Wednesday 23rd December 2009, 15:19

A Christmas gift from me to you (I've kept the receipt)

I done a nativity for a bit of a jolly, so I blog it here for you as a Christmas gift. What have you got me? Nothing? That's about even then. Happy Christmas...!


A CHRISTMAS PANTO NATIVITY CAROL, by Paul Kerensa (aged 30+11/12ths)

Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible say, Mary's boy child Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day.

The Angel Peter Gabriel came to visit Mary, and said, "I wanna be - hurrrrrrrrh! - your sledgehammer!"

And Mary interpreted this as meaning she would have a child from God and call him The Baby Jesus.

Joseph came along and the angel scarpered, as Joseph voice was heard. "Fe, fi, fo, fangel! I smell the blood of an archangel!"

And Mary told Joseph of the news and what was to come, and after an hour or several of convincing, including trying to track down CCTV footage of the angel - to no avail - Joseph believed her. But he thought, "If this happens again, I'm getting in Jeremy Kyle's lie detector."

At this time, there was a census taken across the land, and so every man had to return to his place of birth. This really annoyed, for example, an Egyptian family who'd taken years to emigrate to Turkey, but needs must. So Joseph took all that he owned: Mary and a donkey, and rode to Bethlehem, on one of them.

Meanwhile, there were three wise men: the wise man of Christmas past, the wise man of Christmas present, and the wise man of Christmas future. Since Christmas hadn't happened yet, the wise man of Christmas was actually a simpleton. The wise man of Christmas present was kept having the feeling something big was about to happen. And the wise man of Christmas future knew all about what was going to happen, as well as the eventual growing commercialism of Christmas, beginning with Dickens inventing turkey, Coca-Cola inventing Santa, and Simone Cowell inventing the Queen's Official Singalong Karaoke Christmas Message, from the year 2018 onwards.

While they were waiting for Christmas to happen, the wise men decided to follow a star to find the newborn baby. But they were intervened by Evil King Herod, who was busy trying to write his Christmas speech to the nation, when he had suddenly started to wonder why he was doing a speech every year, and how he'd do anything to get out of it. It occurred to Herod that if he killed the baby, there would be no Christmas and no Christmas speech. He only did the speech because the wise man of Christmas future told him to get in early, so he summoned the wise men and told them to report back to him when they had found the baby. The wise men said they would, but they decided that actually they wouldn't, just to see the look on Herod's face. It would be a picture.

As Joseph, the donkey, and finally Mary (women's rights weren't what they are now) all approached Bethlehem for the census, it appeared that there were more people from Bethlehem than there were places to stay there. Obviously, because whenever anyone left, someone else would move in, so you get through a lot of people living there, with no new housing developments. There was an inn, however - not a Premier Travel Inn, not even a Days Inn. More of a Travelodge. Basic, no cooked breakfast - just continental. Check-out from nine, only terrestrial channels on the TV. Even the tea- and coffee-making facilities lacked any biscuits. But Joseph, the donkey and Mary would see none of this anyway - no pets.

So the Travelodgekeeper turned the 3 - soon to be 4 - of them away. But then Joseph spied a stable around the back, and asked if they could stay there. The Travelodgekeeper looked at the shack Joseph was gesturing at, and realised he was pointing at the VIP suite. Yes, it had straw and animal dung on the floor, but it was the best that Travelodge got. So the Travelodgekeeper sent them there, since to be honest the entire hotel was empty as no one wanted to stay there.

And it was there that the baby Jesus was born, and named ‘the baby Jesus', or as Joseph continued to call him till his 3rd birthday, Joseph Junior, just to make a point.

In the neighbouring fields, while shepherds watched their flock by night, all seated on the ground - it's not clear if the shepherds were seated on the ground, or the flock was, but either way, all got up with a start when a host of angels appeared. And the angels greeted them, "Hello!" they said. And the shepherds were sore amazed. The soreness was because they were seated on the ground. The amazed bit was definitely because of the angels, who continued: "You must go to David's town to pay tribute to the newborn king." And the shepherds set off for St David's in west Wales. "No, come back!" said the host of angels. "Not St David's. David's town." So the shepherds began to book flights for Davidstown, North Carolina. "Stop!" said the hostess of angels. "See that there dusty straw room down there? Well therein lies the newborn king."

