THE ‘WORST’ OF GEORGE RYEGOLD – COMEDY REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

THE ‘WORST’ OF GEORGE RYEGOLD – MUSEUM OF COMEDY REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

In January 2008 I first ventured onto the stage of a comedy night about to tell some ill-prepared jokes for five minutes in a Shepherd’s Bush pub beautifully named the Defectors Weld. Well, there was no stage and just a microphone and darkly carpeted floor and some twenty or so people and I was awful. I was nervous and drunk and goddamned awful. My good friend Alan Wood actually gave me this one-line review:

“Paul! You were pissed; slurring your words; but you still got some laughs. I couldn’t believe it!”

Damning praise indeed; yet that night spurred me on to an incredibly average comedy career/hobbyist pursuit which reached the “dizzy” heights of the some lowly paid in-town and out-of-town gigs, open spots at the London Comedy Store and Banana Cabaret plus the deep respect of my peers in the comedy world. Okay, the last one is a lie!

But writing and performing comedy has been a wonderfully creative experience for me. The highs are tremendous, notably: writing and telling jokes that get laughs; the long drives to far flung beauty spots of broken Britain such as Wellingborough, Portsmouth, Birmingham and Ipswich; and not forgetting my unerring ability to partially fill small rooms at the Brighton and Camden Fringe (#sarcasm). Jokes aside, the most joy has derived from the multi-talented individuals I have met on the comedy circuit.  These writers, actors, clowns, filmmakers, musicians, photographers, promoters and other general lunatics have provided a healthy course of rich fulfilment to the last eight years of my social life.

On that fateful night in 2008 when I burst my comedy hymen I first experienced the musings of one such artist: the verbose vim of Doctor George Ryegold.  Here was a recently struck-off quack now venturing into the world of entertainment regaling tales of run-ins with the General Medical Council; his flailing relationship with his mother; scaring women, children and the elderly with his unorthodox procedures; plus intriguing medical advice for somewhat gross ailments. Indeed, Ryegold’s set of anecdotes about malignant tumours, rotting ball-bags, matted pubic excrement, emergency maternal fellatio and the joys of narcosis made an episode of Embarrassing Bodies seem like an episode of Peppa Pig. It was dirty, disgusting, low-down eloquent filth and I loved it!

Of course, you may know the Doctor is not actually a Doctor but the comedy creation of brilliantly talented actor Toby Williams. His career has deservedly progressed from performing his carnal comedy creation to winning awards for Ryegold, including: ‘Amused Moose Laughter Award Top 10 Comedy Show’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013, ‘Scotsman’s Top Five Comedy Shows at the Fringe’ 2012, winner of ‘Best Show’ at The Leicester Comedy Festival 2011 etc. He has also carved out career acting in many short films, adverts, television shows and now feature films including the recent cult hit High Rise (2016).

So, flash forward eight years and there Dr Ryegold was, for apparently the last time, on stage at the Museum of Comedy in Bloomsbury doing his most beautiful worst; delivering an hour of lurid, loquacious and lovely smut with that smooth, deep voice; like Richard Burton reading Roger’s Thesaurus. If it was his last show it was a wonderful send-off and hearing those sordid stories again took me back to those moments when I either shared a bill or went specifically to see the Doctor’s fantastic filth-laden hour shows.

The comedic power of the act is in the exquisite writing, rich voice and chronographic timing of delivery. But it’s not shock-for-shock’s case as there is a pathos to the character plus dark reflection on the monstrous nature of humanity which breeds murderers such as Ian Huntley, Fred West and Harold Shipman; all of whom are box-ticked by Ryegold during this fine wrap of comedic cocaine.  Ultimately, Ryegold racked up a succession of hilarious lines and crossed too many boundaries to mention, as the Doctor administered his final stroke of genius to an adoring crowd of patients. I for one was glad to be there and make it out very much alive.

Check out Toby Williams at his website – https://tobywilliamscomedy.wordpress.com/

Here’s some examples of his work:

 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016) BY PAUL LAIGHT

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016) BY PAUL LAIGHT

“Icarus flew too close to the sun, but at least he flew.” Jeremy Robert Johnson

As the paint dries on the end of the Premier League season my team, Spurs, finished in third position; having flown high for so long they ultimately imploded in orbit before sadly crashing and burning. However, I am a very proud Spurs supporter today as finishing third in the league guarantees us Champions League football next year, and for a moment, just one split-second moment our young team, under the progressive management of Mauricio Pochettino, just flew; we really flew!

Okay, Leicester’s incredible Premier League win was the sporting story of the year, plus we didn’t win anything and failed to hold on to second to our bitter rivals Arsenal. Still, at least, when compared to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and the under-achieving Mancunian teams we got off the runway and soared. Yes, we burnt out spectacularly in the last two-and-half-games but the future for Spurs remains sonic-powered and solar bright!

GAMES

While I would have taken third position at the beginning of the season, getting so close to title glory meant failure was a bitter, jagged pill to stick down one’s throat. But we were scintillating throughout the season with some fantastic performances in the Premier League. Fair enough, an unlucky 3rd round loss to Arsenal in the League Cup, unnecessary loss to Palace in the FA Cup and waving the white flag to Dortmund in the Europa League condemned us to a lack-lustre cup exits, we, more often than not, totally smashed it in the League.

