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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Depressed Poets' Society!

A poet telling you he is depressed is like a dog admitting it likes peeing on lampposts

The issue of poets and depression comes up often – as it did at The Lamplight Art Centre, Stanley on 25th August. The ‘Black Dog’ though it has varied tastes, seems particularly partial to poets. It is, ironically enough, a joke among us. At the afore mentioned gathering, I referred to a young man who approached me at a previous event of the verse-full, showed me some of his lines on a piece of electronic wizardry then declared that he suffered from depression. It was so unremarkable (the declaration of melancholy not the poetry) that it dawned on me that gloom might be part of the job description. I wonder whether poets might even start boasting about their depressive bouts as a sign of poetic virility. We may flaunt our dark moods the way inadequate men with money flaunt expensive cars or inadequate men without money flaunt their dangerous dogs. We may start pretending to be more depressed than we are! N.E. streets may be strewn with moaning, wailing, dull-eyed, zombified, limp beings all craving poetic credibility. Sod writing good verse, just hang your head and groan. In case groaning and breast beating doesn’t work I’ve tried the less tiring method of writing a piece based on the above. Below is a first draft. I don’t usually show my page poetry so this is exposure aplenty.

Exposed Poet

Grey toad in compost heap
Slumbering deep
When I invade
With sudden energy
Good intentions and

I apologise
Salute your size
Humbled before
Your truly amphibious

Pathetic fallacy indeed
As I in need
Of list-crossed-off
Should dig

Your seven year heap
Your August sleep
I’m so sorry
A sorry specimen
Unlike you
Grey / green fiend

Surprising interference
Grudging disappearance
Through the fence, hence
Waiting no doubt
With condescending pout
To return

Which will happen soon
F---ing stupid poet
Looking for release
In compost?
A much better idea
Hide in it.

Inspired by the stage angst of performance poets, next Tuesday’s blog will be entitled;

Performance Nerves Cured by Dinosaurs!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Amanda's Fringe!

Amanda Baker was interviewed by an interviewer (or possibly a stalker or a member of the audience who was just being kind) after a performance at Free Sisters. Free Sisters is the fantastic 120-seat (plus three benches some standing room and a couple of extra seats obscured by pillars) Edinburgh Fringe venue. She had some fascinating insights into the frolics and fun of the Free Fringe.

‘I wasn’t intending to do Edinburgh again’, said Amanda ‘I’m a bit sick of the Edinburgh monsoon season but couldn’t turn down indoor gigs. Previously I’ve been on the streets with those guys with red mohecan hair cuts juggling chain saws and those fabulously talented actors who cover themselves in gold paint and stand really, really, REALLY still and those fantastic magicians who eat playing cards – I think they’re called Mario’.

‘I got 13 stars for my performances’ claims Ms Baker ‘I know it’s only usual to get five but my mum gave me two and the compeer had a couple spare, there were some lying on the floor and obviously you have to allow for inflation – which is really high in Scotland because Alex Salmond wants elocution or something’.

In response to the interviewer’s searching question ‘How do you feel?’ (we think the interviewer was just up from the Olympics), Amanda replied ‘It was great-amazing-fantastic-awesome. Basically I was on the stage with – like – this mic – and talking and – like – the people sitting on the chairs were – like – laughing – so – yeah – wow.’

As the interviewer was leaving, having heard that he was just up from the Olympics, Amanda had a query of her own, ‘I didn’t get to see the Olympics cos of the Fringe – can you tell me how Ethiopia did in the Dressage?’ The interviewer said he wasn’t sure but he thought they fared better than Mogadishu in the yachting!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Comedy Competitions - Serious Fun or Self Harm

(N.B.This article was written before I plunged into blog world for gigglebeats – the N.E. online comedy review website)

Competitions are a grim business. Comedy competitions can be hell. They are not compulsory. Why put yourself through the mangle? Well – if you’re me – there are worse things to do with your mid life crisis (possibly). They are expensive and time consuming if you live outside London – and some people do! They are emotionally draining. In the last eighteen months I’ve done three nationals. The first was a New Act of the Year set up. I blagged my way into it, got a big positive reaction and decided to do it again if I got the chance. My heat at Theatre Royal Stratford, London was just three weeks after my first proper stand-up comedy set. Prior to that I’d been gigging for fifteen months in a jumble of venues from exclusively performance poetry slots to variety nights, festivals, fill-ins for band nights, fundraisers and after-dinner entertainment plus one or two other things I’d rather forget. One reason for turning to competitions was its not easy getting comedy clubs to take a punt on what I do. They heard the ‘p’ word and switched off or reacted as if I’d said I ate babies for breakfast.

Unable to shake the notion that customers might like their evening of genital gags punctuated with a bit of sketch-style, character-based comedy poetry, I entered two more national comps this year. The upshot? Quarter-finals (Laughing Horse) and finalist status (Funny’s Funny) with a Leicester Square gig sharing a platform with the fab Andi Oshi. Being a finalist also brings the offer of PROPER INDOORS gigs at 2012 Edinburgh Fringe. My first Ed Fest experience, 2010, was in the pissing rain gigging outside St Giles Cathedral with 12 soggy punters enduring. 2011 was performances in a cafĂ© stairwell while blokes delivered crates of beer round me (at least it was dry) - so this is a result or sorts however bizarre the journey.

The most gushing enthusiasts for what I do are the younger members of the audience which is problematic. Older ones are complimentary in a verbal pat-on-the-back kind of way but the young ‘uns want to ‘follow you on twitter’ (I don’t tweet, sorry) or ‘read your blog’ (er… I don’t blog) or ‘get your website’ (I don’t have one, I’m really sorry) or ‘face-book you’ I don’t have a facebook page… OK – you get the pattern that is emerging here. It’s tempting to freak them out by admitting I don’t have internet access at home, I don’t have TV, and I use a carrier pigeon of a mobile. But I don’t’ want to be cruel to the youngsters or shock them. I do realise that, below a certain generation, only being present in the real world is death. I briefly had a website last year but couldn’t organise updating. The plan is to get a basic one soon just so the bairns can see that I actually exist in cyber space and am therefore real.

A mate of mine put one of my pieces Shirley Temple Jesus on u-tube a while back but it’s not a comedy gig and I’m not ‘doing comedy’ however, it gives a flavour. For the little ones it’s a bit hopeless because most of them don’t know who Shirley Temple was, though some of them recognise the other name...

as a result of the Funny's funny comp I will be performing at Free Sisters the week of 13th August :)