18 May 2016

The Comedy Cash-In Book Book Is Back!

I've always been mildly obsessed with the spin-off book as a thing. Here was a way to spend more time inside the minds and personalities of the characters I liked off that thing I liked, especially when said series wasn't presently being repeated and I didn't have my own video recorder to watch tapes of it. Its no different from your parents getting the latest Delia Smith or “Clarkson Says What We're All Thinking (Assuming We're All Thinking The French Are All Stinks IDST)”.

Sadly whilst cookbooks and hate speech dressed up as charming banter will always have a place on a Christmas list, the comedy cash-in book has not had the best of times this past few years. No longer do you need to eke out a bit of hot Porkpie action by reading the Desmonds Fun Annual 1993. Nowadays if you want to hang out with your jolly telly pals, the entire series plus extras, commentaries, deleted scenes, webisodes, behind the scenes documentaries, underpant drawer photos and detailed maps to each of the main cast members houses are all easily found at our fingertips on multiple devices. 

So the time was clearly right for a revival of the lost genre. I might not have the BBC2 sketch show I always secretly wished for, but I realised I could celebrate the spin-offs of the past whilst making my own comedy cash-in to boot. I call it......

But what IS this book exactly? Here's how I described it originally on Lulu...

"Before the days of catch up TV, boxsets and the unsettling buzz of endless Twitter updates about the colour of Idris Elba's underpants, the only way to spend more time in the world of your favourite TV programme was to buy the spin-off books. British comedy programmes in particular seemed to relish reworking their six weeks a year's content into print format with everyone from Monty Python, The Young Ones, Morecambe and Wise, Harry Hill, The Goodies, Saturday Night Live, Kenny Everett, Reeves and Mortimer, The Fast Show, Lenny Henry, Steve Coogan, Father Ted, Mr Bean, Lee and Herring, The League of Gentlemen and French and Saunders getting in on the action. I call them comedy cash-in books. This is a book about those books. Its a comedy cash-in book book. And you're going to love it."

The print version is now effectively deleted but this new e-book version is expanded and reworked with better quality images, more content and without the guest pieces from before (which were great but I felt like I should stand on my own two feet this time round). Plus a free preview of my follow up book if you've not bought that already.

And here's a slightly out of date old video about it just because, really...

Thank you for your continued support. Ben. x

17 April 2016

Pomagne Supernova

The recorded audio of this appears in From The Sublime's 1996 special which you can download here. To see the tie-in Punk Rock Pub Quiz theme week, click here.

In retrospect it all came to a head on Good Friday 1996.

I was fifteen, halfway through an appreciated but inevitably boring half term break, too young for a vomit-inducing number of chocolate eggs but not old or worldly enough yet to do anything exciting like touching a woman on the vagina or drinking in pubs. The fact that I actually lived in a pub at this time of my life didn’t make things any better. It was what most people commonly refer to as an "old man's pub" -  simple, traditional, steady stream of the same faces. Occasionally one of those faces would stop appearing at the bar and you'd just assume the worst.

There was only one musical act that appeared when we took over the pub and that was “Norman and his Organ”, an ageing stereotype of oldies mumbling awfulness that made Raw Sex seem like GWAR. My Dad quickly sacked him off. But he wasn’t replaced by anything representing the exciting new golden age I was convinced we were in with the after effects of comedy being the new rock n roll still lingering and a new wave of guitar indie music that suddenly started making a name for itself. That that name was the now massively scorned 'Britpop' was irrelevant.

When I first saw TFI Friday with its bar full of beautiful people and famous folk, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. Not this old man's pub. Take me to where all the men had Ben Sherman shirts and ludicrously flat gelled hair and neon green seemed like an acceptable colour to wear.

By the start of its third month on air, TFI had already made its mark with various broadcast breaches such as Shaun Ryder saying “bum”, Ewan McGregor saying “piss bum” and then Shaun Ryder coming back and saying “piss bum stinks”. The live element was removed by the eighth episode and the shock value was lessening slightly with every show. But Evans had one big trick up his sleeve.

