Transcript of #10

Abnormally Funny People March 2015 Podcast

The Rules of Engagement Show

Presented by Simon Minty and Steve Best

intro

Welcome to the Abnormally Funny People Show, with your hosts Simon Minty and Steve Best. This podcast is sponsored by Barclays. For more information please see our website abnormallyfunnypeople.com. We hope you enjoy the show.

[Playing music]

simon

It’s show 10!

steve

We’ve reached double figures Mr Simon Minty.

simon

Indeed we have Steve Best.

steve

So on to the show. A first for us.

simon

I think we’ve just said really it’s our tenth.

steve

Very funny, very funny but it’s the first…

simon

I can’t believe it, you wrote that joke…

steve

Did I?

simon

…and now you’re taking the mickey out of it.

steve

I am a little bit. But it’s the first in that it’s the first time we’ve had guests on who are married to each other.

simon

Nice. So let’s meet them. One part of this marriage is Kiruna Stamell.

kiruna

Hello.

simon

She started out as a dancer. She still is one. But now is also a very successful actor amongst other people has acted alongside Geoffrey Rush and Ricky Gervais, and she’s just finished a run for the National Theatre, their production of ‘Great Britain’.

kiruna

Hello. Thank you.

SIMON

Hello again.

kiruna

Thank you for noticing.

STEVE

And we have Gareth Berliner, a stand-up comedian and actor, recently making his TV acting debut playing Macca in Coronation Street. And together they run a production company called A Little Commitment which produces both children’s theatre, adult comedy shows and disability led workshops.

SIMON

Okay. Shortly we’re going to be asking our guests for their ‘Moment of the Month’ which should be something interesting and disability related for the recent past.

STEVE

And then we will spend some time talking to them about their work.

SIMON

We also have a new part of the show, this is Robin Christopherson who is from AbilityNet and he’s going to be talking to us about all the news around technology and gadgets and disability.

STEVE

And we’re going to review an audiobook called ‘Why Are You Pretending to be Normal?’ by Phil Friend and David Rees.

SIMON

We’ll finish, as always, with your messages to us.

[Jingle: If you’d like to get in touch you can email us on podcast@abnormallyfunnypeople.com.

Okay. Let’s kick off with moment of the month. Kiruna, your moment?

kiruna

Oh okay. I was in a supermarket, well I was in a supermarket with my husband.

GARETH

And it was outside initially.

KIRUNA

What do you mean outside?

GARETH

It started off outside.

KIRUNA

Oh it started outside the supermarket.

GARETH

It did start outside. It’s a shared story.

KIRUNA

Well do you want to tell the first bit of the story because you saw the first bit…

GARETH

Well you missed a bit.

KIRUNA

And then I got the end. It was like a play of two acts.

GARETH

Yes. So we were outside the supermarket…

STEVE

This is your double act.

GARETH

Yes. It’s unintentional completely but our moment of the month happened together which often now our moments of the month do happen when we’re together because we’re together quite a bit.

KIRUNA

Yeah fairly frequently.

GARETH

So we were walking into our local Tesco and just before we were walking in, Kiruna missed it because she’s kind of oblivious and she experiences discrimination probably on a daily basis. So we were outside and as we were walking in there was a bunch of very young girls about 18, 17 and as soon as they saw Kiruna, Kiruna didn’t hear it she missed it, but they properly did a “Aahh” because in their heads she looked cute and needed to be objectified.

SIMON

Can I…? So for the listeners, Kiruna’s short as well.

GARETH

Oh yes, sorry Kiruna has dwarfism.

KIRUNA

Oh yeah I have dwarfism I should say. I always forget that it’s like a podcast.

GARETH

Yeah we’re on radio or podcast. So I probably should have not mentioned it because if Kiruna’s missed it I don’t need to flag it back in her face, but it annoyed me and then when I walked in I just happened to mention, “Oh I can’t believe those girls just ‘ahh’d’ you” because it was just really annoying.

KIRUNA

But I hadn’t seen it so I just thought, “Uh whatever” you know. It’s weird I seem to run a bit of a card system. You get a yellow card and then if it’s in my face then I’ll red card you. But I though I missed it let it go. The girls are a bit dumb, their eyebrows are ridiculous, I will set it free.

GARETH

But we did talk about hindsight you see because when we can in we both said, “I wish we’d said this”.

KIRUNA

Yes. And then what happened was queued up for the counter there I am and Gareth was at the counter paying and we were also standing with our policeman friend, who I like to mention because I feel like it gives me credibility that I was there with an officer of the law.

SIMON

In uniform?

GARETH

No.

KIRUNA

No he wasn’t in uniform because I would have like to have got those bitches arrested. But right in front of my face, this time louder, they turned to me and one of them goes, “Aahh bless, it’s so cute.” And I just went, “Oh!” I said, “Can I just ask” in my kind of school teacher voice, “why you feel it’s okay that you're completely objectifying me?” And she did that kind of classic where they blank like. “La, la, la, la I can’t hear” and started talking to one another like I no longer existed.

steve

Oh my goodness.

kiruna

And I was just like because you know, “I’m just here doing my shopping and my body doesn’t need to be here for your comment; or are you just very ignorant? Are you on drugs? Because if you’re on drugs at least I could kind of go well on a normal day to day basis you’re kind of a nice considerate person.” And they were just so ignorant and they just couldn’t understand the fact that I was even speaking to them.

SIMON

So they just ignored you remonstrating?

kiruna

Yeah. And looked confused like as if what I was saying was really irrational. And I actually wasn’t even shouting I was being just chatty.

SIMON

Does that not get as equally frustrating as the “Ah”?

KIRUNA

Well I then actually just said, “I’m so sorry that this is what you're like. I pity that this is your natural state of being.”

GARETH

But then what was funny was exactly what I’d said to Kiruna I wish I had said I then had the opportunity to say, and no excuse not to say it. So I then went back to the girls and said, “Listen, just so you know she’s really not that cute, she’s an absolute see you next Tuesday, rather than say the actual word” I did actually say the word at the time. They looked at me a little bit perplexed and I went, “Yeah I’m married to her.”

