Frankie’s Fringe Invasion

I’m currently sat at my desk, getting through my lunch break by repeatedly refreshing Chortle and wondering when the Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Awards nominees are announced.

My body, having finally got used to the 2am-10am Fringe sleeping patterns I adopted last week, is annoyed that I am not still in Edinburgh trying to track down a ticket to see Adam Riches or Bridget Christie. I am consoling it with images of cake from tonight’s episode of The Great British Bake Off (perk of the day job). I’m one of those Edinburgh Comedy Widows you see, and my boyfriend’s show was rather good this year (my words, not his) – I’ve got my fingers crossed for him and some of his friends.

(Oh, apparently Wittank are getting an E4 pilot, or so my most recent Chortle refresh tells me. Good for them.)

I was really lucky to have the opportunity to do a few quick interviews at the Fringe this year – I’d decided to do a ‘stage invasion’ and try and appear in some shows a month or so ago. I was truly, properly, utterly perplexed and thrilled to be invited onto Grainne Maguire’s What Has the News Ever Done For Me? and the cult hit Knightmare Live (catch it when it tours soon if you’re not in Edinburgh) and had an amazing time. I don’t know if I can say the same for the audience members, but I’m sure they’ll get over it soon enough…

Here’s the extended version of my post-show chat with Grainne (all two mins of it!)

At Grainne’s show, I had to argue that my chosen news story of the week was more relevant than the other panelists’. Sadly my argument that selfies with works of art would lead to the social media neglect – and therefore subsequent death – of cats, did not convince the audience, although they did enjoy the shameless promotion of my boyfriend’s show (“It’s my boyfriend’s show about his breakup with his ex-girlfriend! John-Luke Roberts: Stnad-Up! Go see it! 6pm, Voodoo Rooms, Free Fringe!!!”)

I had some sound issues during filming, but you can see my three minute guide to the Fringe, Frankie’s Edinburgh Expose, below:

I had some very good sports in Paul Flannery and Tom Bell from Knightmare Live, who appear at the end of the vid (about 1 min 30 secs in) and improvised around my very stupid questions. The voiceover was recorded in my boyfriend Luke’s very small bedroom while he was semi-asleep. Therefore it’s a bit whispery. (Essentially, it’s not the best quality video in the world, but I had fun making it.)

During my time at the Fringe, I also spoke to Alex the Mind Reader and Christian Talbot about the audiences they enjoy talking to and how they deal with tricky crowds.

Alex reads my mind after a minute and a bit…

Christian’s daughter has been nominated for the Malcolm Hardee Stunt Award for her unique approach to flyering…

I have just refreshed the Chortle page. Nothing so far. In my next post I’ll talk about my favourite acts from the Fringe this year – hopefully they’ll be performing in London and various other places in the next few months.

Good luck to you all…

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Let’s bust some myths about ‘female stand-ups’

Oh Guardian readers. Most of you are my kindred spirits. Some of you, however, are people who just want to write ungrounded, shortsighted comments that barely resemble a proper opinion, let alone a constructive one.

Predictably, Mark Logan’s favourable review of Bridget Christie’s highly anticipated return to The Stand, where she performed her Fosters Comedy Award-winning show A Bic for Her last year, has roused the ‘women aren’t funny’ brigade yet again – with the majority of these bemoaning the idea that feminism can be funny.

What these quick-to-judge figures don’t seem to understand, is that a huge part of the current feminism movement (or fourth wave, if you like), has spread on social media like wildfire for three particular reasons; feminism in this day and age is common, sexualised culture in the West and awareness of practices such as FGM outside of our more local bubble, and finally, humour – yes, feminists have found their voices, and we’ve been making each other laugh on the subject ever since.

(It’s tempting to say ‘women’s voices’ – and of course, that’s a large part of it – but actually there are some brilliant men who openly call themselves feminists, brilliant stand-ups among them including my boyfriend, musical double act Jonny & the Baptists and activist Chris Coltrane).

So let’s bust some of those FQAs (Frequently Quoted Assumptions) right now, shall we?

“Female comics’ topics are limited to hating men, periods and under-representation in comedy”

This year, if you make the wise decision to see the wickedly awesome, super duper, charismatic Lou Sanders in Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again, you’ll be treated to the sight of Sanders tap dancing with a vagina on a stick. The vagina is not having a period. Or at least, it wasn’t during the preview I saw anyway. In fact, guys, I’m going to come out and say it now. Why aren’t women talking about periods onstage? I’ve seen a couple of semen jokes onstage – why not a bit of menstrual blood eh? WAIT, COME BACK, I’LL GET TO THE BLOODY POINT (geddit).

