An Amazing Week Of Grazing And Moral Mazing, 1 to 7 December 2017

It’s a cracker

It’s December, so of course the eating and drinking goes into overdrive.

Starting on the very first day of December; lunch with Michael Mainelli, Brendan May and John Lloyd at the Guildhall. Great to catch up with those guys, it brought back to my mind a quite interesting 2003 evening in a TV studio with Brendan and John – now Ogblogged – click here.

The next day, cousins Jacquie and Hilary Briegal came to Noddyland for a late lunch that morphed into early evening. Jacquie couldn’t resist bringing some of her famous chopped herring for us, although, as any fule no, chopped herring cannot take part in “herring of the year” contests, which in any case have to be held at Jacquie’s place – click here for the most recent example.

In any case, herring didn’t form part of the Noddyland meal, which comprised smoked salmon nibbles followed by Janie’s (Daisy’s) famous wasabi beef fillet dish and finally danish apple cake. We hadn’t seen Jacquie and Hils for over a year; it was great to see them again and have a chance to reciprocate Jacquie’s warm hospitality.

As usual, Daisy had massively over-catered, so I was able to lunch on some left over beef, sauce and potatoes couple of times during the week, including Thursday…

…which was probably just as well, given the tardiness of the Cafe Rogues meal in Holborn that evening, at the comedy writers Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner.

I reported last year on the ruthless efficiency with which the venue forced us to pre-order and the chaos and long waits that nevertheless ensued. Last year, it was Jonny Hurst who took the brunt of the tardiness, waiting about an hour longer than everyone else for his main course. This year, Jonny was again such a victim, but I too was one of the chosen people for this indignity. Perhaps we weren’t served a full hour later than everyone else, but surely at least half an hour later.

I suppose you can chat, drink and even be ruined while you wait for food

To add insult to indigestion, four of us were served our deserts some 30 minutes after everyone else. Jonny escaped this time, but I was caught twice – along with Jasmine, Barry and John for the lengthy dessert desert.

Still, everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Nine of us gathered this time; me, John Random, Jonny Hurst, Jasmine Birtles, Colin Stutt, Hugh Rycroft, Gerry Goddin, Mark Keagan and Barry Grossman.

Jasmine and John brought crackers. John Random’s were very special; he had doctored some real crackers, emblazoning them with a picture of Michael Buerk and describing them as Moral Maze crackers.

With Jasmine’s crackers, we played our regular Christmas game of trying to work out the feed line from the punchline of the corny cracker jokes…with limited success this year as the jokes were so corny. Examples:

A. A monkey burp.

Q. What’s silent and smells of banana?

A. Mrs Sippi

Q. Who is the most famous married woman in America?

But John had doctored his crackers with moral maze dilemmas to replace the corny jokes. Example:

Q. What do you get if you cross a sheep with a kangaroo?

A. A series of far-reaching ethical questions that go to the very heart of modern genetics.

Tut tut if you read that question and thought the answer was, “a wooly jumper”.

Jasmine and John pulled…
…which left Jasmine grappling with a tricky moral dilemma.

Traditional quizzing after dessert…or in the case of the four of us sorely neglected souls…during the dessert.

Colin Stutt again did a warm up game, taking the best jokes from the fringe for the last few years and seeing if we could remember the punchlines or construct good/better punchlines ourselves. I reckon I did a reasonable job on 10-12 out of 30 of them, actually knowing the answer to only a couple.

Mark, the holder of the Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Trophy, naturally led the main event quiz. I’m usually in with a chance when Mark writes the quiz but so are one or two other people. In a close run contest this year:

Mark had bubble-wrapped the trophy for safe-keeping…
…let’s hope that Jonny also treats the magnificent artefact with the respect it deserves.

Yes, the place was ridiculously noisy. Yes, the service was poor, except when it was terrible. But at Christmastime, almost everywhere is thus. These Ivan Shakespeare gatherings of good old friends are always lively, witty evenings that make me happy; that is the bit that really matters.

Class Of ’92 Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 5 October 2017

Partly inspired by my chance encounter 18 months ago (and subsequent re-encounters) with Chris Stanton at the real tennis court at Lord’s

…partly inspired by the fact that many of us who gather for these Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners have been hanging around NewsRevue now for 25 years…

…John Random decided to theme this get together around the notion “Class of ’92”.

I didn’t realise that John had actually persuaded Chris Stanton to come along this time, which was a very pleasant surprise. Chris brought a couple of ringbinder files with scripts from his 1992 runs, including the late Spring run, directed by John Random, in which I (or rather, my material) made its NewsRevue debut:

Seeing those files, it made me realise what a challenging job it must be for performers to do NewsRevue. The sheer volume of scripts, the mixture of sketches and songs, the changes to the show every week…

…Chris showed me one running order, for example, in which there was an unbroken sequence of fourteen or fifteen pieces in which he appeared.

John Random brought along a photo album which had lots of photos of NewsRevue types…even one of me and Janie from our very early days together…most people in the room were represented by at least one photo.

Mark Keagan was there, as was Barry Grossman, Nick R Thomas, Colin Stutt and Gerry Goddin, the latter of whom produced a particularly fiendish version of his “quiz” game and tortured us with it at the end of the evening.

Prior to this evening, when chatting at Lord’s, Chris Stanton had been threatening to have a bonfire of his old scripts. Part of my purpose was to help John Random to rescue this treasure trove for posterity. But by the end of this evening, Chris explained that he did not want to part with his scripts and had no intention of destroying them.

