Birthday Fun

It was my birthday a few weeks ago. It was not a landmark one, so I did not do anything spectacular to mark the occasion. I started off the day with my usual morning work out before opening my cards and presents with a cup of tea, proving once and for all that I am the king of rock and roll. I got a bottle of very nice red wine, which I have already enjoyed. My sister got me a ticket to see one of my favourite comedian’s Frank Skinner in the West End in January. I am obviously really looking forward to that.

I had a quiet and relaxing day at home. Then in the evening I went for a meal with my sister and my parents. Nothing to fancy we just went to a local pub for some food. We only had a main as I had been given a chocolate cake, so we had that for pudding after. I then went for a few glasses of Rioja with my sister at our local Wine Bar, bringing to a close possibly one of my most low key birthdays ever. When you consider I have been at Pantomimes, on a River Boat cruises and also out gigging with “The Drifters” on previous ones’, it was certainly quieter. I had a fabulous day though, which is what it is all about.

Neil Quigley

The night before my birthday I was at a charity event at The Comedy Store in London with a friend of mine. It was in aid of the MS Society. Ivo Graham organised it and he was the compere for the night. It is something close to his heart as his mum is affected by the disease. He had managed to put together an excellent line up. The comedians were all performing for free. It was nice to see them support a fellow comic in this way. Despite what you might think about most wanting a rival to fail, so they can seem better, in my experience everyone is helpful and very supportive of each other.

This may seem a very obvious thing to say but The Comedy Store is a perfect venue for comedy. The closeness of the seats to the stage for starters makes you feel part of things. The stage is just the right size to focus your intention but still feel inclusive. Even the sound system in there is brilliant, so you can clearly hear everything, which trust me is not always the case at Comedy Nights. Add to that the fact it is one of the most iconic venues for the genre in the country. It is a real goal and honour to get the chance to perform there as a comedian.

The Comedy Store

Ivo Graham came on and started the night talking to the audience as all hosts should and do. He was fantastic throughout. First on it was the lovely Catherine Bohart. I had heard very good things about her recent Edinburgh show, so I was looking forward to seeing her. She was excellent, original and funny with an inclusive friendly style. I would definitely see her again. Then it was Russell Howard, who I have seen several times before and who I really like. He was on top form. He is so good at making topical jokes that are relatable to his audience. As always he was extremely funny. He has brilliant energy while on stage. He almost hypnotises you.

Next up it was a man who I had previously seen perform in the final of the Musical Comedy Awards earlier this year. His name is Huge Davies. He has a massive keyboard strapped to him to provide his own musical accompaniment. He is different and unique in his style. He was great, if you have not heard of him yet, I expect that you will soon. The final act of part one was another comedian who I had seen before Rhys James. I really like him and think he is very funny. I like the way he covers a lot of topics, sometimes some very dark ones with a smile and cheekiness. That enables the audience to relax and enjoy the jokes, a very clever and funny man.

Neil Quigley

After the interval or as it should be called at comedy gigs the chance to go to the toilet and get a drink without being singled out by the person on stage. I took the opportunity to have a pint of Goose IPA. Well it was the night before my birthday. There is always a decent atmosphere at The Comedy Store. It seems to attract a lot of people who know and really understand comedy.

The act that kicked off part two was someone I had been looking forward to seeing, having enjoyed watching them on television for many years. It was Alan Carr. He was predictably brilliant. His life is quite mad with the people he knows and the circles he moves in. He has some fantastically funny stories. I am pleased to have finally got round to seeing him.

Next on the bill it was Sarah Keyworth, who I had seen there before. She was good, as she always is. She is another comedian who talks about difficult subjects in an inclusive way. The penultimate act of the night was Alfie Brown, yet another comic who I was aware of but had not seen. He does have quite a purposeful awkward style, which for whatever reason did not quite catch fire on the night. That said he handled it all expertly and got quite a few big laughs. I liked it and he seems like a top bloke. I mean he was doing the gig for free to help out a mate’s charity night. That is plenty good enough for me.

Neil Quigley

The headline act was a man who had recently run into a bit of bother at a charity dinner. You might well have read about it, as it became a big story. Nish Kumar had a bread roll thrown at him while doing a lunch for the Lord’s Taverners. As a comedian you have good and bad gigs. They finish and you just forget all about them, however sadly for Nish this one ended up all over social media. A reaction he found staggering, admittedly it did not go well, but as it turned out they were not really his audience and it would seem made up of some rude individuals. He was talking about the incident on stage and of course joking about it, as that is what all comedians do, tell jokes.

