, we should have left this sort of thing to those with relevant knowledge, skills, experience and qualifications. Not the current gaggle of self-serving politicians and certainly not ‘The People’.

    I’m not saying ‘The People’ are thick. This isn’t some smug middle-class anti-Brexit tirade. My point is that when it comes to issues like this, people are, at best, completely indifferent. We’re more interested in going down the pub with friends, binging Netflix, having a nice lunch or seeing who wins Strictly. And that’s absolutely fine. Point is, we shouldn’t need to be involved in this. 

    Back in 2016, Cameron probably thought he could quietly slip this through, appease the euro-sceptic back benchers, declare a decisive ‘Remain’ victory and no one would even notice. Talk about not reading the room. People were annoyed for wealth of reasons, most of them nothing of them to do with Europe. I doubt the way Europe and the United Kingdom interact on any level was really even on our radar in any meaningful way. Most of us are just trying to get through the fucking day.

    But we all got whipped up by opportunists and money lenders into having an opinion, into a froth of polarisation that shattered the gossamer-thin facade of class and societal unity. While some no doubt had informed convictions either way, for the most part, those of us happy to keep the status quo because everything seemed to be working fine ticked ‘Remain’, while the disaffected, fearful and the ignored channelled their ire and frustration into the ‘Leave’ checkbox.

    Now we’ve got the Bumbling Prince of Thieves in No 10 and he is no more equipped to or interested in securing the best deal for the British people than a shark is bothered that its throat might be a tad rough when it swallows your leg.

    Can’t we just ‘get it over with?’ Can’t we get back to how things were? what is that exactly? A continually grim struggle amidst the shackles of austerity? Some mythic version of Britain so bucolic and fantastical you’d think Downton Abbey was up the road and the local pub was run by a fucking hobbit? Perhaps somewhere in between.

    Fact is, we are a mongrel nation. A stew of cultures, cross pollination, traditions, races, classes and creeds. Even in the Brexit heartlands, that you only have to travel mere minutes to stumble upon a different regional dialect shows just how many different tribes are so densely packed in to such a small collection of islands. This tribalism goes back centuries. You don’t really want to pull at that threat. Inviting us to make such an ill-informed binary choice and pick a side was always going to be a catastrophe. 

    No, we should not ‘just get on with it’. Not if it’s a bad idea – which all research and evidence would suggest it is. however you voted in 2016, no one voted for this. No one. Because ‘this’ wasn’t on the ballot box. 

    Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m not going to forget my principles, standards nor considered and reasoned research that led me to make what I hoped was an impartial and informed choice. But hey, I’m no expert. We’ve had enough of those so probably just as well. 

  • 01 Jul

    No Sex Please, We’re Creating: Gender and Equality in the Writers’ Room

    There was a bit of a hoo-ha recently when it was reported that ITV’s Head Of Comedy, Saskia Schuster has banned all-male comedy writing teams.

    Monty Python (L-R: Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese)

    Monty Python (less Terry G) 1969: arguably the most famous comedy writing team ever. The Oxbridge graduates used to meet regularly upstairs at Soho’s famous Nellie Dean pub in Soho. Women need not apply.

    This lead to all sorts of misguided and unhelpful online outrage about men being marginalised so women could be fast-tracked into the British comedy industry, regardless of merit.

    Now, as anyone with even a Trump-sized brain knows, this is not discriminating against men. It’s a laudable attempt to redress the balance in what has historically been a male-dominated space.

    The Simpsons writers room

    The Simpsons writers’ room, early 90s. Note: the only female present is cardboard. And a baby.

    Writer and performer Brona C Titley offered this excellent response in The Guardian, which compelled me share my own experience of working in a comedy writers’ room.

    My sole experience is an odd one, and not much fun.

    I worked on a (thankfully) failed attempt to replicate a US late-night talk show for UK audiences. I spent several weeks trapped in a braying sausage fest, all white men, leftovers from Loaded magazine.

    My overriding memory is just how exhausting it was. All the banter about ‘fit birds’ and ‘’aving it large’ (whatever the fuck that means) turning to tedious white noise.

    Funny thing is, I was completely marginalised and ignored throughout the process even among ‘my own kind’, because I was the only one in the room who knew nothing about football and wasn’t a lad, thereby somehow invalidating my input.

