Sunday, October 30, 2011

City Academy Plug

During a discussion about the forthcoming Squeakies movie on the Sunny and Shay show on BBC London last night one of the producers gives a lovely plug for the comedy course I teach at City Academy and how great my students are (I agree). You can listen again here and the bit where I'm mentioned starts at 1h44m in.

I'll add a couple of points about comedy courses, cos there seem to be some FAQs...

1) Can you really teach someone to be funny?

I don't really subscribe to this notion that people "just are" or "just aren't" funny. We all have different senses of humour. A course can definitely help you explore your sense of humour and different ways of bringing it across onstage. And if you met someone who wasn't a very good singer - would you tell them not to take a singing course? No - lots of people enjoy learning about singing, practising and performing to friends, anyone who fancies it should give it a try. Ditto comedy.

2) Surely you'd learn more by getting onstage and doing it?

You can certainly learn a lot by doing gigs, yes, and if that's how you'd prefer to learn no-one is stopping you. New act nights can be tough though - small distracted audiences, badly set-up rooms, and often they can be unreceptive to anything a bit different. If you can learn it in front of an audience, why not learn it in front of your classmates with the help of a professional comic as a teacher.

3) Do you just teach people to be like you?

Well I worry about that but I try very hard not to - I try very hard to provide skills and tools and techniques that can be applied to a wide range of acts. Some of my ex-students do character comedy, some do puns, there's a fair range...

4) What if I just want to boost confidence and presenting skills?

Yes, definitely, got a best man/woman speech or work awards do coming up? I can help. One-on-one or join a class.

5) What has happened to your ex-students? Are they all famous yet?

I've only been teaching just over a year - give them a chance - but some of them are doing really well. Here's a clip of one of my graduates Stephen Bailey performing in a pub in Manchester, if you're interested.

Funnily (sort of) enough the comedy course is one of the City Academy courses most often bought as a gift for a friend, which is quite a sweet way of saying "You've got a lot of interesting stories to tell, give it a go!". The link to City Academy website is above if you are now itching to sign up...! I promise you'll have fun.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Atheist B*tchslap and the Internet

Most of my regular readers (hello new people and welcome) will know that I've been a fairly frequent guest on BBC One's religious debate show The Big Questions. My most recent appearance culminated in me calling religious people "idiots". At the time unsurprisingly the assembled religious leaders who were on the show reacted as if I'd defecated on the studio floor. But I wasn't really expecting the general public to have that much of a reaction to the clip. I mean "idiots" is hardly the harshest insult. At very least it's the sort of insult that goes out on BBC One on a Sunday morning.

However recently when looking for the clip to show to a friend I noticed something: it's gone a bit viral. Well actually a lot viral. It's on YouTube several times and now it's on ebaumsworld which is a very high traffic site. There are various versions of the clip - this is a fairly extended version, showing the debate before and after my "idiots" comment:

This clip also has a fairly generic title. Most places have titled it "Atheist B*tchslap". I generally think the term "b*tch" is an unpleasant one, but in this case it seems to be being used positively so I don't mind.

Anyway here's the thing. Between all the various places it's been put up, it's had over 250,000 views. Yes - quarter of a million views and counting. I rather wish whoever has been posting it up would put my name, twitter tag and blog site in the title so people can find me and follow me and come to my comedy shows. But hey, I guess I'll just get a T-Shirt printed up with "Atheist B*tchslap" on it and that should jog people's memories!

And here's the other thing. As you may know I moderate comment on here and on my YouTube channel. I didn't for a long time but there were some particularly nasty internet trolls who would repeatedly post up the most horrible things and I just wanted my readers to feel they could read my site safely. I still approve comments from those who disagree with me, just not those who are creepy and threatening and all that sort of thing.

Of course on the wider Internet I don't get to moderate these things. In particular ebaumsworld clearly has no policy for moderation and doesn't even have a "report this comment" or a function that allows a comment to be hidden if a large number of people have "dislike"-d it. And it's getting pretty ugly. Trigger warning - I'm going to quote some of the comments (asterisks are mine, mostly to stop my page being blocked for anyone with a half decent Internet firewall).


Mmm, that was from the reassuringly-named ebaumsworld commenter "pygmiesrfun". And here's "southernguy3030" to remind us how kind and compassionate religious people are:

"She will remember those words when she faced
God. Have fun burning in Hell."

And this one:

"she looks like a lesbian b*tch anyways"

Ah yes that age-old insult "looking like a lesbian". I'm hoping that user "Montreal" means like a cross between Amber Heard and Tegen and Sara. That would be AWESOME! And someone else who spent a long time choosing a username: "sh*tpuppet" wants to be clear it's not just lesbians he has the problem with:

"No you're a woman right? Therefore by
induction, you're an idiot."

