Monday, 5 January 2015

The Boy Done Bad.

Why is wrestling thought of as any less of a sport than the others? I've heard this so many times from sports fans. "Wrestling? That's not a real sport". I'm confused. It's not a real sport? But... But matches are rigged, players are paid way too much for what they do and they are adored by fans for doing something that is of no consequence whatsoever. Like football. Hmmm... Except wrestling doesn't seem to have quite as many high-profile rapists. Is that what makes it less worthy?

Clearly, I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm not in any way a sport fan and I will never, ever understand sport fans. I'm sure there are all sorts of rapists and murderers in the world of wrestling and I apologise to any fans if I insinuated there wasn't. There just doesn't seem to be as many as in the beautiful game of football. Those are the ones I hear about most anyway. To be honest, if it wasn't for violence against women, I wouldn't have a clue about sport. And I think that's what I can't quite get my head around. Tickets to watch other men play a game you're not allowed to join in with costs a lot of money. I just looked on a random footsie club website, Oldham Athletic FC, and saw they charge £42 to sit at the front row and watch them play their game thing with Doncaster Rovers. Surely no one on Earth can be possibly interested in seeing that? 42 quid! AND you have to do your own singing? No thank you very much, please. But footsie fans all over the country will pay that and more to support... What? I mean, it's not their local team, is it? It's just the name of their town with one or two players from the area among the other 15 or so (I really don't know how footsie teams work). You pay £42 to watch very wealthy men enjoy their hobby. You support these wealthy men, both financially and for their own morale, whether they score some goals or not. Or even if they're a rapist.

Of course, thankfully, plenty of footsie fans refuse to support highly paid sports rapists, and good for them, but nowhere near all do. Not even all teams or players refuse to support them. The manager of Oldham Athletic has said that his club are facing a "very difficult decision" as to whether or not they should sign sports rapist Ched Evans to their troupe. That is a heavy decision to make. If only there was a way to make this tricky situation better. If only, say, the club owner or the team coach or, I dunno, one of the other players could take the manager to one side and whisper in his ear "DON'T SIGN THE FUCKING RAPIST" then maybe his burden would be eased? But, like I say, I know nothing about sport. 

Thousands have signed a petition asking Oldham not to sign Ched but still (at the time of writing) the club haven't made a decision. Maybe they'll change their mind now that Verlin Rainwater Solutions has withdrawn their sponsorship of their main stand. Who knows? Maybe when it comes to rape, it's Verlin Rainwater Solutions that finally make people see sense. But go on Twitter and the support for Ched is clearly there. People happy to have their community represented by a rapist. The fact that Oldham didn't just immediately say no is also depressing. And sports journalism, something I know a lot about (I don't know anything about it), seems keen to back their sports rapist hero. I say sports journalism, The Daily Mail's Martin Samuel wrote "If we believe in redemption, Ched Evans MUST be allowed to play football again". No. We don't have to redeem him, he has to redeem himself. Martin has clearly got redemption and being-rewarded-for-raping-someone very mixed up. But I wonder if that's where my problem with all sport lies? It's the competition. Winning is everything. So if he wins, he's redeemed. If Ched Evans, the convicted rapist, joins Oldham Athletic and then uses his phenomenal skill to somehow get them through to the Embassy Snooker World Championships, is that all the redemption sport needs? 

I'm safer out of it, with my Doctor Who DVDs and my comics. Sport isn't for me. And if there was something good in sport then surely these people would stand up and say no to Ched Evans's return? Men... Sportsmen... Standing up, speaking out and making a united front against violence towards women. If there has been sportsmen speaking out then I deeply apologise. I can't find a record of any. Well done to Jessica Ennis and sports presenters Charlie Webster and Gary Lineker but it would have been better if some actual current sportsMEN spoke out. He had sex with a woman too drunk to know where she was after being texted "I've got a bird" by his friend, his brother watched through a window and tried filming it on his phone and after being convicted he didn't even do his time and yet still no footballers speak out? Why do you like football again? It's an unfunny old game. And poor Oldham Athletic still stuck with that difficult decision. Bloody typical! Don't you know the offside rule? YOU. DON'T. RAPE. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Satisfied, Thatcher?

I've never enjoyed the British Comedy Awards. I've never respected the "comedy talent" sitting there watching it, I've not liked the terrible cheap booze provided, the leery atmosphere is loud and embarrassing and my house is too draughty and smelly to enjoy a night of telly alone. Why I watch it three or four times every year is beyond me. 

