I’m still waiting for my flight tickets

There I was, minding my own business, when I get an email from Mr Ahmed al-Sultan, a banker from Abu Dhabi.

It turns out that a certain ‘Mr Stone’ made a sizeable deposit in his bank back in 1999 and ‘Mr Stone’ has subsequently died in an air crash. Tragic.

Somehow, through the law of attraction, Mr al-Sultan, has chosen me to be the sole beneficiary of his estate.  I wonder why he chose me?  I’d never met the man! Maybe he’d come to one of my shows and had such a good night, he wrote me into his will?

If I go a bit quiet in the next few weeks, I’ll probably be on a beach somewhere hot and sunny, you’re all welcome to join me, just bring your own beach towel and knotted hankie.

I’m just waiting for Mr Ahmed al-Sultan to get back to me.

I gave him my bank details to book my flight but he seems to have gone a bit quiet….

Support your local venue

The highlight of last week for me was performing my Phil Evans and friends, Love and Laughter show at the Lyric Theatre Carmarthen.

The Lyric is a spectacular old theatre full of character and seems to have a magical feel about it. It is run by very dedicated and well organised staff that could not do enough to help us, which made our night even more special.

A show like this is nothing without its audience and we discovered that some of them had travelled from Neath, Swansea, Llanelli, Pembroke and even as far as Cambridge, which clearly demonstrates to us that people do love live entertainment.

Theatres are suffering due to the drop in numbers of people actually going out to watch live entertainment, but I urge you to get out there and support the vast range of talent that is waiting to entertain you, or we are in danger of these wonderful venues closing for good.

Go on, make 2015 your year to support local clubs and theatres. I bet you will enjoy it more than you would ever have imagined.

Language use is nothing to cheer

In a newspaper I was reading at the barber’s shop recently (I didn’t need a haircut – it was a cold day, his salon is warm and I’m too mean to buy a paper), I read that in 100 years’ time, due to a variety of reasons, including the slow eradication of local dialects, an ageing population, immigration and emigration, 90% of the words we use in 2015 will have become obsolete.

It made worrying reading.

Until I realised I probably won’t be around in 100 years.

And then another realisation hit me. And it was a big one, so it left me with a nasty bruise. Word obsolescence has already started.

You may not be aware of it because it’s happened so gradually, but words, sentences, phrases and questions once in common use, have begun to fall by the wayside and there’s little likelihood that the next generation will bother to retrieve them from the forgotten grass verges of the recent past, where they’re already starting to be hidden from view by the thick overgrowth of indifference.

Still with me?

Take the word ‘Cheers!’.

There was a time when there were only two occasions when we used it. Either when referring to the long-running American sitcom of that title, set in the Boston bar where everybody knows your name, or when we raised a glass of whatever we fancied in company.

We’d clink glasses, say “Cheers” and when we’d finished, we’d order more drinks and say “Cheers” again.

After three or four drinks, it sounded more like “Cheese!” but that’s irrelevant – another word you couldn’t pronounce after three or four drinks.

Then 20 years or so ago, “Cheers” snuck under the barbed-wire of pub ‘life and escaped into the everyday world.  It began to replace the words “Thank you” or “Thanks” in our conversations.

“Do you want mushy peas with your chips?”

“Yeah, cheers!”

You can see what I’m getting at now, can’t you?

There are hundreds of examples but I’m limited to 500 words, so here’s one that’s really annoyed me in recent years.

When I entered a shop, bank, fast food establishment or nudist colony (just checking you were still awake) I would be greeted thus…

“Can I help you?”

A polite enquiry which requires just one answer.

The equally polite “Yes, please!”

So why is it, everywhere I go today, it’s been replaced by the cold, indifferent question “Are you alright there?”

How has it seeped into every area of retail and banking? Did the Health and Safety Executive issue a secret edict, ordering shop assistants and banking staff not to say “ Can I help you?” in case…shock, horror…it turns out they can’t?

So they replaced it with a question that doesn’t commit staff to actually helping customers.

Next time a shop assistant asks “Are you alright there?”, I’ll answer. “Here? No. I’ll be more comfortable moving three feet to the right!”

Stupid? Yes. But not as stupid as the question!

A & E

It’s all over the news. Our hospitals are under pressure again, waiting times in A&E are getting longer and the ambulance queues outside are longer than the queue to buy a flat screen TV on Black Friday in Tescos.

But are we creating some of these problems ourselves? Are we simply going to A&E because it’s late and the GP is closed? On the very rare occasions that I have had to visit the Accident and Emergency department of a hospital, there are often people sitting there for a very long time looking relatively “well”.

Surely the clue is in the title? Accident and Emergency.

It’s been well publicised in the press and social media recently that there are many alternatives to simply popping into A&E.

Next time you have toothache or an upset tummy, ask yourself is A&E really the right choice?