The fact that his sentence doesn't even make sense (induction?) really backs up his point too... But just cos you're educated enough to be pedantic about language doesn't make you a very nice person either. Look here's "jteague" with his/her insightful spelling advice:

"atheist not athiest. tard"

I think "tard" is actually short for "retard"!!? Seriously - that'a apparently a hip insult now and not in the least bit insulting to people with learning difficulties. Someone call Ricky Gervais... On the subject of spelling mistakes lets get back to the threats of violence. This one is from "canadianbeer":

"She needs to be gang reaped."

And atheists can be horrifically sexist too remember, thanks "mrcronic":

"so from now on when a make a chick have an
abortion ill just tell her the babys going to

And guess what peacemakers like "Skab" want to do to end fighting between atheists and religious people:

"Here's a solution that can unite all the
religious f*cks. Gang-b*ng her in a rainbow
unity and problem solved."

I'm only about a third of the way through the comments, and even then there's loads more I could post up, but I think that's enough to show I'm presenting a general trend, not just a couple of isolated idiots.

I guess three points:

(1) The anonymity and freedom of speech afforded by the Internet certainly have their benefits, as we've seen with the Arab Spring and reaction to suppression of news about human rights abuses in China, etc. But in general, my advice is, if you've got a site - moderate it... You can just glance at stuff and approve everything that isn't overtly horrid (note: there is also some nasty racism on the comments, aimed at the black people shown and at the Muslim guy). With a smart phone you can do it on-the-go so as not to stifle debate too much. Or failing that leave up a way for people to highlight comments they think should be removed and have a check through. I'm sure these guys didn't mean for their site to become a haven for hate speech.

(2) Interesting to see how a lot of people actually feel. I know almost no-one would say these horrid things to my face. So in a sense it's good that the Internet lets women and other groups see how much some people really hate us.

(3) Interesting and horrifying how quickly it all comes back to rape time after time. There are also a fair few people complaining that the clip doesn't show the "b*tch" actually getting slapped and posted by people who were clearly looking for pornography. If anyone ever tells you we don't live in a "rape culture" world - show them this. It's frightening but it does highlight the need for action to bring about dramatic change.

And let me add one very important thing about the clip. The show has tagged me as "National Secular Society" IN ERROR. I am a member, which clearly they have in their notes somewhere, but I'm not in any way a spokesperson for them... I'm just a spokesperson for me in the clip.

Friday, October 14, 2011

News at Kate - Occupy Wall Street

I made a little vlog about the Occupy Wall Street protests. Enjoy!

I might make some more of these... If anyone has requests on subjects I might discuss, let me know (no promises). Cheers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Edinburgh Last Night (or the night before)

Also discovered a little clip of me performing and then chatting at Edinburgh Tonight with Joe Simmons and Lorraine Chase in August. And my mum is in the audience and gets to join in too.

Squeaking On

The trailer has been released for a film which I appear in. I'm in the film as myself, as a contestant in a comedy competition which is the centrepiece of the film. Some of the other contestants are played by an ex student of mine and my husband, good luck guessing which is which! But all you'll see in the trailer is a bit of well done slapstick (mostly care of my good friend Mark Felgate, who is the one with no trousers!) and my face for about half a second. Still don't miss out...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Jobs for Girls

Well the Cru-blog has certainly been written of my Mac and my iPhone for a long time. But I don't have anything particular to add to the discussion of Steve Jobs' death. It's sad when someone dies, of course, whatever their role in life. There isn't really anything else to say.

Naturally enough though, the media is in need of something to pad out their articles with and the obvious choice is tributes from well known people in relevant sectors. The Daily Mail for example includes comments from 22 people in the worlds of IT, politics and the media. All 22 of those people are male. That's pretty sad. Later on they list a couple of twitter comments from Kylie Minogue and Tyra Banks but it's sad to think that women are so hugely under-represented in these areas in the 21st century.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Short open letter to Teresa May

Dear Home Secretary

"Human rights" is a funny old expression isn't it? I mean it makes it sound like people are actually entitled to these things. And weirder still it makes it sound like all humans might be entitled to them - even the brown ones, and the lesbians and Olly Murs.

Now when I hear you want to deny people their human rights my blood is already starting to boil. But I want to hear you out, to understand your point. I don't really believe that human rights legislation nowadays means mass murderers are entitled to champagne cocktails. But maybe you picked up a copy of the Daily Mail on a train and some of the lies sank in by osmosis and you're too busy to check them.

