An Interview with Cat Alvarado

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Villains of History! Live in Flagstaff!

The Mumble just had to check out the backstory


Hello Cat! Can you tell us about your Latin American heritage?
My mother is from Nicaragua, and I grew up visiting almost every summer to see family. I still have many uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews there who I miss very much! One of my favorite things about my Nicaraguan heritage is that the country have such an amazing history of people trying to take over, and then against all odds regaining freedom again. Unfortunately, it usually leads to another tyrant, but Nicaragua still manages to pull through.

When did you first realise you were funny?
In 6th grade I took a drama class at summer camp, and we did the Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. Somehow I ended up playing King George in a slow motion football game (for the crown), and the physical comedy & silliness came very naturally to me. Everyone in the class doubled over at my King George, and I new I wanted to make people laugh more somehow. Before I did stand up I did theatre for several years, and I never failed to find my way into funny supporting character roles and I played the heck out of them.

How did you get into stand-up?
In college I had gone away from theatre and majored in Economics, but once I got my first 9 to 5 I quickly realized how much I missed my passion. Luckily, I was friends with someone who ran a comedy show in a pizza shop in town. He was nice enough to give me 5 minutes in front of an audience. I tried it, and was a natural. I knew I needed to keep going, and here I am 5 years later.

What does your mother think of all this comedy malarkey?
She thinks I’ll never meet a husband. “Men don’t like women who are out late at night”. But deep down, I know she’s very proud.

Where do you find the comedy in what is essentially the rather serious situation in Nicaragua?
There’s nothing funny about the people who have been killed while protesting dictatorship. However, there is something funny about how dumb the dictator thinks people are. Dictators will flat out lie and deny everything, even when there’s proof beyond proof. There’s a lot of comedy in the lies. After the initial 25 people were killed in protests (his officers shot at peaceful protesters), he told the press that a small group of right wingers from the US were trying to stage a coupe. Just about the whole country knew that was BS, and they staged a historic march on April 20th with over 1 million people throughout the country to let Ortega know they supported the protesters and that these protesters were not representing some tiny group of US agitators.

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Can you tell us about Villains of History? 
Villains of History is a podcast I created in which I and a guest comedian talk about the life of different horrible people throughout history. That includes dictators, serial killers, cult leaders, and even some US Presidents. I was inspired to do this podcast by how little people know about what is happening and has happened outside of the US. While performing at a college this year, I had a COLLEGE student ask “what’s the cold war?” When Fidel Castro died a few years ago, there were actually people on my facebook who were sad about his death (none of them Cubans). We need more content that gets people to learn their history. As they say, if we don’t learn from it, we are doomed to repeat it.

You’ve got three famous comedians (dead or alive) coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Maria Bamford, Jim Gaffigan, and Lewis Black. I would definitely treat them to some Nicaraguan food. Probably a delicious carne asada (flank steak), some steamed yucca, Nicaraguan coleslaw, & fried plantain chips.

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You’re performing at this year’s Big Pine; what are you bringing to the table?
I’m bringing that fire! I’ve got some great jokes, and a super interesting live podcast!

How is a podcast translating into live performance?
Audience members will be able to ask questions at the end. Jamie Kennedy is our guest, which is VERY exciting. He’s probably the biggest guest I’ve had so far, and it’s such a privilege to be working with him for the live show. It’s going to be a great time!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Flagstaff?
If you like history & true crime, and have a sense of humor, come to the live taping of the Villains of History podcast on Sunday September 22nd at Blendz! It’s going to be super fun! You can check out the podcast ahead of time by finding it on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts & Spotify!


VILLAINS OF HISTORY

BLENDZ, FLAGSTAFF (AZ)

Sunday, September 22nd (14.00)

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Big Pine Comedy

You can also catch Cat’s stand-up at the following times/places:

Wednesday 18: Comedians Under the Influence @ 11:30 pm at Orpheum Theatre

Thursday 19: Calendar Shoot @ 3:30 pm at Green Room / Frequent Delinquents with Lisa Landry @ 10 pm @ Green Room *Industry Showcase*

Friday 20: Headbangers Comedy Ball with Orlando Leyba @ 10 pm @ Green Room

Saturday 21: Lumber Jills with Jackie Fabulous @ 8pm at Green Room (Host)

An Interview with Rob Gee

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Rob Gee is back in Vancouver with a brand new show!