I’ve seen a lot of female stand ups in my time, but I’ve never seen a women target all men, joke about their ‘monthly visit’ in excruciating detail or say their aren’t enough women on the circuit as a joke. I’ve definitely had conversations with people about women stand-ups (I’m kind of having a one-sided type right now) and line-ups, but one of the biggest is still panel shows – where many fill their ‘woman quota’ with a female non-comic – Rachel Riley, I’m definitely talking about you (sorry) – and don’t feature female regulars or hosts (there’s Celebrity Juice and Viral Tap, both ITV2 – and very niche!).

The Guardian (yes, them again) wrote an article about the presence of more female comedy performers than ever before at this year’s Fringe. Although it didn’t explore this, I believe that the reason more women are going is because of stand-ups like Christie, whose success means that the stigma around ‘women not being funny’ is thankfully fading – in other words, it’s more economically viable to be a women performing at the Fringe, because people are less likely to be put off by seeing a female face on the poster.

“All the women comedians I’ve seen have been rubbish. Isn’t that Jo Brand awful?”

Firstly, I feel sorry for this hypothetical commenter. Comedy is subjective, so if you don’t find Jo Brand funny, that’s fine – just look elsewhere. Brand’s subject matter can veer to the domestic side, but that’s not a bad thing – and it often sharply dissects those expectations of perfection in relationships. And if you’re going to call Sarah Millican talentless, rather than accepting her stand-up isn’t for you, then there’s probably no hope for you.

“The women they’ve featured on Mock the Week have been rubbish”

Have you seen Mock the Week recently? It’s not just the women!

“Haven’t seen any Bridget Christie she might be great she might be terrible but she can’t be worse than her husband”

Ok – I’ve probably made some grammatical errors myself, but as I copied this comment verbatim from everyone’s favourite left leaning digital news website (ok, just mine), I’m resisting adding commas to the above quote. (NOTE TO SELF: STOP PROCRASTINATING!)

This wasn’t the worst comment on Brian Logan’s article, but it encapsulates the issue Christie must face in nearly every review, interview or article that features her as its subject; her husband. Onstage Christie does not refer to her actual comedian husband, but an invented ‘stage’ one. I don’t know a huge deal about Christie’s personal relationships, but what I do know is this – she’s hugely talented, she writes her own material, her material is distinct from his and her career is of her own making. End of. She may have featured on a show with him, but she’s also at the top of her game – if he wasn’t part of the show, she would still be involved. She’s not married to Harry Hill, Kevin Eldon or Kerry Godliman, but she featured on their respective sitcoms (Harry Hill’s Little Internet Show, It’s Kevin and Kerry’s List). And Fred MacAulay featured on her award-winning Radio 4 series Bridget Christie Minds the Gap – but they don’t have a romantic relationship either.

The thing about comedy – and it’s something I love – is that it’s a community. An industry with a performing circuit at its core, many performers know each other, share the same bill, organise gigs with each other and perform in the many new act competitions held each year. Essentially they help each other out – and they watch and enjoy each others’ sets. It’s supportive and refreshing. So therefore the idea of a leading alternative comic who won the most iconic prize in stand-up comedy last year appearing on a show about alternative comedy? Not that surprising is it?

“Women can’t do proper jokes”

Challenge your perceptions at the Fringe this year; if you think women can’t do one-liners or puns,check out Bec Hill, who started the hugely popular Pun Run night in London. If you think they can’t do near-the-knuckle rudeness, book a ticket to Katherine Ryan. It’s ingenious, borderline bonkers ideas you want? Lou Sanders is your woman. Friendly, funny and joyous? Go see Hatty Ashdown (and look out for Aisling Bea back in London). Political comedy with heart? Josie Long. Characters and/or improv? Cariad Lloyd and Pippa Evans are both doing laugh a minute shows this year. In the mood to see a panel show? Look out for Grainne Maguire’s What Has the News Ever Done for Me? (Check out Danielle Ward hosting her podcast panel show alongside team captain Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Do the Right Thing if you’d like to cheer up your commute.) Sketch comedy? Lazy Susan, of course! Sharp, hilarious and personal stand-up? Sarah Campbell.

