Sunday 31 March 2024

Alan Seaman 1959 - 2024

Dreadful news for comedy lovers, I’m afraid my old friend Alan Seaman has died.

I got a text from him on the Thursday saying he'd been attacked by an "aggressive cancer" that he didn't think he'd be able to fight. This was devastating and unexpected news. As coincidence would have it, I was due to travel up to Leicester that weekend to do a comic class at the library, so Hev and I had the chance to visit him in Leicester Royal Infirmary.

He was surrounded by the family - Sonia who I'd seen with Alan a year ago, Kate who we hadn't seen for probably ten years, Jamie who we'd not seen for longer, and Marcus who we'd not seen since he was a round faced baby, he's now twenty five. Poor Alan didn't look well, and he joked about their Doctor who they'd christened "Dr Doom", as she seemed only to have bad news every time she came in.

When we left they'd just had another bit of obviously bad news broken to them, just out of shot as Hev and I went for a walk with Kate and Jamie, and we left them in an inevitably sombre mood. But Hev and I were so glad we'd had the chance to see Alan and to say, not in those actual words, good bye.

The news we'd been expecting came while Hev and I were on the way to Bodelwyddan. By the time I came to saying anything about it online, I was heartened to see literally dozens of comedians had already come forward to say lovely things about Alan. I don't think I'd realise how widely known he was. It didn't surprise me how well loved and universally appreciated he was.

Alan Seaman 1959 - 2024

Our good friend Alan has died, unexpectedly, at the age of just 64. Comedy lovers will know him as the promoter and compere of comedy shows in Leicestershire at various locations, usually under the banner of Ship Of Fools comedy. As well as being each other’s Best Men at our weddings, our association together went back many years, including us running one of Leicester's earliest comedy clubs.

It was an unimaginable forty years ago that he and I started performing comedy together. We met, he and I and my wife to be Heather, in 1984, as contributors to BBC Radio Leicester's youth programme Primetime. This weekly show gave a break to a number of talents who went on to become professional broadcasters. Alan and I specialised in comedy and, though he also busied himself reviewing and interviewing bands when he got the chance, it was comedy sketches that became our most popular contributions.

We got the chance to take our ideas to the live stage when we discovered a comedy club that was being run above The Magazine pub in Newarke Street. When he and I started doing stand up slots, at what was then called The Magazine Jokespace (a play on the name of the neighbouring Magazine Workspace), run by actors from the Phoenix Theatre across the road, we both disguised ourselves as characters. I was comedy policeman PC Bharsted, and Alan was bespectacled insurance clerk John Dull.

The John Dull character was inspired by Alan's then day job, working as an insurance clerk for Norwich Union, a job that linked him, nominally, to his native Fakenham in Norfolk. Though he and his family had moved to Leicester when Alan was a schoolboy, he would regularly return to Norfolk. Indeed one of the shows he went on to perform at the Leicester Comedy Festival in the 2000s was entitled Normal For Norfolk. He and his wife Sonia had, in recent years following the death of his parents, bought a house in Kings Lynn to do up.

After performing stand up comedy for a while in Leicester, Alan and I ventured out into the then nascent comedy circuit. The listings in Time Out still classed it as Alternative Cabaret and we travelled to art centres and pubs across the Midlands, on bills that would regularly include folk acts and poetry, pure comedy nights being a rarity, as well as dipping our toes into the London scene.

It was in 1987 that Alan and I took over the running of the comedy club at the Magazine, renaming it The Monkhouse. An image of Bob Monkhouse, from an advert in a 1950s Eagle comic, was our logo. Bob had nothing to do with the club, having been chosen as an ironic example of precisely the sort of comedy we thought we were providing an alternative to, and I doubt he ever heard of our existence. Don’t look for it, it’s not there any more, the pub being demolished in the 1990s to make way for new Court and office buildings.

Alan did most of the work, namely booking the acts, who included early gigs by Jo Brand (then The Sea Monster), Patrick Marber, Mark Lamarr, Frank Skinner and many more. They would regularly sleep on the floor of his house in Markfield after the show. My main responsibility was designing the posters, which I ran off on the photocopier at work. In those days before social media, that and word of mouth was the only publicity we had. The monthly shows were regular sellouts. When I moved away in 1989, Alan kept the club going, and maintained his efforts as a promoter and performer.

Though we lived in different parts of the country, Alan and I continued to collaborate through the 90s, on comic strips including the UT music parody in Sounds magazine, and in a range of humour magazines.
Heather and I have kept in touch with Alan, Sonia and the kids ever since. I was a mystifying choice of Godfather to their eldest, Kate, a role which I doubt I've done justice to. I returned to play at Alan's shows at The Looking Glass on Narborough Road and Ha Ha Comedy in Market Harborough in recent years.

