King Gong, Part Three

Listen to the badly read, unedited audio version of this blog, with additional swearing and mistakes, here


Last Sunday night I did one of my first standup comedy performances. It was my first appearance at the King Gong comedy competition at Manchester’s Comedy Store. In fact, it was my first experience of such an event.

It’s an open mic comedy night, giving new and up and coming comedians as well as members of the general public who believe they might be funny the opportunity to perform for up to five minutes. They may not actually reach five minutes though, as the audience has the power to dismiss the performer if they are not to their liking. Three people in the audience are given a red card each. When the three cards are held up, a gong sounds and the performer leaves the stage.

In yesterday’s blog post I talked you through some of the other performers that took part. Now it’s time to find out how I fared.

My first concern was getting on the stage without incident. The Comedy Store staff had kindly offered to show me the layout of the stage before the doors opened to let the audience in. While I thought I knew the route onto the stage, I was a little worried that I may be involved in creating some inadvertent physical comedy, as I floundered and stumbled around, or fell down a set of steps. It would be highly embarrassing to gain more of a laugh from n accidental bit of slapstick than from my actual material.

Fortunately, I made it onto the stage without incident. I was not as nervous as I thought I’d be, but I still managed to stumble over my first line, indicating that I was still a bit nervous. It was the slightest of stumbles though, and it didn’t seem to impede the delivery of the first joke. The opening material got laughs. It wasn’t hysterical laughter, but it was laughter nonetheless, and it bolstered my confidence a little.

I’m not going to include the recording of my spot in this blog post, as I plan on honing and developing it further.

Having listened to the recording back a few times, I’ve realised how long it took me to set up an idea and get to the funny bit. After the opening couple of jokes I went for nearly an entire minute without saying anything funny. This may be fine in a folk gig, where the audience aren’t as impatient to reach a punchline, as they’re not expecting a night of non-stop comedy. But a comedy audience – certainly a more mainstream comedy audience – demand jokes and punchlines at a much faster pace. In fairness to the card holders, they did not penalise my minute of mirthlessness, or at least not immediately.

The second bout of jokes – when it eventually came – got a bigger response. The audience seemed to be enjoying my material, and I started to feel like I was getting into my stride.

Unfortunately, this feeling was short-lived, as this coincided with me hearing someone in the audience shout “wanker!” It took me a couple of seconds to evaluate the situation and realise what had actually just happened.

Someone in the audience had raised the first card. I’d only heard one person being gonged off up until this point, as I was third on, and the first performer had survived the full five minutes. The cards had gone up for the second performer so quickly that there wasn’t really much of an announcement about the cards being raised; there was just the sound of the gong. The shout of “wanker” from an audience member was actually the MC behind me informing me and the audience that the first card had been lifted. So the MC shouted “one Card,” and I got all confused and heard a shout of “wanker.” This confusion caused me to lose my train of thought a bit. It was only a momentary laps though, and I quickly remembered where I was and what I was meant to be saying. Perhaps it wasn’t quick enough for the second card holder, because, no sooner had I recomposed myself, they raised a card.

“Two cards,” came the voice. This caused me to fluster a little more. Again, it was only a tiny fluster, and I was just getting refocused when I was startled by the clatter that came from behind me. It was the sound of the gong. I put the microphone back in its holder and walked off the stage. There were a few people in the audience who voiced their sadness that I was leaving. I’d like to think that this was because they were enjoying my act, rather than because I was blind and they felt sorry for me. There’s always that worry that people are being kinder and more forgiving because of my blindness, which I hope is not the case. I want to earn people’s laughter and positive reaction based on my material and not because I’m blind. But perhaps I am overthinking this and people were genuinely appreciating my performance.

I managed to continue the comedy off the stage, making a couple of little jocular comments as I exited, which actually got a very good laugh.

I lasted for three minutes eight seconds, which was the longest amount of time out of all the other performers that hadn’t made the five minutes, so I suppose this meant that I came fifth out of the twenty performers.

At the start of the second half, the compere asked the audience if they had agreed with the card holders’ decisions. There were many dissenting voices, suggesting that they weren’t keen on some of the choices they’d made. Perhaps I was one of the causes of their displeasure. Maybe they were disappointed that my performance was cut short, although, similarly, it might have been the complete opposite reason and perhaps they were annoyed with the card holders for having let me get away with boring them for as long as I did.

I really enjoyed the experience though, and the night itself. I also loved hearing the other acts and I’ve really enjoyed listening back to the recording and analysing the performances. The staff at the comedy Store were very friendly and accommodating. There was a really good atmosphere and the audience were a good audience. The compere was very funny and quick thinking, able to banter with the audience and keep the show moving. I’m looking forward to going back soon. Unfortunately, I’m gigging on the October night, and I’m meant to be in Hartlepool early in the morning on the day after the November date, although I am going to try and make it if I can.

I’m also going to look for other opportunities to perform in Manchester and the local area. Hopefully next time I’ll be more confident, and not flustered by the holding up of one of the red cards.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my review of my first King Gong experience. I plan on blogging about my experience the next time I attend one of these nights.

