Comedians getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes (series two)
Originally not aired on 28/10/2019
Surely, he can’t be doing another series, can he? Surely, he’s not come to save us from our misery yet again, feeding us with the kind of unique content we’ve been starving for, filling our bellies with delicious unrecorded hilarity, not asking for anything in return except for likes and hopefully a few direct messages that will boost his fragile ego and keep the inner demons partially at bay for the difficult Autumn and Winter months ahead.
Well, in a word: yes, I am, actually.
Who am I going to choose as my first guest for the second Halloween series of my podcast, “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes”? Well the answer to that question is as easy as 1,2,3; simple as do-re-mi – it’s Celya AB.
“Bonjour, Celya,” I said, knowing Celya originally comes from France.
“Hello, Eric,” Celya said, knowing how to speak English.
“So, Celya,” I said, “how do you think having the first two letters of the alphabet as your surname has influenced your comedy?”
“I don’t know how to respond to that.”
Not so confident with the English now is she.
For the rest of the interview, I made sure to speak slower. If this podcast was recorded, I’d be advising my listeners at this point to be changing to 2x playback speed.
Born somewhere in France 24 years ago, Celya moved to Birmingham when she was 19 to pursue a career in comedy, and a seasoned debater would be able to make a reasonable argument in favour of that being a good decision. Celya has been so moderately successful in the last few months that she’s started to attract jealousy from certain corners of the West Midlands comedy scene. From being a woman, to incautiously accepting terms and conditions on webpages, Celya has been accused of being a bit of a “box ticker”.
Although I disagree with these ridiculous accusations, it’s my job as an interviewer to put my personal feelings to one side and ask the questions that need answering:
“Celya, was it a conscious decision to be a woman, or did it just sort of happen? Be honest.”
“Again, I have no idea how to respond to that.”
I was starting to get confused. Whenever I’ve spoken to Celya before, her English has been impeccable. If it wasn’t for her tendency to look down on people, you wouldn’t even be able to tell she was French. Her sentences run so smoothly it’s like they’re the opposite of the Brexit process – a process that will unfortunately one day see her removed from this country, either for legal reasons, or because of increasing instances of xenophobic hate crimes that will make her feel both unwelcome and scared for her safety. Sad times.
Maybe it was the pressure of being interviewed that was affecting Celya’s capacity to understand and speak English? Pressure can do crazy things to the human mind.
It’s like when you’re at a pub quiz and you get the question “Who played Neo in the 1999 film ‘The Matrix’?” and you say Vic Reeves and everyone laughs at you and it’s super embarrassing and to this day people still take the piss.
To make Celya feel more comfortable, I halved the speed at which I was speaking once again and decided to ease up on the questions.
“Let’s just have a bit more of a chat, Celya,” I said. “Forget about the switched-off microphones and let’s just pretend we’re two mates having a delicious pumpkin-spiced coffee.”
From this point on I felt the conversation was much more natural. I found out about Celya’s influences. She said growing up she used to be a big fan of Mitchell & Webb -- “I just loved the way they’d be able to be silly and intellectual at the same time.” We bonded over this, as I too had been inspired by a double-act in my formative years. I used to absolutely love Keanu & Bob from Shooting Stars.
As pumpkin-spice danced around on my taste buds, my spirit left my body for a second and I hovered above the table to have a gander at the situation. (This happens to me sometimes during the Halloween period, don’t worry, let’s not go into it.) And you know what? It’s funny how sometimes as a disembodied spirit you can see things differently, some would argue more clearly. Looking down, I didn’t see a French person sat opposite one of the most original new comedians in the country. What I actually saw was two friends, two EU citizens (at the time of writing) connecting. I realised that nationality is arbitrary. It doesn’t matter whether you’re French or British. It doesn’t matter whether you eat croissants, or whether you prefer something more traditionally British like a Chinese takeaway. What matters is that we’re all people, just trying our best. Surely that’s the true message of Halloween.
I re-entered my body and wrapped up the interview.
“Celya, I just wanna say, I’d be happy for someone like you to stay in the country after Brexit.”
“Thank you, Eric.”
I finished my coffee and put my coat on.
“Bonjour, Celya.” I said, knowing that bonjour is of course both hello AND goodbye in French.
