Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

It's not only Father Christmas who says "Ho! Ho! Ho!" - it's also common amongst gangsta rappers and those who have heard one of my amusing Christmas songs. Here are two of them:

  Aunt Matilda by Chris Young Entertains 

  My Mother's Wooden Tray by Chris Young Entertains

Saturday 19 November 2011

Horror and Dread

This weekend is one of horror and dread.

Specifically, I will be conducting another horror walk for Spirit of Glasgow on Saturday, meeting in the Cathedral precinct at 7pm and back for 8pm (there may be space for a few more at a cost of £12 per head).

And on Sunday...

"On Sunday 20th November in the year of 2011, the damned shall be summoned to plead for their souls in verse.  Sheriff Dreadful will open the doors of Grim Reality's townhouse the Butterfly & Pig, and demand the accused state their case in the only acceptable way: poetry. A fee of £2 will be defrayed against the costs of production of the Book of the Dread.

Every one of those Summonsed must wear a Mask to hide their hideousness from the Sheriff, his staff and Grim Reality. Any offender who ignores this requirement will be held in contempt of Court and will receive a summary fine of £2:50.

Grim Reality will oversee the trials of these damned souls as they read for their freedom, as they use words to keep the doors of hell closed, to keep the Reaper at bay.

But it is Sheriff Dreadful they must appease.  It is he who will make the final judgement.  Come the hour cometh the consequences, it is he who will have the final say of life over damnation.

All those deemed to have passed the examination and considered worthy will be entered into the Book of the Dread."

My own personal dread is of failing to assemble adequate words and raiment.

Monday 10 October 2011

Miss Smith

I have been rehearsing for this:

It should be good, and it's FREE - so reserve your ticket now!

Wednesday 9 & Thursday 10 November, shows @ 2.00pm & 7.30pm
Pearce Institute, 840-860 Govan Road, Glasgow, G51 3UU
Miss Smith - The Anti-Poverty Musical
Glasgow 2011: a shopping Mecca, re-invented boutique hotels and clubbing heaven, rapidly replacing its industrial ‘hardman’ identity for one of designer clothes and trendy bars. Yet out of town and out of sight little has changed for the majority of Glasgow’s citizens who live in poverty with little hope of change or escape from the townships in which they live. Miss Smith is a drama, music and vocal composition that explores issues of social and economic justice in Glasgow today. Miss Smith uses traditional dances and culture that has either working class or folk backgrounds as a seed to create a gritty, raw, contemporary theatrical event that is spiced with a lightness that captures the rich Glaswegian wit and the complexities of modern-day life in Scotland. Presented by conFAB.
Tickets: FREE. Booking: or 07811 394 058.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Someday is nearly here...

I'm getting quite excited about this upcoming gig: a brand new venture in Edinburgh, the Someday Supper Club. I will be assisting that great mentalist and magician, Fernando Macaw - paranormal parrot. Also, if I survive that experience (Fernando can be hard work), I will be enlightening the supper-goers with poetry.

Friday 30 September, 8pm-1am
Queen Charlotte Rooms, 56a Queen Charlotte Street, Port of Leith, Edinburgh EH6 7ET

The Someday Supper Club

The club will offer you a retro glamorous evening of entertainment: burlesque, live music, a hearty Scottish supper and a desert island disco finale.
At the debut outing on 30th September, a unique ensemble of entertainers has been lined up for diners: host Pearse O'Halloran, renowned cabaret dancer Verity Power, War of the Wizards winner @ the International MagicFest 2011 Chris Dougall and winner of Glam Slam UK Chris Young.
Tickets (including supper): £21.00, available from

Saturday 3 September 2011

I am not Marc Sherland, but...

... I will be hosting Word Play this Wednesday.

Wednesday 7 September, 8pm

Victoria Cafe Bar, Tron Theatre, Trongate, Glasgow G1 5HD

Open mic opportunity created by the WORD FACTORY.
WORD PLAY is held on the first Wednesday of every month to showcase work coming out of the Factory, whilst also providing a chance for everyone else to participate. Contact Marc Sherland for a reading slot.
Guest MC: Chris Young
Featured Artist: Pauline Valance
Theme: Explorations of the 3rd Dimension.
Entrance: £2 towards our ongoing costs.
Slots: 5 mins max per person.
All performers are advised to rehearse their work and time the presentation prior to appearance.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

The Spice of Life

Variety is alive and well and taking up temporary residence in Edinburgh. In addition to my sets at Arguments and Nosebleeds (2.15pm), I will be doing some of my more adult comic poetry at the gigs below. You will have fun!

24 August 2011, 7.30-10.00pm
Sapphire Rooms, 81-83 Lothian Road, EH3 9AW Edinburgh
Candid Cabaret
I will be providing performance poetry in a variety bill.

25 August 2011, 7.15-8.10pm
Venue 68: Voodoo Rooms, West Register Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AA
Kabarett: Alternative Variety
I will be providing performance poetry.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Tonight: Spangled Presents...

I wonder what I will do tonight... apart from enjoy the other acts!

18 August 2011, 7.15pm
The Attic @ The Garage, 490 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
Spangled Presents: Matsuda Cafe
A new monthly night from the Spangled Cabaret crew: music, mirth, madness and magic from an amazing line up of acts - for just £3! The Second Hand Matching Band, Mia Meow, Miss Leggy Pee, Scunner, Serpent, Markee​ De Saw & Bert Finkle, Aidan McEoin, Chris Young, Derek Mcluckie, The Magic Of Aziz, The Acid Darling and loads more! Limited number of tickets (150) so get in quick.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Arguments and Nosebleeds at the Minifest, Friday 12 August

Yes, there is a special EARLY opportunity to see Arguments and Nosebleeds.

The lovely people at Inky Fingers have included us in their Edinburgh Minifest at the Forest Café (3 Bristo Place Edinburgh, EH1 1EY) from 3pm, Friday 12 August. The line-up will include all four of the regular crew: Jane Overton, Robin Cairns, Alex Frew and Chris Young. Come and laugh, cheer, groan - and tell us which poems never to do again!

Monday 25 July 2011

Rhyme Time: part 2

Continued from part 1, where we learn that I am a poet and I know it.