During a fourteen game unbeaten run early doors we smashed Manchester City 4-1 at home, Bournemouth 5-1 away and West Ham 4-1 at White Hart Lane. Even after blippy defeats to bogey teams Newcastle United and Leicester at home we strung together a series of wonderful wins including SIX in a row, which would propel us to title contenders. After being out-hustled by West Ham (1-0) we actually were, for fourteen minutes, top of the table when leading against ten-man Arsenal. But the scum equalised and we never hit the top again.

Nonetheless, Spurs continued to battle and chase and harry the formidable leaders Leicester and put real pressure on them when winning 3-0 against Manchester United and smashing sorry Stoke 4-0.  Alas, the win in the Potteries was our last of a brilliant season and the ‘Battle at the Bridge’ against Chelsea saw the wheels of our title challenge career off in a pulsating, yet ill-disciplined, performance. Two crushing defeats to Southampton and Newcastle meant our young lions had won hearts and minds and flirted with glory but sadly fell short in the title and runners-up spot.

PLAYERS

Spurs had many stand-out players in a highly consistent season. Hugo Lloris was, overall, one of the best goalkeepers in the league saving us many, many times through the year. His form, arguably fell off, like the rest of the team in the last few games but, David DeGea aside, I would not want another keeper in our box. Our defence was mean like a junkyard dog with Rose and Walker bombing up the wings and covering tackles and crosses like demons. In fact, Danny Rose, under Pochettino, is one of the most improved players at the club, embracing the derring-do, action and pace the manager has instilled.

Centre-back, Toby Alderweireld was deservedly voted Spurs player of the season by the fans as his cool, calm persona plus brilliant tackling and exquisite passing range made him the signing of the summer. But, special mention must go to a great young defender, who I thought was unlucky to be dropped for Vertonghen, called Kevin Wimmer. I would make him first choice next year as Jan, while a fine defender, has looked somewhat jaded and short of pace since coming back from injury.

Arguably our most valuable player of the season, along with Harry Kane, was Belgium midfielder, Moussa Dembele. Box-to-box there was not a better footballer in the league in my opinion. Because of his ability to hustle opponents and rarely lose the ball, Spurs struggled when he didn’t play. Another revelation in midfield was Eric Dier, who having been promoted from the back four provided, for the most part, rock-like protection, snarling commitment and also some valuable goals.

Attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela were also excellent throughout. Great Dane Eriksen especially provided an unprecedented number of assists and often derided Lamela really found his passing and goal scoring range. Find of the season though in a Spurs shirt was the mercurial teenager Dele Alli who scored a series of brilliant goals. Bought for an incredibly low price of £5 million he deservedly won PFA Young player of the Year and what a talent he is! The only criticism that can be aimed at him is his lack of discipline; yet it’s that aggression which drives his winning mentality and something I’m sure he will channel into becoming a world-class player for Spurs and England.

Going forward Harry “He’s one of our own” Kane has provided the fulcrum for a brilliant attack-minded team. In the Premier League alone he scored TWENTY-FIVE goals and pretty much played every minute on his own up front. If he’d been injured I’m not sure Spurs would have been able to challenge as high as they have. He is single-minded in his pursuit of goals, possessing great ability in the air and on the ground. Kane’s skill in tight spots, powerful strength and dead-eye accuracy made him my Spurs player of the year; followed closely by Alderweireld, Dembele and Alli.

GOALS

An incredible amount of goals to choose from but my top FIVE Premier League goals of the season in date order:

Christian Eriksen – brilliant free kick against Swansea – 4/10/2015

Dele Alli – incredible finish versus Crystal Palace – 23/01/2016

Christian Eriksen – ice-cold winner against Manchester City – 14/02/2016

Harry Kane – amazing strike against the Arsenal – 05/03/2016

Dele Alli – sublime thru ball & finish versus Stoke City – 18-04-16

STYLE

This youthful Spurs team, most of them in their twenties, played with high-line intensity, hunting in packs, defending in numbers and breaking teams down with a ferocious passion and jugular-gripping power. When they had their best eleven on the pitch they were virtually unplayable and had many Premier League managers and football pundits praising our impressive attacking prowess and miserly defence. While the romantics were rightly willing Leicester FC to win the league, Spurs were a credit to football and it was a damned shame they could not hold onto the runners-up berth their scintillating play richly deserved.

THE MANAGER

In Mauricio Pochettino (and his backroom staff) Spurs have a fantastic manager who, while still gaining experience, as a Premier League boss is moulding a young, speedy and hungry team capable of challenging for top honours. Pochettino carries himself not only with dignity but also quiet power and determination. You can see a keen football brain ticking over and his passion is undeniable. I admire his ability to get a tune out of an inexperienced team and create a winning spirit which will hopefully lead us to greater things in the near future.