I recently looked up my local health board website, there are a huge range of alternatives to blocking up your local emergency department with an illness that could easily and quickly be dealt with somewhere else….

Let’s help the hospitals to help us!

The weather and why can’t we cope

It must have been cold last week, I saw a local councillor with his hands in his own pockets!

Have you noticed, as a nation, how everything seems to grind to a halt when we get a hint of snow, or the temperature drops to below freezing for a few days?

Wales seems to shut down when we get more than an inch of snow!

Supermarkets sell out of bread within an hour of Derek’s forecast… what is everyone doing with it? Building wholemeal igloos?

Roads grind to a halt, schools close leaving parents stuck for someone to pick the kids up and even when we all get excited at the prospect of a few days off work building snowmen and sledging down snowy hills, 24 hours later we are all trudging back to work through grey, slushy ice!

This week, Canada has been -17 degrees with snow and they still go about their day to day business.

Me and my huskies are thinking of emigrating there…. Cwtsh up and keep warm my friends!

Hard work spreading the love and laughter

People often come up to me and say things like…

“Do you write your own material or make it up as you go along – as it appears you do?”

And…

“If you’re a comedian, how come I never sees you on ‘Buzzcocks’ and ‘Nine Out Of Ten Cats?”

And my reply is always “Could you kindly close the bathroom door on the way out!”

Because I’m a patient man.

I once spent 48 hours waiting in A & E and didn’t complain. There was nothing wrong with me. I had no plans for the weekend and fancied mixing with new people.

If you think that all a comedian does is stand on a stage and tell jokes, you‘re sadly mistaken, even if you’re feeling happy.

They say happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin. But it’s not legal tender in this country.

What can comedians do apart from tell jokes?

Well, as I’ve never learned the art of ventriloquism, I can only speak for myself.  Organising comedy shows for clubs and theatres, to fly the flag for variety and live entertainment in Wales takes up a lot of my time.

I’ve gained a reputation for putting on successful comedy nights and my aim is to take them to every theatre in Wales.

It’s quite a challenge putting a show together that will appeal to all ages and tastes because when you put several comedians together on one bill, you have to find the right mix of performers with their own individual styles.

There’s no point me booking six comedians in smart suits who deliver razor sharp one-liners. By the time they’d all finished, in the minds of the audience, they’d all melded into one fast-taking, smart-ass.

So, it’s a delicate business, choosing the right balance of performers who will hopefully sell enough tickets to earn money for themselves, the venue and the very last person in line after everyone else has been paid . . . me.

As I do this all on my own, I’ve acquired a variety of skills along the way.

I have to be a PR Consultant; Advertising Executive; Promoter; Talent Scout; Impresario; Producer; Compere . . . and, when a comedian gets last-minute nerves and frantically looks for the nearest exit, a Psychologist, who calms them down by telling them the truth. I wouldn’t have put them on the bill if I didn’t think they were capable of getting big laughs.

And there’ll be plenty of big laughs on my next comedy night – at the Lyric Theatre Carmarthen on St. Dwynwen’s Day, Saturday January 24th at 8.00 pm.

The line-up includes Ignacio Lopez, Dan Glyn, Paul James, Karen Sherrard, Simon Emanuel, beat-boxer & rapper Ed “Mr Phormula” Holden and me.

Now that’s value for money!

Because St. Dwynwen was the Welsh St. Valentine, I’ve called it “The Love and Laughter Show”.

So you can also add ‘Clever Clogs’ to my list of skills.

Post Christmas Blues

You can tell Christmas is over, you’ve put the Hoover on 14 times already, but you’ll still be finding pine needles in the carpet in April! The decorations have all gone back up the attic and the kids have already started writing their Santa list for this year.

The real clue that we are suffering from the post Christmas blues has to be the appearance of Easter Eggs in the supermarket, in some cases even before the Valentine’s cards appear!

And while we’re on the subject, have you bought anything for your other half for St Dwynwen’s Day yet?

Welsh St Valentines Day is on 25th January, my Love and Laughter show is in the Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen on Saturday 24th January. There, I’ve just solved your gift problems for you in once sentence.

Spring seems a long way off with the dark mornings, wet and windy weather still with us, so why not book a night out at the theatre to cheer you up? A good night out with friends may be just what you need to banish those post Christmas blues!

Why our freedom of speech is so crucial

Until last week, I’d never heard of Jodie Ginsberg or “The Index On Censorship”, the organisation of which she‘s the Chief Executive.

But in the wake of the barbaric attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, she made a comment that, as a comedian who has to walk the tightrope between being ‘edgy’ and not deliberately offending people, I found very profound.

“The ability to express ourselves freely is fundamental to a free society.

“This includes the freedom to publish, to satirise, to joke, to criticise, even when that might cause offence to others.

“Those who wish to silence free speech must never be allowed to prevail”.

