Heading to the top

Well, I am still in Australia and today I am leaving the Queen Mary 2 in Yorkeys Knob which is a port of call near Cairns. The other night on stage as soon as I mentioned that last week I was ‘with The Queen Elizabeth near Yorkeys Knob’, there was lots of laughter from the British guests in the audience which made it even funnier as there wasn’t that many British guests on the ship. An American couple sat in the front looked bemused and asked me ‘ Why are they laughing?’ I said ‘I am a comedian’ she said ‘ I know but what’s funny about a knob and your Queen ?’ They laughed even more…..I said ‘ I cant go there.’ She said ‘But we are going there on this trip’ I said ‘ I know, two Queens heading to Yorkeys Knob in one week, what are the chances?…..’ Now the Brits were on the floor so I said ‘lets leave Yorkeys knob alone and move on.’
Some times as a comic you don’t have to write or tell jokes, just commenting on what’s happening and every day life gets laughs. That’s how Jerry Seinfeld and our own Michael McIntyre have become so successful. Some of my fellow comics have been a little disrespectful when it comes to McIntyre who has to be our most popular current comedian, certainly as far as the British public are concerned. Any comic who can fill massive arena’s like the 02 for weeks on end must be doing something right. Personally I can only admire what Michael does on stage and I really enjoy watching him work. I’m sure I am not alone in saying that the only thing that peeves me is when I sit there watching him get big big laughs and I am thinking ‘why didn’t I write a routine about that?’ I also think he has been one of a few comics that has paved the way for other comics to become popular enough to fill arena’s. It amazes me that certain comic’s take to social media to slag McIntyre off just because he’s not writing material that they think is funny, completely ignoring the numbers of punters that come through the door. Also what he has done is prove that comics can be a success by appealing to all members of the family from teenagers up to the grand parents without being racist, sexist or doing old jokes. Also he has proved you can perform without swearing as I and most comics on the cruise ships have. I know that he employs a writer who is also a great comedian in his own right and still works, I don’t see anything wrong with this but oh no, the purists who stand alone in a room above a pub talking to students fired up on pot noodles harp on that this is ‘old school’.
When I started out it was extremely rare to see a comic who performed his own material or employed a writer. Comedians were mostly working class and played working mens clubs, they were joke tellers. They worked like second hand car dealers, they would take delivery of a joke clean it up and in to the act to would go. Comics who I thought were very original with routines that I thought they had written, years later I would find out that they were from American comedians back on the vaudeville circuit. Milton Berle used to be known as the thief of bad gags, Alan King a comedian I admired for many years and still do was accused of stealing material from a well known comic. In this country lots of big name comedians have been accused of stealing material, I’m no saint ( I’m also not a big name) I was guilty of doing this in my early days. When I was a teenager, I worked for a few years honing my craft on the London stag show circuit. It was a great training ground and there would be a compere, two comics and three strippers on the bill. The first comic on would probably be doubling up ( two gigs in different venues) and by the time the second comic got to the venue he would have to rely on the compere to let him know what gags had been done. There was a code of conduct where if you knew so and so was coming later you didn’t do any gags that he did in his act, if you did then it would cause problems. I was once told by a great old comic who I used to drive around to gigs on my nights off ‘ If you nick a gag remember who you nicked it off and don’t do it if he’s on the same bill.’ Fortunately it was a habit I got out of as soon as I could and I have always tried to write most of my own material or when I was doing lots of television work I employed writers who have become life time friends. Of course I still have a few old jokes in my act but they are pub jokes, they have been around and they are associated with no one comic in particular. In one of my shows on the ships I have a whole selection of these jokes, and I tell the audience these are the jokes us comics no longer tell and guess what? They get big laughs….Today the problem of joke stealing is still going on. Keith Chegwin who I went to the same school as has started up an app on twitter with his favourite jokes. All the jokes are not pub jokes but jokes taken from some of my fellow comedian’s acts. The sad thing is it’s made me realise that none of my material is as funny as I think it is as Keith is yet to use any of it on his app. I totally understand where the angry comics are coming from as I know how hard it is to come up with new material and if it’s being wasted on an app from a second party then it’s totally out of order.

This subject has also been covered by my good friend Andre Vincent’s blog and I now realise that I could be accused of nicking the idea, trust me I didn’t it was only when I got to this point that I remembered his blog. Its well worth a read at http://www.mislaidcomedyheroes.com/#!blank/cg05.

I’m in Darwin now in the tropical north of Australia, tomorrow I join Queen Victoria and head north to Bali and then I get off in Brunei. Have a great week.

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