10/11/2019

A Few More Podcasts with Steve N Allen

For the 17th year in a row we're told that podcasts are the next big thing. Let's hope so because recently I have been kept busy turning up on the odd podcast.

Should you suddenly be hit by the urge to listen to what I get up to in podcastland here are a few of them.

I was interviewed about comedy and radio by Ben Punter in his "What Have We Learnt" podcast. Fun fact: It was recorded in a pub, which I think should be the location for more of my work.
Hear here

I talked about my theories of how to have a good relationship on the Frank podcast. I'm no expert, and some days it feels like calling myself a "gifted amateur" would be a bit of a stretch, but I give my thoughts all the same.
Hear here

I had an in depth conversation about comedy on Rhodder's "Stand and Deliver" podcast in this episode.
Hear here

I was on a panel of comedians talking about comedy and its role in political discourse and news coverage in this episode of the RedBox podcast from The Times
Hear here

And if all of that isn't enough for you there's my podcast with the BBC, it's called "Steve N Allen’s Week", which you can…
Hear here.

If you'd like to have me on your podcast find a way to get in touch and I bet we can make it happen.

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01/11/2019

Christmas Election - Get Festive

I hope you wanted a General Election for Christmas because that's what we're getting.

For me, the news was like getting my Christmas wish early. That makes sense because Christmas gets earlier every year, why shouldn't the wishes? As soon as the August Bank Holiday is over shops start to peddle their red-themed tat, but that's a rant for another column.

It's been nearly a century since this country had a December vote. Those who think things were better back in the olden days should be happy.

Christmas is a time for traditions like wrapping up warm to stand in a queue outside a primary school in whatever weather we'll get that day.

Some may struggle to get out to vote. Do a postal vote. Dashing to the post box before to deadline is a Yuletide classic.

Christmastime post isn't known to be reliable but if your postal vote gets lost it will probably turn up again years from now. You'll have voted in the 2034 election, which could easily still be mainly run along Brexit lines.

Will this festive election sort this whole mess out? Maybe not. A General Election isn't the best way to sort out a single issue and due to the first-past-the-post system people living in safe seats will feel like they don't have a say. But this is what we have. Learn to be grateful for what you get at Christmas. It could have been a lump of coal.

The Christmas election comes down to this, which Santa will you want to visit you? Will it be the old man with a white beard who wants to give things away to people but doesn't talk about how much that costs? Or will it be the overweight, jolly man who has been in many bedrooms?

I can't wait to find out.
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30/08/2019

The Jo Brand Milkshake Joke - BBC Has Last Laugh

Do you remember when people were throwing milkshakes at political figures? It seems to have stopped. Maybe it's the heatwave and we'd all rather drink the milkshake than waste it.

It kind of culminated with the Jo Brand joke. She hit the news after saying on Radio 4's show Heresy, "Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?"

The BBC has now decided that the joke went too far. But in a classic case of BBC balance, it also found that the joke wasn't inciting violence.

It's another thing in life where the left and the right can read the news and think they're correct.

Even Jo Brand admitted it was "a somewhat crass and an ill-judged joke", which makes sense from the host of The Great British Bake Off: Extra Slice. That's someone who should never joke about wasting sweet goods. When GBBO was on the BBC it received more than 800 complaints when Diana Beard chucked Iain Watters’ ice cream away, so this is serious stuff.

The BBC found that the joke "went beyond what was appropriate" for a Radio 4 comedy show. Here's the tricky thing, the show is about saying the things that aren't appropriate. The joke can be inappropriate for Radio 4 but by definition that makes it an appropriate joke for the show.

Of course, no show should have jokes that incite violence but as the BBC found, the context of the joke made it clear that she wasn't doing that. Exactly. I have never incited violence but I presume you'd do that on social media, not a Radio 4 show. In the Venn diagram of life "people who riot" and "people who listen to Radio 4" probably don't share much of an overlap.

Nigel Farage said the joke was "incitement of violence" but then he said he'd "Don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines," if he didn't get the Brexit he wanted. OK, he hasn't done that yet. Or he has done that and the khaki part of that plan has really paid off and that's why no one has seen him.

