I’ll tell thee what you may know already – Oldham Library is a proper gem.
Now, I love Oldham. It is the place that holds the bestest memories for me. I have been impregnated in Oldham three times, that’s how much I love it. Not in the town centre you understand, although, on New Year’s Eve 1999 in the seconds before the millennium gong, I was quite close to it.
And Oldham Library is one of my favourite places, proving with all its books and archives, artwork, collections and aesthetics and the gallery and great array of colour-changing lights that my home town is a nice place to be.
Oldham you see has a bad reputation for bigotry and ignorance. This is something to do with a small group of arseholes from differing creeds who are easy media fodder and patsies for failing bureaucrats. In my opinion. So when I go to Oldham Library fer books, or go and watch something there or even sometimes when I am asked to mither a group of writers about my own brand of scribbling, I see lots of folk and teens and kids of all spectrum and regalia arguing over the computers or praps smoking outside (and still learning summat) – and I feel very proud to live there. I like to remind myself that mills and riots pass and people always try and find a way to have a good time.
And now Punam and Suzie who work at Oldham Library are getting loads of ace things on there. They’ve sorted a series of evening events called Live@TheLibrary in the hope that the lovely learn-ed and laugh-ridden locals will come in their droves to the place, dragging in tow cultured comer-iners off of the tram.
First up on February 20 is the glisteningly bizarre and giggle-worthy Festival of Oddity, the creation of Jody Kamali and Cheekykita (Sonja Quita Doubleday), two physical comedians gaining a reputation for combining the surreal and the silly with current comedy trends – think physical clowning meets Alan Partridge does CBBC presenter. We are assured a swerve away from traditional stand-up comedy and variety.
So, I e-pestered the two of them.
Do you find each other funny?
Cheekykita: Yes, don’t think we would do a show together if we didn’t!
Jody: Quita is one of the funniest people I know. It takes a lot for me to really laugh and she really makes me belly laugh. She doesn’t even tell jokes. That’s the beauty of it.
What are your influences?
Cheekykita: Pyjama Men, Dr Brown, Tony Law, The Mighty Boosh, Steve Coogan, Chris Morris…
Jody: I can’t say I am influenced by anyone really. I think you have to be true to yourself in what makes YOU funny. Comic performers I admire are Harry Enfield, David Jason, Steve Martin, Paul Whitehouse, Caroline Aherne, Andy Kaufman and Sasha Baron Cohen. I also love working class comedy. I wish there was more of it on TV.
I know you work on physical comedy but do you have a stock of characters?
Cheekykita: People always call my acts characters but to me they are me wearing something different, maybe doing a silly voice. But yes, I have a few different acts.
Jody: I have developed lots of different acts. I have a variety of visually surprising characters and whatever comedy or cabaret night I am doing, I will create a set especially. Expect a vampire, a cocktail maker, opera singer, a wrestler to name but a few.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Cheekykita: Erm…if I wasn’t performing, maybe something good like working for Greenpeace or summat, who knows.
Jody: Well, I am a bit of a free spirit at heart so I would probably be in Guatemala running a hostel with my wife, near a lake (a bit of a fantasy really). Although my Dad presented me with a business idea last year of selling vending machines to schools. He presented me with a glossy brochure at the dining table. I must have given it a thought for five minutes and said ‘maaaaaybe not’ to my Father’s disappointment.
What can we expect from the event at Oldham?
Cheekykita: Sillyness, a shark, lizard ballet, stuff about space, the universe, etc.
Jody: Expect the unexpected. What we do is a little unconventional but entertaining at the same time. I hope the people of Oldham will embrace our work. We’re very passionate in what we do. I guess people shouldn’t expect observational comedy.
What is the future- for you or for any of us?
Cheekykita: Future, mmm. For me hopefully more clowning around, for the planet, rain, floods, disaster, ha cheery eh?
Jody: I’m not a fan of thinking of the future. We should focus on now. Enjoy yourself…and come see our show.
Have you met Punam and Suzie? I love Punam and Suzie.
Cheekykita: Only met Punam on the phone…very enthusiastic about the show, seems nice, we will meet next week!
Jody: I have not met Suzie or Punam but only spoke on the phone. They are great and very supportive about bringing art and entertainment to Oldham Library. They are very supportive of our show and the fact we are bringing something new to Oldham.
Do clowns ever get heckled? And, if so, is it in a visual way?
Cheekykita: Yes I got heckled. No, it was with stupid words, modern clowns use words, they don’t usually have red noses or big shoes.
Jody: Well, no different than a stand-up comedy would really. Performing clowning means you are very present with the audience. It’s all about the audience, if they are not enjoying what you are doing, you gotta do something else until they are enjoying it. So if someone shouts out something weird, it depends what it is, sometimes I respond, sometimes I just shrug it off and continue with my act.
And anything else you’d like to add?
Jody: The alternative comedy scene has grown a lot over the last few years particularly in London. It’s very exciting to be a part of it. I hear there are performers running alternative nights in the North too which is great. I hope it continues to spread.
We are also performing the Festival of Oddity at Leicester Comedy Festival, Bath Comedy Festival and the Brighton Fringe and eventually branching off performing solo at the Edinburgh Festival.
By Cathy Crabb
For more info on the night and Live@TheLibrary look here: http://www.oldham.gov.uk/press/article/622/its_showtime_at_oldham_library-livethelibrary
and here: http://www.coliseum.org.uk/plays/cheekykita-sonja-quita-jodi-kamali/