Aurie Styla’s Green Agenda

  • Date: 26th March 2022
  • Venue: Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush, London W12
  • Comedian: Aurie Styla
  • Rating: *****Shepherds Bush is All Green

The cacophony of sound that greeted Aurie Styla’s entrance onto the Bush Hall stage could have landed him in trouble for breaking residential noise levels in Shepherds Bush. It was more akin to a rock star’s entrance. The energy was on another level. Perhaps many present hadn’t been to a show for such a long time due to the pandemic. Or more likely it had more to do with this show effectively being a homecoming for West Londoner Styla on his national ‘Green’ tour.

Aurie Styla

In this sold out night Styla reflected on how the pandemic had impacted him, his family and those around him. He reminded people that we had been, still are in fact, living through history – with Covid-19, not to mention Brexit, George Floyd and the Ukraine-Russia war. For those reasons it was important for people to pay close attention to what’s been going on in the country and wider world.

A show about the green agenda may not be many people’s idea of a fun Saturday night out, but high on Aurie Styla’s green agenda was not so much the future for the environment, it was more about creating the right environment, in the here and now, for laughter, happiness and reflection.

Covid-19

For a show strong on Covid-19 lockdown reflections, it was fitting that this show took place in the week that marked the 2 year anniversary of the first lockdown on 23 March 2020. Styla amusingly poked fun at the juxtaposition of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statesmanship at his Number 10 Press conferences set against his plumy voice and unkempt hair. This, on top of the Government’s response to the pandemic, didn’t give Styla any confidence in Mr Johnson and his government. However he had found an innovative way to make listening to the PM more palatable which featured one of his male relatives. This was one of a number of lovely family orientated jokes. Other highlighted members were his talented 9 year old maths wiz nephew and his obdurate 90 year old grandmother’, who’s unusual strategy for avoiding Covid as well as celebrating her 90th birthday were a real joy. Was she going to deny herself a party in the middle of a pandemic? No comment. Not whilst the Police are busy issuing retrospective party fines!

Mental Health

Unexpectedly the show took a more serious turn, in topic only, without losing the entertainment fans had come out for. The centrepiece of the show focused on Styla’s interest in and technique for maintaining his mental health and well-being and in particular how it’s so different, arguably culturally much harder, for men to open up about their mental health, especially to other men or health professionals. The analogy he drew was particularly funny, especially given the absolute kernel of truth in it, albeit probably exaggerated for comedic effect.

In general, Styla asserted, not unsurprisingly, that women tend to talk more about their issues and worries, whereas men tend to talk about anything but what’s really bothering them – be that their health, work, finances or relationships. That’s the difference. It made me think that a way forward is for men to aim to try getting beyond the more frivolous or serious but non-personal conversations, to seriously enquiring about their friends, family and work colleague’s well-being. To go beneath the veneer of ‘I’m all right Jack’ to probe to see if Jack really is alright. As men we like to pretend all is well and don’t open up when things really are going very badly. That doesn’t help them – hence the far higher suicide rates and the fact it’s mainly men opening up and causing the madness we see here and especially in the USA with mass shootings and the police brutality that goes on and that’s just the extreme end of things of course, yet that’s the most brutal, fatalistic, highly visible outcome that not opening up can lead to. A lot of mental health damage* is going on for men who don’t even reach such extremes of behaviour. You could argue that Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock at the 94th Oscars Awards Ceremony, the very next night after this show, was a classic (albeit violent and shocking) example of what can happen when a man doesn’t open up. Everything can just explode.

Aurie Styla

Without revealing too much, Styla was frank about the benefits he’s found in regular therapy sessions and how he gained a greater understanding of the process the more he went – including understanding why he was the one paying yet doing most of the talking! There were jokes galore amongst the seriousness, but nonetheless the message came across loud and clear that it’s good to talk and nothing to fear from seeking therapy and opening up to therapists, counsellors, friends, family or work colleagues for that matter. The importance of this was best summed up when he stated that he placed the same value on mental well being as physical health. It’s akin to car maintenance. To keep your car ticking over nicely its best to have it serviced at regular intervals. He encouraged men watching to take note. Physical and mental health move in tandem and if men want both to last as long as they can, they need to be well serviced and looked after. Not sure if that sounds right, but you know what I mean!

Talking of two moving in tandem, the ‘mandem’ gym changing room story was one of the, no pun intended, stand out tales of the night and had the audience in stitches.

The Green Agenda

The green agenda in the environmental sense did actually come up as Styla disclosed that he drives an electric vehicle, purchased long before the fuel crisis and exorbitant petrol price rises experienced in recent months. He wasn’t preachy about it but had been urging friends and family to consider the benefits of going green for some time. I guess he’s having the last laugh now!

On the same theme, he mentioned the joys of country living, the quietness of his Bedfordshire village compared to when he lived in London, when his normal background noise was the hubbub of people and police/ambulance sirens.

Aurie Styla at Bush Hall

Aside from making people laugh and giving people a good night out, the emphasis was on the importance of men opening up and the belief that laughter is therapy. For him the therapeutic gain was getting in touch with his true, authentic self. The audience witnessed the result in this eponymously titled show ‘Green’, a reference to his real surname.

March 2022 marked 12 years for Styla as a stand up comedian. His experience and comedy credentials shone through in this stellar show that had it all – jokes galore, politics, topical material, reflections on the pandemic, great audience interactions, plus an overriding theme of looking after one’s mental health.

Aurie Styla’s real surname may be green, but this show demonstrated that he was anything but when it came to this polished, virtuoso performance.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

B&W Photo at Bush Hall courtesy of Frozen Energy Photography

* This is a subject covered in Ryan Calais Cameron’s new play ‘For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy’ at the Royal Court Theatre, London running from 31/03/2022 – 30/04/2022.

Links:

  1. Will Smith’s Oscars Breakdown – Tiemo article – 31st March 2022

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Posted in Arts and Culture, Comedy Reviews 2022, Men and Relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Will Smith’s Oscars Meltdown

Rock by name. Rock by nature. That’s what we saw from Oscar’s host and top comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars on Sunday night. The slap from out of nowhere didn’t leave him fall or seeing stars in his head – they were literally right in front of him. In his head he could well have been humming famed Oscar party host, Elton John’s, ‘I’m Still Standing’!

Frankly I don’t know what all the fuss was about. Will Smith just had a blind spot and thought he would practice the feigned forehand smash he’d learned for his Oscar winning performance in King Richard, using the “unfortunate” Chris Rock’s face as a tennis ball. Ouch!

Of course it goes without saying that Will Smith was literally slap, bang, wallop out of order to physically attack Chris Rock for his joke on Sunday night. As Smith has himself said “It was unacceptable and inexcusable. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock

Clearly it would seem something other than the joke itself triggered Smith’s over the top response for he was enjoying and freely laughing away at Rock’s jokes. Something took away the freedom he felt to hold that mood. I’ll leave that for others more closely aware of the back story to conjecture as to the real reason for that ugly change. Previous running jokes against his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith did not merit that response.

We can all think of many other comedians and award show hosts that might have deserved a slap but Rock was emphatically NOT the one. Rock handled the assault brilliantly. Like the professional he is.

