Transcript of #9

 

Abnormally Funny People February 2015 Podcast

 

Presented by Simon Minty and Steve Best

 

 

 

Welcome to the Abnormally Funny People Show, sponsored by Barclays. For further inforMation please visit abnormallyfunnypeople.com. We hope you enjoy the show.

[playing music]

Steve

Hello and welcome to Abnormally Funny People Show number 9. I’m Steve Best.

Simon

Oh hello, welcome, I’m Simon Minty. How are you Mr Best?

Steve

I’m very well actually. We just had a bit of a scramble in the dressing room just now.

Simon

It was so busy.

Steve

I’ve never had it before like that. There was about ten of us in there and about three or four dogs in there as well.

Simon

And kind of everybody knew everybody. There was sort of pre-shows before ours and everyone was recording and then we’ve come in after them.

Steve

It was, it was a bit of a love fest, I didn’t know anybody but you seemed to know everybody. And then Matt and Liz came in and it was full on. And then people were just stepping over dogs and barking and slobbering. You got kissed by a dog didn’t you in there?

Simon

I did.

Steve

I mean a dog as in a feline. No it’s not a feline, that’s a cat.

Simon

I don’t think you even need to say that actually I think that was obvious.

Steve

Okay.

Simon

I got licked by a dog.

Steve

You did.

Simon

Quite severely. No that was fun, it was like a disability arts reunion all in one go. Good fun.

Steve

Yes great wasn’t it.

Simon

I am very excited about this month’s show. I think this is what I would call ‘a special’ not a kind of special rubbish disability special, just a special show.

Steve

What makes is special is who the guests are. Both are international actors on primetime television as well as strong voices in disability rights.

Simon

We have Liz Carr. Liz is an actor, a campaigner. She’s best known probably for playing Clarissa Mullery in BBC’s Silent Witness. She’s also a high profile advocate to save the Independent Living Fund for disabled people; and campaigning against changing the law regarding assisted suicide.

Liz

Hello! Hello.

Steve

That was a nice hello. And we have Mat Fraser who is probably best known for his role as Paul in American Horror Story Freak Show; but also was in a stage production Beauty and the Beast which was the retelling of the original story. Hello Mat.

Mat

Hi!

Simon

In a moment we’re going to ask our guests for their moment of the month which will be something interesting and disability related in the recent past.

Steve

And at the end of the show talking to them about disability, television and when they hosted their own ground breaking podcast. Remember those days?

Mat

Yeah I do. I think I do.

Liz

It’s coming back.

Simon

Okay let’s kick off then. So moment of the month. Liz?

Liz

Okay. So there I am at the Royal Festival Hall and I’m sorry not because I’m on telly but it was a present I got a membership to the member’s bar.

Simon

Oh nice.

Liz

So I was there with another disabled friend of mine, the artist and activist Katherine Araniello. So I get there first like I flash my card and I go in and I’m looking for a little bit of a space where we can sit, have a bit of a drink, great. I’m looking around, this guy in a mustard coloured suit - I don’t know why that’s relevant - comes up to me with a five pound note and just holds it front of me. And I’m shaking my head, a bit uncomfortable. And he goes, “You’re disabled.”

Steve

No way!

Liz

And I go, “It’s okay. But thank you.” “Are you sure?” and he goes and sits down.

Mat

Stop it.

Liz

All forgotten, great. So I go and finally find a table. Katherine finally gets to me. She said, “Did you see that man” she said, “there was a man there came up to me, a fiver.” Yeah. She said, “My PA said, ‘no she doesn’t want that’ I said, Yes I damn well do” took the money and put it towards a Prosecco. That’s the way you do it. There was me all a little bit too, “No it’s fine, thank you very much” and she just took the fiver. But it’s like in this day and age still in a member’s bar, and I only say that because it kind of gives it a little bit of status in terms of where we were. We’re clearly not poor, poor you know, not poor poor.

Simon

The Prosecco bit is obviously very showbiz at the end, I like the way she…

Liz

I had water, can I just say.

Simon

Okay, okay.

Steve

Are you sure there’s no hidden cameras anywhere?

Liz

It was… No. Actually Katherine said that it’s happened before so if anybody’s feeling a bit light that month, don’t have a lot of money apparently that guy is a regular at the South Bank at handing out money.

Simon

Oh top tip.

Liz

She said she’s had some before from him.

Mat

I thought you were going to say, “And she got offered a tenner!”

Liz

No idea.

Simon

Yeah I mean I don’t know if somebody offered me a fiver I’d laugh. But there would be a little bit of me that might be deep down insulted as well. Or was that not the feeling? Where you kind of…

Liz

I think I was quite shocked.

Simon

Can’t believe it happened.

Steve

I was going to say otherwise you would have some response and you would go back, “What’s going on here?”

Liz

Yeah. I mean then I thought I’ve missed my chance and I was not happy. I thought she’s much smarter than me. So then I kept wheeling back and forth past him.

Mat

Soliciting.

Liz

And he’d look at me pretty much sitting next to him.

Steve

It doesn’t work like that.

Liz

No. But then my moment had past so I’ve lost it now.

Steve

And what was the age of this man?

Liz

He was probably in his 60s I guess. I think it was his earnestness, you know there was no humour, it was absolutely… “But you’re disabled” I mean it was incredulous that I wouldn’t need it. And it was generosity because I was quite near the bar at that point and he was issuing it towards the bar like, “Come on, get yourself something.”

Simon

Why didn’t he just put it in the cap that you always have in front of your chair? I mean I’m surprised, he missed a trick there.

Steve

Similar to Laurence Clark he did those out and about filming stuff and the responses he got were just amazing.

Liz

And it doesn’t Matter what you do for a living, who you are, what you’ve been through as a disabled person that stuff is always going to happen to you.

Simon

Amazing!

Mat

That beautifully leads into my moment of the month.

Steve

I was going to say Mat, that’s very nice, what is your moment of the month, Mat?

Mat

Well as you may or may not know I’m married to a New Yorker, lovely Julie, and I’m constantly having to enter America at JFK airport. I don’t have thumbs so now you have to be finger printed and thumb printed. You’d think that with the alternative security measures like the passport, the work permit, the face being the same as on the passport etc. that that would be enough. But no I always get put in what I call the ‘criminal’s holding bay’. So the guy looks at his computer. 

