Friday, 21 July 2017

The Mash Report - some thoughts

Like the Curate's egg, parts of The Mash Report are excellent. But its treatment from most commentators I've seen online so far will concentrate unfairly on the bits that are a bit rotten. Which is a shame. Nish Kumar is the perfect anchor, and the in-character bits by Andrew Hunter Murray and Rachel Parris were perfect. The mock headline news bits were abysmal (the writers fault, not the presenters) and should be the first thing to go.

Surely though the biggest problem with Mash Report, and this is a problem also suffered by Channel 4's 10 O'Clock Live, and the 11 O'Clock Show & The Late Edition before it, is that they are all DOING THE DAILY SHOW! And you can't do The Daily Show unless a) You are as good as The Daily Show or b) You are The Daily Show.

Dammit, even The Daily Show's not as good as The Daily Show for the past year. But it's still up there. As is Last Week Tonight, The Colbert Report, Samantha Bee's show and all the US shows where the writers have had the last 20 years to get up to speed, and where this format of writing is second nature to them.

Mimicking another country's format is never going to make you the winner in this game. Look at Jonathan Ross. He looked at US TV, saw David Letterman. Ripped off that format for his Last Resort show. Where did that get him? Okay, bad example.

But look at our TV comedy successes and you usually see originality winning. The Day Today (grown through radio's On The Hour) was a new way of spoofing the news. Have I Got News For You (grown through radio's News Quiz) invented the comedy news panel show. I hear Spitting Image is up for a revival, and you can see why: the kids in charge of TV commissioning are too young to remember that Spitting Image wasn't actually funny the first time round.

So Mash Report is a nice effort, but unless it carves its own niche will probably not last. In the meantime, I hear Charlie Brooker might be getting another series of News Wipe. Perhaps we could keep this gap in the schedule open for him?

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Kittens In A Blender - comics by kids

Here at St Sidwell's Primary in Exeter, we see the clear difference between year 3 and year 6. When asked to come up with a name for the group comic, the youngest kids choose Kung Fu Kittens, the oldest kids put the Kittens In A Blender. As always, the kids take away a black and white A5 photocopied comic containing all of their strips and an individual caricature by me, all behind these covers, which I draw while they're getting on with their work.

Obviously I love doing a good homage, so apropos of nothing - and totally unrelated to the title they'd come up with - I did a pastiche of a Neal Adams Batman cover, with Donald Trump thrown in for the hell of it. These two are from DeFerrers Academy in Burton, working with years 7 to 10. For who, for some reason, there is nothing funnier than the meme "Why you don't go in Shrek's swamp". I still have no idea why.

The Latitude Festival was fun again, with my classes run in tents, and so the kids didn't get a copy of the comic to take away. But they gave me a chance to do a nifty Theresa May drawing, and they chose Jeremy Corbyn as their favourite celebrity, which was nice.

Back at St Sidwell's school, we get the sweetest titles of the week. Hermione and a Unicorn? And a pasty? This is what you want your kids to be doing isn't it? So let's pretend this is what they come up with every time, shall we?

The celebrities these 8 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Jeremy Corbyn, Simon Cowell, Elvis Presley (twice), Emma Watson, Donald Trump (twice), and Ed Sheeran.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Monday, 17 July 2017

Jodie Whittaker The New Doctor - video by The Socks

Yesterday the new Doctor Who was announced, and today The Socks made a video about it. Enjoy. Let's see if this is as popular as our DUP video from last month.

At time of writing it's only been up for four hours. Youtube has 135 views, Facebook 4800 views, 140 shares, and 13,337 reached.

UPDATE: Tuesday night (1 day later), Facebook 18,000 views, 355 shares, 47,406 reached. Youtube 519 views.

Weds night, FB 32,000 views, 524 shares, 79,918 reached. Youtube 660 views.
Thurs night, FB 37,000 views, 585 shares, 89,918 reached. Youtube 735 views.
Sat am, FB 40,000 views, 598 shares, 94,676 reached. Youtube 911 views.