I truly hope he is alright for he was undoubtedly the victim here. There’s a lot of talk about Jada’s “look” response to the joke about her hair loss, but from what I’ve seen it was one of mild un-amusement. She did not appear distressed or greatly upset by it. The Oscar’s have for many years been focused on celebration and roasting the ‘A’ list guests and nominees. It goes with the territory. I’m not saying the latter’s alright, but that’s what happens. Everyone knows that.

It’s somewhat ironic that Rock’s new stage show is entitled ‘Ego Death Tour’ as arguably his ego took one hell of a slap on Sunday night. That was a most brutal and public take down.

He’s remained tight lipped so far. He’s next due on stage in Boston, USA, on 30 March 2022. I suspect the audience will get his first public response to the incident. As a famous face and comedian one suspects he’s going to have to address the matter, which will certainly loom larger than the proverbial elephant in the room if he doesn’t. I wager he’ll have been working hard on opening the show with a top notch, witty, funny response, which will be all over the news the next day. It’s fascinating though, for if Rock believes he crossed a line (and that’s debatable as the joke about hair loss was relatively mild, couched as lovingly and em-pathetically as he could, so I personally don’t believe he went too far at all) then will he dare do a hair loss joke? I suspect he’ll address the topic head on, no pun intended if you’re reading this Will Smith, without directly inferring anything specific to do with a certain person’s hair loss.

Watershed Moment

A couple of main points stand out for me and first of these is that this unprecedented and shocking moment in Oscars and television history – Rock was spot on in saying that was “the greatest moment in television history” – may represent a watershed for stand up comedy. Many would argue that it’s fair to say that for far too long stand up comedians have got away with saying whatever they want on stage without consequence. Whether that’s the swearing, blasphemy, crude, lowest denominator, smutty sex based comedy for the masses without a thought for the audience members who might be offended. You may say they don’t have to go to shows (and many don’t for that reason), but why shouldn’t they enjoy the beauty, joy and fun of live stand up comedy? Why should it only belong to those who don’t mind hearing all of the aforementioned?

For example, going to the world’s biggest comedy festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has long been a trip into the darker side of comedy, one  that matches the darkness and underground nature of many of their quirky and unusual Scottish venues such as basement bars. Surely there’s room for upliftment, cleaner, non aiming down comedy?

Words have consequences and for too long now comedians have picked up the mic and taken to the stage acting as if their words don’t have consequences. Last Sunday night Will Smith single handedly shattered that illusion. In much the same way as stock markets suffer “corrective” falls from time to time maybe this will unexpectedly prove to be one of those culture shifting moments when a line in the sand has been drawn.

I do not condone violence in the slightest and the best and only response Smith should have taken would have been to stay seated and take the joke like every other celebrity has done over the years. Just like every other picked on, singled out punter in a comedy club, has done. He had no right whatsoever to storm the stage as he did. If he couldn’t resist the urge the most he should have done is delivered some profanity free, carefully chosen words, that articulately made clear his displeasure with the joke. That would have garnered a more sympathetic hearing for his causes … that’s assuming it was about “protecting” his defenceless, alopecia suffering wife.

At the end of the day, people vote with their feet. If people don’t like a comedian or host they don’t have to attend or watch a show. He could have walked out. Promoters, organisers, hosts and comedians would soon get the message.

Violence is not the answer though of course. What we’ve seen in fact is that it totally backfired. If he’d said nothing it would have blown over and no one would have paid it much mind. If he’d thought about it he could have figured that just 15 minutes later he was in with a big shout of winning Best Actor award and if he remained seated and calm, if it really bothered him that much, he could have used his acceptance speech to call out Rock’s joke.

A missed opportunity in so many ways. Sadly his major, career defining ‘Best Actor’ win for King Richard, only the 5th Best Actor Oscar by a Black man in the 94 year history of the academy awards has been overshadowed and largely overlooked. Which is a terrible shame in itself for King Richard is a fantastic film that deserves to be more widely seen. He and the film richly deserved the award. It means Richard Williams, Serena and Venus William’s night of glory for their film has been totally lost in the Smith-Rock assault. Ironically in the movie itself, Smith as Richard Williams, is frequently verbally and at times physically threatened and attacked but never fought back violently. Williams showed a level of calmness and cool headed restraint that Smith couldn’t match in real life. By and large he came across as a principled, dignified man who stuck to his principles and raised his daughters to be the same. He had respect as the man of the household. A respect that didn’t come from physical violence.

Smith’s victory has largely led to the fact it will have gone un-noticed by many fans that Samuel L Jackson won his first Oscar, a lifetime achievement award, Sir Kenneth Branagh won Best Writer (Original Screenplay) for Belfast and Londoner Riz Ahmed won, with Aneil Karia, Best Short Film (Live Action) for the Long Goodbye, to name but a select few of the other big winners of the night.

What next for Smith?

I’m not sure what disciplinary powers the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences have, but if they have the authority too, they could fine Smith for his actions. They have launched an investigation into what happened and why. Smith may well be in need of help of some sort as that response was not one of a rational man. Smith is not an employee so won’t necessarily face “traditional” employee disciplinary measures. I’ve argued that physical violence is not the answer, so maybe sanctions, which seem to be all the rage, could be imposed on Will Smith!

Rock’s silence thus far could indicate he’s considering pressing charges.  With clear video evidence and millions watching around the world, one thing is for sure, Rock won’t be short of witnesses.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Oscars photograph courtesy of Chris Pizzello

Links:

  1. Hey Mr Tambourine Man – Chris Rocks The O2 – Tiemo review – 31st January 2018
  2. Collateral Damage – Will Smith  – Tiemo review – 28th December 2016
  3. Good Hair – Chris Rock Documentary – Tiemo review – 20th January 2014

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Posted in Arts and Culture, Film Reviews, Men and Relationships, News, TV | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Striking an Act of Self-Harm for the RMT?

Millions of Londoner commuters face a difficult commute into work today and over the next two months if a series of planned RMT strikes that started today goes ahead.

This strike has seemingly come out of nowhere and is based on tube train drivers being unhappy with changes to their night time roster. They’re being asked to work 4 night shifts a year. 4? Yes just 4 in 52 weeks and for that they complain their work-life balance is so disrupted they have decided the best course of action as London seeks to get back on it’s feet is too call a strike on Black Friday, 26th November 2021.

It’s smacks of extreme selfishness and self-harm. Not only are they putting London’s retails sector at risk on such an important, high profile retail day and month ahead in the run up to Christmas, they also damage Transport for London (TfL) and ultimately will put their drivers and other staff’s job security at risk. Furthermore, they are taking such damaging action at a time when TFL are seeking an extra £1.2 billion to make up for an enormous financial shortfall that threatens their ability to run a full service. Why on earth would the RMT therefore consider it a good idea to create a further revenue hit by striking today and over the coming months?

RMT’s specific concerns are about drivers and support staff delivering a night time service. This service was introduced to help the night time economy and service users, women in particular, enjoy week-end nights out and have a tube service to get them home safely. By withdrawing their labour and service they make it far more difficult for women to get home safely, conveniently and relatively cheaply. Don’t RMT care about women? As it is entirely in their gift to run the night service it would seem the answer is no they do not.