The winners of this month’s King Gong was Hawkeye and Windy.

Still no update regarding my computer problem. I know this must be torture for some of you,. Some of you have money riding on this, and the rest of you are impatiently waiting for the release of a Young’uns Podcast and Pick and Mix. I’ll hopefully get around to looking at it early next week.

Thanks for reading.

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King Gong, Part Two

Listen to the audio version of this blog post (with additional content) here.


Last Sunday night I did one of my first standup comedy performances. It was my first appearance at the King Gong comedy competition at Manchester’s Comedy Store. In fact, it was my first experience of such an event. It is likely that you are new to the concept of the King Gong show, as less than a week ago I too was completely unfamiliar with it.

The concept is that anyone can have a go at performing comedy. It’s an open mic comedy night, giving new and up and coming comedians as well as members of the general public who believe they might be funny the opportunity to perform for up to five minutes. They may not actually reach five minutes though, as the audience has the power to dismiss the performer if they are not to their liking. Three people in the audience are given a red card each. When the three cards are held up, a gong sounds and the performer leaves the stage. If there is more than one act who has lasted the full five minutes then they are all invited to perform an extra minute. The audience then applauds the act they like the best, and the act that gets the biggest ovation is crowned the winner – King Gong.

I’ll split this blog post into two parts because I think it’ll be far too long for an average reader. In tomorrow’s blog post I’ll talk about my performance, but today I want to talk you through some of the other acts. It was quite a night, with some very interesting performers.

My performance was third in the first half. A part of me was hoping that the first two acts would be so awful that I would be hailed a comedy God regardless of what I said. Unfortunately, the first performer, despite getting off to a shaky start – when his second joke failed to illicit much of a laugh and he exclaimed “fuck” and nervously laughed – began to get into his stride and the audience warmed to him the more he went on. Three minutes into his performance someone held up a red card, but the other two remained down and he lasted the full five minutes.

The compere said at the start of the show that most people don’t make it anywhere close to five minutes before being gonged off. If the next act lasted the full five minutes then I’d really have my work cut out.

While the first act was good, I wonder whether one reason he might have survived the full five minutes was because he was first on, and the audience were still sussing out the format and the night, and they didn’t have anything to compare him to. The compere at the start of the night asked the audience how many people were coming to the King Gong show for the first time, and the majority of the audience cheered.

The second performer seemed much more nervous. His pace was much slower and he used a lot of redundant words and phrases, presumably out of nerves or perhaps to fill time. I tend to do the opposite of this, throwing too many words into the mix at rapid speed, which can be just as bad. In most instances, I won’t include performer’s actual material here, though I’ll make an exception in certain cases, because I assume that these people won’t be using that material ever again, given the reaction it got and the fact that it either was devoid of any humour or just didn’t make sense.

The second performer’s opening joke was that his sister was expecting a baby this coming Friday. “They don’t know the sex of it yet, so I don’t know if I’m going to be an aunty or an uncle.”

This did generate a laugh, but the laugh lasted too long for it to be genuine amusement at the joke, and seemed to be more that the audience were laughing at the nonsensical comment. After this “punchline”, he paused for about seven seconds before continuing. By the way, I have a recording of the night which I am listening back to as I write this; I haven’t remembered the entire night in exact detail. I’m not sure whether the pause was due to nerves or due to the realisation that people were laughing at him rather than with him, or perhaps he genuinely thought the laugh was a positive reflection of his joke and so he decided to bask in his glory for a few seconds. Just as he began to talk again, someone held up one of the red cards. There were no more jokes, just a few time killing phrases, such as, “er … yes … I’m excited to be here.” But the audience didn’t share this sentiment, and the other two cards were held up one after the other, bringing his act to a close after thirty-eight seconds.

The third act was me, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

I’ve just listened back to the fourth act’s performance. At the time he didn’t really do anything for me, but this was no reflection on him, but rather to do with the fact that I was mulling over my performance just seconds earlier. But was I brooding or celebrating? Find out tomorrow. Having listened back to his performance, I think he is really good. His style is calm and understated, not forced. His observations and jokes were intelligent. Perhaps his act could be described as geeky, which is by no means an insult. I think he was suitably different enough from the mainstream comedians out there. He didn’t seem to be trying too hard to replicate an idea or a person he’d seen on TV. We got a sense of who he is as a person, and that person was very likeable, erudite and funny.

His name is Benji Waterstones. You can check him out on Twitter here.

He lasted the full five minutes with just one red card in the air.

The fifth act lasted for one minute forty seconds. He was OK I suppose. His opening routine got a few laughs but for the wrong reasons.

