The General Election Player Ratings 2017

As I have literally nothing original to add to this squalid, tawdry election, and certainly nothing that will change any of our bitter, ingrained mindsets, I thought I’d waste some of your valuable time rating various politicians and entities for a few cheap laughs. You’re welcome.

Main leaders

Theresa May – 10/10

Could not have asked for better from the PM. Since calling this election, May has diligently set about the task of tearing down her own facade with surgical precision. A visionary who has elevated the humble gaffe from a misplaced word in a speech to an 8 week rolling barrage of ineptitude.

In all likelihood, will still win, but with reputation permanently damaged. Has displayed so little strong and stable leadership that the party have had to ditch that entirely and try to swing back to Brexit, even rolling out Boris for good measure.

Highlights: Trying to position as the person to defeat terror and reduce immigration, having spent 6 years doing that exact job and achieving precisely nothing. Threatening longer prison sentences for terror offences to deter suicide attacks. The thing with the police. The thing with the elderly. Most of it really.

Jeremy Corbyn – 8/10

Decent man with sensible policies and easy manner proves surprisingly popular. Seems to have startled many, including his own party, by not referring to everybody as ‘comrade’ and proposing collective farms in the manifesto. Has made several high profile errors, admittedly in the 1970s, and this is apparently relevant. Is against nuking people, which is a bad thing. Will not make a good leader because he makes his own jam, listens to others and doesn’t shout constantly.

Highlights: Inspiring the youth, none of whom will vote tomorrow.

Other notable toerags

Diane Abbott – 30,000/10

I based this entire piece around that gag. In hindsight it was not worth it.

Paul Natalie – 2/10

Worse than the above, if that were possible.

The Daily Mail – 10/10

Vintage Mail. 13 whole pages in a single issue dedicated to attacking Labour. Paul Dacre must be on the verge of a heart attack or an orgasm at almost all times, which an image you won’t be able to unsee. His 3 readers must lap it up.

The Guardian – 1/10

Organised a year long hatchet job against Corbyn and then backed him. Who needs enemies when you have friends like these?

The internet, and most of us, including me – 1/10

Rare indeed is the discussion that doesn’t descend into a slanging match. There’s a familiar narrative to most online comment threads about politics in this country. Pro-Labour? Well, you’re living in a fantasy world, your lot are going to crash the economy, and you’re a soft little snowflake. Pro-Tory? Well, you’re scum and you want to murder the poor. Pro-anyone else? Wasting your vote, get out.

Rinse. Repeat.

We need to do better than this really, otherwise the Duplo bricks are going away and you’ll be grounded for a week. Oh, and also all elections will be as interminably miserable as this one forever more as nobody can countenance the merest hint of an opposing view and we all just hide behind our confirmation bias, hurling insults and whatever facts support our blinkered arguments, because there really is no better way to convince somebody you’re right than to call them an arsehole.

All we need to remember is:

Left wing does not equal stupid.

Right wing does not equal evil.

Opposing views can both be right.

We’re still not America.

Happy days.

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Satire pointless

One of the unexpected downsides of the world going collectively insane is that it affords very little opportunity for comedy.

You’d have thought that the rise of the far right and the various knuckle-dragging goons who represent them would have offered ample scope for a bit of satirical blogging. Apparently not.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few decent gags to be had – you can make about eight solid jokes out of Nigel Farage’s grinning ascent into Trump’s golden tower alone – it’s just that no parody is any weirder than the actual reality.

trump

He’s very happy in the Donald’s shaft

Real events have spun out of control so quickly that lines like “May offers human sacrifices in exchange for Peru trade deal” don’t sound out there enough. “Brexit means cabbage” is probably one of our actual negotiating positions, while “Farage blasts EU gravy train whilst holding two other jobs, one of them in America” is actually true, so there’s no mileage in that.

