Sunday, 25 December 2016

A Christmas Reconciliation Between the Swedish Chef and Big Bird

Merry everything! Yes, I'm back in Puissalicon for the festival of lights and the Queen's speech (I liked this one) but I didn't watch A Muppet Christmas Carol because I still don't like that Jim Henson was dead for it. I do like that he was still around for A Muppet Family Christmas however so here's a lovely festive clip from it, featuring a rare encounter between Big Bird and the Swedish Chef, insight, laughs, chokes, a song, the usual Muppet magic and the deathless Muppet pertinent binary. It's wonderful.

And speaking of wonderful, John Finnemore's Christmas Special heralds in a new series of Souvenir Programme this Tuesday! Thank goodness for the good guys. Happy First Night, readers!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Seasonal Wear

Well, the show reel worked. At the time of writing this I've been put up for at least two festive jobs where sad dads stare brokenly at bills. Here's the one I got.

It was filmed last week, around what used to be the Arndale Centre back when I grew up in Wandsworth. Behind me in the above screengrab is what used to be the Ram Brewery* and in front of it, wearing the hi vis, director Kevin Curtis. He writes "please ignore the misleading thumbnail - it’s been a source of great disagreement here with us!" but I don't know what he's talking about. Enjoy.

And I've had a second Santa gig since: Nordic this time. Long straight hair and a blue tunic, chuckling and waving carrots at party-goers while occasionally tugging at the necks of the People Pile like a consensual Jabba. That same night I dreamt the gig all over again - the only time I've ever dreamt a straight flashback -  but no photos were allowed, so here instead is a nice shot of what we did on Halloween, that particularly Mexican-themed Halloween of 2016 we spent a full week celebrating because it was the year of the dead. The invitation said "come dressed as your dark side" so here it is, you mothers!

taken by Graham Turner. More here.

October looks warm now.

* When I was four, the Arndale Centre sported a poster for butter curls on toast and I thought that's where the smell of yeast was coming from.

There's actually an updated show reel with clips from "Suicide Hotline" here.
You can see a trailer for "Nightmare on Deskteeth Street" here.
And you can see what the Arndale Centre looked and sounded like when I was four, seven and a half minutes into an episode of Grange Hill here.

Friday, 18 November 2016


The world has got so unfaceable, fortunately, that this week saw me finally forced to ration my twitter and facebook use and get on with actually making something. Here is the result:

I had a lot of fun doing this, partly because I got to recut things I was in so that they were more about me, obviously, but mainly because I finally get to put David Shire's score for "The Conversation" over footage of me skulking around a city, something I think everyone should try for themselves at least once.
Youtube love here. (Warning: now includes footage of me from later than 2004.)

Sunday, 13 November 2016


I was reminded of this thread from Jack of Kent on Wednesday, looking at the front pages in Sainsbury's as they got all excited about the white supremacist sex pest president-elect's promise of a juicy new trade deal for Britain post-Brexit. "See?" was the gist. The problem is - as this thread illustrates - no deal with Trump is worth the paper it's written on. It's tough enough getting him to cough up when has an army of lawyers, what chance will we have when he has an army of everything else? And let's not pretend we haven't been here before. Godwin's law can do one - Churchill's law states you're fucked signing deals with a con man. So what's the alternative? On its own Britain is completely at this swollen clown's mercy - here's what "taking back control" looks like. We've never needed to be in the EU more than we have now. So we can't let Brexit happen, sorry. And we can't do business with Trump. And we can't let Trump/Pence happen, sorry again. How can we stop it? I've no idea. Let's sign a thing. At least put out the house-fire before worrying about the rot.