    This wasn’t an awful experience because they were all white men, but because they were monstrous arseholes who happened to be white men. But the fact there was no diversity didn’t help.

    You gather together one type of ANYBODY in a room and the experience will nosedive pretty fast.

    I’ve had incredibly satisfying creative collaborations exclusively with white men, exclusively with white women, and with a diverse mix of talented people.

    Crucially, I’ve also had awful experiences working with all of the above.

    30 Rock starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin

    Tina Fey‘s brilliant 30 Rock, based on her own experiences as Head Writer in SNL.

    Equality and diversity should be encouraged in every endeavour; Titley’s article is bang on. It’s tragic we still even have to say this. But what irks me is that such dialogue in the public space often rapidly descends into identity politics. Which is a cop out.

    Monty Python, a lot of whose output has dated horribly, will always be a profound influence. As is Peter Cook and Peter Sellers. As is Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams. But I don’t admire them because they are all white men. But because their comedic brains resonate with me. Still do.

    The greatest thing about the greatest comedy is that it transcends class, race and gender.

    Alternatively, Fleabag, the best comedy I’ve seen in a long time, isn’t superb because Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a woman, it’s because she’s a phenomenal writer, actor and director. But thank God we live in times where she was given the opportunities to gift the world her brilliantly warped mind.

    Because, as Titley correctly asserts, everyone who works in the creative industry does so because they were given an opportunity.

    Fleabag on BBC Comedy

    Fleabag. Created and written by a hugely talented human. Who happens to be a woman.

    There is no doubt that diversity tends to birth infinitely more interesting work – IF the chemistry is there. And I think that’s crucial for me. That’s how you create your best work and ultimately, it’s the work that counts.

    Bottom line, I don’t really give a shit who is in the room with me as long as they bring something to the table.

  • 24 Jun

    The Fox in the Henhouse: Boris Johnson Will Be Our Prime Minister

    I continue to watch from across the old sea as my country collapses in on itself. Weird times. Strange days.

    Three years ago, when we had the chance to stop Brexit, we failed. Even those who canvassed so aggressively to leave looked as surprised as us ‘remoaners’ when the results came in. Gove, Johnson and Farage stumbled out, blinking into the morning light in utter bewilderment.

    They tapped into the anti-establishment malcontent, patriotic impotence and paranoid xenophobia that had been brewing among the British population following 2008’s banking crisis and years of subsequent austerity, and their barrage of bluster and bullshit actually convinced some people this might dig us out of whatever hole they perceived us all to be in. Well, look at us all now.

    LOOK. AT. US.

    We thought it was bad then. It’s a fantasist’s utopia compared to the toxic clown convention currently seeping amidst Whitehall today.

    Three years on since we cracked open the Hellmouth, unleashing all these foul demons, and Britain still festers as the punchline of a truly abysmal joke. But here’s the topper. A ridiculous, scheming oaf is set to rule Albion.

    We’re about to witness the keys to the Kingdom being handed over to a self-serving shaved ape who lacks the charm or grace to see that he lacks both charm and grace.

    A coiffured suet pudding whose existence is so rarified and exclusive, he equates human suffering with not having that fifth helping of Sasquatch steak and mermaid caviar.

    A conniving boar-bear chimera who mistakes stubborn tenacity for guiding principles, bare-faced mendacity for political acumen and cheap charisma for intellectual savvy.

    A fair-weather politician who switches his views and policies at the drop of his topper to manipulate whomever he is trying to either bully into submission or woo under the jizz-splattered sheets of his extra-marital bedchamber.

    To call him a swivel-eyed loon would be an insult to swivel-eyed loons; he is a dog chasing cars.

    He just wants to clutch his Golden Snitch, all consequences be damned. A glorified journalist with a nose for popular rhetoric and received opinion, which makes him more dangerous than the facade of public buffoonery might suggest.

    At some point in his bafflingly-fascinating life he decided to imitate his political idol Sir Winston ‘it’s complicated’ Churchill.

    He thought he could position himself as the determined British Bulldog, chugging down Blitz spirit as he bulldozes his way through to the hearts and minds of the people and into the hallway of Number Ten.

    After the Bus Debacle and the very public professional evisceration, we all thought he failed. Then This happened. He’s only gone and done it. He’s only gone and bloody done it.

    Despite all those lies, gaffs, tricks and blunders, it’s actually happening.

