Archive for the ‘Comedy History’ Category

The Bath Plug 2018: Rachel Parris

It’s that time of year again!

Previous winners: TERRY JONES, PETER RICHARDSON, BARRY CRYER

Now read on, dot dot dot…

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With the precedent set by Jones, Richardson and Cryer, it may well be that anyone who knows about the Bath Plug Award, which I created, and which it is my duty to dole out every April, believes it to be a lifetime achievement award for white straight men of a certain age.

This was not at all the idea. This lovely golden plug exists to celebrate COMEDY, and to reward the talent and achievement of great comedians at any stage of their careers. And so this year’s winner, The Mash Report hero and highlight Rachel Parris, is not just more than deserving of the esteemed medal, she’s also provided a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Bath Comedy Festival. By kindly accepting the award from me and festival boss Nick Steel on Friday 6th April, she finally blew away the cobwebs, and opened all the doors for future Bath Plug Award winners! As I said to her afterwards, if the award wasn’t totally merited, it would have felt weird – and it absolutely didn’t. It’s a relief to have a very different kind of winner, but nobody could deserve it more.

As I popped up on stage at the end of her brilliant musical set, there wasn’t a huge amount of time to lavish on the ceremony (not least as she’d been rather violently ill all day), but as you can see from the video below, I did my job as best I could…

… But as she was not far away, Britishness got the better of me when singing her praises. I do believe that her two-handers with Nish Kumar on The Mash Report are uniquely brilliant (perhaps why they go viral so readily), and her delivery of a kind of common sense satire, with a smiling sheen of faux-compassion, comprises a voice we just haven’t heard before. To spare her blushes, I left out my suggestion that she had ‘become the most distinctive voice in British satire since Chris Morris’… Still, if she is reading this, she’s welcome to quote that to her Mum next time her career is called into question. ‘Stephen Fry’s official biographer says…’

Here’s a couple of reports on the shebang anyway, and my stress is turned off, on this score, for another year – my plans for the next Bath Plug are as ambitious as ever, however, and fingers crossed they will come to fruition… COMEDY.CO.UK CHORTLE

Anyway, with those duties fulfilled, the next day saw Kate Harbour and I back at the Widcombe Social Club with our most comedic TALES OF BRITAIN show yet…

And finally, on Sunday at Moles, the main event I’d been preparing for many months, this year’s FUNNY NOISES, which raised £50 for Bath Food Bank, and was a pleasantly mellow experience. In fact, if you’re a real glutton for miserable, painful punishment*, the whole thing was captured on Facebook Live. Ordinarily I’d be antsy about linking to my Facebook profile in a blog, but as anybody can just grab all my personal info from Facebook anyway, I may as well share and share alike…

* NB This statement does not in any way refer to the guest appearance from the very funny and awesome YONIC.

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THE FROOD ABIDES: H2G2 at 40

40 years ago today… I was entering my third trimester in my Mum’s womb, and she certainly wasn’t tuned in to Radio 4. But yes, Hitchhiker debuted, three days off Douglas Adams’ 26th birthday – and tonight, it’s back.

4 years ago today… well, not today, but 4 years ago… THE FROOD, Douglas Adams’ official biography, was launched, in which I documented the visionary audio-wizard Dirk Maggs’ attempts to turn Eoin Colfer’s entry into the extended canon, And Another Thing, into a new radio series – and now finally, my wonderful book is rendered that bit more out of date, by his eventual success! I was even asked to help out by providing some extra material from the archives, and although I’m sure it made no difference as they were already pals, without being aware of that, I did bang on a bit to Dirk about Sir Lenny Henry being the perfect Consultant, so I’m really chuffed he’s joined the Hitchhiker family.

Considering all the publicity surrounding the Douglas Adams Paper Archive in recent Radio 4 documentaries, it’s been a slightly sticky time to be Adams’ official biographer, taking a step back as others talk all about their own experiences with the archive, but I’m glad to have been able to get my oar in, in the latest H2G2 special from SFX:

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… Which you’ll have to buy to read, obviously! Or even better, just buy The Frood if you haven’t by clicking THIS BIT HERE.

Let’s be honest, there’s been a lot of talk about the Hitchhiker archives, but nobody ever mentions THIS page, do they? It could be the key to everything!

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It’s a busy day, with a gig to perform and International Women’s Day events to go to, but I’ll of course be tuning in at 6.30pm like everyone else, and raising a theoretical glass to The Hitchhiker’s Guide 40 years on.

