comedy

  • 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.

  • 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.

     

     

  • 04 Nov

    EDIT: The Plotters finally embeddable

    Hello world,

    Right, on the eve of the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot it seem fitting I am finally able to embed my latest short film, The Plotters, onto my site.

    As you may or may not know we made the final thirteen films in the Virgin Media Shorts competition, and are eligible for the grand final, on Thursday November 8th. Hopefully the verisimilitude of the date for the final falling so near to Bonfire Night may work in our favour, but then I’ve always been a silly, sentimental sort. Anyway, enjoy.

  • 21 Oct

    What offends you?

    There’s currently a lot of hubbub in the media about comedians offending people. BBC Four reminded us with a patchy drama about the outrage back in 79 surrounding the release of Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, while Ricky Gervais has caused a Twitter storm over use of the word ‘mong’.

    But does anyone ever take a moment to think about what it actually means to be offended? Really, it just means someone says or does something you don’t like.

    I hate to break it to you but that’s not going to go away, no matter how much you protest, scream and shout. And I guarantee something you hold dear and true will offend someone else and vice versa.

    It’s just how the world works. You can’t police this, because different people are offended by different things. If you want to be really offensive in the Middle East, throw a shoe. If you want to be really shocking in Japan, blow your nose in public.

    In the past we Brits were offended by a woman showing her ankle. Ridiculous. Bottom line, being offended is the price we pay for freedom of speech.

    People can be cruel, vicious and downright nasty, but that same licence to say what you want has allowed some of the greatest acts of creativity, innovation and discovery.

    Besides, if someone offends you, you have the right to be offensive back. If someone insults your god, insult their wife. Someone pokes fun at your ethnicity, give them a bunch of fives. Someone sexually harasses you, express your gratitude. And if you find that offensive, that’s the point.

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    In other news, there’s a new coffee machine in the kitchen where I work. It really is a marvel of the modern world. It has three settings, none of which result in any coffee.

    Setting one offers a feeble dribble of dark brown mud into the cup, followed by an equally pathetic splash of cold water. Setting two is very similar to setting one, except without the water. But the real triumph is setting three. Whoever factored this one in should be awarded the Nobel Prize.

    It begins with the machine vibrating and thrashing like a blackbird trapped in a shoebox. This is followed by a sound akin to pig being aggressively guided through a rusty mincer.

    Then, once this whole production has died down, comes the grand finale. Molten coffee cascades all over the table while a pyroclastic cloud of scalding steam is jettisoned into the unsuspecting face of anyone within a ten-foot radius.

    Three members of the accounts department perished at the mechanised hands of this infernal contraption in one week and while this may not be a bad thing in itself, morale is beginning to wane.

  • 22 Oct

    Catch me if you can…

    Hello world,Really not sure why I didn’t post this sooner but I’m about to get down and stand up again. You can catch me at The Oxford in Kentish Town on Thursday 23rd October as part of Monkey Business Comedy Club and then in Southampton on Sunday October 26th at You JestI’ll post more dates as and when I know what they are…