Gig Review: Sue Perkins at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff

This was a very late birthday present from MWF, and a decent pick for us as both are big fans of Perkins and I had read the memoir which formed the basis of the show, which I reviewed here.


As with the book this is a warm and funny look back over her life with Perkins casting a wry, self deprecating eye over her past and family. It’s hugely entertaining and aided by the use of a large screen which allows her to deliver visual punchlines and poke gentle fun at old family photos.

She has an easy on stage presence and is utterly charming throughout, and talks about her career, life and opinions in a light, breezy way. Some of the stories are familiar to those who have read the book, but are given fresh life through the telling.

I particularly enjoyed that she included a brief Q&A session at the end, which gave her a chance to play off the crowd and share some new stories. The whole show is a quick, fun affair and ends strongly with Perkins playing us out with a song. It’s a thoroughly pleasant evening in the theatre and confirms that Perkins is an extremely likeable and funny performer. 

MWF and I loved it and throughout recommend catching her if she comes to your town.

Verdict: A very funny show with Perkins on top form, delivering an amusing and charming series of stories. And her skills at playing off the crowd are wonderful. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Comedy Gig Review: Luisa Omielan at Cardiff Glee Club

Last night I took MWF out to see a show. She’s been stressing with uni assignments and a comedian she liked was coming to town so it would be a nice treat. The comedian was Luisa Omielan who was performing her Am I Right, Ladies? Show at the Glee club.

Omielan is doing alright for herself even if she hasn’t quite broken big yet, but I think that might happen soon as she is a real comic talent.

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It was obvious that it was going to be a unique show as the warm up act was Omielan herself on stage dancing to the DJs music and taking photos and hugging audience members.

The show itself is a pacy 75 minute set that flies by and is powered by Omielan’s energetic performance. MWF says she kinda reminds her of Russell Howard in the sense of the vibe and energy and it’s not an unfair comparison.

Her show deals with various issues such as body image, slut shaming, getting over an ex and depression, which sounds heavy but Omielan keeps the laughs flowing and  pushes her message for female confidence and being happy with yourself in an entertaining way.

I really dug the show, with and laughed a lot, applauding as well. Omielan is an unconventional performer in some ways but she does a fantastic job of making you laugh while making valid points. She clicked well with the audience, apart from two at the front who annoyed her and she got moved back, and worked the crowd well.

I also enjoyed her use of music throughout the show and her honest, open nature during the show.

I would definitely recommend one of her shoes and will keep an eye out for her in the future as she’s a  likeable, funny and engaging presence on stage.

9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Box Lady and Other Pesticles by Richard Herring

The comedian Richard Herring has long been a favourite of mine, and I have a lot of respect for his blogging ability. He posts daily on his Warming Up and has done for over a decade (see here), having done a little over year of daily posts I know it can be a struggle finding things to write about.

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This book is the second collection of posts, and includes Herring adding additional commentary giving insight into what was going on at the time, and how he feels reading them back. This is an interesting touch and allows Herring to rue and ridicule his past self.

The entries are a mixed bag, at their best they’re laugh out loud funny, but others are a little flat. There are pointless rants but also some funny musings, bizarre fantasies and genuine moments as well. He opens up about his dealings with randoms (like the eponymous box lady) and his family, including his obsession with beating his nephew after losing a tennis match.

But given Herring’s humour there are more hits than misses and at time he’s quite thoughtful, both in the entries and the commentary. It’s an entertaining read and I got through it fairly quickly, and enjoyed the experience.

My only criticisms are that it’s a little short and I’d have liked it to cover a longer time scale and in the Kindle version the formatting has a few errors, but these minor quibbles aside don’t stop it from being a funny, entertaining read and the reflections add extra depth.

Also I know that Herring regularly googles himself (he admits it in this book) so he might find this, so if he does, “Hi, Richard!”

Verdict: Quick, fun and very enjoyable. Herring won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for me. And it’s interesting seeing someone having to revisit and reflect on their previous actions. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

One of the shows I’ve loved recently is The Mindy Project, which follows the exploits of Mindy a New York doctor who’s obsessed with romantic comedies and her dating life. The show is extremely funny and cute, like it’s protagonist the slightly awkward, ditzy Mindy, played by the actress Mindy Kaling.

Kaling writes for the show and is apparently well known in the States as one of the supporting players and writers of the remake of The Office. I didn’t know this because I’ve never actually seen that show, not in a “It won’t be as good as the original” snobby way, just because it started while I was at uni without a TV and I’ve just never got caught up on it. Now that it’s finished I may check out a few episodes as I’m a fan of Steve Carell and now Kaling’s.

I thought I’d check this book out because Kaling appears to be a funny, likable person and I figured it might be a fun, light read.

