Archive for the 'Humour' Category



[Picture of Oscar Levant at Piano - An American in Paris]I have been a fan of Oscar since the late 1960s, and I find it sad and strange that he’s not better remembered.

He did the music for zillions of films, wrote tonnes of hit records, was a pal of Jolson and Gershwin and a star pupil of Shoenberg.

So many of my favourite “celebrities” (for want of a better term), are famed for quick wittedness on radio and TV — especially game shows and talk shows.

That is probably what made Levant so famous in his day.

Recent events with Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross made me recall Levant’s remarks about Marilyn Monroe that got his show taken off air — it was about her famous conversion to Judaism.  Levant wise-cracked, ‘Now that Marilyn Monroe is kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her!’.

He later said that he ‘hadn’t meant it “that way”‘! Sublime. His show eventually got axed for being too controversial.  This guy was cutting edge… back in the 50s and 60s.

[Picture of Groucho Marx Al Jolson and Oscar Levant 1948]

He is incredibly well-quoted in tear-off calendars, here’s a wee selection of ones you might have heard and admired:

  • I have one thing to say about psychoanalysis: fuck Dr Freud.
  • Everyone in Hollywood is gay, except Gabby Hayes — and that’s because he is a transvestite.
  • Strip away the false tinsel from Hollywood, and you find the real tinsel inside.
  • So little time and so little to do…
  • What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.
  • I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.
  • I used to call Audrey Hepburn a walking X-ray.
  • Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.
  • I’m going to memorize your name and throw my head away.
  • I envy people who drink — at least they know what to blame everything on.
  • A pun is the lowest form of humour — when you don’t think of it first.
  • Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome.
  • I have given up reading books; I find it takes my mind off myself.
  • Schizophrenia beats dining alone.
  • There are two sides to every question: my side and the wrong side.
  • Underneath this flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.
    and my favourite:
  • A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it.




I love those calendars that have daily quotes from Oscar Levant, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain.

I have always admired the Winston Churchill ones, so I thought I would collect here my favourite ones.

Starting with the obvious:

  • It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

I like that he advocates an approach — to work, to life.

  • Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.

Winston recommends a positive outlook.

  • A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

He recognises that failure can chip away enthusiasm or positive energy.

  • If you’re going through hell, keep going.

— that’s just brilliantly put; who wants to dwell in a bad place? He suggests not-giving-up as the key:

  • Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential.

Tied in with this is the idea of change — a lot of people are afraid of change, and experience fear of the unknown.

  • To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

Then there is the past.  People worry about their personal past.  Churchill sends a dagger through all that nonsense:

  • You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

Adding the absolutely wonderful:

  • For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.

— that is so true, and for everyone; we each of us have our own truth, we each of us write our own history — it’s perfectly natural and normal.

However, he warns about blaming your present situation too much on what has been done and dusted:

  • If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

This is a cautionary word from a man who really respected history:

  • Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.

This ties in nicely with:

  • We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.

That was always one that I remembered, although I like to chat, I keep it at that level.  Anything deeper or more personal has to be carefully let out, word by word.

Another rich quote that I have found significant is:

  • We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

I have found the truth in:

  • We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.

A quote that also applies to music and other shaped things. The next one uses “fanatic”, but I have substituted “bore” quite successfully:

  • A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

Also useful for me at work is the following (often misquoted and misused) advice:

  • Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

— That is something I see too much of, a basic mistake.

Now, I am not a democrat, and so I liked his:

  • The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

I do not like tax, and can hardly get my head around the modern idea of a fair tax!

  • There is no such thing as a good tax.

I also hate restrictions, regulations, too much government, Nanny State, Big brother and so forth, so I liked:

  • If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

I am not very socialist either, and agree with Mr Churchill that,

  • Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.


  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

I have also enjoyed that he couldn’t understand the Russians, and understood the Americans too well:

  • Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
  • You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.

Churchill had a way of looking at things from a different angle:

  • A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.

