John gets Mad, Class and Elites.

I was doing a gig in a posher bit of town the other night and an elderly lady came up to me and asked, “Why is it that all comedians are on the left?” I replied that there are conservative comedians nowadays. And if you think not so long ago lots of comedians were  right wing or Tories. Just look at Jim Davidson and Bernard Manning. And she replied, “Yes but they were horrible.” I said, “Yeah I know. I wonder why that was.”

I miss the simpler days when there were just three classes. Upper, middle and working. Now we’ve got

  1. Elites
  2. Upper
  3. Middle
  4. Working
  5. Oh my god he’s wearing Crocs.

Class really does inform your sense of humour. here’s a genuine conversation I had with one of the Cambridge Footlights at The Edinburgh festival this year.

ME. So yesterday my front row was four 13 – 14 year old boys.

FOOTLIGHTS. That must have been difficult.

ME. No. They were great. I had a great moment when I did my money bucket speach. I said to them. You young guys don’t have to pay…But I do want a blow job. Don’t worry you still get the free CD.

FOOTLIGHTS. Good God! And the audience were OK with that?

ME. Yeah. Err…It was one of the biggest laughs of the night.

FOOTLIGHTS. Im shocked.

ME. That’s nothing. I shifted another 4 CDs and got a blow job.

FOOTLIGHTS. ( Gazes into the middle distance…. Then goes inside)

ME. Sniggers…

I recently quite inadvertently stumbled on a way to make yourself feel like an Elite. I was in the park and had eaten a bag of pistachio nuts. Obviously when you finish pistachio nuts you’re left with a bag of hard empty shells. Just as I was about to clear them away a gust of wind came and scattered them over the ground. I suppose it looked like I was throwing out grain as a flock of pigeons descended on them… Well, suddenly I felt like the chancellor. I thought “You think you’re getting something. But it’s nothing but empty shells. That’s trickle down economics for you. I get nuts, you get empty shells. Know why? Because you’re vermin.”

And there was this one pigeon that couldn’t fly because it had a broken wing. Well…It was making out it had I broken wing. But I knew better than that. So I started kicking it, “Come on you, you can fly, you’re not fooling me.” Eventually I just picked it up and threw it in the air. It came down with a thud and died. I said, “Fair enough. You’ve passed the assessment.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I/Mmature student 7. Bowie and Brecht.

So far today has been a lovely day, which is a relief as it’s the one I was most nervous about as we’re looking at movement, voice and getting down to techniques that I know nothing about. But the groups have been lovely and I find my self now getting quite excited about Bertolt Brecht…now you know where this is going.

So yes my main connection to Brecht is via David Bowie who studied him and was a fan. It wasn’t’ until we sat down as a group and I started to find out more about him from the other students who have studied him that I began to realise how much Brecht has influenced what Bowie did. From isolation, alienation and the “othering” of people it’s all through his stuff.

I maybe chose a bit of a fluffy example of this in the song Space Oddity when mentioning this as I was challenged by a classmate who brought up Marx and other political notions to say that wasn’t quite it. But I argue back it’s definitely in there. If I was to name Bowies most Brechtian LP I’d go for Lodger or Scary Monsters. which in themselves both sound like titles he may have given to his plays.

Anyhoo I’m now paired up with said challenger and we’ve to investigate Vsevolod Meyerhold who neither of us know for a dwell period. Cool

An open letter to Richard Branson and his trains (Renationalise the railways)

 

I travel on British trains a lot. I reckon trains in India are better. We have the worst and most expensive service in Europe.  

The east coast line went back into public ownership and became the most efficient and profitable in the country. But we can’t be having that. Where is the sense in customer care. But panic not we managed to get rid of all that by selling it back to Richard Branson.

He actually has a sign on these cattle trucks that asks How are we doing? and an address to send your thoughts to him….So here’s the letter I wrote.

HOW AM I DOING.

Dear Richard Branson I thought I’d just send a quick note in regards to your question how am I doing? Well I’m afraid the answer’s not very good. I’m not sure where to start on this subject but let’s first go with the often overwhelming stench of unprocessed shit that often tickles my nostrils when traveling on your bovine Cowperson express.

How can we explain to you that it takes more than an egg cup full of water to flush a toilet that has been blocked since Newark Northgate?

It’s not all bad news though as I’ve discovered a fitting revenge to this situation when passing through Grantham the birth place of Margaret Thatcher and spiritual mother to pus ridden colossal greed juggernauts like your good self.