Although of course, this is just the latest chapter in the Hitchhiker story. There will be plenty more to come, to the 50th anniversary and beyond…

Rik at 60: Duh-Eh-Ah-Duh

HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY, would have been nice to say, RIK MAYALL!

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When Rik’s final jog spoiled everything back in 2014, I wrote a blog all too soon, and was honoured to also provide a short Flashheart-themed obit for the BBC, but today seems an auspicious occasion to muse a bit more about missing The Late Dr The Rik Mayall.

A third of a decade without the People’s Poet, and still the comedy community kind of tries not to think about it too much. Not for Rik the outpourings of tribute books which marked the loss of his cohort in the Comedy God Pantheon, Peter Cook – I’ve long known that an official biography, a kind of sensible answer to BIGGER THAN HITLER, BETTER THAN CHRIST was in the works, penned by that book’s ghost-writer, but as we shared a publisher, Preface, which has since ceased to be, I’ve no idea what’s happened to it. It must have been finished a year or two ago unless it was abandoned…

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However, perhaps the hero’s closest mourners are now beginning to come to terms with Rik’s loss, and make comedy out of the situation. Posthumorous tributes are always a problematic gig to contemplate (Rik & Ade’s own snide appearance at Cook’s ‘Posthumorous’ tribute show rather ripped the piss out of the whole concept in the first place). It’s over ten years since the loss of David Hatch, for instance, and I still can’t quite believe there never was any kind of charity revue tribute, given the generations of comics he helped to stardom – and ditto Geoffrey Perkins.

But Rik presents an even trickier challenge when it comes to funny tributes, partly because he will always be an irreplaceable performer, so there’s little point in others performing his material – but also because it’s impossible to think of any other comedian whose output so closely went hand in hand with DEATH, from the very first. Extremely dark poor taste humour obsessed with what Rik liked to call duh-eh-ah-thuh can be a spine-chilling thing once its perpetrator has stopped pissing about and actually carked it. You can’t watch any of Rik’s oeuvre without the macabre coming along to rub your nose in it.

Rik Mayall really, really loved death. Just think of Rik’s whole comedy career from start almost to finish – Rik & Ade’s fledgling Edinburgh Show, Death on the Toilet starred Death himself in the first of many appearances, then Kevin Turvey presented his own special investigation into Death…

…His classic 50’s rock and roll number ‘Oh Gosh I’m So Lonely’ is all about death (and The Unrelated Family will be performing a version at this year’s FUNNY NOISES, comedy music fans!), and then where do you even start with The Young Ones? Besides the boys all dying horribly at the end of numerous episodes, Death showing up again as a poor loser in chess, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Rick trying to kill himself with laxatives, etc., etc. The Comic Strip is packed with death, but especially when Rik & Ade were in charge – Mr Jolly goes without saying. What about Alan B’stard, and his famous fake assassination, complete with nightmare zombie dream sequence? Then to be pedantic about it, Mayall’s many acting roles centred on death and murder, from Bring Me The Head of Mavis Davis to his knock-out role in Murder Rooms – he even played Dominic De’Ath in In The Red. Bottom – again, Richie and Eddie only survived numerous unquestionably lethal attacks by being human cartoon characters, but Richie was always prone, if not to feign a heart attack Steptoe-style or self-strangulation, then to drop to his knees and beg his peer Jehovah to deliver him from eternal damnation. And right up to the end, the shadow of our eternal finale was forefront in his career, with animation ‘Don’t Fear Death’ being one of his last jobs:

You can just see him now, miming hanging himself, toes scampering on the stage, as he LAUGHS WILDLY IN THE FACE OF DEATH. How do you follow that up once he really has turned to earth? I was going to say that one of the few roles where Rik never snuffed it was Lord Flashheart, but even then, in Back & Forth, his Robin Hood ended up with a hundred arrows thunked into his body. His starring movie vehicle was called DROP DEAD FRED, for fuck’s sake. Name me one comic more obsessed with death. I won’t wait.

The death obsessions will always add an extra layer of complication to any kind of tribute to the brilliant chap. But, it seems like finally his friends are beginning to think about how it can be done, with Nigel Planer recently letting slip that he’s working on a final instalment of The Comic Strip Presents’ ‘Four Men’ films, Three Men & A Funeral, which will surely be anything but in good taste, and perhaps will lay many ghosts for all of them. It seems somehow perverse not to laugh about Rik’s death, because it’s so very clearly what he would have wanted, with the utmost sickness.

