Monday, January 28, 2008

Things I am going to see...

*Few more added!

Wed 6th Feb: Something in the West End... Spamalot, maybe?
Thurs 7th Feb: The History Boys, West End
Wed 20th Feb: The Grouch, Leeds West Yorkshire Playhouse
Sun 2nd Mar: Rhod Gilbert, Doncaster Civic Theatre
Wed 12th Mar: God Of Carnage, West End
Sat 22nd Mar: Eels, Sheffield City Hall
Sat 21th Jul: Elton John, Doncaster Keepmoat Stadium
Mon 4th Aug: Hamlet (with DT), Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Sun 10th-Fri 15th Aug: Edinburgh Fringe!
Tues 23rd Sept: The Mighty Boosh, York Grand Opera

Yay :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


...that Mr Minchin is on Buzzcocks tonight! Whoop!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is there Life On Mars...?

Er.... no. Good picture though.


Heath Ledger

Terribly sad, and rather shocking news. I was 15 when 10 Things I Hate About You came out - ie the perfect age - and I just thought that Patrick Verona was pretty much the coolest character I'd ever come across. A Knight's Tale is still a favourite of mine, too - such great, fun performances from Ledger and Paul Bettany. And while I've yet to see Brokeback Mountain, there's no doubting Ledger's bravery, and passion for film in taking on that role. Such a waste of a talent, and just a young life.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My daemon

Got this from Lisa, who is currently a monkey, due to my assessment of her personality! My daemon is starting off as a lovely little ladybird, but you maybe can get him to change if you answer a few questions...

Friday, January 18, 2008

MGMT - Time To Pretend

Found this performance on Letterman - by a band I'd not heard of - on My Chemical Toilet. Very Arcade Fire/Flaming Lips/Spinto Band... One to keep an eye on, certainly.

Michel Gondry guest edits the YouTube homepage

Very cool idea!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I dreamt about this last night...

Spider-Man has made a deal with Mephisto (ie the Devil) to save Aunt May, by agreeing to have his marriage to Mary-Jane erased from memory. Whether that's *his* memory, or just everyone elses I'm not sure... but anyway, quite why I dreamt about this I don't know. I didn't realise I cared so much!

Interview with Chris Barrie

That's right, Rimmer! This was about Spitting Image coming out on DVD, though, for TVScoop :)

TVScoop: So series one of Spitting Image is coming out on DVD - I'm surprised it hasn't been out before, actually.
Chris Barrie: I suppose the satirical, topical sketch show isn't the kind of show you put out because it will obviously date so quickly. But I think now is a good time to put it out because it's like a little period piece, if you like, from 24 years ago.

TVS: Was it fun to do, while you were working on the show?
CB: Oh yes, it was immense fun. Quite a complicated show to do, of course. In this first series, what was magical about it was that we were actually doing live voices and puppeteering for a few weeks. But given that the puppets are about the size of a human being's torso hollowed out, it was quite hard work trying to do the puppets and the voices simultaneously, because the other studio workers couldn't get on with preparing the next set, you know? So we soon changed away from that, and recorded the voices on the Saturday, and then shot the pictures on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday - so it was quite a complicated show, which they would probably have trouble doing now.

TVS: I heard that the scripts were left quite late to keep them topical - which much have made it quite exciting, but also quite manic...
CB: Yes, well, what we used to do was on the Saturday we'd record most of the voices for the following week's programme, and then we'd also do a couple of topical sketches which were pertinent to the following night's show [Spitting Image went out on a Sunday, at 10pm]. And then the following Sunday morning we'd shoot all the stuff for that show, that night. And I do remember actually, that we'd do the odd late, live dub, just to prove that we were right up to date.

TVS: You got some great characters, didn't you? Prince Charles must have been great to do.
CB: Prince Charles was a key figure in the Royals, and still is obviously. But for me, strangely enough, because of the work Mike Yarwood did in the '70s on Prince Charles I felt sometimes that I was really doing an impersonation of Mike Yarwood doing Prince Charles. Whereas when we did Reagan, and people like David Coleman, Neil Kinnock and a lot of those people, I felt like we were breaking new ground.

TVS: With Reagan, do you know how Americans reacted to that? Because he was actually pretty popular over there, wasn't he?
CB: He was. I think they just took that stock attitude of [assumes American accent] "yeah, those satirical shows are always gonna have a go at the President..." so I don't think they received it as badly as they could have done, because they had their own pretty hard-hitting satirists.

TVS: Did you get much input into how your own characters developed, or was it quite heavily guided by the script?
CB: Um, generally really we were dictated to by what happened day-to-day. They would consult, like they'd say "we're thinking of doing this, that and the other, how would that affect the voice recording or the characterisation". Usually they only ever wanted to do positive and interesting things; change it to give a bit of new life.