Finally, examining TfL’s finances – it’s understandable they’ve taken a huge hit by following the Government request to discourage tube travel and working from home, but twice they’ve asked for billions of extra funds, received it and now they want a further lump sum. When will this end? Let’s not forget no one else runs London transport. TfL have a monopoly on running the London underground and bus services in the capital. They have no competition, therefore it’s for them to make this work cost effectively and profitably. They have failed to do so for so many reasons.

Ahead of the ULEZ scheme the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan decided to pay car owners £2,000 to but cars not meeting the emissions standard he set. This has cost £61m. Why do that? Knowing their finances were so dire why did the Mayor offer to purchase these cars? If people wanted to avoid the £12.50 a day ULEZ charge they just needed to sell their cars in whatever manner they chose. It wasn’t for City Hall to buy their cars and create a further dent in their finances.

Prior to that the Mayor introduced free travel for under 16’s. That blew another enormous hole in TfL finances. I’m sorry but a lot of this financial mess is on the Mayor and TfL.

TfL management have questions to answer too. Disputes have been a perennial problem for them for decades. If they have introduced recent changes to contracts and night time services resulting in today’s strike, why didn’t they introduce them last year when the service was actively encouraging commuters not to travel on public transport? They missed a once in a lifetime, golden opportunity to reform management-worker relations forever, but instead, took their eye of the ball. The unions wouldn’t have been able to threaten strike action for people were barely using the trains and buses.

Perhaps TfL should have pushed for legislation to ban strikes on the London Underground. Is it time that was put back on the agenda and the Government introduced no strike legislation on the basis that London Underground and bus services are essential to life and work in the capital? Rail unions should no longer be holding London and the wider economy to ransom whenever they feel like it, especially for relatively unsubstantial matters that have led to this strike. What do you think?

Link

How Tfl Got Into This Mess and How They Can Get Out of It? – John Ellidge, London Evening Standard, 18 November 2021

Photo and Article © Tiemo Talk of the Town

Posted in News, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slim: King of London Palladium

Slim: King of London Palladium

Rating: ****

Show: Slim King

Venue: London Palladium

Date: 14th November 2021

The man or woman who wears the crown calls the shots. If you’re going to call your tour ‘King’, then failure to deliver a great show is not an option. It’s not a guarantee either. Slim had a lot to live up to.

Not just because of the title, but because he’s been performing for 28 years and his fans are very familiar with him and his style, which created an additional pressure to serve up new material that could still create huge waves of laughter. Could Slim deliver on arguably on one of the biggest and most prestigious stages of his life, the world famous London Palladium? This is a venue where comedian Rob Brydon followed his footsteps a few days later, Wednesday night (17 November 2021) and prior to that the world’s biggest selling female solo singer Adele, the star of ITV’s ‘An Audience with Adele’ (21/11/2021) – was there just a week earlier, 6 November 2021.

Slim  took fans on a journey through his long career – including his pre-comedy days and life in general.  It was a chance to reminisce and laugh at old favourites such as the bus driver yarns – dealing with rambunctious school children, extremely rude passengers and his personal favourites, those running for and missing out on catching a bus and worse still (or funnier still) falling flat on their faces!

Slim

What was so good about this aspect of the show and he devoted 20 minutes to it, was that it sounded as fresh and as funny as when heard for the first time. He doesn’t often relive those memories in his live shows, but I can imagine these will be aired a lot more frequently in 2022 and beyond as he seeks to break into more mainstream areas – be that TV, radio or live stand up shows – specifically aimed at those new to his comedy.

Other old favourites included his daughter’s 16th birthday party requests for smoke fog machines. These went down a storm.

Bringing fresh and topical new material or unusual takes on a story has always been a big part of Slim’s appeal that sets him apart from others. The audience heard his views on the post penalty shoot out racism row following the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. You may recall this came shortly after 3 penalties were missed by the Black England players Bukayo Sako, Jordan Sancho and Marcus Rashford MBE. Slim didn’t merely go down an obvious route but strayed left field with an interesting observation of his own which resulted in him being a little less sympathetic to one player’s plight in particular. A woman in the audience was surprised to the extent that she shouted out, “You didn’t just say that Slim?” He replied, “Oh yes I did” and  proceeded to expand upon and defend his joke. I won’t elaborate here, for out of context his comment could sound controversial. It was slightly risque but I  don’t think he was trying to be controversial. He was merely doing his job and finding the funny in a bad situation. The audience lapped it up.

Slim

Another example of what some may see as taboo breaking, was saying what few parents would admit; namely disclosing that he had a favourite child. His reasoning made sense so fair enough. That’s his truth.

There were plenty of other stories regarding the raising of his 6 children and the differences he’d observed over the years between raising boys and girls. There was a degree of melancholy and humour as he moved from one end of the life spectrum to the other as the show drew to a close with slim talking about caring for his elderly father during his twilight years.

With these vignettes of life in the house of Slim you get the very essence of the man and what the best Comedians do. He shared some of the most personal details of his life, highlighting his truth in a frank, funny and honest way, regardless of whether it made him or others look bad or not.

The jokes and laughs flowed freely throughout the show. At 1 hour 20 minutes without a break, one criticism was that it was a bit too long.

The other concern was the high volume of swearing in it. Whilst it was arguably in keeping with his very personable onstage persona, it did jar a little. I mention this as for the most part  the material was pretty family friendly and so if the goal is to break into the mainstream, through doing more high profile TV and radio work, then I presume the swearing is going to have to go or that breakthrough won’t materialise.

There has to be a funny way of expressing anger or shock without swearing. The theatre goers aren’t swearing when chatting amongst themselves during the evening. Reviewers don’t include swearing in their reviews, so I think a way needs to be found to address this without losing your edge. This was the London Palladium after all, home of the Royal Variety Show performed in front of the Queen, princes and princesses – an audience in front of whom you’d certainly be minding your language. 

Lastly, whilst the attendance on the night was far from slim – it was enormous in fact – the fans have a part to play if they want to see Slim go on to the next level. Slim kicked off the show by calling it out right away. He got the turn out his 28 years experience, talent and popularity merited. Suffice to say if fans bought their tickets far, far earlier, Slim might well have been adding extra dates at the London Palladium and UK wide venues as opposed to this one night special.

Slim is widely regarded as the People’s champion which explains why he’s won Best Black Comedian 5 times at various Black Comedy Awards shows over the years including twice at the Tiemo Entertainments awards! Slim was excellent. He was extremely amusing, brutally honest and broad in his subject matter, mixing old favourites with plenty of brand new jokes. King or not, Slim doesn’t need a title or crown to justify who he is or his standing in the comedy world, but if he did have one, on this superb performance he would wear the crown well.