In a move that reminded you that this was the bloke who came up with Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, Evans decided to replace a planned Good Friday repeat show with a live broadcast from his own house. And with two of my then absolute heroes Noel Gallagher and Bob Mortimer as guests to boot. Both of whom were on good form with Mortimer as ever taking the situation very lightly and repeatedly complaining that his beer I had been taken off him because it was accidentally advertising. Elsewhere a still bearable Noel teased some of the song titles for the next album whilst Evans threw money at him for an exclusive that never arrived.

I have never wanted to be anywhere more in my life. Except maybe three weeks forward in time when I was going to that man's band at Maine Road for my first real big gig which no amount of Beady Eyes or boring Gallagher dismissals of anything after 1995 that isnt Paul Weller farting on a Rickenbacker will spoil. I still have the ticket in a frame behind me. £17.50 with the Manics (hooray!) and Ocean Colour Scene (no-ray!). Somewhere Ian Ticketmaster is weeping.

That TFI was the first real time in my life I felt I was missing out on something, although with the summer of Euro 96 directly ahead, plus increasing amounts of live gigs I was slightly too far away to go to on my own, far from the last. Britpop was effectively over just as the TV was getting to grips with it and critics now happily point at this cooling off period in wincing fashion almost, indeed looking back its easy to see how ghastly many of the drugs and egos of the time must have been, and nowhere more so than Chris Evans' flat on Good Friday 1996.

But I still smile fondly for that pre-internet time of awful cheap cider, Honeycrack singles, waiting desperately for the Paramount Text Mailbox to update and hoping the Scottish one took her bra off on This Life, because that’s just what I had, and for better or worse, contributed to the person I am today.

You had to not have been there, man. You had to not have been there.

17 March 2016

Crazy St Patrick's Bonkers One Day Deals!

Hello, St Patrick here! Now when I'm not running out the snakes for being snakey bastards, I like nothing better than a shite and a read through a comic, informative and interesting quiz book. And quite by chance I've just got my hands on "Punk Rock Pub Quiz" by Ben Baker which features over 100 of the buggers! Plus his guide on how to create the perfect pub quiz and humourous sideways looks at the pros and cons of running a trivia night, a bit like one of the lads off that Satder Night Armistice. To be sure. Was I Irish? I assume so.

Anyway, for ONE DAY ONLY there's an amazing deal on where you add the code STPAT27 in the checkout when buying a book on Lulu Press and get 27% off the price! And you can buy that very same "Punk Rock Pub Quiz" book there! Along with Ben's other available book "Talk About The Passion" and his co-writer on that Tim Worthington's excellent stuff too, including "Fun At One", the story of comedy on Britain's best loved pop station (after the other one) and "Higher Than The Sun", a look at Creation Records and four of the most important records of the 90s. Begorrah.

Still confused? Look at this helpful image! All sales help support this website and its sole author, Ben Baker. All shares of the links on social media very much appreciated. Ecumenical matter. Etc. Thank you.

11 March 2016

Its Not A Pub. Its A Website.

In order to promote both my EXCELLENT RECENTLY RELEASED QUIZ BOOK and the monthly live events that we run locally under the same name, I've set up a new website, which is somewhat unsurprisingly called...

Go over there for ALL NEW weekday lunchtime quizzes, clips from our live shows, outtakes, special offers and details on upcoming events.

Thanks to everyone who has so far bought the book or helped promote it on social media. I've absolutely no budget to pay for advertising and putting it together was a real labour of love. Everything was done by me from the artwork to index. If you haven't bought one and you're interested in 250 pages of trivia contests and my personal guide on how to set up the greatest pub quiz in the world, you can buy the book at the following link...

Thank you,


12 February 2016

Adult Babies (Or New Heart Riot)

As the singer Sting (real name: Sting Singer) once sang "If you love somebody, let them out of the toilet", well Ben Baker and Phil Catterall are shimmying down the drainpipe as we speak and heading straight into your ears for a very special VALENTINE'S episode of New Chart Riot. Ben wants to celebrate finally kissing a lass aged 35 and Phil just wants to be left alone to nurse his broken heart. He's not sad or anything, his heart is just knackered and he's on pills. 

Topics in today's programme include John Selwyn Gummer's ideal love match, the practicalities of installing a really good dirtchamber, what not to do on an electricity pylon, Kilroy's missing research team, "marbles up bum" and the hottest sexual roleplay positions of the week, the lesser Shrek films, how babies are made, 70s racism with the most romantic sitcom of all time and lots more desperately erotic material.

