Jo Brand's week

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The UK Men's Movement has not only drawn our attention to the plight of your average bloke, it's now setting up seminars to help voluntary- sector male managers explore the tensions of "being not black, not female and not gay". Seminars have been arranged because the managers do not have any support networks. Topics such as political correctness will be tackled, so that the men need have no fear of slipping out "lady", for example, instead of "woman".

How terrible it must be to have the problem of not having a problem. It seems that as women, at long last, get a foothold on the social and economic ladder, blokes just can't cope with it.

I have spoken before about the great change that has come over students. Now research has identified a new affluent breed of students carrying mobile phones and driving their own cars. A gap has opened up between these posh students and others struggling to stave off debt by taking out loans and working all hours. When I was at college, we all tended to be in the same boat and did the odd shift in a pub while we juggled grants that gave you a choice between meals or the bar.

As the gap widens between rich and poor, unless things change, particularly in education, we will produce an Orwellian group of "proles" with access to none of the learning institutions that should be their right. Let's hope the Blair man does something.

Apparently, crime thrillers are now available in vending machines on the Paris metro. The assumption is that because books sell well in airports, they will take off on other forms of travel. All the books take an hour or less to read.

Maybe it will catch on over here, though judging by the problems on the London Underground it might be best to make Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy available for those commuters sitting in tunnels through a couple of birthdays.

Newsagents in Paris are not so thrilled with the move and we all know the French sort things out without messing about. Newspaper vending machines were tried on the metro and newsagents poured acid in the coin slots. Perhaps we should look to the sweatshops to explain why the chocolate machines never work here.

People behaving politely does not make for great comedy. I have had one of those weeks with people I have met finishing our encounter by asking, "You're not going to put me in one of your comedy routines are you?"

These potential walking, breathing punchlines included a cab-driver who picked me up, drove totally normally and dropped me off where I wanted to go. No funny material there then. The second possible candidate was a man in a key-cutting shop who had cut some keys that didn't fit and I had to take them back. More interesting than him doing them perfectly the first time, but still not enough for a side-splitting routine. Thirdly, I encountered a BT man who couldn't finish the job and had to come back the next day who was concerned his actions may appear as a joke in my set. Nope, don't think so. On the other hand I am certainly not encouraging verbal abuse, violence or any effort on anyone's part to be weird for the sake of some material.

Incidentally, I was also stopped by the rozzers this week for jumping a red light... well that's what he reckoned. He said he was a big fan. He obviously hasn't seen my stuff about other coppers and it got me off the hook too. Perhaps I'd better try and write a joke about him then.

The Which? guide to pubs has had a bit of a go at theme pubs because they have let their catering standards drop and tend to be uniform and rather bland. I couldn't agree more. I used to go to a lovely little pub, which, although scruffy and a bit quiet, always had a nice atmosphere and was never full of loud-mouth berks. No more, sadly. It has become an Irish theme pub with a name culled from some novel or other by James Joyce, and although it has filled up with punters, thus fulfilling no doubt some arbitrary financial requirement, I have never been back again.

This is because a theme pub in this country gets the type of punters who think they are being part of the theme. Every time I walk past, this pub seems to be full of raucous drunk English people who think they are being Irish. I have always found Irish pubs in Ireland friendly but not full of pushy people and full of drinkers who are tipsy but not obnoxious. If only drinkers in theme pubs had lives that were themed towards not being a pain, then perhaps we could all have a nice, relaxing time in them.

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