Two surreal creative forces are popular amongst the groovy kids on the internet (Dig what I’m saying, daddio?). I think they’re both brilliant but be the judges for yourself.
Robert Popper is a writer and producer for TV. On particularly silly days he evokes the character Robin Cooper and writes letters to companies (read book The Timewaster Letters) or makes daft phone calls. What I love about him is his flights of fancy without being mean. If Robin Cooper existed, you’d want to give him a big cuddle and a cup of tea.
Below is one of my favourite clips from his youtube channel (I urge you to visit). Even though Robert Popper has been in the writer’s room for South Park in the past, he still thought it was worth Robin giving them a call:
The flip side of this is David Firth. Not all of his occasionally disturbing animations are strictly comedy, but often surrealness and down-to-earth Northerness collide to make us chuckle. Have a look at episode 2 of one of my favourite characters from his website (and probably the silliest), superhero Burnt Face Man:
I’ve been watching a series on Sky Arts called Monty Python, almost the truth. Its really good and I recommend it for any other obsessives out there. I don’t think anything else has made me so jolly as Monty Python has. If I feel unwell or a bit down I’ll watch that or Not Only but Also (even though there’s hardly any of it bloody left).
I have my writing heroes including Neil Gaiman, Helen Dunmore and Sarah Waters. However the side of me that writes and performs for Braintree Ways is fascinated by comedy and those who enact it including Andy Kaufman, Eddie Izzard, the South Park pair, Peter Cook and Monty Python.
One person I saw at Edinburgh who intrigues me at the moment is Stewart Lee. I used to watch Lee and Herring as a child but his current stand up on programmes such as The Comedy Vehicle is fascinating (and funny).
In the first clip he breaks the fourth wall by mentioning a grandad and then declaring him not to be real, along with explaining the nuts and bolts of stand up to the audience and in a fake interview. This made me feel firstly as if I was watching something almost Brechtian and, secondly, intellectually pretentious enough to use Brechtian as a description.
The second clip is one of his repetative tangents which reminds me of my student poetry era. I’d go to various venues around Bath where the smoke would turn your eyes red and various people took turns in reading out their scribblings to live music. Stewart Lee’s rantings make me think of 50s/60s era beat and performance poets. See for yourself.
When I visited Folkestone last winter I was very surprised. I knew there would be sea, and walks by the sea, and tea by the sea, and maybe a town by the sea, but I had no idea what else was waiting. I’ll be honest; I expected to be so bored I’d end up wandering in the dead of night, wailing and rendering my garments. Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.
I had arrived in the middle of an enormous art festival completely by chance and discovered Folkestone has an area named ‘The Creative Quarter.’ Although the festival itself is once every three years (next should be 2014) The Creative Quarter is dedicated to the arts all year round. As it says on their website they have “become home to a thriving collection of studios and (creative) businesses.”
I wandered past the extensive market in the town centre, foaming at the mouth with excitement. The Quarter didn’t let me down; the buildings were as colourful as Mr Men books and each held a different adventure.
It’s a well-worn phrase but there really is something for everyone. Some galleries were smooth and shiny as a space-ship containing beautiful landscapes and portraits. Others were dingy buildings with patchy walls and attic smells. They were my favourites; entering into darkness while a man pulled comedy faces on a screen was like falling into a separate universe.
These were mostly run by a group called The Folkestone Arts Collective displaying video art, sculptures, performance, paintings, models and interactive if you count the coal I got on my jumper from one sculpture’s ‘teeth.’ Personally I loved the video art as there were some beautiful and unexpected moments, such as the Lynchian scenes of a pensioner’s tea dance.
Some of the work I saw was playful, some serious, some reflective and one terrifying – for a moment I had thought a man tied to a chair with a sack on his head was real. I’d stumbled across it in a dark corner and had actually felt goose-bumps. To calm down I enjoyed a cup of tea in Googies Art Café – a pleasant and relaxing place with yet more paintings on the walls.
The local students were just as involved as gallery owners and professional artists and, even better, it was all free. If travel isn’t a concern or you live nearby, I really recommend a visit; check the websites to see what events are taking place. It’s better than spending a holiday wailing and rendering garments.