Bring a towel, the first six rows are going home sodden.  

20 January 2016

I Viz Everything - Part Two: Pump They Say

In the early days of the shiny new nineteen nineties, David Bowie was snapped next to a revolting jacket chuckling away at a copy of the country's biggest selling humour publication, Viz Comic. Issue 40 from February / March 1990 to be precise. But what inside the pages of the four-letter funny paper for adults exactly was causing the man they used to call Ziggy Aladdin such great mirth in this picture?

Was it a particularly good episode of Billy The Fish? One of the Top Tips? A depressing hand-drawn advert for a horrible premium rate phone line about vomit sex farts or something? Lets find out together, shall we...

[Click or open in new window to see any of the pictures bigger]

The issue in question was the first of the nineties and the second million seller for the Viz team who saw animated versions of Billy the Fish and Roger Mellie (voiced perfectly by Peter Cook) appear on Channel 4 and merchandise selling hand over fist. Elsewhere, the world was gearing up for the release of Nelson Mandela (eventually taking place February 11th), the first McDonalds opened in Moscow, Poland withdrew from the Warsaw Pact in a bid to restore solidarity after the 1989 strikes and, most importantly, funny TV's Mr Beans first appeared on telly New Years Day 1990 saying "Hello I am a Mr Beans" and driving the wrong car.

Putting the adverts to one side for a moment, first up is Nobby's Piles, a Graham Dury strip all about a man called Nobby. Who was horrible piles. It took me years to realise it was a play on the name "Nobby Stiles". Probably because I was too busy being dazzled by all these terrific words for the poor man's "condition"...

My favourite there probably being "Chalfonts" which I eventually worked out was Cockney rhyming slang for Chalfont St Giles, a Buckinghamshire town that also happens to rhyme with "piles" (see also "farmer giles"). Emma Freuds for hemorrhoids was a fairly topical one for 1990 who was mostly known for presenting small arts programming at the time.  Nauticals still alluded me however until just now when I discovered it's a shortening of "nautical miles", something I can imagine miserable old bast Ronnie Barker was forever saying around that time in his antique shop. 

One of Viz's most innovative features as it evolved were the pastiches of old British comic adventure strips with Black Bag The Faithful Border Bin Liner and increasingly right wing boy detective Jack Black and his dog Silver two of the more obvious long-running examples. Peter Potter wouldn't be out of place in any of the DC Thomson publications of the 60s and 70s as he brings a T-Rex to school and saves people in a burning building with a diplodocus, before the council pest control man gasses the lot... 

Maybe Dave was laughing at his misidentified Monkees namesake taken from the article "Exposed! Secrets Of The Street" in which a typical unreliable narrator, in this case an extra, reveals absolutely nothing of worth, in this case mistaking episodes for real life and suggesting a red hot sex scene between Ivy Tilsley and Don Brennan had to be cut for the timeslot. Not one of the funnier articles Viz ran but that's perhaps due to it being a bit too believable as a tabloid piece, wrong "Monkeys" and all...
The same page also provided the following life-saving gadgets, which probably almost all now inevitably actually exist on the market...

Recent newcomer Spoilt Bastard joins the Scouts and as is typical of most of the earlier strips, eventually gets his comeuppance, something that eventually would stop happening as kids got more and more self-centered and ruined. 

Two samples from an achingly funny Roger Mellie strip in which he is invited to participate in one of those diabolically awful pro-celebrity golf tournaments that made the nation sigh in unison on a Sunday afternoon. I don't know why but "Having a dump" has always been one of the easiest triggers to get me howling with laughter, as is inappropriate shitting...

This strip would feature in the animated version of Mellie that appeared on Channel 4 that year in pretty much identical form. To the point of Tarby (already done by Harry Enfield on Spitting Image some years previously) actually saying the words "Etc etc". 

Documented in both Donald brothers' books "Rude Kids" and "Him Off The Viz" as a nightmare, on learning the previous issue was going to be the first to sell over a million, a PR stunt decided to give a literal ton of money to the person they worked out would be the millionth Viz purchaser. The joke pitched initially as descending on some lucky soul, dumping a load of brass coinage on them, get loads of photos taken then run off. As it happens, the millionth buyer was a woman who'd never bought the comic before, bought no other items and knew the shopkeeper personally. As Chris Donald notes, "the fact Viz was selling over a million was actually newsworthy in itself". 

