Pearl and Dave – Isy Suttie

Pearl and Dave - Isy Suttie - BBC Radio 4My last post reviewed a radio show from 2001, The Boosh, that later became a TV show. This post is a review of another radio comedy show broadcast on the same channel BBC Radio 4 but a new 2012 offering called Pearl and Dave. Will it I wonder make its way to TV too? It does not matter to me whether it does do or not but for the sake of symmetry of this paragraph I felt duty bound to pose the question!

Who is Isy Suttie some of you will be asking, well okay nearly all of you will be asking, even more than nearly all if you live outside of Great Britain.

If you do not know her name you may at least know her face. And this will most likely be as Dobby from  British comedy sitcom Peep Show. She played the IT Support bod sometime called upon by the David Mitchell character Mark Corrigan at his place of work. There was an awkward relationship if not romance between the two of them too. I don’t know how helpful this background is to you – many a scene and episode she was not even in.


Whites – she’s the one on the far right – or is it the far left – I am never quite sure

She also turned up as Kiki in another British sitcom Whites, the Alan Davies celebrity chef soft-satire. I say turned up as her appearances were even more fleeting than in Peep Show. And Whites only lasted one series. I thought it had more potential than that and others clearly think so too as there is a Twitter campaign to recall the show. Isy Suttie is one of its, I am sure not self-interested, signatories.

According to the IMDB she was also in an all-time favourite comedy sitcom of mine Love Soup – can you read my surprise at this? – she played a researcher apparently but I cannot recall her.

So there you have, it she appeared in three British sitcoms from the Noughties of varying degrees of obscurity and for parts varying from blink and you will miss her to at best a flickering presence. So by way of enlightening you all as to who she is I may as well saved you and me these last four paragraphs!

Isy Suttie is a comedian then, both performer and writer of it. And her performances include not just innovative if under-appreciated sitcom characters but perhaps its riskiest and bravest of formats – live stand-up.

Which is where Pearl and Dave comes in. This is a stand-up comedy routine which she wrote and performed at an Edinburgh comedy show in 2011. This is its transcription to radio. Nothing has been changed, the routine is still the same, and there is a live audience too – I wonder why we say live audience, we can assume I think such an audience is not dead, though I suppose such crowds would at least not heckle you. Always an upside.

This show is still available to listen to on the BBC’s iPlayer but not for much longer – January 25 if you really need to know. For those very few of you reading this before January 25, 2011! The sites brief description is as follows:

Isy Suttie recounts a funny and moving love story much of which is told through song.

Oh yes, her performance is not just a stand-up comedy routine but a singer-songwriter routine. This may cause a reflexive shudder in some of you, all but that hardy breed with a rare penchant for both Victoria Wood and 1970’s Billy Connolly.

Victoria Wood is an obvious, very obvious comparison, I know it is, what with them both being wo…wonderful comedians who deliver some of their routine in song. Except that Victoria plays an instrument that you tickle, Isy one that you strum.

I do not know whether Isy Suttie was first a comedian who later came to music or a musician who later came to comedy perhaps experiencing an epiphany at a Tim Minchin show…but she can sing and play guitar as well as she tells jokes and stories. For her style is stories with humour rather than a rat-a-tat joke machine – more Alan Carr than Jimmy Carr.

She is like a Yorkshire version of Regina Spektor, if Regina had developed the comedy side of her material more – more helpful comparisons like this will follow.

Now I do understand that the BBC description of her show as a funny and moving love story does not tell us very much. Perhaps enough to get your interest up but if not they do also elaborate a bit further advising us it is about

a socially awkward childhood neighbour (her first pen pal) and a ‘well-bred’ girl from Surrey ..

Dave and Pearl respectively. Isy Suttie is neither Dave or Pearl. She is the neighbour of the socially awkward Dave, if no less awkward herself.

Pearl and Dave is a folk-story and Isy Suttie its folk-singer but in the way that Jarvis Cocker or Lily Allen is a folk singer without even a trace smell of heritage left lingering in your nostrils – stories about us common – and not so common – folk but in the here and now – well from the 1980’s onwards anyway.