Steve

Is that because of the face do you think is that?

Mat

My face looks criminal is that what you're saying?

Steve

I’m teasing, I’m teasing.

Mat

Anyway there I go and I get put in this room with nervous looking South Americans and the Egyptian guy and all the people that, you know, it’s feels like a hot bed of racist overload in there to be honest. And then the cops humourlessly process your stuff as slowly as is humanly possible. So there I was and I’m like stealing myself look down, look down you’ll always be a slave. No lip. Come on no humour, nothing. And I just notice his name’s O’Reilly, the officer. So I think right I’ve got an Irish thing in the back pocket if I need it. And then he recognises me from American Horror Story okay? And oh my god all the rules have suddenly changed. Because normally I start immediately I get there. I’m like, “I’ve got no thumbs and normally I get put in that funny room” sometimes they ((0:06:54.0?)) he’s like, “It’s Paul. You’re Paul.” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah I’m Paul from American Horror Story” he’s like, “You are not going to any room, buddy” stamp, stamp like this and just let me through. And I said, “But…” he said, “((0:07:06.0?))”. And what that little conversation of no words was haven’t you also like the officers looked at the waiver on my passport that said I was convicted for something naughty 23 years ago which is actually now I discover why I kept get putting in that thing. And he’s gone, “Oh I hadn’t bothered with that” and he’s just stamped it. At that point and I hear, “Next customer please” and you know when officials in America do that, you probably know, Simon, you go there a lot and you do too, Liz, you blimmin’ well do it.

Simon

On they’re really scary aren’t they?

Mat

There’s no humour.

Liz

Oh yeah you don’t mess around.

Mat

Here’s the weirdest thing about the story I turn round thinking I’d better let the next fellow come and it’s Russell Brand. Russell Brand is standing behind me in the passport queue and I hadn’t even noticed. And he’s with like his ‘two people’ you know because he’s got people obviously…

Steve

Entourage.

Mat

And as I’m walking away thinking that’s Russell Brand. And he looks at me and recognises me and goes, “Oh I know you. I’ve seen you at The Box” which is a club in London where I’ve performed before and rich people such as him go to and be convivial. Anyway that was my weird disability moment of the month, and it was about disability but it was more about celebrity I suppose, so called, than disability, was how the American state say they’re courteous, professional and respectful, but I really feel like they’re a bit disablist because I don’t have any thumbs I’m always you know and all of this sort of stuff. And then the minute you’re on telly everything changes, everything changes.

Simon

I have a couple of questions. One, how are you getting on responding when someone does recognise you? I’m curious, is that kind of fun, is that weird, not disability just the whole thing? Do you have a line or do you play it cool?

Mat

I mean we have had it before haven’t we, Liz, in Britain before Liz. It’s just the sheer numbers in America.

Simon

Okay.

Mat

You know 10, 20 million people numbers. And it’s all that. It’s the cool series. So the demographic is like cool kids between I suppose 15 and 30.

Simon

We’re going to come on to the show but how do you react then when they’re coming up to you?

Mat

Well they’re all very media savvy. The interaction usually takes about 10 seconds. “Oh my god it’s you, can I have a photo?” They’re already prepping their iPhone. I go, “Yes” selfie, done, they’re off.

Simon

That’s it now.

Mat

And so it’s not that bad. In the olden days they’d be like searching for a pencil and their notepad for the autograph I suppose. So I don’t mind it. I’m very happy with it.

Liz

I love the difference, sorry just the difference because with Silent Witness the demographic is about 60.

Steve

The man in the mustard suit, that was him!

Liz

So they’ve got wind-on cameras, do you know what I mean, there’s no selfies.

Simon

But I’m kind of curious with the disability bit because I can imagine maybe one day it might get to that point but there is also that other bit of you also know what it’s like to be sort of forgotten or excluded or whatever it is. So there’s always going to be a kind of tussle there.

Mat

It was weird and I’m going to terrible namedrop here, but I was at the Golden Globes party recently and it was split 50/50; and I’m not used to the platinum, plastic people of Los Angeles okay, especially the people who are the hangers-on who go to the parties, which there was a plethora of by the time I was allowed in - all the stars had buggered off. And it’s split 50/50 between people who knew I was on American Horror Story and people who had no idea. And the people who had no idea had the plastic smile, took one look at my arms and turned round because they just couldn’t deal with it. And the other people went into blowing smoke up my arse as they call it in America. And it was stark the contrast. And I thought yeah this is literally the weird difference between so-called celebrity and disability where people look at your problem, your impairment and then think oh you’re a person with a disability, I process that. And then you become the person they know on TV and they’ve absorbed your impairment into their consciousness of their understanding of who you are and it’s been sidestepped.

Steve

But do you think there is a massive difference between that and someone who isn’t recognised who’s not disabled and a star with the same, you know, the same example?

Mat

Yes I do. Whatever their personal circumstance might be it’s transcended by the fact that they’re famous on telly and they’re known as Dave Warner from EastEnders or whatever it is.

Liz

I think for me it wasn’t as glamorous as that. It was at my father-in-law’s 80th birthday at the local golf club. So all of his friends and one of those and you think oh god okay and I’m there with Jo, I’m there with my partner, two women together - so there’s all of that. But the family are very lovely and very supportive, they know who we are, they’re not ashamed. But there are those family dos where you just go, “Oh god.” And it was funny that the ‘oh goodness’ and my anxiety but also people’s awkwardness, let’s say I was Liz Carr not on TV at that point, quite a lot of awkwardness. “Oh their daughter-in-law’s disabled.”

Simon

Okay. They’re working out what to say.

Liz

However their daughter-in-law’s that one on Silent Witness - uh everyone wants to meet you. Everyone wants pictures. Your status is totally different in an environment like that.

Steve

Your status is different but do you think the disability or the way they view disability is not as ((0:12:15.4?))

Simon

They’ve got an in now they don’t have to start with that.

Mat

Exactly.

Steve

So they’re not as uncomfortable.

Liz

I think that’s it, Steve, yeah.

Mat

And it’s also because I think to an extent they’ve seen you how you pick up the cup and stuff in your character on telly. But that which they may have been awkward around your impairment, “Oh gosh how do I hand them the cup?” blah blah blah that makes them nervous and awkward all of that disappears, and that’s what’s so weird. It proves that disability is indeed a social construct. It just proves it.