“Feminism isn’t funny”

Sites like The Vagenda and writers such as Caitlin Moran aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they inject irresistible humour into the subject. And the art of good comedy is to always ‘punch up’ – unless you’re playing a character, such as Rachel Parris’s nightmare diva singer Felice in her show, Rachel Parris: Live in Las Vegas. Therefore, feminism is ripe for comedy – just as left wing, alternative comedy thrived in the eighties, feminism is fighting a absurd battle that needs to be had – and that means there’s humour to be mined.

Even if Bridget Christie’s comedy isn’t to your taste, if you were to analyse it, you’d surely have to appreciate the structure, the purpose and the commitment to the performance. She sends-ups perceptions of feminists, brings the ridiculous double standards of sexism to the fore, critiques her own bubbling anger and she also opens up a debate that will last with the audience once they leave the venue – last year it was through playing an inspiring recording of Malala Yousafzai talking about surviving the attempt on the life by the Taliban and the aftermath, and this year she’s making her intention to make a stand against FGM known.

“I don’t like ‘female comedy’. It’s my least favourite genre”

Well, luckily for you, it doesn’t exist!

In conclusion…

If you think women aren’t funny, you’re simply not looking hard enough. We don’t see enough of a variety of female acts on the TV for everyone to see someone to their taste, but the spectrum of acts around is so broad yet they don’t all get showcased on TV. Go out into clubs, go to the Fringe, make some effort – go on YouTube, or Chortle, or follow-up on tips from – yes, you guessed it – the flipping’ Guardian.

But whatever you do, don’t believe what you read in the comments, ok?

 

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Stuart Laws and John-Luke Roberts

Now previews are done and the Edinburgh Fringe has kicked off, it’s time for me to present the last two episodes of my interactive video series, Frankie’s Fringe Focus

First up, it’s Stuart Laws

Stuart is a kinder eggs obsessive stand-up, whose show this year, ‘When’s This Gonna Stop?‘ will reveal his penchant for German Christmas cookies and a hatred for spiders

He runs his own production company, Turtle Canyon Comedy, and has recently been making short comedy films (so I don’t know what he made of my makeshift iPad filming setup!) He’ll also be doing a Comedy Roast with fellow Fringe Focus guest Matt Winning – find out more on his website.

Watch the Fringe Focus with Stuart Laws on Touchcast

John-Luke Roberts

I’m definitely trying too hard to be a ‘too-cool-for-school’ T4-style host in my interview with Luke – but it’s quite surreal interviewing someone you know so well.

I’ve not actually seen Stand-Up’, Luke’s show this year, but I’m planning to see it in Edinburgh – I’ve seen various bits of pieces at new material nights and even donated self-raising flour to his cause. But, if anything to go by last year’s show, it’s going to be awesome (and I’ll be very proud). It will also feature a talking dinosaur…

Luke also co-hosts the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society with Thom Tuck and will be presenting different acts four nights a week during the Fringe. Being the Fringe, it’s only allowed to be two hours long – I’ve never been to such a short ACMS, so I’m quite intrigued by the prospect!

Watch the Fringe Focus with John-Luke Roberts

So that’s it for my first interactive series! You can find a full list of featured acts here and do Tweet me your Fringe tips @getfrank. It’s been a while since I’ve properly gone out and interviewed people outside of work (and kept my voice/face in the mix) and I’ve enjoyed it so much – and that down to the lovely comics, the nice folks at Touchcast who have repeatedly given me more space on their server and everyone who has watched, tweeted or let me know they’ve been watching. You’re the best.

Hopefully I’ll get to host some new stuff in future, and I’m keen to work with others, so do get in touch with ideas!

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Jay Foreman and Nish Kumar

To celebrate the start of the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I’ll be publishing a new episode of Fringe Focus every day!

The series will finally conclude on Saturday – and on Sunday, I shall rest. And probably bake a three tier cake for the office, but that’s a different kind of effort, right?

So I’m not bombarding your inbox, I’ll keep the Fringe Focus posts to every other day – hence featuring two comics at a time. And here they are…

Jay Foreman

Jay Foreman is most likely the successor to Mitch Benn‘s topical musical comedy crown. He can often be seen collaborating with fellow Fringe Focus guest Bec Hill on YouTube, with Bec’s paper puppetry perfectly complimenting Jay’s witty tunes.

