Friday, 19 October 2012

Those little perforations

Today I'm trying to blog on the train from my Android phone and I'm aware that it could be an interesting experience. I'm flying to Dalston (late as usual) to spend a day at the office of my actors co op. One thing I'm finding out already is that my digits are too big for the task in hand. When I got this phone the salesman told me that the keypad would expand to fit the size of my thumbs and that just hasn't happened. He was joking of course but I took him seriously  To my mind there is nothing that technology can't do. Why not have a keypad that reads how big your thumbs are and adjusts the screen accordingly? Maybe NASA should get onto it. They don't seem to have much else to do these days. To make things more challenging I don't have a seat on the train so I'm trying to write standing up. I have to clutch the smartphone with both hands so I can't hold onto the handrail. It feels a bit like an exercise in surfing. We're on a new line but the train still jolts and grumbles, and grudgingly refuses to run smoothly. It's OK because I know that the train will mysteriously empty at Canada Water. Don't ask me why but that always happens. "Why Canada Water?" I often wonder, "Is it really true that the whole of South East London works at Decathlon?" I'm now going into a tunnel and my phone is beeping at me with a very haughty tone. It's telling me that the battery is low and I can't save my work. As a writing challenge this one is certainly different. We've just pulled out of Canada Water station and right on cue, I get my seat.

My trips to the office are infrequent, but twice a month I get the privilege of travelling at rush hour. The peak of the rush has gone and there is a melancholy in the air. I can't quite put my finger on it. Is it tiredness, boredom, depression or just quiet contemplation? Maybe it's all of the above. I like to think that the majority of Londoners on this train are indeed in a state of quiet contemplation but I doubt it. I just hope that some of them are. We've just emerged from the tunnel so it's time to save my work before the smartphone dies. I'm now noticing that most people in the carriage, like me, are welded to their smartphones. I now wonder if, like me too, they are blogging about what's going on. They might be writing about me. Lets not go there.

I'm back on the train. It's five thirty and my battery is now fully charged. I managed to get out of the office early which is a blessing. It was a quiet day today. The only highlight being getting to open a wage slip. It's not only the fact that someone is getting some money, it's also that I love tearing along perforations  There is something really satisfying about the perfect tear of the perforated edge. I thought it was just me but my friend in the office agrees. Perforated edges just scream out 'tear me!' like bubble wrap screams out 'pop me' and the nuclear red button screams out 'push me and destroy the world'. It's a fact of life.

My thumbs are not getting any smaller so I'm going to finish now and go and find some bubble wrap. Think I'll  leave the nuclear red button alone though.

When he's not trying to multitask on public transport Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They are opening a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools at clf Art Cafe, Peckham on December 4th.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. His latest radio script is called Instant Karma. It follows the fortunes of Susanna Lewis Parr, a meditation healer with anger issues. For more info go to 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I'm not so metro sexual after all

Well what a shock result on the Great British Bake final. John won... who would have thought it... least of all him it seems because, like Ryan, John always seems genuinely surprised when the judges heap praise upon him. But the first class law graduate with a passion for patisserie came through in the end. Yes in an explosion of metrodsexuality we witnessed the first ever all male final in this titanic clash of the cake cremators. Even though it was the equivalent of a cookery stag party emotions ran high. Brenden had a weepy moment, John looked set to explode with the tension, but James just grinned through it all, employing his usual tactic of winging it. I have to say that myself and a number of other Bake Off fans had tipped James to win, but his five United Kingdom cakes were just one busking project too many and John took the prize. Again the producers had completely failed to see the event of an all male final as large bunches of flowers were handed out, but hey, it's the 21st century and real men can now show their feminine side. I do however find it disappointing that GBBO doesn't have a trophy. I'd like to see the winner presented with a giant metal doughnut, a sort of homage to Henry Moore, but I digress. The point is why am I such a fan of The Bake Off? My near obsession was highlighted this week when Grisel arranged tickets for some great concerts at the South Bank. Normally I'd be quite happy to go, but the Sunday one clashed with the Strictly Come Dancing Results show (another obsession, expect a blog), and the Tuesday one, heaven forbid, clashed with the Bake Off Final. I went along grudgingly or course, but employed a very strict social media blackout after the concert so that we wouldn't find out the result before watching it on Iplayer the minute we got home. Grisel thought I was joking, but to my shame I was deadly serious so this has got me asking why am I so engrossed in these programs?

