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The Needy Bastard Diary.  Episode 24

By , March 24, 2016 3:06 pm

Good Friday everybody. 

There’s a definite end of term air about the place now. Suddenly two nights in Auckland have flown by in the rather beautiful Civic Centre and it even seems to have stopped raining. I have spent quite a lot of time just recovering from the recent spate of shows and the travel and huge picture windows afford me a view of Auckland Harbour, which looks about as close as I am likely to get on this peg leg. Also as it is Good Friday, or maybe as it is New Zealand, everything is shut. Locked down as tight as a nun’s nasty, as the Aussies say. They’ve all buggered off on a four day weekend, since they get the Bank Holiday on Monday as well. I’d like to report it’s because they are extremely religious, but I fancy it is more to do with stretching long weekends into even longer, and I can hardly blame them since I so frequently rant about the Yanks not taking any time off. However, even Simon, our token Canadian, and tour master extraordinaire, has been quite surprised at how hard it is to get people to work at weekends in Australia. They don’t even answer the phone. “Oh look mate I was at the beach…”

Here in New Zealand the clamp came down when they stopped serving drinks at the hotel bar at 11.30, explaining that they all had to be out of there by midnight. Some thirsty revellers tipped us off to a joint round the corner called The Glass Goose or something like that, and it was all happening, girls dancing, disco, and a large open air bar busy splashing out drinks. So when it came time to order another I was amazed to find that it too closed on the first stroke of midnight. Were all the waitresses Cinderellas who had to run home to hovels before their glass goose turned into a mouse? What the hell? “But it’s New Zealand” they say in that oddly flattened vowel, “ and it’s Good Friday.” When we pointed out that Jesus himself was fond of a good drink, holding large suppers and turning water into wine we got that slight smile New Zealanders use to both apologise and explain. So there we are, nowhere for the Needy Bastard to quench his thirst after a long show. Worst of it was I’d slept all day, completely knackered from my travails. So there was nothing to do but say goodbye to my old friends Jeff Lyons and Robin, and go to bed. As it was I slept fitfully and woke at dawn to begin packing for the end of tour, when all I do is take my little budgie smugglers off to Tahiti. No, I don’t wear Speedos, not any more, but I am headed off to meet the wife in Tahiti. She’s up in Brisbane holding Koalas, having achieved her goal of finally finding bats. All the flying foxes have been cleaned out of Sydney, and she likes to watch them by day, hanging upside down in the trees. She’s nuts for animals. Hey if you live with me you need some relief.

Outside my huge hotel window is what appears to be the lower stages of an atlas rocket in cement, but if you crane your neck you can see it is just the tower of one of those revolving restaurant things, where people hurl themselves off the edge on bungee cords. I guess the food’s that bad. Though I must say I have eaten rather nicely. We had so much fun the other night at Gusto that we invited the waiters to the show, and they came too. Not sure if the Qantas crew that John invited showed up or not. Anyway to our relief we were full again last night, and the Civic has a star field ceiling. I could spot Orion as it’s in my hemisphere but my plaintive cries of where the fuck is the Southern Cross fell on deaf ears. Perhaps because it’s Good Friday. On the show we pointed out that not many people in the audience had been crucified, but we had. For three days. Slightly chilling to turn up for work to find a cross with your name on it, even though there were bicycle saddles to relieve some of the effects of hanging up there all day. The worst was that fifty or so of us were up there singing “Always Look on the Bright Side” at the end of the Life of Brian and they only had three ladders, so there were plaintive cries from people desperate to be taken down for a pee.   Still it concentrates the mind wonderfully to have the experience of being executed in that fashion. One of the things the Romans ever have done for us I guess. Not that mankind has lacked for imaginative ways to torture and kill those whom it dislikes. It’s one of our great accomplishments.

I tried out a new song in Auckland and it went down very well. I was tired of doing too many filthy songs so I wrote one based on our Tour experience. Fuck Selfies, it’s called. And goes on to abuse the incessant selfie taker that takes up so much time. John and I are rather bad at stopping for autographs and shit. “Michael Palin would have come out” someone bleated on Twitter. Precisely.

Today came the good news that the Beeb are going to do the Show I have been working on for so long. They had been in that state of chaos when executives are changed and you get lost in the process, and I had begun to despair that it was all going pear shaped. But no. The ice is slowly melting and the glacier is drifting downhill again. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but here’s a clue: we stuck Professor Brian Cox in the show after the Galaxy Song, in a clip from O2 where he is run over by Stephen Hawking. It goes very well, as indeed it did at O2. But that’s all I’m going to tell you for now. It’s cheered me up no end on a day when we are trapped in a hotel with nowhere to go. Now at least I have some work to do.

