What the African said in Hayes

Daliso Chaponda
Star rating: ****
Beck Theatre
Hayes
Review date: 12th October 2018

Appearing for the first time at Hayes Beck Theatre, Daliso Chaponda appeared very much at ease on the big stage. Maybe that should come as no surprise, for though he’s been performing as a stand up since 2001, he really shot to national prominence as result of his short, stand out, stand up performances on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent (BGT)2017, where he finished in a very creditable 3rd place.

Daliso Chaponda

I’ve no doubt this contributed to a near full house. They particularly loved one of his early BGT jokes about how finishing third was, in some circumstances, really the equivalent of placing first. Daliso is extremely amusing and I enjoyed his refreshing stance on many topics, doubtless shaped by his Malawian-Canadian-UK upbringing. We heard his humorous, but pointed, take on a wide range of subjects spanning family, race, politics, language and the faux outrage we see so much of these days. He has a very pragmatic stance on matters of race, language and offense, highlighting through his comedy, how all too often, many people and the mass media twist opinions out of all perspective to actual real life tragic events.

He’s seems to be have been through some challenging experiences himself, though curiously I’m not sure he’d not include being an adopted child (he wasn’t) as one of those, for he said of adopted children, “at least you know you were planned and wanted!”

Daliso was well supported by Mancunian Tony Vino, who had an engaging, likable and friendly stage presence, a little reminiscent of Patrick Monahan. Despite mistakenly getting the date wrong – “good to be in Hayes on Saturday night” (when it was Friday) and saying he’d been in Birmingham the previous night when in fact he was at  Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms he proved to be a super opening act! The jokes re Somalians and the Lion King were superb and had the place rocking away with laughter.

Never mind Britain’s Got Talent, Malawi’s Got Talent. Daliso Chaponda is a very funny man, with a wide range of witty jokes with unexpected punchlines liberally peppering his show. He is touring until the end of the year and if you go and see him it, will be time well spent listening to what the African has got to say.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Should Youngsters be leading The War on Gun Control in America and the Brexit Battle in the UK?

Battle of Ideas 2018
Counter Cultural Concerns
Garden Room, Barbican Centre
London EC2
Saturday 13th October 2018

The extraordinary turnout, reportedly up to 700,000 in Central London for the pro-remain #NeverAgain anti-Brexit ‘People’s March’ on 20th October 2018 made it the second largest march in the country this century. It was a symbolic, clear demonstration of the depth of anti-Brexit feeling amongst many people in the country. What was also self-evident were the unusually large number of young people protesting, particularly for a non-student specific issue. This is explained by the fact that the march was part organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) who mobilised so many young people to attend. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, 21st October 2018, the President of the NUS, Shakira Martin, said that the march was organised and led by students and requested that the Prime Minister Theresa May take note of the 1,000’s of young voices amongst the 700,000 who marched as a demonstration of intent to have a second vote on Brexit.

Aside from the on-going debate about whether or not there should be a second referendum, which as one for another article altogether, this protest shone a spotlight on youth participation in the political process. Under 18’s, too young to vote had no say in the EU referendum vote yet by the time of the next big march, 29th March 2019, aka Brexit Day, many more who just two years ago were too young to vote would now be eligible. Can children change the future? Many would argue a decision had been made with long-term ramifications affecting the youths of today and tomorrow that they have had no say in and that they should have a say in.

Across the pond there is an issue that has far more serious consequences, one that is literally a matter life and death. I refer to the battle for gun control that has touched far too many American youths and encouraged more and more young people to become more politicised and active in raising their voices and profiles for the cause.
We are sadly all too familiar with mass shootings at US schools and elsewhere. Clearly the problem hasn’t been solved by the grown up’s, the elected politicians tasked with making America safer for students and wider American society, so young people directly affected are getting involved.

Following the mass shooting on Valentine’s Day this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were shot dead, a group of students from the school met and formed the #NeverAgainMSD #EnoughIsEnough movement to try and bring an end to these horrific massacres of innocent school children. Their appeal for stricter gun control was passionate, energetic, personal and above all youth inspired. Student David Hogg became one of the group’s most high profile spokespeople following his March for our Lives speech at a Washington DC rally on 24th March 2018 where he said “Adult politics is not helping us. Ideas without action remain ideas and children die.”

