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Sunday, February 27, 2005

les barker

Les Barker - the fairly funny punster

Friday 7:30pm: off to the Island Center to enjoy the famous Mancunian 'poet' and word wrangler, Les Barker.

Les looks like an ageless gnome and is a beguiling performer, if only for his endearing habit of looking up from his script and giving a conspiratorial grin of enjoyment at his own impish wit.

All my pals in the UK knew of Les, and during my publicity for one of Spike Milligan's books, even *he* mentioned Barker in some context.

Les is a clever wordsmith and punster and is probably heard best in a north-of-England setting, preferably a friendly boozer where critical faculties are relaxed and the audience feels at home with his wit and accent.

Some of his writings are almost legendary:

What made the evening hilarious for me, however, was the *audience* - honest Bainbridgers clearly keen to show themselves hip to Les's humour and therefore lost no chance to titter, giggle or guffaw. Lord, how we hung on every word! Hardly had a pun formed itself but we were rocking in laughter and eyeing one another in mutual ecstasy.

There was one excruciating poem based on the names of authors, half of whom the room had never heard of or certainly would not have caught the reference. Desperate lest we be thought ignorant, we snorted and giggled along.

One splendid granite-jawed chappie in the front row - accompanied by a gorgeous serene blonde - did ace work booming out on those shy-making poems where the last line is for joining in. Ugh.

An hour of our Les was enough for me so out I snuck, explaining to Eddie that, had this been England and Les some rural poet from the USA, I would have stayed rather than risk being thought uncool or not "getting" the poetic gems. I did spot some mystified expressions but they also looked determiined to rictus it out for the duration.

Being as how me roots are Bradford way - and having forked out my $12 - it was OK for me to snub a fellow Brit and shove off for fish 'n' chips and mushie peas ... and a puzzling night in front of Pete Greenaway's 8½ Women


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