As soon as your train pulls into Grantham station I take great delight in running through it and flushing every toilet IN THE STATION. Thus depositing the pungent effluent of two generations of an exploited, tyrannized and quite frankly totally constipated work force. Try leading the masses by the nose after that one you creepy haired cat wanker.

If somehow I manage to work up an appetite on your defecation express can I please point out that not even NASA have figured out how to make a cheese and ham toastie in a fucking microwave.

The fact that this service costs £132.00 to go from Newcastle to London and is often so overcrowded I’ve seen people pass out yet still remain upright, packed in like Scousers at a Poundland sale, is yet another moot point. This should be enough reason to have you put on one of your new space shuttles on a one way trip to the moon.

I can’t believe you actually think we want to go into space with you? The toasties would be even worse and there would be shit floating everywhere!

Personally I would like to beat you to death with bags of your own money.

I’ll tell you this sir your trains are well named Virgin because nobody wants to ride on them.

Yours the customer.

Former “in” Bellybutton now supports “out”

A bellybutton who was a longstanding supporter of in, or as they are known commonly an “innie” has now declared to be a supporter of out, also known as an “outie”

When questioned on why they had changed their stance they remarked “I would like to clear up a few myths about being out of the main part of the body. Just because I am out this does not mean  the brain will decamp to Frankfurt. Nor will the bottom lose it’s subsidies. It’s also ridiculous to say that a bellybutton exit or Bexit as we now call it  will damage the genitals “special relationship” with the U.S. As for all this scaremongering that the bottom would be more susceptible to terrorist attacks… well that’s just below the belt scaremongering.”

When also asked if this new stance was perhaps a bid to gain the leadership of the backbone at the next election the bellybutton had this to say. “It would be a wonderful thing to be the backbones leader. It is at least five years away which is an aeon in the body politic, by which time whatever my personal ambitions may be, there will be competition from young thrusting body parts both male and female who will be overtaking me so who knows.  As I’ve said many, many times before that it’s more likely that I will be reincarnated as an olive or shoved back in by a champagne cork or Unscrewed entirely resulting in the bum falling off.”

More recently the bellybutton has caused controversy by accusing the arms and legs of goose-stepping in a fashion similar to the Nazis.

The question of in or out still remains on a knifes edge.

 

On the anniversary of Thatchers Death (song)

Anniversary celebrations…

This just popped up as a Facebook memory. I wrote it on the day of her death. Trust me the sentiment still stands.

BYE BYE THATCHER

 

(Sung to the tune of Bye Bye Blackbird)

 

Cut back all our care and dole

So much woe

No tears to show

Bye Bye Thatcher

When nobody weeps for thee

On the street protesters meet

Bye bye Thatcher

 

You showed us no love or understanding

So Satan’s mark upon your arse is branded

Get out of bed, fight and strike

Go rioting ‘till late at night

Thatcher Bye bye

Working class Pt. 2 The Arts.

There’s been much written in recent times about it being harder for working class artists to break through in their field. From problems with a lack of much needed money to gain access to education, to a general feeling that many of the fields are now being dominated by the privileged. I.e. those with money (or their parents money) to spare.

It’s not new the prejudices against the working classes in the arts. Over centuries it has been debated that Shakespeare didn’t write his own work because he was of too lowly a standing. To me the idea it was written by someone of nobility is ridiculous. Why would a noble in all their comforts have to strive to produce the best they could? They can just fall back on being…err…noble.

I think it’s certainly worth noting that just recently we lost two working class giants of their craft in David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Bowie himself left school with little qualification but did attend one of the many now eradicated 60s art schools. Rickman received sponsorship and a scholarship to get him started. All great supportive avenues for us ordinary folks to gain access to arts, now all gone.

On a personal level as a comedian I’ve certainly seen a hell of a lot of class bias in my own industry. Sometimes it’s prominent critics who hear a northern or working class voice and immediately dismiss whatever is being said as “club comedy” A now derisory term invented by a London based, self anointed comedy policeman. It’s a weird term as much comedy comes from and is created in clubs. Sure I understand that comedy designed to please those on a night out isn’t perhaps best suited to a festival going punter. But if that comedy does turn out to actually rock a festival crowd with laughter then surely it’s of some merit somewhere along the line? According to many critics absolutely not. And who is it we find most adept at this type of comedy? That’s right, working class comics. Because it was a working class crowd the comedy was created in front of. Yeah…but what are the working classes doing at an arts festival? This seems to be the notion behind such thinking.

