Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015: A LITERAL Year in Review.

2015: A literal Year in review.

2015 has been a pretty great year for me. Not the perfect year- no one has had the perfect year. If you have had the perfect year: I hate you, and I will send you online threats and punch you in the elbow. In doing that I will make your year imperfect, like everyone else.

My year had plenty of highs and lows, so I thought I would review my entire year. It’s like a movie review, but with my actual life. I can’t review it all. It would take too long. It would take me the entirety of 2016.  So I will quickly look at some of my biggest events of 2015 and give them a rating.

Hosstages:  Sketch Show
In the early winds of January, my band of jolly comedians and I created a sketch show called Hosstages: Stockholm syndrome which we performed for two successful night at the Jolly Sailor. Sketches included the world worst neighbour (Roger), a sitcom where one character didn’t get any laughs, and an Alan Bennett monologue placed in Mordor.  8/10 (If I may say so myself).

The second show: The Final Remnants Of Our Creativity  was an intensely weirder show due to many reasons, but it was still a fun show. It featured a literal personal demon, a social awkward James Bond and mafia family who are in the REALLY ORGANISED crime business. I give that show 7/10.

I was immensely proud of these shows, but more so impressed with the cast within the shows who really made a dream of mine come true. I would like to quickly thank the following comedians for helping me with their awesome contributions to these shows:

Maddy Willis, Stuart Hosmer-Wright, Zach Cameron, Claire Nott, Francis Murphy-Thomas, Henry Maddicott,  Olaf Galicki, Jonathan Maltz, Dean Hochlaf and Verity Tan. And Blacky from the Jolly Sailor for helping us with the venue - and for his support for Toys In The Attic too.

And a special thanks to Dan Rhodes, my writing partner. Graham Lineham once said “Finding a writing partner is A LOT HARDER than finding a wife. So when you find one you click with, stick with them”.  Together, we are the perfect concoction of stupid.  But I give him 4/10.

Hosstages will be returning in the new year and with a new cast.

Game Of Thrones Series 5
This was obviously a big moment in my year. Bloody hell. As book-reader this series was incredibly disappointing. Many story lines were dumbed-down. Amazing characters were cut. And the changes to the plot seemed unfathomable. But was worse thing about Game Of Thrones this year was the spoilers that people openly post on facebook. Seriously. If you did that you are sociopath. Or a dickhead. Or Ramsey Bolton.

My Stand-up comedy
I gave stand-up comedy a big wellie this year. As of last night, I achieved 100 gigs in the entirety of 2015. Some have gone brilliantly for example:

1)  Folkestone Comedy Club in October. It was the opening night of a professional gig. I needed to show that I was a good act. And the lovely audience were full of energy and gave me the love I sought from them. Hopefully I will be back there soon.

2) Fringe’s Got Talent semi-final at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. It was one of those gigs which the energy of the room was thick and ripe. They wanted me to succeed and I had the material to smash it. I also bribed the judge, April Pearson, with pre-requested Chewits. But I had accidentally attached my number to it. And by “accidentlly” I meant cello-taped it on. April really liked it. Her boyfriend didn’t.  

3)  I headlined a comedy club in Deal which people loved. People asked me for selfies and autographs as they assumed I would be famous in upcoming years. And I got a girls phone number. It was a strange gig as I was overwhelmed by positivity and affection, things i'm not used to.

However there were a lot of bad gigs as well…

1)      One gig in Eastbourne was one of the worst gigs. There was no lights, the stage was literally a staircase and the only audience members there was a very drunk man and drug dealer.
But they did enjoy my set.

2 )      One night in Stoke Newington, in February. Some of my friends came along to support me which was so lovely. There were some amazing acts on the bill like Chris Coltrane, Darrell Skipper and Eric Lampaert headlining. Every act smashed it.Then I came on. I thought it would be an easy audience. I was severely wrong.
That was also the first night which Steve Bennett, the head of, saw me perform and wrote this review: “Starting with mixed-results material about vegetarianism, Matt Hoss went off-script – and came off seeming more nervous and unfocussed than he probably is… he certainly seemed disappointed in his decisions.

3)      Jungle Bar, Hertford, on the 30th march. The promoter didn’t turn up and the only audience members were hecklers. They offered me mental help during my set.  I gave them by business card. 

Overall though, I have to give my efforts in stand-up and my enjoyment as a whole. I’ve poured so much time, money, blood, sweat and train tickets into this profession. And I like to think that it is paying off. I’m doing bigger and better gigs. I’m getting to know more and more people. But I’m still having fun. Its genuinely the most important thing.
But still. B+. Room for improvement.

Winner of The Eric Barker Award 2015
One of the most proudest moments of 2015 was achieving the Eric Barker Award from the University of Kent for being the best Comedy student. Even to this day I am incredibly honoured to have this status. And Olly Double shook my hand. Winner  10/10

Getting a First Degree.
“I got a First degree!” 8/10
“I got a First degree in Classics and Drama!” 4/10
Graduation was a great day. Great outfits, Great company but very boring speech. But my mum got drunk for my special congratulatory dinner.  Back up to 9/10.