On the way home, my song “Coppers are Dressed as Hippies” popped into my head, as did the notion that I too have a ringbinder file at home with correspondence and one or two old running orders and programmes.

In the morning, I copied/wrote up “coppers” (click link here or above) and found a running order, programme and writers’ newsletter from Paula Tappenden’s summer run; the run that followed the John Random/Chris Stanton one.

In some ways, I thought, I had blooped by not bringing those artefacts to the evening. But in other ways, it seems more fitting that I use Ogblog as a medium, following up on the Class of ’92 evening, to circulate copies of my 1992 artefacts, shown below:

  • the programme for that Paula Tappenden run (late June through August 1992);
  • the running order from week four (late July 1992);
  • John Random’s unusually short writers’ newsletter w/e 31 July 1992…who was your visitor from Idaho, John? Do tell.

Postscript. In response to my request for details on the mystery visitor from Idaho, I received the following beautifully-crafted missive from John Random a week or so later:

…the friend from Idaho was my former flatmate Janet.

One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t spend the whole of 1986 simply writing down everything she ever said. Here was comedy gold, narrative gold right under my nose and I didn’t recognize it for what it was.

Without ever trying to be funny, without even KNOWING she was being funny, Janet contrived to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. This was chiefly because everyone she’d ever known was either barking mad or the victim of some cruel yet ludicrous twist of Fate.

I recall she had a pioneer ancestor who was run over by the very train that brought his family out West to join him. Apparently, he had started the celebrations a little too early and was a little too merry by the time the train pulled in.

Not that this should be taken as meaning she was catty or scabrous. On the contrary, she was a big motherly woman of the sort you might get if you crossed Jenni Murray with Claire Rayner.

Sadly, Janet’s not much of a writer, so I have very few letters of hers, and she seldom even e-mails. However, she recently broke a seven-year silence indicating that she might be coming over in a week or two. I do hope so.

In my grateful reply to John, I described Janet’s interruption to his newsletter writing that week as John’s “person from Porlock” moment.

My own offerings from that Paula Tappenden Week Four are all now up on Ogblog, btw, all clickable below:

If anyone wants a better quality copy of the artefacts, just message me and they can be whizzing your way in next to no time.

Ultimate Love and Happy Tories, Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 3 March 2017

NewsRevue’s 2004 Guinness World Record for being the World’s Longest Running Live Comedy Show – Gerry Goddin far left, Barry Grossman back left, a wide-eyed me front right

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.

Those of us who wrote for the show in the 1990s still gather a few times a year for Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners.

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.

I have now upped The Ultimate Love Song in its entirety – together with the tale of its early use – here’s the link again.

Here is a link to Ben Murphy’s rendering of The Ultimate Love Song from 1993.

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.

Below is a picture of John Random and Mark Keagan from the previous Ivan Shakespeare dinner.

Mark was awarded the 2016 trophy, but should he have been? Rumour has it that John might have been handed the wrong envelope…

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.

Happy Tories, NewsRevue Lyric, 26 April 1992

I was reminded of this song when we gathered for an Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner on 2 March 2017.

Mark Keagan was there and it naturally came up in discussion that his father-in-law, David Waddington, passed away last week.

I mentioned that I had mentioned Waddington in one of my early NewsRevue songs. We all agreed that the song might come in handy for Mark and the family over the next few weeks (well you never know). In any case I should Ogblog it pronto for the NewsRevue alumni of our era.

I’m pretty sure this song was used in a couple of runs at that time; the aftermath of the 1992 election.

Click here or below for a link to Happy Talk, the version recorded by Captain Sensible, including Hammerstein’s original lyrics for the tune.

HAPPY TORIES (To the tune of “Happy Talk”) – tweaked 2 July 1992

CHORUS 1

Happy Tories, Tories, seeking work,

Jobs for the boys you’d like to do;

You’ve got to have a seat, if you don’t have a seat,

You may have to govern Timbucktoo.

 

VERSE 1

Talk about a Lord, David Waddington, his sentences for death could not be cruder,

He saw a hot place, where they still can hang, now he’s Governor out in Bermuda.

 

CHORUS 2

Happy Tories, Tories, seeking work,

Jobs for the boys you’d like to do;

You’ve got to have a seat, if you don’t have a seat,

We can find an island just for you.

 

VERSE 2

Talk about a girl, Thatcher was her name {girl?}, sacked as PM, now a Baroness,

She will not shut up, she is still a pain, now the Tories want her even less.

 

CHORUS 3

Happy Tories, Tories, seeking work,

Jobs for the boys you’d like to do;

You’ve got to have a seat, if you don’t have a seat,

You can have a sinecure or two.

 

VERSE 3 (slower – almost weeping on the first line – brightening up for the cushy job)

Talk about a boy, took an early Bath, Chris Patten could end up on the skids,

Stipend from friend John, Governor of Hong Kong, worth a-hundred and fifty thousand quid.

{Various voices choose from the following: “a year”, “tax free”, “plus yacht”, “plus flashy cars” “plus thirty thousand pounds a year expenses” “plus lots of power”}

 

CHORUS 4

Happy Tories, Tories, seeking work,

Jobs for the boys you’d like to do;

You’ve got to have a seat, if you don’t have a seat,

You may get a mansion in Wah Fu,

So if you’re a Tory, and you cannot win a seat, you may win a fortune in Kowloon.