“I was talking to this black girl the other day,” he began, before spotting a black girl in the audience and asking, “it wasn’t you was it.” It wasn’t a necessary part of the act, and it didn’t add anything to the rest of his joke, and so it seemed a bit odd to isolate this particular person just because she happened to be a girl who is black, which is hardly uncommon in Manchester. I think some people were taken aback by this, and there were a few awkward laughs from members of the audience along with some murmurs of disapproval. Obviously it’s not a big thing, and the joke wasn’t an attack on black girls, but it was an unnecessary aside that lost the audience, both for its slightly confrontational nature and because the comment meant that the punchline took longer to reach.

The sixth act was seventeen, and his “comedy” was certainly very adolescent. Again, I don’t think I need worry about quoting his material in this blog post, as I doubt he’ll be using it on stage again. At least I strongly hope not, for his sake and for the sake of the rest of us. I don’t want to be spiteful about other acts, but this seventeen year old boy had seemingly assumed that the kind of comments he makes to his mates in the playground would translate well to a more mainstream comedy audience. This is his routine, verbatim
.
“the other day, I’m not going to lie, I was horny as shit. I was so horny. It was like … you know when you’re a heroin addict and you get the shakes.” He then proceeded to make a growling noise and violently shake his body. Some people in the audience were already getting a bit fed up by the routine. If you’re reading this blog then you might want to have a listen to the audio version of this post, as I have included the actual audio of this performance, so that you can appreciate the extent of the cringe worthiness. Many people in the audience had already cottoned onto the fact that he was essentially a horny teenager telling us through a variety of misplaced and pointless similes how horny he was. People were either laughing at him or making noises of disgruntlement, urging the card holders to exercise their power. But the card holders did not take heed. Perhaps they were enjoying the novelty of this performance. This is one of the positives of a night like the King Gong night. You can see some really good up and coming acts, some promising fledgling attempts, with the occasional bout of humiliating and agonising awkward bile. You get to see once-in-a-lifetime performances, or at least performances that really should be once-in-a-life time, if the performer has an ounce of sense.

His way of relating to the audience was somewhat odd too: “You know when you’re a heroin addict?” No, funnily enough I don’t, having never been a heroine addict, and I can’t speak for the rest of the audience, but I imagine that the majority of them would have not had the experience of being a heroin addict either. Perhaps I’m wrong here, and this description was resonating with the vast majority of the audience, although it might destroy the humour somewhat, as the audience remember their tragic past when they were hooked on drugs.

“And the only thing you need is that sweet sweet pussy, you know what I’m talking about?“ The audience responded to this question not with an emphatic “yes,” nor a murmur of understanding, but rather another bout of bemused awkward laughter and the holding up of the first red card.

I think he thought the laughter was a positive reflection on his performance. He didn’t seem too taken aback by the laughter, which in fairness was probably one of the loudest responses of the night. Even the acts that went down particularly well were getting less of a laugh than this horny teenager calling us all heroine addicts. If you were a member of the audience who didn’t speak any English then you might assume that this lad was going down very well and was the best and funniest act on the bill so far. And in some ways he was. Does it matter that what he was saying wasn’t clever or thought provoking? People were laughing, and that’s essentially why they’d come. There was no way he could make a living out of this routine, but for tonight, he was making people laugh just as much (if not more) than the other acts, even if it was for different reasons, and unintentional on his part.

“So, I looked online. for an escort. I had a choice. Do I just call a girl? Do I just call a girl and say … like … “hey, do you wanna fuck?” Or do I get an escort? The only thing is, some girls are fucking effort, you know what I’m saying man? Some girls make you work. The amount of diplomacy involved is staggering. You could get … like … peace in the Middle East with the amount of effort it takes. So I looked at … like … one profile, and I saw this fine piece, I mean a solid ten out of ten, you know? So, I arranged to meet this girl. And, no joke …” Well at least he’s made one accurate observation. “no joke” is pretty spot on.

“I was working at the Premier Inn. You know the one near the cathedral? Some hotels specialise in … like … business management, some hotels specialise in … like … spar facilities, the Premier Inn near the cathedral specialises in discrete prostitute pickups, you know? I mean, you think, why the fuck don’t they just knock it down? I’ll tell you why they don’t knock it down. Because half of the Manchester councillors are being blown by some disease ridden prostitute as we speak. You know what I mean? So I’m waiting there, and at this point my dick is so hard, when this girl tries to fuck me I could knock this girl out. When she tries to fuck me I’m going to knock the fuck …”

At this point there is a mix of confused and bemused laughter, but he is unable to continue and be heard, as the majority of the audience have begun to appeal to the two remaining card holders, shouting “off, off, off.” Some people are shouting “get him off,” but this seems a bit of an ironic and unfortunate heckle, given that being got off is precisely what his entire routine is about. An audience shouting “get him off” while pointing at him might be all this overly-horny teenager could stand, causing his penis to explode. And given the apparent hardness of his dick and its ability to knock people out, this could be quite dangerous for the front roe.

The remaining two card holders finally heeded the cries of the audience and held up their cards, and our horny teenage friend was forced to leave the stage, dragging his unnaturally hard tail between his legs.

He lasted for two minutes fifteen seconds, which is probably about the amount of time he’d have lasted with that escort, unless proceedings were curtailed before that by her being knocked out by his super hard dick.