This year Jay’s doing a kids’ show at the Pleasance, Disgusting Songs for Revolting Children (and Other Funny Stories) and I was lucky enough to be treated to a one-on-one performance of one of his quirky acoustic numbers from the show – watch my slightly awkward bobbing to the music (and much, much more) over on Touchcast now.

Nish Kumar

Make no mistake – Nish Kumar is a lovely, lovely man, and a genuinely brilliant stand-up. He’ll be returning to the Fringe with his third full length effort, Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity.

I’ve seen a preview and it’s a great show – with some lovely callbacks and a hilarious story about Nish’s trip to the Isle of Wight with fellow comic Romesh Ranganathan. But obviously, don’t just take my word for it – go see it! And before you do, make sure you watch the Touchcast (even if just to see Nish get very excited about making interactive things appear onscreen)!

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Lou Sanders

The ninth (yes, ninth – catch up here) episode of my foray into comedy interviews, Frankie’s Fringe Focus, is with the wickedly funny Lou Sanders.

Lou is one of those stand-ups who are hard to compare with anyone else. She’s got a unique, almost anarchic, energy about her – you trust her onstage, even though you can’t predict what she’s going to do next.

We shot this in the ladies’ loo in the Camden Head (the Camden one, not Angel), with Lou’s friend holding my iPad. After this (and my video with Lead Pencil) I realised that the main (front) camera on my iPad simply doesn’t focus properly, so from now on, even if someone else is filming, I’m going to have to film using the front camera.

Luckily Lou looks nice in this video (while I look like I’m partly made of the sun… and not in a good way) and we chat about her amazing character The Money Lady, calculate the number of jokes on offer in this year’s show, Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again, and cover tap dancing vaginas… just because.

Click here to watch the video now. It’s interactive so you can touch it if you’ve got that kind of screen – or click with your mouse if you haven’t!

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Matt Winning

This week’s episode of Frankie’s Fringe Focus features the dulcet tones (and joyful face) of Matt Winning.

I met Matt, like many of his comedy peers, through the BBC New Comedy Award. He stood out due to his energetic, slightly absurd, abstract punchlines and unique comic ideas.

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This was actually one of the first interviews I recorded for the #FringeFocus series, so I was particularly grateful to Matt for being a guinea pig of sorts! He’ll be sharing an hour slot on the PBH Free Fringe with fellow stand-up Lolly Adefope at the Southsider between the 2-23 August at 16:30. Matt and Lolly will also be appearing together as part of the hugely popular Bearpit Podcast Podcast – which is a snip at a measly three quid a ticket. In other words, go and see both – you won’t regret it.

Watch Matt Winning talk about his past and Future Fringe shows on Frankie’s Fringe Focus on Touchcast now.

What to See: The Kidnapper’s Guide

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching a new production by fellow drama graduate, writer and director Joe White.

Needless to say, the show was an utter riot and, at an Edinburgh Festival friendly running time of 60 minutes, packed a hilarious punch.

Rather than give too much away, I thought I’d drop Joe a line and ask him to answer a few questions and let you know why you should catch the show while you can.

I’ve heard that the Kidnappers’ Guide wasn’t the original production that you were planning to take to Edinburgh. What happened, and how did you get the current show on the road, so to speak?

You heard right. If everything had ‘gone to plan’, then The Kidnapper’s Guide would never of existed. Or, at least, not existed in this time and place. We were originally planning to take an adapted version of Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace (which was closer to the Frank Capra/Cary Grant classic film than it was the original play) to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. All was sorted: we had a strong cast, we had a funny script, we had a venue (Zoo’s Monkey House), we were in the printed fringe programme and we had great accommodation. We couldn’t go wrong!

And then, on the 17th July, I got a very unwelcome phone call.

“Hello. Is this Joe White?”, the voice said.

“Yes.”

“I’m calling from Joseph Weinberger”

“Right.”

“Are you taking Arsenic and Old Lace to the Fringe this year?”

“Yes.”

“No you’re not.”

And that was that. It was difficult. There had been complications and mass miscommunications between us and Joseph Weinberger (who own the rights to Kesselring’s play), where adaptation rights had not been properly cleared or accepted. We were denied permission to adapt and we were denied permission to perform. We were due to perform in exactly 19 days.

