#Metoo – Newsjack monologue (unedited)

Hello

This week, women around the world used the hashtag #metoo to talk openly about their experiences of sexual harassment following the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein

I host a topical comedy show on BBC Radio 4 Extra called Newsjack. I open the show with a monologue about the week’s news. This week, in my monologue, I talked about Harvey Weinstein and #metoo. i wanted to because I was angry, and am lucky enough to have a platform to say what I want, not a big one, but a bigger one than many.

Now, obviously because of editing and time restrictions in the show, not everything I wrote could go in. I usually write a 7 page monologue. This week it was 13 pages! So I thought I would post that bit of my script here, in case anyone heard the edited version and fancied hearing the full thing. And also to clarify some of the points that might be raised from the edited version:

So this is the full version that I recorded pre-edit.

“Over the past couple of weeks, allegations of sexual harassment and assault continue to be made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein released a response to the allegations, in which he said he was seeking therapy to address his issues.
A line that famous people tend to wheel out when they are in trouble; one always suspects they seek self preservation rather than self improvement. If a film star gets caught drunk driving they’ve told the world they are in rehab before their hangover kicks in.

Many female stars have since come forward with an alarming number of their own stories regarding Weinstein’s behaviour.

The response from men in Hollywood has ranged from shocked and supportive to “wait a minute, what did you just say Ben Affleck?”

Far too many of these responses have used a variation of the phrase “As a father of daughters”

NO NO NO

Your status as a father of a daughter should be irrelevant. Surely you have mothers, sisters, partners and female friends? Do you not care about them?
I’ve started pre-fixing my arguments with similar pointless statements. “Why have I blocked your car in? Well, speaking as a Sagittarian…”
If being a father to a daughter made you treat women better, how the hell do you explain, Henry VIII?

But for the record, I find the whole concept of parenthood making you somehow more compassionate infuriating. Compassion doesn’t just belong to parents and nobody else. It doesn’t arrive in amniotic fluid.
Some compassionate people have children. Some don’t. Some not very compassionate people have children, some don’t. Piers Morgan has children.
End of argument

People are also asking why these women didn’t speak out sooner. Really?
Speaking out against people in power is frightening. Especially if the people in power are you route to complaint. It’s a lot to do with self preservation. If you are a prisoner in Shawshank, you are unlikely to be too honest about what you write on the prisoner feedback and complaints forms

Also, as we’ve learned, the problem is ubiquitous. It’s ingrained in the experience of being a woman. We grew up surrounded by euphemistic terms for sexual harassment. I hate the term casting couch. Such an innocuous term for such a violent abuse of power. You wouldn’t call the electric chair ‘the buzzy sofa’. Casting couch makes it sound harmless, almost fun, like water boarding

We have grown up with this acceptance of sexual harassment as part of our lives. How many times have we heard things like “he’s a nice guy, just don’t be alone in a room with him”, or “he doesn’t mean anything by it, he’s just a bit handsy”, and we don’t even bat an eyelid. I can’t count the number of times that, when I was a single woman, only managed to stop a man making unwanted advances by saying “sorry, I’ve got a boyfriend or “sorry, my husband will be here soon”. I said sorry, to a man who has less concern for what I want and whether I feel safe, than for the potential disrespect of a man that doesn’t even bloody exist

Then on Monday, something happened. We had enough.
Using the hashtag #metoo, woman across the world began to talk about the many situations they have found themselves in. Catcalling,sexual harassment, receiving lewd pictures and messages, groping, sexual assault and rape.

Now, I am a woman who hosts a topical comedy show. I feel I have to talk about this. But I am angry.. Some things are easier to do when you’re angry, like the washing up or masturbating.

But being funny when you are angry, that’s hard. I mean, I’m assuming that’s also James Corden’s excuse.

An article I read said that that “people were shocked at the scale” – at first that seemed unremarkable, then I thought “hang on”, but we aren’t shocked. What they mean is “men, MEN were shocked at the scale”. And therein lies what’s at the heart of the problem. “People” can be casually used to mean men. Just men.

Women ARE people. Sure, first thing in the morning without my makeup on, you might question that, but I assure you we are people. And if you want to get sciency about it – women are quantitatively more people than men are.

To help understanding let me tell you what the metoo hashtag was NOT about.

It was not about suggesting that all men are perpetrators.
So when we tell you our experience as women, you don’t need to shout “not all men” or “it wasn’t me”.
You’re not Shaggy, you’re a knobhead

Nobody is suggesting it is your fault that other men behave this way – but this isn’t about what you are NOT doing, it is about what they ARE doing.

We are just asking you to listen and to accept our experiences and to try to understand.

We have no way of knowing which of you might hurt us, so please excuse us if we’re a little cautious. If you shout at us in the street, you might not mean any harm, but we have no way of knowing you’re not the one who is going to follow us home.

When you meet a scary dog in the park. The owner might tell you “it’s ok Tyson wouldn’t hurt a fly.” But you’re still apprehensive because everybody has been bitten before.

Maybe he wouldn’t hurt a fly’ but he’s still a Rottweiler. He still has the teeth and the ability to bite.

My relationships with men are a lot like my relationships with dogs. They can be lots of fun and I enjoy sending them to fetch things, but I’m still wary because quite a lot of them are bloody dangerous.

We are not suggesting this is fair on the good guys.
Look, Edward scissorhands was a good guy, right. But if I met him in the street, and I hadn’t seen the film, I would be wary. I mean he’s a man who literally has scissors for hands.