However even you must be able to see what's wrong with this sentence from you as reported on Sky News:

"I'd personally like to see the Human Rights Act go because I think we have some problems with it, I see it, here in the Home Office, particularly, the sort of problems we have in being unable to deport people who perhaps are terrorist suspects."

Now those who've been convicted of "terror" (presumably this includes people who stand up in cable cars ... if not it should!) can be locked up. Those who are only suspected of terror however - surely you do realise that they could be innocent. In fact so far in the UK the vast majority of terror suspects have turned out to be innocent.

So you're advocating deporting the innocent? That seems just a little bit mean. Actually it seems criminal and evil - terrible in fact. And you've clearly stated that that is your position so I suspect YOU of plotting an act of terror. The act of deporting people for the sole crime of being pointed at by a neighbour or corrupt police official.

This makes you a terror suspect. And you believe in deporting terror suspects. So...

Get out.

Thanks very much.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Tip Top Sex Advice for Ladies

Need relationship advice? Where better to look for it than the Daily Male? Oh hang on ... what's that you say ... everywhere? Tamara Cohen's piece in today's paper deserves a destructive line-by-line more than anything I've read in years... It's catchily called "Boys' night out may be key to happy marriage as cutting ties with old friends could erode their masculinity"

Does anyone actually know what "erode their masculinity" means? Does the penis actually shrink? Or do they suddenly shudderingly come "to" and exclaim "My God! Are those my dirty pants on the floor? I'm so terribly sorry, I'll just go and stick them in the washing machine!"

"You book the theatre tickets, organise dinner with friends and remind him to have his hair cut this weekend."

Oh my mistake, I thought this was a relationship piece - evidently it's about caring for people in sheltered accommodation.

"But new research shows busybody wives to try to micro-manage their husband’s social lives may be storing up problems."

Hold on - if I buy the theatre tickets and organise the dinner - the response needs to be "thank you so much, I really appreciate you taking that stuff on".

"US scientists found men who do not have enough spare time to spend with their own friends, can feel less attracted to their partner."

Thanks for the detailed and specific information: US scientists. I know them. Jim and Sandra right? How much spare time is "enough"? Am I supposed to ring his boss and cancel his overtime? Who gave me this power? And who the fuck are his "own friends"? Am I not allowed to make eye contact with these people? And sure some people "can" feel less attracted and some "can" feel more attracted and some "can" wonder who the hell wrote this research and whether we should really be referring to them as a "scientist".

"They say wives who have steadily cut the ties with their husband’s old friends in favour of having dinner parties with other couples can erode men’s feelings of masculinity and lead to conflict within the relationship."

Really ladies if you want to "erode" your man's masculinity a simple point-laugh-"Oh my God, it's tiny" will suffice. Less washing up.

"The authors said there is nothing wrong with the wife doing most of the organizing of their social activities – as women tend to be more organized."

Of course there's something wrong with the wife having to do most of the organising. What's wrong is THE WIFE HAS DO MOST OF THE ORGANISING. That's what's commonly known as NOT FAIR. And really? Women just "are" more organised or women just are more likely to have a load of unpaid administrative work dumped on their lap while men watch Match of the Day? Aren't you scientists? Do you want to give us a reference for the biological predisposition of women towards social scheduling work?

"But they said reducing his contact with his friends to the point that all your socialising is done together can be dangerous."

Dangerous like shark attack dangerous? Anyway don't men love a bit of "dangerous" in the bedroom?

"It suggests wives should encourage their husbands to spend time alone with male friends – even the ones they don’t like."

Seriously? I'm now expected to try and talk my husband into going out drinking with blokes he doesn't like. How the hell is that going to help anyone?

"Professor Benjamin Cornwell, of Cornell University added: ‘There is a bit of a gate-keeper aspect that probably troubles some men."

Oh not Jim and Sandra then... Here's his CV - he's written eight papers which have been published in such illustrious journals as Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses and "has appeared live on Chicago Tonight". And men, listen, if you're unhappy about your wife's gate-keeping, why not keep your own gate?

"‘They key issue is whether it reduces his contact with his friends while it increases hers – for example she alters his social schedule to the point that his contact with his friends increasingly occurs in the context of couple’s dinners."

Ewww couple's dinners! Keys in the middle eh? Next thing you know someone comes round to read the meter, there's a terrible misunderstanding, ends up with vol-au-vents everywhere! Seriously couple's dinners are ace if YOU LIKE THE OTHER PEOPLE and shit if YOU DON'T. Thats all there is to it. Couples are people too you know?

