Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rowan Atkinson to play Fagin

Yup, in the 'I'd Do Anything' production. When do tickets go on sale then..?!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In Which I Don't Meet Noel and Julian. But have a wonderfully Booshy time nonetheless.

It's not often that I use this blog as a diary, but when you've had such a lovely, heart-warming weekend as I have, it's important, I think, to write down everything I can remember, so read through later and no doubt bring a smile to my face.

A few weeks ago, it was announced on the Boosh forum that BBC Three were having a 'Boosh Night' on Easter Saturday, and that you could apply for free tickets to be in the audience as Noel and Julian introduced a brand new documentary and six of their favourite episodes. I knew my mate Beckie would be up for it, so I just applied for two tickets, and hoped the details of money, accommodation, getting there etc could be sorted out later. It was absolutely not guaranteed that applying for tickets meant you would get them - apparently there were over a thousand applicants for around 300 tickets - and even if you *did* get tickets, you'd have to queue up early as more tickets are sent out than can be accommodated (the fact that they're free means that people don't use them, and obviously the Beeb want a full house). But sure enough the tickets did come through - and Beckie and I got our train tickets, and booked a room at LSE's Passfield Hall; uni accommodation in the Euston area.

Actually, we had to book a triple room as the twins were all gone, but that was one of a few happy accidents of the weekend. On the Boosh forum there's a member and moderator called Aoife who's from Ireland and, it seems, is *ridiculously* like me, and a lovely person to boot. She was debating whether to come over for this - the guys were only doing a few minutes of live links, remember - but I like to think it was the offer of a bed with nice people that eventually coaxed her over the Irish Sea! When me and Beckie reached the accommodation, we found that our room was *huge*! I mean, I feel sorry for the poor students who have to share three to a room, but they certainly can't argue about a lack of space. Take a shuftie...

As we were getting ready, we tried to direct Aoife from the station to Passfield Hall (very much the blind leading the blind!) by text and phone call, and finally we saw a blonde girl wandering past those massive windows we can see - crimped hair isn't massively in fashion at the moment, so I was pretty sure that was Aoife with hair in readiness for dressing up as an Electro Girl! A quick shout out of the window confirmed this, and I went downstairs to get her. As I has predicted, we got on like a house on fire instantly, and I'm so glad that we had that spare bed so that we could offer her a place! I'd brought a little speaker to play music on my mp3 player through as we got ready, and she was appreciating every track! (Aoife's met Rufus by the way.... it's hard to hate her for it though ;))

The tickets for the Boosh Night actually asked us to get dressed up - though I doubt we'd have needed much encouragement - so as I said Aoife was an Electro Girl (I keep forgetting whether it's Neon or Ultra, but it's the one played by Sue Denim, anyway!), Beckie was Techno Mouse, and I was a Future Sailor! Photos were obviously needed....

Beckie, Aoife, me; left to right

A quick and easy ride on the tube got us to White City, and just a few seconds walk from.... dum dum dummmm... BBC Television Centre! Well, that was exciting enough for me, as you can imagine... The queue wasn't as long as we'd feared at this point (we got there two hours ahead of doors opening but you never know with Booshers!!) and we quickly found some lovely folks we recognised from the forum. Everyone was hyped up, dressed up, and unbelievably cold. The atmosphere in that queue was so lovely, though - people handed out provisions, took pictures of each other, and generally tried to keep warm.

At about 6.15pm the doors opened, and we got a numbered sticker stuck to our tickets ao that we'd be let into the studio in roughly the same order as we'd been lined up. We were held in the audiences' cafe - believe me, I've never been so thankful for cup of coffee and a sit down - and for about an hour we just sat down, chatted to more lovely forummers, took more photos and began to feel a bit more human. First to be called through to the studio were production ticket holders and competition winners, and I think it says something lovely about Boosh fans that we actually applauded them as they went in. Everyone was in such high, generous spirits that it just felt like the right thing to do, somehow.

Finally we entered the studio ourselves to see those famous red curtains, and a very few floor staff looking amazed at all the costumes - from Bollo, to Bob Fossil, to Tony Harrison, to Betamax Bandit, to Rudi, to Extreme Sports Calender. Yup, really. After about half an hour a lady introduced Noel and Julian themselves, and my *word* you've never heard a cheer like it - and you've never seen two people more overwhelmed, either. For a good ten minutes, they just stood there gobsmacked by the costumes, pointing a few out. Eventually, Noel said "You could have made an effort!". Just perfect. They sorted out a little gag they wanted to do where Noel/Vince said hello to all of his fans, and we all cheered, and then Julian/Howard said hello to all of his fans and one solitary guy would say "Hey, Harold!". It was great seeing Julian try to direct this guy, and get a little comic timing out of him, and there was a collective mini-squee as Noel called Julian "Jude"... we're an odd bunch, I know.

