Saturday, 29 August 2009

Why John Bishop should win in Edinburgh

BISH is a monstrously talented comic, but really his greatest talent is to make everything he talks about seem funny, simply by his inflection.
Here's hoping. This from the Guardian's excellent Edinburgh Comedy fringe series on iTUnes presented by Miles Jupp.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Bishop's sermon is the gospel of pure comedy

RUNCORN-raised comedian John Bishop has been nominated for the Edinburgh Fringe's premier prize - the Eddies, awarded for the best stand-up at the festival.
It's clear that good things really happen to good people.
The nomination of Bish, as he is affectionately known to all who know him, is a great achievement for a man who is, according to fellow Liverpool comedian Keith Carter, 'the closest thing to a stand-up in the purest possible sense.'
Bish, and perhaps the nomination of Russell Kane this year, represent a return to acknowledging pure stand-ups, people with a set of stories and gags to tell rather than 'concept' shows.
Bish of course has pulled together a 'concept' for Edinburgh, but what will shine through is an inate ability to not only see the humour in almost any situation, but to deliver it superbly. He has the best timing in the business.
Bishop has also one of the best comic brains working in Britain today and has an ability to improvise and fly off the top of his head which brings to mind Robin Williams and Paul Merton at their best.

His Radio City/ City Talk show may not be gag heavy, but is always inventive and thoughtful.
When he was starting out, I had the pleasure to see him maybe 20 times and rarely saw him do the same gag twice in any of his 25-40 minute sets. On several occasions he ripped the roof off the Rawhide Club in Liverpool simply bantering with the audience.
Already with a burgeoning following in Ireland thanks to many appearances on network TV, Bish has to be the next big thing in Britain.

On a recent appearance on Michael McIntyre's high profile BBC programme, he stole the show with a keenly observed and warmly delivered seven minute set.

And warmth is the key to Bish, there's no harshness. He is frequently, apparently, left confused by modern life and in particular parenting, but what always comes from watching him is a sore gut from laughter-induced hyperventilation and the great positivity that there's a laugh to be had from any situation.
Go 'ead lad, hope you win it because it has been a long time coming.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Bugle:The Trumpet majors of political comedy

THERE isn't a better satire show available anywhere on TV, radio or print than the free weekly podcast The Bugle starring Daily Show star John Oliver and recent 5Live Ashes presenter Andy Zaltzman. GM should really add the word period at the end of the last sentence to emphasise just how good The Bugle is like most bloggers would. But we won't.
Every week Oliver and Zaltzman, old friends from the comedy British circuit, discuss the important events of the week globally via an ISDN line and routinely kick the lining out of everyone from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Silvio Burlusconi to American footballer Plaxico Burress and Vladimir Putin.
It is a riveting joy for comedy fans across the globe because it breaks out of the ghetto of localised back biting which typifies much of satire and makes pertinent the first rule of comedy: idiocy by anyone in a position of power and prominence is funny.
Oliver, known to most British comedy fans as one of those who made the first series of Mock the Week go with the lyrical and swing it no longer has, has learned much from his time on Comedy Central's The Daily Show and now swings with the subtle glove of satire rather than the heavy fist of hate displayed in much of British primetime satire.
Zaltzman is, however, the grunt, the pack soldier who appears to do much of the work with weekly bursts of brilliant nonsensical facts which add a great dollop of surrealism to the show.
It is a self professed audio newspaper for the visual age which comes like most broadsheets with lots of sections you throw away. Unlike real newspapers, it tells you why you should throw them away and these sections are often the funniest. Much post modernist fun to be had if you like that kind of thing - and we at GM do.
It achieves that most wonderful of compromises: of being utterly savaging yet also being somehow gentle.
It takes in football, cricket, the machinations of the US legislative system, Silvio Burlusconi's libido and all points in between.
Have a look at the clips below and then head to iTunes to download 87 editions currently available.
It's a joy and opens up another debate: when should you start paying for content as good as this?
It comes from the News International stable as a Times Online product, is offered for free and as we know Murdoch is putting pay walls up on all his print products soon.
The answer is that we should all be paying for content as good as this because there is nothing better available in the English speaking world. BBC has nothing even approaching how good The Bugle is and only Oliver's real job on the Daily Show and its stablemate The Colbert Report rival it.
If that seriously overrated one trick pony Ricky Gervais can still colonise the iTunes chart as the highest selling audiobookist then a travesty is being played out.
Download The Bugle and see how comedy realy should be done.
Have a listen below at the youtube highlights, more to folow this week.
The Bugle on the BNP