Isy SuttieThis being when the pen-pal friendship commences – the pen-pal being just one of the many undeserving victims of the Internet – and like another 1980’s phenomena CB Radio (remember that?) it was as much about the simple fact of being able to communicate with people in far off distant lands than any deep interest in the life of your fellow communicator – I was obliged to have one in school, as part of my French lesson, so at this time where even communication in my own language of English was chore enough I had then to communicate with a stranger in a foreign language. And I am quite sure adolescent French teenage boys are not very different to their British counterparts – though perhaps giving in to stereotypes he was already well versed in the language of romance and sneered at my polite and frankly idiotic attempts at even the most basic of French sentences. It did not last long. One opening letter each in fact.

Isy and a friend had both read about pen-pals in the then far-flung land of Australia – well it is still far-flung from Britain Internet or no Internet – and so thought they would give it a go too. Think not message in a bottle, think message in a balloon! The balloon though only makes it as far as the next-garden-but one! To the garden of the titular Dave.

The penned message having landed in the garden of their near neighbour Dave it was then considered by Isy and her friend as fate, that Dave himself should become their pen-pal – adding that the letters they would send Dave required them having to walk past his house to get to the post-box!

Then adding that they were 10 and 6 and Dave was 25 – paedophilia she explained not existing in the 1980’s despite being big in Ancient Greece and only having made a come-back recently!

She then shared some of the letters they wrote to each other in the early 1990’s. The most common question, indeed theme, was asking each other what they had for their tea – but as she notes the common ground between a ten year old and a twenty five year old is a limited one.

Dave has a catch-phrase – ‘C’mon Dave’ – which he addresses himself in the third-person by way of encouragement to himself!

She then moves us on to where Dave first met Pearl – at the family holiday camp Butlins which in her words as kids ‘you either went to get chips or to get felt up. And that they went only for the chips!’

Though Dave and Pearl’s Butlin encounter was a significant one for both they somehow still managed to lose contact with each other thereafter. It is only through the later emergence of the Internet in the mid 1990’s and going online and searching for her that he comes upon her again – first by Friends Reunited – remember that she asks us and I ask you? – another undeserving victim of Facebook!

He used to log-in every morning with his hopes up high and log-out again every evening with his hopes re-crushed!

It will be Facebook indeed where Dave and Pearl will become friends reunited.

All of this has been delivered by Isy Suttie as a spoken monologue. But now comes the first song. Its verses and chorus detailing Dave’s first messages to Pearl on Facebook, testing out its waters, discovering her profile  that she is married and musing on how he should phrase his first message to her. And in respect of Pearl being marital toys with ‘I would like to shoot your chappie’ then rewriting ‘I would like to maim your chappie’ then finally ‘I would like to shake your chappie by the hand, if my hands were made of guns and shards of glass and poison hot-cross buns’!

She then returns to her spoken word – mentioning her own relationship of that time where both of them knew it was doomed but carried on anyway

like an old ill dog that just wanted to go in the corner and die with some semblance of dignity but we kept feeding sugary biscuits to for three and a half years and telling it that it was going to be alright until it finally dragged its rotting carcass into the corner and turned around to us to say ‘later, losers’!

Pearl does reply to Dave and this we hear as the second song of the night. In the song she recalls their first encounter – ‘sharing a cigarette dipped in Amaretto!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ – Pearl’s exclamation marks not Isy’s or mine! – where Suttie then goes off on a tangent riffing on exclamation marks and their binary meaning – they either mean humour or peril – the more there are the more humorous or perilous the writer is being!

In typical Facebook style each of them embellishes their times since they last met – he is an accountant who pretends to be in a rockband – she is an housewife who pretends to be…an accountant! We learn from this song that Pearl is married but unhappily.

Isy Suttie - Twitter image

As seen on Twitter

She then returns to her monologue and a tangent about Isy Suttie’s own mum’s disappointment in her choice of career – a stand-up comedian – ‘how she will never meet a lawyer, lawyer’s don’t go and watch standup (!)’ – and how she suggests to her Mum ‘that maybe she doesn’t want to marry a lawyer’ and how her Mum then replies near-screaming ‘That’s not the plan!’.