I feel there are pros and cons for more active youth participation in the political process aimed at finding a solution to this and any other long standing political and societal problems. Youths argue that they have personal “skin in the game” so to speak as there are a disproportionate number of mass school shootings in America compared to anywhere else in the world. Many involved are well educated, articulate and have mobilised their fellow pupils to action, arguably in a way adults would struggle to. Karin Robinson, of Democrats Abroad, former Vice–Chair of Democrats Abroad UK, has recent experience of the capability of young people. Speaking at the recent Battle of Ideas 2018 Festival she recalled how she tried to help a group of young Londoners with a campaign they were working on, thinking that her experience as an older person would help. Little did she know that they were doing fine all by themselves and therefore she was pleasantly surprised to find that they didn’t need her support. “They were more than capable. There view was that, ‘our parents don’t know how to handle a democracy so let us do it.’ ”

Some would argue that there are limits to how far young people can develop a campaign. Nancy McDermott, Writer and adviser to Park Slope Parents, does not believe that children were capable of organising rallies in some schools that they were said to have done, saying that, “whilst they mean well, it was inconceivable that they could organise a bus trip for hundreds of students to far away cities. Such trips were organised and promoted by schools not the students.”

James Delingpole

Journalist and podcaster James Delingpole, 53, caused uproar amongst the students in the audience by saying that “We shouldn’t listen to youths. There frontal lobes aren’t developed until they’re at least 25 years old. By definition, as young people, they are not wise. There is a danger in weaponising the youths.” This drew a very witty riposte that brought the house down at the Barbican Centre from an 18 year old female who said, “My frontal lobes may not be fully developed but can I tell you that by the age of 30 your frontal lobe is deteriorating.” That amusing put down drew laughter and a huge round of applause from the packed audience.

Dr Kevin Yuill, Senior Lecturer in American history at Southampton University, considered that “mass shootings are a massive cry for help.” To me, this speaks to the on-going mental health crisis that underpins many of these shootings. Many massacres are quite simply senseless and often turn out to be the actions of someone without a sound and rational mind. He felt that “there was something noble about kids becoming activists. It opens up a dialogue and opportunity for them to learn about the business of changing the world.” That on the face of it is entirely logical, especially when you consider that he said that young Americans biggest fear is gun crime. He said there is a 1:11,125 chance of dying from a gun versus, for instance, a 1:471 chance of dying in a car crash. It’s understandable but almost illogical to be more afraid of something that’s 24 less likely to happen than being involved in a car crash. I guess its fear of the one being out of your control and likely to be fatal and one where you feel you can manage the risks and possibly have a greater chance of surviving.

The complex and messy politics of this is well summed up by Dr Richard Johnson, Lecturer in US politics at Lancaster University, who explained that “First of all, legislatively it is very, very difficult to change due to how the senate is comprised e.g. the 39 million citizens of California have the same 2 votes i.e. 2 elected representatives as a state of 750 people! This effectively means that the states, like California, most in favour of gun control have little say commensurate with their size.”

There ought to be boundary reviews just as we do in the UK to more accurately reflect populations. Dr Johnson further argued that “Secondly, it’s not a matter of moving public opinion, it’s the structure. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that gun control bans are unconstitutional.”

Nancy McDermott, said “Canada is armed to the teeth with guns but there is no gun control problem. It’s very much a cultural issue. The Police have a problem with African-Americans resulting in escalating problems. We need to address the culture wars here. We don’t talk to one another. Instead we talk past one another. That’s why children are being weaponised in this debate.”

Delingpole said “Let youths enjoy life. Enjoy their academic subjects. We don’t need young people being politicised, becoming Activists.” McDermott responded that “the problem is not the youths. It’s the adult’s not providing appropriate leadership.”

Dr Richard Johnson, Lecturer in US Politics

The Australian Model

When considering solutions Dr Johnson quoted the Australian model that resulted in taking strong action against guns. There was a successful 3 point solution:

1. People needed to be licensed to own a gun.
2. People needed to prove they had a specific reason for owning a gun e.g. for sport.
3. Review of licenses issued every 3 years.

The hugely positive result of this was a massive 77% decline in gun assisted suicides.

Putting this into perspective he added that self-inflicted gun deaths add up to the vast majority of gun deaths in the USA.

