Comedians getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes (series one)
Hello fans, friends and Tinder matches that I prematurely invited to like my Facebook page, today is a special day.
Ever since the first series of my unrecorded podcast “Comedians In Edinburgh Getting Chai Lattes” finished in August, the question on everyone’s lips has been, “When are we gonna get more of this ground-breaking content?”
Well it is with great pleasure that today I launch my new 6-part Halloween miniseries “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes”.
For a lot of people Halloween is about horror films and dressing up and going trick-or-treating, but for me it’s about challenging the narrative that for a podcast to be good there has to be some sort of audio-evidence of its existence.
So with that in mind, not only is today the first episode of my miniseries, it also marks the continuation of a powerful movement. That movement is in my bowels. And unfortunate as it is to have diarrhoea on the day I relaunch my podcast, I’m professional enough to soldier on through it.
Right, on with the show…
Birmingham’s very own musical sketch duo “Good Kids” joined me for today’s Halloween-themed episode and the only thing spooky about these two is their unique chemistry. These two are so close that they even finish each other’s sentences. Often incorrectly and somewhat passive aggressively, but just the fact that they’re comfortable doing that speaks volumes.
Both of Irish descent but growing up in the same part of Birmingham, Kieran and Tom have known each other since they were 3 YEARS OLD. To put that in perspective, that’s just 3 YEARS after they were born.
Kieran (the curly-haired one) says he met Tom (the other one) at Church and that he hasn’t looked back since.
(He later went on to clarify this was due to a severe neck injury he picked up that day.)
And since that initial encounter at God’s gaff, their friendship’s gone from strength to strength. Primary school, secondary school, sixth form, studying PPE at Oxford, joining the Oxford Revue, forming their own sketch duo and taking shows to Edinburgh – Kieran and Tom have done it all together.
“We’ve kind of lived the same life,” Kieran says, sipping on his delicious pumpkin spice latte.
“It’s so comforting to have someone who you share such a history with.”
“We do everything with the other person in mind,” Tom adds. “Whenever I go somewhere, I always ask Kieran if he wants to come as well, because I know whatever I’m doing will be ten times better with him by my side.”
At this point the two go to have a wee together, and I start thinking. Something about their closeness isn’t sitting right with me. It’s lovely and everything, but maybe their relationship is partly based on fear. Fear of facing the world as individuals, fear of what life would be like alone. But should two people be that dependent on each other? Maybe without the other person in their life they could grow and find out how strong they really are. Maybe they could realise their potential.
When they come back, I let them know how I’m feeling.
“Guys, while you’ve been in the toilets, probably crossing streams, I’ve been sat here thinking. And this is gonna sound mental, but I think you need to let each other go. I can see you lean on each other a lot, but if you spend your whole life using crutches, you’ll never know how fast you can run. Do you know what I mean?”
They both look at each other for a second, seemingly weighing up everything I’ve just said. I can see they’re re-evaluating their whole friendship. After a few moments, they turn to face me and in complete synchronicity tell me to “fuck right off.”
Tune in tomorrow!
“What do you look for in an act you’re seeing for the first time?” I asked.
“Well as a promoter, I wanna see something different, something unique, someone pushing boun—”
Oh, wait a second…
Sorry, I bet some of you guys don’t know what’s going on here.
The reason I’ve launched straight into the middle of today’s episode is because industry legend Adam Jaremko needs no introduction. But for the less comedy-savvy amongst you, I suppose I should press the rewind button and go from the beginning.
Today’s episode of “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes” features ADAM JAREMKO, Comedy Promoter of Birmingham’s world-famous “Glee Club”.
Adam is both feared and respected in equal measure on the comedy circuit. With the power to make or break your career, it’s a big moment whenever you grace the stage at the Glee in front of Old Man Jaremko (his nickname amongst comics).
There’s an old saying in comedy that “if you smash it in front of Adam Jaremko, then he might book you for a 10 minute spot in 6 months’ time.” It’s not the catchiest of sayings, but nevertheless I’ve heard a lot of people use it.
