Love & Laughs, Jan 2014

Another fantastic evening. Can’t wait for your next show. Forgot to say my father said the morning after the show, because it had lifted his mood. He looked up to heaven and said “I’m not ready yet”, so a big huge thank you to all. Lisa Barnes

Love & Laughs January 2014

My husband and I came to the ‘Love & Laughs’ show last night to celebrate our wedding anniversary. What can I say… We had an awesome night. Fab, fab, fab. Please can we have lots more nights like this? My hubby is just showing the kids a video of you and Ed Holden performing as you were out of this world. Well done everyone.  Cookibods Swansea.

PHIL STANDS UP – TO BULLIES

It’s officially Spring.  The mornings are getting lighter,  blossom is appearing on the trees and ITV bosses are already feeding the ’papers with little titbits of gossip about who might join the judging panel on the 175th series of  “ The X Factor” ….which doesn’t start until August!  

Will the fragrant Cheryl be returning – or will ‘Biffer’ Cole be too busy training for her next knock-down encounter with a nightclub toilet attendant?   At the time she was found guilty of assault, the female prosecutor remarked ‘Even famous people behave badly at times’.  Just how badly we’ve seen in a recent succession of court cases.  But I digress….

“Biffer” had lashed out at someone who she presumably thought was her inferior because she worked in a ladies rest room.  A classic case of a celebrity pot, who earns a living by looking pretty and miming on TV, calling the kettle black?  Even if you are rich and famous, if you physically hurt, humiliate or belittle someone less fortunate than you, you’re a bully. And if you keep doing it, I’ll get my seven- foot tall, professional wrestler mate’ The Giant Needle ‘ – I found him under ‘The Giant Haystacks’-  to beat you up.

I’m being ironic. Okay? Do pay attention 007!

During our lifetimes, we’ll inevitably encounter physical or psychological bullying.   Bosses bully staff. Big fellahs bully small fellahs.  Ambitious workmates, male and female, bully people they see as rivals for promotion.  Politicians and other people in high office bully us through baffling legislation, laws, rules and punitive taxes.

So what can we do about it?  Well, most people do nothing – for one simple reason.  The fear of reprisals – whether it’s from the swaggering, fat-bellied, loudmouthed individual in a vest that shows off his tattoos to the best advantage, or from a large organisation that tries to blind us with legal-ese in order to steamroller us into submission.

Which is what happened to you – and here’s the proof.

Everyone used to get their dustbins emptied once a week, a service we paid for out of our rates, which were replaced by the council tax.  Then we were asked to re-cycle various items like bottles, cans, newspapers etc; and given boxes of various colours in which to place them for collection. Fair enough. But once we started doing that regularly – some might say we were doing the councils job for them – without any consultation, we were told our weekly collections of rubbish were suddenly changing to fortnightly.

It wasn’t up for debate.  The council spoke and we had to obey them. And, idiots that we are, we meekly submitted to accepting that our rubbish collections would be reduced by 50%, even though we wouldn’t get a similar reduction in our council tax – in fact it increases every year!  There’s an argument that, as we diligently recycle so many items, the volume of rubbish we throw out every fortnight shouldn’t create a major problem.

But life isn’t something you can legislate for on paper. Things happen that the ‘brains’ in the council don’t take into account.  Visitors stay with us for weekends, or, if they’re from abroad, for days or weeks. Or there may be times when family members have to stay with us for extended periods. Young couples who managed quite well with fortnightly collections, will eventually have additions to the family. All of which creates extra rubbish that won’t fit into their bin.  Which means the bin overflows. Which means, in hot weather, it attracts flies and wasps and occasionally….filthy, disease-ridden vermin.  In our busy, stressful lives it’s one extra headache we could really do without.

But what do we do about it? Absolutely nothing! We prefer to remain silent victims of bullying by the faceless men and women in the Town Hall.

I won’t generalise about schools today, although we’ve all read desperately sad stories in the ‘papers about children who have been bullied so relentlessly by their wicked classmates they saw suicide as the only way to escape it, but when I was in school, if you happened to be slight of build or wore glasses or looked ‘different’, the likelihood was you would get picked on.

When I was in school, I wasn’t what you’d call an Arnold Schwarzenegger clone – although to be fair, whenever we broke up for the holidays, I’d always  say to my teachers “I’ll be back!”, which made me a sort of ‘ End-of Term-inator ‘. Looking back,  I must have been a right nutter, because I had no fear of bullies and would stand up for myself and the weaker kids who’d been the victims of bullying.   Sometimes a bully would back down after I’d had a few well-chosen words with him, which is what I hoped would be the outcome. But invariably there were times when the real hard cases didn’t like being told off and thought they could take me on…and did so. Which led to me getting into many scrapes.  So many, in fact, that when I’m asked what qualifications I left school with, my answer is “Just the one. A Black Belt” (to hold my trousers up)!

Perhaps I took that stance against  bullies as a result of my own difficult home life. I had a violent mother and a step-father who also turned-out to be a nasty piece of work- a bully who I couldn’t stand the sight of. So by the time I was twelve I had to move out and go and live with my Gran.

As I matured, I continued to loathe bullies and stood up to anyone who deliberately caused a damned nuisance to myself and others.  And I still do to this day. Two recent visits to the cinema were almost ruined for me by people talking, messing about and not showing any interest in the film they and everyone else had paid to see. Both times I confronted them, telling them to shut up or I’d get the film stopped and they’d be ejected. First time it was a bunch of teenage lads, second time it was two big fellahs.

Luckily none of them retaliated, but settled down and the audience (some of whom did back me up when I reprimanded the teens) was able to enjoy the rest of the film. Yes I took a bit of a chance, but if I hadn’t stood my ground, we’d have all gone home with our stomachs in a knot, wishing we’d said something. Yes we have all been there.

In the business of show in which I make what is laughingly called a living, you come across bullies frequently.  I read recently that out of 4000 people from the world of Media who were asked if they’d been a victim of bullying in the workplace, an astonishing 59% said they had! Eight out of ten women in the Media reported instances of lewd comments, pressure from superiors to enter into a sexual relationship…or actual sexual assault.  It beggars belief that such archaic sexist attitudes still prevail in the workplace in 2014.

On stage or off, a comedian is always working. Running through routines in his/her head, mulling over whether a new piece which he/she believes will get a big laugh – which is, after all, what comedians live for – might possibly alienate a portion of the audience at the next gig. I think this awareness of other people’s sensitivities prevents us from becoming bullies ourselves and helps us suss out those in powerful positions who, purely for their own amusement, love to intimidate or humiliate others less fortunate than them.

Since the days of the court jester, it’s been the job of the comedian to prick the balloon of pomposity and, should it be warranted, put the great and the good who lord it over us a little bit too smugly, in their place.  In its highest form, this sort of humour is referred to as satire. In its lowest form, it’s called taking the p*ss.

If through my comedy I can have a sharply-pointed dig at overbearing bullies – without coming across as one myself – and make them think maybe they should rein-in their unacceptable behaviour and start treating people with more respect, I’m continuing the work I did back when I was a lad, standing-up to the school bullies. Except today, I stand-up on stage, with a microphone in my hand and an audience in front of me, at a comedy gig.

I sincerely hope to see you at my next one…