Interview With West London Award-Winning Comedian - Nathan Caton

He talks about the Game Boy era, the ‘Your Mum’ generation, gangs, guns and knife crime, bad hip hop lyrics, the good, bad and ugly of family and community life – all with raw truth, cutting satire and hilarious punch and kick lines.

(a taster of Caton from ITV’s FHM Stand Up Hero)

Catching award-winning Greenford-based stand-up comedian Nathan Caton at the Rich Mix (www.richmix.org.uk) in Shoreditch last week was a summer highlight; he’s a fellow 80s child who gave me moments of nostalgia, cracking me up to the extent I literally choked on my Magners. After the set and the realignment of my facial muscles, I met the 26 year old funny guy to thank him for my t-shirt stain, and in turn, nail him down for a little Q&A about his ever-evolving home city, his calling, and his thoughts on the art of stand-up:

Q: I’ve read that you were never the class clown, but that you were the ‘shy bookworm’. Is that true?
A: Yeah, I was quite a reserved kid… a teacher’s pet to be honest.

Q: So how/when did you discover stand-up?
A: Over my teenage years I started getting a bit more courage, I became more of an extrovert. Then one time in church I was joking around about doing stand-up for a talent show, and my friend told me to give it a shot. I thought ‘naaaaah’, but I ended up doing it and I liked the buzz on stage. I still did A-Levels, even went to university and studied architecture, but I spent more time in comedy clubs than doing uni work. I got back into comedy, practiced at home in the mirror; every now and then I’d try it out on my mum – she’s a tough nut to crack, so if she’d laugh I’d know it’s funny. Eventually at some point, I decided stand-up was something I really wanted to do... even though I bombed a few times (laughs).

Q: You mean awful tumbleweed ‘I can hear a pin drop in this room’ experiences?
A: Unfortunately yeah I got a few of those - but that’s part of the learning curb as a comedian. I’ve been to gigs where the audience just talk over you and really don’t care that you’re on stage, but if I ever did have a gig like that, I’d just try and get another gig so I can smash it, do better, and erase the memories from the bad shows.

Q: As far as London goes, where are the places you go to catch some good stand-up comic relief?
A: The Comedy Store in Piccadilly Circus, the Bearcat Comedy Club in Twickenham and Headliners in Chiswick are my favourite joints.

Q: Where’s the one spot you want to perform in the capital?
A: Hammersmith Apollo – I was born in Hammersmith, so that would be cool.

Q: What are your best and worse memories of growing up in London?
A: Being a teenager here was normal, hanging out with friends, talking about girls with mates, going cinema etc. My best memories are the last days of school when you’re just waiting for the summer jam. The worse thing was girls didn’t really like me that much. I got bare knock downs (laughs).

Q: A common theme in your show refers to how much teenage lifestyle (including gun and knife crime) and communities have changed since our school days. Is there an underlying message in your comedy?
A: I want to naturally portray me as me on stage – for the audience to see me and get to know my life and the world as I see it through my comedy. As a result I do hope it may break down some assumptions and barriers. So yes, I have a laugh about today’s societies and knife crime, but it’s good if it can make people aware too. We hear it all the time – and it (knife and gun crime) is a problem that needs to be addressed by governments and councils more, especially as gang culture seems to have come to the forefront again in the last 10 years or so. In London, I guess that’s because I don’t think there’s as much of a community feel as there was when I was a kid; it’s a melting pot of multiculturalism, so many different people with different mentalities, with some parts segregated and ignorant to others. But at the same time I can see that aspect of community gradually seeping back into London, and in terms of the next generation, I won’t ever stereotype – I actually believe a lot of teenagers and young kids are misunderstood, one of the reasons being the media gives a wrong, unbalanced perception a lot of the time.

Q: Any advice for young jokers who want to get on stage?
A: Write a lot - anything you find funny, write it down. Constantly gig. Don’t give it up if it’s what you want to do. It’s taken me six years to get here, a grind and a half, but well worth it.

Q: Who are your kings of stand-up?
A: As a kid it was Lenny Henry as a face and voice of black comedy. Then there is Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle – all funny and clever inspirations. Right now I’m really into Reginald D Hunter, a guy who can make you think, and laugh – qualities I only see as good things in stand-up.

Q: You had a joke in your set about being irritated by someone comparing you to a ‘young posh Lenny Henry’, and that it happens because you’re a ‘black UK comedian’. Does that still make you twitch?
A: Don’t get me wrong, Lenny is a legend, and it’s a positive comparison as he is funny. But it is a bit annoying as of course I don’t want to be pigeon holed. And yeah I don’t see myself as a black comedian - comedy is universal. Race does not matter. But in terms of public and media perspectives, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes…

Nathan will be performing around the country this summer, including a set at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August (www.edfringe.com).

