Imagine if you will a country that bans smoking in enclosed spaces where people work. Imagine the biggest European comedy festival being held in that country’s capital city and building a smoking shelter and enclosing it (and then opening the sides up to be legal). Imagine putting out several tables and chairs and ash trays so the short of breath smokers could then rest a while. Imagine then putting art around this area. Imagine if the art is a collection called ‘Extinguished‘ which shows empty ashtrays from all over Scotland showing just how the ban is working. And imagine if right in front of the opening pictures there was a used ashtray on the table. Ed Byrne will confirm that that is indeed ironic. Sadly though I’ve just watched the final show of the 2006 Festival, a massive 11 months until it starts again
As predicted as far back as last August, Phil Nichol has finally and deservedly won the top prize in comedy and the inaugural IF.comedies award for 2006. The riot is cancelled, justice has been done. Go see him in every show he is ever in; he’s that damn good!
Tonight a great crowd saw Phil Nichol blow people away. The show was the same as two weeks ago except for one small story … that was cut! That’s right, this show missed one piece of the story that we heard a few weeks ago but was off the chart; better than five stars! Despite using over half a dozen microphones he explained to us how an argument with his girlfriend turned into a racist, causes world wars and more importantly left him naked! That’s right, Phil Nichol is literally The Naked Racist. And for this show he has lots of naked friends and several (male sadly) ‘members’ of the audience join his naked party, myself included! Here’s me, clothed again, covered in Phil Nichol’s sweat and telling him once again he is the best thing in the Festival and once again he deserves the Perrier / IF Comedies Award and he’ll get it tomorrow night if there’s any justice in the world. If not we all riot, agreed? I wonder if he’ll get his little guitar out for the awards show?
In 1999 Pål Sletaune rejected the chance to direct American Beauty as he thought the script wasn’t good enough. He was nominated by the trade press Variety way back in 1998 as one of the most exciting directors in the world. This is his third film, all three of which he has written and directed. There is a lot of talk that this is probably the greatest Norwegian film ever made. In my opinion it is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. The only flaw in this film is that the idea was stolen from my mind – I’ve been slowly adding to a very similar film in my head for the past three years! Unfortunately I can’t tell you what my idea was about without spoiling a large part of this masterpiece. What I can tell you is this film is all about John, a guy who has just split up with his girlfriend and starts noticing his two sexy neighbours (naboer in Norwegian). After the opening fifteen minutes the film starts to get very freaky – it’s the type of film you want to go and see if you thought LA Confidential was too straight forward. The final hour creates all sorts of emotions running around your head, building up to the intense dread and fear over the final ten minutes. Some people have said the ending is explained too much (nowhere near like a Holywood film though) but I disagree; I think the little clues scare you when you realise things however there are plot twists right until the end. Do I feel ripped off that the film is only 77 minutes long? Absolutely not, this film is perfectly paced and anymore would be wasted and patronising. Five stars our of five and it sits up there alongside Toy Story, The Exorcist and Irreversible on my all time greats list.
The re-branded comedy awards, now the IF.Commedies, have just announced their shortlist. After the controversial decision to not give the award to Phil Nichol last year (hell, to not even nominate him was a crime), this year the expected winner is … Phil Nichol! Phil wins his first nomination since his 2002 show Things I Like To Lick with his currently four star rated show, The Naked Racist. The show should be up to five stars when we re-watch it on Friday. The other, soon to be disappointed, nominees are Russell Howard – Wandering; David O’Doherty – Is My Name; Paul Sinha with Saint or Sinha? and We Are Klang in Klangbang. Russell was pretty good in his preview show so it’s not a surprise to see him nominated once he was firing on all four cylinders. Likewise, this time for the Best Newcomer Award, Andrew Lawrence put in a very polished preview and I’m sure stepped up his performance after the opening week. Also up for this award are trio Fat Tongue; spoof folk duo God’s Pottery; Josie Long and very widely praised all-round entertainer Russell Kane for his Theory of Pretension. I think Russell has to be the favourite to follow in Tim Minchin’s footsteps. We’ll find out on Saturday.
On the back of the packet it says “Put a smile on your cheeks with Andrex ® lightly moistened toilet tissue to leave you fresher, cleaner and up for anything”. I’m sorry what was that last promise? Maybe innocent people who suddenly feel “up for anything” will think, ‘well, it’s so clean now you could eat your dinner off it!’. Naughty people may re-read the title of this post and complete it: “…it makes your whole week”.
