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Archive for April 2010

Channel 4 Comedy Gala – O2

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Tuesday 30th March 2010

The Channel 4 Comedy Gala, in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital, brought together an unprecedented wealth of talent from the world of comedy and beyond.

The O2 was packed out, in anticipation of ‘a 3 hour comedy relay’. Each comedian appearing for this worthy cause had approximately 3-5 minutes on stage, performing a mixture of old and new material. With a great view near the stage, Stomp kicked off the show rolling out Alan Carr from one of their dustbins. After warming-up the audience, the comedy baton was passed to Jason Manford, Jo Brand and Sean Lock.

Jonathon Ross then took over presenting duties, introducing Kevin Bishop and Patrick Kielty. After a short video message from Ricky Gervais, Wossy managed to convince the audience to shout out the C word in unison. I wonder if that will make the DVD cut. Rob Brydon and Gok Wan followed, with a pre-recorded Kevin Bishop routine, before introducing Andy Parsons and Mark Watson.

A few boos as Katie Price and Alex Reid entered the stage, soon turned to cheers as they introduced Michael McIntyre, who was subsequently chased off stage as he mimmicked the cage fighter. After a short interval, Bill Bailey accompanied by Kevin Eldon, performed a superb musical routine.

The mis-matched Christine Blakely and Facejacker’s Terry Tibbs eventually paved the way for Jack Dee. He humourously destroyed many of the performers backstage, before announcing Shappi Khorsandi onto the stage. The adorable Catherine Tate’s Nan joined in with the action, before introducing Noel Fielding. James Corden’s Smithy and Ruth Jones’s Nessa were up next before passing the baton to John Bishop.

David Mitchell took over presenting duties, in advance of the appearances of Jack Whitehall and Rich Hall. The comedy finale featured Jack Dee welcoming Lee Evans onto the stage. At the end of his performance, Jack Dee gave Lee Evans a Channel 4 award for outstanding comedy. He accepted it and immediately put it up for auction, with one member of the audience offering £5,000.

It was a superb night of relentless comedy, with a long-list of exceptional performances. The Channel 4 Comedy Gala was an outstanding success, raising over £800,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital. A big thank you goes out to everyone involved on putting together such a great event.

Enron – Noel Coward Theatre

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Saturday 27th February 2010

With the fraudulent activity, and subsequent collapse, of telecoms giant WorldCom having such a destructive impact on my business, it was fitting to catch a play on energy goliath Enron’s colossal scam.

I hadn’t seen a play since childhood, primarily because I’ve never really been a fan of ‘over-acting’. But considering the subject matter, the comedy style and the rave reviews, I was really looking forward this. Arrived just in time to take our seats in the impressive Noel Coward Theatre.

Enron was superbly performed with a clever mix of music and comedy. The first half was a complete joy, with everyone on a massive high during the super-quick rise of the company. With extremely questionable accounting techniques to trading fictitious energy resources, Enron established itself as one of the world’s most powerful players in the energy market.

But what goes up, must come down, especially if unscrupulous behaviour can no longer sustain all ‘the lies’. Laughs were turned to sighs, as the details unfolded in the second half. The management’s reluctance to come clean, whilst at the same time perpetuating the lies, made it one of the most shameful episodes in corporate history. The Enron deceit was exposed and the so-called giant collapsed.

The result is that history will show Enron as one of Corporate America’s biggest fraudulent cases. Thousands of people lost their life-savings, which of course could have been avoided, had the ‘advice’ not been to keep the shares in the ‘successful’ company. Enron, the play itself, was exciting, humourous and great entertainment. A superb achievement, for one of the darkest days in the pursuit of capitalism.

Written by chrisspyrou

April 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Michael McIntyre – WiP – Leicester Square Theatre

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Wednesday 24th March 2010

Thanks to an announcement on Twitter, I’d booked a couple of £6 tickets to see Michael McIntyre’s Work In Progress at Leicester Square Theatre.

Unlike previous occasions where I’d seen Michael McIntyre at the Trent FM Arena, Wembley Arena and The O2, it was nice to see him try out his latest material in a small and intimate venue. As there were no specific seating plans, we arrived early and my mate suggested he’d like to sit right at the front. I was slightly dubious at first especially as the front row was almost touching the tiny stage.

Comedian John Gordillo kicked off the evening, before finally introducing Michael McIntyre. Within seconds, he noticed the lack of air, along with a strange odour in the basement of the Leicester Square Theatre. To his and our amazement, he was handed a foot-long air freshener by the guy behind the bar. This gave him enough ammunition to improvise a whole new routine. Although, I’m not sure he needed to spray as much air freshener as he did, almost causing many of the audience in the front row to pass out. Luckily we all survived and there was no need for the pursuit of any lawsuits.

