Smith & Jones

The “other” Labour leadership candidate, as you might say, is called Owen Smith. There is a Guardian and New Statesman columnist and noted left-wing writer called Owen Jones.

It’s easy to confuse them; I saw this article (which is actually from almost exactly a year ago, and is about the first leadership election, but never mind) today and was confused, because it seemed strange that Jeremy Corbyn’s opponent would be writing a piece warning of the attacks that will come if Corbyn wins.

Then I realised that the byline was Jones, not Smith.

All I can say is that Kid Curry & Hannibal Heyes, and Mel & Griff Rhys — and indeed, The Doctor & Martha — have a lot to answer for. 

Golden times of British TV comedy

It has come to my attention that there are some of you who are not aware of two of the best British comedy programmes to come out over the last year or so. Both have links to Green Wing1, which was, of course, famously described (by me) as “the funniest thing since Absolutely“.

First we have Episodes (actually a British-American coproduction), starring Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan, in which a married-couple writing team go to Hollywood to adapt their hit British comedy show for the American market. It also stars Matt LeBlanc, playing himself. Yes, it’s all very meta, and what’s wrong with that?

Then there’s Campus, which has some of the Green Wing writing team, and could lazily be described as “Green Wing, but set in a university instead of a hospital”2.

If you are one such person, then I slightly envy you: you still have these joys ahead of you. And with both of them, don’t worry if the first episode doesn’t overwhelm you; just watch the next, and you’ll be hooked.


  1. Currently listed as “Watch now on 4oD” (sic). I might just do that. []
  2. And indeed has been, by me, []

Freedom Tickling

Went to see Jon Stewart of The Daily Show on Sunday. He was doing one night in London, with, as it turned out, the executive producer and the head writer of the show.

It was good, though it could cynically be seen as an extended advert for their book, America: The Book. The largest part of the 75-minute show consisted of readings of extracts from the book. Those were enough to make me want to buy it, but the the funniest lines were probably in Stewart’s introductory piece. The final section, consisting of questions from the audience, showed that both he and his co-stars are generally witty and able to think on their feet.

If volume of applause is a measure, though, the highlight of the night for much of the audience was a brief guest appearance. “For this next section we’re going to ask for help from a member of the audience. We picked him before we started, so don’t get up.” Then a stocky, black-clad figure walked on. From my position high on the balcony, and with my notedly-poor facial-recognition skills, I couldn’t tell who it was (though Frances, sitting next to me, could). I’d have recognised his voice, though. Ricky Gervais is officially more popular in London than Jon Stewart (which is not a surprise).

Gervais read the “funny names” from the book. This is a section on how US newscasters, weather forecasters and so on, can’t have anything like an ordinary name. The authors identified formulas for the name-construction for the various roles. “A monosyllabic kitchen-related verb, followed by two unconnected words. Eg ‘Chop Muddybottom.'”

As further evidence, were it needed, of my poor celeb-recognition, apparently I literally rubbed shoulders with Alan Rickman on the way out; then Frances said, “There’s Salman Rushdie over there.” “Where?” “There: standing in the middle of the road, with all the people round him.”

I did even eventually see him, and recognised him. And while I accept that I’m bad at recognising faces — and celebrities in particular — I would contend that I just hadn’t noticed him in the crowd at first, and recognised him perfectly well once I knew he was there..

Oh, and the title of this post? “We don’t torture. We like to call it, uh, ‘freedom tickling'”