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

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.

The Boosh Tale of Hitcher – and other juicy danglings

Hitcher iPlayerCome with me now on a journey through time and space to the world of The Mighty Boosh

Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy

Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy

Noel Fielding is to be appearing on ITV’s The Jonathan Ross Show Saturday January 21st. They will no doubt be chatting about his new comedy show starting on E4 Thursday January 26 Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy which in the words of the E4 website is a:

Psychedelic character-based comedy show half filmed and half animated, with music provided by Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno.

Noel Fielding was just one half of The Boosh though, the Vince half, the other half, the Howard half, was played by Julian Barratt and he is absent from this new venture.

This post though is not to pointlessly speculate about this new Luxury Comedy venture rather as per the opening line to journey back in space and time to when the Mighty Boosh was just The Boosh and available only in sound and vivid imagination, its TV dance not yet begun.

Radio was an ideal medium for them as Fielding and Barratt’s combined visual imaginations were too big for TV budgets.

Inevitably as alluded this did not stop them venturing into TV or rather TV come wooing them.

Theirs is a drugged imagination where drugs may not actually be involved. Their British comedy cousins are Eddie Izzard, Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves and they can trace their comedy ancestry through Monty Python and Spike Milligan all the way back to Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.

Their night dreams weave in and out of their waking hours, their shadowy imaginings step into the light.

The Mighty Boosh ImageThe episode subject of this post is Hitcher first broadcast back in November 2001 and rebroadcast this month on BBC Radio 4 Extra. The BBC’s iPlayer does not just reprise recent Telly but Radio too and this is how this episode came to my ears. This is the outlands of radio – about ten people listen to Radio Four at any one time, Radio 4 Extra is for those who consider even Radio 4 just too mainstream.

This episode is preambled in just one sentence on the BBC iPlayer page has ‘Howard and Vince takes Tony the Prawn to a zoo for animal offenders’. A description which on one hand does not tell you very much whilst at the same time telling you everything.

The Boosh are difficult to transcribe as their words are better heard than read. With this in mind I will venture vainly forth on just that endeavour.

It starts with Howard and Vince in the midst of their zoo-keeping duties, which translates as Howard’s head buried in a book and being insistently interrupted by Vince – think a child in the car, their constant drip drip to front-seat parents of ‘are we there yet?’ – for example

Howard, you know the black bits in bananas, are they Tarantula’s eggs?!

Howard is reading about ancient Greece – ‘why do you read that old-school rubbish?’ asks Vince! Vince does not have time for reading but has read Charlie Goes Abroad. And Charlie Takes Time Off. ‘Is that part of a Charlie Adventure series?’ Howard asks. ‘Yes’ replies Vince ‘There are hundreds of them – ‘Charlie Buys a Flamingo’, Charlie goes to the shops and realizes he has lost his little purse’ and on! Before Howard wishing an end to Charlie’s adventures suggests ‘Charlie Chokes on His Own Legs’! Howard then explaining that he is only interested in real people like Aeschylus and Pythagoras, people who ‘solved stuff’ – ‘Charlie solved stuff’ counters Vince

Charlie Solved The Riddle. The Riddle of His Own Existence!

One pleasure and relief in listening to this radio broadcast is there is no canned laughter – there is no studio audience laughter either. There is no studio audience. Their budget was just too shoe-string back then. There is laughter though. Between the two of them as they struggle to keep a straight face in response to the increasingly absurd statements each counters the other with. It reminded me of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore except with them there was just one jester Peter Cook with Dudley the corpsing victim, whereas with Vince and Howard both are as much jester as jested.

The Boosh Bob Fossil

Bob Fossil

They are then visited my the manager of Zooniverse and the Zookeeper’s right hand man Bob Fossil who advises them they need to move Tony the Prawn who is a psychological killer to his brother’s zoo – zoo-keeping runs in the family! – the zoo for animal offenders – current inmates include a rapist crab, a mackerel that exposes himself – you do not want to see that from any living creature but especially not a mackerel – a baboon that walks into lifts and presses all the floors, a swan that keys cars…

They need to have Tony the Prawn delivered by four that afternoon. It is in their Jeep on their way that they will first encounter the Hitchhiker, or Hitcher.

Before that pick up though there is an argument about what music to listen to on the radio-tape player – Vince has made a Gary Numan mix-tape but Howard wants to listen to his jazz tape. Not just any old jazz but John Coltrane. He wants Vince to listen out for a particular moment of Sun Ra’s Jet Flight – ‘it’s coming up, ready?’ – except it is always just coming up, never quite getting there. Which is also kind of the point of it too. As Howard muses Jazz cannot be tamed or described ‘Jazz is. Jazz was. Jazz be’!

