So I did a gig last night that was really badly organised, not my type of audience, was graft from start to finish and didn’t pay nearly well enough, but as they say, “beats working for a living.” If only you knew…
I am from a working class background. Prior to entering working life as an apprentice printer I was pretty much forced to attend Boys Brigade meetings every Friday evening while my mates were out playing chap door run and setting off fireworks. The reason I was made to do this from about age 8-16 was my mum insisted it would help me find a job. She was actually right. Not everything in the BBs was bad but there were certain things that my then blossoming “problem with authority streak” found pretty hard to stomach. The captain of our squadron of around 60 teenage boys was obsessed with winning a thing called the drill cup. A competition in which BB squadrons from all over Scotland did formation marching to prove how brilliantly potentiated young Nazis they’d make. So marching up and down in formation every week for an hour was standard. Yee fucking Ha! It wasn’t so much this I had the problem with but the lengths this insane BB captain was willing to go to win the bloody thing. There was a very fat lad in our group who had a tendency to waddle when marching that didn’t meet the standards required of our glorious Capitan. So every week he was made to sit on his own at the side while the rest of us marched for an hour. Dreadful I know. You can imagine the humiliation the poor guy went through. Had he went nuts with a shotgun one week I would’ve been totally on his side. I heard later in life that the Capitan who subjected this young man to this weekly torture went on to have a massive nervous breakdown. I was delighted.
So I reach 16. Much to my chagrin my dreams of being a drama student are now thoroughly suppressed and the path of hard realities of my working class destiny have been well and truly drummed into my skull. You can romanticise all you like about Billy Elliot but had he grown up in my town someone would have broken his fucking legs.
I got an apprenticeship as a printer. Not a bad achievement as a month before the careers advice officer at school had been determined to get me on a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) These were essentially forced labour for dole money with no prospects of employment at the end. Myself and my fellow factory fodder were so amazed at said careers chap enthusiasm for these schemes that we were convinced the government were paying him a small bonus for every teenage scalp claimed.
Printing isn’t a bad job but I was in a very specialised line of it. Essentially this meant I’d be highly but very specifically trained and finding similar work elsewhere would’ve meant leaving the country. Essentially my fate was to spend the next 50 years in the same factory. Fuck that!
Day one at work was interesting. The first man I was introduced to (for to me that is what they were as I was a boy) grabbed me bent me over a table and pretended to bum me. Awesome I thought…this is going to be just like school. Also much to my amazement I discovered that all apprentices taken on over the past five years had been in the Boys Brigade. Which I now realise was kind of like a junior Masons.
I wasn’t a bad printer and prided myself in my high level of output. Factory work like anywhere is littered with bad politics but that suited my ever-growing problem with authority. Eventually this was put to a decent cause. There’s a lot of bad chemicals associated with that job. Above all our printing presses was a ventilation system for removing the cancerous ozone that the ink drying system produced. Ozone smells like see air. If you can smell it at work this is a bad thing. Our particular ventilation system had been built not by experts in this area but by the factory engineers who were employed mainly for general repair. Bit’s of it were genuinely held together by Sellotape. Needless to say the start of everyday at my work smelled like a day trip to Blackpool.
So after much argument, harassing my union rep and coughing fits the management finally rescinded their cancer master plan and proper ventilation engineers were brought in. They were horrified at what they saw.
So the day comes to start installing this life saving equipment. What happened next may leave you stunned at our managements general disregard for human life and safety. Then again if you worked in a factory in the 80s…probably not.
To install the ventilation a scaffolding had to be built right over my printing press. This meant men were to work directly above a large piece of moving machinery. As the guys were setting up I reassured the workmen the machine would be stopped while they worked above it. That’s when a spotted a certain disconcerted look come on their faces. “Actually mate we’ve had to reassure your boss we’re willing to work above the press while it runs. ” One of them tells me. “Are you fucking mad.” Or something along those lines I replied. Eventually I find out that their boss has reassured our boss it’s ok to work like this and it’s on that condition their contract has been secured. Please understand if they or anything should have come off that scaffold into about 4 tons of moving bits the results would have been deadly.
