Archive for March, 2016

THE BATH PLUG AWARD

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Happy springtime! That most insanely stressful time of my year, thanks to the Bath Comedy Festival, now entering its… what? 8th year you say? That sounds about right, and I’ve put together shows for all of them. In fact, thanks to working on my first book at the time, I’d semi-retired from performing when the Festival first reared its head, but I wasn’t about to let it pass without sticking my tickling oar in one way or another.

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In terms of sheer effort and terror, my main focus this year is FUNNY NOISES – the festival’s musical gala. This is the sixth time of bringing together funny musicians to stage a whole night of tributes to the greats – Victoria Wood, Neil Innes, Viv Stanshall, Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin, Spinal Tap, Hugh Laurie, Monty Python, etc., etc. But this year has to be the biggest and bestest, as we’ve been taken fully under the wing of the relaunched Moles Club – that south-west musical legend, where Oasis and Blur nutted each other and The Smiths had an album launch, and you-name-it has performed over the years. If it all goes well, this may become a permanent Moles event every year, and we can keep it fresh with different classic comedy songs as the festival progresses…

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But when I wrote about the last festival, I rather glossed over my other primary concern – THE BATH PLUG AWARDS. Having basked in the warm company of Monty Python deity Terry Jones, with showings of his Wind In the Willows and Monty Python & The Holy Grail (which is this year’s Unrehearsed Theatre Company show), Comic Strip supremo Peter Richardson is the second winner of The Bath Plug Award, and will be on stage with me on Sunday 3rd April to chat about every aspect of The Comic Strip Presents’ 30 years of movie-making – in between showings of the latest caper, REDTOP, and a special big screen viewing of the 30th anniversary Comic Strip documentary. The latter choice was agreed between Peter and I because we simply couldn’t agree on which films to show – and embarrassingly, some of my favourites, Mr Jolly Jolly Lives Next Door, Bad News and Didn’t You Kill My Brother, weren’t written or directed by him (although he is of course brilliant in all of them). By showing the 30th anniversary celebration, we pack in as many bits of the films as we can all at once, with surprise appearances throughout. The night is a chat with Peter, but it’s a celebration of Peter, Rik, Ade, Dawn, Jennifer, Nigel, Alexei, Robbie, Keith, Pete and so many more…

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It’s a huge honour to be sharing the stage with the mastermind of The Comic Strip, of course – but all the more so, because he pretty much inspired The Bath Plug Award in the first place. Having seen him chairing a live Stella Street event at the Bath Komedia a few years ago, which involved a screening of the movie, and also seen some TCSP footage up on big screens at Rik Mayall tribute evenings, I selfishly decided that I wanted to see some of my favourite Comic Strip films in the cinemas – and set about finding a way to achieve this. I do also feel the story of Richardson & chums has been villainously overlooked, and it’s insane that there’s never been a book covering the whole Comic Strip oeuvre, and these two musings converged to give me the idea of meeting Peter, as part of an evening showcasing his work.

I can’t deny there’s a certain element of admiring jealousy for the Bristol Slapstick Festival’s own annual award, where comedy greats receive an exclusive Morph made by Aardman for them. Having attended many of those events, I wondered whether I could ask a few more interesting questions than seemed to crop up in Brizzle (one Q&A event kicked off with the interviewer admitting he’d not even seen the thirty-year-old classic comedy movie they were there to discuss until the previous evening), but the main question remained – what could The Bath Comedy festival offer? Some crappy perspex trophy designed to do nothing but gather dust was hardly going to attract comedy greats to the city. But then I figured – the logo for our festival is a bath plug, why not commission a special gold one every year, engraved, and then the winners can hang it anywhere they like, or even actually put it in their bath, and use it for real? I admit there’s also the cheesy added interpretation of them being invited along to ‘plug’ their next projects, which may have clinched the idea for me, but it seemed to be a winner all round,a great evening for comedy geeks in Bath and beyond, an extra reason to come and support the festival, and a fun idea which would encourage the best names in comedy to come on board (they don’t get paid, just the award, a nice hotel room and the chance to see their work on the big screen, in the lavish velvety Little Theatre Cinema, which is a gorgeous place – it’s even scaled down and mapped into the Wes Anderson Fantastic Mr Fox movie, if you look hard enough).

Hopefully this will be the second of many Bath Plug Awards – the need to have a movie to show always be part of the event is slightly problematic, not least due to rights issues, but we have exciting plans for future years (Does anyone feel like editing together a 2-hour version of ‘Catterick’?) and we just hope more and more people support us in celebrating the very best of British Comedy in this way, as the festival ripens and grows…

And as for all those other Comic Strip classics we’ve not yet arranged cinema viewings for – The Strike, Eat The Rich, other topical classics – there maybe something we can do about that for future events…

If nothing else, it does mean that I personally have dreamt up a concept which has become a question on the never-popular ITV1 quiz show, The Chase. Give me a shout when you achieve this distinction.

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