Youth Engagement

Despite his strong position on the subject, James Delingpole believes there is a place for youth engagement and that is by voting and encouraging their peers to vote. He sees that young people can be quick to show their anger but in his view real change comes from the ballot box not verbal displays of anger. He said that the problem isn’t the adults, “but the youths who don’t vote, don’t protest and don’t stand up.” One youth said, “Young people don’t vote because the political discourse on campus is very toxic.” Trying to bring calm to a debate he helped inflame, Delingpole said, “There is a need to focus on arguments not identity. Otherwise it becomes polarised into the young versus old, black versus white and men versus women etc…

Soweto Uprising in 1976

The Soweto, South Africa, youth uprising against apartheid in June 2016 is a strong example of the effectiveness of youth engagement in politics. This was a very significant moment that sped up the demise of apartheid. It was a great starting point but not the end of the struggle. It was an example of young people acting out of great courage. We need to unite this courage with effective politics.

I think the solution to this is not a binary one. The major problems of today, be they gun control, knife crime, Brexit or climate change, require all of us, young and older, black or white, male or female to work together to find solutions. No one group necessarily has the monopoly on the best ideas. Even within the UK there are solutions to be found within the different nations.

For example, for some years now London has had a serious knife crime problem. Just north of the border they had an awful problem with this too, but the city of Glasgow in Scotland turned it around and appears to have won the battle by adopting a public health approach to the problem. That strategy worked so successfully there were no knife related murders in the city between 2006-2011.

I would say that that youths can’t do it alone and the experience of the older generation who are arguably more politically attuned, needs tapping into in order to effect change via the existing political and governmental machinery, both local and national.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Politicians Should Have Dealt with School Shootings Centuries Ago – Free Beacon  23rd October 2018
  2. Shakira Martin, President National Union of Students – Andrew Marr Show, BBC1  – 21st October 2018
  3. Five Days to go until the People’s Vote March – Shakira Martin, President, National Union of Students NUS article – 15th October 2018
  4. March for our Lives: Are Young People Leading America’s War on Guns? – Battle of Ideas -13th October 2018
  5. How Scotland Reduced Knife Deaths Among Young People – The Guardian – 3rd December 2017
  6. The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education – Battle of Ideas 2018 Tiemo Review – 28th October 2018
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The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education

The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education: 10 Years On
Battle of Ideas 2018 Bookshop Salons
Barbican Centre
London EC2
Saturday 13th October 2018

A panel of four educationalists including Dennis Hayes, David Perks and Louise Burton at the recent Battle of Ideas debate at the Barbican Centre shared the view that as a result of too much focus on Talking Therapies in schools, we are creating a “snowflake generation; children who will grow up to be adults without resilience, unusually sensitive and unable to cope.” Have children/young people indeed learned to pathologise normal feelings associated with growing up or are we seeing the beginnings of what could be termed a mental health crisis?

Dennis Hayes, Professor of Education and co-Author

Kathryn Ecclestone, visiting professor of education was unfortunately not able to attend sent a spokesperson who presented her stance. Ecclestone has co-written a book, ‘The dangerous rise of therapeutic education’, arguing against therapy in educational settings and at the end of the book she includes the famous Socrates quotation “I think therefore I am” emphasising the point that schools need to remain focused on intellect as it is not ‘I feel therefore I am’. Her co-author, Dennis Hayes, has worked in university settings both nationally and internationally and he shared that universities see our young people as having vulnerable minds and Talking Therapies only “makes the problem worse.”

David Berks runs a secondary school in East London and believes that the problems that children encounter are initiated from within their families or via other adults. He argues that the reason why we are where we are is due to adults not taking responsibility and the focus on mental health in school is not going to help.We are not taking societal problems seriously. However he added “if we say something to a child, they will start cutting (self-harming)” highlighting I guess the “snowflake generation” being created but there was too much expectation on schools with regards to early intervention and supporting mental health issues. Mental health should not be part of the school curriculum.

That being said I did observe that there was no counter argument posed regarding the benefits of early intervention; only 1 in 4 children/young people with mental health problems receive any support or treatment and yet research has shown that half of all people with mental health problems have experienced their first signs and symptoms by the age of 14. Incidentally there are a third of young people who self-harm, so something needs to be done but what and where?

There is also evidence based practice which demonstrates not only the financial benefits as a result of early intervention (Investing in Children’s Mental Health – Centre for Mental Health Report) but also the long term mental health benefits. Qualitative feedback from Children/Young People and their families also confirms the benefits of talking therapies (Place2Be & Young Minds).