"‘A man’s ability to play a round of golf or to have a few drinks with a friend who has only a passing acquaintance to his wife or girlfriend is crucial to preserving some independence in everyday life."

Well a man's ability to pick up a fucking telephone should probably kick in then. And is this actually science? Spending time away from someone preserves your independence from that person? Really? And if you wanted independence, why are you in a relationship where your wife tells you when to get a haircut?

"‘If he has to bring his wife along every time they meet, or his wife starts monopolising that friend, that’s when problems may arise.’"

So it's normal and healthy to not want to introduce your wife to your friends or to hope they don't get along? The words "not even slightly" spring to mind here.

"The researchers analysed data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, a 2005 survey of 3,000 people in Chicago, who were aged 57 to 85."

Data from 6 years ago. And from then until now no-one noticed.

"They found the risk of erectile dysfunction was almost doubled in the group whose wives had the most contact with the couple’s shared friends, even allowing for related health conditions in this age group such as diabetes, heart problems and obesity."

Oh so this "eroding their masculinity" does mean "droopy cock"! Ha ha ha. And - look out "scientists" here's a quick newsflash: so you adjusted for diabetes, heart problems and obesity ... did you adjust for the fact that if you're senile enough that someone else has to remind you to get a haircut, erectile dysfunction is nature's way of telling you not to get it out in the grocery aisle.

"Men in their 50s and 60s were at the highest risk of this, suggesting the older men in the study had different priorities for socialising."

Yeah it's mostly group sex over 80 isn't it?* Maybe what these numbers were suggesting is that you were jumping to ridiculous conclusions based on a relatively small sample size of out of date data about highly subjective questions and a big ol' dose of wishful thinking. Just saying.

"Around 25 per cent of the men surveyed experiences ‘partner betweenness’ – when their partner becomes as close to one of their confidants as they are, in at least one of their relationships with a friend."

If your partner hasn't become really close to at least some of your friends - here's the skinny - you're not actually in a relationship. Or if you are it's going to end any time they take away your broadband.

"Prof Cornwell added: ‘We were surprised at how powerful the effect was – the equivalent of having prostate problems. For these younger men, partner betweenness more than doubled the risk.’"

Really? If I was you I'd be surprised how easy it is to plant a suspiciously poorly researched story into the mainstream press just cos it has the word "erection" in it and a deeply misogynist overtone.

"Co-author Edward Laumann, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago said: ‘He needs to have someone to talk to about the things that matter to him – whether its football, politics, what car he is going to buy or worries about his health or his job."

But first he needs a haircut, right? Can he not tell his wife these things? She's probably too busy embroidering doilies for the next couple's night.

"‘The important thing is that he can let it all hang out and know that what he says isn’t going to get straight back to his wife.’"

I'll have to say I can back them up on this point - my man hates it when I find out what he thinks about football. It makes his dick fall off.

"Last week research from six African countries revealed women who wear the trousers at home may pay for it in the bedroom."

Oooh new "research"! From new "scientists" right?

"They could find themselves waiting 100 times longer for passion than those who share household decisions – about shopping and the weekly budget – with their husbands, according to a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore."

They "could" yes or they "could not". Also the Daily Fail's editors "could" all be screwed up fuckwits with limp dicks. Just saying - they COULD. Now more info on this report is available online here and again our trustee "scientists" (a different lot this time) are missing one great big point. The report says women who make household decisions reported less sex. Yes, I understand. Maybe, just maybe, that's because those who make household decisions are MORE LIKELY to also make decisions about whether or not to have sex. Less marital rape? How awful. And THINK THINK THINK before you call yourselves scientists. The report covers the following six countries:

Ghana 16.6%
Malawi 38.4%
Mali 6.3%
Rwanda 26.1%
Uganda 17.9%
Zimbabwe 57.9%

Oh I added in some numbers there - did you notice? - those are the percentages of the population with access to contraception in those countries. Can anyone think of a reason why a woman without access to contraception might not want to have sex? Gosh it's just as well these scientists are super-smart eh? Hate to see them miss something really fucking obvious.

So in case you missed it lets just recap: Hey ladies, want more sex with the guy you have to remind to get a haircut? Why not arrange for him to out drinking with some people he hates? That should help.

Seriously. Mainstream paper. I guess they chose to cover this "story" instead of updating their coverage of the Wall Street protests or the dismantling of the NHS? Ho hum.

*If you found my blog by googling "group sex for the over 80s" I wish you all the luck and love in the world but you will find no helpful links here. I assume the relevant website is called "Greydar"! [bows, accepts rapturous applause, leaves]