“Not a problem I reassure them.” And once they were up on the scaffold I nonchalantly dropped a spanner into a bit of the press where not too much damage would be done. Back this up with a story about how it had fallen off the scaffold and disaster was subversively averted.
Knowing what I now know about life for working folks nothing about this story amazes me. But I am happy in the knowledge that some of the guys I used to know still work there. I hope they appreciate that clean air.
PS Oh…and yes we did win the drill cup.
“I finished a show last night and when I got to the train station I saw a blind man listening to some classical music on his phone. He didn’t have headphones, he was just holding the phone close to his ear. Despite this he was absolutely rapt. The music was obviously moving him deeply. The sight of this was both uplifting and saddening in a single moment.”
The above statement is absolutely true. I include it because as a newcomer to the blogosphere I’ve noticed there are many people writing beautifully uplifting pieces of prose. Much as I appreciate this on reading such stuff it reminded me that being a comedian is a bit like being a parrot with two heads. If we’re doing our job well one head tweets little bon mots of life affirming philosophy while the other responds with a few squawks of profanity. So I thought I’d do it with a blog.
- He who hesitates is lost. CATO…MEANING…..I’ll never play Modern Warfare online ever again.
- A desire arises in the mind. It is satisfied immediately until another comes. In the interval which separates two desires a perfect calm reigns in the mind. It is at this moment freed from all thoughts of love or hate. SWAMI SIVUNANDA….MEANING…. This is how everyone feels post masturbation.
- Leave it to others to be perfect, to be wonderful. Be content with what you are. you’ll be much more relaxed as a result. ANON…MEANING…. Christ, this might as well be on a poster in McDonalds. Keep thinking like this. We need more fat people.
4. After a storm comes calm. MATHEW HENRY…. MEANING ….. Bollocks. Try saying that to the victims of hurricane Katrina. Or those folks who’s property is on a flood plane. People who’s only comfort is there are nutters out there blaming such catastrophe on God punishing them because either A. They’re black…or…B. Have gay friends.
5. Concentrate on silence. When it comes, dwell on what that sounds like. Then strive to take that quiet with you wherever you go. ANON….MEANING… Or you can just pop in your I-pod ear plugs. Blast some ACDC and give a clear signal to homeless people you want nothing to do with them
- Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end. Then stop. LEWIS CARROLL….MEANING…. Birth, school, work, death. That ‘s it. Enjoy the credit card bills prole
- Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. ANON….MEANING… Crucify Rupert Murdoch.
- Even a clock that does not work is right twice a day. POLISH PROVERB… MEANING. .. Look just fix my bloody roof. You lot you come over here. I though you were meant to be hard workers.
- Wherever you go you are there. KEITH CACERTA…MEANING…. You’ve never had your sat nav. go mental because the council have bolloxed up Sheffields one way ring road.
- If your bowels move, one is happy. If they do not move one is unhappy. That is all there is to it. LIN YUTANG….MEANING…. Err…actually this guy’s got it pretty much bang on.
When they were first coming to prominence I hated them. All this nonsense of “There’s been a lot of talk about this next song. This is not a rebel song. This is Sunday Bloody Sunday” Tosser! That’s what me and a whole world of other indie kids thought. If you’d said it was a rebel song I might be interested.
U2 in the 80s were perhaps the most loved band in the world. In recent times they’ve managed to reverse that. And me. I’ve got it all back to front…like them when hated, hated them when loved. Saying that it’s never really been trendy to like U2.
They just kind of wore me down, the bastards wouldn’t go away would they? Pride (In the Name of Love) came next and me and a whole world of other indie kids quietly said to ourselves actually that one’s quite good. I remember finding a copy of the 12 inch among one of my most ardent punk mates. He just went, “Well you’ve got to give them that one. That one is a beauty.” Fair play I thought. But you’re still a tosser…and the mullet is getting worse.