The Bugle on oil resources and Iraq

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Seamus Heaney and why poetry evokes the greatest memories

The full version of this podcast, which sees Heaney in conversation with his biographer Dennis O'Driscoll, can be downloaded from the website of the Lannan Foundation here

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Hold Steady Live: Acoustic and at full throttle

WOULD you like to hear the best rock band on the planet playing acoustic for free? Then you are in the right place.
This is another great podcast featuring The Hold Steady, this time from Chicago Public Radio's briliant Sound Opinions programme and what an archive it has. Please look at its offerings here.
The highlights of the show below see lyricist Craig Finn discuss his literary influences, what it's like to sing Rosalita on stage with Springsteen, why Joe Strummer's musical knowledge was encyclopaedic as well as Finn, guitarist Tad Kubler and pianist Franz Nicolay playing two songs acoustic.
I shudder to say this, but: enjoy.

Lyrical Influences

Springsteen, Dylan and Joe Strummer

Magazines & Daddy Issues (acoustic)

One for the Cutters (acoustic)

And go here to see the band playing well tight and loud for Yahoo's The New Now portal.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Noel Gallagher: Rock's great interviewee

NO-ONE could ever accuse Oasis of reinventing the wheel, their brand of British cultural magpie-ism sees them often derided as cheap rip-off merchants by the serious rock media.
However, this often detracts from band leader Noel Gallagher's great intelligence and engagingly witty personality, which rarely get a chance to shine on the page of music magazines.
The dominance of Noel's brother Liam as voice of the band, live and on record, also masks Noel's own brilliance as a singer. Well brilliance would be overstating it, but his voice has improved with age and is now an emotive instrument and his acoustic sets and B sides have long been a favourite of GM.
Hopefully these clips will give you an insight into the world of Oasis. The first is an acoustic version of B side Good to be Free and the other two - why he is a funny and engaging interviewee.
Again thanks to the wonderful Interface podcast at for this free download, the highlights of which can be listened to below.

Good to be Free

On the M Ward, Edgar Jones Jones and music

Solo album, acoustic sets and annoying Liam
NO band has captured the imagination of GM in recent years as much as The Hold Steady.
Lead singer Craig Finn is the best lyricist working in rock.
We have already argued that their third record Boys and Girls in America was the long player of 2007 and they could be shaping up to be the band of the decade for us.
They are brilliant because they reflect the joyousness of watching Springsteen and the E Street - they are the sight and sound of a tight, loud guitar/ bass/ piano/ drums band peopled by musicians smiling and obviously loving what they are doing. That is an all too rare an example of the great rock journalism cliché in these days of irony and cleverness, a joyous, easy thing to behold.
Take the shoes off, clear a space around you and pogo like an eejit.
Although this isn't from it, check out the brilliant aol music showcase for a fantastic five song live set and interview with Craig and guitarist Tad Kubler and Franz Nicolay.
This is just a great music promo. Hey, enjoy.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The king always be the king: Reviewing Pelham, 1,2,3

AND this is why the Good Doctor has been described as preternaturally fluent by radio critic Giles Smith. The bar is set to so highly in the world of film criticism that we shouldn't really bother with having anyone else.

