Friday, 22 June 2018

Getting paranoid about portraits


A small thing maybe, but I've been sent into the weekend in quite a paranoid state of mind having received a Friday afternoon email from a school I visited recently. It's a school I've visited a number of times over the years, doing my Comic Art Masterclasses, as part of which every child has their caricature drawn. The caricatures, which take a minute each, are probably the most popular and sought-after part of the class, with many teachers also clamouring to be drawn, and my work being exhibited and displayed on walls and school reports in my wake.

So my heart sank when I read, from a school which I won't name, the following.

We wanted to share and highlight some recent feedback from a parent in relation to the Caricatures drawn.  As you are aware they tend to highlight and draw out certain features of a person and we have been made aware this has created insecurities this time around for some of the children recently drawn.

We are very much looking forward to your return next year at (the school) but feel it would  be best if we do not do the Caricatures in class next time to avoid this happening again, I hope you understand our reasons for requesting this.

Not do the caricatures? Because of something said, by the sound of it, by one parent of one pupil who, by next year, won't even be at the school? They're seriously asking that, after nearly ten years of making an annual two day visit to the same school, over which time I've drawn about 900 childrens' caricatures, they should deny next year's Year 6s (the current Year 5s) the chance to take away this treasured item, that their brothers and sisters already have, all because of a parent of a kid who isn't even there any more?

You won't be surprised that my blood's boiling at the moment. And my mood hasn't been helped been the words of consolation from the Head who, when I protested, let me know that:

I was simply responding to a concerned parent who shared a social media thread with me. On it there were a number of posts from parents, past and present, who had commented on your visit. Although they thought what you did was fantastic, a number of them claimed that their children were made to feel self-conscious of features that had been exaggerated for the purpose of the caricatures.

"Social media thread"???? There are parents, more than one, talking about me and my caricatures behind my back? Where? What are they saying? This is horrifying.

I am looking forward to a paranoid weekend, scouring Twitter and Facebook trying to find who's bad-mouthing me, and the dreadful things they're saying about me. I am really worried that people could be saying untruths about my caricatures and that this could affect me work at other schools.

For over a decade I've been spending about 100 days a year teaching about 60 kids a day, and drawing all their faces. That's 60,000 faces drawn without a single complaint. Now some parents from one school have got me paranoid that there's something wrong with my work, and a school is threatening to not let me do that part of my class. I guess I just won't be returning to that school again. But, god, I seriously hope this isn't something that's going to spread.

Look at the pictures above. Those are the kids I drew at that school when I visited. Who could have a complaint about those pictures?

Yours, a paranoid artist.



Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for de

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Daredevil - new video from the Socks


Another one bites the dust, in this case Daredevil, which is another bit of material that's been cut from the Socks' new show Superheroes. It seemed a funny idea at the time, but it never really took shape, and the only laughs came from the costume, for reasons you can probably see. Please enjoy the costume's moment in the sun. It will be being dismantled and its components recycled by the time you've finished watching the clip.



The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 1st to 26th - ON SALE NOW! 

*Winners of the Bath Comedy Festival Lovehoney Best Joke Award 2018


Previews:

June 20 - Ludlow Fringe
July 11 - Neath Comedy Festival

Superhero Preview Ludlow June 20


It's been nearly a month between previews, but we've spent the time well. Admittedly most of that was spent making the Superheroes comic, but some time's been spent rejigging the show, and last night's test showed that we're getting there. A very small audience (on a Wednesday, in Ludlow, up against James Acaster starting at exactly the same time) but they were very good, giving just the test we needed and laughing where we wanted them to. Lots of things have moved since last time, a song's been shortened, and we've lost & replaced the Spiderman/Peter Parker song. This is what we gave them.

