Interview: Facebook favourite Paul Ballington

For Paul Ballington plumbing is his trade, however it’s not what the comedy singer songwriter wants to do full time. All day he fixes pipes, but when he gets home he sets up a camera and shows off his own set of pipes to his rapidly growing Facebook following. I spoke to him about his recent success, as well as the money he’s raised for charity and balancing family life with music. 

“I set my page two years ago I think, it’s grown a lot over the last six months,” says Paul ‘Ballo’ Ballington. The 38-year-old, confessing he’s an old man, has been writing songs for 20 years but only recently turning to comedy and finding success through his Facebook page.

The first comedy song I wrote was Ten Pints Of Carling and that was about three years ago I think. To be honest I wrote it by accident, I sat on my keyboard to write a serious song, which is what I used to do, and then the line ten pints of Carling popped into my head and it went from there.”

Currently Paul’s Facebook page has 29,000 followers and some of his videos have hit over a million views. His most popular, a song about boy racers, was shared widely on social media. From the off he makes his opinions known with a tidy expletive.

 

You kind of hope that you write one and it takes off a little bit and that seemed to happen with the boy racer song. Even though I got tons of abuse from boy racers, it took off and I think my page grew from something like four or five thousand to about ten thousand”

Paul insists that he’s never offensive in any of his songs. “I always avoid things like race and religion, I take the mick, just light hearted humour.”

Boy Racers, however, did get some backlash but Paul just humoured it. “I picked on a bunch of people who didn’t like the mick taken out of them. It didn’t really bother me to be honest. I thought it was quite funny more than anything, not really a problem.”

In addition to the original songs, recently Paul has been covering several of the big hits in the charts by artists such as Meghan Trainor, Shawn Mendes, Galantis and Miley Cyrus. But of course with Paul there’s a twist, changing the lyrics to his down to earth and sometimes cheeky humour. He doesn’t believe Mike Posner “took a pill in Ibiza”, but that “he took a bird for a pizza.”

 

Paul’s bouncy Yorkshire charm makes him immediately likable. Starting videos with an ebullient “Ey up” and finishing them with a theatrical “I thank you,” adds to his cheeky chappy demeanour. He admits these sign ins and outs were not a conscious decision, nevertheless, they’ve become a signature mark.

As well as the Facebook page, Paul has produced an album. Memories Of Yesterday was released last year amassing a couple of hundred downloads through itunes as well as around a hundred sales in CDs but, as Paul is posting them out, he concedes big sales are difficult. “I don’t think I’ll be making my millions doing an album but it’s done alright,” he adds.

Being his first comedy song, Paul says his favourite from the album is Ten Pints Of Carling. It’s another song, however, that has been the best received. “I think the most popular on it is When We Were Kids, I think if I was listening to it and it wasn’t my own album, I’d say When We Were Kids was my favourite.”

A whirlwind of childhood nostalgia, When We Were kids is a toe tapping list of memories coalesced by Paul and his friends over Facebook, the idea to make it as relatable as possible. “I put a little status on Facebook saying can people list things they remember from their childhood, there was tons of stuff, obviously there was plenty that I could remember, but people just put all sorts of stuff down.”

Paul has also raised money for charity. He released a Christmas song to raise money for PACT, a charity through Sheffield’s children’s hospital which helps leukaemia sufferers, paying for them to have a day out. The song was rereleased the following year to raise money for Bluebell Wood, a hospice caring for children and young adults across South Yorkshire.

“The PACT one was the first one and it was quite successful that, raised near a thousand pounds, that was through downloads and we also set up a just giving page so people could contribute.”

Paul tries to perform his songs live in his home town of Sheffield as much as possible. “I’m starting to do it more and more, I put a couple of nights on around here, got a little local theatre that holds a couple of hundred people and I’ve sold that out a couple of times and I’ve played at the O2 academy in Sheffield.”

Balancing two young kids, his job and music, Paul is understandably too busy to perform as much as he’d like. “All this music stuff has come at the wrong time in my life. I’m more kind of bothered about the writing side of it than the actual performing. I’m just going along with it at the minute and seeing what happens.”

“I try not to have too much going on all at once, it just gets crazy.”

Asking whether his children have listened to his music Paul chuckles, replying: “Yeah they do, they really enjoy them. There’s only certain ones they’re allowed to listen to so I have to be a little bit careful.

“My little lad, he’s nine, I have played him songs and I’ve said when it gets to this word you know it’s not a word you use at school. There’s the Christmas song which is a totally clean song and the Get On Yer Bike song and yeah they love them, my little girl dances around to them and they were both in the Christmas video.”

A football fan, Paul has released a song and accompanying music video for England ahead of their European Championship campaign. I’d Love It is a classic jumpy football tune, immediately relatable for any fan.