In an attempt to not be judged as just a “club comic” I personally now write social and political comedy or satire as it can be known. How many working class voices have you heard over decades on telly or radio tackling that stuff? No, it would seem some forms of comedy are only to be uttered by those folks in the middle. What would a working class person know about the real issues? I was actually told once by the head of BBC comedy North, and I quote, “Look there’s a lot of good stuff here but you’ve got a wall of Oxbridge school tie to get over before anybody will look at it.” Do we hear a lot of working class voices on BBC Radio 4? Well I suppose sometimes we do, but usually they’re not being spoken by working class artists.  All this does beg the question what would someone from Oxbridge know about the vulnerability of life at the bottom. Or as we would call it, “the real issues.”

It used to be different.  The working classes were celebrated on TV and radio in the 70s and 80s. But for every Boys From the Black Stuff there’s now a Shameless. For every Alf Garnet there’s now Mrs Brown. We’ve been moved sideways in our portrayals from pathos to panto and nobody seems to have noticed it happening.

But it’s not all a negative picture we have here. My dad and many others were always ready to offer the advice for anybody wanting to study the arts, “You need a trade to fall back on.” Bizarrely as I head off to do a degree in Drama and Script this year I do have a trade to fall back on…the performing arts.

The problem with such thinking is those with something to fall back on will invariably fall back on it. If those coming from a more comfortable background can always opt out and go home, then home is where they will go. Working class kids can’t just up tools and go home. That’s actually their greatest asset. Once they enter the arts with nothing to fall back on…they are home.

Once you do find that home I would pay little attention to those outside performance or writing or music or busking who try to justify their existence by intellectualising the game. Art doesn’t come from the brain, it’s from the heart. That’s exactly what your audience will pay for. It’s an expression of joy and awe. Speak up, stand up…shout at the teacher.

 

OI! Google…pay your frickin taxes.

In 1986 after a four year in-depth and skilled apprenticeship I qualified as a journeyman printer. A good trade. Respected and financially sound due to the training involved. If you told me then that for the next ten years my wages were going to stay the same while the board of directors and shareholders cut of profits were going to rise astronomically. Also as an extra incentive the board and shareholders aren’t going to pay ANY tax and you the employee are going to be expected to cover the loss…well there would have been a national strike of print workers and we would have knocked such ridiculously unfair conditions back to the turn of the century where they belong. But that is exactly what has happened to your average workers wage and conditions over the past decade. With little resistance.

There are many reasons we’ve submitted to such appalling remuneration for our work. I think one of the biggies is lack of housing and everyone being mortgaged up to the hilt. It’s much more difficult to strike with a mortgage over your head. When Thatcher sold off all the housing stock I’m quite certain that was part of the plan.

This week were told Google would pay 130 million in tax in the UK. It turns out that’s about 3% of profits. So as a self employed person I immediately got on the phone to Inland Revenue to see if I could strike the same deal. 11 years  ago when I first became self employed I used to ring the Revenue and after a few rings get an answer, solve the problem I was having and pay some tax. Today I rang the phone for 25 minutes with no answer. You know why? Because there is no bugger to answer it. The government have slashed jobs in that sector. That’s how serious they are about appropriate taxes being collected.

Today at Prime Ministers question time our glorious leader David “piggy” Cameron was confronted on the issue of Google’s tax avoidance. His answer…”It was the same under the last Labour Government.” What sort of moral justification is that?  It’s like smearing the walls of your house in shit because prior to you moving in a psychopath used to live there and that’s what they did.

Bizarrely this week if you type tax avoidance into Google it takes you to articles about Google’s tax avoidance!

And it never seems to end! I was in Starbucks the other day with my laptop buying something on Amazon and it struck me the only person paying any tax in that particular situation was me.

Here’s some interesting figures and estimates from the UKs financial status of the past year.

120 BILLION LOST through tax avoidance and evasion.

16 Billion PROFIT from unclaimed benefits.

1.2 BILLION LOST to benefit fraud.

Out of these three what do you hear most about. That’s right the benefit fraud. That’s where the government are focusing their recourses. That’s why your wages have stayed the same for 10 years, because of benefit scroungers, absolutely nothing to do with a bunch of elites milking the entire country and your household dry . It’s bullshit of the highest order. However, due to media saturation from press barons who are all tax avoiders themselves…this is where the public thinks the blame lies. We’re at a point now where the public for the sake of their and their children’s futures need to wake up and smell the coffee…and make sure whoever is selling you the coffee is paying for the privilege of doing so.