With the gag sorted out, Noel and Julian went off again, leaving us to watch Old Gregg to fill the time before the live link. I thought that this might mean that the energy in the room dropped, but it was completely the opposite. Every line was 10 times funnier, we collectively joined in with choice lines (and there are some *brilliant* lines in Old Gregg) and all sang and danced along to Love Games. Honestly, it was a really beautiful half hour.

Next, the link, and who's that you can see in the sailor hat....?

It's me! Beckie and Aoife are to my left, and I'm loving Johnny Two-Hats on the end there! We watched the documentary there, which had some fabulous old footage, and lots of nice things said by people who's opinion you trust (Reeves and Mortimer, especially). Then it was onto the second link, and after a little bit of the usual Barratt and Fielding banter, Rich Fulcher/Bob Fossil burst through the curtains to make a surprise entrance. That got one helluva scream too, naturally! When the link ended, it was kinda hard for the guys to know what to say, but they were clearly happy with out it had gone, and thanked us all for coming out. Noel's natural gregariousness saw him through, while Julian kept himself to himself, and Rich was as wonderfully bizarre as ever.

We waited for a little outside, to see if the guys would come out, but it was actually freezing by the point, so we toddled off back to Passfield Hall, chatted, calmed down, and, eventually, fell to sleep, completely contented with a fabulous day.

On the Sunday, we had a few hours to spare before heading off our separate ways, and as I know the Leicester Square area pretty well, we headed there for some shopping and eating. Aoife knew that the cafe hosting Noel's exhibition was around there, so she took us just to have a peep through the window. But, despite this being Easter Saturday, it was open! Ahh a cup of tea *always* tastes better when surrounded by original Noel Fielding artwork! We thought our luck was in such good order that Noel might turn up, as he has done before... but not this time. One of the other forummers came along though, so we chatted to her for a while and took far too long over our pot of tea.

After a *little* retail therapy (a lot of places were shut), we left Aoife at Covent Garden tube station. It was hard not to get a little emotional - it's obvious that we are and will continue to be great friends, and as she has said, it felt like we'd know each other for years. Me, Aoife and Beckie all had a lovely, joyous time, filled with all things Booshy and good, and it's not something any of us want to forget.... hence the essay you've just been subjected to :D

Aoife's version of events can be found here...

Monday, March 17, 2008

In Which Marie Doesn't Meet David Tennant

Not what Marie wants to hear, I know, but I can't help thinking you should have just gone for it! I mean are you a blogger or not?! ;) Haha.

Doctor Who withdrawal

It's Easter weekend next weekend. Now, I *know* it's early this year, but couldn't they have thought about that in advance?! We need a Doctor, methinks. And a Rose. Bored of waiting now...


Love Soup moment

Anyone see the first series? And are now watching the second series? Then you'll have had a little emotional moment, as you found out that the man Alice was supposed to meet for a blind date - but had passed away - was the very same Gil we were convinced was her soul mate in the first series... beautifully and effectively done it was too.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I'd Do Anything - the Oliver washout

The BBC have found themselves lodged between a rock and a rather hard place when it comes to I'd Do Anything's hunt for three Olivers. They're fine with the Nancys, that search is happening in the same - very successful - format as Maria and Joseph, but when it comes to Oliver, they're just not willing to look like they're exploiting young boys' tears for teatime entertainment. So that side of the competition has been complete neutered, to be honest. Maybe that'll change once the live shows start, but I've heard that they're just doing group performances, and the viewing audience certainly don't get a say. All seems a bit pointless to be honest; like they hadn't really thought this one through. They're being honourable, that's for sure, but it's not great TV.

Anyway, they should be looking for a Jesus, a Judas and a Mary Magdelene. Jesus Christ Superstar is ripe for a revival - such songs, such singing, such.... prog. C'mon Webber, give the people what they want!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Style Shake

You can have so much fun with this site! (If you're of a certain disposition I suppose...) Basically, you design your own dress. Brilliant.
Here are my two first goes... yes, I like blue.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Martha Wainwright song

Called You Cheated Me, and up on her MySpace page for your listening pleasure for one week only. Definitely more produced than the stuff on her debut album, but that stunning voice still shines through. Hopefully a new record will mean a tour sometime soon, too.


Links to my TVScoop posts have now been put in with the other TV posts from this blog :) (ie the TVScoop link has been removed from the right hand side!)

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Sugar Puffs Crimp...

Can Noel and Julian sue?!!

It makes me feel ill......