I was quite pleased to have possibly planted the tiniest seed of a different anti-tribute too, when I attended the Bristol Slapstick Bad News event with Ade & Nigel back in January – as the bootleg linked there should attest (can’t find the actual moment, sorry – somewhere near the end), I had the thrill of my life when my question triggered the biggest woof of laughter from Ade, and the whole theatre, much to my own surprise (rather annoying way to get one of the biggest laughs of your life, but there we are). In the Q&A section, I posited the idea of new Bad News by saying something along the lines of: ‘Do you ever think about what the Bad News guys are up to now, and dare I ask, would Colin’s death not be more of a boon to the surviving members than a hindrance?’ The huge laugh arrived round about the word ‘boon’, and Ade didn’t wallow too long in the possibilities, but it seems such a crime not to have Vim, Den and Spider reunite to remind themselves just how much they despised Colin. We can only hope.

In the aftermath of his death, it was impossible to think any of these things out loud, because in the forefront was the stunned realisation that THE RIK was a husband, a father, a brother and a son, and even he couldn’t make the reality of sudden death funny. But that huge laugh at the idea of being glad that Colin is dead is a wonderful indicator, that the time has come to slip off the black armband and celebrate Rik in the right spirit.

Without wishing to turn this blog into self-promotion (Moles gig plug aside), Rik does have a crucial role in SOUPY TWISTS, as Stephen’s co-star in Cell Mates, there’s some time spent on the Fry/Mayall partnership… but above all, Rik’s spirit, should such a thing exist, has been constantly on my mind throughout the production of TALES OF BRITAIN, my forthcoming British folklore collection – because I basically wrote all 77 stories for him to perform. Top of my To Do list in early summer 2014 was ‘finally get through to Rik about TOB’. Rik’s Grim Tales was consciously my inspiration from start to finish, and nothing would have been more perfect than to have him present a TV show version. Now that is eternally impossible, I find myself editing the tales for publication, dealing with the copy-editor’s sense-of-humour-failing notes, queries about weird jokes that were written expressly for Rik. And all I can reply to them is, ‘it would be easier to understand in Rik’s voice’. Not all the tales are balls-out daft, some have to be proper tear-jerkers, or genuinely scary – and nobody could zoom from no-limits hilarity to sensitive sincerity with the speed and agility of The Rik Mayall. Maybe I’ll be pilloried when the book comes out for its esoteric blend of anarchic silliness and sincerity, but I can’t dilute the book now. Frankly, the more Rik there is in Tales of Britain, the more proud of it I will be when it finally comes out this year.

Everything’s just shit without him, let’s be honest. But let’s equally hope that his inspiration will give us many more laughs to come. Happy birthday, you dead bastard.

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Bath Plug Award 2017: BAZ!

Well, another Bath Comedy Festival tucks itself up in bed, and levity flies from the city once again for another year. This was a particularly light year for me, as my usual multiple duties mainly boiled down to just performing at Moles club on Sunday 9th, for this year’s FUNNY NOISES: MY LOVELY HORSE!

True, a few days before I enjoyed the honour of introducing the arrival of I’M SORRY I’LL READ THAT AGAIN, AGAIN in our city, explaining my part in the original scripting of the show, and my suggestion in The Clue Bible all those years ago, and even playing Bill Oddie’s immortal BLIMPHT before the real new Wonder Team took to the stage. It really does make for the most extraordinarily hilarious night, and there are still plenty of shows to go, so check out:
http://www.offstagetheatregroup.com

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Offstage Theatre boss Barnaby Eaton-Jones and I – there’s a chap who knows how to get things done…

And indeed, the night before that, I was honoured to get up on stage as soon as Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden had finished their show at the Wiltshire Music Centre near Bradford-on-Avon, to present Baz with this year’s Bath Plug Award. He’s a long-standing patron of the festival, and of course I owe my entire career to a phone call he made to me after I wrote some fanzine articles on ISIRTA and ISIHAC about 12 years ago, so it’s all his fault I’m so poor! But the funny thing is, all these years I’ve never really drunk with Barry, which seems remiss, but I always respected his privacy, which it turns out is not at all what he wants, he wants a laugh and a pint. And that night we all had quite a few. It wouldn’t be the Bath Comedy festival without getting legless with a true comedy legend at some point.