And underneath him is Johnny Depp. Even worse.

All we are asking is that you understand that.

And with regards to those who still want to willfully misunderstand and shout “hashtag not all men”, in my experience, the kid who cries “It wasn’t me” the loudest is often the one stood next to the scribbles on the wall with crayon under their fingernails. In the song Shaggy DID do it. It WAS him.

Another thing hashtag metoo is NOT suggesting is that men don’t suffer harassment or abuse. Of course they do. It is horrific. And those men need as much love and support and as much of a voice as any woman. Nobody is suggesting that isn’t the case.
#Metoo is about how some degree of sexual harassment has happened to pretty much EVERY woman. The news isn’t that women get assaulted and men don’t. That is patently not true. The news is the scale in which women get assaulted. That it IS systemic.

It’s compartmentalising different issues. If you see a campaign about how the rhinos are dying out, you don’t need to shout, it’s tough for penguins too Angela. It’s an equally important but different campaign.

This kind of inequality is taught from a young age. I mean it’s not in the syllabus. But socially, it’s ingrained. Girls are always told they’re “sweet” or “lovely” rather than “clever” or “brave”. I’ve started turning the tables now. If I’m in a meeting with a man, I like to tell him his ideas are “pretty”.

Finally, let’s be clear, hashtag metoo is NOT telling men they are not allowed to flirt with women.

Woody Allen said he hoped that this wouldn’t lead to a witch hunt and any guy ‘winking at a woman in the office would have to call a lawyer to protect himself.
If it were, Columbo would be shitting himself.
And I really don’t want Woody Allen to be the guy who gets to decide what sexual harassment is any more than I want Gary Barlow to do my tax return.

Look, I get it, flirting can be difficult, I mean I am terrible at it. My friend once told me watching me flirt was like watching me put down a heckler. Apparently I either go in too soft or too hard. Apparently it’s not flirting if you start with “I’m sorry” and end with “fuck you”

But the point is, whoever you’re flirting with, it is a 2 way conversation.
Initiating flirting can be a risk, sure. You don’t know if that person will reciprocate. But here’s the key. If they don’t you just stop. Otherwise you are harassing them. It’s really simple. If you jumped out of a plane and the parachute didn’t open, would you try it again with the same parachute?”

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Linda Smith: The next best thing to meeting your hero

I often get interviewed by local papers, radio stations and things advertising local gigs. One of the stock questions you get asked is “who is your biggest influence?”, and I always reply, “Linda Smith”.

I think I first became aware of Linda via the News Quiz on Radio 4. I felt an immediate affinity to her. She was born just down the road from where I was born, had the accent and turns of phrase that I know so well. She talked about a Kent and family life that I recognised very well, despite being almost 2 decades younger than her.

I have been a fan of comedy, particularly radio comedy, for as long as I remember. Being a girl pretty low in self-confidence at school and into my 20s, it never occurred to me that it was something that I could actually do. I always knew that I wanted to perform comedy. But it was something that cleverer, more confident, and, let’s be honest, if you listen to old radio comedy like I did, something that was the preserve of the Oxbridge elite and middle classes.

Hearing Linda on The News Quiz and other programmes on radio and TV really showed me that there might be a place for somebody like me in that world.

I really admired many female comedy performers that came through in the 80s, Victoria Wood, Jo Brand, French and Saunders. But they all possessed qualities I didn’t think I had. Victoria Wood was a talented actress and musician. Jo Brand seemed to possess a fearlessness that I certainly didn’t have in my teens and 20s, and French and Saunders possessed something I never ever had, a sort of “cool”.

Then, Linda came into my world. She was intelligent, had something to say on what was happening in the world. But she was also approachable, not threatening. Linda didn’t come across as if she was part of a “cool” movement.  She was just bitingly funny and acerbic, but with such great warmth and accessibility. I liked her instantly. I wanted to know about her, to hear what she had to say, to know her interpretation of the world. I recognised her world. She never ever let gender play a part in her comedy. She was a comedian, full stop. And one of the sparkiest wits I can think of.

Linda was a brilliant satirist. She was incredibly politically aware, without being party political, and was able to lampoon the world of politics in a completely accessible way. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were targeted equally. She held strong left values, and was a humanist. Values I hold dear.

When it came out, I read Driving Miss Smith: A Memoir Of LindaSmith by her partner of 23 years, Warren Lakin. It was a really touching account of Linda’s life both in and out of comedy. Warren and Linda were a team, and the way they worked together was so inspiring.Learning more about how Linda got to where she got made me realise even more that comedy was something I was in love with and absorbed in. I think it planted the seed that maybe one day, I could actually have a go.
I read Warren’s book not long after very suddenly losing my Dad. My Dad who had introduced me to to Round The Horne, Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Just a Minute and so many other radio classics.

Life was indeed short. And I was in my early 30s. So I took the plunge and did a stand-up course. My life changed, and I am now in the position of making a living as a comedian. Something that was unthinkable to me a decade ago.

The comedy world is relatively small. I worked last year on a project with the brilliant Mark Thomas, of whom I am also a big fan. He knew Linda and Warren, and in fact Warren’s company produces Mark’s tour shows.  Mark happened to mention me in conversation with Warren. This was towards the end of last year, when I was doing Stand Up For The Week on Channel 4. Warren watched the series and looked me up and saw that I mention Linda as being my comedy inspiration.