Simon

Sorry to jump. We had Lisa Hammond on the third show I think it was and she’s in EastEnders now, you all know her. And she said she would go out shopping with her mum and there would be people taking photos, pointing, jeering. She now goes out shopping with her mum, they come up and say they want to take a photo, “We think you’re fabulous” these are the same people but they’ve gone from giving her grief to now wanting to be best Mates. And you’re right she’s the same.

Mat

It’s so weird isn’t it? I wonder whether early black actors in slightly more racist late 60s Britain might have felt the same thing? That suddenly the covert racism that was inherent in all their interactions with nervous white people just melted away. I wonder if that happened?

Liz

I think the interesting thing particularly like when I was at that event though is I think it also does change you. Because I think I went into that event more confidently.

Mat

Yes. Golly is it a two-way thing?

Liz

So I do, I don’t think it’s just how other people are reacting to you. I think how you feel about yourself. And I hate that in a way because why should it Matter what I do for a living, it doesn’t Matter.

Simon

You see this is why I miss BBC Ouch podcast with Mat Fraser and Liz Carr because we could just leave you, me and Steve could keep quiet for an hour, you two could just do it and it would be a joy.

Liz

But you can see why it didn’t work anymore. We lost touch. Look at us. “Well I was in the private member’s bar”.

Simon

With  Russell Brand.

Liz

((0:14:08.0?)) was at the Golden Globes.

Mat

Well they used to tell us didn’t they, not that story it’s too lovey, it’s not ordinary people.

Liz

I’d have to talk about chiropody wouldn’t I just to bring it down.

Simon

We’re going to get back in. Thank you very much, Mat. I think Steve and I’s moment of the month are going to be a bit pants now aren’t they?

Steve

I was going to say I can’t really compete with that.

Mat

Oh no, what are they? Come on!

Simon

Thanks, thanks for asking, Mat.

Steve

Mine was actually related to showbiz and stardom and all this stuff in the sense that this might be; I saw Robocop the remake. I remember the first Robocop was fantastic I thought the first one and I remember the first one not being as shot to pieces as this new remake. This guy has got a head and what seems to be some lungs and that’s it. And I just couldn’t work out where they were going with this, they didn’t really kind of…

Simon

Because you asked me is that a disability.

Liz

Being a head and lungs.

Mat

If you’re famous.

Steve

Well that’s the thing. You’re right, now you think about it there was no humour. I think there was humour in the first one much more so.

Simon

It was witty wasn’t it?

Steve

It was witty.

MAT

It was self-aware. It sort of poked at society a bit didn’t it?

Steve

Yeah. And I don’t know if the disability issues came in as much in the first one as the second one. In the second one they kind of really didn’t touch on it. The fact I was just thinking it’s just a head and a pair of lungs and that was it. Have you not seen it?

Simon

I think I saw it on a plane but I couldn’t bear it. I just thought the first one was so silly it was fun but this was just a bit…

Mat

You know a film is bad when you don’t enjoy it on a plane.

Simon

Yes exactly.

Mat

Because somehow all your critical faculties leave you on a plane don’t they?

Liz

Do you cry? I cry at films all the time.

Mat

I cry at pretty much everything.

Simon

There’s that myth, I don’t know if it’s true, that you’re suddenly a bit more sensitive on aeroplanes. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

Steve

And you can’t walk out on it either can you? Simon, what about you Matey?

Simon

Two quickies. The first is have you heard about the new app called ‘Be my eyes’? This is a new app for blind people and the theory is so you're a blind person, you’re making food, you don’t know which sauce you’ve got there because you've got two jars that are exactly the same. Oh you could smell them couldn’t you? You’re deciding on what shirt and tie to wear. You press your button. It spins off to someone who can see and get a visual because they’re using their camera phone, the blind person, and they say that’s a red tie and that’s a grey shirt, it works well.

Mat

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Liz

Of course.

Simon

Exactly! Which is… Okay what are you thinking you two?

Mat

Yeah Mate, that’s the red one.

Liz

Put them together…

Mat

Yeah go on, that looks great.

Simon

It’s so open to abuse isn’t it? I’m glad we’ve started on the negative rather than the positive.

Liz

Are people vetted?

Simon

I don’t know that. I do know you score points.

Mat

Oh yeah that’s it, put the shorter dress on. Oh yeah that looks really good.

Steve

Suntan lotion

Mat

I’m just saying it could go to those horrible places.

Liz

Bring the dog into shot.

Mat

That’s it, a little bit more.

Steve

You should ask Tim…

Simon

But in the melee…

Steve

You just ask Tim in the dressing room and he like they’ve gone off on one.

Liz

Blind Tim?

Steve

Tim.

Simon

Tim Gebbels.

Mat

Tim Gebbels, the voice.

Simon

And he happened to be there in that melee of the crazy room, so I said, “What do you think?” And he said, “Do you know what? I’d pay a fiver for that every time.” Interviews and stuff.

Mat

Oh! That’s humbled us.

Simon

If we’re less cynical and… Don’t get me wrong I thought what a brilliant idea and I thought oh my goodness we could have fun with this. I don’t know I think it could work.

Steve

But he took the wrong dog out the dressing room.

Simon

He didn’t?

Steve

He didn’t. No I don’t know why I said that.

Simon

Okay. My other little bit which is semi-serious. So we met with some friends who were over, when I say we, Steve was there, in St. James’s Park. I got on my little scooter and there’s a two year old daughter and she came over and obviously fascinated by the scooter. And within a minute or two she was sitting on the chair next to me and I was riding along with her. And my friend who’s the father sort of said, “Are you okay with that, Simon, you know it’s not a toy and you’re not a circus show” kind of thing. And I kind of went, “You know what, I am alright with it” it’s more like sort of eight year old boys who want to go crazy on it. But there was just a little bit of me I suddenly caught myself and it was absolutely fine. But I know when I’ve been out with you, Liz, you’re very protective of your wheelchair space, it’s not to put loads of rubbish on. But if kids wanted to jump on how would you be?

Liz

I’d just not want them near really.

Steve

What if they’ve seen you on Silent Witness?

Liz

Do you think a parent’s - a nine o’clock show. But I have done CBeebie’s children’s TV.

Steve

You have.