The panel were all representing similar viewpoints; no counter argument. Therefore this was not a battle of ideas but more a collective stance to remove therapy from educational settings so that teachers could concentrate on the intellectual abilities of the children in their care regardless of their emotional wellbeing. Yet attachment theory and neuroscience clearly outlines the reduced capacity to learn as a direct result of emotional issues. With the growing demands on an already stretched CAMHs (Child and Adolescents Mental Health Services), I pose the question again, have children/young people indeed learned to pathologise normal feelings associated with growing up or are we seeing the beginnings of what could be termed a mental health crisis?

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Supporting children’s mental health is a good investment – Centre for Mental Health
  2. Improving Mental Health Services for Young People Department of Health report – 17th March 2015
  3. The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Eduation: 10 Years On – Battle of Ideas 2018
  4. The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education by Kathryn Ecclestone & Dennis Hayes
  5. Should Youngsters Be Leading the War on Gun Control in America and the Brexit Battle in the UK? – Battle of Ideas 2018 Tiemo review – 28th October 2018

 

 

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So Irresponsible: Kevin Hart

The Irresponsible Tour: Kevin Hart
Rating: *
The O2 Arena
London SE18
Review date: 1st September 2018

Comedy superstar Kevin Hart’s Irresponsible Tour opens with a trailer for his new film ‘Night School’ and a compilation of clips from his past movies. It’s all hugely impressive and emphasises his status as one of the world’s #1 comedy actors. However when it gets to the main stand up show there’s a major disconnect between the big laughter, exaggerated set ups and goofing around that works so well on his many TV shows and films with what happens on the stage.

Maybe it’s because he is forced to literally stand up on his own two feet, sharing the stage with no one so that he cannot play on the short-man persona that is his comedy USP, that he carry’s off so well and so that which many are so used to enjoying is completely absent from the show.

There was some good material about his “great baby” and the perils of couple’s making out when their off-spring could burst in at any given moment. That was very funny. The story  about having 9 guns in the house in case he gets burgled was a little baffling to a British audience, who at most might, at most, have a baseball bat lying around the house as a potential weapon of choice! A 9 gun salute in a private house is a whole new level of welcome a burglar can expect if they even dare to try breaking into Kevin Hart’s yard!! Is it irresponsible for American’s to be so fixated on guns and the right to bear arms? Without getting into that whole debate from a British perspective, regardless of whether you stand, you must agree that it’s totally irresponsible for there to be so many senseless mass murders and smaller murders right across that nation and for their to be appear to be no solution in sight that all sides of the debate can agree on.

There was some pleasant enough material re playing Monopoly, but using “real stuff “ as collateral which showed the serious lengths some will go to “play” and win. The Japan-rollercoaster joke was quite neat in a self-depracatory way, which is Hart’s stock in trade.

Overall the showed lacked any real substance and spent far too much in the comedy gutter with it central theme being overtly crude, sexual material as opposed to anything more original. That was the same for the support acts too – Naim Lynn and Will “Spanks” Horton really dragging the level down. Naim Lynn to be fair told a mean joke and held the audience’s attention. Host Joey Wells was quite funny and kept the audience nicely entertained between acts. I found the crudeness quite ironic really seeing as Kevin Hart was so keen and proud to bring out his “great baby” daughter during the show. If she was older would she really be proud of what her Daddy and his support acts presented on stage? I don’t think so. Now that’s irresponsible.

Why not get the comedians doing at least some topical material – Brexit, Trump, Aretha Franklin, Teresa May’s trip and dancing in Africa last week are just a few issues that spring to mind? There’s so much to cover. For someone who comes across as quite a playful, jovial guy, it was a shame he didn’t make more of a connection made with the audience. So focused was he on performing to the camera. This was being filmed for his 6th “Live Special.” Ironically considering his ban on mobile phone usage in the arena no advanced notice was given of this or permission was requested from the fans for this filming. As a result of this focus on the camera, there was no banter between Hart and his audience.

His set lasted around an hour, which felt disappointingly short especially after all the waiting and hype before the show. It seemed very off too that before he came on stage Joey got the audience to pre-record “fake laughter” to no jokes!! Bizarre. Surely its the job of the acts to generate the laughter to be captured on film?!!  That said it all really.

