What with a global pandemic and moving out to the Somerset sticks, getting married and producing a disarmingly cute small person, the LIVE! section of this website isn’t one I’d been expecting to bristle with much activity ever again, compared to the years when shenanigans with The Unrelated Family begat playing burlesque filth on the Battersea Barge which begat performing at Glastonbury which begat the live version of Tales of Britain which begat The Godless Carol Service, and all the other myriad showy-offy things I used to busy myself with throughout the year, in my bachelor days.
But 2023 is beginning to bud in a few unexpected ways…
I had already booked in the first Tales of Britain live show in four years at this year’s Ludlow Fringe in June, just for the pleasure of sharing my stories in my hometown. The Bath Comedy Festival‘s regular duties are always calling me, of course, and this year our annual comedy music event FUNNY NOISES is in a lovely new venue – I just need to hear from some funny musicians to actually appear in the show! Plus, Blackadder’s 40th anniversary made an attempt to revive The Unrehearsed Theatre Company hard to resist, so we’ll be back at The Bell being noisy as well. Oh, and this year’s Bath Plug Award winner is ready to be announced… soon.
That would have been about the size of it, though. But then I had a call from Chris Daniels, the boss of the Bristol Slapstick festival – an annual mainstay which has emptied my pockets and left me shivering on Bristol street corners every January for about 15 years now. By sheer good fortune – given the horrendously muted roll-out the book has had, only recently given the slightest fillip by my appearance on the Radio 4 Archive Hour for Annie Nightingale’s ‘Age Of Irreverence’, exploring the links between rock and roll and comedy – Chris had read Fab Fools, and loved it, and felt excited that it presented a perfect chance to bring a bit of fab Beatledom to the festival…
First comes the festival itself – this year moved to February, which may be a degree warmer, but probably not – and I’m chuffed to have been asked to perform a couple of honorary functions on Sunday 19th Feb. First, I’ll be up at the crack of dawn to take one of the last remaining bus routes up to Bristol, to introduce a showing of The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash at the Watershed at 9:30am. The true honour of this event is that I will be introducing and briefly chatting to Sir Barry Wom himself, the great John Halsey, who will have travelled all the way from Cambridgeshire. I’m sure he’s seen the film too. I’ll be around afterwards to sell and sign a few books, too, for those who like seeing good books scribbled on.
Then at 2pm I’ll be making my debut at the Bristol Old Vic (Peter O’Toole eat your dinner), and indeed on Robin Ince’s Book Shambles, a podcast which has somehow managed to overlook my oeuvre until now – all in the name of celebrating the extraordinary achievement of Eric Idle and cohorts in creating the Monty Python library, in Monty Python’s Book Shambles. I’ll be joining Robin and comedy academic Oliver Double in a very deliberately meta white-straight-men-celebrate-the-work-of-white-straight-men-but-perhaps-not-Cleese-so-much-these-days live recording of the podcast, and am already regularly plunging into the treasury thinking up mind-blowing observations which may or may not entirely evaporate from my head the second the producer presses play and record together. We shall just have to see/hear…
After years as a punter, I’m as pleased as a wife-beating sausage-obsessed puppet to get to take part – and blagging my way in to see Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer chat about Bad News and The Comic Strip the day before would be payment enough.
But what’s planned for July is by far the biggest deal for me, and for Fab Fools. The Bristol Slapstick Festival has booked the Redgrave Theatre up in Clifton – an awkward-to-travel-to but terribly auspicious venue where I’ve seen the likes of Harry Hill, Mark Lewisohn and indeed the Cleese himself in happier days – for FAB FOOLS LIVE!
Honestly, if you consider yourself a Beatles fan, you will want to be there. Just as in previous years I have had the honour of performing unseen, un-performed extracts from The Douglas Adams Archive, and of course, thanks to Stephen Fry’s generosity, there were two live Soupy Twists shows packed with Fry & Laurie sketches that no man, woman or trans person had ever read out loud before, FAB FOOLS LIVE will be the PREMIERE of all sorts of Beatles material which no fan will ever have seen or heard ever before.
Joe Orton’s unmade Beatles film UP AGAINST IT, Graham Chapman & Douglas Adams’ unproduced script OUR SHOW FOR RINGO STARR, excised sequences from A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, Peter Serafinowicz sketches, not to dwell on rare John Lennon gags from his schooldays, long lost Beatles sketches, nasty bits from In His Own Write, plenty of tributes to Neil Innes, performances of the very silliest Beatles and Rutles songs and so, so much more, will provide the basis for the first ever live show based on the book – a belated release celebration, having launched the book mid-first-pandemic.
I’m still putting the script together now, and the line-up may yet change, but I’ve sounded out my excitingly talented friends from the Hitchhiker’s Guide family Samantha Béart and Toby Longworth (who, bless him, has accompanied me now on three book launch shows) to provide silly voices, with more hopefully coming from the original Bootleg Paul and part-time Rutle/Bonzo Dog himself Dave Catlin-Birch! I used to upload episodes of my favourite Radio 2 comedy show JAMMIN’ starring Dave, and so performing alongside him will be an absolutely barnstormingly fab honour.
Most exciting of all, any Beatles maniac knows all about PILCHARD – the kitchen sink play co-written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon in a school exercise book circa 1958. Well, thanks to fresh research, this show will present the FIRST EVER DEBUT PREMIERE PERFORMANCE of this lost Lennon & McCartney theatrical masterpiece!
If you’re not at The Redgrave Theatre on Sunday 23 July, frankly, you will have to hand in your Beatles fan hat. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. That only exception goes out to our friend Kevin Eldon, who asked to be kept in the loop about the show (we were hoping for a cameo from Sir George Martin), but will probably be abroad filming Vic & Bob’s new film in July. Which… is fair enough, really.
So, an exciting gig line-up for me this year – and that’s only the first half of 2023! I’m still very open to further gig offers, be it family folklore, comedy podcast, dodgy burlesque, wild festival or whatever. Gimme a shout.
I sincerely hope to see you, the reader, at one or more of the above. And remember, as a wise scouser once sang, there’s actually really very little you can do that can’t ultimately be done, when you put your mind to it. Peas and laff and all that.