For more info on Nathan Caton and his upcoming shows, check out www.nathancaton.com

This article was also published on the Media Trust Community Channel


Review: Just Do It - A Tale Of Modern-Day Outlaws

A few months back, I caught a special preview of Emily James’ documentary film Just Do It – a mind boggling fly on the wall observation into the world of the climate change activist; that direct action packed species hell-bent on civil disobedience in the name of the environment…

I was sold, even more so as I loved The Age of Stupid (another groundbreaking climate change film of which James was the executive producer), and even though a reflex reaction made me picture an inanimate pair of Nikes when I first heard ‘Just Do It’. Silly me - but how will communities across the UK and the world react to the film, and James’ portrayal of the key sparks in the climate change movement; from the Plane Stupid guys to Climate Camp, from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP15) to the occupation of coal power stations and airports in London and across the nation?

The film is currently touring cinemas across the UK, and on July 16 I jumped on the bus down the road to Stratford Picturehouse to see what those in my own back yard thought – plus there’s nothing like seeing once more, real people on the big screen having a jolly old rave on top of a police wagon (one of my favourite scenes from Just Do It).

Kyle Miers, a student from east London stated: “Well it’s not the same kind of thrill as the final Harry Potter movie…” – released the same week. “But it is so inspiring, sad, funny, honest, and depicts the real capability of people power” he added.

Waitress Meliz Pravin took a chance on the film through a recommendation “I know near to nothing about climate change, but my friend said I should give it a shot, and I’m really glad I did. It’s an eye-opener, and illustrates how much we as communities, in London and around the world, need to do to ensure this planet doesn’t go to s**ts.”

Such an impact I’m sure James herself will be hoping for all around, as she expresses the need not to underestimate the scale and consequences of global warming: “It's almost tempting to be flippant about it (climate change) but we really must resist that. It’s a problem of such a great scale that will dominate the rest of our lives.”

No wands or wizards, but do not overlook this on screen magic this summer. Just Do It is an action film through and through, one that is as enthralling as it is informational and inspiring. It provides an exciting, different way of looking at climate change and our world as a whole, provoking the kind of reaction to make any neutral viewer budge from the couch and fence they may well be perched on.

For all UK screenings of Just Do It, click here: www.justdoitfilm.com/screenings

Click here for more info: www.justdoitfilm.com

Photo: Kristian Buus

This article was also published on the Media Trust Community Channel


Review: Juliyaa, Bands And Stables @ Proud, Camden

That’s it. I’ve decided. This is probably where I’m spending my next birthday.

Situated in the heart of the Stables Market (itself a bustling tourist attraction) in Camden, Proud is where I embraced a manic Monday night doing what every individual in London should be doing on the first day of the week – listening to live music and having an embarrassing battle on the dance floor.

Proud has got pretty much everything you need for a summer loving night; a lovely terrace with comfy seating, a BBQ smoking away and a bar (a spot not just for the smokers). Inside there’s a long lit up room with another bar and seven separate ‘stables’, chill out areas which you’re able to rent out for parties (there’s even one with a dance pole, but this night wasn’t that kind of party!). Walk through and we reach the main music stage room – with yes, yet another bar (you can never have too many).

And the common factor across the venue? The answer, on this particular Fourth of July, was an array of live music on hand. From the terrace, to the stables and the main music stage, unsigned band after solo act after acoustic set stepped up to create the infectious ‘I’m not going home until last train’ vibe. Family, friends, and fans of the performers eventually just merged into clusters of audiences, spoilt for choice at what, and who to jam to.

I vouched for Juliyaa in the main room, an awesome front girl (Julia Suit) and her band responsible for that shameful dance-off aforementioned. I loved it. Call Juliyaa soothing soul with a stiff kick, with blissful beats such as Talk to Me, Down To The River, and a stunning piece of vocals in a remix of Outkast’s Hey Ya.

Note: For more of Juliyaa catch her on Facebook and Twitter.

Veteran visitors of Proud will know it’s not just about up and coming music and bars though, as spoken word poetry, film screenings, and established acts from Florence and the Machine to Babyshambles, and even The Saturdays have featured there. So for any Proud virgins, visit www.proudcamden.com, see what’s on, and have a go.

This was also published on the Media Trust Community Channel


Review: Foo Fighters @ Milton Keynes Bowl - 70,000 Fans, 200 Green Flies, Fireworks And Alice Cooper

So, I'm on the M1 home from the national bowl in Milton Keynes. I'm with my 3 friends in a rented KIA titch car (which looks like something straight out of The Inbetweeners). It's 3am, we've been stuck in traffic for 3 hours, eating rotten quiche, listening to dance anthems from the 80s on the radio. I NEED to piss, I've swallowed 200+ green flies, I smell of beer, I'm battered from multiple mosh pits (including one instigated by a guy with his arm in a sling!), and now making my passenger friend type this up because that's how bored I am. The reason for this turmoil? A day with 70,000 others at the best rock 'n' roll feast ever, headlined by the Foo Fighters, with additional cameo highlights including Alice Cooper, that drummer from Queen (Roger Taylor) and the mighty supporting Biffy Clyro.

I will die smiling.