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It totally was. Kaling writes with warmth, honesty and self deprecating charm. The book is a series of short pieces about her life and career, or little essays on friendship, modern day etiquette and dating. These are fun, endearing little bite-sized chunks that make it perfect commuting reading as you can read a whole section on a train/bus ride or with a coffee.

There’s nothing earth shattering here, but there’s plenty of humour and warmth. Kaling is never overly bitchy or nasty, there’s an endearing sweetness to her and she seems extremely normal and down to earth.

Of course, being a female TV comedy writer and performer, the book is going to be measured against Tina Fey’s Bossypants, a fact Kaling addresses in her introduction, and while Fey’s book is probably the better, that doesn’t mean this isn’t worth checking out, for as quick reads go this one is a winner and will leave you grinning to yourself.

I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for Kaling’s future work.

Verdict: Funny, warm and charming, Kaling is a sweet and endearing narrator with a real down-to-earth vibe and wonderful humour. A delight. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Good Morning Nantwich by Phill Jupitus

I’m a big fan of Phill Jupitus. I’ve watched Never Mind the Buzzcocks since I was in my teens, and he’s been a regular on another show I love, Qi. I just love his raw enthusiasm for music and sense of humour and his podcasts with Phil Wilding, Phill and Phil’s Perfect Ten, were laugh out loud funny.

On that podcast there were frequent allusions to their time working together at BBC’s 6 Music station and an impression that things had soured there, however, it was never elaborated and so when I found out that Jupitus had written a book about the five years he spent as the breakfast show host on the station I thought I’d check it out. Of course, I had to wait until I stumbled across a reduced copy in a HMV sale before I got round to it.

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The book is in loose chronological order, and deals with far more than just Jupitus’ time at 6 Music. It’s almost a love letter to radio as Jupitus discusses his relationship with music and radio since his youth, his affection for broadcasting legends John Peel and Terry Wogan, his issues with modern radio and his own experiences behind the mic.

It’s all written in a clever, funny and open way which makes it a very entertaining read. Jupitus writes scathingly about listening to a godawful show on a local commercial station, but there’s a sense that this is not anger for anger’s sake, but rather genuine irritation with the witless, cynical and by the numbers show that he listens to.

This irritation is a large part of why Jupitus’ relationship with 6 Music would suffer, with Jupitus coming in with lofty dreams and idealism of playing whatever he wanted and crafting a show that was like sitting around chatting and listening to tunes with your mates. Jupitus rails against the bureaucracy and restrictions placed upon him by the corporation, but never shies away from owning up to his own failings and errors. He seems aware that his attitude towards the show was at times lacking, and there seems to be genuine regret and guilt over some of the way things were handled.

But you definitely side with Jupitus, it’s his book after all, and as such an engaging and likable writer you can’t help but root for the dude and find yourself irritated by the mistakes made.

The book is filled with little anecdotes and stories about the people Jupitus met making the show, and there’s an all star supporting cast of musicians, comedians and celebrities. Jupitus relates the story with ease and humour, and suggests that aside from the early morning starts and some of the frustrations he experienced he did enjoy his time as a DJ.

All in all it’s a rather interesting insight into the world of broadcasting and the launch of a new station into a market built on audience’s ingrained habits.

Another thing about this book is that thanks to end of chapter playlists and frequent mentions you emerge from it with an extensive list of songs and bands to look into.

Verdict: Funny and engaging, the book is a bit of a gem. It’s interesting, and Jupitus touches on things like marketing, demographics and technology, but it’s written with a light touch that makes it a charming read. Filled with laugh out loud anecdotes and some genuinely fascinating bits of information. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: I Used to Say My Mother Was Shirley Bassey by Stephen K Amos

I’m a fan of Stephen K Amos, I think as a stand-up comedian he has real warmth and charm as a performer, and a fairly cool outlook on life and the world.

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I first saw him performing on TV and then saw a show he made for Channel 4 called Batty Man, which investigated homophobia within Britain’s black community and Jamaica. In the documentary, Amos discussed his own homosexuality and was forced to confront some extremely hostile views, but handled it all rather admirably and was an intelligent interviewer.

So, when I’d heard that he’d written an autobiography I decided to check it out.

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The problem when stand-ups do books is that often you find they merely write down some of their routines, but while Amos does cover some of the same ground here as he does on stage, very little of it feels the same way, and he clearly has more than enough amusing anecdotes to keep the book ticking over.

Whether it’s dealing with his strict parents or an unexpected move to Nigeria, Amos recounts his youth with genuine affection and while the shadow of racism does fall over his life at times, and the struggles faced growing up as one of a large, cash-strapped family do come into play, he clearly shows that he grew up in a loving environment, even if it was hectic and strict.