“Au revoir, Eric.”
See you next time! X
Originally not aired on 29/10/2019
It’s episode two of my unrecorded Halloween podcast and the only thing scary about today’s guest is his talent, as well as his history of violence. But – even though judging people by their past mistakes is something I’m very fond of – I want to forget about the violence and concentrate on the talent part, because today’s guest is a former Edinburgh Award Nominee!
Besides, Rob Kemp (today’s guest, the Edinburgh Award Nominee guy, the one who this podcast is about, from the first paragraph, remember?) hides the violent part of his character so well that it’s almost like I made it up for the sake of having a pithy opening line for the podcast. When he turned up to be on the podcast that everyone’s raving about and (due to its unique format) no one is listening to, he seemed very charming. He’s actually very soft and gentle, and I know this because when he turned up I greeted him by touching his soft cheeks and his gentle hand politely pushed me away. Lovely guy.
Now, if you’ve been living under a Dwayne Johnson for the last few years, then you might not have heard of Rob. But those of you who are a bit more clued in will remember Rob as the man behind the cult-hit The Elvis Dead, which was a live show that re-imagined the film Evil Dead 2 through the songs of Elvis (Presley). Sound bonkers? Yep – it was so bonkers and original that it ended up getting him the Edinburgh nomination mentioned above, as well as universal critical acclaim.
“Thanks for agreeing to do the show, Rob,” I said as we settled into our seats in Cherry Reds, a café at the heart of Birmingham’s city centre, a heart that unfortunately suffers with angina. Nah it’s a great city – I don’t know why I’m slagging it off. Back to the podcast.
“Thanks for having me, Eric.”
“Now, to start with, as a comedian, who—“
“Don’t bring up Elvis Dead,” Rob said, interrupting. “It’s done now. I’m working on other stuff. So just leave it, alright.”
“Okay…” I replied, quite taken aback at the interruption. “I mean I was just about to ask you who your influences are.”
He seemed friendly and charming to begin with, but this outburst put me on edge a bit, if I’m being honest.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just every interview I do people wanna talk about The Elvis Dead. It gets to me.”
“Why? Surely you’re proud of it?”
“I am. Of course I am. It’s just…”
“You feel like you’ve failed to follow up on it, and everything you’ve produced since has massively paled in comparison,” I said, kindly helping him out.
“I wouldn’t phrase it like that, but yeah.”
He took a gulp of his Pumpkin Spice Latte, too worked up to savour the special flavour.
“Well, what are you working on at the moment?” I asked.
“There is one idea I had which I’m pretty excited about,” he said.
“Oh yeah? Go on…’
“Well, have you seen the new Joker movie?”
‘Yeah it’s fantastic. Loved it. Why?”
“I loved it too. And I think I could do a show about it. I want to retell the story through Elvis songs, like with Evil Dead. I’m gonna call it The Elvis Joker.”
When someone tells you the worst idea of all time, it can be hard to look at them in the same way ever again.
“Uhmm, yeah it’s not bad,” I said, buying myself a bit of time to work out how to be sensitive. “Personally, I’d just maybe stay away from the Elvis thing for a bit.”
“Yeah, maybe leave it for a few years. Especially if you don’t wanna be thought of as that guy anymore.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right.”
“Yeah, probably am.”
Rob looked a bit defeated. Well, a lot defeated, to be honest. It’s one thing being haunted by your past mistakes, but what I’ve never considered before is how people can be equally haunted by their past successes. Halloween is a time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld is supposedly thinned, when spirits and ghosts can enter into our realm. Obviously, we know this is just a sort of festive myth that we buy into and that these spirits aren’t real; things that aren’t in the material world aren’t something we should worry about, am I right Richard Dawkins? But if you think about it, there is an immaterial, non-physical realm that does dictate our lives on a day-to-day basis – and that’s the past. Our past is something that can possess us, making us anxious and depressed, stifling joy in our life. But really, where is the past? It’s nowhere.
We shouldn’t allow either the fact we’ve failed or the fact we used to be great and now we’re shit again bother us. There’ll be people reading this who were once beautiful and young and smart, and who are now unfortunately old and dumb. Should they look back on the past? No, they should try and have a happy life until they finally decay beyond repair and cease to exist. Similarly, there’ll be ex-criminals reading this (I have a wide audience) who are still racked with guilt for their past crimes. Forget about it, guys.