KIRUNA

I don’t know what you do with it.

SIMON

But they acknowledged you?

KIRUNA

Did they acknowledge you?

GARETH

No I don’t even think, I think it just all was so surreal to them…

KIRUNA

It’s hard to read their expressions...

GARETH

That’s what’s weird about it.

KIRUNA

…because the eyebrows were all slightly misplaced.

GARETH

Yeah and drawn on.

KIRUNA

So they kind of could have been saying anything.

SIMON

I do feel moment of the month has been hijacked by Gareth and I am going to make it even worse, but obviously Kiruna and I know that and well Gareth said it, if we spent our whole day looking for that it would be exhausting and demoralising and everything else. The bit I find really interesting is when I’m with somebody else - it might be out with Steve - and someone else spots it and then they have to decide whether they’re going to tell the person and that’s kind of an interesting pitch. Do you have a system for that between the two of you now?

GARETH

Well I think there is a system.

KIRUNA

Well it was difficult when we first got together actually I think because it was very new for Gareth because Gareth’s disability is less obvious unless he takes is shirt off. People always assume he’s non-disabled. And so Gareth was noticing it everywhere because for him it was very, very new.

GARETH

Absolutely.

KIRUNA

And obviously he loved me and was falling in love with me at the time so you’re in that kind of weird your eyes are wide open…

STEVE

Was he allowed to say, “Aahh” like that?

SIMON

Presumably you would get quite protective and angry?

GARETH

Massively.

SIMON

Because this is brand new.

KIRUNA

But he’d tell me about it. And the difficult thing is because sometimes I notice it, sometimes I don’t notice it but when you also fancy somebody at the beginning of a relationship, me noticing it and then having it mirrored back to me by the person that I was falling in love with, even though he needed support from me in terms of how to deal with it was difficult because I was kind of then almost copping it twice. So I was copping it as the person who was being discriminated against; and then I was copping it as the victim but also the person who knew how to deal with it best and had the most experience and needed to support her partner in that journey.

STEVE

It’s quite complex.

GARETH

The first or second time you would sit down and explain what was going on and ((0:08:03.4?)) how I…

KIRUNA

Well you know what I would actually say on our first date…

GARETH

It happened on our first date.

KIRUNA

…this was when I knew that Gareth was actually definitely up there in being a runner for being ‘The One’.

GARETH

I was close at that point.

KIRUNA

Because on our very first date a car drove past the two of us out together and somebody…

GARETH

We’d only just left the house after tea.

KIRUNA

Only just left the house. Wound their window down and yelled, “Grow up” at me as if the direction had been the problem.

SIMON

People shout that at you a lot Steve though don’t they?

STEVE

Yeah.

SIMON

And on stage.

STEVE

Constantly. I get that constantly. There’s a reason. And my wife does that as well. Everybody.

KIRUNA

And what was really lovely was Gareth was the first boyfriend that I’d had at the time who didn’t get all cocky and it’s not a problem and this stuff never upsets me. Gareth was actually the first boyfriend that went… Well he waited actually which was lovely because he didn’t want to spoil the date, and then I remember the next day he said, “When that happens how would you like me to handle it?”

SIMON

Great.

KIRUNA

So he was actually the first boyfriend I’d had who properly actually maturely talked about it.

GARETH

Kind of after it.

SIMON

And had been on some disability quality training.

KIRUNA

And I just kind of what we’ve settled on is if it’s directed at me and I notice I prefer Gareth to stand next to me and support but say nothing and let me speak. Because often me speaking actually bursts their little bubble in the first place. If Gareth notices and it comes into his realm and it upsets him but I haven’t noticed I’m happy for him to do what he needs to do. But at the same time because he’s an average height man he needs to be careful that he doesn’t get thumped.

SIMON

Yeah.

STEVE

Gareth, what about you is that your moment of the month or have you got another?

GARETH

That’s pretty much my moment of the month. I suppose my moment of the month occasionally is service stations coming back from a gig if I’ve got my feed on or on my way to a gig and I go to use the disabled toilet because I can change my backpack in the disabled toilet because there’s room, and I also take it to be a more sterile environment.

STEVE

Go back a step because listeners won’t know…

SIMON

The audio feed to the podcast is that the audio feed you meant?

GARETH

No. Sorry yes I should explain. I have a nutritional backpack that I wear probably every other day because I have short gut syndrome which means I don’t fully absorb the nutrition that I eat, so I have a nutritional back up via a backpack. I won’t use a disabled toilet if I don’t need to use it, but when I’m connected to the backpack and I want to disconnect or reconnect I’ll use the disabled facilities. And obviously I get a few looks for walking into the disabled facilities. And the other one will be, which has happened only this month, I did a gig with the backpack on because I hadn’t finished and then what I have is an audience looking at could you just relax, just take your backpack off like what is the matter with this guy.

SIMON

You’re here for 20 minutes you’re not going anywhere.

STEVE

Where’s he going? But as a stand-up ((0:10:50.0?)) one of the questions later one somebody might bring it… But as a stand-up you obviously then have to talk about…

GARETH

I then have to talk about it yeah. I’ve never felt comfortable to get away with wearing it for a gig but not mentioning it.

STEVE

I like the idea though.

SIMON

It’s quite funny.

STEVE

There’s a lot of comedians who do it. I remember ((0:11:03.5?)) just coming on with some juggling clubs and just doing his act and not mentioning the clubs and then just walking off with them.

GARETH

And ((Cogs - 0:11:10.0?)) will do it sometimes with his guitar. He’ll bring his guitar on and never actually play it, he’ll have it on his back.

SIMON

When you come out of a disabled loo or the accessible loo and there’s people there do you then have to feign another one, like a limp of some sort?

GARETH

No. A limp is always tempting. A limp is always tempting. What I tend to do is if I’m attached to the backpack…

SIMON

Big show.

GARETH

…I actually pull out, make a big show of pulling out the line and putting the line back in just to go like, “I’m qualified”.

SIMON

But do they then go, “Aahh”?

KIRUNA

“He’s so cute.”