Working at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Great experience and a great month in the biggest arts festival in the world. However when youa re working 10 hour days for 6 weeks straight things get a little bit murdery. “Oh- you have an original adaptation of Shakespeare? PLEASE TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR ORIGINAL IDEA.”
However I got to see some of the best stand-up acts in my life Bridget Christie, Tom Parry and Luisa Omielan. And I got to meet Susan Boyle. I hit on April Pearson from Skins and was hit on by an BBC egghead on the same night.
 It was a great retrospective experience but at the time was difficult. But it was a testament to a lot of hard work.
And my diet for 6 weeks was Tesco cheese and onion sandwiches. 3 stars.

Mark Thomas

I was given the opportunity to help political activist and comedian Mark Thomas. I helped him with a Loitering Fete and I gigged with him on the same day. I also met Tiernan Douieb (who was an ex-monkeyshiner). I did the RBS way walk for Mark Thomas, where I walked outside the headquarters for RBS in London Liverpool street. I chalked up a 15 metre section outside there building and walked in 666 times to aid Mark’s last show, Trespass , in order to fight London’s private property.
Mark Thomas is the only person I would do exercise for.
Exercise: 2/10.
Activism Exercise: 9/10.

In the final third of the year of 2015 could have been possibly the most magical. I was finally accepted onto doing an MA in Stand-up comedy, meaning I would perform at Canterbury’s renowned comedy night “Monkeyshine Comedy Club” on a weekly basis performing stand-up comedy. This is something I have wanted to since starting university and it helped blossom my love for stand-up comedy.
These weekly gigs have gone surprisingly well and I’ve done material about my mum, I’ve started a musical comedy act and there was Pasta Pete. It has honestly been the happiest term of my life.

Pasta Pete wishes you a Happy New Year. He will return. 

Overall 2015 has been amazing. I’ve obviously omitted the bleak days, the depressed weeks and the heartbreaking moments which interweave itself in all of my days from this blog. But these dark moments happens despite what year it is. Nothing ever changes. You are always going to have a shit year unless you pick yourself out of the gutter. That is why New Year’s Resolutions are stupid. You are letting time dictate when you should do something, when you should be the one making those active changes whenever you see fit. Help yourself out of the gutter and have a great year.

To finish, here are a list of aims for my 2016. Some are funny, some are serious, but I hope you enjoy. Happy New year to you all
Aims for 2016:
-            Produce an spectacular hour long comedy show about vegetarianism. It is called Vegetari-Man.
-           Gig as much as possible. I’m aiming for over 150 gigs.
-            Do gigs which gain me status as a comedian. I’m exclusively ONLY playing at the Apollo for 2016.
-           Be politically active. Campaign for what I believe is right. Do not sit idly by. Everyone has power – so exercise it. If you see a rebellion against the First order - you know it is me.
-          Be constantly giving in Time, Knowledge and Kindness. It costs you nothing to help another out.  Apart from your time. But what is that truly worth?
-           Be academically sound as comedian. Read the books, study the history and learn the truth of stand-up comedy. What could be funnier?
-           Be forever playful – on stage and in life. But not in playgrounds.
-           Have time to relax- it is vital. And how else will video game developers make any money if you aren’t wasting your time playing their games.
-             Make time for friends. I’ve been an awful friend this year. If you want a friend, you need to be a friend. So the coffees are on me guys.
-           Take chances.
-           Help the vulnerable.
-           Become Danny Zucko from Grease.

All these are my aims. I will fail some, but not without a fight.

Thank you 2015 and here is to 2016.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Magna Laughter: An Experimental Comedy night with historical characters

Hello my avid blog fans. I’m not sure how many people read the things I put online, let alone the amount of people that actually enjoy reading it. Hopefully that is everyone on my friends list. Hopefully. But if you do enjoy reading it or if it has any interest to you, please recommend it to a friend. Let it will be your kind deed of the day – but EVERY DAY. Don’t stop sharing it. It’s like a public service announcement but it’s based around me.

My blog today is about something a little bit different. It is less of a ‘blog’ but it is like an ‘informal yet somewhat academic discussion about comedy’. Blog is easier to say by far, unless I abbreviate it to “IYSADAC”. And it is going to be somewhat like an exploration of some ideas which I have experimented with on stage and my reflection of so. It’s like a relaxed academic paper about a specific performance. But what EXACTLY am I waffling on about?

Magna Laughter:

On Monday 23rd November, I organised a one-night special comedy night. It was sold as an experimental comedy night where stand-up comedians would dress up as Historical figures and perform Stand-up comedy as them. The was plan was to try and establish something different in the world of comedy. I wanted to give the comedians the chance to do something different and the audience a chance to witness something either genius or downright weird. Or both.
It would be called: Magna Laughter. *

(*Well not for very long. For legal reasons – I can’t call the event Magna Laughter anymore. Apparently English Heritage have an event with the same name, and have politely asked me not to call any further events Magna Laughter anymore. I’m infamous. I’m a renegade. I’m a MAVERICK).

