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Beloved comedian kidnapped by Harry Potter villains

5 May

Fans of comedian popular left wing comedian Eddie Izzard were stunned yesterday as he appeared to be willingly out in public with a self-confessed neo-Conservative[1]. (more…)

The Woman Who Daren’t Have an Opinion

27 Aug Screenshot fromBetter Together ad. Overwritten: Please. They'vegot Paul andthekids.
by Ariadne and Lizzie Cass-Maran

A friend of Lizzie’s on Twitter remarked on the prevalence of the language of abuse in the No campaign, in particular in the shockingly sexist Better Together video. On being challenged to defend this accusation, the two of us wrote the following.

What is the ‘language of abuse?’

First, it might be handy to define what ‘the language of abuse’ means. ‘Language’ is communication; it doesn’t boil down to simple vocabulary. It’s not the same thing as vocabulary of violence; it’s not saying ‘I’m gonny chib ya’. In fact, quite the opposite. The language of abuse is emotional abuse, and blackmail. There are a few articles below giving a bit more detail on this. (more…)

A ssange est dans le Embasssy

20 Aug

This whole Julian Assange thing is confusing me and I have a question for people more knowledgeable than I, and who have more patience reading long long news articles.* It’s quite a long question, and involves my setting out my understanding (which may well be what’s flawed).

Crime one

Leaving aside actual conspiracy theories (which I otherwise give a fair bit of weight to) about why he’s been accused at this ‘convenient’ time, or what the likelihood of his being guilty of rape actually is, the fact remains that he is either:

a)      guilty of rape or

b)      not guilty of rape

If he is accused, for good reason, of a crime, then he should stand trial for that crime within the jurisdiction of that crime. If he is guilty, he should be punished.

Crime two

However, if he is sent to the country where he is accused of this crime, to have a said trial, the worry is that he will also be extradited to stand trial for a different crime in a different jurisdiction (revealing state secrets? I’m not clear on exactly what crime this falls into). He is again either

a)      guilty of that crime

b)      not guilty of that crime

The above still stands: if he is accused, with fair reason, of a crime under a certain jurisdiction, he should stand trial for that crime, and is he is guilty, he is guilty. The mitigation comes in sentencing, where his motives etc should be reviewed.

The sticky wicket

However, what appears to be the problem is that:

  • the jurisdiction under which his accused crime falls is unclear
  • the US, who are claiming it under their jurisdiction, essentially isn’t considered to be a place where he will receive a fair trial. It’s not considered to be a civilised country, basically. The theories about what might happen to him if he goes to the US range from ‘he’ll be shot on sight’ to ‘they’ll throw the book at him’.

The question: why not try him in Ecuador?

Again leaving aside a fairly crucial point ie will Sweden really extradite him (evidence seems that no), what is it that prevents his being tried in Ecuador? (either within the Embassy or in Ecuador itself).

Option one: He is tried in Ecuador under Ecuadorian law

There seem to be two reasons why this is not a good idea:

Ecuador’s sentencing and punishment system is different from Sweden’s, and he may endure a harsher sentence

Frankly, them’s the breaks, kiddo. If he is guilty of rape then he has to face his crimes and if he for whatever reason doesn’t want the first offer of how to do this. Personally, I’d argue that if he’s an international hero but in fact a sexual predator then maybe he deserves a harsher sentence.

He won’t have a fair trial in Ecuador (so will either be found guilty or not guilty where the same result wouldn’t stand in Sweden)

This seems to be more legitimate. So:

Option two: He is tried in Ecuador by a Swedish judiciary

If he’s found guilty, then they get to punish him in the way they see fit, which will probably be incarceration in a Swedish jail. If part of this process also sees him extradited to the US then, again, tough nougies. Don’t rape people. And don’t rape people and then set yourself up as the innocent superhero fighting the power. If you rape people, you are the power, and that makes him a fucking hypocrite.

If he’s found not guilty, then the situation remains as before. Ecuador, UK, Sweden, or the Moon can offer him asylum with total clarity as to what’s he being asylumed from. Sorted.