EDIT: Haha, this post is now the number one Google result for the search terms 'sugar puff crimp'! And 90% of my referrals over the last few days have been people searching for it! Touched a nerve, obviously.... :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tom Basden interview


TV is constantly trying to come up with a format to showcase new comedy, but it very rarely works - BBC Three's Comedy Shuffle was great in the first series, but somehow failed to recapture the magic formula second time round, and of course Blunder was just downright terrible. ITV, however, are trying, with this second series of Comedy Cuts, a completely different tact, in that each routine is performed in a different setting, almost like a monologue, straight to the camera without a live audience inbetween the comic and the viewers at home. In the first series some worked better than others, of course, but it's good that they're trying something different.

The second series of Comedy Cuts starts next Tuesday, 11th March at 11pm on ITV2, and it's got a fabulous line-up, including Alun Cochrane, Nina Conti, Scott Capurro, and the fantastic Rhod Gilbert who I had the pleasure of seeing live last night. Also on the bill is a brilliant musical comedian, Tom Basden, who you might also know as a member of the successful sketch group, Cowards. I had a chat with him about Comedy Cuts, musical influences, and the lack of interest in comedians putting on a silly voice...

TVScoop: Comedy Cuts is starting next week - are you performing a few songs?
Tom Basden: The stuff that I recorded with the guys from Comedy Cuts was several months ago now, so I was wondering when it was going to come out. We did a few songs in a cool little piano jazz bar and I think they're going to put one in a few episodes.

TVS: Was it a bit weird performing without an audience?
TB: Yes, although they did get down about five or ten people, their friends, in the background, but yeah it's weird. It's always difficult performing things which are meant to be funny in front of a really small group of people because... well it doesn't really work! But it was ok, you've just got to grin and bear it in that situation.

TVS: Do you think your work will transfer to TV ok?
TB: I hope so! I don't know really. It was written for the purposes of being performed live, so I don't really see why it should be any different. There are a lot of sort of rules about what does and doesn't work with comedy on telly, but it's very hard to say until you try it.

TVS: I suppose Comedy Cuts is different in that it's not filmed in front of a live audience; it's a different format.
TB: No, that's right; it's more like music videos. But then, I don't know which is better. I think sometimes people like to hear laughter to ensure that what they're watching is actually good. But I think when you're changing genre all the time, and changing location all the time like they do in Comedy Cuts, it would probably be really weird if you had audience laughter.

TVS: Stand-up comedy seems to be going through a really good patch at the moment, I was wondering if you had any ideas why that might be?
TB: It's interesting, I feel like live comedy has been really, really good for the last five years, which directly corresponds with comedy on TV being really poor. I don't know why that is, exactly, but there seems to be less correspondence than ever before between the two things. I think there are a lot of good stand-ups at the moment, and I think that what's good is that there are a lot of people who have their own voice, and are coming at it from a different place, and not really writing stuff with a specific audience in mind, which is something I think is always a bit of a mistake. So I feel like there are a lot of people who are getting into comedy who wouldn't have done before. I suppose where I live in London there are a few venues that are really good, like the Hen and Chickens, where they let people perform who would never want to do the Comedy Store or Jongleurs.

TVS: I read a review of your (if.comedy award winning!) 2007 Edinburgh Fringe show [Tom Basden Won't Say Anything] and it describes your work as "silly ideas set to serious music"...
TB: [hesitant] Really...?
TVS: Haha, well I'll let you respond to that then!
TB: No, I guess that's kind of fair enough. They're not all silly ideas, but that's probably fair. It's quite an odd show; I was quite surprised that people seemed to get into it because it's quite weird really.

TVS: That line from the review does suggest that you consider the melodies as important as the lyrics - do you reckon that's right?
TB: Yeah, I think I do, in some cases I do... I mean, I wouldn't say that I'm really good at music, I'm not writing songs that are complicated and difficult, but I think that one of the things that has changed in musical comedy a lot in the last few years is that people are doing stuff that stands up on its own as music, and I think that that *is* quite important, in the same way that a really funny sketch could also pass as a bit of theatre. Someone like Tim Minchin obviously does that - he has really excellent music to go with what he's doing, and I think that it's quite important so that the audience feel like you've put some effort into it. It's also true about how comedy's changed that people are less into the idea of funny presentation than they were before, like wearing wigs and using silly voices. I think people respond to things that seem either more realistic, or just a bit more careful in the way that they're done.

TVS: Do you think your songs have musical influences as well as comedic ones? Or do they come just straight from you?
TB: I guess so, I mean I like people like Morrissey and Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Ryan Adams, people like that, and so a lot of my stuff is quite simple and acoustic, on the guitar or the piano.

