Reginald D Hunter – Arts Depot

Saturday 8th May 2010

Having only seen glimpses of Reginald D Hunter, mainly on shows like Have I Got News For You, I was intrigued to see him perform live.

Back at the Arts Depot, but this time in the larger Pentland Theatre. The night began with the support act, Steve Hughes, with his brand of intellectual humour. There were a number of gems, especially the material on Murdoch, but my favourite had to be the ‘straight men, gay men’ routine.

After a short interval, it was time for Reginald D Hunter to take to the floor. Even by his own admission, this wasn’t going to be a continuous laugh out loud stand up routine. In fact, while there were many moments where the audience were in hysterics, this felt far more like a comedy lecture. The Tiger Woods material was exceptionally good. Suffice to say Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama were not immune from his criticism.

I did feel sorry for poor Rupert, the young teenage Conservative. He was sat a couple of seats away from me, at the front of the stage. Imagine Reginald D Hunter asking who’d just voted Tory in the election, only for a dream stereotype to have the guts to put his hand up. Such an easy picking for the smart comedian and to be fair because of that he let him off lightly.

So there you have it. A comedian who swayed away from normal stand-up and towards a routine with principles presented in a humorous way. I really enjoyed it and would love to see Reginald D Hunter performing again.

Robin Ince’s School of Gifted Children May Ball – Bloomsbury Theatre

Friday 7th May 2010

Considering I’d missed an earlier School of Gifted Children 5 weeks ago, I was determined to make it to the May Ball – Module One.

It was the evening after the early hours of the General Election result. With no clear winner, most of the audience seemed exhausted after staying up through the night to watch the race unfold. The only thing that was clear, was that nothing was clear. A slightly somber Robin Ince entered the stage, sharing the pain felt by most of the audience. However, an array of ‘gifted children’ from the worlds of comedy, science and beyond were backstage waiting for their opportunity to enlighten us.

It was up to Martin White, with his karaoke-style entertainment to give us a kick up the backside and awaken us from this nightmarish dream. With random audience answers defining the lyrics and musical notes, along with a 3 syllable title, Napalm Death was the astonishingly catchy outcome.

On stage next was Andrew Collins with his attack on the red squirrel brigade and their somewhat racist goal of wiping out the grey squirrels. He also let it be known that he’d like a robin to eat from his hand, a duck to give him a kiss on the cheek and to walk hand in hand with a pigeon. I wish him well with all his ambitions.

With her self-confessed Susan Boyle appearance, Susan Vale cracked on with ‘normally I just do gags about quantum physics and end with a joke about nobs, but I can’t because Brian is here tonight.’ With her enormous collection of CD’s from the Fall and audience participation, her routine was disturbingly funny.

‘Wonders Man’, Professor Brian Cox focused on the lack of government investment in scientific research. As I’d hoped, a spectacular slide show followed, with astonishing images including the Earth as a just a pale blue dot, along with the Milky Way in all its glory. Climate change deniers were provided with a lesson on ‘known’ facts, while astrologers who continue to correspond with him were told where to go in no uncertain terms.

Surprisingly, Dr Simon Singh was introduced next for a brief talk on libel reform, covering his ordeal with the British Chiropractic Association. He in turn introduced Ben Goldacre, focusing the plight of Dr Evan Harris, having lost his seat in the General Election to a Christian fundamentalist Conservative in the early hours. Both Simon and Ben arrived as a show of support for Evan, and after the 4th attempt to sound out the ex MP in the audience, he finally made his whereabouts known and the response was an immediate standing ovation.

The science talk continued with Adam Rutherford taking on mantle covering topics like ‘if we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?’ He focused on evolution and genetics, with the latest evidence on the often maligned Neanderthal. Maybe we really are closer to them than we are led to believe.

Gavin Osbourn, still fresh from playing the music to Napalm Death earlier, gave the audience a superb performance on the first time he’d seen Professor Brian Cox on HD. So yet another ‘gifted child’, focusing on the rise and rise of the ‘young’ professor.

Marcus Brigstocke was to provide the finale with a bout of comedy to send us all home with a smile on our face. He didn’t disappoint with his magic numbers routine, along with one of my favourites, the London bus ad campaigns.

