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The Needy Bastard Diary.  Episode 11.

By , February 28, 2016 3:57 pm

A Fun Sunday in Brisbane.
Last night was one of the best shows we have ever done. Our second show in Brisbane, our third in Australia but certainly one to remember. Saturday night at the Convention Centre was jumping and very full, but last night’s audience were as smart as a whip and with us from the start. Even when John’s radio mic started to make strange gun-shot noises it got funnier, as John dived under the desk to hide. I always love it when things go wrong, and so do the audience because you are really with them in that moment and they know you are ad libbing. As it was we were simultaneously relaxed and completely involved. The work we had done on the Saturday show brought the first Act down to 58 minutes, but last night we did it in 53. It was tight, and fast.

Adrian (Bohm) our thoughtful and kindly Promoter noticed too.

“Great show” he said at the end.

“I think we’re ready for Sydney” I said, ever the optimistic pessimist.  

A snobby thing to say I suppose since Brisbane had just given us three standing ovations on both nights. What I meant was, the larger cities demand more and you have to bring your best game. Yes we were funny in Florida but would we be funny in New York? I wasn’t sure. Now I think we might be getting there. Not that we’re going. Today we’re going to Adelaide, which is in the middle of a Comedy Festival, and we do two show’s tomorrow and Wednesday before heading on to Canberra. Our truck left last night and will only just make the show. Hopefully… 

Ours is an interesting evening because it is partly autobiographical and partly sketch comedy and partly ad lib sit down comedy. Now we are adding elements of bickering and banter, which the audience love. I got John totally in the Q and A, when he said he was thinking of coming to live a few months of the year in Oz with his wife.

“You’re going to live with your wife?” I asked naively and the audience howled so much John left the stage.

There is a sweet element of kindly bickering now, and even when we talk about the other Pythons there is a warmth to it. Yes we can stick the boot in, but it has affection, and recognises that we’ve known each other fifty years.

John telling my favourite story of his waking up Michael Palin on the phone in Helsinki and pretending to be a Norwegian journalist downstairs in his hotel waiting to interview him with a film crew is the best I have ever heard him do it. Michael protests that he is in his pyjamas, to which John says “The Norwegian audience will find that very amusing.” I won’t spoil it, because it has so many great lines in it, but John was masterful last night.

I started the day in the Opera Suite, yes honestly, at the Sofitel, by taking a car for a three hour drive around Brisbane. It’s a thing I like to do. You get some idea of where you are and Ray my driver was helpful and filled with useful information. For instance I didn’t know it was Queer Month in February here…

He drives me through Fortitude Valley and when I ask what on earth that was named after he says it’s the area the streetwalkers worked. Hooker Valley. Hm. Who had the fortitude? The girls or the customers? We pass Kangaroo cliff, and many odd pub signs, my favourites being The Bitter Suite, and The Foraging Quail. He takes me to The Avid Reader in West End, a lovely bookshop with a nice café, which seems to be hosting several reading groups. I pose for a photo with one of them, and ask what their book was like.

 “Not much good” says one chap, so I suggest they download The Writer’s Cut.

“It’s very short” I say.

“Oh we like short” he replies.

“And filthy of course.”

“Perfect” he responds.

Since I posed for a pikkie I think it’s the least they can do!

We pass the Four X Brewery, and Ray asks me why it’s called XXXX?


“Because they can’t spell beer.”

I laugh and tell him I’m going to knick that tonight, and I do in the Bruces and it gets a big laugh. Thanks Ray.

So we drive round the city and then on up to Mount Coot-Tha, which reveals splendid views of the entire area, and I finally get my bearings. There’s the Port, there’s the Gold Coast, that way to the Sunshine Coast. The broad Brisbane river threads like silver embroidery through the fast growing sky line. It’s only when you look at the display panels from 1866 that you realise just how fast Brisbane has risen. It’s wonderful at night Ray says, and I’m sure it is, but I have a date at the Convention Centre. However it starts a nice chain of thought about accusing Aussies of being ungrateful for their free passage out of the rainy shithole of England into their wonderful paradise. It goes over very well later.

“They didn’t even have to pay for their passage” I say in outraged terms.

“And what do they do to thank us?” John picks up, “Beat us at cricket.”

To end a wonderful Sunday, after the show I get back to the hotel to find the chef has left me some cheese and goodies and half a bottle of fine red and the Spurs game is kicking off live… doesn’t get better than that, with your pants on (as Mike Nichols would always add!)

