Edinburgh Tips

It is that time of year again, when people give you their considered advice on who you should go and see at the Edinburgh Fringe, whilst carefully hiding their real reasons for plugging the shows. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be one of Time Out’s 74 recommended shows. These are my honestly held views on who you could take a punt on. If they turn out to be shit, well that is kind of fun anyway. Alphabetical to avoid accusations of bias.

Adam Hess    Heroes@The Hive    1720

He’s that clever funny guy on Twitter. He tells very funny jokes. This is his first hour. Am I biased because I get on with him very well ? Possibly. But he is dead funny. Good luck Adam.

Aisling Bea      Gilded Balloon  2130

She doesn’t need my support. But one of comedy’s next superstars gets my support anyway. Go see her while ticket prices are still reasonable.

Alistair Barrie        Movement 1545

By his own admission, one of the most talented comedians in the country, Al has had proper life trauma. Joking aside, if anyone has the deft writing skills to make this funny, it is him.

Alun Cochrane         Stand Comedy Club 1830

Is he a mate? You bet. We have played chess against each other many times. But he also the epitome of effortless gimmick-free comedy, and although he is doing perfectly well for himself, deserves a wider audience.

Amir Khoshsokhan   Laughing Horse@Espionage   1730

I have never seen him. But I have heard such good things about him that I thought I would cynically jump on this bandwagon. So to speak.

Andrew Lawrence      Assembly Roxy 2010

Really Paul??????  Yep. Because I still have fond memories of when he was the most exciting new comedian in the country. As Voltaire never said “I may violently disagree with your opinions. But I respect your comedic chops.”

Andrew Watts           Laughing Horse@Counting House   2045

One of 2014’s less heralded critical hits, Andrew is proper clever and proper funny.

Brett Goldstein           Pleasance 2130

The lst time I saw Brett do stand up it was story telling of a blisteringly high quality. He has now done all kinds of creative shit with his life, and frankly, he wouldnt be doing Edinburgh if he didnt have a great show

Ed Aczel               Heroes@The Hive            1730

Genuinely gutted he is on at the same time as me. I absolutely adore this bizarre champion of anticomedy. Hugely funny.

Felicity Ward           Pleasance             2100

A  Fringe specialist with list of awards and nominations as long as your arm, your money is very safe here.

Gary Little            Stand Comedy Club 2130

Gary has stories to tell from a life that has been lived. He tells them brilliantly, and his reward is a prime time Fringe show. Good for you Gary.

Gein’s Family Gift Shop             Pleasance 2245

I’ve met them. I have not seen them. But boy is there a buzz about this uber talented sketch trio. They seem to come highly recommended by absolutely everyone.

Gurpal Gill               Just the Tonic at the Mash house 1300

Because every list should have at least one show that nobody else is recommending. I have a strong feeling this will be memorable. I hope Im right.

Jenny Bede                Pleasance 1530

I have only ever seen her do ten minutes. But her musical parodies were intriguing, original and funny. One for the future for sure.

Jim Smallman           Just the Tonic at the Caves  1755

Right so Jim is a mate and a stable mate. But I have seen the preview. It’s great, and I do have a soft spot for comedians who have lived a life. And until you have married an s/m dominatrix, you have not lived. Go Jim.

John Robins           Assembly George Square Studios  2000

A Fringe veteran, and one of the really in form comedians of the moment. I have never seen him not have a great show.

Joseph Morpugo            Pleasance 2015

I didnt quite get round to seeing his critical smash hit last year.  Ihave no excuses this year.  Expect much hype.

Larry Dean                   Pleasance 1730

Paul, are you just recommending someone because he is both hot and gay? Yes I am. But he is also very funny indeed.

Laura Lexx                   Underbelly 1605

Utterly charming stand up, with surprising bite, this debut show comes highly recommended.

Lolly Adefope            Pleasance 1630

Not seen her yet, but she is one of those acts about whom I keep hearing great things.

Luke Toulson                  Stand 5/6               1545

Ive seen this show. It has a fantastic premise and it is very funny.

