Newest TV3 Blog is up, with a few new suggestions for a replacement to MMP. http://tinyurl.com/yz6e73k
Live from Vancouver
New Blog for 3news.co.nz
Just had a sad, but satisfying trip "home" to Canada. Sad, as it was to attend the funeral of my Grandfather, Borge Hansen Trip. A great man. Here's a few thoughts I accumulated on the trip:
New blog up on 3news.co.nz, "A Royal Distraction." Have a squizz,
Final Blog Of 2009
The decade is nearly over.
Final blog of 2009, "Resolved" is up on 3news.co.nz http://tinyurl.com/yhtfta5
Apologies, but I can't seem to work out the HTML to post a direct link from here, so you'll have to cut and paste. My thanks to everyone who has read or commented on these blogs over the last little while.
2009 was a year of two, very distinct halves for me. The first 6 months were pretty dire, but then with the advent of 7Days and the rise of my own live work, the last 6 were some of the best I've ever had. So a big New Year's cheers to you all, and may 2010 keep rolling the way the last little while has!
Just in time for Christmas!
My newest blog is up here: http://www.3news.co.nz/Politics/PoliticalAnimal/tabid/1253/articleID/135111/Default.aspx
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, hope to see you in the New Year.
During this year's Comedy Festival there was one show that had everyone talking - It was Te Radar's "Eating the Dog" but that's not important; what is important is that another show played to public and critical acclaim and that show was -
ANDY CLAY'S BOOK OF LOVE. It was the show that told you "all you need to know about love from someone that didn't have a clue." He still doesn't but he's back for 3 nights only, with his all star cast to enlighten you on the big topics of life like,
- how to meet someone at a bar
- one night stand etiquette
- booty call verses relationship
- when to lose an argument
- how to tell if she's mental and many others.
Andrew Clay doesn't take this on by himself, he has a stella cast to act out what can't be easily explained
Fleur Saville - Shortland Street
Harry McNaughton - Shortland Street
Michael Saccente - Acting legend, been on heaps
Dane Dawson - Up and coming star also been on heaps (although not as much as Michael)
and directed by comedy legend Jeremy Elwood.
If you missed it the first time don't be disappointed this time around. This is seriously funny shit, even the critics liked it!
"Clay has enlisted the help of some fine talent to illustrate his points" ........ "The cast is fantastic and very laid-back which makes the whole experience all the more fun." and "This show is funny because the material and situations are oh-so real." Theatreview.org.nz
"Once you settle into the fact this is a play, there's some pretty hilarious moments - Clay makes a great narrator who interjects at the right moment with some perfectly timed quips - "Smile At them. Not in a weird way." .......
"But Andy is best when he interacts with the audience and the moments when he slightly veers off from the script are the moments which are to be treasured."
"There are some great insights into relationships"
and "Book of Love is something different and the entire cast give it their all" TVNZ.co.nz
7 Days Feedback
Aren't you kind!
Just a quick word to say thanks for all the great feedback about 7Days. If you haven't seen it yet, it's on TV3 at 10pm Friday nights, and it's been a pleasure to do!
What a thrill to be involved in a well-made, well-received, and well-rating local comedy show. Long may it run.
Two years to go
And go I will
From the NZ Herald: "New Zealanders are being urged to run with the ball so the country can score big at the Rugby World Cup 2011.
While the All Blacks will be looking to redeem themselves by winning the Cup, the rest of New Zealand also needs to "give it 100 per cent", Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said today."
Oh blow me.
This is exactly the kind of small-minded, out of date faux patriotism that we can expect for the next two, maybe three (depending on who wins) year. Guess what Murray? A whole lot of New Zealanders aren't rugby fans. In fact, some of us hate it - the sport, the culture, the anodyne cliches. See above.
Even many of those who DO like the sport, hate the commercial nonsense it has become. So take this at 100% face value. Two years from today, I intend to be overseas. Without a TV.
A new direction
To all who say I don't update this site often enough, you're absolutely right.
Hopefully you would have seen one or more episodes of 7 Days by now, the new comedy news panel show on TV3, Fridays, 10pm. It's been an absolute joy to make, the kind of show that let's comedians just do what we do, without too much interference.
This is the kind of thing we've been waiting for in NZ, and I hope the fun we're having making it comes through in what goes on-air. Thanks to all of you who have sent through such good feedback, online, in the press, on radio and everywhere. Keep watching, I reckon it'll just get better with age!
Comedy Fest 2009
News, reviews etc
Comedy Festival time again, and while I'm not doing a show of my own, I'm probably busier than usual. I'm appearing at Gastrocomique, Southside Comedy, Unitec's Monster Comedy Bash, and just did "Best Medicine" last night - a new review is in the, well, reviews section of this site.
Mainly though, I've been busy directing "Andy Clay's Book Of Love", which opens Tuesday 19th at The Herald Theatre. It's a play, sort of, based on Andrew Clay's standup, and although I do say so myself, it should be pretty cool.
I also heartily recommend you check out Chris Brain "A Better Place", in Wellington for the final show tonight, and then in Auckland from the 18th at The Classic Studio, 8:45pm. Chris is a great comic and a great friend, and from what I've seen of the show, it should be a ripper.
Tickets and info for all shows can be found at www.comedyfestival.co.nz
Hail To The Chief
What I did with my Wednesday
There have been few occasions that I’ve set an alarm for 5am to see a televised event. The 1991 FA cup final sticks in my memory, my home team Nottingham Forest losing to Spurs thanks to a Des Walker own goal. There have been a few other sporting events, but primarily the only reasons I’m up at that time are to catch a flight, make an onset call, or because I haven’t been home yet.
Similarly, there are only a few occasions where I can lay claim to knowing that I was watching history unfold. Expecting the first civilian astronaut, I watched Challenger explode. I watched Nelson Mandela clear the gates on Robben Island. I woke up one morning, and the Berlin Wall was falling. I was woken up in time to see the second tower fall on September 11th.
Today, I have added to both lists. Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America at just after 6am, New Zealand time, and I woke, and watched.
I knew this was going to happen. It wasn’t a shock, or even a particularly emotional moment. I dealt with most of the tears last November, and was able to watch from a certain distance today. After all, he’s not the President of my country. Even if I were to plant a flag in any one of the countries I’ve lived in, or hold passports for, the USA wouldn’t and couldn’t be it. However, I watched the election of Obama with more attention and care than the one in my current residence a week or so later.
It’s not that it’s going to affect my life all that much. I’m now living in a tiny, inconsequential country with a tiny, first term, inconsequential centre-right government. The country I live in is not, and has never been, under occupation, martial rule or tactical threat by the outgoing or any previous US administration. Hell, if it weren’t for a few speeches in the mid 80’s, we’d be sitting in the shame seat next to John Howard.
It’s simply this. Today has improved the lives of millions of people, at least for a few hours. It has, to paraphrase the campaign, given hope. Whether it be to the survivors, or the relatives of the survivors, of the civil rights movement. Whether it be to the anti-Bush protesters around the globe. Whether it be to the families of those detained in Guantanamo Bay. Whether it be to the car parts worker with a dubious immigration history. Whether it be the comedian who has struggled to find genuine jokes amongst the rubble of our humanitarian beliefs for the last eight years.
Yes, you did.
Singing Galway Bay
And a merry Christmas to...
My comedy heroes and villians of 2008. First up, thanks Jesse Ryder for bringing character back to NZ cricket. Cheers to Muntadhar al-Zeidi for throwing his shoes at George W Bush, not for comedy value, but to reiterate what a disaster his presidency has been, not just in the US but in Iraq and around the world. Cheers, and we'll miss you, Winston Peters. 10% of my material just got voted into oblivion.
Jeers to the media coverage of Tony Vietch. If you want to remember how to spell his name, "i" before "e" except when he kicks his missus down the stairs. Irene Gardiner, I was on Radio NZ National after you today, and when you argue that the media was harsh on him because he was one of their own, I argue that the circus of wagon circling that has happened since; "he can't work" "he's unwell", etc; is shameful in a culture where the same media people front the "It's not OK" campaign. Guilty or not, he can wait to find out like everyone else.
2008. You can't mention it without mentioning Obama. Bring it on. The finest moment in US history since....
Answers on a postcard please.
MUSINGS ON THE CUSP OF THE AGE OF JESUS
Blues all round, post election.
It’s the eve of my 33rd Birthday, and I can’t get too worked up about it. I’m still trying to get my head around the last month or so. History was made, and I witnessed it live, via satellite. Barack Obama, the first African American President Elect, the finest orator I’ve seen in my lifetime, the most inspiring political figure I’ve followed since Tony Blair, right there on CNN. Don’t gasp at the Blair bit either, right up until “Iraq 2”, he was pretty impressive. Ask anyone who witnessed the Easter Accord come about in Northern Ireland.
On the other end of the spectrum in every way, John Key became our new Prime Minister. No surprise, the mood was for change, and as much as I admire what Helen Clark and Labour achieved in the last 9 years, the amount of social piracy the Greens got away with left a bitter taste in even the most socialist mouth.
I must pass onto the audience from my pre-election special in Wellington – nice work on Stephen Franks. The fact that even in what amounts to a landslide, under MMP, that insane prick didn’t get into parliament speaks volumes for Wellington. Now if you can just get the wind barriers up, I might even consider moving there.
Speaking of speaking volumes; any ideas why I was standing and weeping in my living room the moment Obama was elected, and was somewhere outside a house party ignoring the whole deal when Key did? Is it as simple as the historical significance, showmanship and world import of the former, compared to the predictability, drabness and “same shit, different party banner” feel of the latter? Or does it mask some deep seated ambivalence to what happens in my own country’s legislature?
True, I feel Obama’s election has more importance to my head, wallet and soul. Let’s be honest, the current issues we’re having economically are really not our fault, and whoever leads us here really won’t make an iota of difference. It’s not our foreign policy, or lack of it, that has led to me having to take my cowboy boots off when I board a domestic flight, or pay a small fortune to drive my car to the airport. And whilst Helen Clark got my vote, and John Key bemused me, neither of them have ever brought me to my feet in the privacy of my home with a well-turned phrase.
On the other hand, maybe my comedy just got a lot easier here at home. It’s far more likely that a center right government will regularly attract my ire and ridicule, and Key’s announcement of a chump cabinet certainly bodes well.
Realistically, though, what could he possibly pull of his beige top hat that will really screw my life around more than Bush did?
Ah well. It’s all over now. There’s a lot more going through my head, but it’ll keep for the next posting. For now, just one piece of advice. Go buy The Streets’ new album for someone you love.
The Smokers Plight Redux
Following up on my earlier blog entry (On Winter, below) about the rights of smokers to ashtray access, two recent trans Tasman trips have revealed a simple truth; as in so many areas, in the area of addiction management, we can learn from one another.
Trip one was to the Coffs Harbour Buskers and Comedy Festival, in New South Wales. A wonderful little event, with a great bunch of performers aided by a terrific ground team. A big shout out to The Blackstreet Boys, Mark Faje, Patrick McCullough, “Mulletman” and the rest of you, and of course John, Debbie and the crew, good times with the exception of Woolgolga. Then again, doing a stand up gig as a New Zealander in a pub which refuses to shut off the Warriors humiliation at the hands of Manly on the TV, and with a sound system that only reaches the first half of the room, wasn’t really ever going to be a keeper.
En route though, a wonderful glimmer of reasonableness in the smokefree landscape of nicotine prohibition – after holding off going through customs until the last minute, as usual, I found my need to do so has been nullified. Auckland Airport, in the course of its refurbishments, has put in the Loch Ness Monster of Airport amenities – often rumoured, rarely seen – a smokers’ lounge. Ten square meters of outside balcony, tucked behind an elevator shaft. Such a small gesture, but one which ensures that 20 percent of us will be getting through customs on time, boarding in a better mood, and, it really wouldn’t surprise me, drastically lowering the incidence of Air Rage, if the several disturbed individuals I witnessed wandering Melbourne Airport in vain for a similar facility during a delay on trip two are anything to go by.
Melbourne, where I was for a family wedding, (Congratulations again Bri), has enacted measures to prevent the butt waste that I referred to in the earlier post. They haven’t gone as far as Singapore, (as far as I can tell there are no fines, yet), but wisely enough in a state which hasn’t had any significant rainfall since last century, there is a campaign to discourage flicking fag ends into streets, alleys or bushfire ignition points. Again, though, it only works because getting to an ashtray isn’t akin to rare bird spotting. Cafes, bars, street corners – all are adequately equipped and gracious about it, whilst most stores sell a cheap, good quality personal ashtray which won’t empty itself into your pocket.
I know this all sounds a bit repetitive. Well, so do your faux-scientific ads claiming that my secondhand smoke will somehow punch you in the face, give you radiation poisoning and sneak into your children’s room at night with nefarious intent, so stop boring me and I’ll stop boring you. Until then, though, let’s reach a détente – don’t make me feel like a pariah and I won’t litter up your backyard.
It must be summer
Cricket has started
So it’s business as usual for the Black Caps. Close to 50 from the openers, then under 20 from the middle order, before Oram and Vettori step up and consolidate, with Mills and Southee to close.
Only problem is, we’re playing Bangladesh. br>
Or is it? The thing to remember is Sri Lanka, a couple of decades ago. Back then, they were the bunnies of international cricket, write offs in all but time. Suddenly, though, they got good. Won a world cup, actually. Funny, considering that there’re millions of potential players, and a genuine passion for the game.
So rock on, green and red.
NZ Comedy on TV
I hesitated over writing this, as it may be the final nail in my potential television career, but I feel like I have to air something.
I hate the Millen Baird Show. There.
That sounds harsh. Perhaps I should be a little more specific.
I hate one fundamental aspect of the Millen Baird Show.
It’s well acted. The camera work is pretty solid, the lighting works, and the production values aren’t too shabby.
It’s just, well, it’s meant to be a character comedy show, right? So let’s nail it in take three.
I hate the character comedy in the Millen Baird Show.
The characters, well acted as they may be, are bland, derivative and one dimensional. Those that aren’t blatantly stolen from “The Fast Show”, “The Comedy Company” or Harry Enfield, are such outdated New Zealand stereotypes that far from being retro or postmodern, they’re basically internet jokes given wardrobe and makeup.
Don’t believe me? I’m a big believer in “give them enough rope”. Here’s a sampling of the actual character descriptions, freely downloadable from Millen’s website. The spelling, grammar and linguistic redundancies (fraternal twin brothers, anyone?) are all faithfully reproduced.
SKIP, THE NETWORK MARKETER
Forced out of a nearby town he used to live in, Skip has now moved to Paua Point where he has begun terrorizing the locals with his unique, no scruples sales techniques. His catchphrase is “Gidday Maaaaaaaate”.
SHIRLEY THE DOG WALKER
Shirley is a ‘manly’ looking female dog walker who can’t be arsed walking her clients dogs.
HORSE AND SOUTHERN MAN
Horse is the heroic, gay captain of the Paua Point rugby team. He has deep affections for the team’s first five eighths, ‘Southern Man’.
RAJEEV AND SANJAY
Rajiv and Sanjay are two Fraternal Indian twin brothers who run the local dairy.
The Vindaloos are an English family on holiday in NZ touring round Paua Point in a campervan.
THE SCHOOL MUMS
The School Mums are a small group of women constantly fighting each other over whose child is more superior.
Sione is a gang member with an extremely high I.Q.
XENA AND TINA
Xena and Tina are the local barflies who are constantly complaining about the man drought.
Any questions? Join the queue.
I must say, good on TV3. It does appear that the 15 year drought of scripted NZ Comedy on the small screen is well and truly over. All of it deserves kudos, even “Welcome to Paradise” on Prime, which the network were brave enough to champion for another (unmade) season. But again, let’s get back to basics. Let actors act, let producers produce, but for the love of whatever God you want to imagine, let comedians write. At least that way you’ll get something original. “A Thousand Apologies” is pretty average, but at least it’s average in its own way, A few of the skits are actually funny. The remainder fail on their own merit, not by comparison to overseas comedy show from a decade ago.
Perhaps, for now, that’s enough.
A belated return to the fold
Well, it’s been pointed out by more than one of you that I haven’t exactly kept this blog up to date. True enough. To be honest, it’s been an up and down year, and trying to find something to get fired up about enough to splash it all over the internet has been a struggle. I know I shouldn’t complain, but this winter seems to have gone on forever. I just returned from a week playing gigs in the Ski towns – Ohakune, National Park, Queenstown and Wanaka – good times had, beautiful places to be, but damn cold, especially as I remain a stubborn member of the hated minority of our times, a smoker. Okay, so it’s a bad habit, and you got your way and banished us outside, but damn, there are a few of us, would the occasional patio heater be too much of a stretch? And while we’re at it, maybe hit the two dollar shop and buy a couple of ashtrays. Just because we’re happily killing ourselves doesn’t mean we like littering. In Singapore, it’s a $1000 fine for throwing your butt in the street. Sounds rough, maybe, until you realize they have provided ashtrays at about every ten paces. You’d have to be a special kind of lazy to ditch your fag ends anywhere else – and we may be puffed, but we aren’t all lazy.
A big thanks to everyone who turned up to the gigs, except to the tedious woman in National Park who for some reason thought she was entitled to question my motives for living in Auckland. Now, this kind of small minded arrogance is not as common as it once was, and I grew up in the deep South, so I do understand that many people don’t like my current home town. But I do. Sure, in my line of work it’s a necessity to live in a larger centre, what with the location of comedy clubs, corporate bookers, agents and so on, but believe it or not most of us actually enjoy the extra people, diverse goings on and yes, even the traffic. National Park is a lovely place, but quite frankly, if I lived there I’d be one bad mood away from going all Raurimu on your asses. I’m a city boy, through and through. Deal with it. Don’t just walk up to me after I’ve finished work and lay into what you perceive to be my “attitude” based on nothing more than the fact that I live and work in somewhere with a population of more than four figures. It says a lot more about your own narrow perspective and unwillingness to embrace diversity than it does about mine.
Today is, by all accounts, the first official day of spring. Let it be so.
Long time no read...
So how are ya?
Sure, it's been a while since I wrote here. Been a good year thus far, what with the World Buskers Festival (Juggly) and Orientation (very young) under the belt already, and a new solo show just round the corner. "12 Steps" opens in Dunedin on April 1st - the first time I've done the fringe, so if I haven't seen you in a while, come down! Then it's Wellington and Auckland.
So not much to say, really, just letting you know I'm back.
A Modest Proposal On Keeping Everyone Happy
See also www.getfrank.co.nz
With all the kerfuffle over the recent police raids, and the threatened use of anti-terrorism laws, it seems to me that a whole lot of different groups may just be a little peeved; either at how such operations are conducted, or at the response to them. Perhaps, then, it’s time for a common sense look at how we can keep everyone happy, and still maintain a rule of law within our little, divided community. So, I propose that we immediately adopt the following 9 point plan:
1. Any and all persons who take issue against any or all policies of any or all governments will announce so in a peaceful, non obstructive manner. I would suggest an essay, of no fewer than 600 words, entitled “Why (GE/Crown Law/Animal Exploitation/Insert Grievance Here) Makes Me Grumpy.”
2. From here on in, whenever they arrest anyone, for anything, the police will consult with the suspects’ friends and family first. Not only will this avoid any cultural or civil rights violations, but in the event that the proposed arrestee doesn’t think he’s guilty, it will give him time to get away.
3. In addition to consultation, the police will publish a full list of every charge, piece of evidence or surveillance finding no less than one week in advance of their planned operation. This, again, allows the suspected, and all of their associates, to destroy any proof of involvement without the hassle of being caught whilst doing so.
4. All protest events must be cleared under the Resource Management Act prior to being undertaken.
5. Any politician who wishes to propose a bill to parliament, or question an existing law, will have to go three rounds with Trevor Mallard in the House foyer prior to being admitted to the debating chamber.
6. All land ownership throughout New Zealand will automatically revert to whoever is standing on it at the time.
7. Firearms will only be sold to persons providing a valid firearms license, background check, DNA sample, polygraph test and sworn pledge of allegiance to their choice of Diana, Roman Goddess of hunting and chastity, or Diana, Princess of Wales (deceased).
8. All off the cuff statements from involved parties which contain the words “Apartheid”, “Holocaust”, “Genocide” and “Fascist State” will be taken with a grain (approx 0.001 grams) of salt.
9. All judges, juries and educated commentators will be replaced by talkback radio callers and bloggers, including your humble author, thus saving everyone the time and expense of a fair trial and hearing both sides of the story.
Urban Subversion Part 2
URBAN SUBVERSION. A GUIDE TO CONTEMPORY STAND UP COMEDY
PART TWO – SELLING OUT WITH STYLE
In the first part of this series, I outlined just a few of the edgier comics working on the scene today. However good they may be, they are still essentially underground comics in the sense that you won’t see a lot of them on TV, and you’d think twice about taking a first date along to a show. Despite the bleatings of certain parts of society, and perhaps despite my own tastes, stand up comedy is not all about shock, obscenity or anger, and not all so-called “mainstream” comedy is dull and predictable. Clean does not automatically equal clever, but at the same time, mainstream success doesn’t necessarily mean dumbed-down.
One comic who bridges the gap between the two worlds is Louis C.K. A late bloomer, Louis was a writer on the Conan O’Brien Show for several years before branching out to perform in his own right. He was the breakout act at this years’ Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, an invitation-only event that has produced some of the biggest stars in the business. Mixing social observation with the occasional burst of stuff that he would never have been able to broadcast on Conan, he’s one to watch over the coming years.
The same can be said of Ireland’s Dara O’Briain. A consummate storyteller, and master of audience interaction, Dara has, in the last few years, come from relative obscurity outside Ireland to becoming one of the U.K.’s most successful comics and TV presenters. He’s even rumoured to be Michael Parkinson’s replacement when the legendary chat show host retires in the next few weeks.
Television has been a mixed blessing for many comedians. It’s undeniably the best way to raise your profile, however so many comics have ended up working on shows which do their live acts no justice at all, that it can ruin a reputation as quickly as it can bolster one. Think about Ricky Gervais, who never performed live until after the success of The Office (and makes a pretty good fist of it on his first two DVD’s, Animals and Politics) or Bob Saget, who I can assure you is still a fine (albeit filthy) live act, if you can get past the abominations of Full House or America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Every now and then, though, shows do come along that give excellent acts the exposure they so richly deserve. Black Books showcases two of the best in Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey.