Three years ago Demetri blew Edinburgh away with his introspective show “If I…” (also the world’s shortest palindrome) and won the Perrier Award. The next year he followed up with a freaky story packed full of jokes about being trapped inside his notebook, “Spiralbound”. Last year he simply delivered “These Are Jokes” without bothering with a theme (although he was a bit over worked last year). His Comedy Central show was in three acts covering the three major areas of comedy: the first stand-up, the second prop comedy and the final was musical. This year’s show, “Dr. Earnest Parrot Presents”, has all three of these segments, as well as a cartoon animation piece and a little bit of shadow puppetry, all wrapped together with an introspective story about him developing a serious mental condition P.H.E.A.L.S. This is when a patient develops a “brain nook” outside his body where he spends a lot of his time. Don’t worry, it all makes sense in Demetri’s world! What is really happening is the same on-going battle he has with trying to be cool and happy. So, there you go. You know very pointless things about his show. What really matters is that he’s great. Anyone who gets on stage and says, “If I ever see an amputee being hung I’m just going to shout out letters”, deserves the title ‘genius’ in my eyes! Some people I know wasn’t blown away by last year’s show as there was no story or link, but they have just beamed about this year’s. The only downside this year is that his two week run was cut down to just over a week. Despite that (as he was the first tickets I booked for the past three years) he gets a full five stars and the recommendation to see him every years he plays.
Last year I raved about Phil’s show “Nearly Gay”. This year I, and it seems Stage’s Award Committee, have raved about his acting ability as he is nominated for their Best Actor Award (again) for his performance in Talk Radio. So how does his third daily show stand up? Very similar to last year it’s a one hour story taking us through a large variety of dark places and meeting a variety of equally strange people. Again, the same as last year, Phil is sweating within twenty minutes as he’s already exerted twice the energy of a “normal” comic in a full show. We see how a simple fight with his girlfriend and a bit of very comical name calling can leave him running away from a group of Nazis intent on killing him. Any further detail would ruin some of the many surprises and delightful adventures along the way. So why is this review imminently going to end with only four stars? There was one fault with the show and it wasn’t Phil’s. The front row of the audience consisted of two stag parties (very silly mistake – do *not* sit in the front row unless you want to be the inadvertent star of the show) and a lot of the audience where not the type that should have been watching his show. They were either too old, no where near broadminded enough or didn’t know what things like “tea-bagging” are. Sadly this caused Phil to ask the audience on a few occasions to see if they were really in to it. Despite a positive reaction from several people, the show was cut short by just over ten minutes. It was a little bit disappointing but Phil really needs a crowd that he can energise before his big finale. That is why I’m going back to see him on his final Friday night when hopefully the people there will be there to see him rather than just because he has had five stars in newspapers and online. Even this shortened show with a half dead (age wise) crowd gets four stars, a testament to his raw energy and ability.
I’ve seen an advert for Robin Ince this year and it says on it “Sell Out 2005″. I’m sorry? I saw him last year and there were about 13 people in a venue that holds 50. That got me to thinking. I’ve also seen “Total Sell Out 2005″ on posters too. Does that mean that the first line means that they’ve just sold out one show out of twenty? I hope not otherwise it’s the innocent public who’ve been sold up the river by the deceitful advertising con-men, I mean consultants. I’d really like to find out the official line here, I’m going to try to do it before the end of the Festival to protect my loyal readers.
Last year’s Perrier Newcomer Award Winner returns with a show who’s first song has the chorus “I am, so f***in’ rock”. Do you know what? He is. And a lot more. If you go to see Tim deliver quirky bits of stories or weak jokes in between his songs then don’t bother – they are quite bad segues. If you go to see Tim for his eight or nine infectious and amusing songs and musical performance art then you’ll be glad you paid £12 a head to see him. Tim is a very strange but likable cross between appearance of Robert Smith from The Cure and the manic-ness of Bobcat Goldthwaite. Musically he is far better than Bill Bailey and he can perform with his songs too rather than just sit there (not all songs though). One very popular song from last year was reprised, the very moral “Take Your Canvas Bags To The Super-Market”, this time with a stunning performance during it (that’s all I’m saying). Four stars out of five and a ‘must see’ award – just don’t forget your lighter.