Simon

Of course you have.

Steve

You’ve done Jackanory as well haven’t you?

Liz

It’s that, it’s bedtime stories.

Mat

So jealous.

Steve

Jackanory!

Liz

I know it was great. But I expected children to sort of flock to me like I’d be the Pied Piper but it hasn’t happened at all. That, to be honest, Simon, that has never, ever happened to me that a child has wanted to.

Mat

Maybe it’s also because there’s no platform for them to go.

Simon

Well a wheelchair’s different from a scooter isn’t it? A scooter is maybe is a bit more.

Mat

There’s a place for the kid. And you see so many kids on nana’s scooter shopping. It’s like I don’t know it doesn’t seem to be the same kind of disablist abuse.

Simon

It’s more of a fairground ride.

Mat

We’ll just tack on to the back of a wheelchair.

Liz

I thought about you earlier, Simon…

Mat

Shoo. Mush, mush or whatever.

Steve

Simon did charge the girl though didn’t you?

Simon

Yeah, yeah. A small fee, a fiver.

Mat

Two pounds and our last one on the ride now.

Simon

The original question the answer’s no.

Liz

Okay.

Simon

The reason being I need to sit you see. So the segways…

Liz

You’re more disabled than I think you are sometimes, Simon.

Simon

Thank you very much.

Mat

Do you have a Segway?

Simon

No but I know there are segways…

Steve

You need to Segway into the next section.

Simon

The Segway that I know if they put… A short friend of mine has now adjusted them, so they put a little seat on it like a little bicycle seat so now you can do it.

Mat

Maybe I could now use one because my problem is I have to lean so far forward just to reach the handlebars that by the time I do the pushing it a bit forward I’m actually falling forward on it.

Liz

But isn’t there a weight thing as well because when I’ve seen the thing I’m too light to go on one.

Steve

Simon’s supposed to be too heavy.

Mat

Isn’t there a sensitivity thing like a mouse, the distance of a mouse.

Simon

Thanks for that.

Liz

If anybody knows could they please write in.

Simon

There’s George’s one…

Mat

It might be the bloke who invented the Segway writing in will it?

Simon

You know there’s children’s ones and adult’s you can get really cheap ones imported from China.

Liz

Are you going to get one?

Simon

I’ll give you my contacts.

Liz

I’d love you to have one.

Steve

I think that would be immoral.

Simon

Yeah I think they’re great.

Mat

That would be abusive and immoral.

Simon

Brilliant. That’s a lovely way to segway out…

Steve

That’s a segway out of the segway.

 

[Jingle: Contact us by telephone or text on 07756 190561.]

Steve

So, Liz Carr, I watched Silent Witness for the first time because I…

Liz

That’s great.

Steve

…really wanted to see it and I haven’t got television - I keep saying that, I haven’t got a television - and I went on to the BBCi--… it’s fantastic. I watched ‘The Fallen Angels’. Do you remember that one?

Liz

No not really.

Steve

You don’t really know anything do you? 

Liz

Was I in it?

Steve

You were in it.

Liz

Oh that’s good.

Steve

You were in it quite a lot actually.

Liz

Oh good because some weeks I’m not and people go, “Oh you're hardly in it” and I go well they’ll probably be one episode where I’m in it quite a lot or two out of the whole series, and then the rest they kind of go, “((0:20:47.7?)) we’d better write her in”.

Steve

But there’s always a forensic bit where…

Liz

There is.

Simon

…you’ve got a bit of cloth which is linked to the homeless shelter

Steve

That’s what I was going to say.

Simon

Oh sorry.

Steve

Yeah, cloth.

Liz

Oh yes from the homeless shelter coat but quite posh.

Steve

And then you need to do this test and I couldn’t work it out and it said an ESDA test and I thought it was an Asda test.

Liz

Yeah. No I do the Asda and the ESDA test.

Steve

It was the ESDA and the Asda test.

Liz

I pat my backside Asda price.

Steve

But it was a very well written piece of drama I thought. I’m not, I’d say, surprised.

Liz

Thank you.

Steve

It’s been going for a while.

Liz

I thought you’d be in rubbish, Liz, that’s essentially what you’ve just said. No, no. 

Steve

No you were great in it as well, you were great. And the ending was great. It was a bit of a shocking ending that one. I won’t give it away.

Liz

They all are.

Steve

Are they?

Liz

And I think this series, so this will be my third series of being in it, and I play forensic examiner Clarissa Mullery. And she’s just part of the team now I think, really is part of the team. And so she’s in every episode. I’ve enjoyed watching it normally I don’t, normally I’m like, “Oh God do I look like that?” Or “Look at the wig” I know spoiler alert, or the ridiculous outfits that sometimes she wears because it’s different with each designer each series. And all of those things sometimes you don’t like watching yourself. But I’ve actually enjoyed watching it for the story this time round. So that’s good to hear anyway that you’re enjoying it.

Steve

So you’re really enjoying working on it?

Liz

Yeah I do. I mean you realise how new all this is. I mean there have been great disabled people who have been on TV for many, many years but there’s not massive numbers of us out there. So you’re really learning on the job. There’s very few people you can go to for advice you know about saying how much do you push things if something’s not going well do you push it about access for example. So if I use an example of there’s the cutting room viewing gallery in the show okay, so it’s where you look over to where they do the autopsies. And it’s up four steps. So it took a couple of shows before they actually built a ramp. So by the miracle of levitation i.e., the crew lifting me into there and then realising that really wasn’t satisfactory. But how much do you go, “Oh no I’m fine” and how much do you go, “I need a ramp this is really rubbish?”

Steve

Did anybody watching the show actually comment on the fact that it didn’t make any sense that you were suddenly…

Liz

No.

Simon

I have, I’ve been tweeting a lot.

Steve

No but what I’m saying the continuity of it but you’re just saying working on the set they didn’t realise until that way through.

Liz

No people don’t. The joy what I’d noticed because I’ve not done TV prior to this other than kind of political discussion things I’d not done any drama, is that you can get away with murder on TV. So it doesn’t Matter that I can’t do certain things.

Steve

It doesn’t make sense.

Liz

Or reach something. If the phone goes you don’t need to see me physically move across and reach it because in real life I’ve got to wheel over, stand up reach the phone, sit back… It’s boring. But they just cut it so it’s just like phone goes, next thing I’m holding it. Do you know what I mean?

