November 26th 2020
Today I am reading another chapter from the book about Dad, this particular one has the working title ‘Teamwork’ I talk about a lot of the things we did together, not really the normal father-son activities. There is no mention of football or any other sport, we would go to the movies a lot, especially when the latest Superman film was released. No, our time together was mostly centred around comedy, making others laugh, oh, and pillow bashing my little sister, Dads’ daughter, John. Yep, John, I could explain now why Jane was also known as John but then you’d have less of a reason to buy the book.
While reading this chapter I noticed a glaring omission. A live stage show Dad and I created called Make ‘Em Laugh.
In the 90’s I was opening for all kinds of musical acts mostly for a company called Flying Music. One evening before my spot I was wandering around the foyer of whatever theatre we were performing in that day and I saw a poster for another of Flying Musics’ big shows the Solid Gold Sixties show. This was a popular night featuring four or five acts from that era, perhaps individually they wouldn’t fill a theatre but collectively, well, that was a different story but this show, this poster had given me an idea. I called Dad and between us we came up with the pitch for the show. Make ‘Em Laugh: The Solid Gold Comedy Show, a fax was sent to Derek Nicol, co-owner of the Flying Music company, the very next morning.
Not unusually there was no response. Ideas in the world where I make my living are bandied around often without ever coming to fruition. I don’t know how long after the fax was sent but again I found myself wandering around another theatres’ foyer and bumped into Derek while I was looking at the posters advertising upcoming shows.
“I can’t believe you didn’t like that idea I faxed you!” I said
“What idea? I’ve never received a fax from you” was Dereks’ reply.
So I told him and he just loved it. The next morning he called me and told me he had found the original fax. I don’t know if you remember a film starring Tom Cruise called The Firm. During it a fax is sent, falls from the machine and rolls under a unit, not to be found until much later. The very same thing happened to the fax Dad and I had sent to Derek all those months earlier.
Within a few months tickets for the show were up for sale, a dream team of comedians had been booked and Dad and I were in the Flying Music offices with Derek, Paul Walden; the other co-owner, and Andy Sharrocks who was the companies production manager. After we had talked more about the format the show would take and we’d listened open mouthed as our requested comedians were all confirmed. Jimmy Cricket, Norman Collier, Duncan Norvelle AND Frank Carson. Four great comedians with four very different styles, this had hit written all over it. One role remained.
“Who is going to host this show?” Asked Derek.
There was silence in the room, remember these are the top three people from Flying Music, sitting around a desk, and my Dad, I really didn’t see why it was being left to me to suggest names, but, at the same time I didn’t let it stop me.
“Oh, well, if you can get him, Adrian Walsh, or Jeff Stevenson, no, it has to be Kevin Devane.”
There was laughter and smiles and knowing looks passed between all the other guys in the room and in my frustration I just impatiently asked
“We think you should host it.”
I didn’t even consider me, I would never think I was the right man for this gig, any gig. But I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, how could I do this tour and not come out the other side a far better comedian?
We opened later that year on October 7th & 8th at the Theatre Royal in Norwich. Frank had made the decision that I should get dressing room number 1, it was after all my show that was his argument and a couple of hours before curtain up Dad walked into my dressing to find Frank, Norman and some of the crew making themselves at home.
“Where is Paul?” He asked
“We sent him out for pizza!” Someone replied.
I loved that show because Dad and I worked closely on it coming up with the sketches and a quite brilliant finale idea. All the comedians would sit on stalls and answer questions from the audience. I loved the idea, showing the crowd that these guys were more than just a polished well honed act, they were able to get a laugh from anything. I can’t lie, Frank and I excelled at this, Norman, deaf as a post, still garnered the biggest laughs, somehow hearing what was shouted at him. Duncan had a brilliant story that he could use as an answer for almost any question and Jimmy knew every joke ever told. Together they, no, we, were simply funny!
We did two successful tours of Make ‘Em Laugh. I never tired of sitting in the wings watching these guys work. Norman has to be one of the single most underrated comics I have ever seen to this day! Frank Carson is often accused of ‘never coming off stage’ which is far from true, Frank, in my opinion never goes on to the stage. He is Frank Carson twenty four seven. I loved that guy and I won’t bore you with any more ‘Carson’ stories now, there is still a week of lockdown to go yet!
Shots of Coffee: 6
Reading: The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza
Listened to: Radio X, Micheal Kiwanuka, Mumford & Sons and Al Jarreau
YouTube Tip: Funny Talk
Word Count: 998, so close, 1000