He got my phone number from Mark, and one afternoon, at the Clapham Grand waiting to film SUFTW, I received the most wonderful surprise phone call that I have ever received. It was from Warren. He told me that he had heard about me through Mark, and knew that I was a fan of Linda’s. He liked the stuff I was doing, which meant more to me than I can say. We chatted for about half an hour about Linda, and comedy and how things have changed over the years etc. It was a very special moment for me.  Warren said 2 things during that conversation that made me so happy. He asked me if I would perform at Loving Linda, an annual benefit in aid of Target Ovarian Cancer. I obviously jumped at the chance. the show took place on 11 May and was absolutely wonderful to be part of, alongside the likes of Mark Thomas, Andy Hamilton, Susan Calman and Bridget Christie. He also told me about Linda’s archive. Warren had collected and archived everything about Linda when he was writing his book. Audio tapes dating back to when they first met and worked together in 1983, CDs, videos, posters, notebooks, scripts, everything you could imagine from Linda’s career had been lovingly saved.  Warren has donated this archive to University of Kent. Linda knew the Head of Drama there, Ollie Double, and they have a very popular comedy module. Warren knew that those students could benefit greatly from Linda’s archive. And, indeed they will.

Yesterday, I went with Warren to look at the archive.  We only managed the tip of the iceberg yesterday afternoon, as there are around 25 boxes of materials.

I cannot tell you what an amazing privilege it was to be there yesterday with Warren. I never got to meet Linda, let alone to work with her. But yesterday, I had an insight into the work of my hero that few people are lucky enough to get.

I saw notebooks, and in them I recognised the process that I myself go through when writing material. The hastily jotted down ideas meaningless to anyone else. The writing out of set lists over and over, to sort out where the new bits would go and to cement them in your head. The doodles. OH THE DOODLES! I know my brain won’t let me think unless my pen hand is distracted.

We found tapes of live shows, lots of Linda’s BBC recordings.

Warren found notes from when Linda returned to live stand up after concentrating on radio and TV for a few years. He talked me through the process they went through as Linda recalled all of the material she had, and Warren typed them up for her, and how they whittled them into a set for her first live show back.

My favourite finds of the day were the News Quiz notepads. On the News Quiz, the panellists have a notepad and pen on the table to jot down their thoughts/prompts/reminders etc. Several of Linda’s are in her archives. With Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4 down the side, with her one word notes and prompts. And covered in the thinking doodles. Just wonderful items. I always listened to the News Quiz, and Linda shone on that programme. Some of her most memorable moments come from that programme. I urge you to listen to this 

I am sitting now at my own desk, covered in post-it notes, and scraps of paper, and from where I am sitting I can count 17 filled or half filled notebooks. The thought of someone maybe going through them in the future fills me with dread, but they are part of the process of writing comedy. And the process is what is so exciting to people like me, comedyphiles.  Seeing Linda’s workings out helped me to accept that, although I am a long long way from the pure talent of Linda, I am on the path I have wanted to be on for all those years. And how bloody lucky I am to be here.

Being there with Warren yesterday was so very special. Hearing Warren’s memories and stories of their time together really brought Linda to life for me in that room.

Warren, I can’t thank you enough for yesterday, a very, very special day indeed.

If you have read this and remember Linda fondly, perhaps you could make a small donation to Target Ovarian Cancer. This cruel disease took Linda far too young, leaving the world a much less funny place. It is a cancer very difficult to detect, so research and development in this area is vital.

http://targetovariancancer.org.uk/links.asp?section=498&sectionTitle=Donate

Selfie Esteem Issues

So, this week saw the “No Make-up Selfie” phenomenon take off.

There were sceptics. This wasn’t initially an officially endorsed piece of fundraising. However, my thought was that it was harmless enough, and if just one person saw the words “breast cancer” and decided to have a quick feel of themselves, then it can only be a good thing.

Then, against the expectations of most, the campaign started working. Cancer charities started receiving donations that they might not otherwise have had, and, this can only be a good thing. A really good thing. And so I joined in the fun. I really didn’t think I would, because, you see, I have issues with my face. You may remember a previous blog I wrote (https://barnesbraindump.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/my-new-ism/).

They are my issues, and they are nothing compared to the massive fuckwit that is cancer. So I eventually decided to get over myself and post a picture of me with no makeup on. (I did, however, leave my glasses on, because I felt that they at least covered some of my face).

Here, this is mine.

photo-7

Then some people got upset. Why should women be seen as being “brave” because they dared to bare their faces without makeup. And they are right. It is a sign of how society has made us feel inadequate.  There is no doubt that magazines and the media make people (men included) feel that they are not meeting some arbitrary expectation of beauty.

But the problem is that the world is the way it is. It isn’t the way it should be. And so, for somebody who feels the way I do about themselves, I think there was an element of bravery in what we did.

I wish I felt confident and happy to go bare faced more often. But I don’t. Not yet.

Please don’t make those of us that contributed feel bad that we don’t have the self-confidence that you are so lucky to possess. I envy those of you that don’t feel ashamed of your face, and don’t want to mask it. We are constantly bombarded with images of perfection, and it takes strength to ignore that. I am glad that there are so many strong women out there who already have this strength. Some of us are working towards it. But telling us that what we did isn’t brave because you happen to do it every day, strikes me as a little insensitive. 

People made me feel pathetic, and like I was letting women down (which is the same feeling that THOSE magazines etc instil) for posting my selfie, and for feeling proud of myself for something that I found so hard.