So that was it. Or was it? The headmaster Robin Ince came out once again to a fully enlightened, and extremely tired audience, to announce yet another special guest. This time it was Tim Minchin. Walking barefooted onto the stage, the audience were given a rendition of The Pope Song, the first time he’d performed it live. That was the icing on the tastiest cake ever made!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahbsQho8RCA]

Black Eyed Peas – O2 (again)

Thursday 6th May 2010

It’s the second of two back-to-back nights at the O2, with the Black Eyed Peas taking centre stage again.

Voted in the General Election, before heading off to the O2. There was just enough time to eat a pretty tastless hotdog, prior to Cheryl Cole performing Fight For Your Love. I still find the irony of the song hard to stomach. Unlike the previous night, this time around will.i.am joined Cheryl on stage for 3 Words. Even though there were hundreds of screaming kids out to see Cheryl, I had the urge to shout out No More, instead of the usual Encore.

Once again, the Black Eyed Peas transported themselves into the O2 Arena, cracking off with Let’s Get It Started, before entertaining their fans to Rock That Body, Meet Me Halfway and Don’t Phunk With My Heart.

Time for a few solo performances, including Fergie with the excellent Glamorous. will.i.am, with his sensational i.am.robot DJ set, entered the stage, pumping out tune after tune, and in turn enthralling his audience. These included American Boy, Don’t Stop Till You Enough, Thriller, Jump Around, OMG, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sex Is On Fire and Sweet Dreams.

The Black Eyed Peas rocked the house with Don’t Lie, Shut Up, Pump It and Where Is The Love?, culminating into a superb finale of Boom Boom Pow and I’ve Got A Feeling. The Black Eyed Peas were sensational and I’m so glad I had the chance to see this extavanganza twice in 48 hours!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV5Wsx6MV-c&fmt=37]

Black Eyed Peas – O2

Wednesday 5th May 2010

It’s the first of two back-to-back nights at the O2, with the Black Eyed Peas taking centre stage.

While queuing for a bite to eat, an announcement was made over the tannoy that Cheryl Cole would be coming on in 15 mins. Seconds later, a girl rushed out, casually telling her friends that the supporting act was already on. Quick decision. Food or Cheryl? Sadly, food lost out, taking our seats just in time for the last few bars of Fight For Your Love. To be honest, every time I hear that song I can’t help but imagine that Rufus Hound is dancing to it.

Cheryl Cole sang a few songs, but to be honest I’m not familiar with most of them. I’d recognised Parachute and 3 Words, the latter being a duet with will.i.am, although it did feel weird that he didn’t join her on stage, but then again it was the Black Eyed Peas opening night in London, so it made sense to stay backstage.

From the moment the Black Eyed Peas transported themselves into the O2 Arena, it was obvious that this was going to be a spectacular gig. Let’s Get It Started kicked off the show, followed soon after by the sensational Rock That Body, Meet Me Halfway and Don’t Phunk With My Heart.

A cool Freestyle rap by will.i.am and solo performances by Apl.de.ap and Taboo got the crowd going, as did Fergie with her performance of Glamorous. The Black Eyed Peas spared no expense in thrilling their audience with a spectacular show including a motorbike ride high above and across the O2. Up next with an i.am.robot DJ set was will.i.am, pumping out an eclectic array of tunes from American Boy, Thriller and Jump Around to Smells Like Teen Spirit, Sweet Child o’ Mine and Sweet Dreams.

The Black Eyed Peas rocked the house with Don’t Lie, Shut Up, Pump It and Where Is The Love?, culminating into a superb finale of Boom Boom Pow and I’ve Got A Feeling. A fantastic show and so pleased I’d booked tickets to see The Black Eyed Peas again on the following day!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOdvvS1gnPQ&fmt=37]

Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Showcase – Comedy Store

Monday 3rd May 2010

Following the resounding success of the Comedy Roadshow for both Michael McIntyre and his guest comedians, it was announced that the Comedy Store would host a series of eight Comedy Showcases.

Referred to as the FA Cup of Comedy, the show kicked off with Michael McIntyre warming up the crowd. I’d seen him the previous day, in another venue about 200 metres from the Comedy Store. Of course, by now I pretty much know the whole routine, even though he adds the odd new element here and there. I enjoy his interaction with the audience and was also looking forward to eight top comedians strutting their stuff.

