Elis James: Funny Nation – Thoughts…

It’s mid December 2019…and somehow i have crow barred my way on to a televisual history of welsh comedy. It’s presented by golden boy Elis James (who i used to know when he was a humble barista in Cardiff all those years ago), on BBC One Wales. It’s comprehensive as these things go. The usual, and a couple of the unusual have featured so far..i’ll try adding some photos when i can (probably crap ones of a TV screen)…

Owen Money was interviewed, which is kind of fair enough, but i winced when he said he nicked his material off others – he was so nonchalant about it!!

The Gavin and Stacey lot were there – and let’s face it Ruth Jones is fast becoming an institution: she’s turning into a school for the deaf just outside Pontypridd.

Of course Ryan and Ronnie had a big bit…maybe only viewers in Wales would remember them despite them having made several shows in english, and broadcast all over the UK. They were, no bullshit, as funny as M&W, with Ryan a powerhouse of energy.

Me, i was not interviewed by the big E himself, but by the director (who is ironically called England), and, as i expected, a mere fraction of what i spoke about actually got in. But hell i got in, and on TV for Xmas! On english language TV only – for  S4C has ignored me…again! (I’m not bitter honest).

Peter Baynham had a short spot. To me he is a remarkable character – not just character ‘act’, though that as well – i gigged with him in the late eighties, such an unassuming guy, but unexpectedly brilliant – especially on the writing side of things. Elis asked him if there were any other welsh comedians around when he was in London, and Peter amazingly said  ‘Noel James…he’s a genius’…

sorry i’m not bragging…but i am just so chuffed that he said that..and when Peter went onto to describe how i painted myself blue for a late night Comedy Store gig in 1988 I knew immediately that he must have been present at what was only my second ever gig – as i only ever painted myself blue 5 times while i was in London I recall everyone of them fairly clearly – and a memorable gig it was.

Peter said i had commitment to have painted myself blue, all for the sake of a joke that went : ‘I’m a blue comedian’. Yeah well, nice idea, and yes, as he said, i did do the blue make up, but I never said that punchline. No way.

It’s strange. Just a few years ago Kevin Day – who is an amazing joke writer – said on a podcast that i painted myself blue as a joke on being a smurf. Not true. I would never have done such a joke. Why is the truth so hard to recall? I guess the visual aspect of the early act served its purpose though i.e. people still remember the blue comedian.

So what was the joke? what was the punchline? It’s like i have to remind myself that I, above all others, must know the truth as I am the one who, you know, did it; it was MY act. But, on the other hand, isn’t that how history is written…by observers? Here’s the truth:  There was no punchline. The only reference to my make up  – or the COLOUR of it  – were these opening lines:

“I’m not colour prejudiced but I fuckin’ hate blue people…that’s what they used to say to me when i was a boy, all for the colour of my skin…too long in the womb they said, and four years is pushing it…”

I think maybe there was some slight reference to being blue blooded as well, but really the rest of the 10 minute set had not one reference to blue. Not one more verbal reference, that is, though at the climax i would remove my top (which was a tatty old blue Tibetan jacket/kaftan) to reveal, on my chest, the word ‘blue’ written in blue.

While i appreciated being invited on to Funny Nation i was slightly annoyed by the fact that they didn’t include my own explanation of why i did the blue thing. For i did explain it in full to the director. Instead we hear Peter Baynham saying it was a joke on blue comedian…..NO NO NO (I sound like Thatcher now) !  But anyway what’s a little inaccuracy if at the same time one gets complimented by an artist like that?

There was a reason why the smurf myth happened as well….and that was really frustrating. It involves a horrible crowd at the infamous Tunnel Club, and it’s equally infamous MC Malcolm ‘Oy Oy’ Hardee……but that’s another story.