Another Irishman, Moran, who toured NZ earlier this year, mixes the surreal with the razor-sharp. A fantastic writer, his wine-soaked shows are well worth buying tickets to, or copies of.
Bailey, who has also graced the NZ International Comedy Festival stages more than once, mixes his deep intellect, musical virtuosity (he was a child prodigy pianist, apparently), and druid-like appearance to perform solo shows unlike any you will see from anyone else. Check out his recent DVD Part Troll and tell me I’m wrong.
Staying with the surreal and multi-talented, Maria Bamford has been a huge hit in Australia, but has thus far slipped under the radar on our side of the ditch. A talented voice artist, actress and, obviously, stand up, she’s well overdue a visit here.
And finally, until these and other great international acts come over, there are plenty of locals who won’t offend your intelligence, or your sensibilities. Paul Ego, Jeremy Corbett, Dai Henwood and Vaughan King are all names to watch out for.
USEFUL LINKS, MORE VIDEOS, MERCHANDISE AND MORE
WARNING - VIDEO CONTENT MAY OFFEND. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
There are really three types of stand up comedy fans. Those who think live comedy peaked with Kevin Bloody Wilson’s last album, and ended with the death of Bernard Manning; those who are happy to watch Ellen and Seinfeld rehash the same cutesy jokes they’ve been trading off for years, and think Billy Connolly is a genius who swears too much; and finally those who want a bit more from their stand up, aren’t afraid to risk being offended in the search for some genuine thought and craft, and actually want to hear something new when they go to a club. To be brief, the first lot are of no interest to me whatsoever, and the second are well catered for by reruns and early evening sitcoms. Whilst Seinfeld, Connolly, DeGeneres et al are great at what they do, it’s the third type of fan who keep the scene fresh, although even many of them, unfortunately, seem to think their preferred style of comedy died with Bill Hicks.
If you’re unfamiliar with Bill Hicks, he has, posthumously, become the poster boy for so-called “shock” comedy. Brilliant, acerbic, edgy, Hicks was the quintessential angry young man, throwing out observations on politics, sex, topical events and human frailty in ways ranging from the sublime to the sick. In particular, his material on the first Gulf War is uncannily applicable to the current conflict, sixteen years on. Even the names are the same, just add another initial to the Bush in question.
Hicks wasn’t the first by any means – his own act was unquestionably influenced by the equally late, equally great Sam Kinison, and is part of a great tradition stretching from Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl through George Carlin and Richard Pryor - but if you want to hear what good stand up can really be, he’s a great starting point. More importantly, Hicks was in no way the last of his kind. There are plenty of great comics working today who you’ll never see on Letterman, but who are pushing the boundaries of thought, craft and comedy writing.
Like singer/songwriters who came after Bob Dylan, many comics are burdened with the ingenuous “Next Bill Hicks” tag. This is simply lazy journalism in most cases, diluting what these artists have achieved in their own right, however, if there is a comic working today who most represents the ideas of free thought, resistance to ignorance and comedy by any means necessary that Hicks represents, it would be Doug Stanhope. Not for the faint hearted, Massachusetts native Stanhope is a hard drinking, hard thinking advocate for freedom in all things – he was until recently running as a Libertarian Party presidential candidate in the U.S. primaries – and his material covers just about anything and everything that human beings do to each other, and to themselves.
Stanhope is also a big campaigner for similar minded stand up acts who may not get the exposure they deserve, especially in the US. To this end, he has started “The Unbookables”, a group dedicated to exposing and promoting hard edged, original standup.
No less controversial, Australian-born, UK based Jim Jeffries is rapidly establishing himself as a leading light on the world scene. Certainly his reputation wasn’t hurt by a video of him being assaulted onstage at the Manchester Comedy Store this year, a perfect example of how comedy can be literally a risky business.
This incident aside, though, Jeffries is a no-holds barred act who mixes shock value with great writing and firmly held beliefs.
Another UK based Aussie, Brendon Burns won the 2007 if.comeddie award (formerly the Perrier) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Brendon is an interesting case, originally known for his high-octane, deliberately shocking club sets, he has evolved into one of the finest solo-show exponents working in the UK.
This evolution was brilliantly documented in his “Brendon vs. Burnsie” trilogy, and this years’ award-winner, “So I Suppose This is Offensive Now”. Coincidentally, he also happens to be one of the most generous people, on a performer to performer basis, that it has been my pleasure to work with.
And for those of you who still, for some unknown, unproven, uninspired form of misogyny believe that good comedy is a male-only domain, try telling that to Sarah Silverman.
Also worth looking up are clips from “The Sarah Silverman Show”, which has already, in it’s first season, caused controversy over a sketch in which she has a one night stand with a black Jesus.
For an insight into why comics love this stuff, rent or buy The Aristocrats, directed by Paul Provensa. You may not laugh as much as we do, but it’s worth a try.
Obviously, these are just a few of the edgier acts working today, and I realise they won’t be to everyone’s taste. So in part two of this series, I’ll profile a few of the equally brilliant, but perhaps more mainstream or palatable acts out there in stand-up land. Till then, why don’t you try seeing some of our locals live, you may be surprised at the quality we have within our own shores. If the above acts do tickle your fancy, may I recommend checking out locals Brendhan Lovegrove, Michele A’Court and, if I do say so myself, myself.
Related Links: More Video, Gig Guides, Reviews, DVD’s and More
www.chortle.co.uk - great UK based website for current comedy.
www.theworldstandsup.com – video of a wide range of comics.
www.comedy.co.nz – Live standup in Auckland, 4-5 nights a week.
http://www.myspace.com/wellingtoncomedy – Live standup in Wellington, every Thursday.
The Joys Of Dressing Down and Staying Home
Again, reprinted from www.getfrank.co.nz
Each week, members of the NZ Comedy Guild write a blog for www.getfrank.co.nz Go there and read them all, but my own contributions will be resposted here. Like the following....
The Joys Of Dressing Down and Staying Home
Flick through any fashion magazine, makeover show or blogsite, and you’re likely to have little difficulty finding advice on how to dress up. From “Hot or Not” lists to personal shoppers and image consultancy, it seems anyone with spare time in the day and a gold card is happy to tell you what to wear, where to go and how to wear it when you get there. Which is fine, if going out is your thing. But for those of us who think a night off is not having to get dressed and go out, where’s our helpline?
Dressing down and staying in is possibly the highlight of my week. Seeing as I work on stage, at night, that may not be surprising – I have a DVD collection to rival Blockbuster, a wood burner, and a leather sofa, all combining to make it increasingly difficult to see the appeal of going to a crowded bar playing music I don’t like, or even worse, big screen sports. Especially now that I have to smoke outside, but that’s another article. What does surprise is that the world seems to think that nights off just happen. No, my slothful friends; like a good home brew, you get out what you put in. What to wear, what to watch, how to get through it without unnecessary interruption – these questions have never been answered in print. Until now.
Every man has a drawer, usually filled to the point that closing it is a feat of Herculean dimensions, in which he keeps the clothes he will only wear at home. The cotton boxer sorts, one size too big, with a hole or two in unfortunate places. The sweatshirt which lost its shape years ago. The torn, baggy, jeans. I call these my Manjamas. You can put them on, go to the bottle store, sit in them all night, then sleep in them, and feel cocooned from an outside world in which the usual assumption of anyone wearing such a getup would be “I hope he doesn’t flip out if I don’t give him any change.” These are the uniform for the night at home, the armour that protects from any urge to do something more social with your evening.
If you have a girlfriend, the choice of DVD will vary depending on whether she’s in the house with you or not. If she is, go for something clever, witty, slick. Forget the stereotype of being forced to watch some Drew Barrymore crap (how no one has seen through her surface inanity to the true vacuous ness beneath is a constant source of consternation) or tear jerk romance – women like a good thriller as much as we do. However, if you’re home alone, delve deep into your hidden shallowness and remember the films that got you excited, back before you cared what Leonard Maltin thought. Think Highlander and Blade, James Cameron (anything EXCEPT the one about the boat) and Ridley Scott, Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Tune in, turn on, drop out.
Short of turning off the phones, buying one of those Laz-Y-Boys with the beer fridge in the armrest (which, by the way, should have earned their inventor a Nobel Prize) and having a catheter inserted, you are going to have to get up now and again. Don’t sweat it; this in what pause buttons were made for. However, there’s no need to make it more distracting than it has to be. I suggest finding the best position on the couch, then laying a bottle opener, bowl of snacks, telephone and remote controls within easy arms reach. That way, you can travel in a straight line to the bathroom or fridge without detours, and answer emergency calls without moving more than a few inches.
On that topic, cold-callers can ruin a night, not just through the interruption, but by filling your head with a desire to call them back and hurl abuse down the line. Get rid of them as fast as you can, but have some fun while you do it. A friend swears by pretending to be intellectually challenged, while my favourite is to listen to the pitch and then interrupt with something along the lines of “I’m sorry, but I would genuinely prefer to slam my nuts in a car door than attend your seminar, so I’m off to do that.” Then hang up and think of the look on their faces.
Then you can settle back into your torn, comfortable clothing, open another beer, and get back to watching Christopher Lambert kicking ass. Enjoy.
The Return Of The C-Word
Originally written for www.getfrank.co.nz
I hope by the time this is printed that I’m around to read it. After years of priding ourselves on our support of free speech, it seems that New Zealand is slipping backwards, following the likes of the US Federal Communications Commission into the murky quagmire of censorship. In recent weeks, Parliament has drafted a Parliamentary Spending Bill that has the potential to restrict legitimate protest through financial and bureaucratic hurdles and outlined measures to curtail the use of images from the new in-house television coverage to “show MP’s in a bad light or for the purposes of satire”. Although the three major television networks have vowed to ignore the latter, TVNZ have just sacked a security guard for telling Christine Rankin he disagreed with her opinions as a Breakfast guest. And underlying all of this, the ancient and (according to many legal scholars) obsolete law of Sedition has been revived and used at least twice in recent years. So it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that on publication of this article, I’ll be dragged from my bed with a bag over my head and you’ll all be left wondering when I’m coming back from the shops.
Okay, so that’s a little pessimistic. But the examples above are worrying. Especially during the times we live in, when the speed of communication can take anyone’s manifesto around the world in the time it takes to upload a webpage, and where unopposed opinion can and has lead to war, we need open discourse and free exchange of ideas more than ever before.
The Christine Rankin case is a perfect example. She was given a national platform for her own personal opinions, in this case on child abuse and family values. She was allowed to express her views, essentially unopposed, and through the medium of television those views were beamed into people’s homes and therefore greater consciousness. Fair enough. Whether you agree with her or not, she’s entitled to her point of view, and if someone wants to put it on TV, all power to them. And anyone who wishes to disagree with her has the same rights, right? Apparently not. It transpires that after the broadcast, backstage somewhere, a long-serving staff member at TVNZ remarked that he found her statements “over the top.” As a result, he lost his job. Bear in mind this is off-screen, out of the public eye, and, from all I can gather, in private. I don’t know if he was overheard by someone senior, or if she complained about the incident herself (although if I cast your mind back over Ms. Rankin’s history, particularly the WINZ debacle, I’m willing to hazard a guess) but does it really matter? If our state broadcaster is firing people for their opinions off screen, what hope can we hold out for a balanced view on screen?
The same applies to the proposed restrictions on parliamentary coverage and spending. If the proposed spending bill goes through, it is well within the realm of possibility that anyone planning to protest any article of parliamentary business will have to either sign an affidavit pledging to spend no more than $5000 on organization, or register as a political party, put names and addresses on placards, and ensure everyone on the march is over 18 and a NZ citizen. If an MP were to strip naked and declare he was abducted by aliens on the floor of the debating chamber, any network who aired the footage could face legal action, depending on whether the footage made the MP look foolish or not. And as a bar owner in Dunedin found out not so long ago, running a tongue in cheek promotion based on the odd habit of student couch burning can result in a charge that is akin to trying to overthrow the government.
The irony is, if anyone were to just come out and declare censorship, we’d be up in arms about it. It’s the way these things are creeping in under the cover of other intentions that is most disturbing. The spending bill, for example, was originally designed to prevent the kind of secret donations that led to the Exclusive Brethren scandal which toppled Don Brash, and as such, I support it wholeheartedly. It’s when the various additions, exemptions and caveats pile up to form a barrier to free speech that we should start to get fidgety. It may sound paranoid, but is it really such a big leap from registering a protest to forming a blacklist, from restricting what you can and can’t show on TV to media manipulation, or from sedition charges to outlawing dissent? Okay, and I also think Kennedy was shot by more than one man, but hey, I’m entitled to my opinion, and they haven’t found a way to censor the blogosphere, or live comedy. Yet.
Until they do, I can only hope that those who have opinions, whatever they may be, are not too scared to express them, regardless of who’s listening. And if you disagree with me, feel secure in telling me so. I promise I won’t get you sacked.
What happened to intelligent debate in this countr
Over the course of the last year or so, it seems that we have thrown out the art of intelligent debate in favour of soundbite simplification, regardless of the seriousness of the issue or dubious nature of the argument.
Take the current stoush over getting unhealthy foods out of school cafeterias and tuckshops. In a nutshell, the government wants schools to stock healthy options, such as wraps and sandwiches, as opposed to pies and chips. Cue the hollering - “Nanny State!”, “Pressure on Schools!”, “Right to Choose!”
Okay. So the current government has been more than a little interventionist. I agree. The anti smoking bill, anti smacking bill, road toll proposals – no argument here. But all of those had one thing in common. They affected adults. (Yes, even the anti-smacking bill, get over yourself.) And every one of those issues has elicited its fair share of idiotic discourse, on both sides. Smokers were “murderers”, too stupid to help themselves and too cruel to care about others. Opponents to section 59 were “child-beaters”, looking for legal protection for their desire to kick some serious toddler butt. Proponents of it were “vigilantes”, trying to throw every parent and Christian in the country to the lions. Back and forth it all went, with the biggest label winning every time. This current debate, however, takes it all to a whole new low.
One in three of the children in this country are overweight or obese. You’ve seen them, don’t deny it. So maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have one place, somewhere they go on a daily basis, where their dietary options don’t include fried foods. Disagree? Fine. Tell me why. Because here’s where the intelligent debate gets held down with the baby in the bathtub, and drowned.
To date, every argument I’ve heard against the proposal, from Katherine Rich to the Principals Association, have included one or more of the following claims:
1. That children should have the right to choose what they eat.
Why? Since when? How many of us grew up choosing every meal we had? How many of us raise our kids that way? Do they buy the groceries? No. Do they cook the meals? No. So who the hell says they get to design the menu?
If you think kids are smart enough to choose healthy options, take a group of 10 year olds to your local mall, and let them loose in the foodcourt with a tenner each. Tell them they can have whatever they want, and just see what comes back. Sure, there are healthy options on offer - find me a mall without a sushi joint in it, and I’ll show you a town you really should move out of – but sushi joints don’t advertise to kids, every day, on every available medium. They don’t do meal deals with a free toy. They don’t sponsor kids events.
Once kids do get to an age when they should be allowed, and encouraged, to make their own educated food choices, they’re also old enough to pack their own lunch.
2. Children pass so many dairies and fast-food outlets on their way to and
from school, that they’ll be eating bad food anyway.
Okay, decent point, in a different argument. It’s not as if this law is going to cause a boom in the dairy building business. They already DO pass these places. One more reason, as far as I can see, why there should be ONE place where they CAN’T buy chips and pies.
3. That rather than eating at school, they’ll just leave and walk to said fast food
Don’t we have truancy rules anymore, or has that gone out with sensible academic testing and career guidance? Again, if the kids are old enough to leave school grounds, they’re probably old enough to make their own choices. Fair enough. At the very least, they’ll have to walk somewhere to get their pies, rather than just roll from the classroom to the canteen. On the other hand, if they’re able to do this already, what’s going to change?
4. That we should focus on education rather than legislation to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.
Sure, just like we have done with drink driving and smoking in bars. And, as I said above, they were all laws aimed at adults, who should be and are able to make an educated decision about how they live their lives, or end them if it comes to that. (Don’t even attempt to get me started on the arguments against Abortion or Euthanasia). The truth is, we are flooding the market with education, and it isn’t working. Find me a days primetime television, or a magazine, or newspaper, which doesn’t have a sizable percentage of coverage on how to eat, why we get fat, or how we’re generally all a bunch of slobs. And at the same time, find me any of the above which don’t also contain several adverts for the kind of food that leads to said slobbishness.
The fact is, noone is trying to ban bad foods, even at schools. There are no moves to search lunchboxes, so feel free to keep packing your kids bags with chips, softdrinks and processed “cheese”. But here’s an idea. Why not let them, once in a while, buy something that’s reasonably healthy. Something with a vegetable in it, that hasn’t seen the inside of a deep fryer or sat in a warmer for nine or ten hours. Not every day, obviously. Just for a special treat. You never know, they might get a taste for it.
I’d better go, Anton Oliver is complaining about wind farms on National Radio. I have to go slam my head in the oven until I go deaf.
Critic vs Commercial
The Paradox of A Festival
So I’m part way through the Auckland season of “Passport Control”, and it’s been a fascinating experience thus far. The audiences have been great, the show has found it’s flow, the critics don’t like it at all (notable exception – lumiere in Wellington), and I’ve found the whole thing cathartic.
The main criticism (outlined twice, by the same website) has been that it’s not all funny. Guess what? That was the idea. I’ve been saying for years that I personally don’t think “comedy” is all about “jokes”. There’s a wonderful irony in the critics, who have in the past blasted various shows for simply being a string of gags with no real substance, to now turn on a show because it has moments of, quote, “poignancy”. These are new reviewers, who both have admitted in print that they don’t know much about comedy, (which begs the obvious question, what the hell are they doing reviewing it? Would you send an opera expert to review a metal gig?) so perhaps there’s a learning process that needs to be undergone in that “stand-up” and “comedy” are umbrella terms, and you really need to leave your preconceptions at the door. These aren’t sour grapes, by the way, I appreciate any and all feedback, and whilst I think you have missed the point, you’re entitled to do so.
In terms of the show itself - if you’re expecting an hour of stand-up, and I am aware that a certain percentage of my audience to date have been, then you may be disappointed. No apologies, I’ll probably do one of those again next year, or feel free to come along to any other gig I do during the fest – late shows, the convoy, whatever. However, there are a number of shows in this festival, as there were last year, which are trying to use the format of an hour-long performance to dig a little deeper than that. Ash Kilmartin, Jamie Bowen, Sam Wills – all great comics doing brave shows, which more than likely will surprise and confuse more than a handful of people. Good. Hopefully they’ll get more than a cursory write-off, as they all deserve a more thorough inspection.
You can't beat it on a good week.
Having just finished the opening week of "Passport Control" in Wellington, I can happily say that I'd take every one of the sold-out audience members back to somewhere warmer with me. I do love Wellington, but jesus that wind has to go.
Great week at BATS - my first season there in some number of years. Every town should have a theatre like this one; independent, supportive, and supported. Taking a show there is like going to a favourite restaurant - you know the service is going to be good, you're getting to know at least a few of the other diners, and if it's full there's still a feeling that your table is being held.
I've had the flu, (honestly, I have, rather than some kind of self inflicted ailment as one reviewer suggested. What is it with the comedy fest reviews this year focusing mainly on what comics are wearing and how they live their lives than the work? Did the Woman's Weekly take over Arts Criticism while we were all distracted?) but things are drying up, and I'm looking forward to Auckland.
See you there.
Singapore vers. 3.0
And into the fest we go...
I just returned from a third trip to the best little comedy house in South East Asia – The 1NiteStand in Singapore. Damn, but they run a great gig. Four nights, four encores, great crowds, great staff. Anyone wanting tips on how to do a nigh on perfect comedy night, invest in a ticket and go see how the pros do it.
After the humidity, bright lights and cheap electronics, I’m back in NZ and gearing up for the NZ International Comedy Festival. The show is ready, and quite frankly I’m both excited and nervous about it. What’s new? Well, the whole damn show, actually. It’s kind of intimidating to be writing about myself, my life, my influences; rather than picking holes in everyone elses as I’ve attempted in previous shows.
If you’ve seen my work before, this will be something quite different – but not in a bad way, I hope!
Hope to see you there, and a big thanks to Adrian and the 1NiteStand crew for a perfect run in to the fest.
On Sale Right Now!
It's only a game
Albeit a good one.
It’s been famously described by Robin Williams as “Baseball on Valium”. Groucho Marx once asked, several hours into a game, when it was going to start. It is regularly called “boring”, oddly enough by fans of football, a game in which ninety minutes with no goals is a regular occurrence; or rugby, a game best described to me by Simon McKinney, who as a child believed its only rules were “run, run, run, fall down.” However, the drama surrounding the 2007 Cricket World Cup, particularly the tragedy of the last 24 hours, should convince many that whatever the sport may lack in pace, it more than makes up for in passion.
Six sixes in an over. The fastest one day 50 in history. Part time players beating the pros, with superstar laden teams such as India and Pakistan humbled by Bangladesh and Ireland. Sadly, it seems that the latter result has lead, however directly, to the retirement from one day cricket of one of the finest players to ever play it, and the death of his coach, Bob Woolmer, aged 58.
Ironically, it was Woolmer who stood up for the inclusion of teams such as the Irish in an article published on the very morning that they would go on to knock his side out of contention. Players such as Ricky Ponting have been shooting their mouths off about playing lesser units being a waste of time and energy, but writing for cricinfo.com, Woolmer expressed a belief that only by broadening the scope of international cricket to include emerging nations, in regular competition with the established powers, would the game truly continue to thrive. The result of the St. Patrick’s Day game simply proves how right he was. He was an innovative coach, who looked to the future through the challenges of the present. He will be missed.
Pakistan is, and has been for some time, a troubled team. Filled with enormous talent backed up by enormous ego, they have been so unpredictable over the last few seasons that frankly, losing to anyone shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. However, in a part of the world where cricketers are akin to gods, the ensuing fury at home, with calls for the management to be sacked, and even for players bank accounts to be frozen, is not surprising either. The pressure which must mount on everyone involved, when officials say they have serious concerns for the players safety when they return home – something has to give. For Inzamam-Ul-Haq, it was his job. As for Woolmer, Inzamam himself, speaking of his retirement at a press conference that has been criticised, stupidly, for insensitive timing, said "After the match, we'd talked a little about it. I told him that we'd discuss it tomorrow, but tomorrow never came."