I was gutted that I’d forgotten to charge the battery for the new camera. Even though there was an announcement that no photography was allowed, it didn’t stop a girl in the front row literally pointing her camera at him. After about a minute or so, a bemused Michael McIntyre realised that it was unlikely that she was taking so long to take a photo. ‘Are you recording this?, if so, why didn’t you wear all black and sit incognito further back?’ The cheeky girl immediately put her camera away, only later to give him her tickets to get signed, during the performance.

The performances on the night were really entertaining from Gary Delaney’s one liners to Andy Askins’ offbeat comedy songs. Good performances too from Rob Rouse, Charlie Baker and Lucy Porter. However, the stand-out performances came from Ian Stone, Imran Yusuf and Hal Cruttenden. All three had the audience in hysterics throughout the whole of their routines. If I had to pick one, and to be honest all 3 were exceptional on the night, I’d probably give it to Imran Yusuf. Nevertheless, I hope that all 3 make it to the Comedy Roadshow.

Superb night out, with some outstanding performances on the night. Good luck to all of the performers.

UPDATE: Imran Yusuf has been comfirmed as a guest performer on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.

Michael McIntyre – WiP – Leicester Square Theatre

Sunday 2nd May 2010

Almost 6 weeks since I’d last seen Michael McIntyre, so it’s back to Leicester Square Theatre for another work in progress gig.

In the foyer, I’d overheard Michael McIntyre ask “who’s playing in the main theatre?” As I walked past, I said that it was “Bill Bailey”, then quickly moved on, taking my seat in the basement. After our previous encounter, at one of the earlier work-in-progress shows, I didn’t fancy being in the spotlight again.

John Gordillo kicked off the proceedings again with another good performance, before paving the way for Michael McIntyre to take over. The material was similar to the eventful one in March, but with slight tweaks here and there. Rather than tweaks, it probably has more to do with the way the details are remembered and then performed. It seems he prefers to remember the topic, rather than the whole routine. This leads to a different version of the same gag every time.

Michael McIntyre asked the 50 odd audience for a show of hands if ‘Road’ formed part of their address. Then asked if anyone had any alternatives. My mate kept trying to shout out mine, but thankfully he was blanked throughout. Surprisingly, ‘Street’ was never mentioned, but loads for ‘Avenue’ and ‘Lane’. Then a lady shouted out ‘End’, which took McIntyre and the rest of us by surprise. McIntyre played on the fact that it sounded like she wanted him to ‘End’ the performance, with a witty routine.

Another enjoyable night out with Michael McIntyre once again entertaining a tiny room of people.

Happy Father’s Day – Euro 96

June 1996

It’s still mind-boggling how my dad ended up taking a few of the best players from The Netherlands out for a meal during the 1996 European Championships in England.

At a local petrol station, dad just happened to bump into Glenn Hoddle and Ruud Gullit, with the conversation turning from football to Cypriot food. The ex-professionals were TV pundits during Euro 96 and happily exchanged mobile numbers with dad to arrange plans for dinner later that evening at a local Cypriot restaurant.

How the events unfolded were explained by dad on the phone. I was pretty much surprised, even confused, how a couple of exchanges in a petrol station could lead to dinner with the pros. Unfortunately, I was abroad and largely devastated that I couldn’t be there.

That evening Glenn Hoddle was a pundit on TV and therefore unable to make it. Nevertheless, arrangements were made with Ruud Gullit. Astonishingly, his last-minute replacements were superb with both Edgar Davids and Dennis Bergkamp tagging along. Having studied for a year in The Netherlands, I’ve always held an affinity for the country and would have loved to have joined them.

Edgar Davids didn’t have the best of tournaments. In fact, he was excluded from the Dutch squad at that time, so I suppose the evening was a timely relief from all the pressure surrounding his indicipline. Dad was extremely pleased by the extent the guys appreciated the meal throughout the evening, but with Meze, the quality food just kept on coming. He was also slightly surprised at how much Dennis Bergkamp enjoyed more than few beers, considering he was still playing in the tournament.

