The Pink Bear is History – Rock History.

This is just a quick blog post to say that, although I will be writing more blog posts, I won’t be writing them on this blog (not that I had been). I will however be entertaining you all in a slightly more ‘in-character’ way at my new blog Robin Fry- Rock Historian. Go there now for far more of an explanation than this has been. I promise I will be more attentive this time.

I Bin Busy, Ain’t I?

Ooh dear, it has been a long time. Just checking in to say the Fringe was fun, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest opened last night and was fantastic, and once the run is over I will attempt to start blogging again, I promise!

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Dolphins are Wankers

Just a short post as I’m a bit tired, boo hoo poor me, and I have to prepare for compering another Rabbit in the Headlights tomorrow night – come along!

But I just have to mention Brand New Comedy, a new social network for aspiring and jobbing comedians and anyone else who is or would like to be involved in the comedy world. If that’s you, please join so we can make it a great place for comedy performers, writers and promoters to share info, find venues and shows, and get a warm bowl of soup and somewhere to rest for the night. Except the last couple of things.

Kromwell’s Theory

Last weekend my esteemed friend and fellow Pink Bear the filmmaker Bill Rodgers decided we should enter the 48-Hour Sci Fi Film Challenge, which meant once again we were making a film with little time for preparation and making the best of what was available in terms of actors, props, and locations (which, if you hadn’t already worked out, is just how we like it). Of all the films the Pink Bear Club has made since forming last summer, this would turn out to be the most challenging yet.

While Billy is a veteran of these kind of crazy shenanigans, I’m still pretty new to this sort of thing, although we had all been involved in another film competition entry of Billy’s a couple of weeks before.

This one started with the PBC’s resident arsekicker, the lovely Ruth Harper, getting a train up to London for the launch on Saturday. While there she had to pick a title, prop, and line from a hat, all of which had to be used in the film. We got the following:-

  • Title: Kromwell’s Theory
  • Prop: Boiling kettle
  • Line: “Slow down sugar! Now, you see that hole…”

Yikes! Nothing could be prepared beforehand, of course, so as soon as these snippets of information were relayed to HQ Billy and the rest of us put our addled minds to work. I’m not going to go over the entire plot here, suffice to say one was come up with, mostly by Billy and his talented nephew Al (who did our fantastic title animation).  So Bill had just under two days to ‘script’, shoot, and edit a 3-5 minute sci-fi film.

Of course, we needed some actor, mostly to play militaristic bounty hunters wearing gas masks and carrying obviously fake guns made of plastic shell carriers with barrels glued on them (we didn’t want to get arrested as terrorists, after all). We were already one down as Pete was in Northern Ireland visiting family. As is normal when you do things at the last minute, most people were busy or couldn’t commit much time, so I put messages up on Twitter and Facebook asking for help. Within minutes, I had a response from someone on Twitter who lived locally and kindly volunteered the services of her husband for the evening’s shooting (the main scene occurs at night). Alistair and another of Billy’s nephews, Joe, were also on board.

We couldn’t have asked for a better class of ‘volunteer’. From the moment he turnd up, Andy was helpful, patient, and willing to throw himself into whatever mad nonsense we were letting him in for. He also looked far more like a soldier than myself and Joe, both of whom were rather scrawny in comparison (at least Joe has the excuse of being a growing teenager). After a few hours’ faffing we made it up to the same bit of scrubland where we had shot the Gertchin sketches about 6 months ago, only this time it was much darker…

…and noisier. When we got there we found there was some sort of mini-festival going on – or at least there was a large number of space cadets with dogs on strings dancing round a big fire to the Dub that was coming out of their massive sound system. Once they’d established we weren’t police (our uniforms nearly set off a riot) they pretty much left us alone.

We managed to get the night stuff shot in about an hour and a half, with Ruth and Jen on hand with sausage rolls and flasks of tea and coffee. The rushes looked suitably eerie and atmospheric, even if they were soundtracked by Prince Far I. We needed some day footage in the same location, using a different character (Kromwell himself, in fact), and as my face hadn’t been seen behind the gas mask billy and I agreed to meet up first thing next morning to shoot it. Which meant we managed to get in a few hours of sleep!