We were very very lucky to be able to visit him in hospital when he’d got the news of his illness. He described it as an “aggressive cancer”, which had come upon him very quickly and he knew he didn’t have long.
We are so sad at the loss of him, and give all our love to Sonia and the kids. He kept giving to comedy right to the end. Nice work, Uncle Anal.

My Books and where to get them:

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy - Barnes & Noble - Waterstones
Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy - Kindle
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon Webtoons
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

Saturday 30 March 2024

Durer & Meth Lab Oompa Loompa - March's Facebook ramblings

March 3: Enjoyed the Durer exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery yesterday. But I had to quibble (silently to myself obviously) with the accompanying text to this image, the Men’s Bath House. They made literally no mention of them being gay men and it being heavily and deliberately homo-erotic.

I mean, the picture might have been parodic and even mocking, I don’t know. But look at it. I can only spot one bit of it that’s not homo-erotic and that’s the fact that it’s not in colour. Follow the eyelines, it’s totally 15th century Grindr.
Also the text ludicrously suggested Durer himself was the guy on the left with a tap by his knob, whereas it’s obviously the guy in the middle distance, outside the bath house, looking in. The one wearing clothes.
Anyway, lots of good comic art in the show. Very reminiscent of the 1970s when Marvel and DC artists started doing prints of gothic and mythical stuff. You can tell Barry Smith and Mike Kaluta had Durer books on their shelves.

If “I Was Meth Lab Oompa Loompa” is not on at Edinburgh this year, I shall be well disappointed.
See also Post Office Scandal The Musical, though sadly it won’t be our version as we can’t afford it this year (Unless anyone has a spare six grand?)


March 10: Our record breaking time for giving up on a movie must be last night’s Damsel.
After just ten minutes we turned to each other realising that the rest of the film was going to be as badly written as the opening section so no point in carrying on
In the struggle against AI this film does all humans a disservice. I challenge ChatGPT to deliver a more cliched set up and less imaginative dialogue than the first ten minutes of Damsel.

March 11: Continuing a tradition I'm not proud of, of bailing on movies before they're finished, last night we gave up on The Marvels after 48 minutes.
We were tolerating it, right up till almost the halfway mark, but it just became too annoying to watch a movie that, I knew, neither of us were quite getting. Who were these people? Where had they got these powers from? Who were these aliens? What was at stake? And how did it matter, whatever happened?
A film that demands you to have watched a not very good previous film, from over five years ago (Captain Marvel), and two TV series, one of which wasn't very good (Ms Marvel) and another that was four years ago, and from which I hadn't remembered that character getting those powers (Wanda Vision), is a seriously undermined film.
None of the characters is made sympathetic or believable, except Ms Marvel who's actually quite charming and, to be honest, the one thing that kept us watching.The Kree and Skrull go totally unexplained, and are the most confusing part of the whole thing. I honestly don't know which movies or TV shows you're supposed to study as homework in order to care who they are and what they want, but if it involves watching the execrable Secret Invasion, then forget it.
I sincerely hope we will be seeing the end of these dreadful sequel-to-a-dozen-other-sequels movies, cos, try as I might, I am not enjoying them, and can only assume they're have the same alienating effect on other viewers who would otherwise like movies about Marvel superheroes.
I hope The Fantastic Four is a movie that starts from scratch and can be watched in isolation. Fingers crossed.

March 11: Last week I did three days in schools where it was World Book Day and everyone was dressed up. I was momentarily taken aback when a little girl said she was Gwen Stacey.
To a comic reader of my vintage, Gwen Stacey is the famous dead girlfriend from an iconic 1973 Spider-Man comic. To 8 year old kids she's actually a superhero.
By the way, for the record, the Spider-verse is the only Marvel set of characters I saw referenced by the cosplay kids in three primary schools (there were a couple of Miles Morales and a couple of Tom Holland Spider-Men, as well as the aforementioned Gwen). The other Marvels were very much sidelined by Harry Potter (single most popular choice of fancy dress) and Star Wars (I know, how "book day" is that?)
The posh school in Chelsea had the most diverse costumes, including three Bunny Vs Monkeys, a couple of Dogmans, two Tintins (one with Snowy in their bag) and an Asterix and Obelix.

Red Dwarf Smegazinies, hands up who remembers this signing and where it might have been? Photo unearthed today from deep in the vaults

Steve Noble: Blimey, Carl Flint, Woodrow Phoenix, Alan Burrows… those were the days! Has to be the one and only signing at one of the London Forbidden Planet stores. Where the huge queue outside on the pavement turned out to be for…Iain Banks.

Mike Butcher: Didn’t we do a panel at an event at Alexandra Palace? Could this have been there? Or did I dream that?

Paul Birch: Yes, there was a Red Dwarf panel at the Alexandra Palace event. There were also bomb threats in London that day, when I travelled down, so that's another reason it sticks in my mind.

