Another excellent comedy video from our prolific contributor Ian Macnaughton. Here, he teaches us all about the art of stealth.
Another excellent comedy video from our prolific contributor Ian Macnaughton. Here, he teaches us all about the art of stealth.
We’re only 1 year old, not 64, but nevertheless we hope you enjoy our second piece of the weekend by highly-talented puppeteer Aurora Adams.
Aurora Adams was part of our launch weekend last year, and we are delighted to have her back with us for our birthday celebrations. If you enjoy this, you will be glad to hear that we will be having more puppetry from Aurora tomorrow.
In a follow up to yesterday’s video dating piece from Ian MacNaughton, today he gives us a glimpse into how it must be for a sat nav looking for love.
“I see babies smile,” sang Louis Armstrong. So do I, Satchmo, and I think to myself: what on earth are they smiling about?
They have to contend with faeces-filled clothing, regular bangs on the head, and twenty miniature daggers of bone slowly slicing their way through their gums – which, in an absurdly vicious twist, also causes agonising inflammation of the arse. This is why we retain no memories of the first three years: because they’re hell.
It’s all to play for when you’re a baby. Everything is at stake. You’ve got to be careful not to eat from the cat’s litter tray, not to attract the nickname “Urinal”, not to turn out a heroin addict. Every beautiful little child, every dribbling, wobbling bundle of boundless potential, has a chance, however remote, of ending up in Real Madrid or Portlaoise Prison, of becoming an astronaut or a car clamper. We’re like those heartbreaking South Sea turtles that hatch on the beach and then have to dodge massed ranks of waiting predators to get to the sea – except it takes us 30 years to get there.
But when you’re a baby, you don’t know any of this. All you know is that damned screwdriver simply will not fit into the stupid electricity socket. All you know is that Mum insists on trying to perch you on the toilet even though you’ve told her about the dinosaurs lurking below. All you know is that there’s nothing Dad can say or do which would be even half as bad as the intolerable existential pain incurred by not being allowed to watch Toy Story right this second – who cares if it’s midnight?
A baby’s screaming has been scientifically proven to be the third most irritating noise in creation, close behind Robbie Williams singing and the words “Hi, could I just have a minute of your time?” Nature, in her wisdom, has gifted the infant humanoid with this infallible mechanism for drawing the attention it needs. But nature ain’t so smart (see also: the Chihuahua, Mike Myers, ragwort, breech birth). The infant’s siren call can easily repel the assistance it is intended to solicit.
But babies will squawk and toddlers will roar regardless, sometimes in duet, sometimes even kicking off just as Mr Williams comes on the radio and a charity mugger commences his spiel. At times like that, it’s easy to lose your temper. Remember, though, you were once the same. Sure, you were probably shouting for a nice new stick, or maybe a pig’s bladder to kick around the boreen, rather than the latest Bratz whore-doll or this week’s Man United jersey, like the kids of today.
But have some compassion, gather all your kindness and patience. We can never understand what babies are going through, but we know it’s bloody tough. In a few short years, they’ll have forgotten too, and they’ll be grey, slope-shouldered adults like the rest of us. These moments are fleeting. Treasure them now, tantrums and all.
We promised you more short comedy film from Ian MacNaughton, and here it is, helping us celebrate day one of our birthday weekend. Before there were apps like Tinder and Grindr, even before there was internet dating on the web, there was video dating. Would you go out with any of these gentlemen?
Please note: this video contains flashing images.
Lockdown has been going on for a long time. If you live in one of the countries who are lucky enough to have a good supply of vaccines, the end might be in sight. For most of us however, shortages are dictating a slower pace. Inspired by comedy song writers such as Futzy and the Bitch, our artistic director Mary Tynan decided to take a humorous look at the situation. The backing track is by James Keaney.
You probably know Ian Macnaughton from his Covid Times column. Those of you who were at the launch concert for Xanadu Online Theatre will know that Ian is also a talented actor, and we are delighted to share one of his short films with you today. If you enjoy this one, you will be happy to learn that there are more in the pipeline.
Please note: this video contains flashing images.
You know what? You deserve a day off. Why don’t you take a long weekend, stay home on Monday? Hey, it’s cool, don’t worry, you can tell them the guy in Notes From Xanadu said it was okay.
