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.





Karaoke Circus returned, for one spectacular night only, to the Fringe. It started just before midnight last night, and ran until about 2am. It was one of the best. Held in its biggest venue yet, the Assembly Tent in Princes Gardens – which was, disconcertingly, not entirely sold out, but comfortably full of folk – the bill and the camaraderie and the judging and the playing and the joie de chanson grew to fill the space. Because Martin and Danielle and drummer David are relatively busy putting on a musical every night – that’s a musical – they didn’t have time to tailor the songs to the participants, and instead made us choose from the existing list.

It still meant that Al Murray could make his KC debut and rise to the vocal challenge of Life On Mars (previously owned by Ben Miller at the Albany), and Michael Legge and – cheating! – Jim Bob could attempt to wrestle Common People away from its rightful owner, Chris Addison (whose bad leg kept him away). Elsewhere, with occasional brass assistance from Steve Pretty, and a climactic appearance by my Edinburgh correspondent Tony as Brian May, the band were as fit as ever, and we enjoyed some spirited numbers, including a few other literal reprises: last year’s My Generation by Pappy’s (which was adjudged, with withering wit by Dan Tetsell, to have been “three out of four”, a sly reference to the fact that there are only three of them now, and were four this time last year), the Albany classic Nothing Compares 2 U by Josie Long, and Robin Ince turning Love Will Tear Us Apart into a tribute to Ian Curits, Morrissey and Frank Sidebottom, only two of whom are dead. Tim Vine did The Bossa Nova, and yes, made a pun about giving his boss a car. I attacked the Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, which I am very familiar with, and allowed me the chance to do an impression, rather than sing. It was bags of fun, and I’d been drinking tap water in preparation, like a boxer. Good effort, too, by Frog Morris, whose Unwrong Quiz has just ended its run directly after Secret Dancing at Bannermans – he disguised himself as a member of the public, signed up in the queue, and fared well with Virginia Plain.

Quite a gaggle – or is that a clique? – of comedians formed around the booths on the right hand side, some performing, some not, all entering into the cheery spirit of the event, including various Penny Dreadfuls, Sara Pascoe, Justin Edwards and Lucy Porter, Justin Moorhouse, even Mark Thomas, who it is always a pleasure to see. Michael naturally broke the atmosphere in two by shouting out, “Alan is a cunt!” to a blameless member of the public called Alan. What I like is the fact that – despite the apparent interest of so many radio and TV people, who seemed to descend yesterday en masseKaraoke Circus can never be a TV programme. I’m glad to say – and I’ve said it before – you really do have to be there. (Thanks to Justin Moorhouse for the action shot above.)

Before the Circus, I met my agent Kate, who’s up for a flying visit, and after a drink at the Pleasance with Michael, Jim (a night off again for the Gutted cast), Tara and Carl, we went to see Jeremy Lion Goes Green. This is the third outing for Justin Edwards’ much-talked-about dipsomaniac children’s entertainer character, although it was my first.

If you haven’t seen him yet, you must. It’s a sensational piece of theatre, subtly performed to give the impression of a ramshackle disaster, but you can tell it’s done with incredible precision. The duff songs, the ropey props, the weak narrative premise of an ecological redemption via a time-travelling shed, all add to what becomes a poignant portrait of a man breaking down and, in the Ten Green Bottles show-stopper, just drinking loads and loads and loads of booze. I was naive enough to ask Justin later at KC how he apparently necks all that Special Brew, Malibu, Sol, Baileys and Advocat onstage, but wouldn’t let me in on the secret. It’s like a magician’s trick. Either way, you will be completely sucked into the drama, as it unfolds, and Lion’s life, and show, fall apart.

A frankly mediocre podcast gig this afternoon at the GRV, due to tiredness and some very dull news stories, which hadn’t really deserved ripping out at all, but we couldn’t allow the entire podcast to be devoted to the gentle harassment of David and Rachel on the front row. Anyway, here’s the blurb, and the podcast will appear here.

We’re back for the second of the two five-day batches of Collings & Herrin live podcasts from the GRV in Edinburgh, and what a return! Not only is Richard knackered after the excesses of producing As It Occurs To Me in “Jimmy hats” and a bath salts-insensible Andrew unable to make a single joke, even one about a man who is hungry living in Hungary, but Tony Blair’s blood advance proves a subject too serious to provide any humour whatsoever, and Cannon and Ball weren’t even to blame for making that Daily Mail reader late for work after this lunch. Thankfully, there is live Space Dust consumption, on mic, and a superb soap opera linked to the nice couple of postgraduates on the front row, whom you can see in the second audience picture. They paid five pounds. And all your Doctor Who trivia questions are answered.

Here are the audience, in two parts:

It’s Wednesday so I have to pretend I’m back in London and fulfill my Radio Times duties, so the rest of the day should be nice and quiet and at home. I’m very tired indeed. When will it end? (Something our podcast audiences have been no doubt wondering.)