What I must stress

Following on from what I've said (well, written), it should be clear that the first, stressed syllable of a rhyme is the most important. If two paired stress positions bear an identical vowel, that is the first clue (or confirmation) that a rhyme has begun. From the "poet"/"know it" example, however, we know that we can "get away with" slight differences in a following unstressed vowel and, to a lesser extent, intermediate consonants. The terminal consonant is like the flourish at the end of a gymnastic tumble: best to leave your audience remembering the grace of your finish, however ungainly some of the journey may have been; leave your audience in no doubt that what you just said (or wrote) was purporting to be a rhyme. The middle bit should be as cleanly executed as you can get it, but there may be room for "artistic expression". Of course, if your stressed syllable is the last in the line, you have only one vowel and the terminal consonants to work with, so there is no middle bit, just a standing somersault.

How to squeeze a vowel

Do you have trouble spelling long words? How many times have you seen mis-spellings such as "definat[e]" or "seperate" compared to the generally correct spellings of "definition" and "apart"? (That last question, at least, was rhetorical: I will not deduct marks if you leave it blank.) The point is that unstressed vowels tend to degrade into an indistinct schwa (a short burst of a "vowel" where the underlying pitch delivered is actually a broad range of frequencies), leading us not to hear what is written. In the case of "poet"/"know it", the second vowel is not quite a true schwa, but it is well on the way: the short 'e' of "poetic" is nowhere to be heard. It is perhaps better to think of there being a family of schwas and near-schwas. (In fact, this level of subtlety is explicitly acknowledged in written Hebrew by the "pointing" that is sometimes placed under a consonant to indicate the quality of the following vowel: a symbol resembling a colon indicates a totally indistinct vowel; a pseudo-colon alongside another vowel symbol indicates a degraded version of that vowel.) As a crude caricature, in American English indistinct vowels are more likely to approximate an "uh" sound, while in British English there are more semi-distinct short 'i' sounds; however, most of us have heard enough accents (and solecisms) to be cajoled into squeezing an unstressed vowel into a schwa (or quasi-schwa) without difficulty. And if we are aiming for comic effect, squeezing a longer vowel into a schwa, or even stretching a schwa or quasi-schwa to match a longer vowel, can be a whimsical bonus. If your vowels combine in a diphthong, however, it is very difficult to stretch or squeeze your way towards an acceptable rhyme; in practice, most diphthongs will grab some level of secondary stress wherever they occur in a word. And if there is secondary stress, best stick to a perfect match.

How to corrupt a consonant

Consonants are, broadly speaking (and here you may appreciate the limits of my formal linguistics training), the punctuating sounds between, or either side of, vowels. They are mainly percussive, although they can be a soft transition ("nowell"), aspirate ("ahoy") or a glottal stop ("a nice cu' o' tea"), amongst other possible sounds. Many consonants come in voiced and unvoiced flavours (e.g. b/p, g/k, d/t); an unvoiced consonant can often be easily corrupted and lightly voiced for a satisfactory rhyme: "Climb the ladder. / What's the matter [madder]?". There are also some superficial similarities between consonant sounds which are produced very differently, most notably 'f' and an unvoiced 'th' ("fings ain't what they used to be"), meaning that you (or I) can - at a push - rhyme "encephalopathy" with "proper fee". This last example also demonstrates the southern British and Bostonian trait of not vocalising terminal 'r's, which involves more corruption to achieve in some other accents. Without taking too many liberties, it is possible to rhyme duplicate with single consonants ("swooping" / "soup ping") and/or ignore aspirates ("shopper" / "stop her"). But remember to try and be not too corrupt when starting any syllables which bear a secondary stress - differences are more likely to be noticed.

Blend it

Consonants can be sociable and often cluster in consonant blends. In the middle of a rhyme, it generally doesn't matter where your word division is, as long as all the consonant sounds are represented ("clock stop" / "box top"). If you have a large cluster of consonants, the listener will generally be more inclined to overlook minor corruption in one sound.

There are a limited number of consonant blends which will naturally start a syllable. It may be the most natural thing in the world to say "cops" and "baps", but almost nobody pronounces the 'p' in "psychology" (which is silent, as in water, according to the classic joke). This can help you to determine where your syllable begins: keep crediting consonants to the following vowel until the blend is unnatural to say if you pretend it is the start of a new word. Conventionally, syllables start with a consonant or consonant blend, if possible, and end, wherever possible, on an open vowel, closed only by those consonants that cannot be pronounced as part of an initial consonant blend.

Now, why does this matter?

Homophones and pseudo-homophones

In French, where rhymes are usually on one syllable and word stresses are not very insistent, homophones are greatly prized. In English, they often sound too similar. In the past, I have rhymed "peer" with "appear". Remembering that syllables start with a consonant where possible, both rhymed portions sound identical. It was only on reading the offending poem aloud that I heard the jarring sound of pure repetition, which reads to the mind as laziness, as if I had just repeated the same word because I couldn't think of a rhyme. Perhaps the greatest serial offender here is the pairing of "leave" and "believe".

But what if I paired "leave" (or "believe") with "sleeve"? No such problem. The 'sl' consonant blend is a natural start to a syllable, so the syllables sound different. But that does not mean I can rhyme "believe" with "this leave"; most people will hear the word division and have the syllable start with 'l' rather than 'sl'. The conventional concept of a syllable is sometimes trumped by knowledge of stand-alone words. Conversely, although I will never rhyme "all" with "at all", the latter idiom behaves so much like a single word that it would sound far worse to rhyme it with "tall"; the word "another", however, has crossed the threshold and rhymes relatively comfortably with "other" for most people.

Now it gets complicated. Consider which of the following words will rhyme euphoniously: "press", "express", "compress". Ultimately, euphony is in the ear of the beholder. To my ear, for what it's worth, I find it difficult to suppress (see what I did there?) the knowledge that "compress" and "express" (rendered "ek-SPRESS") contain the same root word meaning much the same thing. Although the final syllables are not strictly homophones, my brain registers a rhyme cop-out similar to if the word "press" on its own had been repeated. Others may disagree, but it would be much safer to find an alternative, etymologically unrelated rhyme, rather than appealing to the technicalities of conventional syllable division.