So Happy Eater to you all.

The Needy Bastard Diary.  Episode 23

By , March 20, 2016 5:17 pm

A fond farewell to Australia.

The sun is shining on the brooding black Cathedral when I open my curtains on our last day in Australia. The black stone gives a sinister tone to the familiar classic arched and buttressed Gothic shape, with its spires and gargoyles. It evinces fear and threat rather than hope and enlightenment. Yesterday, though, the choir resplendent in red and white marched round the ground parading a rather modernistic Palm with red and white streamers. Ah Palm Sunday of course.

Last night I told the final Melbourne audience that as Tania and I came back from dinner on St. Patrick’s Day a whole convocation of very piddled prelates, priests and Catholic churchmen poured out of our hotel, seizing our taxi. And boy they were lit. Oddly I noticed that in the lobby of the same hotel there was a convention for the Boy Scouts. “Perhaps they are party favours” I said to Tania.

I’m not much of a Church man you can tell. In our Q and A we often get asked about our views on the Church and I try and be as gentle as I can. I say I prefer Science as it can be verified, and not only that but I think that the discovery of the many hundreds of Gods there have been on the planet was the Ape evolving and growing a moral dimension and an understanding of our place in the Universe and where we came from, and where it came from. In other words intelligence and morality and Science, and it is vital that Science is tested and not subject to clerical restraints. This discrete and reasonably modest opinion always results in a round of applause.

Of course I understand the need for people to believe in something, but I find my own sense of awe and wonder in our amazing and extraordinary Universe of which we have learned so much in the last half century, and which we continue to learn more about daily, and which is far more odd than God, and which makes a deity seem not only tiny but petty. We do go on existing after death, but only our atoms and our carbon atoms in particular which have already been through ancient star systems where they were created. We are quite literally star dust. More learning and less superstition please.

It shocks me just how backward America is in religion and their In God We Trust form of Exceptionalism. No love, God did not choose America to be better than anyone else and as to Happiness well you seem to have replaced that with the Pursuit of Fame and Fortune. Both worthless substitutes. Australians are far happier. They have a wonderful country and they take weekends off and decent holidays and travel and exercise and don’t feel the need to be armed to the gills. However, no society is perfect and sadly at the moment they are trying to repeal laws against bullying because they fear it is encouraging homosexuality….

When will the Right get over their homophobia? As The Reverend Whoopsie says in What About Dick, “Our Lord himself had twelve little male friends, all sailors, and nobody said a word…”

Anyway enough preaching. I’m sad to be leaving Australia which I have enjoyed tremendously. Even the fact that we just finished six shows in seven days has left us fairly buoyant. Melbourne spoiled us yesterday with an invitation to lunch for John, me and Tania on the 89th Floor of the Eureka Tower which not only offered us extraordinary views of the whole area but a nice view of the Formula One Grand Prix due to start later.

We were entertained by the close formation flying of six red and white jets spinning and swooping low over the race track and then a single solo grey jet spun and twisted and rolled and climbed and fell backwards in a flying ballet of great daring and beauty. I only just realised it was in fact a Flying Circus! We were also well above the many helicopters that flew into and around the Race circuit of Albert Park.

I hadn’t realised that lunch was to be a full seven course Degustation Tasting Menu with matching wines, and I was able to refrain from drinking for about two thirds of the meal, but in the third hour alas my restraint gave way to discreetly moderate imbibing. In the end we couldn’t stay for dessert as we had another sell out show to perform but it was a fabulous place to have Sunday lunch and it’s open at night for dinner and I can honestly say the food was exquisite. So thank you Christina Rich and if you want to see what the world looks like 90 floors up while wining and dining superbly then is the place to start.

I watched the Grand Prix on TV while emailing my pal Martin, who was
desperately trying to stay awake at five in the morning in France. John suggested not entirely seriously that all time zones should be done away with and some people just have to get used to living at night…. 

He is off today to introduce his Fawlty Cast to the Press, while I have to say farewell to the wife for a few days as she goes North to visit my son on the Sunshine Coast where it is apparently pouring.

So on to New Zealand, where I have only ever performed once in Not The Messiah with the Auckland Symphony Orchestra and Choir in 2007 and where I am optimistic that if I can insult the right people someone will name a sewage plant after me…..(because he is full of shit.) John so offended the good people of Palmerston North by suggesting it was the suicide capital of the world that they named their rubbish dump after him. I believe it is called Mount Cleese. I desperately wish to join this movement to rename rubbish dumps and trash heaps after Pythons. What greater honour could there be for comics? We have asteroids named after us, but a rubbish tip! That’s better than an airport. Those in authority please take note and let me know in whose general direction I should fart…


The Needy Bastard Diary.   Episode 22.