I can imagine that dad just accepted this as a normal night out, even though I was in awe just listening to it. Then again, dad had played football at a pretty good level himself. One of those highlights was being part of a 4 team tournament in Moscow, where he captained a London-based Cypriot XI against a quality Russian XI, scoring 2 goals against the great Lev Yashin in a 3-3 draw.

It’s over 2 years now since Andreas Spyrou passed away, but his memory truly lives on.

Dragon’s Dream is a Twitter Success

Friday 4th June 2010

One man’s idea, turned into a dream and almost hijacked by a rival. This is the story of #duncansdream and #peterspeople.

Fridays on Twitter are best known for #ff and #followfriday hashtags. However, Friday 4th June 2010 was a game changer. It all started just after 12pm when Duncan Bannatyne had a vision:

@DuncanBannatyne: I would like to #ff all of my followers – start following each other then we will all have 90,000 follwers. Simples

DJ Chris Evans retweeted the original idea giving it further credence.

At this point, I thought the idea seemed flawed. The primary concern was that if you had to follow 90,000 people in order to have 90,000 followers it would make your Twitter timeline virtually unreadable. Aside from that, adding so many people would probably take a long time, cleverly put by one of Duncan Bannatyne’s initial retweets:

RT @iancreek: @DuncanBannatyne What an excellent idea, I’ll start following your followers now. Should be all done by Christmas!

Just as I thought the idea was doomed to failure, a well crafted hashtag gave it super-twitter strength. All it took was a simple retweet by Duncan Bannatyne and the rest is history:

RT: @SteveRichardsUK Let’s get @DuncanBannatyne and the #duncansdream trending

The original idea and the person to thank for the duncansdream hashtag is @iancreek:

Time for someone to set-up a hash tag for this @DuncanBannatyne experiment :- ) any thoughts? #duncansdream maybe

So #duncansdream was about to come to life. By around 4pm it had superceded all expectations and in no time at all it was the No.1 trending topic in London and the UK. Eventually it was to overtake #oilspill as the No.2 trending topic Worldwide. Of course, it confused so many people across the world as Twitter was full of tweets like “I don’t get #duncansdream”.

The increase in followers far outweighed anything #ff would ever deliver. It seemed that there were a couple of strategies at play. Tweeters either followed as many people as possible, hoping that a large number would follow them back or simply wrote numerous tweets hoping that they would deliver followers or maybe even a combination of both.

As I didn’t want an unreadable timeline, I didn’t go all out adding people for the sake of it. Luckily, with some help from Duncan Bannatyne, more followers started coming in:

At around 8:30pm, with #duncansdream in full flow, Duncan Bannatyne was either kidnapped, went out for a meal or had an early night. It was left to another Dragon to seize the initiative. Peter Jones, at first slightly bewildered by it all, then retweeted this:

RT @androidfearn: @dragonjones please RT come on people let’s get #peterspeople trending above #duncansdream

The War of the Dragon Hashtags was now on. Basically, #peterspeople was light-heartedly trying to muscle in on the success of #duncansdream. Shortly after, I was lucky enough to have the following retweeted, which helped gain more followers:

From around 10pm until 1am #duncansdream and #peterspeople were fighting it out and to be fair it was a pretty even race. But there is no doubt #peterspeople was never going to be able to amass the enormous number of tweets sent using #duncansdream. According to What’s the Hashtag? there were 13,165 mentions of #duncansdream on June 4th and another 1,115 up until 4:30am GMT on June 5th. Sadly, there is no data for #peterspeople.

In the end, it seems I had a net gain, adding 10 people and gaining 90 additional followers. There maybe people who had a net loss, but that wasn’t the point of the original idea. Duncan Bannatyne wanted people to gain additional followers and on that note it was a major success, with probably everyone benefiting from the exercise.

So that’s it. A joyful day to be had by thousands of people across the globe. New followers and interesting conversations. Above all, a fresh Twitter experience. To be honest, I am just as excited to see the aftermath of it all, especially if #peterspeople will be revived for a final push against #duncansdream. I haven’t had this much fun since the general election when #nickcleggsfault, possibly the funniest hashtag ever, did Twitter proud.

UPDATE: At approx 2:45pm GMT on June 5th, the duncansdream hashtag hit 20,000 tweets and #duncansdream and #peterspeople were the UK’s No.1 and No.2 Trending Topics.