He was famous for that twisted wit, for example:

  • He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
  • Nancy Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”
    Churchill: “If I were your husband I would take it.”
  • A sheep in sheep’s clothing. (On Clement Atlee)
  • A modest man, who has much to be modest about. (On Clement Atlee)

Each one is a wee gem. I hope you have enjoyed these quotes as much as I have done over the years!




[Picture of Frankie Boyle comedian]Frankie Boyle is brilliant.  He is the best part of “Mock The Week” — sooo acerbic!

He has a new book out soon called “My Shit Life So Far“, and I can hardly wait until 1st October (because that’s the date it will be available)! There’s no chance of seeing his run of live shows at The King’s Theatre next year as they are already sold out — but I like the fact that it’s called “I Would Happily Punch Every One of You In The Face Tour”. How “Frankie” is THAT?

Very few comedians make me laugh aloud, Frankie is one of them — and it’s guaranteed!

Embedded YouTube clip of Frankie Live at The Apollo December 2008

That’s just magic – “He looks like a sad face that somebody”s drawn on a scrotum” – sheer genius, and Abu Hamzar doing shadow puppetry with a hook for a right hand — fantastic. I don’t think he aims to be offensive, he’s just like blokes on the street in that respect — anything goes.  Most of the stuff on YouTube was cut from being broadcast.

Embedded YouTube clip of Frankie Live on “Mock The Week”

Like most comedians, once you get to know the material, you can hear the same gags re-used from time to time. But, with Frankie, it seems to me to be a two-way street; his quick-thinking wit informs his stand-up act as much as his stand-up repertoire provides gags for his on-the-spot stuff.

Where he falls down is his awareness of sensitivity — hence the legendary amount of outtakes and cuts.  I would guess that being aware of rules and suchlike would hinder his thought-processes to his detriment, so long-live Frankie Boyle’s free-flowing super-wit.

I love the reaction he gets from other comedians on “Mock The Week”; that really shows how “Out There” Frankie gets.




Eddie Izzard is my hero!  I have always enjoyed his comedy; it’s witty, clever, thought-provoking, intelligent, surprising and yadda yadda yadda.  Basically the man makes you laugh on lots of different levels.

I can remember when he first started — what an influence he was!  Even people in the street began talking like Eddie, the murmuring, the speeding up and slowing down, the drawing out of vowels, the languidity, the erudition — this was not plain “stream of consciousness” -type comedy, this was the rapids!

Embedded YouTube clip:

The man is a genius at what he does.  He unfolds a virtual world, develops it, draws you into it, until you reach a state that can only be called “glee” — all done with tricks and manipulation by a master of surprise.

Embedded YouTube clip:

I’ve been following him on Twitter ( Check out his website too:

Well, surprise of surprises Eddie has run a full length marathon every day for ages!  All round Britain for charity! How unexpected is it that this high-heeled “Action Transvestite” could run one marathon, let alone 43 in 52 days.

Sorry, but that has really blown me away; it’s so bizarre, so extreme, so altruistic, so … mental!

He has single-handedly restored some faith in humanity for me in my grumpy old age.  How inspiring, and awe-inspiring.  Eddie has actually rocked my world — and now that he’s finished, he’s off to do a 44 date comedy tour of the UK !

Like wow.




I can vividly remember the big buzz surrounding Frank Zappa’s “Baby Snakes” plasticine video on “The Old Grey Whistle Test”. I have always been a bit “funny” about Zappa — in that he was clearly a genius, but that (for me) he sometimes went too far, that he overstepped the mark sometimes.  But hey.

Frank Zappa is to Rock what Miles Davis is to Jazz or John Mayall is to Blues in that he discovered and nurtured so many that have gone on to become legends themselves.  Among the people Zappa discovered are guitarists Steve Vai and Adrian Belew.