By , March 19, 2016 4:57 pm

There is a palpable end of term feeling here at Fawlty Tours. It’s not just me that’s on his last leg. Tonight we play our final gig in Melbourne. It’s been cold and rainy for days but as if to break our hearts Australia has turned on the sunshine. That’s nice for the Grand Prix which will be roaring away less than a mile from our hotel. I can never quite make up my mind about F1. Sometimes I think it’s very interesting and at other times I think it’s incredibly boring and just loud valet parking. My friend Martin in France watches every moment avidly, all the testing and the various Q’s, which I don’t understand at all and he emails me from Provence that he is watching live at 3.30 a.m.and is disgusted and amazed I show no interest in being there. John is hooked on the cricket and watches late at night, until convinced that England are going to be thrashed and then finds out to his chagrin in the morning that they turned it all round and won.
His wife announced something wonderfully bonkers in an interview in the UK. She said that everyone knows that John Cleese is her husband but what most people don’t know is that Eric Idle is her father. That’s a wonderfully silly quote and I use it on stage to remind John that as his father in law I order him to sit down and start the show instead of ranting on about marriage. Fish, as he calls her, is clearly very funny. I just hope that Momma Fish is happy with this, and that Poppa Fish is not coming after me for something I would have had to have done in the late 80’s. John’s in laws are actually younger than he is. In this club they join Terry Jones’ in laws. Michael meanwhile celebrates 50 years of being married to Helen in April, but as John points out cynically he hasn’t been home much. “He’s always on the road making those…….travel….programmes” he yawns naughtily.

While we are waspish about the other chaps there is quite a surprising degree of affection that comes through, and I think they would be surprised.

Melbourne has some nice late-night spots for food and drink after the show that we failed to find in Sydney. I guess they have curfewed Kings Cross. The first night we squeezed into The Supper Club and last night we met our friends Jo and Glenn Shorrock at Cumulus Up, where the food and drink was excellent. We had far too much fun as they had been “doing a Corporate” entertaining toy manufacturers and sadly not sex toys. Yes of course I asked. I ran away from our show early, skipping the vast line that has started to form outside the stage door with endless stuff to sign and selfies to take. Let’s make this clear. We don’t do selfies. We have banned the buggers. They are intrusive and annoying and take for ever, and then everyone wants one and then they take fucking hours because no one can operate their stupid I-things, then they give it to someone else who has it backwards and all this time you are grinning like a lunatic so you won’t come across like a cunt… So no more.

I was writing a little song backstage and I started to ad lib it on stage and John added the last line..

I’m the elf who invented the selfie

I’m an egotistical prick

I’m the elf who invented the selfie

Be in my picture click click…

There’s more which I haven’t quite finished but I think it’s time to fight back against this rampantly rude and intrusive waste of time. One guy pursued us through the airport and even ran ahead to snatch a selfie. What is it with these people? Don’t they believe they exist unless pictured next to some old celebrity fart? Oo look who I bumped into on Instagram. Get a fucking life.

I have been reading the questions from the audience at the intermission while John does his racist jokes lecture and I must say they are not terrible nice at all. Apart from the predictable tedious and boring ones – how did you get the name – will there ever be another Fawlty Towers – can you do the silly walk – there is quite a lot of abuse about showing up at all. They seem to think we are millionaires, that I am the wealthiest of them all, showing a profound misunderstanding of the nature of show business, but also that we are somehow gouging them by entertaining them for two hours. Have they never heard of “earning a living?” Ungrateful bastards. Not only that but the Melbourne audiences show a marked reluctance to stand up at the end. They do at the back in the cheaper seats, but the closer ones just sit there. Finally we get them after the encore, but we are used to a much greater degree of sycophancy if you don’t mind Melbourne. If you’re not careful I shall tell them your city was founded by Batman. True. A Mr. Batman who was famous for being a racist bastard who killed off most of the aborigines in Tasmania.

I’m sitting looking out at the sinister Gothic pile of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Was it a coincidence that on St.Patrick’s day this hotel was filled with drunken clerics at the same time as they were holding a Boy Scout convention?. Perhaps they were the party favours. It’s true I don’t like the Church. Any Church. It attracts the same kinds of people. A civil service for fantasists. And the damage they do to young people, their lives, and their knowledge of the universe. It’s shameful. Of course I would never say these things in public….