NEXT SEASON – 2016-2017

With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool under-achieving plus Manchester City being below par generally throughout the season, next year will be tough for Spurs to maintain a top four place. Also, who’s to say another team won’t do a “Leicester” and come from nowhere to win the Premier League? Indeed, Leicester themselves won’t want to give up their title easily.

Obviously, we will need to bolster the squad as we severely lacked strength in depth when our first-team eleven were not playing. Plus, the intense, closing-down football we play, and the Europa League campaign, meant we were stretched mentally and physically by the end of the season; thus culminating in our final game draws and capitulations against West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Southampton and sadly, Newcastle.

By shaving some of the players Pochettino deems surplus to requirements and bringing in, at the very least, another quality defensive midfielder, top-draw midfield playmaker and a couple of strikers, Spurs can take the overall positivity of this season to new heights. Moreover, tactically I would like us to add a bit more match-play nous to our speed and skill next year. We threw away points from a number of advantageous positions and feel with better discipline and tactical ability to close a game out we would have been even higher up the table.

OVERALL

It was ultimately a brilliant season from a marvellous young squad who did the Spurs supporters proud throughout the year.  I thank the players and manager for giving me an enormous amount of footballing pleasure and excitement this season. It’s true to say that Icarus flew too close to the sun but at least he flew; as did Spurs this year.

2015 – 2016 – STATISTICS (select)

Premier League Top Scorer – 25 Goals – Harry Kane

Premier League Best Goal Difference – 34+

Premier League Longest Winning Streak –  6 games

Premier League Most Assists – (2nd place) – 13 assists – Christian Eriksen

Premier League Goals – (2nd place) – 69 goals

Club Record Unbeaten Run – 14 games

PFA Young Player of the Year – Deli Alli

 

CHANCE ENCOUNTER: A STAR TREK KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN BY PAUL LAIGHT

CHANCE ENCOUNTER: A STAR TREK KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN BY PAUL LAIGHT

START KICKING

The traditional capitalist Hollywood machine model that has dominated the moviemaking industry remains in place like a fiscal contagion. Indeed, the money-people, financiers, studio bosses and banks that control the higher end of the cinema market are mostly beyond the reach of the struggling low-budget filmmaker. Some indie filmmakers battle the snakes and move up the ladder but more often than not they fall to their death into a pit of deathly vipers.

In the past there was purity to raising funds for the independent filmmaker. David Lynch made garden sheds when making Eraserhead (1977). Rebel filmmaker Roberto Rodriguez, allegedly, sold his body to science to raise the money for El Mariachi (1992) and the Coen Brothers shot a no-budget trailer for Blood Simple (1984) before approaching the Hadassah, the Zionist women’s charity, for production monies. Meanwhile, Terence Malick’s classic Badlands (1973) was funded by his own money and by doctors and dentists he had pitched the film idea to.

Oh, how times have changed; sort of!  Aside from using bank loans, inheritances, student loans, government grants and maxing out credit cards there is an alternative to raising project budgets. Because now artists, filmmakers, writers, dancers, jugglers, mimes, comedians and authors in general can now reach out to the internet with their “begging” bowl via the plethora of online sites such as: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdfunding and many more.

As an independent filmmaker with eight films produced I personally like the romantic idea of working and saving and, on occasions, asking friends for loans to make my films. However, my attitude has shifted – because I’m broke – therefore me and my filmmaking partner Gary O’Brien have begun a Kickstarter campaign for our latest production called: Chance Encounter: A Star Trek Short Film. Click for the LINK:

 

CHANCE ENCOUNTER: THE STAR TREK STORY!

This is a universal love story set in outer space within the Star Trek television series world circa Next Generation era. It concerns two characters that randomly meet and have a big impact on each other’s lives. While I love sci-fi stuff with aliens and ray-guns this is a gentler story which favours character interaction and themes of loss, love and fate over special effects and monsters. We are not asking for massive donations and believe this to be a fantastic film to invest in.

Please watch our video and invest in our film; any amount will help us achieve our goal. Failing that I may be forced to sell a kidney or lung in order to hit the target.

IMPORTANT: “Star Trek” and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. The videos, the promotion thereof, and/or any other materials created by us are not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made film, intended for recreational use. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

In no case is the use of said copyrighted material, with or without identifying symbols, intended as a claim of ownership or infringement of those copyrights/trademarks by the maker of these videos or their content providers.

SCREENWASH – APRIL 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – APRIL 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

April was a mixed bag of viewings on the various platforms this month, with a couple of stunning films, decent stand-up comedy and my new favourite TV show witnessed. So, with marks-of-eleven, here are my latest reviews. Enjoy.

