METAL GEAR SAM : PHANTOM CALLER

Sam Mackeddie sure loves his Metal Gear. He also loves making films weird as possible to the point they are incomprehensible and don’t make any sense. His ideas can be so impenetrable that I felt like I had to sit down while reading the script. The original thing he had was basically me getting carried around a hospital on a stretcher, before being held down and given eyedrops, and then finding all my friends tied up by nooses in the attic. Thankfully I was able to convince him to let me do a sexy dance instead. This is because of his fondness for ‘Room 836’, a black and white film we made about a year ago. Rewatching it, there’s some pretty good moments, but I feel that I prefer to make comedic stuff rather than an actual gritty horror. Not that there’s anything wrong with making films where i die all the time.

The origin of this is definitely from the Prankdial application’s ‘Stop using my Wifi’ call. The first time someone tried to do it to me, I thought it was a friend of mine because of the weirdly bland scottish accent on the line. Sam called me up a half hour later, accusing me of pranking him “I fucking know it was you Carson” whereas I don’t know who did it to either of us. It’s a lot less damaging I suppose than the time they called 3 taxis and 4 fish suppers to my house. I’m still barred from riding with Capital Cars.

The Metal Gear Solid element of this one really doesn’t make much sense other than we wanted to make the opening like ‘Venom’ Snake sitting in the MGSV helicopter. I added the stinger with the call after realising that it’s the other iconic thing in MGS I really like, those phone calls after the credits where they drop bridges of information on you. Oh Kojima, you crazy bastard. Hope to make more post-credit scenes like that. I feel I got the timing just right with all their weird pauses between lines.

Advertisements

FAKE ADS FOR FAKE DADS

Got a few here for you. Yeah, you heard it. We were commissioned by the one and only Deliveroo to make an advert so bad, that it would make their other ads look like gold in comparison. Turns out, we can’t make a bad advert. Who would have thought it? They want to pay us millions to run this one, because the truth sells. But we’re holding on to it for now. Not in it for the money.

This one is a message from Chris Creem of APB Food Solutions Ltd. I bet it’s no surprise to you that Chris is an insufferable asshole and we throw tennis balls at him when we seem him in the office. I mean we had that whole meeting where we did nothing but call him a fat shit for 45 minutes. But damn does he have some great ideas. I mean, the hot dog water is the best part of your frankfurter meal, but most people just throw it away. As much as I want to leave this guy in a desert to get eaten by a pack of cactus eating meth heads, I stand by the products that he has made. When others just throw it in, Chris works on a product that really is gonna change how we think about bottled foods. I still think he’s a dink though.

It turns out the guy we got to do this one turned out to be a right fanny. He demanded a bunch of weird shit, like workout equipment to take home and an ungodly amount of protein. He also wanted us to tuck him in at night and bathe him in the morning. Bit much for a two hour shoot, don’t you think. Either way, this guy is sick so we had to be nice to him. Can’t believe he tricked me into buying him his monthly shop though. I’m such a fool.

MAC DEMARCO – EDINBURGH, 30TH AUGUST 2017

The king of jangly guitars and melancholy organs was in town last night. Fuelled by Jameson, beer and the energy of screaming teenagers, this man and his band made sure to put on a show the city wouldn’t soon forget. Mac DeMarco and his band made it look effortless, walk on the stage and everybody screams. Play a few songs, everybody screams. Don’t play any songs, somebody’s still starting a mosh pit. The gig started tight and strong, as Mac and the guys went through some of his fast and slow ones. At the start the sound was a little fucked from where I was standing, but I might have been standing in the acoustic ‘Dead Zone’ of the concert hall. After a mosh pit sent the crowd into rolling stumble, I could hear it perfectly.

The gig was one of the most energetic and sloppiest that I’ve been to, in the best way. From the point that they broke a cover of Crystal Waters Gypsy Woman, all coherence was lost. I don’t think I’ve lost my shit more to a cover, one which focused on the ‘La da dee la dee da’ riff rather than doing the whole song. This continued with their rendition of a Star Wars/Animals ballad and a ridiculous take on Vanessa Carlton where the only lyric anyone knew was “Making my way downtown, my way downtown.” When it came to play ‘Viceroy’, Mac picked out a kid from the barrier who had been holding a sign that said ‘MAC CAN I PLAY VICEROY WITH YOU’ and brought him on stage. It was a little miracle that could have went horribly wrong, but it was truly amazing. He told the kid that during the solo near the end he’d pass it off to him – so the kid nervously waited with some maracas in the meantime. When it became time to play his part of the solo, he awkwardly took the guitar from Mac and nailed the solo, closing out the song. Everyone had the same reaction of awe and wonder, it felt like it didn’t really happen, but it did. Mac’s trust in some random fan led to a wonderful moment.