from the beautiful and prescient National Office of Importance

I want to stop Trump and Pence, then. And I want to stop Brexit. So am I completely against democracy? Well, what is democracy? It's full enfranchisement, not the dictatorship of the majority. Referenda are barmy - you can't vote for a single issue without voting for its baggage. I often think about the end of this, posted by Michael Regnier back in July:
At one level, what is more democratic than the country voting on a simple choice between two courses of action? The majority wins, of course, every time.
There is another manifestation of democracy, however, which is not about winning majorities, but acknowledging, supporting, even protecting, minorities. Human rights, freedom of movement, tolerance and compassion – simple, decent humanity.
It was 2005 when I realised this other idea of democracy existed – I was studying for a Masters degree, and a far-right demagogue was doing well in Austrian politics. One of my professors started a discussion with us about what should happen if they won power in Austria. My opinion was that if you believe in democracy, you have to accept the will of the people, even if you hate what they’ve voted for, even if they’ve voted away their democratic rights. The liberal academic’s view was that democracy exists not so much in votes but in the much broader set of rights given to people to live their lives the way they want to, and that a far-right government would undermine that and undermine democracy, so something radical had to be done to prevent this outcome, even if it was the popular choice.
So while going against the popular vote from the referendum would be, by definition, undemocratic, I think it might also be the most democratic thing we could do. Because democracy is for the losers as much as – if not more than – the winners.
Sorry there aren't more jokes. I just thought those two things were worth bearing in mind. Hey, remember when I said the centre ground was moving to the left? Ahahahahaha. And now, let's sing:


Thursday, 27 October 2016

Brave New Wuh?

What have I been up to? Bits and bobs. I made a thing:

Apologies to Mr. Dullea.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Sour Persimmons

This is a still from "Duck Amok" "Duck Amuck". I wasn't sure if Jason had actually seen it - his writing partner Joel tells me the only film Jason's seen is the big screen outing of "Please, Sir!" - but he had. Of course he had. Made in 1953 it's a hard cartoon to overpraise. All of its jokes are visual or sound-effects-based, but to prove how great it is I'm going to post just the dialogue below. Even without Mel Blanc's extraordinary performance and Chuck Jones' extraordinary drawing I think you can tell from these words that here's an absolutely fully-formed, three-dimensional character speaking with a rhythm that can only be captured when you write fully-formed, three-dimensional characters. Story by Mike Maltese, directed by Charles M. Jones (in other words I don't know who actually wrote this) here's "Duck Amok" "Duck Amuck" the dramatic monologue:

Stand back, Musketeers, they shall sample my blade! Touche! Ng, ng! Ng! Ng!
En garde? My blade?
Hey, psst! Whoever's in charge here: The scenery! Where's the scenery?
Stand back, Musketeers, they shall sample... my...
Hng! Okay. Have it your way:
Daffy Duck he had a farm, ee-yi ee-yi-oh.
And on this farm he had an igloo, ee... yi
... eee... yi... Oh. Would it be too much to ask if we could make up our minds?
Dashing through the snow, ya-ha-ha-ha! Through the fields we go, laughing all the wayeee-ee... Eee....
Farewell to thee! Farewell to thee! The wind will carry back our sad refrai-hey-hey-he-hey-ain. Our last embrace, before we say...
Hm. Sheesh. Buster, it may came as a complete surprise to you to find that this is an animated cartoon, and that in animated cartoons they have scenery, and in all the years th
Alright, wise guy. Where am I?
Cock-a-doodledoo! Buckaw kaw kaw-

... Look, Mac, just what's going on around here? Let's get organised, hm? How about some scenery?
That's dandy. Ho-ho, that's rich, I'll say. Now how about some colour, stupid?
Not me, you slop artist! Huh... huh...
Well? Where's the rest of me?
It isn't as though I haven't lived up to my contract goodness knows. And goodness knows it isn't as though I haven't kept myself trim goodness knows, I... I've done that. That's strange. All of a sudden I don't quite feel like myself. Oh I feel alright, and yet I... I, uh...
Eeeee! You know better than that!
Hm, a sea picture, eh? I always wanted to do a sea epic. Now, Mr. Rembrandt, if you'll kindly oblige with a little appropriate scenery: Over the sea, let's go, men. We're shipping right off, we're shipping right off...
Hey, come 'ere. Come 'ere! Give me a close-up. A close-up!
This is a close-up? A close-up, ya jerk! A close-up!
Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin. Now look buster, let's have an understanding...
Now what?
Brother, what a way to run a railroad. Now, as I was saying - Hng! Oof! Urgh! Oof! Huh... Huh...
Alright... huh... let's get this picture started!
NO! NO! Listen pal, let's discuss this thing sanely, huh? Look, I tell you what: you go your way, and I'll go mine. Live and let live, right? Right.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there will be no further delays, so I shall attempt to entertain you in my own iniminimitable fashion.
Now what? What are you doing down there?
Down here? What are you doing up there? "Down here"! Listen bud, if you wasn't me I'd smack you right in the puss!
Don't let that bother you, Jack!
Okay, buddy you asked, for it...
Oh brother, I'm a buzz boy! Uh-oh, time to hit the old silk: Geronimooooooo...
Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands, the smith a mighty man is he, with strong and sinewy... haaaands?
Alright! Enough is enough! This is the final, this is the very, very last straw! Who is responsible for this? I demand that you show yourself! Who are you? Huh?!