Hello Rob, its been a whole year since we chatted last – where have you been & what have you been up to?
One thing that’s made me hugely happy is being lead artist for a thing called the Comedy Asylum, which is basically comedy shows created and rpeformed by people on the receiving end of mental health treatment. I love it. As someone who worked as a nurse in psychiatry for 12 years, it’s like a breath of fresh air.

How do you find the process of reinventing yourself & your show each year?
I simply write the shows I want to see. If you have an idea that makes you giggle it’s certainly worth knocking up a first draft.

You’re bringing a new show to this year’s Vancouver Fringe, what are you bringing to the table?
It’s the story of an escaped psychiatric patient who befriends a lost six-year old. They go on some adventures together. She’s full of sugar and he think he’s an Egyptian pharaoh.

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Is the show an extended highlights session of your 12 years as a psychiatrist nurse, or is there more to it?
It isn’t that. It’s a story with invented characters and it’s made up. I certainly couldn’t have written it without my particularl background, but that’s true of everything all of us write. When I first wrote this show I performed it to an audience of ex-patients, plus the good people of the Comedy Asylum. It wouldn’t have seen the light of day without them.

What have been the biggest obstacles you overcame while putting your show together?
Procrastination. Actually this one was really easy. It was huge fun to write, and the process of bouncing it around with different people involved a lot of giggling.

What thoughts & emotions do you hope the audience will take away from the show?
Happiness; a life-affirming happiness! I wouldn’t settle for anything less.

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Has your attitude towards the Fringes changed at all in recent years?
Not really. I’ve always felt very much at home within the whole fringe movement. Maybe I’m more of a purist than I used to be: I tend to think fringes that follow the Edinburgh/Adelaide model are closer to trade fairs than fringe festivals.

What is your last minute routine before you go on stage to perform?
I don’t really have one. I use the washroom and look at my phone. Sometimes I have a little dance, if the pre-show’s loud enough.

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What does your perfect day off at the Vancouver Fringe look like?
It’s not raining! And Jem Rolls has bought me a pint.

You have twenty seconds to sell the show to someone you are flyering in the streets of Vancouver – what would you say?
Kevin is an escaped psychiatric patient. Millie is exuberant six-year old. Granny doesn’t stand a chance.


Kevin, King of Egypt

The Revue Stage

Sept 6,7,8,11,12,14 (times vary)

www.robgee.co.uk

Njambi McGrath: Accidental Coconut

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Just the Tonic at Marlin’s Wynd
August 1-23 (16:05)

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Njambi McGrath’s Accidental Coconut is an intelligent, charming and timely piece of stand-up.  In her discussion of the complexities of her Kenyan identity, which has been particularly influenced by the nation’s colonial history, McGrath effortlessly guided the audience through an interesting, if sometimes slightly unfocused, hour of stand-up. A major strength of McGrath’s act was her likeability as a performer, where I found myself almost immediately rooting for her.  For a show that broached several contentious subjects, including popular, contemporary attitudes about immigration, Brexit, and the complexities of Britain as an ex-empire, her stage presence was amiable, and well-suited to a show that was so socially and racially charged.  Encompassing references from the Berlin Conference of the 19th century to Brexit, McGrath’s comic style was a perfect vehicle for communicating an array of complex analyses on British and Kenyan cultures, and showing how the spectre of colonialism continues to haunt African identities today.

In her comic performance, set amid current cries of a by-gone empire, McGrath stylishly refuted a series of aggrandised, honeyed platitudes about historic British power with an enjoyable, resolute confidence.  In dealing with the cliché that the British Empire seized other people’s land through the power of their pleasantries and abundant cups of tea, she eviscerated this by underlining how unutterably merciless the British Empire was in its use of military power, embellishing her historic dramatisations by adorning an overbearingly posh, and very funny, regal accent.  I also found her segments on Brexit interesting, and her comparison between demands for British sovereignty from Brussels that stood in sharp contrast to the less accommodated demands for Kenyan statehood during its time as a colony.  She explored these ideas in a way that not only underlined her own experiences as a Kenyan, but more presciently, her exasperation over how these warped forms of imperial nostalgia continue to permeate contemporary Britain, and the way they continue to disfigure debates over immigration.  The difficulty of projecting these ideas effectively through stand-up comedy can’t be underestimated, so to McGrath’s credit, she maintained a great balancing act between being likeable and funny, yet stimulating at the same time.