Photograph’s & Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town

Slim (red jacket) mobbed by fans after the show

Links:

  1. Sorry I Didn’t Know – Series 2 – Tiemo review – 22nd November 2021
  2. O-SKA Winning Performance from Stephen K Amos – Tiemo review – 6th November 2021
  3. Mo Gilligan: Black, British & Funny – (featuring Slim) Tiemo review – 29th November 2020
Posted in Comedy Reviews 2021 | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Sorry I Didn’t Know What I Was Doing

Rating: *

Programme: Sorry I Didn’t Know Series 2 Episode 1

Broadcast Date: 3rd October 2021

TV Channel: ITV1

Series 2 of ‘Sorry I Didn’t Know’ (SIDK) arrived in October 2021. The first series was incredibly disappointing and I watched the opening episode of series two keen to see an improvement. The line up of guests was impressive – Dane Baptiste, Fatiha El-Ghorri, Reginald D Hunter and Russell Kane, which augured well. They provided ad hoc jokes and humour where they could. Unfortunately that got lost in the mist and fog of all the elements that made the first series so awful. The same stilted, clunky format and nonsensical, random scoring methodology used by host Jimmy Akingbola were still present. The team leaders – Chizzy Akudolu and Judi Love’s – knowledge of Black history didn’t appear to have increased at all. A more accurate title for the programme would have been ‘ Sorry I Didn’t Know What I Was Doing.’ Second series vehicles tend to be an improvement on the first series after refinements and lessons learned are applied. That hasn’t happened with this series II.

The photo round is impossibly difficult. Panelists are shown incredibly old black & white photographs – seemingly of historical importance and they are expected to guess or somehow know what they represent. If they were famous photos that would be fair enough, but these aren’t, so the panelists can hardly be at fault for not knowing or even being able to hazard a good guess about these photos. That is the fault of the programme makers. To make matters worse, on what is meant to be a light entertainment quiz show, the photos don’t even lend themselves to funny jokes.

Jimmy Akingbola, an actor, is way out of his depth as host – think Alan Carr being asked to sing an Adele song live at The London Palladium and you get the picture! Hosting quiz’s, if this show revealed anything at all, is an art form and this simply isn’t Jimmy’s forte. As far as I know he has no experience of hosting a quiz show so it’s a mystery why he is hosting this show? The host is meant to be the king master, the glue that holds a programme together. He doesn’t bring humour or knowledge to the role. When the host is the wrong fit the whole edifice collapses and that’s exactly what’s happened with this programme.

Jimmy’s scoring is frankly baffling, far too arbitrary and delivered without humour, wit or explanation. He’ll give points for wrong answers and then give nil points when an answer is virtually correct. For instance a question was asked re how many England caps Marcus Rashford MBE has earned. Chizzy Akudolu answered 257. Dane answered 110. He was given no points yet the correct answer was 107 so he wasn’t very far out at all and that would have been worth at least half a point by the usual randomness of his scoring process (if there is one). It made no sense at all. Russell Kane’s eye roll expression said it all when he heard Chizzy’s answer of 257. It was a clueless answer that gave the impression she knows nothing about football. A national team would typically play a maximum of 10 matches a season so it was impossible for 24 year old Rashford to have played anything close to 257 matches for England in just a few years!

The team leaders are just as critical as the host for they make up the triumvirate of regulars that contribute to the creation and longevity of a successful quiz show. If they get the talent and chemistry right the show becomes watchable regardless of who the guest panelists are. Sadly, as fine an actress as Chizzy is and comedienne Judi Love is, quiz show team leaders they are not. Firstly, they aren’t terribly knowledgeable about black history and worse, they give the distinct impression that it’s of no interest to them either. Chizzy admitted as much herself at one point stating’ “Yeah but I don’t really care about the other people that came before me.” How on earth can you say that when the whole point of a black history quiz show is the people who came before her!!! For that comment alone questions should be asked of her role in this show. Additionally, neither are really that funny on the show and as I said before there’s two things you have to bring to the table on these shows – knowledge and humour. If you bring neither you have a diabolically awful quiz such as Sorry I Didn’t Know.

Fatiha El-Ghorri

ITV know how to make brilliant, entertaining, quiz shows so how on earth is this appearing on their channel? The comedic talent on the show is first class, sadly SIDK just isn’t worthy of them. ITV would have been better of using the 30 minutes as a straightforward stand up comedy show, which would have been a fine vehicle for showcasing their talents in a far better light. There is good potential in the idea behind this show, but this format, trundling along like a really old banger, rather than a shiny new series II, is an embarrassment, doesn’t work at all and needs to be toed to the nearest scrap heap.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. Sorry I Didn’t Know – Series 2 – ITV-player
  2. What a Sorry Mess: Sorry I Didn’t Know – Series 1 – Tiemo review – 9th November 2020
  3. Slim: King of London Palladium – Tiemo review – 23rd November 2021
Posted in Comedy Reviews 2021, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

O-SKA Winning Performance from Stephen K Amos

Before & Laughter

Star Rating: ****

Harrow Arts Centre

Pinner

Harrow HA4

Review: 30th October 2021

Stephen K Amos (SKA) was on superb form in his return to Harrow Arts Centre. In a show of two halves, the first section was largely audience work and general knock about banter and jokes. Early on SKA found his “side kick” for the night in the form of 22 year old Oliver, who identified himself as the youngest person in the audience. He was simply enjoying a quiet Saturday night out with his mum and dad. Until SKA found him!

Oliver and his parents were great sports as they allowed, or more precisely, had little choice in “allowing” SKA to tease them and generally incorporate the family into his show! Oliver’s youth compared to an audience largely comprising, in my estimation, 40-50 something’s, created a focal point for SKA to look back and compare how life is so different for young people today versus 30 odd years ago. For instance, when it came to music and home/mobile entertainment, Spotify and You Tube weren’t around then; DJ’ing comprised lugging around a record player and sound system and playing vinyl records and back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s people made more homemade clothes using sewing machines, often using a certain well known brand.

This was apt in a show entitled ‘Before and Laughter’ which ostensibly set out to look at the world pre and post Covid-19. Well as those examples highlighted, SKA went back way before Covid-10 and we are certainly not living in a post-Covid world, but without doubt a world with a lot more freedom than we had when lockdown was in full force.

The second half opened amusingly with SKA noticing Oliver’s mother was no longer in attendance. Oliver informed the audience that she had a party to go to. The audience erupted with laughter. Earlier SKA had referenced a Nigerian wedding reception also taking place at HAC. As this wasn’t a Nigerian family, more likely a White English family, I somehow don’t think she’d gone  there. It was quite amusing too that she’d left mid-show without her husband and son and it tickled SKA that she couldn’t even wait till the show had finished before leaving!

The final set was a more reflective one with SKA focusing on the meaning of life in the context of change in both his home and professional life imposed upon him with the lockdown. It was far deeper and more experimental, with him using it to road test new material. Themes of living your best life and whether it’s better to live life fast and die young versus playing the longer game were explored.

I’ll not say too much here as a good deal of it was experimental, suffice to say that worthy and serious as the subject matter was, it proved to be fascinatingly introspective and enjoyable, yet at the same time the audience were never too far away from the next laugh or flights of fancy as SKA went off on a tangent based on a heckle or unexpected audience response.

I actually found the show quite refreshing and more in keeping with SKA’s age and years in the business. The opportunity to get an audience to think a little, whilst still throwing in the jokes was taken with aplomb. The importance of family and friendship shone through, with his family coming in for a fair bit of stick. I loved the joke about having a certificate to prove his idiocy!