In fact, take every Monday. Or maybe Friday. Yeah, Fridays would probably be better. Sure, why not? Take Fridays off from now on. Yes, you – all of you. No problem. You’re welcome.
See, that was easy.
What if we all just started working a four-day week? Simply downed tools, shut off the PC, parked the train, trousered the last brown envelope… all on Thursday evening. Then rang in sick, like the Blue Flu, every seven days.
Yes, those phone calls would be awkward at first: “Well, I guess it is strange how we’re all sick again this Friday boss, but (pinches nose, coughs) I rilly habe a bery bad cold.” Yes, there would be fury at first. Yes, some of us, many of us, might be fired. But we would be fired for the greater good. You can’t make an omelette without a few pioneers getting arrows in their backs.
And after a while, we wouldn’t have to ring in at all. Eventually, even those most incensed by this great leap backward would capitulate. Owner-managers, CEOs, bosses of every kidney would, after a while, throw up their hands in despair and start taking their mistresses to Kinsale every Friday (metaphorically speaking, of course – at least till the pandemic is under control). After all, how can you work if there’s no-one to work with?
Clients and customers too would learn to appreciate this extended breathing space at the end of the traditional work cycle. Even foreign trading partners would come to terms with it: “Ah oui, the lazy Irish … but what can you do, uh?” In time, and with an easterly wind, our bold initiative would sneak across every European border, like Johnny Logan and the smoking ban. And inevitably, other continents would also follow suit. The grassroots support is already there, worldwide – after all, who doesn’t want to work less? – and once Ireland is out there as proof of concept, nation after nation will tumble before this beautiful historical tide.
With reduced working hours comes reduced productivity, and from reduced productivity flows the manna of reduced prices, thereby slowing inflation and gradually bringing down the cost of living. Possibly. While I’m making stuff up, let’s say also that the social and economic sea-change of a four-day week would, within 12 months, end the current global fiscal crisis, boost consumer confidence and spending, cure Covid, slash the price of oil and put a 64-inch plasma TV in the arms of every schoolchild in the world.
Where did it come from, anyway, this inviolable figure of 40 hours’ work per week? It’s so uneven, so awkward – such an unwieldy figure. It should be rounded down. Maybe to 30. That’s a nice handy number.
The first step is up to you. Enjoy the long weekend.
Guests at the launch concert of Xanadu Online Theatre in September 2020 would have heard this song being debuted. Many people have had an increase in anxiety levels over the past year, but does yours have a name?
Fancy a trip to the theatre this December? In contrast to the usual visit to the pantomime, Xanadu Online Theatre invites you to watch an alternative Christmas show from the comfort of your own home – all you need is a computer and an internet connection.
Started in May 2020, Notes From Xanadu is, as far as can be seen, the first online arts centre in the English-speaking world. Since its beginning, it has attracted visitors from countless countries on six different continents (we’re still trying to crack Antartica)! On 23 September, we launched Xanadu Online Theatre with a variety concert featuring artists from two different continents and three timezones. December sees the debut performances from our in-house theatre company, with a double bill of classic tragedy and comedy: Riders to the Sea by J M Synge and The Proposal by Anton Chekhov. Tickets are free of charge, but limited, and must be booked in advance at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/theatre-at-home-for-christmas-tickets-129660125927. Admission is per connection, not per person, so you can have as many people watching with you as you like. More details are available at the website at theatre.notesfromxanadu.org.
The arts centre and the theatre are the brain children of Mary Tynan, a chronically-ill, disabled creative living in the West of Ireland. For interviews please contact Mary on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Internet is too small for me.
What’s that you say, Google? Seventy-eleven gazillion web pages indexed? Pah. That’s kindergarten stuff, a puny collection, about as impressive as Donald “Big Brain” Trump reciting the ten times table. Sure, there’s lots of info out there: if I search for details of artists who work exclusively in the medium of baby duck faeces, for example, the web will ask me to “please specify type of duck”. But if I then search for jobs for these envelope-pushing visionaries, the electronic ether smugly reports that it found no matches, suggesting instead that I might be interested in some crudely hand-drawn erotica which clearly violates Disney and Warner Brothers copyrights, as well as the laws of good taste, physics and most civilised nations.
This just isn’t good enough. Now that we’ve sloshed about a bit on the oily, trash-polluted waters of this ocean of cultural bilgewater, we naturally want to sail on bravely, endlessly, like Detective Columbo in the Santa Maria, further and further over the horizon, chasing that last elusive Wikipedia citation on the episode where Pikachu teams up with Akira to defeat nine (yes, NINE!) Digimon in magic battle.