Markus Birdman          Canon’s Gait   1540

DISCLAIMER – Possibly my best mate in comedy. However……. he really is incredibly underated given that he has been performing in the top tier of club comedy now for the best part of a decase. Always both intelligent and funny.

Matt Reed                Just the Tonic at the Mash House 2145

Again, a mate. But boy does Matt have a tale to tell. I shall say no more, but I have every faith this show will be great.

Michael Che               Stand 3/4             1940

Daily Show/SNL alumnus. This is a fantastic coup for The Stand

Michael J Dolan           Stand 3/4               1650

When Michael’s debut show was a big critical hit, I was as shocked as he was. I just didnt know that he was actually very good at comedy, such was his disdain for the industry.

Michael Legge                  Stand 2                          1210

Vegan, mate, superb comedian, and occasional writer for Mrs. Browns Boys,  this show will be a hoot.

Milo McCabe                Laughing Horse @ Counting House

Conceptual character comedy of the highest order, Milo is a name which keeps coming up when people are discussing great previews.

Natasha Noman                    Gilded Balloon              1945

I know nothing about this comedian. But gay female journalist in Pakistan ?? I will be there.

Nish Kumar                Pleasance 1915

Bright, charismatic, funny. It is Nish’s year.

Notorious Mary Bourke             Stand 5/6              1430

Mary is criminally underrated, and keeps producing hilarious and very well received shows every year.

Pat Cahill                                  Heroes @ The Hive                 1840

Pat is a hero of mine. So daft, so bold, so original and so funny.

Peter Brush                  Just the Tonic @ The Community Project    1855

Trivia fans ! He is the son of former West Ham footballer Paul Brush. He is also a much admired, original comedic voice, and his debut show will be just great.

Ro Campbell              Stand 2 2240

I’ve just never seen him deliver a joke that wasnt top drawer. That he isnot better known is utterly mystifying.

Sean McLoughlin               Pleasance 2015

I’m previewing with Sean tomorrow. I heard amazing things about last years show, and from what I have heard this year will be just as good.

This Month’s Apocalypse          Canon’s Gait   2025

It is Cutting Edge king Paul Thorne, making a rare foray into the Fringe, with a huge back catalogue of brilliant political material, this will be fun.

That is not to mention the countless other brilliant comedy shows on the Fringe. It is, as it always is, a massively diverse programme, and I cant help be struck by just how many Asian comedians there are. It is almost as if there is a disproportionate number of people entering comedy as a reaction against poorly thought out career choices.

Enjoy x

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Previews.

I’ve not done Edinburgh for four years. In 2012 I stayed in London for the Olympics, had the best month of my life, and found it increasingly difficult to summon up the financial and creative recklessness to give it another go. But in 2015 I am returning with a show called Postcards from the Z List.  It is a light hearted look at the last four years of my life, and it is shaping up nicely. Also, Romesh Ranganathan can’t do Edinburgh this year due to telly commitments, so the people who only go to Edinburgh to see educated Asian men will presumably flock to my show instead.

I had almost forgotten how exciting preview season is. Writing new jokes and then watching them either soar or wither and die. I still have thirteen of these shows to go. Here they are…..

Monday 13th July    Balham Comedy Festival    http://balhamcomedyfestival.com/   Paul Daniels and Sara Pascoe are also available tonight. Remarkable.

Wednesday 15th July   Crack Comedy Club, South Bank, London  http://www.crackcomedy.com/show-listings.htm   On a double bill with the effervescent Luke Toulson.

Thursday 16th July      Comedy Cow, Milton Keynes  http://www.thecomedycow.co.uk/8.html   Pat Cahill is bloody brilliant.

Sunday 19th July         Sitting room comedy, Leeds http://sittingroomcomedy.co.uk/whats-on/leeds/ I’m on with Fringe hero Tony Law.

Monday 20th July        The Arts Theatre, London.

http://www.amusedmoose.com/shows    I’m not a Perrier winner, I’m a nominee. Like the brilliant James Acaster who also appears tonight.