Nish was quality as he always has been when I have seen him live. He does do quite a bit of politics and social stuff. His style of comedy can I guess be quite angry at times, but that is just part of the act, simply to try to get bigger laughs. He closed the show perfectly, although he did possibly still seem a little bewildered by recent events.

It is alright to not find something funny or not agree with it without you being offended or getting angry, just do not laugh, that is fine. People are allowed different views to you. That is one of the things that is so great about the world. It was a hilarious night at arguably one of the best comedy venues there is.

Neil Quigley

I have been very lucky over the years to work with some wonderful and very talented people. I do not always speak to them or see them as often as I would like, but it is always lovely when I do meet up with one. The other week I managed to have an overdue lunch with Amy Lewis.

We met while we were both working at Ivel fm in Somerset. She is an exceptional journalist, who has deservedly worked at Sky and now is at ITV. I remember going with her once to interview a large group of travellers who had moved on to a local cricket pitch and set up camp. That is the nearest I have been to feeling like Ross Kemp.

I was also very proud to help produce in a small way some audio that led to her winning an award. Anyway we met up in Marlow the other week. It was great to see her and her son. It seems odd but when you have worked with someone at a radio station, you do always seem to have a certain bond.

It was fantastic catching up on each other’s lives. Towards the end of the meeting we worked out that we had not seen each other for around fifteen years. Although neither of us of course looked old enough for that. We have said we will try not to leave it so long next time.

Sarah Parish started the Neil Quigley Fan Club

I had my annual trip to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park last week. I think I have been every year for about the last five now. This time I met up with one of my cousin’s there. I arrived a little before him, so had a quick walk round the place. I am not really a fan of fairground rides, so I avoided them.

There are lots of other stalls and attractions to look around. It is free to enter the site and walk about. It does cost more if you want to ice skate or go into some of the specialist areas. While I was waiting I got a snack. I found a place that did fresh mini pancakes. That I had with lots of Nutella. Let me tell you, they were amazing, so nice.

After my food I then went in to the Bavarian Village. That is the main reason I go there. I was starting to feel a bit Christmassy plus it was a little bit cold. Therefore the first thing I did was treat myself to a nice mulled wine. I must say that certainly warmed me up in every sense of the word. It was lovely.

Neil Quigley

I then got myself a pint of Bavarian Gold, the lager that they serve there. You can have it out of a cheap plastic glass or pay a five pound deposit to enjoy it out of a slightly thicker plastic glass with a handle. I went for the latter option. As I was drinking that, my cousin arrived and got himself one.

Neil Quigley

We mainly hung around the German area having a chat and a drink. While enjoying a live band that were playing in a kind of Oom-Pah group style. Lots of party songs, shall we say slightly re-imagined. We left the Bavarian Village for a stroll as my cousin had not been there for a few years. He also thought he had spotted a better bar but when we got to it, we had a beer there but both felt where we were originally was more fun. We went back there for some food. I had the classic Bratwurst and chips. That I must say was very nice.

Winter Wonderland

After dinner we found another bar area where a man wearing some leather trousers and an earring was performing classic reggae tunes. I know I had enjoyed a few beers by this point, but I am not making this up, it actually happened. It was pretty good for the record. He was getting the crowd going. I think we left about nine o’clock to beat the crowds away, as it closes at ten. I had a top time there. I do enjoy it and it is always a good giggle. I do fully expect to go and visit again next year.

Neil Quigley

I have talked before about my Christmas Shopping regime. As far as I am concerned Christmas does not exist before my birthday, so I do nothing for it until at least the eleventh of December. I always pick one day to do my entire present shopping. I then compile a list of everything I need to get. Lastly I pick a place that I am going to go to get everything. This year I went to High Wycombe. And in just under three hours I completed all my Christmas Shopping. All I have to do now is wrap everything. Yet again another triumph for this plan!

Neil enjoying a Mince Pie
Neil Quigley

I went to see the Pantomime at the legendary London Palladium last week. It is the third year in a row that I have been and once again it did not disappoint. I do not know this for definite but I think it must have the biggest budget for any Panto in the country. They really do throw everything at it. For starters the lights, sets and the overall staging are themselves spectacular. You will not see a better looking show anywhere. It looks so bright, fun and Christmassy. I make no secret of the fact that I am a big kid and love panto. However this production is as much for the grown-ups, as it is for the children.

