Friday Fun with awesome people

Hallelujah for Friday Fun inspiration that arrives on a Monday – I know it’s going to be a good(ish) week when that happens. Thank you G2 at the Guardian for introducing me to: Awesome People Hanging Out Together.

The concept is a simple one and thus brilliant. It gathers together photos of celebrities hanging out with other celebrities, which may sound like an edition of Hello! or Now magazine, but is wonderful because of the bizarre or historic gatherings it depicts. Like Helen Keller meeting Charlie Chaplin, Snoop Dogg baking with Martha Stewart, and Salvador Dali with Walt Disney (that meeting could explain an awful lot…). Two of my favourites are below.

The first I love because it’s historic and truly a gathering of awesome people – Einstein, Marie Curie & Schrodinger to name but a few:

The second one grabbed me because it’s the kind of scenario that occurs during the best nights with the best friends – gathering around a piano to sing show songs. The fact that this particular gathering includes Jeff Goldblum on keys and Jane Lynch (aka Sue Sylvester, star of this week’s waterfall of tears inducing Glee episode) make it all the more surreal and fabulous. Plus, I think you’ll agree that this looks like a normal photo – the kind that would turn up on Facebook – and which Jane Lynch would most probably de-tag:
You know what else is awesome? The BBC, specifically their free tickets to show recordings. I’ve benefited from this a few times in the past – Just a Minute, Wittertainment (in fact, had it not been for a wedding I’d have made it to another of those 2 weeks ago), Have I Got News for You and then last night at The Now Show. Listening to them is fun, sure, but seeing it in the flesh is something else. 
In the case of The Now Show the visual highlight is undoubtedly Hugh Dennis’ mimes during the warm-up (well, that and discovering just how short little Jon Holmes is…). Fortunately, a few of them exist on YouTube, so I thought I’d share.
The classic and most viewed mime is his Veloceraptor – as seen on Mock the Week (ever wondered what a mime of a lassoed Raptor might look like?) and in this clip from Outnumbered

(I adore that clip for a whole host of reasons – firstly, it’s that perfect childhood moment of being allowed to stay up late; secondly, the kids’ reactions are totally natural; and thirdly, it’s very early Outnumbered when they were all very young. To the person who still has my copy of series 1, this is why you need to watch the rest of it!)

My favourite moment was Hugh pretending to be on the rings – you know, as in gymnastics – but sadly I couldn’t find a video of that. But I did find him ski jumping, which was also highly amusing – particularly the dismount:

See what you miss on the radio? But fear not, tonight’s episode (6.30pm, podcast available) is still hilarious. In the immediate aftermath of the recording neither of us could remember what had us nearly falling off our chairs with laughter, but on the way home I dimly recalled a gag about Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca (if that’s not niche Radio 4 humour, I don’t know what is!) and then vividly remembered a West Country Darth Vadar…superb.

Hope you have an awesome Friday!

Ambitious Friday Fun (Updated)

There are various things I’d like to achieve in my life – some are admirable, others are just plain foolish…

For example, at some point in my life, I’d really like to try that Diet Coke + Mentos thing – I quite like big explosion type things, I love Diet Coke and I’m not averse to mints, so what could go wrong? Well, given my accident prone nature, a lot could go wrong – as the video below shows. I think I watched this four times in a row last night and it made me laugh every single time. Fabulous Friday fun, courtesy of Dave Gorman:

Incidentally, is it just me, or does anyone else worry about the dangers of drinking Diet Coke while also munching on a packet of mints? And, do Softmints produce the same effects as Mentos? (Diet Coke & Softmints are a semi-regular office afternoon snack, I’d hate for it to end in disaster…)

I’d also really like to learn the cello, except it’s quite a heavy instrument to lug around. (Possibly why, when offered a second instrument aged 12, I opted for the clarinet. Actually, if you include the two recorders I can play, it’s my fourth instrument, or fifth including voice…tangents). Basically, all I want to be able to do is play Elgar’s Cello Concerto (I play the clarinet solely because of Rhapsody in Blue) – this may happen, one day. My sister’s second instrument was the violin, she wasn’t bad – certainly not screechingly awful – but never anywhere near as good as this:

Apologies, that whole paragraph was an exceedingly tenuous tangent. But the world definitely needs more pop songs played fabulously on stringed instruments. (If you share this opinion, there are a heck of a lot on YouTube.)

Finally, I’d love to be intelligent & funny enough to appear on Just a Minute. True, I did get to watch the recording of two episodes last summer (and, according certain sources my laugh was very visible in one of them), but participating would be awesome. Paul Merton is currently King of Just a Minute, a title he’s attained since the world bade farewell to Clement Freud. In a recent interview with the Guardian, he revealed that he had tapes of shows that he listened to over and over in order to learn the art and eventually got on the show after writing to the producers when they were looking for someone to replace Kenneth Williams. [I was also pleased to discover that I’m not the only person who’s been playing the game since they were a child – Merton played along from the age of 8.]