Oddly, it turned out that this seventeen-year-old had his dad and granddad in the audience, and they were laughing along. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about sex in front of my dad or grandad, and here was this teenager shouting about his hard dick and horniness on stage to them and a hundred strangers.

The seventh act spent over a minute setting up his first joke, but it seemed to be going nowhere, and the card holders along with the rest of the audience didn’t expect that their patients and tolerance was about to be rewarded with a punchline worthy of the wait, and he was gonged off after one minute fifteen seconds.

The eighth act was evidently nervous. He made a joke about this at the start of his set, which went down OK, but as soon as the first card was held up it seemed to throw him. He stammered a bit, and before he could regain composure the second card was lifted into the air. He never got going again, messing up the punchline to a joke, the setup of which no one heard over the compere’s announcement of the raising of the second card. The third card cut short his second attempt at the same punchline, and the gong sounded, heralding his departure after one minute twenty-two seconds.

How to describe the next act. He was a man, grotesquely dressed as a woman. He didn’t really make any jokes as such, but just spoke in a camp voice about his boobs and his/her boyfriend. For a few seconds, he got some bemused laughter, but after forty-six seconds the three red cards were lifted and the gong sounded.

The final act of the first half was, in my opinion, the most cringeworthy. I felt genuinely uncomfortable and was begging the card holders to terminate the performance.

He came on in a wheel chair. His opening joke was, “I was going to do some standup tonight, but obviously I can’t stand up.” It’s a tired and worn out line. It got a tiny laugh. It was to be the best laugh he was going to get. All his other jokes were along the same lines.

“So I’l do all the jokes sat down, is that all right?” There was the tiniest of chuckles. He raised his voice. “I said, is that all right, Manchester.” Some people shouted yes, but the majority of the audience were bemused and quiet.

“People often get fed up with me, and they say, ‘when are you going to get off your fucking fat arse?’ Well, I’ll try, but …”

There was some awkward laughter. The first card was lifted. He then told a story about his journey here from York. It wasn’t a joke, but he said it like it sort of was. He basically told us, amidst a plentiful supply of swear words, that his train was a bus replacement, and that he couldn’t get on the bus, so the train company got him a free taxi. There wasn’t a punchline, unless you class him triumphantly shouting, “result!”

He tried to start another joke about being in a wheelchair and not being able to stand, but the remaining two cards shot up, the card holders taking their stand against this cringeworthy nonsense.

The second half was a mixed bag, with a combination of really good and competent acts, and more people making tits out of themselves.

There were two more acts that lasted the full five minutes, and deservedly so. There was Monty Burns, a brash, confident, high-octane Scottish man, who’s comedy was perhaps a little similar to that of Frankie Boyle. It was mainstream comedy, but I don’t mean that as an insult; I just mean that his comedy would play well with a mainstream audience, and I could imagine him on TV. He’d obviously done standup many times before. He had the demeanour of a standup comedian, and he’d obviously honed his act, possessing a good meter and style. You can follow him on Twitter here.

The second act was a female duo called Hawkeye and Windy, who sang songs with piano accompaniment. The humour was quite dark, but there songs were very funny and they had the audience in the palm of their hands.

So, currently you know there were at least four finalists, but you don’t know whether there was a fifth contender. Tomorrow I shall talk you through my performance and see whether I made it to the final five. Until then, thanks for reading friends.

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King Gong, Part One

Listen to the audio version of this blog post here.


The absence of a new Young’uns Podcast and Pick and Mix is mainly down to an issue with the computer I use for audio work. I mentioned this in my last blog post, and I’m sure many of you have been on tenterhooks (what ever the hell they are), waiting in anticipation to hear my details about what exactly this problem is. I’ve heard that a number of you have been taking bets on the nature of the problem. Well, I’m afraid I can’t definitively tell you what’s wrong, but it seems likely that it’s a problem with the computer’s Firewire chip. But don’t get too excited if that’s what you bet on, as it may not be that, so don’t splash the cash yet just on the basis of this current conjecture. I will keep you updated.

Hopefully a new Young’uns Podcast and the third Pick and Mix (Pop Goes the Eagle) will be released soon, although, the computer is not the only reason I’ve not got round to it. I’ve been writing some standup material, and I’ll actually be performing some of it this Sunday evening at the Comedy Store in Manchester. Well hopefully I’ll be performing some of it. The event is called King Gong, the reason for which is due to the fact that if the audience aren’t enjoying your performance then they have the power to gong you off. So if the audience decide that they just don’t like the look of me then they could technically gong me off before I even get a chance to speak.

It’s an open mic comedy night where anyone can come along and have a go. Audience members are issued red cards, and when a certain number of cards is held up, the compare bangs a gong to indicate your dismissal.

