Thursday 31 August 2017

Undarntale, and other trivia

And suddenly, via a comment on Youtube, we discover Undarntale. How long's this been going on? 
"Everyone (except Frisk who’s a regular puppet on a stick) is a sock puppet with a Scottish accent. Based on Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre"

Flattering, it's done by someone called Lydia Prower and can be found on Deviant Art.

When will people posting on Facebook realise their posts aren't seen in real time? And they're watching sodding Game Of Thrones, which isn't even sodding shown in sodding real time! And which I've never seen! To be honest, I wouldn't know if it was being spoilered for me, even if it was.
But honestly, if I see "now that was an ending" one more time! For two days now, and they keep coming.

Okay, got a Tea Time Theme Time for you (off of BBC 6 Music's Mark & Radcliffe show). What connects these three songs? (Spoiler warning - if you know the answer, don't blurt it straight out. Let others guess, but let us know you know.)
The Night I Lost The Will To Fight - Cursive
What A Waste - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Eton Rifles - The Jam

Who else finishes watching a movie and immediately starts googling the locations? Just watched The Man In The White Suit. Locations are actually quite hard to find, I still don't know where the factory was. But the chances are it was in Burnley. Cos the house Alec Guinness lived in was. Here's what it looked like in 1951 and what it looks like now.

The Guardian has invented a new meaning for the word "dominate". Apparently "female comics dominate the nine strong shortlist" for the Comedy Awards. Four of them. And five men. Equality achieved.

I've got a pair of tights so thick they can't feel global warming. They're Climate Change Denier.
Contender for #JokeOfTheFringe2018?

Bruce Forsyth has offered an exceptional variety of catchphrases for people to make tribute gags from. You could draw up a Brucie Bingo card. So far I've seen a few "Didn't he do well"s, a few variations of "nice to see you to see you nice", a couple of plays on the conveyor belt with the cuddly toy, and one person doing "Keep out of the black, and in the red; nothing in this game for two in a bed" which is either cleverly ironic or awkward. Still to come "scores on the doors", "give us a twirl" and "you're my favourite". So, from Mr Comics here, a reminder that Brucie was also the cover star of Film Fun back in his Sunday Night At The London Palladium days.
He did do well, though, didn't he. Cuddly toy.

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

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do a tiny bit more Shakespeare in Halifax (Oct 26), Wolverhampton (Oct 28), Nottingham (Nov 4), and Goole (Nov 17) this autumn, returning with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.

Wednesday 30 August 2017

In praise of Roald Dahl's Way Out

In recent weeks we've discovered a great TV show, and it only took us 55 years to stumble upon it.

It was while Googling Roald Dahl's Tales Of The Unexpected, after an episode of it had popped up on a cable channel, that we discovered we weren't as familiar with Roald Dahl's TV work as we thought. Everyone of our vintage remembers Tales Of The Unexpected. I even remember watching the first series, way back in 1979, and even a Peter Cook parody of Dahl's fireside introductions, which joked about how Dahl had made his name sound more exotic by removing the 'n' from the middle of it.

What I'd never come across before was its predecessor, 'Way Out (the apostrophe's part of the title), a similar anthology series that ran for 14 weeks on CBS in the States, from March to July 1961 (when I was just a twinkle) and never shown in the UK.

A series of horror/thriller tales, it shares one story in common with Tales Of The Unexpected, Dahl's own William And Mary, which was remade in 79 with Elaine Strich in the lead role. The other stories in Way Out are by American writers, each prefaced and back-announced by Dahl giving beautifully dark and sardonic monologues reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His name, by the way, is pronounced Roo-ahld Dahl in these shows, which must be the way he preferred it.

The significant thing is that almost all of them are on Youtube and, though not of the highest definition (never having been given an official DVD or even VHS release, the only available copies are bootlegs) they are a treat to watch. Taking you right back in time to a primitive era of American TV, where the shows were shot on video (unlike the 35mm film classics we're used to, like The Dick Van Dyke show we're enjoying on Netflix, and of course Bilko), Way Out also has the distinction of being one of the last US TV dramas to be made in New York, before all but late night comedy and chat shows moved to LA.

The stories have an eerie quality, added to by the distancing patina of age and lo-fidelity. And, though a couple of stories are hacky and run of the mill, most stand out with moodiness, surprising twists and genuine spookiness. They do, however, share another common factor which you can't miss after you've watched a few, and that's old fashioned 1950s misogyny. More than half feature men wanting to kill their wives or vice versa.

My favourite is The Overnight Case by Nicholas Pryor, a mind-twisting dream-within-a-dream story that knocks spots off Inception. Dissolve To Black is reminiscent of a recent Inside No 9 set in a TV studio; Side Show has all the best qualities of EC's Tales From The Crypt comic; and The Croaker features a child actor who went on to be John Boy in The Waltons.

The feature that dates these Way Out episodes more than anything is the sponsorship and the product placement. There are ads throughout for L & M cigarettes, plugging them as if they're pretty well a health food, and throughout his intros Roald Dahl is rather conspicously smoking a fag.

I can heartily recommend these to everyone. (The Way Out episodes, not the L&M cigarettes which, spoiler alert, turned out not to be very good for poor Roald in the long run).

'Way Out on Youtube

William & Mary by Roald Dahl
I Heard You Calling Me by Sumner Locke Elliot
The Croaker by Phil Reisman
False Face by Larry Cohen
Dissolve To Black by Irving Gaynor Neiman
Death Wish by Irving Gaynor Neiman
The Overnight Case by Nicholas Pryor
Hush Hush by Bob Van Scoyk
Side Show by Elliott Baker
20/20 by Jerome Ross

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

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do a tiny bit more Shakespeare in Halifax (Oct 26), Wolverhampton (Oct 28), Nottingham (Nov 4), and Goole (Nov 17) this autumn, returning with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

The Nativity - art completed

Having completed the script a month ago to the day, and delivered the line art a fortnight ago, it seems positively sluggish that I've only delivered the colour art today for The Nativity, a job that is, essentially 8 pages long (though it's broken down into A5 pages, so it's 16 really, in old money). But given that I've managed to cram in Comic Art Masterclasses in London (three times) and Andover, and Socks gigs in Derbyshire, London and Kirkcaldy, as well as trying not forget this is a holiday month when I'd normally be up in Edinburgh, I think I've done well working at this admittedly leisurely rate. It's also fun for a job to feel a bit like a labour of love. You remember, the way it was when I started drawing comics as a kid?

The timing of this job has worked out perfectly, funding me through August without the usual rigmarole of coughing up the vast expense of Edinburgh, then waiting till the Autumn for it all to come back in again. So civilised. Though not so attractive that I haven't already made plans to drain all my resources again next year by returning to Edinburgh with the Socks.

I'm hoping I'll get the go ahead soon to draw up the Women Of The Bible strips that I wrote at the start of the year but that are awaiting editorial feedback. It would be the best thing ever to have Ruth, Rahab and Jael Wife Of Heber ready to join Esther in a book by the start of the new year. Let us see what the autumn brings.

Though nobody will know it but me, the skinny one out of the Magi is supposed to be based on Brian Cox. Don't worry, it doesn't spoil his gags that I'm rubbish at caricatures.*

*NB: I'm not rubbish at caricatures, I'm brilliant at them, and available for parties. Book now for Christmas.

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

Monday 28 August 2017

Edinburgh Fringe - 15 bumps down the slippery slope

The most common complaints about the Edinburgh Fringe are that is too large and unwieldy, and that Comedy dominates it to the detriment of other artforms. This is quite possibly undeniable. But how did it get to be so? Let me have a look, possibly unscientifically but hopefully objectively, at some of the steps along the way that have led to the Edinburgh Fringe as we find it today.

1947 – Fringe and Festival start.

 The word ‘Fringe’ however, hasn’t been coined yet.

1948 – The term ‘Fringe’ is coined

The term ‘Fringe’ is coined thus by Robert Kemp in the Edinburgh Evening News: “Round the fringe of official Festival drama there seems to be more private enterprise than before.” This term goes on to develop the meaning of Alternative Theatre. Fringe Theatre is then exported from Edinburgh to London, and to the rest of the world, by the likes of Joan Littlewood who brings a company up in 1949.

1958 – First Free Fringe

Yehudi Menuhin creates the Free Fringe. Or tries to. Menuhin hires the Embassy Cinema in Pilton and wants to make admission free. A legal technicality prevents this, meaning the one-off performance was staged at a shilling per ticket, still well below the price of the Kings, the Lyceum, or the Playhouse. The place was packed, and he knew he’d succeeded in reaching non-Festival punters when "to Menuhin's delight, they clapped in all the wrong places."

1960 – Beyond The Fringe.

Part of the official Festival, as we all know, but establishing the implicit link between Fringe and comedy forever more. The Cambridge Footlights, The Oxford Revue and other University groups had been coming to Edinburgh with their amateur shows from the start. It was in the 1960s that Edinburgh began to be a showcase for their talents.

1966 – David Frost comes to town.

You can blame David Frost for many things, and bringing together of Edinburgh comedians and the telly is one of them. He had come up as a Cambridge Footlighter in the early 60s, and used many Oxbridge talents on his shows. Now a major TV celebrity, he started staging late night chat shows and cabarets at Edinburgh and attracting national press coverage.  In a talk to the Fringe Club, there was a call by John Calder (creator of the forerunner of the Edinburgh Book Festival) for "two Fringes, professional and amateur", suggesting that "the Fringe had taken over drama from the official Festival."

1970s – Fringe officially “too big”.

We know it’s too big, because everyone keeps saying so. In 1976, Cordelia Oliver writes in The Guardian, “The Edinburgh Fringe grows grosser every year like a fat old cat going to seed and not giving a damn. The official Fringe programme lists at least two hundred companies…” Two. Hundred. Companies. By 1979 that had grown to over 359 companies, in 2016 the total is listed as 3269 shows. In 1977 the retiring Festival director bemoans the TV coverage, revolving around a Russell Harty hosted chat show, saying “ it was principally the Fringe and every allusion to 'serious' programmes was carefully avoided.” The Fringe, and by the sound of it comedy, was taking over.

1978 – The multi-tenanted venue.

When William Burdett-Coutts hired The Assembly Rooms and divided it up into smaller performances spaces, then curated a programme of events to take place there, he single-handedly created the template for much of The Fringe from then on. A multiplex of entertainment, only possible with such a sitting-duck audience pool to draw on as was to be found in Edinburgh in August. Other venues working on a similar principle were The Wireworks (1978 – 92) on the Royal Mile – built by comedians, Rowan Atkinson drove the JCB to lay the foundations – and The Circuit (82 – 86) in a marquee on the crater of a demolished building which would go on to become the new Traverse Theatre at the back of the Usher Hall.  Those two venues were short-lived, but they were soon joined by two with a longer lifespan.

1981 – The Perrier Award.

Won initially by The Cambridge Footlights, whose revue was given a TV version as a result, making overnight stars of Fry, Laurie, Slattery and Thompson, this publicity-hungry award went on to become the centrepiece of Edinburgh’s annual month of comedy promotion.

1980s – The Alternative Comedy Boom.

The Pleasance began life as a curated multi-tenanted venue in 1984, the Gilded Balloon joining it in 1986. With the Assembly  completing The Big Three, they were home to a lot of comedy. There’d been a boom in TV comedy, largely led by the newly born Channel 4, whose Head Of Comedy Seamus Cassidy made Edinburgh an annual fishing trip for talent. At this time two big agencies – Off The Kerb and Avalon – came into being, and made Edinburgh and the contest for the Perrier Award, the hub of their comedy-to-TV promotion game.

1989 – Edinburgh Nights.