And then six months go by without Isy hearing from Dave. She has correctly surmised that he has gone deep into an online relationship with Pearl. He finally advises her of this by Email. This cues the third song ‘The Six Month song’ which details the trajectory of that time from initial Facebook messaging – ‘C’mon Dave’ he says to himself as he girds himself to end his message ‘Love Dave’! through to Email – ‘like moving from smash to mash’ – then to trying to get Skype to work then finally getting Skype to work and seeing each other face to face, then seeing of each other what they really wanted to use Skype for – ‘You’re naked, well done, brilliant!’ Finishing off with Dave plucking up courage to ask Pearl out for a meal.

This song sees her delivering a duet between Dave and Pearl not so much Sonny and Cher but obscurely and perhaps perversely reminding me of ‘Lucky Stars’ but where Isy Suttie is both Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa. I told you there were more unhelpful comparisons to come.

The song ends and she returns to the story though again sharing with us her own relationship status now with a Welsh boyfriend who also speaks Welsh. So setting up the fourth song – in Welsh! – she then switches back into English translating it ‘in case we don’t know what it means’! It went ‘I went, you went, he went, she went, we went, you went (formal!), they went’!

The swansong details Pearl and Dave’s relationship since those early awkward Skype times. They had met up but Pearl could not bring herself to leave her husband for Dave or to cheat on him but they decide to continue their infidelity/relationship online. And have continued ever since. Concluding that in a sense ‘they are in a land where no-one is accountable for their actions, like Ikea!’ but in another sense ‘it is more real than Pearl’s own relationship with her husband’.

Pearl and Dave is a one-off special for radio. Though TV as with the aforementioned Boosh may come calling by way of a TV sitcom series yet.

I am quite sure though we have not heard the last of Isy Suttie. Even for those of you who have yet to have heard the first of her.

Facebook Status Updates We Would Never Make

Or at least Facebook Status Updates we tend not to make.

We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.

So wrote Kurt Vonnegut in his novel, Mother Night, in 1966. And Facebook provides us the greatest and easiest opportunities of all to pretend? To pretend to each other, to pretend to ourselves…

Below I propose thirteen life status updates that are less than likely to become Facebook status updates!

  1. Status updated when watching a film-classic, or latest movie adaptation of a major literary work. Status not updated when watching a grainy porno illegally downloaded from a file-sharing site, or the shopping channel again or re-runs of a Soap that was axed in the Seventies.
  2. Status updated when back from an afternoon out with the kids at a museum, art gallery or park. Status not updated when back from traipsing your kids around an out-of-town DIY complex looking for plumbing fittings, shelving brackets and the like.
  3. Status updated with photograph of latest car purchased if brand new, big, sporting, expensive. Status not updated with photograph of latest car purchased if second hand, rundown, a couple hundred bucks of junk – think Big Dick Waving Contest.
  4. Status updated to announce to the world how much you love your soulmate and how wonderful they are and how lucky you are to have met them. Status not updated when you are thinking “what did I ever see in this person and where did it all go wrong…”
  5. Status updated to declare “You are more lovely to me today than the day I first met you”. Status kept quiet when wondering to yourself “You irritate me more with each passing day”.
  6. Status updated to boast – sorry share –  that you had a busy day putting up shelves around your home or undertaking some other DIY project.  Status not updated when you spent your day slobbing about your homestead knocking back beers and watching repeats on the telly with interruptions only to play video games
  7. 6am Status Update – when you have just woken up to announce to all your friends that you have a busy day ahead of you – and by way of just letting them know what an early-bird you are. 6am Status not updated – when just about to go to bed having watched as much night-time telly as your eyes can take and consumed as much pizza and chips as your stomach can take – and by way of not letting them know what an unreconstructed night owl you are.
  8. Status updated when back home late from a night clubbing ‘Had a bit too much to drink tonight, again! LOL!’ – status implied party animal. Status not updated when back home late from a public bar ‘Had a bit too much to drink tonight, again! LOL’ as status now implied desperate alcoholic.
  9. Status updated following an act of uncharacteristic virtue such as giving a pint of blood, having run a half-marathon for Charity, or having spent an afternoon with your last remaining grandparent for the first time in over a year. Status not updated following an all too characteristic act of if not vice then certainly unvirtue!, such as spending the afternoon at the bookies followed by a liquid lunch and a minor altercation with a passer-by on your way home.
  10. Status updated on the rare occasion you have prepared and eaten a meal around the dining table with your family, each of you discussing your day. Status not updated on the more usual occasion of having thrown something in to the microwave to then eat with your family in the lounge with TV on and no word said to each other bar occasional utterances from any quarter of “can we watch something else now?”.
  11. Status updated when the activity genie has got inside of you and something productive has actually been achieved. Status not updated when nothing productive has been achieved following yet another day of procrastination.
  12. Status updated when you realise just how much you have to be grateful for ‘”What a lucky guy/gal I am” etc. Status not updated with “WTF am I doing with my life’.
  13. Status updated to say how pleased you are for one of your friends recently posted achievements. Status most certainly not updated to say how jealous you are if not outright resentful of said friend’s recently posted achievement.

