Should it be a thankless task?

In London a couple of weeks ago, I walked through Leicester Square and saw that a movie premiere was underway.

I guessed immediately that the film was “Fifty Shades Of Grey” because the carpet outside the cinema wasn’t red. It was black and blue!

The film’s already made over $130 million in America. Talk about money for new rope . . .

Staying with films, you’ll know by now who won what at the 87th Academy Awards, held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

You’ll also know who made the longest, most toe-curlingly embarrassing speech and who wore the most inappropriate frock – the guilty party usually, but not always exclusively, being a woman.

Most importantly, you’ll have discovered which actors and actresses are incapable of hiding their naked jealousy when someone else wins the award they were also up for.

They may be brilliant up there on the Panavision screen, inhabiting their character and delivering their lines so well that for a couple of hours you truly believe they’re a scheming murderess . . . a sword-wielding, bearded warrior from Middle Earth . . . a brilliant scientist who cracks an unbreakable code . . .  or a scheming, sword-wielding, code-breaking, bearded murderess.

Now that’s a performance I’d pay to see!

However, their chameleon-like talent seems to desert many of them when, with the TV cameras just inches from their faces, beaming their reaction to viewers around the globe, they have to be seen to enthusiastically applaud their fellow performers as they watch them walk to the podium to collect their coveted awards.

But their fixed smiles tell an entirely different story and that they’re silently screaming “That should be me up there!”

Hack away at the thin veneer of Hollywood glamour (if you have the appropriate tools and nothing better to do with your time) and there is no more false, competitive, envy-ridden, money-driven, superficial environment than the film world.

Apart from insurance broking!

Oh yes . . . and owning a mobile fish & chip shop.

But, with all the terrible things going on in the world . . . war, famine, disease, 30 years of Eastenders etc are we really that interested in this over-hyped annual ceremony attended by a bunch of incredibly well-paid actors and directors who have lifestyles we can only dream about, in a city thousands of miles away?

Personally speaking, as much as I enjoy a good film, I really couldn’t care less about the Oscars.

I honestly can’t recall sitting through any film in the cinema, thinking “The way he held up that wall single-handedly, he’s a dead cert for Best Supporting Actor!”

Or “That living room deserves the Oscar for Best Art Direction. I’ve never seen more convincing wallpaper!”

But I, Phil Evans, am not everybody. If I was, I’d need to buy a few more suits.

So if you stayed up all night to watch the Oscars on Sunday and enjoyed the experience, let me say this…

“Wake up! It’s Saturday!”

Habits are just driving me crazy

I do a lot of commuting in my line of work, so without the trusty M4 motorway my job would be quite difficult.

But, the more I drive on the motorway,  the more I find myself disbelieving a few of the outrageous things I’ve seen over the last few weeks – and I’m not just talking about the price of the motorway service area sandwich!

There’s the tailgater, the one person whose journey is so much more important that everyone else’s, who insists on driving so close to your rear end you can no longer see their number plate!

Why does this action wind me up so much?

Is it the fact that if I had to stop suddenly…there is no way that they would?

Another favourite last week is when I leave enough room between me and the car in front as we’re about to turn off at a junction . . . which some people see as an invitation to bomb up the outside lane and squeeze into at the last moment with less than 100 yards to go before we turn off!

That’s it. I’m going to start catching the bus . . .

An ever-changing threat

Oh no, here we go again, the flu jab. Injecting us with germs to fight off germs.

Health officials have now said that this year’s seasonal flu vaccine is barely able to protect people from the main strain of flu being spread in the UK. Doctors are being urged to use anti-viral drugs quickly to protect vulnerable patients.

It seems that one of the strains of flu “mutated” this year, so the vaccine will be useless in protecting us from that particular strain.

Ok, this all sounds a bit Dr Who to me, I’ve got visions of lots of mutating flu viruses lining up at passport control, confusing immigration staff because they no longer look like their passport picture. “Hmmm, are you sure this is you, sir?” “Yes, of course it is, it was taken before I mutated”

Bring back traditional cold and flu cures I say, whisky and lemon, Vick’s menthol over a bowl of hot water with a towel over your head, or my favourite…. get yourself off to bed for a week!  Hope you all manage to escape the germs!

Anything for a quiet life

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons. They are vexations to the spirit.”

That’s from the poem “Desiderata” by Max Erhmann, which became popular all over the world. And many other places, too.

Bizarrely, the poem became a Top 20 hit in 1971 for Les Crane, who narrated it to a musical accompaniment. Though his version was so sugary, many would have preferred that, rather than being set to music, it had been set on fire.