Tuesday 21st July            Dogstar Brixton http://www.designmynight.com/london/whats-on/comedy/paul-sinha-and-sean-mccloughlin-edinburgh-previews       Sean McLoughlin also appears, one of the best received comedians of 2014

Wednesday 22nd July        Tobacco Factory. http://www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com/shows/detail/double_deckers_comedy_week_paul_sinha_john_hasting/  Tom Allen is now on the bill. It is a general truism that you shouldn’t come to see me if you dont like “The gays”. But it is especially true tonight.

Thursday 23rd July                  Good Ship Kilburn http://www.thegoodship.co.uk/whats-on/events/23-jul-15-paul-sinha—postcards-from-the-z-list-the-good-ship/    Diane Spencer AND Matthew Crosby    Something for everyone, regardless of sexuality.

Sunday 26th July                Norfolk Arms Stockport http://www.thenorfolkarms.co.uk/

“Very strong language”    I take that as a compliment.

Sunday 26th July                Off the Rails comedy club Saddleworth  http://www.saddleworthcomedy.co.uk/shows/4305-2/

Both Sunday shows are with the truly magnificent Justin Moorhouse

Wednesday 29th July            Matlock Bath   http://www.thefishpondmatlockbath.co.uk/live/event-calendar/5493/stagefright-comedy-paul-sinha-support/    I get about.

Thursday 30th July               Chesterfield.  http://www.windingwheel.co.uk/shows/spotlight-comedy-club-july.aspx#.VaOyKvlViko

This one is with TV’s Joe Lycett. It is testament to the changing social climate of Britain that Chesterfield can play host to two benders in one night.

And finally, one day before I get on the train………………

Sunday 2nd August

Funny Side Soho     http://www.thefunnyside.info/comedyclubs/soho/index.htm

Please come. My sanity depends on your benevolence x

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Fame.

So Miles Jupp is to be the new presenter of the News Quiz. This is splendid news. Not just because he is a fine and funny chap. But because I have met him. I am hardly a regular fixture on the dinner party scene, but should those invites start coming in, and people ask me “So do you know Miles Jupp?”. I can tell them about the time I was sat in a bar in The Hague with him and Andre Vincent, trying to listen to radio commentary of a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful innings by Ravi Bopara against Sri Lanka during the 2007 cricket World Cup. A glorious time to be alive.

I have pretty much met them all at some stage. So today’s blog is not about same sex marriage, or Tunisian terrorism or a guide to the hottest male tennis palyers. It is a quizk guide to my brief encounters with the great and good of British comedy.

Simon Pegg.   My second ever gig. June 1995. The King’s Head Theatre in Islington. Ed Byrne was headlining. A promising young comedian called Simon Pegg was compering. I did five minutes of filth. He said “Paul is available for children’s parties”. Our paths never crossed again.

Ricky Gervais I shook his hand at a party in 2000. I doubt if he remembers.

Dara O Briain  He is a colossal man, and most of it is brain. He is far cleverer than I am.  He owes me ten pounds petrol money after I drove him back to London from a gig at Nottingham University. I dont bear grudges.

Johnny Vegas  He once bought me a pizza in a hotel bar in Nottingham. Lovely man.

Daniel Kitson   We watched Sexy Beast together in a cinema in Morecambe. I prayed that romance might be forthcoming, but he was pretty firm on the issue, and complained that my praying was putting him off the film. Ben Kingsley was memorable, but I always thought that his histrionics took a little away from Ray Winstone’s finest performance.

Reginald D Hunter  Late night meal, Manchester Chinatown. He asked me why I choose to come across as a gay whore on stage. I explained that that was exactly how I saw myself. He looked confused. He didn’t eat much.

Ross Noble  After once staying the night in his spare room back in 99,  I can confirm that the man owns a lot of pairs of trainers.

Micky Flanagan  I did Edinburgh with him in 2001. Every night I watched “Out Out”. A masterful routine, though if Id known that one day he’d beat me on Celebrity Chase, I would have been less enamoured.

Russell Howard    I was once in a pub with him in York, when a woman punched her friend in the face in an argument about who would get to chat him up first. Ladies – decide these issues before you come out for the evening.

John Oliver The greatest satirist on the planet showed me how to inflate a car tyre, at a petrol station in West Norwood in 2001. I really am car illiterate.