London Palladium

It is Goldilocks and The Three Bears this year. Not that the narrative of things is ever that important in this show. The whole thing is just one huge variety show, perfectly fitting for the venue in which it is being performed. The cast are all exceptional. This year wonderful Paul O’Grady plays the baddie. A role he has played brilliantly for a long time now in his angry and fed up way. He is just so good at it and knows how to get the “boos”. While still also getting plenty of laughs, which is no mean feat. Paul Zerdin is back in the comedic role with him and his puppet Sam, doing several very funny routines during the show. He is a total star.

Gary Wilmot returns as the Dame. He is such a talented and amazing man. Every year he has his own bit, which he writes and produces. It is always a big highlight. These have included a song featuring all the London Underground Stations and one with many of the legendary stars who have appeared at the Palladium. This year he did his own special medley of songs from the musicals. He has a fantastic voice, the range of which was fully demonstrated during this song, it was
mesmerising. I lost count of how many well-known tunes it featured. He rightly got a huge round of applause at the end of it. Brilliant!

London Palladium

Matt Baker from Countryfile and The One Show was also in it. He was excellent. It is based in and around a circus, during the show he has to ride a unicycle, juggle and walk the tight rope, as well as the normal acting and singing of course. Nigel Havers appears as Daddy Bear. He is in it every year and happily sends himself up and is very funny. Baby Bear is played by Lauren Stroud who tap dances. Then Mummy Bear is played by Janine Duvitski from Benidorm, who is great. Goldilocks is Sophie Isaacs, she is an excellent all round singer and dancer.

The cast is completed by the innuendo queen that is Julian Clary, who plays the Master of The Ring, insert your own jokes here, he certainly does. His outfits get more outrageous as the show goes on. He is just so good at making everyone laugh both the audience and many of his fellow actors. There is one part where he, Paul Zerdin and Paul O’Grady have a long chat about a pleasant plucker and I am sure you can guess how that goes. They also do one of the best and funniest Pantomime set piece song routines I think I have ever seen.

This show also includes a roller skating act, an amazing magician and four motorcyclists who do the wall of death on stage together. You will not see another show anything like this, anywhere in the United Kingdom over Christmas. It is totally brilliant. It is such a good laugh. I really felt that a visit to this properly kick started my Christmas. I already know I will be back to see next year’s show because simply why would you not go and see it.

London Palladium

I watched the Strictly Come Dancing Final. It has been another ace series. There have been so many memorable dances from lots of the contestants. The last three standing were the correct choices in my opinion and all deserved to be there on merit. I personally felt the right couple won. Kevin and Oti have been sensational. I have been entertained and impressed by all of their performances. They have been brilliant and thoroughly deserved the Glitter Ball, so well done to the both of them.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Amazon have certainly picked the right season to make a behind the scenes documentary about my club Tottenham Hotspur. It has been full of drama with many twists and turns so far. Despite an annoying defeat against Manchester United. Somehow we find ourselves fifth in the Premier League, just three points behind Chelsea, who we face at home tomorrow afternoon. Add to that the fact that we are in the knock out stage of The Champions League. You could say that things are not going that bad.

If you had told me we would be in this position by now, six weeks ago, I might have thought that you were crazy. As it is we are! I am looking forward to being at the match tomorrow and seeing what happens next. I mean if we could end the Christmas period in the top four, which would be amazing. Either way I will have a fun couple of trips to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium over the Festive period.

Neil Quigley having a go at conducting the Orchestra
Neil Quigley having a go at conducting the Orchestra

Have a very Happy Christmas and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.

The Wonder Of You

I have mentioned before that with these busy lives we all lead how hard it is to arrange a simple night out with friends. You have to plan these things well in advance or get lucky by picking a random date you can all make. Happily the stars aligned for me and a group of my mates recently, as at fairly short notice we managed to agree to all meet up for drinks a couple of Fridays ago.

I will admit in theory it should be easier for me to be available, as I am the only one of the gang who is not married with children. In my defence though, I do keep myself nice and busy. I tend to book things in the diary months in advance. We decided to go out in Windsor as it was a pretty good central location. Plus we had not been there for a while. I stayed at one of their houses and met the other two there in a pub.

Windsor Night
Windsor Night

We actually started off in Eton. There are quite a few good venues in that area, many of which we had already experienced in the past. We got the evening underway at The Henry VI. It is a quality pub and it normally has some live music during the weekend. There was a guy singing and playing the guitar, while we were in there. Next we then headed just up the road to The George Inn to sample some of the ales from the local Windsor & Eton Brewery.

