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The Greatest Escape

May 24, 2013 |

Wandering through the emblazoned walls of graffiti dominating the North Lanes (my personal favourite is John Peel on The Prince Albert), it would be fair to say that it’s hard to imagine a more Bohemian or fitting platform for a music festival introducing new and raw music to the British public and media. It surely is the only festival where quiff combing hipsters, impressive taches, mutton chops, Mohawks, skin designs of various size and colour, ball gowns, tiaras and Edwardian three piece suits rub along nicely. It’s hard not to hit the instagram trigger every minute that you are soaking in this mercurial atmosphere and harder still not to be seduced into a café-dwelling, people-watching haze and forget you are there to review music…ur hem…Even those without a formal stage, busking in whatever vacant space the heaving pavement will allow them are of an impressive standard. Although not always appreciated by the office workers above, this amplified madness sets the scene nicely for The Great Escape.  Brighton itself and the many varied venues such as the dark basements of The Haunt, the outdoor picnic feel of the bullet stage in Jubilee Sq to the chandeliered decadence of The Old Ship’s Pagannini Ballroom give you an idea of the breadth and depth of the musical tastes on offer from the whimsical Estonian folk gems of Ewert and The Two Dragons to the raw punk ranting of Parquet Courts. Over the next few articles I will be bringing the reviews and the recommendations to your attentions and attempting to catch up with a few of the amazing artists on offer at the moment. On with the show…………..

David O’Doherty: Seize the David O’Doherty (Carpe O’Diem) – Melbourne International Comedy Festival

April 26, 2013 |

Accents can make anything funny, which is why Dave Hughes and Billy Connolly can always get a crowd giggling even with the most mundane of observations. It helps too, if your lovely Irish brogue is accompanied by a cutting wit and miniature keyboard skills. David O’Doherty’s 2013 MICF show ‘Seize the David O’Doherty’ is chock-full with songs, puns and a surprising number of self-deprecating anecdotes from one of the UK’s most successful comedians on tour.

From the moment the introduction began ringing out over the Forum Theatre (a large plush venue with allocated seating, for those playing along at home), the crowd was O’Doherty’s for the taking. ‘Seize the David O’Doherty’ is meant to be a life-affirming hour where he aims to fix the world. If anything, O’Doherty proves that he doesn’t even need to provide genuine solutions—he does a lot of good just rolling around the world generating belly laughs. Like Patch Adams if he were actually funny (and Irish, and not a doctor).

O’Doherty’s trademark is the rollicking good show that is a little unstructured and flits between topics. Here he is as disorganised as ever, but it’s why we’ve come to love him: The man can make a good joke out of anything. Or a silly song with good jokes which is just as great. If you don’t believe me, consider one of the show’s final pieces: a song about a man wanking on a bike. If you can construct one joke that doesn’t require an obvious rhyme, like ‘banking,’ then I suggest you close this page and get to the Edinburgh Fringe, stat. Comic geniuses are in short supply; they’ll be needing you this year.

‘Seize the David O’Doherty’ is naturally meant to be a show all about positive thinking and bouncing back after a relationship breakup and depression.

While it is very much so a peppy affair, it largely really ends up being about how great he is.

Not in the content itself (typically, O’Doherty is caustic about his own self and inability to attract the opposite sex: “People see me and think: Wow, Chris O’Dowd has let himself go!” he says at one point, rather incorrectly), but the overall Carpe O’Diem experience reveals just how funny, interesting and amusing he is.

Rapid-fire jokes sent a delighted audience into raptures, and I believe I did not stop laughing until the very end when I had to run to catch a train. Emergency pulls on my drink were necessary to ensure that I made it out of there alive, but there certainly are worse ways to die. A bit of CPR from one of the funniest comedians on tour today truly would be the Kiss of Life.

‘Seize the David O’Doherty,’ proves that David O’Doherty is getting better and better with every year that passes.

Gina Yashere – Udderbelly Festival Appearance and DVD Incoming

April 26, 2013 |

London born Gina Yashere has had a very successful carreer in the UK. Having made many appearances on Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo, The Lenry Henry Show, and winning multiple awards over the years does make her a successful comic in anyones’ mind but her intense drive to take her career even further has paid off as she has further established herself in America. Having been in America for a number of years now, she became a finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, made several appearances on Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien and even became the first British comedian to feature on the famous Def Comedy Jam. Read More

LONDON SKETCHFEST 2013

March 19, 2013 |

Given the UK’s affluent back catalogue of sketch comedies ranging from the great Monty Python through to Morecambe and Wise and, more recently, Little Britain it was only a question of time before someone decided it was time to rediscover said talent. Two such fellows, Adam Dahrouge and Ofer Yatziv, have done just that with London set to play host to the very first Sketchfest from May 24 to May 26, 2013. Read More

A Brief Encounter With Lee Kyle

February 8, 2013 |

I managed to catch up with North East comedy legend Lee Kyle. We sat down to chat about his show at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival. Here’s what Lee had to say for himself: Read More

Greetings From Leicester – Keith Farnan

February 6, 2013 |

Keith Farnan, a former solicitor,  has already stormed the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, been invited to appear on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and  “One Night Stand” and has been proclaimed as the comedian Eddie Izzard would have been had he been Irish. Keith is all set to bring his showFear Itself” (currently work in progress) to Just The Tonic this Saturday as part of  Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival to tickle Richard III’s ribs. We asked him what we can expect and, surprisingly, the word bone was quite the trending topic: Read More

Greetings from Leicester – Ben Van der Velde

February 5, 2013 |

Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival will be unleashed this weekend so we’ll be posting interviews with a plethora of acts who will be putting in an appearance. The first “postcard” interview from Leicester is courtesy of comedian Ben Van der Velde who will be performing his show ‘Chain Letter’ at 9.00pm, Thursday, 21st Feb at the Belmont Hotel. Social network junkies prepare to rediscover the lost art of letter writing. Read More

Altitude Comedy Festival Reaching All New Heights: March 18th – 22nd, 2013

January 29, 2013 |

Altitude brings an all new meaning to Aprèsski. What better way to wind down after a day of gliding down the slopes than a perfect snow storm of high-calibre comedians. The highly successful festival is all set to make a welcome return to the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen, from March 18-22. The event, created by Andrew Maxwell, the Irish comedy powerhouse, has added an exceptional line-up of some of the circuit’s top dogs. Read More

Kate Copstick Interview; I Love Acts That Are Full On Sui Generis

January 2, 2013 |

Kate Copstick, Glasgow born actress, is nowadays considered the mother of all Edinburgh Fringe reviewers and has been writing for The Scotsman for many a year. Many will be more familiar with her following her recent appearance as a judge on last year’s series Show Me The Funny on ITV – a role she is more than familiar with, having sat on the judges panel at both the Perrier Comedy Awards in 2003 and 2004 and Malcolm Hardee Awards in 2008-2011 at the Fringe. Given her all-encompassing experience in Edinburgh we took it upon ourselves to find out just what she thought of last August’s festival, particularly in the light of the EdFringe Society censorship that took centre stage. Read More

Wilfredo – The Self-Proclaimed Castro of Comedy

October 4, 2012 |

Matt Roper is probably best know for his creation of Wilfredo, a musical character comedy phenomenon that has gained quite the cult following on both the British comedy and music festival scene for his rather extravagant performances and Bohemian beliefs. Matt shares his North London dwelling with his guitar, camera and apparently doesn’t own a single decent pair of shoes. Having earned rave reviews all across the board at the Edinburgh Fringe, accompanied by Uncle Ignacio on the guitar, Wilfredo will be putting on a single, intimate performance at the Leicester Square Theatre. We hadn’t spoken to him since before his Edinburgh run so we were eager to find out what he’d been up to. Get ready for a grotesque, crude and utterly deluded night out in London.

Hi Matt. For the readers who don’t know, tell us all about how Wilfredo came to be?

When I was playing around on my guitar, singing ‘Woman’ by John Lennon in a silly accent. There was never any intention to create a character. It just sort of came to be and it developed while having a few laughs and not taking it at all seriously. Then I did a benefit gig for a friend and it snowballed from there.

Once again, your Fringe show was critically acclaimed. It’s been hinted that you’re a big part of the allure for many people travelling to Edinburgh. What sets you aside from the rest?

Maybe that Wilfredo has a very positive approach to life… there isn’t an ounce of cynicism. He’s tuned into a very interesting frequency that people seem drawn to. In his mind, he has a complete inability to fail. Total self-belief. Very positive. That resonates among his audience… and then there’s a punkish quality to counterbalance it that people find outrageous, I suppose. That people are willing to part with money and sit themselves right up at the front to be spat over and have abuse hurled at them for an hour… it’s amazing. They reduce themselves to a childlike state, they really do.

You are very popular amongst the ladies too. Wilfredo has had some notable affairs over the years, including Victoria Beckham and Michelle Obama. Anyone on the radar right now?

Wilfredo would probably tell you that he’s married to his career. But he’ll also slip in a bit of gossip about Angelina Jolie too. He’ll tell you all about Wilfrangelina if you’ll listen. Dita Von Teese keeps texting him but he’s keeping her on the back-burner for now. He’s keeping all his options open. You know… as he does.

I guess this is all down to your style, which is obviously very alternative. Do you ever find people not used to this are turned off by it, or do you think Wilfredo always has the ability to recruit new fans?

I think people like him on different levels for different reasons. Some are endeared by his charm, others love the music, others love the delusional aspect of him… Some people are genuinely liberated by his bad manners. The way he trims the fat and gets on with things. But there was one woman in the audience during the Edinburgh run who was sat with her husband. He couldn’t get enough of it, and was giggling like an excited schoolboy right the way through, but her… she just couldn’t take it. The husband couldn’t have cared less, but he kept patting her on the knee every now and then, reassuringly, as if to say “everything’s going to be alright”. And of course in the end, it was.

So, how did you get into comedy? And more specifically, what persuaded you to get into this particular type of comedy?

I got my proper start, or what I recognize as my proper start, by playing characters in sketches and stuff when I was about twenty years old. I’d also done some straight stand-up by that point but not more than, say, ten or fifteen minute sets. But this character, Wilfredo… there was no persuasive or contrived element to it. I wasn’t even thinking of returning to performing. I’d been away from it for a space of about five or six years, I felt very uninspired so I went off to India to think about my purpose… So after that benefit gig, when I’d got back, there was such an encouraging response to it, it was so much fun to do, so I’d pimp Wilfredo around music festivals, coming onstage very late at night. It was all so funny seeing people tripping or gurning and seeing their response to it. It was very slowly at first, in that environment. Anything goes at festivals. That’s why I love them so much. People are just open to everything and they’re in such a great place, if even just for two or three days.

I’ve spoken to a lot of other character comedians, and found that they sometimes fall into character without knowing. Has this ever happened to you?

That’s the sort of question maybe my friends could answer for you. I have noticed one or two character comics adopt one of their voices when they really want to say something directly, whereas otherwise they couldn’t, as they’re too polite. Ah… I suppose I do it myself, Wilfredo’s voice… sometimes for example when I want a cup of tea and nobody is offering. You know when you’re round at a friend’s place or whatever. Because he’s very controlling and direct. Very useful, Wilfredo, from time to time.

And what about before you did comedy full time, what were the worst jobs you had?

Data entry for the overpayments section of housing benefit at Brent Council around the end of the Nineties. I lasted about four weeks. I was also a bartender at a theatre in London for a bit, too, around the same time. All of us were treated like shit. I remember it was the premiere of a musical and Elton John was there and we were all briefed that nobody should “look at Elton” under any circumstances, as if we were all gagging to. That same night, I walked into a storeroom to find a corkscrew and found a very famous footballer being mounted by a tall blonde lady. I was very, very young and didn’t know what to do. I think I might have even apologised, then walked out of the room backwards, the way people do when they’ve just met the Queen.

Wilfredo seems to have an incredible rapport with the crowd. Is it natural talent that makes you so quick witted, or is there a new energy drink on the market that I don’t know about?

I don’t know if it’s a natural talent or an acquired skill. I owe a lot to working in front of audiences since a very young age… I’ve been up against all sorts of audiences, eventually something kicks in, some survival technique.

Wilfredo is a very emotional character. Is any of that mirrored in the man behind it, or is it a pure creation?

I think all performers are emotional people who are not afraid of showing it, which is what makes us so good at what we do but then, on the other hand, we’re so fucking socially inept. For example, I took the train to Brighton the other night for the opening of an exhibition and I nearly chewed my hand off with anxiety… I think I left London at four o’clock and I was back here in my flat by nine. I’d love to say he’s a pure creation. He’s about a ninety percent creation… such a lot of it is of my imagination, but there are parts… there are elements of myself thrown in here and there. Such as his peacenik attitude… I try at least… and his love for people. You see I genuinely do love people. Just I really, really don’t want to live with them. You know when people say it’s best when you can hold a baby and then hand it back? I feel the same way about adults too.

How do you keep shows fresh with the same character?

One of the nice things which has come from performing this character is this dedicated following, so I can elaborate on his story with each show and so the character can age and grow along with his audience.

And what would you class as Wilfredo’s greatest achievement so far?

Ah, probably playing Italy. To be able to clown around successfully without a shared language. Also Wilfredo has introduced both Jarvis Cocker and John Cooper Clarke onstage at festivals. John Cooper Clarke…. I want him on the fifty pound note. Jarvis can go on the tenner for now. I’ll get to see Jarvis more often but John Cooper Clarke can be the rare treat.

I think Wilfredo on a bank note would be an even better idea. Is that on of Wilfredo’s plans for the future?

No notes for now but there’s a documentary film – a short – which has been in production for the last few months… a sort of portrait of Wilfredo. Him in the recording studio and out and about. I’m not so interested in schlepping around the comedy circuit, people always ask me about gigging but I don’t feel it’s Wilfredo’s natural habitat really. We’ve played all kinds of places with this character. Gigs I’d never have been asked to do if I’d resigned myself to the comedy circuit, and that’s thanks to the music festival background actually, which attracts a great range of people. From that breeding ground, Wilfredo’s played all kinds of places. Artist collectives, cabarets, a gay club, even a birthing ceremony once. You can never predict it but he seems to bring out all sorts of hidden layers of people’s personalities. I’d quite like to take him to San Francisco, just to see how they respond to him, and maybe even Burning Man next year. We will see.

Obviously the character is very musically involved. Did you yourself come from a musical background?

My Dad was a stand-up and back in his day there was a huge club circuit which was focused on variety, really, so as a kid I would be taken round lots of smoky clubs and theatres. This would be in the mid-Eighties when it was all starting to die off. Singers singing all types of stuff which I would never have been exposed to otherwise. And big bands with brass sections… I would say personally I feel more of an affinity with musicians than other comedians, which I suppose is quite telling, really. Definitely musicians… and photographers too… I don’t know why that is.

You’ve met and worked with some great musicians and comedians alike. Are there any you think could rival Wilfredo in terms of obscenity?

I’m trying to think and I’m not sure. There are cabaret artists out there who are probably more aligned with the spirit of Wilfredo than the stand-ups. A critic at the Fringe described it as “almost Sadowitzian humour” which apparently is bang on in some respects. I was watching Margaret Cho recently, an American comic, and she really is outrageous like you wouldn’t believe. Beautifully obscene.

If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

I don’t really get regretful about anything at all really… there is little point. Perhaps there are some gigs I’ve said yes to doing instead of saying no to when actually I’ve known it wasn’t quite right for the character in the first place. It’s got to be just right, otherwise there’s no point at all. Be open. But listen to your own core instincts as they’re usually right.

Who would you most like to duet with as Wilfredo?

I’d be very pleased if Morrissey would be up for a two part harmony on ‘This Charming Man’. Love Morrissey. I guested on Mike Joyce’s (ex-Smiths drummer) radio show in Manchester recently and he understood Wilfredo immediately. He couldn’t get enough of it. But then he’s a drummer, and drummers usually can’t. The drummers are always the comedy junkies…

And what about your comedy kicks? Who are your influences?

When I first came to London, at nineteen, I would spend a lot of my spare time in all of those secondhand vinyl shops in Notting Hill. I got obsessional about Monty Python, Beyond the Fringe, the Secret Policeman’s Ball… Derek and Clive… which were never played in our house growing up. It was a revelation actually. I suppose Peter Cook is my great comic hero. The ultimate satirist and improviser. Then when the League of Gentlemen came along it was like a glorious blast of fresh air. I’d waited years for that! All their characters were grotesque, and the warmth and vulnerability was all there. The way they suddenly took everything to the extremes, and then came right back to the middle again. There are contemporaries of mine who I could describe as being influential, but they get enough publicity. So fuck ‘em.

This is the second time you’ve been interviewed by PPSF. is there anything you’d like to say to the dedicated readers? Any advice to any young enthusiasts who one day hope to be as bizarre as Wilfredo?

To the potential grotesque wannabes, just to go back to the improv rule… to say ‘yes’ and just see where it takes you. I’d like to say to the readers, thank you for staying with us until the bitter end. I feel I may have gone on a bit, like Castro… I’m idealistic and I talk too fucking much… the self-proclaimed Castro of Comedy. I’m such a cunt…

Well, on that note, I think it’s best to leave it there. Thanks very much Matt.

We look forward to catching you again on the 17th of October at the Leicester Square Theatre.

You can follow Matt on Twitter, whilst Wilfredo also has Twitter, YouTube and Facebook accounts.