Rhod Gilbert  In December 2004 we went on a three hour boat trip around the coast of Oman with a mysterious stranger. The mysterious stranger had prepared a massive vat of the best lamb biryani that I had ever eaten, so all was good.

Tim Vine     In 1999 I had lunch with Tim in Liverpool. He was perusing his joke book when he said “Oh this is bad. Dustbin Hoffman”  He also showed us a “scar” on his car where he had once tried to fry an egg on a hot day. A king amongst men.

Flight of the Conchords   The only time in my life that I have had a future Oscar winner in the back of my car, was driving the offbeat New Zealand duo back to London after a gig at Brunel University. I still have not decided which one is hotter, though it is probably the little fella.

Michael McIntyre and Jim Jeffries For three days in 2002 I shared a flat in Newcastle with these two future superstars. During those three days the swaggering Australian bad boy, and the polite English observations guy refused to say a single word to each other. I don’t imagine they are regularly skyping each other even now.

Peter Kay  I have never met him. But I think his writers must have seen my act at least once.

Rich Hall    I once interrupted a meal he was having at the Red Fort in Soho, to tell him I was a fan. What a dick. And what an overpriced restaurant. He was politeness and patience personified.

Russell Peters  One of the most successsful comedians on the planet organised a three week show in Durban in 2003, called India’s Kings of Comedy. I was invited, and another guy Paul Chowdhry  was headliner. I dont think it’s necessarily the right phrase, but Russell got through one hell of a lot of punani. Chowdhry pretended to be diabetic to try and get a seat next to me on the flight back. It didnt work.

.

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We need to talk about Kevin

Back in in about 2007/2008 I was something of a ‘flavour of the month’ comedian for ambitious tv producers who would set up meetings to ask me what my comedic plans were. They wanted to know if they could distill my ‘gay asian doctor’ schtick into something that might work on television. The problem  is that I can’t act, I can’t do voices, I lack the sharp spontaneity that lends itself to the cut and thrust of tv panel shows. What I can do is stand at a microphone telling jokes and stories which I have lovingly written. But stand up comedians only appear on television if they are in Off the Kerb’s books or good books. And I have never been that fortunate.

“What about a documentary ?” producers would wearily ask, realising their dreams of a sitcom about a GP called Sanjay Sodomite were disappearing.

“Yes. Have you ever heard of a guy called Kevin Ashman ?”   I would always reply. And they would look at me blankly.

To those who only know what they see on television (of whom there appear to be hundreds of thousands), Kevin Ashman is the slightly dour/ dryly witty (delete as appropriate) Egghead who is unbeatable on history. To those of us in the know, it is just possible that Kevin is simply the most knowledgable human being who has ever walked the planet. His high score of 41 on the way to winning Mastermind will never be beaten. His high score of 38 in winning Brain of Britain has similar status. He is the many times British, European and World champion. He first appeared on my radar during the golden years of Fifteen-to one.  How is it possible that such a modest and self effacing man could be so utterly encyclopaedic?   I wanted to make a TV documentary to find out what makes him tick. Unfortunately nobody else did, and my fledgling television career was left floundering.

At this stage I had not dipped my toes into the murky waters of competitive quizzing. Years later I am shoulder deep in it. I haven’t just met my idol, I have competed with him and against him many, many times with predictable results. And even more pleasingly I have got drunk with him. In the written grand prixs which form the basis of our national quiz rankings, he is operating on a quite different plane to me. In the cut and thrust of the annual  Brain of London tournament, I have been edging tantalisingly closer.

Organised by the wonderful Quiz League of London, the Brain of London has a brutal format of unseeded four person knock out matches in which it is perfectly possible to play against three British/European/World champions in your first round match. In theory you cannot win without a huge dollop of luck. Kevin Ashman has won 12 times.

Two years ago I blundered away my chance to knock him out in the semi finals. He went on to win. Last year I reached the final, but he was simply much too good. This year I am proud to say that I am in the final again. Again, quizzing’s foremost titan stands in the way and will start favourite.

Also in the final is Dr. Ian Bayley. 2009 Brain of Britain champion, 2011 Mastermind Champion, he is a giant of academic buzzer quizzing, plays for legendary unbeaten Only Connect team the Crossworders and is Kevin’s teammate in the England A team.

