Drawing: Dawn French

Autographed drawing of Dawn French

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.

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Drawing: Jack Whitehall

Autographed drawing of comedian Jack Whitehall

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.

Drawing: Justin Rose

Autographed drawing of golfer Justin Rose

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.

Drawing: Ramesh Ranganathan

Autographed drawing of comedian Romesh Ranganathan

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.

Drawing: Alice Fraser

Autographed drawing of comedian Alice Fraser

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.

Drawing: Rose Matafeo – Horndog

Autographed drawing of Rose Matafeo in Horndog at the Soho Theatre on London's West End

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.

Drawing: Andy Zaltzman

Autographed drawing of comedian Andy Zaltzman

“Probably one of the finest satirical comedians this country’s ever produced,” is how Time Out describes English satirist Andy Zaltzman. He has firmly established himself in the vanguard of British comedy with his unique brand of political satire with a style that centres around verbal dexterity and an extensive use of the pun, especially the ‘pun runs’.

Andy has been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe since 1999 and has worked extensively with John Oliver. In 2004 they began hosting the POLITICAL ANIMAL stand-up show which Andy hosted solo from 2006, transferring to BBC Radio 4. From October 2007 until June 2016 Andy and John co-hosted the weekly satirical comedy podcast THE BUGLE. John left due to other commitments, and now Andy has a rotating group who share the hosting duties.

He is also a huge cricket fan, doing guest commentary on a variety of formats and contributes to a regular blog on CRICINFO. I took the opportunity to meet him at the Soho Theatre last month, where he was performing his SATIRIST FOR HIRE gig.

Audience members had the opportunity to submit ‘satiric-queries’ they cared about, which Andy satirised. I did this very quick sketch, based on the poster at the theatre and he signed it to my wife (a serial BUGLE devotee) and I and took a photo of it… probably for evidence in a visual defamation case.

Drawing: Jen Kirkman

Autographed drawing of comedian Jen Kirkman

Massachusetts-born, LA-based comedian, podcaster and actor Jen Kirkman brought her THE ALL NEW MATERIAL, GIRL tour to London’s Soho Theatre earlier this year for a sell-out run and returned for a one-night only gig at the Leicester Square Theatre in June.

She does regular stand-up at the Hollywood Improv and The Laugh Factory. On TV she’s a panellist on CHELSEA LATELY and narrates DRUNK HISTORY, while her podcast I SEEM FUN gets 50,000 downloads a month. Jen is a stand-up consultant and writer for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s latest hit series THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL, which won two Golden Globes recently and has six Emmy nominations.

In a Guardian interview earlier this year she said, “My fan base tends to be, for want of a better phrase, on the punk-rock side of life, feminists, lesbians, guys who wear nail polish, mums who are really fun and like to drink a lot.” She also said the audiences are different, depending on the day. “Monday’s are more responsive, anyone going out on a Monday must be a die-hard fan. Whereas on Fridays, people have worked all week, they’re tired and angry… and drinking. Friday’s are the toughest, weird energy. Saturday’s are just rowdy, so if you can combine the loyalty of Monday with the rowdiness of Saturday that would be ideal.”

Jen signed my drawing for me at her Leicester Square one show only on 22 June. It was a Friday.

Drawing: Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement – Flight Of The Conchords

Autographed drawing of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement Flight Of The Conchords

Self-styled as New Zealand’s ‘fourth most popular guitar-based digital-bongo acapella- rap-funk-comedy-folk duo’, and ‘retired sex symbols’, Flight Of The Conchords, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are, by global consensus, one of the most successful musical comedy bands on the planet.

As fellow Kiwis… actually as a members of the human race we had to see them perform live, the first time in eight years in the UK. We managed to get tickets to see them at London’s O2. However their big comeback, sold-out arena tour was postponed after a couple of dates, when Bret fell down a flight of stairs, breaking two bones in his hand, “a very rock ‘n’ roll injury” he wrote on his Instagram post.

Bones fixed, the bona fide rock stars rescheduled, adding extra shows. We finally got to the O2 gig on 22 June. “Sorry we’re three months late,” they said in typical Conchordian laid back schtick. Jemaine also apologised for looking ‘older and dustier’, but Bret pointed out that the audience have also put on some years since they last toured “So we’re even.” In London, they did three sell-out shows at the O2 and four at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith.

The O2’s a fortress and nigh impossible to meet the artists let alone get stuff signed. The Apollo isn’t much better, with a reinforced gate protecting the lane to the stage door, but it has an opening. I had also heard that sometimes barriers are erected for after show signing and selfie sessions. I decided to go with an entry rather than exit option and quickly did this sketch, arriving at the said gate just as it was closing after Bret and Jemaine had passed through in a big black van and down to the stage door.

However, while I was muttering the typical antipodean expletive, ‘bugger’ or something stronger, a very accommodating gentleman with a lanyard approached me and asked if he could help. I explained the situation and he promised to pass it on. A month passed, nothing returned. Then yesterday this arrived back in the post. Apologies for thinking the worse of said accommodating gentleman with lanyard… in fact ‘thanks.’

Drawing: Russell Howard

Autographed drawing of comedian Russell Howard

One of the many absorbing things about living in London is that you frequently see well-known people, often referred to as celebrities in mainstream media or ‘targets’ in the tabloids, walking amongst us mere mortals, on the tube or shopping, going about their not-so-well-known business. In general I don’t bother them and visa-versa.

I might occasionally say ‘hi’ or even sometimes, if they are currently in theatre, a complementary comment. Sharpie stalking siggy requests are to be avoided. A few years back, Geoffrey Rush, was walking towards a restaurant and declined one such request from a fan, saying he was not ‘working’ and it was ‘his time’, but would be happy to oblige at the Premiere (THE KING’S SPEECH) the next day. Fair enough. These days the selfie has replaced the siggy, but the principle’s the same. It’s important to acknowledge private and public time.

However on Saturday, one of my favourite comics, Russell Howard, was standing beside me at the traffic lights opposite the Palace Theatre on Charing Cross Road. Last year, I had drawn a sketch of Russell, one of the best selling acts in British stand-up, when he smashed the record for consecutive performances at the Royal Albert Hall, with ten, beating previous holders Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. He returned to the venue in January this year to host AN EVENING OF COMEDY for the Teenage Cancer Trust, where I had hoped to get my rendering signed, but I missed the opportunity. As luck and a certain trace from my all-too-brief experience as a boy scout would have it, the sketch was still in my folder.

He was heading to the Soho Theatre to see fellow comedian Andy Zaltzman. Same – two things I had in common with, as Time Out called him, a ‘comedy superstar.’ Firstly I thought I had better make sure it was actually him-lot of doppelgängers in these here parts.

“Russell?”.

He confirmed. Then I showed him the sketch-not a usual balmy Saturday evening occurrence, even for a comedy superstar, but he was genuinely, I like to think surprised rather than shocked, followed by low status expletives and was happy to sign it before the little green man flashed and it was time to cross the road.