Michael McIntyre’s new material was well thought out and at numerous times had the audience in hysterics. The comedy definitely worked well in a smaller venue. He did comment though at one point during the performance, when I slapped my thigh instead of clapping like the rest. I was holding a beer in one hand, but with him no more than a foot away, it hard to miss a lazy attempt at applauding.

He then checked with John Gordillo as to how the performance was going. Having been told he’d managed 40 minutes, he seemed really pleased with the reaction to the new material. Then for some unknown reason, I couldn’t help but jokingly mutter, “well 20 mins was on the air freshener”. McIntyre laughed and then repeated my comment.

In a nutshell, the next 10-15 mins went something like this and throughout the audience was cracking up, including McIntyre.

(MM) [tells the audience] He cheekily said I spent 20 mins talking about the air freshener
(MM) What’s your name?
(CS) Chris
(MM) Where are you from?
(CS) Winchmore Hill
[I know not to say London to that one – he then did a routine on Harrow on the Hill and I thought that was it]

(MM) What do you do?
[I hate that question. It’s always been my biggest nightmare to be asked that at a comedy event]
(CS) Nothing
(MM) What did you do today?
(CS) Can’t think of anything
[I seriously couldn’t think of a single thing as not much had happened]
(MM) Wow, you’d be really be good at speed dating! From the time you woke up, spanning all those hours, you can’t think of a single thing?
(CS) No. Oh I played darts.
[I actually made that up, as I hadn’t played darts earlier. I couldn’t think of anything at all. I thought it was the best I could do, as I had played almost everyday in the past couple of weeks]
(MM) The only answer you can come up with is Darts. Nothing either side of that.
(CS) No just darts.
(MM) Did you threw a dart, it landed on the keyboard and that’s how you managed to book tickets tonight?
(CS) Yeah something like that.
(MM) Is it real darts or like those fake velcro soft darts?
(CS) No real darts.
(MM) Where do you play with these darts?
(CS) In the backroom.
(MM) And who did you play darts with today?
(CS) Alone
(MM) Something tells me that you probably lost.
(CS) It was close
[he seemed to like that comment]
(MM) So do you live with anyone?
(CS) No, I live alone
(MM) Oh I feel really guilty now for saying all that stuff!
(MM) Are you here with anyone tonight?
(CS) Yes a friend
(MM) Oh he has a friend!
[MM applauds and turns to my mate]

Now I could relax, as it was my mate’s turn to answer a few questions.

(MM) And what’s your name?
(SN) Stefano
[MM on hearing Italian accent, rolled off a few Italian based jokes, also referring to the Italian on the air freshener. Stefano actually corrects a couple of his pronunciations]
(MM) So where are you from in Italy?
(SN) Florence
(MM) Florence, amazing beautiful place. Where do you live now?
(SN) Queens Park
(MM) So you came to Queens Park, looked around and thought this is for me, beautiful architecture, I’m leaving Florence.

There was so much more. That was loads of fun and the audience got an extra 15 minutes or so of Michael McIntyre’s astonishment at some of the simplest and bizarre answers in history. I then remembered why I couldn’t think of anything to say as I had gone to bed at 6am, up at 2pm, primarily due to watching 15 episodes of Countdown (mainly the numbers game) and also wrote a review of the previous time I’d seen him. Glad I said I did “nothing” as he would have had a field day with either of those responses. He shook our hands and off he went.

Another memorable and really entertaining evening, with a mixture of immense joy and disbelief. So much so I didn’t get round to taking a photo. I’ve since booked more shows to see Michael McIntyre, but will probably avoid the front row, as no doubt he may try another speed dating routine on me!

Written by chrisspyrou

April 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Premier League Darts – Brighton Centre, Brighton

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Thursday 18th March 2010

After Wembley, Alexandra Palace and The O2, the darts roadshow continued with a trip to Brighton for Week 6 of the Premier League.

I arrived at the hotel in Brighton a couple of hours early, just in time for a quick bite to eat. Whilst eating in the lounge, I thought I’d noticed Róisín O’Shea from Unicorn sat opposite, but couldn’t be sure as I’d only seen a photo of her on Twitter. It now felt like I was daydreaming, as further back I recognised members of the Lewis entourage. Then I glanced to my left and realised Ronnie Baxter was having a pre-match drink with his wife, as Adrian Lewis walked in. It started to feel like I was having a pre-match meal inside a 3D television.