So, why is this not an option I’m seeing talked about? Have I not read into it enough? Is it just ‘not done’? Is there a legal reason you can’t do this? What’s the score, people?

*I’m happy to read a long long news article if I’m told it will answer my questions. I’ve spent too much time reading long news articles from which I gain nothing more than from reading the standfirst, so have generally given up.

Campbell v Carr: Moral-off

2 Jul

I’m a bit late to the party on this one but it’s a conversation I’ve had a lot in person and it’s a point I haven’t seen elsewhere on the internet so:

Jimmy Carr’s a bit of a twat. I heard a rumour (via a protected source of course) that he doesn’t know where the bin is in his own house. But I don’t get why he acted contrite over his tax avoidance.

Jimmy Carr is self-employed, and has an accountant. I’m self-employed, and don’t have an accountant. However, I’ve been advised I should get one, because although they’re expensive, they can end up saving you money. They know tax law. They know what you can and can’t claim.

They know how to file your taxes in a way which means you have to pay as little tax as necessary. That’s why people have accountants.

Carr’s accountant said “Hey Jimmy, here’s what the government say you can do with your money so you get to keep more of it. David Cameron’s all for it. He likes rich people. You can buy some extra bins.” So he did.

David Cameron then turned around and called Carr morally wrong. Carr’s reaction was to hold up his hands and agree. Why? It’s Cameron’s government who tell him it’s ok to do it. Carr has ended up taking the blame for a government decision and he’s really not bright enough to do that. (Did you see him on the Ten O’Clock show? Embarrassing.)

To be clear, I don’t agree with tax-dodging schemes. This beautiful quote from JK Rowling on why she stays paying taxes in the UK has shot her up immeasurably in my estimation . But don’t leave a steak in your dog’s bowl then scold him when he eats it.

Seeing stars

12 Aug

First published on The Skinny website

If you’ve been following Skinny Fringe coverage, you may have noticed there are no one star reviews. We’re not publishing any – we don’t see the point.

A 1 star review means there really is nothing to recommend about a show. The act may have taken a brave risk, but they’ve got it wrong and, in the opinion of the reviewer (who’s quite possibly talking bollocks, by the way), should probably go home. Is it really helpful to publish this for all to see?

Of course, some people like reading bad reviews. They love a delicious postmortem full of overly long metaphors in which the writer attempts to show just exactly why they are much, much better at what they do than the performer was. And sometimes, these have their place. I carry with me to this day The Stranger’s roasting of Sex and the City 2, a film dripping with cultural imperialism and the most depressing kind of sexism, which spent millions of dollars trying to sell us Möet & Chandon and a Mullerlight.

But this is the Fringe, not the Oscars. These are people who aspire to a pint of Fosters, for Christ’s sake. If you rip a comedian to shreds, they can’t while away their stresses by checking into rehab or buying a baby. They weren’t trying to sell you anything – many aren’t even charging for entry. They were just trying to make you laugh. And they’ll already be proper gutted that they didn’t.

All of the Skinny Comedy content is online (along with a shedload of extra stuff from The Shimmy – check it out) and the internet is already too full of useless vitriol. So we’re with our mums on this one – if you can’t say anything that is genuinely helpful, don’t say anything at all.

Money Women

21 Apr

JoJo Sutherland

Funny Women instate ‘pay-to-play’ policy, causing outrage in the comedy community.

All-female comedy award Funny Women launched in 2002 as an attempt to put right the under-representation of women in comedy. Whilst initially supported by many acts, its reputation has gone rapidly downhill in recent years.Although Funny Women style themselves as a feminist organisation, many believe that they’re actually doing far more to damage the reputation of female comedians than to help it. Acts claim to have been censored by the organisers, being warned against swearing, talking about being gay, and material that was not considered ‘appropriate’ for women.Most worrying of all, perhaps, is a story recounted by comic Elise Harris of her experience at a heat: “I overheard a conversation between the organisers and a person who was trying to enter. This person was insisting they were female, they had a female name. The organisers argued for quite a time that they did not accept that and then told the person they would not let them enter.”