I've always considred myself to be very metorsexual like John and the heros of GBBO, I mean I'm into the arts, I've got lots of women friends and I'm not very interested in sport. As a child a remember being taken to see Notts County play as I was supposed to be supporting them. I was not very impressed with the match so I switched my allegiance to Leeds United because they were winning everything. When Leeds had a slump I changed to Liverpool. To make sure I was always backing a winner I decided to simultaneously support Leeds, Liverpool, both Notts teams (where I was living at the time) and occasionally Everton. When it was pointed out to me by a soccer fan that this was not the done thing, and I must choose one team and blindly follow them no matter how shit they became I completely lost interest in the whole thing, and remain disinterested in over paid haircuts kicking a ball to this very day. I'd always assumed that I love Bake Off and Strictly because of my metrosexuality,  but recently I've had a shock revelation, They are just my new adopted sports. It's just another expression of testosterone. I know this because I often hear myself talking about these programs to people who have no interest, and actively seek out those who do. I've started saying things like, "Brendon is a great all rounder, but he's lost form recently, if he bakes the best cake in the final, he'll win." my god, these are sporting platitudes, move over Gary Lineker. In fact I've just found out that I can actually spell Gary Lineker correctly without the help of google. Oh well it seems I'm a real man afterall.

And so my latest sporting hero is John Whaite, winner of The Great British Bake Off. I love his passion. He could be a big shot lawyer, but he just wants to bake and , in my eyes, that makes him something of a bohemian. After every bake he did, he would look at the camera, and with a huge sigh solemnly declare, "Well, what's done, is done". What a catch phrase, it's baking philosophy. .. nice one John.



John with another amazing creation, "What's done is done",
and done very well I think.
When he's not being distracted by reality TV Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They are opening a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools at clf Art Cafe, Peckham on December 4th.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. His latest radio script is called Instant Karma. It follows the fortunes of Susanna Lewis Parr, a meditation healer with anger issues. For more info go to www.howhow.co.uk

Monday, 15 October 2012

On the subject of subtle plugs

A momentous event happened yesterday. Grisel and I actually had some time off at the same time, and we had what can only be described as a wonderful afternoon together. It was a beautiful autumnal day so we walked through St James Park and fed the ducks. Well I say fed the ducks the seagulls insisted on muscling in. I never knew they could be so aggressive.  At one point they actually managed to dive and catch the bread in the air and this actually impressed us. We then decided to throw the bread up to get them to do it again... bad move. A flock of shrieking seagulls now hovered around us and this gave me a definite 'Hitchcock's The Birds' moment. Even this, however, was fun. After that it was on to an art exhibition, another walk in the amazing late afternoon light by our beloved Thames, and then a fantastic music concert at The South Bank. All in all, perfect, and we both felt a deep sense of contentment... and this is the problem now. With all this joy and contentment, what the hell do I write about in my blog today?

