Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Grimethorpe Colliery Band's Cat

Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s Mechanical Cat: The G.C.B are Britney-esqe media glamour-puppets for whom it would be physically impossible to play tubas AND carry out elaborate on-stage dance routines at the same time. This is the Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s mechanical cat who sits behind the curtain generating authentic brass band noises on his Roland JD-800 synthesizer. He has one laser eye and a sovereign ring.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Harry Hill and the History of Stand-Up Comedy

It was once widely believed that stand-up comedy began in Britain in the late 20th Century when TV star Harry Hill first told jokes to a live paying audience in a tent in Chelmsford. Before this time it had been known for comedians to write jokes for radio programs, magazine articles and television shows but it seemed they had never before attempted to tell these jokes face-to-face with the paying public.

Since Hill’s early explorations into the world of direct joke-telling, other comedians have followed in his footsteps, each developing their own approach but more or less sticking to the rules put down by the pioneer Hill. Almost all of them would borrow much from Hill’s revolutionary stand-up toolkit, tricks such as appearing in the same room as the audience, reciting pre-prepared material, improvising material based on the response of the audience and waiting for applause and laughter to die down before introducing new material. Even patented Hill techniques such as using body movements and facial expressions are readily ransacked by today’s humour- mongers.

Comedians can often still be seen on the stand-up circuit using a quintessential Harry Hill device of saying something that has happened, either in the news or which most people will be aware of, and then making a humorous comment about it.

Today Hill admits that, while he played a sigificant role, he was only part of a wider community of comedians who were all interacting with their audience. Firstly, Hill admitted that some of the jokes told at those first gigs weren’t even created for that purpose but had in fact been used in Hill’s earlier television shows; Hill had the idea after he heard rumours that Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer had once performed excerpts from Shooting Stars (Dove from Above, Ulrika-ka-ka etc) in a pub and this had gone down so well with the locals that they’d passed around a pint glass and everyone had put a pound (£1) in.

Even Hill’s distinctive besuited appearance, the legacy of which can be seen in the acts of hundreds of stand up comedians from Jack Dee to Mo Mowlan, was not an entirely original idea. ‘I remember when I was younger, hhmmmm?’ Hill recalls. ‘I’d seen Ted Heath on the telly calling Enoch Powell a ‘great, sweaty ball-bag of a man’. This got a huge laugh from the assembled mob and I couldn’t quite work out why, as using colloquialisms for the male genitalia when referring to unpleasant people is not in itself innately funny. Then I realised the Conservative leader was wearing a suit and suddenly it all fell in to place.’

Although the revelations may come as a surprise to some, many in the comedy community say they had always known that Hill’s claims to being the originator of each and every element of stand up comedy were greatly exaggerated. Novelist David Baddiel remembers being the very first person to ever use irony, back in the early 1990s ‘Hill seems to get all the credit for that because he’s done it in front of large audiences and people know about him, everyone’s always saying ‘I’m so glad Harry Hill invented irony, I don’t know what we’d do without it’ but I did it first, I just never got the recognition’.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Blair-ography Fever!

I recently heard that Tony Blair was releasing his autobiography and so, bloated with excitement, I swiftly set about getting my shaky mitts on some exclusive outtakes (and when that failed, just making up whatever I felt like).

The jacket image has been released and everyone has quickly gone about mocking the Blair portrait on the sleeve, although it is certainly less controversial than the rejected image which depicted Blair base-jumping from the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, grinning maniacally as a Union Jack parachute opens dramatically behind him while, below, anti-war protestors shield themselves from the avalanche of defecate Blair is launching in their direction.

The release is a long, boring, fuel-crisis stricken summer away and so here, just for you, are some juicy Blair-bites to sate your appetite until September:

“Milliband? Never heard of him. I was in power for, like, ten years or something, right? If he’d been there I would have known about it, yeah? Never met the bloke, I think Brown brought him in after I shifted off. Is he the one that goes out with the Cheeky Girl?”

“I used to breed greyhounds, you know? That’s how I met Nick Mason from Pink Floyd.”

“Yeah, so, I get stick in the press for playing guitar and that, but I wrote most of Be Here Now, you know? That Oasis album sold, like... 8 million copies, right? Alan McGee got me to do it as a favour. The lads were all coked up and, just, arsing around really, but I went in and wrote that one with the piano that I robbed from Imagine and then the theme tune from The Royle Family and we were sorted. It still stands up, that album, you know?”

“Most of the prostitutes I’ve met have spoken very highly of him but, you know, he'd paid them well and he wasn’t into rough stuff so you expect to hear that kind of thing. I never had time for him myself. He had those creepy serial-killer eyes and he always stank of cider and chip fat. It was still a shock when it happened though. I mean, I don’t really think the party will ever really recover from it, you know?”

“Won a couple of races too, a few flapper tracks in Castleford and what not.”

“I reckon most people know by now that me and Cameron are basically the same person, but what they really want to know is ‘how do we do it’?

It’s a lot easier now obviously, now that we don’t ever really have to be in the same place, but it was a lot tougher before I left government a few years ago. Two years of that malarky we had to do, me stood in parliament arguing with this complex mirrored hologram of myself that the boffins had to pre-program with a load of bland, stock responses to whatever it was we had to talk about in commons that day.

It was a ridiculous pantomime really, but we had to get rid of that Michael Howard somehow. He didn’t look good on TV and ratings for that 24 hour reality channel, BBC Parliament, were taking a right old nose-dive.

It’s funny to think, after all that, I’ll probably be back in power by May and by the time you read this, it’ll be too late!”