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For all of the show’s many strengths however, parts of it felt a little undeveloped, and not particularly well-placed in terms of the show’s overall focus and narrative.  And while McGrath’s immense likeability as a performer meant that the audience largely stayed with her throughout Accidental Coconut, at times I felt like their patience wore a little thin, and couldn’t help but feel some of the crowd started lagging in the final third of the show.  Furthermore, it felt like there was more of an emphasis on ensuring the social, racial and political conclusions of the show landed effectively than making sure the show was funny, or to be more exact, as funny as McGrath’s genuinely strong energy as a performer could have possibly delivered.

This is undeniably a difficulty in stand-up performances that are as charged as McGrath’s show (to borrow from the comic scholar Rebecca Krefting), and to her absolute credit, she delivered whole sections of the show extremely well.  But overall, Accidental Coconut felt like a show caught between comic and non-comic performance, deviating at times between what felt more like a humorous guest lecture at an academic conference than a stand-up show.  Accidental Coconut is a complex comic performance that sets an ambitious and commendable standard for itself in tackling the vitally important racial and socio-political questions which McGrath places at the heart of it, but I feel that until she addresses these deficits, she will continue to do a disservice to herself as an extremely amiable and funny comedian.

James Nixon

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Darius Davies: Persian of Interest

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Just the Tonic at The Tron
Aug 1-25 (14:20)

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The cavalcade of comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe could be forgiven for being a little exhausted as they approached its final days. But having said this, Darius Davies’ Persian of Interest was immediately reassuring, and brilliantly funny. Bombastic, self-deprecating and politically incisive, he was a delight to watch in the intimacy of the Tonic at the Tron. As he took to the stage for his Thursday show, he began by ribbing sections of the audience for their less than enthusiastic applause. Promising a fantastic show – which he certainly delivered – Davies quickly won over these pockets of the audience in no time with an assortment of observational humour and clever social and political analysis.

A major theme of Persian of Interest focused on the increasingly unreliable nature of traditional and online media as a source of reliable information. The opening of his show helped emphasise this, with a prescient, menacing video montage illustrating the United Kingdom and the United States’ lurch towards right-wing nationalism, with snippets of Trump’s inauguration and Brexit. Davies’ montage also cleverly merged these developments with the parallel rise of app-based technologies and the ever increasing reliance on social media to both shape and define our lives. However, on a more ominous level, he highlighted how the use of increasingly sophisticated technology enabled unverified anecdotes and stories to spread quickly and aggressively across the internet without even the feeblest attempts to substantiate it. On a personal level, Davies illustrated the world’s struggle in combating fake news through his recollection of the time he had to throw a 12-pack of heckling Spanish tourists out of one of his shows during the 2017 Fringe, and the scornful, yet hilarious lengths they employed to get back at him on social media through a series of blatantly ridiculous accusations. By showcasing their efforts to the audience, Davies effectively demonstrated how platforms such as Twitter have become as much a reactionary, abusive battering ram against people in the public eye as they are a considered platform for qualified, considered opinion.

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He went on to talk about his struggles with Tinder, and how, after experimenting with creating and using a female Tinder profile, he came to sympathise with women who use the app and the torrent of groin-based photography Tinder introduces them to. It’s a definite highlight of the show, but more pertinently, I felt it underlined the nuances of Davies’ act, and his mixture of a kind of virile, masculine stage persona with moments of well-delivered, subtle progressivism. From his commentaries on social media, it developed into a wider critique of the use of social media by news organisations, and the troubling lack of accuracy and substantiation that goes into elements of their journalism. In possibly the best part of his entire show, Davies enveloped the audience in his tale of how he got revenge on Ryanair’s weighty booking fees through the use of social media, an entertaining vendetta which eventually led to him being welcomed onto BBC News as an unverified witness to a news item he had zero relation to. The majesty of this story lies in its depiction of Davies’ transformation from an aggrieved Ryanair passenger to a morsel of woefully unsubstantiated media fodder on live news, and one accomplished in riveting detail. Furthermore, it provided a prescient take on the vacuity of established, modern-day news institutions, and their struggle to marry the rigours of traditional journalism with an increasing demand to involve their stories in fast-paced, scatty social media reactions and opinions. In a comic tale for the Trump era, Davies elegantly underlined these weaknesses in the modern newsroom to brilliant effect.