The thing is, the British Comedy Awards actually offends me. I realise they're not supposed to be for me. They're there to backslap popular light entertainment. What has popularity or entertainment got to do with me? Nothing. I don't care that an entire awards ceremony is set up to acknowledge large viewing figures or huge DVD sales. There are plenty of sales figures and business achievement awards all year round and I don't get angry about them (although I still think I was robbed of the Vauxhall Dealership of the Year AGAIN). What I get cross about is the few, the very few, awards given to the ART of comedy. THIS IS A SALES AWARDS SHOW! WHY ARE YOU DRAGGING ART INTO IT?

Oh, it's happened. Not all these awards get thrown into dung. Some of the good ones get these things forced on them. Look at Nick Helm. The awards insult him by acknowledging him and he rises above it all by being the funniest thing on the night. Toast of London wins Best New Show when it clearly deserves better. So it's not like these people are ignored entirely. It's just they choose a few good ones. Chosen wisely to make the awards look cool, the very thing it joyously brags that it's not. Even Charlie Brooker has won British Comedy Awards but only after being told to shut his fucking mouth and brush his hair.

That's why I have to respect the awards, because this year they actually showed some respect. There are some talents out there that are just too important and deserve to be remembered for what they've given and who they are. And the awards know that. 

Rik Mayall's death in June was sudden and shocking. But his memory was the most celebratory thing of the year. No one has a bad word to say about the talent of Rik Mayall. He was unique, he seemed to come from nowhere and he actually changed people's lives. I'm one of those people. Whatever Rik saw as the norm growing up in the 70's clearly offended him and that's why, instead of ignoring it or (even worse) accepting it, he decided to destroy comedy and then rebuild it in his own image. Kevin Turvey came on TV and I fell in love. Like my dad seeing my mum for the very first time or, more likely, John Peel hearing Teenage Kicks for the first time, I realised then and there that Rik Mayall was what I'd been looking for. I had no idea how bad things were in comedy at the time but I'm so glad Rik did.

Kevin, Rick, Richie, Alan, Flashheart... Rik Mayall was perfect in all he did. Shouting, gurning, pointing to his willie and making confidence lose all belief in itself. He was beyond confident. He was bigger than Hitler, better than Christ. This week I heard that some of the cast of Blackadder didn't like him because, after every scene, he'd turn to them and say "Well? Did I win?". All that says to me is that the adored and hallowed halls of Blackadder meant nothing to him. "That's the best thing on telly? Well, fuck it then. I'll just have to be better". I love Rik.

Yes, it was the whole early 80's alternative comedy scene that changed everything but Rik was even above that. And, for once, the best was also the favourite. He meant something then just as he does now. And the British Comedy Awards respected that... By totally forgetting him.

No mention of Rik was made at the awards. There was a very quick "in memory of" written at the very start but he wasn't mentioned. There was no tribute and THAT is the greatest tribute the British Comedy Awards could give Rik Mayall. In the same year that James Corden was remembered by the Queen, Rik Mayall was forgotten, quite rightly, by the comedy establishment. I've never been prouder of him. Think he'd care? Go to bed, spotty.

Imagine if he HAD been mentioned? He'd be just like the rest. Horrible, horrible thought.

Brendan O'Carroll was named Comedy Writer of the Year at the awards and that's quite right. That's how it should be. The Queen acknowledges James Corden for his services to entertainment and that is great. He's far from the worst and the Queen is not the establishment. Not of comedy. The British Comedy Awards are. And they know that. I thank them humbly for their respect this year.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Are You Getting?

If I owned a shop it would be the greatest shop in the world. It would sell indie CDs and books. Oh, and Doctor Who DVDs and Marvel Blu-Rays. Vegan food too. And Converse shoes and psoriasis cream and beer and ventolin and paintings of my dog and it would be called Legge's and no one except me would ever be allowed in. 

It's not a great business model, especially in the current financial crisis (I have no money), but what Legge's would do is actually think of it's customers as individuals. Not everyone is an averagely healthy, Apprentice watching meat eater. Some of us are wheezing, flaking, TARDIS obsessed plant eaters with little regard for the welfare of their feet and a near romantic attachment to their pets. And Legge's would appeal to those exact people. Those exact people who are called Michael Legge and are me. It would be a small, local business (I see little point in opening this shop far away from me) that would care for individuals. Well, individual. But it would also spare a thought for the rest of the general public too by not letting them in and having a sign outside that reads "There Is Nothing Of Interest For You In Here".