Over the weekend, there were 13,000 tweets on Friday (in 12 hours), 15,000 tweets on Saturday (in 24 hours) and 18,000 tweets on Sunday (in 24 hours) mentioning #duncansdream.

Finally, a big thank you again to Duncan Bannatyne for adding one of my tweets detailing this post to his Twitter favourites list.

Comedy Nights – Lyric Theatre

Sunday 25th April 2010

Back at Hammersmith for another event, but this time it’s at the Lyric Theatre with Richard Herring hosting the comedy night.

A quick bite to eat at the Lyric Theatre, before taking our seats. Wearing a Mr Perfect t-shirt, Richard Herring entered the stage. Another indication at his refusal to grow old, simply because age suggests so. There is no doubt he won outright ‘as the person who had eaten the most amount of carrots in the day’, through a quick audience straw poll. A thoroughly entertaining set, including loads of periodic table Q&As, before introducing Dan Antopolski onto the stage.

Unfortunately for the comic, an audience member’s alcohol level had reached annoying heights, almost trying to take over the show. At one point, it was an almost a one-to-one therapy session. He tried being nice, nasty, funny and rude, but nothing was going to stop her telling everyone that her boyfriend had left her, culminating in Dan replying ‘I have no idea why he left you’. Finally, he was allowed to continue his routine, ending with an inspired 4 minute rap.

Up next was Andy Parsons, who immediately opened with the line “I dumped my girlfriend today”, which had the audience in hysterics, as the annoying heckler had been led away after Dan’s performance. Another quality performance, before a short interval. Richard Herring was back to introduce the final act, Ed Byrne, who was excellent on the night. Even so, his routine at The Big Libel Gig will always be tough to top.

Overall, quality performances all round, including Richard Herring’s great interactions with the audience, especially the Italian girl from Bergamo. Enquiring about anyone famous from there, she mentioned Donizetti. Even my Italian mate wasn’t too sure who he was. I had to google him when I got back and it turns out he’s a composer. In fact, he composed “Lucia di Lammermoor”, an opera I’d seen a couple of months earlier!

Rhod Gilbert – Hammersmith Apollo

Friday 23rd April 2010

Rhod Gilbert’s performance on Live at the Apollo is probably one of my favourite rants of all time. Clever, energetic and hilarious. Therefore, I was off to Hammersmith for The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst Tour.

The show was to filmed for DVD and to my surprise I had an enormous camera directly behind my seat. Andrew Bird, the support act, warmed up the audience with a witty and polished routine and now everyone was in the mood for the main event.

Rhod Gilbert came out all guns blazing. Asking for the audience if anyone was from anywhere exotic, he did a whole routine on Swindon, only to later find out the guy had actually said Switzerland. A new and funnier routine followed, especially as the subject matter seemed tougher to joke about.

But it seemed something wasn’t right. He was ranting as usual, but at times he appeared genuinely angry and agitated. I guess the pressure of filming the DVD was probably the cause. After 20 minutes, he decided to take a break for an early interval. A concerned cameraman behind me muttered that wasn’t happy at all, ‘oh he is going off on one backstage’. Apparently, he didn’t seem happy with the start of the show, the way the audience was fully lit up and I guess the stupid decision not to move an members from a packed audience to fill some of the empty seats in his immediate eye line.

After the break, it was apparent that a much more relaxed and happier man re-entered the stage. Rhod Ghilbert was fully into his routine, comically annoyed at hoovers and washing machines, along with hilarious material on panic and regression. The performance was explosive and the rapport with the audience was near perfection. So much so that members of the audience were requesting for his stage manager to appear on stage just to wind up the comedian, purely for the entertainment of everyone in the building.

Off he went, only to come back a minute or so later for additional material to be recorded. Noticing members of the audience had already started to make way for the exits, gave him more ammunition to rant during ‘his encore’. For those that were fortunate to have stayed the distance, Rhod Gilbert performed for another 30 minutes, covering a superbly structured montage of the old favourites including duvets and luggage.

Unbelievably, the main highlight of the show was still to come, with the hilarious slide show featuring numerous cats sent into him by ‘fans’, culminating in the final photo that captivated the name of the tour. Rhod Gilbert, after a the nervous start, was sensational and with a 3 hour set, made for a memorable evening!