An audience’s patience for social and political commentaries within stand-up can often deteriorate quickly, so it’s a real testament to Davies’ act that he was able to skilfully weave funny, observational anecdotes into more serious contemplations regarding the news and modern technology in such an engaging way. I also appreciated how Davies was open to ribbing himself on occasion, such as when he presented a cringe-worthy video of his younger, shirtless self performing a wrestling promo to camera, or in moments when he mocked himself for perhaps being a little too conspiratorial about modern technology. In his fine balance between self-deprecation, accessibility and socio-political exposition, instances like this made his more serious takes on the news and modern technology all the more effective. For the majority of the show, I was really engrossed by Davies’ material and delivery. However, at times I found the use of sound effects slightly jarring, and some of his examples of media malpractice were a little too indefinite to be overly effective. But for a show that tackles both the complexities around the increasing role of technology in our lives and relying on traditional news as a source of information, it makes sense to provide a video element to the show, and for the most part, it works really well. Overall, I thought it was a considered and very funny take on grappling with trying to find truth in a news culture saturated with hyperbolic, and often unsubstantiated spectacle, a light-hearted comic treatment for the fake news era, and I look forward to seeing more of Davies’ work in the future.

James Nixon

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Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch

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Just the Tonic at The Caves
Aug 1-25 (16:10)

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This is my last comedy review of the decade, of the Tweenies, & so Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch is a most appropriate choice. Paul Vickers began Twonkey’s Scandinavian saga back in 2010, & more than any other act has marked the progress of the decade. Back in 2010 Obama was president, Boris Johnson was widely derided, Brexit wasn’t relevant & people kinda liked each other, not being constantly bombarded by the elitist & populist control of the media which is sewing division daily in our lives. But one thing that hasn’t changed in that time, well not significantly at any rate, is Mr Twonkey’s sparklingly original cabaret. I’d caught the very first one (I’m a friend of the family) & his second show was included in my personal blog of 2011, which is something of a Hobbit to the Mumble’s Lord of the Rings. Here is the write-up;


Then came the climax of the Beehive session, & PAUL VICKERS surreal show, TWONKEY’S CASTLE. Meeting up with his brother, VICTOR POPE & his mum Anne (see yesterday), we found ourselves right at the front & in the midst of the action. Words cant really describe what goes on in Paul’s mind as he floats from piece to well-written piece, delivering his puppet-peppered comedy with a dead-pan relish. He also sings, & bloody well at that, which gave the show a category of Cabaret. But its not cabaret – you cant really label it. Perhaps Vic Reeves & Des O Connor high on helium gas while Monty Python dance about them naked is kinda close, but its an hysterical ride through a man’s imaganation, & a mind thats growing confident with his material. He’d unleashed Twonkey on the Fringe last year (see you tube below) & where next Mr Vickers… Twonkey’s Space Station?


The beauty of that write-up is that I could just copy & paste it & it will still stand for today – its all a bit like The Fast & the Furious franchise, which just gets better & better. The only difference between then & now is that certain members of the 2019 audience have their favorite puppets & characters – mine is Mr Vines, Twonkey’s dodgy manager figure. I also saw something this year I thought I never would; a family of probable Christian fundamentalists walking out deriding Twonkey with a ‘that is sick‘ jibe. Twonkey is many, many things, but sick is not one of them.