I'll come clean, this blog really isn't about the trials and tribulations of running a fledgeling theatre company as the title suggests. It's more about looking at my own personal neurosis in, hopefully, a humourous way, and I can now feel another one kicking in... right on cue. What if  my life is now so good I'll never have anything to write about again? Of course that's not true, I've got plenty to write about, in fact too much, and some of my projects are suffering from neglect. There you go, the bubble's burst. Back down to earth with a bump. There is something scary about writing, even in this humble blog. It's intensely personal, I mean, the writer is the raw material for his/her product. I wonder if the manufacturers of soap powder identify so personally with what they are selling... I doubt it... maybe they do. Maybe the CEO of Unilever has a deep desire to cleanse his tortured soul by selling Daz.  I don't know, but I do know that the things that are closest to me, are the most difficult and scary to write, and it's those projects I put off until  two days before the deadline. Of course I'm still eagerly awaiting my next writers pay check so I guess the problem for me is to keep churning it out until someone gives me money for it. I spoke to a professional article writer a few months back who actually does make a good living. She too spoke about the stress of meeting deadlines but it seemed that, for her, it was actually worst. I felt a bit sad because the joy seemed to have gone out of it all. I think this is a shame although, having said that, if any TV/radio/stage producers out there want to help take some of the joy out of my writing please feel free to get in touch. Oh dear, is this blog turning into a pit of a plug?

Speaking of things that are scary and exciting at the same time, our cabaret club The Royal National Theatre of Fools is coming along great. (Just continuing the theme of subtle plugs there.) We have a great line up for the opening night on December the 4th so please all come along if you can. I think I'll try and get an equally bad link to a plug in all of my blogs from now on. Could be a great running gag.

Anyway our perfect day yesterday ended in a wonderfully middle aged way with watching the Strictly Come Dancing results show on the ipad whilst snuggling up in bed. I'm a big fan of that too so expect an article about sequins and celebs in the future This blog is nothing if not varied.

When he's not stressing over his own self imposed writing deadlines Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They are opening a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools at clf Art Cafe, Peckham on December 4th.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. His latest radio script is called Instant Karma. It follows the fortunes of Susanna Lewis Parr, a meditation healer with anger issues. For more info go to www.howhow.co.uk

Friday, 12 October 2012

Trigger's broom, and other concepts in writing

I've been tinkering with a script today. I'm entering it into a competition so this is the last ditch attempt to polish this jewel. You may think that writing consists of hanging around all day waiting for moments of pure genius to strike followed by frenzied activity as the script that will change the history of dramatic literature is hastily written. Of course I'm attempting (and I use the word attempting very advisedly) to write a comedy script as well, so it maybe all of the above with the added bonus of me chuckling away at my hilarious jokes as well. Well that's what I thought... until I actually started to seriously write.

The reality is indeed far from the truth, and so I return to one of my favourite themes, putting inspiration into action. First off I very rarely make myself laugh when I write a script. I mean I know what I'm going to say for a start. I know there's a good chance that the writing is good if it surprises me, but those moments seem rare as well. Writing is, on the whole, mundane but I'm willing to go through that because I love the results. One of my favourite quotes on the subject of writing comes from American satirist Peter De Vries, he once said, "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork." This pithy quote seems to sum the whole process up. For me writing is not a case of inspired genius, but more one of endless rewrites, lots of fretting and constant tinkering. I enjoy the tinkering and editing bit. In fact it's at this time that I can come up with a lot of really good stuff. To get to that stage however, I have to do the hard work of making draft after draft. It's a strange thing, just writing whatever comes into your head. In fact this is what I try to do for this blog, although the section I'm writing at the moment is an insert. (Wow! this is turning into a blog within a blog, how surreal.) Usually I'll put it to one side for a while so I can truly see what is good about it, and what needs changing, but quite often I'm thinking that what I'm writing is rubbish as I actually write it. But you just keep going, wading through treacle until you get to the good stuff again.


The script I'm working on has had so many rewrites that I've lost count of the exact number, but from it's humble beginnings three years or so ago I think its double figures. A scene from Only Fools and Horses springs to mind here. Road sweeper Trigger has a party to celebrate the fact that he's used the same broom on his job for twenty years... and it's only had seven new handles and twelve new heads. Obviously it's not the same broom that he started with, but in a way it is. (there, that's a bit Zen, isn't it?) I feel that about this script. The central character has been the only really constant factor in it. The situation and the characters that circle around her have all completely changed from the early drafts. I'm about to submit it to the BBC writers room and they have a rule that you cannot submit the same script twice. Unlike Trigger's broom I'm hoping that they'll see it as a different one. It's funny but I wrote a short cabaret piece earlier this year called The Conductor and I found it very quick and painless to put down on paper. I've realised, however, that the uncomfortable early drafts were done, on the hoof as it were, in front of a live audience. That was instant feedback for sure.