We ended the night in The King and Castle in Windsor, which is right opposite the Castle. It was a top evening. We spent the entire time chatting, joking and laughing. None of us can remember what we talked about, but we know we spent a large part of the evening just laughing, which is the sign of a good night. That is exactly how things should be with great friends, who you feel totally at ease with just being completely lost in the moment with them.

Ascot Beer Festival
Neil Quigley

I first became aware of the Mischief Theatre Company when I was talking to an actress friend of mine, who said she was hearing good things about a show that was a success at the Edinburgh Festival. It was due to come to the West End and she said it was worth seeing. That play was “The Play That Goes Wrong”. I eventually got round to seeing it. I went with a mate to see a matinee performance. We sat in the stalls. I really cannot remember the last time I laughed so much during a theatre show. It was brilliant from start to finish.

The members of the company write produce and perform in all of their shows. Well they do initially until they move on to their next show or when it goes on an UK Tour. The original cast of the “Play That Goes Wrong” even took it to Broadway. It was a huge hit in New York. It is actually still on in London and well worth seeing. The next play from them was Comedy About A Bank Robbery. I watched this in the West End with once again the original cast of the Mischief theatre players in it. It was also amazing, fast paced clever and funny.

They then thought they would try their hand at something festive and came up with Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Which was again brilliant. I happily also saw this with the original cast. In fact I have seen all of their shows early enough to see the founding members of this great collective perform in them. I recognise them all and know who they all are now. They are all fantastically talented actors with excellent comedy timing. Why am I telling you all this, you may ask?

Groan Ups

Well last week I went and saw their latest offering called Groan Ups at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt it was very original and funny. While still keeping with the style they are known for. Nobody is doing what the Mischief Theatre Company is currently. They have developed their own brand of craziness and creativity. That is extremely slick and very funny.

Groan Ups follows the lives of four children from their first year at school through to secondary school then on to a reunion. It is full of well-structured topical jokes and quality visual set pieces. There is a lot of silliness but I would expect nothing less and be disappointed if there was not. The staging and transition through the years is also so nicely done. I had a wonderful time seeing this show. It is ace.

Groan ups

The Mischief Theatre Company has a residency at the Vaudeville Theatre. They will be putting on a few different shows. The next of these opens on the 14th December and is called Magic Goes Wrong. That they have put together with help from the legendary American magicians Penn and Teller. I am already sure this will be excellent. I will definitely have to see it.

I want to wish them all the best with it. They seem like a decent bunch of people. Who as well as creating and performing very amusing shows, do a lot of charity fund raising to.

Neil Quigley and Elvis Presley hanging out in the 70's #crazydays
Neil Quigley and Elvis Presley hanging out in the 70’s #crazydays

My mum and I are both big fans of Elvis Presley. Last year I was lucky enough to visit Graceland, which was amazing. She celebrated her 70th Birthday in September. For her present I got us tickets to see Elvis Presley in Concert Live on Screen with Live on Stage The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and some members of Elvis’s TCB Band. It sounded fantastic. I was looking forward to it as much as she was, I think.

To make the experience extra special I also booked us a night in a hotel right next to the O2 Arena, where the gig was taking place. It was last Sunday. We made our way to London around lunchtime and arrived in North Greenwich with plenty of time to relax before the gig. We were staying at the Intercontinental Hotel, which is so close to the venue, it even has its own walk way to get there. Which I must admit was very handy.

Intercontinental Hotel

I treated her to a lovely meal in the Brasserie Restaurant that they have there. We just went for a main and a pudding, both of which were fantastic for the record. They also have a Sky Bar there on the eighteenth floor. We popped up there for a quick drink. It has great views over the river and the Canary Wharf area of the City. It was really chilled and relaxing in there with jazz music playing. Then it was time to get ready for the main event.

Sky Bar

Using the special walk way between the hotel and the O2, we went and firstly collected our complimentary programmes and bags that I had organised, before going into the venue itself to enjoy a drink. It was then time to take our place ready for the start. I had got us some decent seats. We were seven rows from the front. Firstly the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra came out and played just an instrumental version of an Elvis song. Then Priscilla Presley appears on stage to set the scene and explain how this collaboration came about.

Elvis at O2

The orchestra then strike up and on the big screen right at the start of the first vocal Elvis appears singing totally in-sync with the music. The sound was brilliant, the live music was faultless and it was so cleverly done with Elvis singing and thanking the audience at the end of the songs. I was very impressed with how well the whole thing was put together. It cannot be easy to tie up live music with a video play out. Congratulations to the technical team. They did an excellent job.