Belew was poached from Zappa by David Bowie for the “Heroes” tour in 1978 to which I took Barbara Thomson (sister of John Martyn’s bassist), and as the two of us perched ourselves high on the stack of plastic chairs way up in the gods at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, we were struck by the weird sounds contributed by Belew’s guitar.

Belew played guitar on Bowie’s Live “Stage” album and on the “Lodger” studio album. But there is something wacky about Belew — he’s a bit “Bill Murray” if you know what I mean.

embedded video: AB on Japanese TV Ad – You Tube:

He also kinda reminded me of The Monkees’ Nesmith a bit. He was perfect for Dave Byrne’s “Talking Heads” — two wackos, and getting back to Zappa-type stuff.

Personally I think Adrian’s singing sounds a lot like Byrne’s, it’s the phrasing mainly.  Anyway — he then joined the new King Crimson in about 1981!

Discipline” is utter genius — what a revolution, what a fantastic blend!  Robert Fripp put together a helluva band here — the legendary Bill Bruford on drums for heaven’s sakes — the hottest drummer at the time, getting back with Fripp and KC — and then the bald Tony Leven on stick bass straight from Peter Gabriel’s band — and then Belew on vocals and guitar.

embedded video:King Crimson “Elephant Talk” live You Tube:

For me, it’s the guitars and vocals made this album — and that is mostly Adrian Belew! Man, he makes it look so simple — and FUN!

Fun is pretty much overlooked in the guitar world and serious music business. Thank Goodness for Adrian Belew, that’s all I can say.  He’s Keith Moon mad and manic, but he doesn’t cross the line the way that Zappa sometimes did — it’s not about perverted sex or swearing with Adrian, just silly.

embedded video:Adrian Belew:  “I’m Down”, 1983 You Tube:

“I’m Down” and “I See You” reveal a love of the Beatles and messing about in their style. How enigmatic — he is a funster, he likes pop, yet he’s in King Crimson and is considered one of the world’s most revered guitarists!

Through the rest of the 80s, Adrian continued his pretty varied side projects — some solo work and sessions — such as Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”, Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and “Earth Moving” with Mike Oldfield.

I like that he didn’t forget his old pals, forming “The Bears” and starting to put out fun, lightweight albums.  Then he was back with David Bowie in 1990 as Musical Director for “Sound and Vision”.

That’s quite a CV! But I love this next bit…

In 1998, a musician and lover of Rock music, Paul Green needed to finance his Philosophy degree at the University of Pennsylvania, so he started teaching from his tiny home. Soon Green had 17 students — including a 12 year old bass player called Julie Slick. Julie’s Dad owned a Café and once played the drums — he even had a kit and his 11 year old brother son Eric was a drummer too.

Green needed somewhere bigger to teach, so they started using this a friend’s Café.., and Julie got to play bass with her father on drums!

These sessions were a big hit, and Julie’s brother became the permanent drummer and also signed up for lessons with the newly founded Paul Green’s School of Rock.  The school became a big success and was turned into a national franchise, attracting professional players to do master classes.

Adrian Belew gave a master class for the school in February 2006 — where he met Eric and Julie — and just 3 months later they were touring and recording with him!

Eric is a drum teacher at The Paul Green School of Rock, and Julie works in a restaurant (Rembrandt’s) when not playing with Adrian.  Julie always wears a loose dress and is barefoot when she plays the bass.

Isn’t that brilliant?

It’s like he’s doing what Zappa did for him — he’s helping others.  Not just Eric and Julie and The Bears, but he has also found the time to produce and play guitar on Mexican Rock bands — Caifanes album: “El silencio” and Santa Sabina’s “Símbolos“.

Lead-wise there really is no-one like AB. He loves effects (whereas I don’t use them very much) and writes for particular amps and pedals! His twangy rhythm playing can be heard as influences in bands like Lloyd Cole and The Commotions.

He has not really influenced my lead guitar playing, but he nevertheless makes me want to pick up a guitar.  He has also influenced my outlook — while he is very creative and pushes himself, he somehow manages to remain simple, tuneful and melodic.  He seems to be helpful and altruistic to the underdogs — Mexicans and young kids, and that is the true way — not meeting with world leaders to save the planet.