He wasn't the only one to complain. The BBC said it received 444 complaints about Brand's joke.

Wow. That's around half as many people as complained about a waste of ice cream.

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07/08/2019

We're All Becoming Hot And Unfunny

The experts have run the figures and it is now official, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded.

This has the double-effect of giving us a temporary break from people who say climate change can't be real because it was cold in winter and also it stops people saying, "Oh, you think this is hot? I remember the summer of 1976." It was nippy by comparison.

I put forward another theory, that August 2019 is the least funny month in the UK. I am currently performing a show at the Edinburgh Fringe called Better Than. This year there are more comedy performers putting on shows than ever before. Therefore anywhere that isn't Edinburgh surely has fewer comedy performers in it than it has for the rest of the year. It's a funny drought.

In a similar way to extreme weather events being part of a larger trend I think the humour deficit in August shows a general decline in people having a sense of humour. When I mentioned climate change earlier someone probably got all upset because they prefer to think it's a hoax and can't take a joke.

Do you remember when you didn't give two hoots about trade deals? If someone brought up the issue of a customs union you'd mock them for being the dullest person in the pub.

Now if someone hears a point of view they disagree with they don't have a laugh about it the take to Twitter is issue death threats.

The world is becoming hotter and less funny. We're all sweating and not smiling. It's like we're living in a gym.

If you need an antidote to a hot, humourless world head to Edinburgh during August. You can see my stand up show and it's Scotland; the weather makes you feel like it's winter again.
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03/08/2019

Why Do We Hate Clever People

People think being rich is about how much money you have. They are wrong.

That sounds like I am about to go all new-age and say true richness is about having time to know yourself. That's a load of rubbish too.

Being rich is about how much money you have compared to the average person. If you have a million pounds you sound rich but if everyone else in the UK also has a million pounds you'd have to cough up a lot to get that millionaire plumber to come out.

This means that for all the talk of a fairer society it is in the interest of some to keep things unfair and you can see this in the education system.

A new report has found that poorer teenagers are 18 months behind their wealthier peers in their GCSEs. That education gap is largest and growing fastest in parts of northern England.

Part of the problem is that in the working class world we don't value being clever.

On a TV show like Big Brother we vote the smartest ones off first.

It may be different for posh people but when I went to school you didn't want to be seen as keen. Trying hard at school was a sure way to lose friends and when you don't have much other than a little bit of social status you can't afford to lose it.

It's probably impossible to make being clever cool so we should focus on making being dim uncool.

We also know that young people aren't using Facebook these days because older people are. Basically, if grown-ups are doing it young people don't like it.

So we can solve the wealth-based educational gap if old people pretend to be stupid even if they're very clever.

It looks like maybe Boris Johnson will make this country better after all.


See Steve N Allen's Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Show - Better Than
Info and stuff is here
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12/07/2019

Trump's Ineptitude

It’s been a fun week of seeing how upset Donald Trump got after being called inept by a UK ambassador.

I didn’t realise that was what ambassadors did. Maybe that's why the buy Ferrero Rocher; it's to say sorry.

Leaked emails from Sir Kim Darroch said Trump's leadership was inept. In all of the criticism of this no one has come out to say that Trump isn't inept. It seems the main objections are that secret documents shouldn't be leaked and you shouldn't call inept people inept because that's rude.

I'm sure Donald Trump didn't get upset right away, but as soon as he slammed that dictionary down he was gunning for us.

Since then he has been on the attack, calling our ambassador "very stupid".

It must feel strange to be someone's least favourite man called Kim when you know that man has met the North Korean dictator.

Here is my confusion. If it isn't OK to call someone inept in a message they thought would be private, how is it OK to call someone stupid in a public tweet to nearly 62 million followers?

Some say you should respect the office of president even if you don't respect the person, but Trump didn't do the same when he tweeted a dig at our Prime Minister implying he was happy she was leaving the job.

Is Trump inept? I don't know. But he is being a hypocrite. He can dish it out but not take it.

There's little we can do, however. We need a trade deal with America and we can't afford to fall out with them.