The only slight downside was the frequent f-bombs being dropped. Maybe he always has done, but I don’t recall SKA previously being a sweary comedian and I don’t think it improves or helps his comedy in any way, shape or form as I imagine many would consider swearing to be superfluous to a man with his talent, vocabulary and improvisational skills.

One highlight was the imagined father:Oliver conversation that might have occurred in the Oliver household prior to leaving for the show. It brilliantly and hilariously knitted together all the elements of the Oliver-parental-older sister family dynamics that the audience heard about on the night.

Oliver and SKA combined to produce an O-SKA winning performance. Before and Laughter is a terrific, feel good show with an abiding theme of the benefits of communal laughter. Yes we can all sit at home and watch comedy on TV, but SKA’s message was that you can’t beat being in a theatre, any space in fact, where a group of people , be that a group of strangers at a gig, are sharing a live experience, of laughing together at jokes they all get. That matters as much for audiences as it does for comedian’s.

© Tiemo Talk of The Town

Stephen K Amos is featured in a discussion with Gina Yashere, Sir Lenny Henry and Daliso Chapondo in The Guardian Black British Culture Matters Special edition supplement in The Guardian, 06/11/2021

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Did Prince Philip Die as a Result of Taking the Covid-19 Vaccination?

The cause of death of the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is shrouded in mystery with Buckingham Palace declining to provide a reason.

Looking back on recent events leads to his Covid-19 vaccination as a potent contributory factor. On 9th January 2021 he and the Queen had their first dose of the vaccination – which brand hasn’t been disclosed, but considering only the Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines were on offer in the UK on that date, one has to conclude it was more than likely one of those.

Just 5 short weeks later, on 16th February 2021, Prince Philip find himself hospitalised at King Edward VII hospital. Presumably therefore he will have been ill a little while before then, in the absence of any clarification, pointing to a potential negative side effect of his vaccination. He didn’t live long enough to take the second dose of the vaccine.

The Prince remained in hospital for a total of 4 week, including a stay at St Bart’s hospital before being discharged on 16th March 2021 sadly looking as if the grim reaper had paid him an early visit. It was reported he’d had heart surgery for a pre-existing heart condition. He clearly wasn’t a well man.

PrincePhilip

Notwithstanding the fact he was of course a very old man and he could have simply died of old age and his pre-existing heart condition, he seemed to be doing OK health wise up until January. He hadn’t been in hospital for some years and had been self-isolating for the best part of a year at Windsor Castle so there’s no particular reason why he should have deteriorated so rapidly at that specific time.

Of course people do die aged 99 all the time and miss out on reaching the 100 milestone, but it does strike me as highly unusual for someone to die aged 99 years and 10 months. There may of course be other un-reported factors, but the only significant known one is that of him having taken the Covid-19 vaccination.

The public is usually given a cause of death for royalty and prominent public figures. There is a secrecy around which vaccine he took, what he was in hospital for and what he actually died of. Considering the negative impact it would have on the vaccine roll out programme, if it was the vaccine, you can’t discount that. The mass media , government and the royal family are as one, as if deliberately presenting a united front, in promoting the vaccine as the way out of lockdown and defeating Covid-19,  so you have to take a step back to consider whether they would have put this into the public domain if they knew the vaccine triggered the Duke’s demise.

Funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

It’ was very sad that the funeral was in front of only 30 guests. That’s ludicrous and highlights the inconsistency of the government’s lockdown policy and associated restrictions on its citizen’s civil liberties.

Since around February 2021 churches have been permitted to open for worship with the only restrictions on numbers who can attend determined by individual churches own assessment of risk. On that basis if worshipers can worship in their 100’s safely where is the logic or scientific basis for capping funerals at 30 and weddings at 15? There isn’t any as far as I can discern.

It’s seems even more illogical when you consider that people have always been able to shop in supermarkets – citadels of consumerism amongst mass numbers (no pun intended) of strangers, yet a couple can’t marry in front of more than 15 wedding guests or attend a funeral with more than 30 family members and close friends.

St George’s Chapel has a capacity of 800 and is of  very impressive height, so being inside there could be deemed akin to being outdoors, which as we know from the science is where people are meant to safest from the virus. Therefore allowing for social distancing you could surely quite easily and safely have held at least 300+ in the Chapel in a socially distanced manner in line with church regulations set out in those very same government guidelines.

FA Cup Semi-Final ‘Test Events’

The same applies to football matches. I imagine the late Duke of Edinburgh, former President of the Football Association between 1955-1957, would be spinning in his grave with the current goings on.

There were two prestigious FA Cup semi-final’s this week-end at the 90,000 capacity Wembley stadium. The Chelsea v Manchester City match on the same day as the funeral had less  fans than guests at the funeral i.e. nil (the same number as goals Manchester City scored). The Southampton v Leicester City match on 18th April 2021 had 4,000 Brent residents in attendance, at what they are deeming a test event. It’s bemusing that the same venue permits 4,000 on one day, but zero, the day before. Why the difference between the two events?

Again 4,000 in a 90,000 outdoor stadium is un-necessarily restrictive. As far as I am aware there is no logical or scientifically valid explanation that can justify this. I feel that fans and football clubs should now respond to this with the same antipathy and anger many have shown towards the proposed European Super League announced on 18th April 2021 and stop tolerating this any longer. Fans should be allowed to fill Wembley Stadium for this Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final, next month’s FA Cup Final plus all manner of league matches and play off finals in May 2021.

The Funeral

The build up, the pre-service outdoor pomp and ceremony was actually absolutely spectacular. It was just a shame the actual service was a real let down that didn’t match the outdoor spectacle. It lacked passion, warmth, emotion and any semblance of the personal. There were few references to the Duke, no eulogies and incredibly bland. dire sounding hymns. It was just very flat and un-befitting of the occasion and august surroundings

Record Breaking Number of BBC Complaints

The BBC received 100,000 complaints about its coverage on the day of Prince Philip’s death – 9th April 2021. It cleared its BBC1 & BBC2 schedules for the day. Did they learn and take heed? No. The BBC1 schedule on the day of the funeral, 17th April 2021, was effectively taken over by the funeral build up, ceremony and post-ceremony analysis from 6am – 16:20pm. That’s a monumental 10 hours 20 minutes of rolling royal coverage!!!

Even allowing for the fact BBC Breakfast News was already scheduled from 6-10am everything else (and I’m sure much of Breakfast News was devoted to the funeral) was specifically funereal related. The BBC could have directed viewers to its BBC News Channel (as obviously there CAN NOT be any other news in the world on such a day),  or other channels for instance. I accept that it’s a big deal and merited major prominence. I think more of a balance needed to be struck in this day and age, recognising that there are numerous digital TV channels, where if people want 24/7 news they have it via BBC news channels and various other channels. The BBC didn’t have to give over so much time to this to the detriment of non-funeral programming that was scheduled.

Prince Philip lived a tremendous life and left behind a great legacy with the Duke of Edinburgh award, bringing the royal family into the 21st century, putting conservation and environmental issues on the map and through the positive impact he’s had on so many people judging by the numerous anecdotes broadcast and published since his passing.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Valentine’s Comedy Fundraiser

Rating: **
Date: 13th February 2021
Venue: Zoom
Host: Darran Griffiths
Comedians: Shawn King, Mo ‘Real, Kazeem Jamal, Michael Akadiri, Dana Alexander and Athena Kugblenu.