SUPERHEROES RUNNING ORDER, Weds June 20 2018
(All items good as before unless mentioned)

Opening Batman/Ditko/Flash - slight tweak now even better
I’m A Sock song
Cosmopolitan / Bob Kane
Motion Capture
Scottish Superheroes - moved from later in show, good move
Hulk Ang Lee
Plot/ Maguffin 
Batman/ Teeth / etc - moved from later in show, good move

NEW Bechdel Test song - brilliant. So glad I came up with this
Cock Robin 
Science/Faraday/Sagan


NEW Helium routine - very good, that's staying
Brother 1
Racist Brother song
Avengers
Avengers Reel 
Dr Strange / Wong / Thanos

NEW Wonder Woman routine - good
NEW Fantastic 4 - recast & rewritten, works much better
Thanos / Who’s On First 
Superman / JorEl / Kents / Glasses
Dead Ringer song
Brother 2
Science 2
Joker 2 
Harley & Ivy
Daredevil - decided this will be cut from the show, not good enough
Brother 3 - needs shortening
What I’ve Learned - needs shortening

NEW All By Myself song - now shortened, much much better
NEW Finale -  now short and fast and worked. By golly, our show has an ending!

And we have a new Preview date lined up, on July 5th in Harrow, meaning we have five shows left to polish the hour. At time of writing (the morning after the show) I've already put a new-ish song back into the show, one that we haven't done in these previews but that appears in the comic and that I did back in 2016 and belatedly realise could be perfect. Stay tuned for how that goes down in a couple of weeks time.


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 1st to 26th - ON SALE NOW! 

*Winners of the Bath Comedy Festival Lovehoney Best Joke Award 2018


Previews:

June 20 - Ludlow Fringe
July 11 - Neath Comedy Festival

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Happy is a man who's got his graph back


I recently had my laptop re-zhoozhed (how DO you spell that word? To zhoozh something up? Anyway, that's how I spell it) by Tantra computers, so I now have the latest operating system, which means all my programmes have had to be re-installed. And some are reinstalled more successfully than others. I've already had fun trying to open old Quark Xpress docs in the new version for example (I have to use the 2016 version to open the Socks performance scripts now), and the latest glitch I've found is with Microsoft Word.

I've essentially been using and updating the same Graph of my Socks sales figures for Edinburgh since I made it back in 2007. It's travelled through two, maybe three laptops, and who knows how many upgrades. But this time it was just failing to open. For a couple of weeks I've been trying and getting frustrated, and meanwhile I've been able to see my sales figures for Edinburgh - via the wonderful Red61 system - trickling in since sometime back in April (it may even have been March. Tickets have definitely been on sale for longer this year than ever before). In short I was desperate to get those figures turned into a graph.


And so it was that, this week, I went back to square one and started a brand new Chart in Microsoft Excel. The only way I could access my past ten years of sales figures was to open the old graph on my old laptop - the white MacBook that I replaced in 2014 - take screen grabs of the figures and print them out. I then had to type in manually every daily sales figure for every Socks show since 2007 till the present day. And do you know what, it was quite therapeutic. And fun to know that I have a chart that, for this year at least, works.

And the best news? 2018's Superheroes show is currently outselling 2016's Shakespeare show at the same point that year. As you'll remember from graph analyses gone by, ever since 2013 our shows have ended up selling pretty much exactly the same number of tickets by the end of August. But there's always the potential for more, so let's make this year the great big biggie shall we?


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 1st to 26th - ON SALE NOW! 

*Winners of the Bath Comedy Festival Lovehoney Best Joke Award 2018


Previews:

June 20 - Ludlow Fringe
July 11 - Neath Comedy Festival
July 19 - Bedford Fringe
July 29 - Derby Bar One

July 29 - Sheffield New Barrack Tavern
 - with more preview dates to be announced

Socks make gifs

God help us, I've found another way of trying in vain to grab peoples attention on Twitter - gifs. Using an app called Giphly, I'm able to grab bits of videos and make little gifs of them, for the world to ignore. Here are my first efforts.








The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 1st to 26th - ON SALE NOW! 

*Winners of the Bath Comedy Festival Lovehoney Best Joke Award 2018


Previews:

June 20 - Ludlow Fringe
July 11 - Neath Comedy Festival
July 19 - Bedford Fringe
July 29 - Derby Bar One

July 29 - Sheffield New Barrack Tavern
 - with more preview dates to be announced

Chortle & Young Perspective interviews

In the promotional run up to Edinburgh, the Socks have completed a couple of email interviews. They gave their answers to Young Perspective magazine in the form of a video (which they may or may not use)...