With all this mind, I was feeling pretty nervous about the prospect of meeting one-on-one with Adam. What if I didn’t make a good impression? Would that be me finished? Would he click his fingers and erase me from the comedy scene, as if I was just mistake that needed removing, Tipexing over my dreams like all they were was a knob drawn in a troubled schoolchild’s exercise book? Is that what he’d do?
God, maybe this wasn’t a good idea.
But 5 minutes into my chat with Old Man Jaremko and my fears had disappeared. The chat was flowing like water in a river. (I’m tryna get more similes into my writing atm.)
I was worried Adam would look down on me because he’s used to dealing with big stars, and I’m just a new comic. But in fact, he was so down to Earth that I spent half the interview scooping him off the ground. This was also partly due to the fact he was incredibly drunk throughout.
Adam’s passion for comedy shines through, and it’s obvious he’s the reason we get to see so many interesting and inventive acts at Glee.
“I think it’s important to try and give the audience something different,” he said, getting his hipflask out and pouring some more whiskey into his pumkin spice latte.
In a male-dominated industry, he’s also been one of the best at providing more opportunities for female comics over the years, explaining, “If you’re good enough, then you’re man enough.”
“I don’t know what that means,” I replied.
Lighting a cigarette and sliding back into his chair, Old Man Jaremko then went on to tell the story of his meteoric rise from floor assistant at the Glee to chief Comedy Promoter. As he was spinning his yarn, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly funny he was. He tells his anecdotes in such a punchy way that it’s hard to believe he’s spent his life behind the curtains.
Almost the exact moment this thought came into my head, he turned to me with a sad look on his face and said:
“You know Eric, sometimes I think it should be me on that stage. I wish I had the courage to get up there. All these comics fear me and want my approval, but what I wouldn’t give to be one of them. Just for a day. A single, measly day.”
He took a large sip straight from his hipflask and there was an equally large silence. I didn’t know what to say. The conversation wasn’t like a river any more. It was more like a lake. And this man needed armbands.
Adam then began to weep and it got proper awkward.
“It’s too late for me now,” he said, slurring. “It’s too late.”
I wanted to bail.
“I’ve gotta go now, actually Adam,” I said.
I got up and headed for the door.
“Eric,” he said. “One more thing.”
“Yeah,” I said, half turning to face him once more.
“You’ve got chops, kid. Serious chops. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
I opened the door and went outside.
When I looked back through the window, Adam was passed out on his chair.
Tune in tomorrow! X
3 days into the new series of my podcast and you’d be forgiven for thinking the show’s lost a little bit of its magic. Well that’s all about to change, because today’s episode of “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes” features comedy magician Damon Conlan.
Damon started doing magic when he was just a little boy that no one liked. After seeing a magic show with his Dad when he was 7 years old, he became obsessed with it. Little Damon was especially a fan of “vanishing tricks”, and he thought maybe if he became a good enough magician, then he could make the bullies in his life disappear too. Unfortunately, it only made their presence more numerous. If there’s one thing more bully-able than a short, nerdy kid with glasses, then it’s that same kid waving a magic wand around whilst wearing a top hat.
Damon hasn’t let his troubled past affect his mediocre present though. After several years of therapy, he’s now a normal, functioning human that goes around the country desperately seeking validation from strangers.
“When did you decide to transition from regular magic to comedy magic?” I asked, before taking a sip of my drink and letting the delicious flavour of pumpkin spice dance about on my taste buds.
“Well I was doing close-up magic at weddings and parties, and I noticed I was getting a lot of laughs,” he said. “So I decided to write some proper jokes to go along with my act and I signed up for a comedy open mic night.”
Since then Damon has gone from strength to strength in the comedy circuit and has crafted his set into something that’s extremely passable. From legitimately impressive magic tricks, to comically-placed mistakes, Damon plays around with the form like it’s a goddamn hacky sack. In fact, he’s taking that hacky sack, turning it into a rabbit, pulling it out of a hat, and making it choke out a playing card. Is that your card it’s just choked out? No. That’s the joke.
One thing I noticed is he doesn’t really come with an off-switch. He’s always very enthusiastic and during the interview he kept trying out his magic tricks on me.
“Is this your card Eric?” He asked, showing me the 4 of Hearts.