We then had some more stories from Priscilla and Elvis’s great friend Jerry Schilling. They then introduced on to the stage what was the highlight of the night for me, some original members of the TCB Band. This was Elvis’s band of musicians he hand-picked, who played with him from around 1969 until the end of his life. For any non-Elvis fans TCB stands for Taking Care of Business. That was his mantra for looking after family, friends and employees. Plus it made up the work ethic for putting on shows and performing for his fans.

He had a massive TCB ring that he used to wear. Those initials were often on his clothes, in his cars and they were even on the tails of the two planes that he owned. They always featured alongside the logo a flash of lightning, meaning “Taking Care of Business in a flash” It is a philosophy and a way of dealing with things, which personally I really like and admire. Looking after people around you the best way you can. I own a couple of items of Elvis branded clothing that proudly display the TCB insignia.

Elvis at O2

The TCB band members performing at the 02 were his lead guitarist James Burton, who is just sensational, his keyboard player Glen D Martin, who also arranged many of “The Kings” hit songs and lastly his drummer Ronnie Tutt, who is considered by many as one of the best drummers of all time. Seeing those guys on stage together with a video of Elvis is the closest I could ever get to seeing the real thing. They had monitors on stage and just like they did when he was alive they were watching him closely on screen to feel the music and the direction from him on the flow of songs. For me it was truly magical.

The TCB Band members joined the Orchestra for a few songs at the end of each of the two halves. There was just something way more special about the songs they were involved with. During the second half Priscilla and Jerry came back out to talk us through some home videos from their private collection. They performed a lot of his big songs and as I said earlier they all sounded and looked great. They included his sense of fun on stage, the faces he would pull and how sometimes he would change the lyrics of songs for a laugh. I was in good company as Brian May from Queen was also in the audience watching it.

Elvis at O2

Both my mum and I had a brilliant night singing and dancing along. It was expertly put together and produced, I loved it! Afterwards we returned to the hotel, found the bar and had a couple of glasses of wine to relax and unwind, while talking about the gig. We then went to bed on a lovely post performance high. The power of music in life should never be underestimated. I am so pleased I caught this show.

Elvis at O2

I was involved in another Quiz show development run through recently. When you are trying to get something brand new on to the television, you need to test it to find out what works and what does not. If the thing you are producing is a game show of some kind, you need “contestants” to play it. This is where I come in. I really enjoy answering questions, so therefore I always like being involved with this kind of thing and jump at any opportunity to do so.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

In this latest one, which took place in Central London I was paired up with somebody I had met previously, as it was a two player quiz. It was the first time I had played this particular game. I cannot tell you too much about it yet, as it is still in development. The production company are in the process of pitching it to television channels in the hope that they will buy it. In fact we were demonstrating it to a major channel’s representatives on this occasion.

What I can say is that it was an equally fun and frustrating game. It will be one of those that you can really shout along with at home. I like the idea behind it and the jeopardy involved throughout it. My partner and I actually won. Which I must confess I was pretty happy about. I am very competitive and I always enjoy winning. It was a fun couple of hours basically showing off in front of a crowd. It is always something I have a great time doing. I am hoping to do more of these things with this production company in the future. If it does make it on to the television, I will then be able to point it out to you.

Neil Quigley

I have now been to two Spurs home games with our new manager Jose Mourinho in charge. We have won both of these games, which is always a good thing. We still seem to have some problems at the back but we have no such issues at the other end with even Moussa Sissoko scoring his first goal for the club. Already in his short time with us the new boss has quite clearly tweaked the tactics slightly and adjusted the positions and roles of a few players. Which to be fair to him does seem to be mainly working.

He is already starting to win me over with what he is saying and of course the results he is getting. Unfortunately football is a results business and sadly for whatever reasons Mauricio Pochettino was not getting them this season. He is a great coach. He will get another big job soon and he will be very successful by the way. I am off to see us face Burnley at home this afternoon. Always a tough match, but one I hope and think we can win.

Neil Quigley

It is my birthday this Tuesday. Unusually for me I have not really got anything planned or organised this year for the day itself. Mind you I am off to The Comedy Store the night before, which will be good. I do also have plans for the following weekend. Therefore I am pretty sure I will manage enough celebrating of it.

It is not a landmark one as such, so no need to mark it with anything too special. But I expect I will end up doing something for it. I will tell you what that was when we speak next.

Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil.