June has been the quietest month of the year for my Comic Art Masterclasses, being the height of exam season and with no Bank Holidays or half terms to fill. But inbetween working hard at my desk producing the Socks comic and finalising the show, I've managed a few days at the chalkface. These two examples are from Dean Close School in Cheltenham.
It was a long hot six and a half hour drive to Felixstowe for these two classes, but well worth it they were. Thanks to the Felixstowe Book Festival for laying on these sessions at the library.
This month saw a couple of events where I was invited to give a talk, but not to do the full class. So on both these occasions - at Croome House in Worcestershire, and a park in Maidenhead - I had lots of spare time on my hands in which to turn out a nice page of flipchart for them to keep. The examples above are from Croome, which was Beano themed as you can tell, and Dean Close school where my classes had a late start cos the kids had to get their innoculations. The one below was Maidenhead's flipchart.
At Ludlow Fringe I did one class on the afternoon ahead of doing the Socks show in the evening, and here's what they produced.
The celebrities these 5 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Kim Jong Un, David Attenborough, Donald Trump (twice), and Tom Holland. PLUS - an added bonus - I did three talks (in Maidenhead and Croome) which didn't involve making a comic but did involve the demo strip, for which those three groups chose Simon Cowell, David Walliams, and Mary Berry.
At long last, and much later then in previous years, I've got the new flyers and posters artworked for our Edinburgh show. 2015's were completed in the April of that year (according to this blog, which shows all the previous flyers going back to 2007), but this year I've somehow not got round to it till now. (2016's flyer doesn't get blogged till August, so maybe I've not been so tardy this year after all). I'm particularly pleased with the back of the flyer.
The artwork, which I coloured specially, is from the splash page of the Socks Superheroes comic, which will be on sale at the Fringe, I hope (I'm sitting on nearly 500 copies, so we'd better start shifting them soon). Whether its resemblance to the Infinity War poster has retained any currency I don't know, but I think it represents the show well and should be fun to hand out at the rate of 300 a day.
I'd been struggling with the poster, trying to make it look more exciting and superheroic without cluttering it. I have a variety of other socks cartoon figures to use, but it became too busy when I stuck them in. So I went with lightning, which seems to have done the trick.
I've put in a bid for a big A1 poster outside the venue, though they're reserving those spaces for the shows in bigger rooms than me. Still, it would be great if I could have one and artwork a character-filled border to go with it. Let's see.
Here comedians choose half-a-dozen or so of their favourite comedy moments, illustrated with clips. Whether it's just the things that make them laugh or important influences on their careers, these selections reveal what makes their comedy brains tick.
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre pick their perfect playlist from their favourite comedy double acts.
It’s our tenth year doing a brand new show at the Edinburgh Fringe, so it’s about time we fessed up and revealed the comedy acts off whom we ripped our act. Though every line we write is sparklingly original and fresh from our hard-working comedy brains, it’s hard to help noticing all these other acts who, spookily, did most of our schtick first.
Bob & Terry, The Likely Lads
You know that routine the Socks do in every show where one of us mishears a word the other one’s said and it spirals through a series of similar misunderstandings to a hilarious conclusion? Yes you do. Oh come on, we’ve done it in every bloody show. Well, it turns out (we find, having seen it repeated on Yesterday) we totally lifted that from Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads. Also the whole Aspirational One v Complacent One schtick. Thanks Clements & LaFrenais.
Peter Cook & Dudley Moore
There’s no shame in admitting you’re wallowing in the shadow of two of the most respected comedians in history. Although what we took from Pete & Dud wasn’t the sparkling wit or the accomplished piano playing. It was what Cook called Happy Amateurism, which was his excuse for being an alcoholic and our excuse for perennial underachievement. And corpsing. We took that from them too.
Peter Glaze & Don Maclean
History has largely forgotten this pair, who live on only in the memory of people of a certain age. They were the comedy stars of Crackerjack, on children’s BBC from the mid 70s to the early 80s, by which time Glaze, who had been a member of The Crazy Gang in the 50s, was already one of the oldest people I’d ever seen on the telly. He’s the guy who coined “D’oh”, which sadly Homer Simpson went on to own. As a double act they perfected the Cheeky One constantly getting the rise out of the Uptight One, and Crackerjack ended every week with a musical parody. Sometimes they changed the lyrics, but the songs were at their most satisfactory when they just sang them straight. I say straight…
The Two Ronnies
Gerald Wiley, aka Ronnie Barker, may be the single most influential writer on our work. He did word play which may have become unfashionable in subsequent years but stands the test of time, and did the best Putting Words To Other Peoples Songs there is.
National Theatre Of Brent
Why doesn’t everyone know the National Theatre Of Brent? Now riding high on the success of The 39 Steps, Patrick Barlow’s Desmond Olivier Dingle was the ultimate Uptight Guy Who’s Trying To Put On A Play. And Jim Broadbent, now way famouser than Patrick Barlow in a way that nobody would have predicted back the the National Theatre Of Brent’s heyday, was the best Dopey Sidekick ever. “Might ine ask” is a phrase still used regularly in our home. If you’ve never seen the NTOB, that will mean nothing to you. On the plus side, though, you’ll think the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre totally invented our way of doing Shakespeare parodies and historic re-enactions.
Mr Show with Bob & Dave
Mr Show wasn’t, strictly, an influence on The Socks because, to be honest, we’d been going for five years before we even knew it existed. But it pre-dates us, so it counts. And has some of the most out-of-the-box original double-act sketch work we’ve ever seen.
Abbott & Costello
If there had never been a Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre then history would have to settle for these guys. I mean, contrived word play? Histrionic over acting in a high pitched voice? A straight guy who never gets a laugh? It’s okay. We’re here now, you never have to watch these guys ever ag - Third Base!
This sketch hasn't made it into the show, though the song that goes with it has. Stay tuned for that if you see the show live, or when it makes its way online after the show's had its time in Edinburgh. This is a lovely bit of fun and I do hope people like it.
Brand new video from The Socks' Superheroes playlist, Thor and Odin. Enjoy.
This is a gag that I first did in one of my comic strips, in something like UT, Gag, Blag, Gas or some such comic of the time, at least 25 years ago, so I'm making no claims for novelty here. But I've always liked the gag and, though it's not made it into the show, it works well as a short video. If only more people watched these things than come and see us live, eh?
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 - emailfor de
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.
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
Scottish Superheroes - moved from later in show, good move
Hulk Ang Lee
Batman/ Teeth / etc - moved from later in show, good move
NEW Bechdel Test song - brilliant. So glad I came up with this
NEW Helium routine - very good, that's staying
Racist Brother song
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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?