Monday, August 31, 2009

The Comedy Awards - Daily Record video

Really nice video - interviews with Tim Key, Jonny Sweet and presenter Frank Skinner, and David O'Doherty giving Tim the biggest hug in the history of hugs. Huge thanks to the lovely Simone for bringing it to my attention.

A belated tribute to leader of the pack, Ellie Greenwich

When I was younger, and treated generously often to trips to the Sheffield Lyceum theatre, we rarely missed the 'jukebox' musicals that regularly rolled into town. The one that excited me most, however - and didn't disappoint - was 'Leader of the Pack', the life-story of Ellie Greenwich told through her amazing songs.

The girl group classics of the 60s are usually associated with Phil Spector but in fact many of the tracks I love (something which grew from singing along to our 'Girls On Top' cassette on long car journeys) were penned by Greenwich. This includes the brilliant Be My Baby, Da Do Ron Ron, Then He Kissed Me, River Deep, Mountain High and, of course, Leader of the Pack.

'I met him at the candy store!'

I remember that it particularly appealed to my embryonic feminism that these songs that I loved so much, and came from an era where I assumed men did the songwriting, came from a woman's brain. Those early connections have a tendency to stick and so - despite the fact that I can't pretend to know all that much about her - Greenwich has always been something of a hero for me, or at least someone who I hugely admire.

In celebration of the life and works of Ellie Greenwich then, who passed away just last week, here's one of my favourites; Be My Baby performed by The Ronettes:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tim Key & Jonny Sweet win Comedy Awards!

Meaning the Invisible Dot is about to go pretty huge....! Tim's wonderful show, The Slutcracker is produced by the Dot, and Jonny Sweet is very much part of the family so expect many profile pieces in the near future. Can't think of two more deserving winners, even among the strong nominees that made up the shortlists, so huge congratulations to them both. DO'D last year, Key this - the judging panel are getting good at this, eh? Maybe I'll have to get myself on it next year....

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aoife on her Edinburgh entourage... er, exploits

As you all probably know, Aoife isn't just my very good friend, but also a very good journalist, so I thought your lives would be considerably improved by reading about her experiences as a member of Adam Hills's entourage in her own words. Sure, she missed a couple of hours of the 24 Hour Show, but I think she's ok with that...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: The Hotel

The brainchild of Mark Watson - a festival legend at the age of just 29, thanks to his 24-hour shows and solo stand-up – The Hotel is one of the least easily-definable shows on the Fringe. And that’s going some.

Watson, along with the innovative Camden-based production company The Invisible Dot, has commandeered an entire townhouse on Queen Street in the New Town, and with a cast and crew of dozens, turned it into something which is part comedy, part play, and part art installation.

The audience are guests at The Hotel, a once-salubrious B+B (recipient of a Highly Commended Award for Best Integration of TV in Lounge or Games Room in 1991, according to the witty flyer you are handed on your arrival) that has now fallen on hard times – a fate mirrored by its tragic owner, Charlie Rowland.

Ushered from room to room by staff who are either over-eager, disinterested, or foul-mouthed, the guests experience a little more of The Hotel each time they open a door. There’s the Boardroom, where a job interview leads to the candidates brawling out in the street; the ‘Wellness’ Room, where you’ll get fit or else; and – most disturbingly of all – the kitchens, where unstable chefs are kept behind glass for the guests’ safety, and use increasingly unconventional methods to either cook the food, or escape.

The attention to detail in all of this is exquisite. The shabby wallpaper, the woeful attempts at modernisation and the crazed look in the staff members’ eyes all come together to evoke an establishment where even faded charm has faded.

The most impressive example of this comes in Charlie’s room at the top of the house, where empty whisky bottles and takeaway wrappers are strewn across the floor, while letters charting Charlie’s demise cover the walls. Down in the Computer Suite, access to Charlie’s emails gives further, unsettling insight into his troubled mind.

The only issue here is time-management – you get sucked into a certain room (this can easily happen in the Cabaret Bar, where “proper” comics including Pippa Evans and Marcel Lucont perform) only to miss out on something equally great elsewhere. And that’s such a shame, because there is something to delight, disturb or otherwise confuse in every room: in a town where the abnormal is normal, The Hotel still manages to be seductively weird, and utterly unique.

Also at

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: Anna talks about the 24 Hour Show. For too long.

That's a picture I drew at about 00.20 NST, of Chris Cox using his powers of suggestion to guess what pictures people would draw, with Sherwood and Butterworth in the background, tinkling and bowing away. Nice huh?