In addition, despite doors opening at 5.30pm with a promised start time of 7pm the hostct didn’t hit the stage until 7.45pm. leaving the audience to chat amongst themselves and twiddle their thumbs … for they’d daren’t play with their phones! More on that soon. Rather than have quiet time with no-one on stage it would have been better to put on the opening acts and/or add some more acts if needed, or fill the time by playing some Kevin Hart TV shows.

Kevin Hart & Tiffany Haddish on The Jonathan Ross Show 01.09.18

The ban on using phones during the show was annoying – not so much the banning them. That was fine as I agree people should focus on the show rather than being on their phones, but the excessive going on about this from the stage before the show via public announcements and by some of the acts. That said, it did allow Joey Wells to come up with one of the funniest routines of the night when he joked that if you get tapped on the shoulder for having your phone out it’s time to go. No arguing. No matter if you’re Black, White, Asian or Latino. He playfully joked about all the little stereotypes of each race, with the biggest laughs reserved for his view on how he hoped Middle Eastern audience wouldn’t over react to being evicted for having their phones out!

They could have introduce those lockable Yondr pads that Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle use at their shows but I guess they (sort of) half-trusted the fans to be adult and not use them!

By and large the experiment worked and after a fashion most people got the message that even holding your mobile phone was a big no no and would get you evicted. There were numerous security patrolling up and down the arena specifically looking for people on their mobile phones! Sadly there was more fun  to be had looking to see who security might throw out than there was enjoyment to be found watching the performers on stage.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Kevin Hart appeared on the Jonathan Ross show with Comedians Rob Beckett and Night School co-star Tiffany Haddish. This can be viewed on itv-player until 30th September 2018.

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Yardie: The Movie Review

Yardie
Star Rating: ****
Nationwide Preview Screening: 23rd August 2018
Director: Idris Elba
Cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd and Everaldo Creary
A Studio Canal film

Idris’s Elba’s Yardie opens with a bang and is banging throughout, literally with gunshots liberally peppering the story as well as the pulsing soundtrack of banging dancehall music throughout.

Idris tells the gripping story of a young Jamaican man, D (Aml Ameen), who never truly recovers from the murder of his older brother, Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary), which took place whilst he was a youngster. That painful memory haunts him and many years later when in London he realises the killer is in his midst and set out to get bloody revenge.
Drug trafficking is a major part of the story and it is clear that he is actively involved in this in Jamaica and London, though whilst in London he is keen to get out of this but for various reasons, as you might imagine, it is not that straightforward when you’re in as deep as he is with the shady, dangerous characters orchestrating and dominating the drug trade. That generates a great deal of danger, excitement and tension, not just for D but for the viewer.

As a backdrop to this major storyline, whilst in London D reconnects with his childhood sweetheart, Yvonne (Shantol Jackson), and his daughter, who he’s not see since she was a baby. D’s dilemma is how to establish and maintain a relationship with his ex and daughter whilst extracting himself from the lucrative but personally (for himself and family) life threatening drugs business. In an additional sub-plot, as if D’s not got enough to contend with, he’s also seeking revenge on the man who killed his brother.

Yardie is a gripping tale from start to finish with numerous exciting and tension filled plots going on simultaneously. Some of the best moments included the authentic, captivating Jamaican dancehall vibe captured on screen, evoking an intense, serious, dangerous vibe, which was simultaneously quite alluring due to the catchy and danceable music. It conveys a heady mix of good times being had on the dance floor with the simmering tensions and battles going on in smoky rooms behind the scenes that threatened to spill out onto the dance at any moment.

I thought Aml played the part of D well, although looks wise and in his portrayal I would have to say he wasn’t truly convincing as a Yardie gangster. The scenes where he entered the lion’s den unarmed and alone were not realistic as I just don’t think someone in his position would put their life at risk to do that.

Nonetheless, he successfully demonstrated the dilemma between forgiveness or not forgiving and the harm failure to forgive can bring upon the un-forgiver. It brings to mind a pertinent line from the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s a powerful statement about how people should forgive others their sins, just as the Lord forgives you for your sins. In other words, not doing so is likely to cause the un-forgiver more harm than the person who committed the sin.

Yardie was very well directed by Idris Elba and the story flowed nicely, with the various story lines and sub-plots merging together. Although predominantly set in London, it was great to see Jamaica on film.