Me: Uncle Kev the photo detective has the answer. Look at Mike’s badge. It’s Glascac 93


March 23: Who the hell had ever heard of a DUNS number before?
In just another of the billions of Kafkaesque hoops one seems to be made to jump through in recent years, if you want to work in schools and libraries, the latest apparent waste of time (I mean, it genuinely is taking up time, as for whether it serves an actual purpose and therefore justifies its existence I have yet to ascertain) is a DUNS number.
"What's your D-U-N-S number?" they ask. With extra mental hyphenation, just to wind you up a bit more, as if'n the time-wasting part wasn't enough.
Turns out it's a Dun & Bradstreet number. Why the hell should you need one of those, you ask? Well, it's a number that Dun and Bradstreet give you if your company is registered at Companies House. Fair enough, you say. So, how does it differ from just giving your Registered Company number?
"Ah," they say, "but this is a Dun and Bradstreet number."
If ever anything could be said in the same tone of voice as "But these go up to eleven" while displaying a total lack of self-awareness of its own futility, it's that sentence.
Anyone else suddenly found themselves having to look up their DUNS number? (Which, by the way, you have to fill out boxes and then wait for an email to get - I've written this while waiting for the email. Because obviously I have nothing better to do. I'm only the Managing Director of a sodding Limited Company!)
PS: Look how they brand the number when they send it to you: It's your D-U-N-S® Number. With a little sodding ® at the end. Who the hell ever puts a stupid sodding 'look at me' ® at the end of their name? T-W-A-T-S


Top tip: if you’ve got a bit of a chip on your shoulder about posh folk and how much better they seem to do compared to the rest of us, don’t start your day by casually googling the schools that “ordinary bloke” film directors Matthew Vaughn and Guy Ritchie went to.
Once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of “notable former pupils” and found half the successful actors and business folk you’ve ever heard of, it’s quite dispiriting
So, normal people, what notable former pupils went to your school? I’ll start: the bloke who played Selwyn Froggit.

