Friday, 11 December 2009

Se Fendre La Pipe

In my final year at school, the dramatists made the journey to Sydney for a holiday course at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts). All thoroughly enjoyable, and enormously fun for us seventeen year-olds. Every evening we would see a play of sorts, some very good, others tedious to the point of soporific. By far the best evening was a Comedy Store, I know few of us had ever laughed so hard, nor probably will I do so again.

That was in 2005 and in the last four years I have wanted to see more comedy, but the opportunity never seemed to arise. Or possibly the lack of motivation! However, in the last week I have seen three comedy shows, almost evening out the mean to once per year.

The first was to see Dylan Moran, a favourite of mine since I was twelve and first came across Black Books. Thankfully those tickets were posted by a friend on Facebook, who had foolishly got her dates wrong. Within a week they were mine. The only problem then became finding somebody who had heard of him (an idea that is complete anathema to me), and was free on a Saturday evening. At the last minute, a friend's brother answered the call. And Moran was really very good. Essentially playing his character from Black Books, one wonders how much acting was required for the role. For me, half the hilarity is in his lovely Irish lilt, half lost in his half empty glass of wine. It was surprisingly thought-provoking, too, as he attempted to persuade us all to pursue more pleasure in life. I think he thought the journey becomes easier by escaping London, which could well be right. He advocates a life fallen into, stumbled across and as numbed as possible by alcohol. And why not?

The second was to see Frankie Boyle, the controversial Scot who makes sure the editors at the BBC have their work cut out for them. This was a properly intimate performance at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Probably little more than fifty people in the audience to see him preview newer material. Foolishly I sat right in the light in the second row, in his direct eye line. Now I am hardly politically-correct, and I love the edited Boyle, but so much of his material was... Shocking! He kept referring to his typed notes, which gave him a very casual air, and then he came to his section on "Abuse for Hecklers". Nobody had really heckled thus far, so as I was directly in front of him, he pointed at me and told me to heckle! My father would have been perfect, but all I could manage was a rather flustered "Oh erm, get off!" I don't even remember what the abuse was, but I'm sure my cheeks were blushing permanently the rest of the night. He was quite ill-prepared and I'm sure he couldn't wait to leave. I was picked on later, and this time I do recall what he said, but modesty prevents me from repeating anything!

Unbeknownst to us, the following preview act was Russell Howard. I love Russell, his humour is so innocently schoolboy-ish, his use of voice and constant movement are just so endearing. To me at least. I always enjoy watching him on t' telly. I think possibly it's the whole West country thing, a place I hold very dearly in my heart. At any rate, him previewing material straight after Frankie Boyle - not an opportunity to be missed! Of course it was all sold out, but the same had been said of Boyle's show, and there were certainly empty seats. So we waited, sitting by the river, watching the traffic crossing the beautiful Hammersmith Bridge. Returning to the studio minutes before the show was scheduled to start, we did our very best puppy dog faces, and lo and behold! Two tickets for Russell Howard. What luck! I practically danced into the studio, though swiftly stopped as I felt the whole audience's eyes upon me. How embarrassing. I mean, not really, but nonetheless, after my verbal abusing by Boyle, I was quite keen for a lower profile this time. Oh he was fantastic though! After such bleak, black humour; the bright, energetic joy that Howard brought was just magical, and he has cemented himself as one of my favourites. I will certainly recommend people see his tour.

Heading home with a most uncomfortable jaw, but in a delirious, Cloud Nine-esque way, it was another reminder to me of the importance of spontaneity, of always asking, and of not giving up. Frightfully cliché I do realise, but I suppose they are called clichés for a reason!


  1. Oh, I do so feel for you! The Frankie Boyle situation could come straight from one of my nightmares. Personally I find his humour rather intimidating, to the point that it's not funny anymore. But I saw Simon Callow at the Riverside Studios last week in 2 Dickens plays and that was beautiful acting. Sabine x

  2. It was incredibly difficult! But I hope a good story for dinner parties?
    I think the Riverside Studios is a highly untapped resource, I'm so pleased you make good use of it too. X

  3. Thank you for your nice blog here.

  4. I like Russell Howard's comedy.He is very coool.