Matilda!

Earlier this week I went to London, had a wander round by myself (getting slightly lost) and then met up with friends (including a very excited almost 7 year old) and we went to a matinee of Matilda the Musical.

It was fab.  I did expect it to be funnier than it was – I had high expectations for that because Tim Minchin who is a musical comedian (and one of my favourites) wrote the lyrics. But when I thought about it afterwards he’s known for clever humour. And this was certainly fully of clever lyrics with humour woven in.  I would much rather have that than it be full of cheap humour.

The staging and the effects were brilliant and the songs catchy and fab. I’ve downloaded the soundtrack and been listening to it a lot since I got home.  It’s a couple of years since I’ve seen a musical and wanted the soundtrack (although to be fair the last musical I saw was Mamma Mia and I already had the film soundtrack or I’d have got that) The cast, especially the kids were spot on.  It just worked really well which given that three of the last nine or so musicals and the last play I’ve seen have been disappointing was brilliant.

I would highly recommend going to see the show and it’s definitely going on my list of shows to see again if it tours.

The Noise Next Door

I love live comedy. And with an arts centre only a few minutes wheel away that does great comedy at a reasonable price (plus bonus free carer tickets for whoever goes with me) I’m lucky enough to get to go often.

Last night was the first live comedy of the year – The Noise Next Door – and it was good. Capital G Good.

A friend and I saw them do a short set (maybe 20 minutes) as part of a comedy club last year. We tried the comedy club twice and weren’t overally impressed with it – the first time was OK and having seen these guys we really wanted to see them again. The second time was just shit.  So no more comedy club for us. But as soon as I saw they were coming back to do a full show I knew I wanted tickets and my friend wanted to come too.

I’d been a bit unsure whether they’d hold up to a full show but I needn’t have been concerned. I laughed the whole way through. A lot. The Noise Next Door are an improv comedy group. I’d thought it was just musical songs because that’s what they’d done at the comedy club but it turns out they do scenes as well.  I did enjoy it all but I enjoyed the songs most – but my history with comedy started with an act that did musical comedy and it’s always been something I love.

Sometimes after I go to comedy my Dad will ask afterwards “what sort of things did they do jokes about?” I’m sort of hoping he doesn’t do that next time I see him. Because as awesome as it was (and it was) I’m not quite sure that it is explainable. They took suggestions for a job, a type of person, and a famous person and ended up singing a song which if they gave it a title would probably be “Gordon’s Wank Shop.” And that was just the first part of the show!

Absolutely hilarious, laugh so hard I almost choked (because it seems I still haven’t quite thrown off my cough – I thought I had until I started laughing that much).  But I’m pretty sure you had to be there.  I’m definitely putting this group on the list to see again if they ever come back.

J is for…

J is for Jokes.

OK so this would probably have been better as C is for Comedy but go with it…

I love comedy.  Especially live comedy.

I went to the comedy club at uni for the first time in my second year it was a friend’s birthday and I’d never thought of going before but she wanted to so I went along.  I was having a really shit day but I really enjoyed it.

I went back to comedy club at uni the next week.  And most weeks for the rest of the year and the two years that followed of my uni time.

Then I didn’t get to go to comedy regularly for a few years.  Until the Arts Centre opened here.  We go every couple of months now, sometimes more often.  And we’ve seen a lot of big names there – they often come to do warm up gigs and try out new material.

I’ve seen Jo Brand, Adam Hills, Al Murray, Lee Evans, Jason Manford, Michael McIntyre, Sean Locke, Jo Caulfield, Jenni Eclair, Sarah Millican, Dara O’Briain to name a few of the big names.  And I’ve seen many other acts including soem new and upcoming ones.

