Tag Archives: Comedy

Rocks In The Attic #723: Billy T. James – ‘Billy T. Live At ‘Pips’’ (1985)

RITA#723Billy T. James is one of the original national treasures of New Zealand, a club comedian from the cabaret circuit who became a household name for his long-running TV sketch comedy.

This live LP from 1985 finds him in fine form. Recorded at ‘Pips’ in Whangarei and backed by a live band, his act shows how much of an all-round entertainer he is. Opening with a performance of Lionel Ritchie’s Running With The Night, the audience seem reserved at first before he starts to win them over with his stand-up.

Being half-Maori and half-Scottish (“I’m half Maori and half Scots. Half of me wants to go to the pub and get pissed, and the other half doesn’t want to pay for it”) most of his material revolves around being from a racial minority, and all other minorities – Chinese, Japanese, gays (“poofs”), immigrants – are fair game. Different times, and all that.

I first laughed out loud at a routine in which he did an note-perfect impression of Bunny Wailer singing She’s A Lady for a TV commercial, with the lyrics changed to:

Well she’s all you’d ever want / She’s the kind they’d like to flaunt and take to dinner / She’s got style, she’s got grace / She’s got herpes on her face…

In 1988, Billy T. suffered a heart attack and underwent a quadruple bypass, followed by one of the first heart transplants in New Zealand. While the operation was initially a success – leading to a return to the stage in 1990 – his health deteriorated and died from heart failure in 1991.

Since arriving in New Zealand over ten years ago, I’ve found much of the art and culture here is a watered-down version of what I knew from the UK (and in some cases, the USA). Billy T. is a different prospect though – he’s naturally funny, and the equal of the great British comedians of the 1970s and 1980s.

Hit: Running With The Night

Hidden Gem: The Band

RITA#723a

Advertisements

Rocks In The Attic #399: Bill Cosby – ‘To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With’ (1968)

RITA#399I bought this simply for the title, which I find greatly amusing, but ended up enjoying the record – especially the long second-side where Cosby talks about sharing his childhood bed with his brother.

I’ve always been a fan of Bill Cosby, ever since The Cosby Show was part of the fabric of 1980s after-school television. In the 1990s, that baton was passed in spirit to The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, which had a similar mix of family friendly comedy filmed in front of a live studio audience.

At the time of writing, Cosby’s in a spot of bother with numerous historic rape allegations by women – yet to see the light of day in a courtroom. Who knows what’s going to happen with that, but it doesn’t look very good for him given the number of accusations.

Will the shadow of a conviction – which looks likely at this point – mean this album won’t be funny anymore?

Hit: To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With

Hidden Gem: Conflict

Rocks In The Attic #283: Jasper Carrott – ‘Jasper Carrott Rabbitts On And On And On’ (1975)

RITA#283I used to like watching Jasper Carrott on TV when I was growing up. He’s hardly the most cutting-edge comedian around, but I guess that’s why he was so popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s – his material was generally safe for all ages.

At some point in the last ten years or so, I caught one of his programmes on the BBC and I couldn’t believe how safe and – worst of all – broad his material was. I can remember him being much funnier back in the day, or is that simply a case of relativity? When I was growing up, my only exposure to comedy was on TV – and compared to some of the performers on there, Carrott was doing his own thing. He spoke in a regional accent – Solihull brummie – and dealt almost exclusively in observational comedy. I can imagine how refreshing it would have been in the UK when Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrott turned up, breathing fresh air into a stale comedy circuit.

Throughout my teens I was exposed to cutting-edge comedians of the early ‘90s – mainly British, but then Americans like Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison and Dennis Leary – and suddenly Jasper Carrott didn’t seem as funny anymore.

Hit: Magic Roundabout

Hidden Gem: Tribute To Eric Idle My Idol