What Was A Hipster Anyway?

Hip Hip Horrah, by Karel Appel

I used to be cool. There have been a couple of times in my life when I flew close to the zeitgeist, and felt almost part of something. Way back in 2009, much closer to the temporal epicentre of the hipster menace, I wrote the first article of an intended two parter, attempting to analyse exactly what hipsterism is (or, even then, was).

I mailed some of the young ‘alts’ I knew asking…

Dear ‘young’ art people of my acquaintance,
So I’ve been thinking about this lately, it’s especially ‘relevant’ what with the Dirty Projectors making Letterman and Williamsburg going out of business. What exactly is or was ‘hipsterism’?

The word brings a dozen distinct and contradictory images to mind- AmAp spandex clad androgynous 19 year olds doing coke and dancing to electro; plaid shirt and horn rimmed glasses wearing, 25 year old bloggers with advanced haircuts who enjoy Stuff White People Like, Animal Collective, and the novels of David Sedaris; vintage / threadless shirt wearing 30 year old ‘DIY’ indie or ‘hardcore’ musicians who do graffiti and ‘art projects’ in their spare time…

Are all these images of ‘alternative‘ mutually exclusive, are they the same person through the stages of hipster, or they merely cliches thrown up to account for the lack of a coherent youth movement? Possibly going to write something suitable ironic about this soon. Your thoughts…

I didn’t really expect a response, although in fact I received several. With hipsterism now well and truly in the dustbin of history, just another fad amongst many, I figured there’ll never be a less appropriate to post their responses, so here goes.

Andrew Booth wrote…

urlPerhaps when posterity tells the tale of the Obama Recession, the
greatest victim will be rightly seen as the last bastion of hope and
artistic integrity, the Williamsberg commune. It’s disappointing that
the Great Hope has crushed our last hope. The Hipsters were our
Dadaists, our Scottish Colourists, our Pre-Raphaelites. Through their
detached irony, their increasingly desperate attempts not to create,
through full fluffed moustachioed lips they rarely knowingly spoke
truth, but always hinted and sniffed at it. Their importance cannot be
underestimated. Indeed it is only when parents were bankrupted, their
gravy trains halted, the tears of sorrowful mourning joining their
carefully tattooed counterparts, that we can judge their true value to
society. They were not only the bedrock of society but its highest
pinnacle, simultaneously underwriting and souring high above the
cripple grubby masses. Alas for the hipster, we shall not see your
like again.

Scott Manley wrote…

I’ve always thought of it like this (from a North American perspective):

‘hipsters’ are broken into two types. real hipsters and faux hipsters.

i hate giving the ‘real hipsters’ that name, because they existed before ‘hipsters’ existed in the sense they are stereotyped today. of course, ‘hipsters’ have been present in all times and the definition changes. but let’s assume we know the current stereotype. these ‘real’hipsters get unfairly grouped into the greater stereotype. to me, these real hipsters are the artists, the musicians, the writers, the group of naturally creative and randomly expressive people that exist. these people have the unique ability to genuinely see or hear things differently that most would kill for. anyone can fake it to some degree, but these people do it with such ease that it’s easy to ‘know’ who they are when you meet them.

some of these people were my friends in school–i grew up with them; they didnt do things differently because they wanted to be different, they did things different because they couldnt do it any other way. as they grew older, they become that cant-be-helped image of a starving artist. they work dead end jobs to surive. buy clothes from thrift stores because they cant afford new ones, are vegetarians because meat is just too fucking expensive, and rode fixies because they didnt have cars and bikes with gears used to be the premium.

these people always embodied this modern ‘hipster’ image. and when ‘hipster’ dies, they will still be ‘hipsters’.

but the people that try to emulate this look, these are the faux hipsters. they don’t have this “god-given” ability to be expressive or see things differently. they do things different because they are educated enough to know that they are part of a greater, media-driven, cookie cutter image of normalcy. this of course has its own ironies as you can spot these people even more readily than you could before. but, this digresses from what i think is the core part of being a ‘hipster’. where the real hipster cant function without releasing creativity, faux hipsters go looking for that outlet, and it never comes. the evidence that leads me here? look at some of these people, they “write a blog”, AND they’re “photographers”, AND they know how to play a few songs on guitar, AND they drip paint onto a canvas and call it Pollock. they want people to think they have natural ability where there is none.

im not claiming to be a real hipster or faux hipster, but ive taught given enough guitar lessons to know when someone has natural ability or not, and im sure that is applicable to any creative field.

at any rate, im sure i could go on, but that’s a short bit on what i think about ‘hipsters’.