In the final part, I will take you on a whistle-stop tour of phonemes, and why one man's draw is another man's puddle.

Rhyme Time: part 1

Rhyme Time: some thoughts on the technicalities of English rhyme

I'm a poet
And I know it.
Do you see what I did there? Most English speakers will recognise this as a (very short) rhyming couplet. But let us analyse why and how. Trust me: it will be fun.

Why do we rhyme?

  1. Human beings are hard-wired to notice patterns. We recognise symmetry, similarity and repetition. When we hear two utterances that sound almost the same, if sufficiently juxtaposed, the brain takes note. We like the sound: it is a natural, primordial form of music.
  2. Rhymes are memorable. And if you know where a rhyme "belongs" - say, in a regular metrical pattern (or "poem" if you will) - then you can navigate your way through something the length of "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" with the aid of a series of verbal way-markers bobbing above the surface of the text.
  3. If listeners (in this context think of the reader as a virtual listener) know that a rhyme is coming, they will listen more attentively to where they expect it to occur. Rhyming position is therefore a good place for a writer or composer to put significant information such as twist, punchline or musical cue.
  4. The more poetry a listener hears, the more he or she will anticipate a familiar or obvious rhyme. The writer can turn this to his advantage by anticipating that anticipation and defeating the expectation. Result: laughter at the discrepancy. Moreover, if the deception is slick and swift enough, it can perform a form of hypnosis, tapping into the listener's subconscious for a split-second while the rest of the brain is engaged in mental processing.
  5. Technically speaking, some words are buggers to rhyme. There is humour to be had at the sheer audacity of attempting to rhyme intelligibly on "antihistamine", let alone do it twice in the space of 39 syllables. It is like a novelty act you might see on a TV talent show: it can be so bad, it's good; but if it's good, with deftness and daftness hand-in-hand, it can be fan-tmesis-tastic. I shall leave the reader to appreciate, on whatever terms, the following limerick which attempts to define "dermatoautoplasty" (available online at the Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form here).
Dr. Jock said, "It's bad to begin
Juggling chainsaws on stilts — nerves set in.
It's nae fun to tak saw-topplers tae
Where grafts will re-site their ain skin."

How do we rhyme?

To start at the really basic basics, sound is vibration. All human speech is vibration of air molecules at varying frequency. What we think of as a vowel is essentially a characteristic frequency, an underlying pitch capable of being sustained for a reasonable length of time; consonants are momentary percussion with our mouths, which produce rapid spiky waveforms, of characteristic shape, when illustrated graphically. The cadences of human speech, our earliest music, follow to a significant extent the pitches of the vowels; the consonants add distinctive punctuation. We recognise similarities and/or repetitions in both vowels and consonants and either of these may generously be referred to as a species of rhyme, usually under the terms assonance or alliteration.

In my first example above, I unoriginally rhyme "poet" with "know it". Let's start at the end and work backwards. Trust me...
  • The 't' sounds are to all intents and purposes identical. 
  • The vowel sound that precedes the 't' is a naturally short vowel (whose underlying pitch is too high to be sustained for long). In "know it" the vowel is clearly a short 'i', while in "poet" we have what looks like it should be a short 'e'. In practice, we don't say "poet" the same way as we would the first four letters of the word "poetic", where that short 'e' is clearer. Although we don't (at least not all of us) say "po-it", whatever vowel we do say is close enough to be approximated to it. We will return to this.
  • The 'w' of "know it" is predominantly part of the long 'o' that precedes it, but it also adds a weak consonant-type sound to the vowel that follows. In "poet" the two vowels are more visibly juxtaposed. The 'w'-like transition is perhaps naturally weaker in "poet", but again, this is a close enough approximation.
  • The 'p' of "poet" and the 'n' of "know it" (ignoring the 'k' for obvious reasons) sound nothing alike. If they sounded the same, however, we would have more than a rhyme: a homophone, where every sound in the pairing is identical or overwhelmingly similar.
In the light of the above, let us consider why I didn't write "I must keep fit / And I know it" to illustrate rhyme. On their own, the words "fit" and "it" rhyme perfectly, without any of the fudging of the 'e' in "poet". The answer is simple: word stress. In English, we convey a lot of meaning in where we stress words and which words are stressed more than others. (In the example above, putting emphasis on "it"  would only be natural if "it" were contrasted with something else; "know" is stressed because verbs are generally weightier than pronouns; "fit", being an adjective, would normally be weightier than the verb "keep" which serves it - unless keeping fit were contrasted with e.g. getting fit.) Stressed and unstressed syllables (or vowels) sound different, in volume, overlying pitch and (sometimes) duration. Those differences create patterns of stresses which can create, or follow, an underlying beat, pulse, rhythm or, since we are talking poetry here, "metre".

Put simply, rhyme does not work without rhythm. In music, we only recognise a tune when the notes come to us in an ordered fashion, however subtly expressed the underlying time signature. So, in poetry (which is music without stave paper) the strong cadences of the English language (which vary between dialects and over time, admit to very easily applicable rules, and require to be learned by experience), dominate our perception of patterns.

Rhyme, if we want it (and I usually do), must follow the rhythm. By some loose definitions, it is possible to "rhyme" on unstressed syllables, but these so-called "rhymes" are usually insignificant. For a rhyme to be noticed above the choppy waters of English stress patterns, it must ride the wave of a major beat, trailing as much as it can or needs to after it, like a buoy with smaller floats attached. That means that an end-of-line rhyme must start with the last major beat of the line and continue rhyming, as far as is possible, with everything that follows until that line finishes - be that one syllable, two syllables or polysyllabic "Italianate" rhymes. If the last stressed syllable is the pre-ante-penultimate, you will have four syllables to rhyme - all the vowels and all but the initial consonant sound. And that is how you end up with limericks about juggling chainsaws on stilts.

In the next instalment, I will show you how to squeeze vowels, how to corrupt consonants, and how to tell the difference between a homophone and something that sounds like a homophone.

Friday 15 July 2011

BBC Radio Scotland Comedy Zone

Can you guess who's presenting this week's Comedy Zone on BBC Radio Scotland? I'll give you a clue: it's on "Clever Voices". That's right it's me - and Fernando Macaw. You can catch it in the small hours tonight, 12.45 - 6am Saturday. Or, if you miss it, you can find it online here.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Tonight: Nights at the Circus

Roll up! Roll up! Come see the freaks. One of them is me...