The Experiment:

So what was I experimenting with? Answer: Many things – both as a performer and a promoter. My main idea, however was: Can you negotiate with an audience with a potentially offensive subject? And if the experiment went well, I was interested in seeing the flip-side: Could I get them to like the potentially offensive subject?
So the experiment was something that had intrigued me as both an academic concept and from a performance perspective. My character in this, now bear with me, was somewhat (and intentionally) controversial.
I dressed up as Adolf Hitler and acted as the compere of the evening. It was like The Man In The High Castle, but in a room above a pub. It was like a Donald Trump speech.

As I said, I had several ideas which I really wanted to explore when performing as Hitler. Firstly, I wanted to give myself a challenge as an Mc. The role of a compere in normal comedy club circumstances is to build up energy in the room, warm up the audience and support the acts as much as possible. The compere’s primary goal is to maintain the audience and his secondary objective to be funny. Therefore I wanted to challenge that status, making it harder for the audience to get on board with the gig, as the first act they see is Hitler. The Mc acts as the transition from cold light of normal life to the temporary extended boundaries which the comedy club provides. Hitler would act as plunging them into the deep end. How would the audience cope with that sudden shock?
Secondly there was second level to Adolf Hitler. It wasn’t just me playing a dictator,  but I was playing Adolf Hitler, as if he wanted to be a Michael McIntyre-esque comedian. Hitler’s opening line is:

Hitler: So I tried art: That did not work. I tried politics: That did not work. So I’m trying Stand-up comedy to try and take over ze world.

This image will definitely not resurface on the internet to haunt me in years to come.

I did say bear with me. Apart from that opening line, I wanted Hitler to not acknowledge that he was Hitler or had any connotation that he was evil. In fact, I wanted him to have the least offensive material ever, creating a dichotomy between Material and Image. I wanted to play with the fact that I had volatile and potentially offensive exterior but have incredibly inoffensive material.  Just to top it off and give it that extra comedic wallop – I decided to make Hitler use the most Hack material going…            
Hitler: “So what is the deal with Airplane food?”

Hitler covered Tinder, Online Dating, Airplane food, the differences between men and women and “Then I got off the bus”. It was bound to be a fun night.

Character Comedy:

I actually realised that this is my first attempt at playing a different character onstage in front of a live audience.  I’ve toyed with a range of weird ideas and characters in some comedic workshops with friends, for example I had once played John Skelton: An unknown 16th century court-poet who gets infuriated that he isn’t treated like a celebrity. Later in the month I played as Pasta Pete, a man who had pasta glued to his body and face and exclusively told Pasta Puns.That was a fun night FOR EVERYONE. 
Pasta Pete- A night to remember.

I also played a version of a character who was called David Britton, who was a 45 year old divorced Pub Quizmaster who tries to win his family back through Stand-up comedy, despite being quite awkward. Unfortunately David was just like me, but in 24 years’ time. Other than those, in a stand-up context, I’ve always played a relatively honest version of myself. So Adolf Hitler was my first time as a character in front of a paying audience. And Hitler is the first time I’ve tried an act out without any previous road testing. I thought if I wanted to conduct the experiment properly, it should be in front of a real and paying audience.

The performance:

Lights go down, I head to the tech desk. I top-up my marker pen moustache and I call my own intro:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to the stage – your host”. And I emerged onto the stage.

There was a mixed reaction from the audience straight away. There were some who were confused and some laughed out of surprise. But the audience got on board. They began to warm to the act, as soon as they had cottoned onto the joke of “I’m doing this through a lens of irony” as opposed to “I’m just trying to hobble some cheap gags together”. I like to think the audience enjoyed the different perspective of Hitler. From what I gathered from my audience interaction, they seemed to enjoy the character of Hitler. My experiment seemed to go well. Then I introduced the acts onto the stage.

On the Bill we had:
MC Adolf Hitler
Henry VIII,
Winston Churchill,
Steve Jobs,
Caveman doing DefJam Comedy,
Julius Caesar
and Admiral Horacio Nelson

In my mind, the acts were to stay in character for the entirety of the night. The characters were meant to be naturalistic and entirely in character.  This did not quite go as planned. Irrationally, I believed that the Historical character would perform in total character, but since it was a strange night, the comedians felt inclined to comment upon the absurdity. It would also be worth mentioning that it would be a completely alien concept for the comedians to not acknowledge something happening in the room for a laugh- it’s second nature for stand-ups. So instincts came in on this occasion.

Fun fact: Andy Kaufman, a legendarily surreal American comedian, would turn up to a gig in full character and not break the character until he got back to his home. That’s astounding!