Sometimes we see people and we don’t like them at all – mum and I still judge acts against the worst one we saw together – I went to see Lee Nelson with a friend a couple of weeks ago.  I wasn’t a huge fan of his show and I described it to mum as “not great overall, funny in places. Not as bad as Shappi Khorsandi”

It’s hard to find words to explain why I love live comedy so much – especially because sometimes the funniest moments aren’t scripted routines and planned jokes but the moment when the comedian walks on and quips “so I’ve never been to Didcot before…” and the whole room goes “yeah, actually you have.” and he freezes horrified, checks the details then walks off stage again and comes back going “so it’s nice to be back…”

But I’d highly recommend giving it a go if you haven’t before.

Hate isn’t Funny, part two

To recap: On Wednesday I went to see Omid Djalili do a warm up gig.  I really wish I hadn’t because not only did he used the R word in one of his jokes he also did another which was the most horrendously ableist joke I’ve ever heard.  On Friday I posted a blog about that – Hate Isn’t Funny. This is the last I’m going to say on the matter.

That blog post got a lot of attention on twitter and facebook (and in comments here).  It’s also had the most hits of any of my posts on this blog in a very long time (I’ve not seen the stats but in terms of shares etc I think actually my recent post over on Bea Magazine has had more of an impact but not by much). And I’m glad because it means that people are hearing the point about disability and hate and how it isn’t funny.

It also received one negative tweet but that was just #nosenseofhumour (hashtag no sense of humour) and frankly if people can’t put more substance into their disagreeing with me than a hashtag then they aren’t worth bothering with, I ignored it and made judicious use of the “block” button.

Following a suggestion from a friend of mine and encouragement from my mum I also tweeted Omid Djalili the link to my blog. And to give him his due he did reply and there was some discussion between us.

His response isn’t what I’d like. But that’s mostly because I’d have liked an apology and that was never going to happen.  Frankly some of it was victim blaming. He claims he said, clearly, both nights “I’m not saying all disabled people are….” before making his horrific joke about a disability stereotype. I wasn’t in there both nights but neither my mum or I remember it happening on the night we went. I tweeted back to him that I felt like he was blaming me for being upset by it and he responded “not at all. Entitled to your feelings 100%”

And “obviously” the thing about not choosing venues with wheelchair access was a joke.  That might have been a bit more obvious if there wasn’t precendent of other comedians cancelling gigs at venues that had wheelchair users in obvious places.

On the whole I’d like to think my blog and our conversation on twitter has made several people think about what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to disability in comedy. And more importantly I’d like to think that it’s made Omid Djalili think and he might reconsider using the jokes.  I really, really doubt I’ve achieved that because I’m too cynical and hardened by too many broken promises about access and equality for my disability. I respect his taking the time to respond but I don’t think he really respects disabled people any more than it seemed he did at his gig on Wednesay night.

Maybe someday someone else will tell me they went to one of his gigs and he didn’t use disability hate speech or ableist jokes.  But it sure as hell won’t be a gig I’m at because I’m not going to waste my money going to see him again.

Hate isn’t Funny

On Saturday Mum and I went to a Jack Whitehall gig in Oxford.  He definitely wasn’t the best comedian I’ve ever seen but most of the time he was pretty funny.  Once or twice he pretended to have forgotten his script and at least once he really did forget his script which was a bit frustrating.

Unfortunately however he also made several jokes that I thought were right on the line of what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to disability.  I can take that.  I think I’m a lot more flexible than some people are on the sort of comments I find acceptable and I thought a couple of times “ooooh that’s a bit ableist but it’s just about ok.”

And then he came back from the interval used the R Word (r*t*rd) once and did one joke that went way over the line of ableism. Which is very definitely unacceptable.

So I wasn’t overly impressed and I very definitely stuck him in my “comedians I don’t want to see again” box.

And then Wednesday night Omid Djalili was performing in our very small theatre here as a warm up gig.  He was also here Thursday but Mum and I went on Wednesday.

I’m watching him and I’m sort of enjoying it but I’m also thinking that if you took away Jack Whitehall’s ableism he was probably a bit funnier.  They were very very different shows however and I don’t think it’s really comparable.

