Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Long time, no blog

Well hello, and how are we all?

I haven't blogged for over a month so I thought I should check in. I know, I know, the arrogance. As though people are standing by with bated breath, waiting for little old me to say something.

At least I know my unsolicited ramblings are just that, so I guess that makes me as wise as Socrates, and more self aware than 99% of internet dwellers. Huzzah.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room eating a Wispa and a packet of bacon crisps for dinner - I don't know if Socrates ever did that - I offer this bit of, apparently pointless information purely by way of giving context.

Nowadays I am busy. Really busy. Like all the time. I've had a headache for about two months. I take tablets, go to bed, and wake up with a headache. I'm always tired. Tired enough to sleep tired. All the time. Stupid recession. Everyone who hasn't been laid off is left behind to do quadruple the work. Hence no blog action until I do an overnighter in Leeds, where I'm alone and eating a scurvy inducing diet.

Say it with me now, the mantra of the moment: "At least you've got a job"

Yes. However overworked and stressed we all are, we can at least whimper that before we collapse in an exhausted heap at night eh? While the axe still looms over us, threatening to take even that away...

Cheery aren't I? Bet you wish I hadn't resumed blogging. Ok, I'll change the subject to something more upbeat: BULLSEYE!

James and I have had a weird couple of weeks watching our Bullseye Tumblr go viral.

It started out as a little pet project. Us taking photos of Bullseye contestants who captured the spirit of the age, and also the spirit of the show (that of awkward misery) and sharing them with friends. We had about 3 proper followers.

Then it got picked up by Sabotage Times, Anorak, Popbitch, B3ta, even The Independent tweeted it. Our followers went up to over 500 in a week.

Sabotage Times then asked me to write a piece for them about it, which you can read here. And Anorak offered me a job writing TV and showbiz articles!

The moment I knew it had gone truly viral though was when the link got forwarded around my office and I got a bemused email from a colleague saying "erm...is this you?"

In other news, James and I have 7 pieces featured in the Viz annual and their Anus Horribilis book.

If you want to check out our articles they are as follows:

Viz annual
Page 9 - Where Are They Now?
Page 23 - I'm Too Sexy For My Lease
Anus Horribilis
Page 153 - Fanny Batter's Hollywood Jigsaw Gossip
Page 190 - Snack Attack!
Pages 202-203 - Who's The Best Hawk/s?
Page 260 - Pear Postbag
Page 375 - Ghost Box

Speaking of Viz, the past couple of issues they've taken to giving over a quarter of the letters page to me, which feels peculiar but is very flattering of course.

This is from last month's issue:

I haven't seen this month's yet, but James informs me that the letters in this issue are about me rather than from me. Intriguing, and not a little worrying!

I'll blog a scan of that page when I get home.

And finally! I did an interview with Richard Herring last week for his show 'Richard Herring's Objective' where he takes something contentious or taboo and tries to be objective about it.

In episode two of his new series he's covering disability and wanted to pre-record an interview with me because in addition to having a disabled brother, having worked and volunteered for Mencap and having written about disablism, I also used to be a stand-up comic and so have a view on the disabled jokes I've seen on the circuit.

I really enjoyed the interview, we covered a lot of issues - which I won't go into here as I've blogged about this subject a 1000 times - and when I went along to the live record, quite a bit of my interview had been used, which was great (although it obviously won't all make the final cut)

I tell you, it's not until you sit in a theatre and hear your own voice booming around you, that you realise what you really sound like.

Turns out I sound like Dr Girlfriend from Venture Brothers...Google it.

The show content and our interview couldn't have been more timely, as they took place in the week when Ricky Gervais started going to town on using the word 'mong' on Twitter.

When challenged Gervais said that it didn't have an association with disability anymore and he was reclaiming it.

(I eagerly await his brave attempts to reclaim the word 'wog' and 'paki')

He didn't make clear what it was he imagined 'mong' now meant, and undermined his position ever so slightly by posting photos of himself doing a 'mong' face.

The same face that was pulled in my direction all through school by people who seemed to think it hilarious that my brother was born brain damaged.

I remember coming to class once, and everyone was waiting for me. The floor had been cleared to make way for two girls, one sitting in the teacher's swivel chair, the other pushing her along, like she was in a wheelchair. As she was pushed along the girl in the chair did the whole 'spaz' act; stuck her tongue out, twisted her limbs up, made noises, drooled. All in my honour. Then everyone laughed at me. Like I was the one worthy of being mocked in that scenario!