I’m both excited and nervous about the idea of doing standup. Obviously the Young’uns gigs have an element of standup about them, but it’s very different to being on stage all by myself with the sole purpose of talking and being funny. There isn’t the safety net of two other people to spark off, nor do I have music to fall back on. But I’m keen to explore standup. It seems like the next logical step for me, and many people have said that they think I should do it, including some high-profile comedy people. So I’m giving it a go. We’ll see where it goes.

I’ve been deliberating about how much I should blog about my incipient standup efforts. If after a raft of gigs not a single person laughs then I may have to come to the conclusion that I’m completely unfunny. If I start blogging about my early standup experiences then I’ll have to broadcast that depressing and embarrassing conclusion to you all,, whereas it would be much safer to wait until I knew I was at least capable of doing a gig before I started publicising my standup. But there are benefits to blogging about my early standup attempts. Hopefully it might help keep me focused, ensuring that I do gigs in spite of my nervousness, as I’ll feel unable to back out of things if I’ve written about them in a blog. I could back out of this gig on Sunday, but now I’ve mentioned it in a blog post I’ve ensured that I won’t. So this blog can act as an empowerment tool for me, as I’d find it too embarrassing to have to admit that I lost my bottle and bailed out of doing a gig. I’m very concerned about what my handful of anonymous readers think of me.

I’m not sure what you’re more excited about: my impending standup gig, or the great reveal about my computer problem. Will it be the firewire chip? Or something else? This blog is really hotting up.

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The Young’uns, BBC Radio Two Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe Session

At five minutes to seven I was a little worried that our session on BBC Radio Two’s Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe wasn’t going to happen, given that the show was due to start in five minutes and I had managed to get stuck in a lift. I stepped into the lift, and the doors closed behind me, but then the lift didn’t move. I searched around for buttons, but couldn’t find any. I started to wonder whether the lift had been the victim of BBC cost cutting, and perhaps it was decided that buttons in a lift was a bit too much of a luxury in these straightened times. It turns out that the real reason there was an absence of buttons inside the lift is because the buttons are all on the outside of the lift, and you are meant to choose your floor before entering. I tried to call Sean and Michael to let them know I was stuck in a none-moving lift, but there was no phone reception. Fortunately, after about five minutes, the lift doors opened and I managed to find the other two.

I really enjoyed the session. It was great to meet Mark Radcliffe, who’s Radio shows I’ve listened to since his afternoon radio one Mark and Lard shows, and he is definitely one of my influences in terms of radio and comedy. In fact, after the session I tried to communicate this to him, although it may have freaked him out a little bit that I seemed to remember more about his Radio One programs than he did. In fact, when I mentioned him playing Radio Pass the Parcel, he had no recollection of this and suggested that I might be confusing him with someone else. I have Googled it and I was correct. It was a regular item on the show for some time. I think it’s quite incredible and a testament to him as a broadcaster that he’s obviously done so much stuff that he can’t even remember certain things he’s done, and that he has fans who have more of a knowledge of some of his broadcasts than he does. Either that or maybe he’s just got a crap memory. I’d like to think though that one day perhaps someone will come up to me an extol the virtues of something I once did on a radio show or podcast that I no longer remember. Perhaps one day someone will excitedly start chatting about James Fagan’s Talking Bollocks, and I’ll look at them blankly and ask whether they’re sure they’re not getting me confused with someone else. It would be great to think that one day I might have achieved so much in my life that even the memory of such quality features as James Fagan’s Talking Bollocks will become a forgotten irrelevance to me. At the moment it’s hard to imagine how I might ever produce anything that will top that kind of broadcasting, but you never know.

The BBC Radio Two Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe session is available here on the Iplayer until next Wednesday. After next wednesday I’ll provide you with a link to download it. Our bit starts seventeen minutes in.

Right then, I’m off to add the final touches to a standup routine I plan to perform in the next couple of months, then I’ll get working on the new Young’uns Podcast, and then to begin work on the next Pick and Mix. Lots of things in the pipeline.

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I’ve Been ON Mark Radcliffe (Not Like That, You Dirty Animals!)

A few minutes of our MainStage performance at last week’s Cambridge Folk Festival were aired on BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe. As well as playing one of our songs they also featured one of our talky bits, where I was imparting a dream I’d had about Mark Radcliffe. It’s available on the IPlayer here. Our bit is twenty minutes in.

I suppose that this means that I can now technically say on my biog page that I’ve had my comedy featured on BBC Radio 2, perhaps this will hoodwink a lazy commissioner into taking an interest, perhaps just assuming that I’ve had my own BBC Radio comedy series. You never know. Well you do, but anyway.

At the end of the show, Mark announced that the Young’uns will be next week’s guests. We’ll be singing three songs and chatting in between. So tune in next wednesday (13 August) from 7pm.