GARETH

No I never get aahs, I never get aahs unfortunately. I wouldn’t mind one of two. I think I’m a cutey.

SIMON

I won’t because you're here, Gareth, but I could call Kiruna cute and that would be okay because you would know I’m not saying cute and cuddly.

KIRUNA

No because I get your politics though.

SIMON

Yes exactly.

KIRUNA

Because there’s certain understandings that you get within friends that you start to be able to kind of play with things, but yeah.

SIMON

Thank you both of you. But thank you Gareth for your moment and Kiruna a moment ago. Steve Best our token non-disabled have you managed to rustle up a moment?

steve

A couple actually and it’s kind of related to Gareth really because we did a gig together recently.

GARETH

We did yes.

steve

At the JW3.

GARETH

Yes.

SIMON

Oh was it the lift?

STEVE

No the lift, what the lift…

SIMON

The special lift.

STEVE

It wasn’t the special lift but there is a special lift.

SIMON

Okay. When Gareth and Steve start doing comedy related stories we lose them for about 25 minutes.

GARETH

Yes sorry about that.

SIMON

No, no, no I love it but just to warn.

STEVE

No but I did notice because it goes back to the point I said before about doing disability stuff in your set. So you were comparing that night and I did notice that you didn’t do anything about disability.

GARETH

Yes.

STEVE

Why was that? Was that a conscious…

GARETH

No it’s because I can do comedy without talking about it because I have the luxury of it’s not something you see so unless I come on stage with a backpack the audience doesn’t know that I have any disability. So if I choose not to talk about it they don’t need to know at all.

STEVE

Okay. So that kind of was my it wasn’t really…

SIMON

That’s your non-disabled moment of the month.

STEVE

Yeah it was my a non-disabled moment. So, Minty, what about you?

SIMON

I have a couple. One is a sort of overlap with you, Kiruna, here. I got an email asking for some actors, there was a corporate video being made around training they said do you know any disabled actors and there were a few other bits. And I sent one to - oh I’ve got myself in trouble - to a short actress I know and I didn’t send it to you so why am I telling this story.

STEVE

Good one. You’re bright red.

SIMON

I knew you were really busy, that’s why. Anyway I sent to the person…

kiruna

You can’t afford me and you know that.

STEVE

You’re too cute.

kiruna

I’m too cute. The camera would break.

SIMON

And I left it and then I got an email a couple of months later from her and she said, “Thank you so much. I got the work and I’m doing it” and she said, “and I’m thrilled because…

kiruna

So it was a good job then?

SIMON

You just pipped my line. She said, “I’m thrilled because it’s a speaking part” and it made me just remember that bit of more often than not as a short person you’re going to get asked to dress up and you’re as Lisa Hammond says the warm prop, and for this person this was great because this was actually okay I’m actually playing a human being rather than all the other stuff. So that was one little moment for me.

The other bit was we were at the Royal Festival Hall, we sometimes have our meetings there about Abnormally Funny People. And at the Royal Festival Hall on all the doors as you walk in there’s a button that you can press which is always to the right and you press it, it’s a tiny little button, and you press it and the doors open. But on these doors to tell wheelchair users and other disabled people who want it, they put a big metal round, circular emblem with the wheelchair symbol on it. So I just happened to be standing by the door, I was on the phone at the time, and someone who as far as I could tell wasn’t disabled came up to the door; so she saw this big round circular thing on the door and thought that was the button. So I watched her for about a minute and I couldn’t get off the phone. And she was just banging this button which is the door just to say this is the wheelchair door. And I wanted to try and point out but it was just a joy watching this woman banging this thing and it just wouldn’t open.

STEVE

Because nothing is going to happen.

SIMON

In the end she did the thing that most people do she just pushed the door, but she was struggling around trying to get the button and it wasn’t the right one.

KIRUNA

I hate a fake button but often the disability symbols that are telling you that there’s a button nearby look like a button.

STEVE

Yes it is.

KIRUNA

Always.

SIMON

And sometimes you do get the big buttons that you just whack with anything. You can do it with an elbow or something. And it looked like it but…

GARETH

Do you know what the one I genuinely have a question about - and we don’t have anyone blind here for me to ask unfortunately - is the one on the train that I find amusing and unusual is there’s a braille sign sometimes in the toilet which is about where the sink might be or where the flush is. And I always think how does the blind person know what part of the wall the braille sign is on. 

KIRUNA

Yeah and by the time they’ve felt it…

GARETH

Are they meant to feel around the entire loo until they find some braille?

KIRUNA

Yeah but do you know what though by the time they’ve felt up the toilet they’ve probably found…

STEVE

The sink and the ((0:15:57.2?))

KIRUNA

…the sink, the hand dryer, the toilet like it’s just yeah.

SIMON

And the train loo that’s the last place I’d want to ((0:16:03.2?))

KIRUNA

Oh God yeah. And with the Virgin tilt trains as well you’d be like slipping and sliding.

SIMON

Thank you very much for your moments. Coming up next we’re going to actually speak to Gareth and Kiruna about their work and their projects.

STEVE

And after that we’ll review the audiobook “Why Are You Pretending to be Normal?”

[Jingle: Have a question or a comment? You can also text us or leave a voicemail on 07756 190 561].

SIMON

Okay, Kiruna, before we start talking to you properly we’re just going to have a little clip of you actually acting opposite Geoffrey Rush and this is in the film ‘Deception’.

[Playing clip:

1st man: I was wondering if you saw a woman leave the villa?

Kiruna: Medium height, light hair, a bit pale?

1st man: Yes.

Kiruna: That time was 231.

1st man: Are you sure?

Kiruna: Then another six. In a year and a half I saw her go out 237 times.

2nd man: What did I say?  She’s a phenomena, she remembers everything.

1st man: It’s not possible.

Kiruna: You were at the villa 63 times. 36 during the day and 27 at night, excluding the night of the accident.]

SIMON

Okay. So, Kiruna, I’ve known you for a little while, I have a confession, I sneaked in - when I say sneaked in I didn’t I bought a ticket and everything - and came and saw you in Great Britain.

kiruna

Did you?