The players were waiting for the security to head out to the Brighton Centre. I decided it was time to head to my room. Whilst waiting for the elevator, a couple of other guests had asked Adrian Lewis for a photo. As he was about to walk past, I decided to ask for a photo too. He said no problem and I gave my camera to his wife to take the photo. He was extremely friendly and we had a quick chat about his current darts and off he went.

The Brighton Centre was completely packed out and I had a good view from one of the table seats near the front, although I have to say the tables were possibly a bit too close together. Phil Taylor (No .1) was up on first against draw specialist Terry Jenkins (No. 5), but The Power completely outclassed The Bull with an 8-3 victory. Next up was the battle between Raymond van Barneveld (No 2) and Mervin King (No. 4). The King almost had the match in the bag, but amazingly and with the crowds support, Barney fought back to secure a 7-7 draw.

It was now getting quite rowdy in the venue, with almost half the crowd focusing on a cute girl in the front row up in the circle. The matches were going on whilst there were eruptions of “Where’s your boyfriend gone?” and “We can see you sneaking out”. Eventually she had to leave for the sake of the darts as Ronnie Baxter (No. 6) was up against Adrian Lewis (No. 7). The Rocket stormed into a commanding lead, but a superb comeback from Jackpot secured an 8-6 win. The final match had the in-form Simon Whitlock up against an out-of-sorts James Wade (No.3). Even with a fantastic 170 finish, The Wizard was no match for The Machine, who went on to wrap up an 8-4 victory.

I walked back into the hotel at the same time as the PDC match officials. Whilst taking a photo with Scott Gibling, he pointed out that Sid Waddell had walked into the hotel. Wow, I was now standing next to the legendary commentator and the man who is synonymous with the world of Darts. He was more than happy to have a photo taken too.

With the adrenaline pumping, I decided to get a drink at the bar. I was acknowledged by members of the security team who had recognised me from the Brighton Centre. I had a quick chat with Adrian Lewis at the bar and then sat on one of the couches in the lounge. It then dawned on me that just to my left was Ronnie Baxter and his wife, in front was Adrian Lewis and his family, and on my right was Phil Taylor, Sid Waddell and Dave Lanning with their family members.

I could hear Phil Taylor explaining to a drunken ‘fan’ that he already taken at least 3 photos with him already, but still allowed him to take one last photo. I felt I had to ask too and broke the ice by showing him a picture of the teenager that was fortunate enough to receive the match dartboard and a set of darts from The Power. It put a smile on his face seeing the teenager’s joy. I didn’t expect Sid Waddell to give up his seat for me to sit down and for Taylor’s son to take the photo. I thanked Taylor and asked him a few questions which he answered gracefully. I didn’t want to take up anymore of his time, even though at no point did he make me feel like I should leave. I was also in Sid’s seat, so felt extra guilty.

Fans were now taking photos with Ronnie Baxter, so I thought I might as well get the full set and he was very obliging too. At this moment, I needed another drink to let the last hour sink in. Adrian Lewis invited Phil Taylor to join his family and friends for a drink which I thought was a really nice gesture. But to my astonishment, he turned to me, noticed I was sat alone and invited me over too. It just felt wrong for an outsider to join them, so I said thank you, but no, it was ok. But Lewis was not taking no for an answer and said, don’t sit over there on your own, join us and even pulled up a chair.

With the night already beyond a darting fan’s dream, I was now sat at the same table with Lewis, Taylor and their family and friends. I declined the offer of a drink as I really felt I was taking liberties, even though I was invited to join them. At one point, I even muttered the words “this is mad” under my breath, but think it came out louder than I had hoped. Lewis made everyone laugh when he said I and one his friends looked like ‘Baddiel and Skinner’. I ended up showing them the Whyte and Mackay Fan’s Poster to see if they could spot the mistake. They noticed the missing 13 after a few seconds. Later, Baxter spotted that the 13 was a 3 too.

I’d love to say I had a great night sleep, but my mind was in overdrive. At breakfast, Phil Taylor and the members of the security team were already there. I sat on the other side of the room, and it was really nice of Sid Waddell to walk past and say hello on route to the buffet. After breakfast, I ended up sharing an elevator with Raymond van Barneveld. Barney was really friendly and we had a chat about Holland and Darts.