I guess what I’m trying to say through this rambling is that Rob needs to just get on with, find a way of exorcising the past and stop worrying about it.
Looking at Rob’s sad face, I decided it was time for me to bury this podcast into MY past.
“Well, Rob, I think we’re about done here.”
As I was walking away after leaving Rob on his own, I turned around and saw that he had begun to smash the place up. Proper throwing chairs around and freaking everyone out. I guess maybe there was some truth in the thing about him being violent after all, because he’d properly flipped. It’s like you know the Incredible Hulk? Well he’d become so angry that it was like he was acting it out, while at the same time probably thinking of
Poor guy. Let it go, Rob. Let it go.
I guess that thing about violence probably was true after all.
See you next time! x
Originally not aired on 31/10/2019
Leave or Remain?
Labour or Tory?
An election has been called, and it’s time to ask ourselves some difficult questions. What kind of society do we want to live in? How do we challenge power? Do we need to start questioning the fundamental systems that our society is built on? Who cares? Isn’t this all dead boring? Is there something else I could be doing instead? Maybe reading a boundary-pushing podcast?
The bad news is that the election stuff is boring, but the good news is that someone is here to deliver that boundary-pushing podcast.
(I’m talking about me.)
And just because I’m not a general election that doesn’t mean I’m afraid to ask difficult questions. One such question is this:
What’s a more important quality, henchness or funniness?
Well, today’s comedian has one of those qualities in abundance and unfortunately for his career it’s henchness.
Mirthful meathead Lovell Smith joins me for today’s edition of “Comedians Outside Edinburgh Getting Pumpkin Spice Lattes” and although he used to be a body-builder, the only thing he builds now are strong set-ups that are unfortunately followed by incredibly weak punchlines.
“I love your premises man,” I said to Lovell, his hench hands almost accidentally shattering his glass as we sat down inside Kings Heath’s Costa Coffee.
“Thank you, Eric,” he said, not smart enough to dig out an insult from that.
But even though Lovell isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, he’s still an all-star that gets his game on and plays to crowds of easily-pleased morons every week.
“You’ve been doing really well, Lovell,” I said to him. “Especially in towns isolated from proper culture, where the audience don’t know any better.”
“You’re far too kind, Eric.”
Having only started comedy around 6 months ago, Lovell has already established himself on the circuit and has had a lot of success in the new act competitions, including recently reaching the finals of the Beat The Frog World Series. And I can kinda see why. Even though I could be a mile away from the venue and still see where Lovell’s jokes are going, there’s something captivating about watching him. He always looks like he’s really enjoying himself up there, and it’s infectious. The masses love him.
“What is it that you enjoy about doing comedy, Lovell?” I asked him, a fairly basic question for a fairly basic man.
“I just love putting smiles on people’s faces,” he responded. “I think this country’s been through a lot in the last few years. Everyone’s at each other’s throats about Brexit and politics and it’s nice to have this space where none of that really matters and we can all have a laugh.”
“Huh… yeah… I guess you’re right.”
So far I’d been taken aforward by what Lovell had said to me, but this time I was taken well and truly aback. It made me realise that maybe I’ve been a bit of snob. It probably comes from a place of insecurity, wanting to see myself above Lovell and the audiences that like him. He’s actually really good. Sure, I serve up filet mignon while Lovell delivers pie and mash, but what’s wrong with pie and mash? People like pie and mash, and pie and mash can be funny. You can mould the mash into balls and pretend the sausage is a penis. Cocks and balls will always be hilarious.
I guess I’ve always assumed it’s people who are proper thick that are the problem in this country, but maybe it’s people like me – university-types with their Guardian memberships and their ground-breaking podcasts. We claim to care about equality, but we forget about people who are in genuine pain, people who live in places like Dudley and Coventry, who aren’t represented by the elite. This is how Brexit happened. We forgot that these are people with hopes and aspirations, people that fall in love, people that have kids that deserve a future. These people got sick of the way things were.
