One of the things that has been highly noticeable about the spread of Covid-19 is that it is no respecter of rank, position, or privilege. Like a true plague, it has struck indiscriminately, from Prince Charles, to Boris the Bastard, to Kenny Dalglish, to fathers and mothers and siblings and offspring less famous, but just as necessary to the wellbeing of the world.

Sadly, for everyone who contracts the virus and recovers, we suffer a painful loss: at the time of writing, over 144,000 lives have been lost worldwide, and the number grows daily. And while it could be argued that some figures might improve the world immeasurably by no longer being in it*, we’re also seeing the loss of people who have enriched our experiences through their work and their legacies. Gita Ramjee has died. Lorena Borjas. Terrence McNally. And last night, as Luscious and I were heading to bed, news broke that brought us both to tears.

British comic actor, writer, and absolute pillar of my childhood memories, Tim Brooke-Taylor, succumbed to the virus at the age of 79.

Continue reading “RIP, TB-T: SOMEBODY CALLED”


To paraphrase the immortal Tom Lehrer, I have been a fan of Neil Innes since conception. At least, I have been a rabid convert to the Innes way of thinking since my first introduction to Monty Python, via Live at the Hollywood Bowl on video early in 1984. Amongst the madness, surrealism, shouting, and general lunacy, a small, sweet-voiced man slowed proceedings down to sing two songs: after an umpty-million play-rewind-plays over the course of a week, I have been able to sing I’m The Urban Spaceman and How Sweet to be an Idiot in my sleep since the age of 13.


Sadly, Neil Innes left us this week, dying unexpectedly at the age of 76.

It was about eleven seconds from that first exposure to discovering The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and another life-long obsession. Albums, DVD copies of Do Not Adjust Your Set, and learning every lyric I could cope with followed: my copy of their brilliant album Gorilla was the only LP I kept when Blake moved out and I gifted him my collection because he was so in love with his record player. My love of Python led me to the rest of their movies, and,to The Rutles, and to Innes’ solo work. At every stage, interest became love became an integral part of my comic and musical sensibilities.



After 35 years, I still have reams of Bonzo and Innes on my playlist, through LPs, to CDs, to, currently, my iPod and iTunes player. Whatever technological advancement is made over the next 10-40 years of my remaining life, they’ll make that journey with me. I’ve come across very few songwriters who can be so funny, sweet, mournful, whimsical, and touching, usually simultaneously. Innes is at the forefront of those I’ve found, and I shan’t be letting go of his work for anything.



Neil Innes was an important member of my karass, and always will be. RIP. Thank to you, it will always be sweet to be an idiot.








Goon Show

This is the album that started it all. The writing career, the comedy work, the cartooning. The desire to perform, to amuse, to cast off the mantle of ordinariness and stand outside.

Eight years old, I received my first science fiction book. And deep in the back of my parents’ record collection, I discovered an oddity given to them as an emigration present by friends I don’t recall ever having met. This album. Not even music. Strange voices, spouting nonsense at a million miles an hour. By the time the Britons challenged the invading Romans to a game of football (“And another thing. You’re only allowed 11 men. I’ve counted 693 on my own so far!” “All right, I’ll send one off.”) I was intrigued. By the time Caesar ruled Briton with an iron fist, then with a wooden leg, and finally, with a piece of string, I was hooked. By the time the escaped slaves made their way to the hidden sewers beneath the Via Appia, known in the army as the famous Appia Pipe, I was addicted.

I turned the record over, and listened to the hunt for the terrible batter pudding hurler that terrified Britain (“We’ve tracked him to North Africa.” “We’ve got him cornered!”). Turned it back again. And again. Got told to play something else. Played it again, and again, and again over the years.

When my parents’ marriage imploded, and they separated, I hid the album. It was mine, now. The hell with them. I was the one who loved it. I collected more, studiously scouring through second-hand LP shops until I found each increasingly-rare prize. It kicked off a long-term hobby– collecting comedy albums on LP (never cassette, or CD, only LP)– that continued right up until the point I no longer had a player to play them on. I bought books on the Goons; copied scripts; followed their individual careers obsessively; hurried home on Saturday mornings to lie in bed at noon with my boom box turned to Radio National to catch the re-broadcasts that had been going since the 1950s, fingers hovering over the play and record buttons on the tape deck; practiced the voices; stole the jokes; performed scripts to a tape recorder with like-minded friends….. in short, the Goon Show became a cornerstone of my life. It still is.

At my very first Swancon, at my very first Swancon dinner, I made a pair of lifetime pals, sitting at the end of the table, telling each other that he fallen in de water and it must be hell in dere (Waves: Hi, Jay! Hi, Todd!). A couple of years later, I co-wrote a fan production, The Goon, Goon Hills of Earth, with the multi-talented Dave Luckett and performed it with a cast at another Swancon. 40 years later, I still listen, still laugh until tears come, still think they are the greatest comedy ensemble to ever walk the Earth. Because of this album, when I was eight.


Love at first sight. It exists.




Those of you who still don’t roll over and pretend to be asleep when I mention my Patreon campaign will know that patrons of a certain level (Okay, it’s 3 bucks a month. We’re not talking high finance, here) get to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, this week I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my writing, my performing, and my approach to art.

I grew up in a time when an episode of a TV show was shown once, at a specific time, and if you missed it, well, you might just never see it. As I grew into a teen, and then a comedy obsessed young adult, the list of shows I obsessed over grew and grew into, well, an obsession. One I should have followed all the way to a PhD thesis, but that’s a story for another time. I compulsively purchased books of sketch scripts, and spent hours picking apart and analysing Beyond the Fringe, The Goon Show, Round the Horne, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, A Show Called Fred, Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour…… the list is enormous, and largely British. I recorded scripts on tape– sometimes with friends, sometimes solo– playing with voice, and timing, and pitch. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I collected LPs– and did up until my second marriage. And I watched: over and over, episodes of every show I could find: first on TV, and then, when video cassettes became available, on tape, then disc. I am a fan. I could easily have become an historian. Here are five shows that changed the way my brains works.