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.

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Drawing: Mae Martin at the Soho Theatre

mae-martin

Young Canadian comedian and writer Mae Martin, described as a ‘brilliant mix of clever, venerable and goofy,’ was even younger when she began performing comedy, at the age of 13. Now eleven years later she has established herself as one of the bright lights on the British circuit. Mae trained for four years at the Toronto outpost of the internationally acclaimed comedy institution and world’s premier school of improv, The Second City, which boasts alumni including Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Bill Murray. London-based since 2010, Mae successfully debuted at the Edinburgh Festival the following year and then her sell-out MAE DAY run in 2012.

I was lucky enough to catch he delightful comic last Thursday before her show at the Soho Theatre where she signed my drawing.

Sketch: Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle

Scottish comedian Francis Martin Patrick Boyle, known to all as Frankie, is one of the UK’s most popular and most controversial comics.

His genres are listed as one-liners, black comedy, blue comedy, surreal humour, improvisational comedy, insult comedy, pessimistic humour and political satire and he is exceptional at all of them, if not everyone’s cup of tea.

He once said he planned to quit stand up before he turned 40, but thankfully that age has passed and he’s still performing live. Frankie’s currently doing ‘work in progress’ shows around London. He did a short run at The Phoenix near Oxford Circus, where I caught up with him… with some trepidation, given his stage persona.

But I needn’t have worried, he was extremely pleasant as he arrived and headed to the basement performance area, in spite being interrupted by a ‘grapher wanting his pencil scribble signed at the precise moment his pen decided to slip through the hole in his jacket pock and lodge in the lining…

I quickly grabbed another pen from my bag and thanked Frankie for his patience and for his ‘graph and dedication. Sigh of comic relief… reminding myself of the first rule of autograph collecting, make sure you give them something to sign with!

Drawing: Shappi Khorsandi in Because I’m Shappi at the Soho Theatre

Shappi Khorsandi

Tehran-born, British comedian Shappi Khorsandi was brought up in London after her family was forced to flee Iran after the Islamic Revolution, following the publication of a satirical poem composed by her satirist father, criticising the Ayatollah.

The star of Live At The Apollo, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Have I Got News For You and QI completed a sell out run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Entitled Because I’m Shappi, she performed a season let month at the Soho Theatre, where she signed my sketch after her final performance.