A few favourites from that issues' Letterbocks, including some tits. But sadly not that photo of the bloke kissing that birds' arse. 

The latest in a long list of famous things being from or coming to Tipton in the West Midlands, courtesy of cross-eyed occasional councillor Hugo Guthrie such as a Nessie-style creature and a Jurassic Park style zoo featuring a small stegosaurus made from a "stuffed armadillo with a pine cone".

Sid The Sexist uses a line I must admit to stealing from time to time (although not in seriousness I assure you as the correct positioning of my testicles will attest.) Good to see Sidney using his trademark "Gumph!" too.

Viz has always excelled at one-off ridiculous high-premise characters. The comic timing on these panels are just joyful, something all the terrible adult comic clones of the era never seemed to grasp. "Does he murder someone violently and say 'cunt'? Commission x forever!"

Far from the best Viz photo story but worth it for "I fancy you loads and want to go out with you".

Plankton Boy was a classic Davey Jones (but not that one! or or the other one!) take on another character who could easily have appeared in a 1960's Dandy with his powers of cell-division and "whip-like flagella on his arms". Although possibly not with this ending...

A late-entry into the Shaky pantheon and probably one of the last as Stevens' management contacted the comic and asked them to draw a special picture disc for his 1990 single "I Might" thus becoming yet another person at pains to show they were in on the joke once Viz hit big. I wonder if anyone actually entered this...

Another "unreliable narrator" tale with an Onion-like heading that shows how spot on Viz got their News of The World / Sun spoofs in tone and look. 

So much good stuff going on in this strip I couldn't just clip one bit but again, it's all about the comic timing here, as tight as any great TV sketch. Indeed, the parallels between this and the stuff Viz pal Harry Enfield was about to launch on BBC2 that same year in his "Television Programme" are no coincidence, with the editorial team pitched on the idea several years earlier. You could see Tubby Johnson fitting next to The Double Take Brothers or Tim Nice-But-Dim easily, couldn't you? 

Topical E.U. satires ahoy with Farmer Palmer, a character I have never ever enjoyed. 

The latest installment sees the recently retired then unretired fish-like keeper revived by a song from regular sponsors Go! Discs who had promoted The Beautiful South's "I'll Sail This Ship Alone" the previous issue and was now pushing a record that would actually be number one for much of issue 40's time in the newsagent shelves. "Callin' All" by The La's was not so lucky, however...  

It's testament to how strong the material in Viz was at the time that so much of it went into the traditional compilation annual the following year, in this case 1991's "The Sausage Sandwich". As such it's equally obvious when something didn't make the grade and is new to those only reading the books. Here its outside contributor Chris Stanley's (Not an artist I can find anything else on, a pseudonym?) "Stan The Statistician" which looks much suited to one of the rival comics, particular with its inevitable extreme violence and main character dying at the end conclusion. 

And finally, one of my absolute favourites, the increasingly dadaist adventures of Terry Fuckwitt, a man so stupid he can bend reality all around him but always seems to get that job which causes you the most frustration...

And on the back page, a free Royal Hunting Game in the tradition of the comic's regular free gift spectaculars such as issue 13's Duran Duran paper underpants and the free packet of crisps in issue 21 (with voucher for a free potato.)

So, what in there do you think the Thin White David Bowie was chuckling at specifically? Mellie taking a dump on a dune? Quim Trim? The advert for The Macc Lads' London residency with "Eddie Shit"? Well having scanned and assessed the whole comic from top to bottom, I think Bowie's funny bone was ultimately tickled by this small section in the article "How Green Are You?" about one of his no doubt great show business chums....

Or on second thoughts, it's probably this collection of incredibly hilarious rubber stamps...

And you thought they were boring! Which leads me to the one thing I haven't included as yet - the advertisements. Could they have been as revolutionary and groundbreaking as Bowie himself in the decade change to the 1990s? Or more likely were they just a load of revolting sounding phone lines you couldn't imagine anyone in their right mind ringing up for actual money? Find out next time... 

(its that last one though, obviously)