More clips from our Cambridge sets will be on the next Young’uns Podcast, which will hopefully be released soon. I’ve had a couple of computer problems in the last few weeks, plus I’m working on standup ideas, but I’m sure I’ll find some time to sift through hours and hours of recordings of me talking (it’s one of the perks of my job. I bet you’d love a job that consisted of sitting and listening to me talking all day. I’m so lucky.). Anyway, I think I owe it to James Fagan, who’s life must be feeling pretty empty right now, as it’s been awhile since I called him up to chat about testicles. Not to mention how bereft you all must be feeling without your regular dose of testicle talk and cringeworthy puns. I suppose sometimes I get a bit complacent and forget just how much people rely on me to brighten up their otherwise dull and pathetic lives. When I say “dull and pathetic lives,” I’m obviously not referring to you; I meant my other readers, obviously.

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Young’uns Podcast, July 19 2014 (Caustic Bird)

Just when you thought your Saturday night was all planned, a new Young’uns Podcast is released, which changes everything!

The award winning folk performer and qualified medical doctor James Fagan is back to dispense more testicle trivia in James Fagan’s Talking Bollocks. The Young’uns seem to be malfunctioning, possibly due to the heat. We introduce you to another contender for the most eccentric Young’uns fan award. We share a couple of Glastonbury anecdotes, and a story about our time working in a Teesside primary school. David’s phone is attempting to rearrange his life, while Michael Hughes has embarked on uninteresting diet. We play a couple of clips from our late night gig at Otley Folk Festival which gets a little X-Rated. Plus, can you identify the folk song from the food-based lyrical clues as we once again play a round of the Folked Up Folk Song. And, we’ve brought you salad puns, we’ve brought you pig puns, now it’s egg puns!

All that and more will be yours when you press, click, tap, swipe, lick, kick or nuzzle the download link.

Download it here.

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Jimmy Savile, Gary Glitter and Mini Me

Hear the audio version of this blog post here


I wanted to find an old document on my computer, but I had no recollection as to what the file was actually called. So I ended up having to trawl through all the files on the drive alphabetically until I eventually located it. It transpired that the file in question began with the letter r, meaning that I had to wade through a lot of files before I came to the one I was looking for.

There were loads of unfinished projects, articles and blogs. I opened quite a few of them out of curiosity.

I read a semi-completed blog post which caused me to smile and feel rather sanctimonious. The blog post relates to Sir Jimmy Savile, and was written just after the airing of the ITV documentary, Exposure: the Other Side of Jimmy Savile.

The blog post was about the time just after University when I did some work for a hospital radio station in Middlesbrough called Southside. I wrote about how I was reprimanded by the management of Southside for a joke I made about Gary Glitter. This joke (which they really created a stink about and essentially led to me deciding to leave the station) in retrospect seems very mild when you consider the fact that Southside – at the same time as rebuking me for my Gary Glitter quip – were proudly declaring on their website that Sir Jimmy Savile was a great friend of the station and a regular contributor.

My little jocular comment, incidentally, came after playing the Gary Glitter song I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am). I merely made the observation that Gary Glitter was pretty rubbish when it came to covering up his pedophilic tendencies, given that he’d released songs with titles that more or less admitted it outright. A casing point being the unfortunately titled What Your Mama Don’t See (Your Mama Don’t Know).

My comment really annoyed the radio station’s management. I was ordered to edit my joke out of the podcast which I duly did. However, they had no qualms about me leaving in their big kiss-ass chat with Jimmy Savile, which was carried out by the very manager who’d forced me to edit out the Gary Glitter quip. So I was reprimanded by the station management for making a mild joke about Gary Glitter because it was apparently inappropriate, while they were hobnobbing with someone who transpired (perhaps not that unexpectedly) to be a major pedophile.

One of the other files I came across on my alphabetical computer trawl was a childhood diary. I was particularly taken and amused by the entry from my nine-year-old self on Friday February 10 1995.

Me and my best friend Paul decided to do a comedy show. We had been practising it for a long time. We decided to do it on a Friday. We told everyone where to meet us, what time and what day. When it was time, we went outside, and no one wanted to listen to it.

I am writing this blog post on the way back from Summer Set where I performed in front of about 1500 people. Sometimes it is easy to become complacent and forget all your achievements and successes. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not as successful or as popular as I thought I would be when I was younger. But in reality, I know that if I could go back in time and tell my dejected nine-year-old self, stood all alone in that school playground, that in twenty years time he’d be performing to audiences of 1500 and greater, and playing at Glastonbury festival, then the nine-year-old me would be astounded and really proud.

To be honest, I think it was for the best that no one turned up for our comedy show, given some of the jokes that I’d seemingly (according to the diary entry) prepared for the event.

There was a parody of the dance hit song from that time, the Rednex, Cotton Eye Joe, which went: “Where did you come from? Pull down your pants. Where did you come from? Do a country dance. Where did you come from? Pick your Bum. Where did you come from? Pull off your thumb.”

I just hope we didn’t incorporate actions into this particular routine.

There was also this joke:

“I was in the bath, but I had to get out to make a phone call. And when I got out I picked up the phone and I was ringing wet.”

Those were seemingly the only jokes I’d deemed good enough to include in my diary, unless there were actually only two jokes in the show. Either way, I think I was let off the hook by no one turning up to the show.

Before I go, I’ll give you one final extract from a diary entry on Thursday 19 January 1995.

