I have many favourite American comedians. Bob Newhart is among them. Known for his deadpan, slightly stammering delivery, Bob came to prominence with his 1960 album of comedic monologues entitled THE BUTTON-DOWN WORLD OF BOB NEWHART, which went to No.1 on the Billboard pop album chart. It still remains the 20th best-selling comedy album of all time. He won two Grammy Awards and another one for the follow-up album THE BUTTON-DOWN MIND STRIKES BACK! While primarily known as a TV star and stand-up comic, Bob has appeared in notable films such as Mike Nichols war satire CATCH 22 and ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER.
In 1996 TV Guide published the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time, listing Bob at 17th. His self-titled TV hit THE BOB NEWHART SHOW ran from 1972-1978, playing dry Chicago psychologist Dr. Robert Hartley, followed by his role as Dick Loudon, a Vermont innkeeper and talk-show host in NEWHART during the 1980s. Surprisingly it wasn’t until 2013 that Bob won his first Primetime Emmy Award as Professor Proton in six guest appearances in THE BIG BANG THEORY.
One of Bob’s signature routines was his improvisational, one-sided telephone conversations, which appeared in the opening shot of the original TV series and in almost every episode. I incorporated this in my sketch, which I sent to Bob, who is now 90, which he kindly signed and returned it to me.
Comic genius and car collector Jerry Seinfeld returned to London last week to perform four shows over two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo. He is listed as the 12th Greatest Stand-up Comedian of All Time by Comedy Central with his ‘observational comedy’. A couple of examples to remind us of his brilliance, “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper” or “Make no mistake about why these babies are here-they are here to replace us.”
In collaboration with Larry David, he created and wrote the self-titled sitcom SEINFELD, in which he plays a fictional version of himself, a mild germaphobe and neat freak, minor celeb, stand-up comedian with his best friend George (Jason Alexander), friend and former girlfriend Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the neighbour across the hall, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), set in a Manhattan apartment building on New York’s Upper West Side.
SEINFELD ran for nine seasons from July 5, 1989 – May 14, 1998, collecting 41 major awards, including 10 Primetime Emmys and three Golden Globes. It is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms ever, and ranked the best TV show by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and TV Guide among others. The dialogue incorporated ‘Seinfeldian’ code words and recurring phrases, often referred to as ‘Seinlanguage’ that have become cemented in popular culture such as ‘Hello, Newman!’, ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’, ‘It’s not a lie if you believe it’….’Yada, yada, yada.’
Jerry also has an impressive collection of 150 cars, including 43 Porches, housed in a three-story, $1.4m Manhattan garage with it’s own dedicated fleet management team. Some of the vehicles appear in his talk show, COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE.
Jerry very kindly dedicated and signed my sketch for me at the Apollo.
One of the most recognisable faces on British TV is Irish funnyman Dara O Briain, although the London-based comic and presenter says he’s only recognised once a day. Described as one of the most charismatic, intelligent, fast-talking and downright funny performers working today, ‘Britain’s favourite Irishman’, who studied maths and theoretical physics at Dublin’s University College was voted the 16th greatest stand-up comic on Chanel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
On stage he has the ‘aristocratic bearing of someone esteemed in almost every household in the land,’ according to Guardian reviewer Brian Logan. The ‘craic dealer’ is a regular fixture on the telly, hosting the hugely popular MOCK THE WEEK, plus STARGAZING LIVE, ROBOTWARS, GO8BIT and THE APPRENTICE: YOU’RE FIRED! among others. He is also a frequent guest on QI and LIVE AT THE APOLLO, reminding us that ‘nostalgia is heroin for old people’ and ‘stop taking it literally – it’s only the Bible, it’s not gospel!’ His favourite word is ‘defenestration’, which is a form of political assassination where people are thrown out of a window. His most overused one is ‘fuck’, which he justifies -“it’s a solid word,” When asked what extinct thing he would bring back, he said, the fountain pen. Write so!
It was great to finally meet Dara earlier this year when he signed my sketch at the London Palladium stage door in February when he arrived for the 100 HEARTS NIGHT OF COMEDY charity evening.
The 100 Hearts Night of Comedy at the London Palladium last week gave me an opportunity to catch some more of my favourite comics, including Greg Davies. The sold-out evening raised money for the Brompton and Harefield Hospital charity.
The English comedian is technically from Wales. Davies is a clue. While living in the West Midlands of England, his Welsh father drove his mother, across the border to ensure Greg was born in Wales… in St Asaph, Flintshire to be precise, fifty years ago.
TV viewers will know Greg from a number of small screen appearances, including Mr Gilbert, the archetypal misanthropic and permanently bitter comprehensive school teacher in THE INBETWEENERS, who treats his pupils with utter contempt with biting wit and sarcasm. In another classroom role Greg played Dan, a teacher who hates his job. Thirteen years teaching Drama and English, prior to his comedic career change would have given Greg plenty of material.
He is currently in his BAFTA-nominated role as Ken Thompson in the fifth episode of the popular BBC/Netflix sitcom CUCKOO. Other high profile appearances on the telly include LIVE AT THE APOLLO, MOCK THE WEEK, WOULD I LIE TO YOU? and the host of the panel game show TASKMASTER. I was waiting at the Palladium’s impressive new stage door for the talent to arrive.
You can’t miss Greg. He is literally one of the biggest comedy stars, standing 2.03 metres, (that’s 6’8″ in the old money). I presented my sketch of Greg as a suitably harassed teacher and his friend asked, “Who’s that?” “That’s me!” he replied, which is always a good sign when they recognise themselves in a drawing, which he was pleased to sign.