TVS: What do you think the main aim of the writers was - to entertain, or to make serious political points...
CB: Well I think it was a mixture of the two. I think though that the most important thing they wanted to do initially was, not shock necessarily, but to make the political, media world take notice. When you've got a fantastic caricature of a politician or the Queen, you have an immense satirical tool there - a very powerful tool - and initially to shock was quite an important thing. Then the entertainment thing took over, and "let's make it as broad as possible" in terms of audience targets, and it became a really high rating show.

TVS: Do you think it could be made now? People say that the characters have gone out of politics.
CB: Well, I think there are one or two characters. I mean, yeah, we can't really name the cabinet or the shadow cabinet, but I don't think that's just to do with the characters, I think it's to do with the world we live in, and the niche entertainment that people have these days. You can quite merrily lead your life as a young person or an old person and never have to look at a politician. But I think to a certain extent, yes, there are some pretty boring politicians out there. But you could certainly have a bit of fun with Gordon Brown as a sort of bumbling meddler...

TVS: Ann Widdecombe?
CB: Ann Widdecombe would be fantastic. And Boris. Cameron could be a little puppy, a little terrier... The Royal Family you could still have a lot of fun with - the young Princes are now young men, and Prince Phillip's saying even more ridiculous things.

TVS: Do you ever hear talk of a comeback?
CB: Yeah, I've heard people talking about a comeback quite recently actually. But I think it would probably be a new team of people - the Jon Culshaw's of the world. So, I suppose you look back on the DVD, of series one from 1984, and it does look technically very dated, which is part of its charm. It's why I call it a period piece. It would be very different now. I don't think that the world we live in would allow the sort of relative clunkiness of an undeveloped programme to hit the airwaves.

TVS: Do you think Spitting Image had a lasting affect on how we think about those politicians?
CB: With a lot of people, their puppets are more memorable that the real people. Thatcher with the cigar and pin-stripe suit - and that famous sketch where she's at a restaurant and gets to the main course and the waiter says "And the vegetables, ma'am?" and she says "oh they'll have the same." She was such a dominant figure, and without getting too political about it, she in many ways was the last of a kind. Now we seem to have a more presidential, quite bland, almost silent control. The thing with Thatcher is that you always knew where you were. It's a very difficult thing to express, but I look back on it with fondness really, though at the time, like anyone else, we all had our apprehensions about the Iron Lady.

TVS: When you look at the list of performers and writers - Harry Enfield, Steve Coogan, yourself, Ian Hislop - it's like an entire generation of British comedy came through Spitting Image.
CB: It was a very good... I call it an apprenticeship, for comedy writing, comedy performing, comedy producing. John Lloyd was pretty much the top comedy producer at the time - he did Not The Nine O'Clock News, and then he went onto Blackadder and Spitting Image obviously. He was a top man, and being able to learn from him was an absolute treat for us all. And then in this early series we had lots of puppeteers doing voices as well. But as time went on we had Harry Enfield, John Sessions, Steve Coogan... Ian Hislop was writing, and Nick Newman his partner. I think Ben Elton may have done the odd thing. Guy Jenkins and Andy Hamilton wrote quite extensively for Spitting Image and they went on to do Drop The Dead Donkey and all that sort of stuff, and like you say, it was a great way to learn the ropes.

TVS: Did impersonation always come easily to you, or was it something you had to work at? I know a lot of people say that it starts in the classroom, mimicking teachers.
CB: For me, it's the same. It started in the classroom doing teachers, and then you start to get a few voices, like I had [assumes voices] "Kenneth Williams, ooh matron" and "Robin Day, World At One"... and David Coleman of course "extraordinary - one nil!" and Reagan, you know. So it came easy but the challenge for Spitting Image people was that sometimes we needed a voice for someone that didn't fit into anyone's repertoire, so we'd have four egotistical impersonators standing around a microphone trying to find the right voice! It can be rather crushing to one's ego... but that's life.

TVS: Do you still use your mimicry skills?
CB: Yes, if I'm doing an after dinner speech or a launch or something, I'll still flex that side of my life. It's still good to use what I suppose is a gift. You know, Rory Bremner, Alistair McGowan, Jon Culshaw, Bobby Davro - all those guys, it's just a gift you have for picking up the traits of other people's vocal mannerisms.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New TV blog on the block

It's GenXY TV, and this guy clearly knows his stuff - he's bang on when it comes to Never Better. Hope he keeps it up!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Norm's English-Language Novelist poll

I thought this was hard at first, to come up with my ten *favourite* novelists. So I just decided to go for the writers of my favourite English-language novels... and if they wrote more than one or two of my favourite novels, so much the better! It's probably not the best way to do it, but it meant I got a list, at least!