Thursday 7 July, 7.30-11pm
The Captain's Rest, 185 Great Western Rd, Glasgow, G4 9EB
Nights at the Circus
A Vaudevillian Night of Magic, Mystery and Music... Live Music from Natalie Pryce, Adopted as Holograph, and Scope; Performance Poetry from Chris Young; Strange tales from Allan Johnstone; Puppetry from The Great Puppeteer; Magic from Fergus the Great Magician; and Live Visual Art. All for only £4 on the door.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Introducing... Fousty Springburn

At the Scarlett Fever "Summer Holiday Boylesque Revue" a few weeks ago, there seemed to be some problem getting started. A rather strident "lady" made her way on stage and took hold of the mic to bay for male flesh. After regaling the audience with some of her woes, she decided to fill in time by singing a song to a backing track she had happened to bring with her. So, here are some pictures of Ms. Fousty Springburn, who is available for work should you wish to book her (through me). Photographs courtesy of Duncan F Hamilton of G. Morgen Enterprises.

Friday 24 June 2011

Fernando Macaw: Psychic Psittacid - Halloween 2010

It's four weeks until Fernando Macaw - paranormal parrot - opens for the Magic of Aziz at the Britannia Panopticon. To whet your appetite for his amazing psychic skills, here is a video taken from the magic show we did there last Halloween.

Fernando will not be performing this weekend, but if you want to see Aziz then you can come to the 1pm or 3pm show on Saturday or Sunday. I am performing on Saturday as Dan Lilo.

Monday 13 June 2011

London Calling

I have two scheduled visits back to my native city coming shortly. Various gigs are booked (see below), but if anybody in or near London wishes to hire my services around the end of June or the beginning of August, I will happily consider being paid. Or at any other time, come to that. :)

Tuesday 28 June, 7:30pm
The Book Club, Shoreditch (100 Leonard St., London EC2A - Tube: Liverpool St./Old St.)
Glam Slam UK 2011
Guest poets: Emanuel Xavier, Chris Young and Catherine Brogan.
Following three fierce and successful instalments, Ernesto Sarezale brings Glam Slam back to The Book Club in Shoreditch. The Glam Slam is a poetry competition in two rounds and there are four competing categories: loss, work, lust and wig-a-poem (a poem about any subject). There is a £100 prize up for the best verbal vogue! Non-competitive open mic slots also available. Door: £5; £3 concessions; FREE for participants.
More details at:

Wednesday 29 June, 7pm
First Out Cafe Bar, 52 St Giles High Street, Camden Town, London WC2H 8LH
Incite Poetry
Come along for LGBT poetry - 13 lucky minutes of it from me. FREE.

Thursday 30 June, 7.30-10.30pm
RADA Foyer Bar, Malet Street, London
The Farrago Summer SLAM!
I intend to put my summer hat into the ring for the honour and glory and tat.

Sunday 7 August, 6.30-10pm
NOTE NEW VENUE: Bar Kick (basement), 127 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JE
Velvet Tongue
Velvet Tongue is a Literary Soiree dedicated to erotic writing and performance. Guest readers join forces with fresh new talent to bring you an evening of velvet-tongue-in-cheek poems, performance art, burlesque and erotically charged bits and bobs to tempt and titillate your minds!
Guest performers in August include: Paul Burston, Holestar and Chris Young.
To sign up for the (5min) open mic slots, email Ernesto: (or sign up on the night, if there are any slots left)

Tuesday 9 August, 7.30-10.30pm
Green Note, Camden Parkway, London
'Utter!' Puppets
'Utter!' presents spoken word with puppets, featuring a poetry set from me (and furry friends).

Wednesday 1 June 2011

I'm a writer: admire my features

Just in case you didn't notice this entry in my upcoming gigs list...

Monday 6 June, 8pm
Sammy Dow's, 69-71 Nithsdale Road, Glasgow G41 2AJ
Words & Music
Regular spoken word and song night. Open slots sign-up from 7.30pm. 20-ish minutes each from the featured musician (Carissa Bovill) and the featured writer (me). I will be mixing new material with established favourites and some curios from the back catalogue.

Monday 30 May 2011

Pictures of Lilo

Dan Lilo (yet another alter ego) made his debut appearances at the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall this weekend just gone. He performed a routine based on Dan Leno's interpretation of the song "The Swimming Master", with new patter and choreography from myself.

Dan Leno himself performed at the Britannia before his death in 1904. He used his slight frame to comic effect in what was true burlesque, satirising the "strong man" acts and body culture of the age.

Photographs by Pete Thomason

Friday 27 May 2011

The Music Hall season (1911) begins this weekend

Got a spare hour for some free entertainment this weekend...?

Saturday and Sunday 28 and 29 May, shows at 1pm and 3pm
Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, 113-117 Trongate, Glasgow G1 5HD
Music Hall Memories
It is 1911 and the music hall is thriving. You are invited in to see the world's oldest surviving music hall and laugh at some of the world's oldest surviving jokes, along with songs, magic and variety. Entry FREE. Donations welcome.

I will be performing - but under what guise? You'll have to turn up to find out!

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Boys Ahoy! Summer Holiday Boylesque Revue, 10 June, Classic Grand

Why, I do believe that my alter ego Dickie Clifford will be making an appearance! Expect other special guests too. Details on Facebook, with surprises on the night. Men taking off their clothes and making you laugh (in a good way) - what could be better?

As you can see, tickets are £8 in advance from Tickets Scotland. Tickets are also available from Merchant City specialist boutique Luke & Jack.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Words & Music Open Poetry Performance Competition 2011

Yesterday evening, the poetry crowd at Sammy Dow's, Nithsdale Road, celebrated the umpteenth "Words & Music" Open Poetry Performance Competition. Poets had two minutes to perform one poem. The judges were Carl MacDougall and Marc Sherland.

This year saw the inauguration of the Hugh Healy Trophy, in honour of the event's co-founder (with Pamela Duncan). In these photographs, the trophy somewhat catches the light of the flash!