 

Doing something you love as your job is something many people aspire to and this is no different for Paul. With no hesitation when asked about his ultimate ambition, Paul says: “It’s got to be doing this as a job, doing something in music, it’s not to be famous or anything like that it’s to make a living doing music, whether I’m in the background or I’m performing I don’t mind.

“My big ambition is to not be plumbing well I would say at 40 but that’s a bit ambitious because that’s 18 months away, but to be doing this as a day job definitely the ambition, not to be scratching about under people’s baths and bogs!”

 

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Tim Vine Celebrates Christmas

Every Christmas I listen to this podcast. It’s typical Tim Vine: silly, ludicrous and hilarious. The videos used to be scattered all over YouTube but thankfully they’ve been collated and knitted together. Some of the jokes are just stupid, but it’s Tim and his delivery that makes them so funny. Most of the puns are original for this podcast, not repeating old jokes, or using the ones here in his work since. The songs are more ridiculous than the jokes and the character voices even more so. The audience don’t give Tim the laughs he deserves, but he ploughs on regardless. Give it a listen, it’s half an hour of pure stupidity.

Review: Dave Gorman – Get’s Straight To The Point (Powerpoint)

[First published on Quays News 16/11/15]

Dave%20GormanIN his latest tour Dave Gorman, accompanied by support act Nick Doody, plugged in his trusty laptop to bombard the Lowry’s audience with hilarious rants about how preposterous our world has become.

The Lowry’s large Lyric Theatre was at full capacity for Dave Gorman Gets Straight To The Point*(Powerpoint). He’s a comedian that has become a beacon for laughing at the internet age with his show Modern Life Is Goodish. It’s this niche, left virtually untouched by other comedians, which he continues to explore in great depth in this new tour.

First, though, Nick Doody takes to the stage, immediately echoing the audience’s thoughts of disappointment that Gorman is left waiting in the wings. However, his set is mighty impressive, quickly diminishing the initial disappointment as he dives into risky material that he may have had second thoughts about in light of the recent tragedy in Paris. His punchlines are indeed funny, and outbreaks of laughter are frequent, but on this night a disquieting atmosphere was all too prominent.

Doody was clearly aware of the open wounds his material had touched, and part way through the act he paid his respects to the victims and also the humanity prevalent in the crisis, applauding the taxi drivers who turned their meters off, as well as those that opened their doors to offer shelter. Warm-up acts rarely make a lasting impression, but in this show Doody’s heady performance was hard to ignore.

As the stage lights dim after the interval, the speakers begin to blast out ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ which the Salford audience willingly joined in with. Upon conclusion, Gorman appears on stage to then pick apart the pleasant little ditty in his usual irate style, despairing at the absurdity of the lyric ‘if you know it’. Graphs then follow on his screen, each slide becoming funnier as he digs deeper. The humour comes from the audience’s previous blind acceptance of something so obvious, the laughter playing on the audience’s self-deprecation. Gathering an entire audience together on the same page to laugh at themselves like this is a skill Gorman, armed with his trusty laptop, has perfected over the years.

Gorman plays around with life, people and technology; essentially he messes about. He appears to be a kid at heart, but with a head of some kind of internet guru. His show mainly comprises of material gained from exploring the online world and abusing its growing input in society through ingenious stunts. It’s this need to be plugged into the internet which he draws on when confidently stating that his audience feel the need to photograph the show and share it online. 15 seconds then follow in which he permits photos with a background image of ‘No Photographs’.

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During the first half of his set he stands aside his audience to laugh at the ridiculousness of Google searches, the misuse of the phrases ‘selfie’ and ‘photobomb’ by the Daily Mail and his mum’s loose grasp of twitter. These segments of the show move swiftly, a satisfying sound effect accompanying each change of slide followed invariably with laughter from the next joke.

The main feature of the show was his unfolding of a prank he played on a colleague of his. Advertising a fake TV show called ‘Kneecap recap’ Gorman, under a different name, asked for wannabe stars to send photos of their knees, providing the email address of his friend. However, the stunt takes an unprecedented twist and Gorman, usually omniscient in the workings of the internet, admits his befuddlement to the story’s developments. Despite the routine being fun and intriguing, it does however drag on too long, with periods of extended description devoid of laughter.

A Gorman show would not be complete without, what he likes to call, a ‘Found Poem’, and this show contains two of them. Starting as a feature on his radio show, his trademark poems are amassed from comments posted under news stories and read alongside classical background music. Gorman picks out the best of an abound selection of unintelligent remarks from keyboard warriors, but it’s his comic timing, emphasis and typography on the screen that really creates the belly laughter.

Gorman in this show is his usual self which brings him much adulation from loyal fans. He nit-picks, he questions and he removes the audience’s blinkers to reveal humorous oddities that are usually overlooked. He crams material in, moving the show on quickly, but never leaving the audience behind all thanks to the giant screen behind him.

Like a hound seeking a scent, Gorman has an uncanny ability to sniff out hidden comedic treats that would otherwise go unnoticed.

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