Darragh McCausland wrote…

Podge from Ham Sandwich, as featured in the ‘Look At This Fucking Hipster’ book

I really don’t know about this whole hipster thing and don’t think about it a lot ‘cept for laughing at the odd unfortunate photo on the LATFH tumblr. I don’t even think it is that relevant to Irish culture outside of a small group of Dublin teens and twentysomethings who read a lot of US blogs and shop in American Apparel. It’s kind of a surrogate culture for them, I think. Maybe because in Ireland, there isn’t a youth movement that fits them, something that is both vapid and surface-obssessed, yet has pretentions of a deeper cultural awareness at the same time? In my mind at least, these qualities hang over all that is ‘hipster’ like giant flashing neon arrows in the ether.The whole hipster thing is a nifty balance isn’t it? A sort of path of least resistance, where you look cool and tick all appropriate intellectual or cultural boxes without really scratching the surface. And now, more than ever, you can do this. With so much information available on the internet re: music, literature, fashion etc…it is very easy to have your opinions formed for you. And I think that’s where the term ‘hipster’ originally came from (too lazy to wikipedia – correct me if I am wrong). It’s someone who changes opinions and values like they would underwear; a borderline personality type, terrified of feeling irrelavent, keeping their thumb in the wind so they can constantly see what way it’s blowing.

I feel nauseous when I see all the regressive scene-analysis about what’s relevant on american blogs like hipster-runoff, and in their comments sections too. To me, outside it all in Ireland, it looks so parochial. And I’d venture any sociologist interested in the phenomenon (God fucking love them  if they are), could easily link a lot of the shite spewed on those elitist little comment boards to the teaching of post-modern literary theory in American Universities. You see this in commenter’s excessive use of post-modern terms such as ‘meta’ and ‘meme’. And there is also this crummy notion that every cultural event is a ‘text’ which needs to be dismantled and obsessed over, until you get to the ridiculous point where a load of fuckers who should know better, and moreover, should be using their intelligence more constructively, are arguing over whether such miniscule chunks of pop-cultural flotsam as Bradford Cox’s jizzy pants are ‘relevant’.

For me, the concept of ‘hipsterism’ which you seem to be getting at with your examples above, is a diverting, solipsistic, parlour game for insecure, university educated, moneyed young American white people. And it is partly driven by fear. The fear of not being ‘with it or ‘chill’, or whatever cunt of a term those pesky hipsters are calling it nowadays.

Karl McDonald wrote…

url-2Hipsterism recedes indefinitely. It’s like a gestapo style thing, the whole “I’m not a hipsterbut I can point one out to you if you let me go”. There’s always someone worse. For a lot of my friends, the hipsters are the Spy crowd, people our age and younger who have a lot of consideration for their hair and like dancing ironically to terrible music. Or I suppose the people in vintage, flea marketed clothes who have tea parties, but then those are probably some of my core group of friends at this point. I’m sure the Spy crowd could name a class of vinyl-collecting, smoking area hipsters who they hate for being so aloof and bitchy.

It’s a receding thing because, like with any sort of identity construction, you have to define yourself against something. I have a friend who got chewed out recently for going to (specific) gigs and being a “Trinity artsy” type. The accuser, in attendance at both gigs and not unfathomably a Trinity humanities student himself, saw no contradiction in giving out about somebody else’s habits.

Secondly: “merely cliches”

I’m going to show some horrible English student roots here, but I don’t think hipsterism is an adequate term to describe what it’s trying to describe. There’s too much it doesn’t account for (especially, as noted above, internal dissension), and it’s not anchored to anything. There are things that pop up, like art and DIY and I suppose books and vintage (rather than retro) stuff, but none of it is catch all. Is a punk who does art installations ahipster? Or are they excluded because they’re already a punk, and punk is a “coherent youth movement” with handy traceable roots?