The first time I read about The Joshua Tree was in the NME at uni where I was doing my printing City and Guilds. The phrase that sticks in my mind is “they’ve finally released the album we all thought they might be capable of” 5 stars.
I certainly wasn’t convinced by the opening single With or Without You. However that third single Where the Streets Have No Name…Ah now wait a minute…that sounds like one of the best songs ever recorded. A Space Oddity or Mr Blue Sky for the 80s…but fuck em. They were really tedious at Live Aid. And you still need to fix that mullet…oh hang on he’s grown it out.
Next comes Angel of Harlem, “Edge play the blues” and let’s face it a stunning rendition of Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For with a full blown gospel choir. At around this time I win ten grand on the pools. Bugger it, I think I’ll get The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum…I’ve got a few grand to spare. I can maybe allow myself the odd frivolity.
Move on a year or so… I love these albums. There’s a lot on their other albums I like too.
So Achtung Baby is their first release under me now having become a “proper” fan. It’s a masterpiece. The bastards, I’m in too deep now. I go to see them live on that tour. It’s phenomenal and they seem to be taking the piss out of themselves and any over sincere fans that might be left.
More experimental albums follow. Mixed but good. In 2000 they release another belter in the shape of All that You Can’t Leave Behind.
Next album treading water, album after that dull as dishwater.
Get up the a month back to find their latest thing has been snuck under my pillow by the U2 fairy. I can only feel a tad sorry for the other half a billion folk probably not too happy about the fact the U2 fairy has indiscriminately been invading their personal space. If that had been Coldplay I would have been similarly distressed. It was like something a Bond villain would do. Surreptitiously sneaking their agenda into your cyberspace. How corporate are these guys going to get?
Finally sit down to properly listen to the album on me I-pod. The second half produced by Danger Mouse is excellent…and there’s stuff in the first half that’s getting under my skin. That makes it a good U2 album (in my own personal U2 journey)
Tossers. Even as a fan I could have lived with it being all over. They’re like Coke. You either drink it or you don’t.
Mind you…You should grow the mullet back. Might make you retro chic. Or is that what they’re aiming for? We’ll never know. It is healthy though that even their own drummer realises Bono is a tosser. But a tosser that makes great music. Ah well….here’s to the next bombastic ten years….
I also like Simple Minds. That would take way to long a post to justify.
I wrote this for a character I do now and again called Rubber Burns poet, sadomasochist and Scottish nationalist. I spotted there was a poetry page following me on here so I thought I’d pop it up. It’s all about the importance of good song lyrics…..
The Hurly Burly Hymn Book O the Presbyterian Minister.
There was a minister fair radical of the Presbyterian kirk
Whose services had them Voguing in the isles, for tradition he did shirk
He realised to hold short attention spans of the Twitter generation
He should let them sing modern top 40 hits for spiritual foundation
For old classics like How Great Thou Art and go on for far too long
So let’s all sing the sentiments of Bob Marley’s more modern songs
The hurly burly hymn book o the Presbyterian minister caused a spiritual sensation
He was seen as the greatest moderniser since the Scottish reformation
Although the lyrics o the Dead Kennedys to some might seem quite shocking
A full Kirk belting punk rock tunes sets your baptism a rocking
In his church non-sectarian you couldn’t sing The Sash
For he was a man of the peoples plight who much preferred The Clash
The Assembly tried to make him stick to the tune of Abide With Me
But our minister saw the spiritual worth of Paul McCartney’s Let It Be
Although Lennon is more popular among the lefty brethren
The kirk elders didn’t like the words of “Imagine there’s no Heaven”
O the hurly burly hymn book o the Presbyterian minister caused a spiritual sensation
He was seen as the greatest moderniser since the Scottish reformation
His congregation were among the happiest of flocks
Because there are great lyricists in modern rock and pop
Eventually it came to pass his methods spread far and wide
Catholics, Muslims and Mormons all pogoed by his side
It was only Bono of the group U2 that got our minister down
Because there just isn’t room for two messiahs in one spiritual town
Bombastic worthy do-gooders we all as one deride
For U2 really lost their way after the release of Pride
O the hurly burly hymn book o the Presbyterian minister caused a spiritual sensation
He was seen as the greatest moderniser since the Scottish reformation
So when you’re dancing at a do pay heed to lyrical words
There’s more than just funky beats to Public Enemy and The Byrds
In this series of occasional blogs I’m going to post some of the routines I’ve done as comedian and explain where they came from. This one below is probably the first routine I ever wrote. When I started out I was a very different comic. Much of my shtick was about being a camp guy growing up in a tough mining town. This piece very much comes from that world. The core of the story and punch line are very much based in fact. Of course I’ve embellished and gagged things up to turn it into comedy….