We shot the Kromwell scenes at about 8:30 Sunday morning. The party was still going strong, and we got slightly more attention from giggling crusties than we had the night before. They were all very friendly though so that was cool – when they saw me turn up in a silver suit and gas mask they probably thought the aliens had finally come to take them away.

Simon Plotkin then turned up and joined myself, Joe, Al and Billy for some more filming at Shoreham Harbour, while Ruth sorted out soundtrack and sound effects. I managed to play a third character in this film as I had my back to the camera at all times. Simon added his usual mix of mania and gravitas to a small but pivotal role. It was then all back to Brighton to record a bit of dialogue with Ruth.

That evening Jen popped over for the final bit of filming (which had been scheduled for that morning but Billy and I had faffed around in the bushes for too long), which included the mandatory line. We were then able to leave and go home to bed, while poor Billy stayed up all night editing the whole thing together. By all accounts he and Ruth then had a bit of a nightmare getting it on to disc and submitting it to the competition, but got it done with a full 10 minutes to spare. Eek!

Having now seen it I can say I’m pretty proud of what Bill and the rest of us managed to achieve in 48 hours. It’s also Pink Bear Productions’ first stab at something that isn’t intentionally funny, and it’s nice to be able to say we’re branching out, although most of our comedy is like bizarre sci-fi anyway. Thanks to everyone involved for giving up their time and being up for it. Whatever the result of the competition, we’ve definitely made something interesting.

Update: Take a look  at Will Howell’s blog for the story of another team’s entry.

The Voice of Mr T

My Twitter profile claims that, amongst other things, I am ‘the voice of Mr T’. No one has ever questioned the validity of this statement, probably because no one has ever noticed it, or maybe people just think I’m trying to be a bit leftfield and whacky.

But I’ve actually treated those 160 characters as a tiny CV of my career in entertainment (my real one is hardly any bigger), and the statement is actually sort of true. Well, obviously it isn’t at all true, but there is a truth behind it. I wouldn’t claim to have voiced any other ’80s TV legends, because I haven’t. Yet.

But, on and off over a period of about two years, I voiced Mr T on my friend Guy Lloyd’s radio show on Brighton’s Juice FM. So it’s kind of true.

It started when Guy and I were both in the Maydays (see previous post) and he asked for some ideas to use in his show. He particularly wanted a different angle for the ‘celebrity gossip’ part of the show (it is local radio after all). So I came up with the idea of Mr T, phoning in every Saturday morning from the call box in the trailer park where he now lived (this was pre Snickers ad revival and the real T hadn’t been heard of in some time).

This was no ordinary trailer park, though. This was the Beverly Hills Residential Vehicle Encampment, a trailer park to the (former) stars owened by none other than (in T’s words) “Mr David Hassahoffa”. T’s neighbours were such luminaries as Corey Feldman, Kirstie Alley,  “that lil’ boy what plays Mini-Me” (Mr T had a hard time understanding why he never seemed to get any older), and “that lady from that movie The Cryin’ Game, you know, the one with the winkie”.

Naturally, in T’s regular 3-minute slot he spent very little time on the genuine celebrity gossip (which suited me just fine as ‘research’ was just a quick skim of some celeb goss websites on a Friday afternoon) and quickly turned the topic to the latest goings-on in the trailer park. He formed a Monkees tribute band with his best friend and neighbour Dolph Lundgren, along with Mark Hamill and “that crazy foo’ from Police Academy what makes all the noises“. We learnt about his disastrous first date with Kirstie Alley (“She sho’ likes fried chicken”), his efforts to cheer up the younger residents of the camp by erecting a tyre swing (“that Macaulay Culkin just sits on there for hours an’ laughs an’ laughs”), and his possibly unfounded conviction that Daniel Craig had stolen his career.

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed my stint as Mr T. So did Guy, as did Andrea, who joined him as a presenter when the show moved from Saturday afternoon to Saturday morning (they’ve now been promoted to the weekly breakfast show, which probably has nothing to do with Mr T’s contribution). Mr T developed an immediate crush on Andrea, even writing her love poems, with the help of Mark Hamill. He even got to do his own Christmas Day speech, which of course mostly revolved around life in the trailer park (“this year, some people have been lucky enough to have a change of fortune and move out, like Mickey Rourke and the Backstreet Boys. Other stars have fallen on hard times and moved in, like Matthew McConaughey, and the Backstreet Boys”).

