I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife- By Isla Badenoch
By andy beecroft 20 June, 2012
Saturday night, as the Youth Jury and Green Award Jury sat in the bar still deliberating after a good 5 hours on who should win their prize, there cast an unmistakeable shadow into the room. That shadow took the form of the skinny-jean-wearing, back-combed hair-ing of John Cooper Clarke, here to perform at the screening of his new biographical film; ‘Evidently John Cooper Clarke.’
Later, emanating a presence of punk laid-back nonchalance, John Cooper Clarke glided into The Showroom cinema to give the audience what they had been waiting for- a brilliant mix of performance poetry and comedic interludes in his effortlessly cool manner. Starting with the horrors of the ‘Tiki Shirt’ to which John comments: “some things are too wide to be contained within inverted commas,” he rolls off his fast-paced lyrics with lines: “you made everybody apart from Elvis look like a prick/ You make even a monkey miss a trick.”
John then moved on to the poem ‘Living the Dream’ and the hilarious self-explanatory poem ‘I’ve Fallen In Love With My Wife.’ In his Manc twang, John had the audience in stitches with his comments on marriage, his first ending in divorce where he had to split the house: “I got the outside.” And “someone said that a wedding is your own funeral where you can smell your own flowers…a harsh judgement perhaps…I prefer to see it as a sexual relationship that is recognised by the police... I don’t want to put you off.” Finishing with the annoyance at your wife as she always brings up the times you got on her nerves at inappropriate moments, suggesting that “if you really piss her off then you get the silent treatment, so its worth putting in that bit of extra effort.”
At that, we were given the film which presented a portrait of the poet, from a young man discovering his talents, to the dark moments of drug-abuse and his loss of creative flow, to how he is now, producing poetry unlike anything ever heard before. It showed him as a brave, or more likely, brilliantly mad figure confronting the violent punk audiences of the 70’s and 80’s with his words. You also found yourself in interviews of praise and admiration for the man with comedic legends such as Bill Bailey, Stewart Lee and Steve Coogan, musicians from ‘The Buzzcocks,’ Plan B. and Kate Nash, to school teachers using Clarke as a way of getting kids interested in the possibility of Poetry (with a capital ‘P’).
After the showing, John did a further Q&A- again having the audience roaring in his comic responses. When asked about what his next ambition would be, his response was to get a “disabled sticker” so he can park in front of the venues he performs. Frustrated with the fact that a disabled person is climbing the Himalayas yet he can’t even do that so why should he get a sticker? These comments and brilliant “political incorrectness” mark John as a truly fantastic character, enjoying himself in his performance of poetry and in making people laugh.
I chatted with the director, John Ross, after the film and asked how he managed to get such famous characters involved in his interviews. Ross said that as soon as he mentioned John’s name it was an instant yes on all parts. I asked whether he ever encountered any problems with him, yet the only issue was his lack of mobile phone, so the moment he wanders off in the hotel (most likely when we saw him when trying to decide on our award winner last night), nobody knows where he is! You usually have to call his mum. Ross wants the film to turn into a panel series, going on the road with John who would interview people (Craig Charles is a definite if it gets the go-ahead!).
The film may have been a little shaded over the negative aspects of Clarke’s past and the views of those who may find his poetry inappropriate, yet I feel the film’s aim was to present the artist as he is now- a laid-back, charming character of abundant creativity and genuine likeability. You can’t help but fall for John Cooper Clarke and his ability to make poetry fun, making him not a national treasure, but part of the furniture.