However Bob Woolmer died, (and we won’t know for a while, if ever) it would be ingenuous to suggest that the pressure didn’t directly contribute. And no one, ever, should have to die over a game.
The tributes are flowing, and the world cup will carry on. Pakistan have one final game, against Zimbabwe, a nation whose troubles should really put the idea of lynching someone over a team sport into perspective. Cricket will continue to be the only sport I genuinely follow, replete as it is with surprises, emotion, history and heartbreak, all of which have been on display during this tournament. And I will continue to be anything but bored.
St Patricks Day
All together now....
Seeing as I'm doing a show about it in the upcoming comedy fest, ("Passport Control", dates and times are on my profile, bookings open March 22nd), I figure its time to start examining my nationality, or lack of it. Certain events bring out certain sides - for example, when it comes to breakfast and winters, like Molsen, I Am Canadian. When it comes to text-language, I come over all English public school and reply with grammatical corrections. When it comes to pillaging and looting, my Danish roots tend to come to the fore, and on March 17th, bejesus but I remember the Irish in me.
Yes, I drink Guinness on a regular basis, but there's something about it today that just feels right. However, I'll probably start with a couple in the sanctity of my own home, and then go to a pub that I would actually visit on other days of the year. In other words, if you're planning on wearing a silly hat, painting yourself green or going ANYWHERE on a "Party Bus", stay the fuck out of my way.
As a general outline of how the day will most likely pan out, in traditional Irish fashion I'll get drunk, tell a few jokes (yes, it's a workday), sing a few out-of- tune songs that are offensive to at least half the people around me, and get maudlin about a past I don't really remember, or properly understand. I may even punch someone, but only out of love.
So to all of you with a touch of the peat in your hearts, Slainte, may the road rise, and see you at the bottom.
Home at last
And not too soon
Hey all. If you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging, the answer is, I have. Just not here. I had some trouble updating this on my trip, for some reason, so you can catch up at www.myspace.com/jeremyelwood if you really want to.
Suffice to say, it was a great little sojourn. Gigs at Jongluers, the London Comedy Store, The Stand in Edinburgh, The LA Comedy Store (on Oscar night, no less, but to basically only a bunch of comics who couldn't get into the Kodak Theatre, so not nearly as glamourous as it sounds) and Yuk Yuks in Vancouver, plus a recording for "The World Stands Up", which you may see if you live in the UK, US or Australia, and have Paramount Comedy on cable.
Great to see those of you that I saw, and it is good to be home. I really slipped back into the travelling alone mode that I thought I'd left years ago - a mix of only wanting my own company, and being slightly sick of same. But regardless, a great trip.
So now, NZ. The Comedy Fest is just round the corner, and I'm working on a whole new show, so keep checking back, and I'll hopefully see you all soon.
Stand up in the Sun
So, I spent yesterday tooling around Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, in a topless Jeep with a 6'7'' Aussie Comedian, two musos, and a Neil Diamond impersonator. What a way to make a living.
For those of you who don't know, I'm on a Carribean cruise, doing three shows over seven days, and seeing a part of the world I've only ever read about in old Ian Fleming novels. It may be the most beautiful part of the planet I've ever seen. Water so clear you can't believe it's even seen human contact, blue skies, sun, palm trees - this is paradise. Sure, parts of the towns are tourist filled craphouses, but like anywhere else, get off the track a bit and you\re in a whole new world.
Sorry to rave, but you ain't here.
First two gigs are tonight, so we'll see how loudly I have to sing for my supper (24 hour buffet, a masterpiece of bland), but for now, I'm off for a Red Stripe.
That's that, then.
2006: A Belated Farewell
I know it’s the 4th already, but quite frankly it’s taken me a week to get my head around the last 12 months. I’m relieved to see the back of 2006, even if I can’t quite tell you why. In general, it was a good year for me, with successful seasons in Melbourne, Adelaide, Wellington, and to a certain degree, Auckland, during the various festivals, and a nice ending to the year with the “Gag of The Year” gong at the NZ Comedy Awards. On the downside, my self-imposed exile in the middle of the year took some getting over. Call it a crisis, depression, whatever, but in essence, I kind of burnt out early in the year, and certain events and individuals made it less than thrilling to come back.
That’s all behind me though, and 2007 is looking interesting to say the least. I start the year in Christchurch, with an upcoming season at the Repertory Theatre in the last week of January, then head to the Caribbean for a week onboard, before three weeks in London. But that’s the future, and this is meant to be about the past….
2006 was an idiotic year. Overseas, the civil war in Iraq actually became one, with the US Networks naming it as such. Which is a bit like calling a “bushfire” a “heat source” until it actually engulfs your home. No offence to my Victorian friends. In many ways it’s fitting that the last act of the “War on Terror” for 2006 was the execution of Saddam Hussein. It won’t help, it was dubious legally, and all it really did was make a handful of people, mainly westerners, feel like they’d achieved something, whilst the majority of those truly affected by his regime get no sense of justice, closure, or increased security.
Other events which transpired to lower our collective human I.Q. included: the Avian Flu scare; which at least gave Tamiflu’s manufacturers a reason to pop a cork or two, the Mohammedan cartoon debacle, as newspapers around the world reported on each others insensitivity by publishing the so-called insensitive cartoon, and Islamic fundamentalists gave the Right every justification for calling them and the Left wing media humourless and prone to overreaction; the Pope’s “what have you done for me lately” faux pas, which gave the Left every justification for calling the Right wing media humourless and prone to overreaction, and the rise of Al Gore, which gave the whole world justification for saying maybe he wasn’t as humourless and prone to overreaction as we all thought.
It wasn’t any better down here in the southern wilds. When Jin the Otter and Ian Wishart, lost animals both, get extensive headlines, you know something’s wrong. Parliamentary, we showed ourselves less of a citystate than a Hamlet; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Brash fell, Parker rose, Field hung around in some well-tiled limbo, and none of them had a stadium to speak of. The latter, and a recent council proposal to get rid of Auckland inner city billboards should make us all feel better that we won’t have to live like urban savages, either surrounded by iconic sporting venues, like those wretched Melbournians and Cardiff boyos, or horrendous advertising like those poor souls in Times Square and Piccadilly Circus. The way things are going, I don’t know why we don’t just cut out the middle persons, shut the national grid down and go bush.
There was a lot more, obviously, but let’s leave it at that for now and move on. Those last two words, for me, were conspicuous by their absence in ’06. So to everyone, everywhere, who holds their breath like their grudges, with one eye over their shoulder, eyes front. I’ve got better things to do.
2006 NZ Comedy Guild Awards
Yep, it's that time again, and cheers to the voters, as I've been nominated for three NZCG Awards:
Best Male Comedian (Alongside Brendhan Lovegrove, Sam Wills and Dai Henwood)
Best MC (with Andre King, Dai Henwood, Andrew Clay)
& Gag of the Year (With Cori Gonzales-Macuer, Brendhan Lovegrove).
See www.nzcomedyguild.org.nz for more info.
US correspondent Bret Rudnick scoops me, again.
I've been trying to find time to write about the story below, but quite frankly I've been struggling, and Bret has said it all. Worth taking a second to consider that while I may bitch about doing so many non-typical shows at this time of year, the alternative sucks. "Kramer" can shut his mouth about being "persecuted", too.
So cheers Bret.
Comedy has delivered some sad news over the last few days.
As comedians, we often take our (a)vocation for granted. We can pretty much say what we want – and we usually do! We poke fun at pretty much anyone and anything that crosses our path and inspires us to comment on the amusing, the ironic, the insipid, and the obvious. It’s a freedom we exercise frequently, even if we think about it irregularly.
One of us was killed this week for doing what comedians always have done and always will do – commenting (and hopefully being funny while doing so) on the world around us.
For Walid Hassan, his world was Iraq, and specifically, Baghdad. As a comedian, he had been using satire rather than various-manufacture firearms to jibe at anyone and everyone involved in the current Iraqi crisis. Politicians, armed forces, and insurgents from all sides weren’t safe from his commentary. And he himself wasn’t safe from the person or persons who ended his life by shooting him in the head three times.
The worst that happens to us in our secure comedic world is, apart from not being booked, the occasional heckle. I have heard of some comedians being punched or threatened with physical violence in reprisal for a gag not appreciated, but that has been very, very rare.
Comedy has a way of making people listen and understand concepts and situations that they may not be wont to ponder. Offhand, I can’t think of a single topic that can’t be broached with a gag. It may not be very comfortable, and there may be audible groans elicited, but many times I’ve seen groups of diverse people, who would not normally talk about things together, discuss something because a comedian threw a joke out there.
It wasn’t just Mr. Hassan who was killed this week. To a certain extent, expression and opinion itself was also whacked by a person or persons who feared what he had to say so much it was felt he must be permanently silenced for it. Unlike Mr. Hassan, that expression and opinion can rise again – and hopefully will do so in tumultuous fashion.
2007 Itinerary taking shape
For all of you who are UK based,
I'll be visiting in Feb next year, and it'd be great to catch up with as many of you as I can.
At this stage I'll be in London on Feb 7th, and probably leaving around the end of the month, depending on a couple of projects here at home.
I'll also be looking to fit in as many gigs as possible while I'm over, so if you run any, let me know!
I'll be based in London, but more than happy to do some travelling, so get booking, and chill the glasses.
See you in '07
Longer extract from the below address.
You may need to register to get this one, but it's free, and it's the guardian, so why wouldn't you?
The link below takes you to a recent lecture made by British satirist Armando Iannuci. So if you've ever read some of my more precious, self centered blogs, and wondered what they'd sound like written by someone more eloquent, here's an example. You'll need to cut and paste it into your browser. Enjoy.
Okay, so this standup thing isn’t exactly medicine sans frontieres. But c’mon, could we all at least try and do something good? I’m not talking change the world here, let’s just all take a good long look at what we do onstage and have a wee think.
Think about wether you’re actually doing anything new. Are those new jokes about the minority of the week really pushing in any particular direction except down? Is that piece of “new material” really anything other that a watered down, misspelt version of something you heard someone else do? Is it really enough to rehash ideas, phrases and even punchlines? I know audiences seem not to mind, but that’s because their expectations are low.
Just see what happens when a comic does something that’s actually, you know, good. Watch an original, watch a new idea, and see those tired old titters turn into actual laughs.
Think of it like a restaurant. You order a steak, you get a piece of cooked meat, you aren’t going to complain. It’s what you expected. But are you coming back? On the other hand, you get served a perfectly cooked medium rare organic Angus filet, a hand massaged work of cross grilled art that seems to melt on the knife. You become a convert.
Jokes are the same. You can knock knock all you like, but try thinking outside the average, and this whole industry will benefit as a result.
BY POPULAR DEMAND
The "Controversial" blog
So here's the blog that somehow got me in trouble last year. Fuck knows how, I stand by it. Part two will follow within the week.
The mediocre will inherit the earth
Not even sure what I want to write here, I just want to say I’m sick and tired of seeing a ton of my friends and peers bastardising their art. You know who you are, I hope. If you want to say what they want you to say, then just take a job working from a script. Hell, that’s what I’ve been doing, I’m the first to admit that. And yes, it has a lot more dignity than just watering down your own thoughts into a milky version of their charter in order to climb the (step) ladder. Thanks for asking.
There are a thousand comedians/musicians/poets/whatever out there like you. Yes, a few of them are huge. Most aren’t. Your point of difference is your difference. Get over your minimal successes and focus on the big picture, don’t get “better” but also less interesting. You aren’t Rove, stop trying to be.
“All my heroes are dead.” Can’t remember who said it, but at least I’m not claiming it as my own. I will add this “All my heroes died in relative obscurity”. Bill Hicks. Mitch Hedberg. Hunter S. Thompson. (Well, compared to John Grisham or Dan Brown.) Far more importantly, they all died original.
Let’s have a new order. Let the mediocre die young, let the doppelgangers drop off prematurely, let the vacuous choke on their own vomit. The truth, people, the truth.
A Joke Too Far?
Or are we all just a wee bit over-sensitive?
Some of you may have seen a T-shirt floating by with a picture of Hitler saluting and Churchill doing the V-Sign, with the caption "Scissors vs. Paper". Well, it caused a fuss. Link here to see the story http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/sept06/scissors199903.php
Now, how far is this kind of thing going to go? This years Edinburgh Fringe was tainted by several accusations that comedy was becoming increasingly anti-semetic, and in the US comedians who have criticised 9/11, Bush, or the general way in which their nation keeps fucking up have faces censure, most famously in the case of Bill Maher. Now, with this T-Shirt being condemned by Jewish groups as being insensitive, we really have hit a new lateral low. Are we really to believe that even using the image of Hitler, TO MAKE FUN OF HIM, we're crossing some line? There is a quote in the articles along the line "Would you wear this T-Shirt to the Holocaust museum?" Well, no, probably not. In the same way that I wouldn't wear my T-Shirt showing Johnny Cash flicking the bird to a church barbeque. Or possibly, even to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Does that mean I can't wear it anywhere?
Certain groups, and I don't just mean the ADL, would have us erase history, destroying all trace of Hitler or the world before 9/11, for example. How is this any different to denying the Holocaust? These events happened, these people lived, and their legacy is with us wether we like it or not. If we can't take the piss out of them, or study them as genuine history, where does that leave us?
An eye for an eye
Five years on, and how safe do you feel?
That's right, it's five years today since the big one. The event that has overshadowed our lives ever since - think, when was the last time you read a decent article on world affairs, or saw a full length discussion on television, or heard an interview with an American, any American, without the words "nine" and "eleven" being used? Don't believe me? Try entering "Headlines September 2001" or any suitiable varient into Google. Just give it a shot.
Back? Cool. So, I was going to run a blog on what else went on in the world that month, but you know what?
You know what else happened that month? Officially, nothing.
Earlier this year, the official US Military death toll in Iraq overtook the deathtoll from 9/11. An eye for an eye, except I seem to remember that you aren't meant to use your own other eye. And where are we? Are we safer? Has the "War On Terrorism" been won?
Has anyone else laughed at the fact that the initials of the above are WOT?
For a start, I hate the fact that people see 9/11 as somehow the beginning of terrorism. I had friends on Pan Am 103 which went down over Lockerbie. I had family in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. I remember Terry Waite, Munich, the Iranian Embassy.... this is nothing new folks, and just like WWII didn't start with Pearl Harbour, this won't end with the seemingly inevitable conflageration in Iran.
Which is why, on a day where we pay tribute to the 2973 official victims of what, may I stress, was a terrible event, I've added the counter at the top of this blog. It counts the civilian dead as a result of military action in Iraq. It should update automatically, but even as it stands today, it makes for a sad read. So as you wave your flags, sing your star spangleds, and wipe the ground zero dust off your Timberlands so your Hummer doesn't get dirty, remember; innocence is only a few blind steps from ignorance, freedom cannot be bought, and justice has a twisted sense of humour.
(Un) Sung Heroes
With Bob Dylan’s new album, “Modern Times” debuting at number one, thus making him the oldest living person ever to do so, it’s worth having a think about the musos here at home who have kept them coming, flying in the face of the culture of youth, one hit wonders and flash in the pan successes that tend to dominate the charts.
Having a hit isn’t easy. Having more than one is harder. Having a career in the music business is something that few people can maintain. Think about it for a minute; you tap into a feeling, trend or moment, and out of that get a number one single. Perhaps it’s a novelty thing, such as “How Bizarre”, or the tip of a wave being generated by your cultural and societal peers, such as, say, Nesian Mystic coming in on the resurgence of Pacifica cultural awareness. Perhaps your particular genre is riding high, and “Trippin’” is the local reflection of a worldwide trend, or perhaps you just get lucky - one particular song from your perhaps extensive output just captures a mood, like in the case of “Not Given Lightly.” None of these reasons are more deserving than any other, as the number of factors that take a particular song out of so many to the top can be as varied and temperamental as the musicians who make them. But try and replicate them, and you’ll quickly find out the reality of the music business - there’s always someone at your heels, doing what you do, but faster.
Locally, this all applies, but more so. With a small market, trends move much faster, and the band that was so hot a week ago will be passe by next Monday. Without enough of a grass roots following, your sales won’t stand a chance. Think of it in reality TV terms, if you can - let’s face it, the winners of shows like “Idol” and “Rockstar” are pretty much guaranteed a number one album. Overseas, say in the US, that equates to a hell of a lot of sales, and even if you never sell another disc in your life, and even taking all of the behind the scenes financial pitfalls into account, you’ll be making some serious coin. Here, where Platinum is only 15,000 copies, and most number ones don’t even hit that, you’re talking minimum wage. For a year. It’s hard to maintain a career selling to hardcore fans, when that means your immediate family and a couple of ex-flatmates.
Those who do, and have for a significant amount of time, are impressive indeed. More so that Dylan himself in many ways - there are millions out there, myself included, who will at the very least have a listen to anything Mr. Zimmerman puts out, in the unrealistic hope that another “Like A Rolling Stone” is hiding somewhere. And whilst the new album is good, damn good, that isn’t happening.
So here’s to our local heroes, who have maintained their status less through a fan base, and more through continually excellent output. How many generations of fans have “discovered” Dave Dobbyn, the Finns, or Chris Knox, and then had their new found adoration confirmed by their back catalogues? How many grateful fans have discovered that the new single that sounds an awful lot like it’s being sung by their old favourites Graham Brazier, Hammond Gamble, Paul Ubana Jones or David Kilgour does so because it is? How many kids have bought Dimmer’s new album, and perhaps had an older sibling have to explain to them who Straitjacket Fits were? Che Fu and Supergroove? The Bats and, uh, The Bats?
Here’s to the lot of them, long may they run, and new bands? Get back to you in a decade or two.
My New Toy
Let's See Where you all are
Happy Fathers Day
To those who deserve it
Yes, it's a commercial creation. But here's a raised glass to the Fathers, without whom, there would be noone to sell Mother's Day cards to.
In particular, here's to the unknown fathers. To the unwitting sires who who have left their mark on the world in human form, and yet who scoff at the ads for hardware and beer on special. Here's to the ones who haven't done anything wrong, yet. To the Dad's who haven't somehow pissed off their kids, because they don't even know they exist. To the fathers who haven't had a chance to screw things up, who haven't left, missed a performance, forgotten a game, ignored a plea or taken unfair opinion, simply for the fact that they've yet to cross paths with the ones who judge.
Your time will come, if you haven't already.
In case anyone noticed I'd been gone...
I didn’t go far, actually. I’ve been taking some downtime since the end of the NZ Festival, half by choice, half through illness, and in the way these things so often do, the conspiracy of the two actually forced me to take just about as much time as I needed. Here’s to the flu, eh?
It’s been, quite frankly, a relief to step back from comedy for a while. Like any other industry, I guess, there are some parts of ours which just become a pain in the ass after a while, especially when you’re dealing with them 7 nights a week, during festivals. Having a string of nights in which noone is trying to tell you a joke, their own or “one you can use if you like mate”; having several weeks without someone trying to point out what you’re doing wrong, or ask how to do it right; going nearly a month without having to justify some fucking thing or other in your set, to people who should really know better. Quality time, with relaxing pastimes like, I dunno, watching a war break out. You know.
Accountants have it easy.
But now I’m back, and gigging again, and looking ahead to where and what I want to do next. Any ideas, please get in touch! . Just kidding. I will be touring in the months ahead, so watch this space, and then launching a yet-to-be-titled new hour long show on the festival circuit, starting at the Christchurch Buskers Festival in January. I may even pass a hat.
A bit belated, these, but there you go....
Show Review Jeremy Elwood – Rock plus Roll
by Colin Flaherty - The Groggy Squirrel, Melbourne, Australia
While the title may suggest it would be another one of the many musically themed shows in this year's festival, it is in fact a brilliantly executed show of stand up with a bit of music thrown in.
In a recent addition to the show, Jeremy invited a fellow Kiwi by the name of Sam Wills to open the show for him. Sam performed a series of stunts for both our repulsion and entertainment. We witnessed feats ranging from a setting off a Party Popper in his mouth to passing his body through the head of a tennis racquet. Although these stunts are the usual fare for most modern street performers, Sam executed them with a fantastic sense of humour that made them his own. His Show Stopper was definitely the "Human Clothesline" that involved his nasal cavity, a rubber string and two volunteers.
Hailing from the other side of the Tasman, Jeremy has based his show on the "Us verses Them" attitude that has become so prevalent in recent times. He not only points out the stupidities in the world, he also offers some suggestions as to how we can change our thinking and possibly change the world around us.
Jeremy covered a fairly broad spectrum of issues that included terrorism, religious conflict, drugs, alcohol, the New Zealand way of life, football codes and relationships. Despite some of the male orientated topics, it was never blokey and quite universal in its' appeal.
A several points during his stand up, Jeremy picked up his guitar and belted out an original song that nicely summed up a topic he was discussing. "My God's bigger then your God" aptly summed up his attitude towards religious hatred and the wars it created. His priceless interpretation of the many "love as an illness" songs was full of the most horrendous diseases ever compared to a person in love.
Mr. Elwood also did a bit of improvised musical work by including the details of two audience members (we had Sarah the Receptionist and Vaughn the Solicitor) into a song about a rendezvous. Although it could have easily been simply a matter of plugging the details into a set formula, he then pushed it even further by taking suggestions for musical styles he could take the song into.
It was nice to see that he had taken the time to include many local references into the material, so it was dead simple for the predominately Australian audience to relate. I found it interesting that he often included a "we" reference when speaking about Australia and our attitudes, thus demonstrating that Aussies and Kiwis have had a similar experience in relating to the rest of the world.
Jeremy has a great stage persona which is friendly with just a hint of frustration with the world. Think of him as a less grumpy Matt Elsbury. The audience quickly warmed to him and was very receptive to his socially aware humour. It was easy to see why he is a celebrated performer back home.
HE IS GOOD!
Jeremy Elwood in ROCK PLUS ROLL
at Bodega 101, Wellington
Until 3 Jun 2006
Reviewed by John Smythe, 2 Jun 2006, www.theatreview.org.nz
He got the title off the t-shirt he was wearing, he reckons, when he filled in the registration form for this Comedy Festival gig. The publicity spiel also sounded, I imagine, like a good idea at the time.
But it's not "an exploration of all the things we fail to achieve, all the things we grow up trying to grow out of, all the things we pretend we no longer like to do ..." Does it matter? Jeremy Elwood warms up with a couple of topical gags and interactions with the audience that winkle out the demographics and allow him to riff on cultural imperatives.