Steve

Yeah.

Liz

So the magic of TV in a way means that actually you’re less disabled in some ways.

Steve

That’s what we’re going to do with this podcast, we’re going to cut bits so…

Liz

Perfect. So we’ll be less disabled.

Steve

That’s out.

Simon

I think it’s just interesting you were saying then that this is all quite new and there’s not a lot of people to go to advice for, but 20 years ago, I don’t know, when some of us…we were all involved in the campaigning trying to get better representation and so on; we would be looking at you saying this is the person, and Mat as well, who’s got through. And so we’d want you to be speaking on all these panels explaining how you did it. But you’re still saying hang on still there’s stuff to learn and I’ve got to work out when to push or when to be a bit quiet or whatever it might be.

Mat

You have to be really careful. When I had my first bout of TV in 2003 and 4 I kicked off that the disabled toilet in an unnamed studio was full of mops. And I got marked, I got besmirched. And I carried on because I’m passionate about these things and it Matters to me and I always call it when I see it. And I stopped getting offered any work. So this time when I’m in America I’ve got a Mate of mine called Lawrence Carter-Long and he’s well known as a knows stuff about disability guy; and the second I get asked any of these questions I’ll say, “Ask him.”

Simon

Ok

Mat

Because I do not… I’m once bitten twice shy and I was thinking when you were like how far do you go and I was thinking yeah I didn’t go very far at all. There were a couple of instances where the ADA people could have been called in - I’m not going to say what they were because I want to keep my job - but I didn’t say anything because of having been bitten, I’m now shy.

Steve

But do you think the American and the British system is different or do you think that you’ll still worry that…

Mat

Well in terms of giving pituitary dwarfs dressing rooms that are inaccessible to get into without help I think it’s the same.

Simon

Right. I don’t think there’s a lot of pituitary dwarfs have got a lot of work in television

Mat

They’re the second rarest type, Simon, in the whole world as you should very well know.

Simon

Oh I do but I’m saying I haven’t seen a lot on TV. Liz…

Mat

Not a lot.

Liz

What’s a pituitary dwarf?

Steve

I was going to ask that as well from a non-disabled point.

Liz

Are they the teeny tiny ones?

Mat

They’re the ones with the weird wormy thing that comes out of the middle of their head, the pituitary gland eye and looks at you.

Liz

Simon, I’m asking our resident short person.

Simon

I think when they’re not on set of American Horror Story they don’t have that, Mat. I think normally…

Liz

That’s a prosthetic.

Mat

Oh my God it was a prosthetic

Simon

Which is a lovely segway into so how… I watched four episodes of American Horror Story last night.

Mat

Which ones?

Simon

Well annoyingly it’s series one because…

Mat

I’m not in… I’m in series four, Simon.

Simon

I know, I know. But it was Netflix and they haven’t got series four yet. I looked for it but it’s not here I’m not a big fan of horror but I adored it. I cannot wait for series four now. I mean how is it for you?

Mat

Very similar to Liz actually only with an added thing. As you very well know probably I’ve been working with imagery to do with freak shows and characters to do with freak shows since about ’99.

Simon

Yes okay.

Mat

I always knew that sometime a big screen drama would come along and cast the real ones in it. I’m in it and that happened. I’ve been working with big stars who are pretending to have two heads in lobster claws and what have you.

Liz

Who are the big stars? Who are the big stars?

Mat

Evan Peters, he’s a huge star, he’s a heartthrob type Jimmy Dean star in America. Lovely guy.

Steve

Oh I know the type, I know the type yes.

Mat

And Sarah Poulson, serious actress in her mid to late 30s.

Simon

I know her name.

Mat

Very good. I mean they’re all in every series, it’s a repertory company, sorry to speak in that way, and they all play different characters in every series and it’s a different setting. So this time it’s a freak show. So of course the regulars will play some of the freaks. But I did find it difficult being put on the side lines and so basically I had like five to seven lines per episode. There were many episodes, like Liz, where you blink and you missed me, and then a couple of ones where I was really featured. But for the most part my experience was sort of being a B player and standing on the side lines in wide shots while other people had close-ups where they told the normal person how difficult it was to be a freak and that nobody understood them. And I had to get rid of a lot of inner baggage around that and remember that this was about me being in a massive American drama and not in a depiction of my own cultural heritage. Because if I focused too much on that I think it would have sent me mad. But as it is I remembered that no dude this is your in and oh my god three weeks in people are going, “Are you the guy from American Horror Story?” And I’m like wow a lot of people watch this. A month later they’re going, “Excuse me, are you Mat Fraser?” And then the other day I was in LA at the baggage carousel and after the three Goth girls had had their photo with me…

Simon

I bet they were loving you.

Mat

Goth they love the horror. A guy came up, an earnest guy with a pad and a pencil, and went, “Excuse me, Mr Fraser, can I have your autograph” and that really freaked me out because that only took ten weeks. I’m unknown in America six months ago and I can’t move, every five minutes I get stopped.

Steve

When this series comes out big time here as well do you think the Americans are more into that fame game?

Mat

Oh much more. Oh absolutely.

Steve

That’s the royalty I think for them. Show business is royalty.

Mat

It is really weird.

Steve

You were saying there’s a group of actors who play each series, so are you just coming into this series or are you now regarded as part of the…

Mat

Well we’ll see when they do the next series and whether I get called or not. Obviously I hope that I’ve paid my dues. I got some nice compliments from Ryan Murphy saying we think you’re a terrific actor at the office and we love your work, thanks very much and all that. But you know it could be a stock letter for all I know. We’ll find out in about March.

Steve

Okay.

Simon

Can I broaden it out a little bit.

Mat

Yes please.

Simon

So Oscars month The Theory of Everything, Imitation Game - I’m thinking of you two, I’m thinking of Warwick Davis now who is everywhere on television and Lisa… the list keeps going on. Let me pick that bit of The Theory of Everything and Imitation Game which is non-disableds playing disableds. Have we cracked that? Is that still kicking around?

Mat

Have you been asked about it a lot recently?

Liz

I’m so bored.

Simon

Oh I’m sorry.

Steve

There is a point that we did discuss…

Simon

Just give a one word answer.

Mat

No, no.

Steve

About the Theory of Everything is that there’s an actor who plays it because he’s not disabled to start with.