I was delighted to be a runner-up this year, having last done so in 2007. Congratulations to fellow runner-up Catherine Walker and winner Katherine Beaumont, as well as to all the other contestants.

 Winner Katherine Beaumont receives the Hugh Healy Trophy from Carl MacDougall

Runner-up Chris Young (me!) with judges Carl MacDougall and Marc Sherland

Runner-up Catherine Walker with judges Carl MacDougall and Marc Sherland

Friday 20 May 2011

Arguments and Nosebleeds

We're back! Jane Overton, Robin Cairns, Alex Frew and I are getting geared up for a second instalment of Arguments and Nosebleeds at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

Last year we had guest spots from Milton Balgoni and John Hegley. Who will be visiting us this year? 

Why not visit the website to find out more? Or maybe find and follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Arguments and Nosebleeds

Excessive side-splitting may lead to blood loss.

A craic squad of performance poets tackles life’s major issues (scary schoolteachers, body hair, mountaineering grannies, missing teapots etc.), pausing only for laughter and medical emergencies.

Battered and bruised from last year's success, the tag-team returns for a second bout of verbal footwork and punching both sides of the belt, offering an invigorating afternoon of spoken word transfused with comedy. They expect to haemorrhage humour of all descriptions, from the sanguine and the phlegmatic to occasional melancholy and bile.

You have been warned.

Dates: 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25 August 2011
Time: 14.15
Venue: Laughing Horse @ Espionage (Kasbar Room), 4 India Buildings, Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2EX
[Venue 185]

Thursday 19 May 2011

Away From Me

Not funny, but topical (though written many years ago), with apologies to the Gershwin brothers:

Away From Me

The way you wore your hat,
The way you looked to sea,
The way you tried to chat -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

The way you held your knife,
The way no one could see,
The way you wrecked my life -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

May we never ever meet again -
It is better just in case
I am tempted to throw acid in your face.

The way we left the town,
The way we reached the quay,
The way you pinned me down -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

The way you hid my screams,
The way you groaned with glee,
The way you stole my dreams -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

May we never ever meet again -
If we do, be sure to find
That I will wreak revenge on your behind.

The way you pulled my hair,
The way you crushed my knee,
The way you didn’t care -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

The way you got your mount,
The way you left scot-free,
The way I didn’t count -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

May we never ever meet again -
Or, despite your pleas and begs,
I will take a heavy hammer to your legs.

The way I felt ashamed,
The way I loathed to be,
The way my mind was maimed -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

The way it hurt to tell,
The way I longed to flee,
The way I lived through hell -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

May we never ever meet again,
And I trust we never will,
For I don’t think I’d suppress the urge to kill.

The way you’ve fucked my head,
The way I’m off my tree,
The way you haunt my bed -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

The visits to my shrink,
The tablets with my tea,
The other things I drink -
No, they can’t take that away from me.

No, they can’t take that away from me.

Saturday 30 April 2011

New gigs ahoy! But first an election...

You will notice from my gigs list that I have added many more upcoming events, in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and beyond. I reproduce the first of these below:

Monday 2 May, 8pm
The 13th Note, 50-60 King Street, Glasgow G1 5QT
INITIAL ITCH Election Special
Although not quite a candidate this time round (having been selected and then withdrawn to spend more time writing), I will be flying the flag for the Liberal Democrats at Glasgow's most creative and best performed political hustings.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Fun(d) Raising

Tonight, I will be adopting the role of quiz master, song leader and general entertainer. And I'm not even going to be paid for it. It's in a good cause (if you want me to explain why I think it's a good cause, you know how to get in touch). The event is on Facebook.

If anyone fancies paying me for doing similar in a bad cause...

Thursday 7 April 2011

Dickie Clifford sings!

Tomorrow (Friday) night, my burlesque alter ego Dickie Clifford will be performing at Scarlett Fever's The Wedding Of The Year - The Marriage of Crime and Commerce at Ivory Blacks, Oswald Street (doors open 7.30pm). Tickets are £8 in advance (from me or Tickets Scotland) or £10 at the door.

Model for hire

Today is your last chance to see a wall of naked me. Yes, I have made a literal exhibition of myself, viewable at the Newbery Tower Gallery, 164 Renfrew Street, from 9.30am to 5pm. This is an exhibition for adult students (continuing education) at the Glasgow School of Art, for whom I work as a life model. I am happy to model for other artists or groups, if anyone wants to hire me.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

StAnza Slam Success!

Hooray! I did it! Go me!

Right, that's probably enough self-congratulation, but I'm chuffed to the proverbial to have won the poetry slam at this year's StAnza - Scotland's Poetry Festival. Believe it or not, this is my first slam title in Scotland. (Reversing my form at previous slams, on Saturday night I managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, qualifying for a tightly-fought final by dint of being highest-scoring runner-up in the heats.)

It was roughly ten years ago, while living in St Andrews (home of StAnza), that I first became aware of poetry slams - at around the same time I was starting to write more poetry designed for public performance. It was especially heartening to entertain an appreciative audience in the auditorium at the Byre Theatre which I used to supervise as a front-of-house attendant.

Now, to market myself, and my newly exalted status, shamelessly...

Thursday 17 March 2011

The Best Man

Well, I didn't quite get through to the final of the Scotia's short story competition. But the audience enjoyed my offering, which in turn I offer to you (after a few minor amendments). When it comes to next week's final, may the best man win...

The Best Man

Ladies and Gentlemen!  Now I’ve known John for quite some time.  And I can honestly [ha!] say that I have never seen him looking quite so happy as he does today.  Amanda, I don’t know what you slipped into his champagne, but I know I’ll probably need some after this.  [Too darn right but too darn dangerous!]  As we all know, he’s usually a miserable sod and we’re all grateful that at last he’s found someone to win his heart and have him grinning like an idiot [as he’s doing as I speak]. 

How can I describe John [in this company]? John is a one-off.  When they made John, they broke the mould; and I can only pity his parents, Jack and Mary, for producing such an exceptional young [not for much longer] man, irascibly gifted and infuriatingly charming.  Will I ever forget his drunken ramblings about church architecture, so skilfully composed and eloquently delivered that I sometimes wish I could have kept myself awake to hear the end of them?  [Did they ever end?]  That I can remember more about his degree than I can about mine is a testament to his enthusiasm, drive, commitment and determination; as well as to my own laziness [not quite true] and willingness to drink John’s expensive port. 