A thing I did a few times in interviews, and saw others do probably more than I did myself, was to assume bands don’t like Pitchfork. Say “hey, Pitchfork sucks” and wait for them to agree and throw snobby hipsterism under the bus. But it’s probably hipper to say you hate Pitchfork than it is to say you like it, and Pitchfork doesn’t give a fuck either way so long as people are reading. So what are you latching on to? Even Pitchfork doesn’t work as a tentpole for hipsterism.

Thirdly: “Dirty Projectors ‘making’ Letterman”

What’s hipster music? Arcade Fire were once, but then, without changing at all, they became maltstream and your cousin who buys CDs (yes, actual CDs) at Tesco said she loves it. Animal Collective, by virtue of being a bizarre band who got popular (after what, 7 albums?), are targets, but what did they do to deserve it? If you saw Avey Tare out you’d think he was a roadie or an old punk or something. You’d never say “hipster.” Electro and coke? Electro’s not exclusive enough. Thousands of people go out and dance on weekends to what could fall under hipster electro, but if sneerily discerning taste is supposed to be a hipster trope, how does that work?

So fuck it. Hipsterism is too slippery to even exist, if you ask me.

Finally: HRO

I bought an I Am Carles t-shirt last week but I am definitely never going to wear it visibily. Ever.

Finally, Alex Sinclair summed it up…

Urban Outfitters sell this entire image on the ground floor.

A Mysterious Package For Dr Freeman

I checked my post this morning, only to discover a mysterious mystery. An apparently ordinary looking envelope…

But dear reader, this modest parcel was in truth anything but ordinary, for inside lurked something tremendously suspicious. A typewritten letter accompanying a second, plastic envelope.

Text of the letter (misspellings preserved):

Dear Gareth,
I hope this letter finds you in time for I may not have long.

Within this letter contains one small piece of an unending jigsaw. A tiny fragment of my research that has led to me upturning a lot of rocks and finding a hideous insectoid life living beneath it. Inscedoid that have their antennae in a vast array of important government pies.

As a fellow skeptic you will undoubtedly know the importance and significance of such a finding when you open its plastic cover and read beneath its pages.

Who am I you are asking and why have I been burdened with such knowledge.

We have never met but your reputation as a fellow investigator of the unknown has been spoken with hushed reverence in many circles in which I traipse and it was vital that this envelope left these shores as soon as possible.

We are through the looking glass here. If you wish to continue with my work in finding the truth go with care.

I wish you more luck than I have had.




Ex historia damnatur qui non referre.

What strange clue was this?

Quickly Google Translate informed me that the final quote in latin was a literal translation of the phrase “From the history of those who do not is condemned to repeat it.” Rapidly my tightly disciplined mind deduced a mistranslation of George Santayana‘s famous quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Curiouser and curiouser. My tormenter was not a native speaker of the Roman tongue, likely a crank rather than a true scholar of the insectoid / inscedoid race. Few of us who research this grim threat possess the tools to utterly penetrate the arachnoid mystery. More often than not promising candidates, brave men and women who offer some hope that the menace may be quelled or at least understood, disappear never to be found, as perhaps this poor fool had.

Along with the letter was another package.

Hmmm… A simple graphological analysis revealed that the handwriting suggested the following traits: modesty (indicated by a lack of underscore and indeed the lack of a signature), impulsiveness (no starting strokes), orderliness (orderly writing), and mysteriousness (indicated by the mystery). But what was inside? Hastily I peeled back the pastic cover, careful to preserve all possible fingerprints.

Ye gads! A copy of that most secret magazine ‘Freemasonary Today’. Legends tell of this illicit container of mystic lore, passed from one High Carbuncle to the next for a thousand years. Written on the skin of slain unicorns, in the blood of baby Pandas. How had such a rarity found its way into the postal system? Surely the automated machinery of the illuminati is designed specifically to prevent such an outrage? Was this a trick? A false piece of provocative evidence designed to blow my cover as an investigator? The lizard men are crafty, and their masters the insectoids / inscedoids even more so.

I had to resolve the puzzle of it’s origin.