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Ordinarily we have a special event for the Bath Plug, but as I said on stage, it turns out that the very last possible question about comedy that Barry had never been asked was used up by Matthew Sweet at the Melton Mowbray Comedy Festival in 2013, so we thought it best to save him the inquisition. Interviewing Barry Cryer is the comedy equivalent of playing Stairway To Heaven on a shop guitar.

But questioning him over numerous beers is a very different thing, and a great night was had by all, including his partner Ronnie Golden and Bath festival boss Nick Steel, as we heard about Max Miller and Willie Rushton (the campaign to create a Rushton tribute book starts here) and many other comedy jewels which littered the carpet all night long. A night to cherish – and Baz being Baz, he even had the decency to ring up the next day when safely back home in Hatch End, to thank MA for such a great night!

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Uncle Simon, Auntie Zoob, Stepmummy Bea and Mama Rhi, plus Daddy Jem, making folky funny noises at Moles Club, April 2017.

And so Sunday’s mellow musical gala was my main worry for this year’s festival, and it was certainly the most laid back one of all, which has just left me otherwise working on Soupy Twists day in, day out… but I am no more than one decent day’s work away from completing that, my fourth book, and so a big announcement is in the offing…

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SOUPY TWISTS! First Bit

SOUPYCLICK.jpgDear Madam, or Sir –

This is to introduce, in a needlessly twee way, the officially authorised book SOUPY TWISTS – the fourth work of comedy history by Jem Roberts, and the first ever print celebration of the tickling, maddening, frothing and frankly filthy comedy of STEPHEN FRY & HUGH LAURIE, to officially mark the forthcoming (not ‘upcoming’, never ‘upcoming’) 30th anniversary of the pilot of their terribly hilarious BBC sketch show, A BIT OF FRY & LAURIE.

For a full and shameless explanation, please do click through to the UNBOUND website above – support the book, and please, if you love the sophisticated comedy stylings of these two beloved colleagues, SPREAD THE WORD. On the other hand, stay tuned for a little more information on the long and bendy road which has brought us here.

SOUPY TWISTS is not my first pitch since I handed The Frood over in the spring of 2014 – but be in zero doubt that the comedy of Fry & Laurie, and indeed their careers in general, has had an unparalleled influence on the person that I am, since staying up to watch them both on Saturday Live – or further, watching Lord Snot and Lord Monty get blown up on The Young Ones when I was six years old. If you want to know, in particular, the effect that Stephen Fry has had on me throughout my life, simply seek out what Fry has written about the influence of PG Wodehouse and Vivian Stanshall on himself, his own verbiage, and love of language. Via direct influence and by urging me towards Plum and Viv, I would estimate that a huge chunk of my vocabulary – all the prettiest parts – are indebted to Fry.

But this is not to devalue the influence of Hugh Laurie, and one crucial part of what I hope to achieve with SOUPY TWISTS is to remind people of Laurie’s own brilliance as a comedy writer and performer, which tends to get forgotten amid the avalanche of awards and record-breaking American-housewife-dampening achievements he has accrued in the last decade or so. Particularly, Hugh’s place as one of our finest funny songwriters has been villainously overlooked, and as I believe comedy music to be perhaps the greatest artistic medium of any kind (well, perhaps equal with comedy sketches) I will be striving to give Hugh his due, whether he likes it or not.

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If a Mr Cuminmyear could get in touch, I’d be very interested in pumping him thoroughly.

However, Hugh is the reason that it took me so long to dare to dream of pitching this book idea to anyone. His infamous unease with talking about himself and his now near-alien comedy career has always been obvious, and I never thought he would agree to some below-stairs homunculus like me writing about it. I’ve yet to write a single unofficial book, and so approval was key, and that seemed like an impossible task, to tempt Hugh to a blessing. But with the bravery and imagination of book publishers at an all-time low (or, let’s be fair here, the blame lies mainly with the mindless philistinism of their corporate superiors) several mooted, worthy and exciting fourth books fell by the wayside, and so I thought, why not take the risk? Fry & Laurie have been an abiding passion of mine for most of my life, why not for goodness’ sake take the plunge and see what Hugh says? We’ve suffered such horrible comedy losses in recent years, why not stand up and cheer for the vertical men, one of our greatest ever double acts, while both colleagues are here to be delightfully embarrassed by the acclaim? This is my job, to capture the thoughts of our greatest comedians, and preserve their memories and philosophies for all time.