The Needy Bastard Diary.  Episode 10.

By , February 27, 2016 3:40 pm


Got in from the Gold Coast Friday and had a night off. I missed being by the sea and wished I’d stayed on a bit longer but time and tide… in this case a severe rip tide, the result of strong winds from a nearby cyclone, had closed all the beaches. So we took the Bruce Highway (yes honestly) to Brisbane, a city that has risen even faster in the eight years since I was last here. BrisVegas the locals call it although it seems to have very little to do with that sad artificial place in the Nevada desert. It’s a real city, with history, and old buildings and a lovely water front. It’s a far cry from the old corrupt Queensland, and is now multi-cultured with a huge Chinatown.
 Saturday night the young crowds seemed to be out doing what young people should:  getting out of their heads and replicating….

The most obvious thing about Australians, apart from their sense of humour, is they seem very fit. Also they all take their weekends off. There’s no question they’re going to skip out on not going to the beach, so they’re relaxed, and happy. It’s not the relentless American pursuit of happiness which seems now to equate only with fame and fortune, neither of which, incidentally, lead to happiness. The world seems to be watching the American election process and going “Really? This is what we are supposed to be admiring? But it’s nuts…” Although John did come out with a nice rant about Australians having a new Prime Minister every few days, but maybe that’s a good idea.
Or maybe no one wants to stay in Canberra that long.

John was tired and a little sick after our Gold Coast opening, and stayed in, while Camilla, his long, elegant daughter had booked herself into some comedy sets (at The Sit Down Comedy Club?) so Simon, our Passepartoutian tour manager, booked us into a very nice Italian restaurant, Tartufo, where we ate and I drank, very nicely. When it came to paying however the Chef Owner Tony Percuoco would not hear of it. He refused to accept our money and asked only that I sign a couple of bottles of wine. Most generous.
And he cleverly alibied himself, saying he was too busy to come to our show.  It’s not that bad Tony….

Saturday morning John was feeling much better and we attacked the opening of the show. We felt we hadn’t grabbed them sufficiently from the off on the first night, and so we cut and pruned and made the whole first act go a lot faster. In the event, this was the right thing to do. Of course the audience was a lot louder, and a lot bigger, 2,900 in a mini amphitheatre set up, and we had the benefit of close up cameras, so even those in the distant rows could see us clearly on the screens, but still we got them from the off, and the new running order is much clearer, and tells the story of our 53 years much more simply. So it was a tight, bright Act One. We do it again tonight, so we get a chance to see what more we can do. I cut The Getty Song, because The Goldies seemed to have no idea what that was about (art) and I replaced it with a short rude number from What About Dick. It worked a lot better. Almost all my songs seem to be filthy and thank heaven for Garfunkle and Oates coming along and performing much ruder songs than mine. Check them out on U Tube if you don’t believe me. Also they are a lot easier on the eye…

My son came by our hotel in the afternoon and gave John and I needles before the show, so we both felt good and ready. I had foolishly gone for a walk in search of a bookshop which I never found, and so by the time Carey arrived with healing ointments and well placed acupuncture pins I was Sir Limpalot. Too bad he isn’t coming with us on Tour.

Tomorrow we head for Adelaide, where I understand the Comedy Festival is in full swing. I heard The Umbilical Brothers were in town and we have always loved them in our family. Also the extremely funny Ross Noble, though I don’t think we’ll get time to go to other shows as we play two nights and then head off to Canberra. I’m looking forward to both these cities as I have never been to either, and we’re not actually staying in Canberra but in some animal lodge. I’m booked into the Wild Life Suite, which sounds like a room in the old Playboy mansion, when that was the place to be, and not a sad reminder of age and exploitation.

Talking of age I was in Maroomba or Maloomba or Maboomba or something of that ilk on the Sunshine Coast and I went in to an art gallery with Adrienne, my son’s lovely lady. The young artist in there took one look at me and said “Oh the life drawing classes are on Thursdays.” Clearly old men gather there for a chance to Iook at naked models and he mistook me for another one of them. Sadly I was busy Thursday.

It is a sad business getting old, not for the faint hearted as somebody observed, but one thing that never fades is the admiration for the young and beautiful. Of course you have become entirely invisible, but still, the admiration lingers on.

As I quote Tracey Ullman from my play What About Dick.

“I like my vibrator but I do occasionally miss the disappointment of a real man.”