It seemed my confounding epistolarian had concealed the originally intended recipient of the package with a mere sharpy mark. Something any common or garden house cleaner could erase.

To the cupboard!

Aha, a veritable clue! With judicious applications of special issue Tesco All Purpose Cleaner I was able to reveal the address, hidden beneath the crude sharpy mark. The package it seemed, had been originally intended for a certain gentleman of London… Could it be?!?

Armed with the address, I went straight to that tool gifted us by the lizard cameras themselves. Google’s all seeing ‘maps’.

(Details redacted to protect the conspiracy)

Aha! Now my search was narrowed to a certain segment of London, wherein the original recipient had at one time lived / lives / will live (assuming time travel). To Facebook to confirm my suspicions.

Aha, a veritable admission from my associate, codename ‘Mark’! I questioned the origins of the mysterious package. Where had ‘Mark’ found such a thing? The reply came!

The brave theft admitted in his own hand…

Funnily enough the came from the creepy guy who used to live in the house before us who we think was a spy. He had extra security cameras installed, 7 locks on the door had guns on the wall when we were shown the house and said he worked for the government AND was a member of the masons!

Finally, my suspicions confirmed, and a mystery solved. Mr Freeman, we meet once again. Mark, I salute you!

Dead Medium, making radio

I love radio. I love making radio even more. Pre-recording shows, live broadcasting, racing between decks as the last song fades out and you still haven’t picked the next one, tripping up your co-host with an outrageous comment right before you go on air, sitting in the outer studio watching the clock jealously lest someone steal your airtime. I love it all. As a shy teenager I snagged a volunteer job at Anna Livia FM on Grafton St (today Dublin City FM), doing continuity announcements. You know, those little bits between the programs where a soft voice fades in to say, ‘That was Wolfgang Synott conducting the Cavan Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Levi Strauss’s Denim in C Minor, and next up your weekly dose of news and opinion from the world of competitive piglet fancying, with Snort and Swine. It’s five past seven and you’re listening to…’

Links went out live, and each night as the seconds ticked down on the silent studio clock, perched before the seductive muffle of the big condenser microphone, waiting for the nod, I’d sweat and redden and start to shake a little and get dizzy. The live light above the door would blink on. I’d wait a moment then begin, my best sonorous radio baritone tickling out of a panting throat. Sometimes I’d laugh, more often than not I’d cough or sputter, or lose my train of thought. Such was my focus on the vanishing moment, on the cadence and rhythm of the link, on the many listeners I imaged driving through the rainy night or lying at home, drifting to sleep to the sound of my voice, that my tongue would trip over itself and fall out of my lips to twitch in a spitty knot of shivering funk. This powerful cottonmouth effect seemed an insurmountable barrier to ever getting good at radio. I remember asking an old blues man, a sweet eyed slope backed character who chain smoked and hauled great whale bladder packs of grooved surprises up the stations narrow stairways, “Does it get easier?” He thought about it for a moment abstracted from the hidden harmonics of Northern Soul, of Big Band Blues, of Proto-Motown, and replied, ‘If you ever stop feeling nervous, you’ve stopped listening, and you won’t be any good no more’. Well he said something like that, assuming the kid would lock away forever the sagacious titbit dispensed by a modest man in late middle age tuning every iota of love and memory into radio show forty years too late to be appreciated.

Dancing in the studio, check.

In college I got over all that, all that fretting and quaking before the threatening mast of the muffled microphone, all that delicious fission of the audience. I finally got to make radio, and what radio we made. Talk shows, comedy shows, music shows, politics shows, all night experimental shows reading beat poetry over early dubstep, drunken shows, sex chat shows, wildly defamatory gossip shows. We lived in the studios of Trinity FM. Spent far more time there than in our classrooms or the library. We even made a TV show, locked in the outer office out of hours. It was a liberation, unhinged access to the airwaves, amateur anarchic broadcast libre.

Skinhead and drinking in the studio, check.