If we do, at least it will only be a war of words. That's better than a real war. No one gets hurt, we attack each other and it all ends when America develops an F-bomb.

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06/07/2019

[Newspaper Column] Networks

Each week a selection of various local newspapers carry the Steve N Allen column. The list of publications include the Romford Recorder, Ilford Recorder, Ashfield and Mansfield CHAD, Hucknall Dispatch, Eastwood Advertiser, Retford Guardian and Worksop Guardian. More are being added all the time.

Follow @mrstevenallen for updates and get the archive of past ones here.


You can click the image to zoom in on the paper, or read the column below.

You can now change your mobile provider by text. That seems fair. They keep sending me SMSs that I don't want to see, so it's nice it can go the other way.

It is a much needed new rule because we have been ripped off. When you take out a contract and get a free handset you pay a monthly line rental and a monthly fee to pay back the handset.

At the end of the contract term the phone company keeps charging you the same amount every month even though you have fully paid off the phone. You might well throw Gift Aid onto that because you're treating the phone company like it's a charity.

Changing network can seem like a pain, but now Ofcom have brought in the text-to-switch system.

In general that's great but it means you don't get to do that thing where you can call them up and threaten to leave, and they start to beg. They offer you discounts, free handsets, back rubs, it gets a bit needy.

If you are going to leave text, please make sure you send it to the right number. We have all done that thing where we send a text to the last person who messaged you and you forgot it was your other half.

If you sent a message that reads, "I want to leave you. I can get a better deal elsewhere. And they'll give me more minutes," it will take some explaining to your spouse.

Also under the new plans you can change networks within 24 hours, so I suppose that means that when you change network you will only have 24 hours where people can't call you.

And that's the best reason to do this. A whole day where you can't be contacted. Sounds like bliss.
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29/06/2019

Boris The Bus Man

They say, “A man needs a hobby.” I suppose it’s to keep us out of trouble. If we chaps are spending our time tinkering in the shed we’re not doing the kind of thing that could end a marriage. The increasing divorce rates in recent decades is probably linked to a decline in hobbiests.

So it was interesting to see what kind of hobby the potential future Prime Minister undertakes. When asked in a radio interview what he does with his spare time Boris Johnson said the most shocking thing since the last time he spoke.

He makes small model buses by painting on wine crates.

Firstly, it’s not a man of the people moment. I don’t know about you but I don’t have wine delivered in a crate. Most of my wine gets carried home by me and comes in a box these days. I could paint those to look like buses but I’d get some strange looks when I put my recycling out.

Secondly, how far into that bottle of expensive red would you have to be before painting a little bus on the side becomes a good idea?

More importantly, what do you think this hobby says about his character? Some will see this as one step above making wicker baskets as they used to do in asylums.

Some could see this as being consistent. When he was London mayor he brought in bendy buses that caught fire. Now he makes buses out of wood. There’s a theme.

Some might think he gave such an answer so we commentators focus on this instead of looking at his thoughts on more serious issues.

Either way, we know one thing; even if you have a hobby you can still do things that mean you don’t stay married.


See Steve N Allen's Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Show - Better Than (or see the previews in the South East)
Info and stuff is here
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22/06/2019

Warning Labels On Alcohol

New scientific research found that smoking is linking to the shrinkage of a rather embarrassing area on men. That will mean the warning photos on the side of the boxes will get worse.

Do warning labels work? Is that why you don't smoke, because you don't want to have a collection of ill organ photos like a sick Panini sticker album?

The Labour Party announced plans this week to bring in a similar system for beer. It's hypercritical because the state of politics in the UK might be the reason you drink.

The plan is to put warnings on beer and wine to cut binge drinking. The problem with this is, after a few, you're not good at reading. You're certainly not good at making sensible decisions about your health. I can prove that with a kebab. Would you you order a greasy unspecified meat and wet salad meal at 1am if you were sober?

If the slightly inebriated can't read too well maybe we should make the warnings pictures of what could happen if you keep drinking. Whether that would be a picture of a diseased liver or a headshot of someone you'd only find attractive in your beer goggles, I don't know.

The problem is, we already know everything the warning label could tell us and yet we still binge. The problem isn't a lack of information, it's the other reasons to drink. It's in our culture.

There is one part of the plan that might work. Along with the warning labels they want bottles of alcohol to say how many calories there are in the drink.

It's around 700kcal in a bottle of wine and over 200 for a pint of beer.

That'll make me cut down on that binge. I need the spare calories for that kebab I have planned later.


See Steve N Allen's Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Show - Better Than (or see the previews in the South East)
Info and stuff is here
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13/06/2019

Jo Brand And The Acidic Joke

Telling jokes can be hard. As a comedian you get people come up after a gig and say how they could never do what they just saw. We seem to have a fear of trying to be funny and it not working.

I used to think that the biggest worry was getting booed as if you were Laura Kuenssberg trying to ask Boris Johnson a question.

It seems I was wrong. If you make a joke you could find yourself wanted by the police. That's the message from the fallout of Jo Brand's comments on BBC Radio 4's show Heresy.

The comedian was talking about the recent trend of throwing milkshakes at right-wing figures. She said, "I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?"

She phrased it as a question and the answer would be, "Because throwing battery acid would be wrong and a lot harder to find on the menu at Five Guys."

Even though the comments weren't explicitly made about Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage he took them personally as he was one of the recipients of a lactose-based protest. While campaigning in the run up to the EU election in May he ended up looking like Big Bird from Sesame Street had been in a tree above him.

Nigel tweeted, "This is incitement of violence and the police need to act."

All of this over a joke. Somehow it turned into a philosophical debate about humour online akin to working out of trees make sound when falling. Using the joke defence caused many commentators to say that they don't find it funny.

So what? You're not in charge of all humour. The definition of a joke isn't that it is found funny by every person who hears it. That can't be the deciding factor or we would have a situation where you could incite violence but only as long as you land the gag well. If you fumble over the punchline or don't use the rule of three you're off to jail.

The audience at the show's recording laughed so it is a joke in that sense. It is also a joke in the sense that she didn't mean it. If you listen to the show there is no point where you think Jo is likely to be shopping for car battery repair kits online.

If you were left in any doubt about if The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice presenter was about to turn to violence she added, "I'm not going to do it. It's purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry."

Nigel Farage must understand what it is like to threaten something without expecting to be taken seriously. He once said he would, “don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines” if Theresa May failed to deliver Brexit. No one was calling for the police to look into the colour of the trousers he'd be buying just in case.

A joke, of course, could still be inciting violence but who do we think she'd be inciting? Do we think that some lift-wing lone wolf was almost ready to tip and it was a comedy show on BBC Radio 4 that would push them over the edge?

Is it a funny joke? I don't know, but she certainly has the right to make it. Ordinarily it is the Brexit supporters who will take to twitter to champion free speech, to bemoan the trigger warning requiring snowflakes who take comments too seriously and to rail against those who seek to no platform the pubic figures who say things that may cause offence.

It would normally be the right-wing voices complaining that too much police time is spent investigating online comments when real crimes go unsolved.

Genuine threats of violence are to be abhorred. That's not political. If you have seen some of the online hate directed towards the likes of journalists like Carole Cadwalladr you will have seen how vitriolic people can be. Hate is prescent on all sides of the political spectrum.

Even throwing milkshake at people is a terrible development in debate and that's the point I think Jo was making. Throwing milkshake is pathetic.

It seems that some members of the left think that right-wing views are like heartburn, mainly in middle-aged men and can be cured by milk.

However, it is also pathetic to race to claim offence. Trying to strip out all humour from a comment to frame it in a way that lets you be upset. That makes you look like a bit of a joke.


See Steve N Allen's Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Show - Better Than (or see the previews in the South East)
Info and stuff is here
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12/06/2019

Tory Leadership Update: White Powder

As the Tory leadership race ploughs on one major theme has been drugs. I don’t mean the ones you have to take to be able to cope with all the coverage. If you have made it through a day without aspirin you’ve done better than me.