And so, somewhere in the region of a year and a half ago, I suggested ‘Soupy Twists’ to Stephen, and was pleasingly staggered at the rapidity of the tentatively positive reply. However, never ones to be anything but challenging, Stephen explained that somehow he and his best friend had gone 35 years without actually having a business discussion, and so my quest was to gain Hugh’s blessing, and his promise to take part in the creation of the book, entirely independently. This took a little bit (a year) longer, which is to be expected when the man in question was joshing around fighting George Clooney and trying to destroy the world for most of that time.

Since gaining the hero’s express permission to proceed, however, it has been a cautious shuffle towards today’s announcement. The choice of Unbound to publish the book has so many binds of synergy to it, SOUPY TWISTS could clearly have no better home – Stephen had just left QI, of course, and Unbound was co-founded by the QI co-founder John Mitchinson, and this gives them a reason to extend their professional connection, keeping everything neatly friendly across the board. Fry & Laurie both know and delight in Unbound’s mission statement, to give the people what they really want, despite the degeneration of most publishing houses.

But of course, the Unbound mode of publishing only works if you do your bit – and pledge to support the book, pledge to give Fry & Laurie the celebration that they deserve, and of course, pledge to mess yourself laughing at more completely undreamt of Fry & Laurie sketches than even their most optimistic fans could have thought possible. These chaps wrote four series, 26 half hours on their own, and yet Stephen Fry kindly sent me a zipfile of untouched writings which could easily comprise an entire 5th series of ABOF&L. And yes, I know I’m somewhat biased, but I have had the honour of being the first to sift through these knackered old defunct Word files, and… I promise you, from one Fry & Laurie fan to another, although some sketches may be, erm, sketchy, this NEW Fry & Laurie material is almost all entirely up to the best standard – which is one way of saying I have been doing an obscene amount of helpless laughing in recent weeks. No other sketch show of the last 20 years comes close; Fry & Laurie’s unseen off-cuts blast the broadcast sketches of any subsequent act out of the water.

I’ll be trying to squeeze as much of this rare comedy into the book as I can, as the joyous pudding to a main course of exploring the comedic voyages and lasting friendship of Stephen John Fry & James Hugh Calum Laurie, and if you support us with this project right now, the book (with your name in the back) can be nestled on your lap, or preferred book station, in just over a year.

I’ll be shifting most coverage of SOUPY TWISTS composition over to the Unbound site during that time, but for now, please do pledge, and help spread the word. You’ve been patient, you’ve been glossy, you’ve been surprisingly supple. I’ve enjoyed being fabulous with you.

SOUPY TWISTS!

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THE FROOD: FIT THE FINAL?

This month The Frood is excitingly relaunched in paperback form – which, after all, was always the natural format for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, from its first release.

This is a completely updated, fine-tuned edition, which will hopefully spread Douglas Adams’ incredible, improbable, never-holistically-told-before story further than ever, and see this Hitchhiker celebration finally reach the legions of froody fans in the USA and all around the world, who seem to clamour for it despite there being no US publisher as yet. The first editions’ few niggles have been extinguished with the strictest niggle destroying technology, the back end has been updated, and I’ve even requested that the cover be made at least 25% more shiny (sending the Arrow designers grabs from 1980s Doctor Who credits as reference material).

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I’ve also added many more acknowledgements, thanking everyone who helped with the original release last year, and the events that followed. Sadly – very sadly – the book went off to the printers before the news emerged of the loss of Susan Sheridan, the original and ultimate Trillian, otherwise extra tribute would have been paid to her within. She was wonderfully generous with her time for this book, sharing an article she’d written as well as putting up with all my impertinent questions. It was an honour to meet her, and tragic to lose another of the Hitchhiker family.

This time last year there was a rather cheeky story in the Radio Times (It’s £2 these days! Honestly!), in which some staffer who had stolen into The Frood’s wonderful Cheltenham Literary Festival event with Terry Jones, Clive Anderson and Douglas’ brother James Thrift, specifically ignored the very existence of The Frood itself, but instead selectively quoted James (a really wonderful bloke who was unstintingly helpful and enthusiastic throughout the book’s creation) when he suggested on the hoof that The Frood would be the last word from the Douglas Adams archive. Of course, if there is a firm insistence on this from everyone who makes up the Adams estate, then yes, that is so, and The Frood is all that you can expect to read, unpublished Adams material-wise – certainly for a generation or three.