After I left, in the post college hangover that lasted two years or more, I started making something I’d had too much fun to try in college, scripted radio. My first effort was dreamt up, sleepless on the hard wood floor of my parent’s study, where penury and the fear of change and a loathing of the managed workplace penned me. I was reading John Hodgman at the time, the ‘I’m a PC guy’, from the hit Apple ads (for UK readers, the yank equivalent of David Mitchell). Hodgman’s first book, The Areas Of My Expertise, purported to be a complete compendium of all world knowledge. In a stroke of genius he had single-handedly revived an all but forgotten form of comedy, the misleading manual. Although this wonderfully dry genre dates back at least to the 17th century, my favourite examples are the post war guides of the British author Stephen Potter. Potter penned tongue in cheek volumes on gamesmanship and one-upmanship: Guides on how to achieve victory in life, sport, love and in the workplace through the honourable art of almost but not quite cheating. Hodgman, in satirising the almanacs of his youth, had accidentally revived this long dormant form. His almanac was a collection of frankly hilarious distortions, misleading half-truths and outright lies. Reading the book it suddenly occurred to me that by combining Hodgman’s approach with live radio, or even better – on location radio – something novel and fun could be done in comedy. I got up, turned on the light, scrawled down some notes and lay back down. I thought of something else, lept up, scribbled it by the light of my mobile and lay back again. By the wee hours of the morning I’d worked out the basics of what become The Invisible Tour Guide.

The Tour Guide was a comedy show purporting to be a guide to historic Dublin, in the company of a pompous aristocrat based in large part on the American actor, storyteller, and surrealist playwright Edgar Oliver. This character, the grandiloquent fop known as Byron Frump, became a sort of homage to that very British pomp I find endearing, that early 1970’s Oxbridge positivism repeated endlessly on late night television during my childhood. Frump was from a thick vein of blue blood, and as the show developed his family’s feudal history became so baroque and fantastical I had to write a forty-page ‘bible’ just to keep everything in check. Carrying him along in podcast form, listeners were mislead utterly, regaled a contentiously imperialist history of Ireland, and even introduced to completely fictional historic landmarks.

Professor Byron Frump, host of The Invisible Tourguide

The other idea I have that night to thank for was The Emerald Arts, a faux imperialist, condescendingly intellectual arts show in the vain of long dead, lavishly budgeted radio programmes like BBC Radio 4’s Kaleidoscope or Melvin Bragg’s never ending history of intellectual life In Our Time. These programmes were a kind of broadcast grammar school, offering a suburban child, in still penurous and Catholic Ireland a glimpse into a glamorous world of art, ideas and comfortable middle class elitism. The show would push this premise to absurd levels, purporting to be a century’s old, cantankerously stodgy Arts Programme, whose history stretched back to the colonisation of Ireland by Gatling gun and steam train, and whose character’s self importance was only ever bolstered by a universe that literally revolved around them.

Technolotics, Episode 42 ‘Palm Jam’

At lot had changed since The Invisible Tourguide, I’d started and then stopped being a standup comedian. I’d run a fair few spoken word and comedy gigs, MC’d a wrestling match, had a one man storytelling show, and even been invited to lecture at the Electric Picnic! This new show would be more ambitious, recorded in a real radio studio, with a full cast of actors and comedians, original music, and hundreds of sound effects.

Lorcan Hogget and Hawthorn White, from The Emerald Arts, played by myself and Gary White

Predictably, the production of the Emerald Arts grew into a Sisyphean task, taking dozens of people months of weekly recording sessions to lay down, and gluing me to an editing programme for hundreds of hours spaced over half a year. The talented young Irish electronic composer Kieran Dold (Kara Kara) contributed an explosive theme tune, Korean indie music promoter Jin Lim helped with the multitrack studio engineering, and eleven talented actors helped voice the frequently bizarre characters that my co-writers (Andrew Booth, John Hoysted) and I had created. In the process I learned an enormous amount about the practicalities of script writing, directing, production schedules and the logistics of working with so many people (all of whom kindly volunteered their time) over such a long period.

Lenny T, from The Emerald Arts, played by Shane Conneely

Most importantly I discovered that a) producing something so involved for free is a very special kind of madness that only the young or recently young can get away with, and b) nobody wants to listen to a long form scripted radio comedy satirizing 1970’s arts coverage. To be fair, I had a pretty good feeling about that last bit before I began, but I still sighed each time I sat in the studio babysitting the broadcast and the texts rolled in describing us as ‘benders’. At times I felt like our fictional broadcasters, surrounded by savages beating at the gates, protected only by high culture and the stout broad chest of erudite paternalism.