The substantive stuff is observations on "shit that we're scared of", building up to a provocative song called 'Our God's Bigger than Your God'. Fundamentalism segues into modern society's killjoy fears around drinking and smoking which resolves in his metaphor song, linking love to a range of terminal diseases.
Improvisation gets a great run too, with a love ballad combining random elements offered by two very different audience members and delivered in a series of audience-requested musical genres. Truly excellent!
Australian racism gets a good going over, as does small party politics ... His finale is an oldie but a goodie: 'Everybody Needs Someone to Hate'. Jeremy makes it look so easy - performing I mean, not hating, although his tirade at women for being ultra critical of male traits then bonking the bastards is very convincing. It has to be acknowledged such facility can only come with years of practice and application. He is good!
As for that title, yeah. Turns out it's all about how very diverse things can come together to make something else again that's great, in and of itself. Fair call. Think about it.
COMEDY OF FEAR AND HATRED
Jeremy Elwood in ROCK PLUS ROLL
Reviewed by Kate Ward-Smythe, 25 May 2006, www.theatreview.org.nz
Jeremy is one of New Zealand's most enduring solid stand-up comedians. One of his trademarks is political satire. If you're not up to date with local, national and international politics, you will be after an hour with him (though if you're not remotely interested in current affairs, you may spend some of the show lost.)
Jeremy's other strength comes from his bitter-sweet songs, though ironically, the biggest laughs of the evening came from the improvised straight-up love song, conceived and performed brilliantly, from names and musical genres offered by the audience. Phillippa and Trevor's story left the entire crowd impressed and applauding Jeremy's skill and quick wit, as he segued easily from hip-hop to reggae to hard rock. Imagine Paul Kelly playing Theatresports and you get the picture.
From the top of the show, Jeremy's experience and professionalism is clear. Latecomers are heckled (with taste), the audience is welcomed, we get to know each other, Jeremy introduces the theme of his show, then topical issues are lampooned.
Issues include reactions to global terrorism; religion via song: "My God's Bigger Than Your God"; obesity, smoking, drugs and war, alien abductions, and exploding lattes.
Rock plus Roll is a well-oiled machine - as well it should be, given that Jeremy's performed it in Adelaide and Melbourne before Auckland. But this familiarity allows him to explore and ad-lib, and he does so with confidence.
Jeremy knows his crowd, but just to check, by clap-o-meter, we establish the make-up of tonight's audience is white, heterosexual and largely secular. He's playing on home turf and he's comfortable with that. Occasionally he almost becomes preachy, but avoids doing so with enough self-awareness to say: "The next bit is pure public service" (and the stand-up will return in a moment).
While Rock plus Roll is a new show, some old material is thrown in - it works, it's fine, and when surrounded by Jeremy's fresh questions to theme the show, it makes for an easily digestible evening.
So, what is the theme? We fear too much in today's world? There is much to fear in today's world? Hatred and prejudice are the root of all evil? I'm not sure we are left with a definitive answer, or that the themes matched those in the festival programme... I'm not sure it matters. There are no answers - we're all human. I guess that's the point.
Death is not the End
The latest cover of TIME magazine, depicting the death of Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, has pushed this issue beyond the pale. As in most western journalism, this event has been depicted in their pages as a “positive development” and “a welcome boost” to the War on Terror. ,br> Have we forgotten that there are human beings involved in this “war”? Putting al-Zarqawi aside for one moment, there were several civilians killed alongside him. Do they get their own cover? ? If the US is attempting to win a hearts and minds victory, then trumpeting this death is surely the last thing they need to do. Al-Zarqawi was a criminal, of that there is no doubt. But how would the US react if a criminal in, say, Los Angeles, was assassinated by means of an airstrike? And surely, by celebrating his demise like we would a safari kill, we are falling into every cliche of the Great White Hunter; treating anyone other than himself as subhuman, and as a result creating future dissidence with every word.
Imagine if George W. Bush was assassinated. Would TIME publish his portrait on it’s cover, crossed out with red paint, (or was it meant to be blood?), seeing as, for right or wrong, there are just as many people worldwide who would celebrate his death as much as the West seems to be celebrating al-Zarqawi’s. Or is it simply that those who pick the wrong side give up their right to life, and death, with dignity?
We Live In Seditious Times
After several months of making fun of the new Australian laws on sedition, what should happen, but I put on the news tonight, and find out that we’re charging someone with it here. Tim Selwyn, the idiot who attacked Helen Clark’s office with an axe over the Foreshore and Seabed issue last year, has, thanks to a flyer he left at the scene encouraging others to commit “similar acts of civil disobedience”, become the first person in at least 30 years to be charged with sedition in New Zealand.
So what is it? Sedition can be defined as “encouraging acts of violence against the government”. And it is a worry. In Australia, everyone from politicians to protesters, commentators to comedians are justifiably concerned about this vaguely worded crime reappearing as part of the so called War on Terror. In theory, anyone who says anything about anyone in the government which could be construed as inciting violence or insurrection, could be jailed. For example, if I write something here like “John Howard should be lynched for crimes against humanity”, I’m technically breaking the law.
See how easy that was?
Here, it transpires that the maximum sentence is two years in prison.
In this particular case, a man who printed a leaflet suggesting others should follow his lead and chuck an axe through an empty office’s front window, could spend the next 24 months meeting new, tattooed people. Do I support his cause? No. See above, the guy’s an idiot. However, next time I get on a stage and suggest a member of our government should be force fed the entire text of their last member’s bill until they choke on it, I’d like to think I won’t be facing hard time.
Speaking of that, now there’s a story on about Maori anti - smoking groups protesting the use of Maori designs on cigarette lighters.
As a smoker myself, I can understand; the number of times I’ve lit up ONLY because I happened across a lighter with a cultural symbol on it cannot be emphasised. Sure, I may have been trying to quit, but the lighter was just so pretty, and I wouldn’t want to seem racist by NOT using it.
Let’s buy the lot, and burn down the beehive. See you in court.
Been a while...
Well, the show rolls on. Three shows down in Auckland, two to go, then Wellington with a one night stand in Dunedin this Sunday. And then, blissful nights off. It's been a long haul, folks, and I'm looking forward to a break. All this gigging every night nonsense, maybe I'm in the wrong job. Or not.
Not sure if it's the venue up here, but in comparison to Oz the crowds have been quieter, although larger. It may be the shitty weather, the cold-ish room, and the size of the venue, or it may be me, who knows. All I'm saying is, if you're coming to the show, feel free to be louder! Feedback has been great, but.
Quick note, the Wellington venue (101 @ Bodega), is a lot smaller, so book now, it's filling up fast!
And here we go again
Sorry it's been so long, but I've been a little busy. Opened the Melbourne season of "Rock Plus Roll" last week, and despite a few teething problems at the venue (read pissed office function and three jug guzzling punks who thought they'd "contribute" throughout Thursday's previews - quick pointer for anyone coming to any comedy show, ever. You aren't helping, Shut the fuck up.) things are going okay.
Funny, but I never thought about it until I arrived. This is my first full overseas festival on my lonesome - in the past I've done two handers or showcases in addition to solo shows - and it's a different experience. This is why we go slowly mad, especially after a 7pm show in a room with no other acts on. I have way too much time to "relax". So anyone passing through Melbourne, get in touch, and save me from myself!
And the beat goes on.
Well, back in NZ, briefly. In Wellington all this week, then into the fray that is Melbourne. Tickets for that show are available at Ticketmaster, and for the NZ seasons at Ticketek in Auckland and Wellington. More to say as the days continue...
Do you wanna be in my gang...
Cause I don't
Watching, and hearing, different items of news tonight, takes me back to primary school. Watching the fights break out between rival bike gangs at the kickboxing on the Gold Coast, and hearing something much closer to home, all I can ask is, have you people never grown up?
C'mon. take a side. Fuck it, while you're there, build a tree hut, make up a password, and (hell, we're being good little scouts, right?) make badges.
Why have an informed opinion when there are so many out there ready to wear? Because nothing screams confidence, belief in one's abilities and self esteem more than joining a club. Just ask Gary Glitter.
Stage one complete
And cheers, Adelaide
Well, that's one season down, three to go. Adelaide has been a blast, and I'm feeling well and truly rejuvenated by the whole experience.
It's great to feel itchy on nights off again, rather than reluctant to go to a gig. Because at the end of the day, what I'd been on the brink of forgetting is that this is meant to be fun! (Cheers Micky D, you did my head in, in a good way!) There's too many of us who see this as a job first, and a pleasure second. I've been leaning towards that for too long. This festival has made me remember that all that matters is what you say, and that you enjoy saying it. The rest is all bullshit.
And it shows. There's nothing more depressing than watching a comic trot out the same old crap for the money. Watching someone who is having a good time, on the other hand, wether it be riffing off a crowd or just taking delight in getting their own thoughts off their chest, is a privilege, both for the audience and the performer. There's been plenty of both here, but it's the latter acts I'll thank years from now.
What a difference it makes, too, to have a city which enjoys its festivals. Adelaide locals have been out in force, and the vibe is there because of them. Auckland could learn a lot, mainly that we should be grateful to have arts in town, not think that somehow we deserve it.
And now to Melbourne. Bring it on!
I will be doing one extra show here in Adelaide -
Thurs March 9th, 11:15pm
Chandelier Room, Freemasons Hall, Nth Terrace
Tickets from Fringetix.
You like me, you really like me.
Hate to say it, but my presumptions of the opening night review were wrong. Turns out they dug the show, to the tune of 4 stars. The review will be posted on this site soon, and is also readable on http://www.theadvertiser.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,18287386%255E5003201,00.html
However, festivals have a wonderful way of bringing you back down to earth. May I say to the 6 people who came to the show last night, cheers! Now go find some mates....
And coming through
SO far, so good! Great audiences, always like to have more people, but the feedback has been great! (Check www.talkfringe.com if you don't believe me).
Opening Night Two
You haven't done a fringe festival until you've been on at 2am after a lip synching drunk faux-lesbian stripper burlesque act. Trust me.
Opening has been and gone. And in case the reviewers actually were there, let me beat them to the punch. It ran short, I was over-conscious of trying to please, and a bit all over the place. But they laughed, which isn't a bad start.
Explain to me why we do this again?
What a truly insane way to make a living. Opening night is 4 hours away, and I'm feeling like pouring a bottle of adsinthe down my throat and going all Van Gogh on my ears. That way I wouldn't be able to hear the audience, and it won't bother me if they don't laugh. Opening nights are bad enough, but at this stage my audience looks like it's made up predominantly by media, awards judges, and fellow comics. Dear god, why do we do this to ourselves.
Adelaide Day 2
Did my first gig of the fest last night, at the Rhino Room late show. MC'd by Charlie Pickering, (whose show "Betterman" I finally saw after missing it in at least two festivals - highly recommended!), and featuring amongst others Justin Hamilton, Tom Gleeson, and the sheer brilliance of Greg Fleet, it was a perfect kick off to the whole scenario. Fleety in particular - jesus, why do the rest of us bother sometimes? From Brokeback Mountain to Munich to the new Australian National Anthem, just 20 minutes of some of the funniest shit I've seen in years.
So far so good, then. There's a good feeling here, the city seem to be right behind the festival, and the vibe is right. Bring on opening night.
Arrived in South Australia for the first time yesterday. Like the Emirates ads say, when was the last time you did something for the first time, or in my case, when was the last time I went somewhere for the first time. Other than Hunterville.
Safely ensconsed in an apartment that makes me think of episodes of "The Shield", (little courtyard, overhanging native trees), we venture into Festival Land today. And try and sell a few tickets.....
Vital Kiwi 20.02.06
DUB DUB BULLETS
New Zealand music. Aren't we doing well. Well, yes. Except, um, a lot of it sounds the same. No really. Someone has to say it. Fat freddy's trinity of black seed roots may be katching fire, but my ears aren't. My wandering eye isn't flying, my pretty, no matter how much I bathe in the river to rid myself of the salmonella. Is it a coincidence, do you think, that UB40 are touring here soon? Or is it that we're the only country left that hasn't seen through their white bread, fibreless reggae to the failed falsetto cover artists beneath?
How many fifteen minute breakless jams can we sit through? How many three hour chill out albums, eight hour live multi instrumental circle jerks, two tone brass sections and guitar 101 upstroke rhythms must we endure?
When New Zealand put out its first faux reggae hits, we were pleasantly nonplussed. What the hell, we're a summer nation of mixed races, we can handle the odd two step, right? Well, that was Herbs. Twenty odd years on, we think we've reinvented the wheel, and the programmers are lapping it up. These days any white guy with a tattoo, or brown guy (tattoo optional) can have a hit with an early Specials tab chart and a tri tone.
We need to get over it. Sure, there's nothing particularly offensive about these bands, but then again, there kind of is. There is something vitally disturbing about the same beat, the same tune, the same meaningless lyrics being repeated over and over, on the same album. That's the reason we take the piss out of boy bands, remember?
Ask for more. I know you can't ALL love swaying in time for twenty minutes, but it just isn't cool to say so. Back up. Slow up. Shut up.
I'm heading to Adelaide this week, for the Fringe festival. Music wise, I'm not sure how much I'll see, but there are a couple of gigs I'll be hanging out to get to. Mick Thomas, formally of "Weddings Parties, Anything" will be playing the Speigeltent, and Richard Thompson, formally of "Fairport Convention", is playing one of the main halls. What they have in common is uncommon songwriting skills, and a general anonymity amongst the wider public. Thompson's recent albums have barely broken the surface, as far as Shannon and Matty are concerned, yet he continues to be Britain's premier guitarist, particularly on the acoustic front. And Thomas, with his new(ish) band "The Sure Thing" continues to crank out unforgettable melodies and lyrics like the balladeer he was born. And you can almost guarantee there'll not be a "chink hup" guitar in sight.
Shot through the Heart
And You're to Blame
The second in command of the greatest army on earth can't tell the difference between a quail and a pensioner. Much like Bush Snr couldn't tell the difference between a Quayle and a Vice President. What a wonderful story this is. And what an amazing spin I've just seen on Fox News.
They're pushing an issue, a human rights issue; that we should all get off the VP's back, and ask how he's feeling. After all, he's just accidentally hurt another human being. He must be in shock.
Well, if he is, it's shell shock. This is the same man who was deeply entrenched in Vietnam under Nixon, who has pushed for increased intervention in Iraq, in the original carpet bombing of Afghanistan, in the upcoming (you read it here first) aerial bombardment of Iran. If he's going into shock from accidentally shooting a civilian, then that's probably what's kept his heart going all these years.
Freedom of the Press
Not of the Presses
The Cartoon Affair continues to spread it's way around the world; more papers, more protest, more funerals. It seems almost ridiculous, but actually the issue goes directly to the heart of the idealogical conflict that is ruling our century - and I don't mean the issue of religious satirical tolerance.
No, when the Dominion Post and Press newspapers here decided to publish, they hid behind the "freedom of the press". Actually, the Dom hid behind the phrase "we're going to test the tolerance of Islam", but then realised that was as stupid an idea as, say, testing the tolerance of christianity, so retreated behind the old F of P.
This is blind western cynicial capitalism at it's finest. Freedom of the press is adknowledging that the original Danish publication of these cartoons caused offence, but supporting their right to publish. Standing behind the publishers, and against the protests, under the assumption that the original publishers had the right to take the risk. It does not extend to re-publishing these cartoons, four months later, in order to cash in on the ensuing chaos for financial gain.
'Cause that's what they're doing, you know. Why, otherwise, would you annouce you were going to do it? Why do it at all? To illustrate a story? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that how this mess got started in the beginning?
Don't get me wrong, I support the original production of these cartoons; in the same way that I would support any comedian's right to take the piss out of whatever they feel like. If some one wants to get up and make fun of Mohammed, all power to them. However, whilst I'll defend their right to make a joke, I'll also not stoop to repeating that joke in order to get a follow on laugh, or a paycheck.
Summer in The City
God damn but it's humid. Michele A'Court has a line that compares Auckland in Summer to Menopause. I concur, out of ignorance, but I'd offer my own variation. Auckland in summer is like Malaria.
I'm specifically thinking of the image of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, (or Apocalypse Now, if you didn't do English at uni), stinking in his own sweat, plagued by waking nightmares and dripping with hubris. I sit here, waiting for the night to fall and the humidity to drop to a level that allows my snow blind brain to function.
I grew up in extreme climates; extreme heat and cold in Canada, extreme mundanity in the U.K. However, the new extreme of high and low pressure is a (relatively) new thing for me. I've lived in Auckland for 6 years now, and I think the novelty of having a difference between gray and wet gray has worn off. What I wouldn't give for a thunderstorm, a Southerly, a flash flood.
Maybe the same goes for life beyond the weather channel. I don't know. But I would like some movement one way or the other - let it rain, let it parch, but let it do something. Let the heavens open, and let the detrius be washed away by some almighty purge. Or let the whole thing stagnate, and let the new breed rise. Either way, it has to better than the muggy, stagnating day to day that is now.
All together now: the horror....the horror.
The Year That Was
Reproduced for Vital Kiwi Jan 2006
Vital Kiwi 23rd Jan 2006
2005 is well over by now, but seeing as I haven’t written for these pages for a while, let’s look back and see what changed.
Local music seemed to continue it’s upward swing, with both album sales, concert attendances and general public and professional awareness keeping it in the front line. The music awards showcased a strong, diverse scene, with the success of acts as disparate as The Checks, Da Feelstyle, Breaks Co-op and Dave Dobbyn proving that whatever “kiwi” music is, it’s a wide pallette.
On the small screen, high local content on C4, Juice, and newcomer Alt TV meant we could see, as well as hear, our homegrown talent. From videos to live gigs to soundtracks (the observant amongst you will have heard Pluto’s “Long White Cross” running behind promos for the new TV3 mini-series “Doves Of War”), local programming seems to have finally cottoned on to the fact that local producers are putting out a higher level of content than re-runs of the “Jesus I Was Evil” video deserves. In particular, I’d like to congratulate C4 and National Radio for their recorded broadcasts of Shihad and Straightjacket Fits gigs, respectively. Also, the ambitious “Return of Fly My Pretties” project proved beyond doubt that concerts can be more than the traditional corner of the pub set up.
Much of this can be attributed to the rapid ascent of affordable digital technology, and the speed of communication that this entails. The fact that a band such as The Checks can sign a deal, get a touring contract, and break the UK market without even releasing an album is a stunning testament to the global shrinkage that such technology has brought about.
The same goes for local recordings. Turnover is high, with bands releasing new material more quickly, and of a higher sound quality, than was ever before possible. Capturing a band’s sound live has always been tricky, but the aforementioned projects, and others, show that it’s getting easier every year, not least thanks to a new generation of highly skilled sound recordists.
So not too shabby all round, then. There are still issues; noise control, touring costs (excess baggage on domestic airlines deserves it’s own chapter at a later date), and in certain areas media support still need addressing, but in general terms, local music is in fantastic shape, and the year ahead will be well worth listening to.
All Hail The ACC
One thing I’ve stopped complaining about, in the last three weeks at least, is the issue of ACC levies. As a self employed business, all musicians and performers (the ones who pay their taxes, at least) are liable to be hit with levies as both employer and employee. Now, I still don’t think that’s fair, but as I’ve recently discovered, it could be much, much worse.
In late February, I head to Adelaide to start the first of two festival seasons across the ditch in 2006. As usual, this involves hiring a venue, arranging publicity, paying registration fees and levies to ticketing agencies, and a myriad of other, foreign exchange enhanced costs that make the whole thing pretty much a zero sum game. However, in the past few years, one significant change has come into effect. It’s called Public Liability Insurance.
Basically, this is an American style invention, to cover your ass. In most cases, you cannot hire a venue without taking out P.L.I. in the event that something happens to an audience of venue staff member, and they sue you. In other words, if a light falls on someone, if they get pissed and stage dive into an empty space, if the floor is too heavily waxed... it’s your fault.
And how. In Adelaide, for example, I’m required, as part of my venue hire agreement, to take out coverage for up to $10 Million per claim. And it ain’t cheap.
On top of the other costs, having to fork out nearly $600 in case some twat decides that the alcohol poisoning he got at my show was the result of my comments on drinking culture, puts the risk up to second mortgage proportions.
So next time you get your bill for a few hundred bucks, which covers you in the event of anything happening to you, your band, your audience, and potentially your pets, take a deep breath and calm down. Like human rights, sportsmanship and indigenous rights, the grass is a lot browner on the other side.
Review - Minna (E.P.)
Following on from the comments above on the opportunities presented by affordable technology and talented soundsmiths, this is a local recording put together in record time by a few like minded individuals. More of a demo than a release per se, the three tracks on this disc are designed to showcase their performer, but the result is also a success in displaying the production talents behind it.
Minna is an Aussie born singer songwriter, who recently arrived in New Zealand after several years in the U.K. As such, there is no mistaking the influence of similarly minded women from both those countries. You can hear a bit of KT Tunstall here, a slice of Missy Higgins there, a touch of PJ Harvey hovering somewhere in the background.
Produced by Gramsci guitarist/co-producer David Holmes, his influence is everywhere, with the restrained layering and power backing that made “Like Stray Voltage” one of my albums of last year, regardless of country of origin.
Track one, “Wish I Knew” puts Minna in a Kelly Clarkson mood, revealing a rock ballad that wouldn’t seem out of place in an episode of the 4400. “Your Eyes” continues the theme, with delay laden guitar lines backing a swaying melody, supporting harmonies and another verse/chorus/instrumental bridge structure that carries a certain familiarity, whilst not actually sounding derivative. Perhaps a little too close to the opener for a demo, but Minna certainly has an ear for a chorus. To my own ears the simplicity of both of these tracks which works for them musically, lets them down on a lyrical level. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing here that will make you wince, but there’s not a lot you’ll be quoting in your next UN address either. Then again, I’m a Tom Waits fan.
Track three is where things get more interesting. Minna’s voice manages to sound both more ambitious and more relaxed on “When You’re Gone”, opening up a range hitherto underutilised. The production is seamless, denser and more supportive than the previous tracks, although in all fairness, the harmonic structure here does give Holmes more to work with. As a demo, this is the attention grabber. As a release, this is the single, and as such should perhaps open the disc, rather than close it? Either way, you leave this short introduction to Minna’s work feeling pretty optimistic about her future.