For those of you who have never had the privilege [i.e. torture] of sharing a room with John, I must explain the phenomenon which is John’s drinks cabinet.  It is a truly remarkable object, much in the manner of Mary Poppins’ [how apt] carpet bag.  It’s only about so big [he said, trying not to drop his notes], yet all manner of weird and wonderful potions, several of them lethal in combination, can be extracted from it, with no rational explanation at the end of the night as to where the skip-load of empty bottles could have possibly come from. 

Not that you could ever accuse John of being a heavy drinker.  I don’t think he’s ever weighed more than eight and a half stone in his life, the lucky so-and-so.  The trim waistline and attenuated form you see before you belies his gastronomic [if not literal] promiscuity.  Again, like Mary Poppins’ bag, he has the ability to take in far more than he could possibly contain.  How is this?  [Genetics, with more than a touch of bulimia, I suspect.]  You make us all sick, John, and it’s only because you’re such a genuinely [ha!] nice person that all of us porkers and flab-fighters can bear to be around you.  That and the port. 

At which point, before I forget, I really must add my own thanks to the hotel and catering staff for their admirable ministrations.  George, you have not stinted in your duties as Father of the Bride; and, unless you are considerably richer than you deserve to be [which, let’s face it, you are], I’m sure you’ve got your money’s worth. 

And that leads me neatly [if a little contrivedly] to Amanda.  The name Amanda is of course Latin for “she who demands love”.  And what Amanda demands, Amanda gets.  [My God, I was drunk...]  Despite John’s affect[at]ions and his many virtues, to wish to spend her life with so impossible a man [I scarcely believe it sometimes], the woman must either be a saint or slightly mad [and I know which].  The news that she and John were going to put up, if not shack up, with each other came as somewhat of a wonderful surprise to many of us [and a frightful inevitability to some].  Well, it takes all sorts to make a world; and it takes all sorts to make Mr Bassett a wealthy man. 

Before I round off, you will have noticed that I have told few if any anecdotes and read out no amusing cards, letters, telegrams, emails or semaphore messages.  The reason for this is simple: censorship.  If I am ever to taste expensive port again, I know I must watch what I say this afternoon [and this evening, and tomorrow morning, and for as long as I’m in the company of half the people here]. 

So finally, and in summation, congratulations, serendipitous felicitations, plenitudinous expressions of hymenean good will, or bona voluntas [that's your actual Latin], at the actualisation of your heretofore putative indivisibility – along with prestidigitation, antidisestablishmentarianism, bathysiderodromophobia, and any other of those preposterously long words so enamoured by John which I have not been able to use elsewhere in this speech.  Yes, this sesquipedalian expansivity, those monstrously gargantuan words, were all for you, John [because I can never give you the three little words you want from me]. 

But enough.  There is a large cake which needs to be cut.  But – before John and Amanda take the plunge, and [not] before Amanda gets to exert her upper hand – there is time for one last toast to the happy couple [sic]: John and Amanda!

© Chris Young

Monday 14 March 2011

Scotia, my Scotia

As you can see from my gig list, I will be performing TWICE this week at the Scotia bar. The Scotia has a long history of supporting writing and popular performance. The Scotia Variety and Music Hall which used to stand next door (before it became the Metropole Theatre) was once run by Stan Laurel's father.

First up, tonight (7-10pm) I will be competing in the inaugural Tenner Slam - a one-round poetry slam (which may be accompanied by more than one round of drinks). This should be fun.

On Wednesday (8-11pm) I will be competing again - this time reading one of my short stories in their annual short story competition.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Choose Me

Poetry slams are odd things. Not that competitive poetry is anything new (it used to be part of the Olympic Games), but it is universally acknowledged that "the best poet never wins". It is remembering this mantra that I survived my last two slams with self-esteem intact (though kicking myself about things I could have done differently).

This poem, "Choose Me", was recorded on 14 February at the Anti-Valentine's Slam at Edinburgh's City Café, organised by the lovely people at Inky Fingers. The lighting and sight lines worked much better in person than on video!

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Gig Alert: Spangled Cabaret, Monday 7 March 2011

Fernando Macaw, the paranormal parrot, will demonstrate amazing feats using his mystic powers - with the help of his glamorous assistant. And there will be other acts! Come to the Cabaret!

Spangled Cabaret, 8-11pm, Monday 7 March, The Rio Café, Hyndland Street, Partick, Glasgow - near Kelvinhall Subway. See the event on Facebook.

Friday 11 February 2011

Do I Belong?

More from the other night at Sammy Dow's - this time, singing. I need a musical director...

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Valentine's chivalry-themed murder mystery dinner, Sat 12th February

Not got your Valentine's night out booked? It could be murder! 
There are still places this Saturday (12th February) on a chivalry-themed murder mystery dinner presented by Spirit of Glasgow and held at Arta in Glasgow's Merchant City. For booking details, visit this page on Arta's website.
This is above all a comedy show, best suited to lovers of laughter. And, in case you were wondering, I'm playing at least one of the parts...

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Tunnel of Lovin'

Last night at Sammy Dow's, in anticipation of Valentine's Day, I performed one of my more romantic poems...

Tunnel of Lovin’

Between Ibrox and Govan
There’s a tunnel of lovin’
Where engines get friendly
With pushing and shoving.
They sneak off the track
While their axles are supple
To sit in the sidings
And craftily couple.

Out of use, out of sight,
All their claddings they doff.
After rush hour’s over
They can’t wait to get off.

Just off Broomloan Road
Is the lovers’ abode.
It’s the depot, you know,
Where spare parts are bestowed.
In a frenzy of work,
At the surface and deep,
They are wrought and renewed
In their sleeper-borne sleep.

© Chris Young

Monday 7 February 2011

First Monday of the month! I need to be triplets!