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

 

ANOMALISA (2015) – CINEMA

I love Charlie Kaufman’s work as he offers one of the most original minds to writing and directing films. Anomalisa is a stop-motion animation character study which is breath-taking in style and thought-provoking in content. David Thewlis voices a writer who, while in a small American town to deliver a key motivational speech, he finds his personality and mind dismantling before him. The film is at times a challenging experience but Kaufman’s conceptual genius, splashes of droll humour and spicy sex scenes make it a worthy arthouse hit. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

BLOODY SUNDAY (2002) – NETFLIX

Director Paul Greengrass’ excellent docu-drama depicts the tragic deaths of the infamous bloody massacre which took place Sunday on January 30, 1972 when 27 civilians were gunned down by the British Army in the streets of Northern Ireland. It’s heartbreaking and powerful drama as the day unfolds in real time and chilling authenticity. The cover-up by the British Government was a disgrace and this stands as a testament to those who tragically lost their lives. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

CHILD 44 (2015) – AMAZON PRIME

This Soviet set thriller was a box office bomb and was mauled by some critics, however, I found it very absorbing thanks to a fine lead performance from Tom Hardy. He plays an orphan who becomes a war-hero and then police officer who, goes against his superior’s orders, and investigates the brutal crimes of a serial-killer. It gets bogged down in a number of subplots but thematically it was strong; as the crimes of the child-killer are compared to that of the Soviet State under Stalin’s brutal regime. (Mark: 6.5 out of 11)

COP CAR (2015) – NOW TV

Kevin Bacon and his fake moustache are sensationally funny in this story of two runaway kids who “accidentally” ruin Bacon’s nefarious doings by stealing his cop car. Overall, it’s lower-budget gem which, despite the stupidity of the moronic children, has a lot of Coen-style humour and bloody violence to make it worth ninety minutes of your time. Bacon of course takes the er… biscuit honours with a rip-roaring, scenery-chewing and smoking performance as the baddie. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

GOMORRAH (2009) – BLU RAY

Having watched the terrific Sky Italia show I went back and found the original film based on the book of the same name. It is another brutal indictment against humanity and life on the mean streets of Naples as gangs old and young shoot and cull each other to death.  It’s structured around four separate stories involving the Casalesi clan and is a violent drama with a gritty documentary style that keeps you gripped from beginning to end. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

INSIDE OUT (2015) – NOW TV

Brilliant Pixar movie with the wonderful vocal talents of Amy Poehler, Richard Kind, Phyllis Smith and Bill Hader; plus of course the incredibly imaginative minds of Pete Docter and his army of animators. The story shows us two worlds simultaneously: young girl Riley Anderson and the various emotions inside her actual mind.  The superb script shows the variety of changes this troubled girl is going through – moving home to a big city for one – as chirpy Poehler as Joy and depressive Smith as Sadness, initially clash, then join forces to stabilize the crumbling psyche of Riley’s mind. It sound really heavy in themes and it is, but it’s done with an incredible light touch and contains some incredible visuals, drama and zinging one-liners.  (Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

JESSICA JONES (2015) – NETFLIX

Jessica Jones was a very enjoyable wall-smashing-sex-splashed-bloody-violent-noir-X-rated comic book show. Tough-as-hell Nemi-lookalike Krysten Ritter kicks ass and David Tennant has a ball as the mentalist villain. Arguably the “purple man” storyline didn’t hold for thirteen episodes and perhaps there were too many mad subplots (the bonkers brother and sisters upstairs); but you could see the makers were establishing loads of future characters notably Luke Cage. Entertaining watch and I loved the dark humour and twisted brutality which stands as an alternative to the glossier cinema Marvel adaptations. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

MARTYRS (2008) – AMAZON PRIME

DO NOT WATCH THIS FILM IF YOU HAVE A WEAK HEART OR DISPOSITION!

Not since I Saw the Devil (2010) have I seen such a violent and mental film such as this. It concerns Lucie, who having been trapped by unknown captors as a child, grows up with delusional and violent tendencies desiring to wreak revenge on the people who savaged her. Her friend Anna attempts to support the crazy actions of Lucie but gets dragged into a hellish nightmare that I just cannot begin to explain. It’s insane, shocking, violent and has gore galore. Impressive horror! (Mark: 8 out of 11)

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016) – CINEMA

Jeff Nichols prior films have been quietly brilliant notably Shotgun Stories (2007) and the biblical Take Shelter (2011). Thus, I was looking forward to Midnight Special very much. Indeed, I enjoyed this film mostly as it had some intriguing themes of: “special” children, family, religious cults and the notion of what is on “the other side”?  Excellent actor Michael Shannon plays father to his young son Alton, who has mysterious gifts which has everyone agog and the Government hunting him; so we get an impressive race against time pursuit and some fine dramatic moments. However, the film fell flat at the end for me and not enough was done at the beginning to set-up the story. Nichols shows though he is a fine filmmaker producing alternative viewing to the often anaemic Hollywood machine. (Mark: 7 out of 11)

NARCOS (2015) – NETFLIX

Narcos is a brutal and rightly unglamorous recount of Columbia’s and the DEA/CIA battle with Pablo Escobar. Hard-to-watch at times because it shows the insanity of society and human beings; but the acting and production values are very high quality. Like Italian TV film and series Gomorrah (2014) it’s not for the faint-hearted as Escobar rises through the ranks drug-trafficking; murdering rivals; kidnapping and slaying politicians, all for the power and wealth. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