On that theme, as a demo, the quality of this recording is more than a cut above the usual fare. Holmes has done a remarkable job of cramming not quite a wall, but at least a partition, of sound into what are essentially three pop songs. As a result, Minna’s songwriting and vocal abilities are ably supported on the first two thirds of the disc, whilst the last track gives a hint of what she will be capable of when given the right push. Whatever happens from here, this is as good a place to start as any.
For more information email Minna at email@example.com
Setting the record straight
AS you do...
Well, here I was thinking noone read this stuff. Thanks for putting me right. In the last week, I’ve been pulled up on two of my blogs, which, in terms of hit rate, isn’t too bad.
To deal with them both, firstly, I may have been a little over eager in calling Green Day’s “American Idiot” the ablum of the century to date. Not that I didn’t mean it at the time, but that I’ve seen the new DVD, and the whining tone of “we’ve made a work of art” does do my head in a bit. Still a good album, though, and yep S., I’m still going to buy the Libertines!
The other one I won’t go into, although the sharp eyed of you may notice it’s missing from the site now. I deleted it, not to concede a point, but to make one. What do we have against anger in this country? Why do we applaud self deprecation, celebrate self parody, but feel feel to ignore or rail against self abuse, or fury at our deprecation by others? I’m pissed at the way certain things have gone, and that doesn’t mean I think I’m immune, or superior. You can hate a war from the trenches, just as you can from behind the barricades.
In a simple format, to avoid any unnecessary confusion, here’s what pisses me off:
Toleration of mediocrity
Repetition for gain
And yes, I’m guilty of more than all of the above, especially the last. I’ll live with it, if you do.
I'm Joining Angels Instead?
The Ego wants landing.
"It could be definitive proof that comedy really is the new rock and roll –Robbie Williams says he wants to quit music to become a stand-up.
He believes following in the footsteps of his father Peter, who once worked as a comedian, might help dispel the image of him as a depressive plagued by demons off-stage." - Chortle.co.uk
Yeah, cause Comedians are never haunted. We never have demons hiding behind the gags. That's why so many comics live long, expressive happy lives.
Merry F$%#ing Christmas
Nearly there. Nearly over the year of upheavals, both natural and man made, of weather and weathering, of a year in which the new scary creature wasn't a gorilla, but a chicken with a runny nose. A year in which war continued, peace took a back seat sleep, and comedy took what it was thrown. I had a good one, on paper.
First up, farewells. We lost too many of the extended family in '05. In chronological order: Sat Jan 8th - Campbell McComas (b 1952) “The Chameleon”
Sunday Jan 23rd - Johnny Carson (b. 1925)
Sun Jan 30th - Malcolm Hardee (b 1950)
Thurs Feb 3rd, Rosie Sturgess (Prisoner Cell Block H, Last Of The Australians) b. 1920
Thurs Mar10th - Dave Allen (b. 1936)
Wed Mar 30 - Mitch Hedberg (b 1968)
Fri May 25 - Graham Kennedy (born 1934), King of Australian TV 1950-1970
Sat Aug 13th - David Lange (b.1942)
Fri Sept 2nd - Bob Denver (b. 1935)
Sun sept 25th - Don Adams (b. 1923)
Mon Oct 3rd - Ronnie Barker (b. 1929)
and of course, on Sat Dec 10th - Richard Pryor (b. 1940)
As for the rest, back to the paper. So U Think UR Funny, The Wellington Comedy Awards, The Guildies (screw you Dai!), and the Listener all took care of me. Cheers. 2006 beckons with a closed fist, and I'll appreciate all your support even more as it pans out.
Personally, my awards for 2005 go as follows:
Best Gigs - Indigo on any given night, Singapore in March, opening night of "Auntie and Me", The Classic's birthday late show.
Wierdest Gigs - Russell in a powercut last thursday, the first Kingslander, and the corporate wanker who wanted to sue me. You know who you are, clean up your act.
Comedy Invention of the Year - a real toss up between The Boy With Tape On His Face, (Sam, you're a genius) and the NZ On Air Qualitative Research Report on the state of NZ Comedy.
Whatever. If you're still reading this, go to my contacts page and sign up to my mailing list so I can update you in person. Otherwise, Merry Non - Secular holiday season, and roll on 06.
Shed a tear, for the last of the true originals has gone. Hearing today of the death of Richard Pryor is like bidding farewell to a distant relative - one you haven't seen for years, didn't ever know too well to begin with, but who sent you gifts unlike anyone else, opening a glimpse of a world outside your own.
Most comedians will admit, albeit silently, that underneath the competition, style clashes and back biting that can and does go on, we're family. Well, the patriarc has fallen. Stand up, as we know it today, would not exist if it wasn't for the likes of Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl.... and Richard Pryor. Any comic who honestly buys a second of any review calling them "edgy", "risky" or "dangerous", in this day and age, needs their head examined. Perhaps only George Carlin remains of the true risk takers, the men (predominantly) who blew stand up wide open, faced up to their times, and bared their souls for our entertainment, and, more often than not, enlightenment.
I'm not going to try and sum up Pryor's life and times here; there are plenty of others who have done it, but none more so than the man himself. Do yourself a favour, if you haven't already, and buy, listen and watch the man. For that, truly, is who he was.
The Revolution Starts Now
Steve Earle - Live in Auckland 12/11/05
So it wasn't full. Big deal. That meant I had a table, three rows back from the front of the stage. which I hardly used. When Steve Earle and the Dukes took the stage at the St James the other night, it proved the unprobable. Country can be dance music.
For a true fan, the choice of material was perhaps limited - almost entirely from the new(est) album "The Revolution Starts Now" and it's studio predecessor "Jerusalem". None of his wonderful anti-death penalty ballads, just a sprinkling of early work, and the curious ommision of "John Walker's Blues". However, what there was, was there.
Great gig, in short, from the one man wo has truly stepped up in the last 4-5 years and used music to state a case. Since 9/11, where's Springsteen been? Where's Dylan? Lou Reed? How the hell did it have to fall to Green Day to speak up? (And I mean that with the greatest respect, "American Idiot" really is my album of the century thus far.)
The Stones gave it a go with "My Sweet Neo Con", but otherwise McArtney sings into space while most of the great spokesmen holler up their own.
See Steve. Hear him. He's pretty much the best we've got.
It’s November 4th. Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes day. As usual, there have been, for the past week, calls to ban fireworks. “They overstretch the fire service, they cause property damage, they were responsible for the recent fires in Queenstown, they burnt down a home in Christchurch. Ban them!”
Okay, fine. But let’s not skimp here. Fireworks are a non-lethal expression of a far older form of celebration; or, if you prefer, a substitute for the traditional form of expression of many a working class - firearms. Guy himself was sitting on a pile of gunpowder when caught. This is what, in the anglophile tradition at least, we are “celebrating.” In China, (which is where these were invented, not just contemporarily made), the setting off of fireworks is a ceremonial celebration of war, death, and, ironically, marriage. Fireworks are a substitute for gunpowder, an alternative to firearms, a dildo rifle, if you will.
So lets ban firearms.
“Whoa. Now hang on a darn minute. Fireworks are a whole other issue. Only those people who shouldn’t have fireworks, cause trouble with fireworks. There are hundreds, nay thousands of ordinary people who own fireworks, and don’t cause no trouble. And if the criminals have fireworks, we should too, to defend ourselves. Fireworks don’t kill people, people kill people.”
As I sit here, at 10:20pm, Friday night, and listen to the explosions, bangs and whistles outside my window, I don’t feel that we should ban fireworks. I feel that fireworks are, in fact, the only form of explosive device that we should legalise. I feel unspeakably lucky that I can hear those sounds, and know that they’re nothing to worry about. I feel the privilege of location. I feel that if the people of Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, etc ad nauseam had to worry about was wether their cat was safe, we might actually have something to celebrate.
Think of it as a non-christian candle lighting.
P.S. Anyone wanting to explain to me why christian, without a capital “C”, comes up as a spelling error, can meet me underneath Parliament. Second pile of Gunpowder on the left.
No offence Michael
I can’t quite believe this, but I’m listening to Michael Laws on National Radio, and agreeing with him. The issue is rubbish, literally; Wanganui, in the guise of Mayor Laws, is considering imposing levies to counter the growing problem of litter in its streets. He’s aiming both at individuals, i.e. those who throw the stuff, and the companies that produce the packaging that gets thrown , particularly fast food chains such as McDonalds, Burger King and so on.
At one point he brought up the idea of Singapore’s “draconian” laws which provide for a $1000 fine or even imprisonment for anyone caught littering. I will apologise here for missing the exact point - I don’t know if Laws is for or against these measures - but here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. (Two cents, I guess.)
Having worked in Singapore a couple of times, you do notice how clean the place is, if you ignore the incessant construction, exhaust fumes, and the river. It’s so clean, in fact, that you’ll be hard pressed to even notice a cigarette butt in the gutter. Why? I’m guessing that the fine/jail combination doesn’t hurt, but there’s another factor.
As a smoker, I’ve borne my share of second hand smokescreens, and one of the most common is how we constantly mess the place up by tossing our butts when we’ve finished. Well, guess what? I don’t want to. I really don’t. I’d much rather put it in an ashtray, inside the bar I’m smoking in. But that’s another issue. Out on the street, a sand bucket, a rubbish bin, a wall mounted buttstop, anything would do, but in this country you can go a long way before you reach a bin. In Singapore, there seems to be a bin, with an ashtray built into the corner or top, every few metres. And I use them. Here? I’d love to say I hold on to the end of my cigarette until I reach the rare beast that is an inner city rubbish bin, but here’s the thing - IT’S ON FIRE! I occasionally stop, grind it out on the heel of my boot, and carry it, but in high street traffic, this carries the risk or causing congestion, or getting to know the bloke behind you a little better than either of you really want.
So bring the fines. Please do, and forget the arguments that they restrict personal freedom - like speeding tickets, people tend not to get fined unless they’re breaking the restrictions, right? But, to counter this, put in more bins. As many as you can. And ask the collection companies why they feel that 5pm in weekday traffic is the best time to empty them.
Oh thank god, Laws just made a twat of himself. Balance is restored.
No, the other one.
Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Wayne Mapp as opposition spokesman (or is it spokesperson?) for the eradication of Political Correctness. A centre left led coalition, incorporating two right of centre centre right parties.
For those of you reading this overseas, I should mention here this is not part of some new routine of mine.
What the hell is going on? What next - do the National Front come on board to take over the Maori Affairs portfolio? Do the Legalise Cannabis crowd get Education? Destiny Church in Youth Affairs? Do the Greens get energy? (Actually, they wanted it, but got, um, nothing.)
All I can say is, it's going to be a good four years. For comedians.
AMERICA MASTERS SATIRE!
I’m watching “Letterman”. That’s right. It’s late, we have fewer than 10 channels, and there’s nothing else on. But here’s the thing; he’s interviewing Al Franken, and no ones shouting. Now how the fuck does this work - America’s, nay the world’s, premier late night commercial late show TV host has on America’s premier left wing satirist, and nothing, NOTHING controversial happens. The man who wrote “Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them” takes on the man whose jokes switch sides depending on the USA Today opinion poll results for that week, and NOTHING??? The man widely considered the king of left wing political humour (apart from Jon Stewart; who, in the states, is considered too funny to be partisan) takes on the number one fence sitting corporate whore, complete with keyboard sucking bee-atch and band...
You get the picture.
Here’s my theory. America has finally captured the essence of Satire. They’ve adapted, mastered and exceeded us on the “Bush is Stupid” theme. That’s the response, even - actually, especially - in the mainstream media. “Yep, har de har, our President is an idiot.”
You see, here’s the thing. Bush isn’t stupid. He’s evil.
That’s right. Evil. Stupid people don’t win elections. Sorry, election. Bush stole the first one, no question, but he also won the second - NO QUESTION. Somehow, he convinced a majority of the voting population of the most technologically advanced nation on earth that:
A) He was the best choice as leader
B) That Saddam Hussein had something, somehow, to do with 9/11
C) That everything is going to be okay.
That ain’t dumb.
But corporate America has convinced its own harshest critics that it is, and therefore that things really are ok. “Hey, it ain’t our fault, we’re led by a moron, right?”.
Wrong. You want to know why they hate you? Because you don’t know why. Grow up, America, and take responsibility. You are your own shell, you are the sand you have your heads buried in, if not your oil. You are the problem. Solve it.
We don’t help. Stop buying this Minstrel act. Rosa Parks didn’t stay put so that we all could. And switch Letterman off, starting here.
Summer is here!
The sun is out, so why am I sitting inside? Frankly, it's because international festivals are cruel.
For some reason, the deadlines for registration for even Southern Hemisphere festivals comes up on you just as the weather improves - I believe it's a hangover from the old school days when exams and 25 degree weather ran on the same schedule.
Anyway, for those of you in Adelaide, Melbourne, Montreal and the UK, keep watching the "dates" page of this site, I plan to be playing in each of those places in the next 10 months or so. Anyone who reads this and wants to offer me gigs, places to stay, etc. feel free to get in touch!
And the Winner is...
FOR IMMEDIATE USE
from the NZ Come
Auckland comedian, Jeremy Elwood, is off to London to work for Jongleurs comedy clubs, after winning the inaugural "So U Think UR Funny" competition in Hawkes Bay at the weekend.
The competition - the first of its kind in New Zealand - was set up to help more Kiwi comics establish their international careers.
Elwood survived the Friday night heat at Havelock North's Loading Ramp pub which saw ten finalists chosen from 20 competitors. He was crowned overall winner by judges - Willy de Witt, Brendhan Lovegrove, and Dean Butler - for his stand-out stand-up performance in Saturday's Final in front of 300 guests at Napier's Municipal Theatre.
While the judges were highly impressed with all ten finalists, they picked Elwood for his range of skills, high level of talent, and his ready appeal for an international audience.
The competition is the brainchild of Hawkes Bay bar-owner and philanthropist, Alexander Kersjes, who has a passion for comedy and is keen to assist NZ comedians who want an international career.
Elwood's prize is a return ticket to London, work with Jongleurs (the biggest chain of comedy clubs in the UK) and introductions to British agents. This is a fast-track to setting up work in Britain, which can often take months- or even years - to secure.
Other Finalists were: Sam Wills (Billy T Award Winner 2005), Mark Scott, Tarun Mohanbhai, Gish and Cameron Blair, all currently based in Auckland; and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer and James Nokise (Billy T Award nominees), Jesse Mulligan and Mrs Peacock, all from Wellington.
For more information on Jeremy Elwood, visit www.jeremyelwood.com
The competition was organised in conjunction with the NZ Comedy Guild which represents comics from all over the country.
What you didn't see
on sports tonight
Poetic justice #1 - The New Zealand Cricket team, which toured Zimbabwe against the overwhelming wishes of it's government and people, is under investigation by the Anti Corruption Unit for alleged match fixing during the tri series between those two countires and India.
Specifically, the ACU is investigating India's convienient awful performance in the final, and the "resting" of Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori during the NZ - India semi. Bookeepers, particular players and management all fall under the microscope.
Best case scenario - the allegations are groundless. Still, they wouldn't be a factor if we hadn't sent a team. You've gotta be in to sin, right? On the back of the incredible Ashes series, the shame is palpable.
The Final Countdown
We're heading for Venus...
Less than a week to go before NZ decides. Motorcades or Motorsport? Beaches or Brethren? Tax cuts or, ah, tax cuts?
About all we're sure of at this point, is that nothing is certain. The polls are swinging like a Remuera tupperware party, the coalition partners seem to be dropping like flies off the carcass of democracy, and we're left to decide wether more of the same or a lunge into the unknown is what we want. This election campaign has been one of "He said, She said" - who do you trust?
At the end of the say, (or more accurately, at the end of Saturday) we'll no more have a clear view of our future than we did a month ago. Student loans may be cheaper, Taxes may drop, but without a calculator or two and a phd in Bullshit Avoidance, who can really tell?
Saturday night, I'm hosting a post vote election show in Auckland. Because, after the dust settles, the comedy will remain.
The campaign is in full swing, the hot topics are being debated, the pollsters are rushed off their ergonomically designed seats. And what have we learnt so far?
Not a hell of a lot.
National continue with their "hey, we aren't them, isn't that enough?" campaign, bolstered slightly by a tax policy that you need a Phd in economics to understand, but even if you had one you probably couldn't say wether they can afford to implement it. Labour keep on the "if it ain't broke..." path, adding in the Student Loan interest write off (I don't know about you, but I lost interest in my student loan YEARS ago) just to keep you listening.
Which brings us to the minor parties. And minor, they truly are. The Greens want to take us back to the 60's, United Future to the 50's, Destiny New Zealand back to the Spanish Inquisition. NZ First are doing what they always do, firing up enough 80 year old rednecks to secure Winston his pay packet for another three years. The Alliance have fallen apart, the Progressives are regressing, Christian Heritage are trying to distance themselves from their own heritage, and noone takes McGillicudy Serious seriously any more. ACT, on the other hand, are suffering from the notion that people might take them seriously, and therefore are too scared to vote for them.
About the only conclusion I've come to is this - We were all asleep at the wheel when we voted in MMP. This is a two horse race, a choice between social intervention and corporate conservatism, and the myriad of complications brought into the equation by these minor interferences, and the need for coalition with one of more of these amatuers is nothing more than an unnecessary fog.
Here we go....
Well, they announced the date. September 17th, in case you don't know.
The personal attacks have begun, the promises are being made, the bribes are passing hands.
So, just out of interest, and in an attempt to compete with the colamar bruntons of this world. (Well, hell, I can't be any less scientific), please answer the following poll, with translations in brackets to help out those of you reading this worldwide.
Cricket and Politics
The Gentleman's Game
I’m a cricket fan. It’s the only game I will go out of my way to watch, I’ll sit up, get up, set an alarm. Let me explain why. In cricket, you don’t need size, or speed, or even excessive fitness. Look at some of the greats - David Boon, Ian Botham, W.G. Grace himself, or our own Mark Richardson. Cricket is more subtle than that, it involves a broader view. Someone wiser than I once said cricket isn’t about what happens, it’s about what might happen. One flick of the wrist, one inswinging yorker can change the state of an entire match. The brilliant individual performance is easily overshadowed by the team effort. Any two teams, minnows or the top four, can produce a great match, as there is always the possibility of any number of internal or external factors coming into play. It was proved again recently; Bangladesh can beat Australia on the right day.
Which is why the issue of Zimbabwe is a viable one. We are a small nation. Featherweights on the international political scene. But this is cricket. Eleven men with any number of possibilities ahead of them. We may not have the size of Australia, the match fitness of England, or the speed of India. But we are playing the game, and it is what we do, or don’t do, on the field that counts. By acceding to corporate structure, to the I.C.C., to television companies, we act like the 12th man, nothing more than Mugabe’s orange carriers and substitute fielders.
One of the great traditions in cricket, recently resurrected by Adam Gilchrist, is walking. If you know you’re out, you’re out. For the Black Caps, on this issue there is no snickometer, no TV replay, no third umpire. Only the crowd response, and your own conscience.
Here we go again
London, Auckland, and freedom
The attacks in London last Thursday were despicable. And yet. Isn't it interesting to see the response from the population and authorities? The response: professional to the point of containment. The interviews, from within an hour after to now, reflected a sense of coping that was conspicously absent from 9/11. Terrorism was not invented on September 11th 2001. The British know this, on both sides. The most telling feature? Not one person asked "Why Us?"
If I was the praying type, I'd pray for those of you who have loved ones, or liked ones, dead, injured or missing. I'm not, but I cast my thoughts skyward. We all live under the same moon.
Vital Kiwi June 20th
While visiting from Melbourne recently, family members remarked on the amount of NZ music visibly on sale in any music store they wandered into. Okay, so NZ Music Month has just gone by, with the extended visibility and flurry of releases that go along with it, but when you actually look, it’s true. It wasn’t too long ago that the “New Zealand Music” section of a major high street chain was tucked unobtrusively away behind “Compilations” and “Spoken Word”, a bit like porn in your local dairy. Like porn, however, local music is back in fashion, and you don’t have to feel dirty buying it.
New releases from old stalwarts and new faces abound, not just around May, but throughout the year. Oh, local have always kept churning out new discs, but the difference now is that you’re just as likely to see them in the Top 10 as you are in the Bargain Bin. Labels have been quick to capitalise on the resurgent interest in local product, with major advertising cropping up behind certain artists, and a marked increase in packaging quality. Look at the profile behind Shihad’s latest “Love is the New Hate”, and you see the emerging face of shameless kiwi music, marketed and received as equal to anything international.
Let’s not get cocky, as a certain radio station proudly states “Some NZ Music is Shit.” But most popular music anywhere is shit. Do the maths. Thankfully, the tagline “Made In NZ” no longer triggers the cringe response, and local releases are no longer sold and bought as if they should be wrapped in brown paper. Long may it run.
Dave Dobbyn - Available Light
In a just world, a new Dave Dobbyn album would receive the sort of fanfare reserved for the likes of Coldplay, at least domestically. He’s as kiwi a songwriter as they come, a torch bearer for us in the way Paul Kelly is for our trans Tasman cousins. Like Kelly, Dobbyn at his best has the ability to capture a specific domestic mood; a snapshot of where we stand at a given moment. And he is truly on song on his new release, “Available Light”.
There are familiar moments, both melodically and thematically, for fans of “Lament for The Numb” or “The Islander”, against both of which this album easily stands alongside. It’s the Truth has the percussive verse feel of “Lament”’s Belle of the Ball, while the first single Welcome Home revives the politics of Don’t Hold Your Breath, joining the latter as one of the most beautiful, simple political statements ever set to music.
On Welcome Home , Dave shows his true mastery of his art. Moving, powerful, subtle; it immediately takes its place amongst not only his own best work, but easily stands up to anything written by , say, Neil Finn, who produces and guests on the track. Winston Peters should be tied down and force fed this song, a la Clockwork Orange.
The rest of the album, produced by David Long and Dobbyn himself, features cameos from Bic Runga and Riki Gooch amongst others, but belongs to Dave and his band - Bones Hillman on bass and Ross Burge on drums. Their backing is perfect, proving once again that it’s not what you play, it’s what you don’t play. Dobbyn’s voice is so distinctive, you forget these songs were written nearly a quarter of a century after DD Smash, but the truth is he gets better with age. Here he moves more or less effortlessly from rocker (Free The People) to soul man (You Got Heart) , lover to journalist : Free The People continues the political assault, while And You Will Lose Everything, Pour the Wine and Keeping the Flame remind us that there is hope. For those of you still coming to terms with Dave’s relatively new found Christianity, only Roll Away could really be called a religious song, although you can certainly feel a mellowing of spirit on this album, one that does no harm at all.