I'm dying to get back to the script as I'm thinking of making what will be the last major change. I may change the profession of one of the major antagonists from holistic life coach to bikram yoga teacher. Trigger would be proud of me and I hope that, like his broom, the script, although much changed will still do it's job. So I finish today. I confess I'm tempted to just run today's blog through the spell checker and then just give it to you raw and unedited, but I know I won't. Now comes the fun bit.


When he's not sweating over scripts Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They are opening a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools at clf Art Cafe, Peckham on December 4th.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. His script is called Instant Karma and, from the outset all those years ago, has followed the fortunes of Susanna Lewis Parr, a meditation healer with anger issues. For more info go to www.howhow.co.uk


Here are a few resources if you want to write a film, TV or radio script:

http://www.euroscript.co.uk
http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom
http://www.ideastap.com

Thursday, 11 October 2012

It's exhausting avoiding work

I'm in a right tizz as my dear old mum would say. It's thursday and here's my Wednesday blog. Most of yesterday was spent hurtling down a motorway in the company of radio four and when I got home, quite frankly I was too knackered. I'd driven up to Wales to help my mum move house. She had asked me to lend a hand but when I got there I could see there wasn't a lot for me to do. Apart from the removals men, two friends of mum had dropped in. Cynthia buzzed around the kitchen unpacking while Malcolm made sure all the appliances worked and the removals people were doing all of the heavy lifting. As for me, I just swanned around looking busy in a sort of self appointed head managerial role when actually I was doing sod all. I'm good at that. Making a great display of looking like I'm doing stuff, when I'm not. Yes, I've always been great at being actively lazy. When I watch daytime TV I call it research, and I sometimes think that my headstone should read, "Here rests Mike Raffone, no change there then."

It all started with my school boy attempts to avoid PE classes. I must have been a bit of a geek. Most skivers in our school avoided history, I avoided football. This arrangement worked well for me until the head of the PE department became my form tutor. No only did this put an end to me sneaking out of PE to loiter in the library with The Telegraph cryptic crossword (what a sad upbringing, I didn't even attempt The Times), but to make matters worse he decided to make sure that I attended PE classes by putting me in his class. This was very unfortunate because he took the top class which made me look even worst. Forced out onto the soccer field in such a demeaning way I quickly developed a smoke screen that made me look like I was playing the stupid game, when, in fact, I wasn't. This brilliant ruse consisted of running to the opposite end of the pitch to where the ball was, but at the same time madly gesticulating and shouting "to me, to me". Of course if it looked like the ball was going to come near to me I would dart off in another direction repeating the phrase as I went.

This all worked very well until the arrival of Nigel Williams, or Nidge as he was affectionately known. Now Nigel was a sort of North Wales version of the College football hero. He was academically quite thick, but naturally charming and popular with all the girls. There was even talk that he had lost his virginity, the local country park being cited as the venue for this momentous event. He was also brilliant at football, and was rumoured to be trying out professionally for Wrexham FC. One day I ended up on his side, and as usual was doing my usual avoidance trick. I managed to run and place myself half a pitch's length from the ball so I was safe... or so I thought. "Nidge, to me!" I shouted, and he obliged with a perfect pass that landed right at my feet. What the hell was I to do? There was only one thing for it, I had to just get rid of it. I closed my eyes and whacked the ball as hard as I could. I opened my eyes to see the ball curve towards the goal, beat the goalie and slam into the back of the net. I tell you, Nidge scored many memorable goals, but none were talked about as much as that one.

I've just noticed that there is a bulb of garlic next to grisel's workstation. Very strange. What's all that about? Maybe it's there to stop vampires looking over her shoulder when she's working. More likely it's there to stop me looking over her shoulder when she's working. She hates that. Who knows? Is this fascination I have just another way to avoid work?... Probably.