The show has regular series on Radio 4 (a new one started last week in fact), but what’s particularly fun are the repeats played on sister station Radio 4 extra – archive programmes from decades past featuring the now departed greats. One I listened to while baking earlier in the week was from 1998, included Julian Clary in only his third ever appearance and a Paul Merton who was gradually stealing Clement Freud’s thunder. This week’s classic episode includes my former neighbour, Maureen Lipman (ok, so she lived round the corner, but still – same neighbourhood) as well as Merton and Freud, so promises to be half an hour of quality Friday Fun…

Late addition:
How I wish I’d read Lesley’s post sharing this beauty yesterday! As it is, I’m adding this in as a late addition. You can decide for yourself how this relates to my life’s ambitions, suffice to say I’ve always loved wearing purple…

What’s red and sits in the corner?

Can a mole have a career? Does digging mole hills count if they’re not being paid to dig them and, equally, if they were paid, do they have any means of spending their earnings?

Is a croissant bread? Does it stand or lie down in the bread aisle of Tesco?

Does use of the word ‘magnificent’ lead to unrealistic expectations?

I know the answer to some, but not all of these questions, but that’s unimportant. What matters is that on Wednesday I had a magnificent (in its truest form) evening of entertainment courtesy of the BBC, Radio 4 and the cast of Just a MinuteTrue, I’m biased, but I do believe that Britain does surreal comedy better than any other nation and Just a Minute is a classic example of this.

For the uninitiated, it’s a Radio 4 comedy programme (Monday evenings at 6.30pm, repeated Sunday lunchtime) in which four panellists have to try and speak for a minute on a given topic with hesitation, repetition or deviation. Sounds simple, but is ridiculously hard and hilarious to observe – especially when the cast includes the genii of Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Ross Noble and Sheila Hancock ably overseen by Nicholas Parsons.

I can’t compete with their level of comedy, so I will simply offer some observations:

  • Watching a show live that you’ve grown up listening to at home leaves you with some random tics. I realised that every time a contestant made a mistake, my right hand would leap up from my lap in an effort to stop myself from shouting out. [This may give you an insight into the Clutterbuck kitchen on a Monday evening, in which four people competed to yell “hesitation!”, “deviation!” or “repetition!” over each other.]
  • Sheila Hancock is a fabulous woman and I’d like to be her when I grow up. [My mother would also have like to have been her, but that was more due to her marriage to John Thaw…] 
  • I’m known as being a tad dense on occasion [classic question from Wednesday evening: “What’s that black thing on the pillar?” “Liz, that would be a light.”…] but it wasn’t until I was sat in the Radio Theatre with a Radio 4 spring-roll in front of me (that’s the technical name for a stand-up banner) that I realised that the logo for the radio station incorporates a quotation mark in the ‘4’. How appropriate. (But that’s probably why the marketing people suggested it.) 
  • For some reason, I seem to pre-empt jokes. As a result I manage to laugh about 30 seconds before the rest of the audience. However, that should make it easier to identify me when the recordings are broadcast. 
  • If you’re about to watch over an hour of pant-wettingly funny comedy and have just had a beer, it’s a good idea to go to the toilet before it begins, even if you don’t think you need to. Otherwise you’re stuck crossing your legs and praying that that comedians aren’t literally pant-wettingly funny. 
As for the broadcasts, one will be on August 16th and the second some time after. Much amusement was derived from the fact that two shows were recorded in one go with the same audience. You’re not meant to know that – but if you hear a show in which moles are mentioned for no particular reason, it’s probably the second one from our evening. 
And the questions? Well…
1. A naughty strawberry.
2. Moles can be used as illustrations, providing the speaker has the benefit of the doubt…
3. Croissant’s are pastries and lie down at Tesco.
4. Magnificent is a great word, but probably shouldn’t be overused. 

Satirical Friday Fun

After last week’s rant about my disillusionment with British politics and the current election campaign, I’ve had the distinct impression that I’m actually trying to bury my head in the sand and not succeeding very well at it. Also, it simply makes me look a little ignorant and/or pig-headed to respond to “did you watch the Leaders’ Debate” with “no, I’m currently disillusioned with politics, so I’m ignoring it”.

The problem is that I am interested. That’s how I get into discussions about tactics in particular constituencies with friends at church. It’s why I got supremely frustrated with myself that I couldn’t contribute eloquently to a long and intelligent political discussion over beers a couple of days ago. [You’re searching for the ‘fun’ element of this post aren’t you? Don’t worry, I’m getting there…] I would have watched at least some of the second debate last night had it not been on Sky and had I not been busy with a focus group.

So, as is often my strategy to deal with such conundrums – I have a plan…

What I do enjoy is good satirical political comedy. Have I Got News for You is always a good distraction and fairly informative, but it’s only on once a week. This is where Radio 4 have stepped into the fray, renaming The Now Show (a stalwart of the Friday night comedy line-up) the Vote Now Show and broadcasting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the run-up to the election.

Because I’m a bit useless and only remember to sync my iPod once a week (if that), I only had one of last week’s shows and hadn’t fully realised how frequent they were going to be. Last night I re-synced and this morning chuckled away to one on the tube. My strategy is thus to keep tabs on the election campaign largely via comedy. I may have to do a teeny bit of background reading just so I can still understand what the comedy’s about, but otherwise it should be enough information – surely?

The Friday Night Comedy from Radio 4 podcast has always been a good listen, but it does need to come with a health warning. It’s often hilarious in the most surprising ways, meaning that if you listen to it in public you may not be able to control your reactions. Snorting on buses, laughing out loud on the treadmill, grinning inanely on the tube…you generally end up acting in a way that makes the general public give you a wide berth.