The Needy Bastard Diary.  9:   Surfer’s Paradise.

By , February 25, 2016 2:02 pm

Opening night. Jupiter’s Casino Gold Coast.
We are far too relaxed. This is the opening night of a tour and we ought to have been a little more tense. It’s good to be a bit scared before you start, but we’re not. We haven’t yet played any Australian audiences and before the curtain goes up at Jupiter’s Casino they are strangely quiet. Usually in America they are rowdy with expectation. Not so here. You can hardly hear them from backstage and this concerns me. We do get them a bit at the opening but then we make the mistake of putting another little film in about cats being scared by cucumbers, funny enough in itself but after our highlight reel way too much of us not being on stage. We’ll fix this by Brisbane on Saturday of course. Also we run long, a definite mistake in comedy.

When we come on we usually start by both talking at the same time but tonight for some reason John doesn’t speak at all, which leaves me high and dry, and so we confuse them. Eventually I welcome us to the Old Coast, which John corrects me is the Gold Coast, and we pick it up quickly enough but we’ll have to fix the front of the show, and we will. One of the things I love most about working with John is we almost entirely agree on everything and in about five minutes at the end we have it sorted. Personally I blame an enormous picture of Michael Bolton outside my dressing room door. He has the look of a man who isn’t quite sure he should have cut off most of his hair.

The show warms up as we get into it, and particularly once we start performing sketches. And the film clips work. There is some good stuff in here. Then again it is The Gold Coast and we I won’t know what that means until we have played Not The Gold Coast. Are they old, are they sober? Are they drunk? Not drunk enough? Too hot? Too cold? Don’t get me wrong, the show goes very well, the Promoters are very happy, we get a standing ovation, and we do an encore, and as Simon reminds me it’s way better than Sarasota where we started our Florida Tour, but we’re supposed to know what we’re doing by now. Incidentally Sarasota had one of the funniest questions when someone asked from the audience what it felt like to be two of the youngest people in Sarasota. They weren’t kidding either..

As if to make up for the slow start we end strongly, and John is particularly funny in the Q and A section, going on a rant about hotels folding toilet paper into little triangles, which he wonders might be some kind of Masonic thing, which is very funny and then another rant abusing Australians for having far too many Prime Ministers one of which was taken by a shark. Personally I think more politicians should be eaten by sharks, usually it’s them that are the Sharks. I think John is at his best when he goes off on rants like this. From somewhere out of the dim recesses of my mind comes the name Ainsley Gotto, who was blamed for the politicans demise: “It moves, it’s shapely and it’s name is Ainsley Gotto…”

Right off the bat in the Q and A John asks me if I know any poems, which is good as I like being put on the spot and I do know The Owl and The Pussycat which I do a bit of. He does Ogden Nash and I mean to follow up with my Australian mother in law’s (Madge Ryan) Ogden Nash favourite:

Shake and shake the ketchup bottle

First’ll come a little, then a lot’ll…

But I get sidetracked and go off somewhere else. This part of the show is always different every night and is dependent to a certain extent on the questions, one of which asks John for consensual sex with a 19 year old, but doesn’t mention the sex.   At this age, I say, who cares….

It turns out to be George Harrison’s birthday so starting off with a clip of him appearing on my old show Rutland Weekend Television goes over well, and I follow with another story of him, but on the fly I shorten some of what I was going to do in my solo spot as it’s getting late. There are far too many rude songs so I lose one. Olivia Harrison said of George’s appearance on that RWT show that she thought it was the bravest thing he ever did. Sadly I’m missing her and Dhani at George Fest in LA, though Tania and Lily are there and text me that it is a fabulous evening: a film Dhani has made of other people singing George songs with him. Hope I can get to see it soon.

I spent most of the day by the pool at the hotel getting relaxed for the evening. They have two pools, one of which has sand, and sea water and real fishes in a reef. This Marriot is a nice hotel and I’m glad I’m not commuting from Brisbane. It even has a circular bathtub in a triple window, where I sit running over my lines. But I don’t shave my legs. Or my chin actually as now I have a beard, which brilliantly saves me from having to use make up on stage. It’ll have to go of course when the wife gets here. She can’t stand it.