Dead Medium – ‘What Lurks Inside His Noble Mind’

For the past year I’ve been working on a new project; something that once upon a time was an incredibly popular format but is today, alas all but deceased – the radio sketch comedy show. Our initial funding application to the BCI was ambitious, original, and almost inevitably got turned down. We’d planned a series of live shows with standup comedy and music, with each episode recorded before a studio audience. We’d have live sound effects by Roger Gregg, and record it in a real honest to God theatre. It would have been half Goon Show, half Other Voices. It could have been a runaway success, or perhaps more likely a backbreaking headache. Either way, it seemed like the logical next step. But the harsh realities of public broadcast funding hit home and we scaled back our ambitions. Instead we started working on a podcast show, recorded in my ‘home studio’ (a Rode NT1, connected to an old analogue mixer, connected to my aging Mac). My fellow writers and I met one evening a week to work on sketches. After a year we had ninety written, enough for a six episode, thirty minute per show series. But as recording approached, repeated equipment breakdowns and the tiresomeness of working on a voluntary project with no feedback or appreciation wore down the crew. Folks bowed out one by one, till finally it was just me. Oh benighted starving artist! Crestfallen, with nine sketches recorded, but no cast or co-writers left, I all but gave up on the project.

After spending a month moping about my wasted year. Finally I pulled myself together and started working. It would be unfair to proceed with our original title, something we’d all owned and honed and crafted together. It would be unfair to use the sketches my co-writers had submitted on their own. But damn if I wasn’t going to make something of the stuff we’d worked on together. I found some creepy Victorian death portraits online, slapped a website together, and Dead Medium was born. The formula is simple – One brand new original comedy sketch each week. The first couple I put out were sketches we’d recorded together, remixed and tightened up. Then I started laying down new sketches, voicing multiple characters and looping over myself as I used to back in the days of the Invisible Tourguide. The show has a lot of things going for it as a creative project. It’s iterative, flexible and low maintenance. Its short form and easily consumable, requires no prior knowledge to grok, is reasonably clean and stays clear of pop culture references. It’s also deeply weird, and a lot of fun to make. I’ll pull in friends and other comedians to voice characters here and there, but overall I’m happy to do the work and take whatever reaction (or invisibility) results. This is my thing a week. A quickly made, highly varied way to stay creative, and keep making radio. There are sketches about kittens, sketches about superheroes, sketches about magicians and time travel and muffins. It’s free, and I made it for you. I hope you like it.

Dead Medium goes out late each Tuesday evening. You can listen to it for free on bandcamp.

The Invisible Tour Guide


I’ve launched a new podcast called ‘The Invisible Tour Guide’. It’s my first foray into the medium since Technoloics, the humorous technology and politics vidcast I co-presented with Jason McCandless and Francis McGillicuddy, shut it’s doors way back in 2006. I’ve wanted to get back into podcasting for quite a while now. Technolotics was an ungodly amount of work to get edited on a weekly basis, but enormously satisfying. There’s something deeply cleansing about about a net producer, rather than consumer of entertainment.

I’ve kept involved in audio production, producing a variety of shows on the excellent student radio station Trinity FM, as well as a couple of shows for RTE 2XM, and several dramatised readings for the podcast ‘Starship Sofa‘. But nothing beats the freedom, creative expression and accomplishment that accompany writing and performing your own work.

I’ve worked over the past couple of years, at learning to write comedy – something I never imagined I’d have the cojones for. There’s a big leap somehow, from believing you can produce an entertaining, well constructed story, to imagining you can be funny. Luckily for me one of the fine crew I met in Trinity FM was a man with no small comedic ambitions.