    The worst part? When this overgrown homunculus lumbers into the top job – which he inevitably will – he’ll feel utterly vindicated in his self conviction. That he was right all along. That he was destined to be Prime Minister.

    Fuck all you naysayers and fuck all your slandering, he proved them all wrong. He’s reached the top of the tree and you know he will only go down swinging. And all we can do is watch this unholy shitshow unfold in hideous realtime.

    There is nothing we can do except witness this monstrous arsehole take the reins and charge the stallions over the precipice.

    This is why I drink a lot of gin.

  • 25 May

    Excelsior! I’ve Signed a Deal to Write a Book About Stan Lee

    Hello world.

    I am thrilled to announce that I have been commissioned by Pen and Sword Books to write a shiny new book about Stan Lee.

    In case you didn’t know, Stan is one of the most important creative forces of the twentieth century. He helped shape pop culture as we know it. The cavalcade of flawed, multidimensional characters he co-created for Marvel Comics (including Spider-Man, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk and Black Panther) still resonate with millions across the globe.

    His work helped spawn the most successful film franchise of all time; the Marvel Cinematic Universe has collectively grossed nearly $20 billion – and counting. Not too shabby.

    On a personal note, Stan’s iconic work has been a constant in my life. From being an excitable kid prancing around the house in a Spider-Man costume and the hundreds of Marvel comics still gathering dust in my mum’s attic, to bunking off work to catch a 9am screening of the first Avengers film (sorrynotsorry Comedy Central) and now sharing these film with my son, his vibrant imagination continues to excite me no end.

    This is a dream come true for a grumpy ageing fanboy such as myself and I can’t wait to get stuck into the next chapter of my career.

    I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks to Hannah George, Marc Burrows, Dave Jackson, Matt McAllister and Kate Bohdanowicz for their help in making this happen. Now all I’ve got to do is write the damn thing. Because as the Man says, with a small amount of power, comes a small amount of responsibility. Or something.

    More updates on this, including release dates, to follow. Watch this space.

     

  • 12 Jul

    The 2018 World Cup: A Glorious Distraction

    Despite my complete and utter indifference to football, I am truly sad England are out of the World Cup. My country needed the win. We need to feel triumphant. Upbeat. Positive. Some unifying force in the face of the monstrous clusterfuck that is the current British social and political landscape.

    This now goes beyond Brexit. The past few days have exposed, more than ever, the visible abuse of power by the monstrous arsehole convention at the helm. Watching from across the Old Sea, I am astonished by the flagrant disregard the few have for how they may appear to the many. They just don’t care. The Machiavellian chess game once sequestered behind the gates of Westminster has spilled out into the public space. Shameless bungling amateurs scrabbling around in the dirt to gratify their colossal, gossamer-thin egos. It is brazen, it is audacious and it is ugly. It’s like doing the Charleston in front of Stephen Hawking, taking a baseball bat to his chair, then insisting he pay for the damage. That brilliant mind has been mercifully returned to the cosmos to shine for all eternity, but for those of us left behind, we continue to watch this abhorrent shitshow unfold with depressing predictability.

    It has rarely been so apparent in British politics that these bloated, psychopathic clowns are prepared to burn down the circus tent and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. This is their party and we are not invited. Not really. We have the vote, but if policy is based on blatant lies, and we continue to believe whatever bullshit we are fed, that vote is wasted. We are merely spectators left out in the cold, our noses pressed against the window like desperate Dickensian orphans.

    The worst part? We just take it. What do we do? March? It’s a distraction that rarely works. If it did, those in power wouldn’t let us do it. Just how angry does the mob have to get before we trade placards for pitchforks and torches?

    The current Brexit strategy will please no one. They know this. Meanwhile the bus continues to hurtle towards the precipice without a map. The brakes are worn. The undercarriage is shot. The tyres are burst, flapping against the dirt as a whoop of obnoxious, fatted baboons fight over control of the wheel. Again, I ask, what do we do? Watch Love Island and crack open another beer?

    Still. From what I have seen on here, the sterling effort by Southgate and his respected team has ignited a spark in Albion. This Sceptred Isle is a force to be reckoned with. Even if it is only in football, maybe it’s enough. So let’s keep the fires burning, stay in the game and hold on to hope. In the meantime, here’s a baby sloth in a teacup. Isn’t it cute? Have a great day.