Simon

It’s about Stephen Hawking.

Mat

The last time somebody asked me if I thought it was okay because they had to show the getting worse bit and I said I actually think it would be perfectly reasonable for a disabled actor to do a role where he or she had to pretend to be able-bodied until they gained the impairment that the actor actually has. I think I’d love to see something like that and I refuse to answer the question and just flipped it for them. Here’s the thing - it’s my new one; it’s really easy to pretend to be disabled. ((speaking like a person with cerebral palsy)) I can pretend to have cerebral palsy like anyone else. Right that was really offensive, ((overlapping voices - 0:30:34.0?)) that was really offensive but I’m just proving a point.

Was it only my school where Oscar worthy performances of cerebral…

Steve

Oh I see what you mean.

Mat

…palsy abounded in playtime…

Liz

Oh it was the Joey Deacon thing wasn’t it?

Mat

…where every single speech impediment was worked through in the lunch hour. Was it only my school where everyone was really good at pretending to have a load of impairments? Why are you getting awards for it?

Simon

So do you think the gushing about the awards is actually it’s the concept of someone playing the role, something that happens to somebody which is the bit that gives them that extra mileage?

Mat

It’s the whole thing of the metaphor of disability being some kind of personality Maturation and experience.

Liz

And there’s incredibly kudos to be had by non-disabled it’s a prowess thing isn’t it?

Steve

My Left Foot remember he…

Liz

Absolutely. Born On The 4th Of July, Rain Man - we’re talking all the Oscars here.

Mat

It’s complicated by the fact that this year it’s a character that becomes disabled from being non-disabled, that does complicate the argument.

Simon

I got slightly annoyed because The Guardian and a few other newspapers were writing all these articles saying why is this still happening. I’m like you picked the wrong horse to back. There is an argument for why.

Mat

This is a grey Matter this one, this is a grey area this one. But the way I ended my little outburst about how easy it is to play impairment it’s not like it’s as hard like showing emotional conflict this stuff with acting, with your eyes on television. And when some people say no but it’s the combination of doing cerebral palsy and inner conflict. I’m like, “No that’s just like being sad in Scottish instead of being sad in English it’s really easy.”

Simon

We did speak to Lost Voice guy, you know Lost Voice guy Lee Ridley and we asked him just what he thought of The Theory of Everything.

Lee

As a fellow communication aid user I think it will be interesting to see how that part of the story is covered in the film. I’m especially interested to see when he became comfortable with the voice that he uses. Obviously it doesn’t sound like he would sound so I’m guessing it took a bit of time to get used to. Just like I’m still not used to sounding like a posh version of Robocop. I think the movie will get the issues surrounding communication aids out into the mainstream as well which is good, although I am tempted to go and watch the film, sit at the back and just mess with people’s heads by saying random sentences.

Simon

Thank you lost voice guy.

Steve

He mentioned my Robocop as well.

Liz

I don’t think it will change anybody’s perception of disability or speech aids or anything like that. I think it will be all as it is at the moment, “Oh wasn’t that an amazing performance”, “Isn’t it Oscar worthy?” I think spoiler alert the upsetting bit of the film is - I’m sorry I don’t know if you know this - Stephen Hawking has being cured.

Mat

What?!

Liz

At the end of the film he stands up. He gets out of his wheelchair. He unfolds…

Mat

Oh because it’s the inner real Stephen.

Liz

Yes! Have you seen that one before?

Mat

No.

Liz

Have you seen the film?

Simon

It was inside he was dancing.

Steve

But I heard, I haven’t seen the film because Simon and I meant to watch it and review it for the next month’s one.

Liz

And you haven’t got a TV.

Steve

Well yeah that’s true. I’ve got a mini cinema in my house.

Liz

Oh okay.

Steve

No I haven’t really.

Liz

With a popcorn machine?

Steve

It’s lovely. What was I going to say? The actual film was more about relationships rather than disability.

Mat

Apparently the woman’s performance is so good that she should get an Oscar.

Steve

I thought she was great.

Mat

Okay.

Steve

So Mat and Liz we’re going to go on to… You met on BBC Ouch all those years, how many years ago was that?

Mat

We actually met in a car park in Cardiff in 1995 but we don’t need to go into that.

Steve

That’s another story isn’t it I know.

Simon

Thanks Mat. I just want to check the BBC Ouch podcast was kind of ground breaking.

Mat

We broke ground, Liz.

Simon

We’ve got some clips which we’re going to insert but the bits that you did it was just irreverent, it was throwaway, you messed around with it and you got huge numbers following it. Did you love it; was it great to do?

Liz

It still rates for me as the best job ever. And in its heyday for a number of years, maybe four/five years, when we… We were under the radar at BBC, podcasts were new, I know we all speak in this language now but you didn’t back in 2005 and 6, and so it was a really radical idea to let’s talk about disability in the way that disabled people do. No holds barred, not censored. The language of crip and talking about all the stuff about our lives and nobody did anything; we weren’t censored particularly, we didn’t have compliance from BBC.

Mat

They didn’t listen to it did they?

Liz

There was nothing like it. To the point that still I’m most known in the States amongst the disability community for the Ouch podcast. People still talk about it as if it was a major shift.

Simon

We’re just going to have a little listen to a clip, and this was only the second show and you were talking about the reaction to the first one where some people were saying this is a bit unpolitically correct and so on, and how you deal with that.

Mat

[Playing clip

Mat: What was all that about?

Liz: Well they wanted to know what this whole podcast malarkey was about. A lot of people don’t know what a podcast is so they wanted to know what the new technology was. But also there’s all this talk now that the podcast was quite un-PC and quite irreverent, Matthew. Now I’m quite surprised at that.

Mat: I don’t know what they can be talking about.

Liz: Do you know what it’s about?

Mat: No. Now we walk on eggshells like everybody else…

Liz: Oh totally.

Mat: …when it comes to the handicapped.

Liz: Yes

Mat: I don’t see what the problem is.

Liz: Yes. We’ve done our disability awareness training.

Mat: We are tragic, yet brave.

Liz: I actually think I’m more tragic than you are, Mat. Really I think it’s true - have you seen me? Do you know what a struggle it is to get up every day, Mat, do you know what it’s like? I have 18 carers that have to come in all at different times of the day: one to put one sock on, the other to comb my beautiful hair. What about you how many helper people do you have?