However, Funny Women founder Lynne Parker denies allegations of censorship: “We don’t censor acts’ material,” she told us, “unless there is a reason to do so, either for broadcast or a commercial commission.”

Funny Women announced yesterday (20 April) what could be the final nail in their coffin: with entries now open for the 2011 competition, they have introduced a £15 administration charge.

‘Pay-to-play’ is a practice that has been universally criticised in the UK and quashed by the comedy community wherever anyone has tried to institute it. Comedy should be a meritocracy, nurturing talent on its own basis and allowing for experimentation, and comedy promoters should be part of this process. Where promoters both charge performers to play, and charge the audience to watch (tickets to Funny Women heats are priced at £10-£12); the incentive is not to programme acts based on talent, but rather on what they are willing to pay. Ultimately, audiences are likely to turn away from a comedy industry devoid of artistic practice, and without an audience, the industry is dead.

We asked Scottish comic JoJo Sutherland what she makes of this latest news. “Exploitative, divisive and reprehensible are some of the words that spring to mind.” says Sutherland, a finalist in the inaugural awards, “I was initially supportive of an organisation that seemed to be providing a platform to encourage women into an ultimately male-dominated arena. How naïve and wrong I was.”

She is vehemently opposed to pay-to-play in any situation and believes “we must fight tooth and nail” to stop the practice.

“It is no coincidence that most comics who have been involved with Funny Women in the past are no longer willing to be associated with the brand, which persists in perpetuating the myth that somehow women need to be nurtured into performing stand up. The existence of Funny Women is a ridiculous notion but the idea that women are now being told they have to pay to be marginalised is frankly obscene.”

Parker insists, however that “anybody trying to change things will always get criticised.” She claims to have had an enormous amount of support on the issue, and that promoters of this kind of competition deserve to have a value put on what they do. “Maybe I’m just making a stand, perhaps rather bravely, that other people might agree with. We’re not the ogres; we love what we do.”

First published online for The Skinny

Actively funny

16 Mar


With the launch of the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival today, we take  a look at some of the acts who bring an element of activism to their work.

AAs comedian Keith Farnan puts it, echoing Hemingway, “Before you can become a comedian, you should have been something else. When you’ve formed opinions about the world and you have certain views, that will inform your comedy.” Whilst the likes of Daniel Sloss, Bo Burnham and Kevin Bridges may have proudly boasted sell-out audiences before they were out of nappies, something about today’s political climate is more reminiscent of the 1980s, where we saw the birthing of what was then alternative comedy.

In recent years, this uprising has turned into complacency and we’ve seen ‘political comedy’ put into an angry little box and roped off in the corner, sitting humourlessly alongside performance poetry and Private Eye. But the world is changing and comedy, ever at the forefront, is changing with it. There’s a new tide moving back towards comedy with substance, with something real behind it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-placed knob gag. It’s ill-placed, lowest-common-denominator knob gags that tire me. Frankie Boyle, for example, has arguably lost his way of late, battling the strictures of prime time panel shows. But it’s worth remembering that his shock and awe tactics originate from a need make a point, to question and highlight people’s behaviour. It’s great to see Frankie going back to his roots and using a rare live appearance to support the Palestinians in Stand Up for Palestine on the 21st.

In our MGICF coverage this year, both in print and online, we talk to acts who have lived their comedy: interviews with ex-lawyer Farnan and ex-doctors Paul Sinha and Mike Wozniak, reflections on his religious pilgrimage from Imran Yusuf and tales of activism and investigation from Mark Thomas and George Monbiot.

There’ll also be tweets and write-ups about all sorts of events on throughout the festival. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what panelists have to say about the future of comedy in a discussion hosted by the Comedy Unit – Scottish Comedy: The Best Kept Secret in the World? The event is supported by Creative Scotland and I’m fascinated to see if our new culture body is going to step up to the plate and start to support comedy as an artform.