Just as this is Idris’s directorial debut, Yardie was also Victor Headley’s first published book, back in 1992. It’s taken a long time, 26 years, to get to the big screen, but it was worth the wait.

A nice touch before the film was shown was previewing a world exclusive cover of the Bob Marley classic ‘Johnny Was’ by his grandson Skip Marley.

The preview was preceded and followed by music and Q&A. Unfortunately technical difficulties meant the audience had to watch repetitive, rolling screen image for 25-30 minutes, with no trailers. That was awful. I was told the reason was technical difficulties and they couldn’t show anything else due to it going out live simultaneously across England to around 200 cinema’s. That was poor and just not good enough. It’s 2018. When the link worked we were treated to a few songs from Rapper Kano, which were nice enough but seemed somewhat superfluous and irrelevant to the main business of screening a brand new film preview.

The preliminary Q&A by Radio 1 Xtra’s Yasmin Evans with Idris was interesting enough. At the film’s conclusion the audience were told there was a problem with the link up and they might want to leave as they didn’t think they’d be able to fix it, but within around 5 minutes it was up and working! Many had left by then. DJ Yasmin Evans proceeded to interview Idris and he gave some good answers including one on the topicality of the film and the near 100 murders in London thus far this year. He explained how he hoped middle agreed fathers would take their sons to see the movie so that the youths would realise the cycle of violence we’re seeing currently in London and across the country is not new, but has always been present.

Unfortunately the link to this cut out so I can’t comment on the rest of the Q&A. That was extremely disappointing. It didn’t detract from a wonderful film, but did spoil the night overall. That’s truly unacceptable in this day and age. If they couldn’t get the link right all they had to do was show trailers, pre-recorded videos and the main film. It’s everyday fare for a cinema so it’s a real shame that this appeared to prove so complicated. Maybe next time keep it simple and just show the film!

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Lenny Henry Turns 60

The Lenny Henry Birthday Show
Star Rating: ****
Broadcast: 22nd August 2018, BBC1

As birthday presents go getting a 60 minute birthday tribute show on primetime BBC1 television must rank pretty highly. That is one big early birthday present Sir Lenny Henry got exactly one week ahead of his 60th birthday on 29th August 2018.

This fabulous show showcased exactly why Sir Lenny Henry has become such a national treasure. To think he first broke through to national consciousness 43 years ago via winning New Faces in 1977, aged just 17 years young. Older readers will recall this as one of the original talent shows long before shows like Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor.

Sir Lenny Henry PhD

From thereon the rest as they say is history. This highly enjoyable show had as its centre piece an interview with his fellow knight of the realm and national treasure, Sir Trevor Mcdonald.  The mutual affection and comfortableness with one another was a joy to watch. Lenny was on great form telling stories about growing up as a young lad from Dudley hoping to make it as a Comedian. The tales of his strict Jamaican mum were great to hear and clearly influenced a lot of his earlier material from his younger days. There was a great energy, passion and vitality to his story telling which we used to see a lot more of when he did the chat show circuit.

The interviews was interspersed with some top quality sketches that harked back to prime time Lenny when his comedy and sketch shows were must see television events. I loved the sketches of Bishop Michael Curry, Childish Gambino and Stormzy in particular. It reminded you that Lenny Henry’s still today pretty much the only TV comedian who could carry off impersonating such famous Black figures authentically, which curiously enough is both impressive and disappointing at the same time.

The old clips from Tiswas and other shows were lovely to watch as they took the viewer on a trip down memory lane.

What’s mightily impressive and what sets Lenny apart from many of his peers is the unusual career path his trodden – from Comedian, to charity fundraiser par excellence (Comic Relief has raised over £1billion to date since its inception in 1985), to knighthood, to academic (in under 20 years between aged 40-59 Lenny knuckled down and got himself a degree, masters and PhD,  despite being hugely wealthy and famous and not really having to do so), to an actor, not just of “regular roles” but taking on heavyweight Shakespeare roles too.

Troy (Lenny Henry) and Cory (Ashley Zhangazha) in Fences

Sir Lenny Henry’s impact on the British comedy scene is legendary. More recently he’s got ever more active in the fight for diversity in the media. In terms of diversity there’s still a long way to go as it shouldn’t be that only a select few Black and minority performers like Sir Lenny Henry are getting TV shows and films commissioned. There are countless excellent comedians and comedic writers who’d be great on television and should get regularly commissioned shows, including Comedians such as Marlon Davis, Prince Abdi, Judi Love and Nathan Caton, whom Lenny gave cameo roles to during his Stormzy sketch.