“Available Light” is a masterpiece, proving once again that Dave Dobbyn deserves a national holiday.
Spend the extra few bucks for the DVD edition, the Welcome Home video is worth it alone.
TOP 5 Kiwi Music Videos Currently on Air
1 - Welcome Home - Dave Dobbyn
2 - Ordinary Thing - OpShop
3 - What I Want - D4
4 - On and On - Steriogram
5 - All the Young Fascists - Shihad
Comedy is the new Narcolepsy
The NZ International Comedy Festival is in full swing, the club is packed, the drinks are flowing, the best of the best are strutting their stuff, and me....
I'm usually home asleep. Not from lack of interest, I'm just doing something relatively new to me. Working. At least in the days.
I'm rehearsing "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Abridged" at the moment, which opens next week before touring to Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Hamilton, and last week was spent commuting from rehearsals to Wellington for my solo season. Three nights, cut to two bu Wellington's fog. Yep, I spent Wednesday showtime circling above the venue, unable to land. Having said that, Tuesday and Thursday were two of the nicest shows I can remember, so thanks to those of you who made it out in the rain.
So really, I'd love to regale you with tales of festival debauchery, but "After a beer I went home for a wee lie down..." dosen't really cut it, so instead, here's what you must see. Phil Nichol. Except you can't. He left today. You missed it. Idiot. He's nuts, one of the funniest men on the planet, and Phil, if you're reading this, sorry I wimped out on you last night. Catch up soon.
Stewart Lee. Absolute brilliance, and lucky you, he's touring nationally on the convoy. See him. Really.
Sam Wills. He may die during his show. Not in a "They didn't like me...", whinging comic way, but in a "Oh my God, he's not breathing, call the Ambulance way." Who'd miss that?
Ian Stone, Kitty Flanagan, Steven K Amos, Michele A'Court, Rhys Darby, etc etc, just get out there and support this thing. And come to my late shows next week, I promise they'll be something to remember.
Got to go, my Horlicks is ready.
Comedy Round Up
Singapore, NZ on Air, and Me
It's been a while since I wrote on this page, so there's a lot to get through. January to March saw me return to Theatre, playing Kemp in the NZ premiere of "Auntie and Me" at the Fortune in Dunedin. Sell out houses, great reviews, I guess you could say it went pretty well. Thanks to Lisa, Louise, Julie, the Fortune team and all who came to see it. If you feel a little confused by picturing me as an actor, I'll be trying again in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Abridged", touring from May 11th. But don't worry, I'm not packing stand up in just yet.
In fact, the last weeks have seen me back in Singapore, for four shows at the wonderful 1NiteStand comedy club. Had a blast, again, funny how a 4million punter shopping mall can have such a great sense of humour. Even more ironic is that I have to go to Singapore, with all of it's (unfair) reputation as an opressive state, to enjoy liberal smoking laws. One thing NZ cities could learn, I have no problem with the threat of a $1000 fine for littering (including throwing butts into the road) when in balance they put a rubbish bin (and ashtray) every 50 paces. You think we like to mess up your fine streets with our leftovers? No. It's just not easy to carry a smouldering ember three blocks until we find a goddam bin.
Finally, I attended the NZ on Air Comedy Symposium last week. God, how depressing. Apparantly, their in depth reseach covering 74 people (or 1/54054th of the population) basically says what I think is funny, ain't. Can I put it on record right here, and I think I can, that I seem to be the only person in the country who HATES Bro Town and Kath And Kim. However, it seems, due to the peerless investigative journalism of NZ on Air's partner firms, (secretly, I think they just yelled out the questions on a bus, it fits the numbers), that "Character Is King". Even sterotypical characters with jokes Benny Hill would have had reservations about. (I should state here that I don't find either of the abovementioned shows "offensive". I just don't think they're funny. And yes, I know I'm not the target audience, seeing as I like comedy, have a global perspective, and care about writing. Think of me as number 75.)
In fact, I think we can learn about how to make TV comedy from, believe it or not, advertising. Take the Sky ads, Tui Billboards, L and P "stubbies" or the new Guide Dog appeal. They all demonstrate a subtlety, sense of timing and sophistication of film technique that is sadly lacking in any local (including Aussie) comedy currently on air. Why? Well, perhaps because the writers and directors don't have to pander to 74 nameless people in order to secure funding, they just have to pass it by one client.
And leave us laughing, all the way to their bank.
Music And Such
Reproduced from Vitalkiwi
1 - Watch This Space
On May 9th, the new album from Paul Mclaney’s outfit, Gramsci, will hit the shelves in New Zealand. Some of you may have heard the first single, currently doing the rounds on Channel Z. To digress for a moment, while commercial radio in general is not my thing, I do have to take a second to applaud the fine folk at Z, from the programmers on down, who consistently exceed national quotas and expectations in their support of local music, both on air and behind live gigs. Which isn’t really a digression, now I think about it, as I made it along to the preview gig for the abovementioned upcoming album, sponsored by Channel Z, and held in the magnificent Ambassador in Point Chevalier.
For those of you who have been to the various band nights held in the front bar, that isn’t wha I mean. This was the main room, the stripped old theatre, complete with balcony, that hides behind an unassuming facade on the small strip of shops just off the Northwestern Motorway. Even half full, as it was this evening, the room is stunning. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more major acts taking advantage of it.
My apologies to the support acts, but it was Halloween night, (yeah, I know, this is a belated review) and I have a young one who had to be sugared up before I left the house. Gramsci themselves, however, were quite simply superb. Their latest incarnation, featuring David Holmes on lead guitar, Daniel Loughnan (bass) and Jasper on drums, (I don’t know his last name. But hey. Who the hell knows Sly and Robbie’s surnames, right?) seems more permanent than previous ones, more a genuine band than backing for Paul’s formidable solo talents, and the arrangements of older songs such as “One Star Awake” and the peerless “Easy” benefit enormously in the live arena as a result. But bear that word “arena” in mind, because, if there’s any justice, that’s where the new material is heading. Try to think (and excuse the term, I hate it too) “radio-friendly” rock, which you won’t be embarrassed to play to your art school mates. Tricky, eh?
Full disclosure and all, I am a big fan. Have been ever since I picked up a copy of Paul’s “Pedestrian” album years ago. However, I’ll stake anything that, come release time, I won’t be alone. There is a level of composition in these songs, as on the two previous albums, that is too often lacking in any rock and roll, local or otherwise. And live, they come across as behemoths. Handing much of the instrumental work over to the band allows Paul to work that remarkable voice to it’s ever-increasing limits, looking and sounding like a private school Jeff Buckley/Morrisey crossover. And there are guitars. Bass, Drums, and good lord, praise the heavens and joy to Betsy, there are motherfuckin’ guitars. Solos, no less. My inner Whitesnake fan wept.
Ahem. The new album, “Like Stray Voltage” is on it’s way. Buy it, go to it, request it, demand it. It’s good.
2 - Southern Perspective
I’m currently involved in a play at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin, so a brief mention of what’s not to be missed down this way. Live music is still very much part of the local psyche here, and although there really has never been a replacement for the Empire Tavern, there are still more decent music venues here than in most cities further North. Arc Café has a full bill over the next few months, featuring national and international artists, as well as regular acoustic, poetry and local band nights. The Crown continues cranking out the dirtier end of rock and roll, punk and metal, and there are less regular, but no less interesting gigs popping up at The Dunedin Muso’s Club, Re:Fuel, Isis, Tull, and others. The Calder Prescott Quartet are celebrating their eighth year of residency at the Robbie Burns Tavern (Thursdays, 8:30) and deliver a jazz lovers perfect evening Of course, University Orientation is just around the corner, and while I’m not sure if I’m allowed to release the line up as yet, trust me, it’s a biggie. A ton of local and international superstars (and yeah, I can actually say that factually this year), so just remember these gigs are, in the most part, open to the general public as well as students.
A shameless plug to finish - Records Records, in Stuart Street, has single handedly kept me from going insane after leaving all of my CD’s at home. Run by the legendary Roy Colbert, it’s one of the last bastions of truly eclectic second hand music shopping in the country, and a little digging will almost inevitably unearth more than a few gems. Even in the $1 bin, as I found out suits my local theatre wage.
State Of The Union
Bret Rudnick checks in from the US of A
While I'm treading the boards in Dunedin, living without a TV to keep me up to date, I'm luck yenough to hear from our US correspondant on a regular basis. Below is the latest, reproduced with permission of Bret Rudnick....
THE NIGHT OF THE RED FINGERS
Last night while captive in my car on one of the many no-charge parking spaces
in Los Angeles known as the "freeway", I listened to Bush's "State of the Union"
As he made his way into the chamber, Republican legislators waved hands showing
fingers dyed blue, as was done for all those who voted in the recent Iraqi
elections. I thought this was ironic on several levels. First, they all came
from "red" states, and second, perhaps it would have been more appropriate for
them to have dyed their digits red to signify the blood shed by so many in the
quest for non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction. But, since the days of
Ronald Reagan, the State of the Union speech is more a show than anything else.
The House Chamber resembled British Parliament at one point in the speech last
night, as Bush began to speak about Social Security (the Republicans want to
privatize Social Security) and at several points to refute his dubious claims
the Democrats assembled shouted "No!" an event almost unheard of in such usually
If you were playing a drinking game you wouldn't have gotten too loaded by
listening to him mispronounce "nuclear" - he only used the word three times.
You could be alarmed, however, as he implied Syria, Iran, and North Korea were
Bush seemed proud of how many jobs were created during the first half of his
reign - not mentioning the fact that many more were lost. He didn't talk about
the massive trade or budget deficit - must have slipped his mind, what with
introducing the war widows and all. But then, he created those, too.
No mention of how the U.S. dollar is in the toilet, so badly that many nations
are considering abandoning the dollar as a world commodity standard to switch to
Since it's ancient history, there was also no mention of how the White House
broke with historic precedent and made the city of Washington D.C. pick up the
tab for the inauguration costs - could that be because 9 out of 10 Washington
D.C. citizens voted "blue" in the last election? I wonder. And why have a
second inauguration, anyway, since we did catch the news and figured out he'd be
occupying (literally) the White House for another four years anyway.
Four more wars!
Oops, that's meant to be years, surely.
Or, the proof is in the boredom
If you want a first hand example of what the anti-smoking legislation is doing to the bar takes of various etablishments around the nation, all you have to do is go out in Dunedin on a Monday night.
Monday's were always, when I lived and subsequently visited this part of NZ, pro night at the bars and pubs. Of which, incidentally, there are a remarkable number and range in this southern outpost. The lowering of the drinking age a few years back seemed to have an interesting by-product here, with the emergance of a plethora of bars catering to the 22 and above market, leaving the traditional student beer halls to do what they've always done best, get 18 year olds drunk, whilst allowing the rest of us to have a decent pint in a less giggly environment. But I digress.
Mondays were the night for good music, several beers, and a cigarette or twenty for the hardened, appreciative flip side of the "scarfie" coin. You could be guatanteed to run into fellow night owls from all generations, not causing any trouble, just escaping the cold of their flats or office lives. This Monday, however, as your intrepid pavement pounder tried to find a glimmer of the old gold, the bands have packed up, the pubs are empty, closed or both, and the few souls about are perched silently at uncomfortable ouside stations, like homeless vampires on their last syringe of congealing plasma. It's depressing, to say the least.
What harm were any of us doing, indoors, on a comfortable flea ridden sofa besides a poorly ventilated fireplace, lighting up a couple of times an hour? Surely we're doing more damage by throwing our butts in the street (if you're going to exile us to the pavement, a couple of ashtrays every hundred feet or so wouldn't be a bad idea), and forcing non smokers to run the gauntlet of our carcinogenic wrath en route to their inner sanctum.
And this is summer. Come the southerly change, I guarantee the bartenders of this country, and their accountants, will be noticing a bite in the air, and in their wallets. We would love to help you out, honestly we would. It's just not worth the pneumonia.
As an aside, I'm in Dunedin until March. Anyone reading this who is in town, feel free to drop me an email, and we can bitch about life together, over a cigarette. Somewhere...
I Ain't From Ohio
Tin soldiers and Nixon's comin...
The nominees have been announced for the 2004 NZ Comedy Guild Awards, and thank you to whoever nominated me for "Best Male Comedian"... again. However, due to the type of comedy I do, awards such as this do run the risk of being seen as something other than objective. Therefore, in the inerests of pure democracy, I'm going to let you, the public, vote in the final round. Below are the nominees, in the order they appear on the official voting form, plus a couple of obvious exceptions. Feel free to vote for whomever you like. There's even a "view" button so you can keep track of the exits. However, if, despite whatever happens here, don't expect me to pull a Brando on Saturday night. I respect my peers, and if they choose to honour me with some award, then so be it. That, and I don't know any Native Americans.
Two - One
What a day.
Twenty four hours of the most important civil liberty rulings that I’ve seen in my time in this country. As you may possibly have picked up on in previous columns, my politics lean somewhere to the left of Ghandi, and believe me, all this talk about a leftist mafia in politics and the media is utter rubbish. In fact, up until yesterday, it was getting hard to remember the last time we, and by “we” I mean the wide ranging spectrum of citizens who feel strongly enough about a particular human issue to get out, speak up, and sign on over it, actually won one.
That began to change at about 4:07 yesterday afternoon, when the Supreme Court began reading it’s decision in the bail hearing of Ahmed Zaoui. By 4:30, his fate had been announced. He was to be released immediately from prison into the custodial care of the Dominican Fathers, here in Auckland, finally given the freedom of movement that anyone awaiting charge should have every right to expect. This is only one step, true; however, after holding this man in jail for over two years, this decision in essence restores his human rights, restores our treatment of said rights, and, damn it, just has a long overdue element of human decency within its legalese. I was there when he drove out of the prison gates at 8:26 pm, when a thankfully subdued group of media and supporters saw the object of their attention and work overwhelmed by (I suspect) the emotion of, amongst everything else, seeing what we take for granted every day. The sky.
By then, we’d already heard about strike two. The Civil Union Bill passed it’s third reading by a 65-55 majority in Parliament. Despite the bleatings, bigotry and (quite literally) fervent prayers of it’s opponents, another simple, overdue part of legal history was made. In some ways, the scenes from Wellington are even more stunning than those outside the Auckland Central Remand Prison, if only that you couldn’t, in the finest inspiration of black comedy genius, have scripted this nonsense. I truly feel sorry for the few opponents of this bill who actually had a valid argument they were trying to raise, because they suffered interminable friendly fire from the fundamentalist nutjobs who ranked alongside them. My favourite argument of the week - the new twist on the old “noone is born Gay” theme; “Noone has ever dug up bones and said ‘these were a Lesbian’”. Brilliant. Under the same logic, of course, no one is born black. Never mind, you gave it a go. Now maybe your happily Civil Unionised neighbours will let you borrow a cup of sugar, to wash away that bitter lemon sucking look on your face.
In amongst all of this, it may sound petty to complain about having my last barstool cigarette last night. So I’ll leave it, for now. However, one thought, now that the “Terrorist” is out, the “Abominations” are getting hitched, and we’re all on our way to hell in a hotrod, maybe the fundo’s can do something about the piles of cigarette butts which will soon be clogging our streets. That’s right Brian, Dail, Winston, at al. Grab a broom.
News From The Front
Guest Columnist Bret Rudnick
Writes from Missour
Something on the order of twice a year I return to the USA to visit my family.
My mother, stepfather, and grandmother are getting on in years and I worry about
them sometimes, living alone as they do on their farm at the fringe of Ozark
country. To say they live in the middle of nowhere would be generous; the
middle of nowhere would be somewhere compared to their location. In good
weather, when the roads/bridges haven't been washed out or completely iced
over, it takes a solid 20 minutes to drive to the nearest village. There are a
number of Amish and Mennonite families in the area (their homes are the ones
that don't have electricity or telephone wires leading from the road to the
house). My uncle, almost 90, who also lives alone on his farm (though his son
lives next door), is up the road apiece and the road to his place was only
paved last year, hitherto having been merely a dirt road for the last 150 years.
On the plus side, the air is pure, the streams and lakes relatively
uncontaminated, and game is plentiful if you like venison, fish, or wild turkey.
The people from that part of the country, as with much of the Midwest, may not
be rocket scientist material, but they are generous, hardworking, and, how can
I put this... patriotic.
As one drives down historic Route 60 to get to my folks' part of the country,
signs proclaim the highway as the route of the historic "Trail of Tears“
the forced march of the Cherokee of Georgia from their lands there to the
"Indian Territory" of what is present day Oklahoma. Indeed, adjacent to my
folks' farm is a hilltop where these people must have camped in the 1830's
during that march, since one can still find arrowheads in relatively plentiful
Other signs adorn that highway as well. One cannot miss see the numerous
billboards that say "Step into the Blue - Join the Air Force" or encourage
the reader to be one of "The Few. The Proud. The Marines."
That part of the country is a prime recruiting ground for the armed forces of
It's not difficult to see why. There isn't a lot of hope or promise for the
future for many of the young people of that area. Manufacturing jobs have long
since gone to other nations where labour is a fraction of the cost per hour.
Small family farms are disappearing as the young people who are able go to big
cities for jobs and, sometimes, education. Local agriculture is, at best,
sustaining but not profitable. The heartland is full of people who have a
strong work ethic and a love for their country and who want very badly to
believe their government would only do good things.
I hadn't been in the area for 24 hours before I saw my first bumper sticker
that said: "In loving memory of _________, killed in action in Iraq, May
I have since seen all too many similar bumper stickers, along with many more in
the shape of yellow ribbons admonishing the reader not to forget "our
Every time I think about this I get angry.
It is an unnecessary loss of life and a squandering of what might be America's
most valuable resource: its young people who enter service at the age of 18.
These are supposed to be the people who will build our future, extend the good
will of America abroad, and if absolutely necessary, protect with force of arms
those who are unable to protect themselves from genuine tyranny.
Iraq just doesn't meet this test. Sure, Hussein was a tyrant and people who
lived under his rule suffered. But there are a lot more people who suffered
longer in some countries in Africa and other places in the world. Weapons of
mass destruction? Yeah, right. Let's face it, if Iraq's major export were
broccoli, the USA wouldn't be there.
Now the Bush administration is trying to force democracy on a nation that is not
ready for it as a concept, let alone in practice. Iraq's infrastructure is
under constant attack. Not only are soldiers being killed but many more
innocent civilians are being attacked or caught in the crossfire.
Having watched this debacle unfold from the beginning, I am amazed at how many
people in America still don't realize that Iraq can also be spelled
V-i-e-t-n-a-m. Iraq is now a bloodthirsty sinkhole that will continue to eat
human life for a considerable time. Even if no foreign troops were stationed
there, the balance of power is sufficiently upset such that there will be
struggles for control for many years to come.
And who pays for it? Ironically, not the people who ordered the operation in
the first place. Like the Cherokee of Georgia, those who suffer the most will
be the people who live in Iraq, followed by the families of those who died
wanting to believe they were fighting for a just cause and making a positive
There was a lot of talk during and after the recent election in the USA
regarding "Red States" (Republican supporters) versus "Blue States"
(Democratic supporters). A significant chunk of the grist for the military mill
of the USA comes from the "Red" states. Some of the people from the
"Blue" states refer to their "Red" brethren as being naive at best,
foolish at worst. But whatever they are, and I can tell you this from
observational experience, the people in the Heartland (and South) may drink too
much, laugh too loud, be too dumb to make it in a "Northern" town, and
sometimes let their patriotism and loyalty cloud their rational judgment. But
they're not bonehead stupid. A few more of those "In memoriam" bumper
stickers and they'll catch on.
Unfortunately, it may take another four years to sink in. But if things
continue as they are, and all indications are they will or worse, you'll see a
lot more of those Red states go "Blue" next time.
In the meantime, I'd rather see more "Honk if you're Horny" bumper
The Most Dangerous Man In NZ
And he isn't in Jail.
The recent comments from NZ First List MP, Dail Jones regarding the Zaoui case have, sadly left me less than stunned. The following two press releases give you some insight into the way this man’s mind, for want of a better term, works:
13 Oct 2004
Dail Jones Media Release
ZAOUI EXPENSES EXCEED $1.2MILLION – NZ FIRST
Taxpayers have forked out nearly $1.215 million for convicted terrorist Ahmed Zaoui and there is regrettably no sign of an end to his case, said New Zealand First associate immigration spokesperson Dail Jones.
Mr Jones today released figures provided by the Immigration Minister that showed the estimated Zaoui costs until the end of September were $1,214,930.19.
“This does not include costs incurred by the Security Intelligence Service, nor the latest highly expensive legal moves made on behalf of Mr Zaoui at the expense of taxpayers.
“Families struggling to make ends meet will be dismayed that so much money is being wasted on an individual who should never have been allowed to get off the plane into New Zealand.
“The Zaoui case is a disgrace. There is no convention in the world that says we have to take in people who arrive with false papers and a history of being banned from other countries.
“This man is a parasite who should be sent packing on the first available flight back to where he came from. We don’t need him, we don’t want him and we certainly don’t want to keep paying his bills,” said Mr Jones.
1. 16 Mar 2004
Dail Jones Media Release
BEHAVIOUR IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
New Zealand First MP Dail Jones has called on Helen Clark and Don Brash to refrain from slanging matches and concentrate on the problems facing the country.
“What should really matter to the voter is the way in which a Member of Parliament conducts one self inside the House and in the way in which they vote, rather than their extra-parliamentary activities,” said Mr Jones.
“For example, I note that Ms. Clark and Dr Brash voted in favour of the prostitution Reform Bill. They appear to have identical views on social issues and it would not surprise me if they both also support the proposed Civil Union Bill relating to homosexual and lesbian marriages. I voted against the Prostitution Reform Bill as did all New Zealand First MPs.
“This is a House of Representatives, which thrives on a wide variety of representation. Whether one is a Christian, agnostic, Muslim, atheist, homosexual, heterosexual, transsexual or whatever, adds to the diversity of Parliament and its representation.
“Members have to accept that certain people have been voted into office and it is up to the electors to decide whether they stay there,” said Mr Jones.