We’ll bring the comedy, you bring the food and drinks. Sounds like a good lock down recipe for a Valentine’s Saturday night in.

In what was a first for the 100 Black Men of London (100BMOL), the charity organised and hosted a 100 Comedy Fundraiser via Zoom on Valentine’s week-end.

Host Darran Griffiths

A good on-line turnout was kept amused and entertained by host comedian and 100BMOL Member Darran Griffiths, who kept proceedings flowing nicely with his jokes and audience banter. One of the highlights occurred when he went around the “virtual room” seeing who’s in the house and engaged with, literally, one couple who looked so cosy and loved up. Whilst the smiling lady seemed enamoured by the idea of spontaneously getting engaged on-line at the behest of Darran, the giveaway constant shaking of her beau’s right leg seemed to tell another story! Anyway, we wish them well and I’m sure if they want to do that  in real life, they’ll do so in their own sweet time. I suspect Darran was just trying to give love a little helping hand and do the “Wright thing” by throwing out his Cupid arrows.

Shawn King was very well received due to his unique Irish-Nigerian accent and Irish tales. The jokes about whether sending gay men to prison was the best punishment for their crimes went down a storm. I  enjoyed his material, but thought his delivery could have been improved.

That was the case for a few of the acts and I appreciate for many it was their first or second ever Zoom gig so it’s not difficult to see problems with making a virtual audience laugh, especially if you can’t see them and/or hear their reaction to your jokes. On-line LOL’s doesn’t quite cut it for comedians! Muted applause is no applause. They need to hear the laughter coming at them loud and clear.

Mo ‘Real also struggled with the zoom format. That said, it wasn’t just that, as it was clear on this occasion her material would have benefited from further work to evoke laughter. The rapid fire delivery method can be effective, but this time sadly failed to hit home for many in the audience . Maybe a slower delivery style with greater focus on the set up and punchlines would have been in order.

The background for many acts was less than ideal. Mo ‘Real in particular had a music video playing in the background and a glass of wine on the table beside her. I would have thought that more could have been done to portray a theatrical background that could have enhanced the overall ambience. It might have been a good idea for all Comedians to have been given the same background (e.g. 100BMOL logo) to use when “on stage” or at least create a theatrical looking stage set up that they all could have shared.

Kazeem Jamal was funny with a confident, up tempo demeanour and delivery style. The only distraction with him as well as Canadian Comedian Dana Alexander was the frequent use of the f and c word in their set.

Both are very funny but considering this was billed as a show for “loved ones, family, friends and the community” as well as this show being one for a charity focused on uplifting the Black community, especially it’s youths, the message this sent was completely inconsistent with the 100BMOL ethos. As a former Member, I know the 100BMOL does not teach it’s young Diamonds (mentees), aged 10-17, to swear so it seemed somewhat incongruous to say the least that they permitted the comedians to freely do so on a show, which their Diamonds could have been watching. Despite the promotional advert stating it was a 16+ show that later age range encompasses the 100BMOL Diamonds.

The aim of the show was fundraising to help the charity purchase its own building for the furtherance of its goals. I wish it all the very best in this endeavour in this milestone year, its 20th year of existence. This is an incredibly long-time for an entirely self-financed charity. Its work in mentoring, Education, Economic Empowerment and Health & Wellness for young people are so badly needed, more than ever in these pandemic times.

The organisation has lasted two decades, as it was, like any building that has stayed up for decades, built on strong, unshakable foundations; with strong, non-negotiable principles and values underpinning it that keep its core structure safe and sound for all who use it. The organisation obviously meant well by this fundraising show. They let themselves down by the standard of language they permitted on their virtual Zoom stage for their Valentine’s show. Love is sweet nothings whispered into a lovers ears, not swearing down a microphone.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

To support the building project and community work of the 100BMOL click on donate 

You can apply to join the 100 Black Men of London via this link.

Links

  1. Simply Off The Wall – 100BMOL & Tiemo Tribute to Michael Jackson – 5th March 2015
  2. Future Young Leaders – 100BMOL Graduation Ceremony  – Tiemo Talk of the Town 25 July 2012
  3. Are Black Men an Endangered Species – 100BMOL An Audience with our Children – Review – Tiemo Talk of The Town – 20th July 2012

If you attended the show we’d love to read your comments so please feel free to share them directly on the comments section of the Blog.

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McQueen Playing Silly Games with Lovers Rock

Lovers Rock
TV Rating: **
Broadcast: 22nd November 2020
Channel: BBC1 9pm

No no no
You don’t love me
And I know now.

Fans of the genre will recognise the above as the opening lines to Jamaican reggae artist Dawn Penn’s 1994 classic lovers rock anthem ‘No No No.’ Alas for ‘Lovers Rock’ director Steve McQueen, judging by the ensuing social media storm following the film’s broadcast, the song accurately sums up the feeling of many British fans of this genre of music. It was broadcast on prime time BBC1 30/11/2020 as part of the Small Axe series of 5 films from the celebrated Oscar winning Director.

Before I go into the detail of the review, I must firstly congratulate McQueen on getting this commission from the BBC for this and 4 other films, all being shown mid-evening on Sunday nights on BBC1. For decades Black programming has been shunted off till very late at night so the BBC are to be applauded for giving this series it’s backing and such a prestigious time slot.

Small Axe: Lovers Rock

The film evocatively captured the beautiful melodic Lovers Rock music, the good time blues/house party vibe, the romance, dancing, the friendships and tensions that can encapsulate all the elements of a night out. That’s great but the problem with it was that it was essentially a one scene movie – the blues party. People are used to watching such scenes literally as exciting scenes in a film. Not the whole film. The biggest failing of the film in fact was the lack of a clear story line. Essentially it was a soundtrack set to a dance. Fine, but that isn’t a film. Viewers could have just downloaded videos or played records if they wanted to hear the music.

It was clear from watching it that McQueen doesn’t know Lovers Rock and having looked into the background to this I now know this to be true. He has admitted in an interview that he’s never been to a blues party in his life. That doesn’t mean he can’t make a film about it, but he needed to do his research and/or lean heavily on those who knew the scene in order to convey authenticity. Considering there was a lovely cameo from the writer of Silly Games, Record Producer, Dennis Bovell, who would have known the scene very well, it’s surprising and disappointing that a more realistic film wasn’t produced.

The length of the film was unusual 69 minutes. Very short by today’s, even yester-years, standards. Why the extra 9 minutes? Well the answer to that is simple – it was the 9  minutes devoted to Janet Kay’s classic and much loved single ‘Silly Games’. I love the song but it was so stretched out it became laborious and un-enjoyable. I understand the desire to base the seminal moment of the film around this song, but this over milked the cow. By the time the credits rolled it almost felt as if Silly Games lasted for 60 minutes with just 9 minutes of film. That was plain silly and would have benefited from serious editing.