Back in the room, I decided to get ready and catch the earlier train. I had more than enough excitement and felt it was time to leave. I have quite a vivid imagination, but even I’d never daydreamed of the events that had unfolded. A massive thank you goes out to Adrian Lewis, Sid Waddell, Phil Taylor, Ronnie Baxter, Raymond van Barneveld, the security and the officials. All had a part to play in a great evening/morning, but Adrian Lewis went beyond the norm and really made it a special night. Now all I need is the hotel’s CCTV footage, as I doubt my friends are really going to believe this story!

Written by chrisspyrou

April 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm

The Big Libel Gig – Palace Theatre

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Sunday 14th March 2010

The Big Libel Gig at the Palace Theatre brought together united thinkers from the worlds of comedy, science and politics, addressing the unjust libels laws in the UK.

The event was created and hosted by Robin Ince in support of Dr Simon Singh’s libel case against the British Chiropractor Association. The BCA, ‘unhappy’ with comments made by Simon, used current laws to put together a libel case against him. At this point, due to the huge sums of money involved in defending yourself in the UK, up to 14 times higher than the rest of the EU, most people would just back down against a more powerful and richer organisation. Simon Singh had other ideas and decided to defend himself, even if it meant winning, yet losing out financially. Why be silent, when you think, or more likely, know you are right?

Arrived in Leicester Square and walked towards The Palace Theatre. It seemed as though the huge crowd outside was queuing for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but it was Sunday and it was their day off. Once inside, I noticed David Baddiel on my left, whilst a friend pointed out that Jonathon Ross was standing right in front of me. For years, I’ve been called ‘Baddiel’ due to a tiny resemblance, via a goatee and glasses, so I guess that’s why I didn’t spot Ross.

We took to our seats in the fourth row, just in time for Robin Ince to commence proceedings. He described the background to the ‘unfair’ case brought about by the BCA and how everyone could help make a change to current UK libel laws. This was explained further by Observer Journalist Nick Cohen, who was up first on stage. It was a pretty educational start to the night. Now time for Marcus Brigstocke to provide the first of many laughs at the event, with a fantastic routine on the London Bus Ad Campaigns.

It was clear by now, that we were all in for a very long night, but it’s doubtful anyone really cared. Dr Simon Singh illustrated his current predicament and the impact it has had on his family, as this libel case has been ongoing for the best part of 2 years. Then he played an intelligent reworking of Katie Melua’s Nine Billion Bicycles. A former member of the Astronomy Club, Katie met up with Simon, and offered to amend the inaccuracies in her hit song, to one that science were more likely to approve of. Superb.

Shappi Khorsandi continued to entertain the audience, before it was time for the politicians to have their say. Up first was the Lib Dem Dr Evan Harris MP, an active supporter of investment in science and changes to UK libel laws. Whilst a number of high-profile MP’s are in favour of Libel Reform and have signed the Parliamentary Early Day Motion 423, there are still far too many who refuse to do so. The baton was passed on to the Conservative Peter Bottomley MP, followed by Labour Paul Farelly MP interviewing Dr Peter Wilmshurst. It was very clear by now, that Simon’s case was not unique. Peter was also being sued for libel in a more bizarre and ludicrous case, with a hefty financial burden that would destroy many.

Back to the comedy. Tim Minchin’s clever musical rendition of ‘Storm’ was hilarious, followed by an enlightening science lesson by Professor Brian Cox. Ariane Sherine, the creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign, continued as Tim Minchin and the audience joined in with ‘Sing-A-Long-A-Simon-Singh-Song’. Simon’s hair clearly the main victim of the song.

An entertaining routine by Richard Wiseman, with a clever use of illusion and magic, began with the audience asked to choose a card from the 5 options. The couple next to me were so proud and shocked to have chosen the same card, only to be astonished seconds later that their chosen card wasn’t even one of the 5 cards that reappeared. The laughter continued with Ed Byrne’s witty routine on Right-Wing Christian Groups.

Time for comedy to be put to one side. You could hear a pin drop as Ben Goldacre spoke. He discussed the situation in South Africa, with the apparent disregard and admission to the severity of the HIV Aids virus. Concluding with his libel case brought about by a European entrepreneur, who didn’t take to kindly to Ben Goldacre’s examination of the science behind his money-making operation in the world’s poorest continent.

It was left to Dara O’Briain to wrap up the show with clever mixture of science and comedy, probably helped by the fact his wife is a doctor. Throughout all the routines, the BCA’s actions were shown to be pretty misguided. For instance, as Dara pointed out “how many infants actually complain about backache?”. An excellent routine to end a wonderful night.