“At school we did English, which I be very very good at.”

I’d like to think that this was a deliberate joke. It really should have made the setlist for the comedy show, as it was much better than the jokes that did make it. Unfortunately though, I doubt it was an intentional joke, but simply an inadvertent grammatical error, proving that I wasn’t really that good at English. Still, on a positive note, I know that if I could go back in time to my nine-year-old self and tell him that one day I’d write an amazingly hilarious, insightful and groundbreaking blog, I’d be very happy and proud. And you never know, that day might even come.

New Young’uns Podcast coming at the end of the week.

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Pop Goes The Eagle

Hear the audio version of this blog post with additional content here


As I write this blog post, the Emeli Sandé song Next To Me is playing. I quite like the song, but for me it’s severely marred by the almost constant sound of a man shouting “hey hey hey hey hey hey” while Emeli is singing. The poor girl is pouring out her heart and soul, and there’s some random bloke shouting all over her. Feel free to give the song a listen for yourself and you’ll see what I mean – don’t worry, I’ll wait for you here – otherwise you’ll just have to take my word for it.

“Hey hey hey hey hey,” incongruously repeated over and over again, whizzing around the stereo field, which if anything adds an extra element of distraction and irritation. Emeli’s voice is placed bang in the centre of the stereo mix while this “hey hey hey hey” nonsense is flying around my headphones making me feel dizzy and nauseous.

I’ve never seen her perform the song live and so I don’t know whether she has someone stood on stage with her to shout the heys. Perhaps he positions himself in front of her and runs back and forth across the stage so as to visually produce his frustrating flitting across the stereo field present in the recorded version. Maybe he also performs a series of off-putting gestures in front of Emeli just to distract and irritate the audience even more. I assume not though.

I also assume that the decision to incorporate the “hey hey hey hey” nonsense was not an artistic choice made by Emeli Sandé. The producer was probably told by a label executive that the song was sounding a bit too country and it needed poppifying a bit in order to target the right demographic. So the producer, in his “wisdom”, decided to stand in front of a mic, shout a couple of heys and then loop them over and over again, before buggering off to the pub with a smug feeling of a job well done.

“One day,” he thinks, “someone will recognise my incredible talents. I’ve left my mark on this record, I really have. They’ll make a documentary all about me and my genius one day and they’ll focus an entire ten minutes on my groundbreaking work on the Emeli Sandé song. ‘Are you the man who had the idea to put the hey hey hey heys on the Emeli Sandé song?’ people will ask. And I’ll proudly tell them that not only was I the man to have the idea, but I was also the man who recorded and looped the hey hey heys on the Emeli Sandé song. They’ll probably faint upon hearing this. I should probably get myself on a first aid course. After all, With great power comes great responsibility.”

But then, our amazing music producer hero has a eureka moment. Perhaps it comes to him in a dream like Paul Mccartney’s Yesterday (which probably didn’t really come to him in a dream, but he says it did in interviews because it’s a lot more interesting and mysterious than saying, “oh I was just jamming with the guitar, you know”). But anyway, putting the inception of the Beatles’ Yesterday aside, let’s get back to our music producer, who has just had an incredible brainwave.

He runs to the studio. He is so excited that he’s not even got out of his pyjamas. He’s running down the street in his slippers at 5 in the morning because he can’t wait to try out his idea. If this works then it could change the way we think about music forever, he thinks.

He sprints into the dark deserted studio, switches on the computer, dives into his chair, panting, delirious with anticipation. The computer seems to take an eternity to load, but when it finally does he brings up the Emeli Sandé track. Immediately he sees the wave form created by his “hey hey hey hey.” “It even looks great”, he sighs. He marvels at its beauty. It’s majestic curves and contours. Such a wave form as this he has never seen before.

He solos his hey hey hey heys. He exhales sharply, astounded by its sound. Good God, it sounds even better than he remembered. He takes a moment to bask in it’s ineffable majesty, and then, with his entire body trembling, he begins to act upon his incredible idea.

He reaches for the pan knob and begins to twist. The sound of his hey hey hey heys move from the centre of his headphones towards the left channel. He is almost overcome by ecstasy, but he manages to hold on to his composure enough to carry out the second part of his master plan. He proceeds to twist the knob back into the centre, and then to the right. He continues to turn the knob left then right, left then right, and the sound of the heys match the course of his turn. It sounds even better than he dared to dream.

How does it sound with the rest of the song, he wonders? He unmutes the track and listens in awe to his mastery. He is too absorbed by hubris to realise that it sounds utterly shit.

Chances are that this story is not entirely true. Perhaps Emeli did have a say in the hey hey heys. Maybe she had a friend or relative who was very down and out and in need of some work, and so Emeli had the idea that she could get them on her record and they could earn some money that way. Unfortunately though the person in question lacked any talent whatsoever, but Emeli was too kindhearted to go back on her word, and so gave them the task of shouting hey repeatedly over the track.