I did think Omid Djalili was probably pushing the boundaries of acceptable race jokes but I wasn’t really sure about that because of the whole thing where specific groups of people joking about themselves make things acceptable that might not otherwise be.  I’ve fallen foul a lot of that and joking about my disability so it’s not appropriate for me to comment  on that issue.

Then he was talking about an encounter he’d had with someone in the car park outside.  He used the R word to describe them and made several very very ableist comments.

And then it was the interval and the show continued.

Right at the end he made the most inappropriate disability related joke I’ve ever heard (which I’m not going to share).  It wasn’t designed to be funny.  It was designed to make us laugh at a stereotype of disability.  And it was horrific.

He made it pretty clear he thought there weren’t any wheelchair users in the room (I was sat at the back) and that was why he made the joke then went on to joke about how he doesn’t chose venues that have wheelchair access.

I was so angry I was practically shaking.  I gathered up my stuff to leave but didn’t actually leave because by the time I had it together he was finishing his act.

I’ve been going to live comedy for years – I went to the comedy club at my uni nearly every week for three of the four years I was there.  I must have seen hundreds of different comedians.

Some joke about disability and get it right.  Some don’t joke about disability, maybe they’d prefer we didn’t exist or maybe it’s just a case of they don’t know how to appropach it.  Some comedians joke about disability and it falls flat because it’s just a shit joke (one guy at the comedy club at uni made a massive deal about coming to me before the show started and letting me know that he had a joke about disability and it was just one joke and he hoped I would be ok with that and not offended.  It wasn’t in the least offensive.  Unfortunately however it also wasn’t funny).

And sadly some comedians prefer to get cheap laughs by throwing around hate speech like the R word and similar and mocking disabled people.

And this was the first time a comedian made me that angry.   Ever.  I made a complaint to the venue.

I’m pretty upset that it came to that.  But a small part of me is surprised that in over 12 years of semi regular live comedy this is the first time it’s been necessary.  I doubt it’ll be the last.

I hope, one day, comedians will realise that ableism isn’t big and it isn’t funny.  In the mean time I’m just glad that the next show I’m going to is a musical.  Because that should be a lot safer.

(edit: I have posted a follow up blog here)

>Comedians and Disablist Jokes

>At the gig I went to tonight the headline comedian (Milton Jones) made a joke about people faking disabilities to get benefits. Which as you might imagine ruined my enjoyable of the rest of the show. I’m not going to share the joke here because I don’t want to give it “air time”. However I’ve since found an e-mail address for him and have let him know my thoughts on the matter. As it’s a subject which I don’t think gets the attention it should (Ricky Gervais, Frankie Boyle and Jim Davidson all being well known for doing the same but still popular) I thought I would share the e-mail here.

I was at your show in [place] tonight. I am a full time wheelchair user as I have a lifelong disability. I was very very disgusted by your joke about crutches and benefits. Completely unnecessary and you clearly haven’t researched it – DWP figures show that less than 1% of all claims for Disability Living Allowance are fraudulent. In fact, more people who apply are turned down but then appeal and receive it then receive it first time.

People such as yourself have an influence over the way people are treated. Last week a friend was the victim of a disability related hate crime by someone who assumed she was faking her disability (you can read this on her blog http://incurable-hippie.blogspot.com/2011/02/hate-from-government-hate-on-street.html) we live in different areas of the country and yet less than 24 hours later I also had abuse screamed at me in the street (details on my blog http://writerinawheelchair.blogspot.com/2011/02/you-can-hate-me-but-you-wont-break-me.html)

It might just be a cheap way to get a laugh and make some money to you but to people like me perpetuating that stereotype is causing a lot of hurt and making us feel unsafe to go out in the areas around our own homes.

Living on benefits I don’t have much money and a night out like that is an occasional special treat. It’s upsetting to hear something so hurtful to people like me used for laughs. I won’t come to one of your shows again, there are other comedians out there who manage to be just as funny without using disabled people as a subject for ridicule.