Trying to land some kind of blow in this august company is me. And my mate Peter Ediss.  Both first round losers on Mastermind, both first round losers on Are you an Egghead.  Peter is not only a very good mate, and teammate in our team the Gray Monks, he is essentially my quiz husband. Since I met him in 2008, we have spent hours and hours helping each other to improve. I owe him a hell of a lot, and I could not be more delighted that his brilliance has been rewarded with a place in the final.

The final is tonight. The world’s most knowledgable man in history, his England A teammate, and two bessie mates hoping for the best. Apparently you can watch it on some new fangled thing called periscope. https://twitter.com/@QuizLgLondon

There is every chance that I will finish a distant fourth. I don’t care to be honest. I spent many years idolising Kevin Ashman, now he is both a friend and  (sort of) rival. To be competing in this kind of company I am already living a weird, geeky dream.

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Mourning Richie.

There are many moments in the history of Pixar movies which chime with me. One such moment is in Ratatoullie, when the feared critic Anton Ego first tastes the version of the title dish created by super talented rodents. He is immediately taken back to his childhood, his own mother’s version of ratatouille and experiences such an intensely visceral, nostalgic response that he is left emotionally weakened.

I would like to think that we all have stimuli which elicit such a response.Eating  my Mum’s lamb curry still brings back so many joyous memories, the excitement of how delicious the meal matched only by the fact that the A Team was on in half an hour. Another such stimulus is the voice of the late cricket commentator Richie Benaud.

I have never stopped being grateful to my parents for imbuing in me a love of cricket from a very early age. To anyone not au fait with cricket’s unique rhythms, aesthetics and laws, it must seem like a bizarre and tedious pastime, and I am well aware that many look at cricket and its occasionally insufferable fans with the same derision as I lazily look at Game of Thrones. Such is the lot of the aficionado, and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. I make no apologies for the fact that every summer of my childhood was spent glued to the telly watching international and county cricket. Accompanying the play was the mellifluous voice of arguably the most revered sports commentator of my lifetime.

For a generation of cricket fans, Benaud was summer. Whether it was his erudite and understated use of language,  his “less is more” attitude to describing the play, his thorough knowledge of the complete international game, his refusal to exaggerate, his totally unbiased analysis, no cricket commentator has ever had more global kudos. From his savaging of Greg Chappell’s “underarm” scandal, to his magical adornment of the 2005 Ashes, he gave frequent masterclasses in how to commentate without prejudice.

As well as being the voice of my childhood summers, in 1990 he was the voice of one of the happiest moments of my life. That July my Dad suffered a series of cardiac catastrophes spending weeks in hospital before returning home with strict instructions to avoid physical and emotional exertions. Unfortunately he returned home in the middle of a Lords Test match between India and England. My Dad never cared for the politics of Norman Tebbit, and was really rather hoping that India at least saved the follow on. They did so in remarkable fashion when skipper Kapil Dev hit four consecutive sixes

Note Benaud’s restrained commentary. As usual he simply allowed the action to speak for itself. Over the next few weeks in the IPL, batsmen will hit meaningless boundaries and the commentators with crass  bombast will behave as though it is the second coming. Here Benaud simply acted as a bemused witness to of of Test cricket’s most remarkable feats.

By contrast my Dad instantly leapt from his seat and  cheered in an uncharacteristically feral fashion, We just stared at him in fear thinking “What the fuck do you think you are  doing Dad?  Which bit of “no exertions” did you not understand?”

Realising his mistake he said “Oh yeah. Sorry.”  And he sat down looking rather embarrassed. And he giggled. And we giggled. And I suspect for the first time we all began to believe that everything was going to be alright.

25 years later my Dad still trundles on, but sadly Richie Benaud has breathed his last. He bestrode his world like a colossus, and it is unlikely in this era of hype over substance that we shall see his like again. As well as being a great cricketer, an exceptional commentator and a true internationalist, his voice soundtracked so much that was memorable about my developing years. What a magnificent innings.

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Fracas.