“No it’s not actually, Damon. My card was the 6 of Clubs.”
At this point Damon started pissing himself laughing.
I just sort of smiled politely.
I do like all his “is-this-your-card-no-it’s-not” stuff, but I couldn’t help asking myself whether it was actually proper comedy. For me stand up has always been about a man or a woman or a non-binary person getting up there and talking about their life. Stand-ups are supposed to explore their minds and teach us about ours. Doing silly card tricks just seems a bit daft when you compare it to the kind of challenging subjects legends like George Carlin and Peter Kay used to touch on.
“Do you not ever feel like dropping all the magic stuff and becoming a proper comedian?” I asked, trying to broach the subject sensitively.
“Not at all,” Damon replied, as he pulled out another card from behind my ear. “Is this your card?”
Damon started chuckling again. I continued:
“It’s just, I feel like you could be doing so much more. You’re not asking what it means to be happy. You’re not challenging power. You’re not questioning the hilariously absurd concept of putting garlic on bread. It is kind of funny to show someone a card that isn’t theirs, but what’s it achieving?”
Damon sighed. He suddenly got a serious look on his face.
“Listen, Eric,” he said. “I used to be like you. I used to think everything I did should have some grand meaning and purpose. I used to analyse everything, break everything down, thinking it was important to constantly ask questions. Believing finding the answers to those questions would somehow find me happiness as well. But it’s just not true. For every answer you find, there’s a thousand more questions. It never ends. You drive yourself crazy. But when I do my silly tricks that are seemingly about nothing, people laugh and there’s a moment of joy for the whole audience. And really life is just a collection of moments. Some good and some bad. All I want to do is create as many good moments as possible.”
Wow. I didn’t quite know how to reply so I just drank what remained of my pumkin spice latte. Looking at the bottom of my cup, I was startled.
There lay a soggy playing card.
“Is that your card?” Damon asked.
I laughed too.
I think he might be right about life, you know.
Tune in tomorrow! X
As I rocked up to Starbucks to not record the 4th episode of my Halloween podcast “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes” it wouldn’t be a lie to say I was in a foul mood. It would actually be the truth.
That morning I’d had yet another knock back from iTunes, saying they can’t put me on their platform unless I “provide them with an audio file”.
What happened to these people? Remember when Apple’s slogan used to be “Think Different”?
I’m generally quite a positive, upbeat person who dances through life, but the difficulty I’ve had in getting support for this project sometimes takes the rhythm straight from my feet. Surely Apple can see how much it would help their brand if iTunes hosted something as original as an unrecorded podcast.
When I was growing up, Apple were a symbol of innovation, but this unwillingness to get behind something that challenges the status quo just shows how much they’ve changed. They were always bringing out unique products, constantly looking for new, inventive ways to numb our brains with technology. But now it feels like they don’t even care.
I bet Steve Jobs is spinning in his grave right now.
(Side note – I don’t get that saying. Why the theatrics? Just have a little frown in your grave, mate.)
All this got me thinking more deeply about art and what its role is in society. Is the artist’s job to describe what they see within the framework the current culture gives them, or should they break away from that framework in search of something beyond? Should they water down their message, ensuring their work is accessible to the masses and sufficiently diluted to be deemed acceptable by the elites, or should they stick to what they think’s right and express themselves with such beauty and authenticity that eventually people have to listen and even those in power are forced to yield ground?
Ultimately, the question is: should the artist reject conformity, or should they be a little pussy?
Well, there’s no one that embodies the anti-conformist stance more than today’s guest Donald Mackerel a.k.a. “Mr. Badger”. It is said that traditionally a comedian should be 1 – funny, 2 – likeable and 3 – not-creepy. If this is true, then Mr Badger presents a triple threat to the status quo. With this in mind, I literally jumped at the opportunity to get his take on my concerns about art.
“You’re an act that no one really likes.” I said, landing back on the ground. “Is this the result of an intentional artistic decision?”
“Yes,” Mr. Badger replied. (Donald showed up in character.)