I find Mr. Jones' objection to the handling of the Zaoui case fascinating, or abhorrent, whichever you prefer, on several counts, but primarily because, like myself, he too immigrated to this country around the age of 15. Like myself, he had completed some of his schooling overseas, before finishing it here. Since then, we have followed similar paths, Mr Jones becoming a NZ First MP, me, a stand up comedian. The main difference is that I came to this country from the United Kingdom, Mr. Jones from Karachi, Pakistan. Under the immigration and security guidelines which New Zealand First is advocating, who would have the easier time coming here today, I wonder?
Amazingly, Mr. Jones has only released two statements in the last twelve month regarding Foreign Affairs, both brief releases congratulating the new Indian Prime Minister and welcoming the Deputy Czech Prime Minister to NZ, respectively. This is incredible due to one simple fact: Dail Jones is NZ First’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman. Has there really been nothing happening overseas over the last 12 months worth commenting, or has he been too busy gay-bashing and hating immigrants to comment? Why is one overseas dignitary welcomed with open arms, whilst another is referred to as a “parasite”?
Watch this space, Mr. Jones. You just made my list. To quote Bob Dylan, "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?"
Zaoui Decision Due Today
At 2:30pm today, the Supreme Court has indicated they will announce their decision in the Zaoui case, as to wether or not he is to be continually detained, or released into either the care of the Dominican Order or Mangere Refugee Centre. There will be a gathering of support outside the Auckland Central Remand Prison at that time, please get down there if you can, no matter how the decision turns out. Show of support or welcoming committee, either way this is a landmark moment in the history and justice surrounding New Zealand's Human Rights record.
Free Ahmed Zaoui
Sunday, November 21st. After being turned back to Wellington, relanding, changing airlines, reboarding and finally getting on a plane that works, the MC’s of the Free Ahmed Zaoui Concert at Auckland’s Kings Arms Tavern finally arrive at the gig, an hour and a half late. As one of those MC’s was me, I can’t tell you how the first act went, but having seen and heard Mahinarangi Tocker several times before, and feeling the atmosphere once I did get there, I can only guess the answer is “Just fine, thanks.”
Thus began, at least for me, one of the most impressive musical gatherings it has been my pleasure to be involved in. Impressive for a number of reasons, but primarily two - the gathering of talent on display, and the response to our reason for being there.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, or somewhere similar, say, in solitary confinement at Paremoremo Maximum Security Prison without charge, you should know at least the outline of the Zaoui case. Held without charge, thanks to the S.I.S’s new fangled “let’s all prove how tough we are in the face of Terrorism” National Security Certificate, Mr. Zaoui’s case has brought New Zealand’s generally decent human rights record under unprecedented scrutiny, both at home and abroad, including drawing international condemnation from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The U.N. So it’s a bit of an issue.
Enough, in fact, to draw together some of New Zealand’s finest musicians, all donating their time for free to help raise money for Mr. Zaoui’s family. After missing Mahinarangi, I managed to catch the last two songs of Chris Knox’s set, typically inspired madness from the granddaddy of Kiwi D.I.Y. punk n’ roll. He’s one of a kind, is our Mr. Knox, as anyone who has witnessed his live assaults on the fourth wall can attest.
Then the first of the bands took to the stage, a new to me outfit by the name of The Reduction Agents. It maybe took them a song or two to really settle into their groove, but once they were there no one was going anywhere. Worth checking out, and I’ll be watching them develop with interest. The Brunettes, all 70 odd of them, piled on next, and I do mean “odd.” I guess the word here is quirky, but not in a “let’s be strange to hide the fact we can’t play our instruments” kind of way, these guys and girls know their stuff. They’re cute, but still retain enough of an edge to get the singalong season into swing. If I sound a little vague here, I have to admit I was hanging out for what was just around the corner.
Dave Dobbyn is, in my opinion, the finest songwriter our shores have produced, bar none. It was a dream to introduce this man, and accompanying himself on piano, then guitar, with the occasional support from is drummer, he basically gave a 45 minute masterclass on pointed, professional performance. From “Hallelujah Song” to “Belltower”, and my personal highlight “Don’t Hold Your Breath”, this was simply magnificent. In his segues, too, Dave proved that the spark that kicked off a certain slightly out of control Street Party a couple of decades ago is still well and truly smouldering. Wonderful.
And in the other Red Corner.... The man behind much of the organisation of this gig, Don McGlashan utilised a superb five piece band to showcase new songs from an album to be released somewhere down the line. Okay, so a few in the crowd may have been expecting at least one Muttonbirds track, but hey, how often do you get to see people like Dave and Don back to back for a good cause? As evening fell, I couldn’t help wonder how One Million Dollars were going to follow such a stellar opening line up.
Simple answer, really. Beautifully. I’m guessing O.M.D. have at least a handful of jazz school alumni in their ranks; either that or they somehow found the best part time horn section in the country, because they damn well swing. Striking a balance between virtuosity and structure is a rare thing, but there was a solid, solid showing of it on display here. The two Portuguese numbers, courtesy of their Brazilian vocalist (one of two outstanding singers in this group), simply added authenticity to the angst.
Finally, and perhaps slightly incongruously, came chart favourites Nesian Mystic. Again, one of the most impressive things of the final act was their willingness to show a knowledge, care and sensitivity to the issues at hand beyond what you may expect. That, and they can rock a party.
At the end of it all, over $4000 was raised through the efforts of, as mentioned earlier, the cream of local music. Humanity through music, songs from the heart and words to the wise, it is a night that will linger long after, if there is any justice at all, Mr. Zaoui is free to enjoy Aotearoa.
For further information on the Zaoui case, please look at the following:
I will write about my prison experiences soon, once I finish actually getting my head around them....
Guess Who's Back
Or the impending dilemma for comedians.
So we’re all going to hell in a handbasket. On the bright side, comics around the world have a four year Hall Pass on easy material.
I’ve held off publishing this one, and in fact had it nailed about an hour ago, until my server logged out, so by now I must say I most probably will rewrite, amend or simply delete ths post in the morning, as I’ve spent all day in Jail and I’m tired. In the interests of full disclosure, by “In Jail” I mean doing shows for the inmates of Auckland Central Remand Prison, and by “Tired” I mean pissed. Excuse any typos.
For the last four years I have trodden a faint but strict line between criticising the Bush Administration and upholding the general decency of the American public. After all, the majority didn’t elect him, right? Well, looks like I was 51% wrong. Whilst, if you pay any heed to exit polls, those Americans who prioritised issues that, y’know, MATTER; (such as the economy, healthcare and the “situation” in Iraq) voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, we all forgot about the group who have managed to become such a joke, a cliche, that we ignore their devastating political power and influence.
The Religious Right.
First question - Where the hell are the Religious Left when you need them? Kerry’s Catholic. He asked God to bless America as often as his opponent, and I swear he could name more of the Commandments. “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, for starters. I don’t seem to remember the “liberal senator from Massachuset” flicking Ole Sparky’s switch too often, can anyone else? Hell. I’ll go further. I believe Jesus himself, faced with the prospect of George W. Bush’s campaign of intolerance, violence, revenge and ignorance, would have voted Democrat. He said “Suffer the little children to come unto me”, not “Suffer on, little children, while necessary abortion law and stem cell research funding comes down to me.” When did “His will, His truth and His light” become “My will, forget Truth, We’re Right.”? When, even, did “An Eye for An Eye”, that old standby of old testament nutjobs, become “Several hundred thousand of yours for three thousand of ours”, or “Two countries for Two buildings.”? Any, and I mean ANY residual sympathy that the international community held onto after 9-11 has long since dissipated. (Listen in, Israel, you might learn something.) Your country is seen as a bully, your president an idiot, and your foreign policy as Imperialistic, and don’t let any number of trade agreements tell you differently. We can happily take your money while we laugh behind your backs.
And yet, either through fear, ignorance of the outside world, or a belief in a God Given (and I mean capital hard-core motherf$@king G’s on those suckers) right to dictate behaviour to the rest of the planet, he’s back with an INCREASED majority. Why? Because enough voters wanted “strong moral leadership”, “traditional values”, and an excuse to kick the asses of anyone seen as an abberation in the eyes of God, such as loving homosexual couples, the disabled and welfare girls with unwanted pregnancies.... sounds an awful lot like the same kind of government you’ve been bombing across the middle east, right? Taliban, Texas?
So I’m officially changing my tune. To hell with them. I think it’s only right that we followed Election day in this part of the world with Guy Fawkes Eve, a celebration of Terrorism. Guy failed in his (admittedly bungled) attempt to bring down a corrupt government by force. George, get used to the fireworks.
P.S. For any of you alert FBI/CIA/INTERPOL internet surfers out there, I’m a satirist. Therefore any similarity between the above blog and an actual threat against the President of the Disunited States is purely coincidental.
The End Of Three Eras
Or as the world turns...
As I write this, The Boston Red Sox are one and a half innings away from their first World Series win since the end if WWI. The so called "Curse of the Bambino", allegedly brought on by the sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees the year after that 1918 postseason, may well be lifted in the next twenty minutes. Ironically enough, The Babe was sold to finance a failed Broadway show, and artists have borne the brunt of sportsfans' fury ever since. That's why they think we're all gay, don't you know.
Which is why it's even more tragic that broadcasting lost arguably it's most important voice, ever, this last week. John Peel broke the careers, and the curse of anonymity, of everyone from Pink Floyd to the White Stripes, (including, in an even more shocking example that usual of "find the kiwi angle at all costs" syndrome on the part of our domestic TV networks) the Datsuns. He was a true maverick, not one of these DJ's who think saying Bum on radio is cutting edge, but a laconic voice with an ear for, well, everything. Reggae, Hip Hop, Metal, Rap, Pop... it really didn't matter to Peel, good music was good music. I miss him already.
And finally, the Smoking ban comes into force on December 10th. This puritanical, draconian infringement on my personal rights, championed by the weakest wristed examples of those who give us on the left a bad name, will mark the end of the traditional beer and cigarette, and in the process most likely sound the death knell of many a small bar and pub. On "Face to Face with Kim Hill" this week, teh major sponsor of this bill, Steve Chadwick (a woman, apparantly) responded to Hill's fact that "the proportion of smokers in our society isn't rising" with the declaration "And isn;t that wonderful!!" Can you imagine replacing the word "smokers" with, say "homosexuals"? Her response is akin to the Destiny Church's less enlightened moments. Fuck her and the cancer I hope she rides out on. After this last week, I can only assume that if there is a God, he must be from Boston. Can't wait until we warrant his attention again.
The votes are in...
(yeah, there was an election.)
Okay, breaking news, I didn't get into council. Sorry, back up; for those of you who didn't know, which is most of you, I was running in the Auckland Regional Council elections earlier this month. The reason you didn't know, most probably, was that I was overseas for most of the campaign. (By the way, I was running as part of a non-partisan, pro-democracy group called RAM - Residents Action Movement. Check them out.) However, I came 6th, with just under 5,000 votes. Thanks. I had two thoughts, namely "there must be a whole bunch of people who actually DID campaign who must be mighty pissed about now", and "so why do I still struggle to fill a 100 seat theatre...", but that's been and done. Congratulations to my friend and colleague Ewen Gilmour, who is now a councillor for Waitakere City. Which brings me to my point...
I'm still part of that mysterious "undecided" on wether comedy and politics mix. Actually, that's utter bullshit. I believe that comedy is one of the most potent forms of political statement availiable to us, not least in the arena of informed protest. However, I'm still not sure how my home crowds take it. I would like to believe that there are enough people out there believing in political comedy as a discussion point, boiling point and valid point to continue doing what I have chosen to do with my rapidly stunting career. Having seen nothing but critical acclaim for "Bro Town", I'm starting to doubt thyselves. Therefore, I'm initiating a new aspect to my blogs - an active poll. Below, you'll find the first one, and while I realise that most of you who come to this part of this site and stay long enough to vote are probably
"the choir", as the phrase goes, take a minute and vote. If nothing else, it'll tell me someone else is reading this crap.
They’re back, everybody! Shihad, out of the wilderness, back from the edge of beyond, riding over the horizon to take their rightful throne.... Alright, they’ve just changed their name back. But even that, to my eyes, must be a sign. There are only two possible reasons for the backtrack, one; The U.S. media and music industry have finally come to their senses, and realised that the censorship measures they insidiously imposed post 9-11 are both a waste of time, and a violation of free speech, or two; Pacifier just didn’t sell as many albums.
Okay, there are a bunch of possible reasons, and reason one just isn’t on the radar, but let’s give Jon and the boys the benefit of the doubt, and just presume they wanted to return to their roots. What was really going on with the “Pacifier” period, anyway?
The official story is this; with a stateside release pending, in the post World Trade Inevitability climate, the band and their label were concerned that politics may affect radio play, with stations unwilling to playlist a band whose name may possibly be misheard as “Jihad.” Fair enough in theory, after all, one story goes that’s how the name originated in the first place, during a viewing of David Lynch’s Dune. But was this simply a concession to market sensitivities? In another way, this was symptomatic of a much wider malaise in the music business in general, and in New Zealand arts specifically. Namely, the need on behalf of the “powers that be” to fuck around with what we do, and the unwillingness on behalf of our artists to fight this.
Anyone who has dealt with a major record label, television production company or editor has a story to tell of how they were asked to change some aspect of whatever they were doing for a myriad of reasons, the most common one of which is “to make it more commercial.” Nine times out of ten, the true reasons for this intervention are to make the label, company, etc feel like they’re in charge. Generally speaking, there are few people less creative on the earth than people who run the business side of the arts. Any input they can ram up the nether regions of their artists helps cover feelings of artistic inadequacy. The name change example above; you really think in any second that was the band’s idea? But we artists are only too happy to bend over for our masters, especially in a small market like ours where any exposure is seen as good exposure. Hence the number of bands selling tracks to commercials, rehashing their images to suit the current trends, and basically taking it rectally from whoever necessary for a shot at their 15 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I know money is a huge factor - you gotta have it to do what you want to do, and I see no shame in “selling out”, if that’s what you have to do. But when you’re willing to change not only your path but your name? Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark folks.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know. Honestly, this is a rant, not a pitch. But just once, I’d like to meet a local producer, label exec, editor, who knows their limitations. Get the money, that’s what you do. Give us airtime, expose us, let us do what it was that attracted you to us in the first place and sit back. You’ll get yours, don’t worry. It would just be nice if you didn’t take it out of our souls as well as our hides.
I know. I promised to update these while I was away. Three words: Edinburgh. Fringe. Festival.
The madness behind me, I'm now back in Auckland, New Zealand. What a month it was. When did I last update this, anyway? Does it matter? Edinburgh was what it was, mad, bad and dangerous to know, with fantastic stand up gigs, and a bit of improv. Highlights: making an arse of myself arguing the riff to "Down Under" with a stranger who turned out to be Colin Hay from Men At Work, various gigs, especially Singapore, Glasgow and, believe it or not, Plymouth. The people. Big thanks, and great respect to the staff and comics everywhere, including in no particular order, The 1 Nite Stand, The Stand, Headliners, The Comedy Store(s), Jongleurs, Phil Nichol, Christian "slugger" Reilly, the Novalounge family, the Catholic Church, Burnsie (R.I.P.), Hurley, Nokise, McKinney, (this almost rhymes) and as always, Terry Chris and Mich...You know, I might wait to do this properly when I actually have an album out. Next up, the North Shore Regional Council Elections. Really.
1/2 World Tour part 2
Or why those flights are so damned cheap...
Okay, first tip, don't expect much of a party at Luton airport after 11pm. Of course, this is especially true if you've been there from 8pm, waiting for a delayed flight to Edinburgh. Finally get here at 2am, and here I shall stay until the end of the organised mayhem that is the Edinburgh Fringe.
First things first, though, Singapore was incredible - standing ovations, encores, and extra show, all bathed in 33 degree heat and broken up by two nights in the most comfortable hotel bed I think I've ever encountered. Nice. From there... um, I gigged in Torquay. Oh well, what goes up...
Actually, my UK gigs to this point have been pretty good, although driving 200 miles there and back takes the edge off. Especially the drive back, after a few pints. Slightly uncomfortable.
And now to Scotland. We open both shows on Friday, watch this space.
So far, So Sydney
1/2 world tour part one
Okay, it's after midnight and I'm on the free commodore 64 in the lobby of my halfway house, oops, "hotel" in Sydney. Really have felt like Bukowski for the last three nights, as I go up to my single bed and ashtray here in the centre of Australia's biggest city. I fly to Singapore in 7 hours, and the 24 hour bar across the road is beckoning. Life is all about choices, right?
Good gigs and odd gigs, that's been the week in Oz. From the truly gorgeous (in a comedian-finding-his spiritual-home-kind of way) Sydney Comedy Store to the RSL's of Chatswood, I've had fun, and in most cases so have the audiences. However, I think I'm getting too old for the bright lights big city routine - Just the other night I was sitting in the aforementioned 24 hour joint listening to Paul Kelly sing "Every Fucking City's Just the Same" and thinking, true enough. Therefore, I foray into South East Asia tomorrow hoping for... what? Something different. Did they support the war or not? Do their draconian litter laws apply to language in a public place? Will they get the joke?
Don't touch that dial.
RELIGION, POLITICS AND ME
The Unless Factor.
I’m a labour voter. There, I said it. Now I’ll explain why. It’s because they’re the only party that doesn’t relegate me to the status of a second class citizen. All of the major parties are trying to split the country up, look at the evidence.
National want to distinguish between those who earn six figures, and those who don’t. ACT are trying to distinguish between those who hold board of directorships and those who don’t. The greens want to distinguish between those who give a shit about GE and those who don’t. The Maori party wants to distinguish between those who are Maori and those who aren’t. NZ First want to distinguish between those who were born here and those who weren’t, and United Future want to distinguish between those who are married with their own families, and those who aren’t. So as a mid-level earning, self employed unmarried European immigrant, I’m screwed, across the board.
Then there is the frightening rise in Christian parties and lobby groups, such as Destiny New Zealand. Now, I have no problem with people who choose to believe in God. I choose not to, that’s the end of it, we can still hang out, okay? However, I have a serious problem with those who try to tell me how to live my life because of what their God, or more often, their particular religious take on “God”, has allegedly said.
You see, I think all religions are worshipping the same God, from a different angle. Catholics see a punishing, vengeful God, a real bad ass who won’t take shit from noone. Presbyterians see more of a melancholy God, wondering where we all went wrong. Buddhists see a jolly, happy God, just trying to chill out and get us all to calm down. And the Hare Krishna see a vegetarian god with smelly hands. Then there’s the Mormons, the uber nerds of the God Bothering pantheon. Their God failed his driving licence, hence the bikes, and couldn’t get a date, hence the “I can have as many wives as I can afford” angle.
Where it becomes dangerous, is where you start bending the rules of your own beliefs. There isn’s a religious text on earth that doesn’t, somewhere, contain a version of the First Commandment - Thou Shalt Not Kill. Seems pretty cut and dried, right? Well, according to the self proclaimed religious right in the US, for example, it isn’t. What we don’t see, according to fundamentalists, (and yes, that term can apply to every religion, not just Islam, but more on that later) is the word unless... Thou Shalt Not Kill, unless the person you’re killing is poor, brown and has done something you really don’t like. Thou Shalt Not Steal, unless the stuff you’re stealing can be used better by you than whoever has it, or unless you can disguise that stealing as redistribution of wealth, charitable donations or pension fund mistakes.
It comes down to where the power lies - with the deity or the priests. For the sake of argument, let’s say the generic idea of a Christian God is on the button - omnipotent, benevolent and good. The Jesus of cheap Latin American souvenirs, okay? Okay. Now, can you honestly tell me that a God like that, basically a pretty good bloke, would have the audacity and ego to make “Thou Shalt Not Worship any God But Me” a Commandment? Not a suggestion, not a polite request, but an order? No. That one was put in by the priests. Imagine the meeting:
“Okay, God sent us these 9 Commandments. You’ve all read em, any clarifications or issues arising?”
“They look pretty good. No killing, no stealing, get your hands off my woman mother...”
“Right right. So we take these down, pass them around, and get on with the service.”
“Hang on a second. I just thought of something. If these Commandments make such sense, and we agree they do, then what’s to stop people just, you know, following them?”
“Why do they need to come to our services? Why not just carry on with their lives, follow the commandments, and boom, go directly to heaven. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 silver pieces.”
“Well bugger me. He’s right. These are so simple, anyone can do them. They won’t need our guidance anymore, and no guidance means no tithes.”
“Unless.... we add one, just here, about worshipping only him, yada yada, keep it oblique, so they have to come to church to figure out how to do it.”
“Nice one, someone pass me a chisel.”
And here we are, millennia on, chasing our so called religious leaders into the valley of death. Fundamentalists on both sides, re interpreting their teachings in whatever way they think will serve their purposes. Islam, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, all over the world they’re finding an excuse for their atrocities through scripture. It’s all there, just read between the lines. All you have to do is find the unless.
Here we go again.
That time of year that brings up all of my residual frustration with the country I live in is upon us, yet again. Rugby Season. More specifically, All Blacks rugby season. It seems like the game (and yes, get over it, it's just a game. Note the lower case "r") is year round these days, but in response, it also feels like fewer people care about it than, say, six years back. Or maybe that's just because I moved out of Dunedin. However. for some reason the start of the international season manages to drag us back a decade into hours of so-called analysis on TV and radio, and pages of coverage in the papers. I mean, the trials, for fooks sake?? This is like televising the Auditions for an upcoming movie.... oh, wait, they're heading that way. Damn you, Idol. This after weeks of "in depth" interviews with the coach on the finer points of dreadlocks vs. peroxide vis a vis aerodynamics. Or something. "In Depth" coverage of any sport is one of the great oxymorons.
Case in point. Last weeks Sunday paper, front page photo and article about the test match victory. Now, I know people care. (In case you haven't worked it out, my interest in rugby lies somewhere around my desire to contract prostate cancer. Although, I don't personally despise cancer quite as much.) But honestly, was that the biggest story of the weekend? Ray Charles dies, Reagan is buried, Iraq continues it's slide into anarchy, but no. 30 over paid illiterates giving each other head (injuries) is front page stuff. Am I missing something?
Actually, yes I am. I'm missing the gene that allows me to give a toss about this or any other game, to the level that it dominates my world view. I like cricket, ok? But if it was on the front page of every paper, I'd be worried. While we're blowing off steam, why on earth is our government giving $33 million to help us sail a boat? Surely the Tourism exposure they keep quoting is slightly redundant, considering the race is happening in Italy? I saw coverage of the Sydney Olympics, and it didn't make me want to rush out and buy a ticket to Estonia.