For what it’s worth I think people of Melbourne are more formal and behave more like New York while the Sydney-spiders are a bit more bonkers and behave like LA.

Tomorrow we move on to New Zealand where we play two nights at Auckland, some seats still available nudge nudge, before we travel overland, I should imagine by sleigh, to Wellington, home of the boot. Where all ends and we shall celebrate a Missa Solemnis and bid farewell to the antipodes. My wife deserts me to pop up and visit my son on the Sunshine Coast but we shall be reunited on the beaches of Tahiti where my personal tour continues, while poor John flies for 33 hours to Amsterdam, making his way up to Malmo, the home of the suicidal Swede in his filmed monologue. That should go over big.

Now it’s time to get out and see something of Melbourne. We’re going up the Tower to see what it looks like from a distance. So if you spot us, no fucking selfies, or we’ll push you over the edge….

Now the bloody bells are banging away…Oy Oy. Time to play the Python Sketch Church Bells.

The Needy Bastard Diary.  Episode 21

By , March 17, 2016 4:24 pm

Fawlty Tours 

I’ve decided that Fawlty Tours is the perfect title for being on the road with John. Although I’m not exactly Manuel material. The play version of Fawlty Towers opens in Sydney in August and stars our ex Australian Lancelot as Basil. I hope they have better luck than Spamalot did. It was always a tremendous disappointment the way it was produced here, for it opened very well in a wonderful production in Melbourne and then having spent (wasted) a fortune on lavishly shipping things and people back and forth from New York, instead of moving on to other cities they simply closed. The entire production. They said they couldn’t find anywhere else to play. Not Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth or Auckland. I couldn’t believe it.

Our New York producers, who knew everything about Broadway, sadly repeated the same pattern in London, flying people and costumes back and forth from New York, as if theatre had never been done before in the UK. The most egregious waste of money was they sent one actor all the way from Melbourne to Broadway to “show to” Mike. Because he was busy she was holed up in a NY Hotel for 8 days before he could hear her sing one song and then said “She’s fine” and she was flown all the way back. They did the same with costumes. For London they simply flew in a NY producer to sit in the UK for a couple of years to produce. Nuts.

Happily, shortly thereafter we split with the Producers, and now in conjunction with the admirable TRW we license performances all round the world. And instead of lavishly flying Broadway people in we permit them to make their own productions, like real theatre. This has worked very well in Spain, France, Mexico, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Japan, etc etc. It’s Denmark’s turn next year, although the Danish producers keep bugging me to produce a little promo film for their big announcement in May. I hesitated for a while as I misread it as a little porno film, and I felt even for Denmark that was too much, but now I get it. They want something for the launch about how thrilled I am they are mounting this in the homeland of the depressive schizophrenic ham. Alright, alright, I’ll get to it, but I am working you know. We haven’t got much longer on the road. Three nights in Melbourne, from tonight and then just Auckland and Wellington and we’re done and dusted. Mind you this tour has done very well. Totally sold out, and standing room in Sydney, and I don’t think there are any seats left here in Melbourne. I believe you can get into the second night in Auckland, but you have to bring a sheep. It’s a two for one deal.

Anyway I’m sure Fawlty will do very well here. Every night in the Q and A there are always at least eight questions about The TV Series. Usually all the same, about whether it will come back, or was Manuel really hurt. John never picks them, though he does talk about the production. As I say I think it will do very well and he comes back in August to keep a watchful eye on his players. It was first mounted very successfully in Scandinavia by our great Scandinavian Spamalot director Anders Moon, who made a huge hit of it. So there is a great precedent.

The one amazing thing John reveals to me is that while there are Fawlty Towers characters and dining experiences all over the world, that clear a million dollars of profit a year, they do not pay him a single penny! So I hope he cleans up on the play.

Fawlty Tours spent Saint Paddy’s day flying to Melbourne, where it was a lovely warm day and then I took the bride out to a nice romantic dinner in The Atlantic restaurant which is part of the new Crown hotel and casino which has magically arisen since we were last here. The food was excellent, but their “pours” were extraordinarily parsimonious. I asked cheekily if there was a wine shortage in Australia after one sommelier hardly reached the half way mark in a wine sold by the glass. Same with the wife’s champers, and she looked shocked. Barely half way which at thirty bucks a glass is a real rip off. Not good chaps.

Perhaps they felt we had had too much the night before in Sydney saying farewell, with the amazing Erica Gregan pouring. Now there’s a lass who knows how to fill a glass. We were sad to leave Sydney, it all went too fast, and the audiences were great. And now for the great St.Patricks hangover day it’s raining here. Ah well, a good day to catch up with correspondences and grumble about producers.