BBC TV had given sporadic coverage to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe since the 1960s,  but from 1989 it became an extension of Newsnight’s Later arts programme, under the name Edinburgh Nights. Presented by Mark Lamarr from the mid-90s it reached great heights of popularity and publicised the Edinburgh Fringe as never before.

1990s – Comedy Is The New Rock & Roll.

Baddiel and Newman off the telly sold out Wembley Stadium and the revolving door between stand up comedy and Edinburgh and TV success seemed firmly established.  The list of Perrier Newcomers alone is a roll call of names that remain giants of TV comedy today, from Tim Vine & Harry Hill to The Mighty Boosh and The League Of Gentlemen.  In 1999 600 companies give 15,000 performances at The Fringe (these not-quite-the-same figures make comparisons hard. We do know, though, that the total number of performances in 2016 was 50,266. So, by some measure or other, the Fringe grows by over 200% in a little over 15 years).

1996 – Bridget Jones Diary.

In Helen Fielding’s novel, her eponymous hero and her London friends go to the Edinburgh Fringe for the weekend, setting into cultural concrete, more firmly than a decade of Edinburgh Nights had done, The Fringe as a thing one did if one was one of the fashionable crowd.  A slice of their experience: "Arthur Smith's Hamlet is completely booked up, so we could go to the Coen brothers instead at five, but that means we'll be too late for Richard Herring. So shall we not go to Jenny Eclair ... - chuh! I frankly I don't know why she still bothers - and do Lanark, then try to get into Harry Hill or Bondages and Julian Clary. Hang on, I'll try the Gilded Balloon. No, Harry Hill's booked up, so shall we skip the Coen brothers?"

 In the same way that was happening to Glastonbury, gentrification was coming to Edinburgh. With it, ever-increasing prices.

2000s – Explosion (and burning down) of venues.

2000 – C Venues, 2002 – Underbelly, 2007 – Udderbelly, and from then on we have Zoo venues, Space Venues, Greenside, Southside,  and every side inbetween. The multi-tenanted venue, devised by Assembly in 1978, became the repeated model across Edinburgh seeing an expansion which, thankfully, redressed the balance away from the domination of stand up comedy, but greatly increased the number of performers and shows competing for a finite audience. My own venue, The Gilded Balloon, survived burning down, and being sponsored by a tobacco company. In so many ways, we weren’t in the 1980s any more.

2006 – Free Fringe Returns

Free Fringe, Free Festival, and later Heroes and others, developed new ways of funding shows, taking performers away for the Pay-To-Play Fringe model by now established in the curated venues, and again increasing the number of shows on offer. Now more was free than ever before and, ten years on from Bridget Jones, everything from food to tickets to accommodation cost twice as much as it ever had.

2012 – The Olympic Year.

Feeling almost like the bubble had burst, the Olympics in London coinciding with the Edinburgh Fringe had a devastating effect. As Richard Herring put it,  the Olympics “sucked the punters out of Edinburgh like someone opening the door on a spaceship.” We all recovered and came back the next year.

2017 – Lots of moaning. So, business as usual.

Which brings us to the present day. 2017 was a year when I read more negativity than I can remember reading before. From the chair of the Cockburn Association (me neither) saying the Fringe is “choking the city” and urging some restraint or changes, to Tommy Shepard of the Stand continuing to suggest the Fringe should move to earlier in the summer so as to minimize the clash with the Festival and Tattoo, and to coincide more with the Scottish school holidays. More observations collected below.

Has my look back at the timeline of the Fringe helped our understanding? Probably not, but it's helped me stop running the whole thing over in my mind, in preparation for my return with a brand new show in 2018 where I look forward to continuing to be part of the problem. If I can ever be part of the solution, do please let me know.

UPDATE 2022 - See author Kev F's (aka The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre) at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe from Aug 3 - 13 in Scottish Falsetto Socks: Eurovision Sock Contest

The Award Winning* Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are Superheroes at The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe from August 1st to 26th 2018 - ON SALE NOW! 

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

(From original blog post 2017: The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do a tiny bit more Shakespeare in Halifax (Oct 26), Wolverhampton (Oct 28), Nottingham (Nov 4), and Goole (Nov 17) this autumn, returning with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.)