The Lenny Henry Birthday Show was a fitting, joyful and lovely tribute that briefly highlighted the varied career of a much loved national treasure.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Photo from Fences ©  courtesy of Nobby Clark

The Lenny Henry Birthday show is available on BBC i-player until 27th September 2018

Links

  1. Lenny Henry graduates from Royal Holloway University – 13th July 2018
  2. Arise Sir Lenny Henry – receiving a knighthood  at Windsor Castle – 29th June 2015
  3. Beyond a Joke: Inside the dark minds of stand-up comedians – Tiemo review of Bruce Dessau book – 2nd September 2018
  4. Brung up Proper: Jason Manford autobiography – Tiemo book review – 21st August 2018
  5. Mack the Life: Lee Mack autobiography- Tiemo book review – 19th August 2018

 

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Beyond a Joke – Inside the dark minds of stand-up comedians

  • Beyond a Joke – Inside the dark minds of stand-up comedians by Bruce Dessau
  • Book Review Rating: *****
  • Publisher: Arrow Books

Public speaking is often cited as one of most people’s biggest fears. In fact in 2015 it was deemed to be Briton’s #1 fear. Even greater than a fear of spiders, flying, confined spaces or heights. To think there are a select troupe of people, whom we  know as Comedians, that make a career of not just of speaking in public, but being expected to make strangers laugh via their on stage utterances is quite something and would surely rank as a far, far greater fear than ‘mere’ public speaking.

Speaking of the uniqueness of the situation facing Comedians, Jimmy Carr’s succinct and highly pertinent quote on this is featured in the book: “There are 500 people in the room and I’m the only one in the room facing the wrong way.

Beyond a Joke is about the people facing the wrong way.’ It is an excellent book that gets right inside the minds, personalities and characters of the men and women who have made a successful career out of facing the wrong way. Being just that little bit, or in a number of cases, often a lot, different, to the typical man or woman who would run a mile at the thought of having to go on stage and make a room full of total strangers laugh.

Not only does the book detail numerous storiesthat let us into some of the little known history of many of our well known, much loved comedians such as Jimmy Carr, Russell Brand, the late, great Bob Monkhouse and Richard Pryor, it also takes the reader on a fascinating history of the start of stand-up comedy from Joseph Grimaldi in the 18c through to modern day superstars such as lee Evans, Michael McIntryre and Peter Kay.

Comedy connoisseurs will love ‘Beyond a Joke’ as it a thoroughly well  researched, anecdote filled, extremely funny book, full of insights into what goes on behind the scenes, including many less than savoury stories that many probably wish had never happened and were not featured in the book!

With observational and personally revealing, self-focused, confessional style comedy dominating the modern day stand-up genre, this book is quite prescient to understanding the psyche of Comedians. Now that people are encouraged to be as open about and generally alert to their mental health in as normal a way as they would, for instance, discuss physical health, I think we should be thankful for the countless Comedians who are so open and frank on stage for our entertainment. For them it’s potentially usefully cathartic, whilst audiences “enjoy their pain” by laughing at their discomfort thinly disguised as jokes. In return the Comedians get their catharsis, plus the added bonus of the buzz they get from seeing their audience laughing at what is now effectively their material. Doubtless there are some in the audiences finding such talk equally beneficial, finding the comedy to be ‘light therapy’ and providing an entry for them to go on and start a conversation about their own issues.

The countless highly personal anecdotes and revelations indicate this book could only have been written by a comedy insider and true lover of the genre. That most definitely is the case here, for Bruce Dessau has been writing about comedy for 30 years for a variety of publications including the London Evening standard and knows just about everyone and everything there is to know about stand-up comedy worth knowing. That shows throughout the book with

Beyond a Joke  enriches the reader with a far greater understanding of the psyche of a Comedian by pointing the spotlight away from the stage and TV screen onto their lives off stage to illuminate the dark and often humorous life of a comedian whilst they are far from the public view.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

   Links

  1. Beyond The Joke – Bruce Dessau website
  2. What are you scared of? Britain’s Top 10 Worst Fears revealed! – Good To Know – 28th October 2015
  3. Funny Business – Can’t you take a joke? Tiemo book review – 25th April 2014
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