Ted Chippington at the The Inn On the Green, W11.

The annual Portobello Arts, Film and gravy train Festival has developed a live performance element in recent times which this year brought comedian Ted Chippington to the Inn On The Green.

It will serve this review to quote the pre-gig bumph in the official programme:-

I didn’t know Ted Chippington and I’d never seen him perform, what’s more I’d asked around, and it became apparent that I didn’t even know anyone who had seen him perform. I do remember once reading his name alongside mine as examples of the sort of comedians that had flourished at the birth of alternative comedy. So presumably somebody had caught his act. That said,I actually rounded people up to go and see him at The Inn On The Green.

There was one explanation why Ted Chippington might be an obscurist’s fantasy, SOTCAA – Some Of These Corpses Are Amusing, a website now defunct and wiped clean, that pumped out vicious, insightful and infuriatingly anonomous comedy reviews at the end of the nineties and which managed to wind-up just about every one in the comedy world, mentioned Ted without slagging him off – an accolade not to be sniffed at.

That’s just the sort of name check that gets repeated in reverential tones and embellished upon by lazy myth-making members of the artistic cogniscenti, who are not above using the epithet genius when experimenter or even indulgent wanker is probably more accurate.

When I arrived at the venue people eagerly pointed out Ted to me, he was just about to go on but was happy to meet me. And I was wrong, we had met before – he told me that we’d shared a bill supporting Poison Girls in Bristol in 1985. I could only remember one thing about that gig – standing in a cage surrounded by an intimidating mob of gobbing punks. Before I could ask Ted if he’d had the same experience, someone spilt his drink over him. He was very calm about it, shrugged, and walked off to get changed. So it was with an open mind and mixed expectations that myself and a bunch of mates whose opinion I respect, plus 60 odd more Ladbroke Grovers took our free seats to watch Ted the would-be genius.

Ted’s act was organised to minimilise the fact that he didn’t have a working act. Trust me, I know about these things. Film of a forties be bop jazz band played sans soundtrack on the wall adjacent to the stage. Over the sound system was what sounded like an interesting funeral dirge. Ted in a teddy boy drape, stood behind a mic in a spotlight and told unfunny jokes that he intended to tell better and expected to go down a whole lot better. He um’d and he ah’d and repeated himself and burbled on without any real intention. He managed to insult an audience who would have laughed readily given half a chance. As he became more desperate he commented on the lack of laughter, the fact that people were leaving, and on the quality of the heckling. He shouted to the techie to change the sound track. He told us he was finishing soon and then tried to make a joke out of not leaving. Finally he cracked what was his ‘best’ joke “this is probably stretching things but there’s a DVD of my live act on sale at the door £15.” A few people laughed and I heckled for the first time “Now that was funny”. Ted finally left the stage after doing a very slack 15 to 20 mins having been booked to do an hour. He had clearly been through this scenario before but had no intention of learning from it. The collapse of the act was there from the outset; he accepted it as if it was inevitable. It wasn’t comedy; it wasn’t art, it wasn’t even masochism. it was a performer out of touch with his talent and struggling to embrace his excuses.

Referring to our regular Performance Club, a friend came up to me and said “We’re quite used to watching experiments go wrong; but this wasn’t like that; this was just dismal. Nobody else had a good thing to say about it either. Most people were just disappointed. Another mate started to deconstruct it and then stopped in his tracks and said “Nah, I ain’t gonna dignify it with my critique”. One or two felt mildly insulted, but no one was angry or confronted, they were simply miffed that they’d wasted their time. JB, the Festival organiser who booked Ted, listening to two people discussing the act in these terms said “It wasn’t that bad.” And that was the top comment.

I spoke to Ted in the bar after the gig, and not wanting to be harsh and hoping maybe to counsel him as a fellow performer who understood what he was going through; I said “Sorry man I didn’t get it” and he told me that he really enjoyed the gig and that he’d liked being on the edge. I told him that it didn’t look like the edge to me - it looked horribly safe. Then as before, we got interrupted and I never got to tell him that I’d been there myself and that I can recognise the dull nightmare of denial when I’m faced with it.

Tony Allen Aug 2007