Top Gear is not my kind of thing. That said I am not really its target audience, as I have no interest in cars and I think that its contrived laddishness is something that should be left to younger presenters. Nonetheless it is a massive success, and I am certainly not in the business of trying to deny other people their entertainment fix of choice.

In fact a few years ago I did a piece on Radio 4’s Now Show defending Jeremy Clarkson. My point was that although we are politically chalk and cheese, I thought that people had wilfully misunderstood the point of some of his jokes through sheer dislike. Saying this on the Now Show was to walk into a mild mannered liberal lions den, but I stand by what I said.

I was defending him based on a forensic examination of the motivation of some of his words. What has become very clear in the last 24 hours is that there are people who would slavishly defend him if he’d defenestrated a nun. To a lot of people Clarkson is not just a TV presenter. He has come symbolize the antidote to the namby pamby  political correctness that has paralysed the BBC resulting in programmes such as Wolf Hall, Question of Sport, Peaky Blinders and err Top Gear. He is a true champion of ordinary people. (Current fees for Repton, £7825 per term).  He is a bloke, he doesn’t care for feminism and other such poisons of the modern age, and as such he should be able to punch anyone he damn well likes. Anything else is simply lefty claptrap.

To cover my options here, I ought to point out that I have no idea what actually happened, and it may well be that an internal investigation may exonerate Clarkson. That is because I have possess something called self doubt. Self doubt is a quality utterly lacking in the #BringbackClarkson mob who have already made their mind up that Clarkson is either 1. Innocent or 2. Entirely justified in resorting to workplace assault. How fortunate it must be to be famous and rogueishly rightwing, knowing that your army of braindead blowhards will back you no matter what. If Clarkson does feel untouchable at times, I wonder whose fault that might be.

This post seeks neither to defend nor attack Jeremy Clarkson. But in workplaces up and down the country if you are accused of throwing a punch, you will in all likelihood be suspended. The #BringbackClarkson campaign is a morally repugnant apology for violence which simply illustrates that if you have enough fame and influence, far too many of your fans are prepared to give you a free ride.

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I am not going to have a go at Chelsea fans. As a Liverpool fan I am only too aware how dispiriting it is to have a club shamed by a minority. I am not a fan of Chelsea FC, their chairman, their ethos, their one eyed manager. Nonetheless I am pretty sure that the majority of their fans do not share the thuggish, racist values of the imbeciles seen in the recent video footage from Paris. And I don’t think anyone who has ever travelled on trains on a Saturday morning or early evening can honestly believe that this is a problem confined to Chelsea. The idea that loud, boorish, aggressive drunken tribalism is little more than “banter” is a national problem. Racism is just one of the many ways this can spill over. I travelled on train from Paris back to London last week where the entire carriage had to endure six guys shouting the place down with loud, sweary anti women and anti gypsy rants. Unsurprisingly not one person including me dared asked them to tone it down.

But football seems to be the main outlet for this socially disfiguring behaviour. On twitter grown adults, proud responsible parents, think it is ok to target footballers with illiterate abuse. The world game is run by Sepp Blatter, a corrupt, sexist, homophobic dullard who thinks nothing of handing the worlds biggest global event to those bastions of liberalism Russia and Qatar. The man is an ethical vacuum. Is it any wonder that the values which trickle down leave a lot to be desired?

I know a lot of people who refuse to tweet about football, such can be the vociferously nasty response. This aggression, this inability to rationalise life beyond your own undying love for one football club, is part of the same problem. By all means be disgusted by the behaviour of some racist Chelsea fans. But if you tweet foul mouthed abuse at strangers, if you honestly can’t see why people might be upset at the signing of Ched Evans or that it  is a complicated issue, if a simple game of football fills your heart with hatred rather than excitement, or if your own drunken behaviour renders public transport a more fearful, unpleasant environment for the public, then you are part of the same problem.

And as for racist football fans. You claim to be fans of a sport which, when played at the highest level, is the most multiethnic of all team sports. Chelsea themselves have enjoyed a decade of spectacular success based on the skills and talent of players and staff from across the globe. Do everyone a favour and take a step back, and then out of football, and leave it to people who appreciate the fact that the “beautiful game” is both beautiful, and just a game.

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