PEAKY BLINDERS (2013 –) – SEASON 2 – NETFLIX

Season 2 is a terrific post First World War story with a grand lead performance from Cillian Murphy plus awesome supporting cast including Sam Neill, Helen McCrory and Paul Anderson. Murphy portrays the leader of a Birmingham gang and Steven Knight, writer/director of the superb film Locke (2014), carves out a cracking tale involving coppers, whores, gypsies, bookies and ex-soldiers fighting against a backdrop of political revolution and class warfare. In this season Tommy Shelby has new enemies including Jewish ‘baker’ played by Tom Hardy and mad Italian portrayed Noah Taylor. Safe to say plans and plots and crosses and double crosses occur with bloody violence and twists to boot! (Mark: 8 out of 11)

PENNY DREADFUL (2014 – 2015) – SEASONS 1 & 2 – NOW TV

I caught up with the grandiose, gothic and monstrous Grand Guignol TV horror show that was Penny Dreadful and thought both seasons were great entertainment. Loved the Victorian setting and the smoke and mirrors and dead coming back to life! Faux-literary dialogue was floridly written and delivered. Genuinely scary and gory in places too! John Logan’s scripts are a thing of beauty and horror and the cast are just perfection, notably, Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett and Rory Kinnear.  I grew up watching Frankenstein, Dracula, Hammer House and The Exorcist films when I was a kid and this show just takes all manner of horror tropes and monsters and left me breathless in style and content. (Mark: 10 out of 11)

STEWART LEE’S COMEDY VEHICLE (2016) – BBC IPLAYER

I doubled up watching this and the recent DVD Carpet Remnant World and what can I say. Lee is a human anti-depressant lifting my spirits while at the same time making me think about the very nature of the subjects he tackles. In his fourth comedy vehicle he picks over the bones of: Wealth, Islamophobia, Patriotism, Death, Migrants and Childhood and the routines themselves are funny and challenging. Once again he veers toward Brechtian anti-comedy and potential career suicide with patience testing routines about a cat called Jeremy Corbyn and journalist Rod Liddle. However, I loved such routines and like great art his work gets better on further views. Exceptional comedy! (Mark: 10 out of 11)

STILL ALICE (2014) – NETFLIX

Julianne Moore deservedly won an Oscar for her portrayal of Alice Howland, a college professor, who suffers the tragedy of early onset Alzheimers. Her performance, in a relatively low-budget film, is an incredibly nuanced and emotional rendition, as a once brilliant mind disintegrates in front of our very eyes. A sterling cast including Alec Baldwin as the workaholic husband and Alice’s offspring played by Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart are uniformly excellent in support. Overall, it’s a small film with a massive heart and one which reminds us of the fragility of life and the mind. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) – NETFLIX

There Will Be Blood is a thing of beauty and ugliness and stands up to viewing after viewing. This is a phenomenal classic American story about greed, madness, religious fervor, parenthood and the pursuit of the black gold which has cursed humanity for donkey’s years. Oil sucks! Daniel Day Lewis is incredible in Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece which moves slowly but moves with grandiose style as it examines one man’s obsession with the capture of land and oil; all the while failing to find favour with humans and humanity around him. (Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

VICTORIA (2015) – SKY MOVIES

This is an unbelievably brilliant German film shot in one-take!  Yes! One-take!  There are literally NO joins. It runs at over two hours and unfolds in real-time as the thriller takes in Victoria, a Spanish clubber working in Germany, and her involvement with a bunch of charismatic criminals including the handsome talents of Sonne (Frederick Lau). While the story contrivances were slightly difficult to swallow on brief occasions, this ultimately is a superb technical feat and very suspenseful and even touching at times. Plus, it’s not all one-hundred-miles-an-hour-action as Sebastian Schipper, the director, allows the characters to build so you feel emotion for them throughout.(Mark: 8.5 out of  11)

PAUL LAIGHT PERFORMS AT THE BRIGHTON FRINGE 2016

PAUL LAIGHT PERFORMS AT THE BRIGHTON FRINGE 2016

Rhys (my 15 year-old son):  Dad, why did you attempt stand-up comedy?  Because you’re not  very funny! You’re just not funny!

Me: Same reason I became a parent: I was very drunk; I thought that’ll be good for a laugh; now I’m just seeing it through to the bitter end.

2016_Brighton_Fringe_photo

My creative journey into stand-up comedy began in 2008 and after five years of gigging and running my own gigs like a bastard I got to a reasonable standard of being able to: write a joke; speak confidently; hold a microphone; and occasionally make people laugh. For me, the nervous-wreck of a person who had never performed comedy before was vanquished; and that was very much my goal when I set out. Basically, I wanted to improve my creative writing and be comfortable on stage. Every now and then I would even be paid a small amount of money to be a “comedian” and that was an amazing bonus.

In the last few years’ family commitments meant I have scaled back the gigging but I continued to write and practise my jokes plus gig a fair bit too.  Indeed, the writing is something I continue to enjoy greatly within the creative process; especially the very specific purpose of making things funny. Moreover, gigging is also great as I have met so many interesting and intriguing creative people while performing comedy.

Having performed in a play on the Camden Fringe and shared shows at both Camden and Brighton Fringe with other comedians I have now decided to put my own show on this year in Brighton.  Hilarious guitarist/comedian Gwilum Argos will open and I will perform around forty minutes of puns, jokes, rants and maybe even a song or two.  I look forward to seeing it through to the bitter end with some enthusiasm!