Not only that, but the characters now ambling around centre stage are so thoroughly dislikeable that they’re almost piss-take-proof. They’re the sort of people you invite to a party but really hope don’t come. Imagine asking who’s coming for dinner and hearing “Theresa May, David Davis, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson”. You’d have to burn your house down on the spot, wouldn’t you?

That said, these miserable, boring, joyless bastards have a respectably tight line on discipline and sticking to the party line, so we can expect them to be sticking around for the foreseeable. The right have been peddling some impressive linguistic conjuring tricks of late – none better than the ‘liberal metropolitan elite’ line. Forget alternative facts and fake news, that one is an absolute belter, and it’s well ingrained. In reality the elite are as far from liberal as I am from winning World’s Strongest Man. Ditto with ‘liberal media’ – utter, demonstrable tosh, but effective tosh nonetheless. Hats off to the gits.

All the while the left are doing what we always do – tweeting furiously and fracturing like Ryvita. Labour are involved in an infight to the death, the Lib Dems continue to be the Lib Dems, the Guardian is mainly worried that the polenta you’re eating could be misogynist. None of the above seem to have cottoned on to the fact that there might be bigger issues to worry about right now, and that perhaps a spot of joiny joiny forcey forcey might not be a terrible idea.

All in all it’s been a rather depressing few months, and will probably continue in that fashion for some time.

On the plus side, Netflix is putting out some great shows right now. So we’ve always got that until Trump blows up the internet.

5 comedy shows to see at the Edinburgh Fringe

So I’ve just got back from the Fringe. I mean literally just. I’m writing this in the 15 mins I have before my frozen chicken pieces are ready for me to consume.

I love the Fringe. I’ve been there twice now so I’m a bona fide expert on it and as such my words should adorn posters and be stapled to flyers so that potential showgoers might learn from my large repository of objective wisdom.

Hitting the Fringe is a confusing experience. You head there, you’re looking for a show, you don’t really know what you want to see. Helpfully, on the Royal Mile and lurking down alleyways/in bins are thousands of students being paid a laughably low amount to explain why so and so is the best show ever whilst looking at you with their sad, dead eyes.

Top tip for the first-timer – Every show at the Fringe has a 4 star rating from somebody.

I could walk down the Mile and receive a 4 star rating from at least one press outlet or blog. So when people start shouting, “4 star show” at you that doesn’t mean you ought to be going there. It could very much still be shit.

So it’s best to have a little context. Here are my 5 faves from this year. Why is my opinion worthwhile? It isn’t.

1) Tim Key – Work in Slutgress (Progress)

Err, don’t be put off by the title. I’ve always quite liked Tim Key – he’s a mix of comedian, poet, actor, tramp, with a flair for finding fun in the most absurd places. His Eduburgh show is a very short run and isn’t listed in the brochure – I think he’s covering for somebody else who didn’t show up. The upshot is nobody knows it’s on so it will likely not sell out. Whatever the circumstances, the show he’s putting on is genuinely brilliant. Key surrounds his poetry with cheap gags, anecdotes, recurring jokes, physical theatre, clever staging and a complete comfort with the audience which results in a wonderful hour. He sort of swore us all to silence on the contents at the end – but take my word that it’s well worth a watch.

2) James Acaster

I first saw James Acaster at a 5 quid new material night in London before Christmas. He was on for about 5 minutes and I’ve only just stopped laughing. Tall, languid and dressed head-to-toe in M&S garb, his jokes are so well-crafted that I want to frame them. We saw him twice at Edinburgh in separate compilation shows (more on that later) and he delivered completely different sets each time, both tear-inducingly funny. He’s also brilliant off-the-cuff, breaking off into a long section on candle wax and blu-tack in one show which had the audience in stitches.

Acaster plays on his slightly awkward image, a bit of an anti-lad, and the result is hilarious. The group of meatheads at the front of the second show we saw him in, probably not his general demographic, were pissing themselves laughing throughout. It’s difficult to see how he can improve on what he’s dishing out right now, a definite must-see.