I want, as a bare minimum, blanket CCTV coverage of every celebrity (defined as min 5MHz, or at least five Mickeyhartes), with MMS alerts to notify me immediately every time they go to the bathroom. I want 3D walkthroughs of every “ghost” estate of unsold housing in the country, schadenfreude-oozing showcases where our on-screen cadavers or avatars or whatever the hell they’re called can scribble begrudgist graffiti on the virtual walls.
I want jobs websites specifically for waterfowl faecal rendering specialists. I want 10,000-word reminiscences of every politician in the country from everyone they ever went to school with, also their results, disciplinary records, and scanned PDFs of their homework. I want insider revelations of every dirty trick used by every single profession, from actuaries to zoologists, to separate people from their money. I want to download endless hours of whalesong, or at the very least a passable dolphin tribute act, to help my insomnia. I want pictorial tutorials on how to replace every single part in every single consumer appliance ever made, from cars to electric chairs. I want to know what the second assistant cameraman on “Metropolis” thought of director Fritz Lang, I want to know how many joints George Harrison smoked while watching Lennon and McCartney squabble over the creation of “Let It Be”, and I want to know exactly where in Upton Park my Uncle Billy stood as he cheered the Hammers on to victory over Ipswich in April 1986.
After all, information wants to be free [(TM) and (C) Selected Sarcasm Corporation 2020. All Rights Reserved].
Have you had any fantasies during lockdown? They’re completely harmless, right? I know Futzy and the Bitch have a strong marriage, so I’m not worried about them at all.
I’m a parent – no, really, it’s true – and let me tell you, no-one could be more shocked than I. Does every father live as I do, in constant dread of the hand on the shoulder and the words “Sorry sir, been a bit of a mix-up”? Or the inevitable letter from the Department of Ensuring All Destinies Run As They Should (DEADRATS), clarifying that only individuals of the highest mental and emotional calibre are permitted to have children, and that as a Grade-3 Minor Idiot (Category B), I unfortunately don’t qualify?
The lament is often heard that children don’t come with an instruction manual. That sounds reasonable, but it’s total BS coming from a dad. Because dads don’t read manuals anyway. We just pick up the DVD recorder, hedge strimmer, or 15-month-old baby girl, and expect it to operate within specified manufacturing parameters.
But being a dad is incredibly hard. Since I never seem to hear any other dads saying this – they’re too busy romping off with their sons on 6am camping expeditions, or teaching their daughters kung-fu – I assume there was some sort of no-complaining clause in the paperwork that I never received because of the whole mix-up by DEADRATS. Or else those other dads are just better than me.
Maybe, though, they’re not: maybe they’re more like icebergs, just 10% showing above the surface, but underneath, they’re paddling like crazy. Or do I mean swans? Possibly ducks? Hard to say. What is an analogy, after all, but a pig with five legs? The point is, possession doesn’t automatically confer expertise. Just because you own a few kids doesn’t mean you know how to operate them. That takes years – and even then, you’re probably only familiar with a fraction of their functions.
Of course the rewards of parenthood are among the most wonderful experiences this world can offer (and I speak here as someone who has seen the Northern Lights dozens of times, on Youtube). Every evening when I get in from work I’m greeted by stampeding feet and the giddy, affectionate sounds of happiness. But that’s enough about the dog. The kids might look up briefly from the TV too, if I’m lucky.
Sadly, though, there are no DEADRATS watching over us. DEADRATS don’t exist at all, unless, possibly, maybe in the health service somewhere. It’s entirely up to us to make sure things Run As They Should. But as the philosopher-poet Ralph W. Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Hard as it is to take advice from a guy whose middle name is Waldo, I think that where parenting is concerned, there’s no other choice.
Have you seen those strange Wish adverts that pop up all over Facebook? Ever wondered what that’s all about? Here Futzy and the Bitch (aka Ariel and Chris) explain it all. With pictures.
Paul (the performer) is based in London, where he is variously employed as an osteopath, a baker of unusual cakes, and a creator of comedy such as in the video below. The cinematographer is Steve Kirkham. This is interpretive dance with a difference!
Here’s a cautionary, and true, romantic story.
