Friday, May 03, 2013
Comic Cuts - 3 May 2013
Mitch Benn was Thursday night's entertainment at the Colchester Arts Centre. Always a pleasure to see him here - I think this was the fourth time. The audience seemed a bit listless tonight but that might just be in comparison to last time when we had one of those nights that goes down in history. Not only were balloons dropping out of the roof every few minutes but it was the day that the "Fenton" video went viral (25 November 2011) and Mitch wrote one of his finest instant songs to celebrate the event.
Tonight the audience seemed more interested in traffic (the A12, the High Street) and a third suggestion was the disaster in Bangladesh, which should give you an idea of where everyone's mind was at.
Although we didn't show much imagination, the evening was a good one. Lots of weight-loss jokes snuck in, some nice material about his kids, a plug or two for his upcoming book, Terra, a lot of good belly laughs between songs and as many for the songs themselves. He's added a bit of beatbox and live looping (run off an app) since he was last in town, let down a little by the sound quality (I'm a fan of when it's done right - search YouTube for Dub FX to see what you can do with a loop station). That aside, if he turned up again tomorrow (solo or with his Distractions), we'd book tickets in a heartbeat.
For instance: above and beyond all the Roman stuff, our connections to Boudicca, Cromwell and the Magic Roundabout (http://tinyurl.com/352wce9), there are three famous nursery rhymes associated with Colchester - Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole and Twinkle Twinkle. I didn't know that, but apparently Mmmm!
So, Mark Steel: educational as well as funny. And bloody good value for money with a show that ran for about two hours forty minutes excluding the break. A sell-out show means being packed in like sardines and Steel's comments about being over fifty really hit home (he's only a year older than I am!). I have to say I was aching by the end. But in a good way.
If you've heard Mark Steel's in Town on the radio you'll have a rough notion of what the show is about: Steel has visited hundreds of places and plundered their history and culture for facts, amusing anecdotes and usually a few tales of inter-village rivalry. Colchester couldn't even come up with a decent rival. A few people suggested Ipswich, one person suggested Norwich. We clearly think we're better than everyone. After all, we had a zedonk and we know how to pronounce zestritch.
Should I mention the guy going to the toilet? It would be making a mountain out of a molehill, but a guy (albeit trying to be funny) slightly derailed the show at the beginning when he stumbled out of one of the front rows and announced he had "places to be". The atmosphere was quite chilly for a few seconds but recovered. Most people were still giggling over comments about the one-way system (a great subject for a Mark Steel rant, not a great subject to write a song about - see Mitch Benn above).
Today's random scans. Andy Offut died on 30 April. He started writing SF back in the 1950s but spent some time writing pornography under pseudonyms in the 1960s and 1970s – John Cleve was his most regular byline – before turning to science fiction and fantasy novels in the Seventies. He was best known for his sword & sorcery tales featuring Robert E. Howard's Cormac Mac Art and Conan.
The last pic is a later cover for The Exile Waiting by Vonda N. McIntyre from the 2nd Pan edition, undated but 1987. The artwork is by Michael Embden who later went on to paint landscapes according to his website. Sadly, the website doesn't note that Embden died 21 August 2012. An obituary by Ian Beck notes that he produced covers for over 100 books (Poul Anderson, Gordon R. Dickson, Vonda N. McIntyre, Philip Mann, Geoff Ryman, Robert Silverberg, Sidney J Van Scyoc, Roger Zelazny, etc.). I've included a second one here, for Poul Anderson's The Merman's Children (1981).