Vauxhall and we

Another crazy, crazy, crazy night out at Karaoke Circus. I’ve been slack and missed a couple of consecutive KCs in London, including the Christmas extravaganza, although I was lucky enough to be at, and a part of, the Edinburgh circus tent special in August. Anyway, having moved the circus to my half of London, boldly relocating to Vauxhall – home of the RHINO NOT FOR SALE sign – and specifically to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, one of the gayest bars in the world, you might call last night’s something of a rebirth. The venue was just perfect: cosy and circular, and with more gents toilets than ladies, but big enough to accommodate and in many cases seat a teeming intake of “Yay!”-shouting, homemade-cake-eating comedy nerds. And the staff were terrific, especially Paul the barman who got up and did a criminally soulful open spot of Dock Of The Bay and won! All round, a happy evening, with highlights too many to list, although I’ll chance a couple, for fear of picking favourites: Robin Ince’s Rise, which even the eminently adaptable house band of Martin, Danielle, David and Foz couldn’t breathe life into, and which Robin turned into irascible performance art (increasingly his metier); Howard Read’s Rhinestone Cowboy which involved actually vandalism; husband and wife team Margaret Cabourn-Smith and Dan Tetsell making the most of their babysitter by reimagining Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Crazy In Love; and Pappy’s bringing the house down, very much in the spirit of Karaoke Circus’s new gayness, with a costumed and then not-costumed celebration of It’s Raining Men. A pair of denim shorts was thrown.

As for my own contribution, which has had me playing the same song over and over and over and over again on my iPod for a week in order to learn it, I paid shouting tribute to Carter USM’s The Only Living Boy In New Cross (which, again, seemed apt for the new South London location). I still forgot the middle of the “Eyes down” bit, but I think pulled it back from the brink with gusto if not finesse. I believe I am right in saying this was a Karaoke Circus first: a song sung while the original singer of the song was in the room ie. Jim Bob, who was gracious in his assessment. I apologised to him from the stage, of course. There are tribute acts and there are “tribute” acts.

Thanks, as ever, to Martin and Danielle for having me. I can’t think of a more sociable family of people, which includes all of the audience. On the way home, through the tunnel under the railway line, I passed The Baron and Foz without their clown makeup on. I hardly recognised them. A poignant end to an outrageous evening. The photos are Paul Bailey’s and the full set are here.

And here’s a dodgy mobile video made by Frog Morris of my Carter turn, complete with judging by Daniel Tetsell, Jim Bob and The Baron.

And a couple more shots, these from Diamond Geyser, of Paul the barman collecting his prize, and, well, an action shot of me. The full set is here.



Is it hot in here?

Another classic Karaoke Circus in London last night; second time with full orchestra at the legendary 100 Club, which doubled as an underground sauna. Thanks, as ever, to unofficial KC photographer Paul Bailey for capturing this hot and heavy evening. The full set of his photos are here. If you’ve never been, it’s hard to communicate what a seriously and uniquely entertaining and inclusive evening it is, but where else can you see comedians and entertainers of the calibre of Chris Addison, Tim Vine and Kevin Eldon singing with a live band – led by Martin White and Danielle Ward – and in this special case orchestral accompaniment, for the love of doing so?

Last night’s lineup also included Robin Ince, Lizzie Roper, Waen Shepherd, Tony Gardner and Petra Massey, each stepping outside of their comfort zone (Waen, for instance, usually hides behind the mask of a crazy character, but appeared last night as Waen for Jacques Brel/Scott Walker’s Jacky) and belting something out. Or in Tim’s case, crooning something out. For the record, I essayed Uptown Top Ranking, by Althea and Donna, and in full Jamaican patois, naturally. I am not a very good singer, but for as long as Martin invites me to take part, I will eagerly do so. It’s not about being a good singer – except when it is – it’s about having a go. Which is why the loudest cheers are often for members of the public: the so-called open spots. And why an open spot always wins the prize. That’s as it should be. At least the actors and comedians and other media folk who get up are used to being in the spotlight, sweating. Albeit probably not normally sweating as much as we all were last night.

It’s unfair to pick highlights, but for sheer synchronicity between musical arrangement, apt song choice and vocal/shape-throwing performance, it had to be Chris Addison’s Left To My Own Devices. As ever, props to the band: White, Ward, Foster and Reed, with Limb on piano; to the orchestra, whose fine players are too numerous to mention; and to the judges, The Baron and Dan Maier (wittiest line, relating to the heat after a heavily pregnant performer had done half of Dead Ringer For Love: “I was worried that her steam was going to break.”) – next chance to book tickets before the lineup is announced: August 17, Assembly, Edinburgh. I already have a song lined up, if they’ll have me.

Remember, the first rule of Karaoke Circus is to always go on about Karaoke Circus. It’s OK to do this, as most people won’t get it.



I will add more pics as they come in, but hats off to Andy McH for taking this evocative rock shot – and posting it on Twitter within seconds – at tonight’s absolutely brilliiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaant Karaoke Circus extravaganza, back in its spiritual and literal home the Albany Downstairs in Central London, where, dwarfed by the comedic talent either side of me on this illustrious bill, I belted out Lithium by Nirvana. My rendition looks, if I may be so bold, better than it sounded. Certainly from where I was standing. We were also treated to an emotional Nothing Compares 2 U from Josie Long, which was almost impossible to follow, but I chivalrously held her new coat while she sang it, which I hope was a contributing factor to her greatness. (I am nothing if not the man who holds the coats for comedians.) Also, a song from Bugsy Malone by Anna Crilly and Katy Wix; an ironically stopped Don’t Stop Me Now from the super-patient Margaret Cabourn-Smith (who subtly referenced the C&H podcast in her patter, which we appreciated); a remarkably tuneful rendition of the punk rock classic Orgasm Addict from Mr Richard Herring, dedicated to his current comedy partner; Song 2 by the cycling-fit Dave Gorman … and then I snuck off home to watch Question Time because an ugly man was going to be on it. I was torn. Apologies to those performers whose work I missed and whose coats I could not hold, including genial, snake-hipped Chris Addison with an apparently show-stopping, ovation-deserving Common People, Robin Ince, Jeremy Hardy (aka. Robin Ince in the future if he calms down a bit) and special secret guest Jessica Hynes, who, as Richard commented, cheated “by using talent”, and also earned an ovation. Below are a selection of photographs from various sources. First past the post were these evocatively blurry ones by Andy McH, which were also instantaneously Tweeted, and would have definitely been printed in the NME in 1991:

And now some slightly clearer ones from Linzy aka AngryFeet:

And finally, from unofficial Karaoke Circus photographer Paul Bailey, are some highlights from his full set, which can be viewed here.

So, a big hand to packed-lunch addict Martin White [above], who pulls this whole thing together every time; to Danielle, Foz, David and the rest of the musicians; and to Dan and the Baron, the Yin and Yang of critique. Another subterranean have-a-go triumph over technical adversity in the key of fun.