Perhaps you have been told you are beautiful. You might have healthy glowing skin, and bright eyes. Perhaps you have never hated your face so much that you have felt that you wanted to apologise to people sitting opposite you on public transport for having to look at you.

But please don’t knock us for the baby steps that we took with our No Make Up selfies. The world needs to change. I really hope that one day we will look back at what happened this week and say “How funny that back in 2014, women considered it brave to be seen in a public forum without their makeup on”

But we are not there yet.

One thing I do know though, is that the reaction I got from the selfie I posted on FB made me cry. I could not believe that my bare face, the face I have hated my whole life, could be looked at and admired. And, it gave me such a boost.  And today, I went out with no make up on, and I held my head up high.

Yes, it is a shame that the #nomakeupselfie is a thing. But if it is a thing that helps the world to see how the cosmetics industry has been fucking us all up, AND can raise MILLIONS for cancer research, then I reject your rejection of it.

Now, if you haven’t done so, please text BEAT to 70099 to donate £3

And be who you want to be – with as much or as little slap as you want.

Letter from Angela Barnes to the Angela Barnes of August 2014

It is August 2013. I am not at the Edinburgh fringe Festival. For the first year in a while, I am not partaking in any way in the event.

And it has been a revelation. A revelation that has caused me to write myself a letter. A letter to take with me to Edinburgh next year, to open when I am having my first, inevitable, breakdown of the Fringe. I mentioned on my Facebook page that I have done this, and people seem to think it is a good idea. So, I thought I would recreate the letter here, so that you may print your own copy to take with you to the Edinburgh Fringe. Or maybe you are there now, and this could be just what you need to hear. So, here it is…

Dear Angela 

Hello old bean. So, you’re up there and you’re doing it. Your first solo show at Edinburgh Fringe. Pretty exciting, well done you. Just in case you don’t remember me, I am you. You from 12 months ago. The you that decided not to go to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013. Yes? Ah good, that could have been awkward if you couldn’t place me.

Anyway, I am writing because I can’t help feeling a bit worried for you up there, because I know what you are like. You’re a worrier, you let things get to you, and you blow things up to be bigger than they need to be. I am hoping that, by reading this letter, you will be able to reset yourself and get on with enjoying your Fringe.  Because lady, that is what you should be doing. Work hard? Yes. Give it your all? Yes. Have a nervous breakdown and fall out of love with the job you adore? No, definitely not.

So, I am here to remind you about something very important, something that you have to promise to keep in mind. And I am not just saying this to make you feel better. This is the absolute truth.  Ready?

NOBODY OUTSIDE OF EDINBURGH GIVES A FLYING FUCK WHAT IS HAPPENING IN EDINBURGH.  Now, Angela of 2014. You might find this hard to believe right now. Right now when all you can see when you close your eyes is flyers and flashes and stars. Right now when you haven’t had a single conversation in as long as you can remember that doesn’t involve the questions “how is your show going?”, or “Have the judges been in?” or “How are you doing for numbers?”.

The last few years I have been in Edinburgh, the outside world ceases to exist. That is understandable, when you are doing multiple shows everyday, you only have so much capacity. BUT, the world DOES still exist, it keeps turning, people have birthdays, people die, people argue, people go to the cinema, people do their jobs, they might go on holiday, they get parking tickets, they feed their cats, they accidentally put a red sock in the white wash. And, while they are doing this, A STUPIDLY TEENY TINY AND INCONSEQUENTIAL amount of them are thinking about you, your show, other peoples’ shows and what people think of them. NOBODY CARES.

Most people don’t know what a Pleasance Courtyard is, what a Loft Bar pass is, what a street team is, what “but it reads like a 4” means, or who Steve Bennett is.

I have been doing regular gigs all over the country this August, and, now Angela of 2014, this may come as a surprise, nobody I have seen during this time, who is involved in comedy, is even talking about Edinburgh and what’s happening up there. Even comedians, yes EVEN COMEDIANS, are just getting on with living their lives and doing their jobs. It is like the Fringe isn’t even happening. It barely crosses their mind that you are up there. And, you know what. THEY DON’T HAVE TIME TO READ YOUR REVIEWS – SO THEY DON’T!  I KNOW!

So Angela, here’s the thing. I know you are feeling stressed, and some child just out of nappies has written something that has made you cry, but it doesn’t matter. You are there, and you are doing it. Five years ago you wouldn’t have even entertained such a notion. How far have you come?!  And, you know what, if no one likes the show, it’s not because you haven’t worked hard on it. So, don’t look at your reviews. Do your show the best you can. And for Chrissakes try to enjoy it. What sort of masochist spends all that money to drive themselves to an early grave?  IT ISN’T WORTH IT.  Really proper shit is happening in the world. Your shit doesn’t matter. Screw it up in a ball, throw it away, go to MUM’S for some Haggis and get over yourself.

You’re doing a bloody Edinburgh Fringe show. That should be enough to be proud of to get you through.

REMEMBER – YOU ONLY HAVE TO GO A FEW MILES TO FIND WHERE THE GIVING A FUCK ABOUT IT ALL ENDS.

Now, go and enjoy your Fringe you silly bint. And treat yourself to a new frock, you deserve it

Lots of love 

Angela of 2013 xx

Barnesy’s Blunt Fringe – Recommendations for Edinburgh 2013

A few people have asked me for tips of what shows to see at the Fringe. It’s tricky because I know so many wonderful people that are doing shows, and I could easily recommend 100+ brilliant shows for you to see.

