Wednesday, 16 October 2019

I’m a joke: How a comedian *finally* told a story about me

Comedian Sean Collins at the comedy club in September 2019.
(He’s got nothing to do with this story.)
Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
I was in an Italian restaurant when a voice came through my radio. The place was dimly lit and the hum of conversation filled the warm air. I was stood behind the bar frantically attempting to book three separate tables, for three separate dates, with a bartender whose jittery fingers kept lurching to the wrong buttons on the booking app, only putting me more on edge.

“Liam, the MC is here,” the voice through my radio exclaimed.

In my now-standard fashion, I rapidly departed the Italian restaurant, swaying to avoid waitresses and the backs of customers’ chairs (not very well, admittedly) and power-walked across Villiers street and back Under The Arches. There was no particular hurry; there was still 30 minutes until the first comedian took to the stage, but I leapt down the stairs in the entrance of the comedy club, striding 3 steps at a time and then back up the stairs at the opposite side of the box office.

The funniest person in the Midlands
The MC that evening was a comic named James Cook. A radio DJ turned comedian, James won the Spike Milligan award for being the funniest person in the Midlands in 2003 and has since performed over 1000 gigs — some of which were at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe.

The doors of the comedy club had just opened when I leapt up the stairs and into the comedy room. Only six customers had entered so far and at the bar next to the DJ booth stood a large white man with long grey hair — the stereotypical look of a stand-up comedian.

I got to him just as he was about to buy a couple of pints.

“Are you James?” I interrupted the transaction.

“Yes” exclaimed the MC with a smile.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get these”, I replied whilst handing the bartender a couple of drinks voucher. (It’s the least you can do to treat your comedians to a free pint or two).

I introduced myself to him, explained it was a sold out show so should be a goodun, and told him: “If you need anything else, just give us a shout.”

James and me then went our separate ways… bizarrely.

As I retreated to the DJ booth, James headed for the front row where a lady was sat waiting for him. As I watched him approach the seats, I muttered ‘fuck’ (rather to the confusion of the sound engineer) as it clicked that I’d just bought a random customer, who had coincidentally happened to be also called James, a couple of drinks; making a right old tit of myself.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage…”
An hour later, the actual MC is on stage after the first interval (it turned out he’d gone straight to the loo after entering the club and swerved me completely). He interacts with a bloke sat on the front row.

“Hello mate, what’s your name?”

“James.”

“That’s a coincidence, my name is James too. Funnily enough, I’ve just been told a story about you…”



Denouncement
Tragically, I told this story to a colleague who pointed out that the middle aged bloke at the bar probably thought I was just flirting with him (after all, we were in Heaven). My radio and staff ID card were well hidden under my shirt and my ear piece wasn’t in yet. What this stranger saw was a twenty-something year old approach him at the bar, buy him a couple of drinks and say, “If you need anything else, just give us a shout.” The situation could have only been more suggestive if I’d winked at him and slapped his arse as I walked away.


This was originally published on Medium. Read here.

Facebook attempts to build public trust... and fails immediately.

A Biden attack ad from the Trump campaign
In audio leaked to US tech outlet The Verge earlier this month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg riled against the suggestion of harsher government regulation of big tech, stating it would actually make election interference and hate speech more likely.

The CEO boasted about the company's superior ability to deal with these issues, slamming competitors such as Twitter: "Our investment on safety is bigger than the whole revenue of their company!”

As if by on cue, Facebook then proved how... urm... unsafe their platform was.

Only a week after Zuck's comments about safe elections and wanting to "build trust" with the public, Facebook refused to take down a Trump ad accusing former vice president Joe Biden of dodgy dealings with the Ukraine - a conspiracy theory spread by Trump that has landed him at the centre of an impeachment inquiry.

Facebook eventually took some versions of the ad down, showing they can deal with safety issues on their own platform. If only the ad hadn’t been displayed over 300,000 times before they decided it violated their policies…

Friday, 30 August 2019

Amazon relaunches dark-arts PR campaign powered by 'Borgs'

Amazon's small army of Fulfilment Centre Ambassadors began tweeting again last week about how great their employer is after the company's new ‘fulfilment centre' tours came under fire for appearing to be an attempt to undermine the endless accounts of ex-employees who have highlighted the poor working conditions in Amazon warehouses.

As part of Amazon's 'dark-arts PR campaign', fourteen 'FC Ambassador' accounts were launched in 2018 to join online conversations where they could fight Amazon's corner - countering criticism with monotonous talking points regurgitated with a 'nothing to see here' attitude. The accounts perk up every few months to parrot the same Amazon-approved lines on bathroom breaks, suitable wages, and competent management. And who would have guessed, they are also staunchly anti-unionisation - as they apparently make it difficult for employers to promote staff!

The accounts have been likened to zombie ambassadors, hive-minded Borgs, and have probably caused more bad PR for Amazon than they have sufficiently addressed. In January, the accounts began creepily changing ownership; an ambassador named Michelle who occasionally tweeted about her grandchildren regenerated into a twenty-something man named Rafael.

It is reported that on-the-floor workers selected to be ambassadors (of which at least four are British) receive an additional paid day off as well as a gift card in return for singing endless online praise for Amazon and its founder. For now, the propaganda accounts continue to be run by 100% real employees, however this is until they inevitably find a machine that can do it for cheaper - in true Amazon fashion!