Mat: Well I have no thumbs and so I need help with pretty much everything.

Liz: Oh I’ve seen you put your shoes with your mouth.

Mat: Just two pence an hour can make our lives worthwhile.

Liz: Download the podcast. Keep listening. Keep us in work. Keep us with a reason to get up in the morning.

Steve

I found that really funny. But also what I found was that you’re saying has disability, the talking about it moved on and in actual fact I don’t know if it has then because that was ten years ago and in a way I can’t see that happening on television or radio.

Liz

It certainly and you know I think both of us stopped doing the podcast because issues of compliance and politics became such that it just wasn’t what it was.

Mat

It was once - I hate to say it - but once non-disabled people, not the good sort, the sort that feel uncomfortable with disability traditionally, our directors’ bosses started listening. And all the rubbish that they’d been told about disability started to crash down on us. Then there was the survival thing we had to go all the way to the top didn’t we and we were like saved. But then they offered a space in News which although at the time I’m sure they thought oh good we’re embedded, we’ll be save, it also meant they had to comply with news rules and it just pulled the guts out of the programme.

Steve

But that to me didn’t make any sense to go to News.

Simon

Well hold up, hold up let me be brutal here - would you rather have 500,000 people listening to you in a slightly tamer show, or do you want 20,000 people listening to you and you do your own thing?

Mat

Well I believe that the 20,000 would have become 500,000 anyway and absolutely I mean it wasn’t fun, I left when it wasn’t fun. It was my moment of the month every month for three years.

Steve

Right, right yeah.

Mat

And then it wasn’t.

Steve

Did you get complaints? I mean I’m sure you…

Mat

Yeah. The time there was a Dutch model and, do you remember the Dutch model? Thank god we had those buttons you know, the mute buttons.

Steve

Mute. Oh.

Mat

And she was Dutch and she was a non-politicised disabled person who’d been convinced by mainstream media in Holland - she’d won a modelling competition - that she was going to be a role model to other models. And we were in just in…

Liz

Merciless.

Mat

We were high on our own supply at that point the Ouch podcast. And at one point she said, “Yes I’m a role model for other models. Oh I have no neck muscles. I need my head to be held up. If it doesn’t it lolls back.” And we just lost it. And I was hanging on to that mute button for all I was worth almost falling off the table.

Steve

But she was watching you laughing obviously?

Mat

Is this right? It sounds like we’re just laughing at her impairment but we were laughing at the social ridiculousness of her belief under that impairment, not anything else.

Liz

I think the thing is you need both and I agree with Mat about with the right support the listenership could have got greater. It was very cool and a lot of non-disabled people would listen and go…

Mat

This was it they were beginning to hook in weren’t they?

Liz

Yeah. They were part of this world as well. It made it accessible. It wasn’t censored and I think that was unique.

Simon

It wasn’t nasty. I mean actually saying that it was very affectionate. We have another little clip we’re going to play. Now this was from the game that I so missed when you even stopped doing it. Again second show only this was Mat and Liz introducing the game that was called ‘Vegetable, Vegetable or Vegetable’.

[Playing clip: Now it’s time for Vegetable, Vegetable or Vegetable.

Mat: So round two of our dodgy but ironic competition where we have to guess what’s wrong with the caller on the line. Now this month’s contestant is Robin in Sussex. Hello Robin.

Robin: Hello there.

Liz: Hello. Welcome to Vegetable, Vegetable or Vegetable.

Robin: Thank you.

Liz: It’s quite something isn’t it? Are you excited about this?

Robin: I am indeed.

Liz: Really?

Robin: Yeah I listened to the last one it was fantastic. 

Mat: Good. Well we’re very excited to have you on the line. But let’s hear what the rules are.

Liz: Vegetable, Vegetable or Vegetable is a clever disability interpretation of the parlour game, Animal, Vegetable or Mineral. In the game the two hosts of the Ouch podcast have 90 seconds to guess what is wrong with the disabled caller on the line by asking a series of fiendishly intelligent questions. The caller must only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It is both classic and therapeutic.

Mat: To take part in this intrusive and unpleasant game the rules clearly state that you have to be disabled. Robin, are you disabled?

Robin: I am indeed.

Mat: Remember only answer yes or no.

Robin: Yes.

Liz: The 90 seconds start now.] 

Steve

So again as a non-disabled person I just find it amazing that you got away with that.

Mat

Yeah.

Steve

You must have had some stick on…

Simon

Hang on there’s a bit that I knew when you were doing this, there were two bits I should say; one, you had a queue of people wanting to be on this. You weren’t forcing anyone to be on the end of the line. The other bit that I remember which used to annoy me intensely you never took it seriously, I didn’t think you did. I know once or twice I was guest host and I was so in that competition I was really trying to pin it… I think we even got one once.

Mat

Yeah one!

Steve

But Liz was mucking around because she kept saying, “You’ve got no head” and things like that.

Simon

If you want to listen to the rest of that try and find it, it was the second show. It was joyous, joyous.

Mat

People lined up to be abused in the way that you line up because you’ve heard that there’s a restaurant where the waiters are really rude to you. And you’re like, “Oh I’ve got to go!”

Liz

It was a badge of honour as opposed to, you know.

Steve

But did the BBC I mean you went to News but did the BBC get scared or did they… Why did it really go?

Liz

It still exists and I think in their view now it reaches many more people, it’s more accessible because it’s tamer. So it reaches disabled people. In a way we had a gang. And you were a certain type of disabled person and it was a bit like being in a gang and getting it. So now it’s much more at a sort of entry level of disability, you know, “What’s it like to use a wheelchair?” “How do blind people put make-up on?” It’s that kind of… I think actually slightly voyeuristic is what it is more. But I think it’s more about disabled and non-disabled people and showing them what disability is like. I think we were just right in there going this is disability whether you like it or not.

Mat

And on course in doing so were much more showing what disability’s like than they do now. And Liz put a beautiful positive spin on it and I agree with everything she’s said, but viewed through another prism what also happened was there came a point where the management, the creative powerbrokers of the programme, were faced with the choice of standing up for their rights, sorry to use ableist language there, fighting for their own rights, sorry to use competitive language there, wishing to continue to exist within a system that maintained their rights to do what we were doing or job security, and they went with the second one.