When he actually gets round to doing something Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They are opening a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools at clf Art Cafe, Peckham on December 4th.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. For more info Go to www.howhow.co.uk

Monday, 8 October 2012

Diary of a weekend

Imagine this. You are in a disused doctor's surgery, in an uninhabited ghost estate in South London. A local community art group has taken in over and there is a pop up bar and paintings everywhere. You suddenly hear what sounds like an electric guitar tuning up, you walk into a room the size of a small living room and there's a band there. They start to play... and wow! they're really good. This was the end to my Saturday at The Heygate Estate at an event organised by The Hotel Elephant Gallery. As twenty or more of us, of all ages, crammed into the tiny room to hear the Ohio band 'Stash' I felt privileged to be witnessing it all. "Yes indeed! South East London is the right place for our artistic endeavors." I mused.


Ohio band Stash at The Hotel Elephant Gallery.
(Rubbish photo, you had to be there.)

On the subject of artistic endeavours I'd like, at this point, to strike a more serious note. I've just been reading over Friday's blog and I have a sneaking feeling that it came over a bit negative which was not the intention at all. The fact of the matter is that I've got more wonderful and talented friends than I have space to give spots for, but it's nice to be able to offer something.  I also confess that I do actually admire performers who can ask upfront for what they want as long as it doesn't border on stalking. It's not a natural habit of mine, and sometimes I wish it was. Some of the advances I've had would not be out of place in a sitcom. Here's an example:

MIKE: Yeah, I'm starting a cabaret night.
YOUNG MAGICIAN: Can I do a spot?
MIKE: Well.. err... you see It's really not a magic night. It's a night of modern clown...
YOUNG MAGICIAN: I'm a modern clown.
MIKE: and also eccentric and off the wall acts.
YOUNG MAGICIAN: I can do eccentric off the wall, I'm an act.

And so on, and so forth, but like I said, I've done a lot worse in my time. I have to say that I like this guy and admire his persistence... but still... I hope that I don't give in... just yet.

Anyway back to the weekend. The Hotel Elephant gig came in the middle of quite an eventful couple of days. Best described by the following potted diary.

SATURDAY OCTOBER 6TH (The day of doom!)

7:30am: Got up early - Always kills me that one - I'm an actor for god's sake.
8:30am: Went to draw in Covent Garden - didn't get a show - went home with tail firmly between legs.
1:00pm: Had a nice lunch with Grisel - thought that the day was looking up - was very wrong
3:40pm: Tried a show at Covent Garden's smaller covered pitch - complete disaster - came home with a small amount of loose change and a huge desire to pack it all in and join a monastery in Nepal.
6:30pm: Eagerly watched Strictly Come Dancing - vaguely irritated by Darcey Bussell - agreed with Jenny Eclair on Twitter that Brucey's jokes are a bit shit.
9:00pm: Day ends well with the unexpected delight of the above mentioned gig at The Hotel Elephant Gallery.

SUNDAY OCTOBER 7TH 2012 (Redemption is here!)

7:30am: Got up early - doesn't feel any better the second time around - moved very slowly around the kitchen.
8:30am: Went to draw in Covent Garden - lady luck smiled on me - got a show on the big space.
3:00pm: Performed one of the best shows I've done this year on The Piazza - the crowd even loved my middle aged attempts at bad acrobatics - totally forgot The Nepalese monastery idea and decided that star of stage and screen is the way forward.
9:00pm: Grisel and I met a theatre producing friend of mine - get some great advice on the marketing of our club - went home with heads spinning (hers with ideas, mine with alcohol).

I often use the phrase 'it's all go' as a sort of ironic/sarcastic comment on the fact that nothing really ever happens in my life, but I actually think, at the moment it is just that. I can tell you it's really hard work this theatre/cabaret promoting lark.

Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They are opening a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools at clf Art Cafe, Peckham on December 4th.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric, and who knows, it may feature a young magician in the future. For more info Go to www.howhow.co.uk


More info about Hotel Elephant Gallery can be found at http://hotelelephantgallery.blogspot.co.uk/

Friday, 5 October 2012

Just one little word... no

Oh god, what's happening to me? I'm about to get all gushy. My life's a theatrical producing whirl and I feel like the boy with the best toys. I've got the best fiance in the world (not suggesting she's a toy by the way), who happens to be my business partner so business meetings are easy to arrange, and she's just brilliant, and together we've cooked up a mad idea for a cabaret club that everyone seems to love, and to top it all I've been ringing around all of my seriously talented performing friends and asking them if they would make this crazy idea work for a pittance, and to my joyous amazement they have all said yes, and although I'm tired, wired on coffee and couldn't sleep last night I'm on cloud nine. I told you it was gushy, that last sentence went on forever. It's OK, that effusive outpouring of positive emotions is over...... and rest.

In fact, this is the reason that I've not been blogging over the last few days but on Facebook I promised one today so as the sun sets on this rainy Friday I'm determined to deliver. You see Grisel and I have been busy securing a venue, and organising acts for a momentous event. Yes, it's the opening of our club. Yesterday we had a meeting with arts promoter Mickey Smith. He's a DJ, natural born clown (I'm sure he wouldn't mind me calling him that), friend to the stars of Jazz, and an all round top man. He seemed to love our idea and got very enthusiastic. What I love about Mickey is that in many ways he's a businessman, but with lots of heart. I imagine entrepreneurs to be hard and steely like Duncan Ballantine but Mickey is just.. well... warm and cuddly really. He's one of a group of people who saved an old factory in peckham called The Bussey Building and, in the space of a few years he's turned it into a vibrant, new and cutting edge arts venue with three spaces that are filled 5 nights a week. Southwark Council apparently had plans to level it and turn it into yet another Shopping Mall, something that the area can do without. Smarmy, sharp suited twenty somethings don't need yet another place in Peckham where they can persuade you to change your gas supplier, believe me.

Opening this club is also a strange turn around of events for me as well. I used to be the one desperately hunting for work, now I'm suddenly the hunted. This is a new state of affairs for me and I'm conscious that sometimes I'm getting the same needy bullshit thrown at me that I used to dish out to others. Is this Karma I wonder? I guess so. But it's not a bad thing as it does make me see it from both sides. It does, however, highlight another little quirk of my personality... my profound difficulty with the word 'no'. I've been involved in some very dubious artistic enterprises in the past just because... well... I was asked. To this end I've actually (and I'm serious here) asked Grisel to practice with me a series of hopefully truthful, but definitely polite ways of gently saying the word 'No'. I have to do this. I know that if I'm asked I may crumple and actually say yes to the whole world and consequently bankrupt the whole company. You see I have lots and lots of talented friends. By the way, if you were thinking of trying to exploit this weakness in my armour forget it. Thanks to Grisel I've now got all the answers. Maybe this is a plea to those I love. Please please bear with us, we're only small. Anyway, all of this is all exciting and maybe we can find a performing home for some of the great clowns, eccentric comics and character actors that I know and love. So our new performing home is The Bussey Building and Mickey has nurtured his part of of this local landmark with love that, I have to say, is infectious.  I hope we can inject this love into our little club as well.

The Royal National Theatre of Fools opens on Tuesday 4th December and will be on every first Tuesday of the month thereafter at The CLF Art Cafe (AKA the bussey building) in Peckham. We'd love to see you there.

