My First Gig: Earl Okin finds his Wings

Thursday, April 15 2010

He's been taking his debonair, urbane comedy songs around the circuit since 1981, but how did it all start for Earl Okin? And how the hell is Paul McCartney involved in all of this?

"I was hanging out at my favourite jazz club, the 606 in Chelsea one Sunday night around 1981, and two young comedians were trying out sketches on the jazz musicians. These were hilarious and very dark. The names of the comedians were Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer.

"Nigel and I chatted afterwards and the 'rules' of alternative comedy were imparted to me ... basically, 'No sexist jokes, no racial stereotype jokes, but you can swear as much as you like.'

"I mentioned that I did comedy in folk clubs but that I wasn't really a comedian. This didn't bother Nigel, however. Apparently, there were no comedians to be found at that time, apart from the 'I wouldn't say my mother-in-law's fat' brigade, so I was almost begged to take part.

"So, on the appointed evening, I showed up. The venue was Raymond's Revue Bar (basically a strip club, now Soho Revue Bar), hence the comedy club's name ... The Comic Strip.

"Alexei Sayle compered. In the show were Peter & Nigel, French & Saunders, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, a new comedian called Arnold Brown and a star guest, Pamela Stephenson who did a routine about her breasts going out of control and attacking the audience. This audience, incidentally, numbered ... six.

"As with today, my act consisted of comedy songs, although at this distance of time I can't remember which ones. However, I do remember a drunken woman in the audience who was a pain to everyone despite Alexei Sayle's great put downs. I simply looked at her and in my finest schoolmasterly voice, said: 'Thankyou, but I don't have heckling in my act,' and she shut up immediately, to the chagrin of everyone else in the show.

"Strangely and, much to my surprise, I went down best and afterwards, one of the six turned out to be a sort of talent scout from Granada TV, so we all spent the next few months going up and down to Manchester trying out a sort of political satire comedy show which never in the end happened. As you'll know, everyone else apart from Arnold and I were then snapped up by TV and the rest is history."

And below, as a piece of Okin/musical comedy trivia. Okin was a musician for many years before he became a comedian, and he opened for Paul McCartney and the Wings on their 1979 tour. Here's a picture of him (in the bowler hat) with Macca and co on the River Mersey.


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