First published online for The Skinny

Comedy Fetishist

8 Feb

Comedy Fetishist

A lot of people think that I first got involved in comedy when I performed it. In fact, I was only an open spot for about 18 months – I was terrible. It’s bloody hard, you know. In fact, I first started hanging around the comedy scene years before this ill-fated experiment, though. I was a groupie.

The thing is, I’ve always been very much of the ‘laugh me into bed’ school. Comedians are HOT. Really hot. My teenagedom was spent drooling over video and TV footage of Jack Dee, Dominic Holland (who I believe started my lifelong love affair with dark, curly hair) and Eddie Izzard and this was before I ever moved to the big city and got introduced to the heady, dizzying highs of live comedy.

In fact, it’s not just the comedians themselves that get my pulse running; merely being around good, clever comedy gets me excited. On my second-ever visit to The Stand, I fell into the arms of an Aberdonian stranger at the next table as we soaked up the lust around us. We bonded together over our love of all things comic and went out for about three months, most of that spent at The Stand. Eventually, he spent one too many nights drinking beer and falling asleep in front of Definite Article, so I dumped him. To The Stand, however, I remain true.

There followed an embarrassing period spent dolled up, spending my dole money at the bar and soaking up the erotic atmosphere of stale beer, cigarettes (in those days) and live comedy. I never had any famous conquests, I’m sorry to report, but I’ve done the maths and worked out that 85% of all my sexual shenanigans have been with people who had performed or would perform stand-up comedy.

Of course, I’m happily married these days, to a magnificent lady who has brought down my average by stubbornly refusing to take the mic. I did meet her in Nicol Edwards, though, and I was only in there for the comedy. I just can’t get away from it: if it weren’t for stand-up, I’d still be a lonely virgin.

Top 5 hottest comedians you can catch in the MGICF

The Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival this March and April is bringing a myriad of ripe comic specimens to town and frankly, I can’t wait. Seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day and all, I’ve come up the top five sexiest comedians coming to the MGICF.

Before I get accused of objectification, by the way, I should clarify that these people are really fricking funny – that’s what makes them so hot.

Miles Jupp
One of my original, unattainable comedy crushes. That dark curly hair, that effortless humour.
See him in: Miles Jupp: Fibber in the Heat, The Stand, Glasgow, 20 March 7:30pm, £10(£8)

Susan Morrison
Made me have to define the term ‘MILF’ to someone. Smart and sexy, could crush you with a single sentence.
See her in: Susan Morrison: Faffing Around, Brel, 25 March 8:30pm, £7(£6)

Imran Yusuf
Short-listed as best newcomer for the Edinburgh Comedy Award last Fringe. Had me swooning in Espionage. Sober. Not something that happens a lot.
See him in: An Audience with Imran Yusuf, The Stand, Glasgow, 4 April, 9:30pm, £10(£8)

Sarah Millican
Recently won the slavering admiration of P. Diddy and Vince Vaughan. Which makes her sexier than Jennifer Aniston. And much, much more intelligent.
See her in: Sarah Millican: Chatterbox, Old Fruitmarket, 5 April, 8pm, £15

Doug Stanhope
Angry American in the vein of Bill Hicks (and which of us, really, doesn’t want to go back in time for that rendezvous?). Just watch him rant, lie back and shiver.
See him in: Doug Stanhope, King’s Theatre, 22 March, 9:45pm, £19.50

First published online for The Skinny

Ha Ha Comedy’s Scottish Comedian of the Year

21 Sep

First published online for The Skinny

Ha Ha Comedy presents its competition final at Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket, amid continuing controversy over its legitimacy.

The Scottish Comedian of the Year contest is with us once more. This annual competition is open to everyone from Joe Open Spot to Billy Connolly; the only criteria is that you must come from, or base yourself in, Scotland. Winners have been chosen from audience votes at heats across the country, and finalists will perform in front of a panel of judges at the grand final at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on 28 September. It is rapidly becoming one of the key dates in the year of Scottish Comedy. Last year’s final has even been nominated for Best Traditional Event in the Scottish Event Awards.