KARMA FOR THE SCHOOL BULLY.
“Ridicule is nothing to be scared of” So said primo New Romantic Adam Ant. He obviously never grew up where I did. If ridicule came in the form of 10 skinheads chasing you down the high street it was plenty to be scared of.
I grew up in the 80s and was a New Romantic.
Brave. Essentially I could be found running around a Scottish mining town in my mums blouse. Life for me could be like a 16th century Witch trial. The locals would proclaim, “Yeah, throw him in the pond…and if he floats he’s a poof.”
I’d be thinking, “Oh God. Not the pond again. Not with this blouse. I’m wearing a black bra.”
I used to have a flick over fringe like Phil Oakey from the Human league.
I didn’t look like Phil Oakey though…I looked like Hitler had let himself go.
Anyway. I was always getting stress from the bullies. In particular there was a guy called Bobby Schoolar. he was a right bastard.
So one day we were in chemistry and Bobby was trying to get my attention by stabbing me in the thigh with a compass. he leans over and says, “Hey Scotty you’re gay this should interest you.” I said look Bobby I’ve told you it’s the 1980s. I’m not gay. I’m a dandy highwayman.”
So anyway he still leans over and says. “Whatever!” Then he started to whisper in my ear. he says. “Look don’t tell anybody this right…but last night I was in the bath…and I stuck my thumb….up my bumb…and it was good. now you wont tell anybody will you?”
What would you have done? I was on my feet so fast I nearly created a Higs Boson particle. I shouted to the class, “Hey everybody!! Schoolar just told me he stuck his thumb up his arse last night. And he said HE ENJOYED IT.”
There was instant bedlam in the class room.
Everybody started chanting, “up the bum, up the bum, up the bum.” (I RESISTED AN IMAGE FOR THIS BIT) In amongst all the mayhem Bobby panicked and he tried to make a run for it. Just as he got to the door the teacher came in. Bobby slammed right into him. The teacher saw this near riot and went insane. he screamed, “Bobby! Get back to your chair. I want you, to explain to me…EXACTLY what is going on in here?”
I thought…can this day get any better.
Any way the outcome of the story was for my bad karma I got a detention. But that’s nothing compared to what Bobby had to endure for his homophobic bad karma. he spent the next two years at high school with everybody that passed him in the corner holding up their thumbs and going, “Hey Bobby…are you alright.”
I think the thing I’ve found most interesting on this here comedians crucible of what we can and cannot express within our jobs/opinions/lives is the amount of comics in the same week who went out their way to savage Russell Brand for saying “nice” things while not defending his freedom of speech, while passionately defending Andrew Lawrences freedom of speech to say “not so nice” things, while being quite accepting of what was being said.
These are interesting times. Obviously I find much of what Andrew Lawrence said pretty abhorrent. Of course I do. I’m one of the leftie/liberal hacks he’s targeting. But I’m also an advocate of free speech and I’m delighted he’s said it. I can think of a couple of other folk I work with that have exactly the same views but not so high a profile. Do I refuse to work alongside them? I do not.
