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Identity crisis

Identity crisis

I’ve always wanted to be a stand-up comedian. But after doing a mini-course on it and being part of a British-Chinese comedy sketch troupe, I’ve been aware that I have zero perfomance skills, and gave up on the idea, while trying in vain to groom my wife for the job.

And then I stumbled across Andrew Wong the stand-up comedian. He’s British, and at least half my age. Fortunately, he’s not a professional – but at the same time, his YouTube channel is the 19th most subscribed channel in the British comedian category.

However, I’m too far in to tell if he’s actually funny or not. Is he?

There’s also an Andrew Wong who was a ninja contestant on Australia’s Got Talent … who got mistaken for another Andrew Wong with suspected benefit fraud. Apparently.

One rule for Chinese comedians, another for Iranian ones?

One rule for Chinese comedians, another for Iranian ones?

I have occasionally dreamt of being a stand-up comedian – oh, the fame! the groupies! The nights of travelling up and down the M1 at 2am before parking in a dodgy service station! – and have therefore occasionally pondered on what my opening line would be.

Omid Djalili‘s opening gambit was to come on and be a generic Middle Eastern stereotype, fulfilling various national stereotypes before turning it all in on itself. And I’d figured if it’s good enough for him, it’d be good enough for me. (Aside from the fact I can’t do impersonations to save my life).

So I was surprised to read on the BBC Arts’ Editor’s report on comedy that Joanne Lau, a Canadian-Chinese comedian, was taken to task on comedy review site Chortle for doing pretty much the same thing in her opening act. And that she’s had to change it as a result.

I don’t particularly remember anyone taking Omid to task for doing the same thing when he started out, and it seems to have worked for him. Any particular reason for this discrepancy?

Fighting a losing battle against copyright

Fighting a losing battle against copyright

Sarah Cameron not quite standing by her man, David Cameron

So… on the night when David Cameron finally became Prime Minister, HyperHam and I had the following conversation:

HH: “Why is Mrs Cameron standing at the back, pregnant and far away from her husband?”
AW: “Well, we’re living in Tory times now.”

To me, this was so amazingly funny and of-the-moment, that I immediately posted it on Twitter and Facebook. After all, what’s a joke if it’s not instantly shared to as many people as possible?

While a couple of friends graciously shared the joke with credit, another friend of mine reposted the joke without attributing it towards me. Indeed, when I pointed out that I wrote the joke, she deleted the comment, and then we had a slight disagreement before she decided to delete the joke to begin with. But she genuinely thought she was in the right to just copy a joke without any form of attribution.

Record companies and artists everywhere bemoan how we now live in an age where people copy works without even thinking of paying for it. But at least we all know a song by Lady GaGa is by Lady GaGa. How soon is it going to be before people can’t even be bothered to acknowledge that someone else wrote that song or book or joke?

McSpace revealed…

McSpace revealed…

So, it has come to pass that four minutes of the failed US version of that seminal British classic sitcom Spaced has made it onto YouTube:

It’s amazing how the mere addition of American accents and standing studio sets make it seem more polished, more ‘other’ and more glamorous. Which takes away the original charm of Spaced in that it was rooted in an earthly reality we could all recognise.

Worst of all – the American version of tortured artist Brian has somehow become Jim Belushi with an easel. It’s pretty much the same dialogue, but he seems less of a sweet, likeable tortured artist and more of an escapee from a fraternity who’s convinced himself that being arty with an easel will get him ladies. Though all he’s gotten so far is Marcia (at least that plotline stayed).

The interludes also seem bizarre to the point of pointlessness. Why have a disappearing tram?

On the plus side, Daisy somehow seems more real with an American accent, because in my head a flighty not-sure-what-to-do young woman seems more real with an American accent. Having said that, it’s very hard to see her miming a gunfight with such fabulous gusto as what happens later in Spaced…

Go and see The Comedians

Go and see The Comedians

If you have any love of stand-up comedy, and an interest in the way it’s crafted and the dilemmas between pleasing yourself and pleasing the audience, then get thee hence to the Lyric Theatre (before Friday!) to go and see The Comedians, which I went to last night with @zsk and her husband.

It’s set in 1970s Manchester where a veteran Northern stand-up comedian runs a comedy class – and that night, his students will perform for the chance to get a contract with a venerated club promoter.

It’s often said the past is a different place, but it’s amazing to watch this recreation of 1970s Northern club comedy in 2000s West London, and marvel at the difference between then and now. Jokes you would not possibly get away with these days, mixed in with constant references to localities and local comedy clubs that reinforce the sense of community, from Liverpool to Leeds, that you just wouldn’t get today, especially in Southern England. Plus watching the on-stage collapse of a brotherly double-act is always highly amusing in a horrifying way.

There were, alas, moments when it seemed we were watching Mind Your Language instead, especially when the token comedy ethnic character popped in to steal the show for two minutes. Only, to my mind, made sadder by the realisation that the role was taken by one of the cast of the then ground-breaking Goodness Gracious Me. From being one of the co-stars of one of the most diverse sketch shows to a three-minute role, in ten years.