His writing is like his on-stage persona- warm and charming, and he shows a keen eye for observation. He touches on issues like sexism, homophobia, religion and the changing world of comedy clubs, and while he’s clearly clever and on the ball, he does a good job of keeping it light and engaging and not going on rants. But at the same time it’s interesting to see how life and attitudes in Britain have changed over the years.

Throughout he comes across as a grounded, smart guy and the book had me chuckling to myself frequently and I came away with even more affection for the guy. I’ve read better autobiographies, but this is a perfectly nice way to pass the time.

Verdict: A warm, funny book with Amos a charming writer and does well recounting a life filled with funny stories and amusing observations. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: It’s Not Me, It’s You! by Jon Richardson

I’m a big fan of Jon Richardson, I’ve seen a bit of his stand up and I think making him a captain on the show 8 Out of 10 Cats was a good idea and has made the show better. He’s incredibly funny and I love his neurotic, awkward man persona.

So, I eagerly checked out his book, which comes with the subtitle; Impossible perfectionist, 27, seeks very, very, very tidy woman. I thought it would be an interesting and amusing insight into his attempts to date, and the way his perfectionism and mild OCD hampers this.

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Sadly, the book was a massive disappointment. Richardson’s writing style is alright, but his neurotic, pessimistic and bitter way of judging other people grates quickly.

Richardson has some nice ideas and interesting opinions, but there’s no real insight on show. The major problem is that while it’s fleetingly amusing, the constant stream of negativity smothers all enjoyment. It’s alright to read in bite sized chunks, but any prolonged exposure grated on me.

I’m not against negative or angry writing, but Richardson just isn’t good enough to pull it off. He doesn’t have the gleeful, sarky and dark humour of a Charlie Brooker, and also while Bill Hicks might have been angry about people’s behaviour, it always seemed to come from a humanist place, with Hicks being annoyed at humanity squandering our potential. Richardson just comes across as a socially awkward grouch who’s decided that his decision to withdraw from certain cultural conventions makes him better than those who follow them.

Verdict: Richardson shows the chinks in his comedy persona, but the book is far too negative and neither funny or insightful enough to sustain enjoyment. 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

I love Tina Fey.

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I’ve been aware of her work for a while and always found her quite funny, but it’s only in the last couple of months thanks to LoveFilm that I’ve really got into her stuff, I’d seen bits and pieces of 30 Rock before, but with the first 3 series now available to watch whenever I wanted I dove headfirst into them.

It’s hands down one of the funniest television shows I’ve ever seen, as the writers do this great job of crafting likable characters and fantastic lines, and seem comfortable to let the show go off on weird little tangents and have surreal flourishes. It helps that the cast are superb, especially Alec Baldwin and Fey herself.

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So, having devoured three series of this, I decided to get this book on my kindle, I started it midweek and finished it today, although given more spare time and no internet I probably could have blazed through most of this in one day, because it’s a delightfully funny and enjoyable quick read.

Fey writes with this really great, warm style which is filled with little gags and quips, and this great streak of self deprecation. She recounts moments in her life with real honesty, and isn’t afraid to show her own follies and mistakes along the way.

She writes cleverly and with insight, touching on issues like the entertainment industry’s views and attitudes towards women but always does it with a lightness of touch that stops it from seeming like a rant. Fey seems proud and grateful for what she’s achieved and well she should, but never comes across as arrogant, seeming to be aware of the help she’s received from others and blessed with a real sense of perspective as to where her job fits in the real world.

Fey’s also quite classy, there are allusions to celebrities she’s met along the way being douches but she never names them, or even drops clues as to their identity, granting them their anonymity while also giving praise to those she’s met along the way who have been cool (Baldwin, Sylvester Stallone and surprisingly Sarah Palin).

She talks of her personal life, family Christmases and dealing with being a mother, and also her status as a “famous person”. The attention she received from doing her Sarah Palin skits on Saturday Night Live, both positive and negative, the joys and pitfalls of magazine shoots and a chapter devoted to responding to online hate mail, which is funny yet at the same time rather depressing to read what some assclowns on the web come up with.

The Palin section is quite interesting, especially as it reveals Fey’s initial reluctance to do it and her own fears that it might be seen as being nasty or mean spirited. There’s an insight into the behind the scenes world of television, and also Fey having to deal with her meeting the woman herself.

But the main thing that comes through is that Fey has managed to stay down to earth and normal despite the attention, maybe because it came slightly later in life, but she seems to be a regular Josephine who’s found success due to her skills.

I went in a fan and came out a bigger one.

Verdict: A wonderfully written, frequently hilarious memoir about her life both in and out of the spotlight. Fey is a charming, entertaining writer who comes across well in this down to earth, clever lady. 8/10

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.