The Wheel never lies… does that ring any bells? Mr Twonkey

Twonkey opens his show with a videolet of Subterranean Homesick Blues, whipping out the posters of ten years at the Fringe one-by-one… in the correct order! This year’s buzziest creation for me was Leonardo de Vinci’s landlady declaring that famous Renaissance artist was “ahead of his time, but behind on his rent,” while the Twonkiest moment – yes I think the Oxford Dictionary can accept that as a new word – would be when he played a mini-accordion while balancing a series of model fish… upon it’s top!

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At all times the audience sat transfixed, mouths slightly ajar, little drops of saliva collecting in the corners of their mouths. We all (more or less) love Twonkey whether its your first visit, or your tenth, & I have seen all ten! So to conclude; Brexit will eventually be a mere memory, & Trump will die in prison, but Mr Twonkey, or at least the Twonkeyism that he invented, will continue to thrive. I got that knowledge straight from the horse’s mouth, actually, for on asking Mr Vickers will he be back for a new decade, he replied, ‘I’m sure I will keep going but in many different forms and in new and exiting ways. I just need to dream it all up again.’

Damian Beeson Bullen

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Jez Watts: Absolute Zero

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Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire
Aug 22 – 25 (17.15)

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index.jpgThe Cave at Cabaret Voltaire looked attractive as we took our seats and slowly filled the room. It’s one those venues where the brickwork was exposed, a perfect setting for Australian Jez Watts’ brand of raw, close to the bone stand up. He revelled in his reputation for being “dirty”, verging on unacceptable and further reminded us that while we were there for comedy, he was at work, something he did with confidence. As he got into his stride, he confided that the title of his show, absolute zero, wasn’t because he was at rock bottom but was more to do with his state of indebtedness to his girlfriend, someone he revealed that he was going to propose to just as soon as he’s raised the money to pay her back. His prospective wife had in fact supplied the $1000 to furnish his act with the tech he used in his show,but he owed her a further $16000.

Despite this rather appealing revelation, this was a guy who took a somewhat mocking stance to life as he launched into his no-holds-barred reflections on everything from his own worries and concerns to his take on civilisation and the state of the human race. Which he compared to chickens in a George Orwell -esk take on the organisation of society. Nor did he hold back from confronting the audience in a not altogether comfortable way. But it’s up to you whether you take offence, or take comfort in the thought that the crudest japes are working hard for us in the name of liberty and freedom of speech, which is after all is the crux of true democracy.

Daniel Donnelly

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Meatball Séance

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Bar Bados
Aug 22-24 (19:00)

Material: five-stars  Delivery: five-stars
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After the Mumble editor met John Michael flyering for his show in Edinburgh, I got the call to go down to Bar Bados and review him. I’m very glad he did so, for John has transported audience participation to a whole new level, which is always quite a scary prospect for an audience member. Perhaps it was the crazy apron and pants costume, or his announcement of the gay boyfriend that he’d found that made him seem quite unthreatening and he had no difficulty pulling members of the audience up on stage with him to perform various tasks under his direction. In the end at one point there were three people onstage, thus cleverly changing the dynamic of a solo show into an ensemble piece.

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The concept of the show stemmed from the tragic loss of his beloved mother, together with the experience of being dumped by a long-time boyfriend. His demeanour was nothing short of manic as he hilariously set about getting us to perform characters from his life, and ran up and down the small aisle to make us stamp our feet and yell. At other moments he would just stare into the audience seeking out eye contact which it was impossible to resist.

John’s idea was that he would bring his mother back to life in a meatball séance where, with the help of selected audience members, he would actually cook the sizzling meatballs and use them as a ouija board to bring her back, while the rest of the audience would supply the screaming sound effects. He went for it nonstop from beginning to end, becoming more and more excitable at the thought of having his mother back again, and all the while coming out with cute jokes about her and the ex whenever there was any hint of sadness.

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This performer turned the venue into his own playground, dotting around here and there, one moment standing on the windowsill the next perching on the back of a chair. I would say he had us eating out of his hand as he took his deranged idea and ran with it all the way to the point of bringing his mom back to life. This show seemed crazy and out of control, but was in fact a masterful piece of theatre, skilfully put together and orchestrated by this American who touchingly wanted nothing more than to celebrate his mother’s life. An unexpected gem not soon forgotten.

Daniel Donnelly

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