Andrew Booth had been writing parody reviews (and indeed releasing his own satirical zines) since secondary school. Finding a shared appreciation of the creative renaissance that erupted in British comedy in 90’s, from genius writers and producers like Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci to of course Chris Morris; we embarked on a variety of bizarre comedy project. While none of these projects – from postmodern reviews, to novels, to popular imaginary MySpace celebrities – garnered much critical attention, it was and remains a rewarding creative partnership. One that provided me with the confidence and experience to dip my toes in the waters of comedy. When Andy became editor of the always controversial, but frequently unfunny Trinity satire magazine Piranha!, I jumped at the chance to write and rewrite for the outfit. The results of our work, and the input of great writers like John Hoysten, can be seen in the issue of Piranha! released last September, of which we’re all justifiably proud.

Before the first issue landed, Andy and myself had the displeasure of attending a dry as dust recruitment meeting, attended by hordes of the sort of smug, social climbing, journo-critters to be you might imagine embarking on a media career at trinity. To take the edge off I decided to attend the event in character. I’d been obsessively watching Youtube videos of the wonderfully eccentric New York playwright Edgar Oliver, and attempting to mimic his inimitable prosody. Wandering about the obscenely grand Graduate Memorial Building, tiresomely sober (its never wise to drink around such people), Edgar’s voice escaped from me in the form of ‘Christoff Englebert’ – an unfortunate whose nametag I’d been gifted. Oliver’s voice, morphed through severely deficient mimicry into even more grandiloquent pomposity, was wonderfully empowering. I flitted hither and tither camply bitchy and flirtatious – terrifying all about me, loosed of the bonds of convention and propriety. It was, I imagine, much how a drag queen must feel, compering a wild night at a gay bar. Christoff maintained his voice all evening, and doubtless there are those whom to this day, remain convinced that the lunatic character is really a fellow student.


Around the same time, I came across a wonderful interview (on Jesse Thorn’s podcast ‘The Sound of Young America‘), with writer and humorist John Hodgman. Hodgman is a sort of American Stephen Fry, a humble jack of all trades, with a uniquely dry, urbane wit, and a tremendous ability to articulate his theories of humour. While Hodgman’s books are fanciful compendia of untrue facts, purporting to represent all world knowledge; the man himself has a habit in interviews of being oddly honest and literal, and as I listened to him speak about the history of volumes of arcane knowledge I had a flash of insight. If I could combine the character based humour of British comedy, with the fictive universe building of writers like Hodgman and Shea and Anton, I could produce something fairly unique that would be tremendous fun to perform. The copious notes I made that night include the phrase ‘Test several voices of varying seriousness, including Christoff’. There was in truth, no contest. Christoff became Professor Byron Frump, and his playground, art and history. I’d recently heard of a wonderful art project reminiscent of an alternate reality game which directed two listeners on a journey through Dublin city – moving independently, signalling to one another and interacting in mysterious ways, apparent only to them. I’d also seen wonderful videos of ‘flash mob‘ happenings, where strangers – directed by tapes or downloaded MP3’s – would dance, perform aerobics, or simply gather in huge numbers and identical dress, to the confusion and delight of their accidental audiences.

I realised that if I took this character (who my notes describe as ‘across between sister Wendy, and an ex-british army cricket reporter’), into the real world, his natural proclivity to pontification (well mine), could illuminate the absurdities inherent in high culture. Humour could emerge from the juxtaposition of elements of real life with an absurd headphone soliloquy. Listeners could perhaps be convinced to perform bizarre and inappropriate acts. Museums could become comedy venues, and galleries have their inherent pretension exploited.

I set to work developing a ‘location based comedy’. A programme which would follow the listener into the real world, fusing character based humour with ludicrous lies. I wanted the comedy to emerge not from stupidity or buffoonery, but rather the characters absurd pretension, and surreal take on things. There’s a tendency in much contemporary comedy – from Elton’s Baldrick, to Atkinson’s Mr. Bean, to Larry David’s Larry David, to every Will Ferrell character – to derive humour from a characters bumbling stupidity. I find this lazy and boring, like filling a cinema screen with explosions. Don’t get me wrong, slapstick when done well can be ingenious – my friend Tom makes wonderful short comedic films in the vein of Buster Keaton. That said – obnoxious ‘shouty make a scene man’ (the focus of most SNL sketches) has been done to death, as has ‘untalented but likeable guy’ (I’m talking to you Mr. Apatow), and ‘sweet quixotic looser’ (Wes Anderson territory). How much more interesting are satire, parody, surrealism, word play? How much more funny are clever, disturbing protagonists? Hence professor Frump, Fulbright scholar and ‘Lord of Cotton Wolf on Surrey’, ‘born into a life of almost unimaginable privilege’.