SIMON

I did. It was the play at the National Theatre then it transferred…

kiruna

Yeah it transferred to the West End. Did you see it at the National?

SIMON

Yes.

kiruna

So you saw the longer version.

SIMON

Oh I didn’t know it had changed, okay.

kiruna

Yeah there was a bit if snippety snip between that.

SIMON

So there’s a double whammy. There’s a bit of this is someone I know who’s on stage and that’s exciting and thrilling and everything else. The other bit was it happened to be a disabled character but that’s because that just happened to be something like that in real life. And for me you held your own, I thought it was fabulous. I don’t know what was it like to be at the National Theatre playing that role?

kiruna

It was a great opportunity and amazing. I was also very lucky I think because the scenes were slightly tweaked after I was cast to account for my size, although the character that I play, Wendy Klinkard doesn’t actually have my disability; I did have to crip up which was a whole different discussion. It was very interesting though because I think still even though I’ve got a lot of credits and training behind me I would say that for a few people it was still a shock to see me in the rehearsal room. And Lisa Hammond actually talks a little bit about the seven stages of being the only disabled person in the rehearsal room where you know a little bit that you’re surprising people. That you’re able to do. So it’s not that I didn’t feel like I was on a level playing field, I felt that it was a little bit like sometimes… I guess because I’d done a lot of work but that work is done within a disability arts context, audiences aren’t necessarily familiar with it and suddenly you’re working in a mainstream capacity.

GARETH

Even with the, which I’m surprised, even with the kind of creative types, the actors, they were surprised slightly as well. I mean I always thought that they’re very open.

KIRUNA

Unless they’ve gone out of their way to google me I think.

STEVE

Really?

KIRUNA

A little bit I think, a little bit. And I feel mean saying that because if any of them actually listen to this they’d probably be upset that I think that. But just in terms of the first day some of the conversations I did have with some members of the creative team I could tell that their expectations of me were quite low.

STEVE

Wow!

KIRUNA

And they wouldn’t have meant that.

SIMON

((0:19:50.1?)) that was a very clumsy way, you didn’t hold your own you were great, that’s what I meant to say. This is kind of a bawdy comedy in that there’s some really unpolitically correct stuff in there. There was one bit that I felt, and it might have just be the night that I went, and there was lots of dodgy jokes around ethnicity or disability and stuff like that. And then at one point - and the audience laughed, I mean they were really laughing. And then the night I went there was a joke, a reference to your height I think it was, and the audience didn’t laugh they sort of went, “Ooh” it was a grumble.

KIRUNA

That was different night to night. It was interesting actually because I had a couple of people on Twitter get in touch with me and say, “Oh I don’t get it the audience were really comfortable with some of the racism and some of the gay gags, but when you were there they couldn’t quite chill out with the disability stuff”. And I think the difference was that my body was on stage at the time the jokes were being said.

SIMON

Interesting.

KIRUNA

So that’s my theory. What was very interesting for me as well there were a couple of moments where something went wrong on stage like a chair was put in slightly the wrong position, and so because of my size me and furniture is always a bit of a fumble, but it was very interesting how uncomfortable the audience were with what they perceived as real disability on stage. So even though I was acting and I was actually acting more disabled…sorry more mobility impaired than I actually am, it was interesting that when the chair was maybe one or two inches away from the table and on a rake that suddenly actually being able to sit down became a bit of an issue. And you could the tell the tension was like it was almost like its own mini performance.

STEVE

But as a comedy you would have thought that people would just take that as part of bit of slap-sticky…

KIRUNA

No. This is what is really interesting because I think this kind of tension was also a new experience for the cast and directors.

STEVE

So they couldn’t relax with it as well.

KIRUNA

There was a real difference between the audience suddenly deciding your pain and disability is real versus you’re faking it so it’s okay to laugh at. And because they didn’t know, because my body is non-conformist it was interesting how there was a natural tension that wasn’t always there for the other bodies in space; which I found actually quite interesting and actually an area that I would have loved to have pushed more. Because what I feel is that’s not actually anything to do with my acting or performance but more that we don’t see diversity represented very much. But it’s interesting that I think sometimes others make more timid choices because that real tension of, “Oh my God she’s not going to be able to sit down on the chair, what do we do, this is so embarrassing?” is also falling into their own realm of discomfort. Whereas I go, “No I love it. Make them have to watch me get on a chair.” But that’s me…

STEVE

It’s not that hard for you yeah.

KIRUNA

It’s interesting.

SIMON

I mentioned at the beginning of the show you were originally a dancer, I can’t remember how I came across this clip - and I’m not stalking you - but I found a clip of you, it might have been via your blog, and you were dancing at Ronnie Scott’s.

KIRUNA

Oh that’s new, that’s fairly new.

SIMON

Oh, oh, oh, oh.

GARETH

Instagram, Instagram it’s my Instagram.

SIMON

It was phenomenal and on so many levels. It looked like you suddenly jumped out the crowd and just suddenly did a spot. The people were watching going “Hm we’re not sure where this is going” and then you just blow the roof off. And just as a fellow short person who can hardly walk three steps, the leg movement and your dancing it was phenomenal. I just watched it and I was beaming because I just thought this is awesome. It was great to watch. And then as you always do you start looking at the audience thinking where they going? Was that improvised?

KIRUNA

Well Ronnie Scott’s actually does once a month an improvised tap night and I’d never been before and it was my last day down in London. My parents were visiting from Sydney, Gareth was over and I just kind of went, “Do you know what we’re in London they’re doing an improv night I’ve never done it before”, I mean I’ve done a lot of tap improv, I didn’t just suddenly whack on tap shoes and poof I can tap dance.

GARETH

I’ve never done this before yeah.

KIRUNA

And I signed up and I literally you sort of have three minutes, four minutes with the musicians and it was one of the most thrilling and exciting things. I’d love to more regularly do it actually. But yeah I was just live improv-ing with the musicians in the space. And that was what the night at Ronnie Scott’s is about for the tap dancers it’s a live tap jam.