It is the first Monday of the month. This used to mean only one thing: "Words and Music" at Sammy Dow's (67-71 Nithsdale Road, Pollokshields/Strathbungo). This is a very friendly night for first-timers and old hands alike, mixing poetry with prose and song. Every month there is a featured writer and a featured musician, but the majority of the evening is floor spots (open mic without the mic). The evening kicks off at 8pm with sign-up for floor spots from 7.30pm; we usually finish around 10.30pm. This is where I first put my toe in the water of the Glasgow spoken word scene and I will always be grateful to Pamela Duncan and Gayle Smith for helping to provide this regular fixture, even if I don't make it every month.

Meanwhile, today also marks the third anniversary of Spangled Cabaret, held at the Rio Café (27 Hyndland Street, Partick). Apologies to Paul, Leggy Pee, the Creative Martyrs and others, but I shan't make it tonight, as Sammy's has first dibs. However, this is a cracking night for witnessing experimental (and experienced) performance ranging from poetry to rock via cabaret and burlesque (and performing if you ask enough in advance). I remain grateful for Spangled Cabaret giving Dickie Clifford his first break.

And if that's not enough, there's also Initial Itch at the 13th Note (50-60 King Street, Merchant City). This is another eclectic evening of art in nearly all its performable forms. I really must go back, but I haven't been since their May 2010 election special.

Tonight, I look forward to seeing old friends at Sammy's, and maybe making some new ones. Now all I need to do is decide what I'll be reading...

Wednesday 2 February 2011

#whatstigma - Perfect

On a day that the Deputy Prime Minister has been tackling the stigma of mental health problems, and Twitter has been awash with the #whatstigma hashtag, I give you a poem from the vaults.


I want to perfect this misery,
To distil the despair
With gin or whisky,
To purify the pain
With flame or fume,
To sharpen my angst
With a blade or a needle.

I want it to be perfect:
Done and dusted,
In the past.

© Chris Young

Monday 31 January 2011


It's the last Monday of the month, which means Last Monday at Rio! This is a spoken word night hosted by Robin Cairns at Rio! café and bar in Partick (27 Hyndland Street, G11 5QF, near Kelvinhall subway). It starts at 8pm and I have a floor spot of 5 minutes, so I really ought to finish eating and get there...

Friday 28 January 2011

WORDS to a vegetarian haggis

By popular demand, I have posted the words (in all their wondrous spelling) to my alternative Burnsian address...

To a vegetarian haggis

Fair fa’ your… dishonest, sonsie face,
Great maverick o’ the puddin race!
For veggie folk, ye tak the place
O’ honest meat.
Some think ye truly a disgrace
Nae fit tae eat.

But ithers cannae face yon haggis
That made wi’ fresh sheep’s stomach bag is,
Where hairt and lung and liver clag is,
Mixed up wi’ oats.
For squeamish folk, for them, the snag is
No Rabbie’s quotes.

I dinnae mean tae fash nor clype,
But some folk cannae stomach tripe
And kidney could nae pass their pipe
For fear they choke.
An’ inside pairts o’ every type
Would make them boke.

Frae John O’ Groats tae Howe O’ Fife
Sic sentiment is awfu’ rife
But then they gang an’ tak a knife
Tae sirloin steak.
They dinnae think that flesh had life –
For ony sake.

The animal that’s killed for meat
Has died for us – and gay few greet.
We owe the beast at least tae eat
And no tae waste.
The choice we have tae eat or bleat
Is no just taste.

Hypocrisy puts me on edge.
The squeamish folk, they a’ should pledge
Tae eat from henceforth none but veg
(An’, maybe, eggs and milk).
Frae shrink-wrapped plastic, let them dredge
Your ersatz ilk.

O ye wha untold beasties save,
For whom no sheep its stomach gave
Nor cattle came hame to their grave,
Lang may ye reek.
Or bailt in pot or microwaved,
It’s ye I seek.

O meat-free bairn o’ John MacSween,
Nae life ye tak, nae liver seen,
Nor kidney but the kidney bean
That gies ye hairt.
An’ nuts an’ lentils (red or green),
A’ play their pairt.

Wi’ mushroom, carrot, onion, neep,
Your savour is baith sweet and deep.
It’s sad ye dinnae taste like sheep,
But that is fine.
When frozen, weel for months you’ll keep.
(I bulk-buy mine.)

O sleekit puddin, sonsie-faced,
Though some may think a haggis based
On vegetables, the meat replaced,
Should be unlawful,
I bid the world to tak a taste –
It is nae offal.

© Chris Young

Address To A Vegetarian Haggis

Last night, I had the pleasure of addressing the haggis, and the audience, at the Greater Glasgow Liberal Democrats' Annual Dinner, this year held just two days after Burns Night. However, it was the vegetarian haggis to which my Burnsian ode was directed.

Thursday 27 January 2011



Turn your smiles into reasons,
Reasons to stay.
Make promises of your attention
And flirt with a purpose.
Show me your smile again
Just that bit too often.

© Chris Young

Tuesday 25 January 2011

A House On A Hill

Frustratingly, I didn't quite get my act together for this year's Glasgow / Magners Comedy Festival. However, I did take part two years ago, supporting my friend Robin Cairns in "Numpties Need Love Too", performed at and in aid of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. I have performed this poem better, but never colder.

Monday 24 January 2011


It's nearly close of submissions for this year's Hippocrates Prize for poems on a medical theme. I am waiting for inspiration to strike. Here is what I wrote last year:


Holed up, hooked up, and surgically enclosed,
He convalesces, trapped within these walls. 
Bare surfaces bear plumbing, part-exposed;
But he is warm inside.  The future calls. 
I ring his bell.  He opens up and smiles. 
We cannot kiss; I keep my hands contained;
But soon his clothes are strewn in ticklish piles
As tenderness is patiently explained. 
Stripped skin which once turned in now clings unfurled;
Spliced ducts lie sheathed in flesh’s phoenix tomb;
A punctured navel, window on a world,
And keyhole slits commemorate his womb. 
He beams, then screams, while showing off his toy. 
Now forty, he was born to be a boy.

© Chris Young

Sunday 23 January 2011

When Father Papered The Parlour

At the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall on Glasgow's Trongate, the world's oldest surviving music hall, we celebrate the popular entertainments of 100 years ago (or at least the spirit of the age). Last year, it was 1910, the year in which R. P. Weston and Fred J. Barnes wrote "When Father Papered The Parlour", famously recorded in 1912 by Billy Williams. In his honour, I perform this song as "Little Billy Williams".