For more details of the venue go to: www.clfartcafe.org


Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to www.howhow.co.uk for more info.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Video killed the music hall star (thankfully, not quite)

Grisel and I met someone who worked in the last days of the music hall on Friday. Not something that that happens to me everyday. Barry Grantham is certainly an old pro and can regale you with stories of working with some of the showbiz greats like Tommy Cooper, Max Wall, Sid Field to name but a few. A meeting had been brokered through a friend to discuss our cabaret night and it was a strange one to say to say the least. Now I'm a great lover of this sort of very old school variety, so I had a very casual idea of this meeting in mind. I thought that we would maybe catch up, swap stories and then maybe talk a little about business. How wrong I was. Guided by my friend the meeting, however, got straight down to business, and this caught me off guard completley. It seemed to do the same for Barry. It was an amicable and fun meeting, if not a little uncomfortable. At one point I decided that enough business had been discussed and we should just relax a little, "Right that's business done, now another beer." I exclaimed. I had meant it to be a cue for us to relax, but because I was the one who needed to relax as much as anyone it came out all wrong. Grisel told me later that it sounded like an order to get the next round in. I do remember that Barry looked slightly startled and immediately reached for his wallet, only to be saved by the rest of the party. Hardly the way to treat a seasoned veteran who had worked on the Great British Music Hall stage.And then there was the venue. We had arranged to meet at a club called The Concert Artists Association, or the CAA, of which Barry is a member . The CAA is a private members club for actors and variety artists in Covent Garden. In The Jester Bar the walls were adorned with photos of showbiz greats from a time gone by. Roy Hudd, June Whitefied, Cardue Robinson and Bill Pertwee jostled for position on the wall of fame. It's almost a museum, and that goes for most of the clientele as well. There was one table of thirty somethings, but everyone else would not be out of place in a home counties bowls club. I wondered if the CAA was single headedly keeping the blue blazer industry alive. It made me think of that famous Groucho Marx saying, "I wouldn't join a club that would have me as a member". Although with membership and bar prices from another era as well I could be tempted. I can't help liking it though, after all I love these old stars, and if it's a choice between this independently run club of enthusiasts, or another Starbucks I know which I'd choose.This strange meeting also made me think about what we are trying to achieve with The Royal National Theatre of Fools. Are we onto something? We have had such positive feedback and I love the idea, but becoming a museum piece is something I want to avoid. I had the great good fortune to perform in a Cabaret night at Edinburgh's Summerhall this year. Summerhall is a one of the more experimental venues on The Fringe and is aiming for year round status. This is cutting edge performance so I was so happy when I went down a storm. I was on the same bill as a very young band that I like a lot. Their lead singer was raving about my act and I was conscious that I was old enough to be his Dad. Maybe cabaret is skipping a generation and spirit of the performers who are on the walls of the CAA is coming back into fashion. I, for one, hope so because apart from a love of these artistes the CAA and I share something else. The alternative comedy boom of the early eighties largely passed us by, and when I turn on the TV and see Jimmy Carr I think that maybe this is not such a bad thing. As early as my teens I used to admire the craft and skill of the likes of Les Dawson and Morecambe and Wise, but was too young to get the radical qualities of the early days of the comedy store, and it's something that's stayed with me. Of course I was later to find out that the alternative comics also admired these artists but were too punk to admit it at the time. The passing of the years has also made me admire some great things that have came out of the creative melting pot of the early eighties alternative scene. I think exciting times are ahead.Eventually I relaxed and it was great to hear some of Barry's Stories. He told of us the burlesque artist who boasted that she moved onstage in an era when if you were nude that was banned. Turned out she stood stock still as she was pushed on a bicycle from one end of the stage to another. I'm sure that Barry was impressed by my own encyclopaedic knowledge of the period... but probably not. (I wasn't even born then, he was there!) I told him, in the politest way possible about my dislike of traditional circus clowns with painted faces and he thought for moment and said, "it's what's underneath the make up that counts". Wise words indeed. He sent us a lovely email the next day saying that he hoped we could work together in the future so it looks like I got away with the drinks blunder. Roll on the end of November when we plan to open.

More info about The Concer Artistes Association can be found at: http://www.thecaa.org


Visit Barry's website at: http://www.worldofcommedia.co.uk


Be inspired by what Summerhall are up to at: http://www.summerhall.co.uk


Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to www.howhow.co.uk for more info.