NewsRevue goes back all the way to 1979. When the show turned 25, in 2004, it was awarded the Guinness World Record for being the World’s Longest Running Live Comedy Show. I was there. I’d been there since 1992. This year my involvement with the show turns 25.
Earlier this week, coincidentally, I played real tennis with Chris Stanton (another NewsRevue alum, in his case a performer) at Lord’s. Chris was reminiscing with me about the show, not least because he was rummaging through his old files and found many complete runs of scripts from “our era”, which he was planning to shred. I think John Random might rescue them for posterity.
Chris then gave me a pretty-much word perfect rendering of Brian Jordan’s wonderful Arthur Scargill song, to the tune of My Guy. As John Random later reminisced:
He may not be to everyone’s liking/But as a union leader, he’s striking.
Hearing about Brian Jordan reminded me of my first big hit; The Ultimate Love Song, which Brian made his own for a while and took to Edinburgh (my material’s debut there) in his show “Whoops Vicar Is That Your Dick?” I am so proud to have had my Edinburgh debut in a show with that name.
After seeing Chris, I looked at my file and realised that The Ultimate Love Song turns 25 this week; I copyrighted it 29 February 1992…so perhaps it turns six-and-a-quarter. Anyway, it seemed right to mention it at the Ivan Shakespeare and I was badgered into giving a quick rendering, as much as I could remember.
Mark Keagan was at the Ivan Shakespeare dinner; he’s one of the more regular attendees. He mentioned that his father-in-law and former home secretary, David Waddington, sadly passed away last week. Which reminded me that I did once write a song with a verse about Waddington; again nearly 25 years ago. We all (Mark included) agreed that the song might come in handy for him over the coming weeks…well you never know…so I have upped that one too. Happy Tories it is called – also about Maggie Thatcher and Chris Patten – click here.
Gerry Goddin and John both produced quizzes. Gerry’s was infernal as usual; I did well at first but tailed off at the end, letting Barry Grossman take the honours at the line. John’s was suitably silly and superficial for my mood – a small collection of “shock and awe” pun headlines to unfathom. Perhaps naturally, I won that quiz.
As always it was good to see the gang – a slightly depleted gathering this time but at least when that happens you get a chance to have a proper chat with everyone.
Brian Eno Singsong and Party, Brian’s Studio, Tuesday 13 December 2016
The first of my “three dos in four days” was at Brian Eno’s place – I have been invited to such dos on several occasions now, often but not always at this time of year. I have known Brian from the health club (BodyWorksWest, formerly known as Lambton Place) for quarter of a century or more.
The party is combined with Brian’s a capella choir gathering, allowing neophytes and bathroom singers like me to have an occasional go.
I thought I arrived in quite good time on this occasion, but the singing was well underway when I arrived; the regulars presumably having made a punctual early start.
The songs chosen were quite relentlessly morbid at first. There is usually a fair bit of spiritual blues material, but this set seemed especially bleak, with unfortunate folk being hanged for crimes they didn’t commit and all sorts. It wasn’t too difficult to pick up on the tunes quickly enough – I suppose that’s why they choose this material for the more open sing-song, but it didn’t feel much like party music at first.
The last couple of numbers were a bit more lively – not least All I Have To Do Is Dream at the end, sung in a doo-wap style. It helped me that I was standing next to a couple of very able, presumably professional singers, upon whose rhythms and harmonies I could latch. A few people afterwards asked me if I was a professional singer, but I’m sure they must have been hearing the sound emanating from those guys, not me.
Brian said that he couldn’t hear me this time, which is a good sign; presumably therefore an improvement on last time. But perhaps he also was deceived by my co-location with the professional-sounding guys.
Anyway, as on previous occasions, I also found the rest of the party great fun, meeting and chatting with several very interesting people. I also danced a bit to some excellent party mix music, well designed for the purpose (mostly 1970’s dance, with some earlier and later stuff thrown in).
I didn’t stick around until too late – I had a scheduled client call quite early the next day – so (as on every previous occasion) I missed the blood, guts, ambulances and police cars stage of the party. Brian subsequently told me that the emergency services stage failed to occur this time, to his intense disappointment.
Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 15 December 2016
Since around the turn of the century, when fellow NewsRevue writer, Ivan Shakespeare, tragically keeled over and died while jogging, several of us have gathered a few times each year to keep in touch and reminisce about our NewsRevue days. Just before his death, Ivan e-mailed a few of us suggesting that we should regroup for that purpose, but never lived to see his idea to fruition.
Quite early in the life of this occasional gathering, it became part of our tradition to play a comedic quiz or two towards the end of the evening. I think it was John Random who initiated that idea, but several other people, occasionally contribute a quiz. Gerry Goddin latterly contributes a variant in which we all have to try to write jokes on suggested themes and Gerry allocates points (or deducts points) based on how well the jokes go down, his perception of each joke’s quality and/or Gerry’s authoritarian whim.