Luckily, I am blessed with the most talented, enthusiastic and inspirational cast, and the best producer and co-writer in Nathan Teckman, who just so happens to be the funniest people on the planet, and, after a day or so of absolute, sheer, blind panic and a desperate battle cry, there was a call to arms, and we fought back the only way we know how – and made a play.

In terms of both structure and plotlines, how did you seek and discover inspiration for the show?

Within a week of losing Arsenic, we had arranged a three-day character workshop and began working on ideas – collecting and montaging scenes scribbled during lectures or from notes or after day dreams – and came together to start creating The Kidnapper’s Guide. Loosely based (and I mean LOOSELY – we don’t need any more rights aggravation) on the 1967 flop film The Happening (none of us have seen the film past the trailer because it is truly awful), we decided to work on an Arsenic-esque farce that was about kidnapping’s that go awry.

We did our research by watching classic farces: His Girl Friday, Harvey, Some Like It Hot, Bringing Up Baby etc. and we started collecting farcical techniques and structural frameworks (frantic entrances and exits, mass human traffic, secrets, disguises etc). These films all pretty much subscribe to fairly similar formulae – there is usually a reluctant hero, a love interest, a kooky relative or friend, a flawed villain – and, armed with a canon of classics and some great character and plot outlines, Nathan and I entered a week of writing and laughing.

 You had a cast in place for a different show, how did you redistribute roles amongst your cast for the eventual performance?

Writing for 12 actors was a blessing and a curse. The cast themselves started to sculpt their characters in the workshops, so, even when away from the rehearsal room, we could imagine every detail, physical or vocal, of their creations (and we fully credit the actors in this collaborative process) and therefore knew the strengths of all involved. The Kidnapper’s Guide spans many comic genres and, knowing and working as closely with the actors as we do, it was simple to tailor to their own humours, tone and physicalities. The problem, however, lay in writing 12 parts and giving opportunities and scope for all of the actors to play and expand on ideas. However, the process of division and balancing roles was, after initial fears, actually fairly easy. The actors, their suitability to a certain role, and the roles subsequent place in the play actually evolved organically – everyone just kind of fell in to place – and after some early adjustments, we felt as though we had given everyone enough to sink their teeth into and just enjoy. I think that, in writing an ensemble comedy, it is crucial to give everyone at least one REALLY good line or bit and give every actor their share of the laughs. This sounds shallow perhaps, but it is true, and I think it works for exciting and layered characterisation and happy, confident and enthusiastic actors, which is probably paramount in performance.

 Who will the show appeal to and why should they make the effort to come and see it?

The Kidnapper’s Guide was not created for any specific age group, gender or personality. Without any crudeness or any sanitised-for-family-feel, we take the comic heroes of the past and, with modern touches, pull them into the present, concentrating on good, pure fun and respecting ‘funny’ first and foremost. All we care about is filling the room with laughter – whether they are the laughs of grandparents or grandchildren – and simply entertaining all who visit.

The Courtyard Theatre is a wonderful independent theatre and one which thrives on giving opportunities to aspiring writers, performers and companies like ours. It is a venue and organisation which should be celebrated and revered. The Courtyard is a breeding ground for the new and the unearthed and, almost pulsating with energy, the theatre reverberates an excitement through it’s theatre-makers and theatre-goers alike. It is the perfect home for The Kidnapper’s Guide, and the perfect place for you to see it!

What would you personally like to achieve in the next 5 years?

Being alive would do! I don’t exactly have a five year plan – I have hopes and aspirations of course, but remembering mice and men (the proverb, not the book) and all that, for now, I want to just keep writing whenever I can – predominantly for theatre, but also expanding to television comedy and film at some point – and hope to move into direction through my writing. My first full length play Phoenix is currently under scrutiny here and there, and I hope to see that someday – it took a bit longer than a week to write. Theatres such as The Bush, The Royal Court and Theatre 503, whose lifeblood is new writing are my ideal. But I want to keep options open. Beggars can’t be choosers. And I don’t want to be a beggar. And I’m nearly am a beggar. So, in answer to the question, I’d say either missing, presumed dead, or the Artistic Director of The Royal Court.

The Kidnapper’s Guide is on at The Courtyard Theatre from the 13th – 17th September at 8pm, Tickets cost £10 (£8 Concessions)

For further information, please contact Joe White on joemarkwhite@gmail.com