Bearing in mind that I’m a comedian, you may find it odd that I empathise with Max’s advice. But most comedians are quiet introverts off stage.

Professionally, there are nights when, faced with a persistently rowdy element in an audience, with the help of the comedian’s best friend – a reliable microphone –  I adopt a firm tone and make sure they know that their boorish behaviour is spoiling the show for everyone else.

I’ve never understood why people – girls can be as bad as boys – pay to go to a club to see a comedian, then think it’s okay to talk loudly through their act. It isn’t.

You might say they’re simply having fun. But when six or seven people’s idea of ‘fun’ annoys the other 90% of the audience, I have no alternative but to step in.

To date, my method of confronting the noisy element head-on has had a pretty good hit-rate.

I’ve only been hit twice.

When I’m not being funny for money, I tend to keep my voice down and surround myself with quietly-spoken friends and colleagues.

However, I also live in the real world.

Last week, I was in a cafe enjoying a healthy salad, when the person sat opposite me pointed out that my plate of fish and chip was going cold and asked me to stop enjoying his healthy salad.

Three young women were crammed around the next table, none of them further than two feet from each other – they could have conversed in whispers and still understood what they were saying.

Yet all three talked at the tops of their voices from the moment they sat down, discussing the major issues facing the world today: celebrity gossip, soaps, boyfriends, make-up, Fifty Shades….honestly, you should have been there.

You could have had my seat.

As annoying as it was having my eardrums assaulted by their inane chatter, it was fascinating that they felt they could talk so loudly, as if the rest of us simply didn’t exist. If there’s such a condition as people blindness, where sufferers can see everything around them except human beings, they all had it.

I’ve witnessed similar behaviour on trains, as selfish, self-important idiots bellow into their mobiles, oblivious to other passengers.

The popular Swansea comedian Ossie Morris had a catchphrase which echoes my feelings about ‘loud, aggressive persons’…

“Hush! I must ‘ave ‘ush!”

I might have it printed on a tee-shirt and wear it everywhere!

If you see me, give us a shout!

Take a bite out of rat problem

Have you heard the news this week that giant super-rats have invaded Swindon? Mutant 20-inch rodents ‘closing in’ on Wiltshire town and can’t be killed with poison, warn pest exterminators

The rodent, found at a food establishment in Swindon, is the largest to have been discovered in the Wiltshire town. It comes after scientists found one species was resistant to traditional poison.

Will they eventually come down the M4 to Wales and get past those tolls?

Could this become an epidemic? With more and more fast food establishments, this problem is only going to get worse. Nearly every drive through now has pest control boxes outside, where will it all end?

The ancient Romans used to eat dormice. In Togo, men go hunting for rats as they eat them there like we eat burgers. The men folk go out hunting for them for tea! Wonder what they make out of them? Ratatouille? Bubble and Squeak? Special Fried Mice?

I’ll stick to beans of toast thanks – and a tin of tuna for my neighbour’s cat that’s doing a fine job of her good old fashioned method of pest control!

Valentines Day

Good old garage forecourts. At one time, they only sold petrol.

Luckily for Welsh men everywhere, they now stock flowers, chocolates and cards, so there really is no excuse.

Welsh men are actually quite lucky; we get St Dwynwen’s Day, Welsh Valentine’s Day on 25th January.

I like to think that this day was created as a three-week pre-warning to Valentine’s Day, just so we don’t forget.

Why not add a bit of a personal touch to your gift or card this year, why not make your own?

Have a little Blue Peter moment, I’m sure your other half will appreciate it.

You can pick up some craft stuff, stick a few sequins on a card, get the dog to put his paw print on it, they love that sentimental stuff!

Anyway, I’d love to stay and chat but I’m just putting the finishing touches to my three tower glitter covered make-up and hairbrush storage set that I have made out of empty toilet roll tubes… catch you next week!

Why are less people reading about it & everything else?

When newsvendors plied their trade on street corners you could hear their cries of “Read all about it!” half a mile away.

They were more concerned with selling their entire stock of ‘papers than being clearly understood and years of shouting had loosened their dentures. This led to their cry sounding more like “Rheeeda-awla-bhoww-tit!”

In Swansea, one celebrated vendor sounded as is she was shouting ‘Beans on Toast’ as she constantly screamed out ‘Evening Post’.

The truth is that customers would stop and buy a ‘paper so they could read all about the particular ‘It’ that was splashed across the front page.