Top Three:
Charles Dickens
Charlotte Bronte
Phillip Pullman

And Seven More...
Virginia Woolfe
Michael Morpurgo
Jasper Fforde
Edith Wharton
George Orwell
Nick Hornby
Dodie Smith

Monday, January 14, 2008

Green Wing

I felt that I should give this another go, seeing as though everyone says I should love it, and moreover I'm rather well-disposed towards a certain member of its cast at the moment.

I've watched two episodes so far, courtesy of 4OD, and I there are things about it that I really like - namely Tamsin Greig (and that is a big admission for me - I still think she's rubbish in Black Books but then that's totally overrated anyway... I digress), Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt (the latter to take a role as a certain Doctor, by the way...? I digress again). I absolutely adore the banter between the those two, and I'm genuinely intrigued in the soapy aspect of the show in terms of who Caroline will end up with - I'm guessing that *some* good features come out in Guy eventually....? And that Mac's innate smugness becomes progressively annoying...?

But I'm afraid the I'M LARGER THAN LIFE characters just leave me cold - Joanna, Alan, Sue, I genuinely dislike them. Not as characters because they can barely be called characters, just in terms of what they are. And this leaves me in a predicament, because I feel that by disliking this element of Green Wing I'm disliking what it actually *is* - what makes it different. I can't watch it by fast-forwarding to the bits with the love triangle, can I? And I hear that Caroline has to fight Sue for Mac's affections. SUE?? She's not even a real person! Her and Mac inhabit completely different worlds to me.

And this is my problem: fundamentally, I don't like Green Wing. I like one element of Green Wing and annoyingly that one element is the central plot... meaning I've got to keep watching.

Tim Minchin on Buzzcocks

*Next* Thursday! (Lovely Linzi corrected me!) Woo and indeed hoo!

Have some more Minchin loveliness....

Dean on comedy in 2007

Go get it! I'd particularly like to thank him for pointing me towards Go Faster Stripe, a little team who film small comedy gigs - by performers who could never get a major release - and sell the DVDs for a tenner. So far there are DVDs of Richard Herring, Stewart Lee and Simon Munnery, with others including Robin Ince and Lucy Porter to come.

What an amazing idea!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Paul Fuzz on mp3

Great post this. And I totally know what brother Fuzz means. At uni I always felt a bit inadequate around people who had like 20,000 albums on their computer... they always looked at me - 'the one who knows about music' - really weirdly when it became apparent that I didn't have anything approaching that number. Then you realise they just downloaded a load of stuff - they actually own about five CDs. It's not a snobby thing, (well, it is a *little* bit) it's just a difference between liking songs and caring about music.


Well, it's still a load of tosh, really isn't it? High concept tosh, admittedly, and not unenjoyable but... still a load of tosh.

*hides from Lisa...* :)

Make sure you read Lisa's amazing review, and Marie's controversial 'more enjoyable than recent Who' argument... Haha.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Interview with Stephen Mangan

I did my first ever phone inteview yesterday, with Green Wing/Never Better's Stephen Mangan! I'm my first victim.. er I mean interviewee was so nice and chatty!

Last night was a big night for season premieres. Over on ITV1, there were the first episodes of Tony Jordan's project Moving Wallpaper/Echo Beach, and Thursdays continued to be Funny with a second series of Little Miss Jocelyn, and a brand new British comedy, Never Better. This latter show stars Stephen Mangan, and TV Scoop were lucky enough to get an interview with him.

Mangan is probably best known for his role as Dr Guillaume Valerie Secretan in Green Wing, and for playing rather self-absorbed types. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth in real life, and after a brief chat about Richard and Judy getting him a Routemaster bus for him to drive ("really scary!") it was a delight to hear all about his new programme...

TV Scoop: So you play Keith in Never Better - what kind of a guy is he?
Stephen Mangan: Keith is a recovering alcoholic. I suppose he's a little self-obsessed, a little insensitive. Crucially, he desperately tries to do the right thing, but because he's spent so long drunk, now he's sober he has to relearn how to be a husband, and a father and a friend. It doesn't come naturally to him and he himself into all sorts of scrapes... but crucially he's a good guy trying his best.

TVS: British comedy likes its anti-heroes, doesn't it?
SM: Yes, he comes from a long line, starting with Frank Spencer... well, not as goofy as that! There's nothing very funny about people who are successful. We like to laugh at our losers, really.

TVS: I guess it's like Lead Balloon - although Rick Spleen's heart isn't even in the right place!
SM: No he's just grumpy and horrible! Keith is... just a bit rubbish.