Simon

However if I’m playing devil’s advocate you both said in Silent Witness, American Horror Story - don’t get me wrong you guys are non-stop campaigning anyway but I mean in that big love you were saying hang on we realise we’ve had to tow the line a little bit because if we shake it up too much… It’s really hard to balance that.

Mat

Absolutely. And everybody has their own line and when you’re a director at the BBC the line is a lot further back in terms of proactive crip language than it would be for either of us as happening actors in cool series.

Liz

I think for me, but also not just as a presenter of it, but also now who I am and as a disabled person, there’s very little that’s out there for me. I don’t listen to it and not in a because I’m not going it anymore, it doesn’t enrich me and it’s not funny particularly and whatever. Maybe I’ve grown out of it and that’s the thing. I think the problem is when we did the Ouch podcast it wasn’t everybody’s taste, what it is now it’s not everybody’s taste - there’s so little disability still in the media. I know this is unique having me and Mat here and some of the people you've had on but still it’s a rarity. And there aren’t decent podcasts like this one, there aren’t many of them that exist. So the problem is we expect everything from each one. We expect it to fulfil everything. There’s room for the Ouch podcast as is it now.

Mat

Absolutely.

Liz

But there’s nothing… And this gets close to where we were but it’s still…

Simon

But we’re not really, we’re still…

Liz

There’s still nothing. So I think there’s a whole bunch of us that don’t have anything that’s really about us. And maybe we just have to make that in the world of podcasting now.

Simon

You might be appearing on the screen, there might be more visibility of disability but it’s a mainstream image.

Mat

The disabled voices that create that sort of stuff are still far too absent I think. We’re getting more sightings of disabled people in existing frameworks that everybody recognises but there aren’t new things coming forward the disabled voices that I thought there would be ten years ago, I thought there would be more by now.

Simon

We’re heading to our 10th anniversary of AFP and I remember it was a quote we still use from you, Mat, which was I remember you coming to see our show in Edinburgh and afterwards saying, “I spent most of the show looking at the audience because I’ve never seen this much disability comedy on stage and the audience loving it.”

Mat

Yeah mainstream.

Simon

And also you said we waited 20 years for it. But I think maybe we’ve even calmed down a little bit. There’s that kind of real bit…maybe sometimes there’s a time and a place I don’t know. Also - sorry I’ll stop in a moment - a big compliment to you there’s two or three people we know who have come up and said, “I was abroad, I started listening to BBC Ouch and it just changed my perception of myself, of disability, where I fitted in” and it kind of just makes people blossom into something. You’re both smiling.

Mat

Smiling with pride and ah remember!

Liz

And it happens quite a lot. I mean I’ve been fortunate enough to have that experience as well that a number of people that go, “That’s how I learnt about disability” or that’s…

Simon

Through Vegetable, Vegetable, or Vegetable. That’s great.

Mat

It was inforMative.

Steve

“He’s got no head!”

Liz

And it doesn’t exist you know because I think the fact that we were on the BBC also gave it ironically it gave it kudos. Well it did of course.

Mat

Especially in America.

Liz

Yeah.

Mat

You know that. In America they think that the BBC is the voice of left of centre intellectual reason. If only they knew.

 

[Jingle: You can contact us by email podcast@abnormallyfunnypeople.com.]

Simon

A big thank you to Liz and Mat for coming on the show. So before you go, what are you up to right now, Liz?

Liz

Silent Witness. I start filming again in April until November. That’s what I’m doing on and off this year. I’m still writing ‘Assisted Suicide the Musical’ it’s a comedy I hasten to add. And if people are around at the South Bank don’t come to the Member’s Bar, well do if you want to get a fiver, but I’m going to be MC-ing an event, a cabaret women of the world it’s called ‘Titbits’.

Steve

When’s that?

Liz

It’s on the 7th March at the Royal Festival Hall and it’s free. So if anybody fancies coming down there, it’s a great show.

Simon

Thank you, Liz. Mat, what are you up to?

Mat

I’m off to Australia with my lovely wife Julie Atlas Muz to do our smash hit adult version of Beauty and the Beast at the Adelaide Arts Festival. But because it’s winter here and summer there and we like Australia we’re also adding on the Freak and the Show Girl Greatest Tits - Totally Inclusive Theatrical Spectacular, that’s that the TITS stands for - at the Perth Fringe and then at the Melbourne Spiegel Tent, the dates are on my website. American Horror Story is out currently on Fox in this country it airs on Saturday night, but it’s run its course so the last episode is this Saturday.

Simon

Thank you so much to you both. I have been beside myself with excitement about getting both of you in here.

Liz

Have you really?

Simon

Oh beyond it.

Steve

Simon, he has. He’s been non-stop.

Mat

Thank you so much. I’ve always wanted to be on this and being back with Liz in a podcast set up…

Simon

That’s the point.

Mat

Joyous. This is my moment of the month.

Liz

We haven’t done it.

Mat

This is my moment of the month.

Simon

One last question: if Steve and I go on holiday are you okay to cover for us; could you step in?

Mat

I’d love to, wouldn’t you?

Liz

Yeah. It’s very hard.

Mat

We promised.

Liz

I’m just like, “I want to do this again.”

Simon

Thank you so much.

Liz

I miss it.

Simon

Appreciate it.

Liz

Thank you.

Mat

Thank you.

 

[Jingle: If you’re enjoying the show why not leave us a review. Login on Audioboo or iTunes and rate the programme and leave us feedback.]

Simon

Do get in touch with us we love to hear from you. Go to our website and it will show you…

Liz

Website? What’s the website?

Simon

Oh you see they’ve still not gone have they?

Liz

Is there a website? Come on, go for it again.

Simon

Thanks you guys.

Steve

Keep this in.

Simon

Yeah go to the website and you can find out all the ways to contact us.

Liz

It’s www.abnormallyfunnypeople.com.

Steve

And they’ll also be a transcript…

Simon

Good luck, Steve.

Steve

…of this podcast there too as there is for every show. So there we go, tell your deaf friends.

Simon

Yeah. Thank you to our producer, Ann Scantlebury

Mat

Thanks Ann.

Steve

And thank you all for listening.

Liz

Thank you. We’re nothing without you.

Simon

Thank you. Bye.

 

[Playing music]

 

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