Shades of Ophelia. Maybe try it as an audition piece.
 I wonder if Galton and Simpson ever considered Daffy when writing for Hancock. Seriously. Here's why: "Duck Amok" "Duck Amuck" is a Warner Brothers cartoon, and for those who don't know Warner Brothers' animation department originally found success with Porky Pig whose thing was stuttering, then more success with Daffy Duck whose thing was lisping and acting crazy, then finally struck gold with Bugs Bunny whose thing was, let's say, surviving with panache. In director "Chuck" Jones' hands however Bugs' success leant new depth to the stars he'd eclipsed.

In Jones' work "Porky Pig" and "Daffy Duck" were no longer just one-dimensional assets but performers with an inner life you could imagine hanging round the studio lot: Porky the performer who knew his limits, professionally resigned to playing second fiddle to another has-been with a slightly better figure and slightly smaller speech impediment, Daffy the complete opposite: Bugs' rival, killing himself to get a laugh in the rabbit's presence (literally in one cartoon) while desperate for meatier, more seriously heroic stuff in his solo vehicles. You can see all this going on even in a straight spoof like "Duck Dodgers in the Twenty Fourth and a Halfth Century". It's this depth of characterisation that makes these dumb gags so ageless, and the image Jason posted above so funny.

It blows my mind that these performances never actually existed, that they're just a bunch of drawings. Chuck Jones was no slouch as an acting coach: Bugs always put his weight on one foot - he once pointed out - Daffy on both, knees bent, insecure. For almost thirty years now I've followed that advice. And this brings me to the other reason I've been thinking about Chuck Jones recently, aside from Jason's post, and that's the passing of this guy:

 Gene Wilder was miraculous and a huge influence on me as a person who does stuff in front of people, but I realise I'd never considered his influence until his death, and that might be because so much of that influence was the same as Chuck Jones'. Both created characters who could tell you their life was about to fall apart with a single gesture, who could slip in and out of mania in a couple frames with total conviction and total discipline. And this resemblance is only possible because as this brilliant video from Tony Zhou which I've just discovered that renders this entire post redundant affirms Jones' cartoons paid a new kind of attention to reality.

 Not Gene Wilder

Wednesday, 13 July 2016




The best thing that could be said about Angela Eagle's interview on Channel 4 last night was she did at least definitely appear to support herself. It's one thing, though, for a supporter to say they're voting for you because you're "doing a good job" and because it's ridiculous Labour hasn't yet been led by a woman, it's another to make that your whole campaign - particularly a campaign for a post that's already filled. Is this the forge then? Will this unite? "Well, look" and "Of course" and "Well, look" and "It's too early to say" and "Well, look"? Nothing about what's gone wrong and how it could be put right, and nothing about what you actually believe? No persuasion. No story. Just "I think I'm the best." That's Angela Eagle's bid to be Prime Minister?

Angel Eagle's actual resting face in that interview

She's not even trying to earn it. She must have been preparing for this for months, yet when Krishnan turned to her she looked like Guy Goma. No, she can't have been preparing for this. She can't. It was the kind of insulting, dispiriting mess half-learnt off a napkin ten minutes before you're on that reminded me with the force of a bullet train why I'd voted for Corbyn in the first place. Yes, it seemed to me time for him to go, but if eighty per cent of Labour's MPs can't work with him - okay, since they can't work with him - they surely have to field an alternative who will appear happy and indeed keen to explain off the cuff exactly what it is they actually believe in, because if they can't find that then it might not be a coup but it is a con, and they've no right with two election defeats behind them to call Corbyn unelectable. The Tory Far-Right appears to have evaporated meanwhile, and the parliamentary centre ground continues to move left. And unpopularity isn't Corbyn's problem right now. It's the least of his problems right now. People are throwing bricks through windows for him.