The Machynlleth Comedy Festival Blog 2012
I know that you‘ve been waiting a while for this latest blog, but it will be worth it, mark my words. And if any teachers are reading this, can you please mark my words ten out of ten?
Having said that, I have a very good excuse, because…
For the past month I’ve been accompanying Her Majesty The Queen (Gawd bless her) around Great Britain on her Diamond Jubilee tour, as her official Court Jester. I was hired to continually tickle her funny bone on her travels and generally keep her amused when she wasn’t listening to “ Morriseys Greatest Hits “ on her diamond-encrusted ipod. My, how she loved to sing along to those delightful ditties! Plus, when her arm got too tired from waving to people, I gently held it up by the elbow and took the weight off it for a few minutes as we glided past the milling crowds in our bullet-proof, bomb-proof limo.
To be honest, I thought the choice of transport was a little over the top. I know I’m not everyones favourite comedian, but really, who’s going to fire a gun at me?
The tour of the U.K. was generally good fun, but there were a few fraught moments along the way. You all know that the Queen doesn’t carry cash on her, right? Well that’s all well and good unless you’re travelling with the Monarch and she asks the driver to pull up outside a Spar because she fancies a Ginsters pasty, a packet of cheesy Wotsits and a can of Vimto – which she did almost every day. That woman can put away her grub and no mistake.
And who was it who had to queue up with her at the till every time and pay for her calorie-packed lunch? Yes, yours truly. She kept promising me that her equerry would send me a cheque in recompense, but 2 weeks later I’m still waiting. Maybe I should have given him my address…
Getting the job was a great honour and a great surprise too. When the call came through from the Palace I thought I had a theatre booking. But it was actually from the Palace. You know, the one that Madness performed on top of at the Jubilee concert. The show that revealed once and for all that Cheryl Cole can’t sing and that Elton John, Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard shouldn’t. Someone described Grace Jones as androgynous. I’m not sure about that. But Martian… quite possibly.
Anyway I had no idea that Liz had heard of me, but it turns out she’s a big fan of stand-up and has been reading my blogs for over a year – and is very knowledgeable when it comes to who’s who on the comedy scene. She loves witty, cleverly-worded, sharp, cutting edge comedy that pushes the envelope. Especially if that envelope has a stamp attached to it featuring a portrait of herself wearing one of the crown jewels – a jewelled crown.
So when it came down to choosing who should be her Diamond Jubilee Tour Court Jester, it was between me and one of The Chuckle Brothers. It was only because Barry and Paul refused to split the act up, even for a short period, that I got the gig.
By the way, talking of stamps and envelopes, I was watching DAYBREAK on ITV the other morning and between the weather report and the eight o’ clock news they ran one of their 30-second ‘ get up and go ‘ films showing people commuting to work; slices of toast popping out of a toaster; a seaside cafe owner setting out tables and chairs for the days business; someone taking the dog for an early morning walk etc. You know the sort of thing.
They also included a brief shot of some envelopes dropping through a letter box and landing on a hall carpet. And my immediate reaction was “How long ago did they film that?”. It may be different where you live, but the last time our postman delivered the mail at breakfast time was around the Queens Silver Jubilee. Our post now arrives so late in the day, the sound of letters dropping through my letterbox often disturbs my sleep. I think the post has been getting delivered later, ever since they allowed postmen to wear shorts. I really wish I had a punch line here. But like my postie, I’ve failed to deliver.
You may have guessed that I wasn’t really Her Maj’s Court Jester. I was jesting. Which ironically is the main qualification a Court Jester requires. I jest. There I go again.
No, my blog is late because I have been performing at this years Machynlleth Comedy Festival which has had oodles of publicity on radio, tv and in the press. Much more than in previous years and I’ve no doubt that, given the positive ‘ vibes’ around the place in 2012, it’s going to be e-nor-mous in a few years.