Check him out, he’s seriously good but anything but serious!




At university, I studied what-was-called “The Enlightenment”, and was taught about the Enlightenment values of Secularism, Humanism and Reason.  Of course, there was a “Politically Correct backlash” against the term “Enlightenment” which was as amusing as it was ironic.

Anyway, having an interest in such things brought me to the marvellous Christopher Hitchens — who has described himself as a believer in those “Enlightenment” values.

For many years now I have refused to buy a newspaper, so I have missed his columns, but I have always enjoyed anything of him that comes my way.  It is a breath of fresh air in a world of fake plastic celebrity, dumbing down and soundbite politics to hear a personal view, properly structured and thought-through.

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Christopher Hitchens wrote: “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything“, and I love that! He really doesn’t mince his words, does he?

  • He is anti-religion — all religions.

Perhaps he agrees with me that much of it is now of more cultural importance than anything else, I read somewhere that he thinks all educated people should have a knowledge of the Bible.

Knowing about the Bible is a precursor for making sense of what we are, what we have and how we got here, but then again, I am not restricting this argument to just the Bible — I would also have to include Greek mythology and a few other things.

Anyway, I came across some classic Hitchens on YouTube, tonight, and just had to share the love!

This one is called “Why Women Still Aren’t Funny”. Superb!

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This is his response to a response from Sarah Silverman and others to his article of that title.




Glasgow should be a city state — its own country; it’s so completely different from Scotland.  Now, it has to be admitted that I was born and grew up in Renfrewshire, which is near Glasgow.  However that’s a mere detail; Glasgow is not restricted to political boundaries.  A good way to determine whether somewhere is in Glasgow or Scotland, or whether someone is Scottish or Glaswegian, is to listen to how they speak; Glaswegians do not say “Ken”, instead they say “y’know” (which means the same thing).  In Glasgow, something is “Big” where in Scotland it is “muckle”.  A ‘weegie will say something is “good” or “great”, while a Scot will say the same thing is “braw” or “bonnie”.

The Scots have a passion for comics and cartoons, mainly the city of Dundee — the home of “The Beano”, “The Dandy”, “Oor Wullie”, and “The Broons“.

The characters in “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons” are Scottish — NOT Glaswegian; they say “ye ken”, they say “muckle” and “braw” and the chat is closer to Swedish than English. (Swedish for “Muckle” is “Myket”, “Brå” is “Braw”).

Glasgow was once the second city of the British Empire (after London, of course).  As the British empire was the biggest empire in history, it therefore follows that Glasgow was once the second biggest and most important place on planet Earth.  It was MASSIVE — five football teams and millions of people — in tenements marked out on a North-South-East-West road grid system.  It had trams, buses, ferries, bridges, tunnels, trains, and was the first place outside of London to have an underground train system.  in fact, Glasgow has a subway as well as low level trains!

Naturally, the people had an ATTITUDE — a swaggering approach to life — and a very famous sense of humour.  Comedians used to be afraid to play Glasgow as the hecklers were funnier than the acts!

Stanley Baxter and others used to make fun of the Scots — especially regarding how measly Scots were with money!  This native Scottish thrift is forever remembered in Glasgow by virtue of a bridge — the train bridge going south over Argyle Street from Central Station — for it is known as the “Heilanman’s umbrella” (Highland man’s umbrella — making fun of the Scottish misers from “up North” who wouldnt’ spend money on an umbrella, and would instead stand under a bridge to keep dry).

Glasgow was world-famous for it’s city-wide sense of humour — Stanley Baxter, Chic Murray, Francie and Josie, Billy Connolly, Arnold Brown, Rab C. Nesbit, Hector Nicol, and Lex Mclean, and can still raise a laugh today  — Rory Bremner, Frankie Boyle, John Sessions, Jerry Sadowitz, Armando Iannucci, Chewin’ The Fat, Karen Dunbar, Alan Cumming,  and Still Game.