The acts danced around this line of narrative, which was sewn by Magna Laughter, and the comedians brought out their own personas on-stage (and once their own material) in an attempt to gain some additional laughs. It’s an incredibly rare and weird gig- the comedian would be unlikely to be in this situation again, ergo, they feel more inclined to play on the now, to the delight of the audience.

In particular, Adam Morrison-Jones who played Winston Churchill, made his act devoted to playing with this line – as when he had a hat on: he played a loud-mouthed and obnoxiously rude Winston Churchill, however he routinely took off the hat to explain the bit, existentially, as Adam Morrison-Jones. I believe he was riffing his act, but he has such a charm regardless, it paid off massively.

I believe that the acts broke character for a couple reasons. 1) It is a comedian’s reflex to address the “now”, to talk about what is happening in the room at that moment. 2) The venue is in the function room above a pub, which may have loosened the concept in a way, perhaps giving a licence to comedians to play around with the character. 3) The novelty of the gig. Also it probably didn’t help myself as I didn’t explicitly express this rule to the acts. But this was done nearly-on purpose as to let the acts have reign of their historical character.

This looks like a fascist version of Vernon Kay. Family Fortunes would be a vastly different game.

On a personal note, I believe I delivered one of my favourite “heckle put-downs” as Hitler. When Winston Churchill was being laddy and began (comically) shouting at my character. He got the audience to sing “HITLER HE’S ONLY GOT ONE BALL -THE OTHER IS IN ALBERT HALL”. And from my MC seat I shouted in response: “No – ze other one is in your mum!”.

But overall I believe the night was a success as an experiment. I was able to portray Hitler in a comedic light without offending anyone. On top of that I managed to piece together a successful gig with a great bunch of acts. The audience seemed to have really enjoyed themselves, but also admiring the weirdness of the gig. It was one of those nights which were weirdly good fun. I look forward to doing the next one. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Hymen Diamond

The MRA’s literal Pink Panther: The Hymen Diamond

Something popped up on my Facebook Newsfeed the other day which severely annoyed me. The typical things which annoy me on Facebook consist of my friends generally being happy. It’s unfair. Either my friends are getting married, getting pregnant or vaguely being joyful- which annoys me.

However this was different. The link was shared by a friend, who was bringing attention to an bizarre internet campaign. The link shared was the T-Shirt fund for the Men’s Right campaign: “No Hymen, No Diamond”. Don't worry: It gets way creepier.

Obviously "No Hymen, No Diamond" is the less successful follow-up song released by Bob Marley. Coincidentally it is the slogan used by Men's Rights activists (MRA) who state that they only want to exclusively date and marry women who have not lost their virginity. And Though it's not a deal-breaker: they would prefer to have a women who refuses to do independent thinking or has fun.  

What a weirdly horrible campaign this was. It is essentially a group of men who want (and I quote) “to mate” with girls who do not sleep around. The first red flag is clear: they have used the phrase “to mate” in regards to having sex. Any person using the phrase “to mate” should not be allowed to mate in the first place. Ironically, when they are dictating (or DICKtating – Am I Right?! #Lol) how people should live their sex-lives – they do not have the balls to say “having sex”.

Here is what they wrote what their campaign was about: 

A campaign to raise awareness about the importance of female virginity when selecting a mate to marry and eventually produce children with. Too often in today's society are women cavalier with their sexual lives throughout their teenage years and early 20s, which has been shown in studies to decrease the likelihood of maintaining successful, intimate relationships or marriages. Remember gentlemen: No Hymen, No Diamond

I doubt that they do these shirts sizes for women.


Can you imagine the decrepit ne’er-do-well who wrote that paragraph? Undoubtedly it is some nineteen year-old kid living in a suburban basement, with the room only being illuminated by the light of the computer screen. The captain of Laptop has Cheetos surrounding him at all times,  the powder of which, covers his beard in a cheesy glaze whilst also peppering saliva-soaked fingers with the orange dust. Using these orange-covered boats of flesh which he calls his fingers, he types flippantly - pounding his laptop keyboard with all of sexual repression but channeled and amplified from a misogynistic mind. He looks exactly like Chewbacca, if you shaved off 90% of the hair.

But serious SCREW THOSE GUYS. No - scratch that - DON'T SCREW THEM. It will make them more sexually frustrated. Why do they insist on imposing their own rules on someone's body? If they insist on the rule: "No Hymen, No Diamond", then I think women should strike back with their own line of  sexist pedantry with a rule that they will only date men who are circumcised. It will be called "Got Foreskin? No Ring!". It employs the same shitty half-rhyme as well. 