The success of the competition is certainly a major coup for promoter Ha Ha Comedy, but let’s hope that no publicity is bad publicity. Last year’s final, whilst being hailed by Chortle as a “genuinely prestigious affair… with a genuine sense of occasion”, had it’s ‘genuineness’ questioned by many members of the comedy community. The event even prompted the management company behind The Stand to release a press statement reiterating their condemnation of comedy contests in general and of SCOTY in particular, claiming that “it would be wrong to allow this masquerade to dupe those not in the know into thinking this contest had some universal acclaim or acknowledgement”.

What does give Ha Ha Comedy the right to style this event, which is ostensibly a PR and money-making exercise for the company, ‘Scottish Comedian of the Year’? There have certainly been some big names involved with the contest – Fringe regular and critically acclaimed Janey Godley, Stu Who, a veteran and well-loved Scottish comic with a myriad of TV and radio credits under his belt, and Des Clarke, one time presenter of SM:TV Live. These contestants would certainly make the contest worthy of its name. The thing is, these aren’t contestants. These are the judges and comperes. Acts who have passed the stage in their careers where they need to enter competitions in an attempt to gain credibility or respect.

Previous SCOTY winners Mark Nelson (2006) and Sean Grant (2007) may be hardly a blip on the radar in comparison to Scottish comedy’s real ‘big names’, but they have undeniably been offered amazing performance and development opportunities as part of their prize. First prize this year includes £1,000 in cash, flights to and performances in Australia, and the winner’s own show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival. This fortunately does attract some major talent to the contest, many keen merely for the chance to perform at the Old Fruitmarket. With some indisputable and hard-earned talent in old pros such as Keir McAllister, Scott Agnew and Teddy on the bill for this year’s final (alongside more obscure and questionable acts), there’s no denying it will be a night to remember. May the best act win.

Pride and Prejudice

7 Dec

Significant LGBT events in 2007
I’ve never personally encountered real intolerance, so I don’t tend to bother much with Pride events. It’s important, and frightening, then, to remember that not everyone has such an easy time – so good on Amnesty International for showing solidarity with other nations. This year saw the first Pride march in Riga, Latvia that went ahead peacefully. Although it had to be heavily policed to reach even this level, other Eastern European countries have yet to manage this. Russian law, for example, provides no right to protest and this led again to mass riots at Moscow Pride where many – notably Right Said Fred singer Richard Fairbrass – were first beaten by the public, then taunted by the police. Although I’d like to think the egalitarian effect of EU membership affected the Latvian march, this contrasts with Poland’s continued constitutional support of homophobia, with legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools, clinging to the old myth that people can be converted.

Rights to protest unfortunately go both ways though, and 2007 saw a landmark ruling in the US with the suing of right-wing inbred crazies the Westboro Baptist Church – famed for the catchphrase God Hates Fags – for $11 million (currently about ₤5.5m and falling). For anyone who hasn’t heard of these folks- they go to soldiers’ funerals, memorials and so forth and ‘remind’ people that their deaths were a punishment from God for tolerating homosexuality. But they met their match after demonstrating at the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, killed in Iraq. His father was awarded damages in compensation for emotional distress and invasion of privacy. This was the first civil case involving the ‘church’ following rulings by many states prohibiting protests at funerals. Let’s hope a precedent has been set and this cult will have to keep their immorality to the privacy of their own homes.

And finally, JK Rowling revealed that Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore is gay. What I found most interesting was the reaction from gay rights campaigners, who argued that it should have been more explicit. Because that’s just not Rowling’s style. She is rarely explicit about romance and when she is, we’d really rather she wasn’t (see Ron kissing Lavender Brown). Sounds to me like people are just upset that they didn’t get it – had Grindelwald been a woman, everyone would have presumed a romance – which questions where the prejudice really lies. JK has in fact struck a blow for equality by giving the relationship the status of absolute normality. Most concerning, however, is this Stonewall quote: “Now young gay men know they can achieve anything – even being a wizard headmaster.” Pity the poor careers counsellor who has to break it to bright-eyed young boys – you may be queer, but you’re still a Muggle.

First published online for The Skinny