Classic Glesga music hall “Francie and Josie”:

Here’s a wee taste of some recent stuff from the brilliant Chewin’ The Fat…

Making fun of the famous gangland culture — No mean City, with “The Big Man” —

— and taking the piss out of the Scots is still done — check out Karen Dunbar’s hilarious Teuchter Schoolteacher in a Glesga school (note also: Thomas Devine’s “Gypsy Haircut” LOL)…

And to finish, the (in)famous stonner/ stawner…

For me, the good old days of Glasgow humour was epitomised by the likes of cartoonist Bud Neill and Tom Shields’s Diary in The Herald.




Woody Allen is a big hero of mine. Not because he was nerdy or geeky; I didn’t relate to that. Neither did I associate with nervousness, agitation, Jewishness or pretty much anything else.

The plain truth is that I love Woody Allen because he is so alien and so different from me. I laugh because he surprises me all the time.  Stories can go anywhere (and do).

He’s the nearest thing to a person worthy of envy.  It is impossible for me to think of him as a bad person or as having bad intentions. His single function seems to me to be to enrich our lives, to make things better for us, to entertain.

I think we all ought to live in a better world, the type of world Woody Allen seems to be in.  He proves that it is possible.  If only we could change the world to be more like that. That is something tangible to aim for.

It has to be the product of North America; that is where there is a culture of patronage, of philanthropy.

He is so versatile and creative and his work is so successful by most  metrics — but there are always detractors of his work and of his life.

I grew up with they guy. He’s always been there, ironically like Bogart was for his character in Play It Again Sam. I have his books, and I always went to his movies each year — and that brought about a new dimension.

“80 percent of success is showing up”

— That Woody Allen line has kept me going through surprisingly difficult times in my life.

But how marvellous to be given carte blanche — to make a movie every year for the rest of your life, starring whomsoever you want, about whatever you like!  A blank cheque.

I loved the fact that he kept his films 80 mins long, with the same crew and black-and-white credits and titles.

The thing is that you could see the legend emerging before your  very eyes — you knew as it was happening — that this man will be of legendary, Dickensian/ Shakespearian stature.

There has always been a strong sense of history being made with Mr Allen.

With is considerable output, he has been free to experiment — and not all things have been successful in terms of living up to the expectation or in terms of financial success at the box office.  But no matter.

Let Woody try it, make the mistakes and indulge himself on our behalf.

Ah the wonder!

Apart from that, I like the fact that he plays clarinet in a small Jazz club every Monday night.  He seems very centred in his life — in New York, in his work.  Much more sensible and grounded than his on-screen persona.

I reckon he’d be a good laugh on a day-to-day basis; that kind of quirky mind cannot be closed down.  I don’t think that his “serious” work shows that he’s grown up or become dry and sober and boring.  I just think he has to keep challenging himself — I mean to say come on; who could make a funny film every single year?

His early comedies are legendary, and his letters and articles brilliant. If you do not know him, do yourself a favour and check out this genius immediately!

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Sadly, a lot of people I know think of Woody only in terms of him being a paedophile — which is pretty shocking.  I don’t know what is more shocking — that people think that or that the media can get away with that sort of thing.

Here’re that facts as I remember them — Woody Allen was married twice.  His first marriage was to a 16 year old when he was just 19.  They were both classically “too young”. Allen married again for a few years — and that marriage was finally wound-up in 1969.

He didn’t marry again — until Christmas Eve in Italy in 1997 when he married in Soon Yi, and they have been married ever since — that’s over a decade, and by far the longest relationship, and longest marriage Woody Allen has enjoyed.

The problem is his wife.  Soon Yi was adopted by Mia Farrow and André Previn, and raised as their child.  When Farrow and Previn split, she started a relationship with Woody Allen — and although the two never married, they had a son called Satchel and adopted two others.