And you know what, they’re too busy working their arses off to stay alive to take the time to learn about and appreciate sophisticated comedy like mine. We should promote people like Lovell who can appeal directly to the people of Preston and start to heal the divisions.
Because when you’re laughing, the divisions don’t seem as important. Hate is replaced by joy, and that joy at a weekend comedy club can make a hard week of work seem worth it.
That’s why this election, my vote is for comedy. It may be the only thing that can bring us together.
Mainstream, predictable, hacky comedy.
“Thanks for your important work, Lovell,” I said. “It means a lot more than you realise.”
See you next time! X
Originally not aired on 01/11/2019
It’s finally over!
After months of build-up, overly-sentimental John Lewis adverts, and intense family conflict, Halloween is done. It’s now Halloween Boxing Day and we’re in that weird period in-between Halloween and Bonfire night where no one really knows what day it is. But before you make a bunch of resolutions and join a gym, how about you sit back, get out the cheap leftover chocolate that trick-or-treaters refused to accept, and enjoy the season finale of my podcast.
And who better to join me for today’s finale than country-girl Katy Trev?
A bigger and more successful comedian, you say? Maybe. But what Katy lacks in accomplishments she more than makes up for in crossbows, owning three of them.
“One for display, one for recreation, and one for aiming at the face of people in the village who get on the wrong side of me,” she explained.
“Fair enough, Katy,” I replied, the fear in my voice so audible that I almost wish this podcast was recorded.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “I ‘ent got one on me now.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Born and raised and still currently living in a small village in Worcestershire called Bretforton, Katy has been pretty sheltered from the big-city way of life and its highfalutin ways. The only rat-race Katy has ever been a part of was at the Bretforton spring fete in 2007, where villagers select the most athletic rodents in their household to compete for the chance to win a used-but-still-in-good-condition wheelbarrow.
“Jessie Edwards’s rat was on something, I just know it,” she said, unable to stop 12 years of bubbling resentment from spewing out. “That wheelbarrow should be mine.”
“Right okay,” I said, still a bit scared and double-checking for the crossbow again.
Modern technology was slow to make it to Bretforton and when Katy was a kid the village only had one computer that everyone had to share.
“We never really understood how the magic of it worked,” she said. “We thought the computer was some kind of ancient God and so every time one of us used Google we had to sacrifice a ferret to it.”
Despite this, Katy has now mastered technology and has become a sensation on Instagram, where she posts daily stories about her life in the countryside, only sacrificing around a handful of ferrets each year for old times’ sake.
“It’s made me realise how much I love being creative,” she told me, “I put this stuff out there and people are on board, it’s so gratifying -- it's like blindly shooting my crossbow out the window at night and hearing the bloodcurdling squark of a dirty pheasant or townie hit by it.”
The place where Katy’s creativity shines through the most, however, is on the stage. You’d think that it would be difficult for Katy to work in an art form that requires language, coming from a place where people mainly communicate by putting different cadences on the word cunt -- but she’s actually been a breath of fresh country air on the stand-up comedy scene. A cleaner by trade, Katy has been wowing audiences with punchlines dirtier than the houses of most of her clients.
“I keep telling ‘em to not let their animals in the front room, but they don’t listen Eric,” she said. “It’s murder tryna scrub pig shit off a settee, I’ll tell you that for free.”
I laughed. My instinct was to carry on being scared of Katy, but I laughed. She’s funny. Odd, but funny. I’ve not really met anyone funny in the same way as Katy before. Her country ways don’t mean she’s gonna kill me, it’s just she’s out of context and things that are out of context sometimes induce fear. But sometimes they also induce laughter. I even feel odd sat opposite her, because really she shouldn’t be in a café, she should be on a tractor somewhere. But I guess that what comedy’s all about – odd balls, and people and things that go against our expectations. Whether it’s someone from the country that’s spent far too much time around farmyard animals, or a scholar like me who’s reinventing the podcast game, we need more people who challenge our view of what normal is.
“What’s next for you, Katy?”
“I’ve gotta go home and bathe the squirrels.”
“Thanks for coming on the show, Katy.”
She smiled back. Then she made a sudden move. The next thing I knew a crossbow was inches from my face.
“Now don’t you dare make me look like a dickhead.”
See you all at Christmas for another special series of unrecorded content!