When I would go shopping with my family, kids my own age would follow me and my brother around laughing at him, pointing and saying 'spastic' 'mong' 'retard'.

I dunno, maybe I just don't have the winning sense of humour that Gervais does. Maybe they too were masters of irony.

Even if he is being ironic, his followers are not, and are tweeting 'mong' left and right with childish glee. One person tweeted to Gervais "I love it when you say mong" Huh? What, just the word, in and of itself? Easily entertained much?

Richard Herring, bless him, stuck his neck out and suggested that these kind of words are hurtful and that the climate being as it is - 9 out 10 learning disabled children being bullied, a 20% rise in disability hate crime this year including murder, the list goes on - that it was no joke and not something to be taken lightly.

Because of this interjection, Richard's been suffering a barrage of foul mouthed abuse from Gervais' fans over Twitter ever since.

I think that tells you all you need to know about the kind of people who are following Gervais and how reckless he is being to encourage their casual use of hateful words. Reclaiming? My arse. These people are using that word at face value.

As usual there are cries of 'freedom of speech!' merely because people are suggesting it's not the best thing in the world to be saying.

Give me a break. Your freedom of speech is not being threatened in the real sense. Unless the secret police are coming for you in the night, you are merely being engaged in a debate, not oppressed.

Questioning people's right to question you, and labelling it a freedom of speech matter is supremely ironic. But as we've established, these people don't do irony.

Yes, you are technically free to say whatever you so wish, however there's this little thing called civilization which requires people to put a filter on what they say out loud, lest we go all 'Lord of the Flies' on each other asses. Without that filter, there would be no society, we would all be walking down the street pointing at everyone we passed saying "Fat...Ugly...Punching above your weight there mate...Cunt"

Wouldn't work would it? The only people who operate on that flawed basis are those annoying types you get on Big Brother, you know the ones, who say "what you see is what you get with me, I tell it like it is, if I don't like you, I'll tell you"

They will then openly insult people all day long and expect to be hailed as a hero for it.

Who wants to be that person? Defiant in their pig ignorance and their abject rudeness; aspiring to nothing.

I'll finish on a little anecdote.

I've been struggling with my feelings towards Gervais for a long time now. I loved the XFM years and The Office. I thought he dealt with reactions to disability really well in the latter. Brent's behaviour towards the employee in the wheelchair was so well observed.

He did sail quite close to the wind in his stand-up sometimes and that made me recoil a bit, but I thought he was smarter than that and concluded it must have been done with irony.

Then I met him. Or rather didn't. And had to conclude that, yes, he is just a jackass. Here comes that anecdote. I've been sitting on it out of respect. It's not classy to bad mouth other comics. But I am no longer a comic and he no longer deserves my respect.

So, I did some stand-up at the Bloomsbury Theatre a few Christmases ago. I was really excited about it as I was on the same bill as Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Mark Thomas, Josie Long, Chris Addison, loads of really good people. Gervais was also on the bill.

We had a massive green room, full of food and stuff that we were autographing for auction. As it was Christmas there was a lovely festive feel and everyone was having fun backstage.

I was waiting for Gervais to turn up but he never did. After a while it was explained to us by the organiser that he refused to share a green room with anyone, in case we bothered him. Can you imagine Stewart Lee going all fan boy over Ricky Gervais? Please!

They'd had to make him up an impromptu dressing room out of one of the spare rooms backstage. Food and drink was removed from our room for him, and the stuff to be autographed was collected and taken to him when we were all done signing it.

When the show started we all stood in the wings, cheering each other on and watching each others' sets. Then the organiser informed us that Gervais didn't want anyone standing in the wings when he was on, and that we were all to go back to the basement dressing rooms before and during his performance. Twenty performers, many of them top names, being bossed about by this diva-ish man.

I thought 'screw that - you don't tell me where to stand' so I hid behind a giant beanstalk (panto season!) and waited for him to go on.

He emerged from the dressing room area, with a miserable face on him, and did a quick check of the wings to make sure no oiks were hanging around. He didn't find me. Don't know what he'd have done if he had.

Oh and he had a man following him, carrying his bottled water. All he was missing was a chiuaua in a bag.

What a jackass. What a shame.


Anonymous said...