Ten episodes are planned – there’s no natural limit to a podcast, and I’ve learnt from Technolotics the limits of my interest in a project. Each show will include background sound – recorded on location, and densely scripted fictional history. Each episode will be a real tour – which can be listened to wandering around its location, or at home. The plan is for each successive show to become more like a radio drama – with additional characters, effects and music. There’s a tension here with the more passive situational humour, but there’s method to my madness. The ultimate aim is to teach myself how to write scripted comedy. I’ve an idea in mind for a sequel to the Invisible Tour Guide, something a little more conventional, which might be suitable for radio. I’d like to put a script together and ultimately get it into production at Radio 4, or one of the independent British production companies. Wish me luck!

The first two episodes of The Invisible Tour Guide are available to download free from http://www.TheInvisibleTourguide.com. New episodes will be available every Monday.

Beans for Bebo


Wow..Looks like Jason Calacanis has inspired a trend. Came across the following whilst browsing jobs.ie.

Are you a social networker and serial photo up loader? If yes read on….

Looking for some extra cash? http://www.talkbeans.com is Ireland’s fastest growing social networking site – for grown up’s.
We are looking for people to build social networks…. for cash. Its a sinch and its a part-time job you can do anytime, night or day.

We are seeking well connected, fun, outgoing people who have left school – and no longer want to be profiled on social networking sites for Kids.

So http://www.talkbeans.com are offering European pounds for profiles. All you have to do is get people in your network to set-up profiles (with Photo’s) and use the site actively and we will pay you for each profile you create.

Get your people to contact our people and post their profiles. To start making European pounds for profiles please apply below telling us why we should pay you to help build Ireland’s biggest and best social networking site.

We love all types of people. If your cool your in. If your not cool your in. If your under 18 your out – try registering with bebo.

None. We are not very responsible and don’t expect you to be. We do expect common sense and nothing too rude.

Successful candidates will be contacted by email. Please apply telling us why you not them, Today.

http://www.talkbeans.comDon’t be a has been. Be a talkbean!

Got to get me some a them ‘European Pounds’. Oddly the talkbeans site itself seems to be down. Shouldn’t they be advertising spamming this through a social network in any case?

Update: Site’s now back up, and looks unsurprisingly spammy. I wonder could Bebo sue over Talkbeans claim to be ‘Ireland’s fastest growing social networking site’?

Site slowness and new site launch


Apologies for the performance of this site over the past week, my host Dreamhost seem to be going through one of their periodic screw ups (always of greater length and severity than admitted to on their status page). This has meant that all of the sites I host, including Trinity FM and Technolotics, have been reacting slowly or not at all. Hopefully the situation will resolve itself over the next few days.

In other news, my wonderfully creative friend Andrew and I were having so much fun producing astoundingly erudite and informed reviews for TFM, that we decided to break out a site dedicated to our own elitist brand of music criticism. Check out the new site, Gil-Martin Writes.



‘Morrisisms’ is the term given to the absurdist tongue twisting mind benders produced by legendary amusement pundit Christopher Morris, the creative force behind such controversial and wickedly funny shows as ‘Brass Eye‘, ‘The Day Today‘, and ‘Blue Jam‘. In The Day Today in particular, Morris’s penchant for bizarre and unaccountably funny wordplay (check the link above to see what I mean) shone through. Part Peter Cook, part Johnathon swift, Morris lampoons the poe faced seriousness of current affairs presenters everywhere, liberally sprinkling bizarre wordplay into the dog bowl of social satire. In honour of the Man himself, here are some homespun Morrisisms.

“Ferocious tongue panick as spider spoon boy assaults cadbury bush.”

“Science fright at stiffening nature clouds.”

“Mangled clog biscuits a hit with toothless goons.”

“Absurd toilet mutant develops itch.”

“Profound piece found in chess set.”

“Enormous life coin spent at onion woman.”

“Gay nipple feared dead after oasis concert.”

“Research proves history fictional.”

“Novelist declared perfectly spherical.”