There’s good and bad news for Michael Gove. He has received cash backing from the man behind Next. That seems good but it comes at the one time Gove doesn't want people saying he's had a “little bump”.

You see, Michael Gove admitted using a class A substance, and I don't mean big eggs. And it's all kicked off. Some say he should have to pull out of the race. Well, in most races you're disqualified for drug taking.

Others have pointed out that Mr Gove has been honest and his admission has done more to make drugs uncool than many Government campaigns.

Fellow leadership contender Sajid Javid said of people like Gove who "boast about buying fair trade, they talk about climate change and, at the same time come Friday or Saturday night, they're all doing Class A drugs."

To be fair, that's because you can't get fair trade drugs. If you could those people would love to boast about how ethically sourced their stash is. They’d sound like a Marks & Spencer ads: “This isn't just class A drugs. This is the finest boutros boutros from the Colombian foothills.”

I'm glad that's not available. Let's be honest, the kind of people who love to boast about how fancy the food at their dinner party is don't need any help being chatty and self obsessed.

This is becoming a weakness the other leadership candidates are using. So, it seems like the key to a good Conservative leadership campaign is to keep your nose clean.



See Steve N Allen's Edinburgh Fringe 2019 Show - Better Than (or see the previews in the South East)
Info and stuff is here
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26/05/2019

The Milkshakings

At a time when Jamie Oliver's restaurants are having trouble there is one eatery that must be doing well. Five Guys was known for its burgers but these days it is the milkshakes that are hitting the headlines.

Nigel Farage was the latest in a line of right-wing figures to get covered in the drink. Other milkshake recipients include Tommy Robinson and YouTuber/Ukip candidate Carl Benjamin.

It's almost as if the left think right-wing politics are like heartburn; more prevalent in older men and can be helped with milk.

You may have seen the pictures of Farage. At first it didn't look like milkshake. It looked like he'd been to Sesame Street and stood under the tree that Big Bird was in.

Then we heard that Nigel was trapped on a bus because people were outside it holding milkshakes. He's got the fear now. He'll be having anxiety dreams about the Nesquik bunny.

In the old days people like John Prescott and Ed Miliband had eggs thrown at them. That was protein and fats, these days it's calorie-laden drinks. No wonder we're an obese nation.

It's hard to ignore that there's something funny about pomposity being quenched by a diary treat but it's wrong. There are many things I disagree with in life but I don't show it by making them look like a builder's radio.

Where will this end? Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament will be a series of custard pies hurled from one side to the other. Andrew Marr will be replaced by Noel Edmonds so he can gunk the cabinet ministers.

Why don't we try this, if you disagree with someone, say it, don't spray it? And if you're not going to drink that milkshake, hand it over here, I'm parched.
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23/05/2019

The Final Straw

If you have a plastic straw in your house, keep it. It could be worth something one day. Antiques Roadshow will feature people's McDonald's straws in the original packaging.

The Government has announced a ban on plastic straws by 2020, which will mean we'll be telling our great-grandchildren what it was like to drink through plastic and they won't believe such fantastical stories.

While I am in favour of stopping this plastic blight getting into our seas I am saddened by the replacement; the paper straw. I used one for the first time on the weekend and they taste like paper.

You might not find that shocking but it ruined the drink. It's much like the reusable coffee cups with rubber lids, they make the coffee taste like rubber. I'm spotting a pattern.

I am all for saving the planet, it's where I keep all my stuff, but we have to do it in a way that doesn't ruin all the drinks.

Here's how I got around the problem of the paper straw. I took it out and drank from the glass. Thankfully I don't need a straw because I'm not five.

That's the real problem here, not the plastic straws but how often they're popped into drinks. You pay for the round, thank the bartender, and then take the straw out and put it on the table. That's not even single-use plastic. All it does is risk poking you in the eye if you forget to take it out.

Some say the straw culture came in when people claimed drinking with a straw is better for your teeth. I think it may have been when we were told if you drink through a straw you get drunk quicker.

Stop using plastic straws, stop cutting down trees to make paper ones and simply use your mouth.

I'll drink to that.
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