I was reminded today of an article that appeared in the New Statesman in February 09 about the internationally renowned poet, writer and performer Lemn Sissay in which he is asked who his advisers would be if he was World Leader.
I was flattered to be included in Lemn’s list along with people like Desmond Tutu, Henry Normal, Marcus Brigstock, Desmond Tutu and the Gummy Bears from Avenue Q.
The only reason for me being in this list is mine and Lemn’s history as brothers in arms over the past 20 years. He is a truly amazing man, which is why I was honoured to have him as best man at my wedding. The fact that he borrowed £20 and tried to pull me into every pub during the walk towards the church made me love him even more. He’s also my son Joe’s unofficial God Father (unofficial because I’m not sure about the whole Church thing). Lots of people see him as the voice of black Britain and as a very high-quality, serious writer. He’s also a big goon who never fails to make me laugh. Search him out on amazon and read his stuff. It’s brilliant.
My friend, co-conspirator and videographer Alex Roberts was so tickeld by the article that he sent me a photoshop of Lemn and his “advisors” faces superimposed on the G20 summit picture, which I share with you here:
Lemn is currently writer-in-residence at the South Bank and assures me this picture is up on the wall in his office. You can read the article here.
Okay, this one is a real divider of opinions. Myself and Stan Vernon wrote and produced this film for Granada TV back in ’98. The idea was inspired by Eric Sykes film “The Plank” from the 1960s. He and Tommy Cooper had me in stitches as a boy in the 1970s as it was frequently repeated on BBC2 on Saturday mornings.
This series – “Mad For It” – was co-produced with Paramount Comedy Channel to showcase new comedy talent. It was broadcast once on ITV and several times on Paramount. It was notable for being the first time Peter Kay did his thing with Dave Spikey in a kind of northern road movie, if I remember correctly.
I remember pitching the script to the producer and him going “What does it all mean, though?”. He was bemused by the idea of us eating live tortoises, grunting instead of speaking, singing the song of Italian Socialist Revolution in a pub with a bunch of operatics, popping out of bins screaming “I want me Pap! I want me pap!” (he was obviously not a fan of Samuel Beckett) and milking a pantomime cow.
I was having such fun putting all this nonsense down on paper and then justifying every scene with pseudo-intellectualism that I didn’t care.
Three other facts about this film of interest:
1. Spike Milligan wrote me a lovely letter about it
2. It features a fart-death performance from Toby Hadoke and
3. Me and Stan actually wrote six 30-minute episodes featuring these characters that never saw the light of day (and almost bankrupted us whilst we waited for the rejection letters from the TV companies). Happy days!
Okay, this is a curiosity now, but back in ’96 I wrote this spoof documentary about a local TV journalist I invented called John E. Blagg. I was very into Dennis Potter at the time and Blagg was supposed to represent everything I thought was wrong about TV as a medium. That and the fact that I like “falling off chair” gags.
It was script-edited by my old friend and BAFTA-winning writer Dave Gorman. It gave him something to do on a Saturday morning. I don’t know how we managed to pull of the casting considering the money was so bad, but we did get Bruce Jones (later to find fame as Les Battersby in Coronation Street) and the delightful Diana Davies.
I also managed to get my mate Steve Wilson to get Paul Higham and Mark Tolle to do the John E Blagg theme music (look them up as producers on The Stone Roses “Second Coming” album).
It was broadcast as part of a real documentary series on Granada TV called “Mark Radcliffe’s NWA”. That’s why you see the brilliant Radcliffe and Clint Boon (he of the magnificent Inspiral Carpets) at the top of the show.
The character actually got born on a drug-fueled night of trying to blag into all the “In The City” (big music festival started in Manchester by the sadly missed Tony Wilson) gigs with fake laminate passes and two video cameras, manned by Paul Crompton and Krishna Stott (talented guys). We turned that night into a 10 minute film that then got shown at the Cornerhouse cinema in Manchester as part of some festival or other. That got seen by the TV bods who then got me to present an arts show on telly as the spoof character, which then led to this being made. I seem to remember having a column in the Big Issue for about 6 weeks called “From the Desk of John E Blagg”, which was full of nonsense and topped off with a picture of an empty desk. I still find that funny for some reason.
So, here is the shizzle. It’s got Manchester stamped all the way through it. I hope it tickles you a little.
Okay, you might be put off by the title if you’re not a Doctor Who fan, but “Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf” is on it’s final run of dates this year, and I urge you to see it. Why?
1. It’s bloody funny
2. It’ll make you cry as well
3. It stars my old mate Toby Hadoke
4. The BBC Radio version of the show got nominated for a Sony Award last year, and…
5. I directed it, produced the original version and created the format
Toby just had a massive success with it in LA at the world’s biggest Dr Who convention, and apart from doing a few more dates across the UK, will be taking it to New Zealand in May. You can more info on the show here: Toby Hadoke
(Scroll down and you’ll see my name on the original poster – also see what kind of company sponsored it. A world first!)
Or take a look at some of these clips of the tour (rumour has it a proper DVD may be recorded soon…)
Toby will become rather more famous very soon. If you’re ever in Manchester on a Tuesday, you can still see him for peanuts at his 10-year old comedy club. Same acts you get at The Comedy Store for about 1/5th of the price. See Manchester Comedy.