I don’t see newsvendors about these days, probably because in many cities around the U.K. (I’m allowed out of Wales occasionally for good behaviour) free newspapers are available on ‘buses and railway stations at peak times.

‘”Read all about it!” has been replaced by someone waving a free newspaper under your nose as you hurry home at the end of the day.

This is quite a stretch, but perhaps because people are no longer asked to ‘read all about it’ on a daily basis, 12 million UK citizens have either read no books or less than one book for pleasure in the last six months – according to  a recent survey.

As an avid reader, I get through at least one avid a week. I find that incredible.

I can’t imagine what life would be without books.

I always take a book with me on holiday and the time I spend hanging around airport lounges and travelling on ‘planes just flies by.

Books make train journeys seem shorter. If you stand on one, you’ll seem taller.

Dinner parties with boring guests finish much quicker if you bury your head in a who-dun-it during the main course.

If you can’t sleep, select a book from the pile on the bedside table and become engrossed in an exotic world full of jaw-droppingly unbelievable stories. Especially if you like reading politician’s memoirs.

I’ve loved books since I was knee high to a library ticket. Over the years, certain books have become old friends I can turn to in times of stress.

I immerse myself in the welcoming warm waters of their words. Classics and best-sellers; battered old paperback thrillers; travel books; biographies; reference books; humorous novels; Jackie annual 1976…just kidding!

It’s the 1975 edition.

Apparently there are British households where the only ‘book’ children have access to is the Argos catalogue. Put bluntly, those children have little chance of getting on in life.

If you read stories to your children and grandchildren, they’ll learn to read much faster than a child who isn’t read to. There’s also every chance they’ll do better academically –  and if they develop a love for books, that’s a bonus.

Books give you an insight into other people’s lives – real and fictional – and their thoughts and opinions. They may wildly differ from yours, but that doesn’t make them any less valid.

Because, as a wise man once said…

”If the only opinion you ever take notice of is your own…you’re a bit of a      twonk!”

Talent galore

On February 24, The Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli will once again host the final of the Welsh Factor talent show, an event that is classed as the premier talent show in Wales.

Last week, I was lucky enough to witness the semi final heat and I have to say, the quality and talent of the performers was outstanding.

It was such an honour and delight to witness a whole range of performers (some as young as six!) learning the craft of live entertainment and sharing their talent. It really felt like I was witnessing the creation and shaping of future stars right before my eyes.

Many of these acts would look right at home appearing on TV, with magical, raw talent just waiting to be released into the world of entertainment.

Let’s hope we all get a chance to see these stars of the future performing live at a venue near you very soon, they all deserve to be encouraged and supported to keep the magic of live entertainment available to everyone.


Ready for an old pals’ act

This week I met up with an old friend, Terry Victor, to catch up on the gossip.

You may have seen Terry in quite a few movies, including the Oscar-nominated HeddWyn and the BAFTA-winning A Bit of Tom Jones, or on TV his most recent appearance as Moonpig Santa!

He is also the public face behind a pair of the world’s most incredible eyebrows.

Or you may have seen him on a train…

Some 25 years ago, he co-founded Murder on the Menu, the international whodunnit theatre company.

Terry has written (and performed) more murder mysteries on the Orient Express than Agatha Christie could ever have imagined!

He’s written and directed serious work for the stage, too (including the heart-breaking Fragments of Ash), and worked with leading companies like the National Theatre of Wales and Punchdrunk.

Terry is always popping up on Radio Wales and 5Live and it is quite obvious he has a love for life and passionately enjoys everything he does. How many of us can say we love going to work every day?

After out meeting, I’m quite excited about the prospect of working with Terry in the very near future. Watch this space!

Easy loans – it’s never that simple, is it?

TV adverts for loans, they always seem to feature good looking, immaculately-dressed couples who already look very well off to me!

And why are they always holding mugs of tea sat at their kitchen table with their bills all neatly stacked up in a pile, almost like they’ve just ironed them.

It always looks so easy to set up theses 1300%APR loans, 30 seconds on the phone, a few nods, turn to your partner, grin, give the thumbs up and Bob’s your Uncle, debt free!

Not even a whiff of mind numbing “on hold” music, or nine minutes of “your call is in a queue, we know you are waiting?”

Then comes the never ending irrelevant questions, made worse because the person questioning you just doesn’t get your Welsh accent.

“I’d like a loan please”…. “A lawn?”  “No, a loan….. not an area of grass”…. “Oh! A LOAN, I see.  Can I start by asking you what size shoes you take, sir?” I’ll give up now I think….