I went to Luisa Omielan's show 'Am I Right Ladies?' when I was at the Edinburgh Fringe 2015. Her show is influentially impacting show about the way how men treat women on a colloquial basis. Luisa discusses how women are shamed and judged for sleeping with men - but she boldly argues that women should sleep around as much as you would like and have no regrets - because guys don't. Just because you are a lady, doesn't mean that you should not enjoy sex. Don't feel judged for doing what you want. This sentiment is what everyone should get behind. I mean - I know I certainly am. I mean, if there is any extra possibility for sex – everyone should be WAY more up for this? It's a win-win situation all around. Instead of making shitty designs for t-shirts, and creating phrases which don’t really rhyme, we should spend our time being more open towards sex. Speaking of which - Ahem - Ladies, my number is at the bottom of this blog.

It genuinely shocked me, and I decided to do a Louis Theroux and look deep into the website. After sifting through a lot of their online forums, I found some some of their key lines of arguments in their wheelhouse. Here are some of the strange arguments I found from their Facebook supporters:

1. Firstly, a man called Brandon argued in response to a comment on facebook. He eloquently sums up his ideology:

     “Well - Would you like this fresh glass of water, or one that's had 23 penises in it?". 

   He got 11 likes for that comment.To be honest Brandon, I would just probably go to different restaurant mate. If you see a flurry of male waiters rush to the counter when you order a tap water, I would hate to think what they were going to do the starter.They would probably impregnate the Soup Of The Day. I mean, I wouldn't leave without at least give them a small tip first.

2.    Here is from a very bitter person: 

    No, but the patriarchy is probably the deep root which made her fall over in the first place. And the way they have phrased it makes it sound less like a hypothetical question but more like they pushed over some one in the forest just to post on Facebook .


3.    Apparently this is the thing which gets their message down to a tee.

    This is possibly the most ridiculous point to be made by far. Just what?! Look at it again!  It genuinely speaks for itself. If anything I just find the choice of the Trevi fountain being the main thing the Patriarchy has accomplished. What these people are saying is that: "We will only date women who have the virginity intact, and they can appreciate what  lovely fountains we made them. I'd be bloody grateful for that oppression if I were them. Bloody Women".

4.   This is my personal favourite:

OKAY-OKAY-OKAY! Somehow they are both acknowledging AND celebrating the fact that women are being oppressed - which is signified with "Boom". What's worst is that they are so gleeful about it.  Imagine if a white american man, if he were to go up to an African-American after the Emancipation Proclamation and goes "You are a lot shittier than being Slave-driver than I am.You Suck." Also I love the fact that in each of these statements they refer to women as “Feminists” and the opposition just being “Men” – as is a way for them to just clarify their underlying point of “WE DON’T SEE WOMEN AS PEOPLE LIKE US”.

After reading through the manifesto of creepiness -  It’s fantastic to read that not once do they mention at all how many times the men need to have sex to enter the relationship. They aren’t saying “Hey – let us both save ourselves for marriage”. No they would be Christians if they did say that. They make an important distinction with what they say and their message is: “We want to have sex with you – then judge you for doing so.You disgust me. How dare you make love to me.". 

The No-Hymeners do have a fatal flaw in their range of attack. What if the No-Hymen man dated a girl, fell in love, got engaged and got married. But when they go to consummate the marriage - BOOM- only then do you figure that she is not a Virgin. Because surely you wouldn't find out if she had a hymen until AFTER you placed the diamond on her finger. You wouldn't find out until that point. You would be on your honeymoon and you would have to break off the relationship with her, because  you accidentally feel in love with her. It would crumble their whole ideology. Ladies, If you are dedicated to this cause, I think some people should follow this all the way through. Please take one for the team. In return for your hard work you will get to see the Trevi Fountain. And you may be taken to some really weird restaurants with Brandon.  

But why do they mind who has their partner has slept with before? Why should they care? Surely it doesn’t matter how many people you have slept with beforehand? Are some men so insecure that they need to have the full love and attention from the woman they go onto marry from start to finish. The only thing that matters is that they love you in that moment and that you cherish that love together. It doesn’t matter who you or they have. As long as they don’t share that love and happiness on Facebook, the internet community and I will be happy. 


If you enjoyed this blog, please +1 and share it with your friends! 

If you want to see me gig soon: Please come along to Toys In The Attic, taking place on the 9th October at the Jolly Sailor at 7.30pm. Going to be a cracker!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

My week in Lanzarote

After spending the week in Lanzarote, I look back on my fantastic trip abroad looking at my week, contemplating Vegetarianism, Calamari and Children.

So I just got back from an All-inclusive holiday in Lanzarote. It would have been wrong of me to NOT gorge myself daily and get drunk on hotel cocktails. I felt just like a Greek God.

This was my first holiday whilst being a vegetarian and I struggled with it: especially given the fact that I have essentially, unlimited free food whenever I wanted it. I love my vegetarianism, but I was equally torn by the fact that I wanted to get my money’s worth: I was tempted to get some Pulled Pork because I am a tight bastard, and not because I desired to eat it.

These parrots weren't on the menu, but if they were: my vegetarianism would be broke.