With each status update the tangled web of Facebook weaves our collective deception ever deeper?

Duncan Bannatyne’s Twitter Feud – and old media sanctimony

Old media loves to attack and dismiss new media. Like a parent who admonishes their children and acts as if they were never a curious inquiring child themselves – repeating ever the parent sins.

And just as the printing press used to get blamed for the content of paperbacks and newspapers so now the World Wide Web gets blamed for the content of websites and social media platforms.

Scottish business entrepreneur and a panel-member of of the BBC program Dragons’ Den, Duncan Bannatyne, a few days back received a black-mail threat upon his daughter on Twitter. He in effect tweets back a bounty-offer to his followers offering cash for information leading to an arrest – and a bonus for anyone who finds and breaks their arms! – I follow him and only caught the latter part of this twitter-stream and was not sure whether it was serious or some running ruse – it turns out to be for real. One can understand his anger and that his emotions ran ahead of him – taking justice into his own hands and perhaps being in breach of a law or two in the process.

But on the online news sites and forums most of the comments were more keen to condemn Twitter and its users than condemn either the original blackmail threat or Duncan Bannatyne’s response to it. It being okay to make facile and troll like remarks on the Comments sections of News Sites just not within 140 characters on Twitter. Facebook got it in the neck too.

Twitter and Facebook may or may not be banal – that really depends on you and your friends, who you follow and in turn who follows you – the technology is not responsible for the foibles and imbecilities of any of its users. You can be foolish across all technologies, or you can forsake all technology and it won’t make you any more wiser or pleasant. No, that lies within you.

Also notable in such dismissals of social media sites are a number of pious posters incredulous that people use Twitter to communicate when they can use Email! I can but imagine that when Email started becoming wide-spread in the 1990’s these self-same people castigated Email users as idiots or other derogatory terms almost certainly mis-spelled – thundering abusively that why don’t they write a letter instead.

And so it goes – letter writers using keyboards chastised by letter writers using pen and ink – pen and ink scribes reviled by the users of the quill. They in turn ostracised for written communication by those who cannot and will not write because speaking was good enough for them and their parents before them without need for witchy hieroglyphics. So it goes back to the Neanderthal cave and those happy enough to grunt without any need for fancy progressive civilised wordy language.

Because for sure one day Facebook and Twitter will fade away ever more redundant and used only by the old of spirit ever oblivious to new developments – communication now literally a matter of thought with another bunch of Twitter Luddites decrying those that communicate telepathically – from companies with catchphrases like “Just Think of It’! – what’s the need when you can use Twitter they will rage, tweeting away their spleen thereafter.

Facebook versus Twitter

Are you a Facebooker or a Twitterer? Or do you practice both?

I practice both.

Can Facebook and Twitter really be compared? Though both social media tools are they different enough to the proverbial oranges and apples?

Twitter LogoOn Facebook we can befriend and be befriended, on Twitter follow and be followed.