And here are my Chortle answers. Let's see which, if any, ever make the website.

The Big Ask 2018

The questions... Don't feel you have to answer them all. Each day we'll feature one question and the best answers

Describe the Edinburgh Fringe in 5 words
One damn thing after another

Who have the Edinburgh comedy award judges most heinously overlooked over the years?
Er *cough* hello?

What’s your favourite joke from your show?
My friend had to accept a TV award even though she was really ill. Emmy? No, she just had a bad cold.

Which comedian past or present would perfectly complement you as a double-act partner
Max Wall. Cos then all our responses would be off the... you can finish that gag off yourself

What's the best performance space at the Fringe and why?
You can't beat the open air, especially for Shakespeare. We saw Dannii Minogue doing open air Shakespeare one year, when it was quite windy. The best thing? Couldn't hear a word.

What track do you walk on to and why?
Respect by Aretha Franklin. We've looped the bit that goes "Sock it to me". For obvious reasons.

What's the weirdest Fringe show you've ever seen and why?
Once saw a performance act doing their show in a doorway on the Royal Mile. Had his back turned to the audience then did what can only be described as a wee. Wasn't a big audience, just myself. Quite an influential act though, I've seen tribute versions every year since.

What do you plan to do on your day off?
Only wimps have a day off. We've not had a day off at Edinburgh in the ten years we've been doing this. We're knackered.

What's the worst place you've ever stayed at the Fringe?
One year I stayed in a room at a musician's place where the corridors were lined with a mix of dust bunnies and cat shit, for which he didn't charge any extra, so there was that.

What are your plans once the Fringe is over?
Genuinely we've been booked at do a week of shows in Denmark, on the condition that we do 20 minutes about Brexit. So we'll be writing a new show.

What's the worst room to perform in at the Fringe and why?
There's a doorway on the Royal Mile which is really rubbish if you're on after the bloke who does the wee (I think he's called Lost Bladder Control Guy).


Can you come up with an advertising slogan to get people to the Fringe?
Come to Embra, the month before Septembra

What gets you through Edinburgh's toughest days?
The ability to power snooze. Sometimes back in the flat, sometimes during my fellow performers' shows. For which I apologise in advance.

What's the oddest prop you've bought or had made for a Fringe show?
Looks in this year's prop bag, sees clockwork teeth, rubber Batman, bag of dog poo. Has difficulty conceiving of what's odd any more

Who is the best person you've ever met at Edinburgh?
Benedict Cumberbatch. He stole the Socks. At the bar of the Gilded Balloon he inadvertently started walking off with the bag that had the moist and smelly post-show Sock puppets in, thinking it was his friends. Had a very enjoyable half hour chat with pre-fame "call me Ben".

What's your enduring memory from the first Fringe you ever went to?
It was mind blowingly big, the biggest event I'd ever seen. And given that this was in the 1980s, when the comedy section took up about two pages of the programme, this suggests I had a smaller mind than the kids today.

What's the most you've put into the bucket of a free show and why were you so generous?
Five quid. Too embarrassed to ask for change.

What is the one thing you know now that you wish you'd known before your first Fringe?
The value of a good photograph. Back in the pre selfie days we spent so much time enjoying the moment instead of recording it. Old folk, eh?

What do you think of critics?
Love them, especially that nice Mr Bennett from Chortle. (How many people have given that answer? Dozens? Or just the honest few)

If you could change one thing about the Fringe, what would it be?
Once I'd have said I wish the press would cover a wider range of venues to review their comedy at. Now I'm just grateful there's any press left at all. (But if the Comedy Award and the Guardian spend all their time at The Pleasance again, I will continue to moan about it).