GARETH

It was great. And I have to say as someone who was there…

KIRUNA

And filmed it. You filmed it.

GARETH

Yeah and I filmed it and I know what she’s capable of as a tap dancer, what I can’t presume to know what everyone was thinking, but what I definitely did feel like is that up to then the standard of tap dancers who had already been on ranged from experts to newbies doing their stuff. And I totally felt an atmosphere when Kiruna when up of exactly those girls outside the Tesco…

KIRUNA

Ah bless!

GARETH

…that this was going to be like, “Oh this will be interesting, bless and we’ll give her a round of applause.”

SIMON

Happy clappy club.

GARETH

And what’s great and you can see it in the clips it’s on my Instagram I think, you see it on the clip is Kiruna’s so cocky, because she is really good at tap, she was doing great. It really blew them away and surprised them. But what I loved most in it, which is in the clip you saw, is when she just rubs her chest with her hands like…

SIMON

That’s it, that’s it.

GARETH

And it’s kind of like, “Yeah I know I’m good.”

KIRUNA

I did get really cocky in that clip...

GARETH

And it was brilliant. And it was good she was really happy.

KIRUNA

…I’ve got to say.

SIMON

It just oozes con--… We’ll put a clip on our website if that’s alright.

GARETH

Yeah please.

SIMON

It just oozed confidence and to watch that in the best sense it was inspirational but not in that tacky sense ((0:25:14.0?)).

KIRUNA

But do you know what I think it is, the thing I love about dance and why I’m really glad that I started with it is because people look at our bodies and they make such ridiculous judgements. And the thing about dancing is that it is literally just me and my body in space going, “Yeah look at it” and here’s a skill that I can do and I’m allowed to feel all of this emotion. And what’s really bizarre is when I dance I genuinely, and if I’ve not danced for a while, I genuinely feel such huge amounts of joy but it’s definitely also coming from the disabled experience, where in the back of my head there’s me giving all of the world and society a giant, I’m flipping the bird - do you know what I mean? There’s kind of a sense of this says everything you need to know about me without words.

STEVE

Thanks, Kiruna. And Gareth, we now have Gareth. We’ve got a bit of your stand-up, you’re a stand-up comedian and actor and so we’re going to listen to a little bit of your stand-up. where was this from?

GARETH

It could be The 99 Club, it might be in Sydney.

STEVE

I think it was the Sydney one.

GARETH

Oh great.

[Playing clip:

Gareth: It’s good to be here. I’ll be honest with you I got here the same way this evening as most of the rest of the acts on the bill in ((0:26:24.9?)). Thanks for your sympathy there Sydney. You all just looked at me and went, “Yeah **** you were bullied, right?” I was bullied at school. The good news just to bring us together as a room for a minute right, the good news, I did eventually beat up the school bully. ((Applause)). It was 25 years later, it wasn’t my school, wasn’t my bully but **** you give it a go, right? I’ve never seen an 11 year old girl try that hard.]

STEVE

So you had a part in Coronation Street?

GARETH

Yeah.

STEVE

And how have you found that from the move from stand-up to acting?

GARETH

Amazing and great fun. Because the pressure’s on when you do stand-up in terms of your write and direct yourself and you have to come up with new stuff and there’s a lot of pressure. And with no disrespect to actors which is an incredible craft; I’m only just beginning to get into…

SIMON

It’s turning into a ((0:27:14.1?)) already I don’t know about that.  

GARETH

Thanks. What’s nice is just having someone give you the lines. What’s interesting about Corrie which I didn’t realise until working on it, is that there’s very little direction in the script and they knew I was a comic when they took me on which I think helped them take me on because they’re trusting people to go with their own judgement. You only get about three takes per few lines or scenes.

STEVE

That’s also very unusual for you to improvise slightly on a mainstream written show.

GARETH

Yeah and there was room and they trusted. So my very first couple of scenes I was in a pub scene and I chat up someone who’s like a main character in Corrie. And within the lines it just said something about, “You must have felt it, you know that feeling of electricity when we first met”.

SIMON

Was it a French character?

GARETH

Yeah it was a French character.

STEVE

Was it in the studio ((0:28:06.6?))

GARETH

And in the script it didn’t say anything other than “You must have felt it, it was like electricity” and I just thought it was funny to lean forward touch her and kind of spark my finger and blow it out. And it made the actress laugh. So they kept it in. And actually further on in the scene my character grabs her hand, in coming on to her, and both of by that point decided no this guy wouldn’t do that, he’s an idiot but he’s not rude, he’s not nasty, he’s just a harmless idiot. So that’s me I’ve now got a part playing a harmless idiot in Coronation Street which is quite nice.

KIRUNA

I love that Gareth has actually got to have the experience of acting and is doing so well in it because as his wife it’s really nice now that he gets…

GARETH

The money.

KIRUNA

…what I have… Oh no the money I want to be a kept woman. I’m like oh please offer him three years, please offer him…

SIMON

Presumably you really wanted to have that electricity with this woman because then you would have a longer term part if she’s a main character.

GARETH

Yeah but I didn’t even think about it. What’s been lovely is that…

KIRUNA

He’s going to try and get them pregnant the next series.

GARETH

I’m going for it, I’m going for it. She actually is pregnant.

KIRUNA

The script says…

GARETH

She actually is pregnant.

KIRUNA

…rush her back but I thought do you know what push her up against the wall and just get one in there.

GARETH

And just take her. But then the other boyfriend might come and shoot…

STEVE

And knock you out the series.

GARETH

I might get in trouble.

SIMON

This next little bit we thought we need to have a question where you both talk about your joint projects, and clearly we’ve needed that because you're both very ((0:29:26.6?)) people. But you do work together and ‘One of Us Will Die’ is that the name of your kid’s show?

GARETH

That’s right.

STEVE

Simon! I didn’t mean to tell a joke there. Oh and their kid’s show - oh the script.

STEVE

Yeah I wrote the script.

SIMON

One of Us Dies is joint stand-up?

GARETH

Yeah.

KIRUNA

Yes.

SIMON

And you have a Pirate & Parrot kid’s show.

GARETH

Which is a kid’s show.