"Oh," said the shepherds. "That's easier."

And the hostess of angels with the mostess of angels turned to the other angels and mumbled something rude about the shepherds. The hostess turned back to the field of shepherds and lambs, and announced: "You must bring a gift to worship. Take one of those animals, kill it, and present it as an offering." And sure enough, one of the lambs went and killed a shepherd. "No, not you!" spake the co-host of angels, who was more of a sidekick. "He was talking to the shepherds."

"Ohhh," said the lambs, who were then killed by the shepherds and brought to the Travelodge. Just as they got there, the wise men of Christmas past, present and future all appeared from the other direction. "Oh, were you going to go in?" said a shepherd.

"Yes," said the wise man of Christmas present. "We've travelled a long way, weighed down by this job lot of gold, frankincense and myrrh."

The chief shepherd replied, "Oh. Well any chance we can go in first? That gold is really going to trump what we've got: some bleeding animal carcass."

And the wise man of Christmas present whacked the shepherd over the head with the gold bar, and the shepherd fell to the ground with a comedy lump and a circle of tweeting birds.

The wise man of Christmas future, who was holding the frankincense, said, "Frankly, I'm incensed." And all the wise men laughed and laughed. During which time, the other shepherds snuck in.

Inside the stable, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the donkey, and Mary, were all laying in the manger. Well Mary wasn't - she was standing now her work was done. And in came the shepherds with their recently slaughtered lambs. Joseph asked, "What is this you bring?"

"Oh, nothing," said the shepherd. "Just some lamb. Does the little lad like lamb? We can puree it."

"I'm not sure," said Joseph. A cot might have been nice, or a pram. We've got to push him round for a year in this manger. It hasn't even got any wheels. Lucky I'm a carpenter. And to be honest it's a shame you killed the lamb - we could have put him on that."

The shepherds looked down at the lamb in shame. "It's halal, if it helps."

"What?!" Joseph exploded.

"I mean, erm, kosher. It's koshalal - a new mix of the two. And circumcised."

"Do you not see," said Joseph, "that this child is born to replace the old law of ritual and works to please God? This child fulfils and yet at the same time supersedes the law so that you may be saved by faith alone." But such theology was lost on the shepherd, who just said, "Wha-?" For he still had a bump on his head.

The wise men came in, and delivered their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. That helped cover up the smell of rotting lamb in the corner. But at least it's better than the smell of many Travelodge rooms.

And so the next day, presumably, Joseph registered for that census that he'd come to Bethlehem for, but that never gets mentioned again in the Bible. And he presumably kept very quiet about the baby so that evil King Herod wouldn't find out. And they all moved to Nazareth and lived happily ever after, for a bit.

The end, for now...


Tuesday 8th December 2009, 18:14

Comeding & Carolling...

We're now 3/5 of the way through this year's Comedians & Carols shows, and much fun, among the tiredness, driving, and managerial stress, has been had by all. It's a real treat but also a real beast to organise - each night involves stage-managing up to 14 performers, convening them at an often obscure venue somewhere far from any public transport (and most of the performers don't drive), cram the night full of them, plus multimedia on Powerpoint, props, budgeting, and vitally also making sure the (mostly church) venues are happy we're the right side of reverent/irreverent/offensive/inoffensive/funny/not funny. But top fun. So, some basic questions...

First question many wonder: is it to do with Nine Lessons & Carols For The Godless? No. I would say this is the opposite, ie. it's for the Godful, but it is aimed at the Godless too. Only we're not a bunch of atheists talking science; we're a bunch of religish folks talking religiocomedy (several nice new words in that sentence).

Second question you may then wonder: which came first? I think ours did. The atheist one got more press cos they've got Ricky Gervais. In terms of celebrity, they win at top trumps. In terms of all-round Christmassiness and nice warm rosy feeling at the end of it, I like to feel we come out on top. To be honest the two shows aren't in any competition, since their show is in central London, and we're taking ours on the road, to the south coast, the west coast, Yorkshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire. A central London one next year, fo shizzle.

The shows have been lovely, with a nice mix of acts: stand-up, sketch, magic, double-acts, musicians, character acts, videos, carols, and mince pies. Alright, the first one in November took a while to make them feel Christmassy, but as the audience observed, it's November. Give ‘em a free mince pie though, and they won't care what month it is - they'll be harmonising ‘Sing, choirs of angels' before you know it.

Tonight I write this from a vicarage in York, where we performed just now in the shadow of Yorkminster. I'm convinced York looks Christmassy year round anyway, so it's great to get to do it here. Feels all Dickensian. Might go out and buy a goose tomorrow, or maybe fling some windows open and ask an urchin to buy one for me for a shiny penny.

So roll on next year, and thanks to all the performers who have been excellent this year in the C&C shows. Christmas cheer has been spread. Happy advent, one and all, and if anyone reading this fancies this show for their own venue/community/church/theatre/big living-room, we're now booking for 2010. December only.

Tonight, Buckhurst Hill in North-east London/Essex. Do come if you're in the vicinity.


Thursday 12th November 2009, 14:41

Remember, remember...

...the 11th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. I've been testing at gigs: about half of punters seem to have poppies. Less than usual? Seemed so to me, but who knows. I've felt Poppy Day was more poignant this year, with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our national presence there being such a topic of debate at the moment.

This summer, my wife and I were delighted to have a little post-wedding luncheon with my Cornish relatives at a really nice hotel on the Cornish coast. A delightful meal with good folks, and we were treated wonderfully by a female maitre d' (mistress d'?). We got talking to her, and she was a great woman, who had sadly last her husband not long before, and had both her boys being sent overseas to Afghanistan that very next week. Last week, one of her son's names has been in the news. The day he was due to return, he was killed.

I never met him and barely met her, but remembering his proud mother, the news story has had the horrid title of being the first time that I've known in some small way the family/friends of a serviceman killed in a modern war. It adds an awful new dimension to the news story, and indeed to Remembrance Sunday. I'm well aware too that I'm probably part of a minority - more and more Brits have a friend, relative or acquaintance that they've lost in modern warfare.

I vary opinions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wiser, better-informed people than I equally waver, so I'm not going to make up an opinion just for the sake of it. I don't know if they're fighting unwinnable wars, but troops in both countries are fighting darn hard ones. Seeing the film The Hurt Locker recently gave the merest glint of the tough conditions out there and the frighteningly vague enemy they're up against. I'm quite pacifist, but I 100% support them now they're out there, especially now that Poppy Day has come around, and especially now I can picture the family of one of these guys.

I don't want to sound like a crap panellist on The X Factor and use idiotic percentiles twice in one blog post, but I am 110% sure that no soldier is going to read this blog, now or ever, but anyway, I wish ‘em well. I've seen the running order of a comedy gig line-up they're being sent in the next few weeks, and they've got some good acts coming their way. They've got some crap ones too, but that's just like any gig in the UK, so at least that should remind them of home. Be well, chaps and chapesses.


Friday 30th October 2009, 03:00

Goodbyeween

It's Halloween! Woo! But not for churches. Many have ‘Light' events, to promote the flip side of Halloween, ie. to encourage young uns to not go out dabbling in the dark arts of Trick or Treating or the like. I fall somewhere between the two. I too am anti-Halloween, but for a different reason. It's rubbish.