On stage, I’m able to say practically anything I want. I have, as Ms Ginsberg eloquently states, ‘The freedom to joke‘ – and I’m truly grateful to  have that privilege.

The cartoonists and writers of Charlie Hebdo also had the freedom to joke. But the cost of that freedom was their lives, which I’m still finding difficult to comprehend.

A comedian’s joke or observational routine may touch on something that’s been troubling or irritating members of the audience, who are unable to – or are possibly too scared to – articulate their thoughts about it in public.

A comedian doesn’t have that burden. Their main worry is that their humorous take on the subject will connect with the majority of the audience and create the sound the comedian lives for: roars of laughter.

A successful comedian can’t be a shrinking violet. He or she wouldn’t last five minutes if they were. So, it’s inevitable that they will deal with tricky subjects like sex, religion and death.

I’m able to speak about the unspeakable and because I’m in a theatre or club, microphone in my hand, treating the matter in a comedic way, it can be a cathartic experience for the audience.

They laugh because they think it’s funny and because someone has put into words what they were thinking.

Some comedians, who shall remain shameless, say things that were once referred to as ‘locker room conversations’ between men in private. Now they’re the core of their stage acts.  They don’t appeal to me, but thousands of people pack venues to watch them turn the air blue.

Fair enough. I just don’t watch their TV shows or buy tickets for their tours. It’s called being tolerant. A word not in everyone’s dictionary, it would seem.

Since the Charlie Hebdo incident, many newspapers have quoted Voltaire’s famous comment “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

Fine words.

But they were not Voltaire’s. They were written by his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall. But as Voltaire believed in tolerance, he wouldn’t be too upset at this literary injustice.

What happened in Paris last week deeply affected me, so I’ve created my own quote which I’ll leave with you.

You may disapprove of the thoughts inside my head, but that doesn’t give you the right to put a bullet in it”.

Change ahoy!

Since I’ve been writing for the South Wales Evening Post, the comedian in me  ( in case you didn’t know, I spend several evenings a week, comeding) I’ve slowly begun to notice that journalism has a lot in common with piracy.

They’re both cut-throat businesses and many newspaper employees wear black eye-patches and wander around the office with squawking parrots on their shoulders.  As you can imagine it’s a colourful sight, although the dominant colour is cream – in the streaks that parrots leave down the back of their owners jackets…

So, given it’s such a cut-throat business, I’m deliriously happy that this esteemed publication continues to allow me to entertain you with my weekly whimsical witterings.

I’ve still not been cured of my advanced alliteration addiction, despite several soul-searching sessions with Sven, a simply superb, sensitive Swansea psychiatrist.

So, in case I’m not around, allow me to be the first to wish you a Happy Easter!

Because Spring is just around the corner!

And so is my local Chinese take-away! Wa-hey!

Yes, as soon as the Winter Solstice was behind us, I felt the days were getting longer.

Or did they just seem longer? Because I was parked in front of my TV for two weeks, being subjected to the truly desperate Christmas offerings the broadcasters decided we’d find entertaining – while they flew off to their fashionable ski resorts for a month.

So . . . what awaits us in 2015? Apart from the fact there will always be a sale at a furniture store whose initials are an anagram of FDS.

By the way, does anyone know what a mid-season sale is?

I’m not allowed to mention the actual name of the store as it could be construed as advertising.

Which I, the entertainer, would definitely not lower myself to do, sat here writing this in the mountain warehouse I call my home base, giving it the works, all on my jack jones, wearing boots, wondering what to do next.

Those of you who spotted all those shop names will be proud as peacocks.

Many of us will have made New Year resolutions to improve our health, weight, careers and our lives in general.

And many of us will have broken every one of those resolutions by the first week of February.

Because losing weight, giving-up (or cutting down on) drinking and quitting smoking  takes a lot of will power – and sometimes a stiff drink and a quick fag – to help us focus and maintain a new regime.

So in six months, I’d love to hear from any of you who lost weight, stopped smoking or cut out  booze – and maintained these changes for more than a few weeks.

Provided the good ship Evening Post hasn’t made me walk the plonk. It’s like walking the plank, but you give out a weak whine….

Wa-hey again!

Thanks

On a more serious note, as we get ready to take on a New Year having wished each other happy thoughts, we usually find that this is also the time we reflect on the past year.

Many of you reading this may have had a great 2014, many may not. Most of us have had a mixture of both ups and downs, that’s what life is all about.

I hope your year has been colourful, uplifting and thought provoking. I hope that some of you may have smiled, laughed out loud, or felt good about something that I have written during the year in this column.

If so, that makes me smile and makes all the hard work and effort worthwhile.

Don’t forget “Together We Can Make a Difference”.

Learn from the past, be good to one another, have a safe, healthy and happy New Year and beyond. Thanks for reading.