But, for what it is worth, with a gun to my head, these are the 15 fringe shows (in no particular order) I would pick if it was all I was allowed, and the special prizes for which I have nominated them, You will be unsurprised to hear that they are pretty much all comedy. If you want theatre recs,dance, music ask someone cultured, I am not your woman.

1. Michael Fabbri: Buffering

Winner of the Barnes Award for: MOST TALENTED COMIC WHO SHOULD BE FAMOUS BUT ISN’T, and, MOST TOLERANT COMIC IN THE WORLD (for being able to consistently work with me without killing me)

Seriously, I have seen this show at various stages in its development, it is BRILLIANT. Michael’s imagination never fails to astound me, and his imagery and ideas are near perfect

20:00 City Cafe (Free)
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/michael-fabbri-buffering

2. Sara Pascoe Vs The Truth

Winner of the Barnes Award for: PERFORMER I’D MOST LIKE TO BE

I saw a very early preview of this show and it is captivating. I could watch Sara forever, she has such a wonderful and unique style and, most of all, is bloody hilarious

20:00 Assembly, George Square
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/sara-pascoe-vs-the-truth

3. James Acaster, Lawnmower

Winner of the Barnes Award for:COMIC I FEEL MOST PROUD OF DESPITE HAVING NOTHING REMOTELY TO DO WITH HIS SUCCESS

The bits of this show that I have seen are as near to perfect stand up as you can get. Watching James grow into the performer he is today has been one of my biggest pleasures in comedy. I promise you will not regret buying this ticket, James is glorious and different to anything else you’ll see.

19:00, Pleasance Courtyard
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/james-acaster-lawnmower

4. Wil Hodgson – Leave The Landing Light ON

Winner of the Barnes Award for: MOST CAPTIVATING STORYTELLER

I love watching Wil, his style is very much his own and he brings you so effortlessly into his world, no matter who you are. I love the premise of this show, which talks about the fear of being an 80s kid bombarded with public information films and cold war paranoia. Am VERY excited about seeing this.

23:40 – The Stand
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/wil-hodgson-leave-the-landing-light-on

5. Nick Helm: One Man Mega Myth

Winner of the Barnes Award for: PURE UNADULTERATED JOY

I have never watched Nick Helm and not enjoyed every second. And I have watched him many times. It will have songs, poems, sequins, sweat, props, too much flesh, a beard, and a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And it will be utterly joyous.

16:00 Pleasance Courtyard
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/nick-helm-one-man-mega-myth

6. Sean McLoughlin: Backbone

Winner of the Barnes Award for: COMIC MOST LIKELY TO CRY IF YOU DON’T SEE HIS SHOW

You may not have heard of Sean McLoughlin, and, if that is the case, I suggest you rectify that immediately. Sean is bordering genius, so much so, that I worry for his mental health constantly. I have worked with Sean a lot, and he is one of those comics that makes me think “Dammit, I wish I’d thought of that” more than any other.

18:15, Pravda, Espionage (FREE)
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/sean-mcloughlin-backbone

7. Mark Thomas: 100 Acts of Minor Dissent

Winner of the Barnes Award for: SHOW MOST LIKELY TO FEATURE MY NAME IN IT

Having taken part in one of Mark’s Acts of Minor Dissent, I can vouch for how hilarious and wonderful this show will be, with a hefty dose of silliness and serious point making. But, above all, it will be funny as.

19.30, The Stand
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/mark-thomas-100-acts-of-minor-dissent

8. Bridget Christie – A Bic For Her

Winner of the Barnes Award for: BEING MY FEMINIST HERO

If, like me, you really enjoyed Bridget’s Radio 4 series recently, then this show is definitely for you. In fact, it is for everyone. I saw an early preview of it, and, if I could make every schoolchild and adult watch it, I would. A completely unpatronising and unpreachy look at gender inequality in the modern world. And, above all, it is done in a beautifully original way, a MUST SEE. Well worth getting up early for, trust me.

11.10am, The Stand
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/bridget-christie-a-bic-for-her

9. Peacock and Gamble: Heart-throbs

Winner of the Barnes Award for: SHOW I’D MOST LIKE TO HAVE SEX WITH

Peacock and Gamble have been my Fringe highlights for the last 2 years. They are my absolute favourite comedy double act, and you’d have to be a right miserable fucker not to enjoy their show. It’s very silly, but underneath the knockabout silliness, there is a beautifully crafted show. I think they may have killed off Naughty Keith, which is a shame… They also made me say very rude things in their podcast last year. Dirty fucking sexy bastards.

21.45 – Pleasance Courtyard
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/peacock-gamble-heart-throbs

10. Romesh Ranganathan: Rom Com

Winner of the Barnes Award for: COMIC MOST LIKELY TO TELL YOU HIS SHOW IS SHIT AFTER IT’S WON LOADS OF AWARDS

Romesh’s glass isn’t just half empty, he has broken the glass and cut himself with it. But this overwhelming pessimist is a ridiculously funny fucker, and is destined for huge things. He is also one of my favourite people in comedy. Go along, and shower him with your love and praise. He hates that

18.50, Underbelly, Bristo Square
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/romesh-ranganathan-rom-com

11. Tig Notaro: Boyish-Girl Interrupted

Winner of the Barnes Award for:COMIC YOU SHOULD SEE WHILE SHE’S IN THE UK OR REGRET IT

Tig Notaro is brilliant, a real inspiration to so many comics. It is so exciting that she will be in Edinburgh, book your tickets NOW so you can say you were there. Trust me on this one.