Woody and Soon Yi fell in love and Woody split from Farrow.

Farrow was furious; and fair enough — she was spurned and scorned, this was her adopted daughter, her ex-lover and ex-boss.  He was father to one of her kids. She went to the courts for custody and she went to the media for backup.

Farrow got custody, but even though the courts threw out all the accusations, as a result of this bitterness and fuss, Woody Allen is often somehow thought-of as a paedophile, with the suggestion that he’d molested his own children, that he had abused his position as a father! Some people even think he married his stepdaughter, and that is such a shame!

I remember being furious at the press back then; it was very poorly reported, extremely unfair and biased.  But then I could see that it was somewhat “unsavoury” for a chap to take up with his lover’s adopted kid (whatever age and whatever the age difference), it may not be “nice”, but it wasn’t evil or illegal or abuse or anything like that.

However, as time has gone by, I have to say that they are a true couple – married for longer than usual in Hollywood, and that speaks for itself.  I don’t think Woody Allen takes marriage lightly — marrying the girl was a massive risk when you consider that Mia Farrow had all but ruined his reputation; with a costly divorce and no reputation, could he have recovered?  The only conclusion one can come to is that they really did just fall in love, and that they are a suitable and compatible couple.

A love that is strong enough to survive all that media hype, but also on a personal level as he’s lost his kid and she’s lost her adopted father André and mother Mia, and adopted siblings.

I personally learned a LOT from this tale — that it doesn’t matter what people think, that once you know your mind, stick to your guns.  Woody, to my knowledge, conducted himself with dignity throughout this long and drawn out saga, and I do not recall him slinging any mud back at Mia Farrow.

I don’t get a lot of modern life — Woody Allen’s situation is surely far from unique in this day and age.  I know of other odd arrangements, for example, take a woman who split from her man and taken the children. She then embarks on a relationship with another man.  If she then dies, is the new man responsible for these children? or does he hand them back to their original father(s)?

Hey, looks like material for a Woody Allen film… LOL!




Don_Martin-woman_hit_by_bottle_daduntMAD Magazine was amazing; it really inspired us to draw. Most of the actual jokes and satire went way over our heads because we did not have those cultural references, we didn’t know the celebrities.

However, that did not matter one jot when it came to the great Don Martin… what can I say?  He was just out-and-out amazingly funny.

He had his own style of drawing, and of describing the action.

I loved it.

It was always the first thing I thought of when someone referred to MAD, and the first thing I turned to when I bought a copy was the “Don Martin Dept”.

I cannot help it; I simply admire the work. Hinged feet? Genius.

Don_Martin-Cooks_Up_More_Tales Don_Martin-running_like_mad

I was really saddened to hear of his death in 2000.  He had been with MAD from his early twenties through the peak years for comics, the 60s and 70s.

Martin was such a massive influence on everything and everyone!  The way he exaggerated movement, the ridiculous sounds (and the way the got the idea across), and the complete departure from reality in terms of proportion, and the way joints and limbs work. [There’s even an on-line Don Martin Sounds Dictionary]

Martin could squeeze a laugh from the smallest detail –and as kids we all poured over his stuff, paying tremendous attention before copying into our school jotters.

Enjoy — donmartinweb/




I have always enjoyed Cinders’s “Broomie Law” cartoons in the Herald.  I know she lives in Glasgow with her husband and kids, and I think she’s about the same age as me, and that’s about it — apart from a rumour that she’s originally from Canada.

There are not as many female cartoonists and comic book artists around, for some unknown reason.  Maybe Cinders can be a role model!

[Picture of Cinders Mcleod comic strip] [Picture of Cinders Mcleod comic strip]

She has managed to be witty AND have a female voice, at the risk of being all lesbiany and suffragetty, and has great observations about the weird modern world we inhabit.  She’s a real treasure… and she ought to be better kent (famous). Anyway, I’m doing my bit on my blog, hope it helps!