KIRUNA

Which is theatre.

SIMON

Okay.

GARETH

Which is theatre.

KIRUNA

Yeah. And we worked with…

GARETH

Although it’s very funny theatre.

KIRUNA

Yes.

GARETH

The kid’s show, it’s really funny.

KIRUNA

And we co-created that with another theatre company which was Red Earth Theatre Company so they gave us the direction and helped us devise it. So that was a Little Commitment and Red Earth Theatre Company because they’ve got a lot of children and family friendly theatre in their repertoire whereas we…

GARETH

We were newbies.

KIRUNA

…were newbies at that. So that was a collaboration.

SIMON

And how is it, because Steve and I are good friends and we squabble all the time when we’re working together, so how is it with you two, have you got a system?

GARETH

I think, this is what I think if I can say what I think. I think in answer to that question, I think we’re like 75% easy, that’s what I think in how we work together. I think 75% of the time bang on and maybe clash heads 25%.

STEVE

What do you think we are Simon? The other way round?

SIMON

Who knows what the numbers are, who knows.

GARETH

What do you think Kiruna are you about to say we only clash 10% and I’ve just made it sound really bad?

kiruna

I think when we did Pirate & Parrot together because it was our first theatre production it was really helpful we had the outside eye of the directors.

GARETH

Definitely.

KIRUNA

Because I think sometimes when I had something in my background and I brought it to the table because it was something in my skill base you took it a little bit like, “Oh my nagging wife is speaking”.

GARETH

Yes I think that’s fair to say. I think I did take it harsher from you.

KIRUNA

So you sometimes needed to hear from somebody else even though maybe I already knew it.

STEVE

I think that’s more like 60% / 40%.

GARETH

Yeah, yeah it’s coming down now. I think you’re right. 60% of the time it’s alright.

KIRUNA

But you know we’re still together.

STEVE

You’re not doing the shows anymore.

GARETH

We don’t know how long for but you know.

KIRUNA

We haven’t phoned Relate so we must be doing something right.

GARETH

Yeah.

[Jingle: Find us on Twitter or Facebook by searching for Abnormally Funny People or using the hashtag AFP Show.]

STEVE

So this month we have a book with a curious title ‘Why Are You Pretending to be Normal?’ by Phil Friend and David Rees.

SIMON

The authors, Phil Friend is a disability consultant and he’s also the former chair of Disability Rights UK. And Dave Rees is a professional trainer and a coach. This book describes the social model of disability through a character Chris who meets and talks to various people. Let’s listen to a short clip.

[Playing clip:

“I reflected on the purpose of my visit. I was surprised at how anxious I was feeling and wondered how I should start such a sensitive conversation about disability with a complete stranger. I knew that I wanted to make the most of the discussion with him but was wary of talking about my personal situation with someone whom I had only just met. I was also puzzled because Dawn had said that George was disabled and yet I couldn’t see anything obviously wrong with him. With that thought in mind I decided that I should take the initiative and drive the agenda. Taking a deep breath I plunged in.

 

‘It’s really good of you to spare the time to see me, George. Dawn said that you might share your knowledge of disability with me and that it would help me to manage my disability more effectively.’ Then a little more nervously I added, ‘perhaps you could start by telling me what’s wrong with you.’ George’s answer took me by surprise. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me’ he exclaimed. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Oops! Not an encouraging start. I tried frantically to rephrase the question. ‘Sorry I didn’t mean to’ I stammered, fidgeting about uncomfortably on the sofa, ‘what I meant was what’s the matter with you, what’s your disability?’ I felt incredibly stupid and embarrassed. What was I doing asking such a personal question so soon. We’d only just met. Had I offended George before our conversation had really begun.”]

STEVE

So there we go. So Mr Minty before we go on with this you know Mr Phil Friend don’t you?

SIMON

I do yes in the sort of…

KIRUNA

Biblical sense.

SIMON

…needing full disclosure. I ran a business with him for about ten years and we are very good friends. And actually some of this stuff in the book I do remember because we used the material. So I will try and be not bias.

STEVE

Impartial.

SIMON

Thanks, yes that’s the word.

STEVE

So here we go. So, Kiruna, so what did you think of the book or the audiobook?  

KIRUNA

I really enjoyed it. It was interesting for me because what was bizarre was in my own kind of disability journey, an act which really in terms of having ownership of the concept of myself as a disabled person in the social model, that really began for me when I first came to England. So I felt like I’d experienced the book but the people I was speaking to all had different names. So, for me, that was actually quite an interesting experience to have my own experience very kind of closely mirrored; although mine was more through the disability arts circuit and accidentally stumbling upon these conversations. Whereas this character had signed up to a number of sessions and pre-organised meetings. I thought it was actually very nicely done and a very nice introduction to the social model of disability.

SIMON

Gareth what do you think?

GARETH

Well I thought quite similar to Kiruna but for me a lot of my education on disability really has come I feel like in the last three or four years that Kiruna and I have been married and together in that I’ve explored it far more and the politics etc. I enjoyed it and also it just reminded again of people I’d met; yourself, Mandy Colleran, Julie McNamara - certain people that have given me those kind of lessons the character picks up within the book just through conversation. And it reminded me a lot of books that I found helpful when I was a lot younger and didn’t identify as disabled but that were self-help books where a character would go on a journey, meet several characters - it may have happened, it may not have happened - but they represent emotions and feelings that you need to go through.

SIMON

It’s kind of quite nice because both of you have had your impairment, as we’re using now the language of the book, which is disabled to the world, and you’ve had them for a while but the book was written and aimed at people who might have become disabled and perhaps recently, and there’s that transition of where I’m about and something’s changed. But what you're both saying is you went through that even though you had a pre-existing impairment it was just that enlightenment moment.

KIRUNA

I think as a bornie, to steal a term that I borrowed off Liz Carr who I steal a lot of jargon off, I think you actually do go through a similar journey it’s just that it happens earlier and it’s less of a shock. So I think, for me, as a woman with dwarfism you’re a child and you're small. But children are small that’s fine. You do notice that people are a bit different towards you in terms of the way you look but you’re still a child so there’s no responsibility for that that adults are just being a bit weird and that’s their problem. Then you go through puberty and you realise you’re a short adult and then that’s different. And I think it was sort of from becoming a woman where I seemed to, in the eyes of society, not having had an adolescence I just became a weird short adult without that oh you’re a teenager that somehow it happens then.

SIMON

The title of the book is ‘Why Are You Pretending to be Normal?’ the bit that I’ve always said about me is this is my normal so the fact that I know people do find it abnormal but this is my normality, so for me… I suppose what the book’s saying is don’t, if you have something you don’t have to force yourself to try and fit in, you should be strong and understand and managing and all the other things. So yes I’m slightly answering your question. Sorry, Gareth.

GARETH

What I did really like about it in terms of empowerment and in terms of some of the lessons it was imparting were… I remember Mandy Colleran talking to me about I have an impairment, society is what is disabling for me. And that’s almost the same lesson that occurs in the book. So I found it really helpful that those things were there. And talking about language and what I loved I remember a moment in the book where he was talking about I’m suffering with. And someone said, “I’m not suffering with anything. I have this and I live with this.”

SIMON

So let’s keep this Radio 4 front row sort of moment going. Steve Best the book review as a token non-disabled person?

STEVE

I read the book because I know Phil quite well as well.

SIMON

Oh. Yes there is a hard copy.

STEVE

Hard copy and so I know Phil and he showed me the book. You showed me the book. For me I suppose because of being around you, Simon, for the last ten years with Abnormally Funny People as well I’ve kind of learnt more that way as well. But I think you’re right, I think it’s someone who for someone who’s acquired a disability it must be very much an eye opener. For me learning about it it’s more about the semantics I suppose, the words that you think, “Oh yeah that does make sense” kind of a cognitive shift in how people perceive disability, that’s the thing. It’s quite subtle in a way. But I did enjoy it.

SIMON

And bearing in mind it’s an audiobook sort of production and the voice was that agreeable, acceptable?

KIRUNA

It was. I actually felt maybe it could have gone a bit further in that because of the way it was retelling conversations I actually felt you could have done it almost as a radio play.

GARETH

I remember you saying.

KIRUNA

So you would have had the written book and then actually had the performed radio play version. But that’s me being an actress going I want all the other characters to come in, and I want to hear all of their different voices.

GARETH

((0:39:24.8?)) tell the guys to turn it into a play.

KIRUNA

No but this is what’s interesting though is that I think it’s a brilliant seat of an idea that you could actually roll out to different formats because it is so clear and so nicely structured.

GARETH

And actually as an education if you turned it into a play that was for theatre and education to teach primary and secondary schools about disability; or if they had a new student to a school that was disabled it would be a really good play.

KIRUNA

But I did actually think it was very good in that it’s something I would refer to other people. Although there were conversations as a disabled person I felt I’d already had it’s something I would definitely recommend to other people…

GARETH

But I do think if I had not been part of the disabled community through my work with Abnormally Funny People etc., finding a book like this when I was struggling to understand things would have been a massive help.

SIMON

Wow!

KIRUNA

Yeah.

STEVE

Great praise that is. So the audiobook is available from audible.co.uk and there’s a printed version available on Amazon.

SIMON

And next up we’re going to speak with Robin for all the tech news.

[Jingle: If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard please leave us a review or a rating on audioBoom and iTunes.]

Welcome Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet who is going to talk to us about some tech and gadgets.

STEVE

Robin, for those who don’t know, who are AbilityNet and what do you do for them?

ROBIN

So I’m Head of Digital Inclusion which is a very grand title. I do public speaking and lots of presentations and things on tech which is what AbilityNet is all about. We’re a UK charity. We’re the leading experts on disability and technology which is actually quite easy to say because we’re the only disability and technology charity out there.

STEVE

You’ve got a monopoly on its all.

ROBIN

That’s right yeah. Any questions you've got at all about whether you've got dyslexia or your grandmother’s losing her vision and any kind of technology, how technology can help to make people’s lives better.

SIMON

I’ve worked with you guys before and you kind of do both big company stuff but you also do individual person who might have a computer at home.

ROBIN

Absolutely. We’re brazenly commercial when it comes to delivering consultancy to make people’s websites or apps better. And then we give it to... It’s like Robin Hood really, we give it to disabled people with free services, assessments and IT support and things like that.

SIMON

So, Robin, what’s your news? What’s first up this month?

ROBIN

Well I’ve got to talk about the Apple watch really this fabled watch that hasn’t even, you know, it’s not a reality yet although we got a few sneak peeks at it. But smartphones have been revolutionising the lives of disabled people - I myself am blind - for several years now. And I don’t need to tell your listeners probably how empowering and exciting technology is to be a leveller, you know, to level the playing field for people with different disabilities. And obviously wearables is this next kind of wave of gadgets that people are getting excited about. And for people with disabilities there is some very direct benefits, you know, being able to monitor your health with lots of trackers and gadgets that even can tell your blood pressure, and blood sugar levels in some cases, and then feed that into a central repository like, for example, Apple Have Health which is an app on IOS and Health Kit which is what powers it talks to all these different devices etc. And it’s very accessible. Everything that Apple does it’s incredibly accessible so it’s the obvious choice for people to use.

And if you're blind, for example, like me and you can’t read a standard blood pressure monitor or even your bathroom scales or any kind of gadgets really unless they’re very expensive specialist ones, then this Internet of Things as it’s called, this new wave of gadgets a lot of them wearable that can talk to your phone via Bluetooth and then you can look on your phone screen and you can have it spoken back to you like I would; or if you’ve got some vision then you can have it magnified using the zoom magnification on iDevices. Or you could have it sent to a braille display, for example. There are so many possibilities.

STEVE

I just want to ask when you’re talking about the iWatch, there are other watches out there already aren’t they?

ROBIN

There are. There are Android Wear which is the operating system that Google have put out has been around for about a year now, and there are a range of them. LG have done a few, Samsung have done a few and Motorola the 360 is probably the most popular one out there. 

STEVE

Fantastic. We’ve got to move on a little bit. So have you got a second item there?

ROBIN

Well one other thing that has actually hit the mainstream news as well which is a disability specific app in this case, again it’s vision related so apologies, next time I’ll do stuff for other areas as well.

SIMON

Looking after yourself Robin okay.

ROBIN

This is an app called ‘Be my Eye’.

STEVE

We talked about that last month.

SIMON

Yes we have talked about this. What do you think in a nutshell?

ROBIN

Since you broke it last month it’s been all over the headlines so it’s thanks to you guys. What I wanted to say was now though that it’s broken the 2,000 registered blind users and something like four and a half thousand sighted volunteers. And for me personally I wanted to slag it because it is literally a very, very simple idea and a real life changer. Lots of people haven’t got a pair of eyes available.

SIMON

Just, Robin, I’m sure everyone listen to every podcast but in a nutshell this is the blind person deciding which tie to wear and they can’t, so they point their camera phone at that and they’ll be a person who is sighted who will see it and say, “That’s a red one it doesn’t go with that shirt.”

GARETH

Fantastic.

ROBIN

Absolutely. And obviously ties are very important. But imagine the fifty times a day that a blind person might really struggle to do something which does require a pair of eyes. In some instances out and about you could be in quite a dangerous situation and to have a pair of eyes on hand would be really useful. It has been used by a lot of other people though; people, I know it says, you know, either blind or volunteer when you download the app and anyone can become a volunteer. But if you want to be a consumer then you tap on the ‘I am blind’ one. But actually a lot of people with other disabilities, ((0:46:12.8?)) dyslexia, learning difficulties, cognitive difficulties etc., have been benefitting from it as well. 

KIRUNA

Is there quality control though of the volunteers?

STEVE

I was going to say we had a naughty one last month, Robin, we had Mat Fraser and Liz Carr on and they said… Yes is there a quality control, can someone just really be naughty and muck around with this or how does that work?

ROBIN

They absolutely can. When you sign up as the blind person you’re encouraged not to point the camera anywhere incriminating or compromising. And there is a block facility, there’s a rating of volunteers. So there is potential for it to be misused by the volunteer and by the blind person but it’s got all the balances, the checks and measures that make it extremely useful and relative today.

SIMON

I love the idea. I spotted it and I thought this is a great idea. As ever, we could listen to you for quite a while. I know you’ve got to go actually. So thank you so much, Robin. If people want to follow Robin he has a Twitter feed and it’s @usa2day. You can also check out more about AbilityNet by going to the website which is not surprisingly abilitynet.org.uk.

STEVE

And it will be lovely can we speak to you next month?

ROBIN

Oh a pleasure.

STEVE

Fantastic. Thanks very much, Robin.

ROBIN

Thanks all.

[Jingle: If you’d like to get in touch you can email us on podcast@abnormallyfunnypeople.com.]

STEVE

We’re coming to the end of the show and we’ll read out your emails and tweets in a moment. A big thank you to Kiruna and Gareth for coming on to the show. But before you go what are you up to right now?

KIRUNA

Well I just finished my Level One British Sign Language exam today; so I’m going to have a little bit of a break.

SIMON

Congratulations.

KIRUNA

But workwise I’ve actually got quite a few projects pending but nothing that I’ve signed off on so I actually can’t legally say anything.

SIMON

This is very showbiz. Gareth’s ((0:48:14.2?)) you’re show busy, this is great, you’re really in there deep.

GARETH

I tell you what I’m up to. I haven’t done my final exam yet in BSL so I will be doing some revision this weekend. And then I’m hoping that if I’m lucky I might get back to Corrie I’m not sure. But otherwise I will be gigging around the country as per usual.

SIMON

We will put up links to the various things we’ve talked about and obviously to your shows, your productions and various other bits. So thank you so much to both of you, it’s been a joy and really fun to have you.

GARETH

Thank you, Mr Minty and Mr Best, it’s been a pleasure.

KIRUNA

Yes thank you for having us. It’s been special.

GARETH

It’s been very special.

SIMON

You’re special.

KIRUNA

You’re special.

GARETH

Ah bless the two of you!

[Jingle: Find us on Twitter or Facebook by searching for Abnormally Funny People or using the hashtag AFP Show.]

SIMON

We have had some contact: a friend in the USA wrote to me she’d just discovered the podcast and so she listened to all eight shows on her commute to and from work doing a marathon session, but that was great.

STEVE

That’s very lovely. And Cheryl Green sent us some video clips of her cooking. She has a brain injury and we can put those links up for you.

SIMON

Very good. Another friend, Sarah Brown, she’s been listening to the show, and I got kind of confused she said again she’d listened at home over two days recovering from a back operation - it looked like she was almost joining the disability gang there.

STEVE

And we’ve had some tweets: Dorothy Loarder ((sp?)), University of Chester said, “Just started listening to you at show eight” and was very happy because she’s going through having a hearing test which we talked about that.

SIMON

That show, a couple of shows back, the hearing one we had quite a lot of good comments about that and we’re apparently very reassuring to everybody which is worrying. We’ve heard from Christina Venning she really enjoyed the latest podcast and she’s got one of her own which we haven’t checked out. Maybe we need to do a review of that. That’s called ‘The White Noise Show’.

STEVE

And as seems to be the case if you’ve missed the earlier podcast you can go back and listen to all the shows on audioBoom or iTunes and please keep writing in, we’re loving this.

SIMON

Do keep sending in ideas for things you’d like us to review. The book we just did ‘Why Are You Pretending to be Normal?’ that was someone they sent it in and said will you review it. So it might be a book, it might be a film, television show, stand-up comedy - anything you want us to have a little look at.

STEVE

And we’ve got Comic Relief 2015 coming up. We’ve been asked to get involved so we’ll keep you posted if anything happens. Actually by the time this podcast comes out we might have released it so you’ll know already.

SIMON

And as with every show there will be a transcript of the podcast on our website.

STEVE

And thanks to our producer Anne Scanterbury.

SIMON

And thank you to all of you for listening.

[Playing music]

 

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