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Thursday 4th July 2013

I should have been working, but I was tired and my brain needed to lie fallow and so I watched the tennis. In the Bartoli versus Flipkens game I was supporting Bartoli, partly because of her eccentric behaviour (she over celebrated every point won and kept doing vicious practice shots which made it look like she was a ninja trying to destroy the ballboys and girls - I wondered if her drink had been spiked with cocaines or LSDs) but mainly because every time anyone said Flipkens, I got this tune stuck in my head (including all the bits where Hartley Hare says "And Hartley" (the irony is that he is much more a part of the opening titles than any of the other characters, putting him very much at the fore-front so he shouldn't be complaining so much).
I used to love the latter-day incarnation of Pipkins (I don't remember the theme tune or titles to the previous series, though do have a vague memory of the episode where they dealt with the death of Mr Pipkins), although Topov was the character that appealed to me (he was called that because he was always on topov the wardrobe, as far as I recall). Looking back at it, Hartley Hare was a fucking terrifying, mangy puppet, looking very much like an actual dead hare that has been dug up and then had someone's hand stuck up it to turn it into a ghoulish puppet. Check out the hare ghost.
Tweeting about this led to an afternoon where I became a perverted Peter Kay (if that's not a tautology) as people sent me links to various 70s kids shows with nightmare making puppets.
The most disturbing was the pilot episode of Rainbow, in which Bungle is portrayed as an utterly horrific dead-eyed, owl-faced creature with much too small a head. It will shit you up. It's worth watching the rest of the pilot (if you're familiar with the programme) as it is similar to the Rainbow series, but different enough that it makes you think that this is the version of Rainbow that was seen in an alternate Universe. An evil alternate Universe. George and Zippy have been replaced by similar but different tiny puppets (unlike the real pink hippopotamus and zip-faced creature that they were) and Rod, Jane and Freddy have gone too, their place has gone to three men who I am pretty sure are all in prison now.
Perhaps out Universes collided at some point and we got to see this one off version of their show. And I think possibly at that point the Universes accidentally switched presenter so they got the good David and we got the terrifying Geoffrey.
Then again the original Ronald Macdonald is pretty terrifying.

I haven't massively enjoyed my last two previews. The audiences have been OK, but with pockets of resistance and some of the jokes that have been doing well have fallen flat or got gasps of dismay. Overall it's probably still OK, but there is much to be done to make this show as good as I want it to be and I need to get off script as soon as possible. Plus there are lots of ideas that I want to incorporate that I haven't thought properly about yet, so they're either not in there or I am blathering on at them and not getting far. But this is what previews are for.
After tonight's gig a young man stormed up to me at the bar and without saying hello, aggressively said "Railways and the Holocaust? You think that's funny?"
"I'm sorry," I replied.
"You think that that's funny, Railways and the Holocaust."
He seemed quite agitated. It's been a while since an angry audience member has confronted me, but I thought I could sort this one out pretty quickly.
"No, I don't," I said, "I think it's disgusting. That's the whole point of the routine. That if that was done as a joke people would be up in arms, but because it has the pretence of seriousness it can be on the shelves of WH Smiths."
He continued to hector me about it and perhaps impatience with his brusque rudeness I said, "But why are you upset about that and not the stuff I did about 9/11 or Mandela? If it's something that concerns you..."
"What do you mean by that?" he asked annoyed. I think he thought I had made a judgement about him and his religion, which I hadn't.
"I don't mean anything by it. It's clearly something that concerns you because you've come up here concerned about it...."
This passive-aggressive man, who had come up and challenged me then had the audacity to claim that I was acting aggressively to him and wondered if I was the type of person who gets strung out after a gig.
Only when people come and aggressively hector me. If he'd approached me in a reasonable fashion I would happily have talked through his concerns. As it was I offered to show him the script to show how he'd misunderstood the point. The offensiveness of the bookazine is the whole crux of the routine.
It was so weird that I couldn't quite work out if it was a joke. He looked a bit like he might be pretending to be annoyed and was about to say, "Don't worry! I'm only kidding."
I tried to engage with him and explain the confusion. But then apropos of nothing he said, "Oh don't get me wrong. I think it's a good point you're making."
Perhaps he was drunk. Perhaps he was confused. Perhaps he was just looking for a way into a conversation and had fucked it up through social awkwardness. But I suspected he was taking the piss and if not then I didn't really want to talk to him about this, five seconds after I'd come off stage.
I did something very liberating, that I don't think I've ever done in this situation before. I told him I thought he was messing me about and that I wasn't interested and that he should fuck off. "Seriously, go away. I don't want to talk to you any more."
Amazingly he just sloped away, a bit open-mouthed and disappointed, not doubt to tell his friends that I had been incredibly rude to him. And I suppose I had in the end, but only after provocation from him. Maybe this is the new way forward.
But it left a bad taste in my mouth after what had been a slightly disappointing, but OK gig.



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My new stand up show, Lord of the Dance Settee will be on at the George Sq Theatre at 10.45pm every night of the Edinburgh Fringe Buy tickets here.
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