TVS: And do you write "serious" songs, as well as the ones that fit into a comedy gig?
TB: One or two. I just think I'd be mortified at the idea of performing [serious songs]. I have great respect for people that do it, but you hear people singing the most mindless nonsense and I just find it really embarrassing that that's all they could think to communicate. So I guess that's part of the reason why I do comedy anyway, because anything I play would turn into a sketch and the same thing with songs; I just find it embarrassing, the idea of trying to write something that isn't intended to make someone laugh.

TVS: Moving onto Cowards, can you tell me anything about the format of the TV show you're working on?
TB: Yeah, it's three sketch shows, and there'll some things which are in each episode and quite a lot of things which aren't. And there'll be animations... we're still working it out, really, but hopefully there'll be a couple of music videos of my songs in there, and some of Tim [Key]'s poems. It'll be a real mixture of stuff.

TVS: And it's going to be on BBC Four, isn't it? I think that's a good place for it really, because wasn't it originally going to be on BBC Three?
TB: Yeah, well, I don't know whether it would have ever made it on BBC Three... I think it's clear now that the sort of thing we do wouldn't fit in with what BBC Three are doing.

TVS: Yeah, I agree. Ok, so apart from the TV show and Comedy Cuts, do you have any touring planned, or another run at the Fringe?
TB: I'm going over to Melbourne in a couple of weeks, so I'm going to have a month there which I'm really looking forward to, but obviously that's not very helpful for people who want to see it but don't live there! When I get back I'm quite keen to do a mini-tour, I'll see how I get on really. I don't think I'll be doing Edinburgh again this year but hopefully I'll do a few things before and after that.

Comedy Cuts starts on ITV2, Tuesday 11th March, 11pm
Videos of Tom Basden's work can be found here

Monday, March 03, 2008

Rhod Gilbert: Doncaster Civic Theatre, 2/3/08

Doncaster, it has to be said, does not have a tradition of hosting comedy gigs. We have the working men's circuit, and big gigs like Jimmy Carr and Frank Skinner at the local sports centre (really), but very little in between. There was even a spat in the local paper between a comedy promoter bemoaning the fact that no-one goes to his shows, and a promoter from Sheffield who said he has literally never heard of a regular comedy gig in Doncaster, and maybe a little advertising would do the trick.

Over the last few years Doncaster has put on the HotHouse Festival, and slowly but surely, we've started to attract a few names to the area, such as Dave Spikey and Patrick McGuiness - and other non-Phoenix Nights related comics. It has to be said, though, that Rhod Gilbert is probably the first comedian who is known much more for his stand up than his radio show or infrequent appearances on Mock The Week. He took a gamble, but he came, and those of us who were lucky enough to see the show will be forever grateful.

I think it is fair to say, however, that Doncaster has such a reputation for not being a comedian's dream, that the support act Carl Donnelly took his role of testing the water with the audience rather more seriously than he would in, say, London. What level of swearing will we accept, what level of crassness? Quite a high one, as it turned out, and Donnelly soon relaxed a little, allowing his natural charm and silliness shone through.

When Rhod Gilbert took to the stage, he started with what was probably meant to be a quick pre-amble specific to Doncaster; how he'd heard from another comedian that it's a "sh*ithole" and how his first impressions was actually that we were quite an optimistic people, ready to defend our little northern patch. I say it was "probably meant" to be quick, because it in fact took over much of the first half - which, by the way, went on until about 10 o'clock. He was fascinated by our airport, which for some unfathomable (both to us and him) reason is named Robin Hood, and the breezy advertisement for strippers down the road (Like dancing? Outgoing?) - and the audience were always happy to fill in the details.

In fact, the audience was a big part of the evening - confident and often humorous heckles came thick and fast. When one audience member recalled a rather obscure part of the show, leading to no reaction, he started to say what he was referring to, but Gilbert advised that one should never explain a joke. "Why not?" came the reply. That got him.

The only possible downside of all this banter was that the structure of the show got lost along the way somewhere, but to be honest I'd rather have it that way and see something unique to the night. The show's title 'Who's Eaten Gilbert's Grape' refers to the fact that he was watching the film of a similar name when he met the love of his life. Until he got to that point, we were meant to go through a lot of misery and heartache, but somehow that didn't really come off.

Maybe every Rhod Gilbert gig is as joyous as this, and it is his genius that means it feels fresh and unique to us, but I like to think our entertainer for the evening had fun too. Genius is certainly the word, by the way - his reactions to heckles were instant and hilarious, and my jaw literally ached from laughing. I can only hope that what we can assume was a good experience for the comic as well as the audience will mean that we'll have lots more comedians of Gilbert's stature pass through our happy little town in the near future.

Rhod Gilbert

Went to see him last night, and the guy rocks - review to come soon!