One of my regular tweeters – a Jonathan Trevithik – turns up and is very pleasant. He is a total fan, having been to O2 in London three times, and he is very happy with the show but also interesting, and it’s good to get a take from the audience. One over-ardent fan does not show up however. Some young lady has been faking letters from the Promoter to the venue, trying to get herself onto a Guest List with four backstage passes, pretending to represent us and even claiming to be driving us to the gig. Luckily various inconsistencies were spotted between the Promoter, the Tour Manager and the Casino security, as she made one or two mistakes, but she created false email addresses and false phone numbers and wrote to the Promoter and the theatre and they were all more than a little pissed off and concerned enough to contact the Police, so I hope this ardent con gal has learned her lesson and keeps her head down. I’d hate the plod to be knocking down her door.

 So there we are, up and running, and tomorrow and Sunday we play Brisbane, at the same venue where we played Not The Messiah back in 2008. This time we won’t have an enormous orchestra and a full choir, so please do make some noise to make up for it….

The Needy Bastard 8.

By , February 24, 2016 2:14 pm

Surfers Paradise.
This is rapidly turning into the Magical Luxury Tour. I go from the calm and peace of a cabin in the woods in the lovely rolling hills of the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast into a Louis The Four Star Palace in the sky.

I had not visited Surfers Paradise before but it’s somewhat like Miami, though the high rise buildings are more modernistic. Less Miami than Fort Lauderdale. And not a trace of Art Deco. (The most famous hair dresser in Miami.)

Not for the first time I bless the saintly Major Cleese for including me on this expedition. A journalist yesterday tried to get me to dump on him, and I genuinely couldn’t think of anything nasty to say. Anyway that’s their job. My job is to not read them.

From my enormous luxury bed I have the balcony windows wide open to catch the fresh air from the rolling breakers of the Pacific Ocean. Not a surfer in sight. It’s more a surfer free paradise. But they’re probably all still in bed with each other. Through the enormous luxury bathroom with hot tub and spa there is an enormous picture window that shows me the entire range of coastal hills. Two perfect balloons float gently by.

There are two pools here, one of which contains fresh sea water, has a beach and includes a reef with real fish, which they feed every morning. The fishy buffet was excellent last night although my son and I got stuck into the Caiparhino’s so we were in a pretty good mood to begin with.

No wonder they call it the Gold Coast. It must cost a ton putting us up here.

Luckily we’re sold out at Jupiters, which is where our tour opens tonight and which turns out to be a huge Casino undergoing refurbishment. John and I are also undergoing refurbishment as we try and remember what we are supposed to do on stage. It’s a gentle afternoon run through of our strange show, and our promoter tries not to look too panic stricken as we wander around on stage pretending we know what we’re doing.

The amazing Simon, who is not a magician, but close, makes everything perfect before we get there. Lighting, sound, guitars, video cues, all perfectly in place. He is our stage manager, a Canadian, whom John relentlessly teases and who is as good natured as could be.

My son Carey, who kindly drove me here, manfully sits through our stagger-through and is surprisingly encouraging. He may give both of us acupuncture before the Brisbane show…

What sort of show is it? Well it’s an odd beast, a feathered camel, a flying donkey, a floating piglet, an underwater eagle, gourmet spam, somewhere between Jerry Lewis and geriatric..… hard to describe, but quite fun to do. It’s never the same twice, or as John puts it “It’s never the same once.”

We have called it sit-down comedy, because there are large leather arm chairs in which we sprawl, but don’t worry, we do stand up from time to time, and we do try to make you laugh. It’s somewhere between a discussion, a clip show and a revue. There are a few sketches and I do a few songs, and that is why today’s entry will be very brief. I must work on my words. One of the sketches is a Memory sketch and for about the first two weeks of our Florida Tour people couldn’t tell whether we had genuinely forgotten our lines or whether it was part of the sketch. A very useful cover, because of course it was the former, but they laughed anyway believing it was the latter.

This time I’m trying something new in my solo slot – what, you’ll remember your words? No. I’m going to use a clip of George Harrison and sing along with him in the only song we ever wrote together. Comedy buffs will know what this is, but it is a genuine Harrison/Idle song and I won’t give away the joke. We each have a 20 minute solo slot in Act Two before we reunite for the Q and A. I asked if this time it could be T and A, but sadly it’s not that sort of show.

So now I genuinely must stop and rehearse. Well perhaps a swim, and then a huge breakfast, and then a massage,.. No I must be strong. You wouldn’t catch Michael Palin enjoying himself on his tours. I must prepare for my audience. The show must go on…. It all starts at 8!

Sphincters crossed.