There were numerous scenes thrown in that seemed to make no sense and were out of kilter with the non-existent storyline and plot. For instance the two girls about to kiss in the bedroom at the party. That seemed un-necessary and added no value or entertainment to the story. There was a cross in the bedroom in which they sat, which made the scene almost blasphemous. There were a few symbolic signs of the cross in the story from time to time. It wasn’t entirely clear what they were saying other than signifying the Lord is present – be that in the house or on the street. It was also a nod to Martha’s Christian belief’s which aren’t really a feature of the story until a particular junction towards the finale.

The best friend leaving without her girlfriend. That never happens or at least not without discussion first (which didn’t happen) and even then it still doesn’t happen!

The scene with Martha just sitting directly on the toilet seat is also a big no no. I understand why it was there visually as from the bathroom she could see her friend leaving, but it just seemed forced and gratuitous.

The attempted rape scene of Cynthia was unrealistic and aside from the perpetrator being stopped and threatened there and then, he suffered no other consequence and returned to the dance as if nothing happened.

Then there was the scene with the guy arriving mid-way through the party all angry and extremely vexed with Martha (Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) for not attending his mother’s funeral. There was no context whatsoever for this and him laying hands on the bouncer and not getting thumped down was unrealistic as was him having a go at lead actress Martha whilst her romantic lead, Franklyn (Micheal Ward) sat there watching and not stepping in to protect and defend her was also unrealistic.

It’s baffling that a film with no clear plot, storyline or narrative with plenty of padded out scenes made it through the rigorous commissioning and broadcasting process at the BBC.  

Surely an actual storyline could have been based around lover’s rock songs? That’s been done so successfully with so many films e.g. Mamma Mia and Bohemian Rhapsody to name but two. The Story of Lovers Rock documentary by Menelik Shabazz did this so well, mixing the music with interviews and anecdotes from the artists, comedians, and others who lived and loved the music at the time.

It is also a baffling mis-step to put this series on at 9pm on Sunday’s directly up against the brand new series of ITV’s hugely successful ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!? It’s almost as if they’ve set up Small Axe to fail. A black orientated series was unlikely to fare well with such scheduling. Ratings thus far bear that out – 1.5m for Mangrove (which was a lot worse, in my view) and 1.2m for Lovers Rock. That’s a very poor return. That’s unsurprising for the reasons outline above and more so because there has been a total lack of promotion worthy of the name by the BBC. Whilst they did preview Small Axe months ago, now that the series is going out, there are no or very few trailers being shown. I had to search for them online including the one for ‘Red White and Blue’ broadcast on 29/11/2020. It’s just unacceptable. When has the BBC ever not massively promoted such a Sunday night series? It’s hugely disappointing and disrespectful all round to McQueen and the viewers. Why make the show if you’re not going to seriously back it and promote it fully?

Whilst the film was overall an enjoyable, highly watchable film, it just left a lot to be desired.

It’s quite telling that none of the Lovers Rock artists as far as I’m aware promoted or have talked online about the film on their social media. Unlike Leroy Logan, the ex-Police Sergeant and subject of ‘Red, White and Blue’, he, as well as the actor playing him, film star John Boyega, were fairly active with their social media, TV and radio appearances in the build up to the broadcast. Leroy’s seen the film and is clearly giving it his blessing so I have high hopes therefore that it will be a good film with a storyline! If not, I’m sure Logan has plenty of friends in the Police force who will be happy to pay McQueen a visit, so it had better be good for his sake!

As for Lovers Rock, well to quote another Dawn Penn classic, I think McQueen should just put his hands up and say “I’m So Sorry.”

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links

  1. Mo Gilligan: Black, British and Funny – Tiemo review – 29th November 2020
  2. What a Sorry Mess: ‘Sorry I Didn’t Know’ – Tiemo review – 9th November 2020
  3. Craig and Danny: Funny, Black and on TV – Tiemo review – 3rd November 2020
  4. Lenny Henry’s Race Through Comedy – Sky Gold (2019 ) – repeated 19-21st October 2020 and currently available to watch on Sky TV.
  5. Blue Story: A South Side Romance – Tiemo review – 1st December 2019

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Mo Gilligan: Black British and Funny – Review

Mo Gilligan: Black British and Funny
TV Rating: ****
Broadcast: 15th October 2020
Channel: Channel 4

Mo Gilligan goes on a journey through his comedy roots, shining a well-deserved light on the British Black comedy circuit of the past 30 years.

The Black British Stand-Up comedy circuit has been a thriving one for the last 30 years. However if you hadn’t in that time ventured out to many live gigs, relying on the numerous TV comedy shows for your entertainment and as a gauge to who’s hot and who’s not, you’d be forgiven for thinking Black British stand up comprises a handful of Comedians named Gina, Judi, Lenny, Richard and Stephen.

That’s far from the case and there are countless superb comedians doing their thing, or at least they were pre-Covid-19 times, on stages up and down the land, from Catford to Watford, from Southend to Bridgend. From small theatres like The Kiln in Kilburn, North London, to huge places such as the Hackney Empire in London’s East End, where some of the main interviews for this programme were filmed.

Mo Gilligan

Presenter Mo Gilligan’s journey started at the prestigious Hackney Empire – London’s equivalent to the New York Apollo theatre, where he had assembled a range of talent spanning different generations – including Angie Le Mar, Dane Baptiste, Eddie Kadi, Eddie Nestor, Llewella Gideon, Michael Dapaah, Slim and Thanyia Moore. Whilst the insights they offered were fascinating, the set up didn’t work so well due to socially distancing in the stalls. The format made it a little awkward for the conversation to flow smoothly and clearly they needed a little warm up to get going. I thought Angie’s opening gag re “playing the Empire before it was built” was funny but it went over most of the assembled gathering’s heads until she ‘woman-splained’ it!

Dane Baptiste was on point with his observation on the difference between the career opportunities of Black versus white comedians, commenting that Black comedians only get one opportunity to make it, whereas white comedians will get many more chances to impress, especially when it comes to TV comedy. He said white comedians can go off and do whimsical, flight of fancy comedy that raises a smile, as opposed to comedy that lifts the roof off. He’s found that a Black audience demands comedy that does just that by generating belly laughter that reverberates around the venue. It means such an audience can seem far harder to please, but in Baptiste’s view, if you can succeed with such an audience, you have the potential and talent to do that anywhere.

Nonetheless talent and potential is not in itself enough to make it out of the regular comedy circuit and on to bigger things. Many have proved themselves and earned their stripes on this toughest of circuits but that hasn’t translated into a progression to TV comedy, panel shows and national tours, which for many would be a desired comedy career path.

Gina Yashere, dejected after not getting her dues in England and knowing she was worth more, upped sticks and left for Los Angeles in 2007 and has never looked back. Her shows appear on major US channels and Netflix, including the first Nigerian-American sitcom, ‘Bob Hearts Abishola,’ featuring an all Nigerian cast. Gina was forthright in naming TV commissioners as the gatekeepers blocking her career progress and saw there was more chance of her talent being recognised, appreciated and financially rewarded stateside.

Baton Passing

Richard Blackwood was funny when remarking on how people now ask him if he knows Mo Gilligan, stating “I do, but they should be asking if Mo Gilligan knows me!”  That baton may be being passed on to the younger generation but Richard’s not ready to let go of it just yet! Good. That’s exactly as it should be. You have to earn the right to carry the comedy baton forward.