Yes, it would fail but surely even that is the spirit of Legge's? My empire built in my own image. But at least Legge's wouldn't be the icy cold, money grabbing, uncaring corporation that we're used to. A faceless business that has no clue who we are. Today, Amazon sent me an email recommending I buy Ed Sheeran's album. If a friend did that to me, I would never have anything to do with them again until their funeral where I would read their bastard email out aloud and everyone would then take turns to boot-fuck the corpse around the cemetery and then I'd seduce their widow/widower (Legge's is an equal opportunity establishment). 

In this day and age of terrible online offers from corporations who think we're all the same and supermarket self-service tills that ask "Would you like some half-price Trill?", it is good to know that some of the smaller, independent businesses do understand and respect the little guy. I have a couple of friends who like to eat Sugar Puffs at 7pm. I don't like these friends but I'm happy that a place has finally opened up in London just for them. Two bearded, tattooed caricatures of everyone in Shoreditch own a cereal cafe and I found it very upsetting to see so many people online hoping for the cafe's failure just because it sold cereal. I wanted it to fail because the owners are clearly wankers. I'd have had less of a problem with the place if it was owned by The Wests. But then I'm not fussed on cereal or wankers, so that shop's not for me and that's fine. I like a place that can get what I want and is willing to go the extra mile just for me.

Two days ago, I fancied a Diet Coke. That's one of the things I like. I looked around Lewisham and saw that Legge's still hadn't opened so I sadly walked around to find somewhere that would have what I like, that would get what I want... Somewhere that knows me. And I found it.

A pop-up shop in Lewisham Shopping Centre. Perfect. I walked over and asked the enterprising young go-getter behind the counter for a Diet Coke. "No problem", he said. I liked that. I'd never been to this shop before but already they were on my side. They knew me. They knew I liked Diet Coke and I hated problems. Nice touch. I'm impressed. "Can or bottle?", he inquired.

A choice! This is a great shop. They know me well enough to know that sometimes I like Diet Coke from a can and sometimes I like it from a bottle. I don't feel like a statistic here. Like a nobody. I feel cared about because I'm thought of. It was lovely. "A bottle", I replied.

"Hmmm...", he said.

Uh-oh. Have we hit a problem? But... We were so close. He said no problem. He knew I wanted a Diet Coke. He knew I liked to choose what receptacle my Diet Coke comes in. This man KNOWS ME. I finally felt that a business had reached out to me and then I'm punched in the face with a "Hmmm"? What? Is there no Diet Coke? Is there only Diet Pepsi (ugh)? Is he going to recommend Ed Sheeran's album? "Hold on", he said.

Confidence back. He said "No problem" and he meant it. This was a business man who knew what made me happy and he cared enough to MAKE me happy. I asked for a Diet Coke, he said "No problem", he asked if I wanted a can or a bottle and when I said bottle he... He left the shop, went to another shop, bought a Diet Coke and then brought it back for me.

He left me standing in his shop for over a minute. I stood there, in HIS shop by MYSELF, for over a MINUTE. I even saw him in the other shop. He got his money out, he bought a Diet Coke and then he sold it to me. He could have said "We only have cans" like any normal, not insane person would have but instead he turned the whole buying-a-Diet-Coke thing into a pointless exercise in giving the people what they want. Why? Because he cared. He cared about the little man. He cared about me.

Anyway, I'm not going back.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Back To The Future 4.

And so it's not Christmas and what will you do?

As we awoke this morning we all discovered 2014's corpse lying in the bed next to us and its blood was all over our hands. Before the body was even cold, we couldn't wait to confess what we had done. "I had a tedious, empty 12 months and I'm only pretending that I'm in any way happy so that you'll feel worse about yourself", we all posted on Facebook. "It's been a rancid rhino ball of a year. Thanks for being part of it". Then just to prove we even had so much as a trace of a pulse in the last year, we listed our favourite things which were all way better favourite things than anyone else's favourite things. Best TV Programme: Russell Brand on Newsnight. Best Book: Russell Brand's book thing. Best Podcast: The last episode of Serial when Russell Brand brings that woman back to life and then fucks her.