TVS: I've seen a few clips, and it looks like Never Better has the capacity to be quite dark...
SM: Well it is yeah; the fact that he's a recovering alcoholic for a start, you might not imagine that it's a fertile ground for comedy, but we're not laughing at the AA or anything, it's just a good setting to put this character into because he's dealing with a lot of people who have a lot to lose, and that ramps up the pressure on him, and he gets himself into a lot of embarrassing situations.

TVS: Is that the sort of comedy you've always been drawn to?
SM: Oh I love that stuff, it's like Curb Your Enthusiasm, that sort of thing, The Office, Alan Partridge - I love all that sort of stuff. I've got a friend who can't watch The Office because he's an accountant and it's too much like real life. He just finds it unbearable.

TVS: Yeah, it's ok if you're laughing and cringing, but not if you're just cringing! I know you've done a lot of improvised work - Green Wing and Confetti - did you get much input into this, or is it quite heavily scripted?
SM: No, the writer knew exactly what he wanted. The script was very good, he didn't need me coming in and mucking it up with my improvisation! If I wanted to change an 'and' to a 'but' there'd have to be a big meeting about it...! He was very specific, and quite right I suppose, he'd spent all that time slaving over a hot typewriter. He doesn't want Mangan coming along and mucking it up!

TVS: Was it quite hard to make sure you got every single word absolutely right?
SM: Oh well he would come over with a big stick and hit me on the back of the head...

TVS: Do you think you'll go back to more improvised work, or are you quite happy sticking to a script?
SM: I think if you can integrate the two - great writing with improvisation - to me that is the best of all possible words, 'cause people can come up with some cracking stuff on the spur of the moment. But there's a difficulty of capturing it on film sometimes, because obviously if no-one knows what's going to be happening then it's hard to know where the camera should be pointing. But I absolutely love improvisation 'cause it means when you get up in the morning you have no idea what's going to happen.

TVS: On our site readers can comment on what we write, and it's always comedy that provokes the most polarised views. Do have any ideas why that might be?
SM: I think it's that it's such a personal thing, comedy. You know, if someone tries to be funny and we don't find them funny, for some reason people feel contempt for them. No-one wants to be a stand-up comedian in a club who doesn't get any laughs - you just get too much abuse. The flip side of it is that when you do make people laugh they feel affection towards you. If you're in a show that people like... Green Wing, for example. There were people who couldn't stand it, couldn't understand what all the fuss was about and another group of people who are really dedicated fans - which is fine by me. But some people do get very vitriolic... from the safety of their own bedroom.

TVS: But we want people to be involved, definitely; it's good that we're not just talking to people who don't care!
SM: Absolutely! It shows they care, shows it matters. The ones I have a problem with are the people who just slag everything off. That's a little sad. But a bit of healthy debate - great.

TVS: So what are you liking on TV at the moment?
SM: Comedy wise, Flight Of The Conchords, and the Mighty Boosh is very funny.

TVS: That is something that has split opinion right down the middle here! I personally love it...
SM: I have a lot of time for them. It's almost like a really old-fashioned double act. They could be Eric and Ernie or something - at the heart of it there's a classic double act. But it's great to see a show where you haven't the faintest idea what's going to happen next. I mean the one with the Crack Fox really was quite scary, wasn't it? Also Noel just seems to be someone who just attracts the ladies... what is it with them? People like him and Julian Rhind-Tutt! It's the long hair, isn't it?!

TVS: I prefer Julian to be honest... Julian Barratt I mean!!
SM: Oh right, well that's good because Julian Rhind-Tutt just gets the ladies flocking to him. It's just sickening...

TVS: I'm a Stephen Mangan fan, personally.
SM: laughs Thank you.

TVS: Ok, finally, have you got any other projects underway, anything we'll be seeing you in soon?
SM: We did a pilot on Channel 4 called Free Agents, part of the Comedy Showcase, with Sharon Horgan, they've commissioned a series of that, so we'll be filming that at summer sometime. And there's a film called Beyond The Pole which is a comedy about two men who walk to the Arctic to protest about global warming - but they're just a bit rubbish. That's with Rhys Thomas.

TVS: Oh fantastic, he's cool.
SM: Yeah. We're just waiting for the writers' strike to end at the moment, so we'll just have to wait an see what happens. That's holding everything up.

TVS: Yeah, The Daily Show finally came back the other day, didn't it? Jon Stewart just talking on his own...
SM: Yeah, weird, wasn't it? It's funny how it really has shut everything down over there.

And with that, Mangan was off to BBC News 24 for his final interview of the day: "It's no Richard and Judy, is it?!" Come back to TV Scoop later today for a review of Never Better.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

I love Facebook...

Jonathan Ross just wrote on my wall.