However, even though I did not have time to cover more than about 80% of the archive at St. John’s college, the material I was lucky enough to capture two years ago is still very exciting. A tiny fraction of it – not so much all the cream, just the most pertinent passages – has made its way into The Frood, and all of it a real fan-frothing dream-come-fact to read, after so many years believing that the Salmon of Doubt was the full stop. But what about everything else I have lovingly secreted here on this hard drive? The tale of Dirk Gently and the Nameless Horror? Or the Demon Mafioso? That weird sketch extract starring Theseus and Ariadne? The Zaphod chapters in the courtroom at Argabuthon? Be assured, none of these Adams pieces could be described as scraping any barrels. Of course, there’s plenty of rough Adams material which should never be thrust into the public gaze for all sorts of reasons. But there’s still a large amount of well revised laugh-out-loud comic material here, and if there’s one thing of which I am certain, it’s that making people laugh out loud was always one of Douglas Adams’ core reasons for being. For his jokes to continue to make his fans laugh after he’s gone is the best posthumous respect you can show the man.

With so much activity in the Dirk Gently camp, both from IDW’s comics, and the related BBC America TV series, I am tempted to tentatively suggest a kind of special profile of Mr. Svlad Cjelli and his holistically shady interconnected world, examining his two published adventures, unravelling the Salmon of Doubt, presenting the very best, cogent, funny material to build up a truly definitive picture of Adams’ own plans for his singular detective. This would be the true story, to be kept distinct from the further adventures dreamt up (extremely entertainingly and convincingly, let’s presume) by those who follow in the creator’s footsteps: IDW Comics, Max Landis, and the BBC. To me, this seems the most respectful course of action, faced with the possibility of Douglas’ ideas being recycled in various media – to present the real stuff, tastefully and entertainingly, once and for all, and then let the portly private eye go off and have all the new adventures he likes. I have many irons in the fire, but what an honour it would be to compile this celebratory dossier on Dirk!

It’s one of the hardest jobs imaginable, to decide how any beloved artist’s work should be presented after their terminal taps at the keyboard, and thank the universe that there’s such a loving and furiously protective network surrounding Adams’ reputation, so only the most worthwhile projects can carry his name. But then, as he was the author of the introduction to PG Wodehouse’s posthumous, unfinished novel Sunset at Blandings (which Plum wouldn’t even have named that), it would be hypocritical to deny Douglas a similar tribute, if the rarities he left behind are of sufficient quality. I’m hoping to discuss some of this with a live audience at this year’s Chortle Book Fest – perhaps in the company of Dirk Maggs, who has similarly laboured with the question of What Douglas Would Have Wanted. Adams’ fans are so passionate, we all have the right to debate these issues openly. If Chortle can’t accommodate, perhaps we’ll find some other route.

So there may be a very eye-opening hour on the Adams archive coming up (right now the paperback publicity runs to a chat above a chippy in Ludlow – such is publishing), and there MAY even be the possibility of a new book. If any of the above ideas do come to fruition, you’ll probably hear about it here first, but for now, I hope any Adams admirers who have yet to take the intergalactic journey that is The Frood will get to experience it for themselves in paperback, and see for themselves just how much gold the great man left behind for us to enjoy.

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Pic ©Kevin J Davies, I believe…

PS This is my first blog since the great political disaster of May 2015, and in today’s Britain, we need Douglas Adams’ utopian – or rather, anti-dystopian – philosophy more than ever before:

‘It’s very important that we give ourselves optimistic views of the future. If we allow ourselves to be hypnotised by the view of the future where the whole world will look like a sort of rusty version of LA, then that’s what we’ll get. But on the other hand, if we see the technologies coming along at the moment… in the best possible way, then we’re more likely to get something great coming out of it. The models we have in our mind are very important… The future is invented by those who are excited about it, and it has never been as inventable as it is now.’

I sincerely hope that tomorrow, victory is announced for Jeremy Corbyn, and politics can begin to turn the corner, and advance into the 21st century. Either way, I’m equally proud to have joined the Women’s Equality Party. Be positive. Have hope. Stay Froody.

BATH COMEDY FESTIVAL 2015: The Party’s Over

Waking up on Bank Holiday Monday after a week of frenetic activity for the Bath Comedy Festival has felt a little like being Wile E. Coyote several yards over a cliff edge, with no ground beneath. Back to the workaday author’s world, of staring at email Sent boxes lighting candles and praying to the God of Humanist Atheism and suchlike.