I might not feel as irritated by it if I knew that the whole hey hey hey thing was an act of charity. Perhaps other pop stars could follow Emeli’s example and do their bit, maybe teaming up with Help the Homeless to get people off the streets and into the studios, shouting random words and phrases over pop songs. Let’s be honest, in most cases it wouldn’t really do any harm as the majority of mainstream hits are crap anyway, and in some instances it might actually improve the song. Everyone’s a winner.

Another example of a song that features an annoying man sticking his oar in when it’s not needed is in the fugees version of Killing Me Softly. Lauryn Hill is singing “strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words, killing me softly with his song …” and all the while, Wyclef Jean is shouting over her, “one time one time, two times two times.”

At the start of the song there’s also a bit where WyClef, Lauryn and some others are all talking nonsense over each other. At the end of the song the same thing happens, with WyClef gibbering on about something or other while Lauryn begins to reel off a litany of people: “l-Boogie up in here,” she declares, while WyClef is chuntering on about what he had for tea or something equally mundane. If they both want to speak then why don’t they take it in turns? In fact, Lauryn is evidently distracted by WyClef talking while she’s talking because after she’s just said, “L-Boogie up in here,” she repeats it again, “I said, L-Boogie up in here”, as if she was concerned that we might not have heard her the first time Don’t worry Lauryn, I heard what you said both times, and it was just as nonsensical the second time as it was the first time. Or maybe the real reason Lauryn repeated herself was to please WyClef Jean, who’s seemingly taken by the notion of saying things “two times, two times,” including the phrase “two times.”

“L-Boogie up in here,” she drones, “I said, L-Boogie up in here, WyClef up in here,” as if we needed telling.

She continues to shout the names of people and inform us that they’re all “up in here,” as WyClef continues to blabber on, before someone in the studio eventually has the bright idea to fade them all out. I’d like to think that the person in the studio didn’t tell them he’d already faded them out and stopped recording and they just went on talking nonsense over each other for another hour. Frankly, it’s what they deserve, the twits.

There’s another song that I can’t recall, but I remember that all the way through the song the female singer keeps being interrupted by a man shouting “say what? say what?” She then repeated what she’d just sang and the man again interrupted shouting “say what? say what?” I remember thinking that if the man stopped shouting “say what? say what?” over her singing then he might be in a better position to hear her, and therefore not need to keep asking what she’s just said, saving us all a lot of aggravation.

On a similar vane, I remember listening to the Radio One rap show with Tim Westwood once and finding it ridiculous how Timothy and his homeboys would all shout unfathomable drivel down a distorted microphone while the sounds of horns, bombs, gun shots, rap music and record scratches masked whatever nonsense they were shouting. But what I found amusing was how they would periodically throw in the phrase “you know what I’m saying.” Of course we have no idea what you’re saying, and I doubt whether you yourselves really have any idea about what the hell you’re saying either. Although I was surprised to find that almost universally Westwood would answer with an enthusiastic “yeah man,” or, “for real.”

I was fascinated to uncover the deep and mystical words of wisdom that I was missing out on. But no matter how hard I strained to hear above the bombs, the horns, the gun shots, blurring beats and the record scratches, I couldn’t decipher the garbled phrases; although they were shouting it in a way that suggested that what they were saying was really vitally important, which frustrated me further. In actuality, it was probably just boring small talk about the weather or something.

Incidentally, the reason Emeli Sandé was playing is because I am in the process of working on ideas for a DJ set for someone’s wedding in August.
This means I’ll have a lot of new material to use for a third Pick and Mix which I’ll probably release in September. Obviously this one will be a lot more poppy than the previous too – I’m not sure the happy couple would remain happy if I started blasting them with Flanders & Swann mixed with the Chemical Brothers or Sinéad O’conor with Aphex Twin – but there’ll still be some interesting and surprising mixes and unlikely song combinations for you.

So, given the poppy nature of the next Pick and Mix, I thought of calling the mix Pop Goes the Eagle, because obviously that would be a hilarious pun. So Pop Goes the Eagle will be with you in September, unless you’re an invite at the wedding or a member of the bar staff or a gate crasher, in which case you’ll hear it in August. In fact, I’m deliberately not mentioning who’s wedding it is because I know how excited you all are about the new Pick and Mix and you’ll probably all cause a massive health and safety risk by trying to gate crash the wedding so you can hear it before September.

Finally, our Glastonbury gig went really well, and we’ll be sharing ourGlastonbry experience with you on the next Young’uns Podcast which should be out before the end of July.

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Young’uns Podcast, June 13 2014 (James Fagan’s Talking Bollocks)

James Fagan returns once more to the Young’uns Podcast, joining us on the phone to talk testicles. It’s the first in our new series in which the award winning folk musician and qualified medical doctor dispenses testicle-based trivia. Plus we’ve got clips from our recent appearance at North Yorkshire’s Bamfest, which takes the prize for the festival with the drunkest and most raucous audience. And once again, can you identify the folked-up folk song from the food-based lyrical clues?
Download it here.

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