Full disclosure – I was not familiar with this Sun Ra and John Coltrane collaboration from The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra – rather technology in the form of Shazam told me.

Howard is driving and Vince must keep him awake. ‘Have you ever fallen asleep at the wheel’ Vince asks Howard. ‘No’ says Howard ‘But I have woken up at the wheel’ – Bum bum!

To keep him awake Vince tells Howard stories about how we was brought up in the Jungles of India by Bryan Ferry. He explains how they had to be careful in the jungle when falling a sleep that the monkey’s did not steal their faces. And that he himself one time did fall asleep. And then the story ends abruptly. Howard wants to know what happened next but Vince says that will be for another time. ‘Who are you’ cries Howard ‘dealing out stories in chunks’! Going on to exclaim that ‘You cannot juice me up and then leave me dangling – don’t be a juicy dangler!’ This leads to an argument and Howard asking Vince to leave the car.

The scene temporarily cuts away to Bob Fossil delivering a zookeeper themed stand up comedy routine but which is dying with the crowd – ‘even the hyenas have stopped laughing’ goes one heckle to which he responds

I don’t have any witty verbal comebacks but I do have this herd of Wildebeest over here and a starter pistol. What I call a stampede comeback!

The Boosh - Hitcher by Noel Fielding

The Hitcher

Back to Howard at the wheel and having just picked up the Hitcher. The Hitcher is carrying a box but as Howard tries to strike up conversation with him he remains silent save slow heavy breathing. ‘Let’s listen to the radio’ Howard declares. Cue The Doors Riders on the Storm and Jim Morrison intoning ‘there’s a killer on the road’ then cue Howard quickly switching off said radio and stating there is ‘too much music in the world’!

The Hitcher does eventually speak though – in a vaguely threatening Cockney cadence! – and regales Howard with tales of his working past as a stage performer. This though really does need to be heard – words on a page cannot do this extravagant  monologue justice.

Then Howard’s curiosity about the Hitcher’s box can no longer be contained but on asking about the box he suddenly finds himself in the box!

Later in the box he encounters Vince – for Vince too had met the same fate at the hands of the Hitcher. Eventually they meet the People of the Box. The People of the Box have been trapped in the box for many centuries. They then inform Howard and Vince that it was written that they would come. And save them. And be their king!

Howard is flattered. He knew there was an important purpose to his life. And being a king for the box people must be it. But it turns out they were addressing themselves to Vince!

Vince though does not want this role. It is the way is not it that those who want to be the leader of the box people are fated not to have that role and those that are so fated do not want it.

And sorry readers but I now myself must be a juicy dangler – always assuming I have your juices up! – and leave this tale here. For it concludes in numerous songs that I could not possibly transcribe or do justice to even if I could. The summary should you decide to seek it out is not entirely satisfactory either.

But if you are under the spell of the Boosh then you will realize that the place of arrival like the place of departure is neither here nor there – the journey is all.

Desert Island Discs on iTunes

The BBC Radio 4 long running series Desert Island Discs is now available on the iTunes store.

Each episode can be downloaded as a free podcast. I subscribed to the series and a batch of 100 episodes were downloaded to my iTunes Library dating from August of last year back to 1998.  Desert Island Discs began in 1942 so my mind boggles at how many episodes could become available to download as podcasts.

Former presenter Sue Lawley

I listened to an episode from 1998 with Lucy Gannon interviewed by Sue Lawley.

The podcast itself was prefaced by current presenter Kirsty Young advising that the music chosen will be brief due to rights issues.  This is an understatement as some of the excerpts are no more than 10 seconds long (at least for the pop music the classical music does get a longer airing) which loses the very spirit of the programs I feel.  The Radio 4 program itself always shortens the pieces but that I understand as even with just 8 discs chosen they would be long programs indeed if each piece was played in its entirety.

I understand the reasons here too but the musical choices now feels very cursory.

This series might lend itself better to being hosted on a website with a page for each program and links to all the music chosen so at least a listener can explore and listen further any of the musical selections if they are so inclined.  I am aware of the BBC Radio 4 website dedicated to the program but that provides details of the episodes but no musical content at all.

Current presenter Kirsty Young

I still found the podcasts fascinating listening though as the island castaways are from a wide range of backgrounds and skilfully interviewed by current presenter Kirsty Young and previous presenter Sue Lawley.

There are far too many episodes for me to listen too but I am pleased to have access to them whenever I might feel like listening to an episode from this vast archive.

Just glancing at last year I can see episodes from Mary Portas, Dame Ellen MacArthur and Emma Thompson among many others – I must look away, I don’t have the time!