But although the three of us enjoyed it, I’m not sure what the listeners thought (or if there even were any). The radio station had a meeting and decided to drop the Mr T bit because it was “too intelligent” for their audience (which is very insulting to Juice FM listeners). T was snuck back in every now and then for an update (he was last heard of filming a remake of Bergerac in Hawaii, with his old A-Team buddy Dirk Benedict as Charlie Hungerford).

I voiced Mr T on the radio between 2004 and 2006. I got no money for it and very few people heard it, but it was a lot of fun. I was constantly being promised the digital recordings of his broadcasts, but they never materialised, so I have what is probably the only evidence on a couple of old tapes under my bed. But I will always have a little bit of Mr T in my heart, which is nice.

And when my young daughter saw an episode of the A-Team for the first time, she couldn’t believe some crazy fool had ripped off my act.

Terry Bunt

Terry Bunt is a 36 year old cab driver who lives and works in the city of Liverpool. He is a deeply angry man.

What makes him angriest of all is the wretched way he feels the people of Liverpool have treated one of their own – namely, the Incredible Hulk. Terry Bunt feels very strongly about this, very strongly indeed. He simply cannot understand how lesser scousers like the Beatles get praised heaped upon them when the Hulk doesn’t get so much as a mention. It upsets him a great deal.

He also can’t abide human beings with the heads of dogs. He insists this is not due to any racism on his part, but in his experience people with the heads of dogs all act like they’re better than everyone else, and he doesn’t like it.

These are just some of Terry Bunt’s issues. He has so many issues now that he’s started to keep a video diary. When he’s sussed out the Internet and made sure it’s not a device through which Daniel O’Donnell can manipulate his thoughts, he’ll start posting them on YouTube. I’ll let you know when he does.

Improv, Part 2

Tomorrow sees the first Off the Cuff rehearsal in a proper rehearsal space in a few weeks (we’ve had some venue issues recently). It’ll be good to get back to regular rehearsals – we do rehearse, not because we plan what’s going to happen in the shows, but because like everything it’s better if you keep up the practice.

Anyway, we’re still performing short form improv shows on the first Wednesday of every month at the Brunswick in Hove, and we’ve also confirmed some dates (six, I think) for the Brighton Fringe at the Sanctuary Cella.

I wasn’t an actor or even a comedian before I first started doing improv, nearly five years ago. I wanted to be a writer, and mostly wanted to write comedy, but had no interest in performing whatsoever.

In an attempt to improve my writing ability I went to some evening drama classes, where I met someone who was in an improv troupe called the Maydays (no link, just noticed their website is down).  I went to see them do a show in which everything was totally made up by the actors absed on suggestions from the audience. I thought it was amazing (having worked and improved along with them for three years, I can now confirm it was not actually very good at all). Anyway, one of them convinced me in the pub afterwards that I should go to one of their weekly classes, so I did, thinking I’d take advantage of the free first lesson then bugger off.

What happened instead was I became hooked, and found to my surprise that I could be quite good at performing spontaneous comedy. I ended up going every week and was lucky enough to be asked to join the Maydays after a few months.

Like I said, I worked, learned and performed with the Maydays for three years. I learned absolutely loads about improvising and performing in general. Through them I also got some acting jobs, started performing stand-up comedy, and even started teaching improv classes myself.

In fact, I learnt so much that I developed some quite strong opinions about what I wanted to do creatively, and how I wanted to do it. I started pulling in a different direction from the Maydays and eventually we parted ways. I got bloody loads from the time I spent with them but the majority of the rest of the group wanted to go in a very different direction. Best of luck to ’em.

After six months of improv cold turkey I was lucky enough to find Off the Cuff, whose more relaxed and anarchic approach to improv suits me a lot better. That’s where I met most of my Pink Bear Club cohorts too, so it really was lucky. What can I say? We just have chemistry – like Dr Jekyll…

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