Paul Savage
Tom Parry (of Pappy’s) was a few years above me at my school
Kev Sutherland
Oh yeah, I was a year above Justin Currie out of Del Amitri and the singer out of Gaye Bykers On Acid.
Dave Trendell
J K Rowling went to Wydean School in Sedbury where I was at school. A good few years before me though!
Billy Rumbold
I get a bee in my bonnet about this frequently…. Some private schools dominate public life…. Oxford/Cambridge grads are in almost every BBC show.
My school had Scotland’s first convicted stalker.
Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
I went to a bog-standard comprehensive and old boys include: Derek Jacobi, Jonathan Woss, Frank Muir, Bobby Crush, and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden!
John Styles
Francis the weatherman!
Wil Hodgson
Tyrone Mings
Ash Preston
My high school alumni are Kerry Katona & Chris Evans
Dave Gormano
Julia Hills from 2.4 Children. And Jony Ive the Apple designer although he was only briefly in the 6th form, apparently.
Adrian Thompson
Dougie Lampkin, the world trials champion, and Clare Teal, the jazz singer, apparently. 
Stew Spaull
Dennis Skinner. Mike McCarthy from Look North.
Rob Heeney
Mark Cavendish, Joe Locke.
Paul H Hunt
H from Steps, and Callum Howells
Mikhail Belgravski
Chris Moore and Wes Foderingham. Apparently they’re footballers. Betty Boo and Donna McConnell from the She Rockers.
Kevin Bland
Boothby Graffoe & Robert Webb.
Stuart Hume
We had Christopher Strauli and Nicholas Pandolfi at ours.
Peter Wood
I could name some inmates, but noone famous from my school lol
Mike Hayley
Stan Laurel.
Robin Miller
Some guy called David McDonald was at mine.
Ray Davis
aparently both my primary and secondary schools were attended by nothing but losers and cannon fodder (Although Alex Stepney was once our PE teacher)
Karen Sherrard
Eddie the Eagle and Nick P Page
Allison Ewing
Stan Laurel, Winnie Ewing, John Maclean, Ally MacLeod, Ian McCaskill, Manny Shinwell.
Amanda Davey
Joe Pasquale.
The school is now demolished along with my empty memories
Julian Lee
Nobody. That’s how common I am.
Catriona Hamilton
I can't think of anyone who went to school here & became famous...oh unless an equestrian Olympic Gold Medal winner, Scott Brash, even got a gold post box & an amazing sculpture of him & his horse, made by a fairly weel kent blacksmith sculptor, outta horseshoes.
Stu Perrins
My high school was the one used in Clockwise
Georgina Sowerby
Wendy Craig!
Allan Harvey
Hey, I was at my school -- that should be enough for anyone!
Dan Evans
It appears Tim Key went to my school.
Michael Bowdidge
Nick Berry, David Rappaport, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Tony Robinson. I wasn't at school with any of them though.
Chris Overend
Paul O’Grady aka Lily Savage
Steven Higgins
Dougie from McFly and Perrie from Diversity
David Metcalfe-Carr
Tv magic man Paul Zenon
Drew Taylor
Beyond sport, I don’t think anyone famous went to my school but in terms of sport we’ve had wales and British lions internationals Matthew Rees and Cliff Morgan
Tony O'Donnell
Nobody ?
Keith Ramsey
John Dee who was Elizabeth I’s favourite astrologer.
Andy White
Joe Lycett. He was a few years below me - about twenty. The actress Kate Ashfield was in my sixth form. She was Simon Pegg's girlfriend in Shaun of the Dead. The closest I got to a film career was failing the audition for Sex Lives of the Potato Men, one of the worst comedies ever made in this country. Still not sure if I'm relieved or insulted.
Edward Knight
Nobody famous went to my former-grammar-turned-comprehensive school apart from Dave Greenfield of The Stranglers, the daughter of the Private Eye cartoonist Heath, and several members of the Pookiesnackenburger/Stomp Cresswell family. Oh, and Phats of the pop group Phats and Small.
Steve Day
No one famous and the school no longer exists. I'm beginning to think I imagined the whole thing
Tony Coll
Alfred Hitchcock. The Beatles producer George Martin. Late BBC reporter Brian Hanrahan.
Mike Higgins
Le Sac vs Pip
Margaret Cabourn-Smith
Tony Slattery
Steph Ashford
Stephen Hendry, the snooker player, was a few years above me at high school
Jessie-lu Pants
Crazily I discovered Anjelica Huston went to mine.
Iszi Lawrence
Bella the tweenie (the blue one)
Doug Segal
I went to two different secondary schools.
Former Alumni of the two:
Billy Ocean
Denise van Outen
Scott Robinson of Five
Richard Hayes
From my comprehensive school at the same time, Cyril Nri, Robyn Moore, Gwyneth Strong, Jason Salkey, Ari Up plus others. Before my time Angelica Houston, Hillary Benn and art teacher Bryan Ferry. Later on, Yazz, Omid Djalili, Amanda de Cadenet, plus a bunch of teenagers who joined Islamic State. Apologies to any I haven't mentioned!
Danny Doyle
Gareth Pugh, the internationally renowned fashion designer and friend of Kylie Minogue was in my form class for five years of secondary school.
Rupert Wainwright
Dominic Holland and the magnificently named Roger Caesar Marius Bernard de Delgado Torres Castillo Roberto.
Peter More
Keith Richards is quite notable! Also, apparently, Mackenzie Crook was there at about the same time as me but if our paths crossed, I have no recollection
Tony Aloysius Amis
One of Paul Merton improv friends at comedy store & chap who owns Forest Green Rovers.
Peter Duncan
Willie Anderson, former captain of the Irish Rugby team. First to ‘take on the Haku’ by walking his team nose to nose with the New Zealanders. They insisted on a rule change after that.
Meryl O'Rourke
Paul Hardcastle. Felix- that child who presented the Tube- he was there same time as me, got relentlessly bullied for his fame, I remember an ambulance being called...
Mark McKean
The Boo Radleys.
Davy Francis
Peter Scott, the cat burglar to the stars, went to our school.The nearest I got to a life of crime was spending 12 shillings on sweets that I should have put into my school savings.My teacher, Miss McIveen(who was an evil old bitch) ratted me out, and gave me six swipes of the cane.
Davy Francis
Oh, and Allie McMordie from Stiff Little Fingers.I was in the same class as Jake Burns, at primary school.
Nigel Parkinson
Leonard Rossiter (before my time) and Holly Johnson (during my time)

March 25: Have I told you this story before (NB I undoubtedly have)? Mum and Dad bought our family home in Leicestershire in 1968. Dad was earning £9000 a year, a very well paid salesman in his 30s. The detached 4 bedroom house (bigger than the example in this picture) cost £8000.
When we sold their house in 2019 it went for £350,000.
For a thirty-something salesperson like Dad to buy a house the way Dad did, for less than his salary, they’d need to be earning £400,000
Just an example I like to give for context. Usually when some idiot says “if you stopped eating at Costas you could buy a house.”

My Books and where to get them:

Richard The Third Amazon - Etsy - Barnes & Noble - Waterstones
Findlay Macbeth - Amazon  - Etsy 
Prince Of Denmark Street - Amazon - Etsy - Kindle
Midsummer Nights Dream Team  - Amazon Etsy 
Shakespeare Omnibus Collection (all 3 books) - Amazon

Tales From The Bible - Amazon -  Etsy - Webtoons
The Book Of Esther - Lulu  - Amazon Webtoons
Captain Clevedon - Amazon
Tales Of Nambygate - Amazon  

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