Saturday 22 January 2011

Glam Slam UK 2010

On 23 June 2010, Ernesto Sarezale (whom I thank for use of these photographs) hosted the third annual UK Glam Slam, held at The Book Club in Shoreditch, London. I was fortunate enough to be visiting London at the time, having failed to make it the previous years. There were 4 heats, in which competitors were asked to use appropriate costume and/or prop: soul, body, work and wig. I had intended to do a poem in a wig (other than the one which you see me wearing!), but could not procure a "jimmy hat" to replace the one I had left where I was staying. So I entered the "body" heat instead...

So, in short(s), I won my heat and the whole slam, with the best verbal vogue of 2010. Then I did a gratuitous victory poem in some London souvenirs.

You can see the whole album in my Picasa gallery.


This is what I should have been doing today, but alas I am stiff in all the wrong places...

(by Chris Young, with thanks and apologies to Malvena Reynolds)

Letterboxes on the doorfronts,
Letterboxes going snippy-snappy,
Letterboxes on the doorfronts,
Letterboxes hurt and maim.
There’s a high one and a low one
And a small one and a narrow one.
And they all stick or go snippy-snappy
And they all hurt just the same.

And the Focus for the houses
Was written by the candidate
But he won’t touch letterboxes:
Letterboxes hurt and maim.
So I take them and I fold them
And I try to deliver them.
But they all scrape or go slippy-slappy
And they all hurt just the same.

Now the front flap on the letterbox
Is stiff or goes flippy-flappy
And it bruises all my fingers
And it traps them in the frame,
Which is filled with rows of bristles
Which crumple the leaflet up.
And they all jam or go scritchy-scratchy
And they all hurt just the same.

As I bleed upon the leaflet
It stops at the inner flap
And I have to wedge it open
With my fingers in the frame.
Then a dog jumps at the doorfront
And tries to bite my fingers off.
And they all growl or go yippy-yappy
And they all hurt just the same.

So the leaflet turns to dogfood
Or gets snagged in silly curtaining
And gets tangled, further mangled:
It is all part of the game.
When the owner gets the leaflet
It must be half-illegible.
And they’ll never vote Libby-Demmy
But it all hurts just the same.

Letterboxes on the doorfronts
Should be subject to regulati-ons:
Never sideways, all at waist-height,
Letterboxes all the same.
And the dogs should be sedated
And the hinges lubricated fully.
They’d be simple and not knicky-knacky
And they’d all work just the same.

Sorrows of the Blind Drunk

William Topaz McGonagall was a temperate man who warned against the evils of strong drink. In this parody, written on 20th June 2008, I reverse the great man's standpoint to comment on the Scottish Government's plans (mainly since abandoned or thwarted) to tackle the problem of excessive alcohol consumption.

Sorrows of the Blind Drunk

’Twas on the seventeenth day of June in the year 2008,
Which will go down in history as a memorable date,
That the Scottish Government, led by the SNP,
Announced their intention new laws on alcohol to decree.

To explain what was the politicians’ will,
First up to speak was Kenny MacAskill.
This fine statesman, who is the Justice Secretary,
Declared that the Scottish people were far too merry.

“Nae mair will ye gang tae the supermarket for cut-price special brew
An’ bottles of Buckie at 3 for 2.
We will end this unseemly generosity and glee
And mak thame gie ye twa for the price o’ three.

And, since liquor gives licence to frivolity and fun,
It should obviously not be had before the age of 21.
I know that at 16 men can fight and can die for the state.
But misery is always with us.  Pleasure can wait.”

So spoke Kenny MacAskill.  Perhaps he was drunk at the time.
He then went on to say that alcohol was responsible for 45% of recorded crime.
He came out with more statistics till it made the journalists dizzy.
But some people said they could smell something fishy.

The next to say her piece was Nicola Sturgeon
Who, as Health Secretary, deals with both GP and surgeon.
She explained that, through affluence, we Scots choose a life of ill health,
Which problem is best solved by eliminating disposable wealth.

“There are people who are dying in each hospital ward
Just because a pint is something they can afford.
If we fix a minimum price for the sale of each alcohol unit,
Then they’ll sip and savour their Tartan Special and not just up and doon it.

And since the retailers who peddle death do it practically for free,
We must make them pay a social responsibility fee.
The responsibility of individuals is marginal, at the edges.
And it’s not as if we want to raise extra funds to pay for our election pledges…”

So spoke Nicola Sturgeon, parliamentary leader.
But what of Alex Salmond, that smug little rune-reader?
Do you think he keeps quiet lest he sound like a berk
And that, in his clever little brain, he knows it won’t work?

In these plans there is surely a flaw
In that they most affect people who don’t break the law.
They’ll require us to queue in the supermarket twice
(Once for booze; once for mixers), which is not very nice.

And the effects will be worse as you travel forth
To the highlands and islands of the heathen north.
If you stop the folk drinking, that would hurt them so much,
For, without being leathered, Orcadians don’t touch.

This is no way to address Scotland’s haemorrhaging population.
Lack of cheap drink leads to anger and frustration.
The Scots as a nation should be happy and hearty.
Why do we have such a miserable Scottish National Party?

© Chris Young

Without wishing to go into extensive debate, suffice it to say that, although this poem doesn't entirely reflect my position politically, I believe that there will always be a problem with mechanistic measures which disproportionately affect the law-abiding.

Friday 21 January 2011


The last time I was a student (I have been a student so many times...) I competed in the 2009 "Uni's Got Talent". My act, singing Heaven 17's "Temptation" with my parrot Fernando, was said to have "split the audience like Marmite".

My technique has since improved!

Thanks to all those responsible for the night and the recording.

Dickie Clifford's "Summer Holiday"

And now for the prequel. My alter ego debuted this routine on 18 August 2010 to win that month's heat of Red Door Burlesque's "Burlesque Factor" at Glasgow's Art Bar.

I reprised this routine at Scarlett Fever's Christmas Hullaburloo and am happy to pack up my kit and do it again elsewhere...