3) Marcel Lucont

My second favourite comedy character after Alan Partridge. Actually a bloke from Reading, but so convincingly stereotypically French that people don’t believe you when you tell the otherwise.

Outrageously funny to the point where I actually slapped my own knee with mirth. Hugely arrogant but endearing at the same time. Finished one hilariously ropey poem with the line “You are correct to applaud. That was…superb.” You’ll have to catch him at a compilation show or bid on an hour of his time, seriously, but if you can work out where he is go and see him. Haven’t yet met anybody who didn’t find him hilarious.

4) Piff the Magic Dragon

A man dresses as a dragon, comes on stage and performs card tricks with the aid of a chihuahua, also dressed as a dragon, and an assistant who hates him. And a goldfish. Good card-based magic is the foundation of the show but the whole combination is unforgettable and brilliant. Piff (no idea what his real name is) has worked out that as good as your magic show can be, you ned a bit more to engage the audience. The guy is actually a brilliant comedian – world-weary and with a proper flair for comic timing with a few really good gags. Something very different from straight stand-up, and very, very good.

5) Spank!

If you’re stuck for things to do at midnight at the weekend then head down to the Underbelly on Cowgate for Spank!, three hours of comedians, shouting and gratuitous nudity. On the plus side, you’ll get some incredible acts. The’ll list them on the day so see who’s on, but we got top-class, extended sets from James Acaster, Marcel Lucont, David Morgan and April Macie (who isn’t even at the Fringe but just happened to stop by).

On the down side, you might see the compere dip his penis into the mouth of one of the lads in the front row. This did actually happen. So it goes.

Honorable mentions

Daniel Simonsen – Awkward, awkward, AWKWARD Norwegian kid. Pain and pleasure in equal measure. I think he’s brilliant, so did the majority of our group, but if you don’t get him you won’t enjoy it.

Bo Burnham – American Youtube demi-God. Would probably have made the list except I didn’t see him. Friends who did rated him as the best show they saw.

PC, Mac and Me – One for the geeks, and FREE! Dan Willis is pretty accomplished, and some good computer-based funnies. Very good for no pounds.

Abandoman – Irish comedy improv hip-hop. Caught about 10 mins of this at a best of show and it was amazing.

 

 

 

“I’ve lassoed the kettlebell weight. Do I win something?”

It’s been over a week and I’m still doing exercise. I think this may be a sign of deep-seated mental illness. Every time I train I effectively forfeit my right to walk properly for the next couple of days. This is not a good trade in my view. In fact, two of three gym sessions have resulted in me not being able to slump on the sofa properly. Like now. That’s just plain unacceptable.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I could make a solid living from charging entry to watch my sessions. Even the man who runs the gym, who must be used to seeing comedy workouts by now, can’t help but chuckle along as I wheeze and make random, sporadic movements. He thinks I can’t see him laughing but I can; there are mirrors everywhere.

There is no suitable picture today, so here is a confused owl.

There is no suitable picture today, so here is a confused owl.

I’ve also realised that when I work out I look very, very silly. My face contorts into a mixture of pain and confusion as my body is ravaged by unexpected movement. I begin to throw juddering, erratic and slightly disturbing shapes which are in no way in time with the background music. In truth, it looks exactly like when I try to do dancing – and I’ve realised that this is another one of the reasons I don’t have a girlfriend. In future I shall refrain from dancing.

Two incidents really stuck out today as blindingly, hilariously incompetent.

First, after a few sets on the arms where my motions made me look a bit like a constipated cod, Deepak tried me on skipping.

For the record, I am not a skipper.

Skipping was something the girls did while us boys went and fought with sticks. When I was 7. It is not, I maintain, a healthy activity for an adult. As a result, I could not get the hang of skipping. Every time I managed to get the rope over my head I celebrated, forgetting that I had to move my feet. Split seconds later, my cheering mind would suddenly shout “Warning! Something’s coming towards your feet”, and then the rope would hit my feet.