The gig was full of random Glaswegians who probably couldn’t get tickets to the Barrowlands show – who acted oddly, erratically. This is not intended to be a slate against our neighbours to the west, but when the drummer screamed out ‘This is Edinburgh’ they actually booed instead of cheered! I found it kind of funny actually. There was a lot of ‘Here we, Here we fucking go’ which I didn’t realise I’m sick to death to at this point, but Mac brushed it off gleefully by chanting it back at them with an odd cockney sounding accent. The first guy who did it was on somebody’s shoulders, and during the break after the support act it was a welcome break to the monotony. But during the gig when you’re trying to sing to songs and hear what the band are talking about, I felt like these kids were on too many drugs. Or not enough drugs, it’s hard to say. We’re not at colours or waiting for Tiesto to come on, this is the goddamn Usher Hall.

The support act was Alex Cameron who had some good songs and danced like a bastardised Nick Cave. One thing I found funny and then immediately old and grumpy about was the kids at the front who were holding up their phones with large text on the screen saying things like “Any1 Selling Pills?” “Fuck the Edinburgh, Mon eh Glasgow”. I was like “That’s pretty smart” at first then I felt like these kids are fucking idiots when I saw one close to me with “Indie is a meme” and “Come on, help a cunt out with pills, this boy is shite” referring to the Alex Cameron band. I didn’t like it because if you want to do drugs, sort it out before the show it’s very easy to do – and also because he’s slagging off a support act, who already get the shit end of the deal at every gig they ever play.

The gig was not harmed by these things though, it probably improved it – I’m just a miserly cunt who hasn’t smoked weed in a while. People were routinely getting chucked out for smoking which is pretty funny at a gig, because it was the usher hall the security were in full force. They smashed down anyone on shoulders, anyone who was moshing – but the drummer was still able to crowd surf across the hall, and Mac was able to surf inside a box that is supposed to hold a bass drum. Mac tried crowd surfing but was pulled back by the guards because he fell, but he just went to a part of the barrier with no guards there. He got pretty far into the crowd on his little makeshift boat, smoking joints and fags the adoring fans threw at him. At one point he started punching down at a security guard who was trying to get him off, a commendable move – never give into those fucks if you’re the star attraction. I wonder if that happens often where a security guard tries to shut down a show because he doesn’t like a performer.

The show was long, beautiful and theatrical. They played great tight songs (and sloppy jam band covers), using every other moment to get drunk and communicate with a crowd. It’s so different to other gigs I’ve been to in the past years at bigger venues where there is a definite disconnect, either because the crowd is so big or because the band are tired of touring. But these guys were so chatty, and the venue was the right size to fuck around in without messing up the show. In a regal setting like the Usher Hall, it almost felt like pantomime, only without any plot and a lot of cool rock music.  It was an exhausting yet exhilarating performance – a sign that it was a gig worth going to.

EDINBURGH FRINGE : WAS THERE AN OVERSATURATION OF TRUMP SHOWS IN 2017?

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been a weird one this year. Perhaps it’s just my own inablility to see it, or other engagements that I’ve been distracted by – but there honestly didn’t seem to be much on the festival this year that was a must see. There are a fair share of repeat performers every year, and it’s up to them if they want to do a new show or the same old set, whatever works for them as a comedian. The one thing that I disliked about the fringe this year however is that everyone seems to be trying to do the same shit: rip on the POTUS, Donald Trump.

I know that you have to put in applications for a show a long time in advance, but surely there would be some foresight somewhere – If it’s a hot topic, won’t everyone be doing it? This year I don’t think I’ve seen one show that didn’t have a sly reference to him somewhere, no matter if the context is appropriate or not. Even if a show has no relation to him, the blurb or the copy advertising the show will mention it somewhere.  A quick search of the Fringe website had 71 shows that mentioned ‘Trump’ in the title or the blurb of the show – and 218 that mentioned ‘Politics and Trump’. Is that enough to suggest that it’s oversaturated with political satire shows that care more about the climate than comedy?

So many of these shows specifically talk about living in a world that ‘Post –Truth and Post –Brexit’ like it’s 9/11 all over again. There is has been a lot of exaggeration in the impact of politics recently, good and bad we’re all blaming each other for shit that might not be completely true or hasn’t even happened yet. It’s hard to say if many of these shows got some genuine insight that would impact your worldview, or if they are just capitalising on the culture of outrage that we can’t stop indulging in.

In my honest opinion, the comedy in Donald Trump’s position as president died a long time ago. It probably died the day he got inaugurated, and sealed the deal in becoming the ‘leader of the free world’. I don’t think it’s because he’s so dangerous that you can’t joke about it, but the comedy in it all just feels half assed. The week he got elected, everyone I did stand up with that week couldn’t shut up about it. Even then I felt like a little hack trying out my Trump joke, which really didn’t have much to do with him, it was about Keith Richards snorting his dad’s ashes. Doesn’t it bother any of these comedians that this Trump focus, while completely relevant and topical when dissecting the political climate feels quite uninspired?

I heard Brent Weinbach on the Poundcast comment that he didn’t really mind if Trump was elected, because the reign of the last Republican POTUS, George W. Bush was great for comedy. It was great for Brent specifically, I remember him saying that once Obama came in, there was a slump. It kind of was a good time, but I also felt back then that it was cheap. It was always like “Here’s this doofus, and he can’t ever get anything right” and the comedy was derived from that. But with the Trump situation, people have been shitting on him as a person and a businessman ever since he became well known in the early 1980s. He was always this douchey rich kid with some sort of narcissistic disorder, and because he has mostly unchanged in character, the comedy we derive from his situation seems like it’s been done before. The only thing that has changed is his political status. Of course whatever he’s done as a political figure has been questionable, but is it enough that you can make your own spin on it actually funny?

We have all these shows that attack the POTUS because they can either do a bad impression of him, or they genuinely feel politically charged to do a show that takes him on and really takes him to task. Alex Salmond said that he wanted to ‘Roast him’ in his show. But political humour is often bloated with self-importance and a weird strain of righteousness, it’s never all that funny. I am yet to see a stand-up comedy show that uses politics in a way that isn’t just a vehicle to base all the jokes on ‘something’, its never smart enough to use a political background to do what it should be – make the humour so good that it becomes apolitical.

Matt Forde hosts a politics show every year on the fringe, and while it appeals to some, I have always found him to be a grating, dull personality. At least his show always claims to be about politics, never focusing on the comedy. It’s all about current events, which basically only has some degree of comedy for a while before it dies. It feels like all these Trump shows were dead on arrival and the jokes seem lame because we heard it all before. The guy will always be parodied in popular culture from now on and perhaps he may be a regular staple at the fringe over the next few years, but we should at least have the decency to call it out when it’s lazy.

EDINBURGH FRINGE – JOANNE MCNALLY – ‘BITE ME’

On the surface, ‘Bite Me’ seems like a comfortable comedy show to go to. Joanne McNally is already there when you walk in, cracking jokes with the audience and getting people settled. It continues in this casual manner as she gives us a little bit of her backstory, dropping in hints that she has had her battles with addiction and illness. The show stays light as Joanne does a call and response bit with her current therapist and her inner demon who sounds a lot like Louie Walsh, but at a certain point it falls off a cliff edge into a dark territory.

It’s not claimed anywhere that this is an attempt to make bulimia funny, although it does manage to make some elements comical through McNally’s talented storytelling. Somewhere in the first half though, the material becomes so dark that the laughs die out and it becomes more of a one woman show. The show is funny all throughout, even when dealing with issues like getting arrested shoplifting cakes and hoarding bags of vomit, but it is so shocking that the audience might not know if it’s okay to laugh.

This is a dark show that explores the performer’s battle with bulimia, dissecting the impact that it has on a person’s mental health. Joanne asks at the top of the show if anyone has lost their mind and gone properly crazy before – this is her story of how her eating disorder made her crazy. There’s no logic to some of your thoughts and you become addicted to some of your habits in unhealthy ways. This show might not be a laugh every second, but it’s certainly something that I’ve never seen before. McNally is a talented comedian, but this is more like a one woman show helmed by a funny person.

It’s a scary picture of mental illness and admitting your problems, in a way that’s very memorable and uplifting in a way. It was kind of an eye opener as well, seeing as I didn’t really know much about bulimia beforehand. When I came out and told someone about the show, they told me they had practiced bulimia for a time because it was ‘cool’ and it didn’t have the mental illness connotations we have of it today. After seeing ‘Bite Me’ I realised that this story can happen to anyone if they let it – and I’m glad I saw Joanne’s perspective through her show. It might be tough and unflinching in its brutal depiction of the illness, but it’s probably the realest show I’ve seen on the fringe in a couple years.

★★★★✩

Joanne McNally: Bite Me is on at the Assembly Roxy (Venue 139), ​18:20 Aug 21-28

EDINBURGH FRINGE – GRAHAM DICKSON IS THE NARCISSIST

Graham Dickson is a talented performer, who has an abundance of charisma. He seems to be an actor capable of great range as well, as evidenced by some of the scenes in ‘The Narcissist.’ But this show was advertised as a comedy, and I did not laugh once.
It is obviously a labour of love, taking influence from pretentious and buffoonish thespians and works of Russian literature, but nothing ever really landed for me. It is a show that tries to do many things, but arguably never really accomplishes any of them. Part of the show takes the form of a farce, as Graham and his director Hamish argue about different approaches the show should take. It then starts to delve into character comedy, Graham playing a Russian man who self-absorbedly looks back throughout his life to give us a taste of his formative years. The lead character, Grigoriy Alexeivich Dhukov takes us on a journey through his life, detailing the life of shit that he’s led up to this point, the experiences that led up to him writing his magnum opus.
With the exception of two cringe inducing American characters that play on tired archetypes, the play mostly follows this Russian protagonist and Graham himself as he breaks character to bicker with the director. The main problem is that while a lot of the writing has the cadence of a joke that invites you to laugh, it’s not actually funny enough to force one out. The story is okay, it might even be pretty interesting if it wasn’t littered with jokes that make you want to crawl out of your skin and out the exit. The show jumps around pretty frantically and Graham does a good job with some of the physical comedy, but neither the characters nor the humor in ‘The Narcissist’ make any impact. It’s not mean or cruel enough to be truly narcissistic, instead it is a lame, ill-conceived concept. It presents itself as a vehicle for character comedy, but nothing about the characters or the writing is particularly amusing.

Last year I worked for a publication that did not publish negative reviews, so I haven’t written one in a while. It does pain me a little to write this, because while the guy although hasn’t written something I could connect with, the audience I was in there with did enjoy it. But still, there were times where the laughs felt forced from the people sitting next to me. I was impressed with Dickson’s acting ability, and he does have the potential to be a great comedic actor. The writing though, needs to be funnier all round. I was almost going to give it a second chance halfway through if they didn’t do a joke about everyone’s least favourite president, but near the climax they blew it with a joke that had no place in a show dealing with a 1930’s playwright. It might have been an out of character moment for Dickson, but it was still a cheap joke in final few minutes. I do wish Dickson all the best though – it’s hard to be objective when something really doesn’t connect with you on such a wide ranging art form such as comedy. I despise most improv troupes that I’ve ever seen on the festival because of each members need to outperform each other. I understand Dickson comes from an improv background and this does feel like a play that was scripted by a good improviser. Perhaps my fault with the show of is just the incompatibility with the styles of comedy we draw influence from.

✮✮✰✰✰

Graham Dickson is The Narcissist is on at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) ​
20:10, Aug 17-27

EDINBURGH FRINGE – NEIL DELAMERE : BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE PENSIONER

I’m not usually a fan of crowd work at comedy gigs, because it’s a mixed bag. There can be too many loose ends and jokes that fall flat, wasting the precious time you have to make the audience like you and your material. However, Neil Delamere has mastered the art of crowd work to the point that it’s flawlessly woven into his fringe show. It’s not often that you’ll get someone that comes out to do the fringe that has so much fun joking with the audience, their actual fringe material becomes barely distinguishable amongst the improvisation.

The show is framed around a story about helping his father deliver meals on wheels to pensioners in Ireland, who at this point is an 82 year old man himself. Whilst telling us about the weirdos and ultra-religious people he delivers food to, he is able to jump around and go off on tangents without going on too long, without straying far from the structure of the show. He enjoys riffing on the audience’s reactions and their flustered answers to his questions, and because you can see his delight it makes the experience a lot more comfortable. He slides into this free-spirited approach on riffing by telling everyone not to be worried if he talks to them, “we’re only having the craic”. I can get behind this method, having spent too many nights cringing in the back of a comedy club when the comic chats up the audience.

Neil is your stereotypical fast talking Irishman, but it’s probably cause of his quick wit trying pushing out the jokes as fast he can. The jokes come so rapidly at some points I didn’t think I would be able to catch up with him. As the show goes on, Neil divulges more about his life in Ireland and about his childhood where the threat of the IRA could be quashed by getting your dad to join Al Qaeda. His main story about his delivery journey doesn’t seem to be anything more than a comedy vehicle, until in the end he ties it all together in a rewarding finale. It’s a performance that heavily relies on but also benefits from the use of improv, using it as a buffer to make his own jokes sound unbelievable. It’s also a show about getting older and dealing with how you cope with the inevitable – your parents getting too old to deliver meals to other old people.

Neil Delamere: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Pensioner is a great show because it doesn’t feel rigid at all. It’s a show that has the promise of something fresh and original each night along with his prepared fringe material. The guy is genuinely affable, but funny too – he’s not pandering to anyone, you can see that the act is what it is, a hysterical hour with a hilarious comedian.

★★★★✩

Neil Delamere is on at Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64)​, 21:00
Aug 11-14, 16-27

EDINBURGH FRINGE – BEST OF SCOTTISH COMEDY @ THE STAND 08/08

When it comes to the festival, I don’t get excited to see Scottish comics or most British ones. My eye usually wanders to the fresh stream of American comedians who are trying out their new hour before realising how unprofitable the fringe can really be. But as this year came around, I started to think this is a dangerous mindset to have. This year I’m trying to confront my own prejudices and snobbery towards comedians who perform in Scotland year round, by seeing as much home grown talent as I can.

The first place I could think to get a decent show that has good Scottish acts was at The Stand on York Place, which as Edinburgh’s most prominent comedy club has probably more integrity and common sense than most of the pop-up places at the festival. Being a variety show of sorts, ‘The Best of Scottish Comedy’ is an energising comedy show that works well because it emulates the comedy club circuit these comics have worked in for so many years. Unlike a lot of shows on the fringe which focus on a personality, a gimmick or promise of celebrity guests, BOSC is able to harness what is good about seeing Scottish comedy in a club without taking anything away from it.

The show is held in one of the stand’s festival venues, a full house that got right into it as soon as compere Ray Bradshaw hit the stage. He has an affable quality to him, something essential for a great compere. He was able to rip into the Americans, the loud drunk English and the reluctant Scots in his crowd work, without it sounding hammy or played out. When he even ripped on me, a reluctant ginger kid in the front row, he did it in such a good nature that I was surprised I liked him after it, considering how much self-loathing I feel after being chosen while working the crowd at a comedy gig. Ray was great and I’d like to see him again outside of the host role.

After Ray warmed up the audience, on came Fern Brady, a sharp tongued comedian who opened with a dig at braindead cabbies in Northern Ireland. Fern has the spark – she’s a talented performer who can take on darker material without sounding too cynical or losing laughs to offended gasps. Her jokes felt warm and kind of life affirming, even though they focused on the pros and cons of crushing her tiny boyfriend to death, or cooking eggs for a halfway house full of paedophiles. The levity of Fern’s act was definitely the highlight of the night, she never faltered to what was quite a mixed bag of an audience. She bit through the tuts and groans of the older audience members, telling them she wished she could cancel her fringe show because the 12pm slot is full of old cunts who can’t deal with the word labiaplasty. To be fair, I cringe just thinking about it.

Next up was Robin Grainger, who had a hard act to follow after Fern, but he still had a solid set. Whereas Fern saunters around the stage with the grace of a drunk stepmother, Robin has the manic energy of a kid that’s just done speed for the first time. His main bit deconstructed the pitfalls of releasing mental patients for a weekend, otherwise known as T in the Park. The glorious shamble of a festival, where he tried to perform comedy for a tent full of muddy people chewing their faces off and requesting ‘Wonderwall’. Robin’s strength was telling these weird, abstract stories and I got distracted because his jokes were so similar to my own stand-up material, forcing me to confront myself about why what I wrote wasn’t as good as his material.

The headliner for the night was Mark Nelson, who is best known from this year for making a video with his daughter about the 2017 general election. I had seen Mark before, maybe a year and half ago at the stand. He killed then, and he killed here too. His opening line about the anti-terrorism barriers on the royal mile set the irreverent tone for the rest of his set “As everyone knows, the nemesis of the terrorist is the street performer.” As he slowly sips on a pint he lays down his take on family life, where you don’t like your kids equally and you wish you could die in your sleep. His grumbles about getting on, your ballsack growing bigger and bigger don’t get tired quickly like it would for some comics, it was those down to earth observations about life that completely slayed the audience. I was sat at the front with my girlfriend who was crying with laughter at the start, and then proceed to not be able to breathe.

‘The Best of Scottish Comedy’ exceeded my expectations for Scottish comedians at the fringe this year and left me leaving with a strange, twanging feeling in my heart which I later realised was patriotic pride. As I left the gig and went home, I kept thinking about how damn good it was and how blinded I’ve been due to these insecurities about my own identity. Maybe one day I’ll be able to channel that self-loathing into something worthwhile, even comedy. I was a fool to look down on the broad spectrum of Scottish comedy, because there really is some true greatness in there.