18.45, Gilded Balloon, Teviot
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/tig-notaro-boyish-girl-interrupted

12. Sarah Millican: Home Bird

Winner of the Barnes Award for: BEING MY MENTOR WHETHER SHE LIKES IT OR NOT

There is not much I can say about why you should see Sarah. She is brilliant. I have seen earlier versions of the show, and it is utterly delightful, as always. Sarah is playing The Stand, so don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the best comics in the country in one of the best comedy venues in the country. It will be sublime, I promise

18.40 The Stand
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/sarah-millican-home-bird

13. David Sedaris – An Evening With David Sedaris

Winner of the Barnes Award for: BEING MY RADIO HERO

The brilliant essayist, humourist and satirist is in Edinburgh. This is good news. See him.

18.30, EICC
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/david-sedaris-an-evening-with-david-sedaris

14. Josh Widdicombe, Incidentally

Winner of the Barnes Award for: WISHING I COULD BE HALF AS GOOD AS HE IS

Josh is, in my humble opinion, the best observational comic out there. He is likeable, his material is relatable, and he is as funny as a human can be. I adore what he does, and he is one of the reasons I started doing stand up myself. There, I said it. SEE HIM.

21.00, Assembly, George Square
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/josh-widdicombe-incidentally

15. Hot Dub Time Machine: Best. Party. Ever.
Winner of the Barnes Award for: BEST PLACE TO SEE COMEDIANS DANCING

HDTM was the highlight of Edinburgh 2012. A night of dancing to tunes from 1950-present day in order. It is a brilliant way to let your hair down and boogie the night away. And you will be guaranteed to see drunk famous comedians dancing like loons as it is their after show hangout of choice. Keep an eye out for Romesh Ranganathan, he loses his shit when they play Fresh Prince of Bel Air, you have been warned. Oh, and if you learn the German words to 99 Luftballons before you go, you will be a LEGEND on the night, and you will be carried out on peoples’ shoulders…

00.15, Underbelly, Bristo Square
https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/music/hot-dub-time-machine-best-party-ever

BARNESY’S SPECIAL MENTIONS

It was so so hard picking just a few shows to see. I would like to give special mentions to the following too, I just ran out of time to plug them as much as those above, but they are AS brilliant:

Nish Kumar
David Trent
Rob Collins
Mae Martin
Milo McCabe
Liam Mullone
Joe Lycett
Jim Campbell
Susan Calman
Richard Hering

Have a great Fringe everyone.

AB xx

The Benefit Cap Doesn’t Fit

So, let me get this right IDS. Benefit caps mean that a huge proportion of Housing Benefit claimants, in London and the SE in particular,  will no longer be able to afford the extortionate rents that private landlords are charging.?

So, they have 2 choices

1) Get a job. I need a whole other blog to discuss the lack of REAL employment opportunities, and the undeniable fact that MOST people on benefits would give their right arm to be in work. For MOST people, being out of work isn’t about dossing and sticking 2 fingers up at the system. It is a cause of frustration, guilt, shame, distress, depression and worse. (Incidentally, ATOS probably wouldn’t count giving your right arm as being deserving of disability benefit)

2) Move to an area where the rents are more affordable. Easy to say IDS, but what about…

a) – The cost of relocation, removals etc.  How would a family on very low income physically be able to get themselves to these new areas?

b) How would somebody go about applying for HB in a borough they are not currently located in? How long would it take to re-apply for HB and receive it with the new council?  In the meantime, how can somebody pay a deposit and rent wile waiting for HB decisions?

c) DON’T GET ME STARTED ON LETTING AGENT FEES – they are scumbags. It is unlikely that someone, on moving to a new “affordable” area will be instantly offered council or social housing, so will have to use private landlords.

d) Children will be removed from schools  where they are settled and new places will need to be found in alternative schools. Altenative schools in previously less populated areas. Probably meaning, there are not so many school places.

e)  If there is a mass exodus of people from London/SE to previously less populated and cheaper areas, won’t that have its own problems for those areas? Local services may not be able to cope.

f)  If the goal is to encourage more people into work, how is forcing them into areas with cheaper rents going to help, when it is often a signifier of an area with a significantly low amount of available employment – eg rural areas, previous industrial towns etc?

Brilliant.

How about this IDS? A cap on rents from private landlords. And/or, a sliding scale of benefit allowances according to the average rent in the district in which benefits are being claimed? A Local Housing Allowance that actually reflects the reality of private rent in the area. A cap on private rents means a realistic cap can be put on HB spending. But one that is fair to everyone, regardless of where they happen to live.

Why force families from their communities, extended family, support networks, familiar surroundings, HOMES?  Is there some NIMBYism here?  Flush all of the poor people out of the capital and the surrounding areas? Make it a paradise for hedge fund managers and bankers?

Ah yes, the hedge fund managers. Enjoying their tax breaks worth £145million a year. How do these people sleep at night?

In the Haringey pilot, some 740 families were affected by the cap. Only 34 members of those families found paid employment.

It doesn’t work, does it IDS?

Oh, and I’m interested to find out what the definition of “paid employment” is as far as the Coalition are concerned. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if they were counting seasonal, casual and temp work to make their figures look better.