They secured some of the biggest names in comedy today and for us (and I don’t mean me and Her Majesty – just be patient and I’ll explain who ‘ us ‘ are/is ) to be asked to share the same venues as them was a great ego boost.
Arthur Smith was there to record an edition of Radio Four Extras ‘ Comedy Club’ but ended up doing so much more. On the Friday he did a long and interesting interview on BBC Radio Wales morning programme and then, as well as watching a lot of comedy, spent the next four days involving himself in such delightful activities as rambling, reciting poetry, taking part in a nude art show and joining a hen party . He liked the place so much, he stayed on for an extra day after everyone else connected with the comedy festival extravaganza had packed-up and left town. He’ll definitely be back next year, if only as a paying customer.
That Owain Glyndwr chap has a lot to answer for. He ‘s a big name in Machynlleth you know. But is very reclusive. No one caught sight of him the whole time we were there.
So, who were ‘ us ‘?
Well apart from that fine, original, quick-witted and devastatingly good-looking comedian Phil Evans, we were…
Gary Slaymaker, who is my writing buddy. Yes we’re a creative team. Both of us reliant on the others specific talent. He writes the jokes and I sharpen the pencils. Every time Gary performs he always comes up with something fresh and new, which just goes to show that he ‘s keen, professional and a good comedian.
His observations are intelligent and laugh out loud funny. You can only become that adept at creating comedy gold by putting in the hours to get down to the hard slog of writing out pages of fresh material. And then you look at it again and re-write it and edit it and cut it down until you’re (almost) sure it’s in the best possible shape to make audiences laugh.
He has a well-established following in the heart of Wales which gives him a head start in winning his audience over. And this year he was flying, with solid laughs from the off.
But ask him to sharpen a pencil and he’s all at sea.
Daniel Glyn never fails to impress and used the experience to test out new material for some TV shows that he will be producing as well as performing in, later on this year. I love working with Dan as he gets more nervous than me before a show, which I find extremely funny. But as soon as he gets hold of the microphone he is away and in control.
This year we took new boy Ignacio Lopez with us. Now here is a man that clearly studies his craft well. It’s not easy to look handsome and be funny at the same time. One or two us manage it, but we’re like hairs on Elton Johns head. Few and far between. Ignacio’s combination of Andalucian charm and devastating comedy wins him new fans everywhere he performs.
Ignacio is half Spanish and half Welsh. That means he’ll only eat paella if he can have curry sauce poured over it. In view of his mixed-heritage I asked him what it said on his passport and he told me…“ Same as yours. ‘ Passport’ “.
I often wondered. Are Spanish pensioners ‘ Senor ‘ citizens?
The four of us shared a cottage which was an experience in itself. When comedians spend quality time together under one roof, something magical happens. Which is just as well, as the cleaning, washing-up, cooking and laundry rarely does.
Without getting too philosophical, many comedians, are, deep down, troubled and complicated souls. It’s not normal for an individual to actually want to stand up in front of people and be laughed at. That sort of experience is some peoples idea of hellish, traumatic humiliation. But a comedian craves that inter-action with an audience, even though he can’t ever be 100% sure he’ll succeed. But if we stick at it long enough, the good gigs eventually outweigh the bad ones and we get a little confidence under our belts, while still nursing buckets of self doubt – which are currently on offer at my local garden centre.
As for the comedy quartet I was one quarter of in Machynlleth, I think that it’s safe to say that we are going from strength to strength, building a following which is gathering momentum all the time.
To be a comedian who has the opportunity to perform before a paying public and extract laughter is a total privilege, and I feel blessed to have made it this far.
As for the 2012 festival itself, I will leave it to Mr. Arthur Smith to sum it up….
“The atmosphere was relaxed and outdoorsy, which seemed to encourage an air of experimentation and creativity. You could engage with your audience and the other comics in a way that’s not possible at the big festivals “.
I couldn’t have put it better myself. But I’d still like to be invited when it does become a big festival!
Thanks for reading; your following is truly appreciated