Seán and Jenny had a wild romance: fiery, adventurous, hungry… especially hungry. They both loved fine food and tried to visit a nice restaurant at least once a week.
Giddy on passion and reckless zest, they developed an eating-out routine which combined their shared taste for theatrics with a soupçon of adrenalin. This involved Seán rising from his seat mid-dessert and sinking to one knee before Jenny, producing with a flourish the unmistakable, iconic cube of a ring box, as every eye in the place turned to watch this age-old human fairytale.
They were good actors, and invariably Jenny’s happy Oh-darling-I-do! would elicit a round of applause. More importantly, it also brought material benefits: free drinks, at least, and sometimes – you’d be surprised how often – a torn-up bill. Cakes were produced, waitresses sang songs. There are at least three upmarket bistros in Dublin where you can still see, pinned up behind the bar, a yellowing Polaroid of the allegedly betrothed, toasting their fictitious future with champagne donated by the beaming manager who’s embracing them both.
Even if their romantic hamming hadn’t moved the boss, some well-to-do fellow patron might pull out his credit card, spurred to generosity by this sentimental reminder of the beauty and optimism of l’amour even in our uncaring, dog-eat-dog age. The world will always welcome lovers, after all.
On holidays the pair fished for every conceivable freebie by claiming to be on honeymoon. They even brought props to support their Bonnie-and-Clyde sham: wedding cards, a bridal veil, leftover confetti. Happy, daring, aphrodisiac times ensued.
But of course they were playing with fire. Not just the fire of potential discovery, but the fire that smoulders, usually undetected, in the hearts of the young and infatuated. The lie oft-repeated became an internalised truth. Jenny made certain assumptions, subconscious perhaps but no less important for that. Seán meanwhile remained blissfully non-committal as the years whizzed by and the pretend engagements mounted.
It could only end one way. After five years they parted. Badly.
Five more years passed, years of hard graft, hard knocks. Lessons were learned on both sides. And finally there was a reunion. In a different restaurant, surrounded by another crowd of strangers, peace was made. Dessert was ordered. And Seán produced another little jewellery box – this time for real.
Tears in her eyes, Jenny rose to her feet. “Too late, darling, too late,” was all she whispered as she walked away. There was no applause. Seán quickly settled the bill, dozens of sympathetic watchers pretending not to see, and left.
Ash Reddington is a talented Irish actor, writer and filmmaker who is based in New York City. In this short comedy film, her character Svetlana goes window shopping in Manhattan during lockdown.
You can find out more about Ash at her Backstage page.
I was tempted to call this piece “It’s a Desperate Book,” just for fun. But it would have been misleading, because it’s not a desperate book, unless you mean desperately good, desperately funny, or desperately hard to put down.
Frankie Flynn, the book’s main character, first appeared in a play called Quare Times. In its first full production, I was delighted to be cast in the role of Susan, and I happily described the play to anyone who asked as “a Dublin version of Alf Garnett crossed with a lesbian version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, with me playing Sidney Poitier.” I did not know at the time that Quare Times would be just the first of a series, and that Frankie would go on to have many more adventures.
Peter Hammond, who was at that time the director of the London Irish Centre in Camden, went on to write several more plays in the series, and after the first production, the role of Frankie was always played by Owen Nolan, to whom (along with the author’s father) this book is dedicated. Owen contributed a lot to the development of the character, and will always be the definitive Frankie Flynn.
What Peter has done with this book is to take the characters and events from these plays, expand them, link them together, and transform them into a well-written comic novel. The first-person narrative gives an entirely different feel to the main character, and we see the other people in the world of the fictional Dublin district, the Daymo, through his eyes. All the characters are well delineated, and very funny, in their own right, and the book is full of hilarious lines, such as “Ya’d lick it (beer) off a scabby leg” – Peggy (his wife) talking to Frankie.
The novel has a softer, more relaxed feel than the plays: tending to be slightly less uproarious and more gently amusing. That said, it also has more of a roller-coaster feel, as the main character plunges from one situation to another. Hearing the stories through Frankie’s words, and using the through story of a proposed move to the suburbs brings the disparate stories into a coherent whole. Strangely, I find myself reminded of Keith Waterhouse’s equally charismatic character, Billy Liar.
This is an excellent first novel, which I predict will be but the first of many by this talented writer. It’d be a desperate shame not to read it.