Interview with Bradley Wiggins

Chapeaux to David Levene at the Guardian for this picture

Please read this brilliant interview with Bradley Wiggins by Donald McRae

How to write a Clarkson car review: Money for old rope free seminar

BEGIN by whingeing about the Prime Minister. Mention one eye, socialism, his Scottishness and waves of Albanians stealing public school places. (300 words)
Next, target the chief constable of a regional police force and his speed cameras. Creeping Big Brother/ stealth tax blah blah. Reactionary nonsense will do here. (300 words)
Lament the passing of the age of speed because of the two above people (150 words).
Remind people you punched Piers Morgan. (50 words)
Gratuitous mention of Zep, Camel, The Who or whoever the cool boys were into at boarding school. (100 words)
Mention (delete if not applicable): Aston Martin/ Ferrari/ Zonda.(60 words)
Say something like: 'Phwoarr, driving this is like Kristin Scott Thomas in a porno with Liz Hurley and Jody Kidd with the biblically epic AC DC blasting in the background as Victorian London shoots the French/ Germans (delete if not applicable) in the greatest prison breakout film, in the world.' (Should take about 500 words, but please ignore the multitude of nonsensical mixed historic metaphors).
Copy/ paste into email to Sunday Times, hit send and check that the Polish bloke clearing the gutters in your Isle of Man tax haven home for £25 hasn't stolen your child's grammar school place.
Retire smug.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Splash course in the newspaper design process

IT is time to embrace the inner geek, dust off the old encyclopaedia of fonts and go hog wild with an Apple Mac.
This great post about the San Antonio Express-News illustrates one of THE great pleasures of the newspaper journalist - designing the front page. Even better if we can twitter pic it through the process. That's big and small media right there.
Now GM has been involved in many a redesign and none, not one, ever added circulation. It always struck us a craven exercise in journalistic masturbation.
All those discussions about what message a font sends out and all that talking of tweaking horizontal scale and squeezing leading leads to hilarious heated debates in editorial leadership meetings driven by powerpoints complete with slides racing off the side of the screen accompanied by the sound of a racing car.
You can almost hear Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie spilling whisky and shouting: "Godammit to hell, John, do you think the people of Walton want a 1pt key line around their three column pictures? Blast it, I'd bet all the Scotch in Aughtermuchty and the BNFL regional award I paid £40 for, that they do."
Having said that, there are few things better journalistically than designing a newspaper page, and nothing better than doing the splash.
Have look here at an experiment from San Antonio.

Media Talk USA: News cartels

A MONTH or so ago I mentioned this brilliant wee podcast from the Guardian about the future of newspapers.
A couple of brilliant suggestions are made here. If the ecology of the media landscape is changing then the ecology of the newspaper model has to change also.
The newspaper, even major American city papers, will have to make do with smaller circulations and will be forced to penetrate their communities in a much deeper, more meaningful and less precious way.
Perhaps the ECHO or the MEN will be sponsoring not just big arenas but city wide book clubs, resurrecting newspapers in education projects and beginning multiple focussed conversations with their readership.
With profits on their way up again in the states, maybe there will be investment on the table for the new news economy and ecology.
Nothing new from GM here but have a listen and see what you think. It'll stay up for a few days.

Talk magazine & the magazine world's Gatsby moment

Thanks to Word magazine for higlighting this on Twitter and the perfect analogy used in this post's headline.
Read about the moment which signified the shift from old to new media.


"The best Web campaigns may be those that don't pretend to ask anything high-minded of their participants. FreeRice, a Web site developed by the U.N. World Food Programme, offers a game that helps players learn English and shows them ads to raise money for sending rice to poor countries. This may not be glamorous, but at least it gets some work done."
Morozov on the superficiality of many web campaigns.

Information cocoons

THE internet and the blogosphere are still trumpeted as the way forward for the news industry, but there is still no satisfiable means of aggregating everything that you are following in the way in which a newspaper or broadcast outlet does.
Stylistically there are abrupt shifts in style and tone to adjust to and then there is the terrible dilemma of actually believing everything you are reading - from originators to trolls et al.
However, the greatest issue democratically is the problem of cocooning, of readers only reading something which they are ideologically in agreement with.
Look at the recent flurry of birthers in the States, idiotically calling for Obama's birth cert to see what we mean here.
The initially false premise circulates ad nauseum and is given credence by virtue of that continued circulation. It's picked up by eejits like Lou Dobbs and the circle remains unbroken - more cack flows.
This great discussion is worth a watch in this issue.