It was a memorable evening and a big thank you must go out to Robin Ince and the other ‘performers’ for their humourous and enlightening take on what is an essentially a serious issue. It’s important for everyone to sign the petition on the Libel Reform website and for MPs to sign EDM 423. It’s just a shame that my current MP, David Burrows, does not feel the need to sign it.

UPDATE: Wow, a day after my blog entry and the BCA drops the case against Simon. Glad I could help! Hopefully Simon can fully recover his costs and then pass them on the Big Libel Gig’s audience who may now sue him to recover their booking fees! In any case, the fight for Libel Reform continues.

The Gambler – Royal Opera House

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Saturday 27th February 2010

Even though this was my third opera in as many months, The Gambler was actually the first one I had booked tickets for.

The price of the tickets were the same, regardless of the view. So it was basically, first come first served, for the best seats at the Royal Opera House. At La Boheme, I had a nice central view high up in the amphitheatre. With The Gambler, the slightly off-centre seats from the stalls circle provided a nicer viewing experience. I arrived early and took my seat, as a friend was running late and was set to miss the first act. Thankfully, he managed to arrive just before the performance was to set to begin.

The Gambler is a new production at the Royal Opera House. Prokofiev’s opera is based on Dostoevsky’s work. Sang in English, but unlike previous operas this felt more like a play. Without a programme, it also felt almost impossible to follow the storyline. A friend kept saying, the story is not as important as the music, but couldn’t help noticing that there was a lack of that too.

Towards the end of the opera, it did pick up and some loose ends was cleared up, but overall I’m not so sure what the opera fraternity would make of The Gambler. Even though there were a number of strong performances, I couldn’t help feeling that as an opera, it just didn’t seem to work. All in all a fun night out, mostly spent trying to work out the plot.

Written by chrisspyrou

April 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Stephen K Amos – Hammersmith Apollo

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Friday 26th February 2010

I’ve enjoyed the comedic style of Stephen K Amos ever since he appeared as the main warm-up act for the Have I Got News For You shows. His ‘Asbestos’ routine is timeless and made me laugh every time.

I hadn’t actually planned to go to the show, but earlier in the week it was clear a friend was dying to see Stephen K Amos perform, so a couple of clicks later and tickets were booked. After a lovely meal, it was time for the show. The lighting seemed slightly different to previous shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, but then I realised that it was being filmed for DVD.

Seann Walsh, the support act, was a pleasant surprise. He had the audience in the palm of his hand, considering more than half didn’t even know there was even going to be a support act. I also overheard the staff fearing that the crowd would go mental when they realised Amos was not going to be on for another 45 minutes.

For a brief spell, Amos became a distant memory, as Walsh entertained the audience. I loved the routine on life in London and how we get pissed off with waiting just 3 minutes for the tube, especially as that happened to me on-route to the venue. That followed with a superb imitation on the only place we are allowed to stare at people is when passing them by on the escalators in the underground. Couldn’t have been closer to the truth.

Now that everyone was warmed up, it was time for Stephen K Amos to enter the stage. A normal walk-on wasn’t enough, as he burst out to dancing to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ accompanied by a host of dancers. Without doubt the best entrance to a comedy show ever. I’m sure even some from the world of music would have been envious too.

Stephen K Amos then provided us with an abundance of old and new comedic material covering the usual suspects; race, homosexuality and family. The routine with ‘Cooon’ Cheese was hilarious and mirrored the superb ‘Baboon’ act from previous tours. Even dealt with a couple of hecklers superbly.

Aside from the exceptional entrance, the emergence of Ollie will live with everyone who was at the Apollo. This poor 17-year-old kid from Watford sat at the corner of the front row and was at the receiving end of so many observations. There was a lovely moment when Stephen K Amos invite Ollie on to the stage for the finale. A memorable night that will live with Ollie forever, along with the knowledge that the next time he masturbates, he will see an image of the comedian’s face.

Another dancing extravaganza ended what was an amazing show. Of all the shows I have been to, it was the only where everybody gave a standing ovation. I felt the emotion for Amos at that point. Truly fantastic. Then I had a sense of bemusement. Everybody had sat down for a moment, whilst Amos said his goodbyes. Then before Amos has even left the stage, almost everyone was up and walking out, even though there was a band still playing the show out.

The show that Stephen K Amos delivered was outstanding. Simply the best entrance and ending to any comedy show. In case anyone is thinking that the standing ovation was merely an attempt for everyone to get up and leave whilst clapping, then that is far from the case. The sudden rush to the exits was more to do with the long wait prior to the show and during the interval due to filming for DVD. I just hope Ollie makes the DVD!

Written by chrisspyrou

April 7, 2010 at 3:17 am