Often I couldn’t actually get the rope around me in a suitable arc. Once I managed to somehow snare a nearby kettlebell weight, making me feel tough like a cowboy. It was the best thing I did with the skipping rope. I did not manage a single actual skip. We did resting instead.

Perhaps the coup de grace of today’s session was when Deepak cracked out the medicine ball. He lay on the mat, feet facing me, in a sit up position. I threw the ball to him, he reclined, touched the ball on the mat behind his head, threw it back to me. A simple idea.

One of the things they don’t tell you about medicine balls is that they’re particularly smooth. This one sailed through my attempted catch,  accelerated towards my body, and struck me square in the plums. I went down like a sack of potatoes and that was when we decided that the session had reached a natural end.

In other news, I found this flythrough of one of the zones I’ll be up against in May. It’s one zone out of 15.

Help! I’m going to be killed!

Wait for it…

The mood is tense in Britain tonight as it emerges that snow has fallen and the country is still functioning.

The UK traditionally has a fractious relationship with snow – the two are believed to have become intimate several centuries ago before snow disappeared for much of the early noughties without even leaving a note. Now the annual return of snow is marked by the island nation throwing an absolutely massive tantrum and refusing to move for 6-8 days.

"Oh look. Snow."

“Oh look. Snow.”

Last night however snow arrived in the dead of night, the rat, and has been gently caressing England’s green and pleasant lands for almost 24 hours. Whereas this would normally cause all trains services to instantly terminate just outside Reading and the M25 to turn into a mass game of ‘crash the car’, in 2013 Britain seems to have just, well, got on with it.

Speculation is rife that Britain has not actually noticed that snow is falling – instead believing that the large white flakes falling from the sky re part of a guerrilla marketing campaign by Daz – and that as soon as it clocks on that the wintry cad is here again large swathes of Dorset will immediately explode.

Some optimists believe that this is a new dawn for the UK, and that finally we can all move on from turning into absolute loons the second the first flake lands. Perhaps now we’ll stop stacking it on pavements which aren’t even slippery, perhaps we’ll be able to drive in a straight line without screaming and swerving into the nearest lake. Perhaps the tubes will admit that they’re called the fucking Underground for a reason and don’t need to shut down straight away because snow does not, in fact, have the ground-penetrating powers it is often claimed to possess.

Realistically though, none of that will happen, we’ll all realise it’s actually snowing at some point, and all kinds of incompetent, hilarious hell will break loose.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I love this country.

PS: Exercise update. On a high protein diet, or direct quote, “Just eat more mate”. Still haven’t regained full arm function. Second session tomorrow. Help me.

Help! I’ve taken exercise!

Dear Doctor,

I took a heavy dose of exercise yesterday and am presenting symptoms of extreme pain, reduced movement and a mild sense of pride and self-fulfilment. I admit to dabbling with exercise in my teens, and I have to say that it was widely available at school, but my past experiences indicate that I might well be dangerously allergic to it.

Am I going to die?

Best regards,

Mark

That may sound melodramatic, largely because it is, but allow me to elaborate slightly. Shortly before Christmas an email went round at work asking people to sign up for an ‘adventure race’ in May. Not really bothering to read the details I immediately put my name down. Great outdoors, bunch of mates, camping, bit of larking about, how hard could it be?

Some weeks later I read some of the informational blurb about the event. If you want a really good, soul-cleansing laugh at my expense then have a look here. Maybe watch the little video at the start. They use encouraging phrases like ‘world’s biggest assault course’ and ‘totally apocalyptic’ and ‘certainly more than a marathon’. For the more concise version, this sheep sums up the event quite nicely.

In short, I’m fucked. Those of you who know me personally will understand how much I am not built for strength or endurance events. Those that don’t should understand that I am NOT BUILT FOR STRENGTH OR ENDURANCE EVENTS.