Mother and Son

It was wonderful to see the most direct baton passing of all as Gilligan interviewed Angie Le Mar with her son Travis Jay. Gilligan paid Travis a great complement by saying not everyone knows they are related. Travis could easily have made that well known, but chose to develop his own career, build up his own brand and following by standing on his own two feet and not relying on his mother for a helping hand up the comedy ladder.

What was fascinating was seeing the different generations talking about how they’d influenced one another. There were helpful contributions from stalwarts of the Stand Up comedy scene who’ve helped bring so many through – such as John Simmit, Quincy and Rudi Lickwood to name but three.

One of the most poignant moments was seeing Gilligan interviewing Slim, explaining how he looked up to him growing up and coming up on the comedy circuit. Slim revealed that in these pandemic times he is making ends meet outside of the comedy world, as are so many comedians. It was sad to hear that from someone so highly loved and rated on the black comedy circuit and regularly voted the Best Black Comedian in polls and award ceremonies. That didn’t sit right at all. You won’t find any of the most popular white, mainstream TV stand up comedians having to make a living outside of comedy during this pandemic. It felt like a tremendous injustice.

There are younger comedians who’ve broken through onto TV in the last decade who are not a patch on the likes of Slim, Curtis Walker, Richard Blackwood and Rudi Lickwood for instance, when it comes to talent, stage craft and ability to perform on the big stage, yet these stalwarts don’t seem to get the opportunity of appearing on Live at The Apollo, Mock the Week, Countdown Meets 8 out of 10 Cats etc.. and countless other stand up comedy or comedy panel shows which have served as vehicles that propel comedians to ever more  TV appearances and above all the national prominence and fame that goes with it and results in the ability to create a distinctive brand, tour nationwide and make serious money, for example, from DVD and book sales.

Why Aren’t Black British and Funny Comedians making it onto TV?

There have been some breakthroughs – American, Reginald D Hunter, compere Mo Gilligan of course (Momentum on Netflix plus various Channel 4 shows), Daliso Chaponda, Kojo Amin and Nabil Abdul Rashid for instance. The latter three did very well on the hugely popular Britain’s Got Talent making it through to Semi-Final and final stages in recent series. That just shows how well loved and understood Black comedy is. As an aside, I do think Nabil pushed the #BlackLivesMatter act a bit too far in his semi-final this year. Whilst it was amusing and absolutely perfect for a topical stand up gig, it was not for live TV when judges are at the serious, business end stage of the show and thinking about what the Queen would enjoy watching, which you have to remember is actually the ultimate goal of the show. That quite radical semi-final set probably cost Nabil what could have been a well earned place in the final.

I accept absolutely that TV Commissioners have been the ones holding back Black British Comedians, but it could be argued that there’s an element of some of the comedians being their own worst enemies that has to be considered.

Slim, A Dot and Richard Blackwood

I think there has been too much reliance on playing the big theatres on a bi-monthly basis with packed line ups featuring 6+ comedians in very long show’s going on till 11pm, nearly midnight. Whilst the shows are invariably highly entertaining they can feel like a marathon when a good quality 2 hours of entertainment would suffice. More comedians could and should have broken away from that to do one man/woman shows touring the country and moving away from the London centric comedy circuit. For example Richard Blackwood and Slim performed Bad Boys I and II in 2015 and 2018, selling out a couple of nights at the Hackney Empire. The second of these were when Blackwood was still in Eastenders. Once he’d left the show surely he should have capitalised on his new found fame and toured nationwide? Slim too surely should have gone on the road. No disrespect to others but those shows proved they didn’t need 5-6 supporting acts. 

Maybe they had their reasons. Regarding making it on TV, Slim’s talked about it not being for a want of trying. When it comes to things like that questions have to be asked of his agent for it was their job to market and promote their acts in order to enable them to achieve their goals. His agent without a doubt did well by him for years but didn’t achieve that ultimate goal. Maybe it just wasn’t about them and the commissioners are blocking top talent for reasons known only to them. He’s changed agent now so time will tell if that makes a difference.

Richard Blackwood performed a sensational, critically acclaimed one man play ‘Typical’ at the Soho Theatre in 2019. That deserved the opportunity to tour nationwide but alas it didn’t. Maybe he had other commitments. Could the show’s producer not have worked around that or offered the role to another actor. As a one man show that should have been feasible and it would have been highly pertinent, particular in the context of this year’s #BlackLivesMatters campaign.

I have to say also there can be lack of professionalism on the stand up circuit which if translated to TV won’t be tolerated and so that may well be another reason behind the failure for so many to breakthrough e.g. the notorious Black People Time, soon come attitude won’t wash with TV. Readers will be familiar with this if they attend Black stand up comedy or theatre productions. So infrequently do they start on time that it’s almost a running joke. Audiences aware of this tend to arrive late for shows and shows wait for audiences before they start. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and it shouldn’t be that way. Un-professionalism extends into some other areas too.

The Language is doubtless off putting too many people who would otherwise attend shows. I know it’s not unique to the Black circuit, but considering at least 1 in 5 black people (20%) are church goers it’s unlikely that they are going to take kindly to shows featuring profanity and vulgarity. There has been an heavy reliance on this for years. Even in this programme there was occasional swearing. It seemed out of place and un-necessary. There was a similar programme looking at the history of Black comedy on another channel just 2 days before this one. Not one swear word was uttered but it was just as valid and entertaining a programme as this one. The difference was that went out at prime time 8pm, this went out at 10pm. Such shows are a show case for talent so why spoil it be swearing? Just because the later time slot allows for swearing doesn’t mean it had to be taken advantage of.

Lack of Stand up Comedy

There was a noticeable absence of stand up comedy clips, which seemed like something of an own goal from a collective looking to break into the mainstream. This programme could have been enhanced with more comedy clips for the benefit of those not so familiar with the comedian’s featured. The stated aim of the show was to shine a spotlight on comedians, so it was a glaring omission not to show them doing what they do best.

Times Are a Changing

ITV have been at the forefront of change – with shows like Britain’s Got Talent featuring Daliso Chaponda, Kojo Amin and Nabil Abdul Rashid.  Jonathon Ross showcased a lot of new Black talent with the Jonathan Ross Comedy Club including Aurie Styla, Babatunde Aleshe, Michael Odewale and Sophie Duker.

All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining programme  featuring contributions from so many stars of the black comedy circuit rarely seen on TV.  The talent is there and it’s not just a case of knocking at doors to get on television. The gatekeepers have to be willing to open the front door and let the talent through.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links

  1. Craig and Danny: Funny, Black and on TV – Tiemo review – 3rd November 2020
  2. Lenny Henry’s Race Through Comedy – Sky Gold (2019 ) – repeated 19-21st October 2020 and currently available to watch on Sky TV.
  3. What a Sorry Mess: ‘Sorry I Didn’t Know’ – Tiemo review – 9th November 2020
  4. McQueen Playing Silly Games with Lovers Rock, BBC1 Film – Tiemo review – 29th November 2020 
Posted in Comedy Reviews 2020, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments