Our Favourite Comedian

June 10, 2014

In the early 80’s me and Trev met at Manchester University. We were doing degrees in Drama (one each). I can’t speak for Trev, but I was hardly the most academic of students. Nor was Trev. As our friendship developed, so did our interest in comedy, more commonly known then as mucking around a bit and getting up late.

We were blessed with having tutors who not only indulged our experiments in comedy but also actively encouraged it. (Every Monday night students would perform their latest experimental pieces at the department’s Stephen Joseph Studio, a converted church where we once tried an ‘alternative comedy’ take on Chekhov).

One of our tutors was Dr David Mayer (later to become Professor David Mayer). David’s daughter, Lise, was the girlfriend of a former student, Rik Mayall. The two of them, along with another former Manchester student, Ben Elton, had just written a new sitcom for the BBC called The Young Ones.

We had no TV. We were students; we had no money. Any money we did have had to be spent on beer. And tins of Goblin Dumplings (50p at Oobidoo. Everything at Oobidoo was 50p. That’s why their slogan was –Don’t ask the price. We always did.)

The Drama Department had a TV. And a video player! Every week David Mayer would video The Young Ones for us. And I do mean us, the two of us. Others may have come along too, but David, gently pushing us in all the right directions, knew it was important for us to see this show.

There’d been nothing like it. And it was made by students from Manchester! Not Oxford, not Cambridge. Manchester! It was the most ground-breaking Mancunion contribution to comedy since Frank Randle (and, if you have four minutes to spare to watch this clip from Somewhere On Leave, 1943, you’ll see that Frank would have fitted very nicely into the world of The Young Ones).

Sometime shortly after this, in 1983, David said; “Lise, Rik, and Ben are going to be at my house over the weekend. Would you like to come and meet them on Saturday night.”

Ok… stop. Take a big long break in reading. I’d like to leave a big long gap on the page but that’d be daft. Just imagine the time it’s taking me, even now, for this to sink in. Would we, two stupid students, barely out of our teens, like to meet the creators of The Young Ones? At our tutor’s house?

Let’s deal with David Mayer’s house first.

It was a Mansion of Myths. We’d never been there, but we’d heard the rumours. Apparently he had a shower with three heads! And a Picasso! And we were being invited there! To meet The Young Ones! (I know exclamation marks should be used sparingly, but… come on!!!)

Now, the meeting. Of course we went. We even prepared: We spent Saturday afternoon scooting around Oobidoo, looking for fun items and generally asking the price. We settled on a wind-up spider. 50p.

And so we headed off on Saturday night to our tutor’s home in the posh part of Manchester armed only with a wind-up spider. (I don’t know at what age we learn to take wine, but whatever age, we hadn’t reached it yet).

We arrived at the house. And whatever you read from this point onwards, I assure you, did happen. David greeted us and showed us into a huge half kitchen, half dining room, with a small dividing wall about three feet high in the middle. In the dining room half there was a circular table. And there was Rik, Lise, Ben… and possibly someone else (sorry someone else). David didn’t introduce us… oh, he may have said something like “this is Trev and Simon”… but he didn’t explain who we were or why we were there. The one other thing he did do was to ask us to keep an eye on some steaks he was grilling in the far half of the kitchen.

This of two idiots whose diet consisted of tinned Goblin products.

And David disappeared! Where did he go? To this day no one can answer that. But the best bets are ‘to have a look at his Picasso’ or ‘to have a shower’.

So… we kind of stood around. The others, at the table, carried on talking to each other. At one point we wound up the wind-up spider and let it have a little walk. It didn’t get much of a reaction. But then, why should it? These fellows had demolished a house in their first episode.

We hadn’t been asked to do much by our tutor. Just keep an eye on some steaks. But that wasn’t our forte. We did our best. We wandered over to the cooker. We looked at them. And then they burst into flames.

How can a steak catch fire? I’m sure it’s easy to burn a steak, to ruin it; but for it to catch fire?

Trev struggled to get the grill out. He did, eventually, but not before the fire alarm went off.

The rest is a blur.

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On Monday night we did a daft bit of comedy at The Stephen Joseph Studio. It ended with us dropping some kind of large object off a balcony onto our wind-up walking spider. The spider was smashed to bits. And Rik, and Lise, and Ben were there.

Afterwards we talked about Saturday night. They had no idea why we were there or who we were. They said they hadn’t realised we were ‘comedians’. Which could have been a compliment or not, but either way we had a long chat with our comedy heroes. And for the next few days they were around and about. One night I played cards with Ben and Rik (Ben insisted on giving me money for a taxi home. I insisted on refusing it. I walked the three miles home in the rain. What an idiot student.) Another night we sat chatting with Rik in the bar at The Contact Theatre (the theatre connected to the drama department). He gave us lots of advice and he even gave us his phone number (before mobiles… this was Rik’s home phone number!) and told us to phone him whenever we wanted. He also gave us a quote to use on our publicity for our first Edinburgh show. He told us to use, “My favourite act!”

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Up in Edinburgh, doing our first ever show in 1984, we walked past a poster for a band. I can’t remember the band, but I can remember the quote: “My favourite band”, Rik Mayall.

RIP Rik. Thank you. x


The DevilfishhornClub newsletter

November 10, 2013

I’m going mad, rooting through boxes of memorabilia, scripts, and Barclaycard bills from 1988. Everything will be destroyed, but I’ll try and copy a few things here and there.

Just to get things going, and to try and make the task fun! here’s the first item to be archived (I will put it in the Trev and Simon Museum too).

It’s some kind of newsletter thing that may or may not have been sent out.

It contains what may have been our first ever catchphrase… Keep on laughing!

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DFHC ‘Newsletter’ January 1987

 


In Search of The Singing Corner Part 1

January 28, 2012

Here’s Part 1 in our attempt to track down Don Singing and Bob Corner, better known as The Singing Corner. We’d received a tip-off that they were hiding out in the Goat Caves of Kent and so, off we went.

Did we find them? Well, this film shows the search. We’ve since interviewed them. Hopefully that’ll be up sometime over the weekend. It’s a slow process, filming on a £60 Flip camera and editing on a 15 year old computer. That last sentence is the truth. As for the rest, you decide.


The Kent Coast Caves with Trev Neal

January 27, 2012

It’s hard doing what we do. But not as hard as, say, people who work for a living. We’re always trying to create new opportunities, pitching this and pitching that. Cornering BBC executives in toilets and canteens. Sending Kinder eggs to the latest heads of here and there; no toy inside, just the latest pitch, scribbled on the back of an old Bazooka Joe cartoon.

It’s tough.

There’s a rumour that goes around the comedy circuit; the popular comedian Tony Hancock made 324 pilots before eventually securing a slot with Hancock’s Half Hour. Even then he was short changed, the original show being called Hancock’s Hour and a Half.

But, as Richard Curtis once told us, and as Echo and the Bunnymen sing, never stop.

And we don’t.

A lot of effort and hard work goes into pitching ideas. Here’s one of our latest; The Kent Coast Caves with Trev Neal.

I doubt it will get picked up. But you’ve got to try, haven’t you.


In search of The Singing Corner

January 23, 2012

Years back, last century, we worked with two oddbods on Going Live! I don’t mean Phillip Schofield and Sarah Greene; they were, and are, lovely. I’m talking about a right couple of characters called Don Singing and Bob Corner, otherwise known as The Singing Corner.

What happened to them after their brief TV life on the Saturday morning show is unknown. They just vanished. And yet me and Trev always found them good, if slightly eccentric, company. And so we decided to track them down.

That was no easy task, but more on that some other time. We did find them, eventually, and they granted us a rare interview.

We hope to have that up and running by the end of the week. Maybe a two-parter (they don’t half go on). In the meantime, why not enjoy their hit single (reaching no.61 in the charts), Jennifer Juniper with Donovan, accompanied by some exclusive footage.


It’s not a podcast, it’s just talking

January 16, 2012

It’s a new year, and Trev and Simon are like two new things, bought as presents and then kept by the givee just beyond the point that they can be taken back, or exchanged, or refunded. Why can’t we all learn from Sparks and their Suburban Homeboy mentality… “props to my peeps, and please keep your receipts…”

What am I on about? Who knows? This is the danger of letting me loose on the Trev and Simon blog when I have failed to maintain my own blog, Mummified Fox, so spectacularly. And whilst Trev is on holiday at the Huffington Post.

If there’s one thing I’ve heard four times so far this year it’s; “when are the two of you going to do another podcast?” It’s the most commonly asked question after “Do you still swing your pants?” and “Weren’t you that guy who once did something somewhere? With that other guy? The tall one.” And they’re the most commonly asked questions after “Do you do duvets?”, and that’s the most commonly asked question after “What do you do now?” and that’s the most commonly asked question after “How much for this?” as a too thin or too fat lad waves a bag of boilies in my face.

I now know no one knows what I’m on about, and Trev may take me to task (like a still angry Elvis Costello) for writing a load of old nonsense when all I said I would do was put up this little clip for your pleasure.

Here it is. It’s just us, talking nonsense for a few minutes in the bar at the BFI. We were there for a meeting with Alison Norrington from storycentralDIGITAL. We talked transmedia and then we talked Oobidoo. It’s good to get out of the house.


2011 in review

January 3, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


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