Anyway, below is my final video in this little series (and maybe my last ever, who knows) and it's just me gushing about the 24 Hour show. I've done a review of The Hotel too, for MusicOMH, so that'll be added here when it's been published.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: It's Rhys Darby Night

There are people who believe that the Edinburgh Fringe should be all about new acts playing to one man and his dog in some makeshift venue on the way out to Leith, and not about people who are famous for being on the telly and doing films with Jim Carrey – two things which do, of course, apply to Rhys Darby.

But Darby has done more than his fair share of low-key gigs; indeed he has been to the Fringe many times in the past as just another act struggling to ‘make it’. Then came his role in Flight Of The Conchords as the hapless, naive but loyal and ultimately lovable Murray, and suddenly he’s playing Udderbelly (a purple, inflatable, upside down cow) alongside the likes of Reginald D Hunter.

It is precisely this move from small-time, niche New Zealand comic to celebrated cult star that informs much of Darby’s show, It’s Rhys Darby Night. In past shows, flights of surreal fantasy about meeting mermaids and jettisoning girls out of his car have been built around the uncanny sound-effects he can produce, but here that talent is put to use adding colour to real-life tales about his recent fame.

Stories which begin "So I was in LA shooting a film" could easily become self-congratulatory - certain reviewers have, rather harshly, used the word arrogant – but in fact Darby is ploughing classic Conchords territory here in that they are all told from the viewpoint of a man with a small-town mentality suddenly being thrown into a world of conference calls and glitzy dos and not knowing quite how to react.

There are one or two flat moments - his whale-watcher character especially seemed to lack a point and, more importantly, many laughs – and it seems that Darby is at a cross-roads in terms of his stand-up: does he continue as before, all robots and jet-packs, or confront his new-found celebrity and go down a story-teller route? One suspects the two can be successfully intertwined, though it’s not quite there yet.

But in the end, this is a fun, thoroughly generous show performed by a comic who at heart quite clearly exists on stage simply to make his audience happy in whatever way he can. When his mic-pack becomes dislodged, he does an impression of a dinosaur to compensate; when he spills some water he licks it and employs his clowning skills to “slip” extravagantly - and, yes, he even lets the immortal words ‘band meeting’ pass his lips.

also on

Mark Watson's Last Ever 24 Hour Show - photos

I'll probably do a final video to talk about this a little, but for now, here's a few pics of the day which involved games, challenges, lots of music, chat, eating, and even a bit of comedy here and there. And Lionel Blair...

Mark Watson and David O'Doherty at about 8am (it started at 1.20am, BST, or 1am NST - New Scottish Time, which was establish to rectify the late start...!):
Adam Hills decided he wanted an entourage, and what Hills wants, Hills gets. (Aoife is in the red cardie):

Brendon Burns, Dan Walmsley and Tim Key react to... something:

'The Lovely Band' (James Sherwood on piano, Amy Butterworth on violin, Martin White on accordion and Ali McGregor on a strummy thing [sorry again!] and vocals) performing a beautiful version of Radiohead's Creep:

Adam Hills (suit), Mark Watson (green), Brendan Burns (headscarf), Tim Key (shirt), Tiernan Douieb (happy), Dan Walmsley (background) and Simon Amstell (non-load-bearing) celebrate the end of the show:

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: Anna talks about DO'D and Superclump. In that flat again.

More talk from me in a flat - this time about the wonderful David O'Doherty (who as well as being a first class comic, was also lovely enough to stop and chat to me, Aoife and my parents for rather longer than he had to), and a great sketch troupe recommended to my by, called Superclump.

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: Paul & Becca. In a courtyard.

The Pleasance Courtyard, no less.

This one's a couple of actual, proper reviews from Paul Fuzz/Waits/Lowman and Becca Dumican - a couple soon to be known as Paul and Becca Fuzz-Lowman-Dumican-Waits. Or Paul and Rebecca Lowman, something like that. (They're getting married at Christmas! Yay :D)

Up for discussion in this vlog: Hugh Hughes and Grave Situation...

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: 'Hotel' chat. In a flat.

This one's just me, I'm afraid, talking about Mark Watson's comedy/art/installation The Hotel which is co-produced with The Invisible Dot, and therefore brilliant.

If you'd like more of an idea of the show than you get from my review (surely not!) there was a really great piece about it on The Edinburgh Fringe Show (aka The Culture Show) last night, which you can watch on iPlayer here.

Edinburgh Fringe 2009: Comedy chat. In a cafe.

Since we last spoke I have been to the Edinburgh Fringe and returned - very tired (a 24 hour show will do that to you, but we'll come to that later) and very satisfied that I saw some rather special things. To accompany the little reviews that will be coming your way very soon (and comments including "I MET MURRAY!") I thought it'd be nice if you actually saw my face, and the face of people I like.

So here we go, my first vlog - just me, Aoife and Sabina chatting about what we'd seen, about two days in.