Does anyone really like it? It's just there because it's not quite Christmas and we need a reason for a party. But wait a week and you've got Fireworks Night. That's great for a party. You get fireworks and everything - the clue's in the name. But Halloween? I don't want to answer the door to some acne-ridden oik with a cape round his shoulders, demanding in a voice that's just broken today that we give him some sweets or he'll spray foam over our car. Most of the time you either look at them trying to work out if they're too old to be doing this (15 year olds trick-or-treating just comes across as threatening) or too young (either they're on their own, in which case it feels weird, or their parents are with them, in which case you get the impression the kids don't want to be there at all, but Mum made a costume specially).

I have the luxury of an evening job, so I'm delighted to say that I've made it my business to have a gig every October 31st that I can remember. Those trick-or-treaters will just find an empty house. Ha. But given that only this month a survey came out that the vast majority of UK householders don't want carol-singers at their doors because it feels like home invasion, can we not also conclude that these people don't want trick-or-treaters either? I shall be buying no sweets this year. If any kids come round a day early (I've seen that before - thus ruining my gig-booking scheme), they'll be getting chopped-up bits of liver wrapped in Quality Street wrappers.

If this all sounds like a Halloween-based Scrooge, then we Brits only have ourselves to blame. The Americans do it and do it properly, but to the extent that it's now a fancy dress party extraordinaire. And that goes beyond horror into Superman costumes and the like, and that I don't mind so much. It's the prospect of going out on October 31st to find a bunch of women dressed as ghoulish vamps with red juice running down their cheeks as they lollop zombiefied to the nearest pub that's got a special drinks offer on. I've seen that all summer - they're called hen dos, and they're not pretty.

I applaud the churches in doing something different, even though ‘Light Services' probably sound as painful to non-Christians as the words ‘secular funeral' do to churchy types. The worry is that kids will go from Trick or Treat to Ouija boards in one easy step. While I don't think that happens much, I can almost see why they would, just because, as I say, Halloween is so boring. You come back from Trick or Treat, you've listened to The Time Warp and The Monster Mash, you don't know what else to do for the rest of the evening. Someone's suggested a horror movie at the cinema to round off the night, but it's only Saw VI and Halloween II, so even that's a rubbish plan. You've got a whole week to wait till fireworks, so what else do you do? Out comes that most deadly of demonic boards: Monopoly. And then it all really kicks off as no one can quite remember the rules and suddenly Jon owns everything and he's also the banker. Coincidence? I don't think so. Then it all kicks off and then there's real blood.

So yes, by all means have your Light services, good churches. But best of all, let's hope Halloween and The Light Nights cancel each other out, and we can all get back to a nice normal Saturday night with The X Factor, a bottle of wine, and no annoying knocks at the door from feral kids that look like they want to burgle you.

Bah, humbug! (Wait a minute, that's not a humbug - it's a bit of liver wrapped as a humbug...)


Wednesday 28th October 2009, 13:10

Twittering

I haven't blogged in a record amount of time for me. I'd like to think this is because I've realised the true value of work, and that my creative energies are best focused on the epic film script I've just written. No. The truth is, I've found twitter.

To start I thought the two were able to co-exist. Micro-blogging and macro-blogging (this is macro-blogging, by the way. What a posh word for what is basically an apology to approximately no one)... But because twitter has that bite-sized quality, whatever you are thinking, so long as you are thinking a thing, can be squeezed into it. The fact that you can do it from your phone means that you can ‘tweet' during a bad film in a cinema, or even a good film, or a minute before you go onstage, or even onstage itself (I have not done this... yet. Adam Hills, I hear tell, is a fan of this). It's rare you're out and about and think, "You know what I really need to get out there to the world: this 500-word long blog." More likely it's things like ‘Don't go and see Saw VI: it's rubbish'. Or ‘Had a lovely gig in Liverpool'. Or even more likely: ‘Had a lovely gig in Leeds'.

So that's my reasoning for lack of blogging. I may blog more, now I've remembered too, but more than likely, my main witterings will be over on twitter.com/paulkerensa. You don't need to be on twitter to read them - you can just go to that link in the previous sentence. If you sign up though to twitter, then you can ‘follow' (like friending on Facebook), and help soothe my ego. Twould be appreciated. Thanks.