Okay, that's it. I just heard, while writing this, a radio headline covering rugby referees being punched by players and coaches - soundbite "Greater society should share the blame, not just the rugby community." Sure. Every time I go to the supermarket, I feel an overwhelming pressure to ruck the old woman carrying 13 items through the express lane. I give up. Wake me when we get to mars.
The Year To Come
Post and Pre Festival updates
Two down, a few to come. The Melbourne and New Zealand International Comedy Festivals are behind me now, and if you missed them, may your sleep be interrupted. Mine was. But the year is really just hitting it's second gear. If you check my gig guide, the observant amongst you will realise that a fair few of the gigs coming up are, well, outside of Auckland. So, for any of you reading this in Australia, the UK, Singapore and Edinburgh (I know, it's in the UK, but shut it), you'll get a chance to heckle from the comfort of your own city in the near future.
Basically, things are heating up for yours truly, and I'm loving the warmth. In general, actually, comedy here in little ole NZ is going through a great phase - The festival was a hit, certain elements within the media started asking questions instead of inventing answers (see last blog), and Ben Hurley won the Billy T Award: This guy is the most deserving recipient of an award you can dream up, passionate about comedy, one of the most motivated organisers I've ever had the great pleasure to work with, and, by the by, a damn good comic. If you get any chance to see his work, take it.
See you on the road.
Enough is Enough
or how I intend to keep myself out of the news.
Okay, I’m fucking sick of this. Today’s Sunday Star Times magazine includes an article on Alexei Sayle, written by Grant Smithies, in which he follows the lead of almost every journalist in this country who has written about anything even vaguely connected with comedy and takes a swipe at New Zealand stand up comics who are, and I quote “so unfunny they should e made to, well, sit down.” Mr Smithies, may I invite you to join colleagues of yours like Gordon Campbell and Francis Till in taking a flying F*5K off the nearest printing press. Where the hell is your evidence? This article comes on the same weekend that the New Zealand International Comedy Festival opened, attracting major international acts who are only too happy to perform alongside the locals, two weeks after myself and Michele A’Court returned from a sell-out season at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, less than a year after Flight of The Conchords received a Perrier Award nomination, and at a time when a number of local and ex-pat comics are headlining festivals and major gigs in the UK. So what’s the deal? Are all of the above events anomalies? And where, may I ask, do you get your experience of local comedy from? How many live comedy gigs have you actually been to? I’m at quite a few, you know, and I don’t ever remember seeing your ugly mug at any of them. Have you changed your appearance so dramatically since your byline mugshot that you’ve slipped past my glances around the audience, or are you judging an entire industry by a couple of TV shows? If so, that’s the analytical equivalent of stating “all New Zealand music is crap, I know because I watch NZ Idol”.
Guess what? Every country with a stand up comedy scene has good and bad acts. Even the UK, which you seem to hold up as a bastion of all that’s good in the universe. I’ve seen acts around the world who couldn’t get an open mic spot in this country, and I have also seen acts here that would get laughs anywhere I have worked. So where does it follow that any media coverage in this country must include a reference to how “unfunny”we are? Do we judge all New Zealand journalism on the basis of what we read in the Truth? Do we judge every New Zealand television show on the basis of The Big Night In? Okay, so there are some truly awful comedians in this country. I’ll admit that, back it up, and print the names on a T-shirt. But so what? Britain produced Benny Hill, but we don’t write off their entire industry as a result. Until you and your kind within the media of this country can come up with a new opening line, I’d ask you to stop writing about what you don’t know, and keep your ignorant opinions to something you truly understand.
Laughing all the way to the (South) Bank
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2004
Well, week two of the MICF is under way. We opened on Friday, sold out on Saturday, and had three days off. So far so good...
It's always a bizarre experience to arrive at an overseas festival - there's a paradoxical family/competitor vibe amongst comics that you either know already or meet along the way. As Billy Connolly said to Michele and I in Queenstown, (note the seamless namedropping) "Comedians are the only people who fuckin hate each other from a distance, but love each other close up." Or something like that, it was late. True words, though, we may bitch and moan about each others abilities, but at the end of the day we're a pretty small bunch of folks, so when you get a lot of us together, say at a festival, there's going to be a party or two.
The fest itself is a blast, centred around the gorgeous Melbourne Town Hall, and the surrounding precinct. Having a lighter schedule was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself, allowing us to see shows, sweat out the toxins, and enjoy that rarest of Festival experiences - sleep. Pick of the shows so far, Lee Mack and Chris Addison. Don't ask, just go see. And, come see us if you get a chance, we really are quite good!
Monday, January 19, 2004
Pigs In Space
I know, I know. It's been ages since I last updated. Well, it's been summer in this part of the world, and I've been sitting in front of the cricket, not having t work, and skimming the human interest schlock that passes for news during the festive season. "Man saves Ducks, Otters in peril, Cat makes long walk home, Bush calls for manned missions to Mars, dog gets last minute....." Hang on. Back the truck up a bit. What's this about Bush wanting to go back into space? What is this, has he run out of boyhood dreams already? "Well, I own a baseball team, I made president, I beat up that Arab guy who picked on my Daddy.... now I'm gonna be an astronaut." I must have been more out of touch than I thought. I didn't even know they'd found oil on the moon. Okay, so it's election year. What worked for Kennedy, could work for the current incumbent, right? Well, I'm happy to go along with that, Mr. Bush. After all, I read the book, I know how the Kennedy story ends. But wait up one doggone Sol (a Mars Day, apparently.) I read today that, as well as the "peaceful and productive destiny" of Man going back into the stars, a certain Mr. Rumsfield is trying to reignite the Clinton-after-Reagan-after-GeorgeLucas star wars defence system. Ok. Now we're making sense. After all, you've shut your own borders, you've invaded Iraq, you've crippled Afghanistan (which is really saying something, considering they weren't exactly upwardly mobile to begin with), now it's time to "liberate" space. So spend those trillions of dollars to put a couple of Americans on Mars. Hey, I'll try and take up a collection from the rest of us, so you can put all of them up there. Maybe not all. We'll exclude everyone who marched against the War, voted for Al Gore, or has read Micheal Moore's latest book. Which should pretty much leave us standing in a crowd of millions, waving te flag and farewelling our intrepid explorers. Captained, of course, by Astronaut Bush. One small step for man.....
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Music Round Up
2003 - The high and low notes.
Another year, another pile of CD's wrapped in gaudy paper under a dying tree. It's been a ride, musically speaking, both here and abroad. The rise and rise of local quotas and chart placings, New Zealand hip hop and dub knocking down walls previously assumed to be the sole domain of foreign acts, our classical and crossover AOR acts taking their respective places in overseas listings. Contrast that with the increasing attack on freedom of expression in the US music industry, (I never thought I'd be supporting the Dixie Chicks, but then they apologised so I can still hold a bit of cynicism) the sanitised sewage that passes for most major label chart fodder, the continuing overwhelming hype surrounding acts that really have no artistic merit whatsoever (50 Cent, anyone).... To paraphrase Bill Hicks, "It's been a ride, folks, it's been ride." So here, in no particular order, are my picks and pans of the releases and music events of 2003.....
LIVE EVENT OF THE YEAR Local: The fact we actually had some. International tours like the Boss, Counting Crows, White Stripes, BRMC. Local winners like 8 Foot Sativa, Blindspott, the Pacifier live tour and album, and all the venues that kept rocking week in week out. International: The Steve Earle tour, as captured on "Just An American Boy", with a DVD to come. Essential in remembering that you can be a leftie muso without being a pussy. And the Boss at Western Springs.
DUD LIVE EVENT OF THE YEAR: Local: Bic and the NZSO. Our local lass joins the ranks of Split Enz, Elton John and, um, Kiss in trying to be highbrow with an orchestra. Yawn. International: Apparently LIVE were shit. Big surprise.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR Local: I'm going to risk my cred here and say Hayley Westernra's "Pure". If for nothing else but the most unintentionally ironic title of the year. International: Ryan Adams' "Rock and Roll", and "Love is Hell" parts 1 and 2. Mainly just for the attitude. "Don't like my album? Here's another one." Prodigious prick.
WORST ALBUM OF THE YEAR Local: Paul Holmes. I know it wasn't this year, but we still haven't topped (bottomed?) it, thank god. International: 50 cent. So shoot me.
ACHIEVEMENT OF THE YEAR: Local: Scribe. 1st local simultaneous number one album and single in our history. Nuff said. International: All the artists who stood up to the propaganda machine of the 4th Reich. Steve Earle, The Dixie Chicks, Emmylou Harris, REM, Billy Bragg (surprise, surprise), even Tatu, who went on Letterman with T-Shirts that read "Fuck Bush" in Russian. Y'all rock. At least in your politics...
BROADCAST OF THE YEAR: Local: C4. Local content video television that ain't shit. Who would have thunk it. International: Mike Moore's Oscar speech. Okay, not strictly a song, but it was music to my ears.
MARKETING COUP OF THE YEAR: Local: Kapisi's "Overstayer" label. Best merchandising since Dawn Raid, and more all encompassing than the whole White Sunday thing. International: Robbie Williams and Duran Duran. Genius. Get the 14 year old girls, and their mothers.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR Local: Local music in general, and live gigs in particular. Seems like we're finally twigging to DJ's - they're just juke boxes without breaks. International: Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. And not just as the sexiest 50plusers in history.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR Local: Scribe - "Stand Up". Local hip hop deservedly takes it's bow. Come on, it didn't make you want to form a posse? International: Johnny Cash's "Hurt". Raw, brave, heartbreaking. If you can watch it without tearing up, you were born dead.
OVERHYPE OF THE YEAR Local: The Tuis. New format, new judges, same old flash in the pan. International: Hell, where do you start. 50 Cent, the Madonna/Britney kiss, 50 Cent, Tatu, 50 Cent, anything on Universal, 50 Cent....
FELT LIKE OVERHYPE, BUT WASN'T Local: The Datsuns. Over a year and no Tall Poppy response? What the hell's going on? International: The White Stripes. And now Jack's in Jail? Rock and Roll.
IMAGE OF THE YEAR: Local: The close of the Temple. Says it all, really. Noise Control, smoke free legislation, general apathy, fear of cover charges.... hang your heads in shame, people. International: Any photos of Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer. In these times, losing two of the most outspoken voices of our generation should be a call to arms for every singer/songwriter in the world to get out there and risk something. Adios, maestros.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
We got Him! And I don't mean Saddam
Yes, it finally happened. They caught Mr. Son of Sam-Grinch-Evildoer-DarthVadar of the month, Saddam Hussein. Not bad. Considering that it took a month to find the Washington Sniper, and the whole planet didn't know what he looked like, six months to find one of the most recognisable men on the planet isn' t too shabby.... Okay, I'm not impressed. what I do find incredible, however, is that certain media pundits have opined that this will be a political boost for the Bush campaign. Why? Now that they've captured the dictator, does that somehow justify all of the lies, contradictions and casualties that have littered this illegal war? In fact, if you think about this right, this should be the final nail in the child thief's coffin. They've caught Hussein, right? There's still no sign of the dastardly weapons of mass destruction he was apparently hiding in his nightstand. Come on, if they had them, someone would have at least tried to use one by now. So, with Operation Finish Daddy's business basically having achieved all it can, or for the cynical amongst us, all it was really supposed to do in the first place, we're done, right? Wrong. Bush CANNOT afford to bring the troops home now. And that is the heel that the Democrats should be prodding at with this particular Achilles. Emphasise that he's done what he came to do. Ask why the troops aren't rotating out, why they continue to die, why they continue to get called up. Then, when he loses in just under a year, start pulling them out yourselves - it'll be nearly achievable by then, there should be a local government at least in it's infancy. Sure, it's deceitful, oppourtunistic and even sneaky. But it's politics. Get him out, ask questions later. Hey, it worked for Reagan. Just ask Jimmy Carter, or the Iranian hostages.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
What's Wrong With Festivals in NZ?
With 2003 out of the way, and 2004 looming, one discussion you can bet the house on hearing in the media and amongst Arts professionals later next year will be the AKO3 vs New Zealand/Wellington Festival of the Arts. How do they compare? Can they exist side by side? Should they? Frankly, I couldn't care less. Sure, I think Arts Festivals are a good thing, and they should be supported. No, I didn't go to AKO3, and I've never been to the F.O.A., (yet - I will be going to at least "12 Angry Men" in 2004). The fact is, the main reason I've never been to an Arts festival within New Zealand, (with the exception of the LAUGH! Festival, now renamed - thank god - the New Zealand International Comedy Festival), is that I've never felt invited. Now this isn't a snobbishness issue. Just because I've been working full time in the entertainment business, with several television appearances, awards and overseas invitations under my belt, for the last 7 years doesn't make me feel entitled to gold circle passes or free champagne with the stars. I know the rules, and it's been over three years since I was on Shortland Street, so let's be realistic here... No, it's a case of my alter ego, as one pretty typical New Zealand gig-goer. I like theatre, music, comedy, film and so on. Not too big on dance, but hey, I don't watch rugby either, so I guess that makes me either bi- or asexual, according to the surveys. I like to go to shows, gigs, events, screenings, and I'm not picky about what I see or where. The problem is, I go to such events because and when I want to, and can. In other words, 9 times out of 10, I'm one of those huddled masses that producers loathe so much - the walk up audience. Ask any performer or producer in this country's arts scene why their bookings are so low, and you'll get a variation on the same reply - we're a walk up country. We subconsciously take into account everything from the weather to how the work day went to the chance of a better offer from Tracy in accounts before we commit to going out. It's the equivalent of buying a dozen beers on special to drink at home, or blowing $200 without a thought on the same number of drinks during a pub crawl. And boy, does that piss our arts providers off. Back in my Dunedin days, I was the point man for a show featuring Rich Hall and Bill Bailey at the Regent Theatre. If you haven't been there, then, as Rich mentions in his recent book - it seats about 80,000 people. Comic exaggeration, sure, but you get the picture. So there we were, morning of the show, the two comics are in town and have made the front page of the ODT, and some fool decides to check the presales. Eight. In a theatre you could use to park a 747, eight people are booked to take their seats. Understandably, myself and the promoter had words. Out comes the cliche - "It's a walk up town" - and eventually we agree that the show will go on, albeit with my cheque account taking the brunt of the fall if we fail to cover the rental. To cut a short story long, over 900 people walk up, the show is great, and I still haven't been to debtors prison. Now what's the moral of this story? In my mind, the reasons for the eventual turn out were threefold - Good publicity up the last minute, a venue that everyone could find, and good information to the effect that doorsales were available. This, my friends, is what I'm trying to get at with the Festival scene in New Zealand. Every festival I have encountered here, from the NZ Festival of the Arts to AKO3, NZ Music Month, LAUGH!, The Film Festivals - all of these have struggled to grasp the simple concept of last minute door sales. The bigger festivals launch themselves with a (relative) bang, then seem to assume from then on that everyone has a copy of the programme, a credit card, and a willingness to pay Ticketek's outrageous booking fees three months in advance. I am yet to see a festival here with a genuine hub, a central point where people can pick up information on shows, book tickets and have a drink while they do it. If you happen to be in Edinburgh for the Festival season, you can drop into any of half a dozen venues, order a glass of wine and look up a blackboard telling you what's playing, where and when. Then, you can go to one of about eight ticket booths, buy your tickets and head to your show. It's not a case of tracking down a programme, searching through the often labyrinthian listings, borrowing a mate's cellphone, holding for ten minutes, overcharging your credit card and then trying to find the venue on a sodden, creased micromap - just to get to a gig. Now I understand the arguments of population base, geography etc etc. I just don't buy them. We don't have to have a Speigeltent on every corner, just a foyer bar somewhere with a whiteboard or two and a few clued up ticket salespeople. Is that so hard? I personally hope that all the Arts Festivals planned for the next two years pull crowds, get the support they deserve, and continue into the future. I just plead that the average audience member like myself, a strange, nocturnal creature, indecisive yet spontaneous, curious but not a codebreaker - gets some modicum of consideration when it comes to filling those houses. In other words, tell us where to go - but don't sell us a ticket until we get there.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
TIME is on whose side?
Charles Krauthammer, in his essay "The U.S. Gets No Sympathy. Should It Care?"(Time, Nov 17th, 2003) seems to echo a new party line in U.S., or more particularly U.S. Republican, reasoning for the anti-American feeling that much of the world expresses. To quote: "...The world hates the U.S. for its wealth, its success, its power...(anti-Americanism's) roots are envy and self-loathing." The breathtaking naivety of such a line of reasoning says more about such thinkers than any amount of criticism ever could. The rest of the world does not, in the main, object to U.S. successes. We applaud your filmmakers, your writers, your athletes, even in most cases your political victories in areas of humanitarianism, statesmanship and leadership. However, it is the insistence of so many within the U.S. that these successes mean that their country and culture is worthy to act as a global benchmark that turn so many hitherto sympathetic observers against the U.S. If anything, anti-Americanism is rooted in national pride. Outside of the U.S, people of many nations resent the relentless Americanism of our own cultures - the arrogance that states "our way is the only way" in so many aspects of our daily lives. In Australia, for example, the recent free trade negotiations brought up a trade demand from the U.S. that hard won quotas in local broadcast content (i.e. minimum hours of Australian made music, television and film to be broadcast free to air) be scrapped - a move that thankfully Australian unions have fought, so far successfully. This in the nation whose leader revels in his designated role as "Sheriff of The Pacific." Why a sheriff, and not a constable? In my own adopted home of New Zealand, our proudly held nuclear free status has recently been held up in a pathetic blackmail attempt by your ambassador to Wellington, hinting that it stands between us and a non-existent, unnecessary free trade agreement of our own. The message that the world rightly takes from such tactic is "become like us, and we'll like you." Mr. Krauthammer's most audacious claim is that anti-American views are held by "...people who, yearning for modernity but having failed at it, find their one satisfaction in despising modernity's one great exemplar." Having spent much time within this exemplar which only came to acknowledge civil rights in the late 1960's; where welfare cuts, unemployment, urban poverty and ghettoisation combine to drive an ever increasing wedge between rich and poor; where foreign policy is used to draw attention away from the domestic time bombs of radicalism, racism, and class discrepancies, and where history is rewritten or simply fabricated to justify any whim of the current ruling administration, I would happily remain a resident in any one of a dozen far more "modern" nations within Europe, the South Pacific or Asia. I do not hate Americans, or America. I recognise their distinct culture, their multi faceted national identity, their economic power and historical significance. However, I believe Americanism has its place - in America. Not in New Zealand, not in Australia, not in Iraq, and not, to quote a phrase from protesters throughout the world, in my back yard.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
New Plymouth, New Plymouth...
Being on tour is a sort of suspended disbelief state. Played Indigo in Wellington on Wed and Thurs, great shows to great houses. Then we drove through to New Plymouth, to play to eight people, four of whom were Scottish. Eight of the best damn people you could imagine, by the way, but still. 8. We seem to be arriving about a day ahead of 8 Foot Sativa everywhere we go, and Merri-May Gill, an Aussie (I think, my apologies if I'm wrong) seems to be playing across the street from each of our gigs. She's apparently very good, by the way, so check your local gig guides. Not sure if anyone in New Plymouth can vouch for me though....
On a different note, I'm the first to admit, right here, that I have to eat my words. For the last two columns, I've been not-very-subtlely hinting at scorn over the Supergroove "Best Of", "Postage". Well, I left my usual pre show music in Auckland, so bought the damn thing, and it fuckin rocks. Not just the hits, (which, by the way, I never tried to deny were genius then and now), but a fantastic mix of b-sides, rarities and remixes. Personally, I prefer the original version of "For Whatever Reason", and would have liked to see "My White Shirt" included from Traction, but who am I to complain. So Karl & co, you have my apologies, and everyone else should stick this in as many stockings as possible this Christmas.
In terms of venues, I really can't praise Indigo enough. When we arrived on Wednesday. Tyree Robertson was playing in the Acoustic Lounge, a regular Wed/Fri event from 6pm. Great sound, particularly volume: when you can hear every note and word, but still have a conversation if necessary, that's an acoustic night. Get along windy city dwellers, as well as those regular nights, 8 Foot Sativa last night, and Betchaduda tonight, Indigo has events throughout the week, including the best regular comedy night in NZ, every Thursday.
And if you happen to be in Masterton tonight, come to see me at Stellar, pre rubgy, 7pm. This is the one venue in that part of the Island that not only had the guts to put a show on on the night of a World Cup semi, but had the foresight to make a whole night of it. Comedy from 7, game, then a band till late. Rock on.
As for New Plymouth, I reckon the earthquakes are a hint. . .
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Remember remember the 5th of November...
Guy Fawkes day. Means nothing to the majority of North Americans, which is probably a good thing right now. I'm sure that a celebration of a terrorist plot, albeit a failed one, would be some kind of breach of Homeland security. What exactly are we celebrating, though? Is it, as many have been raised to believe, a day of remembrance for a fallen martyr, a strike against an over zealous government by a small group of free speech advocates? Or can we spin it to mark the triumph of order over chaos, a timely reminder that those who attempt to buck the system, literally blow democracy apart, meet an untimely, agonizing end at the top of a festive barbecue? Or, is it just a sad little man who gave his life so that we could make fireworks? The truth is, we don't really know what we're celebrating. Hell, we can hardly celebrate at all, in these over stifling days of safety and litigation dodging. Fireworks? We're down to sparklers and the occasional cat frightener. Bonfires? Not without a permit. So maybe a few eyes were lost before, maybe the odd household fence went the way of Mr. Fawkes - at least it was exciting. So here's a few ideas to spark up Guy Fawkes tonight - follow them at your own risk. 1- Make an effigy of Guy Fawkes. Put a George Bush mask on it. Burn it. Sit back and wait for the FBI to arrive. 2- Take one roman candle. Take one litre of gasoline. Combine. 3- Declare that you are updating the concept to include modern peers of Guy. Have a Timothy McVeigh party. Invite folk over for a good old fashioned Hussein Night bonfire. And tell them to reserve Sept 11th for the Big Bad Bin Laden Bash. Sit back and wait... see (1) above. 4 - For a quieter option, ponder the fact that in a time before satellite surveillance, electronic eavesdropping and billion dollar budgets, the authorities at the time actually caught Guy Fawkes. And without having to invade even one little country. 5- Go out. Get drunk. Marvel at the supreme hypocrisy of our society. 6- Move to Gaza, where every day is Guy Fawkes!!