    By admin Uncategorized
  • 07 Jul

    Improv in NYC and Horror on a Summer Afternoon

    Hello world.

    Quick update. Just returned from performing improv at the Del Close Marathon in New York. Fortunate enough to do two shows with one of my teams at Improv Comedy Copenhagen. A real honour, a real bucket list ticker and a real treat. Roll on next year!

    In other news, my latest column/piece/blog/thingy for The Copenhagen Post is live. It’s all about the terrifying experience I had hosting a cake auction at my son’s nursery summer party. Enjoy!

    As you were.

    xA

     

  • 12 Apr

    Death, Pride and Prejudice

    Hello world. Hope all is well in yours.

    The first part of 2018 has been a curious one for me. During the first week of January, my stepfather passed away the gloriously ripe old age of 91. He’d been battling Parkinson’s Disease for a long time, and my mother had also endured a great deal looking after him during his final years. It’s a grisly terminal illness and I was glad and thankful to see the end to both their suffering.

    The greatest trick death ever pulled is convincing you its all about you. Of course it’s not. Death doesn’t happen to you. Once you’re gone you’re gone – wherever that may be. Death happens to everyone else. The shock, the tears, the seemingly endless practicalities. The tedious minutae of planning. That’s the essence of death surely. Grief and logistics. Those left behind have to process so much. Even in this case when it’s expected and indeed welcome, death really is exhausting.

    So recent events ensured that start of my year was oddly timeless. At once fast yet slow. After an inevitable period of adjustment, I suddenly realised it was April. Running concurrently with family events, I’d taken a break from improv and stand up to take part in a theatrical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. After last year’s Zoo Story, I was approached about playing Mr Bennet, the distant and sarcastic pater familias of the family at the heart of Jane Austen’s classic commentary of love, family and early 19th century social airs and graces.

    I readily accepted. I like being sarcastic and if I get to do it while wearing late Georgian fashion all the better. The production is being staged in Denmark by Copenhagen Theatre Circle and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some talented, lovely people. It’s rare in this game to meet people who are both talented AND lovely – they’ve always seemed to me hitherto mutually exclusive – and thanks to this vibrant cast, I have laughed and learned a lot along the way.

    Pride and Prejudice opens on April 18th and closes on 28th. It’s been an intense and intensive schedule during the build up and at times it’s been rather gruelling. I’ve been spoiled by improv I have to say. You just get up with nothing and create on the spot. I’m an impatient show off and I enjoy the instant gratification from winging it and discovering funny and extraordinary multiple characters in the moment. I find improv to be closer an experience to stand-up comedy than conventional theatre and I’d forgotten the more arduous aspects of the latter. Blocking, thrashing out character motivation, weeks of rehearsals and, of course, learning lines. Still, I was flattered to have been asked and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of finding the character, trying to bring a little piece of myself into such an iconic literary figure. I am proud to be involved and look forward to taking the stage next week.

    That said, we haven’t even started the run and already I’m exhausted. But being exhausted seems to be defining quality of 2018. Family has been front and centre both on and off stage. Seems fitting to reflect on how one feeds into the other. As I pretend to be an emotionally absent father who struggled with his duties towards his wife and daughters, I can’t help but reflect on the role my stepdad played in my life. He too was a complicated man, but a good man. He was no stranger to stepping back from the more dramatic aspects of those around him and often indulged in considered bursts of wry sarcasm. I suspect he and Mr Bennet would have got on rather well.

    Pride and Prejudice 
    18-28 April 2018
    Weekdays at 19:00
    Saturdays at 14:00 and 19:00
    Sunday at 14:00
    Buy tickets here

    Krudttønden
    Serridslevvej 2
    2100 København Ø

  • 10 Nov

    The Zoo Story

    Have you heard the one about two Brits in Copenhagen pretending they’re in New York?

    Very excited to report that I have recently been asked to take the stage for a theatrical production of Edward Albee’s classic 1958 play The Zoo Story at Huset in the heart of Copenhagen. Already home to a thriving English-speaking theatre company House of International Theatre (HIT), I was thrilled to be asked by my fellow ICC performer Charlier Waller to form the remaining 50 per cent of the cast.