Socks Do Shakespeare at The Camden Fringe, August 16 & 17 - Book now! 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Socks Do Shakespeare - best tour ever

As the dust settles, and I have a brief respite from the string of schools I'm working at this month, I'm able to look back at the Socks Do Shakespeare tour that ended in Ludlow in June, and happily record it as our most successful tour yet. It is, without question, my favourite of our shows, and has had universally the best reception from audiences, who've turned out in good numbers too.

I was chuffed to be sent this review, from Anita at the Ludlow Fringe, which should be on their website:

It is often said that Shakespeare never wrote a funny joke in his life. It may even be true. What is certain is that the bard never write a joke remotely as funny as the one come up with by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre about the negotiations between Richard III and the bloke who answered his emergency call of "a kingdom for a horse" at the battle of Bosworth Field.
     Just to be sure, I ran it past a few friends and their unanimous reaction confirmed my original impression. So, without much further ado, I now have the honour of announcing that their show does indeed feature the greatest Shakespeare-related gag of all time.
     Not that their show isn't packed with loads more. It is. It's just that this one is bloody hilarious and it alone is worth the price of admission from now until the end of history.
In fact, I've just told it to myself again and... give me a moment....
     Go see the show for yourself and tell me I'm wrong. If you do not laugh out loud a lot I'll eat my shorts.

The graph is a little deceptive. It shows our settlement for every show (red line) and the average of those (green line), and currently has a gap for the Brighton Fringe shows, for which we haven't been paid so don't know what we made yet. Also still to come are the two Camden Fringe shows in August. But what it's not showing is the actual profit for each show. Obviously a show like The Rondo in Bath (which is that big spike you can see to the left) is a clear winner all round, our settlement far exceeding the guarantee, and the travel costs being negligible. But the spike to the right is Aberdeen Uni, which includes travel costs being added on as part of the settlement. And don't get me started on Inverness. When I deduct the travel and accommodation costs from the Inverness gig, which I went into plenty of detail over earlier, we have a show that only just broke even.

I could, were I feeling masochistic, go over these figures and deduct travel, accommodation, and Festival entry costs (eg Glasgow, Leicester, Brighton, Camden, Ludlow all had up-front costs to get the show into the brochure and/or to hire the venue, which I've not shown here). But those costs will only make a real mark on about a third of the shows (the Scottish, Irish & Festival shows), the rest being a pretty simple matter of turning up and playing, usually for a guarantee, sometimes for less, sometimes for more. Either way it's been a feel-good tour.

I'm frustrated that I've made no progress in selling the Socks to the TV, but that is entirely up to me so I'd better damn well get on with it. If you don't ask, you don't get. So what say I get in touch with the people who matter now, and invite them to our Camden shows? Stay tuned for news.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

More Ducks, Pigs, Unicorns, Trump - comics by kids

Howard The Duck remains probably the favourite comic from my childhood, so I was delighted to have an excuse to draw him (ie copy Gene Colan's classic front cover) on this comic from my class at Norwich's Lords Mayor Day classes in the library. On the other hand, on the same day, I got to draw a Star Wars parody, which was fun, despite the fact that I am Earth's least Star Wars-y person. It's not as bad as Pink Floyd in my list of Top Ten things I hate, but it's up there.

Favourite cover of the week, and nicest title, is Piglet Power Choo Choo Shlay Hub Tea Crunchy Bottom. That'll do, Piglet Power, that'll do. And Donald Trump is back after a while away, appearing on his second cover in a few days. Not as contentious as last week's Assassinate Trump, so that's good.

What is it with teenagers and memes? These kids were year 7 to 9, and so many of their suggestions were unoriginal memes. It must be a vital part of growing up, the need to join in and blend in rather than stick out and be original (which year 5 & 6 excel in), but it is frustrating when you're trying to encourage them to be imaginative. En route to coming up with Spicy Memes, this class at Pill (just down the road, shortest drive to work all year) came up with titles that ranged from KFC to Killer Chickens to Nandos and back. What did my generation do, before they'd invented takeaway fried chicken? Oh yes, I remember. Stayed thin.

The celebrities these classes chose to star in my demonstration strip were The Queen, Bob Marley, Kim Kardashian, John Lennon, David Walliams, and most novel choice of the bunch Rick Astley.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Chicken, Fish, Pigs & Trump - comics by kids

There was a lot of wildlife in the titles for the comics suggested by pupils in schools this week. I did a day and a half at Ruskin Juniors in Swindon, and two days at Northbury Primary in Barking, doing the Year 6s at one and the Year 5s at the other. Zombie Chickens is my favourite cover (sometimes the logo just works out right, being drawn at speed during the class), and Assassinate Trump is one of those covers that you realise afterwards is the sort of thing that might come back to bite you. What can I say? The teacher didn't have a problem with it. Primary school kids find no-one funnier than Donald Trump. And in a class that is 90% BAME and probably 50% Muslim, all I can say is that he started it.

Meanwhile in Swindon, the titles again erred on the side of inadvisability. I managed to disguise the worst of the Rainbow Farting Pig, but if anyone comes back complaining about my insensitive attitude to recently deceased Nans, I can only apologise.

It's always good to have the opportunity to google a bit of reference and knock out a simple but effective front cover, so I was pleased with my dolphins. And the flipcharts this week have benefitted from my arriving in good time every morning. A worrying trend I'm finding in schools recently is that kids don't recognised Minnie The Minx. They guess everything from Pie Face to Dennis The Menace's Gran (do I draw her looking very grandparental? That comes up a lot). But few get Minnine first time.

And back in Northbury, here we see me doing my politically correct over-compensation, making sure the kids are well represented on their comic covers. I'm sure the kids aren't that fussed, or even aware of such things, but I like to make sure my comics don't end up whitewashed like, for example, Eastenders. (Right now Albert Square, ostensibly set in East London, seems to have more gay characters than Asians, which is a bit weird).

The celebrities these 7 groups chose for my demonstration strip were Cristiano Ronaldo (three times), Donald Trump (twice), Ed Sheeran, and, for a bit of much needed variety, Leonardo Da Vinci.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

In The Death Garden - comics by kids

I really enjoyed drawing this cover for the year 7 pupils at The Romsey School, and am still waiting for the comeback. I've drawn CBeebies caricatures decapitating each other, surely some parent's got to complain? No word yet. Quite pleased with my mountain goat too, thanks very much.

You wait for weeks for the excuse to draw an EC comic cover pastiche, then two come along in the same week. Terror and Death, what else could one do eh? These from Fortismere School in Muswell Hill.

My classes in Baldock in Herts on Saturday produced a couple of corking comics, despite being the worst attended classes I think I've ever done. This year I've done more classes in art centres than ever before and they've been very well attended. From Prema Arts in Gloucestershire where they charged £30 a ticket and sold out 28 places, through ticketed classes in Guildford, Dorchester, Zion in Bristol, to Guernsey Library, and Martlets Hall in Burgess Hill, it's been sellouts all the way. But somehow Baldock didn't get the message and we wound up with 8 kids in the morning, and 5 in the afternoon. They got all the more of my attention and the classes were as much fun as full classes, though not quite as profitable as the art centre would have liked.

Forres Sandle Manor was an interesting class, including as it did a dozen Belgian pupils who spoke no English. Their teachers did a sterling job of translating as we went along, and we came up with a fine comic production. And only one class to do, while I got to charge for the full day. Long live independent schools, eh?

The celebrities these 7 groups chose to star in my demonstration strip were Donald Trump (twice), Simon Cowell, Damon Albarn, Tom Baker, Kanye West and, delightfully (as he died last week) Adam West. An extra fun detail is that the pupil in Fortismere School who suggested Tom Baker is the son of Pete Doherty.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video 

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