The Paul Laight Show: The Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant on Friday 6th and 7th May 2016. Show starts at 7.15pm. Free entry.   Click here for more details.

2016_Brighton_Poster_large

 

FIFTEEN “MUST WATCH” THINGS ON NETFLIX – PART #1 by PAUL LAIGHT

FIFTEEN “MUST WATCH” THINGS ON NETFLIX – PART #1 by PAUL LAIGHT

Not sure why I did this as it’s not like Netflix needs any marketing assistance from me, but I was bored so I did it anyway!  Of course there are loads of programmes and films that could make this list but here are fifteen things that are essential viewing in my opinion!  Obviously if there’s something that should be on this list then let me know.

** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS **

AMERICAN HORROR STORY (2011 –  ) SEASONS 1 – 3

The first three seasons of this insanely delightful horror show have had me hooked from the start. Featuring a recurring ensemble cast including: Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Evan Peters and many more it mixes: ghosts, witches, serial killers, torture, sexual deviants and voodoo to grisly and hilarious effect. I can recommend it wholly to any fans of period, gothic and murder porn horror as it rips through a splattering of sick deaths, gripping drama and black comedy.

BEASTS OF NO NATION (2015)

This stunning drama leaves you battered and burnt emotionally.  It’s about a civil war in Africa and the child soldiers whom are ripped from their families and made to fight for despotic mad men. Don’t watch if you are easily upset because Cary Fukanaga’s film is a terrifying journey into the heart of darkness. A career-best performance from Idris Elba and phenomenal acting debut from Abraham Attah, as Agu, make this a stunning film. This is heart-cracking drama of the highest quality.

BETTER CALL SAUL (2015) – SEASON 1

I don’t usually like prequels as the drama is generally undercut by knowledge of what has gone before but – pre-Breaking Bad – Jimmy McGill’s story (and Mike’s) was funny, dramatic and actually quite touching. It’s a really compelling plot that takes some unexpected twists throughout and contains some damn fine acting. Bob Odenkirk as our charismatic and occasionally heroic anti-hero is a joy and I look forward to watching Season 2 which has just begun streaming on Netflix now.


BREAKING BAD (2008 – 2013)

This show deserves all the hype and accolades as a contemporary crime thriller, family drama and character study par excellence.  It’s the story of a “good” man and teacher, Walter White, who having sadly been diagnosed with cancer sets about funding a nest egg for his family in the future. This involves, rather incredibly, using his chemistry know-how to make the most powerful methamphetamine in the United States. With his streetwise sidekick Jesse Pinkman (the bitchin’ Aaron Paul) Walter begins a dramatic, murderous and dark journey; becoming a tour de force criminal going by the nom de plume of Heisenberg. Vince Gilligan and his team write and produce a modern classic which has so many great characters that are good, ugly and breaking bad!

DAREDEVIL (2015) – SEASON 1

This brilliant TV show concerns Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) as blind lawyer by day and “super-hero” by night fighting to clean up Hell’s Kitchen in New York. It’s early in his crime-fighting career and as an origins story it’s very well written; with a gritty noir shot-in-the-shadows style. The action, fighting and most importantly character development of both Murdock and Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk (played deliciously by Vincent D’Onofrio) is exceptional as we receive a slow bleed and blending of their stories until they meet at the end. You get the standard stereotypes often found in superhero films but overall it transcends the generic components to become compelling viewing.

DOCTOR STRANGELOVE (1964)

Stanley Kubrik is the greatest filmmaker of ALL time; and it’s my humble opinion that every single one of his films is a masterpiece. His darkly comical satire about the threat of nuclear war is not only a damning indictment of the stupidity of man and his lust for war; but also an ingenious series of sketches that creates humour from the most darkest of threats. A stellar story and cast, including the unique talents of Peter Sellers (playing three characters), finds paranoid Sterling Hayden’s Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper inducing a nuclear attack on Russia and his superiors blustered attempts to stop World War III.  Funny, unsettling and unflinching in its satirical critique of the military and those in government, this is a comical tour-de-force from a genius director.

DOCTOR WHO (2005 – )

If you love fantastical programmes about intrepid time travellers who battle with vicious alien foes across space and time then do check out the rebooted jewel in the BBC’s crown which recently hit a 50th year anniversary. The Doctor is the original Guardian of the Galaxy who travels into our homes via the TARDIS like a sci-fi James Bond but without the misogyny and faint whiff of STDs. Eight seasons exist on Netflix starring the Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi incarnations of the Doctor.  My favourite episodes can be found here at this link. Hours of dynamic, silly, scary, sci-fi action and drama are to be found; in the show, not my article, that is!


FRANK (2014)

I used to listen to Frank Sidebottom (AKA Chris Sievey) on the John Peel sessions when I was a teenager and while baffled by this strange entertainer, I always enjoyed the alternative humour of his music. I was also intrigued by the fact this eccentric Northerner was pictured in the NME wearing a papier mache head. I was concerned this could be a weird for weird sake story, however, Lenny Abrahamson, has crafted – from a script by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan – a tremendously odd yet moving character study. The story focusses on Jon (Domnhall Gleeson) and his encounters with Frank’s experimental rock band as scene after scene of weird and wonderful events occur throughout, leading to a very poignant reveal when Frank’s (majestic Michael Fassbender) mask finally comes off.


IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (2005 – )

This riotous comedy has the most unlikeable, unattractive, insane, narcissistic characters that do all manner of god-awful things to themselves, each other and total strangers. It is frantic, sick, irreverent, disgusting, manic, hyper-real, cartoon-like, politically-incorrect, satirical and incredibly hilarious. Indeed, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the closest you would get to a live-action version of South Park. Set in the dismal Paddy’s pub in Philadelphia it initially concerned four (in Season 1) then five (when Danny DeVito joined) individuals who are complete fuck-ups and whose main existence generally aims to scheme and out-do the others. This is now one of my favourite comedies EVER!  If you haven’t ever seen this show then you should. Check out my favourite episodes here:


LOST SOUL: RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR MOREAU (2014)

I love films about filmmaking and I also love films about filmmaking which go spectacularly wrong. This documentary charts the journey of director Richard Stanley and his attempts to bring classic novel The Island of Dr Moreau to the silver screen. With a massive budget and filming taking place in Australia it all starts to go wrong for Stanley as tropical storms hit the set and the money men at the studio lose confidence. Add the crazy Marlon Brando, difficult Val Kilmer and hedonistic extras to the mix and you get a box office turkey burning in front of your eyes. Both funny and tragic it reveals the folly of filmmaking yet sadly also seemed to finish Stanley’s promising directorial career.

MAKING A MURDERER (2015)

Making a Murderer is a ten-part documentary which concerns a number of high-profile court cases which took place in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. The filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos deserve incredible praise for their painstaking work in bringing the cases of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey to the screen because based on their film an incredible miscarriage of justice may have occurred. It is as thrilling and suspenseful as the behaviour of law enforcement is called into question time and time again and the documentary stands as both an indictment on the United States legal system as well as being a gripping thriller. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoilers but WATCH THIS SHOW for an incredibly designed “TRUE” story. It has to be seen to be believed, and whether the defendants are guilty or not, this saga re-writes the meaning of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

THE MIGHTY BOOSH (2003 – 2007)

“Come with us now through a journey of time and space!” so uttered Julian Barratt as he welcomed us to the weird and wonderfully surreal world of the Boosh. I still love this ingenious comedy which over a mere twenty episodes introduced us to: Howard Moon, Vince Noir, Naboo, Bollo the Ape, the Ape of Death, Charlie the Bubble Gum monster, Dixon Bainbridge, Old Gregg with the mangina, Tommy Nookah, the Cockney Hitcher, irrepressible Bob Fossil and all manner of other crazy nut-jobs. Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding created and performed one of the most imaginative shows I have ever seen with a rocking soundtrack too. It’s wild, funky, mind-bending, melodious, colourful and just downright ruddy marvellous.

THE OFFICE (2001 – 2003)

I would’ve included the US version of the Office too must that mysteriously disappeared a year or so ago from Netflix.  Still, the UK version remains one of the funniest sitcoms ever and fully launched the careers of creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant; as well as the acting talents of Martin Freeman, Lucy Davis, Mackenzie Crook and Ralph Ineson. Centred on the mockumentary stylings of a day-to-day Slough office we find deluded fool David Brent (perfect Gervais) and his woeful attempts to motivate and manage his staff. Rich in ridiculous, awkward and embarrassing comedic situations it also contains some wonderful moments of pathos and romance.  The Office remains a genuine comedy classic and twelve episodes and two specials are always worth revisiting.

PEAKY BLINDERS (2013 – )

I missed two seasons of this gritty and violent period drama first time round on BBC but was grateful to catch up with it on Netflix. It’s a terrific post first World War story with a grand lead performance from Cillian Murphy plus awesome supporting cast including Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Tom Hardy, and Paul Anderson. Murphy portrays the leader of a Birmingham gang who fight and scrap and slice in an attempt to become legitimate bookmakers. Steven Knight, who wrote and directed the superb Locke (2014), carves out a cracking tale involving coppers, whores, gypsies, bookies, the IRA, Communists and ex-soldiers fighting against a backdrop of political revolution and class warfare.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2014)

DiCaprio is amazing in this memoir of disgraced human scum Jordan Belfort – a drug-addicted-sex-addicted-thieving-stockbroker-hedonist. The Wolf of Wall Street follows the same rise-and-fall structure of mafia classic Goodfellas (1990) as DiCaprio’s Belfort sells his soul to power up through the snakes and ladders of Wall Street. This is NOT a heavy analysis of socio-economic morality and values but rather a bullet-paced black comedy filled with cracking scenes and razor-sharp one-liners delivered by a stellar cast. I felt DiCaprio deserved an Oscar but the Belfort character has already had enough success in his lifetime and threw it all away because of greed. Surely awarding an Oscar to such a heinous character would be TOO MUCH wouldn’t it?  But as this film demonstrates TOO MUCH is never enough!