I buried 2014 next to 2013 in an unmarked, shallow grave in my garden this morning. I do that every New Year's Day to each passing year except 1992-96 which I'm having trouble letting go of, obviously. I do this because I like to look forward. And by that I mean I like to want to look forward and then do absolutely nothing about improving my future. But 2015 is different. This year I mean it. I'm going to have a great year because I'm going to take risks and try new things. I'm going to travel and taste new foods. I'm going to ski and volunteer at an animal sanctuary. I'm going to learn Spanish and see the Northern Lights and watch The West Wing and hang out in a jazz club and climb a river and punch a mountain and read Tolstoy. Out loud. On the Orient Express. 2015 is my year, people. I will have no fear. I will accept all and rush with glee into the unknown. I will understand what the hell Robin Ince is talking about and I will only look forward. I will only see the future because, in 2014, my past sneaked up on me and whispered "Psst... Remember me?"

After 27 years, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine finally stopped a few weeks ago at the Brixton Academy. It was an incredible gig. All energy, celebration and it was properly sold out. You know those sold out gigs you've been to at the Brixton Academy? They WEREN'T sold out. THIS was sold out. They couldn't have squeezed another person in there. There wasn't any room for air. It was uncomfortable, unhealthy, dangerous and utterly brilliant. Jim Bob and Fruitbat are the youngest men who ever lived and the venue itself bounced to their every beat. On my way to the gig I thought if this really is going to be the last time I ever see Carter... I'm going down the front. 

I never go down the front.

Why would I? I'm 46. I'm supposed to stand at the back and judge, I'm not supposed to get involved. Maybe I shouldn't go down the front. I know my place.

But I really wanted to go down the front.

It's a stupid idea. I'll get hurt.

No. I won't go down the front. It's ridiculous. I probably won't be able to get down there anyway. And by the time I do, the gig will be over. No. I'll stay at the back and take notes on how I think the band could have done things better and then hand the notes to them afterwards, just like I always do. Mind you, they never thank you, these rock stars. Rude. Still, I'll just stay here at the back and tweet about the gig like I did with Kate Bush. No good can ever come from going down the front. I'm staying here.

Then Danielle Ward and Simon Evans turned up. "We're going down the front", they said.

Have you ever seen a calf in the middle of a stampede of cattle? That's what being down the front is like. Or like drowning when the sea is made of large, sweaty men and every wave pushes you, grabs you and punches you in the head. Once you finally get down the front (certainly of a sold out Carter gig) you know that you will never return. You want it to stop but you look behind you and the shore is so far away as another wave of huge men lashes against you, the taste of their salt water in your mouth. I lost Danielle quickly but I remember seeing Simon's smiling face bobbing up and down a few times before the waves washed me away and he was gone forever. Do Re Me, So Far So Good ends and the waves settle for a fracture of a second before Let's Get Tattoos begins and the tsunami returns. And all you can do is join in. You have no choice. If the sea bounces, you bounce. If the waves crash forward, you crash forward. If the ocean pogos and punches the air, you pogo and punch the air. While clearly dying you are clearly living. Why have I said no to this for so long? This feeling of fear and fun all at the same time? I haven't been down the front since my 20's. Why? It's utterly amazing. It's completely terrifying. I am at the gig. The people at the back are on Twitter and I'm at the gig. Kate Bush was right. "Put your phone away, get down the front. Let's go mental 'cos I'm gonna do Babooshka", she said and she was right. And that's when I got kicked in the face.

Thousands of people crowd surfed over my head that night, each and every one trying their very best to break my lovely neck. Then one large human bit of flotsam was carried by the waves and as he passed, he kicked me right in the face. Hard. It genuinely felt like he'd left a footprint on me. And did I cry out in pain? No. I thought "Aww... That takes me back".

I got kicked in the face and it made me nostalgic.

This is what a gig is about. This is what I used to be about. Going down the front and living. What's the point in going somewhere if you're not going to go there? What's the point in doing something if you aren't going to do it? You wouldn't go to a restaurant, order a meal and then stand as far away from it as possible and just look at it. But I do similar all the time. I half-do things. I stand at the back of gigs, I go to a new restaurant and order the food I definitely know, I go to a foreign country and ignore it by reading a book. I ignore books by just seeing the film. But not after being down the front at the Brixton Academy. Not after getting kicked in the face. I needed the 90's to come back and tell me that 2015 is going to be THE year. Looking forward, moving forward. My face got kicked back to the past so that I could see the future. He kicked me and it felt like a kiss.

I finally made it back to shore. I escaped the waves of large men and came out invigorated, changed and covered in sweat. I was reborn.

Ignore your lists of the past and your status updates about last year. Let's make 2015 THE year. And, hey, let's all dig a shallow grave in the garden because Michael Legge is dead. LONG LIVE MICHAEL LEGGE.

Not the one from Angela's Ashes.

Hello. If you really feel like you want to do something different in 2015 then why not give a try? Thank you.