One afternoon, they had some unlabeled Onion rings to eat. I thought it was safe to eat right? Nope. It was a Calamari. In the shape of an Onion Ring. That is the most deceived I have ever been. How evil must someone be to do that?  Couldn’t they use a less assuming shape? Perhaps a Calamari Rhombus? A Fishy Scalene Triangle? A Trout Dodecahedron? Can we please leave RINGS to the Onions (and to Sonic the Hedgehog)?

There were some great vegetarian options and there would occasionally be dishes which were made “especially for vegetarians”. However, as the week grew on, the chefs’ ideas dwindled and on three individual nights they had: Corn. Pumpkin. And my favourite, Peas.  Yep. Just a plate of peas. Yum. Exactly what I wanted. A whole plate full of exclusively peas.

Peas: they are like the shit version of Skittles.

The resort has an infestation of children. There were so many children on holiday! (Well I mean  with their parents- it would exceptionally weird if they just booked the flights for themselves).

I booked during school times so I would avoid the children, but APPARENTLY some parents don’t love their children enough to keep them in school. No, they would rather get a cheaper holiday than for their 4 year-old daughter to learn about shapes. That is valuable time which their children will never get back. Those parents make me sick. In twenty years’ time, the girl who missed her Year 1 Geometry week, fails the interview to her dream job because she missed that critical week of school. She may have a PhD in Astrophysics, but she can’t tell a square from a circle. I entirely blame this 4 year old child for feeding me the Calamari-Onion Ring. These parents need to think about they are doing.

But it was jarring to be around kids, as a student's lifestyle doesn’t permit you to be around kids (unless you are a creepy student). It is a twilight zone where none of your social peers have kids, so I do not interact with many kids. And rightly so- they are a right pain in the arse. Mostly.  

I thought students were loud with their blaring music, their raving nights and the Laddish chanting in public places (if you do this – EVERYONE HATES YOU.) But children are on another level of loud. They question everything profusely and inanely and consistently scream from the top of their lungs about ice cream. I mean I do exactly the same- but it’s different.

But I realised that I did not have it as bad as their parents did. As a parent, to go abroad with your children is not a holiday - instead it is a military operation. A futile mission held together with nothing more than severe luck, tears and just tolerating your kids.
Parents get such a bad deal: you have to spend all of your TIME and your MONEY on the people that you love. How unfair is that? You can’t leave. You have to endure being surrounded by people who unconditionally love you- for a whole week. Why would anyone want that?

The Brace position from the Airplane was adopted with every parent throughout their whole holiday.

On holiday, parents aren’t human- they are soulless husks whom are imprisoned in a sunny three star resort on a Spanish Island. And their children keep them imprisoned with their Ice-Cream stained hands, whilst absorbing their parents’ happiness, ambitions and disposable income.

By the way, I don’t hate children. But equally, I don’t get what Paedophiles see in them.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

There are no women in comedy? Pfft. Don’t Make Me Laugh!

Hello Folks! I hope you are well- here is a feature article I wrote a couple of months ago about Women in Comedy . Please give it a read, like and enjoy!

Women in Stand-up Comedy have never really had it easy. To this current day many audience members question if a woman can be funny, let alone should she be on-stage. Whilst there are antagonistic anti-women audiences, there are many people questioning why women are still being mistreated and under-represented in Stand-up Comedy. However is this still the case? There is an uneven ratio of male to female comedians but as each year passes by, we see more and more female comedians breaking through into the comedy circuit.  There are female comedians who have just finished touring like Ellie Taylor with her show “Elliementary”, the Canadian Katherine Ryan with “Glam Role Model” and the distinctive Josie Long with “Cara Josephine”. There are more household names than ever like female comedy titans like Sarah Millican, Jo Brand and the late Joan Rivers. So are women really under-represented? What is the true state of Britain’s Stand-up Comedy scene for female comedians?

Katherine Ryan's poster for her tour: Glam Role Model.

One phrase I hear embarrassingly often, from men and women alike, is: ‘I’m not sexist but I don’t find women funny’.  Comedian Stephanie Laing, in a personal interview, says “My least favourite compliment, which I get at least once a month, is ‘I don’t usually like female comedians, but you were funny’”.  Immediately it’s clear that our society has preconceived beliefs that women are not funny and this belief is visible from many demographics.

In Jimmy Carr’s and Lucy Greeves’ book they say: “Readers of men’s magazine FHM voted the UK’s Funniest woman as ‘none of them’. It appears a sizeable section of the male population doesn’t find women funny and that these men feel quite aggressive about it”.  For a FHM reader to hold this belief isn’t surprising; however Dr. Sharon Lockyer, senior lecturer of Sociology at Brunel, proves that academics also claim that women aren’t funny. Lockyer details that both Alison Ross and Felix Gray “independently pointed out the myth that exists maintains, that women do not possess a sense of humour”.