To be honest, I haven’t really seen much of Mr.Badger’s set, as whenever I’m gigging with him I always remember to bring a good book. But although I’ve heard it’s terrible, there’s something I admire about the way he still carries on doing his art and doesn’t care about what others think. Donald started performing as Mr.Badger in the late 70s and has spent 40 years traipsing round the country suffering rejection after rejection. I wanted to know how this has affected him. What about the man behind the mask?
“Are you happy?” I asked. “Do you have much of a life when you’re not being Mr. Badger?”
He paused for a second.
“I’m a total social outcast really,” he said eventually. “Never had friends. Never had kids or a wife. Never had fans. Never had anything really. But I have my jokes. And that’s something. I guess.”
As he said this, it felt like I could see him for the first time: an old man in a badger costume, weeping.
Maybe conformity isn’t such a bad thing.
See you next time! X
If I’m being honest with you guys, I’ve been feeling a bit out of my depth recently with this show. I know the searing honesty of that first sentence might seem a bit too intense, but I just wanna open up a bit because I think it’s important to show you guys that, if you think about it, I’m just a regular person too.
A lot of you see these pictures of me having fun with comedians and you think: “This guy’s got a great life, I bet everyone loves him and that he’s one of the most popular people on the circuit.” And in many ways, you’d be absolutely right.
But nevertheless, the amount of effort I’m putting into this is really taking its toll on me.
During the extensive research I did on podcasting before I started this project, not one person told me just how much writing would be involved. I got so much advice about recording equipment and editing software, but to tell you the God’s honest truth, not one bit of that has come in handy.
I really wanna make this show as not-shit as possible, and give my tens of fans the high-quality content they deserve. But all the writing I’ve been doing has left me tired (boo!), irritable (double-boo!) and a little bit lonely (can I get a triple-boo up in this bitch!?).
It makes you think: what is it all for?
Well who better to lift me from my gloomy mood than today’s guest on “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes” Safia Lamrani?
Safia is an actor, an improviser and a person. But perhaps because she’s yet to have much success in those areas, she’s best known for being a big ray of sunshine. With a real enthusiasm for life, Safia can’t help but try and spread her positivity wherever she goes.
And when you’re in a bad mood and you talk to someone like that, it can go one of two ways: it can make you feel better or it can be really fucking annoying.
“I’M SO EXCITED TO BE ON THE SHOW!” She said, hugging me as I went in for a handshake.
“Please never do that again,” I said, sitting back down. “I don’t like people hugging me.”
“I’m being serious,” I said.
After the awkwardness of the enthusiastic hug was over, she began even more enthusiastically telling me about her career. Starting out as an embryo, Safia has come a long way to get to where she is today. Having just graduated from Warwick University, where she also dabbled in improvised comedy, she is now a fully-fledged actor. And like most fully-fledged actors, Safia spends most of her days making coffees for £7.50 an hour.
Nowhere near successful enough to be starring in Hollywood movies, but not quite failing enough to be sleeping outside on the pavement, on the scale of acting success, Safia finds herself between The Rock and a hard place.
Who knows which way it’s gonna go?
Safia said she was inspired to get into acting by her dad; partly due to his glittering TV career (starring in 3 episodes of ITV’s The Bill), but also partly due to the convincing way in which he pretended to love her.
“It was just so believable,” she explained. “And I thought, if he can do it, then so can I.”
But so far Safia has failed to reach the dizzying heights of committing arson on The Bill, and this year was rejected from several drama schools. However, rather than being dismayed by those rejections, she used them as motivation to write her very own one-woman show, which she performed last month in Leicester. The show was centred around the crazy antics of fictional detective Sharlotte Hobbes, and since her 2-day run at Leicester’s Brewdog, her fan base has multiplied.
Unfortunately, when you multiply a number by 0, the answer is once again 0.
The more she was telling me about her career, the more I realised that, just like hosting an unrecorded podcast, the acting profession is extremely tough.
“Are you not worried that your wasting yours and everyone else’s time?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said. “The important thing is to keep trying.”
“But you’re not even getting any work at the moment.”
“Shakespeare said the whole world’s a stage…” I zoned out at this point; all the smiling, all the failing - it was like she couldn’t see something that seemed so clear to me. It was also like her stupid face was reminding me how stupid my face was. What was I doing with this podcast? And my stand up? Who was I kidding? When you want to do something creative or artistic it’s so hard to get anywhere that I’m not sure if it’s even worth it.