    If you don’t know about it (and to my shame I include myself in this), it’s a one-act, two-person play that has often been labelled Theatre of the Absurd, but I don’t feel it is. It deals with universal themes including failure to communicate, isolation, class, societal failure and male identity.

    While being quintessentially American at its heart, the ideas that Albee played with in his writing knows no country or nationality. This also explains why we chose to perform in our native British accents and not pretend to be American. As two ex pats living in a different country, we felt some affinity with the ideas of being out of time and place, strangers in a strange land, somewhat disconnected from the status quo. Again, all these themes run throughout every aspect of Albee’s writing.

    It’s only a three-night run and a short play but it has proved quite an intense experience, not least because both Charlie and I are on stage for the entire play. Even in a longer play it’s rare for an actor to have 100 per cent stage time so in accumulative terms, it’s quite an undertaking. I should also mention that this is the first time I’ve been on stage for scripted performance since I was at school. So there’s that.

    Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed treading the boards, I hope this won’t be my last. Time will tell…

     

     

    By admin News Performances
  • 18 Aug

    Sir Leslie Quint: revisiting an old friend

    A little over ten years ago, myself and writer/director Richard Sclater made a one-off show for Paramount Comedy Channel called Sir Leslie Quint: A Life in Film. Only this year, I finally got my hands on the episodes.

    The show was a tribute to our love for the bizarre, eccentric and sometimes deeply offensive British film directors such as Ken Russell, Michael Winner and John Boorman. All pushed the boundaries of cinema and all lived lives as large as the characters they put on screen.

    Named after my favourite character in one of my favourite films (I’ll leave you to work that out), Quint also represented those types of Englishmen who seem forever lost in time, forever out of touch and forever remaining positive in the face of monstrous adversity -usually of their own making.

    Our show also set out to lampoon the cultural trends of cinema and society through the decades of the 20th Century, as seen through the bemused eyes of one of its survivors.

    We wrote it by Richard interviewing me in character and improvised my responses to various questions about my life, work, films and controversies. This was then hammered out into a script.

    We had great fun filming this series, shot on location in London, such as Mayfair, Soho and Hampstead Heath. some of the shots we got in the Red light district we had to do on the sly, often met with disapproving glares from large men in doorways to sex clubs – who knew these gentlemen didn’t want their face captured on camera. But, thanks to bold and cunning moves by Jedd Thomas and Will Sinclair, we got more than we could have hoped.

    We wanted Quint to have lived and breathed key moments in history, much like Forrest Gump or Woody Allen’s Zelig, but on a much smaller budget. I’d also like to mention the superb work by Paramount’s in-house design team led by Chris Wainwright, who worked above and beyond to interweave Quint into documented archive imagery and also to create those absolutely brilliant movie posters, most of which I would happily hang on my wall.

    It’s the little details, I feel, that make this show come alive, encouraging pausing to study the frame for easter eggs and almost-hidden gags.

    Even after all this time, I feel that Quint still stands up. We were very proud of what we achieved with virtually no money, back before people could just shoot on a smart phone and edit on their laptop, and we’re still proud of it now. It’s dark, twisted and more than a little mischievous, but also warm, nostalgic and Quint himself is a strangely likeable monster.

    It’s perhaps ironic that watching this series again makes me nostalgic for a different time in TV land. We were given complete creative freedom on this little documentary. I suspect that would not be the case these days. Paramount actually went on to commission us to write a pilot episode for a full series. Sadly,  due to a change in management, this never saw the light of day. But I can assure you it’s a cracker.

    A year or so later, Paramount rebranded as Comedy Central, or ‘The Friends Channel’, with little interest in making original shows. So it goes. But I like to think that Leslie will one day return. You can’t keep someone like him down for long…

    You can watch the full series of Sir Leslie Quint: A Life in Film right here on YouTube.

     

     

  • 06 May

    New Column for The Copenhagen Post

    Hello world,

    Just a quick update. The Copenhagen Post, Denmark’s leading English-speaking newspaper has foolishly let me unload my brain in a new column.

    Read the first one here.

    I can’t take credit for the awesome pun on my name, and the child in the photo isn’t my son, but the rest is all me.

    Lastly, I’ve landed a new voice-over gig. I’ll reveal more very soon but without giving the game away, here’s a hint. LEGO.

    As you were.

     

     

     

    By admin Uncategorized
1 2 3 4 5