I use Facebook to keep up with my family, friends and work-colleagues. I also have Friends on my Facebook that I knew years ago and perhaps I befriended them as much out of curiosity as to what they have been up to since we parted company as a real desire to befriend them again. Certainly these virtual re-unions suit me fine generally having no desire to rekindle them beyond that.

And to that end some of the chat on Facebook is a bit circumspect, minding my p’s and q’s. Rather like a dinner conversation where the taboos not to talk about are sex, religion, politics and money it is a similar etiquette on Facebook. And though I may get into a full-blown argument with family and friends on one of these topics around my dinner-table in a blue-moon it is not something I want to do on Facebook – for all and sundry to see and written evidence everafter to never let any of us forget let alone forgive.

Twitter on the other hand I take the opportunity to vent off on anything that is on my mind – but with Twitter I don’t invite family and friends. For Twitter I use it to follow people of interest to me and not being a celebrity myself don’t have too many followers – so can Tweet with impunity. For example there was an Avaaz petition recently calling on the United Nations to end their global war on drugs towards decriminalisation, regulation, public health and education – this is something I am sympathetic to and tweeted the campaign call. It is not something I would have Facebook Shared – there would almost certainly be friends and family of mine who would not share my views and I have no interest in getting into an online discussion with them in front of my other Facebook friends. So for me at least the atmosphere on Facebook is always polite whereas on Twitter it is more anarchic and rowdy.

I also use Twitter as an unmediated source of news. No political spin or scandal-mongering from the traditional news media rather I can read the famous and infamous in their own words – well leaving aside the matter of spoof accounts! This is good for politicians too though they themselves as in this previous post tend to be banal generally following their party line.

Comedians I follow on Twitter including Sarah Silverman Sharon Horgan.

Writers will share their thoughts on the progress of their latest work alongside their thoughts on any other subject of interest to them.

I follow actors and singers too – but not on the basis of whether I like them or not but that there tweets are entertaining and interesting. I am not interested in following a star’s schedule.

A more diverse human life is here then my family and friends.

I also like with Twitter that I cannot waffle – I have 140 characters therefore I have to learn to be brief – and for someone verbose like me that is a good discipline.

I wonder if any philosophers are using Twitter for sharing their aphorisms with the world? An ideal medium.

Twitter has a smart and crisp interface too, whereas Facebook I find ugly looking and a clunky experience. Nevertheless I am not planning on leaving Facebook any time soon – it still remains a great way to quickly and effectively keep up with friends and family.

And I don’t just mean snooping on them!

Avaaz – hear our voices – internet global petitioning

Avaaz in their words are ‘a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere’.

Avaaz comes from the Persian word for ‘voice’ or ‘song’ and was founded in 2007 in the spirit of other such burgeoning social media at the time most notably Facebook and Twitter.

And in the spirit of the disconnect between those governing and those governed – and not just in Dictatorships but alas in Democratic nations and the spectre of Croney Capitalism with the mainstream media fused with its governments and global corporate interests – with most of the mainstream hard working populace left out in the cold.

Avaaz is an attempt to bring the often unheard voices of peoples of all countries together to persuade our often remote and unlistening global leaders to a particular cause.

Identifying causes which are universal, shared across cultures and nations, is no easy task and in the television program Hard Talk on the BBC 24 channel Stephen Sackur addressed these and other issues very forcefully.

The program also addressed the politics of the organization – broadly liberal.  This is not an issue for me – the world is diverse and we are not going to agree on all things – but if we believe in an issue then campaign for it – if you don’t like the particular cause espoused then you do not have to sign your name against it.  Further similar petitioning organizations are likely to be set up from a conservative outlook and agenda – it is all about peaceful if passionate persuasion of a particular cause.

I have taken part in a few myself recently – a petition against Rupert Murdoch and his move to increase ownership of BSkyB and hence control over the UK Media and another petition against the appalling practice of corrective rape in South Africa (raping gay women to cure them of their ‘lesbianism’).

Another campaign to the UN Security council to protect the Libyan people protesting against the Government Dictatorship from violent reprisals may have been influential in the decision to impose a No Fly zone over the country on March 19.

It is heartening to be reminded that there is so much that unites rather than divides us and that those who share our values come from every country of the world, from every culture, from every class.