Big Four Venues (Gilded Balloon, Assembly, Underbelly, Pleasance) announce record-breaking ticket sales across the festival, with 1,520,435 tickets sold, an increase of 15% on Fringe 2016. 

"2,696,884 tickets issued" The Edinburgh Fringe's record-breaking stats

The Pleasance's record-breaking 2017 stats

Underbelly's record-breaking 2017 stats

All the 2017 Award winners, from Fringe Firsts to Comedy Awards to Significant Contribution To Sustainable Practice (there are a lot of awards these days)

Lyn Gardner on whether free tickets mean a critic must review your show

Gender Bias across Fringe reviews, from Howl Sanctuary

"You can't expect too much for a thousand pounds a week, right?" - Richard Herring ends the Fringe on a positive note.

Hits & Shits as seen by West End Producer #Dear

"I watched the same play 22 times" - Author Anne Penketh's first time on the Fringe

A festival to me is a celebration and not a competition" - Douglas Deans on his one man show at Zoo

Full financial breakdown of Andy Quirk's Free Fringe shows

Comedians on the physical effects of the Fringe, a week later

Sunday 27 August 2017

Comic Art Masterclasses - booking into 2018

Kev F's Comic Art Masterclasses, booking into 2018

As you've probably heard, The Beano has been named as the theme for the Reading Agency's Summer Reading Challenge 2018.

As a writer & artist for the Beano (& Marvel & Doctor Who comics) I'll be continuing to bring my Comic Art Masterclasses to schools, libraries and art centres across the country, giving children an insight into the way it's done in The Beano, and in all comic genres from superhero to indie to manga and beyond. In my many classes over a decade of working in schools, I've found comics to be a vital missing link in teaching literacy. I'm regularly told I get kids who don't read to start reading, and kids who don't write to start telling stories in pictures.

I'd love to deliver workshops to your schoolkids, if you'd like "The Man From The Beano" to come to town.

My workshop (which you can see in action here: ) is for pupils aged 7 and older. By the end of two & a half hours, a class of up to 30 at a time has produced a comic to take away, containing a strip by each of them, plus an individual caricature by me, and learned all there is to know about comics and manga.

For any further details, please feel free to ring or email. I look forward to being able to pay you a visit at some time soon.

All the very best

Kev F Sutherland
07931 810858

Thursday 24 August 2017

50 Money Jokes - story behind a new video from the Socks

Brand new video from the Scottish Falsetto Socks, 50 Money Jokes (click to play), was inspired by the winner of this year's Edinburgh Fringe Best Joke Of The Fringe. Also available without subtitles. After a couple of days the Facebook version has 1700 views, 50 shares and 6688 people reached. (Facebook page currently stands on 2608 likes and 2577 follows. I ought to start keeping tabs on these things.)

This year's Joke Of The Fringe, which is a contest sponsored by Dave that supposedly involves jokes being judges at this year's Edinburgh Fringe (though that subterfuge was blown when the shortlist of gags was published before the Fringe had even started, showing that it's a promotional campaign contrived between an ad agency and PR companies, leaving most Edinburgh performers totally out of the loop) was won by Cambridge Footlighter Ken Cheng.

His joke was "I'm not a fan of the new £1 coin, but then I hate all change". I immediately looked on Twitter to see how original that gag was. I found examples of it from March this year.

I posted this rather arsey observation and, to his credit, Ken Cheng tweeted me back with minutes.

I googled a bit further and found examples of the gag going back to 2015...

Then, revelation of revelations I went back to 2014, and who do I find tweeting the gag on March 21st 2014? Only Ken blooming Cheng himself!

So he is vindicated and justice is done. Ken Cheng tweeted the gag on March 21st 2014. Just nobody mention these tweets from a couple of days earlier...

The Scottish Falsetto Socks will be eligible for Dave's Joke Of The Fringe when they return in 2018. But since they don't hire a PR company to send their jokes in advance to Dave's ad agency, they won't be appearing on next year's shortlist (some jokes of which will have been written many many years ago).