My diet consists largely of cheese and mini kievs, interspersed with crisps. My daily routine involves sitting on a tube, sitting at a desk, sitting on another tube, lounging on the sofa and then having a well-deserved lay down. I’m a horizontal person. The vertical is foreign to me.

This is pretty much as active as I get.

This is pretty much as active as I get.

I’m also skinny. My arms are like thin wisps of cloud. I’ve seen dead cats with bigger biceps than me. If I try to run I become light-headed shortly after I start thinking about running and have to sit down with a large camembert to bring myself around. The only bulky area of my entire torso is currently my stomach, as a direct result of every single one of my lifestyle choices. I’m a skinny fat person. Everybody knows one.

So, in an effort to avoid certain death in May, I have enlisted my friend and colleague Deepak as my personal trainer. We had our first session yesterday. Deepak’s a great guy, but one of the things I have recently learnt about him is that he is criminally insane and possibly fundamentally evil. As I lay in a crumpled, weeping heap on the gym floor trying to work out if all my limbs were still attached he appraised me with a cool gaze and remarked that I’d done well because I’d pushed myself to failure.

I pushed myself to nothing. He pushed me to failure. I would have been happy doing one chest press. Not 10. Certainly not 3 sets of 10. Definitely not 3 sets of 10 interspersed with arm rows. Absolutely not the aforementioned plus about 4 other weird and wonderful torture methods. And some boxing.

Deepak has put me through one 45 minute session. Today I can barely fucking move. I’m typing this with my teeth. I’m going to bed and it’s 9pm. My muscles have gone on strike and been replaced by fire. I’m still wearing a t-shirt because my arms won’t go above my head.

He’s trying to kill me. I thank him for it.

Oddly, I’ve agreed that this can occur twice a week for at least 5 months, plus some running and cycling and swimming and badminton and dodgeball and climbing. I will keep you all updated with doubtless hilarious tales of my own ineptitude and physical agony. All I ask is that you eat a large tub of ice cream every time you read these posts, so that at least one of us is enjoying ourselves.

I’m scared.

“I’m never drinking again!”, declares man holding drink

As part of the UK’s ongoing commitment to total annihilation and an early, gin-soaked grave, millions of Britons have started 2013 by lying loudly about never, ever drinking again.

The absolute stone-cold fallacy comes in the wake of New Year’s Eve, where otherwise modest alcoholics traditionally attempt to drink a unit of alcohol for every year since the birth of Christ in a grim attempt to forget the horrors of the previous pointless lap of the Sun whilst wearing something nice which we always think won’t get ruined, but which always does.

Dry January is making this man want a quick nap.

Dry January is making this man want a quick nap.

This ritual of drunken carnage is, by law, interspersed with questionable decisions and at least one person wondering aloud why nobody has started kissing as soon as the first firework bursts over the London eye. In my own personal case our party strolled down to a nearby bridge to watch the side of the London fireworks. There was merriment all round in the large crowd, who began a good old-fashioned singalong. Sensing his opportunity, one of my more vertically impressive flatmates raised his arms and screamed ‘ORGY!’ to the crowd of families and young children. At least five hundred million similar incidents were recorded on the night.

Waking on New Year’s Day to be greeted by a hangover the size of France, questions like “Who am I?”, “Why am I?” and “Is that beer in the washing machine?” and, often, a bewildered moose shitting in the living room, 97% of people immediately forswear alcohol and vow to lead a quiet life of meditation, running and lying to themselves.

The moose has vowed not to get drunk again until May. It's lying.

The moose has vowed not to get drunk again until May. It’s lying.

I predict that this newfound sense of inner peace, in no way driven by shame and a throbbing liver, will last until roughly Friday, when Dry January will experience it’s first light shower – roughly coinciding with people realising that they really bloody love drinking. From this point, Dry January will be dry in the way that 2012 was dry and as such will likely result in the permanent ‘Atlantisisation’ of large swathes of the West Country. Hurricane Brandy is expected to make landfall no later than January 9th.

Pint?