I’m sure you won’t read this and even if you do you won’t listen but can I please ask you to think long and hard about the power and influence you wield when speaking to large audiences. And consider whether your jokes are appropriate and in good taste before going ahead.

>The Hairy Bikers Big Night Out (AKA After 10 Days, Emma Goes Out!)

>The Hairy Bikers last night was sooo much fun!  Absolutely hilarious.  My friend was going to drive but then my Dad offered as his car has 4 wheel drive which was cool as it meant we could have a few drinks.

The arts centre has two very cool dedicated wheelchair spaces at the back which me and my friend have dubbed the Royal Box and they can put you in the front row – the seats are fold down and they reserve you two to make a wheelchair space as a chair is bigger than one of the seats.  But they don’t put two seat numbers on the tickets.  I tend to prefer the back spaces because you can spread out a bit and especially for comedy (after sitting at the front for a comedy thing and having the comedian asking me questions one times).    For Hairy Bikers however we were at the front so we could be close for any food they might be dishing out.  It’s a bit strange as the stage area isn’t raised at all so you literally are right by the performers and vice versa.

So first there was a bit of confusion when I asked the ushers which was our “extra seat” and they didn’t know anything about the whole extra seat for a wheelchair user thing and we had to explain it about three times (the ushers are volunteers but at least one of them had been doing it for a long time so I was surprised he wasn’t aware of the policy) but then he went and found out for me.  Previously I’ve just taken one of the seats next to ours as my extra and figured if I’ve guessed wrong I’ll shift along.  But that’s been proven not to work so well a couple of times so…

Anyway the Hairy Bikers talked a bit about their history and how they met and what they’ve done.  They also did a load of cooking (it was described as Cooking and Comedy) and in the first half they made a prawn curry.  They had a table set for two up with them and got two people out of the audience who they basicallyt gave a whole dinner too and some tiger beer.  Some poppadoms where given those in the front of the audience which they made and fried as we watched – there was a “camera fairy” up with them putting close ups on a screen of the cooking so you could see  The Poppadoms were nice and they also gave kitchen roll as “you don’t want cacky hands”

After the interval they got two more people up and blindfolded them and did a taste test.  They gave the woman a glass of wine and said “is it white or red?” it was red but she said it was white.  They also fed her something and said “which root vegetable is this?” and she was all “broccoli” which is amusing because that isn’t a root vegetable – it was swede.  In other news, swede and turnip are the same thing – I didn’t know that.  Then they gave her husband some meat to taste which he got right – pork – but he also said was dry.  Finally they said they were going to give them a savoury snack (that went to both of them) which they thought was pork scratchings but it was fried cricket!

The Hairy Bikers then cooked an Italian steak dish which they gave to the same couple to try but they’d been for dinner first so didn’t have much of it.  They also had a bottle of red wine (Chianti?) and water on the table for them.

When they were chatting to that couple Si went to kiss the lady on the cheek but she shied away a bit and everyone was laughing at his antics.  So he then walks over to me and leans down and puts an arm on my shoulder and kisses me on the cheek, a long exaggerated kiss on the cheek – or so it felt to me.  I was laughing so hard I was shaking while he was there.  Then he went back on stage and went “I love girls I do!”

They also cooked a vegetarian pasta thing – with linguini and ribbons of courgette I think.  They gave some bowls to about three people in the audience but they didn’t have forks for them so they gave them tongs and other kitchen implements which they managed pretty well with and was funny to watch.  The ushers brought them forks from the bar though.  I think they should have made them keep using the tongs etc though.  I think the most amusing cooking tip they gave was using a Ped Egg to do parmasan – although they did say it should be one just used for the cheese, LOL.