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do a tiny bit more Shakespeare in Halifax, Wolverhampton, Nottingham and Goole this autumn, returning with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Bloodstock, Camden, Kirkcaldy - Socks do variety

After a quiet month for the Socks, we crammed quite the variety of gigs into a week, giving ourselves a mini Edinburgh Fringe experience to boot.

Last Saturday saw the Socks playing the New Blood stage at Bloodstock, a Heavy Metal festival in Derbyshire. And very heavy metal it is too, the sort where the vocalists scream constantly and the guitars don't stop for breath. Quite how comedy was going to go down there was hard to predict. But what do you know, being the middle of three acts, doing just 20 minutes, we went down brilliantly.

We gave them I'm A Sock, Halloween, Michael Jackson, Walk On The Wild Side and Sweary Poppins, all self-teched by me from my ipod taped to the set, and that was twenty minutes flown by in a blink. Smashing crowd.

The on Wednesday and Thursday the Socks played The Bill Murray pub as part of The Camden Fringe (thanks to Louisa Gummer for the photo). Advance sales were slow, though I have to say I enjoyed having the Red61 ticket sales to check every day, giving me a small taste of the Edinburgh experience that we're missing this year. When it came to it though, Wednesday had about 30 in, and Thursday looked dangerously close to a sellout (the room only holds 50). At time of writing I only know the advance sales and can't see the door sales, but they were both cracking gigs, getting us a 4 star review and being a perfect end to the Socks Do Shakespeare spring tour.

Then on Friday it was off to Kirkcaldy. A booking that I'd agreed to, initially hoping I'd surround it with classes in libraries up there and maybe make a week of it, it ended up with me flying, hiring a car, and staying over in a B&B, all to play a 10 minute slot (shortest slot of the year I think) in a variety show. So not a very profitable gig, but an enjoyable one.

And an interesting one. A young magician called Liam Black had organised it, and put together quite the most diverse bill I've ever been on. The Socks followed a childrens Pipe Band. Liam himself did fifty-year-old gags, some of which hadn't gone through a 21st century filter but the audience seemed to like them, and he did a lot of trad magic tricks, which again the coothy audience warmed to. There was a mind reader, a singer from a kids show called The Singing Kettle which I hadn't heard of but which was apparently massive in Scotland back in the day, and there was Dean Park, who's been in panto for 40 years and who tells The Comedians style of 1960s jokes (luckily racism free) in a cracking professional style, opening and closing with a cheesy song.

My favourite act was stand up David Kay, an actual circuit comic with a unique dry style which only some of the audience got, and with whom I went for a drink afterwards, learning a lot about the working of Scottish TV comedy (he;s had a few TV things, including a sitcom pilot made by the Absolutely guys). 

To round off my whistle stop Scottish tour, I made it into Edinburgh on Saturday morning before anyone was awake (well, from 10 - 11.30, so before any comedians were up) and got to feel a tiny bit of the Edinburgh vibe I've been missing. I smelled the Edinburgh smell! Also revisited our haunts of Bristo Square, seeing its remodelled look, Worlds End Close where we've stayed for two years, up the Royal Mile, down the Mound, past the Assembly Rooms, through Princes St Gardens, up The Vennel where we stayed two years ago, and away. And do you know what, I felt almost like I'd done Edinburgh, without having to form out six thousand quid for the privilege.

In the airport I started writing ideas, and even some bad gags, for what might turn out to be next year's show. I'm starting with Art as the subject, but that could change (art was to be the subject for 2015's show, before it morphed into Minging Detectives, so anything could happen). Best gag so far? "I discovered I could do modern art when I was tracing maps of the Middle East. I couldn’t do a trace of Beirut, I couldn’t do a trace of Egypt, but I could do a good Trace o’Yemen." So, a lot of work to do yet, eh.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do a tiny bit more Shakespeare in Halifax, Wolverhampton, Nottingham and Goole this autumn, returning with a brand new show in 2018. Stay tuned.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...