“There’s so much suffering in this process, Safia. I don’t know how you can sit there smiling about it.”
“Well the way I see it,” she said. “The failing, the rejection, the hard work – it’s all a gift. When I was younger, everything felt so easy. I was clever and good at sports, so school was no problem. But whenever I passed an exam or won an egg and spoon race, I never really felt like I achieved anything. But now, pursuing acting, it’s so hard, there’s no simple path to success. You have to try and try and try. All the time. You have to keep trying no matter how good you are. It’s much more of a struggle and so when I achieve something I feel really truly proud of myself. And that’s what makes me happy.”
I looked at her face and it suddenly didn’t seem as stupid anymore. And neither did mine. I just saw a positive person that wants to see how far she can go in this world. I felt proud of her too. And I felt proud of me. And I felt proud of everyone out there who gets up every day and tries their best, despite it being so easy not to.
“Thanks for coming on the show, Safia,” I said, giving her a hug. “You’ve taught me a lot.”
See you next time! X
As another series of my podcast comes to a close, I’m sitting here with a big fat grin on my face and in the next few paragraphs I’m gonna explain why.
When I first thought of doing this, the thing that excited me most was the reaction I was gonna get. I couldn’t wait for people to see my writing and all the clever jokes I would come up with. Those little red notifications would pop up in the corner of my screen and I would feel like people cared. I was sat in my room, constantly fantasising about likes and shares and also this girl I went to school with that I fancy (honestly, she’s well nice – I really hope we get married one day but I’m too scared to ask her out). I was so fixated on the fame and glamour the show was gonna give me.
And sure, the reaction has been great. People have loved my writing and my clever jokes. The fame has been fun. That girl I fancy hasn’t been in touch, but the show has still led to me having some wonderful one-night stands which I’m very grateful for. (Btw Katie, if you’re reading this, I left my pumpkin spice syrup at yours, please post it back to me ASAP!).
But now, at the end of it all, the thing that’s put this smile on my face isn’t any of that stuff. It’s the actual conversations I’ve had.
Maybe this is a realisation you guys have already had, and maybe it should’ve been obvious to me, but in the last week I’ve learned that OTHER PEOPLE ARE SO FUCKING INTERESTING.
Everybody I’ve spoken to so far has had so much to say. Doing this miniseries, I’ve heard five people’s life-stories and not one of them has been dull. In fact, by the end of each interview, I had so many more questions I wanted to ask that I felt like we could’ve spent an eternity together. I went into each conversation with a preconception of the person I was interviewing and every time that preconception was shown to be shallow and massively incomplete. The depth of people’s thoughts and life-experiences goes deeper than you could ever reach; everything you find out about someone leads to infinitely more things to discuss.
The little buzz we get when someone likes our posts online is nice, but it’s short-lived and, in the end, pretty meaningless. But when you sit down with someone and have a proper chat, and they tell you about their hopes and dreams, worries and anxieties, the things they’ve been through that make them who they are today, then you get a feeling of connection that’s so much bigger.
Finding out about other people’s lives sheds light on our own. We learn how universal our seemingly individual struggles are – we see that we all desperately crave love, fulfilment, poontang/wangtang. Talking about these things with another person lets us detach from them for a bit. The seriousness of it all evaporates.
You know, it’s not just on Halloween that we wear masks, it’s every day of the year on social media. The constant thirst for validation that Facebook perpetuates means we project a version of ourselves that isn’t real. We’ve turned ourselves into one-dimensional click bait, but we’re all so much more than that. And that’s what doing this show has taught me. We need to take the masks off and see what’s underneath.
And the only way to really find out about someone is to sit down with them face-to-face for a nice, cosy, off-mic chat.
I’ll be back soon for a Christmas miniseries “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Gingerbread Lattes”, but in the meantime, keep talking to each other. It’s the best thing there is.
Lots of love,
Oh shit, I forgot. Today’s guest was Rob Halden. But he didn’t have that much to say to be honest.