So let’s look at Mr Brand first. I can’t ever really say I was huge fan. But that changed last year when he did the editorial of the New Statesman. It was informed, eloquent and raised some great points. Yes he got it wrong with the “don’t vote” thing. Especially because that’s what everybody decided to leap on and completely ignore the main thrust of his polemic. The one thing I’ve personally taken from the whole shebang is I’ve read the New Statesman ever since and I feel I’m better informed because of it. I really am bamboozled as to why such a good looking, opinionated millionaire manages to attract such disdain from the community.
I haven’t seen Mr Brands latest News Night appearance or read his book. I’m of absolutely no doubt that some of what he says is ill informed or total pie in the sky thinking. Here’s why I like him. It was actually his involvement that put me on to reading the New Statesman. More shame me for letting celebs influence my tastes. So maybe the good thing about him is he raises the profile of important humanitarian issues and then we go look at more informed sources for the real solutions. This is a good debate we’ve all had about him this week and the points he airs. But we are having it BECAUSE OF Russell Brand. Here ends the defence.
And so the prosecution. It may come as a surprise but like Andrew I am also anti Europe. The main reason I have for this is I think it is a gang master for moving about cheap labour and exploiting workers. And there’s the difference. In saying this I’m attacking the cause not the symptom.
It’s Andrews language and targets of attack that so concern me in his initial diatribe. But can I first take a wee look at the type of comedian he attacks. He describes, “Out of touch, smug, superannuated, overpaid TV comics with their cosy lives in their west-London ivory towers taking a supercilious, moralising tone, pandering to the ever-creeping militant political correctness of the BBC with their frankly surreal diversity targets.”
For anybody that knows me and the lack of impact I’ve made on the comedy business there’s no way I can fit into this bracket. Jings how I wish. In fact in reply I would say Andrew fits this description much more than me. I accuse him of being a smug, overpaid TV comic living in an ivory tower, because from my career perspective that is what he is. It’s not only Andrew that everything didn’t come up roses for but he’s had a way better kick of the ball than I ever did. So why the hatred? I’m frustrated too but it does not manifest in attacks on minority groups.
I do wonder if he’s actually ever had to watch 300 EDL marching past his house chanting vile hatreds on Islam and anything else their bile gets directed at that day from his London hole. I somehow think probably not.
Then there was the comment on “liberal back-slapping on panel shows like Mock The Week where aging, balding, fat men, ethnic comedians and women-posing-as-comedians, sit” If this was intended to sound like the language of a bigot then he did a no bad job. I’m just glad I’ve still got my hair. I don’t think we need pour over those words too much. Others justifiably already have.
The bit that really concerned me was in the comment(s) “for every person that comes here and contributes to our culture there are those benefit tourists, criminals and those that refuse to assimilate.” I feel here he’s laying the blame for our economic woes squarely at the foot not just of the immigrant but also at the underclass. But hey he’s a right wing comic. That is his (new) job.
How terrible it is that everybody moving around the various bits of the planet does not walk along the great and the goods corridors that Andrew feels he strides. For shame that not all of us can reach the same salient heights of human endeavour that Andrew so clearly must feel he has.
I’ve mentioned further back what I feel the problem with Europe is. I’d rather we kick up the way than down. But that’s the fundamental difference in our thinking.
Overpopulation isn’t just a British problem it’s global. And yes I feel it needs addressed. But I advise great caution in the language we use when addressing such issues. Otherwise somebody somewhere will shoulder the brunt of the blame. If you’re going to shout, shout to the top.
Does any of this mean I’m opposed to Andrew expressing his views? Absolutely not. But if the gloves come off we should be allowed to take a swing back. I actually quietly respect his…er…gall. But I also fiercely defend my/our right to be equally as galling.