Great blog, completely agree with you re: Gervais. His stubbornness to refuse he's wrong in using that awful word is ruining his legacy. Perhaps he thinks he's being a bit Lenny Bruce but he's way off the mark. It's like uncle Ben said (the one in spiderman, not the rice magnate): "with great power comes great responsibility".

Looking forward to the new Viz.


Nick (@mavroboy)

Brian said...

It's a shame you didn't do the "ghost routine" - you know, peeking out from behind the beanstalk and pulling faces, and hiding back when the kids scream "behind you!". Gervais's career is almost a tragedy. It seems he can only play himself, but "himself" was once an endearing oaf, and is now a monstrous ego-ogre.

FriendlyDragonSpouse said...

Well said. I've always had misgvings about Gervais. I'm no prude or killjoy, and the odd 'sharp-intake-of-breath' moment in comedy is to be expected unless you're going to be McIntyre bland, but there's always been an element of cruelty to him that I've struggled with (the same goes for Little Britain, I'm afraid). I won't watch An Idiot Abroad - I'm afraid the trailers just portrayed it as prime-time bullying.

By all means pick on those in power, prick their pomposity, highlight their hypocrisy (and, in the case of the current government, corruption), but what kind of 'comic genius' needs to stoke the general public's prejudice towards the powerless?

With a public discourse which is increasingly hostile to disabled people, comics have a unique place in people's affections and can challenge disablism rather than promote it.

It's been heartening to see how many of the comics I like and admire have been standing up for disabled people. It doesn't take much to admit your mistakes, so why is Gervais finding it so hard?

I recently posted an angry tweet in which (it was pointed out to me) I'd used an anti-semitic term. I could have probably defended myself by saying that the term and its derivation are now weakened by time and usage, but I recognised that I should have engaged brain as well as heart before tweeting in anger, and immediately apologised.

Your anecdote confirms what I've suspected about Gervais for some time. I'm just sorry to be proved right.

@enigmabombe said...

Let's suspend all rational thought, and inclusion of evidence to the contrary, and assume that Ricky Gervais is a genius. After all, The Office was good wasn't it.

He routinely exposes the unfairness and lack of equality in society by saying things which, if taken at face value, may seem to be ridiculous or even needlessly offensive. But they're not, though. They are clever. And he does it all with a natural ease which creates the illusion that he himself actually thinks the thing it is he's saying. You can tell that he doesn't think them though because he pulls a bit of a face after saying them, usually.

But because he treds such a delicately nuanced line of thinking, his message is often misunderstood by those who follow him.

Heidegger talked about 'being in the world', and it's an interesting thought that what makes a person perhaps isn't their internal thought processes, their personal ethics and so on, but rather the way in which those things are perceived by others. On that basis it is understandable that we conclude, perhaps unfairly, that Ricky Gervais is a huge cunt.

HandsFull said...

Superb blog.... says it all.

Anonymous said...

Christina, you're too good not to be in comedy full time. I'm on the bones of my arse financially but would happily give you a few bob to jack your current job in if it would help get you back.

Maybe you could arrange a job share with Ricky Gervais?

Christina Martin said...

Bit slack on replying to comments, sorry folks.

Nick - Cheers. Yeah, I think he knew it was wrong but it was ego that kept it going. Like our useless chancellor, who continues to cut in the face of experts telling him not to, sometimes people carry on doing the wrong thing to give the impression they're right. Or at least principled.

Brian - An opportunity missed! ;) And yes, again the ego theme comes back through. This past couple of weeks has taught me that Stephen Merchant wrote all of the best bits of The Office (i.e. the subtle observations) and Ricky provided the dance.

FriendlyDragonSpouse - This whole thing definitely separated the men from the boys. The comics speaking up took a lot of flak to do so. They took it with dignity too. Thanks for your honest account of using controversial language yourself.

Enigmabombe - A good point and an even better punchline!

HandsFull - Thank you kindly :)

Anon - I am truly flattered, thanks!

Tony said...

I am adding wholeheartedly to the chorus of agreement and approval you are deservedly receiving.

I have been reading blogs (and blogging) for seven years and it is always good to find another satisfying and salutary one to bookmark.

Strength to your elbow and any other part of you which needs strengthening.

Christina Martin said...

Tony - thank you so much!

Elaine Coates said...

Sorry this comment is a bit late but I've only just read the blog! I've always thought that Ricky Gervais was massivley over-rated whilst also being a complete arse - looks like I was right (I think it's being a woman, you know...)