For the December gathering in 2002 (I’ll get around to Ogblogging it in the fullness of time no doubt) I went into a local tourist gimcrack store and bought the cheapest, tackiest piece of porcelain royal memorabilia I could find; then I emblazoned it with a legend declaring it to be the Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Trophy. Since 2002, that trophy has been played for earnestly each year. Nine different people have held the trophy over the years; I am proud to be able to state that I was the 2004 winner.
Anyway, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a venue that operates flexibly enough for a rather haphazard bunch of former (and in some cases current) comedy writers to gather in mid December. Café Rouge Holborn has become the regular venue for the past few visits, but it seems they tried to impose a Christmas season “pre-ordering” regime on us, which was somewhat beyond the capabilities of John Random’s organising and our ability to be organised by anyone or anything.
So, half-a-dozen or so of us had pre-ordered and Café Rouge assumed that there would only be half-a-dozen of us (despite John booking the table for 10); which proved problematic once the eighth and especially ninth person showed up.
To be fair the staff tried their best in what seemed to be chaotic circumstances and did relocate us to a table for 10 quite quickly.
But poor Jonny Hurst ended up waiting for best part of an hour before any food was brought to him at all, at which point a starter and two main courses all turned up at once. I was half-hoping that Jonny would say, “do you know who I am? I’m Jonny Hurst, the chant laureate, that’s who”. Jonny might even have been forgiven for “doing a Jeremy Clarkson”…but Jonny is far too mild mannered and polite for any of that, even when he has a real hunger-on and everyone around him is tucking in. Respect.
Eventually we played the quizzes. Colin Stutt offered a small quiz to warm us up, but the main quiz, for the trophy, was a very imaginative effort from John Random which comprised 10 maps, each of which had a location marked with a year. We had to name the movie that was made in that year set in that place.
I was pleased with my 7 out of 11 (one map had two years and therefore two movies and two points) but Mark Keegan pipped a couple of us 7-istas with 8 out of 11 to claim the trophy yet again – his fourth victory in 15 years. Respect.
Gerry Goddin ended the evening with one of his joke-fest games with some especially harsh marking and the predictable result that Barry Grossman’s jokes pleased him more than anyone else’s – it is nearly always Barry who wins, very occasionally me.
A most enjoyable evening.
Z/Yen Group Christmas Lunch at Watermen’s Hall, 16 December 2016
For the first time in Z/Yen’s 23 Christmases, we decided to do Christmas lunch rather than dinner this year.
Linda and Michael conspired to find a five course extravaganza of a lunch at Watermen’s Hall, which seemed just the ticket in the circumstances. It’s a comparatively intimate and relaxed atmosphere for a guild’s hall; but now that Z/Yen is that much smaller, our group wouldn’t completely dominate the room.
But before exercising our lungs, we ate the following excellent five course meal, washed down with some fine wine and (for some, not me) port.
Z/Yen Group 2016 Christmas Lunch at Watermen’s Hall
(The Company of Watermen and Lightermen)
Torched mackerel, pickled and salt baked beetroot, horseradish crème fraiche
Smoked ham hock and chicken terrine, pickled apricots, watercress salad
Butter roasted Norfolk turkey, sage and apricot stuffing, bacon wrapped sausages, brussels sprout choucroute with chestnuts
Star anise poached pear, almond crumb, whipped clotted cream
Christmas pudding, brandy sauce
Michael kept me and Xueyi talking about GeoGnomo for a fair chunk of the meal, but otherwise we managed to steer clear of work chat.
Michael was also keen not to torture too many people with our song, but once there were only a few stragglers left (apart from we Z/Yen folk) we found a surprisingly receptive audience; indeed those Watermen and Lightermen joined in the singing with us, rounding off a fine afternoon.
♬ WATERMEN AND LIGHTERMEN AND Z/YEN ♬
(A seasonal song to the tune of ♬”Winter Wonderland”♬)
VERSES ONE AND TWO
Mackerel torched, beetroot pickled,
Ham terrine, we’ll be tickled;
We’ll eat Christmas lunch, Z/Yen Group as a bunch;
Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.
At the start, we’ll be perky,
By the end, stuffed like turkey;
Five courses of nosh, all terribly posh;
Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.
After eating turkey laced with trimmings,
We’ll tuck in to star anise poached pear;
Christmas pud as well, you must be kidding,
The brandy sauce could be a warning flare.
Head for home, very slothfully,
On the trail back to Lothbury;
Let’s hope that we scoff…ing walk our waists off;
Walking all the way from Watermen’s.
(RISING/ROUSING FINALE): Let’s hope walking makes us Lightermen!
Just like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all those who came to the 32nd Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner – actually I don’t know if it is the 32nd but we’ve been doing an average of four a year since the year 2000, so it sounds plausible. Those of you who weren’t there, whether in Africa, America, Ireland or some oil-producing nation such as Harpenden you were all sadly missed, You missed a great quiz from Gerry, and the surprise (and welcome) re-appearance of John Cowen. Special guest Neil Watson brought a touch of class to the proceedings.