When will we stop demonising all poor people because of the  MINORITY that abuse the system? All systems are abused – look at the scale of corporate tax evasion. Don’t tar everybody with the same brush.

I’m disgusted.

My New Ism

I started writing this a few weeks ago – something I saw today made me post it
The thing I saw today was this advert from a LinkedIn profile, it was on the Everyday Sexism feed – but I think this is not just sexist (although it clearly is that), but also comes under another bracket, one which is across genders.

It has lead me to think about another marginalised group who are often the butt of jokes, but who don’t really have a voice.  I think it may be one of the few “isms” that doesn’t really get talked about. Yet it is a form of discrimination against people for something for which they are entirely faultless.

I have lost count recently how many times I have had to listen to comics  (usually male) discussing (on and off stage) the “rough” people they have been with (usually women).
I will call this practice uglyism. The word “ugly” is, well, ugly.  Phonetically, however, I find it rather pleasing. Perhaps I shall work to reclaim it. I am ugly, and I am proud.
Now, of course, the debate about beauty and attractiveness could go on forever. Different people find different things attractive. Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder. And an inner beauty can outshine the most beautiful of outer beauties.  I find people beautiful if they have a beautiful outlook. However, the very fact that the things I have mentioned here have happened, means that, despite protestations to the contrary, people do, and always will make judgements and pass remark on people according to their aesthetic attractiveness, and usually how close they are to what is perceived as generally attractive or “classically” attractive. Though what exactly it is, is difficult to quantify.
Let me try to be clear what I am speaking about here.
There is a difference, a huge one, between being ATTRACTIVE (which is very subjective) and being GOOD LOOKING (still subjective, but I think less so).
This is about not being “conventionally attractive”, or “pretty” or “good looking”.  The fact is that I don’t see people in magazines that look like me. If I was an actress, I would have no choice but to be a “character actress”.  I would never be a female romantic lead, as it is well known that  people who are not good looking do not have sex.  And attractive people don’t want to see or think about us having sex.
But, you know what? I do have sex. And I have had sex with some incredibly good looking men. Not because they are doing me a favour. Not because they felt it was a charitable act. Not because they were drunk, playing “shag a minger” or doing it for a bet (well, not always). But because I can be pretty good at it, even if I say so myself.
So why are people on TV and in films, that are not good looking, rarely portrayed having sex, enjoying sex, having sex with good looking people who don’t regret it, or having a healthy attitude to sex without hangups?
In film and on TV, often even the “plain” people are conventionally good looking, but made up and costumed  to seem unattractive. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you “Ugly Betty”.
It is very difficult to discuss being “not one of the beautiful ones”.  It makes people very uncomfortable if you describe yourself as being “funny looking” or “ugly”. Social mores seem to dictate that they must respond in a pavlovian way with “of course you ARE pretty.”, “you ARE beautiful” and other such responses which in turn make you feel uncomfortable  (because everyone knows overcompensation is going on) and everyone just goes back to their drinks and tries to forget the conversation ever started.
I would like, for once to start a conversation with “As someone who is not conventionally attractive…” without the person I am talking to seeing it as me giving them a cue to disagree and to flatter me.
This whole piece will probably be interpreted by many of its readers as “fishing for compliments”.  May I state here, categorically, that it is not.
It’s OK, I am perfectly happy with who I am and how I look. I haven’t always been, but, as I’ve got older, I’ve realised that aesthetic beauty really is only the tip of a very large and attractive iceberg.
I can remember 2 distinct points in my life growing up when I realised that I was not one of the pretty girls:
I was about 10 years old, and a boy on the estate I lived on (his name was James, surname escapes me) started calling me “goofy” and mocking the dark circles under my eyes. I had literally no idea until that point, that I had protruding teeth and that my face somehow made me stand out from others. I remember asking my friend if this boy was right, if my face was a bit different, if my teeth did protrude etc. And he, with that beautiful honesty that only children have, broke it to me that, well, yes, my teeth did protrude a bit, and that I was a bit funny looking, but that I was still a laugh and that it didn’t matter.  And we continued playing kiss chase. And it bugged me, and I worried about it, but not too much
Then…
I was about 14/15 and a girl in my class, who I won’t name, as I am sure she would be mortified to know that this throwaway moment at a sleepover at a friend’s house had such an impact on me, said something to one of the other girls there, not realising that I was behind her in the room.  I may be paraphrasing slightly as it was over 20 years ago, but what I overheard was something along the lines of “Angela Barnes isn’t one of those people that just says “oh, I’m so ugly”, expecting everyone to go “no you’re not”. She actually IS ugly and she knows she is”.
In a strange way, I wanted to genuinely thank her. It was the moment I realised that I didn’t have body dysmorphia, I’m not being paranoid, people do think about me the way I think about myself.  And from that moment, I could get on with my life knowing my place in the ranks of the attractive.
That day changed something in me. I began to feel apologetic for the way I looked. Something totally out of my control…  I began to not like having my photo taken, I would hide my face behind my hair. I would only smile with my mouth forced shut, I would hide behind my friends.
My Dad used to get so frustrated that I wouldn’t let him, an amateur photographer, take my picture. He would say “What if you get kidnapped, we’ll have nothing to give to Crimewatch”. And I would think “Aha, it’s OK, look at me, I have this face, I am kidnap proof”.
 Now, in my 30s, after many of life’s ups and downs and wrestling with feelings of inadequacy, I have more than come to terms with how I look. More than that, I am thankful. I love my lumpy body and my funny face.  I have also learned to appreciate the actual benefits of not being aesthetically too pleasing. These include:

1) I know that people who want to spend time with me actually want to spend time with me, not just because they think I am a glamorous accessory

2) I have developed a robust and, I hope, individual personality. I have never been able to rely on what I look like to make friends. And I am good at making and keeping friends.