So then for the finale, Dave stripped all his clothes off to reveal he was wearing a blue and silver shiny leotard thing underneath and Si was playing a kids drum kit then  Dave got a big bunch of yellow flowers (Freesias I think but don’t quote me!), stuck one between Si’s teeth and shared the rest out.  He gave one to my friend and one to me – we were the last I think and then he knelt down on one knee in front our seats and started singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”  They put the words on the screen and people sang along and they they did “Dancing Queen” and that was that for the night.

It was such a great night – absolutely hilarious and completely different from what I expected!

>Making my Points!

>I am not in a rush but almost am so this will be a quick blog.

First, I plan on doing the Ask Me Anything Answers tomorrow so tonight is the final chance for questions.
Secondly, Stephen Fry tweeted about the Save DLA petition, how cool is that?!
Point the Third, I am getting quite excited about NaNoWriMo. A bit lacking in concrete plans though!
D) I am going to see Adam Hills tonight!! Yay!!
5) I am getting my new wheelchair on 20th Oct. And my Dad is going to take me so I don’t have to faff with ambulance transport. The transport is great because it gives me independence but does make for a ridiculously long day.
VI. Did anyone else see the programme about Alex Stobbs? Alex – A Passion for Life was it’s title It was on Thursday but I watched it this afternoon. What did you think of it? On the whole I liked it but it’s a topic for a longer post.
Last but not least, the reason I wanted to update today. There is going to be an attempt at reviving the Disability Blog Carnival! Yay! Details are here.

>Amazing Day

>I’m having an amazing day… and it’s not over yet!

Yesterday there was much discussion between me and a few others and many e-mails sent about going to see various different things at the theatre.

The end result being that it was decided that me and Sam would book tickets to go and see Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in Oxford in May. We’d also decided we’d go see a show in London and after much e-mailing settled on the Lion King. And when I looked up the dates online I saw that Dara O’Briain who is a rocking comedian is coming to Oxford. Ben and Geri wanted to come to that with me.

I’ve been busy on the phone booking tickets for the lot today. Spent a shitload of money but the others will pay me back. And.

Sunday 3rd Feb sees me and Sam in London seeing The LION KING which I’ve wanted to see for YEARS and which is on my 101 in 1001 list.

5th May is Dara O’Briain

And in June we go to Joseph!

And if that didn’t make my day great enough I then went swimming. And set a new personal best for walking.

And my great friend Lucille was in the coffee shop when I got there. She was like “Emma!!!” when she saw me. She got part of the way to me, abandoned her walker and literally ran the rest of the way before literally throwing herself onto me in a huge way and giving me the hugest and best and longest and tightest hug. like ever.

She went “I really missed you…. NOT!!” and cracked up, hugging me again.

>I love to laugh…. it’s getting worse every year!

>The next Disability Blog Carnival has the theme, how do you relax, chill out?

Obviously my favourite ways to chillax are with a book or sailing or swimming. I’m also a big fanfic fan. But I thought I’d tell you about something else I love.

I love comedy and I happily while away many an hour on you tube or similar watching comedy clips. Particularly at this time of year when sailing is out and the light is bad which really affects my mood. I was a regular at the weekly comedy club at uni and really need to get back into live comedy.

One of my favourite comedians is Adam Hills. He is disabled (or a mutant as he prefers to be known) as he has an artificial foot. And he seriously cracks me up.

Another of my favourite comedy things is Mock The Week.

And behold – a Mock The Week clip from You Tube featuring Adam Hills and the panal laughing and talking about the fact Adam’s leg is held on by velcro. I didn’t stop laughing for the entire seven plus minutes of the clip

And another you tube clip of Adam is in this entry

One thing I love about his humour is that he doesn’t make a big deal of his disability but that he doesn’t shy away from mentioning it, laughing about it, even taking the piss out of it.

I was lucky enough to see him live when I was at uni (and also to have seen Laurence Clark live twice). I hope to go again sometime.

Oh and lets just finish with CPer Laurence Clark talking about what he gets mistaken for…