But, for all the dodgy gigs arranged by Somerset crazies with about six people in the crowd, for all the singing on stage with my band all night, my cold-wracked voice functioning at about 20% capacity, for all the wonderful fun of reuniting with some of the stalwart Unrelated Family members to do some of our filthy old sketches, it certainly does all feel bloomin’ well worth it, governor.

Like many a comedy geek, I had long looked forward to one day meeting the legendary Helen Lederer – but I never envisaged doing so after two hours of rolling around in a pub courtyard dressed in a frock switching between skullcap and roman helmet to portray numerous characters in a live rendition of Life of Brian. Nonetheless, it was probably the most successful Unrehearsed Theatre production to date, thanks to a wonderful ad hoc cast and a very willing crowd, happy to hold up shoes and join in the ‘He IS the messiah!’s and of course, the final singalong. It was about as perfect a text as we could have had for an Easter Saturday – and best of all, we raised £100 for Comic Relief, to make up for stealing the intellectual property of the Pythons.

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Left to Right: Steph (Judith), Sam (Brian), Elizabeth (Mandy), Matt (Mainly Idle), Gavin (Mainly Palin), Gus (Jesus), Other Matt Inexplicably Dressed as Sherlock Holmes (Mainly Gilliam), Simon (Simon), and Jem (Mainly Cleese).

Nonetheless, it was a slightly glowing and dishevelled Roberts who greeted Lady Natasha Letitia Sarah Jane Wellesley Obstromsky Ponsonsky Smythe Smythe Smythe Smythe Smythe Oblomov Boblomov Dob at the Bath Cricket ground afterwards. Having been up and down the country doing author events for The Frood last autumn, I was well used to literary events, but this was my first ever experience as a host, so I’d had a nervous time, watching old episodes of ‘Hello Mum’ (I never did ask her how Clive Mantle is these days, let alone Nick Wilton), and hoping she would ease me into what I would like to think is a whole new line of work. I needn’t have worried, I couldn’t have had a better deflowerer as an on-stage interviewer, and each nudging question I asked Helen thankfully, wonderfully triggered a fountain of sparkling monologue from her, which had the crowds cackling throughout. She was as happy to talk about Rik and Ben as herself, and although her debut novel Losing It was well worth the read (and irresistible to mentally cast with the finest Ab Fab actors as I read), she wasn’t one of those authors who is constantly trying to refer back to it, in fact she wanted the crowd to buy it as unmarked by spoilers as possible. The hour just flashed by.

11111046_353717754821507_2704878312430191558_nHelen, Me. All I had to do was listen…

It was always very clear that my second go in the interviewer’s chair was going to present a different challenge, as I have known and interviewed Terry Jones in the past, and by his own admission, he’s not the easiest person to winkle anecdotes out of. When sat with his fellow Pythons, he throws in fascinating vignettes and jokes, but the idea of our Q&A for the Bath Plug Award, sandwiched neatly between a glorious showing of his 1996 underrated classic adaptation of Wind In The Willows, and the previously blogged-about Holy Grail, was that we were celebrating his own career away from the Pythons – Personal Services, Erik The Viking, and of course, Absolutely Anything. This time it was more my job to be there for Terry throughout, guiding him through his career, rather than just nudging him into monologue. I was well prepared, and although I may have ended up speaking ten words to Terry’s every one (which I truly hope wasn’t too onerous for the crowd), there were many happy faces there, just glad to be in the presence of a genuine comedy hero. And he was very pleased to have indirectly raised Comic Relief some cash, even if it was via a gang of pissed actors wrapped in curtains.

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Muggins, Mandy Mother of Brian, BCF boss Nick Steel. We look like the poor chap’s minders.

As a patron of the festival, Terry’s acceptance of the inaugural Bath Plug above all opens the door for whole hosts of huge names to follow in his wake for years to come, which is incredibly kind of him. Having had such nightmares clearing WITW for viewing, we’re already well-immersed in a very exciting idea for the Bath Plug Award 2016, which will quite possibly be announced right here, when we know it’s definitely happening.

Huge congratulations to Nick Steel and everyone who made 2015’s Festival the biggest and best yet, and I will continue to do all I can to make 2016’s another step forward. But for now, it’s back to trying to find a safe home for a fourth book of comedy history, and my other manifold projects, and–

(Plunges down into an abyss. Road Runner passes by, goes “Meep meep!” over my pulverised body. That’s all, folks.)