The icing on the ignorance cake is a Vanity Fair article written by Christopher Hitchens in 2007. Hitchens arrogantly states that women simply cannot be comedians because of “the inferior funniness of women”. He argues that women, from an evolutionary point-of-view, do not need humour to attract men, as they use their beauty to be attractive, thus do not need to be funny.  A quote worthy of fetching your pitchforks and torches is: “There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three”.   Hitchens is certainly a lovely gentleman, but significant in showing that there is a prejudice towards female comedians, which is unfortunately a common thought.

This bigoted idea runs deeper as Doctor of Stand-Up Comedy, Oliver Double, states “there is sexism amongst comedians”. Several months ago, comedian Andrew Lawrence, who has appeared on Live At The Apollo and won the 2004 BBC New Act of the Year competition, controversially said: “Women-posing-as-comedians” - suggesting that women cannot be comedians. Ouch.  Hitchens and Lawrence were immediately deported back to the 1930’s soon after their rants. But they raise concern – why do some people hold this belief? Joan Rivers once said “I don’t like funny women. I come out of that generation where a woman should be beautiful …even though my whole life has been the antithesis of this” which highlights that people from the previous generation have a dislike for female comedians which seeps into our current generation.

The late Joan Rivers.

Dr.  Double answers why there aren’t that many female performers, as he says “When I was a kid in the 70’s there were two women comics who broke through into stand-up. There was Marti Caine who went down the traditional working men’s club roots and there was Victoria Wood who didn’t even do straight stand-up”.  From having a limited amount of female performers, there are less role-models to inspire future female comedians, especially in the 70’s:  “they could have had a male role-model, but there is something in seeing someone like you doing it which makes you take that next step”. However for several decades, more women have entered comedy, which in turn inspires more women to become comedians and the effects of which have become more visible in the last several years.

Progress can be seen in the last three years as there are a significant amount of female comedians in the UK and this amount is growing every year. In April 2011, out the 58 comedians described as ‘On Tour’ on Chortle’s The UK Comedy Guide website, only 7 (12%) are women such as Shappi Khorsandi and Zoe Lyons. In November 2014 there are currently 44 comedic acts ‘On Tour’ and 9 of which are female acts, equaling to 20%, showing an 8% increase within three years. 

At the Soho Theatre, London, 16 out of 54 booked comedy acts in the past 5 months are female comedians, meaning that 30% of performers are female comedians.  The interest for female comedians is continually rising, as there is a market for it which audiences are willing to pay for. Guardian writer Emma John writes “Female comedians have never been more popular. In October a Ticketmaster survey announced that sales for their shows had trebled since 2011”. That’s a big leap from having only two female stand-ups in the 1970’s and this expansion isn’t slowing down.

It’s important to note that some female comedians actively choose to leave Stand-up comedy, hence which is a possible explanation to why there are not that many female Stand-ups. Whilst it is a fun job, Stand-up lacks stability – some weeks you will be working every night but others you will be struggling to get gigs. There are issues with promoters refusing to pay after your act, constant travelling and there isn’t any financial support, so if you are ill or are responsible for the welfare of children: it is a risky occupation. Though this affects both genders, it’s more likely for women to choose a steady job within the comedy field, whereas men, depending on your viewpoint, are usually brave or stupid enough to carry on regardless.

Michèle A'Court, a comedic writer, says in The Guardian: “a lot of the women who start out in comedy move into other areas of the industry where there is a career path”.  This is very evident as areas like the Soho Theatre is filled with many female staff in artistic roles. We see in Figure A (below): 60% of the roles of the artistic staff in the Soho Theatre are occupied by women. In particular: Sarah Dodd is the comedy assistant, thus proving that some funny females abandon Stand-up for a stable job. 

Figure A.

It’s also worth a mention that female comedians move away from stand-up comedy to another facet of comedy, mostly sketch Comedy, as research shows generally women tend to prefer working in groups, preferring the socialising aspect of comedy. “Women often choose collaborative work in duos or groups rather than solo performance” says Michele A’Court.  The life of a Stand-up is lonely with long drives, whereas as Sketch groups are sociable. A’Court adds “Women are social creatures and like their creativity to come with a side of social interaction. We don’t knit in a shed, we knit in a circle”.

Evidence for this can be seen at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, particularly in 2001, there was a total of 42 female comedic acts performing in the festival. 13 of these acts were female stand-ups; the remaining 69% were comedic acts with more than one person. This sociable creativity is still prevalent today, with acts like Twisted Loaf, who won the Funny Women awards in 2013.

The point is that women are more likely to choose to leave of Stand-up and take a different comedic approach. Women certainly are not being forced away from the stage, as they still pursue their interest but in varying formats.