 

 

 

FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #3 – THE TWO MINUTE SILENCE (2007) By PAUL LAIGHT

FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #3 – THE TWO MINUTE SILENCE (2007) By PAUL LAIGHT

Once again I look back nostalgically on the production process of one of the shorts I made and the creative decisions around it. Indeed, in 2006 the Fix Films bandwagon continued with abandon; well, I’d managed to get some money for our next low-budget short somehow; and it was to be known in Internet-land as The Two Minute Silence!

2007_TwoMinuteSilence_John_Stone

After the arduous creative endeavour of A Far Cry (2006), for our next short film, me and Gary decided it may be better to stick to something slightly more contemporary. Thus, I pitched an idea for a group of office workers and their behaviour during a “Two-Minute Silence”. I assume everyone knows what this is but basically the whole nation contemplates a tragic event or international loss; IN SILENCE. Quite rightly the companies or organisations put this convention in place in order to respect those who have lost their lives due to a terrorist attack or some other horrible tragedy. It’s an interesting and important part of the bereavement process and used to be a minute but when writing the script I’d noticed they’d been increased to two minutes; possibly due to grief inflation or some such reason.

2007_TwoMinuteSilence_Animesh_CenotaphMy idea stemmed from a couple of situations that I felt could be rinsed for comedic and dramatic purposes. Firstly, from personal experience I recall a number of “silences” in the office environment I worked in. As awful as this sounds my mind wandered quite quickly from the tragedy to my own mortality before moving swiftly on to what I may be having for dinner later. Consequently I felt if I had that thought then others must do too. Secondly, I also had a sketch idea that during some pursuit or chase it may be funny or suspenseful to have the criminals and cops have to stop, out of respect, while a silence is occurring. So rather than something serious, that was the tone and angle I was going for.

2007_TwoMinuteSilence_Stone_Suicide

The chase sequence was the most interesting idea for me, but I kept coming back to an ensemble idea of eight or so characters in one room with their thoughts projected by voiceover to the audience. Thus, I set about writing the screenplay with archetype characters in the first draft simply named: the Romantic, the Bitch, the Penitent One, the Actor, the Slob, the Boss and so on. The key was to establish the characters quickly and give them each a recognisable situation with which to bounce the humour and pathos off. Indeed, I went for punchlines such as: the easy humour of a guy needing a shit; a romantic couple; the slimy Boss deciding who to give a promotion too; a religious person praying; someone actually respecting the silence; and a more complex situation of a potential madmen planning on killing his colleagues.

2007_TwoMinuteSilence_Chris

Once the script had gone through a number of drafts and I was satisfied there were enough pay-offs in the brief slice-of-life structure I started the casting process. Now, this is something I am very proud of as a producer because, as the film was self-financed, I pretty much handled all the castings and location scouting and worked really hard in my own time to find the right people and places. In terms of location we needed a conference room that could be used WITHOUT any interruption thus I paid for an expensive meeting room in Holborn, I think. The casting wasn’t so simple though. Thankfully there is so much acting talent out there I whittled the forty or so candidates I individually met down to these brilliant people: Faye Barber, Richard Cambridge, Chris Crocker, Enid Gayle, Chris Polick, Suzanne Rabia, Animesh Rawal, Joel Stubbs and Philip Wolff.

2007_TwoMinuteSilence_Phil

Ironically, for a film which intrinsically dealt with a specific two minute period it actually ran for ten minutes, and the two-day shoot was fantastically helmed by Gary with me on board as Production Manager, runner, caterer, cigarette wrangler etc. It’s always our rule that we pay the actors and while it certainly wasn’t big bucks we got so much hard work from the cast I was very proud of everyone. Ensemble casts could arguably be fraught with egos or prima donnas but we had none of that and the filming was a joy. The added bonus that it wasn’t outside in the pissing rain and mud, miles from civilisation in a field – like A Far Cry (2006) – also sweetened the whole deal too. Special mention to the brilliant sound guy Oli Cohen and simple but precise camerawork of James Abbott.

2007_TwoMinuteSilence_Suzanna

What I learnt most from this experience was that if you cast your film right then you will have a positive product. I don’t necessarily mean just good acting but decent people too who understand the script and work well as part of the ensemble. Pretty much 96.7% of our castings have been right on all our short films and The Two Minute Silence especially benefited from a good premise, a witty script, professional direction and quality actors. We had a mild drama when filming at the Cenotaph for one scene as we did not have permission and the police moved us along. However, looking back the project was an utter joy and we would get some great feedback and screenings in film festivals and on TV including:   Angel Film Festival, The Big Chill Festival, Eastnor, Blue Light District, London Filmmaker’s Convention, Non-Multiplex Cinema Film Group, Portobello Film Festival, Propeller TV/Sky Channel 195, Reading Fringe Festival and Rotoreliefs.

Looking back on it now I think it stands the test of time as a decent character comedy that holds an honest mirror up to the nature of humanity. It’s economical and punchy and still makes me laugh. Plus, I had a wonderful experience making it too. Thanks to all involved; here’s the film:

Writer. Filmmaker. Semi-Pro Comedian. Wageslave

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