Considered one of Britain’s national treasures; comedian, actress, writer and now pantomime Queen, Dawn French at the age of ‘oh-never-mind’ has finally become part of that other British phenomenon, the Christmas Pantomime, making her debut over the festive season in SNOW WHITE at the London Palladium. Dawn played the wicked Queen Dragonella, a hiss-boo baddie. All agreed, The VICAR OF DIBLEY star’s natural, impish comic persona lends itself perfectly to the madcap genre.
Writing about Dawn’s performance in his Telegraph review, Dominic Cavendish said, “She amazes with a fiendish tongue-twister, she bumps and grinds in an inappropriate cougar fashion, lip-synching to pop hits as she tries to hit on the young prince, and she delivers a wonderfully Dibley denouement.”
Dawn signed off after the final show last weekend on Twitter,”It’s been a blast. OH YES IT HAS!” She also signed my sketch at the stage door.
English comedian, actor, TV presenter and writer Jack Whitehall hosted this year’s British Fashion Awards for the sixth time in London last night. The thirty year-old British award-winner was joined by Sudanese-British model, designer and activist Alex Wek at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall event.
Crowned the ‘King of Comedy’ three years in a row by the British Comedy Awards, Jack has become a dab hand at presenting, having also hosted several Royal Variety Performances and returning to the O2 Arena in February to present the UK’s biggest night in music, the Brit Awards, after three sold-out stand-up show’s at the same venue earlier in the year. He’s also been chosen to present next year’s Brits. Jack recently caused a stir when it was announced he would play the first ‘openly gay character’ in a Disney film in the iconic company’s upcoming feature, JUNGLE CRUISE.
He walked the red carpet last night where I managed to nab him to finally sign this sketch I had been carrying around for awhile after narrowly missing him on a couple of occasions.
English golfer Justin Rose returned to the World #1 ranking, defending his Turkish Airlines Open title after winning a playoff over Li Haotong on Sunday. Justin had briefly held the top spot in September this year as well as claiming the season-long FedEx Cup Playoffs and the $US10million prize. He was also runner-up at the Open Championship at Scotland’s Carnoustie Golf Links and was part of Europe’s Ryder Cup winning team in Paris a week later to round off a very successful month.
Justin won his maiden major – the US Open – at the Merioneth’s Golf Club in Pennsylvania in 2013 and has finished second twice at the Masters in 2015 and 2017 and was T3 at the 2012 PGA Championship. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiroo he won the gold medal.
I sent this drawing to Justin while he was competing in the Scottish Open at the Gullane Golf Club in July this year, where he kindly signed and dedicated it for me.
British comic Ramesh Ranganathan seems to be everywhere on the TV these days. Since he’s appeared or is appearing on most of the popular panel shows it would be quicker to mention the ones he hasn’t.
Ramesh, who was born in Crawley, West Sussex – hence his autobiography title ‘Straight Outa Crawly: Memoirs of a Distinctly Average Human Being’- is of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. After studying maths at London University’s Birbeck College, he taught the subject at Hazelwick School in his home town and was also a successful freestyle rapper called ‘Ranga’, before succumbing to satire, turning into a professional comedian in 2012. A year later he was nominated for the Best Newcomer at The Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
His comic style is described as deadpan. His latest TV series JUDGE ROMESH is an unscripted show which sees him presiding over genuine disputes in a fictional court, metering out comic judgement. I managed to catch Romesh to sign this sketch as he was quickly exiting the Soho Theatre a few weeks ago after a ‘work in progress’ performance.
The intro to Alice Fraser’s bio states, “Alice is an award-winning writer, broadcaster, performer and comedian.” It then follows with, “She’s also an ex-academic, ex-corporate lawyer and (sort of) banjo player. “The Australian-born comic, who is now a popular regular on the UK scene, completed a law degree at Sydney University and then a Masters in English Lit at Cambridge, where she also came under the influence of the infamous Footlights theatre club, followed by a stint in New York’s cut-throat comedy scene before landing back in Blighty”. Continuing her bio… “Alice does reliably silly, unpredictably meaningful unorthodox, gut-punch comedy.”
Among the many satirical things Alice does is her semi-regular hosting spot (referred to by one commentator as ‘a frequenter’) on the long-running podcast THE BUGLE with Andy Zaltzman, on which she mentioned she would sign anything given to her. So I left this sketch at The Colonel Fawcett in Camden a few weeks ago where she was part of the Monday evening Good Ship Comedy troupe and true to her word it came back, signed. You can finish reading Alice’s bio and find out where she will be to get stuff signed on www.alicecomedyfraser.com.
Kiwi comic Rose Matafeo won the top comedy gong at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival last month with her show HORNDOG. The 26 year-old New Zealander of Samoan and Scottish/Croatian heritage, who has been honing her standup skills since the age of 15 is only the fifth woman to take the coveted Best Show Award.
The ad for HORNDOG reads that Rose ‘has kissed 10 men in her life, AKA she’s a total horndog.’ It chronicles her barely functioning love life and mid-20’s angst. Her definition of ‘horniness’ is “girls putting 100% into something that’s not worth it.” They’re looking for a passionate relationship rather than love. As a film-mad, geeky teenager she had no luck with boys, so when dating happened she became obsessed. “Go hard or go home” was her MO.
In his review, the Guardian’s Brian Logan wrote, “…a volcanic eruption of standup… Matafeo’s neurosis, intelligence and flamboyant sense of her own ridiculousness make her a near-perfect comedian.”
I caught up with the charismatic Rose after her second show at London’s Soho Theatre where she’s performing HORNDOG until the end of month and she signed my drawing.