It could be argued that women are currently at the forefront of comedy in some areas as Dr. Double says: “I would find it easier to name interesting female comedians than interesting male comedians at the moment”. This preference can be seen with female-specific comedy nights, like Charity Comedy night “Stand-Up for Women” and Bristol’s What The Frock! Comedy night. The biggest is the Women In Comedy festival which takes place every October in Manchester.  In 2014 this comedy festival featured 10 days of comedy whilst showcasing 80 shows within 16 venues.  Interestingly the entire festival is organised (and obviously performed) exclusively by females. A’Court reiterates “interestingly, every comedy festival in the world is run by a woman and largely staffed by women. If there’s a proper job going in comedy, a woman will have it”- reinforcing the idea that women find other comedic roles and drop-out of Stand-up. Hazel O’Keefe, the founder of the festival in 2014 won the “Woman of Arts and Culture award” from Manchester City Council. The female comedy industry is booming and blooming because of these female-specific events, it’s very clear that there is market for women in comedy.

There has also been a sharp increase of feminist comedy sub-genre within the last several years. Feminist comedy discusses the gender politics between men and women and the hardship of the female sex.  Rising feminist comedians are acts like Luisa Omielan, Ava Videl and even Andrew Watts who has recently concluded his show “Feminism for Chaps”. It’s important to note that not all females are feminist comedians, whilst men can be feminist comedians. C’mon, it’s the 21st Century.
 One of the biggest feminist comedians at the moment who is really making strides and becoming the face of feminist comedy is Bridget Christie, winning the prestigious Foster’s Comedy Award  for her feminist comedy show A Bic For Her.

The fantastic Bridget Christie.

Bridget Christie recently performed a sold-out run of shows at the Soho Theatre with her most recent show An Ungrateful Woman. These shows are proving to be so popular that she has added an extra 14 dates at the same venue, showing that people are interested in seeing feminist comedy. Within this show she discusses topics of utmost seriousness like ‘Anti-rape pants’ and ‘female genital mutilation’. Christie says in The Stylist that “We’re talking about serious crimes, not casual sexism. Pretty light stuff then”.

This is a revelation as it takes steps in allowing comedians to talk about untouchable areas (by most). Christie balances on thin ice with heavy subjects by including ridiculous jokes. In a discussion with Sue Perkins, Christie says “You have to trick people; I’ll do a silly bit then a serious bit… The FGM bit comes after buying some Bunny ears at Ann Summers”. Christie comments in The Guardian: “it’s trickery, really, hiding the serious bits within the comic framework”. Christie is important as she openly talks about uncomfortable topics to help women. She is also significantly reversing modern ‘rape jokes’: for example through discussing “Anti-Rape pants” in her comedy, she laughs at the fact that rape isn’t occurring. Whilst blue comedians use rape jokes, Christie makes Anti-rape jokes allowing her political aim run through her well-crafted set.  This shows that feminist comedians are not only in demand; but some women like Bridget Christie are also drastically changing Stand-up comedy with this new sub-genre.

So what is the current state of female comedy and what is on the horizon for women in Stand-up? The comedy doctors believe: “We are in a good place at the moment, in terms of women in comedy in Britain. The large proportion of interesting acts coming through at the moment are women” says Dr. Oliver Double.  Dr. Sophie Quirk, Comedy lecturer at Kent University, in a one-on-one interview says “Women are getting much less of a rough time”. Quirk continues saying “as a society, I’d like to think this is the way we are moving towards in general, we are seeing in comedy this starting to come up. I remain optimistic”.

Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves concur by saying “Certainly there are many more role models for women contemplating a comedy career than there have ever been before”. However Bridget Christie says “Sadly, I think we have another 100 years before women are truly represented”, so there is still progress needed before true equality.

It’s fairly obvious to notice that women are not under-represented anymore as there are an armada of funny women on and off the stage who break the “unfunny” stereotype. In the next several years we can look forward to seeing more hysterical women in comedy. Until that day comes, it’s always good to know that women can be, and are, hilarious comedians. If you are in doubt of the fact, you simply need to see more live comedy- stop watching panel shows and Live At The Apollo. Have a look at any comedy night near you and you we realise that anyone can do comedy. 

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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Stewart Lee in Conversation with Oliver Double Review

Stewart Lee in Conversation with Oliver Double 
10th June 2015 - Gulbenkian Cinema.

The second ‘in conversation’ event,   features the “41st Best Stand Up Ever”: Stewart Lee, where he assesses his comedic career on behalf of the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive. Doctor Oliver Double hosts the discussion, taking place in The Gulbenkian Cinema, with a reflective demeanour supported by his articulate questions.

The conversation started by analysing Lee’s performance on the previous day, looking at his abrasive  techniques and poignant routines which he is mastering for the fourth season  of  his BBC Two series:   Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle.

Lee discusses a lot about himself and his onstage “character”.   The viscerally volatile persona onstage is significantly differently to the humbly modest man offstage, which creates an impressive and fascinating duality.

The dialogue gradually shifted to talk about Alternative Comedy as a whole, focusing on the gig diary of Monika Bobinska who ran The Meccano Club in the late eighties. Lee gives insight into the background workings of his early years by displaying the hardships of trying to get gigs.

The foundation of the talk is rooted with hilarious anecdotes and concludes with questions asked by the audience.  Lee earnestly demonstrates why he is the most talented and innovative performer in Britain.