What's the most drunk or otherwise wasted you've ever been at the Fringe?
At these prices? And with the minimum alcohol price in force this year you can expect a record number of boringly sober comedians. The bars are very grateful for all the posh Londoners in rugby shirts who think the bar prices are "pretty reasonable compared to the rest of Scandinavia".

Who is the worst person you've ever met at Edinburgh?
Did I mention Lost Bladder Control Guy? I asked what his show was called. Apparently it was called Fuck Off You Pervy Bastard. That'll be why it wasn't in the programme.

What's the oddest thing you've read in a Fringe review of yourself or others?
One or two reviews have forgotten to put the right number of stars on, the idiots.

Who or what inspired you to get into comedy?
Like so many people, it was bullying at school. I found a torrent of abysmal puns was a brilliant bullying technique.

Has the 'spirit of the Fringe' been lost?
No, that's the Spirit Of St Louis you're thinking of. And it wasn't lost, it was Lindbergh's baby that was lost. And Amelia Earhart. And Flight 19. But not the Spirit Of The Fringe, I'm happy to say.

Who is the unsung hero of the Fringe and why?
It's a toss up between Yehudi Menuhin and David Frost. Menuhin attempted to stage the first Free Fringe shows in the 1950s as a spin off from the Official Festival, and David Frost staged the first late night cabarets with TV names in the 1960s, and attracted the TV. (I've read a bit too much about the history of the Fringe, sorry.)

What's the oddest thing you've found in your bucket at the end of a free show?
Never done a free show.

What's the worst Fringe review you ever had?
A one star review of my old show The Sitcom Trials. "I'd have happily gouged my own eyes with hot spoons rather than endure another moment." We put that up outside the box office, it doubled the audience from then on. Who wouldn't want to see that show?


The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 1st to 26th - ON SALE NOW! 

*Winners of the Bath Comedy Festival Lovehoney Best Joke Award 2018


Previews:

June 20 - Ludlow Fringe
July 11 - Neath Comedy Festival
July 19 - Bedford Fringe
July 29 - Derby Bar One

July 29 - Sheffield New Barrack Tavern
 - with more preview dates to be announced

Sunday, 17 June 2018

St Buttcheek Stinklesburg - comics by kids


My favourite title of the season has come from kids at a half term workshop at G Live in Guildford. Saint Buttcheek Stinklesburg was such a novel name that I was sure it must come from a game or a meme, but it would seem to have sprung fully formed from the imagination of an 11 year old, which should give us great hope for the youth of our nation.


At Red Oaks primary in Swindon, the year 6s were doing a topic on Stonehenge which they took great delight in rubbishing for their comic's title. Meanwhile the next class came up with a fine title, for which I produced one of my most disappointing covers. I can hardly use the excuse that I draw these quickly, whole the class is going on. Sometimes I churn out a corker, and sometimes I produce a real "I wish there was time to rub it out and start again", which is what you see on the right.



My annual visit to Ruskin primary in Swindon, which I have been doing for quite possibly ten years now, produced another couple of corking titles, though I can't say I'm impressed by my attempt to draw Declan Donelly. The live caricatures I do of the kids have about an 80% likeness rate, I'd say. I draw up to 60 every day, so that's not bad going. But give me five minutes with a photo of a celebrity and somehow their obvious features elude me. I googled and drew an accurate Ghostbusters firehouse though, so I wasn't slouching.


My second day at Ruskin saw the first instance I can remember of me getting the giggles. I mean really bad giggles. I got the giggles so bad, while reading out the kids' suggestions for the title of the comic, that my eyes were streaming with tears. All because one of the suggestions someone had written was "I'm Your Fammy", which I read out, accidentally in a hurry, as "I'm Your Fanny". Being year 6, only a couple spotted this or reacted with amused shock, but it was stifling the desire to refer to it, or to explain it away, that triggered the giggles. I was still chuckling at the memory of it on the way home.

On the right, I've coloured up the flipchart I did on day two, which I thought was a nifty design.


The celebrities these 7 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Donald Trump (twice), Kim Kardashian, Simon Cowell, Kim Jong Un, Gordon Ramsay, and Bruce Willis.



Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here
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