Of course, now we live in a world where vindictiveness is returning to comedy in a way it never has done before. Frankie Boyle, a Scottish teetotaller comedian, constantly stereotypes Scottish people as racist miser alcoholics, and refers to an Olympic athlete as being so ugly, she must be “very dirty”, and everybody laughs. Even I did. Indeed, tonight, the sick jokes website Sickipedia (don’t visit if you have any sensitivities to any jokes) is putting on a gig.

Still, if you have any love of comedy, go and see it before it closes on Friday!

Is Sarah Silverman funny?

Is Sarah Silverman funny?

When it was announced that Sarah Silverman would be gracing London with her presence, a few of my more adventurours comedy friends were excited. At least until the price of £40 a ticket was revealed, at which point my friends slowly backed away from the idea of buying a ticket.

Personally, I’m not sure why it’s funny to laugh at/with a skinny white Jewish woman making a complete balls-up about hot taboo topics like racism and AIDS. I’m fairly sure most grandmothers do the same thing, for a start. But then I’ve never really liked The Office or South Park either – what’s so funny about five-year-olds saying naughty things? (I will readily admit to loving the South Park Movie – for whatever reason, that so works as a spoof of musicals).

It would seem that having actually watched Ms Silverman, many London fans were bitterly disappointed when they spent £40 and only got 35 minutes of her performance, followed by a rather weak Q&A when she revealed that she had no more material. A fair bit of heckling and boo’ing ensued…

Why would you fly 6 hours across the Atlantic to perform just 35 minutes of material that you’ve performed before – especially considering she’d done the publicity circuit that weekend, miming a blowjob with Ricky Gervais on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. She might have been very scared by the London audience and their vibe of “C’mon, impress me” – but then, she’s played New York. And if you can break that crowd…

Anyway, bring on Eddie Izzard in December. Although he’s cost me £50 a ticket…

One great idea from the American presidental election

One great idea from the American presidental election

Obama and McCain in a US Presidential candidate funny face-off at the Alfred E Smith memorial dinner:

Admittedly, they probably had the best gag-meisters in the world working on their respective routines, but how did we let America steal the comedy crown? First Friends and now this. (I refuse to acknowledge The Office – it is the demon child of British Comedy which will one day be rightfully shunned by its peer group) I can’t help feeling a Brown vs Cameron comedy face-off would be incredibly dull, especially if this constitutes a Brown joke.

Eddie Izzard's sold out, maaannn….

Eddie Izzard's sold out, maaannn….

Time was I remember when Eddie Izzard was an up-and-coming name on London’s comedy circuit. Whispers of him and his genius abounded, and if you were lucky you might get to see him in an intimate setting.

Up till now, I’ve watched his meteroic ascension to stardom with a wry smile – who else could get away with offering downloads of him giving satnav directions (for a suitably high fee of course)? It was still so “him”, keeping to the brand, while still managing to feed the Izzard coffers.

But the latest offer sounds so daft, and ridiculously expensive. A flight for two to New York, three nights in a hotel and tickets to see Eddie in concert. And guess how much you’d have to pay for this privilege?

US$3200. Or about £1800.

I’m pretty sure that a flight for two to New York and three nights in a good hotel will cost about £1000. which basically means that people are paying £400 each for the privilege of seeing Eddie in concert in New York.


Cursing the Gods…

Cursing the Gods…

The last time I lived in London, I went on a comedy course (what do you mean, you can’t tell?) led by Marc Blake, and one of the very many comedy ideas created during the course revolved around a down-on-his-luck character who’d end every sketch by raising his fists up at the sky and cursing the Peruvian Gods above.

Fast-forward to last week, and after a very tempestuous fortnight (lost my job, got another temporary job, temporarily living in my mate’s spare kids’ bedroom and commuting four hours a day into West London) I went for a very quick drink with the ever-glamorous Fairy Blogmother. She and her fellow fairies talked about their GodBeadle concept – the idea that when life throws stones and wine barrels at you to jump over, it’s actually the God Jeremy Beadle who is laughing at you from on high for the amusement of celestial audiences.

Fast-forward to today, and the slightly sad news that Jeremy Beadle has indeed decided to become one amongst the Gods. While I never met him (and am not going to join in the necro-voyeurism that seemed to accompany the unfortunate death of Heath Ledger) I shall only note that he seemed like a jolly nice chap considering all the stresses he put people under in the name of comedy, and I really do hope he doesn’t start throwing more wine barrels and stones in my way. Stability, please!

Airplane! vs Withnail and I

Airplane! vs Withnail and I

At last month’s Rialto Film Club meeting, we all met to decide which films to show for the next six months. Most nominations within a category went by with the usual nodding heads, stroked chins and debate over whether to show films for their popularity, their rarity or just for us.

Then came the Comedy category. The choices quickly narrowed down to Airplane! vs Withnail and I. No contest I thought – Airplane! is simply one of the funniest movies of all time, full of witty and silly puns, visual and blue gags galore. In short, a guaranteed laugh-fest for anyone with a sense of humour.

Surprisingly, half the committee immediately chose Withnail and I. I’ve seen it once (admittedly on video on a dull Saturday afternoon) and I didn’t find anything particularly funny about it. I don’t think I laughed once at it. But pretty soon, both sides were arguing passionately for Airplane! or for Withnail and I. The deluded fools.

We couldn’t come to a decision, so it’s been deferred to the next meet. Which is next week.

So which film would you prefer? And why?

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