3) I can read the Everyday Sexism Twitter timeline and realise how lucky I am that I never have to deal with being leered at in the street, being manhandled in bars or having my physical attributes loudly discussed and phwoarred at within earshot. Occasionally, people in bars etc have made disparaging comments about the way I look. But I think “at least I’m not a prick in a bar who has to belittle strangers to feel better about myself”

4)  I am not worried about “losing my looks”.  The pressure on women in particular to grow old without actually ageing is ridiculous. It must be very difficult to have been an exceptionally attractive person, and to have used that to your advantage, and to watch that power fade with every wrinkle and grey hair.
The fact is, nobody chooses their face (Plastic surgery aside). We are a lot more careful (not as careful as we should be) these days about mocking the obese, even though, for some, there is a degree of control over that. But for us uglies…
I have seen and experienced a couple of things recently which have highlighted what I refer to as “uglyism”. Here they are:
A comic that I know and like very much, and who happens to be a classically attractive man,  fairly recently tweeted the following “My reaction when I realise its [sic] Monday is similar to that when the not-so-hot girl would pick me at the school dance…”
Now, I do understand what he is trying to say here. However, this attitude really bugs me. Being fancied by someone ugly doesn’t affect your attractiveness. Less good looking people don’t have lower standards. If someone fancies you, and they happen to be of a different race, that doesn’t change your race. The thought of someone being actually somehow offended or upset or dejected because I fancy them (yes, I know he wasn’t referring to me in the tweet) is insulting to me. And, the truth of the matter is, that I don’t fancy this particular person even one little bit. Despite being able to see that he is a handsome man. So that news should really ruin his day. What’s worse than an ugly girl fancying you?  An ugly girl that doesn’t fancy you. Ha!
Usually, people end up with people of a similar attractiveness to themselves. That makes sense. But it should be no less flattering whoever fancies you, male/female/black/white/tall/short/beautiful or “not-so-hot”. Whether you find them attractive or not shouldn’t really affect the fact of the flattery.
And if I do fancy you, whoever you are, you should be bloody well flattered, I am fussy as hell.
Another example of uglyism in action:  At the Edinburgh Fringe last year, I was out drinking late with some comedian pals (I know, drinking late at the Fringe, rebels). I realised that I’d probably had enough, and announced, at about 3am, that I was going to walk home.  Our flat was very central, it was about a 10/15 minute walk home.  I left, walked myself home and all was fine. Now, I was out with one of my best friends in comedy, who I won’t name, suffice to say that he is a young and good looking comic. The other comic I was with was my Edinburgh housemate, and she happens to be an extremely tall and attractive comic, in fact, before doing comedy, she was a model.  She is also in a very long term relationship, so I don’t think the following act by my male friend was motivated by a desire to, for want of a better phrase, “get off” with her. However, not 30 mins after he had happily waved me off, full of gin, a bit wobbly, late at night, my young good looking male friend refused to let my very attractive housemate do EXACTLY the same journey on her own, and walked her to the door. Subconsciously, and I do think it was utterly subconscious, something in him assessed that she would be more likely to be attacked or run into trouble on the way home than I would.
Maybe he just thought that I am more hardy, and would be more able to handle myself. Maybe it is more discriminatory to the poor fragile pretty girl/china doll who he assumed wouldn’t possibly be able to look after herself. Either way, a decision has been made based on our aesthetics.
I also wonder whether, if I were “pretty”, would I be doing the job I am doing now?  How many stand up comedians, male or female, are “good looking”?  Is it easier to laugh at somebody with a funny face?  If I were stunning to look at, maybe that would be a distraction from the words that I am saying. I could add that to my list of reasons why being “ugly” is a positive. When I speak, the listener isn’t basing their reaction to what I say on the best way to get me into bed.
Whenever I am interviewed about anything comedy related, I am asked to define my style of comedy. I find that something that is difficult to do, I just write what I write. However, many reviews of my act have described me as “self deprecating”.  This was not something that happened consciously. My comedic persona is, like most comics’, an exaggerated version of me. And I don’t personally identify as being  downtrodden.  Perhaps what they mean when they refer to me as self-deprecating is that I am just honest about myself, how I perceive myself and how I am perceived by others. This is taken to be negative, but actually, nothing that I say about myself in my set is anything of which I’m not proud. Yes, I refer to myself as being scruffy and unconcerned with the daily rituals of primping and preening that other women put themselves through. But these are not qualities about myself to deprecate. These are qualities I embrace and am thankful for. It is other people who translate what I say as deprecation. Not me.  Again, the assumption that not being one of the pretty people, and declaring yourself as such, must be somehow self loathing.
For the record, I like being me, pretty much as much as anyone likes being themselves. That is not all the time, but enough of the time to get by.
So, please, if you hear me refer to myself as “funny looking” or “not conventionally attractive”, or, indeed “ugly” it is OK for you to agree with me. Just don’t make anybody’s unattractiveness (to you) the butt of your jokes or a reason to discriminate against them, or assume that they feel bad about it.