This is Craig Ferguson long, long before The Late, Late Show, performing as his stand-up comedy alter ego, Bing Hitler, at the Pavillion Theater, Glasgow, on October 14th, 1987.
This is 2 years after Bing’s famed gig at the Tron Theater Gong Night, which led to column inches and a variety of shows, ranging from a-one-off at Cul-de-Sac Bar to the legendary Night of the Long Skean Dhus in 1986. Back then, the Cul-de-Sac in Ashton Lane, was an important watering hole for artists, writers, musicians and performers, to meet and share ideas, gossip and alcohol. Of an evening you could find Ferguson at the bar with musicians like Bobby Bluebell, the late Bobby Paterson, James Grant, and writers like Tommy Udo. Even the bar staff had talent like the artist Lesley Banks. These were fun times.
At times in this concert, Bing comes across like a shouty cousin to Rik from Young Ones. Craig has always been a confident, talented and assured performer, but here he was just a wee bit rough around the edges - part of the character - but it’s all good fun, and a great look back.
Bonus clip of Bing Hitler performing at Bennet’s, from 1987, after the jump…
A 19-year-old Alan Cumming makes his first television appearance in a BBC TV Director’s training course in 1984.
Never intended for broadcast, this is probably Alan’s first performance in front of a camera, though he did have a very fleeting appearance in episode 6 of Traveling Man the same year. However, he is billed here, along with his fellow performers, Forbes Masson and David Lee Michael, as final year students at Glasgow’s Royal Academy of Music and Drama.
Cumming would team-up with Masson to become the double-act Victor and Barry, making a memorable impact at the Tron Theater’s Gong Nights in 1985, where Craig Ferguson and Jerry Sadowitz also made their names.
Here Cumming is cast as one of 3 dead (or possibly war-weary) soldiers, where he lip-synchs pop songs and recites a poem by Wilfred Owen. This was Justin C Adams’ Final Project for his director’s course. Adams went onto a career as a director of quiz shows at BBC Scotland, before establishing his own highly successful production company.
I was in drag the last time I did stand-up, about twenty-five-years ago, in a crowded bar at the Tron Theater, Glasgow. It was a return appearance, on a ‘gong night’ bill that included Craig Ferguson, who was starting out with his comic character Bing Hitler.
In some respects I was amazed to be asked back, and was certain my invitation had been a clerical error. The first time I’d tried to be Lenny McBruce and was full of misplaced energy that led me to telling the audience to ‘fuck off’, whilst reading a copy of the Sun, riffing on its headlines, horoscopes, interviews and adverts. I’d got as far as Princess Diana and Pete Sutcliffe jokes, when the howls of abuse proved too much, I was gonged quickly off.
Other gong nights had seen a generation of new and original talent: a duo called Victor and Barry - Alan Cumming and Forbes Mason - those erstwhile founders of the Kelvinside Young People’s Amateur Dramatic Art Society (KYPADAS), who performed camp musical numbers, in slick-backed hair and monogramed smoking jackets.
And then there was Jerry Sadowitz, who was incredible, and still is. His humor was unpredictable, relentless and much in the spirit of Lenny Bruce - nothing was sacred, no subject off limits. When menaced with the gong, he pulled out a joke pistol and threatened to shoot the compere, John Stahl.
Amongst such talents, I was just a daft, wee laddie, who wanted to succeed more than I wanted to perform.
So, on my return, I revamped one of my old drag characters, Bessie Graham, a mistress of the single entendre. I went through the rehearsed material and it seemed to be working well - at least for half the audience, those nearest to the stage that is. But for anyone beyond row 4, I appeared as an indifferent mime artist, with a basic grasp of mime. Later, I was told my mic had not been working.
Afterwards, watching Craig Ferguson perform, I decided to give it all up. Over 2 years of performing, on-and-off, I’d found out I was fine at comic characters and sketches, but hadn’t grown-up enough to have my own voice, and know what I wanted to say. And without that, I would never be any good.
That’s why Lenny Bruce was so good. He knew what to say. He understood himself - his strengths and his weaknesses. He developed his own philosophy that influenced, as a new documentary reveals, writers such as Norman Mailer (who even tried his hand at stand-up), and Philip Roth; musicians like Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison and even David Crosby. Here is Lenny Bruce performing towards the end of his life, when he was banned for obscenity, unable to perform anywhere but San Francisco, bankrupt, drug addicted, and yet still as brutally funny and as honest as he had ever been.
The Los Angeles Times reports Siri the voice activated assistant for the i-Phone is having difficulty understanding the Scottish accent, as according to reporter Henry Chu:
Scots who rushed to buy it have discovered that their new “smart” gadget can’t understand them. This is true despite the fact that their phones are set to “English (United Kingdom)” under the “language” setting for Siri, which doesn’t seem to take the distinctive Scottish burr into much account.
“What’s the weather like today?” Darren Lillie said hopefully into his iPhone recently here in the Scottish capital, in a demonstration for an American reporter.
Lillie, 25, is Edinburgh born and bred, and his thick accent shows it.
Siri thought for a moment, then decided it best to repeat what it thought it heard.
“What’s available in Labor Day?” it asked.
Lillie shook his head. “I don’t even know what Labor Day is,” he said ruefully to the American, who told him.
In other clips, “Can you dance with me?” gets misinterpreted as “Can you Dutch women?” and the question “How many miles are there in 10 kilometers?” elicits the helpful, if irrelevant, response: “I don’t see any email for yesterday.”
Lillie admits to adjusting his speech patterns to get Siri to understand him.
“I find I speak slower. It’s like when I speak to tourists,” he said to the American reporter, who felt at once both patronized and relieved.
Hardly news, and the kind of story best suited to the “Jings! Crivvens! Help ma boab!” kind of headline, allowing for the usual nationalistic rebuttal, name-checking Edinburgh-born inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell turning in his grave, and the success of such Scots accents as Schir Schean Connery, Ewan MacGregor, Kelly MacDonald, Robert Carlyle, Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson, mcetc mcetc. But really, it just made me of Stanley Baxter’s excellent Parliamo Glasgow from the 1960s, and this wonderfully apt sketch from present day and the rather splendid Burnistoun.
Via LA Times, with thanks to Richard Metzger
Bonus clip of ‘Parliamo Glasgow’, after the jump…
Though the impersonation is rather dreadful, it doesn’t really detract from this delightful gem of Scotland’s Greatest Export singing “S With an H” from Sean Connery: The Musical by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan, the talents behind Predator - The Musical, Conan the Barbarian: The Musical and Silence: The Musical.
In Scotland, impersonating Shir Shean Connery is a national tic, one need only watch Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show to see what I mean. Indeed, when the “best wee country in the world” ™ eventually becomes independent, The Ancient Art of Shir Shean Connery Impersonating will no doubt be incorporated into the traditional Highland Games.
As for Sean Connery: The Musical, well it isn’t such a bad idea, afterall Mr Connery did have a successful though brief singing career starring in the London stage production of South Pacific and then as Michael McBride in Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
Previously on DM
Bonus clip of Sean Connery singing in ‘Darby O’Gill’, after the jump…
With thanks to Tara McGinley
Dangerous Minds pal Rich Fulcher gets serious with Craig Ferguson last night. Rich will be my guest on the DM talkshow taping this weekend.